Cook Strait

Cook Strait Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

On the ferry from Wellington to Picton they were showing the movie Frozen. I have some questions. 

1. In the movie, is the way the snowflakes fall in the wind scientifically accurate?
2. What about hypothermia?
3. What about climate change?
4. Wouldn’t Elsa’s ice castle be amazingly boring?
5. Just how close can a snowman get to a fire without melting?

I wanted to address these questions with the other passengers. These were questions that needed answers and so I looked around to see who I could converse with. The dad’s were mostly asleep, the children were engrossed in the TV while the mum’s had that disturb me at your peril look. Deciding that I was the only one questioning what was being shown, I left these ponderings and I went for a walk outside before returning to my seat and settling back into my book until arriving in Picton.

The Wellington to Picton Ferry

Bluebridge Ferry Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

I slept wonderfully. Apart from between 12:00am and 2:00am when three large gangs of middle aged women who had attended the World of WearableArt Show arrived back at the hotel. The first group treated the rest of the building to renditions of songs from Grease and Abba at obnoxiously high volumes. A second group got a trifle confused with what floor their room was on. This they solved by phoning a friend who was clearly deaf! While a third group in fits of giggling and laughter bounced their way off doors and walls down the corridor to the end of the hall. To show my appreciation, the next morning I replied in kind with several long blasts of my car horn as I departed for the Ferry at 6:00am! ‘I hope the show was terrible’ I muttered as I went in search of coffee!

That morning the Wellington waterfront and harbour was a true sight to behold. The day was breaking still and calm. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, nor a ripple on the water. It was so nice I didn’t even mind the ferry to Picton was 45 minutes late, this was Wellington on a good day.

World of WearableArt In Wellington

Wellington CBD – Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

By the time I arrived at my pre-booked accommodation in Wellington, I was ready to sit down and wet my whistle. This thought turned out to be a bit premature as it transpired that what I had booked, and what I was presented with, were vastly different. Upon entering the establishment I checked my confirmation email that read “double with ensuite – superior comfort with a double bed and ensuite bathroom.” What in fact I was given was a single, top bunk in a dorm with eight other individuals and a small locker to store my belongings. The thought of staying a second longer, didn’t even enter my consciousness. Being beyond a station in life where I want to share a bedroom with seven complete strangers in bunk beds, I simply collected my belongings, politely bid everyone good day and walked out the door. 

Fortunately for me, after a quick Google search and a few phone calls later I found myself walking into the lobby of a nice block of hotel apartments that were only a few minutes away from Lambton Quay and nearby Courtenay Place. The staff were friendly and the room was spacious and clean with everything that is required of a decent room. It was free of bunks, it had an ensuite and I didn’t have to share it with anyone. Dropping my bags on the bed, I went in search of food and beer. 

Having been to Wellington a few times, I felt like I knew the city fairly well. However, this time it felt different. The city seemed almost frightened. Over the streets and business there hung a shroud of angst and apprehension. Fear of a new kind seemed to be terrorizing the city. Large gangs of middle aged women had invaded for the 2022 World of WearableArt Show.

Taking over the city streets in numbers of up to eight or nine at a time, they walked giggling and laughing, forcing passers-by onto the pavement. The bars, nightclubs and cocktail lounges had been compelled to stock extra supplies of Merlot, Lindauer, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz while the once calm and peaceful streets of Wellington weren’t going to be safe after 7:00pm. These ladies had their husbands at home and were ready to flirt with the 18 year old bartender and dance inappropriately to Rock DJ by Robbie Williams.  

This was a situation I wanted no part of. Taking shelter in a quiet restaurant that featured cuisine from South East Asia, I washed it all down with a few Heineken, then beat a hasty retreat to my hotel for the rest of the evening.

Navigating Wellington

Corner of Bond and Victoria Street in WellingtonBuy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

I’m always pleased when I can depart a ferry in the manner in which I boarded rather than having to swim ashore. So it was, my mind was most happy that I was able to sedately drive off the Bluebridge ferry in Wellington and begin my search for breakfast, brunch and lunch. I have to admit to not having the most sturdy of sea legs and to avoid breakfast making a sudden surprise appearance, my food intake through-out the morning had been minimal. Finding myself back on dry land and with my stomach letting me know it was now ready for food, I went in search of sustenance. 

I navigated the city streets for a while and got hopelessly confused with a Wilson’s parking building before settling upon a delightfully busy place called the Pickle and Pie for lunch. Patiently waiting to be seated as the sign directed, I spent the next hour discovering how ravenous I was while at the same time revisiting a previous observation of the Wellington lunchtime crowd. I noted that once more I found myself in a busy eatery, in the capital city, around noon without a lanyard around my neck!

