Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 13 - Wellington

July 13 - Wellington

Last night was a pretty decent night of sleeping. Andy had complained before that the girl sleeping above him moved around all night and made a lot of noise, but the girl above me didn’t seem to move at all. I was worried that the bed wasn’t going to be strong enough to hold her, but thankfully it did. She did talk in her sleep a little bit though I remember.

We woke up early again today to get the free breakfast. I got out of bed around 7:30 AM. We wanted to take showers so we went upstairs to the second floor to do that. I needed to shave and put on some clean clothes. The water was boiling hot again just like all the other places.

I went back to the room to drop my clothes and other things off and then went to the kitchen. There were only a couple of people in there again. I had two pieces of jelly toast with corn flakes and a cup of hot chocolate. I skipped the gross oat thing this time. I went back for seconds and this time made a peanut butter and jelly toast sandwich. I was eating a lot, but I was still actually hungry. I have about 15 lbs to regain from this trip so far.

While Andy was eating I went into the little room to play on the free internet. There was only one computer and it was in a cubby hole with a door on it. It was extremely slow. I just wanted to check my emails and see how much money I had left on my credit card and make sure my bills were being paid. It took about 20 minutes just to do that.

We weren’t in a real hurry to leave because our tour for the Lord of the Rings wasn’t supposed to start until 9:30 AM. It was about 8:45 AM when we left to go to the I-site where we were supposed to be picked up. It only took about 15 minutes to get down there so we stopped to look at a few stores. We went to two outdoor stores. One of them was Macpac and the other one was some place I had never heard of. They both had really nice things and at good prices, but because I didn’t need anything really we didn’t get anything. It was windy in the city. The buildings didn’t block it at all. It seemed like it was just creating a wind tunnel basically.

At about 9:20 AM we figured it was time to get to the I-site. It was just across the street, but we weren’t really sure where the pick-up spot was located. The guy we bought the tickets from said it was outside at some sign, but there was nothing that looked obvious to us. After standing around lost for a few minutes we went to the I-site to ask for directions. The lady told us it was about 10 meters outside the door at a bus stop.

We walked 10 meters and we were still under the walkway entrance to the I-site. Her measurements were way off. It was more like 50 meters. We waited for about 10 minutes and some guy came up and asked if we were waiting for the Lord of the Rings tour. We told him we were and he said we were in the right place. I was thinking he may be our guide or driver and was going to get the van.

About 5 minutes later a van pulled up and a young lady in her early 20s jumped out. Her name was Alice and she was going to be our guide and driver. I guess that old guy was just some crazy coot. There were already two people inside, a guy from Brazil and a lady from Australia.

We had a really long day ahead of us. We were going to see a number of film locations from the Lord of the Rings movies all around the Wellington area, including the special effects department and movie studios used for the filming of the movie.

Our tour began and it was just us four. I didn’t really know what to expect, but for $115 NZD I was hoping it would be good. I felt it was about 10 times too expensive, but the other tour option was $170 NZD. I don’t know what they offered, but it better be good.

Alice said our first stop was about 15 minutes outside of town and that we would go as far as Kaitoke Regional Park, about 45 minutes from Wellington. Along the way we were going to be stopping at a few locations, and on the way back we would pass a few more.

Our first stop was at a quarry. This was where they created the sets for Minis Tirith and Helms  Deep. They used the quarry because it already had the proper rock setting they were wanting and the necessary size. As we drove there scenes from the movie playing on a TV that was positioned between the two front seats hanging down from the ceiling. It was actually a nice set up.

Alice would describe something from the movie that we were going to be seeing and then show a clip of it to remind us of what she was talking about and so we weren’t bored sitting in the van as we drove. It was actually a really cool idea and probably one of the best parts of the tour. The other tour that was more expensive didn’t offer this at all. The first place was the longest drive, so the movie clip she showed was the longest. It was actually behind the scenes information that is on the extended DVD.

