Final stretch

We’ve made it home safely, and I’ve spent all afternoon unpacking, reading over 100 emails, and posting the last two days’ blogs. As today wasn’t so interesting, I’ll hold off posting it until tomorrow.

Night, night.

This is how interesting today was. I’ve already typed it up and it’s only 10:42pm

I had a good night’s sleep.

I had planned on having a shower this morning. I was about to step in when I saw all the hairs on the bottom of the cubicle floor. That, plus the fact that the soap from the last user was still in the soap tray, made us both decide to simply have a sponge bath.

Breakfast was a Nice and Natural peanut bar covered with chocolate. It was nice, as stated on the label, but not that healthy. And neither were the two Milk Arrowroot biscuits that were best before October 2012. (D.C. had brought them from home. We’re not big biscuit eaters.)

9:20am we were sitting in MacDonalds having hot cakes with for breakfast. Still not healthy – but tasty.

10:20am we were sitting in Denny’s, hoping for a fruit salad or something healthy. D.C. ended up having a banana split (“The banana’s fruit”) and I had broccoli salad – lettuce, onion, tomato, diced bacon, and of course broccoli.


Remember the Downtown Shopping Centre on Queen Elizabeth Square? This is it. It’s being bulldozed for the inner city rail loop.

11:20am we were standing over at the bus terminus at SkyCity. The driver kindly let us put our bags on board, which was good of him and meant we could relax. We had a chat with a young lady who’s visiting New Zealand from “China – Tibet”. She’s going to the Miranda Shorebird Centre for a few days. I hope the weather’s good for her. Because it was our winter she’d bought a puffer jacket and pants – and has been too hot.

The bus trip home was good, except it had started to rain when we got to Thames. The bus driver enquired if someone was meeting us, and I said we didn’t have far to go and that if we got wet, we’d be home and could get changed.

We didn’t get wet.

And were home by 2.30pm. I spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking my bags, reading over 100 emails, and updating my blog.

The next door neighbour’s cat, Hillary, has got her nose seriously out of joint because her “mother’s” mother’s cat’s moved in. She therefore prefers to spend more time at our place than their’s. Not that she gets any food or anything; just company. She’s been locked out for the last week and, on her mother’s request, we were going to keep her locked out. But she was yowling at the window and we couldn’t say know. So she came in and slobbered all over us and the keyboard.

The Pink Purrer’s working well. I fired her up and motored down to the Thai restaurant to buy us some tea for this evening. We ate it watching two episodes of The Chase.

And then came back to more emails and blogs.

Better get off to bed. Until the next trip…

F-A-B. 🙂

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Steaming (Dieselling) home

31st July 2016

I had a good night’s sleep. D.C. reckoned she was too hot to sleep.

After getting washed and dressed, and having half a “One Square Meal” bar each for breakfast, we went down to check out of the Waterloo Hotel.

As an example of the differences between establishments: The Station Hotel gave us a bath towel each to use. The Waterloo supplied us with a bath towel and a flannel. The Bay Plaza left us each a bath towel, hand towel, and flannel.

Wellington was putting on a nice day for us as our train pulled out of the station. I’d put my slippers on and had decided that I wasn’t going to worry about taking any photos today. Instead I’d relax in my seat and listen to the on board commentary.

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That was until we got to the Rangitikei catchment area. Then I decided that I’d go out onto the observation car and simply enjoy the view and the wind on my face and knotting up my hair. Of course there as a waterfall that I would have liked to have photographed, but then there are always a lot of things to photograph and it’s not always possible to do so.

It was later on that I knew I had to get my camera out.

Away in the distance I could see snow.









Of course I had to get photos of that. The longer I stayed out there, the lower and thicker the snow got. I was glad that on a trip back to my seat I’d got my hat and my “cat’s paw” gloves. These are ones that are mittens, but you can fold the thumb and fingers flaps back and turn them into fingerless gloves. I had figured that they would be good because they would keep my hands warm whilst leaving my fingers free to take photos.

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National Park – This more ice than snow, and we weren’t supposed to exit the carriage while 75 people got on board, but not everyone obeyed that edit. He bought in some for us to touch.

I was glad I had them. I was able to keep all my fingers warm, except my “trigger” finger, which was quite cold by the time we’d finished the Raurimu Spiral. I hadn’t planned on staying out there, because you probably get as good a view, and the commentary, in the warm inside. It also seemed that every man and his camera decided to traverse the Raurimu Spiral in the observation car, so when I did try to take a photo I would invariably get someone else’s hair, arm, shoulder, camera in shot.


Horseshoe number one


Tunnel number two


Top of the Spiral


Tunnel number one


Horseshoe number two


Horseshoe number two – lining up for Raurimu


Coming into Raurimu



The Raurimu Spiral – In Taumarunui




I came back inside and got warm with a hot chocolate.



We pulled into Taumarunui Station.

We stayed in Taumarunui Station.

This was where our driver and crew was supposed to swap with the next driver and crew. The drivers are only licensed for certain sections of track and our present driver was only licensed for Palmerston North to Taumarunui. He wasn’t licensed for any further.

His replacement had disappeared and couldn’t be reached.

So they had to get the driver that was licensed to Hamilton.

He was in Te Rapa…

In Hamilton.

He was going to have to drive to Taumarunui…

1.5 hours away.

So we sat in the carriage, or got out and had a look at the local Railway Museum. (We were lucky that the guy had just opened up for a bus load and didn’t have to make a special trip.) We had a look around the local i-SITE. We weren’t allowed to wander around the town in case something happened that would mean that we could leave earlier than expected.

We sat. We chatted amongst ourselves and joked at our situation. We looked at our photos. We typed up our blog entry for the day.

We waited…

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It was 4:45pm before we heard the horn telling us to reboard the train and 4:55pm before we finally set off. Our original arrival time at the Auckland Strand was supposed to be 6:55pm, but that’s Hamilton’s time now. Papakura’s 8:25pm. Ours is around 9:00pm. Thank heavens that isn’t going to cause us any stress and we weren’t planning on going anywhere tonight. But there are those who had planned to meet friends and relatives.

6:00pm I went and got us something to eat. I had an Indonesian Rice Salad and D.C. had a lamb and mint aioli sandwich. We both had Twinings herbal teas, which were complimentary. (D.C.’s was strawberry, raspberry, and loganberry. Mine was lemon with a twist.)

The time is 6:49pm and we’re just coming into Hamilton. The only thing we can see is the Morman temple, which is lit up like a beacon.

Everyone burst out laughing when, as we left Hamilton, David announced that we were going to have to stop again for “a quick driver change.”

2 hours 30 minutes behind schedule. One of the other passengers said he’d been talking to the driver who’d brought us to Taumarunui. He said he’s got all the qualifications under the sun, but that as he wasn’t licenced for the Taumarunui to Hamilton run he couldn’t carry on. He offered to, keeping it slow so that the train was at least still moving, but the regulations wouldn’t let him. Apparently there’re certain speeds you have to do or can’t do to round some curves safely. Because these curves were new, he didn’t know them and their signals, so he was stuck. Today was also his day off. They dragged him in for the drive to Taumarunui. He’s got another job tomorrow morning at 5.00am, which he won’t be able to do because he won’t have had the required ten hours’ rest by the time he gets back home. So they’ll have to get someone in to replace him. And we don’t know why the original driver didn’t turn up.

As I was up to date with my blog (it’s good being able to update it as we go along), and I couldn’t see outside in the dark, I did some writing of my latest story… Chapter 51.

The train arrived at Papakura at 8.25pm.

It’s now 9:48pm and we’re in bed. I’m not 100% sure what time the train actually arrived, but they were saying that it was 9:10 to 9:15pm.

We got out of the train, got our bags, and hoped to get the shuttle. This was actually a rather large bus that couldn’t take a right turn towards Beach Road. It could only turn left, go to Britomart, and then straight on to the motorway.

Because it was so late we decided not to walk it, but took a taxi. $10.19 to turn right, turn right, turn left (doing a U-turn instead because he’d overshot the mark.)

We were met by the same manager at the Station Hotel, who asked if we had had a good time, charged us $120, and gave us the key to the same room – 306.

We came in, went to the loo, cleaned our teeth, and went to bed.

I had put the light out and cuddled down to sleep, when the fridge kicked into life. So I put the light on, got up, and turned it off at the wall, so I could sleep.

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Last day

We’re moving out of the Bay Plaza Hotel today and the WiFi’s not so good at the Waterloo nor the Station Hotel, so I won’t be updating my blog again until we get home on Monday afternoon.

