I’m sure many of you can relate to dreaming that you could be like your favorite movie heroes. How many times have you thought it would be awesome to be in a real lightsaber duel, or to ride a TRON lightcycle? Have you ever thought of walking into Mordor like Frodo and Sam? As Boromir said, “One does not simply walk into Mordor.”
Or maybe one does? Kerry Shawcross and Chris Demarais of Roosterteeth.com thought they could, and thus threw Boromir’s caution to the wind. The plan was this: they would head out on foot for a 120-mile journey from the set of Hobbiton in New Zealand to Mount Ngauruhoe (pronounced Nara-hoey) to destroy the One Ring (or at least a prop replica of it). Yes, it’s as crazy as you think. The four videos of this voyage are embedded below for your enjoyment:
I had the opportunity to interview Chris and Kerry about their amazing journey and here’s what they had to say. You can read the transcription below, or listen to the audio at the top of the article — whatever your geeky heart decides! Chris and Kerry were nice enough to provide some Geek recommendations for us and those will remain as LeagueCast exclusives![divider]
Adam Moreau – Geek League: Welcome to the show, guys.
Chris Damarais and Kerry Shawcross: Hello!
AM: Well, I have to tell you. When I first saw part one of the “Simple Walk into Mordor”, I was completely blown away by the fact that you guys would even attempt such a thing. Can you guys give us in a nutshell, for the people who have not seen the video, basically what it was and why you decided to do this?
CD: Basically, we’re huge Lord of the Rings fans as many people are.
KS: Some would say fans, some would say nerds.
CD: Yes, you know nerd-fans.
AM: We accept both here, don’t worry about it.
CD: Kerry, you came up with the idea.
KS: Yeah, I came up with the idea thanks to Reddit. I was looking at an article that had the different filming locations that they had used all over New Zealand.
CD: For Lord of the Rings…
KS: For Lord of the Rings… Everybody is familiar with The Hobbit because now it’s a big tourist attraction, but I was looking at some of the other ones. I noticed that Mordor was on there, Mount Doom was on there. I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder how close they actually are. Like, you know, if there is any type of real world representation of the two of them how far it actually was and I showed this to Chris and it was only 120 miles.
AM: Only 120 miles!
KS: At the time, especially back then, it was only 120 miles. Now, we say it was over 120 miles.
CD: Yeah, I mean that was just kind of the Google maps guestimate of the difference of Hobbiton to Mount Doom. That didn’t include any hills or mountains or up mountains.
KS: Or the very few down mountains there were.
AM: Now did you guys just decide, did you go to New Zealand strictly for this or were you going for another reason?
KS: We were actually over there, there’s a convention in Australia called SupaNova. So because of this idea were put on the list to go over there so then we could just hop on a plane and go over to New Zealand.
AM: Ah, perfect.
CD: Yeah, so we did the convention thing and just kind of piggy-backed onto it into New Zealand.
AM: That’s a long very long flight just to go to walk 120 miles.
KS: Exactly, yeah, when we pitched this as “we want to fly to New Zealand to shoot a video”, it’s like “ehhhh…” but when we say, “Oh, while we’re at a convention over there, we’ll shoot something”, it’s “Oh, ok!”
AM: Perfect, perfect. Now did you guys prepare for this? Like you know, if you’re running a marathon, obviously you’re going to build up to this. You guys just didn’t go into this cold?
CD: No, whenever we figured out we were actually going to do it, the first thing we did was like ok, well, we have to start training and we had about what? Six weeks?
KS: Yeah, it was about a year between figuring out the idea and then actually doing it, but I think we had about six weeks where we knew for sure YES we’re going to do this.
CD: And we know when we’re going to do it. So we have to start walking A LOT.
KS: A LOT.
CD: So we got backpacks and we kind of filled them with sandbags and books and laptops, anything that weighed a lot and we bought hiking shoes and would just walk around. Sometimes just around the block, sometimes just in circles, and we would do that as often as we could. That being said, it was not enough…
CD: … by any means. There was no preparation that could…
KS: The problem was that we were doing this while still working full-time plus we were going through a DVD crunch and stuff. It was nowhere near what we should have done.
