|Monday 20th March 2000||Page 1 of 12|
Hands up everyone who wants to go to New Zealand? If you're a Xenite, odds are that beautiful Kiwiland is high on your list of the most desirable holiday destinations, because it's this wonderful country that passes for Ancient Greece (not to mention all the other far-flung lands from that time of ancient gods, warlords and kings) in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Even before I was captivated by the adventures of the warrior and the bard, I'd long had an ambition to visit New Zealand, and my chance finally came in March 2000.
Like most Xena: Warrior Princess fans who take an interest in such matters, I was already aware of several of the well-known filming locations used previously in the series, so for my visit I envisaged spending a fair amount of time strolling around on "sacred ground". After all, the places Renaissance Pictures use are selected with good reason - they represent some of the most visually stunning natural environments on the North Island - so it would be a very good way of taking in some awesome scenery while savouring the unique pleasure of walking in the footsteps of Xena and Gabrielle.
For the first few weeks of my holiday, I visited numerous places of interest, and even made regular trips to the most well-known and significant Xena: Warrior Princess locations in Bethells Valley, gaining a respectable knowledge of the area and its geography along the way. It really was tremendously exciting to see the real-life places which, in the fictional world of Xena: Warrior Princess, had been the backdrop to such cataclysmic events as Xena's crucifixion in Destiny, the chariot battle in Chariots of War, the quicksand where Callisto met her (temporary) end and the peaceful, idyllic place later stained with Perdicas' blood, among many others. But little did I realise when I started visiting locations that one of these ongoing trips would result in my being able to enjoy the spectacle of something far more thrilling and unique even than what has played out on screen in the series. For on Monday 20th March, I chanced upon the Xena: Warrior Princess production crew while they were hard at work filming the final episode of the fifth season, Motherhood!
I had spent the whole of the previous day visiting Bethells Beach, Waiti Stream and Dunes and Lake Wainamu and by that morning was in no mood to go back - although the places themselves are beautiful, the terrain can be rugged and in my enthusiasm to locate various "hallowed places", I had injured my ankle while climbing, so envisaged either resting up at home or at the very least the far less strenuous activity of looking at sites from the comfort of the car! But as I happened to be in the vicinity of the Lake Wainamu Reserve, I thought I'd stop off and get some of the photos I'd been unable to take the day before due to tourists getting in the way! The car park was virtually empty so it seemed like a good chance as there would obviously be hardly anyone there.
As I entered the Reserve and began to wander down the Waiti Stream, the first thing which struck me was the large amount of traffic there seemed to be around, decidedly strange given there had only been a couple of cars parked up at the entrance. As you'll have seen from the climactic battle in Chariots of War, Waiti Stream isn't exactly user-friendly to wheeled transport of any kind, yet jeeps and pickup trucks regularly drove past and around me as I followed the line of the stream. Then as I reached the Waiti Dunes, I noticed an incongruous truck parked up next to a dune and seemingly abandoned, with the engine left running. How inconsiderate to have left that there, I thought, that's ruined a good shot, and I even took steps to make sure the offending vehicle didn't appear on the photograph I took there - fortunately as it turned out, I failed!
Then, some time later, as I rounded the dunes and approached Lake Wainamu, more large vehicles came into view, parked up on the adjacent farmland and seemingly abandoned. Although I did wonder what all this unusual activity could be, I didn't have any inkling it could be a film crew on location - I just assumed it was something farming-related, considering where the trucks were parked - and it was only when a wrangler guiding three horses rode past me that I began to wonder whether filming could be involved, as horses aren't normally seen very often around Waiti Stream due to the terrain. I also thought I'd spotted stage lights in the back of one of the vans while walking past. The horses were put into a temporary enclosure and left to graze and, as I walked past, the wild thought occurred to me that if it was a film crew, they might just be here shooting Xena: Warrior Princess, so I looked at the horses just to check whether either of the "usual suspects" were among them, but alas not!
How inconsiderate to have left that there...
Renaissance Pictures' generator truck - my first
hint that something unusual was happening
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Waiti Stream and Waiti Dunes
This part of Waiti Stream appears in the
Xena: Warrior Princess opening title sequence
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Waiti Stream, looking back
towards the production vehicles
After walking right past the mysterious camp,
I was definitely curious about what I had seen...
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Approaching the production vehicles,
looking down from Waiti Dunes
Even after having had a closer look,
I still couldn't be sure this was a film crew!
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A closer shot of the production vehicles,
showing the surrounding area
The farmland and hills to the rear have
been featured in several episodes
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