See you then. 🙂


Here I am (on August 1st)

30 July 2016

Sadly, we had to leave the Bay Plaza this morning. I would definitely recommend it to anyone staying in Wellington. It’s conveniently located, is close to Te Papa, the i-SITE, the Wellington Museum, the Michael Fowler Centre and the CBD; the staff are welcoming, friendly, and exceedingly helpful; it has a lovely view (when the weather behaves); the amenities are all that you need; and it’s not too noisy.

We are now back in the Waterloo in room 510. It’s more central, being over the road from the Railway Station, but it’s noisier, the staff aren’t quite as welcoming, you can’t adjust the heating in the rooms (and they’re too hot), and it’s a bit more budget. But it’s okay for one night.

The Station Hotel, where we’ll be tomorrow night, is another place that I wouldn’t recommend for more than one night. It’s a few steps down again from the Waterloo. It’s not bad, but it’s not ideal. And there isn’t much in the way of eating places nearby.

I decided to have a cooked breakfast this morning, using the voucher we bought on day one, so I had an omelette with ham, cheese, onion and mushrooms. (I don’t like cooked tomatoes.) Once again it was too much of a good thing, so I didn’t eat it all. I also found it a little salty, but that’s probably because we don’t have a lot of salt in our diet. I had some fruit to “cleanse my pallet” (I love fresh melons and pineapple) and then a couple of slices of toast.

We sat there and wondered about the Metrocideris (I won’t say Pohutukawa, because it probably wasn’t – it’s leaves were too small, so it’s probably a hybrid with a Rata) outside that was starting to flower. And then watched the two Tui that were flying around in it.

Back to the room to finish packing our bags. It was the old unzip the extension on the suitcase, close zip the case proper closed, then zip the extension closed and cross your fingers.

Finally, taking care of my precious Thunderbirds are Go poster, we left the premises. We walked past another couple of Metrocideris that were even more in flower, and had larger, more wavy leaves than a Pohutukawa.

Another thing in the Bay Plaza’s favour. When we arrived there they checked with housekeeping to see if our room was ready and then let us up. D.C. reckons the Waterloo checked too, but we had the option of either leaving our things in a locker for free (they supplied the $2), or else pay $10 for early access to our room.

We took the locker option.

Deciding that one of the larger lockers on the floor was best for us, we chose number 28 and easily fitted in both suitcases, D.C.’s day pack, (reluctantly) EOS and my e-reader, and my monopod.

Finally read what to do to lock the locker.
1.    Insert supplied $2 coin
2.    Enter your pin code that you thought of and will remember.
3.    Locker supplies you with the locker to use…
And it chose #7. Small, too small, and on top.

So we had to get one of the staff members to reprogramme it to let us use 28.

Then we went out cardboard tube hunting. We quite like Wellington, with its harbour, and sculpture, and everything being central. It’s like it’s been designed for the people.

But its street layout is a mess.

We were looking for Victoria Street (Warehouse Stationary) and/or Cuba Mall ($2 Shop). We couldn’t find them.

What we did find was the curb – or at least D.C. did as she walked around a diverted footpath at a construction site. I was in front of her and next thing I knew I heard her stumble and then I looked around to see her finish her dive to the ground, landing on my foot.

Two very concerned ladies came rushing over to her to help her up – which was a change because she usually seems to fall at the feet of young men. One of the construction workers did come over very apologetic. She was okay (I say she bounces), but we found a seat and she sat down for a bit.

We’d started off again when I spied Whitcoulls over the road. I left D.C. sitting at the bus stop and dashed over the road. Since I knew where the stationery department was, I knew where to start looking for mailing tubes.

Hurray! And sold singly!

There were two sizes; one wider and one longer – $5.99. I’d measured the poster against my arm and the longer one appeared to be long enough. I took one up to the counter and checked if they had plastic ones. No. These were the only ones available. Looking at it, I discovered a slight dent in one end. This would be a weak spot so I took it back. The second one I picked up was caved right in. So I found a third that appeared to be structurally intact.

I’d thought earlier that I’d probably want to tape the lids on so there was no chance of it falling off. Now I was thinking that if I got some packaging tape I could not only tape on the lids, but also “waterproof” the tube by covering it in tape.

I was contemplating the various types and prices, including one roll that was $14.99 and thinking that it was only $6.95 though work, when a sales lady came up to see if I required assistance. I explained what I was doing and she went straight to the Whitcoulls brand tape – $4.99 and, she said, just as good as the other stuff. So that’s what I got. Normally I would have said don’t bother with the plastic bag, but I theorised that, taped on, it would be an extra layer of protection.

I stepped outside, went to cross the road, and it started raining. I made sure that the tube wasn’t going to get wet, and unhooked Kally’s bear bag and shoved her into my pocket.

It was close to 11:00am by this point, and we were going to meet Ann and Duncan to wave them goodbye as they went to Matiu / Soames Island. They had invited us, but the weather forecast was for gales, so we’d decided to go to the Wellington Museum instead.

We’d been sitting outside a restaurant, Foxglove, that sounded like it would have nice meals, for about forty minutes and no one had turned up for the boat. So we went down to the ticket office. Was the boat to Matiu / Soames still going?

“You could always take Thunderbird One,” said the man. He’d seen my International Rescue logo on Kally’s bear bag.

“Ah! Someone who recognises it! If I could fly out there in Thunderbird One, I would.”

The boat wasn’t leaving until 12.00 midday, so we went back outside to wait.

Ann, Duncan, and Duncan’s mum, Ann (that must be confusing) turned up. Ann walked straight past us to greet other members of the group. We chatted to Duncan and his mum until Ann came back, bringing with her, her boss. She introduced us as the Kaitiaki (guardians) of the Fred Butler collection. We said that sounded a bit too grand for us (especially as Puke Ariki owns most of it.) Ann reiterated that they had plenty of lunch and that we were more than welcome to join them for trip – an art performance based on the life of the Kea. It probably would be interesting, but we decided against it.

We saw them off onto the boat, waved them goodbye, and then went to the Foxglove restaurant for lunch. We both had chicken thighs stuffed with sage and onion, wrapped in Manuka tree cured bacon, on potatoes and Italian coleslaw. It was only three bits of chicken on the coleslaw with lots of potatoes to bulk it us, and it cost $26 each, but it was nice.

But they’d labelled the toilets “bathroom”. Stupid idea. There was nowhere to bathe in there.

While we were eating we were able to see the route that the ferry had taken. The wind had picked up and at one point the rain was pelting down and the win was picking up the sea and blowing it horizontally.

We were glad we hadn’t gone on the boat.

We also saw a lot of families, most with little girls decked out in princess gowns and many carrying Mickey Mouse bags. The “Disney on Ice” show was on at the TSB Arena. (Brian, our driver yesterday, was going last night with his grandkids. I think the adults were as excited as the children.

Following that we headed off to the Wellington Museum. Which I said was in the direction it wasn’t. Dodging the squalls we ended up back at the Waterloo Hotel, so we went inside to ask for directions to the Wellington Museum.

“Which museum? There are lot of them.”

“Wellington Museum.”

“Te Papa?”

“No. Wellington Museum.”

“There’s no such place.”

“Yes, there is.”

“Do you mean the Museum of Sea and Sky?”

“Yes. It was called Wellington Museum before it got that tag line.”

So she looked it up on the computer. “Oh, yes. It is called Wellington Museum.”

We could have found our way there without their help.

We arrived at the Wellington Museum just in time for a “Poisons and Power” walk and talk. So we decided to join in – meeting up in the newly opened “Attic”.

I think it was done by university students, as they were all young.

The leader, who worked for the Wellington Museum, was allos the president of the Italian Society, so the stories had an Italian slant – which didn’t make it any less interesting.

The first story was told by “Alan Turing”, who I’m sure was a lot more “limp wristed” than he may have actually been. He explained about his early life, how he’d always been different to his peers, in more ways than one, and how he worked at a radio factory during the war…

At this point he was interrupted by our guide. Of course he hadn’t worked at a radio factory. He’d been at Bletchley Park, deciphering the German’s enigma code. (See my last England blog for more about that.) During Turing’s lifetime, he’d been forbidden by the official secrets act from speaking about what he’d achieved there.

The popular story around his death was that, because of the persecution about his sexuality, by those in power, Turing committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide. – Poison. Another theory expounded here was that he was very careless with his chemicals and that it was an accident. Of course there’s always the conspiracy theorists who maintain the MI6 – people in power – poisoned him because he knew too much.

They also said that when Apple Computers created their logo of an apple with a bite out of it, it was in Turing’s honour. I piped up and said that those behind the company had been asked about that in an interview and had said: “If only we’d thought of that…”

Our guide quickly amended his story.

