We haven’t seen much rain so far on our travels through New Zealand, barring the torrential downpour as we drove up from Haast to Westport. I’m not counting that though because we were in the car the whole time and not out trying to explore. Wellington however has been cold, wet and blustery, and I foolishly decided to go out wearing shorts.
It was early evening when we were dropped off at our hostel in Wellington, having spent the afternoon staring out of the window of the ferry toward the water between the north and south islands. Unfortunately when we walked into the kitchen to store our food, the welcoming team seemed to be made up of 100 flies all eager to say hello. Needless to say I was a bit overwhelmed and swiftly backed out of the kitchen again.
At first our room didn’t seem so bad, but we discovered on our first night that everything in there had been designed to keep us awake all night. The bunk bed we’d been assigned to was ridiculously creaky, screeching any time either of us moved an inch. The air conditioning unit in the room was even worse, which demonstrated to us what it might be like trying to sleep next to the engine of an aeroplane. There was also a beam of light shining through the gap at the bottom of the door every time someone walked in the hallway, much like scenes from a sci-fi film when someone is about to get abducted. On the second night I made sure I had earplugs in and an eye mask on and was amazed what I could sleep through with the right level of tiredness.
The main thing we did when we were in Wellington was visit Weta Workshop—a special effects company who make props and models for all sorts of films and private commissions. Most people know them for their work on Lord of the Rings, but they’ve worked on loads of cool films over years. They also make the new Thunderbirds series, which uses a mix of real models for sets and 3D animation for the characters. When we arrived I couldn’t resist buying tickets for both their workshop and miniature tours, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the end.
Unfortunately we couldn’t take many photos in there due to the copyright of the props being owned by various film studios, so you’ll have to just believe me when I tell you it was a nerdy dream location. Both Mark and I are obsessed with props and sets in our own way. Mark is a big fan of Adam Savage’s YouTube series Tested, while I’m just fascinated by the making process and love when people can make something fake look so realistic. When we do cosplay (fancy dress in public for adults) it’s the making of the costume we’re excited by, so being surrounded by such amazing work which you actually see in the films is brilliant.
There were real props from films including Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Ghost in the Shell, District 9, Elysium, Narnia, and even a few items for a Halo film which was never completed. They even have a bladesmith employed there who makes real swords for films, though I’m pretty sure they’re blunt ones. After 45 minutes when we were led back out of the building, we were kind of sad we didn’t have longer to study everything in more detail.
After the tour it was still raining outside and we had one of those annoying experiences when you see your bus arrive, but because you took too long to react you miss it by moments and have to wait outside in the cold for the next one. It wasn’t enough to ruin the good feeling we got from seeing all the props, but it was annoying. I was still in shorts too, which I was regretting greatly as I shivered at the bus stop.
The final thing we did in Wellington was visit the Museum of New Zealand just before we got back in the car to head north. We actually only visited to see the giant human models which Weta Workshop made for the exhibition, but we left feeling quite emotional as it was an exhibition about the Gallipoli Campaign in WWI. The models were amazing as they looked so realistic, which added to the sadness we felt as they were accompanied by audio clips telling the story each soldier or nurse.
Once we were finished in the museum we left Wellington and began the four hour journey up to Napier.