AM: It never is, right? So now did you guys map out the route ahead of time with Nick or did he map it out for you?
CD: Well, we kind of initially based it just off Google Maps and this was kind of our background or our baseline and then we talked to Nick and we want to try to get off the road as much as possible so we want to try and incorporate trails and we asked him. For those who don’t know, Nick is our New Zealand – he films and he also goes on the walk with us, it’s the three of us together. So we were talking with him ahead of time and we were like, “You know, you live there, do you know of any trails or any suggestions of routes?”
KS: Yeah, anything that’s close to our original route but looks much better than “the road”.
CD: Yeah, so he kind of came up with an alternative route that included several trails – river trails, mountain trails…
KS: Making sure we went through dams, that kind of stuff.
CD: And even included some private property that we had to kind of sneak through.
KS: Because the problem is, once you start going along these trails, it starts adding, in that case, kilometers to the trip.
CD: Yeah and so he came up with the final route but we definitely kind of went over it and you know, planned it out. So we weren’t completely blind where we were going.
AM: Now did you consider, because you obviously didn’t have it, did you guys consider bringing some type of GPS or a way to make sure you really knew where you were? Because Nick really had me, whether this was the control of the narrative or the reality, but I was very worried for you guys when you were walking on that trail and dark was coming and Nick was like, “You know, we’re going to have to spend the night basically here in the woods if we can’t get out of here in the next two hours.”
CD: Yeah, we were worried too.
CD: No, we did have a GPS.
KS: It wasn’t like a Garmin “turn left here” type of thing. He had gone through already and set certain waypoints, so we knew we were let’s say 5 kilometers from something, but that was in a straight line to it. So at no point did we ever know like, “Oh we’ll go this way for this amount of time and we’ll be there.”
AM: So you were kind of in the dark for a lot of when you were walking…
CD: Yeah, it would say 5 kilometers and then we’d walk for 10 kilometers and we’d be 3 kilometers away because it’s like up hills, around, and curving. And also, a lot of times, just because we were out in the middle of nowhere, the GPS didn’t get reception. Then we’d have no clue how far we were.
KS: So, at best, we had something pointing in the right direction.
AM: Now, did you guys ever legitimately consider quitting over this 6 day stretch? Because as the video showed – SPOILER ALERT – your feet are literally falling apart and Kerry, your poor loins are chafing terribly!
CD: His loins were falling apart!
AM: Did you guys ever consider just saying this isn’t worth it for a series of YouTube videos?
CD: I first had that thought after the second day.
CD: There was this thought where, it wasn’t a “let’s quit”, it’s like “how the hell are we going to do this?”
KS: Yeah, I think that was the biggest thing was not a “we want to get out of this”, it was “man, I sure hope we finish”.
CD: So it became a thing where it was just “get through the next day” and then it was “maybe the next day will be easier” but every day just got harder and I think at the end of day 4 is whenever we have a conversation where it’s “can we legitimately finish this?”
KS: At this rate, it doesn’t look like we’re going to… just purely math alone, it didn’t look like we were going to.
CD: And so that, I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but that’s something we have to address. We either have to kill ourselves and really push or we’re going to have to cheat.
AM: Now, I am going to verge a little into spoiler territory, so anybody who’s reading this, just watch the videos that are embedded on this page! So if you’re still here, you guys had the extra burden of “the ring” basically. You had the prop ring, the replica ring, you brought with you and at one point, you lost the ring. Poor Nick had to go all the way back to get it. How long was he actually gone in that segment?
CD: It was probably an hour and a ha-… The thing is, is what happened and I’m not sure that it comes across, Kerry and Nick both went after the ring which for me, it was just a really cool moment where I was like, “Wow, this is a prop ring and both of them just went running back the way we just came to go get it.
AM: 90 minutes in the other direction!
KS: My pride was hurting worse than my loins at that point, so I kind of had to go.