Going down a floor we were met by a journalist. He was saying how that the general populace was poisoned by a need to hear sensationalised stories. He’d started out by being an idealist reporter, determined to write about what was going on in the world, not what people said they wanted to hear. By the time he became the Auckland Star’s editor-in-chief (Clark was his name, I think), he was just as bad at “sexing” up a story as anyone else. He led an anti-Italian crusade during the Second World War to poison people against them – because everyone knew that Italians thought nothing of poisoning anyone.

Down another level and into the Wellington Harbour Board committee room. I was one of the last in and as they were trying to encourage people to sit in the seats at the head table, D.C. suggested that I sit there so I’d have a better view. I ended up sitting right behind the actress for the next tableau.

On the table were three glasses of water. She called for volunteers.

“You seem to have three volunteers sitting behind you,” says our guide.

That was the man next to me, a woman at the other end, and me. We were given a glass each and asked to drink. We did so reluctantly, me pointing at D.C. and saying: “This is your fault”, and then saying “cheers” to the assembled audience.

We were then told that one of the glasses had poison in it. “What? Fluoride?”

Our actress was an Italian (not Lucretia Borgia) and she was known to have a hand in the poisoning of at least 600 people with Aqua Tofana. She said she did it to remove beaten and downtrodden wives of their husbands. She’d developed the poison out of the belladonna flower, arsenic, and lead.

⦁    One drop produced cold like symptoms in the poisoned husband.
⦁    Two drops and he was bedridden.
⦁    Three drops and he was on last legs. The doctor’s advice was that the poor patient get their affairs in order and make arrangements for the estate to support his widow.
⦁    Four drops and he died. Struck down by a cold that got worse.

Eventually she was dobbed in by one of her clients.

Down another level to our final actor. This young man was dressed in army fatigues and had a nuclear free badge on his tunic. He (haltingly as he kept on forgetting his lines) related the poisoning of the South Pacific by the French at Moruroa Atoll, and how the New Zealanders were keen to travel there to state their opposition to the testing. People power.

Last time we’d been there they hadn’t finished the “Attic”. One of the displays was a supposed time travel machine that had been found in the old Wellington Harbour Board’s attic when it was cleared out. It had a video screen on each of its six sides and the story moved between the three on either side. It started back in the big bang, a bit of the formation of Earth, a moa feeding in 19 AD, a Haast’s Eagle zooming in for the attack, later there was Kupe’s wife telling how she’d first seen Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud. It continued on through other settlers to 2043.


It was after 4.00pm, so we thought we’d better head back to the Waterloo Hotel and claim our room.

It was here that I discovered that the mailing tube was the same length as the poster. But by turning the caps so they faced the other way and taping it well and truly into place, my poster was well protected. Especially once every inch was covered in tape, and then well taped into the Whitcoulls plastic bag.

We’d booked tickets to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Mozart and Richard Strauss at the Michael Fowler Centre, so after a very quick change we headed out.

Not having had any dinner, (but having had a decent sized lunch) we were hoping to find someplace to have a snack. Everyone we spoke to said that Cuba Street had a good number of eating places. It was because of this that I didn’t lead us along Waterloo Quay, which I knew led us to the Michael Fowler Centre, but back a block.

Wellington might be great with its waterfront, and sculptures, and public transport, but its street layout’s terrible! Have I already said that? We seemed to be getting further and further “inland” and, because of the darkness, I couldn’t see any landmarks that I knew. We I started steering us back to the waterfront and back onto Waterloo Quay. Once there it was easy to find the Michael Fowler Centre, although D.C. had her doubts – thinking that we’d gone past it.

Tonight was some rugby game – I think it was a semi-final or final of the Super Rugby series or something. I knew it was the Hurricanes (Wellington region) versus the Chiefs (Waikato). We were going against the flow as all these people of all ages decked out in yellow and black, and the occasional brave sole in red, yellow and black (?) heading to the Westpac Stadium for the game.

We found the front door and went in and asked where there was anywhere to eat, and was once again directed to Cuba Street. So we went outside and the whole “mall” was lit up and filled with stalls. This was a regular Saturday evening fixture and there were lots of different foods to try. So we bought two Pad Thai, that were once again too much of a good thing, and sat outside in the not too cool evening to eat it. We followed that with a Whitakers Chocolate hot chocolate, and then went to the Michel Fowler Centre.

If we’d been earlier, and we would had been if we’d known about it, we could have attended a before the show session about the music that was going to be performed.

We’d booked our seats before we’d left Thames, and that was a saga in itself. The cheapest seats were $53 the most expensive over $100. We got the cheap seats. I was going to try for the raised seats behind the stage, so we could look down onto the orchestra, but when I chose a couple it came up with the message “obstructed view” (probably because all you’d see was the conductor and the back of the rest of the orchestra’s heads). It also kept asking if I wanted to change seats. I eventually worked out that it had offered us “two of the best seats remaining.” If they were two of the best…

But I couldn’t get them. Probably because it had earmarked them for me. In the end I accepted the latest two of “the best seats remaining”.

About a metre from the stage. And we had to look up to see anything.

We weren’t too worried about this, after all, it’s an audial (sp) recital, not a visual one, so you didn’t have to see all that was happening. It would have added to the experience, but it wasn’t necessary.

The pieces were by Rudolf Escher (nephew of M.C. Escher, the artist) – Musique pour l’esprit en deuil (Music for the Spirit in Mourning), W.A. Mozart – Horn Concerto No. 4, and Richard Strauss – Sinfonia Domestica. The only piece I recognised was one of Mozart’s, but as soon as that bracket started, you knew you were listening to Mozart. Strauss’ was based on his home life – things like bathing the recalcitrant baby.

The musicians were excellent, but I did find my mind wandering. Do they shift those things on the strings to adjust the tension and the pitch? Why are the tensioning pegs(?) on her cello in a straight line, while his are on an angle, and he doesn’t seem to have any! It the conductor moves his chair back much further, that castor’s going to fall off the platform. He won’t fall because of the barrier behind him, but would he get such a fright that he’d stop conducting?

Tonight was probably one of the safest nights to walk through Wellington at 9.30pm. All the rugby fans were leaving the stadium and all were happy. One guy saw us: “Go the mighty Canes!”

I said: “We’re from Waikato.”

“No wonder you’re looking so miserable.”

“We’re not. We’ve just been to the orchestra. It was great!”

And it wasn’t cold and raining.

We got back to the Waterloo and a group of rugby fans came in. Most took the stairs, but one said “I’ll race ya. I’ll take the lift.”

He was going to the first floor, and we were on the fifth (510), so he’d be getting out first. He asked us if we were sisters, or mother and daughter. “I knew you were something.”

The fact that we were dressed in similar style jackets (mine was pink, D.C.’s pale blue) and were both wearing beanies probably helped.

We packed our bags, had a couple of drinks of green tea, and went to sleep in our too hot room.


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Today was another lovely, fine, almost cloudless, almost windless, day.

We had our porridge and fruit for breakfast and then got ready to go out.

Today we were planning on going to Zealandia. This is another place that we’d been to last time that we wanted to revisit. To revise, it’s a mainland island sanctuary. It was formerly the city’s water reservoir, until it was decided that having millions of litres of water contained above a major settlement in a fault line wasn’t a good idea. As the bush had already started to regenerate, it was an ideal spot to fence off, eradicate all the pest animals and plants, and re-introduce rare native species.

I actually thought that today’s blog would be all photos and little text.

Ah… Wrong.

There’s a free shuttle (we gave a $5 donation) to Zealandia and its departure points are outside the i-SITE information centre and outside Te Papa. We got to Te Papa on time, but couldn’t see where the bus left from. So we decided to make the five-minute dash to the i-SITE and catch it there.

As we got close we knew we were going to be cutting it fine, so I raced on ahead. I was about 20 seconds too late as we saw the mini-bus go sailing past us.

Bother. We’ve missed the bus. We’ll have to wait an hour.

Brian, the driver, later said that he’d picked three people up at Te Papa. He’d seen them before they saw him – and his mini-bus was rather obvious with Zealandia written along the sides.

But this little mishap did mean that I finally got a chance to photograph what we’d seen at the i-SITE… 🙂

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We also went hunting for a mailing tube or something similar for the poster that Weta Workshop had given me.

Do you know how hard it is to find these things? We found an Office Max, who I deal with through work. They had them, but in packs of four and I only want one. The sales rep. suggested the Post Office, but didn’t really know where it was because he’s not a local.

We asked Kathmandu where the PO was and he directed us to it.

I couldn’t see any on display, so I had to wait in the queue to ask.

