Sharing the driving, the four and half hour journey from Napier was uneventful apart from the rain. It was 29 degrees C at 8.30am, when we left sunny Napier. But a half an hour into the journey the sky changed colour from bright blue to a selection of greys then black. Most of Marilyn’s share of the drive was in heavy rain and we couldn’t change drivers because we just couldn’t get out of the car! We arrived in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, located at the extreme southern end of the North Island – it was very grey and reminded us of the UK. The Sat Nav found our downtown hotel without fuss – we were located a couple of streets from the harbour – much of this area has been reclaimed from the sea.
Despite being at the top end of our cost range, the hotel was a bit problematic. We started on the 20th floor and because of internet difficulties changed rooms three times, settling for a corner room on the 12th floor. There was no aircon (but who needed it anyway) and the three large windows opened, a sure sign of a dated hotel – unfortunately the windows never quite shut properly, so it was a bit draughty. We had three nights and two full days in Wellington.
The first night we put on our waterproofs and walked in the rain to Cuba Street – we were told this was the trendy part of town for informal eating. Whilst we were dry, we were cold because of the wind and so we soon settled on a busy restaurant and had two excellent pizzas, some wine, coffee and hey presto, we were warmer and prepared for our walk back to our dated hotel.
Next day, we spent about five hours at the Te Papa, New Zealand’s spectacular national museum, on the waterfront – entrance was free but they do charge for special exhibitions. The Te Papa uses state of the art audio-visual presentation aides – it’s got something for everybody from serious historians to young children who like pressing buttons and creating noise. For us, there were two star attractions. Most of our time was spent understanding the fascinating and extensive history of the Maori people, right up to date – later that day we kept on trying to understand why the Australian Aborigines fared so much worse than the Maori people but we are not experts – do we have any historians in our readers?. The second major feature was an impressive exhibition on New Zealand’s intervention in WWI at Gallipoli – it was deeply depressing and very realistic in highlighting the barbarity of war.
Early morning, Marilyn attended to looking after laundry matters. Mid-morning, we took the famous Wellington Cable Car. We were staying in the business area of Lambton Quay and the Cable Car station was just down the street. At the top, there’s a spectacular view of the city and the harbour – it was actually quite sunny although the winds were bitingly cold as usual. We walked back to the city centre through the Botanical Gardens (also free of charge) – it was colourful but was no competition for Singapore or Vancouver Island. Another highlight of the trip was visiting New Zealand’s parliament. We had a free guided tour which lasted an hour. Whilst it was interesting, it was not up to the high standard of Melbourne for example, that we had experienced a few weeks earlier. However, after the tour, we spent twenty minutes listening to a live debate from the visitors’ gallery – it could have been Westminster! The second evening, we went to a popular waterfront restaurant and had a nice meal in great atmosphere – it was full to capacity and we had to wait for thirty minutes for a table. New Zealanders eat quite early and we were seated by eight fifteen.
Next, we’re off to New Plymouth on the west coast, with another five-hour road journey in the morning, then it’s the mountains before we find some serious time for rest and relaxation.
We’ve shared a few photos in the public domain, and will publish the best of ours’ in due course.