Welcome to Part 2 of the trip to New Zealand I took last October. You can read Part 1 here if you missed it.
Although I had stayed in Auckland for a few nights at this point in my trip, I hadn’t spent much time around the city, so Jamie and I spent Friday and Saturday shopping and wandering around the city. We hit a few vintage stores and thrift stores, and we also checked out some contemporary ones and of course the local yarn shop. We also went to the Auckland Art Gallery and had snacks and knit in the gallery’s cafe. One night we went to a movie, and another night we met up with some of Kevin and Jamie’s friends for drinks and a bit of dancing.
Sunday mornings are fairly quiet in Auckland, so we used that day to drive to Wellington. Kevin joined us again, and he and Jamie took turns driving and playing DJ, while I worked on my knitting project. We had a lot of fun singing along to songs on our way south, and I managed to finish knitting my shawl in time for our arrival in Wellington! It was a simple top-down shawl with double the decrease rate at the edges to keep it shallower.
On Monday morning, we went to brunch at an adorable place in an old bank building and walked down the waterfront to Te Papa, which was close to where we were staying. Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum and has exhibits on New Zealand wildlife, history, and art. The wildlife section is really neat, and the museum has a giant squid on display! It also has a rather sad section on how humans transformed the landscape and caused the extinction of dozens of species of birds by introducing mammals. One of the most interesting tidbits from the museum was that bats are the only native New Zealand mammals.
Later that afternoon, Jamie and I went on a tour at Weta Workshop. As you might know from reading this blog, I’m a huge horror movie fan, and I also adore The Lord of the Rings, so Weta Workshop has provided the effects for a lot of films I love. The guy leading our tour told us he got his start at the workshop being the blood maker. The tour didn’t actually show much of the real work space– we got to see some of the machinery for creating prototypes and molds through windows and the rest was more museum-like– but it was surprisingly hands-on. There were a lot of props and supplies that we were allowed to handle, so we could really get a feel for how much work goes into the props and the level of attention to detail. At the end of the tour we got to meet a man who was working on a giant troll art installation that was a private commission, and he was using a basic dinner fork to sculpt. It was cool to see that despite having such sophisticated tools, a lot of the finer work is still done with commonly available tools.
The next day we did more yarn and vintage shopping. I picked up some yarn to make myself a new hat. I got two skeins of Zealand Cozi and circular needles to knit a striped beanie that could hold up to being kept in my purse. After making my little shawl, I realized that vacation was the perfect opportunity to knit myself some new accessories!
On our last day in Wellington, we went to the Wellington Botanic Garden. It was a lot smaller and more hilly than the Auckland Botanic Garden, but its visitor center is at the top of a hill and has a viewing platform with some of the best placards I’ve seen in a garden. Instead of vaguely describing the plants you could see, the placards were photos of the view, with each tree you could see clearly labeled. New Zealand has some strange looking trees, so it was nice to learn all of their names. We decided to explore more but got a little lost because the scale of the garden map was bizarre,and it started to rain, so when we reached Wellington’s cable car, we decided to take it down the hill.
We popped into the Wellington Museum because Jamie told me they had some costumes from What We Do in the Shadows, and naturally, I wanted to see them. It’s a goofy little museum, with many of the display descriptions dripping with sarcasm and jokes. The video that accompanies the costumes from What We Do in the Shadows has the costume designer talking about the film as if it were a real New Zealand documentary. Some of the displays are a bit more somber, like one on the tragic sinking a ferry boat, but most have a sense of humor to them that was surprising for a city museum. We meant to just pop in and see the costumes, but it started to downpour while we were inside, so we stayed for quite a while. We watched every video display in the museum, and by the time it was done, the rain had let up a bit.
After Wellington, we went to Rotorua to see more geothermal action. Jamie and I walked around the oddest city park I’ve ever been to. There were boiling pits fenced off with plain wooden fences all over the place, but it was also just a normal park with a playground and some kids kicking around a soccer ball. There was a small bubbling lake in the park, with a bridge spanning across it. It was a little breezy the day we were there, so walls of steam would wash over us as we stood over the lake. The steam made it hard to see the rest of the park, and it felt like we were on another planet.
I couldn’t visit New Zealand and not see Hobbiton, so on my final day there, we got up early and drove out to the middle of nowhere to see some hobbit holes and sheep. For the Hobbiton movie set tour, you gather at a gift shop with nothing around it and are loaded up in a bus and drove out into the middle of pastures filled with sheep and cows. It was spring, so there were adorable lambs everywhere! The set is far from the real road and it really feels like you’re removed from everything modern.
Jamie and I took tons of pictures, because who could resist? There were hobbit holes of a variety of sizes to create different optical illusions, and most were false fronts, but a few had doors that opened and little rooms that were a few feet deep, for filming entrances and exits. The sets are incredibly well maintained, and there were gardeners at work while we were there. Hobbits love gardens, and the employees kept everything looking perfect.
At the end of the tour we got to go to the Green Dragon, which has a finished interior. We were served a complimentary pint, and I enjoyed a bit of knitting time. What I would give to have that be my regular knitting spot!
We drove back to Auckland, had some delicious Thai food, and then it was time for me to repack my bags and go to the airport. I took an unusually empty red-eye flight to Honolulu and slept the whole time. After we crossed the date line, the bulk of the flight was on Friday the 13th, so I wonder if that’s why so few people were on the plane. From Honolulu to Seattle, I finished knitting my hat, and I was delighted to get home and discover that all of my plants had survived two weeks without attention!