No. The Post Office (sorry, NZ Post) no longer carry mailing tube. The last she’d seen was at Warehouse Stationary in Victoria Street. (The Warehouse didn’t have any. I’d checked.)

We decided that we’d better head back to the i-SITE.

This time we were early enough to chat to some people and tell them how great the Weta Workshop experience was (especially Thunderbirds are Go), since that was the shuttle they were waiting for. One guy said the taxi company quoted him $35 to get from his hotel to the Weta Cave. It was cheaper for him to buy the tour/bus combo. We said the regular public transport bus only cost $5 and you got to see something of the city.

At first we were the only ones on the bus, but then we were joined by a lady from San Francisco. It was a good smooth trip out and our first stop when we got to Zealandia was for the loo and get our gear sorted out.

I went to put my sunglasses on. These aren’t mine. And D.C. doesn’t have Ray-bans either.

But I had to wait until D.C. came back before I could check if she knew where both our sunglasses were. She didn’t, so I dashed out to check if mine were still in the bus.

They weren’t.

I went back inside and D.C. told me she’d found mine and hers. I took the imposters back out and gave them to Brian, in case someone claimed them.

We found out later that someone had. They were most relieved to get them back.

By the time we’d done all this it was time to buy our tickets. The lady who sold them said we were just in time for the 11:15 guided tour. So we dashed up the hill to the “pontoon” where we met the San Franciscan lady. A few minutes later our guide, Julia, appeared. She was bright and friendly and started telling us about Zealandia/Karori’s history and occasionally pointing out the song of a Stitchbird, or a Saddleback.

Then she complained that she was getting hot. I didn’t think much of this as the backs of my legs were getting hot too. Then she apologised and said that all of a sudden she wasn’t feeling very well. She leant against the fence and I asked if she had any water with her. The San Franciscan lady got it for her out of her bag and she had a drink, but didn’t feel any better. We asked if she wanted us to get someone, but she said she’d be okay in a minute, and that she had a radio that she could use for help.

Julia appeared to be getting worse, so I said I’d run down to the ticketing office and get help. By this point I wasn’t sure that she was in a fit state to use the radio. So, thinking that she might get better, but it would be terrible if she didn’t and we’d wasted time, I dumped my camera bag and my camera and started running.

I know I’m a fast walker, but I’m not a runner, so I slowed down to my usual speed after a few corners. It wasn’t a long way, but it seemed it because I was in a hurry. They have predator-proof gates in the fence – the type where you can’t open the exit one before you’ve opened the entry – and of course that took longer than I wanted.

I barrelled into the ticketing office, apologised to the people being served, and panted out to the seller (a man this time) that the guide Julia (thank heavens I’d made a point of reading her name badge), wasn’t very well, was at the pontoon, and I didn’t think she was in a fit state to call on the radio. The ticket seller got on his radio and requested assistance. I couldn’t understand what the response was.

I found out later that the San Franciscan lady knew how to operate the radio (they needed to know at the school she was at) and D.C. had taken it from Julia and the lady had used it. So I hadn’t needed to get hot and bothered.

By the time I got back a couple of guys were there. There was a shortened, much narrower, version of the fence there and they laid it on the ground so Julia could sit on it. Then the ticket seller turned up carrying a defibrillator (and trying to hide it from Julia.) Then another Zealandia guy turned up pushing a Wellington City Council supplied, free for use, mobility scooter. He, Richard, reckoned it was quicker to push than to ride. He was probably right.

By this point Julia was feeling much better, and I think was feeling a little foolish and not in need of the ambulance that was on the way. We all insisted that she at least let them look her over.

We found out later that she had been checked by the ambulance, been declared okay and that it was probably just a virus, and had been taken home by her son.

But we’d lost our guide. The other guy who’d originally turned up was a guide too. Except that he hadn’t learnt anything yet and this was going to be his first orientation session. He got a totally different lesson.

But Richard said he was willing to take us. He was good. He pointed out a New Zealand Falcon in the sky. They are a lot rarer than the common harrier.


He told us about the Takahe and how the pair Zealandia have were on an island until they were too old to breed. Then they were removed, (“to the old folks’ home”, D.C. said) so another viable pair could take their place. There are only 300 Takahe left, so each new life is precious.

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He showed us the feeding Kaka, and the Bellbirds.Sometimes out of the same feeder.

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Kaka: “These are our special feeders”

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Bellbird: “We can use them too!”

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Kaka: “You can’t use this. I’m the only one heavy enough to open it.”

I managed to spot a Saddleback (which no one else had seen), but it was too quick for my camera. Richard said that he could see that it was one that he’d banded this morning.


He found a solitary Tuatara. It was too cold for any of the others. Tuatara are a type of reptile that are the last of an order that was around at the time of the dinosaurs.

He got some millet out of a bucket and tied them to a hinged branch and then raised it up. Straight away the Kakariki – green parakeets – were in to feed.

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Our tour finished at that point and the San Franciscan lady went on to the upper dam and D.C. and I decided that as it was after 1.00pm we were hungry. On the way down we discovered a very sorry looking bumble bee in the middle of the path, so we moved it to a safe sunny spot.

For lunch we had vegetable fritters for both of us and I had hot lemon, honey and ginger (with plenty of each) and D.C. had Kawakawa tea – and the rest of my ginger when I’d finished my drink. Kawakawa’s good for stomach upsets, as is ginger. She was burping for the rest of the afternoon.


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We then had a look around the Sir Peter Jackson assisted educational display. This had a human operated Moa that raised and lowered its head, a large screen video of how man, and animals brought by man, destroyed this country and its original inhabitants. And we checked out all the other displays.

One interesting snippet was that New Zealand has 80,000 endemic species – that is species that only exist here. England only has two. Just shows what millions of years of separation can do.

We hadn’t seen half of what we wanted to, so we headed back up the hill for the last ¾ hour. We hadn’t reached the pontoon, when we realised it was spitting. So we turned and went back and had a look at the valve house, the lower dam, and in the souvenir shop.

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We were back on the bus ready to leave at 5:05pm as we were supposed to. Brian left before the 5.00pm news.

Walking back to the hotel we took a detour to try to find the Warehouse Stationery, but ended up in the wrong street. So we came back to the hotel, downloaded my (disappointing) photos, and then went and had our last dinner in the Bay Plaza Hotel.

Walking back to it we talked about the way that Wellington is in many of its buildings an Art Deco City. The Fire Brigade next to our hotel is a well maintained example. We wondered if they were allowed to stay because they were built after the Hawkes Bay earthquake and would have been made to withstand earthquakes.

We also commented on how the Bay Plaza Hotel stands out like an ugly sore thumb. It’s great inside though.


Eleven floors and we’re on the seventh. No wonder we get blasted by the wind.

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Te Papa

I haven’t had the chance to write up today’s blog, (I haven’t finished yesterday’s yet!), but here’s some photos from today. Remember these are 2.4 times human scale.

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During the night the wind roared against the side of the building. The Bay Plaza has eleven floors and we’re on the seventh, so you can see how exposed we are.

It also started raining.

After breakfast, where we’d requested that we have one serving of porridge in two bowls as yesterday’s helping “was too much of a good thing”, and were able to fit in fruit, yoghurt and toast as well, we left to walk the ten minutes to Te Papa – the national museum of New Zealand.

It was pouring with rain.

We had our full wet weather gear on – waterproof shoes, waterproof over-trousers, waterproof raincoat (we left the cold layer at the hotel), waterproof cover to our bags – and we expected to be able to leave all this soaking gear in Te Papa’s locker room.

Fortunately, Te Papa was allowing entry to its foyer early. I’m not sure if that was a standard thing, or if it was because there was a conference of members of “Leaders Real Estate” going on upstairs. There were certainly a lot of them and they were very noisy when they congregated outside their meeting room.

Also waiting for the early bird entry was the group who’d been on the Thunderbirds are Go experience and then had been having lunch where we went.

We’d paid for an early entry ticket to the “Gallipoli – the Scale of War” exhibition. This meant that we were allowed in half an hour early at 9.30am, we taken directly to the exhibition and given a very brief explanation by a guide, and before having the freedom to wander around until the hordes arrived at 10.00am.

The locker room didn’t open until 9.45am. So we had to drip our way around the exhibition.

Because we only had half an hour extra we ended up rushing through the exhibition, getting photos of the figures while no one was out. Until D.C.’s camera ran out of batteries. Then we left the exhibition…

There was already a queue.

We went downstairs to finally get rid of our bags and wet weather gear, had a loo stop, and asked at the Te Papa shop if they sold batteries. They didn’t but the BP Service Station over the road did. So I dashed over and got them for D.C. I had stopped raining by this point. It was then that the Te Papa shop told us that there was a locker on the second floor and wondered why no one had told us about it.

