A Travellerspoint blog


Queenstown and Milford Sound


Because we had to extend our time in Franz so we could experience the glacier in bright sunshine instead of a shroud of fog, plus we used up a day because we had to go via Napier to get to Wellington, we only had three nights in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the South Island. Which was too bad because A)it is knock-you-on-your-tush stunning and B) our hostel was LEGIT. Adventure Queentown Hostel? You know your shit. Each bunk had its own light, two outlets, and a shelf. There were also shelves and plenty of hooks in the showers. You know you've been living lean when the sight of an outlet and a couple of hooks makes you want to weep with gratitude. They even rent out iPads and GoPros and stuff. Most hostels don't even put soap in the bathrooms, much less loan you iPads for free.
The afternoon after the bus dropped us off and the whole next day we crisscrossed Queenstown several times. Everywhere you turn there are mountains.
This range is called The Remarkables, for obvious reasons.
It poured again on Wednesday so we also moved our Milford Sound cruise to Thursday. We walked all the way to the outskirts of town to try this Mexican food truck Gina had read about, only to discover that it had just closed for the day because it was so windy out that tacos were literally blowing down the street. Can't say I wouldn't want to witness that..... So instead we tried Fergburger, a local phenomenon that has people waiting in hellishly long lines in all weather for a hamburger the size of your face. It was good but nothing that I would go significantly out of my way for. All the locals that we talked to kept asking us if we had tried it though. I guess it's literally the most popular thing to do in Queenstown. Much more notable was Cup & Cake, a tiny cupcake bakery sort of hidden near the water. Much better than Sprinkles of Georegtown Cupcakes in DC.
We also finally tried some New Zealand wines. We would have liked a wine tour--the Otago valley is a famous NZ wine region--but tickets to those are hundreds of dollars so that was out. And since we don't have a car to make our own little wine tour, we settled for an intimate but well equipped cellar called The Winery. It was a technological endeavor I had never undertaken before. Every time I have gone wine tasting it involved a counter and a person uncorking the bottles. This was walls of automated dispensers. You got a plastic card registered to your name. The wines were arranged by type along the walls, with their descriptions. The prices flashed the cost of a sample (charging for samples!), a partial and a full glass. So you put your card in the reader, select your wine and press a button according to the size you want to order. Your wine then dispenses and you're free to swirl and swish as much as you please.
The. It just adds up your cost and you pay at the end. The technology was novel but I miss the personal touch. If I am going to have to pay for wine samples then I should at least get a knowledgable staff member to walk me through my choices.
Thursday morning we were at the bus stop by 7am for the long ride to Milford Sound. As the crow flies it's about 75km from Queenstown to Milford but because of the mountains the road is over 300km long. It took us six hours to get there, but that included a lot of stops. Intercity buses always make lots of toilet and tea stops, plus the driver graciously stopped at all of the scenic lookouts and let us all tumble out of the bus with our cameras. Also, the bus had a glass roof, which was lovely for craning one's head up at the peaks.
I mean, how can you not photograph that? Those are the Mirror Lakes. We had entered Fijordland National Park by that point, which covers a huge swathe of southwest New Zealand. Technically, Milford Sound is a fijord--a inlet of water carved out by glaciers-- rather than a sound--a reclaimed riverbed filled from the sea. But someone called it a sound several hundred years ago before they had geological knowledge of the area, and when scientists actually examined the floor they found it was a V like a fijord instead of flat like a sound. But too late! The name had already stuck and Milford Sound has a much better ring than Milford Fijord.

