Bethells is unusual in having such a wide variety of scenery in such
a small area (which is doubtless why film makers find it so attractive).
Hills, 'bush', sand dunes, swamps, rivers, streams, lakes, grass paddocks,
bare hilltops, cliffs and of course the beach, can all be found within
a distance of five miles.
Not long after the two routes converge, you reach the little cluster
of houses and the fire station at the end of Te Aute Road East, and the valley on
your right widens into a small area of river flats. Across the far side
of the valley, but very difficult to distinguish from the road, is the
paddock where many scenes have been filmed over the years, including the
'sacrifice' scene in Sacrifice, the fish fight in The Quill is
Mightier, and the Argo scene in In Sickness and in Hell - filmed
in winter when the ground was very muddy. You can see that in the episode.
(If you happen to be staying at Greenmead Farm
Cottage, which is just here, the proprietors are happy to talk about Xena
episodes and point out the locations just across the stream from their land).
|The paddock in Bethells valley||where Callisto||and Xena meet again in Sacrifice|
Further on, the river flats become a swamp of quite respectable proportions. Not used by Xena so far, but interesting and colourful at the right time of year.
The big Waitakere River swamp
The trip to the lake and back is an interesting and pleasant walk in the right weather (but there's almost no shelter if it rains). You can either walk up the stream or take the short-cut over the dunes - or, better, go one way and come back the other.
The Wainamu dunes
Lake Wainamu is out of sight in the valley on right (behind the pine trees)
Wainamu Stream runs across behind the dunes to join Waiti Stream at far left,
which then runs down the left-hand side and out of picture towards the main road
After a long dry period at the end of summer, the Wainamu branch stream may have dried up leaving just the flat stream bed. After rain, it can be flowing quite vigorously, but never more than a few inches deep. Both streams, Waiti and Wainamu, have a flat sandy bed, which makes it ideal for filming action sequences - not slippery or rocky for the cast to injure themselves. Similarly, the fineness of the black sand probably helps to explain how stunties can be dragged around without losing any skin.
It's quite pleasant, in most seasons, to walk up the stream barefoot - but beware the heat of the sand on the dunes on bare feet in summer, though!
There are several curious features of this 'black' sand, for anyone used to the more normal beach sand. It's very fine and unusually heavy. The colour and the weight come from ironsand - iron oxide. The colour means that on hot days it soaks up heat from the sun, and it's an excellent conductor of heat, as your feet will tell you very quickly. It looks light enough with the sun on it, but it goes remarkably dark quite early in the afternoon, or in any cloud shadow. The surrounding bush is also very dark. Your eyes will adapt to this automatically but colour film can't, not even in auto-exposure cameras, if there are patches of sky or sunlight to fool them. It can be quite remarkably difficult to take a clear photo, as some of the illustrations on this page show only too well.
Only the middle part of the dunes is public, the eastern and western edges are in private land, though the owners don't seem to mind the public walking over them. The Wainamu stream bed along the east end of the dunes is signposted as public access to the lake, though its east bank is definitely private property.
However, if anyone is filming anywhere in this area, their permit may
give them exclusive use of the area, which means they could legally keep
the public out. If you should be lucky enough to come on anyone filming,
please remember they have a job to do. Keep a good distance away, keep
out of shot, and the security guys just might be less likely to move you
If you start up the signposted walking track from the car park along
the south side of the stream, after a quarter mile or so you come to a
place where the stream has widened itself and scoured the dune edges into
a steep face. Xena and Callisto fell down this face in Callisto.
From here on, the stream has been used in many episodes; most of its length
was first used in Chariots of War.
|The entrance to the dunes. The track leads in from the
You can continue up the stream, or take a short-cut
across the dunes to the lake
|Xena and Callisto rolling down the dune
This is the far dune in the left-hand picture
|Some photographers would kill for a shot like that||Looking back downstream
Callisto killed Perdycorpse in the clearing at right
|Xena and Pao Ssu at the ford,
about half way along the valley
|The 'hidden valley'|
Looking from the highest dune across Boadicea's flat to the lake
|Wainamu Stream fringing the dunes,
Boadicea's flat in foreground
|Xena goes for a swim in Wainamu||Gabby and the would-be sacrifice at the little beach|
Heading back to the high point of the dunes, you can look back towards
the lake over the flat area where Xena left Argo in Sin Trade. If
you follow the ridge of the dunes to the north, you can look down the slope
to the west and get the same perspective, with the sea behind, as when
Xena was leading Callisto on Argo in the episode Callisto.
|Lake Wainamu from the top of the dunes||Xena and Callisto from the top of the dunes with a long lens|
Below you to the north, where the sand gives way to long tussocky grasses
and toitoi, and separated from the stream valley by a straggly row of pine
trees, is the location of the famous love-on-horseback scene from The
Debt which, we finally realised after much hunting around the mountains,
was nowhere near Mt Ruapehu. The mountains in the distance beyond Borias as
he rode off to meet Lao Ma were indeed Ruapehu - put there by Flat Earth's
CGI machine. Cunning, cunning Renpics!
|Here's the 'desert'||And there's the mountain, all right|
|But the 'desert' hides the Waiti stream valley
at the base of the bush-clad slope
(note the skyline matches)...
|.... and the mountain was nothing but a computer-induced
mirage over Taumaiti Hill
If you head down the gradual slope of the dunes southwest from here,
you'll pass the place where they all walked off into the sunset at the
end of Eternal Bonds (and, the last Herc episode, Full Circle).
A little further on, you may find the hump that Joxer sat on at the end
of Return of Callisto.
|Herc and Iolaus walk off into the sunset
at the end of the series
|Joxer's hump can still be seen on the dunes|
Across to the left, at the upper edge of the sand, is the pine forest
from which Xena led the Amazons to attack Alti's men in Sin Trade.
|The Ewokazons charge out of the forest...||.... and eastwards up the hill. Those girls are fit.
Try running up the slope yourself if you don't believe us!
|Xena and Callisto floundering in the quicksand||And the actual spot (or close to it)|
The dunes with the Tasman Sea beyond