We watched a clip that showed the trailer for the new movie. It looks really good and I’m ready for it to come out at the theatre. It comes out on December 14 of this year, and the second one will come out on December 13 of 2012.

The next clip was just the explanation of how the sets were built. They actually used pieces from Helms Deep to build Minis Tirith. The walls, towers, and a few other portions were just modified in some way to build the new sets. Basically I was paying money to watch behind the scenes things I could get on a DVD, but this was way cooler because I got to then see the things they were describing to a certain degree.

We got to the quarry and parked across the street in a gravel parking lot. Of course after 12 years the sets were long gone so really all we saw was a rock wall with trees growing around it. It looked like an operating quarry, nothing too great. Although it was neat to see the locations.

The guide had a laptop computer with her so when we stopped she could describe a scene and how it looked and then show a clip from the movie so we could imagine what it looked like. She also had print outs of pictures from the movie. She held them up and allowed us to look at them so we could compare it to what we were currently looking at. This was really helpful in proving that we were in the right place.

As we got back in the car we continued driving down the road. This time we stopped at a park in Lower Hutt. The name of the park escapes me, but I think it was called Hutt City Park. We had to walk across a field to get to the locations. It had rained recently so it was slightly muddy and we had to go down a hill. The girl with us had a little trouble walking, she must have taken lessons from Iris. She almost slipped a few times and was taking tiny little baby steps to walk down the hill. I was thinking not again, another retard that can’t walk properly.

We waited for a few minutes for her to catch up and stopped in a grassy area. Alice asked if we recognized the place, of course we had no clue what we were looking at. She told us this was where Gandalf rode his horse up to Isengard.

A path had been built in the middle of this field that was about 75-100 meters long. The reason it looked so far in the movie was because they made him ride one way, and then back the other direction. There was a huge green screen set up in the park that he rode towards, which was used to put Isengard and mountains in the background and in front of him. The mountains were filmed in the south island. Most of the time in or near Queenstown.

To help bring it to life she showed us some video clips of the scene and then pointed out trees that were in the scenes. She showed us some pictures so we could compare. It was an exact match. There was even a patch of grass that stretched for the length of the former path to signify the location. The park made them remove the path after filming, but wanted to show proof of it’s existence so a different type of grass was laid in it’s place. It was still visible after all this time.

To create the scene where Gandalf was riding across the bridge they used a miniature scale model. It was a lot of really cool information. I’m not obsessed with Lord of the Rings, but if anybody likes the movies and wants to know more about it this was the perfect tour and it had just begun.

We walked back up the hill a little ways to another spot. We looked down on the area below that we had just come from. Not only was it the spot where Gandalf rode his horse, it was also the site where the Orcs cut down the trees.

The tree they were tearing down was actually created about of metal. It had hinges on it that made it easy to pull down and put back up. This was important for a very simple reason. In the movie there are a lot of trees being torn down, but in reality it was the exact same tree. They just filmed it from different angles to make it look like more trees were being torn down. It was raining the entire time this part was being filmed, so the rain in the movie is actually real rain. It was done at a very late hour and everyone was cold and wet.

While we were in this area we turned to look at an area with lots of shrubs and trees. This area was just up and to the left of where we had previously been standing so from above we could see the spot where Gandalf was riding his horse back and forth.

The spot on the hill is where Gandalf and Sauron were walking in the woods talking about the ring. We watched the clip, saw pictures, and she pointed out a few trees. After seeing the scenes and holding up the pictures we could tell it was an identical match. To really bring it to life Alice went over to the woods, bent down, and pulled out two walking sticks from under the brush.

She asked us if we wanted to be wizards. Of course we did. The other two people on the tour went first. They held the sticks and walked side by side, just like the movie. Me and Andy did the same. He was Gandalf and I was Sauron. All we needed were some wigs and a robe and it would have been a match. We had Alice film us walking.