We took a two hour cruise of the sound on a double decker ferry boat. In addition to the mountains, which never ever get old, we saw fur seals sunning themselves on some rocks, and the captain pulled the boat to some waterfalls that those of us standing on the front end in the open got quite wet. The second time he did this it was a glacial-fed stream that was careening over the cliff, and taking that to the face was quite a shock. The guide on the loudspeaker just laughed and called it a glacial facial. Standing there dripping and shivering, I kinda wanted to punch him in the face.
Milford Sound is constantly ranked the top thing to do/see in New Zealand, and I can see why. Because of all the rain recently there were extra waterfalls steaming down the mountains and I to the sound, and the boat even nosed out into the Tasman Sea a little (Jane, we waved to you). The tops of the taller mountains are usually bare, but where they can the trees dig in their roots and hang on for dear life.
Oh and there were keas everywhere again, two even tried to get on the bus until the driver chased them away. They are amazing, sneaky little devils

Posted by Chloeah 06:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Why can't we be Franz

Hiking on and around Franz Josef glacier


It is odd to think that three weeks ago we were diving the Great Barrier Reef (and I was getting more sunburned than I ever have been in my adult life) and this morning we strapped on crampons and heavy coats and hiked a glacier. We went from heat stroke in the Andes to frostbite in Patagonia, now here we are again switching from tropical Airlie Beach to Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand.
See this is why it was hard to pack. You try fitting six months' worth of stuff in a backpack while covering multiple climates and all sorts of temperatures. I'm way past hating all of my clothes that I brought. They are a begrudging necessity, like galoshes or snow pants, but far from cute or stylish.
Back to the glacier. We arrived in Franz Josef village on Saturday, and had signed up for the glacier hike Sunday. The village is just a little spit of a town for the sole purpose of guiding tourists to the glacier. Several hotels and hostels, three shops, a few cafes, and a kiwi house are all that are clustered at the foot of the mountains.
Gina was glued to her weather app all evening--the forecast predicted heavy rain all day Sunday. We were both awake at 5am, listening with dread to the torrential downpour outside our dorm window. I emailed the tour company but when we hadn't heard from them by 9 we called them from the hostel office and rebooked everything for Monday, which meant extending our time in Franz Josef, changing our bus tickets and shortening our next hostel stay. We didn't want to give up on that glacial dream though, especially when we already came all the way out here.
So Sunday we spent pretty much holed up in the hostel, writing blog posts and booking things for the Asia leg of this trip. We attempted the hike to the base of the glacier (which you can do unguided as it is just up the river valley) but we hadn't even hit the edge of town before we were soaked through. Anyways, you couldn't even see the mountains behind the hostel through all of the fog, I didn't expect to be able to see all the way up to the glacier. But hey we tried.
A glacier is just a big block of ice that never melts, it's almost always expanding or contracting, and it compacts the ice so tightly that it turns this amazing blue inside.
933409500CB01DE8982F69C2D53C2EC0.jpgNew Zealand has over THREE THOUSAND of them, and Franz Josef and Fox glaciers on the west coast are the most accessible. FJ is between some mountain peaks, spilling down towards the valley. If you can see the orange dot on this model, that's where FJ glacier is in reference to the mountain range.
It spent most of the last decade retreating--right now it's much shorter and higher up in the valley than it was ten years ago. But now it's starting to expand out again, and will start inching downwards. It moves every day, sometimes a little bit forward, sometimes a little bit backwards. The ice is always shifting and the glacier streams on and through it are always pouring out ice cold water into the river. As it shifts it's gouging out the mountainside and even collapsing on itself all the time, which makes different formations. You used to be able to just hike up the river valley and walk out onto the base of the glacier, but right now it's still retreated so far up that it is very unsafe. Every year a few people get squashed by falling rocks etc. when they ignore the signs and hop the fence and climb all the way up to it. These days the only safe way to go out onto the glacier is to fly up onto a broad section via helicopter, and hike around with a knowledgeable guide. Sign. Me. Up.
