The Wellington countryside was used in many scenes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Easy to see why with all the rocky cliffsides and lush meadows. For keen LOTR fans, there are plenty of tours and activites for all levels of hobbit lovers, including a $150 tour that I passed up. I think the tour consists of a local farmer driving around and pointing out various locations used in the movies. Since this didn’t appeal to me, I opted to head out to the Red Rocks Reserve, a scenic coastal oasis where we could probably see many of the LOTR mountains in the distance. Not quite a tour, but I was eager for a hike around some of Wellington’s off-the-beaten-path destinations.
Red Rocks Reserve, Wellington – The Red Rocks Reserve hugs Wellington’s south east coast and runs from Owhiro Bay to Pari-whero, a.k.a the Red Rocks. The Red Rocks are actually ancient pillow lava that was formed 200 million years ago by undersea volcanic eruptions. Small amounts of iron oxide in the rocks have given them their distinctive dark red coloring. Of course, Maori folklore tells a different story. In the Maori version, Kupe, a famous Polynesian explorer, was gathering shellfish along the Owhiro Bay one of the angry crustaceans clamped down on his hand. Kupe then bled and stained the rocks red. Poor guy must have needed quite a band-aid.
Carina, my German roomie at the Nomads Hostel, volunteered to come along with me to the Red Rocks Reserve. We packed a lunch, grabbed a few drinks, and drove in Carina’s car to the other side of the bay for the afternoon. (Alternatively, you can catch bus number 1 to Island Bay and get off at the last stop. It’s then a 2 kilometer walk to the start of the walkway.)
Since it was a weekend, the Bay was full of picnicking families and energetic dogs bounding along the walkway. The cliff walk was stunning, and despite the chilly weather and crashing waves, it was a beautiful and peaceful opportunity to stretch our legs. As a land-locked sailing buff, there is nothing more peaceful than the boom of an energetic ocean accompanied by a seagull choir.
Seal Fun – At the end of the 45 minute paved coastal walk, we decided to walk onward to the tip of the Bay. Though it was another 1.5 hours to the tip, the crowd’s thinned out considerably and we were left nearly on our own with nature. Near the Bay’s point, we stumbled upon a massive seal colony with almost 100 seals! They were HUGE and were just lying lazily on the rocks. Some were snoozing. Others were scratching their bellies and watching us with deep, intelligent brown eyes. Carina and I sat a reasonable distance away and merely absorbed their incredible beauty. I had my sketchbook, and did my best to capture their unique charm. Not an easy task.
I could have observed these peaceful creatures for hours, but dusk was upon us and we had a long walk back to the car. Luckily, we were picked up by a jeep on the way back to the parking lot, saving us an additional hour of walking. I’m constantly amazed at the friendliness of local New Zealanders. They seem genuinely pleased to see tourists and go out of their way to help us time and time again. What a wonderful country, inside and out.