The three hour ferry journey across the Cook Strait takes about an hour to negotiate through the Marlborough Sounds before getting into to choppier waters of the Strait. With the weather being as it was we did have spell where water broke over the bows and soaked the upper deck widows. The sick bags were coming up but it didn't last long and E&M tucked into their food as normal.
As North Island and Wellington loomed it was clear (certainly wasn't!) that North Island too wasn't putting on its best clothes for our arrival. Driving off the ferry into the darkening and very wet streets we still managed to find our way very quickly to our accommodation for the next few days, which turned out to be really central and close to one of the liveliest and most interesting streets in town - Cuba Street.
Once we'd settled in we headed out to Cuba Street where we found a nice pub (Hotel Bristol) and a really good value Malaysian/South Indian little bistro where we tucked in to some Rendang and Nasi Goreng reminding us very much of our time in SE Asia.
E had been having a little bother with his teeth and took the opportunity of big city dentists to have a check up - all seems to be fine. He also needed to stock up on contact lenses and found a very helpful optometrist that managed to get them flown in from Australia in less than 24 hours!
Wellington has two major museums one of which, Te Papa, is very well signposted. Of course we would want to go to the other one, Wellington Museum of City and Sea (very poorly signed) and we spent some time wandering along the waterfront before we found it. It is a very good museum with excellent displays and stories about Wellington's setting on and connection with the sea. One of the most poignant displays, including a very sad film, is that of The Wahine, a ferry from South Island to Wellington which foundered in Wellington Harbour during a ferocious storm in April 1968 with the loss of 51 lives.
The evening turned to a happier occasion when we met up with Andy and Morven (Andy is the son of E's very old friend, Jim Brown, with whom (as legend would have it) E went into primary school holding hands on their first day in 1955). Andy and Morven are travelling the world and in NZ for a year. We were exceptionally lucky to cross paths in Wellington as they were heading to the South Island on the following day and it would have been all too easy to have missed them. We met them in the Hotel Bristol where we caught up on our respective travellers' tales and spent much too long nearly missing the chance to eat - restaurants close much too early in the southern hemisphere. But we did find one that was still open and were soon tucking into steaks and chicken and more beer and wine. It was really great meeting up with them and we hope they continue to enjoy their travels.
One thing we were hoping to do in Wellington was to catch up with Phil, a work colleague/friend who had worked with E in Edinburgh in 1993.Phil was from Wellington and had been over in the UK working and where they had kept in touch until Phil returned to NZ - then hadn't met since 1996. However, although E managed to speak to him on the phone a couple of months ago it transpired that Phil, his wife Jules and their two kids Hannah and Katherine were off on an 8 month trip across America and Europe - before we arrived in Wellington.We'd agreed with Phil that he would receive some mail for us so, as he had gone travelling we had to contact his mum, Patricia.E headed up the hills of Wellington to meet her for the first time and had a good chat over a cup of tea - it was really nice meeting her at last after speaking to her on the phone about ten years ago.She'd kindly offered to put us up but as we had a number of people to meet up with in Wellington it wouldn't have been fair for us to be coming and going and out on the town every night.That afternoon we visited what's billed as the top museum in Wellington - Te Papa Museum of New Zealand.As we headed down what had become our usual route we passed a little theatre next door to Te Papa - the Circa Theatre - which had a couple plays showing that week.They looked really interesting and we booked tickets for Friday to see The American Pilot, written by Scotsman David Greig.Te Papa is a wonderful museum in a huge modern building which really needs a few visits to do it justice. Our visit took in some excellent displays of traditional NZ art, as well as some paintings and sculptures by international artists and a particular exhibition on immigration to NZ by the Scots.All were very good and took much longer to see than expected.Thursday morning was spent catching up with 'business matters' then it was back into town to take the cable car (essentially a funicular) up to the Botanic Gardens high above the city.We then wended our way downhill through the Botanics, assorted gardens and cemeteries and back to familiar territory to meet up with Bev and Jeff.We'd first met them on the Trans Siberian between Moscow and Irkutsk, then again in Ulaanbataar (Mongolia),Lijiang (Southern China) and lastly Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) in November 2006.So it was great to meet up with them in Jeff's home town.Both of them were looking really well and resplendent in their office gear, nearly unrecognisable from their travel apparel!We'd a really great evening with them in Mac's Brewery exchanging stories about the last couple of years and future plans.Wellington has quite a lot to offer but it had taken us a bit of time to get used to a big city again and get over the inclement weather, which was getting better by the day.Friday saw us head off for a tour of the NZ Parliament buildings, notably the new 'Beehive', as well as the older Parliament House which had been restored after having been destroyed by a fire in the 1990s.It was a really interesting tour and we were both impressed in particular by the beautifully decorated Maori Affairs Committee Room which is one of two places in NZ where people can have total freedom of speech without fear of retribution.Without going into too much detail members of the public can attend sessions here to give their opinion and views on proposed legislation direct to MPs.This is something that should be encouraged in the UK.That evening we were off to the theatre - after a splendid pre-theatre meal at Olive in Cuba Street - to see The American Pilot.For a very small theatre company the production and acting were very good and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening out.
A quick check of our emails when we got back from the theatre we found one from Bev and Jeff asking if we'd like to stay with them and go to the All Blacks v Ireland rugby match which was coming up next weekend in Wellington.We seem always to be missing major sporting/artistic events because we're never in the right place at the right time.Earlier, we'd spoken about the possibility of going to the match and their invitation was the deciding factor.We got on the internet, booked a couple of tickets and will be returning to Wellington in a week's time.
We decided it would nice to see Patricia again before we set off north.So we gave her a call from our motel to say we'd be there in about half an hour and Patricia said she'd have a cuppa tea ready for us.When we arrived 40 minutes later, as expected she had some cakes and biscuits ready for us, as well as a cup of tea.What we hadn't expected was that when she said she'd make us a cuppa she'd make it as soon we got off the phone so by now the tea was quite tepid!Phil - your mother's a real character!
E & M xxx