*Elines art update*
Eline just finished a new watercolor piece, capturing all of the different elements and landscapes of our adventure in the Tongariro park in one painting.
Enjoy and be amazed.
Mount Doom (Mt Ngauruhoe)
The iconic mountain looks exactly what you would expect of a the stereotype volcano image most people have.
The big black shape dominated the entire view in front of us, and looking back we could see where we had come from; Mt. Ruapehu.
A couple of days earlier we got the advice to, instead of following the track around left or right, go off trail and navigate our way straight through the valley, taking us half over the mountain and then intercept the famous Tongariro crossing walk halfway, saving us the dullest and most tedious walking before getting to the spectacular part.
As shown on the second picture, we got off track in the left corner, and would walk on to the other walkway which would be somewhere on the top right.
The first part was quite easy, staying on top of a big ridge that took us along a dense forest.
We were really alone now, out in the wild and a long distance away from any other people. It really gave us a sense of adventure. One that you can only get by getting of the beaten track and venture out into the wild, finding your own way.
The others felt it too and Aragorn said; ‘it will be hard for Frodo and Sam to track us down now that we’re off the grid’
‘yeah’, I said, ‘But they’re Hobbits and they’ll probably…Oomphf.
I bumped right into Legolas’ back, who had suddenly stopped moving.
His body shook all over as he turned around, his eyes bulging and a tense expression took hold of his face.
‘The Hobbits!’, he exclaimed.
‘uh, yes, what about them?’
‘They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard!’ (link)
Right then I heard a high pitched sound and a weird catchy tune started playing, the sound coming from the trees further down the hill. Were that other Elves with flutes in the trees?
Legolas jumped onto a rock and maniacally started riverdancing to the annoying melody. ‘They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard. They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard.’
We stood perplexed, transfixed by the unexplainable phenomenon displaying before us. ‘What the…’
‘Isengard, Isengard, they’re taking the …’
‘It must be the after effects of Saruman’s curse’ Aragorn said, thoughtfully stroking his beard.
‘But I’ve never in my life seen anything like this…’
‘Taking the Hobbits…’ Legolas continued, wildly tap-dancing to the music the suddenly appeared Elves provided from their tree branches.
A fist sized boulder hit the Elf right on the forehead, making his eyes turn to each other before he collapsed to the ground.
‘Tsjeez, that was annoying’ Peppin said, holding a stone in his hand.
The Elves in the distance and the music had vanished as soon as the rock had hit.
‘Agreed’, said Merrie. ‘should we throw another one, just for good measure? He picked up another rock, hefting it in his hand.
‘no, that’s quite enough, thank you’ Aragorn said.
‘But thanks for the interruption’ said Eline. ‘It really was annoying. I’ll be having a hard time getting that tune out of my head…’
I just stood there, bewildered at the absurdness of the whole situation. What a strange and magical place indeed, I thought, while we continued on our way, dragging the unconscious Elf behind us.
The landscape grew more dark and rocky even, and after a while it was hard to find a proper path to follow.
There wasn’t much colour around us anymore, and life itself seemed to have abandoned this evil place.
Almost stumbling over another dead root, I sighed; ‘ Isn’t there anything but dead things in this foul place?!’
‘Of course! there’s me.’ said a low rumbling voice.
From behind a ridge line an enormous tree appeared, moving like in slow motion, but moving nonetheless. It slowly walked towards us, speaking with a sound like thunder; ‘ I am a shepherd of growth. Where I walk, Life flourishes.’
It was true, just behind me a flower showed up, growing out of a patch of grey rocks, and even some stones regained their original colours, making them stand out like fireflies among the grim landscape.
Legolas fell to his knees. ‘A real Tree Shepherd! A protector of the forests!’
The massive wooden creature proudly puffed out his chest a bit; ‘Yes, it is me, Treebeard the Ent, I am majestic and you better know it.
I represent all trees and plants as well I am a celebrated poet’
‘It’s talking Merry!’ Peppin exclaimed. ‘ The tree is talking!’
‘Tree? I am no Tree! I am an Ent!’,said the talking tree.
