The final post covering my New Zealand trip.
Day 9-12 – Wellington
After days of farmland, small towns, and mountain roads, Wellington… was an intimidating place. Congested, busy, full of tall buildings & cars instead of green hills.
After a day there though, the city environment became familiar again and Wellington was not so bad anymore. Actually, it’s not that big of a city, but, I think, it is the biggest one in New Zealand. It hosts several companies and company branches. Most people work there and live in its outskirts (at 6:00PM, the place can feel somewhat like a ghost town in the business district).
We didn’t spend a lot of time there since our schedule was fully booked with tours and activity.
First off was the Weta Cave.
Not actually a “cave” per se, Weta is a group of companies that work primarily in the movie industry, most notoriously for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, more recently, The Hobbit. The Weta Workshop is a fabrication studio that makes figures, weaponry, prosthetics, and any other prop or model requested. The Weta Cave is a segment of the Workshop designed for tourists.
Admittedly, I’m spoiled. I’ve seen similar (and larger) workshops at Disney’s Imagineering Studios. But when you’re a LOTR geek, being surrounded by previously-worn and used armor, swords, bows, and other props is pretty fun. The tour guide, a random employee of the Workshop (the one that drew the short stick, or so I like to think), explained the process from concept to fabrication. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but we were allowed to touch. So I poked Sting. It was hanging on a wall, just high enough so that I could touch it if I stood on my tiptoes.
And there was the gift shop. And trolls hanging around outside.
Day 10 was a full day tour of New Zealand’s wine country in Marlborough, which was nice. We visited 4 wineries, had a morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea. I’ve been wine tasting plenty of times (I did live in San Francisco. Napa & Sonoma are just too close not to), but I really liked how they selected their wineries to visit. It wasn’t so much the wine itself as much as the approach to wine each winery represented.
The 1st one we went to was Murdoch James and had a variety of types to try. The a tasting session was run by a man who was somewhat stuck up (“Ahem. ‘Scent’? You mean ‘bouquet’.”), but from what I gathered, this is how many inexperienced tasters expecte wine tasting to be like. And the guy did provide some education on how to best taste the wine, so it was a good start to the tour, at least.
Vineyard #2 was Muirlea Rise, a small private vineyard, and was run by an eccentric man who was very particular about his grapes and fermenting process, but otherwise very nonchalant and blunt about everything else. I think out of all of them, I liked this guy and his I-do-what-I-want-with-my-wine attitude the most.
#3 was Schubert, a wine company that ships out 90% of its stock (so probably you’ve heard of it?). They had a small tasting room that was run by a friendly German man who took us through a selection of their wines. It was very laid back and probably the most familiar to me from past wine tasting experiences.
The final vineyard was Alana Estate and was the most homey of the 4. We were seated in a patio area where there were baby ducks around and the staff brought out glasses and bottles to taste out in the sun. It felt very casual and a good place to just relax and enjoy the atmosphere and company.
Truthfully, I couldn’t take any more wine after the 1st vineyard. The rest of them were minor sips and then dumping the rest in the spit bucket. I felt bad, but I just couldn’t consume any more alcohol. It was a good day.
Day 11… Rivendell tour.
This one required a bit of imagination, since none of the set pieces are there anymore, but our tour guide of the day did his best to “set the scene” of each place we visited, telling stories about the filming and the iconic moments of the films. It’s great knowing your tour guide is also a big fan of the franchise. He also carried a book of pictures from the films to use as comparison when we got to certain locations. Those trees? They were in the background. You’re standing exactly where Frodo stood when he saw the black riders.
Our final day was spent mostly at the airport, but it warrants a few photos because look what Weta installed there a few days ago?
And so ended our journey to Middle Earth. It was awesome and memorable and sooo wish we could have traveled longer, but all trips must end at some point. On to new adventures? What should the next country be?