Doing Wellington

Friday, January 26, 2007

It was a bit of a jaunt to Welly, through winding roads and finally onto main highways. Wellington was immediately impressive, a very pretty city with lots of colour and green space. Lots of Lord of the Rings was actually filmed in the city – not near it, not in a studio, but in forests within Wellington. We got into our hostel, which was actually pretty nice but an HI/YHA hostel. They’re actually not bad hostels when you’re traveling with a few people, it’s when you’re alone that they become big and impersonal. Chris and I took off and looked around the city for a bit, just walking and seeing what there was to see. We stumbled on Manners Mall and of course Cuba Street, and a bunch of small places besides. We walked the waterfront and made it up to the military museum on the hill.

Then we met up with Brad and his friend that lives here and trekked up to his friend’s place. Since they were going clubbing, we needed to grab a clothes upgrade and went back to the hostel, but by then were starting to wear. So Chris and I just went out in search of some live music. All the Irish pubs had it, but the atmosphere was not really happening on a Wednesday night. We finally wound up in a place called The Blue Note, which was a jazz café and had a jam night going on. There were some really talented players and some good songs, and everyone knew everyone – except us. The drummer went on a bit of a tear and it was terrific if drawn out. It turned out to be a really cool place to have stopped.

Walking back in search of another venue, I saw a little doorway with “Mighty Mighty” above it, a venue I’d noticed from the local indie show posters, so we went in there. The band had a couple guitars, banjo, mandolin, and a few other implements of entertainment, but we only caught their last song and some dark Mac’s beer sadly. On Friday there was a French band playing there that I’ve heard of and it would’ve been cool to see it, but oh well.

The next morning, we went to Te Papa, a big free museum right on the waterfront. There are some really interesting displays and it’s quite worth a stop – especially considering it’s free. Very kid friendly too, which is something we would observe throughout the day – there are a lot of things for a kid to do in this town. Cool parks and rides and free activities and the whole lot. A bunch of us went for lunch and then we were going to meet Norm for a little self-guided van tour. But he was long gone, and so Chris, Kristen, and myself headed out on foot. This turned out to be a terrific idea.

After walking the harbour and seeing all the aforementioned kids’ stuff, we found our way up the side of Mt. Victoria. En route, we passed a woman who must work for Cirque du Soleil or something – she had a massive apparatus (maybe five stories high) in her yard and was practicing some routine swinging and dancing on two ribbons over a small mat. The path we took also was fortuitous in that it brought us by a little clearing with a nice view and a tree swing, although the path was sometimes quite steep. Especially for my sandaled friends. From the top, the view of the surrounding sound was pretty nice. Jets were flying by the mountainside below us, boats were bobbing in and out of the harbour in the sun, and the skyline stretched below the surrounding hills. We took this in for a spell and then wound our way back down, passing the spot where the four hobbits hid under a log from the black rider. It’s going to be weird in Australia having to worry about what’s underfoot and not being able to trek through the grass easily. We stopped on the way down in a little park which had some neat stuff and played around there for a little while. Safety testing, of course. All is well with that park.

The three of us walked around the city once more, stopping in a few shops, grabbing a quick rest (and chocolate dessert) in a café, and we actually found this little cave-like restaurant that naturally grabbed my interest (complete with stalactites). It was about 3:00 and nobody was around except the owner and his family, so we had a bit of a chat with him and he recommended a place called Backbenchers where we could get a nice rack of lamb. They only had lamb shanks there, as seems to be the case in most places here.

It was by the parliament anyway, so we walked over there, seeing more cool downtown and the more swanky districts, finally finding the place. It was actually more a pub than anything, but interesting in that it was very political and had all sorts of satire on the walls. Big doll caricatures of Kiwi MPs and themed menus and the works. We had a beer but no rack of lamb since it wasn’t on the menu and after stopping back at the hostel to recuperate, we went out for dinner – the three of us again.

Since we were not having any luck finding rack of lamb, we decided to go visit the restaurant we’d been at earlier as they seemed like nice people and the menu looked fine except for the missing rack. We had a very nice (and very tender) dinner, a bottle of Mateau, and dessert, and got our picture with the whole family before leaving. We got back and played cards ‘til 2 AM… some of the more adult games like Go Fish. Overall, one of the better days on the tour so far, if I may say.

We left Wellington the next day for a ferry trip to Picton. On the ferry, we met the same Australians we’d befriended on the misery of Tongario. One of them is an electronics engineer and pilot, so I chatted with him for quite a while. The three hour ferry ride went quickly and I got a lot of photo captioning done. We stayed in Picton for an hour and grabbed some Fish and Chips (mine was fresh Flake Shark) from a divey little shop that still wrapped the meal in newspaper. It was great, and the crab stick (real crab) was easily a meal highlight for me. We pulled into Nelson just before dinner and that’s where I am now.

Wellington Photos

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