Wellington is a really funky city and we've really enjoyed our two days here....there are no big sights to see, but it's just got a great atmosphere, lots of bars and cafes and Indonesian/Malaysian/Thai restaurants and great breakfast diners. (Owen has got over his withdrawal from cereal and is eating cooked breakfasts...) It's colder than Auckland and really windy (right in the middle of the roaring forties). We're staying in a backpackers tonight and saying goodbye to Rob soon, as he has to fly back to Auckland tonight - he has work tomorrow - and tomorrow morning we take the ferry to the South Island, where as Rob puts it, the real adventure begins....
Yesterday we went on the cable car up to the top of one of the many hills overlooking the city centre. The view was great... the harbour is enclosed by mountains on all sides, so gives the appearance of a lake. In the little museum at the top we saw the history of the cable car and of the development of Wellington, and found out that Welly is famous for its many small private cable cars leading up to private houses on the hills. They look like Stannah stair lifts going up the hillsides in between trees and gardens, and apparently there are over 400 of them!
We then walked back down into town through the lush botanical gardens, and walked along the waterfront. In the evening we got to experience a great Kiwi event as the All Blacks were playing the Springboks in the rugby tri-nations cup, here in Wellington, and we went to a great bar in town, where everyone was really friendly and Rob was in heaven as they sold English ales. Owen watched the match with a great deal of enthusiam considering that he 'hated rugby' - and New Zealand won 40-7 - which led to a very noisy night on the streets of Welly! Boy, the Kiwis love their rugby! They're all talking about the Rugby World Cup which will be on here in September.
By way of contrast , today we spent several hours in the brilliant national museum, Te Papa. It's a great experience, designed for people who like kinaesthetic learning - Owen loved it and we couldn't tear him away. The highlight was a kind of rollercoaster ride in which we were strapped into moving seats in a small cinema showing a wild crazy ride through New Zealand, including a vitual bungy jump from the Sky Tower, which was really scary!
I learnt so much about New Zealand at Te Papa - the theme running through it is the relationship between people and landscape, and the interesting thing is that both Maori and Pakeha share this very spiritual link to the land. The Maori word for land is the same as the word for placenta - which says it all! And the Kiwis affectionately refer to New Zealand as 'godzone' even if they're not religious. Conservation of nature and wildlife is the number one business of the New Zealand government - the dept for conservation is the largets employer in NZ! Owen really enjoyed the wildlife rooms, especially the big highlight which was a colossal squid preserved in formaldehyde. And the enormous skeleton of a blue whale. The earthquake and volcanoes zone was fascinating - but it did leave Owen asking 'why did they build Wellington on top of two major fault lines?' which is a good question! One exhibit said 'a major earthquake is certain to occur in Wellington at some point' - hmmm, hopefully not until we're well clear of the place!
Owen and Rob are getting on like a house on fire, they're a right pair of wind-up merchants, they're like a comedy duo. But as from tomorrow, it's the Owen and Maggie road trip - let's see how far we get to in the South Island - the weather is so unpredictable, we haven't made any set plans.
Everywhere we go, in bars and cafes etc, we get talking to people - the Kiwis are really exceptionally chatty and friendly. I'm starting to understand the accent better, and getting used to some of their endearing phrases like 'heaps of' and 'not a problem' and 'you're puckerooed.' We've also tried various kiwi delicacies such as fried kumara (sweet potato) and 'hokey pokey' ice cream (which is ice cream with honey). We are slowly becoming kiwified....but Owen is still complaining about the 'disgraceful' kiwi ketchup which does not taste anything like ketchup should!