‘You’re not an ant’, Merry snorted mirthfully, looking up at the towering creature. ‘not even close’
‘I am! I am he who walks through the woods and keeps them standing up straight. I have ten times your wit and can carry ten times my weight! A real Ent!’
‘Nope, sorry. You’re not an ant. Ants are a lot smaller. They’re beneath even us, and we’re not grand by any means. ‘contributed Peppin’, laughing at the majestic shepherd of forests.
‘If anything, you’re an overgrown piece of walking firewood with a serious identity crisis!’ Merrie splurted out, now laughing out loud.
‘You a lame poet, just brawling and cheap talking.
If you be an ant, you should be crawling, not walking. Uh!’
Peppin rapped, as Merrie provided a litlle beatboxing.
‘BOOORAAROOOM LITLLE DORKS!’, the Ent roared, as he scooped up the two Shirelings and hurled them away, making them soar incredibly high through the sky before disappearing out of view.
‘Noooh!’ screamed Aragorn. ‘Nooooh, they just misunderstood! They didn’t mean anything by it! They were just innocent Hobbits!’
‘HOBBITS!’ Legolas yelled, his eyes growing large and strange again.
‘they’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard!’ (link)
‘Oh hell, not again…Aragorn sighed, as random Elves with flutes sprung up out of the talking tree’s branches, while Legolas again started his now familiar jig.
‘What a nice tune’ said the tree, as a happy elf with a banjo seated himself on the Ent’s shoulder and started plucking the terrible catchy melody of the song.
‘I can’t take this any longer, this cursed madness must end’, growled Aragorn, as he drew his sword and charged the group of Elves, who were now getting into line dance formations, led by Legolas’ constant chant ‘…Hobbits to Isengard’.
And we just watched, dumbfounded, nailed to the ground as struck by lightning, looking at the pandemonium playing out before our eyes.
When the big tree creature started swaying with his hips I slowly turned to Eline; ‘this is getting out of control. I’d really like for this fantasy weirdness to stop now.’
‘You started it, you finish it’, she just said, walking off to the other side, slowly shaking her head.
Not knowing what else to do, I turned my back to the surreal display and walked after her. We still had a long way to go.
It was getting harder to move about, as the sun was already far in it’s descent and twilight started to set in.
We had gotten to the foot of the mountain and now had to go over big black ridges of old dried-up lava streams.
The weird shaped rocks were are laying loosely upon one another, making it very difficult to walk over them.
We struggled on, going further and further, trying to keep walking along the same lines.
But after a while I started realising that we were now more climbing than walking while finding a way over the lava streams, and when we checked our position discovered we had unintentionally ascended to about 1750 m, which was halfway up the side of the volcano. Whoops.
The sun was already setting when we found a more or less descent place to pitch the tent. It wasn’t the ideal spot, but we wouldn’t find any better ones now, and just hoped the weather would stay calm during the night. This was not a place we’d want to be when it got stormy.
Just as we finished putting up the tent a orange light began to shine on the horizon. The light touched our skins and I felt a warm unpleasant burning. A weird feeling came over me and I had the incomprehensible urge to start walking around and taking pictures of everything. Suddenly Aragorn was there. He grabbed us by the arms and pulled us away, out of the reach of the light, to hide behind the tent. ‘Stay out of the light!’ he said firmly.
‘You take picture?’ I heard myself saying.
‘Take souvenir?’ Eline aksed.
Aragorn shook us roughly. ‘Snap out of it’ You’ve only been in Saurons Sightseeing Light for a few moments. The effects should wear away shortly.’
‘Woah! What kind of devilry was that? I asked, while fighting the desire to photograph the pebbles on the ground.
‘It’s Saurons influence over these lands. His gaze intensifies the curse and all who are caught in his light long enough are lost forever, transformed to mindless tourists, wandering from place to place, desecrating and littering as they go’
‘How terrible! Thanks for saving us Aragorn!’ Said Eline who was now emptying her pockets of all the useless souvenirs (rocks) she had stuffed in there moments ago’
‘Were you able to save Legolas?’
‘Alas, I tried’ sighed Aragorn.
‘But the talking tree took him. Said he wanted to show the poor chanting Elven prince to his buddies tonight, at the Anual Entmoet Hodown, whatever that may be’.
