The ferry trip is going really well even if I got seasick at one point because of strong waves. It seems to be common, there are bags for sick travelers available everywhere. We went to the terminal at 9am and are still among the last to board for a departure at 10:45am
The capital of New Zealand deserves 1 day and a half of our time. It is the second place in New Zealand where I want to spend time to explore the traces left by the film crew of “Lord of the Rings”
But first, we spend a few hours visiting the famous Te Papa museum, free of charge, on the history of New Zealand. I really like the little prototype house that reproduces a level 2 earthquake. There is also the skeleton of a “small” whale hanging from the ceiling, and the rest of a giant octopus caught in Antarctica. In a small room, we are told the origin of the Haka. Next door, two real Maori houses are open to visitors. In short, whether it rains or not, spend your time at Te Papa, it’s super interesting!
We spend the night at Camp Elsdon Inc. in Porirua (20mn from Wellington) because the campsites in Wellington are too expensive. Here, at Camp Elsdon, the infrastructures are average but it has the advantage of being cheap (10$NZ per person). The boy at the reception desk asks where we come from and takes the opportunity to ask a lot of questions about snails: do we really eat them? do we put salt on them? It seems that salt disintegrates snails, is it true? LOL
Weta Workshop Tour
The next day, direction Weta Studio for the unmissable workshop tour of the studio at 25$NZ/person. It is to this studio that Peter Jackson entrusted the creation of numerous objects, costumes and miniatures for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The 45-minute tour explains quite well their process of creating “monsters” (3D drawings, printers, prototypes, animated statues). I can’t show you pictures because it was forbidden to take them. We could see an animable Gollum prototype with a remote control. The film crew made 7 prototypes at 5000$NZ each, without using them in the end. There are many other elements from the film but I’ll let you discover them when you come here
In the free museum at the Weta Studio (at the reception desk), you can see silicones made for hobbits’ feet, at NZ$500 a pair and disposable… or King Kong’s head. At the entrance of the Studio, 3 giant killer whales please the fans, and right next to the reception, two other full-size (i.e. huge) bad guys and a super realistic Gollum are a real treat. I’m about to fall for a silver ring (Lord of the Rings), but luckily for me, there is no ring in my size. I say lucky because it still costs 250$NZ
Dead of hunger, we pass to a food court at Willis Street, without knowing that it is a 100% Asian food court with Malaysian, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese specialties… By the way, I recommend you Viet Food and their Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi) and their bun cha. It is super good! Just next to Wellington University, a fruit and vegetable market is held every Sunday
We will spend the afternoon at the cinema. No really unforgettable local experience, the theater looks like any other movie theater in France
Kaitoke National Park, 56km from Wellington is chosen for our 2nd night in the North Island. It is a national park, in the middle of nowhere, and sheltering a place dear to my heart: Rivendell. This is where scenes of Rivendell in the 1st Lord of the Rings were filmed
After midnight, I am woken up by a very strong movement shaking the car. JB reassures me by telling me that it is just wind. But it must be a storm for it to shake so much. It only lasts 30 seconds. We realize that, after Burma, we have just lived our second earthquake in 3 months!
When we aren’t used to earthquakes, like us, our first reflex is to try to understand what is happening, instead of thinking about protecting ourselves from the earthquake. I have to admit that this is a very bad reflex. Looking back, sleeping in the car, we had no other solution than to stay there
Twitter confirms that it is indeed an earthquake. We park the car away from the trees and check every 5 minutes that there is no tsunami warning. There will finally be one, but it only concerns the east coast. We have a lot of trouble sleeping, but the tiredness ends up taking over
It is a chance for us not to sleep in Wellington because the atmosphere is apocalyptic on the capital side. Not only is it more affected than us (2 minutes of earthquake), but then, a terrible tsunami siren sounds in the capital, forcing hundreds of families to leave their homes in the middle of the night to take refuge in the parliament… or simply hang out in the street
The next day, the damage caused by the earthquake will be discovered on television. The poor town of Kaikoura that we visited at the beginning of our stay is cut off from the world. Huge landslides are blocking the access to the city. The water and food supply is therefore done by helicopter. 1000 tourists remain stuck in the city and will be evacuated either by military ship or helicopter. We can see images of a tunnel completely buried by the flows. This affects us more because we have passed by this tunnel 4 times. I remember it very well
With 15 days to go, we were stuck in Kaikoura. With 2 days to go, we were stuck on the South Island, because of the two ferry terminals (in Picton and Wellington) damaged by the earthquake
Everywhere you go, something is happening. At the same time, it is also our fault for choosing places with risks of earthquakes, typhoons, storms. It’s like being surprised to have an earthquake in Japan. But it still affects us, we tell ourselves that we aren’t safe anywhere and that we must continue to cherish every moment… even when it rains
To finish on a happier note, the next day we finally visit Rivendell. It is one of the only places where the filming of The Lord of the Rings took place where there are some explanations, diagrams, plans… finally traces that a filming took place here. An arch imitating the style of the film was even built a few years later only for the fans of the film. I would like to find for you the part of the bonus DVD where Peter Jackson explains how the construction of Rivendell respects nature as much as possible (no trees were cut down for example), as the elves would have done. The visit of Rivendell is an enchantment for me. Even if it takes a lot of imagination to make the link between the place and the films, the fact of saying to oneself that one slept in Rivendell is like a dream come true
The trees that appear in the film are indicated on a map, for example we can admire a big tree that appeared on one of the posters promoting the film (the one of the handsome Legolas). There are picnic tables strategically located next to a flowering tree, you can see the birds and hear them well. Ohlala I see myself living here too much.
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Weta Workshop Tour: 25$NZ, online booking possible
- Te Papa Museum: NZ$0 but people usually donate NZ$5/person
- Kaitoke National Park: NZ$8/person/night, top up and pay in honesty box. This is a DOC camp so only toilets and sinks are available.
- Camp Elsdon: NZ$10/person/night. Well equipped (kitchen, toilets, showers) but a little dirty
- VietFood at 151 willis street in Wellington: NZ$12 a bun cha, NZ$8 a banh mi
- Cinema : 15$NZ/person