Dimholt: Walking the roads of the dead

Dimholt Pinnacles The ongoing quest to see as many parts of the Lord of the Rings scenery as possible has continued, with a trip to the Cape Palliser pinnacles, where Aragorn, Gimli and Leglolas spent some time wandering in order to awaken the army of the dead in Return of the King.

Cape Palliser is near the bottom of the North island, a few stones throws away from Wellington.

There is a convenient campsite located at the start of the walk, which was where we spent the night, preparing ourselves for the task ahead.

Which turned out not to be that hard. The day that greeted us was strangely appropriate for wandering around the paths that only the dead were supposed to walk, what with it being damp. Tendrils of cloud licked around the mountains near us, and the promise of rain was coming across the sea.

Still, that is what waterproof clothing is supposed to be for. We kitted up, and set off. The first twenty minutes or so of the walk followed a wide gravelly stream bed (I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that following stream beds in the rain is a no-no) which wasn’t quite as I remembered the roads of the dead.

Dimholt road of the dead Pinnacles

Soon however, my fears were allayed, as the stream bed starting to head upwards, and pinnacles started to rise out of the ground like giant bony fingers reaching for the skies.

It all started off fairly innocent and friendly looking, the odd pinnacle grasping for the sky as the stream wended it’s way further up the mountain. This didn’t last though. Soon the walls were looming in, pebbles were crumbling down the mountain at us, and the giant pinnacles were all around, maze like in their efforts to lure us in, never to be found again.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t quite that bad. It was pretty spectacular though, with the grey sky and the grey rock merging into each other. A couple of ghosts here and there really would have made the picture complete.

Dimholt road of the dead Pinnacles 2

This was one of those filming locations that you visit, much like Emyn Muil, that was instantly recognisable from the actual film. If you are in the area, and even if you have no idea at all what a Dimholt is when it is at home, then I can recommend taking a look at the Pinnacles.

Once you’re in the area, as we were, there is of course more to see than the roads of the dead. Die hard lord of the rings geeks can probably stop reading about now, unless tales of seal breath and pink tractors are your thing.

South from the Pinnacles is Cape Palliser itself, where a lighthouse sits atop a rocky outcrop, up a flight of 259 steps. On the way to this lighthouse you must pass through Ngawa, a town which has more tractors per head of population than anywhere else on the planet.


The reason for all this tractory goodness is fishing, with the tractors all lined up on the shoreline patiently waiting to pull boats out of the water and push boats into the water. So many tractors jostling for attention has, in some cases, resulted in desperate attempts by the owners to differentiate their steeds (presumably so one can find ones tractor in the dark), and the bright pink number called babe was probably by favourite (although the purple telly tubby themed Tinky Winky was a close second).

Past all the tractors, and just before the Cape itself, we passed a whole pile of funny smelling rocks lying by the side of the road, which turned out to be seals taking a bit of time out from all the tough seal based stuff they were supposed to be doing. Largely unbothered by our vehicle, they raised their heads at us as we passed, and stared forlornly out of giant black eyes at us.

pink tractor

We were able to park right next to them for photo opportunities, and quickly came to realise that toothpaste is not a big seal based item. Having a diet largely based on fish results in breath that I suspect even industrial strength mouthwash would struggle to make a dent in.

So we peered at seals, ogled the tractors, and made it up the 259 steps to the Cape Palliser lighthouse, where we admired the weathers attempts at murky atmosphere, before continuing our journey on to further parts of the North island where hobbits once roamed freely. Which will be the subject of my next post!


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  1. Looks like your day in this area was much like mine -- kind of damp and dark. But I agree that it's the perfect weather to visit the Paths of the Dead in. I'm getting chills just thinking back to it!

    I agree that you don't have to be a Lord of the Rings fan to enjoy this spot -- I convinced 2 of my friends to stop there on our way back from Castlepoint, and they both loved it, too.

  2. Oooh Looks like a moody atmospheric kind of a place certainly. Your first picture reminds me a bit of Bryce Canyon in Arizona and a bit of Cappadocia in Turkey. Looks cool!

  3. Hey liv :) it was a really cool place - really atmospheric and moody. I've
    not been to either of the places you mention but I'll add them to my ever
    growing list!

  4. It does have a sort of spooky vibe to the place doesn't it :) we really
    enjoyed the walk, despite the weather. I'll definitely be recommending it!


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