Now that D.C. had her camera at the ready, we went through the exhibition again. The queue had dissipated by the time we walked to the entrance, so we were able to go straight in. There was already a crowd.

The exhibition was made up of more than the 2.4 times scale people. There were 3D relief representations of the countryside around Gallipoli, and onto it was projected the advances and retreats of the Allied and Turkish forces. There was a computer generated image of a skeleton and you selected your weapon of destruction of choice and it showed you the damage that weapon did on the human body. Things like how a grenade would tear through a limb, shattering leg bones so the leg dangled form a scrap of tissue.

Yesterday’s exhibition was a more general overview of the war; especially New Zealand’s involvement in it. Te Papa’s focused on individuals and it was their giant representation that we were confronted with.

The first one was the lieutenant (pronounced lefttenant for anyone who doesn’t speak English) who went in on the first wave, egging his fellow soldiers on to glory, was shot in the arm, invalided out of Gallipoli and had the arm amputated. He was a right handed artist. He then had to train his left arm how to paint so that he could maintain his livelihood.

The second one was a doctor who’d thought he’d known what to expect as he’d been in the South African campaign. He’d been so shell shocked by what he’d had to deal with – a never-ending stream of casualties with wounds he’d never seen before – that he was invalided out after two months.

Next was a young soldier who, like many of them, came down with illness. He’d still been ill when he’d come back on sentry duty and had dozed off. This is an offence that carried the possible penalty of death. Because of his previous good conduct, he escaped this fate – only to die on the battle fields four days later.

His representation showed how flies were ever present and got everywhere. Especially once dead bodies started lying about the place becoming a breeding ground. We were told yesterday how those bodies would start to putrefy and swell up in the sun. Soldiers from the either side would shoot their enemies corpses to release the foul smell as a kind of chemical warfare.

Remember how each of these figures were 2.4x normal size. Remember also how each hair had to be implanted individually.

The next representation was a machine gun post. The first gunner was shot dead, the next took over and was shot, the next took over…

There was a representation of a trench to give you an idea of how enclosed the spaces were and of the noise going on around you. It was also suspended in such a way that you could feel the vibrations of the exploding bombs and grenades.

Then we had a nurse. This one had been on a hospital ship. She’d asked for news of her brother from soldiers, who had seen him, but didn’t know of his fate. She found out when she received her letters to him back; stamped with “Killed. Return to sender.” She found out four months after the rest of her family at home had been informed.

The last figure was a solider wading through a field of poppies.

You’ve got to wonder at the stupidity of some people and what they do during war. The worst were the ones that sat back in their warm, dry, safe offices and played god.

After “man’s inhumanity to man” we checked out the natural world. First stop was “Awesome Forces” about geology and how seismology affects New Zealand. Of course we had to have a go in the Edgecombe earthquake simulator. Following that was the “Sea to Sky(?)”, which is about New Zealand’s mainly avian wildlife – and also has a skeleton of a pygmy blue whale. Which is one of those exhibits that everyone knows and everyone wants to see because they remember seeing it last time.

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A bit like the Colossal Squid, which was dissected on live-streaming Internet. I remember trying to watch snippets of it, when I was working.

By now we decided that we were hungry, so we went and had lunch from the Te Papa café. I had a chicken pie, salad, and Mac’s green apple juice – $11.50. D.C. had pumpkin soup. The carrot cakes (which were tempting, but we left on the shelf), had little marzipan(?) carrots on them.

After lunch we went to the “Golden Days” exhibition. In this you wander into a junk shop as the shop’s owner closes up. A montage of New Zealand events and achievements, and Kiwiana is shown on screen and every now and then one of the “bits of junk” comes to life. A cow’s head moos. Toy soldiers march. A cricket ball rolls along the ground…

It’s always great fun, but it’s about twenty years behind the times. It needs updating.

We saw John Britten’s amazing, record breaking motorbike.


We saw racehorse Phar Lap’s skeleton. (His hide and heart are in Australia who also claim him.)

We had a wander through the representation of the New Zealand bush that’s outside. It was a little chilly, but I didn’t need more than the three layers I had on. Merino “thermal”, blouse, International Rescue jumper. I was hoping to find a Nikau palm I could photograph to show you what Gordon’s shirts are based on, but I couldn’t.

After reading about how some New Zealand flora and fauna were named – after people, places, similarity to other things, oddities about the creature, each of the biblical three kings… We decided that it was time to leave. We collected our now dry gear and started putting it on in readiness for going out into the cold, but dry, late afternoon. It was just after 4.00pm.

I saw a folded bit of paper by D.C.’s foot. I asked her, “Did that come out of your pocket?”, just as she was asking me: “Is that yours?” So I picked it up.

It was my original list of questions for Weta Workshop… From the last time we were in Wellington… Two years ago! Why did we still have that and what had it been hiding in?

It went back into my bag for the next two years.

We walked back to the hotel, completing 6999 steps for the day, and the wind had picked up a lot, but there was no sign of any rain. I did some blog typing, until just before 6.30pm.

We met Ann a few years ago when she was creating a photographic artwork based on the scrapbooks that Uncle Fred (Nan’s cousin) had created. Around that time, she met Duncan and they subsequently invited us to their wedding. They’d moved to Wellington (we stayed with them last time) and we were going to catch up with them again. Duncan’s mother had caught the Northern Explorer from Hamilton, so after he’d picked us up, he collected his mum, and we headed to their place.

Once there we had a very convivial evening with delicious Ann-made Shepherd’s Pie being the starring attraction of the meal. We sat and talked until it was time to make tracks and Duncan kindly brought us back to the hotel instead of insisting that we walk or catch the bus.

The weather wasn’t quite as good as day one.

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27th continued

27th July 2016 – part two

This afternoon we wanted to go to the Dominion Museum (I think that’s its title) as there’s a display there, put on with Sir Peter Jackson’s assistance. As we’d just come from Weta, it seemed to be appropriate to continue to see their mastery.

Okay, I hate war. I hate anything that glorifies war. Until we start honouring those who risk their necks to save lives the same way that we honour those who are trained to kill, I’m not interested in the way that people think that being a member of the armed forces earns automatic adulation, no matter what sort of person you actually were.

But WWI is history. It actually happened, and it can’t be ignored.

Being the middle of the day, D.C. was able to use her Gold Card for a free bus trip back into central Wellington. Being short of actual cash and a non-EFTPOS user, I had to borrow $5 off her.

We could have caught the #2 or the #18 bus, both of which went to Wellington Central, or the Karori one. Naturally, the first bus that came along was the Karori one. But it went into central Wellington too. Just not to the same bus stop.

That was fine, just so long as we could recognise where we got out and I didn’t squash my poster.

We were trundling down one of Wellington’s many hills when I saw some brick red columns nearby. “Isn’t that where we want to go? Where those brown stacky things are?”

The bus driver pulled into a bus stop and we got out. From there it was only a short walk to the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. The Cenotaph stands over it and the brown stacky things are an ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) memorial presented to New Zealand by the Australians.

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After a toilet and photo stop, we wandered up the hill to where the former Dominion Museum/National Museum of New Zealand stood – behind the Cenotaph, and went inside.


We’d arrived just in time for a tour, which was made up of another couple, and they kindly waited until we divested ourselves of our coats, bags, and Thunderbirds are Go goodies. “That’s precious.”

The exhibition was divided into two section. One section was a collection of colourised photos, to enable you to see the war as it was – in full colour. Not just an imaginary world of greyscale and sepia. The other half of the exhibition was a timeline showing the evolution of the war. The pictures spoke for themselves, but the timeline was better seen with someone to explain it all. We were lucky that we had (according to our ticket seller) an excellent guide.

He was.

I think his name was Mike. I’ll call him that anyway.

We started out wandering through a full-scale representation of a Belgian or French town. One that in early 1914 had no idea what was going to hit it. By the end of 1918 it was literally flattened and almost wiped off the face of the Earth. It was only those places that were rebuilt by its residents that ensured that it wasn’t.


First stop was a short explanation about why the war started in the first place. There was a lot of aggro going on behind the scenes, but it was the assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Yugoslav in Sarajevo, that really started “the dominos falling.”

Country Two was loyal to Country One, so it sided with its ally. While Country Three was loyal to Country Four and became One and Two’s enemy. Country Five liked Countries One and Two better than Country Four, and wanted a bit of Country Three’s land and wealth, so chose their side.

And European countries chose sides like dominos falling.