Quaratine Barracks On Matiu Island

Quaratine and immigration barrack on Matiu Island Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

During World War I these buildings on Matiu Island were used as quarantine barracks to hold enemy aliens who were considered a risk to New Zealand’s security.  Around 300 prisoners were held on the island, most of whom were German nationals. 

In World War II the island again became an internment camp. The prisoners were primarily German however there were also a large number of Italian and Japanese. The prisoners were required to do road-building, gardening and fishing. 

This building that still survives was part of the immigration barracks which were originally built for the influenza pandemic 1919.

5 Days, 4 Nights In Wellington.

Wellington City

Day 5 – I’d spent the previous night enjoying the sights and sounds of Courtney Place. Earlier in the day I had enjoyed a delicious and wonderful lunch at Mr Go’s. Having been to Mr Go’s on previous trips, and with less than 24 hours left in the city, I simply had to enjoy the Asian Fusion Restaurant before I left. My taste buds had drawn me to the mouth wateringly good Pork Belly Bao Bun and Pork Dumplings. Now, many hours later I found myself sitting in a bar called the Welsh Dragon with my stomach hungry for food. Approaching the Welsh Dragon, I had initially thought it was a deserted building in the middle of a median strip. But, it turned out to be an old historic public toilet that has been converted into possibly the most laid back and down to earth pub in the whole CBD. There were no fancy flashing lights, drums hanging from the ceiling or large neon lights that were accompanied with extremely loud music. It was a friendly, hospitable pub, no more than that. I felt at home instantly.

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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.

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5 Days, 4 Nights In Wellington.

Matiu/Somes Island Lighthouse.

Day 3 – Matiu/Somes Island’s claim to fame is wide and varied. Lying in Wellington Harbour it’s history dates back to the early Polynesian Explorer Kupe, and since then it has been a Maori Pa site, a quarantine station, an internment camp, a military defensive position and is now a wildlife reserve and sanctuary looked after by the Department of Conservation. 

My plan for the day was to ferry across the harbour to Days Bay and an area called Eastbourne. I had purchased my ticket from a young lady who was without a doubt one of the most friendly, helpful and polite receptionist I’ve ever met. Upon my inquiry for a return ticket across the harbour she politely informed me that the next ferry was actually stopping at Matiu/Somes Island which apparently wasn’t very big ‘but definitely worth a visit’. ‘Well, why not I said’. So, after a short but enjoyable board ride I found myself standing on an island in the middle of Wellington Harbour.

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5 Days, 4 Nights In Wellington.

Midnight Espresso

Day 2 – I awoke in the morning feeling refreshed and very well rested. The previous day I’d spent 90 minutes flying and 480 minutes at Christchurch Airport so now I was more than ready for a walk and something to eat.

I ate breakfast at a very retro place called Midnight Espresso. After ordering, I sat in the window watching rain fall and Cuba Street slowly come to life, passing the time marveling at how maple syrup instantly improves bacon and banana pancakes. When finally my stomach was full, and my plate empty, I set off into the sleepy Wellington streets.

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5 Days, 4 Nights In Wellington

Day 1 continued – It all started with a noise that didn’t sound quite right. Clearly this is not something you want to be thinking having just taken off on an A320 Airbus heading to 30,000 feet. The next thing that happen was the captain and cabin crew informed us that there was a problem with the landing gear and our flight to Wellington would be making an unscheduled stop in Christchurch. As I sat there watching the coast and listening to a plane that seemed to be rattling more than a car I once owned, two thoughts crossed my mind. Firstly, it was moments like this that you wish Harrison Ford or Bruce Willis are on the plane. Secondly, having watched Mayday, I was confident I knew what to do.

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5 Days, 4 Nights In Wellington

Solace of the Wind

Day 1 – I like Wellington, I think it’s the waterfront that grabs me the most. Whenever I’m in there I always make a point of having at least one wander along and around the harbour area. You see, I always find myself feeling a little bit jealous that Dunedin hasn’t made the most of its own harbour area. They say you can’t beat Wellington on a good day, and this certainly is true. When the weather is fine, and the wind is calm it’s one of my favourite places to amble. There’s always a pop-up store or two to enjoy, various markets and a wide variety of funky art installations to capture the imagination. Of all the art installations, my personal favorite is Max Patte’s statute ‘Solace In The Wind’.

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