It reminded me a little of San Francisco. Even the buildings along the main drag had a modest Victorian sensibility- almost as if by the time the architecture had reached New Zealand, its previous decadence had been subdued by the long trip across the ocean. The skies were grey and the rain poured down in diagonal sheets. It was tough to find parking and even tougher knowing it cost four dollars an hour.
After picking up two friends that we met in Te Puke, we drove off to the New Zealand Film Archives. Everything in the collection was from New Zealand and free to view. I felt like a feature film, so I picked the first one off the top of my head- Once Were Warriors. All of us had heard this movie mentioned quite frequently, but none of us really knew what it was about.
“Whew. That’s some light material this afternoon,” the curator replied when we gave him our request.
Without giving any of the plot away: the movie opened with a dirty sepia-tinged color and, at least in my eyes, ended behind a foggy, wet window. I was crying hard and black-tinged tears clouded my vision and coursed down my face. Light material indeed.
Later on we saw Te Papa- New Zealand’s national museum. The building is extremely large and to keep from being overwhelmed, we picked just a few areas for our first visit. Since we were on the first floor we began at the natural science wing, replete with stuffed kiwibirds and earthquake simulations. The star of the show though was the colossal squid, of which Te Papa is the only museum in the world to have a specimen. It clocked in at 13.8 feet long and had eyes the size of basketballs. The body was suspended in a long casket-like tank while other bits and pieces were located in jars nearby. One jar even contained the squid’s special tentacle hooks which can rotate 360˚. I hoped to never encounter one in the ocean, this squid looked much more sinister than the ones I battled in Korea.
In between house-hunting, we also made a stop at the Weta Cave in the suburb of Miramar. Weta is the huge film effects studio that most famously worked on the LOTR trilogy. I was more curious than enthusiastic to see the “Cave” and once we walked in my suspicions were confirmed. These people can create the most magical digital environments but they are all thumbs when it comes to real-life interior design. It looked like Grandma’s curio cabinet. I was actually surprised there weren’t doilies under the prosthetic limbs.
Before leaving Miramar, we had a few hours to kill so we stopped at La Boca Loca. It was the first time I had had such delicious and authentic Mexican food since leaving the US. The corn tortillas were made in house and the salsa was fresh and piquant. Unlike the Weta Cave, the layout was open and the design stylish. We wolfed down our food with colorful splashes of hot sauce and wiped our noses on scraps of tissue. The parking was free, the rain had finished, and we had a house to check out. I had a propitious feeling and I was excited to be in Wellington.
How to get to:
New Zealand Film Archives: 84 Taranaki Street Te Aro 6011
Te Papa: 55 Cable Street Te Aro, Wellington 6011
Weta Cave: 1 Weka Street Miramar, Wellington 6022
La Boca Loca: 19 Park Road Miramar 6022