Along the Away

travel, dream, create, inspire, appreciate

Blowing into windy Wellington, New Zealand’s hip capital city, on the back of rainy weather, it was refreshing to see the clouds clearing just as we arrived.

First up was a drive past the long waterfront, craning our heads up the hill at the residential homes complete with cliff side personal gondolas installed to make the hefting of groceries from the car to house a bit easier. Don’t think I haven’t thought of rigging something similar to my third floor apartment balcony back in Sydney!

We stopped at the Weta Cave, an interesting hole in the wall museum at Weta Workshops, the special effects and prop studio co-founded by Peter Jackson. It’s part collector’s gift shop, part museum (some of the price tags were a pretty penny such as $700+ for a hand calligraphied contract owned by one Bilbo Baggins).

Weta Cave Troll

The coolest thing there was a tiny theatre where a 15 minute film showcasing the prop making and visual effects genius Weta have contributed to such films at The Lord of the RIngs, The Hobbit, TinTin, Planet of the Apes and Avatar to name but a few. It showed some behind-the-scenes talent, the creative minds working on such projects in their day-to-day job of a lifetime.

Weta Cave Gandalf

After that we drove up to the top of Mt Victoria for city wide panoramic views over Wellington.

Mt Victoria Lookout

Mt Victoria Lookout

We drove through the Mount Victoria Tunnel which our bus driver honked the bus horn through, oh, about twenty times. It is apparently a tradition to honk your horn while driving through the tunnel for no other reason than to get someone to honk back at you. Apparently it has recently been clamped down on by the police, which may explain why no one honked their horn back at us… :-(

In the afternoon, I took a wander through Civic Square down to Te Papa (the National Museum). There was a series of city art pieces with quotes from poems and literature about New Zealand. It was really cool.

Wellington City

Wellington City

Wellington City

I wandered down through Cuba Place where I stopped for lunch at Felix Cafe, a good place to eat and people watch.

A guy I chatted with there suggested I take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens so of course I did!

Wellington City Cable

Wellington Botanic Garden

There is a loop walk starting from the cable car station at the top, which takes about 45 minutes and includes a sculpture walk, rose gardens and benches in pretty, peaceful spots.

Wellington Botanic Garden

It was windy! Time for a random selfie :-)

Wellington Botanic Garden Selfie

The gardens feature a sculpture trail with some really interesting pieces.

Wellington Botanic Garden

Wellington Botanic Garden

This one creates music when you run a stick along the outside of the cone!

Wellington Botanic Garden

Wellington Botanic Garden

Wellington Botanic Garden

I spent about twenty minutes down on the ground taking about two hundred photos of the cutest inquisitive bunch of little sparrows. I’m still trying to figure out my new camera so it was fun to play around with it while these little guys hopped in and around me.

Wellington Botanic Garden

And the ducks :-)

Wellington Botanic Garden

I watched the sun set with pretty colours.

Wellington Botanic Garden

I went into the observatory where there is the usual astronomy exhibits as well as an interesting showcase on New Zealanders who have contributed to global space and astronomy achievements and another on the Maori interpretation of the stars and use of the sky for navigation.

Wellington Botanic Garden

I joined a show session in the planetarium which included a screening of ‘Dynamic Earth’ narrated by Liam Neeson and then a tour through the sky by a resident astronomer. He brought up the night’s Wellington sky on the dome roof and pointed out star patterns and shapes and their European and Maori names and interpretations, it was really fascinating. For example what we know as the lion, Leo, is interpreted by Maori’s as a kind of fishing hook!

The astronomer also told us about ‘Matariki’ which is a cluster of stars that only appears once a year in winter and heralds the start of the Maori New Year. When it appears in the sky in May-June it means the new season has arrived.

Afterwards I caught the cable car back down the hill to the city (it takes about 6 minutes) and wandered down to Courtney Place for dinner at Enigma Cafe a busy cheerful place with hearty and affordable food. When I was in there a diverse range of characters sat at the tables; groups of friends having tea, couples eating dinner, a running group calling in for smoothies, three guys playing a board game, and me eating vegetarian nachos and reading my kindle, just making myself at home.

I walked back to my hotel through the relatively quiet night-time streets just soaking up the European-esque laneways and making note of quirky hole in the wall bars and restaurants (like the crumpet bar… Seriously, a crumpet bar? If only I had the time!)

As I was walking down one dark street I noticed a lost looking fellow coming towards me who stopped to ask for directions – as the words left his mouth we recognised each at the same moment from having chatted in a bar a week before in Rotorua! What in the world? Moments like this make you think maybe it’s not so big after all!

Wellington City

When I spotted this man and his dog I knew I was home for the night, my hotel being just behind it. It helps to have such handy landmarks in a new place!

Wellington City

This marks the end of my NZ North Island adventures, tomorrow the South Island is only a ferry ride away!

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A traveler, dreamer, designer and optimist sharing all of the above.

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