Wellington 41.2889° S, 174.7772° E
This week has been pretty epic! We’ve hit the Lord of the Rings trail, finding filming locations everywhere we turn–some on purpose, some accidentally. We’ve visited some amazing towns, our favorite ones in New Zealand so far! I started work at Bikram Yoga Lower Hutt, and I’ve convinced Tom to do a 12 day yoga challenge while we are in Wellington!
The week started off leaving Stone Throw last Thursday. From there we hit the Volcanic Loop Highway that goes around Mt. Tongariro, AKA Mt. Doom to Lord of the Rings fans. We didn’t officially know it at the time, Tom just though it looked like Mordor. Since arriving in Wellington–the Lord of the Rings Capital, however, we have discovered it was in fact the location used by Peter Jackson for Mt. Doom and the Mordor scenes.
Within Tongariro National Park is Tawhai Falls also known as Golem’s Pool. It was the river bed Golem falls into after trying to take the ring from Frodo in The Return of the King.
The waterfall itself was pretty spectacular with it’s glacier blue water, but it was fun to discover later that we had been exploring more of Middle Earth.
After our drive around Mt. Doom, we stayed in the ski town of Ohakune. The town was pretty deserted since ski season is over, but we did find a good bar to gave a jug at and a nice library with surprisingly fast, free WIFI.
We woke up early Friday morning to keep exploring. Our plan for the day was to take the Forgotten World Highway to New Plymouth. Our plans for the day almost got put to a halt, because there was a sign up saying the road was flooded. Given that it hadn’t rained in 2 days, however, Tom made an executive decision to try our luck and take it anyways.
Besides a short wait for one landslide, it ended up being a great decision. The scenery was beautiful. We also had some wild life encounters with baby geese, cows (you should check out this link!), and another waterfall.
The Forgotten World Highways takes longer than other routes we could have taken to get New Plymouth, but it was definitely worth it. As I said before, the views are gorgeous and there are live animals roaming the roads, but you also pass through the town of Whangamomona which is it’s own self declared Republic. Tom read that you can even apply for a Republic of Whangomomona Passport in City Center. (The city is only one block.)
When we did finally hit New Plymouth, we were so happy to get out of the car! The drive took us close to 5 hours, which is more time than we like to spend driving in one day. The drive was quite worth it though because the New Plymouth Coastline is gorgeous!
The climb to the top of Mt. Paritutu was just what we needed after being stuck in the car all day.
This was no ordinary hike though, after climbing up some pretty steep steps, we then literally had to climb to the top!
The view was definitely worth it!
We found an awesome place to park the car and camp over looking the water.
Since we’ve been traveling and living out of the car, I will admit that we’ve been a little nervous about people catching us. We hadn’t really gotten a straight answer about whether or not you’re allowed to sleep in your car on the side of the road. Some parks post signs saying you can’t, but others don’t have them so we concluded it’s ok.
That conclusion got put to the test Friday night when I woke up to cops coming to the window. I quickly woke Tom up, just in time to hear the cop say, “Oh it’s just sleepers!” to his partner, give us a thumbs up and drive away. We’ve been sleeping much better and worry free ever since!
Saturday we spent the morning doing work in a Cafe called Chaos.
In the afternoon we went and played on the black sand beach along Centennial Drive.
Usually a black sand beach with cool Jellyfish would be enough to make me happy, but I actually found the cliffs along the beach to be the coolest part.
The volcanic rock has some amazing colors, and the ocean has shaped the rocks into the coolest patterns. The rainy weather we had the past week was playing to our benefit now on the beach!
All the water the ground had absorbed the past couple days was dripping from the cliffs like one big waterfall!
The comments about Wellington being really windy (when New Plymouth was windy already!) had us questioning what we we’re getting ourselves into for the next couple weeks.
We cooked ourselves a little one pot meal on our camp stove and settled in to watch a gorgeous sunset along the water.
Watching it dip all the way into the sea.
Sunday we said goodbye to New Plymouth and Mt. Taranaki and headed down to the Lower Hutt, a small town North across the bay from Wellington to get to the job I’d lined up. We’ll be in Wellington now for the next 2 weeks while I work at the Lower Hutt Bikram Studio.
Heading out of town, we saw a crazy swarm of birds enjoying the windy morning.→
We stopped in town along the way to get some coffee. We normally enjoy all the local shops. New Zealanders make some great coffee, but they are all so small. To get a 16oz coffee you’d have to spend $10, so we headed to Starbucks to get some American Size fuel for our drive.
