Travel Bug – Part 5 – For those who love “The Lord of the Rings”

Wellington is a beautiful town – with its bay, hills, older renovated homes, booming film industry and weather that is gorgeous (while we were there, anyway).  Like San Francisco, Wellington has earthquakes, but every place has some little drawback to keep the faint-hearted away. Wellington is also Sir Peter Jackson’s home town, and the town loves him, not without good reason.  He pours his movie profits into buying buildings in “Wellywood”, and converting them to expand his Stone Street Studios.  He hires lots of Kiwis (the people).  His success means success and prosperity to a growing number of people.  He renovated one facility, adding apartments and even a gymnasium for creative people who don’t want to leave the building when the imagination is going strong. 

Jackson involved tens of thousands of Kiwis in the movie.  He went to the Westpack Stadium for a cricket game.  A shy man, when introduced, he said a quiet “Thank you.”  Then he asked the seventy thousand attendees if they would chant “Death”.  You can hear them as Sauron’s army of orcs, uruks and goblins in the movies.  Needless to say, the opposing team lost the game.

We went up Mount Victoria and took a walk in the woods, ending up on the same road and in the same spot where Frodo, Pippin and Merry first encountered the Ringwraith.  Remember the worms and centipedes and spiders pouring from the roots of the tree in an attempt to escape the evil?  We stood right there!  We stood on the same spot where the Ringwraith and heaving horse stood, snuffing the ground, searching, sensing the ring was close.  We were in the woods where Frodo, Pippin and Merry fled.  Local martial arts students did the roll down the hill, one breaking a collar bone.

We took a drive along the coast to the place where Samwise sank into the gravel in front of the gates of Mordor and saw the cliffs up which Frodo, Samwise and Gollum climbed to enter the tunnel lair of Shelob. 

All within minutes of and in sight of Wellington! 

We learned Peter Jackson even bought houses for many of the actors in The Lord of the Rings movies because he wanted them to feel at home during the years of filming.  The only one who said no thank you was Viggo Mortenson who lived in an Amore Hotel room and ate at a café nearby.  (Our guide knew everything about Viggo, and practically fanned herself every time she talked about him.)

Some trivia:  The members of the Fellowship of the Ring all got tattoos at the end of the shoot (except John Rhys Davies who apparently has a fear of needles).  Our guide knew the exact location of every tattoo except the one on Viggo Mortenson.  She has watched every movie he’s made since and has been unable to spot it.  Gives new meaning to the phrase “living in a fish bowl”. 

We visited Weta Cave, one of the creative centers of Jackson’s enterprise.  A weta is an insect that looks like a cricket crossed with a cockroach.

The two Hobbit children listening to a story at the Bilbo Baggins’ birthday party are Peter Jackson’s children.  They are also seen in Helm’s Deep, and also play small goblins in the movie.

Viggo Mortenson almost said no to playing Aragorn until his ten year old son came home from school and said he’d be the coolest kid in the school if his dad played Aragorn.  Peter Jackson gave him a credit in the film, as a creative consultant. 

The horse on which the Ringwraith sat on the dark road was corrupted, but alive (in the story).  So you see its breath, but not the breath of the Ringwraith (who had to breathe into a tube that was hidden in his costume).

All those soldiers of Rohirrim you see on horseback?  They had to bring their own horses.  Riders received $120 a day as extras, their horses received $240.  If I had been in New Zealand and had a horse, I would’ve paid to ride down the hill! 

And sailing on, we headed for Picton…