Ah Wellington. The Nations capital and the first stop on Stu and Rhis mystery tour of the North Island. I have to say we were both pretty sad to be leaving the south island having had some good times there (except for the damn rain on the west coast), and especially because everyone we spoke to before setting off said that the north island wasn't as good so already our trip appeared to be on a downwards slope!
Having said that I really liked Wellington straight away and i'll spill the surprise straight away by saying that it would be my choice above Christchurch to live (just), although Rhiannon preferred Christchurch so i'm sure that in the unlikely event of us ever moving here we'd end up in Christchurch.
The ferry across sails through some beautiful locations, down Sounds and into and out of pictureesque harbours. Not that we noticed as we made a beeline for the film area and watched two films instead! Seeing as you asked, a Tim Allen film in which he plays a man who turns into a dog and a Hugh Grant film with Sandra Bullock in which was a rom-com, both pretty average but we hadn't seen telly in ooooh three weeks so we'd have watched anything. Plus in our defence we had seen all of the Sounds on our trip the day before.
The first thing you notice about Wellington is that it is in fact a real city, by that I mean that it isn't one of the tinpot little towns with a population of 25 people all with the same name (nothing like a bit of cheap stereotyping is there) which passes for a city in NZ. In fact it seem so much more of a city than Christchurch which is only a bit smaller in terms of population. There is a definite buzz about Wellington and people seem to be going places and doing things instead of just ambling along in a world of their own. Oh and the second thing you notice is that there is no statue of the Duke of Wellington after whom I assume the place was named or a statue of a Wellington Boot which I think would look great in the harbour and would be New Zealand's answer to the Sydney Opera House.
Speaking of Sydney the harbour in Welly is reminiscent of Sydney but without the bridge and opera house. The sun was shining when we arrived which always makes a place look better but nevertheless it was impressive with the sun glinting off the water and a mass of boats moored just off dry land. Probably best to ignore the industrial bit where the ferry's dock as it's bit ugly. There are loads of bars and restaurants along the shore which we didn't actually stop in but they all looked really nice as we walked past! Sharing the harbour walkway with us was a parade of cyclists, joggers and roller bladers all looking sickenlingly fit and athletic. Wellington seemed to be full of sporty people and good sporting facilities, it was really quite annoying as we wheezed our way up a short hill around the botanic gardens when one of these gits sprinted past us. And tey proved impossible to trip up.
So, in order then we began by looking around the city and getting our barings before getting the cable car up to the botanic gardens which are really nice and it's hard to belive you are slap bang in the city centre. Walking back we went around the harbour (above) and ended up in some square (can't remember the name) watching some students reherse some play or other. The best bit was tat before they began to act they all got together for 10 minutes in some sort of tantric hug and then started playing catch without a ball, all presided over by some beardy older bloke who then gave them all an individual hug. Odd.
It was zoo time the next day as despite the shocking lack of penguins we still went along to have a look at the animals. It's quite a small zoo, if you ever happen to be there but all the staff seems very friendly and given that on a weekday it had hardly any visitors they had plenty of time to talk to us and explain why for example the tiger didn't come out and eat it's food despite us standing and waiting for 15 minutes! The hilight was that we got to feed girraffes and see a kiwi for the first time.
The afternoon was spent in Te Papa museum which is a massive museum built on the banks of the harbour around the turn of the millenium, it is in a sylishly modern building and is probably supposed to be their answer to the Sydney Opera House but doesn't really succeed. Inside everything is designed to be easy to understand and contains loads of stuff about the history of New Zealand from how the mauris got there through to the English arriving and causing problems and right through to now - when Stuart and Rhiannon turned up (a future exhibit no doubt). There is an exhibit about the many earthquakes that strike the country including approximately one a month hitting Wellington in which you can stand in a house and experience what it was like the day the last big one struck in erm 19** in Napier and levelled the city. All in all it was great but tere was too much and we left feeling mentally drained before we saw it all.
What else, well we saw the Parliament Building and all the government type stuff, drank in one of the many trendy looking pubs, ate in a brilliant but cheap Japanese restaurant both days, had to get the bus to our distant holiday camp and brave the oddballs who ride it at 11 at night. Finally Rhiannon declared that she now loved the van. If I think of anything else i'll add it on.
So in (final) conclusion Wellington is cool.