New Zealand 9: Wellington

We set off in the car from Glenduan (Nelson) to Picton ferry just before 8am and arrived at the carpark – where we parked our Apex car in the 60 minute bay and slotted our cars into the Apex key drop inside the building – at around 9:45am. We then checked in at the ferry (we had already bought tickets online with Interislander for $56 NZD each) and handed over our main bags before boarding just after 10am, settling down in our seats and departing at 10:45am.

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The drive from Nelson to Picton

The ferry crosses the cook strait from Picton in the South Island to Wellington in the North island and the cook strait can be fairly tempestuous so, despite not being a massive distance in km between Picton and Wellington, it can take 3-4 hours to cross. We were really fortunate that we had blue skies and the sun was shining so we were able to sit out on the deck for a while, but it became pretty windy once we got going so I headed back in just after we set off. About halfway through the journey it became pretty bumpy and, combined with my lack of sleep, made me feel nauseous, so I curled up on a chair and napped for the rest of the ride.

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We arrived at Wellington 3 hours later, departed the ferry and collected our bags, then hopped on the free shuttle bus to Wellington train station where Charlie’s flatmate Sophie picked us up in her car to kindly drop us home. Back at Claire’s I napped for an hour (all this tramping and driving had really taken it out of me!) before we got changed and walked into town – a really cute, colourful place, to meet Claire’s sister Kathryn for some craft beers at Little Beer Quarter. Now, beer is never really my choice of tipple, tending to opt instead for cider, wine or gin (or Aperol, or baileys… but you know what I mean, as someone with a sweet tooth I find beer a bit bland and I struggle to have much more then one or two pints), however I like to try local drinks and am always up for sampling anything slightly different. After having a free taste of various ales they had on offer (probably one of my favourite activities, if it could even be classed as one) I settled on a pint of Eagle Pale Ale, whereas Kathryn went for a Red IPA and Claire for a stout. Our beers lined up together looked pretty colourful! 

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We spent a couple of hours chewing Kat’s (“Kathryn” feels too formal for me but perhaps I am far too quick at becoming familiar with someone) ear off with tales of our travels and rants about our bungy jump, before I went into interviewer-mode with my standard barrage of questions as I wanted to know everything about her time in Canada. It’s wonderful hearing about other people’s travels but it also just adds more destinations and dreams to my ever-growing list. The arrival of food slowed down my questioning but certainly didn’t stifle it. Around 7:45pm we left and walked to The Fringe, where we paid $15 each for 6 acts of stand-up comedy. As usual there were a couple of awkward acts, a couple of pretty decent acts and a couple of really good ones and fortunately the best were at the end. Evenings like this – catching up with friends over food and drink and watching a western show – never really feel like I am travelling and almost like I am back at home, but it was a really fun night.

The following morning we woke up pretty early to head to a yoga class for 9am (again, not really feeling like a traveller but more like a local) at Empower studio; Kat and Claire have unlimited classes in their subscription and Kat had a bring-a-friend pass that I was able to use. Now, I struggle with yoga; I don’t have a lot of patience, get bored easily and become frustrated and give up when I’m not good at something, which are all elements present or triggerable (not a word, but I’m owning it) with me for yoga. However I also know how much I need to slow down at times – physically as well as mentally – and how good yoga can be for you so I went along and gave it my best shot. Not having the same sense of time as I did in everyday life now that I’m “travelling” I managed to shut off from that better than I have before and let go more, but I still struggled with lack of flexibility and not being able to do the moves properly (ok, and not as good as everyone else seemed to – I know we really shouldn’t compare ourselves but it’s so hard not to).

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After the class Kathryn drove us to Maranui – a really popular cafe on the edge of the water where you can catch views of the South Island on a clear day – for some breakfast. I had a chai latte and a beautiful veg panini with roasted pumpkin, feta, pesto and pine nuts, plus I also picked up a savoury muffin to go with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, feta and capers. I would definitely recommend this place but go either early or around midday to avoid the queues and long wait on kitchen food.

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Kat then drove us to the bottom of Mount Victoria where Claire and I took the 15 minute walk uphill to the peak of the mountain, which offers 360 degree views of Wellington. It’s quite a popular spot and there were many tourists you had to battle in order to get pictures of the surroundings, but it was quite a peaceful spot and good to go for a walk after breakfast. The highlight might have been going down the slide that was situated halfway up the mountain on our way back down, though…

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We then walked to The Great War Exhibition, which is situated behind the War Monument. I have been to a lot of war museums on my travels and definitely have an interest in the local impact of war, yet this is the first one that felt “close to home” as it was predominantly about WW1, and the involvement of New Zealand had so much to do with its relationship with England. Entrance tickets are $15 for an adult or $25 if you wanted a guided tour, but we had a discount voucher so it ended up costing $35 for the two of us with a guided tour. And we were so lucky – at the time we arrived there was no one else there do we managed to nab a tour guide for just the two of us, plus it was supposed to be 45 minutes with the guide before then being able to wander around on our own afterwards but our guide was with us for at least an hour.

Big shout out to Anne-Louise who was enthusiastic, engaging and knowledgable and answered all my questions (have I mentioned that I like to ask a lot of questions?? 2 minutes in at our first stop on the tour and I was already asking questions)  with thought and detail. It was a really moving and informative tour and the design of the museum really engaging and almost interactive. I would definitely do it if you have the time and the money.

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We headed black to Claire’s so we could shower and change, and so that I could start to pack and make the traumatic decision of which clothes I had to leave behind as my daily packing frenzy just was not sustainable. We then headed back into town for dinner with Kathryn and Charlie at Ombre – a Venetian tapas place with fresh, delicious sharing dishes. Between the four of us we had a mozzarella and tomato Pizette, Venison Meatballs with smoked ricotta and beetroot, Sundried Tomato Gnocchi, Pumpkin and Sage Risotto and a Mushroom and cheese dish that I can’t remember the official name of. At around $16 NZD each it wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t too pricey by NZ standards either.

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View from the Botanic Gardens

After dinner we drove to the carpark of the Botanic Gardens and took a stroll around the cable car loop before driving back to Claire’s for some baileys while I finished packing and booked some of my upcoming NZ stops. I woke at 6:40am the following morning for Claire to kindly drive me to the bus stop – the drive where I finally understood why it was nicknamed Windy Wellington as the rain was literally being pushed horizontally by the winds and smacking into the car – for my 7:45am bus with intercity to Taupo (which set me back around $35 NZD).

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This is where I leave Claire and continue travelling and on my own and, while excited to be on the road by myself again, I will really miss singing at the top of our lungs, Imitating seals and dancing like knobs, plus the noise of Claire blowing her nose that has now become the sound of New Zealand for me. Laterz, babe – it’s been a hoot.

LS.

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