We got back in the car and were ready to move on. Our third stop was at the Hutt River. This spot was behind a subdivision. We actually drove through a neighborhood and parked on the side of the street. Across the street I saw a family sitting in their house watching TV. I was wondering if they get tired of seeing Lord of the Ring nerds park across the street to see some stupid river where a movie scene was filmed. They should be charging money for people to park there.

We had to walk about 100 meters down a little alley way to get to the river. This particular spot was where Aragon came ashore after flying over the cliff in a battle scene. We watched more clips, saw some pictures for proof, and then compared them to the real thing. Another match. The beach was covered in sand for the movie and the horse that nudged him was trained to kneel down and hit Aragon on the head with his nose.

The behind the scenes information we received was that the original horse couldn’t be trained properly so they had to get rid of him. They tried training the horse using a bail of hay as Aragon, but he kept sitting on top of it. To help they brought in a new horse and Aragon, Vigo Mortensson character, was used in the training process. The horse got it right on the first time, but never again. They ended up having to use the first take.

To build a bond with the horse he even slept in his stable a number of times. The crew joked that he had something going on with the horse. After the filming was over he bought the horse. Originally a different actor had been chosen to be Aragon, but after a few weeks they decided he was too difficult to work with and made a change. Vigo was the first choice, but had to make his decision immediately so shooting wouldn’t be delayed. He originally was going to decline since he knew nothing about the story and was going to need to decide the same afternoon he was asked because he was needed in New Zealand in two days.

His son was a huge fan of the books and convinced his dad to take the role since he thought it would be cool to have his dad be in the movie. Because Peter Jackson knew that Vigo’s son convinced him to take the part he rewarded him by putting him in the movie as an Orc. He was later killed in the movie by his father. Jackson also used his own children and other actor’s children in the movie.

For Gandalf’s role Sean Connery was the first choice, but at his age he didn’t feel like he would be able to do it. They decided that Ian McClellan would be a good fit.

The rocks in the background were the marker for this particular spot. For the most part most of the sites have looked the same with the exception of a few trees that had fallen down or sets being taken down. Otherwise we were seeing everything from the actual movie. I don’t know why this was so cool since there are millions of movies, but I thought it was really interesting.

Our next stop was a little further down along the same river. This spot was the location for a deleted scene from the movie that can be seen on the extended edition DVD. It depicted Faramir having a dream sequence where he was seeing his brother, Boromir, float down the river after his death from battling the orcs.

We were able to recognize this spot by trees in the distance and a small rock around the bend of the river. The scene wasn’t used in the official movie, but it was still a filmed site. It was already about 12 PM and almost time for lunch. We had to make a pit stop at a gas station to pick it up.

I was thinking we were going to have sandwiches and when I saw a Subway sign at the gas station I figured that’s what we were getting. We parked for a few minutes while our guide went inside to pick up the food. It took about 10 minutes and then we started driving again. As we drove we watched more movie clips and behind the scenes information to keep us entertained. Again, I thought this was a really nice touch and unexpected.

Our furthest point to stop was Kaitoke Regional Park. This is where we had lunch. It was actually a campground and we had to drive around to find an empty shelter. One of them was being occupied and for some reason she wanted us to have our own. The campground actually looked really nice and looked like a real campground. All of them we have been staying at our full of camper vans with people that live there, cabins, and other facilities.

The Kaitoke Regional Park was one I had originally considered staying at, but it was a good distance from Wellington and not feasible. It was nice though and really open. We ate our lunch under the picnic shelter which had some cooking facilities even though it didn’t have any walls. It was nice though since it wasn’t too cold outside although it was cloudy all day and had a high chance of rain. We were hoping it wouldn’t come in because the afternoon session involved a lot more walking around in the woods.

