02/24/11 - Wellington to National Park
When morning sunlight filled our apartment the next day, it made our departure that much more difficult. We found ourselves taking a slew of last minute pictures to remember the place. But you can’t put off the inevitable. We carted our bags down to the car and left the key behind. Maybe we’ll come back someday? Who knows.
Before leaving the city we had to make one final stop. It was a bit out of the way, but being the full-fledged nerds that we are we had no choice but to take this detour.
Weta Workshop rests on the outskirts of the city, and in an attempt to appease the insatiable appetite of its fans, they’ve set up the Weta Cave as a sort of visitor center. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Weta Workshop is a special effects company that Peter Jackson developed. They did all the effects (practical and otherwise) for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. So, as you can imagine, we had to go.
The Weta Cave was small but fed the geek in me quite nicely. There was a full sized Uruk-hai on display as well as a scrawny Gollum. The Dark Lord Sauron himself was standing ominously behind a pane of glass. Displayed upon the wall was “the blade that cut the ring” and Frodo’s sword, Sting, which I imagine will be making an appearance in the upcoming film adaptation of The Hobbit. Katie and I watched a short film about Weta Workshop and then continued through the gift shop. It was hard to resist buying some memorabilia, but the bloated prices helped make up our mind. On reflection, we both think this side trip was totally worth it for the pictures alone.
While on the road to National Park, Katie read in the guidebook that a place called Lindale was on the way and that it had (wait for it…) ice cream tasting! (She had me at ice cream) Well, as it turned out, Lindale was…I don’t actually know what it was. A town? A village? A rest stop? It was a parking lot with small shops and a farm (and you had to pay to get into the latter). Thanks, but I think we’ll pass.
When we arrived we saw a few cars and a gigantic wooden wedge of cheese. Hmmmm…they lured me here with promises of ice cream and now I see a giant wedge of cheese. Am I going to be dropped into a maze soon? I think I smell a rat.
Lindale had us scratching our heads. We glanced at a couple boutique art galleries and peered over the “farm” fence, which didn’t seem worth any price of admission. At least the aforementioned ice cream was there. I bought a mouthwatering pear-chocolate-caramel ice cream kiddie cone. Katie got gingernut ice cream, non-kiddie size. We licked our creamy confections sitting by the giant wedge of cheese. Small birds flew down and encircled us. They wanted cone bits, I suppose. I tossed some flecks of dirt in their direction to see if they could be fooled but they were having none of it. They knew right away I was trying to trick them. They didn’t even investigate! I could almost see them rolling their miniature eyes at me. Eventually they gave up and flew away.
Katie couldn’t finish all her ice cream so I obliged. That made a kiddie cone and half of a regular cone for me, but even after those sweets I was still hungry. Now, in order to choose my pear flavor I had to pass on chocolate hazelnut – that had been a tough decision! So this got me thinking… I’m on vacation, right? Why on earth should I not have a second kiddie cone?! I found my logic was sound, so I marched back inside and ordered the chocolate hazelnut. I embraced my own gluttony and the ladies serving up the ice cream were quite amused.
While reveling in my overindulgence, Katie and I started joking about the possibility of my going in and ordering a third kiddie cone. This would necessitate a disguise, of course, because that kind of excess would tip the scales into downright humiliation. In that moment Katie was eating licorice and placed it on her upper lip like a mustache. It was perfect! My disguise could be a licorice mustache and a fake English accent: “One kiddie cone, please. Yes, just the one. Must watch the weight, you know…”
That joke had us giggling as we set out on the road again. In the car we listened to “This American Life” while motoring along, not a care in the world. That is, until we nearly experienced a catastrophic accident involving an enormous big rig, a tiny vintage automobile, and us. We were innocent bystanders forced to watch a semi-truck barreling down on a small vintage car. They pulled off the road in fear, only to find the truck was still impatient. That monster squeezed past, barely slowing its speed, nearly running us down in the process. All I could do was sit behind the steering wheel in shocked silence. Once the incident was over I turned my head toward Katie. Her jaw was dropped, face awash in perplexed terror. We stared at one another and burst out laughing. I know it doesn’t make sense that we laughed, but we did. Maybe because it was just another example of the crazy New Zealand one lane roads. Or maybe it was because we were happy to be alive.
Eventually we reached National Park. This is a very small town whose main purpose is putting up travelers interested in hiking Tongariro Crossing. We were two of those travelers. The hostel we stayed at, National Park Backpackers, was pretty good. Wait, I should say the room was pretty good. The kitchen? Not so much. It was a friggin’ fly convention! Little was being done to eradicate the mass of flies that had set up shop. With all the people coming and going, eating and drinking, leaving a mess, I imagine the files had found their ultimate utopia. They enjoyed a smorgasbord while us humans felt like pieces of crap – not emotionally, literally. Flies swerved, dipped, dove, and hopped on our heads. But the flies, the room, the grungy facilities – none of that mattered. We weren’t there to stay, we were there to catch a ride to the Tongariro Crossing. And on the following day that’s exactly what we did.