We got into town early afternoon, scoped out the yoga studio, found a hip little brewery called Sprig and Fern that does 2L Takeaways, and headed up the hills where we found a cute little park to park for the night.
As night fell, we quickly began to understand the wind of Wellington and the Hutt is on a whole new level! At points during the night I felt like the car might blow over!….And according to one woman at the studio apparently they do.–I don’t think we really need to worry too much, but this lady makes me laugh, each morning I’ve seen her at 5:50AM she has told Tom and me a doom and gloom story about driving through New Zealand. Maybe she’s trying to scare away the tourists. 😉
The Lower Hutt has an awesome studio! I’m so happy to be here! I haven’t met both the owners because one is traveling, but Gordon the one I’ve met is awesome. The studio is clean and bright giving it a great energy, but most importantly there are some wonderful focused and attentive yogis!
Tuesday mornings, the Hutt doesn’t offer morning classes, so Tom and I decided to venture into Wellington to check out the city and for me to practice at the Wellington Studio.
This turned out to be the best decision ever, because we found a place to stay!
The studio offered to let us sleep in the loft they have!
We celebrated by exploring Wellington which to our delight has the best selection of craft brew that we’ve found in New Zealand!
The city is also the most interesting city or town we’ve seen. Walking around the city you find interesting architecture, statues, monuments, and friends everywhere you go–especially Cuba Street!
Wednesday we woke up bright and early for me to teach the 6am/9:30am classes in the Hutt.
Eating until we gave ourselves a bellyache, we headed North to Rivendell AKA Kaitoke Park to get some activity and steps into our day, but more importantly to explore more of Middle Earth!
Rivendell was fun to visit, because unlike the other locations we’ve seen, Peter Jackson left some traces behind. All the sets have been torn down, and unfortunately Kaitoke Park doesn’t have the waterfalls running through it that Rivendell has, (I guess those were digital falls) but it does have information on where the scenes took place.
It was cool to be able to see the exact places where scenes took place.
There was also a cool hike with a suspension bridge. Tommy loves suspension bridges because he gets to bounce on them like a trampoline!
When we were tired of exploring Middle Earth, we headed back to the hutt to take class.
Another great thing about the Hutt and Wellington Studios is they have great intro deals. For $10 Tom can practice for 10 days!
Enjoying his class so much on Wednesday I’ve convinced him to do a 12 day challenge to finish out the time we are here!
He’s decided he was up to the task.
His goal is to be able to touch his toes by Sunday the 3rd!
Following class, we headed back to Wellington to cook dinner and settle in for the night. It’s super nice to have a cutting board, prep area, and wok to cook with. We took full advantage making a Red Chicken Curry.
Thursday I had the day off! We celebrated by sleeping in!
When we did wake up, we headed towards Cuba street to get some good coffee at a funky shop we’d seen a couple days prior.
Following our coffee boost we took off on a run to the top of Mt. Victoria, another filming location for LOTR. Scenes of Frodo fleeing the shire and escaping from the Nazgûl were filmed there.
There was also an ancient Maori legend about how Wellington Harbour got it’s jaw like shape.
“According to Maori legend, the demigod Maui is said to have fished up the North Island of New Zealand, Te Ika o Maui, from his great canoe (the South Island). Maui and his brothers struggled with the large fish, beating and slashing it so that it writhed in agony creating the hills and the valleys. When the fish died it became a great land where previously there had been nothing but ocean. The southern part of the North Island is said to be the head of the fish, Te Upoko o te Ika, and Wellington Harbour the mouth of the fish, Te Waha o te Ika.”
After our run, we headed over to Miramar to go to the Weta Cave Studio. Weta is the company behind the most of the props and costumes in the LOTR series, but they have also worked on Avatar, Tintin, District 9, King Kong, and many more!
There was also quite a bit of memorablia from the LOTR series, the Hobbit, and District 9. One of the coolest things they had was Bilbo’s contract from the Hobbit and a map of New Zealand showing where Middle Earth fit into the country.
Following class, we showered up, made a quick dinner, and then headed out to meet our friend Claudia who we met earlier in our trip during our rainy time in Waitomo.
We woke up early again this morning to get over to the Hutt in time for me to teach the 6am/9:30 combo.
We hope everything is going well for those at home!
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