For lunch we each got a 3 inch sub sandwich to choose from. There were ham, turkey, and roast beef. The girl was vegetarian so she had a special sandwich. We each had two portions, a cookie, and a tiny glass of coke. The coke bottle had half gone already from the previous days trip and replacements weren’t ordered so we had to share what was left.

After eating our portions there were still two sandwiches left and a few cookies. The guide offered if anyone else wanted more and me and Andy spoke up right away. I had eaten a ham sandwich and turkey sandwich before and all that was left was vegetarian and ham. I took the ham and Andy had the veggie. I don’t think anyone took the cookie. I wanted to, but since I had the sandwich I didn’t want to look like a pig. The guide just put that box back in the car.

I had been wanting a Subway cookie the previous day since we had gone there for lunch, but they are too expensive so I was happy to get one. The coke was disappointing, but the rest of the meal was good to me. Although I think they should have included chips for the price we were paying for the trip. All of the things we were doing were free except the gas and the nice van, so they are either making a ton of money or not getting many customers.

After lunch we drove around the corner to find Rivendale. We knew this is where it was filmed and considered driving to it ourselves, but felt like the tour would actually point things out and save us time and money on gas. None of the things we were seeing were obvious without a guide even if we did find the locations so from that standpoint it was worth doing the tour. It was also nice to do things with other people for a change.

Rivendale is the home of the elves in the movie and a number of scenes were filmed in this one little area. In the movie things look big and spread out, but in reality they are very small and compact. As we drove down the road we passed a group of people that were walking down the road towards us. One of them was extremely fat and not walking on the side of the road.

Our driver kept making jokes about hitting him on accident and how he would damage the car. She also said that we may be able to see everything and get back and he still not be back to his car. It was funny. People in New Zealand are such jerks and so blunt. I would think they would be more professional at times when giving tours or other things, but they are very open with their feelings and don’t hold anything back. It’s the exact opposite of America where everything is about political correctness.

We came to a bridge and parked the car. We had to walk across the bridge and then to a forest to the left. As we approached there was an open grassy area surrounded by trees. Just before entering the forest was the site of the counsel building where everyone in the movie met to discuss who would take on the burden of carrying and ultimately destroying the ring.

It was actually a very small building in a small area. The building had been taken down, but the space it had to fit in between the trees was very tight. The interesting thing about this entire location is that it is owned and operated as a scenic reserve area and protected land. Therefore, the Department of Conservation wanted everything moved or changed to be restored to it’s original condition. In order to do this pictures were taken of the entire area so any trees or plants that were moved could be replaced to their original location. The plants were stored in a greenhouse just across the grassy area about 50 yards away.

To prove this was the site we were showed a video clip of Legolas approaching the building. Just over his shoulder was a tree, which was right in front of where we were standing! I watched the video, and then copied the position of where he walked. It was pretty cool. There was a fallen down tree which was another marker, but after 12 years it hadn’t survived.

Around the corner from this was another important site. I didn’t recognize the area, and neither did anyone else. It was a small mound of dirt with a tree and roots sticking up out of the ground with a large rock on the top next to the roots. Alice had brought a little bag and a bow and arrow as props so we all knew there was going to be a picture spot of some kind.

We were shown a picture and it was of Legolas. It was the site of his official movie poster. The bow and arrow was to allow us to recreate the scene. I volunteered first to do the picture and be the elf. Alice pulled a cloak out of the bag and I put it on. I said it would be better if I had a wig. My prayers were answered. She had a wig too. She asked what else elves had and I couldn’t think of anything else. It was a pair of ears. They were really big and stupid looking.

She kept saying I was a sexy elf and I was believing it. I stood in my pose on the tree branch as best as I could to look identical to Legolas, but the branches and rocks weren’t the same so it was hard to recreate exactly. I looked at my pictures and I was not a sexy elf. I looked like a complete fool. It was pretty funny.

Everyone else put on the costume and had their picture taken as well. It was pretty funny. After about 30 minutes we were done with this area and headed back to the car. I stopped to get one more picture of the area the counsel building was located. I was the first one back to the car because the others were taking pictures.

