5 Days, 4 Nights In Wellington.

Gollum At Weta Workshops

Day 4 – It’s interesting in Aotearoa that so much of our national history seems to start with European Explorers. For example, Able Tasman is credited with the discovery of New Zealand in 1642. The story goes that the good Mr Tasman, having sailed for nearly 140 days, and upon sighting the West Coast of the South Island, he decided he couldn’t really be bothered stopping and kept sailing. Our history books then jump to Captain Cook’s navigation of New Zealand in 1769. From there, we’re told about European encounters with Māori until the lead-up to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. 

Until more recent times, it appears that everyone forgot that Polynesian migration and settlement in Aotearoa occurred between 1250 – 1300. A good 350 years before Able Tasman decided he was feeling adventurous and set sail and around 450 years before Captain Cook landed in Poverty Bay. Having spent the previous day wandering around Matiu Island, I decided some further personal education of Māori settlement was in order.

A few days prior I’d spent some time wandering around various museums as is my nature. Being on the lookout for information about pre european settlement, I started my quest for knowledge with a second visit to the Wellington Museum. Further from there I visited several other locations, none of which did anything to extend my current knowledge. I then decided to finish my search for pre european history by calling in to Te Aro Pa. 

Te Aro Pa was a collection of homes, with a population of about 800 when the settlers first arrived. The first Wellingtonians were not settlers who arrived on wooden ships from England, they were Ngati Ruanui and Taranaki iwi. 

In 2005, Te Aro Pa archaeology was unearthed during the demolition of a building. The discovery of this archaeological site, showed very real remains of ponga-built buildings of Te Aro, that could be 200 years old. Fortunately common sense has been used and the site has been preserved, complete with information panels. This is all there is left to see of Te Aro Pa. Unfortunately, it’s currently closed due to Covid 19 restrictions. 

My last stop for the day was a tour of Weta Workshops that is based in the Wellington suburb of Miramar. One of the beautiful aspects of visiting Weta is that it embraces everything that is good and wholesome about the New Zealand No 8 wire mentality. No large gates, high walls, or imposing fences. On the corner of Camperdown and Weka Street, in a simple building that looks much like a state house, I found the home of the world famous digital effects company. For the rest of the afternoon I found myself lost in the amazing world of special effects and film making. Sometime later, having been taken back to my childhood with the Thunderbirds, I wondered if my wife would be as keen as I was to watch Lord of The Rings. I pondered this thought as I headed for a bar on Courtney Place.

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