We went to Picton via the Queen Charlotte scenic drive to get the ferry to Wellington - what a great way to say goodbye to the South Island! Lots of twists and turns via beautiful lakes and beaches. If only the weather was warmer!
So, it turns out that I don't have sea legs (even though I'm a Pisces and a fish, astrologically speaking). The swells on the Tasman sea between Picton and Wellington are notoriously treacherous and even though it was a calm day, the waves were high in the open sea and the boat rocked and groaned for at least 2 hours. Mental note to self: next time, to avoid getting seasick, sit at the back of a boat - not the front!
On the ferry we bumped into the same couple that we'd given a lift to previously in the South Island, so we gave them a lift to their hostel in the city and then drove to Richard and Rebecca's house in Borehampore - a suburb very close to the city centre and only a stone's throw from the Wellington zoo.
I haven't seen my friends Richard and Rebecca since they emigrated to New Zealand from Stoke Newington in London in 2010. Their 2 kids, Ollie and Elsa have grown so much in that time and now they have a gorgeous 6-month old baby boy called Otto who was born in Wellington. It was really good to see them and reconnect!
Wellington reminds me so much of Cape Town. It has both an artistic and an administrative/political side as it is the capital city as well as having quite a sizeable student polpulation. Located by the sea and surrounded by mountains, the city has many historical buildings, galleries, second-hand/vintage shops and a gritty/arty edge.
We spent the day in Cuba Street - similar to Long Street in CT - full of trendy cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. Bex took us to the start of the road where I made an appointment at a retro hairdressing salon and browsed through a couple of cool vintage stores.
I met with Richard for lunch and we went to a Malaysian restaurant followed by hot chocolate/tea at a cafe. I only had an hour before my hair appointment, so decided to spend some time at the Te Papa Museum which houses an amazing Maori collection on the 4th floor.
I spoke to a Maori curator and asked her why the South Island was not as densely populated as the north and she said it's a combination of reasons. Firstly, the terrain is much more difficult to traverse as it is so mountainous. Secondly, the weather is much colder and wetter than the north (I could totally understand this being a good reason to head north). Thirdly, the first Maori tribes to settle the island were known as the Moa Hunters. Moas were huge flightless birds (bigger, even, than ostriches) and there were hundreds of thousands of them on the island. Unfortunately, they were an easy target and, within 150 years, were hunted to extinction. With their main source of protein gone, the Maori had to find other sources and may have moved further north. It's a chilling lesson to us all...
I continued to look at the amazing collection of clothing, sacred artefacts and ornamental objects. This is no ordinary museum - there's even a fully functional Marae - a traditional Maori I would have loved to spend more time learning more about the intricate system of beliefs and traditions but I hadn't timed things very well and had to rush off to the hairdresser! Hindsight is always a wonderful thing.
We went to Richard's office - he works for a really cool web design company based on the top floor of an art nouveau building. He showed us around his offices, introduced us to some of his friendly work colleagues and took us up to the roof of the building where they have amazing views of the city and a clubhouse. Here, they have a kitchen, lounge and napping room!!!! Some of the other benefits include free beers, Friday take-aways and, did I mention the napping room?
We headed back to Cuba Street and went into a bar/restaurant called Matterhorn. Simple yet stylish in design, they have an astonishing selection of cocktails! They had a jazz band playing but only at 10pm (on a school night???). Then off to a retro-fitted bar called Southern Cross which has a cool room which looks like a granny's lounge in South Africa - complete with floral 80's carpeting, Danish-style 50's furniture and even a resident Stitch 'n b**** session (social group of trendy knitters). It was also the open mike night called "Kroon for your Kai", which means "sing for your supper" in Kiwi slang, so we had a backdrop of a variety of music (mainly acoustic and folk). Wellington is definitely the place to be for music!
Sadly, I had to say goodbye to Rich, Bex, Ollie, Elsa and Otto the next morning. A huge thanks to Elsa for letting us sleep in her room! And, of course, to Otto for being such an absolute angel and for blessing us with his sweet smiles. Watch out girls, he's gonna be a real heartbreaker!