‘He was too strong, I couldn’t fight him. I did get that annoying guy with the banjo though, he said, holding up what looked like a couple of bloodied guitar strings.
‘We can come out, the mists of Loowsezon have blocked the Evil Eyes view’ Aragorn said, as we sneaked a peek around the corner of the tent
Indeed, some clouds had drifted into the valley, giving us a small reprieve of the dangerous light. We quickly made some coffee and retreated to the safety of our tent, hoping the weather would stay calm for the night.
The Tongariro tourist trap
Fortunately no bad weather came, and we actually slept pretty well. Better then would be expected while camping halfway up an active volcano, that is.
Our plan was to rise early, walk the last part over the side ridges of the huge mountain and intersect with the official Tongariro Walk about halfway, staying in front of all the tourists.
But when we cleared camp clouds began to move in, and before long we were engulfed in a thick heavy mist, severely reducing visibility of our direct surroundings.
This made us go a lot slower and we had to be even more careful now.
These clouds were a hindrance, but the terrain we had to cross is what made it really tricky.
Big black streams of lava rocks, now dried solid, were lying between us and the official pathway. The black rocks just lay loosely on top of each other, hardly any soil, sand or vegetation in between to keep them steady. These rocky lava ridges sometimes were tens of meters high, and at some points we were more climbing and scrambling than walking over them.
It was challenging, tiring and more than once a little dangerous, but really awesome at the same time. This was adventure all right!
Little surprise it took us about 4 hours to cover less than 2 km, and by the time the neatly maintained walkway came into view, it was already packed with people.
Group after group, hundreds of them, all walking on the small footpath in a neat line, leading them to the top.
‘Behold Saurons forces’ Aragorn said and pointed at the shuffling line of tourists.
‘Europeans, Americans and armies of Asians from the east. All answer to the Dank Lord’s call. None can resist his all-inclusive offers.’
‘But what can we do?’ Eline asked.
‘How do we fight something as massive like this?’
‘We can’t. We’re too late. This evil has grown too strong for us alone to defeat.’ Said Aragorn, sadness in his eyes.
‘There must be something we can do?’ I asked. ‘Anything? Where there is evil there is good too! There will always be a natural balance, we just need to find it’s source and help it fight this spreading of ignorance and neglect!’
‘That’s right!’ Said Eline, looking determined. ‘We will find the opposite of this darkness and help it gain power. It lives in the hearts and spirits of many people, it just needs to be united and focused on one common goal! We can do this!’
‘Such noble words and brave thoughts.’ Said Aragorn. ‘You might be right, maybe there still is a chance. I heard of a fair folk living near the bay of gold, on an island way down South. A race of beings with good intention’s and powerful magic. They live secluded and keep mostly to themselves, but they are rumoured to have a secret power of good vibes that aid them. If we could find them they might help us to empower the forces of the positive energy and strike against this darkness!’ He looked hopeful, a twinkle of passion returning to his eyes.
‘Right! Let’s do it! Eline said, looking eager for this new adventure to start.
‘Woozleplof!’ Said I.
‘Oh nothing. Cool idea. I dig it. But first we need to get passed all these tourists without notice.
‘Here, take this’ I said, As I gave my hat and sunglasses to Aragorn.
‘We can easily mingle with the crowd, moving through their ranks undisturbed. But if they find out who you really are, Aragorn…’
‘Son of Arathorn’ Aragorn nodded understandably.
‘Well, yes, that too.’ I said. I couldn’t get myself to tell the brave ranger that he was in grave peril not because of his royal bloodline, but his unintentional but unrivalled fame of character.
We walked down the last part and covertly sneaked in with the mass of shuffling tourists. They were many alright, young and old, fit and fat, some well prepared, others walking in jeans and flipflops without any water or extra clothing, again others exaggerating and wearing camo suits and carrying Rambo knives; as if there might be a wild boar or enemy soldiers on the paved walkway crossing the Tongariro.
The weather was cloudy which shrouded most of the mountain tops in mist, but every now and then there were clearings and we got some nice views and sceneries. It is beautiful and desolate at the same time. The raw and harsh scenery up there really has a unique feel to it.
