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Friday, 11 November 2016

Chapter 8 ~ Straying in Wellington

The Nomads turns out to be a nice (but also rather expensive) hostel, which includes free (self-made) pancakes for breakfast…

…as well as a free snack sized dinner in its price.

Being the Scrooge McFox that I am, I resolve to use that to my advantage and not spend a single cent on catering during my 6-night stay in Wellington.

It may be a little scarce, but fortunately, Pierre and Ian have given me a few rations to augment my modest diet.

(And yes, that’s of course not actual apricot puree, but rather some of my homemade chocolate chip cookies along with some of Pierre’s chocolate crisp biscuits)

My accommodation is… actually kinda complicated. Due to room bookings being as they are, I end up staying the first three months in a 6-person dormitory…

…before having to check out, wait 4 hours, and then check into a 8-person dormitory for the remaining 3 nights.

On top of that, the 8-Person ends up being more expensive. Why? Well, this could be a reason.

Throughout the Commonwealth, it is customary to celebrate the night of the 5th of November with a big firework. The reason for this is a holiday that is relatively little-known outside English-speaking countries: Guy Fawkes Day.

Guy Fawkes, however, was no hero. He wasn’t a major villain either. In fact, he was merely a member of the Gunpowder Plot – the plan of which had been to blow up the British House of Lords in 1605 – who was unfortunate enough to be captured while standing guard over the explosives. Celebrating the survival of King James I, people lit bonfires all around London, and in time, the 5th of November became a day of thanksgiving to be celebrated with bonfires, and later, fireworks.

I make a mental note to attend the night of celebration. But before that, I still have a couple of days to explore this great city. I’ll get to my adventures in this city shortly, but first, let’s have a few facts about…

He land upon which Wellington is located is known as “Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māu” in Māori, which means “The Head of the Fish of Māui”. Legend has it that the demigod Māui once hauled a humongous fish out of the depths of the ocean, which eventually became the entire North Island of New Zealand, while the canoe from which he was fishing from became the South Island.

Wellington is home to a little more than 400,000 residents, making it the second-largest city in New Zealand after Auckland. Ever since 1865, it has also been the national capital in place of Auckland – a decision made by the parliament in order to have a more central seat of government that was close to both islands.

In fact, back in the 19th century, there were concerns that the South Island might secede from New Zealand, and thus Prime Minister Alfred Domett made a resolution in 1863 strongly suggesting that the capital of New Zealand be moved to a more central position, ideally around the Cook Strait. Two years later, the deed was done, and the then small town of only 5000 people soon flourished into the radiant city it is today.

It’s six nights before I’m expected at my next WWOOFing place, so that effectively gives me five-and-a-half days to explore Wellington – not as much as in Auckland, but then again, I don’t have to worry about finding a place to stay afterwards, so that gives me more than enough time to have a good look around the city, and after checking into the hostel, I soon start with…

Day 1: Scouting the Waterfront
Tuesday the 1st of November2016

Even though the hostel is only 5 minutes away from the seashore, I just can’t seem to get even that far without running into curiosities like, say, a cleft pyramid…

…or cryptic metal symbols atop a driftwood-adorned bridge.

But once I pass these curiosities, I get a look at the breath-taking harbour of Wellington…

…and soon after stumble across a historical stone plaque detailing exactly how Wellington came to be.

Continuing along the waterfront, I find this guy seeking solace in the wind…

…as well as poetic musings inlaid into the very piers themselves.

There’s also a protected city wetland nearby…

…as well as a wall of sharks.

Eventually, I come across a fearsome obstacle on my path: A river of frozen stone populated with fearsome iron beasts! Fortunately, someone has written very comprehensive instructions as to how to cross this hurdle.

And thus, I successfully manage to make my way back to the hostel, where I set up my mobile workstation in the common room to wrap up the day.

Day 2: The Wellington Museum Stray
Wednesday the 2nd of November2016

On my second day in Wellington, I set out to visit the city museum. Passing up the chance to play with a caffeinated dragon…

…I soon arrive at the Queen’s Wharf, site of the Wellington Museum, along with other facilities. However, somewhere along the way I seem to have taken a dreadfully wrong turn, for I suddenly find myself back in…

And what in the name of the Divine Dragon are those?!?