Back in the car we were ready for our next stop. We were headed back to Wellington and onto the second part of the tour. As we drove back to town we watched an MTV Music Awards clip with Jack Black pretending to be a hobbit with the ring and Sarah Michelle Gellar as an elf. It was pretty funny, but I had seen it before. We also watched a Hobbit Video Blog that followed the creation of the new movies. It included behind the scenes information about the locations used in the movie. It was episode 6. There are 7 currently done, and an 8th one will be released shortly.

Once we got back to Wellington we had to drop of the Australian girl. She was actually from India, but lived in Australia. She was staying in a nice hotel and her husband was waiting for her. He didn’t want to come on the tour for some reason. He missed out.

We had to pick up two more people that were doing the afternoon portion only. We went to the Te Papa Museum to get them. It was a mom and daughter and they were from Houston. So now it was me and Andy, the Brazilian guy, and the Houston women. This portion of the tour focused on Mt. Victoria and the surrounding woods, Weta Cave, and Peter Jackson’s movie studio, Stone Street Productions.

We were going to be spending about an hour and a half walking around in the woods and it was still cloudy. We were hoping the rain would hold off for the rest of the day like it had in the morning. The drive to the top of Mt. Victoria was very windy and full of big houses on the side of the hill. It was obviously where the rich people live. Rich people always like building houses on the sides of hills. It’s weird to me.

Along the way we didn’t really watch any clips, but instead listened to Lord of the Rings music from her Ipod, which was also the way she was playing the movies on the TV screen in the car.

The woods were known as Hobbiton Woods in the movie. When we got there the other tour company’s van was already parked. She pointed out her competition. We had to walk down a steep hill along the trail to the site of our first scene. It was really windy. Wellington is known for being very windy, but being in the trees I figured it would block it a little. It didn’t at all. I thought D/FW was windy, but this was ridiculous.

There was an unmarked trail that looked more like a jack rabbit trail than for people that we walked along. It led to an overlook with a steep drop off to the small grassy area below and the city off in front. This was the Weathertop Hills where two of the hobbits had lit a fire and Frodo was worried the Black Riders would see them. This spot was also the site where the Riders of Rohan had camped before going into a battle. It wasn’t a very big area, but apparently a lot of tents, horses, and people were crammed into this tiny spot.

To make it not look like the city was in the background a huge green screen was set up. The background scenes for the Riders of Rohan were filmed on the south island in the Southern Alps Mountains that we had previously visited. Many of them were from the Queenstown area.

We walked a little further down the trail and saw the site where Samwise and Frodo had stopped on their first night to camp. Frodo was sitting in the tree and Sam was on the ground eating. We watched the clip, and then set in the tree to re-enact the scene. Alice had a pipe and a piece of fake sausage on a fork to recreate what we had just watched. We all did it, but I had to do it twice. I was Sam in the shot with Andy so he could be Frodo. I was Frodo the second time so the Brazilian guy could have his picture taken since he was by himself.

As we were walking we passed the other tour company. There was only one person on the tour and it didn’t have the movie clips and pictures to look at. I don’t know why they were so expensive because they offered nothing more, and in fact offered less than what we were getting. I was glad we chose the cheaper tour option.

We returned back down the trail the way we had come before to the spot where Frodo, Sam, Mary, and Pippin were almost seen by the Black Rider. This part was filmed directly on the trail. The set up to this scene was of Mary and Pippin stealing vegetables from a garden and then bumping into Sam and Frodo. They were running from the farmer and tripped and fell. The garden scene was filmed somewhere else, but the scene where they rolled down the hill was right here in the woods.

Stunt men were used to film the shot so that none of the main actors were injured. They came tumbling down the hill and dropped about 3 ½ feet off a ledge onto the path we were walking on. They piled up on top of each other and this was the part we recreated. There were more props. There was a clay carrott, a green piece of foam that symbolized poop, and a piece of grass.

