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Waterfalls

There were three things which were a source of niggling discontent to us as Xena and Hercules location hunters. One was the location of The Debt, one was lakes, and the biggest one was waterfalls. Well, The Debt we've found (see the Central Plateau page), the lakes have turned out to be mostly the remarkably ubiquitous lake at Sturges Road with an assist from Lake Okaihau - but the waterfalls remained to plague us. Somehow Pacific Renaissance's scouts found, within easy distance of Auckland, a number of waterfalls that we just couldn't find!

More recently though, since starting waterfall-hunting for its own sake, we've come across most of the falls that were used.

A number of waterfalls, along with mountains and rivers, were used in brief 'linking' shots just to set the atmosphere or give a sense of space at the start of episodes or in 'travelling' sequences.

The falls described below are in order, very roughly, from north-west to south-east.



Okiritoto Falls

The Okiritoto Stream cuts across the south end of Woodhill Forest, past the forest entrance gate to the coast. Upstream of the forest, and well into private farmland, the map shows two waterfalls on it. Very unexpectedly, from the eastern boundary of the forest, Toroanui Falls is clearly visible at the head of its valley half a mile away. Okiritoto Falls, three hundred yards further upstream, is hidden by the curving valley sides, in the usual way of waterfalls.

Toroanui Falls
I had thought that Toroanui Falls could, just possibly, be the waterfall in Many Happy Returns. But Toroanui appears to be much higher and narrower than the MHR falls. In fact Toroanui doesn't seem to have been used in any Herc or Xena episode that we've noticed (yet).

Which left the identity identity of 'MHR falls' unconfirmed until Matt, from Auckland, sent me the excellent picture below. A quick glance at it confirmed the identity of another falls I've been hunting for a long time, as well - the waterfall where the Amazons were bathing in Kindred Spirits. The MHR and Kindred Spirits waterfalls are Okiritoto Falls.

Later, we noticed them in the Hercules episode Resurrection, where Morrigan did an elegant dive off the crest of the fall.

The waterfall in Many Happy Returns
... and in Kindred Spirits
Morrigan dives off them in Resurrection
Okiritoto Falls in real life
There's a bit less water this time of year

Karekare Falls

For a waterfall so easily accessible (it can be seen from the local main road), Karekare Falls (just south of Piha) was surprisingly seldom used. The falls have a very small catchment so are, frequently, rather 'thin' on the rock. Maybe this is why they weren't used more often.

They were used for the pioneer fishing scene in Siege at Naxos where Hercules was energetically waving a very dead fish in a valiant attempt to make it look as if it was wriggling. Iolaus' efforts were only slightly more convincing.

Seen from the road: a brief shot in The Furies
From Let There be Light

Karekare Falls also featured in an unusual oblique view looking up the falls, in March to Freedom (when there wasn't much water flowing), and with a rather better flow of water in Let There Be Light; in both cases the camera pans down the falls. The right-hand shot above is the result of stitching together a number of screen captures with 'Hugin'.

Nihotupu cascades

In Promises, the show visited the Nihotupu stream. There are a number of cascades on the stream, alongside the track that leads from the Piha Road down to the dam lake; this one is a few yards above the bridge where the track crosses the stream. The stream runs across flat rock shelves below the cascade, which can be deceptively slippery; maybe Iolaus' slip in the episode when turning to follow Ramina wasn't entirely scripted.

The cascade in Promises, with a lot of water in the stream
The cascade on the Nihotupu stream

Hunua Falls

15 miles south-east of Auckland in the Hunua Ranges lies Hunua Falls, a waterfall on the Wairoa River. This was the first waterfall extensively used in scenes, it featured in Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, where Hercules and Hippolyta fought and she jumped over the fall. (The scene started with another waterfall altogether, a huge wide fall that we can't identify yet, then morphed into the top of Hunua Falls). Obviously, a female stuntie really did make the jump - that's 90 feet down! This must be one of the most impressive stunts of the entire series. The lower picture on the left shows why the stuntie didn't jump, she ran off the platform - the rock face has a slope on it. At high flows the falling water just clears the rock face all the way down.

The end of this sequence, looking down, gives the clue to the waterfall that Xena and Gabs fell over in Bitter Suite - but doubtless on that occasion, the producers just used dummies.

Platform on top of the falls
(Sorbo's braver than me, those handrails
do not look secure)
Seen from what I think is a 'safe' distance
(The authorities might disagree)
Seen from a rather safer distance
The amazing leap in Amazon Women... ... and it's a long way down, as this screen shot shows Do not try this yourself
(I suspect most casualties fell short of the target)
The falls seen from the side Hunua Falls from the footbridge downstream Hunua Falls after heavy rain
 

This fall featured on many other occasions, for instance at the start of Unchained Heart, it was the waterfall Nebula and Morrigan hid Ares under in Redemption and, most famously, in the fishing scene in Altared States.

The same fall in Bitter Suite The fishing scene in Altared States Redemption, evidently after wet weather

Mauku Waterfall

This fall, in Reunions, was curious. In the episode, it's in the Elysian Fields. Certainly it's in a park-like setting, or possibly in an old quarry; except it's too big for an artificial waterfall, and waterfalls aren't usually found in quarries....