Did you realise that King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Tsar Nicolas II were all Queen Victoria’s grand-children? The Kaiser was Queen Victoria’s favourite and she even died in his arms. (He was also the head of a couple of British regiments, which made for a sticky situation in 1914 until he was ousted from the job.)

So much for family loyalty.

There’s also a theory that Queen Victoria was responsible for the Russian Revolution. It’s because of her that haemophilia passed down through her family, to Tsar Nicolas’ son, Alexei. Remember that females can only carry and pass on the haemophilia gene. Males suffer from the disease, which prevents blood from clotting. If Alexei hadn’t had haemophilia, the “mad monk” Rasputin wouldn’t have been brought into the family circle and started to hold sway over the ruling classes. Without his influence the revolution wouldn’t have started.

Dominos, you see.

And there is another theory that Queen Victoria’s father, wasn’t her father. There weren’t any cases of haemophilia in the family until after her. Being female she had to be a carrier. This could only have come about if one of her unknown ancestors was a carrier of the gene, or if Queen Victoria had a genetic mutation that created the gene.

That’s if I remember that episode of Qi correctly.

Back to WWI.

Mike said that he can’t understand why Gallipoli rates so highly in New Zealand’s consciousness. The number of Kiwis killed in French and Belgium skirmishes dwarfs the number who died at Gallipoli.

This exhibition was broken into years. To pass from year to year you walk through a huge memorial arch that is designed to look like one of the headstones in the Commonwealth war cemetery in France or Belgium. On either side of the arch are photos of the headstones, taken so they line up with the arch.

As a thread running through this exhibition, we followed a recruit called Will. We first saw him in full Weta Workshop-sculpted glory standing in the recruiting office, telling the sergeant that he was 18. He looked younger and possibly was.

At first everyone thought WWI would play out like every other war up till then, but it quickly became obvious that it was the war of the gun. Military leaders were still using age old fighting and advancement techniques, only to have their men mown down by guns and heavy weaponry. Or stitched up was the phrase that began then and moved into modern parlance.

Horses were used to tow heavy guns. They too were mown down.


English buses were shipped across the channel and used as troop carriers. The replica on display showed how they had a quick coat of green camouflage paint slapped on them. A hasty job that sometimes meant that the advertising signage was still visible.

Each year had a different life-sized diorama. There was the tank with full crew (and pigeon-post pigeon) traversing a Turkish trench with the terrified Turks looking up at it.

Have you heard why tanks are called tanks? They were originally going to be called “Land ships”, but their code name that they were built under during the war was “water tank”. The name stuck. Similarly, land mines. The original underground explosives were laid by miners who’d dug tunnels underneath the enemy position. So the explosives were laid in mines.

We met Will again in his trench, reading letters from home. Another solider was eating breakfast. One was spotting with his periscope and another was a sniper.

The last two times we met Will were at the end. In 1918 he was shot in the arm and shoulder. The last we see of him is with his grandson, the sleeve of his cardigan folded up and pinned so it doesn’t flap about. He’s not saying anything to his grandson, who’s looking rather bemused by it all, because soldiers from the First World War didn’t. They either couldn’t, didn’t feel that they could because no one else would understand, or else were told that the horrors they remembered were all in the past and not to worry about it anymore.

We then had a look through the photo gallery with its colourised photographs.

It was all rather sobering.

Then as we left we were told that they were just about to play the Last Post and lower the flag at the Cenotaph.

If it hadn’t been so cold and blowy, we probably would have gone down the many steps to observe the ceremony, but by the time we’d put on our jackets and things (and hugged the poster to protect it), the ceremony had already started. So we stayed at the top of the steps and watched as a naval cadet(?) lowered the New Zealand flag. Only when we thought the ceremony was over, did we head back down.


On the way back to the hotel we had the obligatory stop at The Warehouse (D.C. wanted some cheap sandshoes as her shoes were acting up. She got them and some new gel inner soles.) We also called into Noel Leeming as the card reader that I bought yesterday didn’t work with my SD card or micro SD card. Of course it worked perfectly in the shop. And when I got back to the hotel.

We had tea in the on-site restaurant – lamb with pepper and lemon, kumara crisps, pea pesto(?), and fruit salad for dessert.

When we got back to our room I tried typing up my blog, but only got as far as the end of the Thunderbirds are Go experience before I had to put the light out at 11:00pm.

It’s 11.10pm now on the 28th and I haven’t made a start on today’s blog.

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Weta Watching

2016 07 July 27



Out of this world!

More than I could have hoped for!

And of course…


What a brilliant day!

But let’s start with the night.

Remember how beautiful yesterday was, sun, warmth, no rain, no wind…?

There was a complete reversal during the night.

The Bay Plaza Hotel is the tallest building around for quite a distance. (That was one thing we noticed, when we went for our walk yesterday.) We’re on the seventh of eleven floors. That means that when the winds pick up there’s nothing to stop them from slamming into our room.

They started slamming. And they are slamming now.

But we still managed to sleep. It was too important not to. Today was going to be a good day.

We’d paid for $20 for breakfast, which meant we could have had cooked or continental. We decided to have the porridge, which was continental – and too much of a good thing. So by the time we’d finished that we only had room for a slice of toast and marmalade.

Now we had to find the bus stop that the #2 stopped at. After we’d made our decisions about what to wear. After last night’s weather we thought we’d better take our raincoat, but leave the warmer jacket behind. (Our coats are 3in1 so it can be warm, rainproof, or warm AND rainproof.

We stepped outside into beautiful wind-free weather again.

We also found the bus stop with no issues. (I owe D.C. $5 for my fare) The bus driver wasn’t that welcoming when we said we wanted to go to Weta, but he made a point of letting us know where Weta’s stop was (I’d actually recognised it from last time… and the time before) and gave us directions how to get there.

So we got there before the Weta Cave shop/museum opened, and well before our 9.30am Weta Workshop Tour. Time to get some outside photos (especially of the 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 pathway to where the Thunderbirds are Go bus left from), wander around, and do a little shopping – Thunderbirds’ notebook and Thunderbirds are Go lanyard.

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Initially there were only four of us on the Weta Workshop Tour. Then another couple came along. And a couple more. And…

But it wasn’t too big a group.

Taylor was our guide. He was a self-confessed Weta baby. That is both his parents worked for the company and he’d practically grown up here – including taking his first steps. Now he was one of the prosthetics creators.

The beginning of the tour was much like the one we did two years ago (except that this time I took notes.) One of the first things we were told was that there could be absolutely no photographs (which was why I took notes.) This is because Weta Workshop don’t own the copyright to the characters/props on display and they didn’t fancy some hot-shot American lawyer slapping a lawsuit onto them.

Taylor started off by showing us a gun from “District 9”. It had taken 525 drawings on a computer before the director had been satisfied with the final design. Then the mould was cut out of a plastic that looks very much like MDF using a CNC cutter. (Computer numerically controlled – Or is it Controlled numerically computer? I think it’s the former). They don’t use wood because this can hold more detail. “CC60” (if I can read my writing) is poured into the mould and then heated to 70 degrees Celsius. This creates a black, plastic item that is heavy duty and able to withstand much of what’s thrown at it.

It is then sent to the Painting Department – aka “Dept. of lies” or “Panic dept.” we didn’t ask why. Once the painting’s finished the item is dirtied down by the staff taking it outside and throwing it about and hitting things with it – to make it look well used.

Because the underlying material is black plastic, they can’t just scuff or scratch the paint to make it look, well… Like a scuffed, scratched, thing. So they do some foiling. That is, they get some thin aluminium or foil and melt it on like a glue gun.

Taylor pointed out that there’s no copyright on the human anatomy, so they can reuse those creations wherever they please.

We were shown Sarin’s armour from Lord of the Rings. (At this point I’ll offer apologies to any fans. I don’t know the books or the films.) This character is supposed to be 14 foot tall. Because it’s so hard to find a 14’ actor, the actual person who filled the costume is actually a seven-foot-tall Wellington cop. And that’s not the only “cheat”. What looked to be heavy metal, was actually lightweight foam.

This same policeman was also the body double for Gandolf whenever they were filming conversations between this taller character and dwarves. They’d film the cop, in Gandolf’s costume, from the back as he looked down on the dwarf. To film the other side of the scene they’d film Ian McKellar (have I got that wrong?) looking down onto a child stand in, or a 3’5” actor.

For the fight scenes, because killing off or maiming your cast isn’t a good idea, the swords were either made of soft foam, or CGI’d in afterwards.

To make the prosthetic head pieces, the actors would have to sit still, wearing a bathing cap or skull cap, and Vaseline on their eyebrows (never a good look to over-pluck your eyebrows) and then have their entire head covered in dental alginate. After that had sat for fifteen minutes, then plaster, like a plaster cast, was applied for about an hour.

