Leaving Middle Earth

Winter Sunset over the estuary - Motueka section of the Shire , Middle Earth

Winter Sunset over the estuary - Motueka section of the Shire , Middle Earth

“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. nasty disturbing uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them ‘ said our Mr Baggins.

So JRR Tolkien explains the plain natures of the hobbits of the Shire in ‘The Hobbit” the first book of his fantasy masterpiece set in another world called Middle Earth. New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson would set Middle Earth in New Zealand. New Zealand compares favorably with the quiet peaceful Shire where the hobbits live - somewhere a long way from the troubles of Middle Earth where nothing interesting (or dangerous) ever happens and where the inhabitants just live lives as though the rest of Middle earth doesn’t exist. Like the “Shire” in Middle Earth, slowly but surely the rest of our World is getting closer to New Zealand with it’s troubles and woes and also it’s excitements and passions. Despite their reputation otherwise the average New Zealander is a very non adventurous sort and like most people anywhere if they are going on an “adventure” they prefer the risk free well down the beaten path and very generic types of adventure.

To a certain degree the “adventure’ I have coming up this year is largely one of those generic types - a trip up the Baltoro over the Gondogoro pass to Hushe valley although the scale and scenery is much more akin to the dark mountains of Mordor than the green and lush Shire. With the sad but inevitable wind down and drawing to a close of the “War on Terror” in neighboring Afghanistan, the Northern areas of Pakistan are also seeing a resurgence of International Tourism and mountain towns and mountain valleys which were almost empty just 4 or 5 years ago are filling up again. This is a great boon to the locals where income from tourism is one of the biggest influx’s of cash in the region but will mean of course that trekking in that area will once more become following the beaten path. Having said that there is no mountain region in the World that can compare with the immense peaks and savage glaciers of the Karakorum and it is in my mind the mountain “Mecca” - a trip to the Karakorum is a must do if possible for those passionate about the mountain world. As an American mountaineer said to me some years back when I was heading that way - “A trip up the Baltoro will blow your mind”

Apart from the sheer pleasure of being in those wonderful places part of the reason in going to the Baltoro again is to make a film about the Balti people of Baltistan or Little Tibet as it’s also known - their ancestors having come from Tibet long ago. Whilst hiking up the Baltoro some years ago I found myself watching the Balti porters carrying impossible loads of all sorts on impossible contraptions on their backs to (in my opinion) ridiculously luxurious camps on the Glaciers for mountaineering and trekking groups (both foreign and local). These porters with minimal clothing often just wearing sandals carrying, cooking and huddling together at night for warmth, doing hard dangerous work in the mountains for what we would regards as minor money left a far bigger impression than the the people they were serving. Whilst out on the Baltoro glacier the idea sprung to mind of making a film about these Baliti mountain workers - not to make hero’s out of them or sympathize them but just to show them as they were and what they did. Rather than the normal film I’ve seen with the porters as back ground figures they would become the focus of the film with any tourist’s merely in the back ground. Hopefully I will be able to shoot the footage necessary to make such a film over the 5 weeks we spend in Pakistan - It remains to be seen if I can actually turn it into a 15 to 20 minute movie of quality!

Once we arrive in the Village of Kandi in the Hushe valley after 2 weeks on the Baltoro and home of the most of the Balti porters I am off with my 3 accomplices , Kadin, Elliot and Diarmuid to do something a little less generic and that is try and explore and investigate the mountains and glaciers of the upper Kandi Glacier. I have seen four previous expedition reports over the years of visits by mountaineering groups to that area in the American Alpine Journal but most of the Northern mountain chain and the Upper Kandi glacier seem unexplored by those on foot. We have a few photos , some rough maps and very poor satellite imagery to work with but even the normal pretty accurate Arcis radar mapping is fairly inconclusive viewing of this area. All this is good news - I have scoured the internet for information and have found very little which makes the area ever more appealing for adventure.

The winter has been cold and dry thus far here in middle earth rather deifying the weather offices prediction of a warm wet winter. This has left little snow about not making the local mountains over appealing and I have suffered a series of minor illness’s that have further handicapped the will to get out and about. There has been the odd trip as below in photo’s though to round off my winter down under.before heading out into the world this week.


The temperate rain-forest that covers much of the South Island New Zealand.

The temperate rain-forest that covers much of the South Island New Zealand.

The current forest cover is relatively recent. During the last glaciation much of the South Island was covered in ice and the rest and much of the North Island was basically tundra . the Forest’s have established themselves again in the last 14000 years. Cooler south west winds 2500 years ago and human activity in the last 800 years has seen the forest’s greatly reduced from there original high point.

The current forest cover is relatively recent. During the last glaciation much of the South Island was covered in ice and the rest and much of the North Island was basically tundra . the Forest’s have established themselves again in the last 14000 years. Cooler south west winds 2500 years ago and human activity in the last 800 years has seen the forest’s greatly reduced from there original high point.

Leo , exploring Middle Earth

Leo , exploring Middle Earth

Winter is the best time to visit the local Kahurangi National park - not only is it basically empty but the forest provides good shelter from the weather - and that weather provides the best scenes.

Winter is the best time to visit the local Kahurangi National park - not only is it basically empty but the forest provides good shelter from the weather - and that weather provides the best scenes.

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here near the Cobb reservoir are the oldest rocks to be found in the country , ancient limestone formed on seabeds more than 400 million years ago.

here near the Cobb reservoir are the oldest rocks to be found in the country , ancient limestone formed on seabeds more than 400 million years ago.

As one walks higher into the snow the bush takes on a different personality.

As one walks higher into the snow the bush takes on a different personality.

Isabelle

Isabelle

Breaking trail

Breaking trail

the forest in white

the forest in white

black and white , this is actually a color photo but no color was present.

black and white , this is actually a color photo but no color was present.

the magic of a camping bonfire with kids.

the magic of a camping bonfire with kids.

Fire , the human race’s oldest discovery and freind , providing warmth and protection since the stone ages.

Fire , the human race’s oldest discovery and freind , providing warmth and protection since the stone ages.

Looking over the Kahurangi National park , early winters morning.

Looking over the Kahurangi National park , early winters morning.

same view on another day

same view on another day

up early to catch the full moon

up early to catch the full moon

Dawn

Dawn

The Cobb reservoir. Until about 14000 years ago this was a glacial valley with the classic u shape very evident as are remnants of the moraines near lake level.

The Cobb reservoir. Until about 14000 years ago this was a glacial valley with the classic u shape very evident as are remnants of the moraines near lake level.