CD: It was just a really cool moment where it was like, “Wow, everyone here is just really committed to actually doing this.” It was like, “Oh this is just a joke thing, we’re getting this ring”, but it was a legitimate concern, we have to find it.
KS: We definitely learned that next time, bring two prop rings.
CD: …Because that was the only one we had. If we can’t find it…
KS: … we have no way to end the video.
AM: I was very compelled by it, by the end of the video, because as you spend time with you guys as a viewer, it’s almost 40 minutes, isn’t it? The series of videos?
KS: Just about, yeah.
AM: So you spend about 40 minutes with you guys… By that point, you’re really, really pulling for you guys to succeed and it must have great for you guys , it comes across in the video, when you see Mount Ngauruhoe, and you’re like, “Wow, there it is!” But of course, it’s still miles and miles away, but it must have been really great to finish, wasn’t it?
KS: It was an incredible moment for both of us.
CD: It was one of the best thirty seconds of my life.
CD: It really can’t describe what it felt like. If we had cheated in some way or we hadn’t pushed ourselves so hard… Like I didn’t think it would be as relieving…
KS: I thought it would just be another… (AUDIO RECORDING CRASHES about 5-10 seconds lost)… than what we all thought. So it was just incredible.
AM: (Now I’m freaked out not knowing if I just lost the entirety of the interview)… That’s really, really great. Now, guys tell me, how are your feet?
KS: Mine are much better now! They are feeling better.
CD: Much, much better now.
KS: I still have the blisters, the skin is still there. I don’t want to go in too much detail, but they don’t hurt anymore or anything like that.
CD: Yeah, at this point, it’s just kind of dead skin and I have taken pictures of my toes as they’ve healed and it was neat to kind of see the progression of healing, but the toes are all better, the feet are all better.
KS: The loins are all better!
CD: Everything is better!
AM: That’s awesome! That’s always good to know especially after such a huge voyage of 131 miles!
CD: One thing we didn’t include was that we had to walk back down the mountain and back down to the road again…
KS: Which was another 10 kilometers…
CD: It all ended up being about 135 miles.
AM: That is… crazy.
CD: That was actually the worst part of the trip, when we finished… Actually, it wasn’t the worst because we were happy that we finished.
KS: At first, it wasn’t too bad, but then as we went off the trail and got back onto this gravel road and went for an hour, hour and a half. Just walking…
CD: We don’t even have to do this anymore!
KS: We’re done! What are we doing!
CD: We still have to walk back to the road, that was tough, but it was relieving… Being back in the car, getting in the car when we had finished was.. it was like entering back into…
KS: Society, civilization. I passed out almost immediately.
AM: Watching your feet blow up on the next day was pretty unbelievable too.
CD: What we had to do, the one thing… the deadline to get to our flight was a big pressure because if we had missed our flight, it would’ve been thousands of dollars to re-book it and we wouldn’t have had time to finish editing it. It would have completely messed up the entire series. So we were so close to doing it, we finished walking, ate, went home, showered, packed up, and then left to the airport.
KS: Drove overnight. We drove from about midnight to three o clock in the morning, four o’clock in the morning and then got on our plane to go back to Australia to go back to Austin.
CD: So we didn’t sleep until our flight that night and we had gotten up at 3am that morning to start walking. So it was a long day.
AM: I have to say, for all of that effort it was really appreciated as a viewer to see something as cool as that. Do you guys want to do it again?
CD: Every year!
KS: We’ll see!
CD: it was definitely an amazing experience.
KS: I will remember it forever. Hopefully, just remember and not relive. We’ll see. I’ll walk somewhere else.
CD: Maybe in some time…
AM: We’ll walk to the mall or something![divider]
Please check out all of Chris and Kerry’s videos on Roosterteeth.com. Kerry is working on a new anime series called RWBY, check out the trailer:
And of course, check out Red vs. Blue!
A very special thanks to Roosterteeth.com, Chris, Kerry, and Brad Johnson for arranging this interview.