Lindis Pass – Tolkien´s Great East Road
First, its humility. Nestled amongst some of the most stunning sceenery in the world, you approach the Lindis Pass´ hills thinking they are merely the half way point between wine destination Cromwell and Twizel, gateway to Mount Cook. But Lindis Pass holds a unique type of beauty derived from its almost ironic remoteness (it´s rare to feel this peaceful in a main intercity freeway) and particularly from the now iconic but very humble velvety ondulating tussock-covered hills.
The 63 km pass lies between the valleys of the Lindis and Ahuriri Rivers. If you are coming from Christchurch, and if you are a fan of the Lord of the ring´s franchise,you might recognise the magestic mountains to your right as the Misty Mountains surrounding the elves´hideout Rivendell. But that is not the only association Lindis Pass has with Peter Jackson´s adaptation of the Tolkien trilogy. Jackson´s location scouts recognised the uniqueness of this scenery was to make the perfect setting for the Great East Road, the ancient Dwarven route passing from western Beleriand, over the Ered Luin, to the Misty Mountains in Tolkien´s Middle Earth. The Great East Road passed through lands that would become Arnor, the northern kingdom of Men, and later, the Shire of the Hobbits.
You might not be able to appreciate the sites used to film the Great East Road as most of them are on private land about ten-minutes drive from the tiny but quaint township of Tarras. But you can still see much of the general area from a nearby side road.
The iconic tussock vegetation that characterises Lindis Pass is a human-induced landscape that resulted from the large-scale fires caused by the local Maori population from the 13th century onwards. European settlement in the late XIX century continued changing the landscape of this region by burning the vegetation at least annually to encourage regrowth.
The Lindis Conservation Area can be explored on foot, mountain bike or on horseback across private land to the Lindis River via Smiths Creek. There are no formally marked tracks but if you are keen to spend some time in this wonderful place, look for the parking area near the Tarras side of the pass, and make sure you are clothed appropriately for unpredictable weather.