How’d you like to sit, absolutely motionless, with straws up your nose for breathing, covered in slowly hardening stuff for over one and a quarter hours? Elijah Wood, who was quite young in the first Lord of the Rings and matured over the intervening years, had to go through this process every six months.

“Statues” can be manufactured out of lightweight materials, such as fibreglass. They are then painted gold, overpainted with browns, scrubbed down to reveal the gold highlights, and then sprayed with green to simulate Verdigris. It looked genuine.

Weta Workshop have a replica skull of “Lucy” the human species, earliest known link in the evolutionary chain. They used her facial shape as a basis of the Orc’s skull.

We were shown an animatronics mask that had cost a million to build. Its eyes rolled and its mouth snarled, but the wearer couldn’t hear because of the noise of the servos, so in the end they used CGI for the thirteen second scene.

Taylor showed us a castle – used in the Narnia series of films. At 1/100th scale, it stood taller than me on its platform and was constructed out of such high-tech materials as tin cans, takeaway containers, and toilet rolls for the turrets.

But this wasn’t the largest model of this castle they’d used for this movie. They’d also made what they termed a “Bigature” – i.e. a model that’s bigger than a miniature. The tower of this castle was so tall that it couldn’t fit within the room and had to be built, and filmed, lying on its side down the length of the room. Once the filming was completed it was CGI’d onto the top of the castle.

Other points of interest:

  • Sir Richard Taylor gets excited about train scenes. I’m not surprised as we know someone though our small gauge railway membership, and he says Sir Richard has his own train and goes to conventions around the country. I wonder if he was ever at any we’d been too… Must dig out my old photos…
  • Some of the plastic that they use is APS. The same as used in Lego.
    When making prosthetics such as masks and gloves, they make the it out of silicone. It moulds to the actor’s body, so if they’re built, their character’s built too!
  • Silicone for skin is impregnated with red flock (blue for aliens) to simulate the veins etc in the skin.
  • It costs $150 for each silicone nose, which can be used only once. Some actors needed three noses a day. And we wonder why films are so expensive to make.
  • Foam latex is also used, but can be toxic to some people. So much so that an actor in Lord of the Rings was mainly filmed using a body double.
  • Another actor was such a proponent of method acting that he refused to have anything except for real chainmail and a real sword. He wouldn’t take the helicopter to the set; preferring to walk or ride a horse. He was arrested a couple of time for carrying a weapon in a public place.
  • Real, metal chainmail (not the plastic chainmaille that Weta Workshop developed) can give you frostbite in the cold.

I kind of covered this last time, but when Weta Workshop started making its own chainmaille (I’m not connected to the Internet, so I can’t check spelling etc) it used plastic tube which was sliced up. Staff members did this assembling job for two years. At the end of which they’d worn down their fingertips and fingerprints. What’s interesting is that the fingerprints do return – in a different pattern.

Since it’s 100 years since WWI, Sir Richard helped create a display at Te Papa – our national museum. (We’ll be seeing it tomorrow.) Each human figure is 2.4 scale – so chosen because that’s the maximum height Te Papa’s rooms could handle. Remember this next bit for tomorrow – It took some ladies six weeks to do the hair. That’s installing every thread of hair on the head or body individually. They went through a lot of audiobooks, including the complete Harry Potter series. I wonder if it was the English version read by Stephen Fry?

When sculpting Weta Workshop sometimes use Plasticine. This is hardened by spraying it with “CRC Freeze Spray”. To make the Plasticine malleable again, they heated it.

One of the last things we saw on this tour was a “small” scale model of King Kong. This had been covered in yak hair and had taken four women six months and a lot of audio books to complete. They used it for such things like to see how water would naturally run off Kong’s hair.

That tour took approximately an hour, and was worth the price of admission. But I was waiting for the next event at 10.45am…

We followed the path: 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1…

Actually we just stayed outside where the tour had finished until the bus turned up.

We were the only ones in the bus until right up to 10.45. Then another man came, and then a couple more, and then a group of six, and then…

And then there were more people on Thunderbirds are Go tour than on the Weta Workshop one. I was a little disappointed as I thought it would make it difficult for me to see stuff.

Not a problem.

We were transported in the bus on a short jaunt, that almost seemed to double back on itself, to a rather non-descript warehouse-type complex that only had a relatively small “Pukeko Pictures” sign to mark it out as anything special.

That and the door with the Thunderbird One badge logo on it. The first thing that we saw when we went through that door was a model of Thunderbird Two.

THE Thunderbird Two! The original, not the Thunderbirds are Go variant.

Inside we were greeted by Amy, who informed us that we were in a top secret location somewhere the South Pacific. She asked how many people knew Thunderbirds and Thunderbirds are Go and a remarkably small number put their hands up. Of course mine went skywards as quickly as Thunderbird Three.

We were taken into another room which had more models of original Thunderbirds, FAB1, Elevator Car 1 and other machines. All made by David Tremont after years of collecting bits of Trade Me and Ebay and other places for kitbashing – this is breaking down existing kits to use the parts as they weren’t designed. Except he was looking for the exact same parts that Derek Meddings and team used on the original models.

I want my camera!

But my camera had to remain in my bag and my bag was put into the first room. Which was when I told Amy that I’d sent through questions.

I’ll have to make an admission here. I’d asked the members of Fanderson if they’d like me to ask any questions on their behalf. I got 19 in total (including my own) and most were not of the type that you could expect a guide to know the answers to, so I’d sent them through to my friendly “Weta Guy” at Weta Workshop, so he could give the guide the answers.

Amy said she’d explain more about what had happened to those questions later.

We returned to the rest of the group and Amy started explaining the rationale behind making Thunderbirds are Go. Apart from the fact that it was one of the shows that had got many of Weta Workshop’s craftspeople interested in model making, they wanted to encourage young people to be creative.

I won’t mention that Amy said the series was from 1963.

After being thrilled by seeing vacuum cleaner tubes and other bits turned into the original Thunderbirds craft, we were introduced to the updated version. On a wall were various pictures of design sketches of how the various characters and craft were going to look. I want my camera! Amy told us that Gordon Tracy, with his love of beach shirts, wears one not with Hawaiian palms on, not Tracy Island palms, but New Zealand Nikau palms! She said to keep an eye out for the odd bit of Kiwiana. I asked if Virgil’s wearing a Swanndri, and she didn’t know what that was. I told her it’s an iconic woollen bush shirt, and she’d never heard of it. Judging by her accent I’m not surprised.


Nikau Palms – I had to wait until I was in Auckland’s central business district before I could get this picture. All the others I saw were juveniles – or seen from the train.

Tin-Tin, of course, has become Tanisha Kyrano “Kayo”. They didn’t want to cause any confusion between our Tin-Tin and the Belgium(?) cartoon reporter.

Thunderbird Shadow was designed by the lead designer on Transformers. He’d heard that the show was being made and sent it in to them on the off chance that it would be of use to them.

They loved it.

On the wall was a silhouette of the original Thunderbird One with the silhouette of the new Thunderbird One superimposed over the top. The new version has “dropped wings and a tucked tail.”

We were shown some hand drawn storyboard pictures… Including a hint of what’s coming up next season…

Like the original version, the Pukeko Pictures team are using various items made unrecognisable. Like a skyscraper was made out of a CD rack. Take a plastic soap container, glue a latch to it, paint it silver and you have a safe door… One that Parker has to break into.

Coloured mattress foam is used to add texture and create bushes.

A zoomed in circuit board scales up 1000 times to be a futuristic city.

And of course, the old favourite… The lemon squeezer! Amy asked what its relevance was. I was the one who explained that it was on the hangar wall of the original Thunderbird One and it’s also on the wall of the new Thunderbird One’s hangar.

Expanding foam is used everywhere and coloured in all sorts of manners to crate all sorts of shapes. It could be lava. It could be rocks…

Talking rocks, they took casts of the rocks on the foreshore and used them as moulds for hundreds of different rocks. As they owned those rocks they could use and reuse them in different shows.

3D printing and printers are used sparingly, but they were used to make models of the characters, which are, of course CGI on screen. (We got to hold Lady Penelope.) The scene is set up and then the plastic model is seated where the CGI character will sit. This gives the camera something to focus on. (As someone who attempts to take decent photos, I can relate to that.) It also creates a shadow. Something that CGI finds it difficult to replicate easily.

Then we came to a door.

A black door…

A door with the markings of International Rescue and Thunderbird One painted on it…

This was the door to the secret base. This door had to be opened by a voice activated password.

Anyone care to guess was it was?

