|Monday 20th March 2000||Page 3 of 12|
Having returned to the comfort and safety of ground level, I carried on my leisurely stroll around Waiti Stream, meandering back towards the entrance. Eventually, I came back to the mysterious abandoned truck I'd seen earlier parked alongside the dunes and, as the engine still appeared to be running, decided to take a closer look this time. What I hadn't realised before was that the sounds from the "engine" were in fact coming from a huge generator on the back of the truck and had also failed to notice the thick power cable snaking out of the generator and over the top of the sand dune. In light of this, I decided to bite the bullet and divert my course slightly so I could follow the path up onto Waiti Dunes to investigate and then make my way back round to the reserve's entrance.
So I walked up a little way on to the dunes and to my absolute astonishment found myself strolling right past the full production camp! I saw a long line of covered tents erected in the dunes, with people packed in underneath, lots of vehicles, stage lights and people just standing around. Although several of the lights were still on, there didn't seem to be a lot happening and I got the impression they must have finished for the day, as by that time it was the late afternoon. At last I had confirmation that they were a film crew, but which film crew? Although I couldn't really see a great deal even at this relatively close range, when I looked across to the tents, I thought I had glimpsed a woman wearing a long, flowing burgundy-coloured dress that looked vaguely Xenaversian, but other than that had absolutely nothing to suggest the shooting was for Xena: Warrior Princess. I would have loved to snap a photo as I was passing, which could then have been examined in more detail later, but from this distance I stood too much risk of being seen, so decided against it.
Meanwhile, other members of the public were also just walking past, up a lot closer than I was and taking no notice, but I was so surprised by what I saw, I just stopped dead in my tracks and stared for a couple of minutes. As a result of this, the film crew's security people must have spotted me taking an interest, because when I finally began to walk on, the jeep - which was obviously there at least partly to keep the filming area clear of the general public - followed me along the path out of the dunes for a short while before turning back.
Then I had to find a way to get back round within sight of the camp without being seen, which I - eventually - did. I tried everything - beating my way through bush to the top of a steep bank (very near to where they shot the rocket-firing sequences in Purity, actually), walking round the dunes to another position, travelling so far back up the way I'd come - I felt like a secret agent on a particularly impossible mission! Eventually I found a spot much further away and lower down from my previous view and snapped a few pictures, but ultimately was still left unsatisfied.
As I headed for home a short while later, I mused that it had been an interesting day and certainly a lot more unusual than my previous visits to locations, but I still hadn't really seen anything conclusive as to who the film crew were or what they were making. Given I had been lucky enough to encounter them by chance in the first place, it would have been nice to actually know more about what they were doing there. It was maddening to think that if they had indeed been working on Xena: Warrior Princess, that I could have been so close to the action without even knowing it! Even the pictures I'd managed to take probably wouldn't shed a great deal of light on what they were up to!
Fortunately, the best was yet to come. Little did I know it then, but I was less than twenty-four hours away from what would literally prove to be the thrill of a lifetime...
A shot of Waiti Stream
The Stream is one of the locations used
most regularly in Xena: Warrior Princess
Click for large version (750x500 - 64K)
Waiti Stream, with Waiti Dunes behind
Note the Renaissance Pictures' generator
truck, towards the right of the picture
Click for large version (750x500 - 69K)
Waiti Dunes and the generator
truck seen from the other side
The production camp was on the
other side of the sand dune
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The production camp
Viewed from a location very close
to the rocket-firing site in Purity
Click for large version (750x500 - 85K)
Another shot of the production camp
It appeared that everything was being
dismantled by this stage in the day
Click for large version (750x500 - 70K)