... and we found the answer accidentally, while Googling for other falls. It's on the Mauku Stream in Wrights Water Gardens at Patumahoe, south of Auckland. It is indeed located in an old quarry. Photos of the actual fall are at http://www.wrightswatergardens.co.nz/ or googling on 'Mauku waterfall'. The falling water in the scan below doesn't match terribly well (less flow than in most of the pictures), but the rock face to the left does, and the clincher, I think, is the waterlily pond.

Elysian Fields

Rapaura Waterfall

This fall (below) was identified by the eagle-eyed Matt, who also contributed the photo of Okiritoto Falls. It's where Iole went skinny-dipping in Hercules in the Underworld. In reality, it's on the Tapu Stream at the top of the Rapaura Water Gardens, which are about four miles up the Tapu Coroglen road from the coast at Tapu, north of Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula. Googling 'Rapaura Waterfall' returns a goodly number of pics.

It only seems to have been used for this one scene, though without more research, we don't know if other parts of the gardens might have been used on other occasions.

Marokopa Falls

Marokopa Falls is on the road out to Te Anga and the west coast from Waitomo (location of the well-known tourist caves). It was used for numerous shots in Hercules; a stock shot of Herc and Iolaus walking towards the falls, framed by trees, was used on many occasions. For variety, in Be Deviled, RenPics reversed the picture left-right, probably without fooling anybody.

In the commentary to Cast a Giant Shadow, Kevin Sorbo misidentifies these falls as Hunua Falls, and links back to the stunt in Amazon Women; this is quite understandable since Hunua at high flow looks remarkably like Marokopa, and Sorbo was commentating several years after the episode was made - and, probably, never saw Marokopa Falls personally.

RenPics reversed it... ... and we swapped it back again. Marokopa Falls

Tawhai Falls

Tawhai Falls, just off the road up to the Chateau on Mt Ruapehu, was used immediately following the titles in the first Hercules TV episode, The Wrong Path, and Pride Comes Before a Brawl.

From the episode Tawhai Falls


Tarawera Falls

Tarawera Falls, southwest of Kawerau, in the Bay of Plenty, are remarkable in that the river flows through lava caves and pours out of the cliff face. A helicopter view flying over the forest towards the falls was used as a 'stock shot' in several episodes. In Cave of Echoes, the 'clip show' at the end of Hercules Season 2, the falls are, unexpectedly, seen from ground level for the first time, but for only five seconds before cutting abruptly to Marokopa Falls.


The usual aerial view of Tarawera Falls
(this example from March to Freedom)

Seen from the ground in Cave of Echoes
 

At high flows, another branch of the waterfall appears from high up the cliff. Picture here. (Note: A forestry permit is required for access to the falls, details here ). They're well worth a visit.



Huka Falls (and The Abyss)

There was a lot of wild water in The Abyss; a lot of intercutting of shots; a lot of CGI. One waterfall appears to be genuine, but the motion of the water looks curiously 'splashy' - I think the flow has been increased with CGI. The view of the fall in profile looks even odder - that volume of water wouldn't curl down to follow the rock face, it would leap away in a parabolic curve.

The water looks even odder in the video (This isn't Huka Falls)

There was no CGI - just an extremely daring stunt - in the sequence of Gabrielle and Xena swimming in the rapids. My guess is that it was the Waikato River somewhere in the few miles between its exit from Lake Taupo and Aratiatia dam - this stretch includes all types of water from fast, deep and smooth, to the wild rapids just above Huka Falls - but it's just a guess.

These are genuine rapids Xena's stunt double

What is positively identifiable is the sequence of 'Xena' looking over Huka Falls, and the later five-second sequence shot from a boat with the camera kept low to frame out the sightseers above.

'Xena' looking over Huka Falls Shot from a boat in the pool below The falls from the opposite bank

Bowen Falls

The E! special on Lucy included a shot of Xena standing in front of a huge waterfall, which may have been part of a never-used title sequence. This may well be Bowen Falls on Milford Sound, South Island - we can't think of any other New Zealand waterfall of that volume and height. We know Pacific Renaissance have been there since it appears in Remember Nothing

The alternate title sequence?
This could be Bowen Falls
This is Bowen Falls. This piccy doesn't give
a real impression of its size - it's 520 feet high.
Seen from below in Remember Nothing

Blue Nile Falls (Tisissat Falls)

The waterfall below was a rather baffling 'unknown'. Seen in Amazon Women, Eye of the Beholder, and Two Men and a Baby, it's a huge and wide fall, which would surely be locally famous if in New Zealand. Renpics never, to our knowledge, used any foreign scenery - except on this occasion.

Eye of the Beholder Reversed for some reason in Two Men and a Baby

Much Googling found the very clear picture above, which was undoubtedly the same fall. Unfortunately the page it was on gave no clue to its name or location. The text on the picture says '(C) Silverander, Ethnographics', which was a US greetings card company which closed in 2002, so didn't help to trace it, though it did suggest a wider location than just NZ for the fall.