I was in there saying “Five, Four, Three, Two, One. Thunderbirds are Go” as soon as Amy was.

The door slid back and I was the first to be allowed to enter. I think by this stage, the rest of the group had got the idea that I was something of a fan and were quite indulgent in letting me get to the front and take more of an active role. It wasn’t that I was wearing my interest on my sleeve – more like my jumper’s front and blouse’s collar, which were both adorned by the International Rescue logo. Kally’s similarly adorned bear bag was back with my other bag. She was strapped to my arm.

I walked through the door. “I’m in heaven.”

To my left was the full sized Tracy Villa. To the right, Tracy Island. Further on… Well, we had to yet discover what was further on.

Tracy Villa:

  • 1/12th scale
  • The only things not built by hand were the chairs.
  • It’s built in segments to aid in filming scenes.
  • There’s a trapdoor behind the piano that can be opened up for a lipstick camera to pass through for a different filming angle.
  • When the first Thunderbird One launch scene was filmed, two ladies had to get underneath the set and slide the swimming pool back. It took three attempts before they could do it without splashing water everywhere.Tracy Island
  • Modelled on Bora Bora and New Zealand’s White Island. (Not learned today, but the water cave that Thunderbird Four exits out of is modelled on Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula.)
  • The model has 3000 trees.
  • It also has some “straw huts” that I don’t know why are there.
  • The palm trees are made up of screws and palm fronds.
  • The water around the island (it had its own pool) was coloured by ten litres of blue food colouring. By the end of the shooting it wasn’t only the water that was blue – especially for those who were wearing longs.Further on was Thunderbird One’s launch bay – including the famous lemon squeezer. (“juicer”) Which actually was a fraud as they couldn’t find one the right size and had to make one.At the base of Thunderbird One’s launch platform are some round fire extinguishers. These, partly as a nod to the original show, are made from animatronic eyeballs.

    A smoke machine is used to create the smoke at launch. A leaf blower blows the deck chairs away from the swimming pool.

    The runway with the iconic palm trees were there and I was beckoned forward. Would I like to pull on that lever?

    “D.C. Hold this.” Shove notebook and pen into her hands.

    I rotated the lever up and over and the cliff face retracted and the palm trees fell back.

    I helped make International Rescue go!

    A model of FAB1 with functioning headlights and tail lights was used in a similar fashion as the 3D models. To shine realistic beams of light through the CGI car.

    On to the interior of Thunderbird Two’s hangar. One of the craftspeople, Sophie, spent three weeks preparing this model. She was the only one who fitted inside the cavern. The trolley that pulls the pods/modules along to be selected to slot into Thunderbird Two for the rescue, was at the time of the first series, the only model vehicle used. Series two is going to make a greater use of models – including at least Thunderbird Two.

    The wider scale models of Thunderbirds Three and One’s hangars used an extractor fan tube for Thunderbird Three and Kinder Surprise egg cases at the base of Thunderbird One’s storage platform.

    Standing next to this model was a rocket ship that looks similar to SunProbe in the original series’ episode of the same name. This is Jeff Tracy’s rocket.

    “Who’s Jeff Tracy?” Amy looks at me.

    “The father of the boys and the creator of International Rescue.”

    For the first series the creators wanted children to realise that it was possible for kids to go out and help others without being told – which is why Jeff has disappeared.

    However, for the next series………

    The creators also wanted to create a series with no weapons. With no violence. Showing a group of people who helped others, who were anonymous, and didn’t wait around for thanks.

    The next model was the Creighton-Ward mansion. You know how I said that parliament’s debating chamber was smaller than expected? This was much, much, bigger!

    The grounds are created by astroturf, mattress foam for the hedges, and fabric flowers. The gateposts’ figurines and the door knockers are based on one character. Lady Penelope’s dog Sherbet. Why has Lady Penelope gained a dog? (Much to Parker’s disgust.)

    Amy: “What did Lady Penelope always have that she couldn’t have now?”

    Me: “A cigarette.”

    So instead of having a puff. Lady Penelope has a pug.

    The other side of the room had the interior of the Creighton-Ward mansion. There’s a picture of Sherbet on the back wall, with a Banksie inspired mural. (Amy confided that a lot of Weta Workshop’s craftspeople were former graffiti artists. (I’m not sure if that’s the legal term for what they did.)

    It was at this point that my pen ran out of ink.

    Being a good Girl Guide, (thanks to those who offered me the use of theirs) I had a spare.

  • The furniture inside the mansion is hand sewn.
  • The tea cakes have actually been baked.
  • There is a lot of Kiwiana such as Koru and a Tiki decorating Lady Penelope’s shelves.
  • A sculpture of Sherbet inside the house has a nose that lights up blue when Lady Penelope is called.
    Amy: “Instead of what used to be used?”
    Me: “The teapot.”The Hood’s ship is made out of (appropriately) rubbish.
  • The main body is made of two washing machine drums.
  • Dyson vacuum cleaners form the side bits.
  • The tail is a rubbish bin lid.
  • And some of it is made out of car parts.
  • When the ship “flew”, it was lifted by a crane.The CGI characters have been deliberately made to move in a slightly stiff manner, as an homage to their puppet origins.We were then shown some models from future episodes. I won’t tell you about the, but will say that “Attack of the Alligators” and the Crablogger could be getting a retelling.

    I have more to say about today, MUCH more, but it’s ten to 11.00pm and I need some sleep. I’ll try to finish it tomorrow.


It’s twenty past six in the morning and I’m not going to get more sleep, so I may as well continue typing. I’ll have enough to say tonight and, since we’re visiting, I won’t have so much time to type it in.

We were also told that Thunderbirds are Go has been shown in 40 countries around the world. So they are very pleased about that. Series Two is in the works and series three has been commissioned. (I knew that.)

And that was the end of the tour.

Amy asked if we’d be able to stay behind.

Do I really want to? Stupid question!

One of the other people with us, Reece, was a trainee guide. He was one of those craftsman who’d made chainmail and had lost his fingerprints. Ever since then he’d had synaptic gas build up in his finger joints and they cracked easily.

He gave me a gift from Weta. I was not expecting this. I didn’t fully look at it until we got back to the hotel, but it was a Thunderbirds are Go poster, a Thunderbird Two logo badge, and a Thunderbird Two toy.

Brilliant! (And thank you.)

I was allowed to wander around and look at anything and ask questions. By this point it was serious Thunderbirds overload and I wanted to look at everything, but was taking in nothing. But I did have another go at preparing Thunderbird Two’s runway for launch.


Amy offered to get the Thunderbirds are Go models and miniatures supervisor, Steven Saunders to come and have a chat. As with all the rest of Weta’s staff he was very open and welcoming to talk to. Of course now is when I think of all the questions I would have loved to have asked. I’m not great at thinking on my feet. I’d be no good as a member of International Rescue! I did ask him what he liked specialising in and he said that he loved getting the casts from the rocks around the coast and using them as much as possible. I said he should go to Rangitoto Island, because the rocks are newer and more raw – and that we had a bias because we had a bach there.

He told us that so far they’ve made 200 environments over the two seasons – obviously that’s roughly 100 environments per season. These are real, 3D, you can touch them environments, onto which they can project (if that’s the word) the CGI figures and craft.

I also wish now that I’d asked to go back and look at the storyboard and design pictures. But I was just overwhelmed by these amazing, huge, detailed models.

Amy explained that the eighteen questions I’d asked (five of which were actually mine) have been sent to ITV for answers. They would be emailed to me when they got them back.

The bus was waiting for us to take us back to the Weta Cave and we asked the driver if he could recommend a good place to eat. He said that a café at the end of the street seemed popular.

We went back into the Cave, bought some more souvenirs (Weta notebook, Weta Badge, Weta mints – “Ah, was it you we got the gifts together for,” said the lady), watched the video on the various Weta productions. And listened as D.C. had a coughing fit in the middle of it. Should have got out the mints.

And then we went and had lunch at the café. We had crepes with… I can’t remember aside from almonds. There was fruit. But it was yummy. And to drink I had Laders lemon, ginger and honey and D.C. had Laders hot chocolate and chilli. Also yummy.

As we were leaving four people who’d been on the Thunderbirds are Go tour asked what we’d done after they’d left. I said treated like royalty.

It was only when we were waiting for the bus to take us back to Wellington Central that I thought that I should have given Amy and everyone else one of my Purupuss cloth badges as a thank you. If the studio had been where the Weta Cave was we would have gone back, but it was too far away (and we didn’t know exactly where.) I’ll have to post them.

It was a brilliant morning, and I want to thank everyone who went above and beyond what I expected to make this a memorable day.


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