Only me, Andy, and the Brazilian guy were in this one because the girls didn’t want to lay on the ground. I was on the bottom and had my face in the poop. I know me and Andy were Pippin, but I’m not sure who was who. I’ll need to re-watch the movie to find out.

At the same spot Frodo gets up and tells the rest of the hobbits to get off the trail. This is where the Black Rider is trying to find them. There is a close-up shot of Frodo which was easy to point out. There was a big tree over his shoulder that is still there. The trees off in the distance on the trail are identical as well.

As the Black Rider comes closer they jump off the trail into a small hole below the trail. It is about a 2 ½ foot drop off. In the movie there was a large tree they jumped under and hid below the roots, but that tree doesn’t actually exist. It was a man-made prop. The Brazilian guy recognized this entire area from the movie, and even asked where the tree was. Alice told us how it was created for the scene and brought in.

There was one more spot we needed to see before leaving the woods. Back at the steep hill we first walked down is where we stopped. Off in the woods in front of us was where the four hobbits ran down the hill to escape the Black Riders. At the end of the scene they got into a small boat and Frodo had to jump off the dock. The water portion wasn’t filmed here, but the rest of it was.

Alice explained what each hobbit did in the scene and pointed out where they did it. Frodo ran down, stopped at a tree, turned to look back for a second and continued running.

The other characters each did something too. Sam was the last to come down the hill. For this scene it was filmed around midnight and was freezing cold and had been raining. It was filmed on October 31, which also happened to be the director’s birthday.

The hobbits had to wear their big hairy feet that were made of latex. On the slippery mud it was hard for them to run and especially get back up the hill to redo the scene until Peter Jackson liked it. They employed a group of men with the sole purpose of carrying the hobbits to the top of the hill.

With so many trees it was hard to see everything clearly, but with a little imagination it was possible. The scene was dark also, so that didn’t help. The next scene shot from this some spot was at the top of the hill from where we walked down. Just over the edge on the opposite side was the road, but this is also the site of one of the most memorable scenes. It included the Black Rider.

The scene is of the Black Rider walking across an opening with trees on either side of him. He stops for a second as smoke is rising around him. It’s one of the scarier scenes, but it was really neat to see where it was filmed. It looked spooky even in the daylight.

We walked back up the hill and got in the car. We were now going to visit Stone Street Studios and the Weta Cave in a neighboring town called Marimar. The studios were purchased by Peter Jackson shortly before the filming of Lord of the Rings and over the years has expanded a great deal. A lot of the scenes were filmed inside the studio. For example, the inside of the hobbit holes were all filmed here. The outside scenes were filmed in Matamata, a small town south of Auckland.

As we drove there we watched clips from some of Peter Jackson’s other movies. They included Heavenly Creatures starring Kate Winslet and The Frightening starring Michael J. Fox. Heavenly Creatures was about two girls that became really good friends and murdered one of the girls’ mothers because she was too controlling. It was based on a true story from New Zealand. It looked horrible based on the previews.

The Frightening was made just before Michael J. Fox began the TV show Spin City. It also looked horrible. The special effects were pretty terrible and wasn’t scary at all. I think it was supposed to be a comedy. I’m not sure and I don’t care to find out. The only thing interesting about this movie was the fact that we were visiting a spot where one of the opening scenes was filmed.

The road we were taking to Marimar was very windy with lots of sharp turns. Peter Jackson loved this road and always wanted to use it in one of his movies. When making The Frightening he got his chance. The car is driving down the road and then crosses the grass down to the road below. We drove by that part.

It took about 25 minutes to get to Marimar. The Stone Street Studio itself just looks like large warehouse buildings in a residential neighborhood. They were shut down so Peter Jackson bought them. There was nothing fancy about them at all. We weren’t allowed to go inside, but we could see a little bit. We watched a behind the scenes clip as we parked outside. Peter Jackson and other characters from the movie did a tour of the studio in the 7th blog episode that we watched.