While we were enjoying the sight of a particular nice acid lake, which coloured from light green to deep dark blue, we lost Aragorn in the crowd of Saurons forces.
We franticly looked around for Isildur’s heir, but there were so many tourists in every direction it was neigh impossible to locate him.
The wind was picking up and gusts of wind came over the peaks, blowing various possessions around into the air, to the dismay of many sightseers.
Between some of the shawls and funny Japanese hats I suddenly saw a very familiar Australian hat flying by.
‘Say, isn’t that my…’
‘Your hat…’Eline finished.
‘But wasn’t Aragorn wearing…’
She was cut of mid sentence by a exited ‘’Oh my god!’
There was some sort of excitement and stirring going on about 30 meters further down in the crowd, and a sense of dread crept up my spine as other exclamations started to fill the air.
‘Wow, is that…?!’
‘Look, it’s that famous dude from Lord Of The Rings!’
‘Wooh, he was on TV once!’
The cries became more passionate and wild, as we tried to make our way through the mob towards Aragorn, who was obviously exposed now.
‘IIIIIH! ITS ARAGORN!!!’ some girl started screeching.
‘I want his autograph!’, someone else yelled.
Ohoh, this was not good. Other tourists were roused by the noise as they turned and started walking towards the excitement.
It was getting harder to elbow our way through the group of wild tourists, who were now closing in on a spot some 10 meters away from us.
‘I want to touch him, he’s famous!’
‘Kiss my baby’!
‘stay back, foul creatures!’, we heard Aragorn yell, probably drawing his sword, judging by the sound of the sharp metal ‘sschwwing’ sound.
This only made the mob more exited, as they started to surround the ranger.
I just caught a glimpse of him, striking down two tourists with a single swipe of his weapon, but then they were upon him, swarming over the poor man in a fame-frenzy.
‘IIIH I TOUCHED HIS HAIR!!!!’
‘You take picture with me?’
‘I want to hold his sword!’
There was nothing we could do as the crazy mob tore and pulled at the famous character, covering him completely like ants on a gummi bear.
‘IIIIH I HAVE HIS RING!!!’
‘I WANT HIS UNDERPANTS!’
‘Aaah nice shoelaces. We take as souvenir? Yes?’
It was horrendous, they were tearing him apart.
But suddenly, with a primal roar and surge of strength, Aragorn emerged from a pile of tourists, his face bloodied, half his hair pulled out.
He swung and he cut and took down at least 12 of them in mere seconds, clearing a small space around him.
He stared straight at us through the crowd of fanatic fans and easterners, locking eyes with me for a short moment.
‘You must go on. Escape! Get to the south and find the fair folk. You are our last chance. Fight and claim victory over this evil. For me. For Frodo. For all of the fallen fellowship!’
‘We will! For you! For the power of the positive!’ I said, as I raised my fist to my chest in a last salute.
Aragorn smiled for a fraction of a second, then raised his sword and bellowed ‘ELENDILLLLL!’, as he charged forward, impaling at least three big Texans on his sword and pushing right through the mob, diving off the nearby cliff, taking at least 10 more with him.
There was a splash and a sound of sizzles as the fallen hero and tourists fell into the acid lake below, and a faint smell of sulphur and fried bacon filled the air.
Other tourist rushed towards the edge, excitingly pointing and taking pictures.
‘And so passes the last of the fellowship heroes’ Eline said solemnly.
‘Yeah, at least this one went with honour’ I said, feeling strangely sad about the department of our last fictional character.
‘Well, lets get on with it. We still have a long way to go before we get out of here, and I do intend to keep my promise to Aragorn’.
‘You know he and the others were just figments of your imagination, right?’ Eline eyed me with a concerned expression.
‘I know, but still, there was some measure of truth to what he said. It is important to be more aware of how we go about our lives and treat the beautiful world we live on. It’s not the evil of bad forces we should fear, but the indifference of the good.’
‘Amen’ she said.
‘Broovah! Haro!’, I concluded, and with those statements we took our first steps on the long winding way down, out of the Tongariro, and away from the partly fictional adventure in Mordor, towards the South, were new adventures, fair folk and positive vibes would await us.