But after a moment of confuddlement, I realize that everything is okay. “München” is only the name of a Bavarian restaurant, and those worm-like buildings are, in fact, only really fancy-looking public toilets.

After a bit of looking around, I quickly find the Wellington Museum, which has a fountain dedicated to a local canine legend in front of it.


Paddy the Wanderer was a stray Airedale terrier who roamed the ports of Wellington in the 1930s. He became a communal pet of sorts, living with the people at the waterfront, keeping them company. They cared for him, took turns paying his license fees, and some cab drivers took him for rides around Wellington. Over the course of his 14 years of life, Paddy also visited a number of New Zealand’s port towns aboard naval vessels, and even made a trip to Australia once. After his death in 1939, obituaries were posted in the local newspapers, and a train of black taxis led by a traffic officer carried his coffin to the crematory. Six years later, Paddy’s old friends had raised enough funds to erect this fountain in his honour, which utilizes flow-over water from the top fountain to feed two little bowls for dogs to drink from.

After this informative side-stop, I finally enter the actual museum, which is styled quite nicely to reflect the flair of Wellington’s past.

There’s a lot to learn about the history of Wellington inside these halls, and they also have a 3D model of the landscape…

…but the most impressive thing by far is the holographic recitation of local Maori legends.

[Video 29 Maori Legends]

Since the Wellington Museum is not very big, I still have most of the afternoon to keep exploring the city. My next stop is the Wellington parliament, which is also named Beehive for obvious reasons.

From there, I head uphill towards the botanic garden. On my way there, I once again encounter some of New Zealand’s infamous abstract art…

…and cross some skewed bridges.

I get a look at Wellington’s iconic cable car…

…more abstract art…

…get a good view of Wellington Harbour…

…before finally ending up at the Space Place by the border of the botanic garden.

Since it’s already getting late (and the free dinner option expires at 18:30), I decide not to visit either space or garden at this time, and instead make my way down stairs…

…and through very nature-like parks, back to the hostel.

Day 3: Strayed to Mt. Victoria!
Thursday the 3rd of November2016

After getting an okay-ish look on the city from the botanic garden yesterday, I resolve to get a proper panorama this time around. And when you want to get a panorama view of Wellington, the one place to go is the summit of Mt. Victoria, which happens to be the only place from which you can get a full 360° view of (most of) Wellington.

The way there leads me along the waterfront for some time…

…and eventually up the slopes of Mt. Victoria.

During the scenic ascent, I not only get an idyllic view of the harbour…

…but I also encounter Tradescantia, my old enemy. Fortunately, this time around I’m not on a job, so I don’t have to weed it out.

It’s still a long way to the top, but getting many beautiful views along the way, I don’t mind the effort.

It is around noon when I reach the summit, and true enough, by standing on the rock marking the summit…

…I can get a great panorama shot even above the heads of the tourists who rode to this place in a fleet of busses.

One of the most interesting views up here is the airport, which is just wedged into a small land bridge at the east side of the city.

From there, I make my way south along the southern walkway, and soon come across another pyramid, which, this time, is actually a memorial…

…and after passing a piece of artwork reminiscent of existence’s futility and the decimal elegance of the metrical system…

…I run into a cat walking her can openers up here.

Naturally, there’s also a number of cleverly hidden geocaches around here.

There’s also a number of interesting places up here, such as the…

…and can you guess what this is?

It is, in fact, a mountain bike track, and even though I don’t encounter any bikers on this particularly daring piece of track, I do have to sidestep them occasionally on my trips through the parks and reserves.

Walking back through the city, there are a couple of other curiosities that I just happen to come across, such as the little theatre commemorating the friendship between New Zealand and Greece…

…as well as whatever the artist intended to depict with this sculpture…

…and after evading the gaze of a watchful sentry-bot.

…I sit down to watch some protoplasm writhe in the wind.

