We have not really experienced the downsides of sharing accommodation with lots of other travellers, but James had the misfortune of disturbing a French couple getting frisky in the gent’s showers when we returned to camp after the Tongariro Crossing. He signalled his presence with some awkward coughing and loud gargling whilst cleaning his teeth and managed to avoid too much unnecessary embarrassment all round. The next morning, hitting the showers before our drive, James managed to time his shower with theirs once again. This time he just got on with his routine, though any of you who have had the pleasure of his singing voice will know of its off putting nature but the couple persevered none the less.
We did not really stop on the drive south, there was still much of the North Island we hadn’t seen but it would just have to wait until our next visit; Wellington beckoned. We did make a brief stop to buy ice creams but largely we enjoyed the amazing changing scenery as we took turns to drive.
We had been very kindly offered to be put up by Peter, an old family friend of James’s from Beccles who now lives in Wellington with his partner Heather in their lovely city centre apartment. We were very excited by the thought of two nights of home comfort, particularly when paired with their excellent company.
We arrived in Wellington in the early afternoon and, after a swift tour of the flat and a quick glimpse of the beautiful views across the city, we were taken out on a tiki tour. The city its self is quite small and we took in the CBD very quickly from the car, whizzing past the key sites including the new parliament building, which resembles a beehive.
Wellington is famous for its café scene and we were only too willing to sample its offerings with a late coffee and cake at the Tug Boat. This was much needed after our light lunch of ice creams. After tea it was time for the tiki tour to continue and we drove up Mount Victoria to soak up the vista from the viewpoint.It is called Windy Welly for a reason and we were blustered about a bit before descending to the car, taking the compulsory James-with-gun photograph on the way. By this point James and Pete had caught up sufficiently to move on to the truly vital topic of the day, how crap Norwich have been this season.Our hosts then took us on a driving tour of the absolutely stunning coastline on the far side of Evans Bay. It was incredible what you could get to just 10 short minutes from the city centre.Fortunately, the waterfront around the whole peninsual is a largely untouched swathe of land and so the setting is absolutely idyllic. Sadly it is threatened with huge residential development although the local community are putting up a good battle to prevent this, we certainly hope that they are successful in preserving this lovely piece of coastline.We worked our way back around to the city centre and the flat. We took our time appreciating the feel of carpet beneath our feet before indulging in long hot showers and luxuriating in the fluffiest of towels. Showers were followed by equally welcome gin and tonics and us shamelessly taking advantage of our hosts’ wifi. Our New Year’s Eve dinner consisted of a fantastic curry cooked up for us by Pete, and a variety of local beer, cider and wine. At midnight we watched the fireworks from the flat and then decided to have a late night stroll along the waterfront. The festivities were already being packed up, having sung the new year in the band were keen to get on their way, but there were still plenty of people walking along the waterfront and it was a treat to see this lovely city at night.We retired once more to the flat for a final gin and tonic before bed, somehow it was 2:30am and we all agreed that we had well and truly seen the new year in. Out of habit we awoke extremely early and used the time writing blog posts and generally catching up until our hosts joined us and exceeded their already fabulous hospitality by cooking up a fried breakfast with bucks fizz thrown in for good measure.Once fed and watered we were feeling a lot more active and set off with Pete for a further walking tour of Wellington. We headed uphill first, through the university buildings which were all but abandoned for the summer. We stopped first to admire the university marae (Maori meeting house) which is tucked away off the road under the branches of a beautiful pohutukawa tree.
More uphill followed to take us to the top of the Wellington Cable Car. The line has now been modernised but there is a museum which houses one of the original cars and this was right up our street. Pete had seen it all before and took in the view whilst he waited for us to indulge our childish joy in old transport.We took the tram in the opposite direction to most people, down to the city centre. and walked along the waterfront. As it was a public holiday, nearly everything was shut but there were plenty of people out for stroll to walk off the previous evening’s excesses and a large group gathered around the pool in the centre of the port, where anyone and everyone can test their nerve jumping from the high diving board.Pete had told us that we absolutely must take a look around Wellington’s museum Te Papa and we headed there next. It was absolutely rammed with people, as one of the only places open, and this could easily have put us off but we persevered and were rewarded for our efforts. There is a huge amount to see and you would certainly need many visits to digest even half of it, with only an hour or so we did our best to see what we could.
There was a temproary exhibition on New Zealand’s involvement in the Gallipoli Campaign during World War I. The exhibition was accompanied by incredible models of some of the individuals whose experiences made up part of the displays. The models had been created by Peter Jacksons Weta Workshop, of Lord of the Rings fame. The exhibition was very interesting in itself but even if you didn’t have an interest in the subject matter, it is worth visiting just for the quality of the models. They are truly amazing.
It is obviously arguable as to what is the best part of any museum but for us, on this particular visit, the area dedicated to Maori culture was completely engrossing and the marae that has been built within Te Papa is nothing short of beautifulWe extracted ourselves with difficulty and worked our way through the streets of Wellington. Pete, knowing our appreciation of street art, ensured that our route took us past some of Wellington’s best examples. Back at the flat, we met up with Heather and Pebbles, her daughter’s French bulldog who took an instant liking to James.Demonstrating once again how valuable it is to have local guides, Heather and Pete (and Pebbles) took us to another Wellington hidden gem; Makara Beach. After an extremely wibbly road we gratefully fell out of the backseat and on to a rugged beach littered with driftwood.It was a wonderful spot for a stroll and a paddle in the cold water before loading up with the biggest ice creams in the world. If we would give you one piece of advice it would be to visit the Makara Beach Café and buy an icecream, they are delicious and so cheap, these were single scoops!Our second day was rounded off with a BBQ back at the flat, one or two more gin and tonics and a reasonably early night in readiness for our morning ferry the next day. The following morning we admired a beautiful sunrise from the windows of the flat, had one last glorious shower, packed up our now clean laundry and shoved everything haphazardly back in to the shit car. We were sad to say goodbye to Pete and Heather, who had been fantastic hosts and shown us what a wonderful city Wellington is. Fortunately, we are certain that we will see them again soon, either back in Wellington or in France, so it was not goodbye, simply au revoir.