We had originally intended to do our road trip from Auckland at the northern end of the North Island down to Wellington at the southern end. We found, however, that it was more expensive to leave the car in a different destination than it was to fly there and, on top, the main attractions we wanted to see were clustered up in Waikato around Auckland. And so it was that we left our lovely little BMW Z4 in Auckland and took an Air New Zealand flight down to Wellington. (The best part? Watching the security briefing. Oh, and having a can of L&P.)
Although smaller than Auckland, Wellington is, in fact, the capital city (and, as I see now on Wikipedia, it’s the world’s southernmost capital city at that). It’s the country’s political centre, housing Parliament and the various government departments, as well as being a centre for art and theatre including, of course, being home to Weta and ‘Wellywood’ over in one of its suburbs, Miramar.
With only a day or two in Wellington, and with my friend Annie back at work, I was left to explore the city, spending much of that time on the Lord of the Rings trail. I did venture off that quest, though, to visit the national museum, Te Papa. (I see now on the museum’s website that if I had arrived a little later I could have continued to explore Middle Earth with an encounter with Azog the Defiler, who’ll be resident at Te Papa until March next year.) Here, I learned more about the geology and logistics of New Zealand’s volcanoes and earthquakes in ‘Awesome Forces’ (failing badly at the computer game where you had to secure different parts of the house in the event of an emergency). I found the ‘Blood Earth Fire’ exhibition particularly enlightening, with insights on the changes that have been brought to bear on the country including the introduction of different species as well as deforestation and the transfer of land ownership away from the Maori population.
I’ve been told, to my surprise, that Kiwis will claim fush and chups as their own. So I found myself having travelled across the world to sample this local delicacy – having never, I don’t think, eaten fish and chips in England. Shame on me. The popular Mt Vic Chippery now offers an online ordering system (though the times given on the site for pick-up were disregarded since they were “so busy mate”), with a bewildering array of different types of fish, and chips, to choose from.
What Wellington is most known for, perhaps, is its weather. As a result of its exposed location, Windy Wellington is a windier city than the Windy City itself, Chicago, according to my internet sources, and as my friends explained to me that wind means that the weather can change very quickly. I experienced this directly with a first day of cold and rain followed by a stormy night and a second day of blue skies and glorious sunshine. Perfect, then, for an itinerary of museums on one day and harbour walks and ice cream on the next.
All in all, a worthy end to our New Zealand adventure, which I now left behind as I continued on alone to one of my favourite cities in the world: Sydney.