I had never been in a helicopter before and it was pretty awesome. There was 11 in our group and they wedged 6 of us in that helicopter. We did a little scenic loop out over the glacier, dipping between the mountain peaks, so we could see some of its extent.
Then the pilot touched down and we clambered out in all of our gear (stunning snow pants, red fanny packs and heavy blue waterproof coats. The sex appeal was raw). Then we all got a little lesson in strapping on crampons, which are the heavy metals spikes that keep you from careening over any ice cliffs or sliding into a glacial stream.
I don't like to brag, but I am A#1 at crampon strapping (and no, there is no way to talk about crampons without sounding dirty). Once we were all fully kitted up, we started our hike at a snail's pace. In order to render the crampons effective, you have to basically stomp your feet as you walk, driving the spikes into the ice.
93364511F16F196E695B5B33FB4B8715.jpgSo you're trying to keep up with the group but you're doing this fee-fy-fo-fum thing and it's hard to remember to look around you as you attempt to stay upright. Almost right away there was a good sized avalanche over the bare rock spot in the middle. I didn't get a picture of the actual collapse but it was so cool to hear the groan and crash of all of the rocks and ice. That warning sound definitely sparks a visceral reaction deep in your gut.
The avalanche crumbled part of that black rock area in the middle, on the left hand side next to the ice. It all tumbled down to the base of that black spot and the little valley beneath it.
Also, there are parrots! Up on the glaciers! New Zealand has alpine parrots called Keas (KEE-uhs), which are hefty dudes, bigger than macaws but with shorter tails, and dull green feathers. Our guide said they are crazy smart, with the problem solving skills of a seven year old child, and they plague the guides by breaking into their packs and food boxes all the time and stealing stuff. Or they will just be destructive if they are feeling pouty, like rip off the trim of your car or rip holes in backpacks.
This is what it looked like inside the cave--pure ice blue
We spent the next several hours crawling in and out of ice caves, clambering up and down big jutting spikes in the surface. All of these are formed as the glacier shifts and buckles over itself in places. 90_905EB01DFC3E4FEE38C9719AB93438F1.jpg
907466AEA29AEE89EA1CF820D9A9E8D2.jpgWe drank from a glacial stream and even ate some of the little ice chips, everything is ice, not snow, though sometimes it is in choppy bits or snow-pack instead of big solid chunks. Whenever we had to go down a particularly steep part, Rob our guide hacked a few little stairs into the surface. He spends over eight hours a day up on the glacier, leading three groups a day, and doesn't even need to wear a jacket.
Truth be told most of the group had removed their bulky jackets after a while. The sun is quite strong and we had a gorgeous morning. I didn't even really need gloves. Sunglasses were a must though. The glare is pretty intense.
All too soon Rob led us back to our little ice helipad and we crammed into another helicopter for the ride back down. This time Gina got to sit up front with the rogue pilot who swooped us around in figure eights, pulling us nearly horizontal on the sides.
Once relieved of our sexy snow gear we skipped the glacial hot pools in favor of a four hour hike to the bottom of the glacier. Why, I'm still not sure. By 8pm those hot pools sure sounded a lot better than a long walk in weather that quickly turned rainy. We were so fortunate to be the first group out on the ice that morning. Even by the time we were getting out of the helicopter clouds were starting to obscure the mountain peaks and the day quickly slipped into gray rain again. Fortune does smile upon us.
This hike cut through the rainforest, meeting up with the car park (for those fortunate to have cars) before turning out onto the river valley. Then it goes up that river valley, past several waterfalls, up and over some rock formations, until you are close enough to see good old Franz peeking out above you.
You can just see the glacier peeking out between the two mountains, slowly spilling out.
A guide strayed from the path long enough to fish an ice chunk out of the fast-flowing river, and he handed it to Gina for a moment to hold.
The walk back to the village was long and slightly painful. And because of the cloud cover and the strange thermal directions of mountains and valleys we were colder down on that path than we were up on the glacier itself. But it was still 1000% worth it. It was another world up there.

