An Adventure With Hobbits Down the Pelorus River

We’ve seen Marlborough’s fancy side on a wine tasting tour, we’ve seen the Marlborough Sounds by water when delivering mail and from land on an adventurous mountain biking trip, but today we are seeing its off-the-beaten-track side by heading to the remote coastal village of Okiwi Bay. On the way, we might just make a stop in Middle-earth…

After eating our final freshly-baked scone breakfast at the Tombstone Backpackers in Picton, we are heading to Havelock to kayak on the very river that The Company rode barrels down in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

All great adventures start with Greenshell mussels

Just like in The Hobbit, our Middle-earth adventure starts in the most peculiar place… No, not Hobbiton, but Havelock. That’s right! Havelock is The Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World AND the home of Pelorus Eco Adventures. What a place!

Suit up!

We meet our river guides, Shane and Chris who are keen as bean to show us the Pelorus River. We suit up with some pretty comfortable life jackets! (They’re a soft neoprene life jacket which you can actually move in)!

As we will be heading straight to Okiwi Bay after kayaking, we take the van and follow the team to the Pelorus River. It’s easy enough to follow a van towing a tower of inflatable kayaks!

The Marlborough landscape! The Marlborough landscape!
The adventure begins here! The adventure begins here!
A relaxing stretch on the Pelorus River A relaxing stretch on the Pelorus River
Gazing upon The Hobbit waterfall Gazing upon The Hobbit waterfall

“The best campground in New Zealand”

We pull up to Kahikatea Flat a.k.a the Pelorus Bridge Campground and the start of our kayaking trip. Man, this is an impressive Department of Conservation campsite: hot showers, a cafe, and sites underneath ancient trees that are home to New Zealand’s only native mammal, the long tailed bat. Shaun even calls it the best campsite in New Zealand! When we get our first glimpse of the Pelorus River around the back of the campsite, we can see this is the icing on cake!

yep, this is Middle-earth

Oh yeah, this looks like a movie set. Tall trees line the river banks on top of bluish grey rocks speckled in moss. Along the river, there are various rock outcrops making all sorts of dramatic shapes. We can picture the Barrell Run scene in The Hobbit with the elves running on top of the rocks here. This is Middle-earth.

Although The Barrell Run Tour is usually 2h30mins, we are just doing a short section of the river today to collect all the visuals we need for our upcoming web series (coming 2017 to a YouTube channel near you) and for the blog you have been so kind to give your attention to right now! It’s all part of the job!

Kayaking the Hobbit filming location

The desolation of safety briefings

After a quick safety briefing of basically: “Don’t fall out of your kayak,” we are ready to hit the water. To be fair, you would have to be pretty unlucky to fall out of these kayaks. The inflatable sides make it a kayak/raft hybrid – ideal for the first section of shallow rapids!

Floating like dwarves down the Pelorus River

Floaty, float, away we go with the current, doing our best to not crash into rocks partly because, ya know, we don’t want to be “that guy” and partly because an orc could sweep us out of our kayak at any point. (Are we taking this Hobbit thing too far? No? Let’s continue).

The Hobbit waterfall

There it is: the waterfall that Bilbo and the Dwarves passed in their barrels just before rolling onto the rocky banks where we see the same waterfall again in the movie. Just like Bilbo and The Company, we land our kayaks and walk on the rocks where the filming was done. Shaun shows us screenshot photos of this very location in the movie to help us visualise the scene!

A Middle-earth setting A Middle-earth setting
Paddle power! Paddle power!
What road are we going down here?! What road are we going down here?!

The beauty and adventure playground of the Pelorus River

Whether we are Hobbit nerds or not, we are seriously loving the Pelorus River for what it is. The entire journey, we can see the river bed as clear as day through the pristine water. The water looks so inviting that we are half tempted to jump in, even in the dead of winter!

Around another corner, we land on the stony banks for a classic game of skimmers. We even challenge ourselves to kayaking as much as we can upstream to underneath a swing bridge. Although we are weak as sh*t and don’t make it very far compared to our guides, we do enjoy a few more small waterfalls gently tricking down the mossy rocks.

Man, New Zealand is killing us with its beauty! We might have only had a snippet of the Pelorus River today, but if we hadn’t got a date with Okiwi Bay, we sure would love to kayak more of this incredible river with Shaun and Chris. It’s great to be with guides that are passionate about showing backpackers like us their adventure playground!

The Road to Okiwi Bay

Like all good things, our day in Middle-earth comes to an end. We finally say see you later to the Pelorus Eco Adventure guys and head back on the road for Okiwi Bay. We warn you now: this is New Zealand, so we are going to tell you how epic the scenery is on our drive…

The scenery is epic on our drive!!! The winding road to Owkiwi Bay makes its way up high along a mountain to reveal incredible views of the bay below! Islands, mountains, clouds weaving through the mountains, all covered in forest… We just drove into another movie, didn’t we? Jurassic Park.

You’ve got to love that Kiwi Hospitality

We arrive just before dark at Okiwi Bay Holiday Park where we spend the evening with our welcoming hosts Ian, Pam and their cats. Ian is part of the Ambulance and the Fire Service down in this remote corner of the South Island, so he has lots of stories to tell. Like we find ourselves saying in every blog post, the Kiwi hospitality is amazing. We are treated like we’re family just coming to visit!

Ian has recommended a hike for us to do in Okiwi Bay tomorrow promising more of those mind blowing New Zealand views. We don’t know if we can handle it, but we’ll try. Join us then!

Laura and Robin

The Pelorus River in 360 degrees!
The Pelorus River in 360 degrees! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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