Wellington, New Zealand

Temperature: high of about 60ºF, low of about 40ºF

It is a big, slow page with lots of pictures this time.  I guess there is a lot to take pictures of around Wellington.

Time for an economy snapshot!

Cost to fill the tank of our rental car $37 NZD
$16 USD
Cost of a litre of regular unleaded gasoline $1.119 NZD
$0.56 USD
Cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline
$4.30 NZD
$2.15 USD
Average cost of a sit-down dinner for two $40 NZD
$20 USD
Cost to rent a car per day $29-49 NZD
$15-25 USD
Yearly salary of a Unix sysadmin in Auckland $70,000 NZD
$35,000 USD
NZD = New Zealand dollars
USD = US dollars

Here's the train we took down from Auckland to Wellington.  The ride took about 11 hours and there is one train down each day and one down each night.
Eleven hours of countryside like this.  And perhaps 6 hours of commentary by the perky attendants who told us lots of proud details about the laying of the track, the elevation of each station (up to a whopping 900 meters above sea level), and the date each section of track was completed.
We found the city of Wellington to be our favorite spot in New Zealand so far.  The coast is gorgeous, the food has been the best on our trip so far, and there are video cameras set up in malls so you can talk to people in malls in other cities in New Zealand.  Oh, and the headlines are pretty funny.
We decide to rent a car and see what we can of Wellington and the many filming locations for LOTR around here.  Well, first we asked the tourist bureau if there is a LOTR tour, but there isn't.  Our first site, Bree, was a bust.  The old fort that was Bree was flattened and a school was being built on the site.  We moved on to Mt Victoria, where Julie is filming.  This is the location for the first encounter between Frodo and the ring wraiths.  "Get off the road!"
Can you imagine all those lucky mountain bikers in Wellington who have Mt Victoria available to ride on every day?  There were some really fun looking trails on the mountain and here's proof that lots of bikes use them.
Julie stands by the "great Anduin" river where Arwen said "If you want him, come and claim him!"
There wasn't so much that we could recognize at the filming location of Isengard.  But we saw the frisbee golf course in Harcourt's Park.  I wonder if they had to airbrush out the targets...
At Kaitoke, the location for Rivendale, we met a nice ranger who described the set a little for us.  He said he had to watch over the film crew to make sure they didn't saw off branches or otherwise molest the woods (which they were indeed doing during the three months it took to build the set).  Finding this spot was really magical.
The set for Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith was Dry Creek Quarry.  That pretty much makes it a clean sweep for us in Wellington.  Tomorrow, we'll try to find Weta FX studios based on information from our car rental agent, who rented lots of cars to the LOTR crew.
The next morning before our ferry to the south island, we stop in at the special effects studio (Weta FX Studios) that did the animation for LOTR.  Here, I'm acting out a scene from the DVD where Peter Jackson shows how Gollum was animated.

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