June 15, 2008

Palliser Bay & Martinborough

Several of us decided to skip the last day of the conference as the scientific program for that day was rather thin. We joined the Hammonds Scenic Tour’s Palliser Bay Seal Colony & Lord of the Rings Tour. The tour started with a visit to several scenic Lord of the Rings film locations at the Hutt Valley. Our first stop was the fortress of Helm’s Deep where the Orcs battled King Theodore of Rohan to overtake his stronghold, and the city of Minas Tirith. These were filmed at the site of a quarry at the bottom of Haywards Hill and unfortunately, all that’s left to see, is well, the fully operational Dry Creek Quarry. The Hutt River flows for some 30km from its source in the Tararua Ranges through bush, farmland and city before entering the sea. The natural beauty of this river provided an ideal site for filming the Great River Anduin, the largest and longest river that flowed through Middle Earth between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood. Filming undertaken here were mostly of the fellowship travel down the Anduin to Amon Hen on small elven boats. The next stop was at Harcourt Park, where three different scenes of Isengard were filmed. An elevated section of the park was transformed into the gardens of Isengard where Gandalf and Saruman first met after the rediscovery of the ring at Hobbiton. The last LOTR stop was Rivendell where Frodo recovered from the sword attack by the Ring Wraiths, at the Kaitoke Regional Park. Nestled in the foothills of the Tararua Ranges, the park contains some 2800 hectares of mature native forest.

Top: Hutt River and Harcourt Park. Bottom: Kaitoke National Park and the tree where the scene of Legolas getting ready with his bow and arrow was filmed.

Our journey continued through the wondrous mountain ranges of Rimutaka and Tararua, and elegant villages to the charming town of Martinborough, home to some of the country's finest winemakers and packed with charm. Once the destination of choice for early settlers, it is now an upmarket escape for gourmets, wine enthusiasts and boutique shoppers. We had lunch at the Village Café, a quaint café in the centre of town before proceeding to visit one of the over 40 largely family-owned vineyard in Martinborough, most within walking distance of each other, where wine tasting was offered.

Clockwise from top left: Martinborough wine centre and café, hotel, town square, town hall

At the vineyard. Notice the rose bushes at the beginning of the row of grapevines (picture bottom left)? Roses catch plant diseases easily and if there's any around, the farmers will notice changes to the roses and hence take steps to protect their vines from catching the disease.

A journey through rural farmlands finally brought us to the rugged and untamed Palliser Bay, one of the most remote and intriguing coasts in the North Island.

The road to Cape Palliser is very scenic, hemmed in by the sea and the mountains of the Aorangi Range.

Past the sleepy fishing village of Ngawi is the largest fur seal colony in the North Island. We had unbelievably close encounters with the seals, with plenty of them openly living in the grass by the roadside!

Can you spot the seals?

Seals, seals, seals and more seals


jazzmint said...

yes i can see the seals :). wah...NZ very nice also huh

Anonymous said...

Hi! Came by from Angeleyes blog...

Nice scenery...reminds me of my South African holiday!

Anonymous said...

The sky is so blue! This is so unfair!

A Mom's Diary said...

Jazz, can get free tickets and go there or not?

Sue, thanks for dropping by. Never been to South Africa. Will make it my next destination.

Hijackqueen, they have all the nice skies and lakes + seas. Life indeed is unfair.