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
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
and all (of course) private property, so inaccessible for sightseeing.
The green circle shows the approximate filming location
(click for enlargement)
The snow-capped mountain behind the battle scene is Tawake Tohunga (or
Tauwheketewhango - spellings vary, and this one more than most!).
The battle scene in The Debt
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
But I can't be sure. This is eight miles from the nearest public access point, the Taihape
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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