A young photographer from India has taken his love for Lord of the Rings to the next level, travelling around New Zealand while dressed as Gandalf.
Showing the sense of adventure which would no doubt delight Bilbo Baggins, 21-year-old University of Auckland graduate Akhil Suhas decided to embark upon an epic journey, inspired by his love of all things Tolkien.
Akhil ventured all across the North Island and the South Island, taking in the awe-inspiring landscape which has long been a place of pilgrimage for Middle Earth fanatics.
Akhil told UNILAD
I first saw the movies when I was 14 and have watched it multiple times since then. The best part of Lord of the Rings is that their entire journey felt like a long road trip and I fell in love with the landscapes shown in the films.
Originally from India, I went to New Zealand for my undergrad. During my first 3 years in New Zealand, I spent only 9 days in the South Island and being a photographer, I felt that I had unfinished business down there. So, I thought, why not go on a long road trip and capture New Zealand’s finest landscapes, while I’m in transition period of finishing university and finding a job.
I wanted a recurring subject in my photos to give the scale of the landscapes and when you have so many photographers visiting the country, I figured that I needed to do something to set me apart. Then, I was watching Lord of the Rings for the 5th time and then the idea struck. So, in my photos you can see Gandalf or me with an orange jacket!
From the majestic mountains to the vast, mysterious lakes, New Zealand’s beauty is at once magical and imposing. A land for cursed rings and lovelorn elves, enchanted forests and secretive caves.
And Akhil captured it all with his unique eye for photography, sharing pictures of ‘Gandalf’ touring around New Zealand on his popular Instagram page.
Akhil told Traveller about the moment inspiration struck:
I was watching the Lord of the Rings for the fifth time and figured that New Zealand is famous for two things – its landscapes and Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, so why not combine the two by having Gandalf in the landscapes?
With his staff, grey garments and pointed wizard’s hat – all purchased online – Akhil’s photographs almost look like stills from Peter Jackson’s game-changing trilogies.
Until of course you notice that ‘Gandalf the Guide’ is also wearing a very comfortable looking pair of crocs beneath his flowing robes.
Akhil told UNILAD of his journey:
This was journey of self-discovery and to explore and witness the best of what nature has on offer. Before I started this journey, I thought to myself, it doesn’t matter that I might spend a bit of money of this trip, I have my whole life ahead of me to earn money and pay off student loans, bills etc.
Akhil was also grateful for the enthusiasm other travellers showed his project:
When I had to ask people if they wanted to dress up as Gandalf, the trick was to strike up a conversation and then explain my project and then ask them if they’d like to dress up!
I didn’t have to ask people when I was travelling with friends I met along the way. Luckily, not a single person said no as they must’ve realised that if you’re in Middle Earth, might as well live the fantasy of being Gandalf.
Akhil’s great adventure took him from sandy coves to glacial pools, from towering clifftops to fields of confused cows. He explored unforgettable destinations such as Mount Cook National Park and Te Arai Point, Lake Marian and Hokitika Gorge.
And he captured each glorious location on his journey from the perspective of the wise wizard himself.
Travelling alone, Akhil initially encountered some difficulties when taking the pictures of himself. Luckily those who on the road were happy to help out a wizard in need, donning the costume and posing for Akhil in dramatic locations.
Akhil told Traveller:
Once I started my road trip, I realised that I was travelling solo and wondered who would dress up, since I wanted to take the pictures.
I tried the camera on a tripod with a timer shot, which didn’t work since the wizard hat needed careful adjustment because it’s flimsy.
The superfan has no regrets.
Akhil added while speaking to UNILAD
At the end of the day, your memories last longer than material things. So, I’m glad to have done this journey, so I can solely concentrate on my next chapter in life without regret. I guess, this is why many people go on a gap year in the UK.
The most memorable experience was sunrise at Angelus Hut in Nelson Lake NP, when we were in the mountains above the clouds, it was a great sight to behold and worth all the effort that went into hiking up there!
Find out more about adventurous Akhil here.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.