Posted by Chloeah 03:19 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

My heart is filled with Lavender Honey

Nelson goes for your gut with craft beer and gelato


I've raved about these bus passes already, but I'm going to do it for another few minutes. They make traveling New Zealand quite easy and enjoyable. And the drivers tell you interesting stuff along the way, as well as make stops for tea and interesting views. To journey on from Wellington however, we first had to take the 3.5 hr Interislander ferry (included in the fabulous pass). This involved a 7am shuttle to the dock, where we stood in the shadow of a ship big enough to take us past Cape Horn.
Bit of a shock when you're used to Shepler's. And the inside was like a cruise ship, eight stories with a movie theatre and cafes and things. Not that we took advantage of these amenities. The mayor of Snoreville had a very long discourse last night, and at one point it even sounded like he was practicing the kazoo. So we were more than ready to get out of Nomads Capital hostel, and both of us spent most of the beautiful ferry ride napping like house cats on the banquette. Then it was another hour long bus ride to Nelson, where the hostel turned out to be simply lovely (fastest way to our hearts A) good wifi B) resident hostel cat C) free cake and ice cream every night).
As it turns out, Nelson is the craft beer capital of New Zealand, which means Gina is determined to set up residence (she has decided to move to at least half a dozen places by now, if anyone is keeping track). I'm actually with her on this one though. Nelson is slightly sleepy but in a good way and it's adorable and everyone is extra nice. And the houses are like something out of a storybook:
But back to the beer. That first night we were too tired to cook so we treated ourselves to pizza and beer flights at the Sprig & Fern downtown.
Their cider was especially good, and included in the flights at no extra cost. And we still made it back to the hostel in time for free cake! Sometimes the stars just really align in your favor.
The next morning we went on a little hike for a few hours, up two of the mountains and over to the Center of New Zealand marker. The views from the mountains out over the city and bay were amazing, I could take or leave the marker. It is spring here and everything is bursting with new flowers, which makes everything smell lovely. Cherry trees, magnolias, azaleas and camellias are scattered everywhere, dropping fat blossoms on the sidewalks and losing petals on the wind.
New Zealand is so lush and beautiful you have to pinch yourself to remind yourself it's real. It is, as Gina so eloquently puts it, "stupid beautiful."
We then walked around downtown, which has some cute little shops, not to mention the showroom for the jeweler who crafted the One Ring for LotR. One ring to rule them all! He's actually deceased but his son runs it now and is licensed to make replicas. Sad fact: the ring in the movies is actually plain; the script on it was added via computer. So you can buy a replica with elvish script on it but technically if you want a true replica of the movie ring then it's plain.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY though was a stop by Penguinos gelato shop. We had read that it was voted New Zealand's best ice cream and had won tons of awards (they literally cover the walls) so obviously this stop was a priority. We had no idea it would be the best ice cream of our lives though. New Zealanders looooove themselves some ice cream, I don't know if it is because there are so many dairy farms here or what but you can find ice cream almost anywhere and most of it is really high quality.
But this. THIS.
Yes. We ordered that. It's the nine scoop sampler platter. Judge me if you will but I have zero regrets. At least we shared it. And the owner gave us a free scoop of a flavor he was working on so technically it was ten scoops. Like I said. Zero regrets. Phillip is Dutch and he is way too humble about his dairy talents. Penguinos has a sophisticated array of flavors, three of them were wine sorbets that you had to be 18 or older to order. We filled our tray with the following, from left to right, top to bottom:
Rosemary White Chocolate (silver medal)
Watermelon Mint Leaf Chili Flake sorbet
Mango Lassie (silver medal)
Ginger yogurt
Lavender Honey (gold medal)
Black currant Wine sorbet
Roasted Coconut Sea Salt sorbet (silver medal)
Kawakawa (a local plant)
Feijoada Wine sorbet (a New Zealand fruit).
Phillip also gave us a scoop of German Apple Cake and tastes of Mango Chili Flake. Every. Single. One. Was. Delicious. I've had a lot of comments from you guys that you like reading about the foods we experience on this trip and thank you for the feedback and now you have something to be jealous of. But now also Gina and I are ruined for ice cream forever. How can anything compare to Penguinos? My favorites were Lavender Honey and Roasted Coconut Sea Salt. Gina practically bit me when I tried to get my share of the Mango Lassie, and she also favored the Blackcurrent Wine. We talked to Phillip about how he gets his ideas (some of his awards in the past were for olive gelato and even salmon) and he said its so easy it's not funny. No, Phillip. You're just an ice cream savant. He even gifted us some Penguinos stickers and said to be sure and come back again. I have no idea how I'm going to make my way back to Nelson, New Zealand, I just know it needs to happen. And you know, we didn't even feel stuffed or I'll after eating that whole platter. His ice creams were light and flavors weren't overpowering and we left feeling like we had just enjoyed a light snack.
Which was good because Gina was saving herself for The Free Church, an independent craft beer spot housed in an old church and packed with locals. It gave her a chance to add more NZ beer to her craft beer app and it gave me the chance to step inside New Zealand's only special event yurt.
I bet you weren't expecting that, were you? You never know when a yurt will pop up I guess...

