Wellington Day 2: Weta Cave, Mount Victoria Lookout, Wellington Night Market

On day 2 we woke up around 9am to a beautiful sunny day. As we had to prepare ourselves for the busy day ahead, we went out to get breakfast at Memphis Belle on Dixon Street. I had a mochaccino and savory muffin, Chris had a cappuccino and a chocolate chip muffin. Deeelicious.

ImageAfter filling up we walked along Courtenay Place to the bus stop where we caught the 11am bus to Miramar, a suburb about 20 minutes away which is home to Weta Workshop and Weta Cave. Weta is the famous conceptual design and prop manufacturing company that works on amazing films worldwide, most notably the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar, King Kong, The Hobbit, and many more.

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Embassy theater (center white building) on Courtenay Place is where they premiered the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies!

As we drove through neighborhoods in Miramar, the bus driver informed us we were the last stop. He slowed the bus down on the corner of intersecting streets with homes and a convenience store and said that was our stop. He told us to walk down the road and we would come across Weta Cave. I was in disbelief because we were in the middle of a neighborhood still. Just regular houses all around and people doing their normal, everyday things. But we walked further down and found it, with trolls outside welcoming us!

ImageIt’s an unassuming building (besides the giant trolls outside) but inside it’s a beautiful mini-museum, connected to the workshop behind it. Before we went inside we had a photo shoot with the trolls.

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ImageThe trolls will look familiar if you have seen the film The Hobbit. The sculptures were so detailed and looked like they could come to life any second! When we had enough fun with them we headed inside to the mini-museum. There is an alcove off the main room which houses some of the most famous items from their movies.

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The main room of the museum looks like this:
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So many awesome things!!!

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ImageDon’t forget the souvenirs!

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We bought our tickets for Window Into Workshop, the new 40 minute tour behind the scenes. Our tour guide was a digital designer and had so much information to tell us. There were only 5 of us on the tour, so we were able to ask a lot of questions. We were not allowed to take pictures of anything inside because a lot of it was seeing things in the process of being made for movies. The guide’s first talking point was how they make props such as guns and weapons using 3D computer modeling then 3D printing and the many steps involved in making it perfect for the big screen. We then got to see the actual armor suit of Sauron from Lord of the Rings and found out it is not made of any metal, just painted to look like it. It is about 6 feet tall, not 14 like in the movie. It’s amazingly detailed and completely looks like metal, reflecting light and everything. The spiky points on the suit are actually foam and bendable. We were all shocked when the guide bent them. We also got to see the full size armored vehicle they created for the Halo movie (based on the videogame) which got cancelled. The vehicle was incredible, made completely by the workshop except for the engine and inner workings and can go 60mph. We then got to see in to the armory where they forge swords out of metal which then can be casted as plastic ones. I couldn’t even tell the difference between one made of metal and one of plastic. They are painted to look exactly the same, the only difference is the weight. The guide told us that only Viggo Mortensen used a real sword during the filming of the LOTR movies, as he requested. Then we headed over to the makeup effects station where he showed us the silicone molds that were used to make the dwarves arms really big and how delicately they are painted to look like human skin, super neat. We saw a case full of items from LOTR like the giant foot of Sauron that they used to film the scene where he breaks the sword and shields, helmets, etc. Finally we stopped at a station where 3 artists were working on different things. One guy was creating a model size wolf, another was sculpting a cartoonish tree for a children’s book, and the last girl was creating wire sculpture creatures. As we were finishing up we saw a giant sculpture of Lurtz, the Uruk hai warrior, and talked a lot about how real he looked in the movies compared to the digital Azog in The Hobbit. Lurtz was a real guy in makeup while Azog is completely computer made. He told us that in the next Hobbit movies Azog will look more realistic because the digital team will have had a lot more time to work on him. After that we saw a few more things from Avatar and huge sculptures of Tintin then we were on our way out. It was an amazing tour and I would highly recommend it if you enjoy the work Weta produces.

We went back in to the Cave and watched a short film about the history of Weta and looked around one last time. We also bought some souvenirs, Chris got a tshirt and I got a keychain for my travel pack. Then we were on our way to catch the bus back to Wellington.

When we got back to Wellington we decided to go back to Te Papa museum and see the rest! We stayed about 2 more hours to see Mana Whenua, the exhibit about Maori culture in New Zealand and another called Passport, which focused on the immigrants from around the world who now call New Zealand home. The last thing to see was the top floors of art from local and worldwide artist. One of my favorite pieces was a red piano carved with traditional Maori designs which functioned. Two women were playing a piano/violin duet when we were there.

At around 5:30 we started walking up towards Mount Victoria from Courtenay Place on probably the steepest street I have ever been on. It took about 10 minutes to get to Charles Plimmer Park which is on the side of the mountain.

ImageThere are beautiful houses in Wellington, too. We saw quite a few on our walk up.

ImageIt was already starting to get dark when we were walking up and I was getting worried it would get too dark to get to the top. Chris told me it would be alright and I would get some good pictures so I shouldn’t worry. The next stop up the mountain is the famous tree swing which is totally scary and of course something you have to try. The view from there is beautiful and it feels like you could fly right off the mountain. I got a great video of Chris swinging, too.

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By then it was getting colder and very windy on the mountain but we kept going all the way up to the top, a steep climb.

ImageWe saw the sun set from the top and it was gorgeous. I also did get some very great pictures. If we had waited any longer to go back down I don’t think we would’ve been able to see where we were walking, but it worked out fine and was a view I will always remember.

ImageAfter we got back down to the city we went to dinner at a sushi restaurant that serves it’s sushi on a conveyor belt. It was a lot of fun trying to grab what you wanted exactly at the right time. Everything was extremely tasty as well. Since it wasn’t that late and we weren’t dead tired yet, we decided to check out the Night Market on Cuba Street.

ImageIt was very similar to the one in Hamilton except it is held down a side street, which is actually more like an alley. Since it was a much smaller space there were less vendors but it still seemed that there were many types of cultural foods to choose from.

It was a little too crowded and claustrophobic to really enjoy so we left and walked around downtown and saw some Aussies in their yellow and green for the next nights rugby game and also listened to some great street musicians. We walked past the movie theater and decided we wanted to see Elysium (which Weta worked on as well) so we bought a ticket and waited at a coffee shop for it to start. We both enjoyed the movie and finally were exhausted enough to head back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

Stay tuned for Day 3: Zealandia nature sanctuary and the All Blacks vs. Wallabies rugby game!

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