The BlueBridge Cook Strait ferry was very smooth but it took a good few hours for the crossing. The free Wi-Fi and comfortable seats made the journey even better.
Driving around Wellington, it seemed pretty much like London. It was busy, there were tall buildings and parking was expensive.
We checked into our caravan site, Wellington Top 10 Holiday Park. It was a big park but one of the most expensive we’d stayed at. City prices I guess. Whilst we were eating our lovely World Cup McDonalds meals, Stef looked through the guides to see for stuff to do.
Stef suggested the Weta Cave. I was a bit sick of caves and really did not fancy walking around some cave in the freezing cold. She then told me it wasn’t an actual cave but a film prop factory company who made clothes and weapons for films such as Avatar, District 9 and the Lord of the Rings franchise. Sold. I scoffed down my burger and we jumped in the van.
I set the sat-nav and we headed there. The navigation told us that it was some residential area. As we got closer, it looked like a normal street. It was just normal houses. Were we in the wrong place? Then all of a sudden, we were presented with three massive ogre type things from L.O.T.R. Yep. We were in the right place.
They had a small museum there which had various props from the films that they had made stuff for. It looked like such a small company but they had made so much stuff. They had guns from Avatar, feet from the Hobbit and even some creatures from an old film called Meet the Feebles (an adult version of the Muppets – very rude and funny).
They had guided tours of their studios so we paid up and waited. They had so many props from the L.O.T.R and The Hobbit. This place was really wasted on both of us. Neither of us had seen any of the films! I had tried to watch the first L.O.T.R but was so bored in the first half I gave up. It was good to see all the different weapons and clothing though.
Our time came and the guide collected us. He walked us into their workspace where the magic happens. The only disappointing thing was that photography was not allowed. I couldn’t even get a cheeky shot as there were only about 8 people in our group and I’d easily get found out. The walls and ceiling was covered in props. Swords, shields, aliens, skulls and various clothing were everywhere.
The first stop in the room was a display that showed how they made the props. This example was a futuristic weapon from a Matt Damon film called Elysium. There is a lot of work that was involved. Even the weathered look of the gun had been painted on! The guide was in fact one of the painters there as they take it in turns to guide the tour. He explained the process that was quite interesting. Next was a very large model of a castle. Apparently it was from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. We didn’t have a clue but it looked impressive. Beside it was a wall that had been painted to look like it was built from massive stones. They have their own film studios on the grounds and they have to transport the props there to film. The locals have got used to single men carrying massive boulders or monsters walking down the road. Must be a great sight!
Past the castle was a fully working vehicle called the Warthog. It is based on an Xbox video game called Halo. It was made for the web series of Halo and they also made the guns for the show. Sitting in the drivers seat was a person that they had made. We got to feel his hand and it felt like a real person!
We then got to see how they made the skin and armour. They had the actual suits from L.O.T.R. It was really light but looked like real metal. They explained that when the stuntmen are wearing these for hours at a time, they have to be lightweight. They looked so real and you couldn’t tell the difference to a real metal piece. The same went for the axes and swords. They might have made lightweight fakes but they are for long shots. For close ups, they use real swords made of metal.
Next up we were led to a woman making small buildings. The skyscrapers were only a few inches tall. He then told us that it was for the remake of Thunderbirds, an old English made kids program where the thunderbirds were puppets who saved the world. Just like everything now though, the puppets have changed to CGI models and they only use props for the backgrounds. It’s a shame as the silly way they walked and fought was part of the fun. It even spawned funny films such as Team America!
There were a few films that they were currently making stuff for but they couldn’t tell us what. I asked him what the last film was that they helped make. He replied the recent Spiderman film. He then asked the woman for one of the buildings she had been making. As she passed it over, he pointed to one of the chimneys. It was the fingernail of the Green Goblin! They recycle loads of props. He said you’d be surprised how many you’d see in films if you knew what they were and they chuckle to themselves when they see them.
He showed us the workshop where they make large models and props. At the time we were there, they were building a massive King Kong head. They were then going to cover in material that resembled marble. I thought it might be a new King Kong film but it was a private collector. Who the hell wants a giant Kong head??
At the end of the tour, they had loads of Avatar props including the incubators where the characters laid. Standing next to them was an avatar. They were massive. It was the last part of the tour but I was still too scared to take any photos!
We left the workshop and headed to Wellington Lookout. As you can imagine, like the many other lookouts we had been to, you could see for miles. It was crazy windy up there. The road to get up there was so windy and small; it was a real mission to take the beast of the van up there. Luckily, nothing came the opposite way. There was a bus stop at the top. God knows how the buses get up there!
The next day, Stef really wanted to go to an animal sanctuary called Zealandia. It was home to many types of Kiwi birds. As this was one of the only birds we hadn’t seen, she was excited to go. As it wasn’t a zoo but a massive forest, you had to look out for the different birds. After a few hours of walking, we hadn’t seen any kiwis. A load of other birds yes, but the national bird was a no show.