Posted by Chloeah 01:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Well well, Wellington

Enjoying New Zealand's capital city


Wellington has much more charm than Auckland did. Auckland felt like just another city--tall, anonymous buildings, the sidewalks crowded with noodle shops and cheap souvenir stalls. Dirty, impersonal. Wellington seemed to have more vibrancy and the people didn't just shuffle past each other on the street with downcast eyes.
Our hostel, however, was once again a pathetic stable for weary budget travelers. The location was great--across the street from the information center and less than a block from the big museum and Cuba Street. But its charms ended there.
Let me quell any dreamy ideas about backpacking and accommodation. When I choose a place we have three main criteria: location, wifi and price. Good reviews and cuteness might come into play. Wifi is a big deal not just because it's nice to stay in touch, but also because we make all of our bookings online plus blogging and all of that. But price is always our leading factor. Cheap enough that our wallets won't snap shut of their own accord like clams, but not the very bottom of the barrel. No one wants to pick up any bed bugs or get fondled in their sleep. Nomads Capital wasn't cheap by our standards but it was on the less expensive side of the Wellington scale--this because they pack young backpackers in like cattle off to market. There are eight people in our room and enough stuff for twenty. Gina and I each were relegated to the dreaded top bunk, which means your bag is in the middle of the floor and people step on your stuff without apology. The guy beneath me is mayor of Snoreville and the other five people in the room are his constituents. In the middle of the night our room sounds like a cave full of toddlers with clarinets and tubas. Particularly the two British girls, who come in super late each night, drunk and laughing, and then sleep sprawled on their bunks in their underwear, snoring with the best of them. Classy.
One of the additional draws of Nomads was that it boasted free breakfast and dinner--a backpackers holy grail. We shouldn't have gotten our hopes up though, when in the morning "free breakfast" meant a Rubbermaid tub of pancake mix in the sink left for us to fight over like the animals we were. And "free dinner" meant a voucher for the bar next door where, if you bought a drink you would get a plate of corn chips with chili sauce on top. Livin the life. It's a tough call when you want to stay on budget but you also want to experience the GOOD food a city has to offer, and not the pathetic bribes of a chain hostel.
Did I mention that at the Auckland hostel (the one still under construction all around us) someone stole Gina's underwear? Right out of the laundry room. We're pretty sure we know which girl too. How awkward is that? That's the sort of place we've been sleeping. Except for Rotorua. That place was amazing.
So Wellington. It's at the southern most tip of the North Island and it's the capital of New Zealand. Auckland is much larger but Wellington seemed much more happening, with hip restaurants and cute shops, much more public art and more events going on.
We wound up spending a whole day at Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. I don't know if the country is officially bilingual the way Canada is but they're really good about listing stuff both in English and in Maori. The Museum of New Zealand's Maori name is Te Papa Tongarewa, and is just referred to as Te Papa.