There was a map that showed the layout, which Alice paused the video on so we could see what we were looking at. It wasn’t really that neat since we couldn’t see anything. The best thing we saw were large train cars that were stacked up on top of each other. This was only neat because it used to have a very large green screen on it so scenes from the movie could be filmed at the studio, but other locations were used for the background.

There were a ton of cars parked in front of the buildings and along the street. It wasn’t the best spot for such a large studio. I would imagine it would be somewhere else with more privacy. We drove down the street a few blocks and parked at Weta Cave.

Weta is the leading special effects company in the world and was created about 30 years ago by a New Zealander with the purpose of making props for movies and television shows. Many of the things they have done are recognizable in popular cinema today.

They do things with animation, costumes, artwork, small scale models, paint, and anything else that is needed to make a movie more believable. Some of the movies and television shows they have created or worked with include Lord of the Rings, Xena Warrior Princess, Hercules, Jane and the Dragon, Avatar, Chronicles of Narnia, and many more. I was actually really surprised to learn that New Zealand would have such a well-known special effects studio. Many people in Hollywood use them for a number of needs.

James Cameron, creator of Avatar, has expressed his interest in creating 6 more Avatar movies and has even made plans to move to New Zealand and become a citizen. Peter Jackson wanted to use Weta for Lord of the Rings because he was starting his career in directing around the same time Weta was created. He used their work for two of his earlier movies, The Frightening and Heavenly Creatures.

The company Weta took it’s name from a local bug that lives on an island off the coast of Wellington and a few other spots in New Zealand. They are large grasshopper type bugs, but much larger. They can grow to the size of a person’s hand. We haven’t seen any, but they seem pretty scary. They are prehistoric bugs that looked like little monsters, which is what the Weta Studios was trying to create when they first started. Since that time they have obviously branched out into other areas.

Inside the Weta Cave we watched a 25 minute video which detailed a lot of the work they have done on Lord of the Rings and other movies. It was actually very informative. A lot of it dealt with the creation of the new Lord of the Rings movies and the work they did with the hobbits and their costumes. The new movie seems like it will deal mostly with hobbits, but the second movie is supposed to follow Gandalf as he goes off on his own. This is according to Alice.

After the movie ended we went into the little shop and saw a lot of the things the people at Weta have created. Many of them have been made into small scale models and are sold as limited edition collector’s items. They are very expensive, but really cool also.

There were a few statues inside too. There was an Orc, Gollum crouched down on a tree trunk, and a few other people from some of the other movies they have worked on. There were books and other things for sale, but ridiculously priced. We had wanted to find figurines for sale, but they didn’t seem to exist. I just wanted something like a plastic toy that was mass produced, but this place just had hand-made things. There was a small room with figurines of almost every major character from Lord of the Rings, but they were just for display.

We spent about an hour at the Weta Cave and then were ready to go. It was about 5:30 PM and we were supposed to be done just after 6 PM. We started driving back to Wellington, but took a different route back. We drove through the town of Marimar and saw the place where most of the main actors lived during the filming of the movies.

The studio wanted the actors to bring their families over and live in houses so they would feel more comfortable and be fully immersed in New Zealand culture since they were going to be there for a long time. Frodo, Elijah Wood’s character, lived in New Zealand for almost 5 years during the filming and after it ended. Most of the people lived right in town, but a few short term actors just stayed in hotels. Ian McCllelan, Gandalf, lived further outside of town because he wanted more privacy and space. He was about 45 minutes from town.

As we were driving back we passed a school, which at the time was the site of an army base. It wasn’t being used so for the movie a set was built to create the town with the Prancing Pony. I don’t know the name of the town in the movie. The town took 3 months to build and was used for about 20 seconds in the movie. Right when it was finished they tore it down. That seems to be the way it is in movies.