And it's been identified! Josef Rohlicek sent me this link to the Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia (also known as Tisissat Falls. I had tried matching up Tisissat Falls as a candidate before but none of the published pictures quite fitted). Thanks Josef! I can't copy that picture here as it's copyright, which is a pity as it's a perfect match, but this one:


though it has a lot more water in it, is close enough. (Creative Commons license by C T Snow, original here.)



Unidentified Falls

This leaves the only unidentified fall as the impressive one below. It appears in Let There be Light and in The Academy, in both cases in a helicopter shot. Since there doesn't appear to be any obvious road near it, it may be a very little-known fall well away from tourist access. It certainly isn't Karekare Falls, into which it morphs rather unconvincingly in Let There be Light. However, unlike the fall above, the surroundings of this one are very typically New Zealand bush.



Waterfalls not used on Xena or Hercules include Mokoroa Falls, Fairy Falls, Waitoru Falls, The Cascades, and Kitekite Falls, plus the shallow cascades at the head of Lake Wainamu and the 50-foot fall at the head of the Waiti Valley; all in the Waitakeres.

Nor have they used Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan, Waitanguru Falls north of Piopio, Wairere Falls, or any others we know of in the wider Auckland region.



List of falls used

Here is a list of waterfalls seen in episodes of Hercules and Xena. The times given in the second column are the approximate time in minutes and seconds from the start of the episode; this may differ by a minute or so depending what point your player/software starts counting from.

Sometimes (as in for example Hercules and the Amazon Women) a sequence starts with one falls and morphs into another; in this case all falls involved have been listed in order.

The order of episodes is (roughly) the order in which they first screened.

Falls listed in bold type featured in scenes in the respective episodes.

Hercules and the Amazon Women05:20, 25:37Tarawera Falls
25:55Hunua Falls (in background)
1:19:06Blue Nile (Tisissat) Falls
1:19:27Hunua Falls
Hercules and the Lost Kingdom04:20Hunua Falls
Hercules in the Underworld 43:30Rapaura Fall
The Wrong Path07:07Tawhai Falls
Eye of the Beholder04:20Blue Nile (Tisissat) Falls
Pride Comes before a Brawl06:45Tawhai Falls
March to Freedom27:10Tarawera Falls
41:02Karekare Falls, at very low flow
Unchained Heart00:20Hunua Falls
King of Thieves10:48Hunua Falls
What's in a Name04:22Marokopa Falls
Siege at Naxos01:48Karekare Falls
Cast a Giant Shadow27:11Marokopa Falls
The Sword of Veracity11:00Marokopa Falls
Once a Hero21:07Marokopa Falls
Promises11:37Nihotupu cascade
12:47Marokopa Falls
12:57Nihotupu cascade
Cave of Echoes00:14Tarawera Falls
00:20Marokopa Falls
Mortal Beloved08:27Hunua Falls
08:33Large fall in closeup - Bowen Falls?
Altared States01:16Hunua Falls
Remember Nothing07:40Bowen Falls
The Price09:32Crest of large waterfall (brief shot)
The Furies40:05Karekare Falls
Two Men and a Baby01:41Blue Nile (Tisissat) Falls
Warrior Priestess Tramp14:23Karekare Falls
The Bitter Suite10:07Hunua Falls
One Fowl Day17:56Marokopa Falls
Reunions14:28Mauku Waterfall
Resurrection08:05Okiritoto Falls
Let There be Light09:21High falls
09:24Karekare Falls
Redemption24:34Hunua Falls
Daughter of Pomira12:41Waterfall in cave (probably studio shot)
The Way00:17Medium size fall
The Academy05:39High falls
05:45Falls - close up - Bowen Falls????  
Fade Out29:00Hunua Falls
Be Deviled05:15Marokopa Falls (reversed)
Chakram21:04, 29:00, 40:59CGI house on waterfall; the fall is probably Okiritoto
29:06Hunua Falls (looking down)
Punch Lines02:49Okiritoto Falls (above crest)
Kindred Spirits00:07Okiritoto Falls
The Abyss10:49Rapids
10:56CGI enhanced waterfall
27:06, 42:10Huka Falls
Many Happy Returns09:30Okiritoto Falls
Friend in Need59:51, 1:06:13, 1:18:00Ornamental garden fall - location unknown

Map Locations

A searchable zoomable map of New Zealand can be found here: www.topomap.co.nz/NZTopoMap (based on the 1:50,000 LINZ maps)

Most of these waterfalls are marked on the map and can be found by entering "[name] Falls" in the search box, with the exception of Tississat Falls (obviously!) and the following:

Karekare waterfall: On the Company Stream at Karekare, marked on map near the road but not named
Nihotupu cascade: Marked on map just above the bridge where the access track from Piha Road to Upper Nihotupu Reservoir crosses the Nihotupu Stream (search 'Upper Nihotupu')
Mauku waterfall: On the Mauku Stream 0.4km north of the Findlay Road bridge, in Wrights Water Gardens at Patumahoe
Raupaura waterfall: On the Tapu River, in the Coromandel - see description in the para. on this page



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