It was with much anticipation that I boarded a seven hour bus to Wellington. My friends, whom I had spent the previous evening drinking seven dollar wine with in New Plymouth, were on their way up Mount Taranaki and let me tell you, I felt particularly lucky to be sat on a bus and not climbing a mountain.
The journey was nice and I got sat next to a kiwi fella called Innes, who spent the journey ripping on my accent and my country (which is to be expected). The journey genuinely flew by, it’s pretty amazing the stuff you can end up talking about in five hours with a total stranger! As we hit the coastal road, Wellington revealed itself in the distance and I got goosebumps. I’ve had it in my head for a very long time that Wellington is where I wanted to be, so to see it there with my own eyes was a pretty big moment.
Off the coach, I jumped in a taxi and headed straight for my accommodation. Too excited to unpack, I rushed out to take in some sights. I headed straight for the “Scale of Our War” exhibition at the Te Papa museum, down on the sea front. I’d been looking forward to seeing this exhibition as it’s been curated in collaboration with Weta workshop, who are the creative studio responsible for A LOT of costumes/ prosthetics/ armour/ weapons/ props etc for some huge films, including LOTR obviously. I’m a big Weta fan so I was VERY excited.
The exhibition was themed around Gallipoli and the ANZAC involvement in the campaign. Weta have created these huge figures of real soldiers and war personnel, frozen in time and it is honestly spectacular. The size of them is the first thing that takes your breath away, then you notice the level of detail and just stand there in awe. I probably spent two hours or so in there, a lot of the time I was just stood in amazement and the rest of the time I was reading up on the campaign that I admittedly had very little prior knowledge of. It was a sobering afternoon but I would 100% recommend anyone to go along to the exhibition if you get the chance.
After Te Papa, I went for a wander around the city, taking in Cuba street and Courtenay Place on the way. I was particularly excited about Courtenay Place and the Embassy Theatre as I recognised it from the LOTR special features as the location for the world premiere of Return of The King. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about…. don’t worry about it). But yeah, basically Courtenay Place is a huge road that runs through the city and when they had the premiere the whole road was closed off and covered with a huge red carpet.. like 1km of red carpet or something ridiculous like that. Pretty exciting. The second most exciting sight to see on Courtenay Place was the former nightclub Boogie Wonderland, made famous, to me at least, by my favourite film, What We Do In The Shadows. In fact I spent a lot of time in Wellington just spotting sights from WWDITS and getting more excited than I care to mention.
I also had a wander around Cuba Street, again, getting stupidly excited to spot locations from another film I love, Eagle vs. Shark. For someone who loves New Zealand cinema, Wellington has a lot to offer!
The next day was the single most equally cool and uncool day of my life! I booked myself in for a Lord of the Rings tour of Wellington and it was AWESOME. I got picked up in the movie tours minibus, and we drove up to Mount Victoria to see the spots where they filmed several LOTR scenes. Our tour guide, Ted, was brilliant. He brought along screenshots of the films so you could compare the shots to the place you were in and this BLEW MY MIND. Ted had us all pose as if were in the scenes ourselves (I told you it was the coolest/uncoolest day ever), and having a very low cringe tolerance I couldn’t stop laughing at the silliness of the situation. Please bare in mind that the people I’m in the picture below with are TOTAL STRANGERS!
I embraced the ultimate nerd day by finishing the LOTR tour with a trip to the Weta cave and workshop tour. I think I’ve already made it clear that WETA IS A BIG DEAL. So to get to go onto their premises and have a nosey around was a dream come true. I spent the whole tour just beaming, like I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. It was amazing. I got to hold a prop gun from District 9, saw the face casts for several LOTR cast members, the stone Argonath miniatures from The Fellowship of the Ring, tons of swords and armour including Sauron’s costume… like, I could go on listing things for ages but I don’t think it makes for a very interesting read! I’d love to say I showed restraint in the gift shop but… there was just SO much choice. I think I did well to stop at JUST a bag and a patch.
I have to say, I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement as I stood outside Weta, having finally made it there, on the other side of the world.. Now to see if they fancy giving me a job..
That day, I also bumped into a Dutch girl whom I’d shared a room with back in New Plymouth, Simone. It’s amazing how you bump into familiar faces over here! We made plans to go for chinese food that night, which was really nice as I hadn’t really met anyone to socialise with over the past few days. We had some delicious food and a good old chat, before having a wander round to Oriental Bay. With a storm on the horizon, we scuttled back to our respective hostels and wished eachother well for the rest of our journey.
Wellington is great, I really hope I can stay!