Very excellent museum. Art on the fifth floor, social history on the fourth, natural history on the third, and so on. They also boast the world's only colossal squid specimen, which is on display pickled in big case. It's eye is the size of a soccer ball, to give you an idea of scale.
Also on display is Shrek, a poor old sheep. Does everyone remember those pictures circulating online the last few years, of the sheep who hid out and lived in a cave for six years without ever being sheared?
Yeah well apparently he's dead now. And stuffed. And on display at Te Papa.
What took us the longest was the WWI Gallipoli special exhibit. It is new, in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the battles. Weta (of LotR fame from one of my earlier posts) did the sculptures of the soldiers and a nurse, which are all on a really big scale--standing, they would maybe be twenty feet tall--but so lifelike it was insane. Down to the individual hairs.
I didn't know anything about Gallipoli other than its location and that the Anzac (Australia New Zealand Army Corps, and a word you will here about five times a day here) lost astronomical numbers. It was worse than I realized though. About 93% of the New Zealanders who fought at Gallipoli died in the war. The exhibit was incredibly well done and didn't gloss over any unseemly details or glorify any of the horrors. It was well worth the line and the hours we spent inside.
We walked down Cuba Street, known for vintage shops and good cafes. Gina tried the beer at C & Co. It's hard to be a beer connoisseur and still stay on budget. Especially when we went to Garage Project at the recommendation of her friend Katherine. It's a microbrewery in what used to be an old gas station and auto repair shop.
Sidebar: it is freakish how many of the kiwi guys are attractive. Gina is with me on this 100%. Which would be easier for me to look past if everyone wasn't so NICE. It's all, "no please after you" and "are you ladies sure I can't help" and random jokes and niceties that are just too precious.
True to kiwi form, the guy at the Garage Project helped us for like an hour, walking us through all of the free beer samples on tap and chatting. In the end we bought Angry Peaches, which wasn't on tap and turned out to be far less stellar than the label promised. And Hops on Pointe, a champagne beer dedicated to the NZ National Ballet. That one wasn't too bad. Gina also got the one simply titled "Beer."
In the afternoon of our last day in Wellington we hit up the free Capitol Building tour. It is actually more like three buildings in a row: a classical marble behemoth in the middle that is missing the left wing, a pink gothic library on the right, and an ugly brown modern monstrosity on the left. Apparently in the middle of last century the time came to decide what they were going to do about completing the central classical structure, but instead of simply finishing the left wing they added a completely different building now known as "the Beehive."
It's been voted one of the ugliest buildings in the world. It's where most of the parliamentary offices are, including the Prime Minister's. Not surprisingly, there were absolutely no photos allowed on the tour. But you can pretty much imagine what the insides looked like based on the outsides.
I think my favorite part of Wellington though was just the walk by the water. There's a broad avenue for pedestrians with a few choice cafes and artisan shops, and a few seafood restaurants and lots of sculptures. It was the kind of city I wouldn't mind living in or near.
Before we part ways, let me share with you my favorite painting from the Te Papa art gallery, and the accompanying poem:

Posted by Chloeah 01:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)


