Wellington

Our last day on the North Island and half of it was spent in cybercafes changing plans. Lou had received a phone call from her cousin in Thailand asking her if she could do some work for 3 days. In Qatar. At the start of June.

Lou required money, Joy required a favour and as a result we required some nice people at Backpacker Campervan Rentals and Singapore Airlines. By Jove, we got them. Van hire and my flights back to Hanoi both changed, in minutes, at no cost. Wow.

Flights from Christchurch to Auckland and back (and back up again after we dropped the van off) all booked for pretty low prices as well.

The dates worked out OK as it means we won’t be imposing on Pam and Rob’s hospitality for longer than previously arranged. Plus there’s mroe chance of snow in the south island by the time we return so better snowboarding!

Once we got all that lot sorted, we headed for the Te Papa museum. As well as their usual exhibits on Maori and imigrant history, geology and the like they were hosting a second appearance of the Lord of the Rings movie exhibition. The museum itself is free, while this was an NZ$12 fee (reduced to NZ$10 with my YHA card – paid for itself many times over already!). Definitely worth the time and the money if you liked the film.

It’s a simple exhibit with a display stand for each major character and race, plus a couple for some of the set pieces and effects. The walls are hung with examples of concept art and each stand has a tv with a handful of short films you can choose from to view about the exhibit. I’m sure the films are on the extended DVDs but it’s fascinating to watch them next to the actual props they’re describing.

Sadly, no photos are allowed inside the museum so I can only tell you how impressive it all was. I’m not mad into costumes, but the silicone model of Sean Bean as Boromir lying in his funeral boat was incredibly lifelike. I almost expected him to jump out and berate me for wearing a Newcastle shirt instead of a Sheffield United one.

Also taking the breath away were the handcrafted models of Minas Tirith and Sauron’s Tower. I really wish I could have taken pictures of these. Oh, and the enormous cave troll bursting through the wooden doors.

OK, so it was touristy and not much to do with New Zealand but it was a very enjoyable hour or so wandering around. We didn’t have much time to plough round the rest of the museum, but what we did see was very good indeed. Many of the exhibits are accompanied by “hands-on” touch-screen TV games and activites for kids (and even separate rooms set out purely for them) making it ideal for families and school classes. Indeed, there were at least two classes of schoolkids there at the same time as us.

Wellington is also home to the most “with-it” tramp I have seen. A drunken old guy, collapsed in a shop doorway, beard down to his knees and an iPod in his left hand, held high as he bopped away. What he was dancing to, I’ll never know. He had a cheesy grin on his face (I think – there was a lot of hair there) so I assume it was something cheerful. If it turned out to be a nazi death march album, I’d have been somewhat concerned.

Our “sightseeing” done, we walked back to the hotel for dinner. Wednesday nights are quite cheap at the Cambridge. If you spend more than NZ$5 per head on booze (buy a jug of beer and you’re there), you get a voucher for the barbequeue. So dinner for two, including silly amounts of Speights, cost us around NZ$15. A fiver. For two people.

A pub quiz followed at 8:00, but required teams of 4 people and we were friendless. Instead, we took the less sociable (and probably cheaper due to lack of bar) option of visiting the cinema and seeing X-Men 3.

With the early rise required for our ferry the next morning, we packed as soon as we got back and crashed out. Alarms set for 6:30am.

And here’s me thinking holidays were relaxing.

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