New Xenaland
Central Plateau

For the plains and mountains of Inner Mongolia in The Debts, the Sin Trades, and Amazon High, RenPics went to the high volcanic plateau in the centre of North Island. Basically the whole central mass of North Island (with a few local wrinkles) can be thought of as sloping down from Mount Ruapehu to the sea. Much of it is of volcanic origin, deposited in ash showers from Ruapehu and its neighbours or from the enormous eruption that created Lake Taupo millennia ago.

The eastern side of 'the mountain' is in rain-shadow and, lower down, is covered in dry tussock grasses. A few miles further to the north-east are the thickly bush-clad hills of the northern end of the Kaimanawa Ranges. To the north and south of these, is more 'high country' covered with tussock.

RenPics used each of these three areas, as a major location for an episode.

Ruapehu, the most accessible location, has its own page.

Ngamatea and The Debt

We originally guessed that the battle in The Debt was 'somewhere in the Kaimanawas' before the fortuitous discovery of the river crossing scene near Ruapehu totally misled us. We subsequently spent much time futilely thrashing across the countryside around Ruapehu finding many places that were almost, but not entirely, unlike the battle scene. Should have stuck with our original guess. It was Rob and Lucy who put us on the right track - well, actually, said specifically where it was when they mentioned 'Ngamatea' in the DVD commentary.

The area between the Kaimanawa, Kaweka and northern Ruahine ranges is an almost empty stretch of 'high country', tussock plains interspersed with gorges, and the watershed for many rivers. It is traversed by the Taihape-Napier Road (also known as 'Gentle Annie' after a steep hill on the route) which is a long, remote road, some of it still gravel. (In 1972, when I first crossed it at night in a car rally, it was 70 miles of gravel road amidst vast black emptiness, and it made a lasting impression on me). Ngamatea is a big high country 'sheep station', one of several such off this road (it even has its own website), and all (of course) private property, so inaccessible for sightseeing.

The green circle shows the approximate filming location
(click for enlargement)

The battle scene in The Debt
The snow-capped mountain behind the battle scene is Tawake Tohunga (or Tauwheketewhango - spellings vary, and this one more than most!).
After much study of the detailed 1:50,000 contour maps, I think the exact location is a high, shallow valley between the headwaters of the Woolwash Stream and the hidden valley of the Oturua Stream (see the green circle on the enlarged map).

But I can't be sure. This is eight miles from the nearest public access point, the Taihape Napier Road.

For most of the way across the plateau, past the turnoff to Ngamatea Station, the Taihape-Napier road is bordered by higher ground which blocks the view to the north. However, there are two places where a distant view can be obtained - a mile or so west of the junction with the 'southern' road, before the road starts the long gradual descent to the Rangitikei River; and a mile east of the Ngamatea Station entrance, where the road starts the long winding descent into the gorge of the Taruarau River. These spots are shown by green squares on the enlarged map.

Views from these two spots are shown below - I've fiddled with the colours to reduce the distance haze, which is why the colours look a bit odd. The photos were taken at Easter, in our autumn, hence no snow on the mountains.

Seen from the western viewpoint. The high ground in the foreground was in cloud shadow, hence black.
The highest point in the background is Tawake Tohunga; the battle scene was, I think, directly in line with it, 8 miles from the camera and 5 miles from Tawake Tohunga.

Seen from the eastern viewpoint, above the Taruarau gorge.

Kaingaroa Plains and Amazon High

Amazon High was filmed as a pilot in late 1997, and some sequences were used in the Xena episode 'Lifeblood'. According to our informant, it was filmed at a station called 'Lochinver' off the Napier-Taupo Road and the weather was extremely cold at the time. This is where the northern fringe of the Ahimanawa Ranges fades off into the Rangitaiki Plains, and State Highway 5 (the Napier-Taupo Road) is, along with the Desert Road, the most frequently closed-due-to-snow road in North Island.

The green circle is our best guess at the approximate filming location
(click for enlargement)

Lochinver used to have its own website, with a couple of excellent photos of the Repia Valley which appears to be the scene of the final battle - the flat valley floor and steep cliff-like sides match well. Unfortunately this site has now disappeared.

The cavalry to the rescue
Samsara rides off into the sunset

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