Weta and other wonders in Wellington


We are pretty much one unmarked van and a pair of binoculars away from making this New Zealand leg of our trip as geeky as we can make it. If we had our own car we would buy the Lord of the Rings location guidebook and go into full stalker mode. As it is we have to rely on commercial tours where available.
We had heard Wellington was a hub of LotR fandom and hoped that the Weta Studio (the company responsible for most of the props, prosthetics and effects from both the Rings and Hobbit movies) had tours. We were not to be disappointed.
The tourist information center hosts Azog the Defiler, who guards the brochures about Weta and LotR tours. The full-day Rings tours were out of the question due to cost, but we really wanted to see the Weta Cave and studio tour (the Cave is pretty much the mini museum and gift shop, aka the free section, but you have to pay if you want the studio tour. Well worth it). Once on the Weta bus Wednesday morning the guide gave us some interesting commentary and showed us a few things around Wellington as he drove out to Miramar, a Wellington suburb that's home to the many Weta facilities. Gina and I held it together pretty well during the bus ride but then it was no holds barred once the bus parked in front of the Cave.
LOOKIT THE TROLLS!! Fans! Are you with me on this? Weta artists designed and crafted many many aspects of the Rings and Hobbit movies, including but not limited to:
conceptual design
weapons, both real (called "hero weapons") used for close-ups and plastic used for crowd and battle scenes
armor, both real and plastic for the same reasons
makeup, costumes and prosthetics (such as Hobbit feet or Dwarf hair and facial prosthetics)
digital graphics and visual effects (through sister company Weta Digital) for everything from the writing on The One Ring to the crowds in the battle scenes to the shots of Mount Doom etc.
set miniatures and bigatures (castles etc used in sweeping long distance shots)
character design and animation for CGI characters such as Gollum, Azog the Defiler, Smaug, trolls, orcs, etc.

HOW COOL IS THAT? Weta started as a New Zealand couple making puppets and creatures out of their Wellington apartment and now it is one of the top digital and effects studios in the world employing over 3,000 people. And all right here in New Zealand. The company name and logo are taken from the weta insect, "a very cool, prickly little monster, unique to New Zealand. " The couple knew and worked with Peter Jackson before he started on LotR in 1998 but obviously The Fellowship of the Ring was the real takeoff point for both Jackson and Weta. They have earned a bunch of Oscars and various other awards to date, many from their groundbreaking work on LotR, but they have also worked on many many other movies. Gina collapsed further and further into her seat as they listed off blockbusters on Weta's resume such as The Avengers, The Hunger Games Mockingjay, Spiderman, Mad Max (new one) Zena Warrior Princess, The Last Samurai, King Kong, Van Helsing, The Legend of Zorro, District 9, the Avatar movies (apparently there are two prequels and a sequel in production, presumably the reason James Cameron has moved to Wellington too) The Lovely Bones, Godzilla, and all of the Narnia movies, to name a few. They also animated all of The Adventures of Tin Tin in full and have a children's division. We watched a short documentary in a room packed with props. Down side? No pictures....
Due to confidentiality and general stinkiness we were only allowed to take pictures in the dinky "cave" museum attached to the gift shop, not inside the theater or studio itself WHERE ALL THE COOL STUFF WAS.
Also the gift shop was also quite sparse, nothing like our future Lord of the Things shop will be.
These are hobbit legs and feet used in The Hobbit: And Unexpected Journey
Lurtz, an orc from the first two Rings movies
The really awesome stuff was in the studio though. Naturally. But we fell over each other to gawp at awesome stuff such as Sauron's witch-king armor, Legolas's bow, Gimley's battle axe and helmet, Sting, Gandalf's sword, Eowyn's battle helmet, Aragorn's sword and dagger, plaster casts for facial prosthetics including Elijah Wood, Ian Holm and Andy Serkis, Edmund's helmet and armor from the Narnia movies, King Kong's head, a dwarf-sized statue of Thorin Oakenshield, weapons from District 9, Hellboy's hero weapon, Sauron's armor and weapons, a minature for Miraz's castle (bigger than a dining table) and his armor from The Chronicles of Narnia Prince Caspian, the Green Goblin's armor from Spiderman, the Balrog from LotR, and oh I could just go on and on.
The tour talked about how they develop characters and manufacture the props and prosthetics. They have the world's only royal master swordsman on staff and they pioneered new technology in chain maille and developed crowd software for battle and other large scale crowd scenes. I wish I was a top sculptor or super talented in some other category so I can wooooooork theeeeeeeerrrrreeeeeeeeee. Gina was content to try and just hide behind the castle and live in the studio. All attempts to fit statue Thorin in my purse failed.
We didn't hear much of what the guide had to say on the way home, Gina was too busy sputtering and I was trying to jot down what we saw before my brain simply shut down.

Posted by Chloeah 19:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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