That was just about the last site we saw on our tour. Our next stop was the drop off point for all of the people on tour. As we drove back we watched a clip from a fake interview conducted by Dominick Monahan, one of the hobbits in the movie and Charlie from Lost. He was interviewing Elijah Wood by satellite. Elijah Wood couldn’t see who was interviewing him, but Dominick Monahan could see Elijah. He used a German accent and pretended to be a reporter.

It was a pretty funny interview because he was asking all kinds of stupid questions and interrupting the entire time. It was obvious that Elijah didn’t know what was going on, but thought it was a strange interview. At the end Dominick said who he was and they laughed about it. It’s on the deleted scenes on the extended edition DVD.
That ended just as we were getting to Wellington. The two Houston women were dropped off at the door to their fancy hotel. We wanted to be dropped off on Cuban Street because it was where a lot of restaurants were, but it was too far out of the way so we just said the I-site would be fine and we would walk from there. It was only a few blocks away.

We got dropped off and the journey through Middle Earth came to an end. It was a really good tour and I learned a lot from it. Alice was a great guide even though the price was outrageous. She told us that she had learned so much about the behind the scenes information because the owner of the tour company’s brother works for Weta and had a lot of inside knowledge. He even got to be in a scene. After shooting had finished and all the stars sent home Peter Jackson decided he wanted to add a scene. He used a lot of people that worked for Weta as Orcs. He also used himself and his son in a few scenes.

She was headed to the rugby game that night and we were off to dinner. We had read about a pizza place in town so we wanted to check it out. We walked a few blocks and came to an area that looked like it was having an outdoor market. We walked down a little alley to a place full of little tents selling different types of food and crafts. There were also a lot of Asian food restaurants.

They looked cheap and had lots of food, which is what I was wanting. We looked at the menus of a few, but didn’t know what we wanted. We left to see if we could find the pizza place we originally wanted, but I was thinking it would be expensive and not as much food as an Asian dish. We walked a few blocks down the road and found the pizza place.

They sold more than just pizza, but it looked expensive. We walked back to the Asian place and looked at the menu on the wall for about 10 minutes and picked out what we wanted. The choices were Vietnamese or Thai. We decided on Vietnamese since it was more food for less money. We ordered and when I went to pay they said they didn’t take credit cards. We didn’t take any cash because we didn’t think we would need any all day. Almost every place we have been on the trip have accepted credit cards. We left to see if the Thai restaurant accepted credit cards. They didn‘t. It looked like we weren‘t going to be eating dinner.

We walked down the road and saw a bar/restaurant called Matterhorn. We had read it was really good in the Lonely Planet, but when we walked in it looked really expensive. It was dark and the people looked nicely dressed. We walked out immediately.

We were considering going back to the hostel to make ramen noodles or going to the grocery store and getting something. We even considered Burger King, but I didn‘t want a burger. We were walking down the road and saw a Malaysian restaurant called Little Penang. We asked if they took credit cards and they did.

I didn’t know what anything on the menu was. I was just looking at prices really. I asked what was good and the lady recommended the two specials. Both of them were cheap and included lots of food. We couldn’t decide so we got one of each and planned to split them. One dish included fried rice, shrimp, and chicken and the other one was braised beef with white rice, cabbage, and some hot sauce.

We ordered mildly spicy, but it was still really hot. We didn’t have anything to drink either. The food was really pretty good. We walked about 7 minutes down the road back to our hostel. It was about 8 PM, but I was really tired. I wanted to get some hot chocolate, but there were no cups in the kitchen. All the people seem to take the dishes and not return them, especially at night.

I went back to the room to type in my journal. We ate some cookies and chocolate for dessert. The Asian girl above my bed had moved to be on the last bottom bunk. The other girl had left. I typed in my journal for a few hours and then fell asleep because I was so tired from the long day we had.

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