We kept an eye on the weather and chose what looked like our best option of days to cross the Cook Strait from Picton, on the South Island, to Wellington, on the North Island. The Cook Strait can be a notoriously rough crossing, and since I was breastfeeding, there wasn’t anything I could safely take to prevent motion sickness. I was worried it was going to be a miserable journey since I have a history of getting violently ill on ferries. I convinced myself if I just relaxed and stayed focused on the horizon, it would be fine.
Xander just seemed excited to be on another big boat.My plan to stay focused on the horizon was a great one…until we started moving and the fog was so thick there was no horizon! Thankfully, the waters were beautifully calm and I didn’t have any issues. The ferry was weird for Xander because it was dozens of adults sitting around in a giant room refusing to make eye contact with one another. He kept looking from person to person, waving at them as though trying to figure out why they were all pretending that none of the other people exist. You don’t think about how strangely grown ups behave until you look at them from a child’s perspective. Why do we all try so desperately not to engage with one another in public settings?
Finally, the fog cleared enough for us to start to make out the outline of Wellington. It was raining and starting to get dark when we arrived, so we stopped by Pizza Pomodoro to grab dinner, and took it with us to our campsite. There weren’t any promising looking powered sites in the city, so we just freedom camped in a parking lot by Owhiro Bay that allowed overnight parking.
The pizza was phenomenal. I had the Ortolana and Kris had the Carne. It was so good, I convinced him we needed to have it again for lunch the next day, but they didn’t open until 5, so we had to do something else.
It was about the time we got into bed that we realized they weren’t kidding about it being Windy Wellington. The wind was blowing so hard it was rocking the campervan. I barely slept because every time I did, I had dreams that we were on a ship that was about to wreck in a stormy sea.
Thankfully, in the morning we were still upright and in for a much clearer day. Where we slept might have been a little exposed to the wind, but it was lovely. Xander was either looking for birds or pining for the South Island. A trip to Wellington wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Weta Cave. Is it touristy? Yes. But we were tourists, and more importantly huge Weta fans, so it had to happen. Weta is the company that did the digital visual effects for all of the LOTR and Hobbit movies as well as weaponry, costumes, makeup effects, models, and more. They basically do really cool stuff for lots of movies. Xander was far more impressed by the trolls than he was by Lurtz, the Uruk-Hai.We thought he was going to take his first steps, but he faked us out and decided to crawl around the shop instead. This might be one of the more interesting places I’ve had to breastfeed Xander. Hey, when the Tiny Emperor is hungry, the Tiny Emperor eats. The trolls didn’t seem particularly offended.We picked up fish and chips at the Mt. Vic Chippery and took them up to the top of Mt. Victoria to eat. The fish and chips were most excellent. I expected to eat less than half of it, and I think Kris and Xander were a little disappointed that I almost finished mine it was so delicious. Once we finished eating, we went for a walk and enjoyed the wonderful view overlooking Wellington. We tried to make it look like we were shooting Xander out of a cannon, but alas we are no Weta… We thought about staying longer in Wellington, but most of what we would have wanted to do (enjoy some craft beers, sample some more restaurants, check out the cool bars) would have been challenging with Xander and not his idea of a good time. We’ll need to come back and explore further when he’s a bit older and less likely to insist that the person’s beer at the table next to us belongs to him now.
We headed to Kaitoke Regional Park not far outside of Wellington instead. It was the huge park where they filmed Rivendell (with lots of CGI added). The water was still clear, and I’m guessing was maybe that color as a result of tannin runoff, but it was our first noticeable difference that we weren’t on the South Island anymore, where all bodies of water are a brilliant shade of blue.
Sometimes, in the excitement of the moment, you take a picture and pose a certain way thinking, that’s going to look great! And then you look at it on the computer and think, why did I feel the need to point the direction of Rivendell when that’s the whole point of the sign that I’m standing in front of? Here is me in all my dorky glory: “Look, guys! Across this bridge to Rivendell!”Tolkien’s prose is wonderful, but his poetry is pretty sweet too. I thought often on this trip of a few lines in particular:
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
Speaking of Aragorn…
According to this sign, he was the same height as Kris. But his facial hair was not nearly as impressive. Kris is taller than Gandalf.The spots where they filmed are marked with signs. It’s a stretch to picture it, but the park is still picturesque, and the ambiance with flowing streams and singing birds is certainly well suited to Rivendell. Cooler than the filming locations? This swing bridge across the river! It bounces like a trampoline when you walk across it. Or at least it did for Kris. Evidently, you have to be the size of Aragorn to properly impact it, and I am much closer in size to a hobbit. They close the entrance to the park at dusk, and we were the only people staying there. It was super cool having all of those fantastic trails to ourselves, but it was a little eerie just how dark and quiet it was once we got back to the camper and the sun went down. The night before, the camper rocked in the wind all night with no break to the roaring sound. The next night was as quiet and still as I think I’ve ever experienced. We all slept beautifully and woke up to a cacophony of birds, the closest we got to an alarm clock on the entire trip. Next, we were continuing on to Lake Taupo.
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