And of course, no day would be complete without the random Yeti dancing by the side of the road.

Day 4: Musing in the Museum
Friday the 4th of November2016

The next day is the day I have to change rooms on. Inconvenient as it is, I have to carry all my luggage downstairs, stash it in the storage room, and then wait for four hours before checking in again.

I put this time to good use by going to my usual place of refuge…

…and spend the hours working on my blog.

Four hours later, I can check into my new hostel room, which this time around is on the topmost floor, and afterwards set out again to spend the rest of the afternoon in Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand’s people.

It goes without saying that they have abstract art on display outside…

…but the bagpipe-player is definitely new.

The inside of the museum houses many great creatures…

…and also has a proper earthquake-simulator.

It may look tame, but even this little shaking is still quite formidable when you’re standing on the inside (think: trying to stand in a train that’s moving at top speed across a bumpy track). It makes one stop to wonder how fearsome an actually strong earthquake would be.
Naturally, the museum also exhibits the finest Māori art, and even though photography is prohibited in the biggest part of the exhibition, there are still a number of areas where taking pictures is permitted.

The day ends on a comical note, as I return to the common room of the Nomads hostel, only to observe a pigeon flying in, and helping itself to a free meal. Well, enjoy your dinner, Mr. Pigeon!.

Day 5: Setting the Skies Ablaze
Saturday the 5th of November2016

There’s nothing much to tell about the majority of this day, since I spend much of it writing on my blog, as well as looking for my nest WWOOF host.

However, as evening approaches, there is one thing I’ve been looking forward to: The aforementioned fireworks, which is scheduled to go off tonight.

Connecting over Facebook, I have made arrangements to meet up with a group of local furries to watch the show, and meet down to the harbour to meet them. It’s still almost an hour until the show begins, but the promenades are already filled with people.

I keep on waiting at the place we agreed to meet at for about half an hour, well past the time we decided on, but no one shows up. I should later learn that they spontaneously changed the meeting place without notifying me, and that I was subsequently left to watch the show all alone. Oh well.

15 minutes before the fireworks start, I decide that no one is going to show up anymore, and change my point of observation to a less crowded location, from where I can unrestrictedly marvel at the 10-minute long show.

Day 6: Straying in the Midst of the Storm
Sunday the 6th of November2016

It’s a windy day, and it looks like it could rain at any minute. Any sane person would avoid going outside today in favour of nice, warm, dry indoor activities.

Fortunately, I’m crazy like a fox, and as thus have a good reason to go on another hike around the city despite the weather.

Yeah, really!

Since I only grazed the botanic garden the last time, that’s my first destination this time. Climbing the hills once again, I pass by some amazing commercial murals…

…and some steep hillside houses, where the garage is actually located on the second floor.

My arrival at the botanic garden is heralded by the bucket tree.

Wandering through the unforgettable nostalgic greenery, I am not very impressed with what the botanic garden has to offer. Overall, it looks just like any other park, but maybe I’ve just caught it on the wrong foot…

…or maybe the pathways simply failed to funnel me into the right areas.

Well, at least there is a garden filled with aromatic fragrances…

…as well as a well-stocked fuck pond. They’ve even got some very young newcomers around!

It goes without saying that I’m also looking for geocaches along the way, and doing so, I find a couple of more Lilliput items.

One of the caches is hidden near an old gold mine, which requires me to climb up a rather steep slope. Fortunately, being a grey fox, my climbing skills are quite adequate to this challenge, and soon enough I have scampered up past the old mine, and hold the cache in my hands.

I make my way past the Zealandia Sanctuary for Karori birds, but since it’s kinda expensive, I choose not to visit it after all…

…instead, I take a hike around the nearby hills, and get a nice view of all the nature that is within walking distance of the Wellington city centre…

…although I do have to take a stand against the whipping winds ravaging these ridges.

By the way, can you guess what’s wrong with this picture?

I took it at a 30° angle! For some reason, the trees along this particular path all grew diagonally at the same angle. Here’s how the path actually looks like:

Deeper into the valley, the forest starts looking more and more like a jungle, and I am beginning to suspect that somewhere along the way I have unwittingly stepped into a space/time vortex and ended up in the Amazonas rainforest.

