Forgive my ignorance but for a very long time I thought that Auckland was the capital of New Zealand. It’s not. It’s actually Wellington and this discovery really shocked me! It felt like getting used to a story after a significant character died or something equally as traumatic. But once I’d come to terms with it Wellington (or Windy Welly as it’s fondly known by locals) quickly became my favourite capital. It’s proudly quirky, endearingly charming, accommodating once you know how and fiercely proud of all who lie within it.
Most of the day we arrived in Wellington was Lord of the Rings themed with a trip to the filming location of Rivendell as the sun burst through the morning forests and a journey alongside a very famous river en route south. We then decided to tour Weta studios which was hilarious, enlightening and quickly made us both want to work there if we could only discover hidden skills that they could make use of. The cost of that tour alongside our Hairy Feet tour STILL wasn’t as much as a single entry to Hobbiton so we were very pleased with our decisions.
We eventually pulled into Wellington itself with a view of finding out where the cheapest place to stay would be and we quickly realised, as always, that it was in our car. Hostels were pricey when you added the cost of parking on top of accommodation but thankfully there was a harbour side car park that would become our home for the next couple of days.
Within seconds of arriving we began our usual routine which consists of Peter going for a wander to explore our immediate surroundings and me doing some research using guidebooks, apps and leaflets of the new place we had just arrived. However almost immediately Peter was back and beckoning me to follow. He’d found me some Stingrays!
Leaning over the harbour wall, and with yachts moored just a few metres away, we could see a plethora of small fish and the mottled triangular shapes of many Stingrays. The temptation to go snorkelling was significant but as we stood watching, photographing and contemplating whether to get in the water, a great leviathan cruised into sight. He was truly ginormous! Dwarfing the others he glided gracefully through the water and I immediately turned to Peter and said “I don’t want to go snorkelling anymore!” We even warned a group of kids paddling about in the shallows to be wary of how close he was getting and, seeing his size they immediately backed off.
We watched him and the others in awe for a long while before realising that we had a whole new city to explore. So we set out for a wander along the harbour front to see what we could see. It was a lovely sunny evening with very little wind (a rarity for Wellington) and locals and tourists alike were out in abundance to enjoy themselves. We got caught up in a street performance act which involved a man on a VERY tall unicycle juggling with fire and playing basketball. Just behind him the locals were diving off a high board into the sea through a large gap in the harbour decking. The Wellington council had actually built the set of stairs and diving boards to encourage people to do it and had even suggested all the different types of dive one could try to achieve.
We also stumbled across a drone race which was far more exhilarating that I had expected. These were agile little drones, able to do a loop the loop over a bridge and back round to pass through the target gates in a matter of seconds. They all buzzed in quick succession, swinging alarmingly close to us and twinkling with different lights before they alighted ever so gently at the exit. I’d never seen drones like them before and it was certainly unique to see what they could do.
Heading away from the oceanfront we stumbled across yet another food market and it was ridiculously packed. You could honestly barely move. But the atmosphere was charged with mellow vibes, helped along by a very talented guitar player that I could have stood and watched for a very long time whilst we ate our market food. The street was surrounded by Chinese lanterns and even at one point, a questionable looking Panda. And then it hit me, this was all celebration for Chinese New Year. We had unknowingly picked a truly marvellous day to explore Wellington and although the local bars didn’t deliver the same amount of quirk I was hoping for, the rest of the city was alive with joy and expectations for a new year.
And to bring in the year of the Rooster in style we were treated to the most incredible fireworks, sparkling and booming over the water and echoing within the city buildings. It truly was a magical evening and made me fall in love with Wellington almost instantly.
We eventually went to sleep on the harbour side and as I awoke the next day it felt like I was out at sea, being rocked by the waves. However as I regained full consciousness I realised we were being rocked, not by the sea but by the wind! The weather had done a completely 180 turn in the night and was the polar opposite of the previous evenings balm and calm. There were white horses cresting the the waves out in the harbour, the rain was about to pelt down and every car in the car park was rocking to a worrying degree. Peter said he was surprised we hadn’t been blown into the next parking bay during the night.
However we had planned an indoor day at the great and massive “Te Papa” museum after a breakfast of more market food which had been set up literally outside our car window.
The weather never eased off after that and unfortunately kept us from visiting the zoo but we had still enjoyed our time in Wellington and hoped to visit again one day. But for now we had decided, whilst the time of the year was technically still summer, to head onto the south island whilst the sun still had the hope of shining.
We had booked ourselves and Nessie onto the ferry for the crossing (along with many many Cows and a few people too) and as we boarded I put my game face on. I had an important mission to complete. We needed to charge as many electrical as we possibly could over the next three hours. Charge points were few and far between as we camped and the juice you can get out of a car cigarette lighter can only get you so far, especially when resulting in a flat car battery in the middle of Wellington! but my camera battery was running on empty and we needed devices for navigating and locating campsites so I ran round the ship looking for empty plug sockets.
The wind was still high coming out of Wellington but died down a little as we got closer to Picton and the views coming in were certainly spectacular. We had loved our time on the north island but it didn’t take us long after alighting to realise that the south island is truly much more beautiful and dynamic in terms of scenery. We were looking forward to exploring as much of it as we could.