Putangirua Pinnacles

We continued our tour of the North Island by heading southwest from Rivendell onto a peninsula that extends outward to form one of the most southerly points of the island. As we drove, the fields filled with cows and sheep looked increasingly dry and windswept, and increasingly like the coastal landscape we are used to driving through in central California. Our next stop were the Putangirua Pinnacles, an area of sandstone that a few thousand years of wind and rainfall transformed into gothic spires and cascading cliffs.

We had a glimmering sunny day, so we hiked up the dry river bed and started exploring the pinnacles by winding our way between them. From directly below they seemed astronomically high, and from the occasional rock tumbling seemed to be a landscape still on the process of becoming.

Interested in the Lord of the Rongs connection? It was here they shot the scene in Return of the King where Legolas tells the story of the army of the dead. Awesome for a few reasons—if I were in a dead army this is definitely where I would hang out, even in the heat of the day the shadows of the pinnacles were eerily cool and silent; also,  it was clear that the actors and the crew had to do some serious hiking to get to the location...no place to land a helicopter full of gear and celebrities here! 

Views of the pinnacles from the lookout as we hiked the neighboring mountainside. 

And a few shots of our sweet tent and the killer sunset views from the campsite. This was the first campsite we really loved: very few other campers, cliffs and ocean to look at, and enough cicadas strumming their strings, creating enough white noise for an incredible night of sleep.

We also had the pleasure of hanging out with a couple our age—he was Swiss, she was German—who gave us some great tips about touring the South Island. These two had also never seen nor read Lord of the Rings so they had some pretty hilarious questions for us as well ("This is a fantasy story? What are these Hobbits?"). The more I tried to explain, the more ridiculous things started to sound...