Day 97 / 98 / 99
Who am I? Where am I? Why do I feel so terrible???
We woke far too soon after a rather restless nights sleep (thanks to Dan's snoring) and collected our belongings before staggering downstairs to find a much rougher Tracy (sorry babe but it's true!) and a bright eyed and bushy tailed Stuart (totally not fair after the amount he had to drink!) We slowly walked down to the lake front to find brekkie in the form of a fry up to try and make ourselves feel better.
Too soon it was time to finally say goodbye, six weeks after first meeting up in Wakiki. It has been so awesome spending time with Stu and Tracy and really getting to know them properly so it was really hard to say goodbye and I definitely felt low for the rest of the day.
Dan and I headed back down the main road to the East of Lake Taupo for a third time, and still we stopped to take photos because the predicted weather did come and the mountains in the Tongariro National Park at the far end of the lake did indeed have snow on them.
We soon left Lake Taupo and drove along Desert Road, which truly was like driving in the desert, with rich brown sand lining the banks next to the road. This was very weird with the snowy mountains to our right, looking truly spectacular and we were once again very relieved to have listened to the forecast and brought the crossing forward a day.
It was a nice drive to Wellington, although very long, especially with the numerous stops in the first 100 km's. After almost 6 hours we arrived at Chris' and settled in for a quiet evening of catching up and a yummy BBQ.
We woke this morning to find the weather hadn't eased and it was still pouring with rain. This meant we didn't rush to go and explore Wellington but we did eventually head out late morning with our new tour guide (Chris). We started off at the DOC Visitor Centre to enquire about the Milford Track, which we were really hoping to do. The assistant wasn't too enthusiastic due to possible avalanches etc and suggested other walks in the Abel Tasman area and gave us some leaflets to look at. When we left the Centre we walked along one of the main streets that rain adjacent to the shoreline but at a distance of 200 metres. The pavement had plaques stating that the shoreline had once upon a time been where we were standing and the buildings in this area had been built on reclaimed land, which meant that they were highly likely to crumble in the event of a serious earthquake. How reassuring!
We took a ride on the cable car, which was more like an old fashioned tram and ran on a single cable. The car serviced the University and was popular with students seeking respite from both the steep climb up the hill and the rain! We rode all the way to the top where we disembarked and took in the views of the harbour and bay area, just managing to see the Hutt Valley before it disappeared into the mist and the rain restarted - not the best time to walk through the Botanic Gardens, so we didn't! Once back at the bottom we went in search of lunch and then went to find the museum.
Te Papa is Wellington's main museum, with short and long term exhibits and is open 365 days a year (I did ask Chris if it had many visitors on Christmas Day but he wasn't sure strangely enough!) We started off in Ourspace, which was a long satellite map on the two islands on the floor. It was great trying to figure out where we had been, lots of fun!
Next we visited the Awesome Forces exhibits, which was my favourite, looking at New Zealand from a Geologist's point of view. It was great to remind ourselves how plate tectonics works and how earthquakes and volcanoes occurred and see how they have shaped one of the most dynamic landscapes in the world. There was a stimulator which gave you an idea of what it would be like if you were in a house when a violent earthquake struck. Even though I knew it wasn't real it was quite scary and I hoped we wouldn't experience the real deal.
We visited a couple of other exhibitions, one of which was Bush City, an outdoor exhibition, taking in the natural environment, from native bush to volcanic landscape. After three hours my brain had turned to mush due to information overload and off we set back to Chris' stopping off to buy supplies at the supermarket for a scrumptious tea! Thanks Chris!
We woke this morning to find the bad weather had finally broken so we got up and dressed quickly and set about doing some washing and giving the van a spring clean. After our and Chris' washing was hanging on the line we set off North in search of LOTR locations. Our first stop was at a Quarry which was used for Helms Deep. This didn't ring any bells with us so will need to watch the second and third movies soon!
Four rivers were used to depict the River Anduin, one of these was the Hutt river and we pulled into a spot alongside it where some of the scenes were shot. I could see the resemblance immediately and was quite surprised how close to the road the river was and wondered how chaotic it must have been having an entire film crew descend on this tiny spot.
We pulled in to a great view point, which happened to be where the two reservoirs lie that fulfil Wellington's water supply. The view of the valley was fantastic and it was a good place to stop.
Another short drive took us to Rivendell! (or Kaitoke Regional Park as it is normally called!) This is also the location of the Fords of Isen as well. We walked a little loop road which took us across a swing bridge (which I only just managed having used all my adrenaline last week). Again the river looked just like it did in the movie and the track through the Bush was lovely and peaceful, with no cars or people to be heard or seen. After completing this fifteen minute loop track (in half the time) we walked over to where the majority of the Rivendell scenes were filmed and found a man made platform against a tree where Orlando Bloom (or Legolas) stood during one scene. If it wasn't for a large sign nearby saying this was where the scene of Gandalf and Elrond was shot (where they discuss the sighting of Gollum) you really wouldn't know it was the correct location. I guess this is how it should be and it is good to see the New Zealand National Park has not changed at all but it is ever so slightly disappointing (we're turning into TV and movie gleeks!)
Chris drove us back down to Wellington City Centre and we had a late scrummy lunch of potato skins in a boat cafe. I had my first Spider, or a coke float (coke with two scoops of vanilla ice cream) as they're known elsewhere. I've never had one before and it was very yummy.
We drove all the way up Mount Victoria (Chris is offer to drop us at the bottom but we declined for some reason) and nearly got blown away as we took in the exceptional views of Wellington, the hills and the sea. Sadly a bit of cloud had built up to the South so we were unable to see South Island. You could see just how big Wellington is but unlike Auckland it is a lovely city with beautiful turquoise sea and vibrant green hills. It was bloody cold in the wind though!!
We went for a little drive and drove round the airport, in which the runway literally ended, there was a fence, followed by the road we were on and then the sea! We drove along the beautiful shoreline and saw a couple of sandy beaches before driving past a series of ornamental wind sculptures, which has been mounted right next to the Cook Strait to capture the worst of the wind. Chris told us that one of them broke almost immediately after being displayed and had to be repaired due to the brutal force of the wind.
Lastly we stopped at Weta Cave, which is a mini museum, filled with props and displays from the movies Weta has worked on, including LOTR and King Kong. Weta was co founded by Peter Jackson, LOTR's director. The Cave showed a DVD film giving visitors interviews with Weta co-founders and exclusive insight into the creativity and imagination that goes into crafting the art of Weta.
Dan and I were thoroughly exhausted by this point and enjoyed a snooze while Chris drove us home. He packed his bag and headed up to stay with his Brother as they make their way up to Auckland for Metallica's return. We had a quiet night with his flat mates Leigh and Sera and went and grabbed a yummy Indian takeaway while watching an English programme in which I saw someone I knew, crazy! It was early to bed in order to be out of the door to catch the 8am ferry, no lie in for us!
Wellington is gorgeous and it would have been nice to have stayed a bit longer but we got a good feel for the City and enjoyed spending time with Chris and his friends. We hope we were good guests!