I mean, it has everything a jungle needs, including mega freacking HUGE trees! (Car provided for scale)

Fortunately, I soon find my way back into civilization by commissioning guidance from Malaysia…

…and even though I can’t make sense of most of the directions…

…the lady at the office is still happy to help me out with an ancient scroll of mystic wisdom. Too bad I can’t read chinese.

But oh well, a fox is never truly lost, and following fancy murals is always a surefire way to get back to civilization…

…because it always leads to… well… more murals!

From here, the walk back to the hostel is rather straightforward. I make my way past elegant traffic lights…

…and the Madison Tri Garden (actually the Te Aro Park =^,~’= )…

…back to the hostel, where I am just barely in time for my last free dinner here in Wellington.

Day 7: A Ferry Pleasant Journey

At 6AM, it’s an early rise today. But it can’t be helped. After all, I need to be at the ferry terminal by 8:15, and since it’s quite some distance. Naturally, I could always take the bus or call a cab, but seeing as how I’m both on a tight budget, and still remember the day the bus did not come in New Plymouth, I decide to rely on my own two legs instead – even if it means carrying almost half my own weight again for about an hour.

But it’s rewarding! For one, I get another hour of marvelling at the beautiful cityscape of Wellington, and on top of that, I couldn’t have stopped to properly appreciate the copulating forklifts along the way had I been on a motorized transport.

One hour later, I arrive at the Interislander Ferry Terminal…

…where droves of hairless monkeys are already engaging in one of their favourite activities.

Well, if standing in line for half an hour until boarding begins somehow fills them with satisfaction, then so be it. Meanwhile, I take the opportunity to sit down and rest for a bit after checking in my luggage.

30 minutes later, the queue starts moving, and miraculously, I manage to get on board even without having stood in line all the time. In fact, it barely takes me five minutes until I’m on board the Kaitaki, a massive 10-deck car-ferry which is almost as big as the Titanic. Let’s hope that the Cook Strait is devoid of icebergs today.

Our route takes us around the cape of Wellington Harbour, and then west and slightly north across the strait. Eventually, the ferry will enter the fjords of the south islands, and make its way to Picton, from where I’ll ride a bus to Blenheim.

As mentioned before, the Kaitaki is a great ship, and since I still have over half an hour before it actually departs, I use the opportunity to have a look around the ship.

And eventually, it’s time for the mighty ferry to depart, and we leave Wellington behind us.

Unfortunately, the conditions are rather humid today, so instead of having a scenic view in the middle of the strait, all I get is a wall of grey into each direction. We might as well have ended up in the Bermuda Triangle for all I know!

But much to my relief, the welcoming green slopes of the Charlotte Sound eventually appear out of the mist after two hours of journey.

By the way, since the rain picked up considerably during the last hour, this last video is by curtsey of me getting FREACKING WET!!!

Soon after, we disembark at the little port town of Picton, and play a fun little game of “Let’s see if the luggage arrives before the bus departs”.

Imagine my delight when I finally spot my backpack on the conveyor mere minutes before my bus leaves! I quickly grab it and run over to the bus, which fortunately is parked right outside the luggage claim. After stowing my backpack in the belly of the mighty metal beast, I grab a seat right next to the driver…

…and then we’re already on our way to Blenheim, across the mountainous green landscape, and through the rain.

The weather fails to clear up by the time I get there, but fortunately, Stuart, my next WWOOFing host, is right there to pick me up at the bus station, so I don’t get terribly wet (again).

On our way home, we briefly stop by the Moa Brewery, where I have a delicious Mexican meat pie (my first proper meal of the day)…

…and then drive to Stuart’s place, which is located a short drive down the Wairau Valley. There, I set up my workstation on a corner of the dining table…

…before making myself at home in my comfortable bedroom. I’m only going to stay here for a total of five nights – shorter than my stay in Wellington – but I’m sure I’m going to enjoy my stay here already.

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