Wellington, New Zealand
Flying into Wellington I was convinced we were about to land in the sea. I am not normally a nervous flyer, but I could have sworn that the pilot was actually aiming for the sea! As we touched down, the runway seemed to appear out of nowhere and Jason explained that that this piece of the harbour was created partly by an earthquake and partly by reclaimed land. Wellington sits on a major fault line and constant earthquakes here have created stunning scenery.
Driving along the coast to Jason’s parents house (1 hour North of Wellington city) the main feature of the landscape became obvious – hills hills and more hills! The hills are so steep they dominate your line of vision wherever you look, at first I described them as mountains but Jason’s Mum quickly corrected me. To New Zealanders, these are merely hills! His parents live in an enormous bungalow, near to the coast. The living room is so big that you almost need binoculars to see someone sitting opposite you. Obviously they have something in abounds which England lacks: space. The house is surrounded by a kind of mini-Botanical park, rather than a garden! His Dad has filled it with all sorts of wild and wonderful plants, bushes and trees, not to mention the rooster and 3 hens which follow each other round all day.
It may (or may not) surprise you to learn that New Zealand summers are about as reliable as English ones: so far its been cloudy, rainy and windy, with the odd bit of sun poking through occasionally! In some ways it’s a nice change from all that tropical heat but no Xmas on the beach for us then!
Wellington itself is a complete surprise to me. It’s much more cultural and arty than any city I have visited in Australia (although I know Melbourne is Oz’s Art’s scene). Funky cafes, bars and boutique shops line the streets and it has a real vibey atmosphere to it. Within 2 days I had lapped up more culture than I the whole past 6 weeks: A bizarre but brilliant xmas play at a tiny fringe-type theatre, an Italian Opera concert staged in a Maori meeting house inside Wellington’s famous Te Papa Museum, and we accidentally happened upon a Polynesian carol concert in the same evening! Listening to carols being sung by Samoan choir in a botanical gardens was certainly a new experience.
New Zealand’s national museum is in Wellington harbour. Normally I am not a museum freak, but ‘Te Papa’ has such imaginative way of telling stories and presenting things that I felt completely drawn in, I could have spent days in there! It was there I experienced by first ever earthquake (and my last I hope!). the ground started to shake violently and I could hear the sounds of things crashing to the floor and screams. Fortunately it was in the ‘Earthquake house’ simulator in the museum. Apparently there are small earthquakes here almost every week which you can’t feel, but to Wellingtonians a small earthquake is nothing to worry about!
It’s only when you drive to the top of several lookout points around Wellington that you appreciate the beauty of the harbour and surrounds. From one called Mount Victoria, you can see the whole city, harbour , hills and the Tasman Sea. From the city,we drove along a winding road through more gorgeous scenery. I think it’s the multitude of different greens that makes the hills so pretty. Some are covered with dark green pine forests, others bare with light green grass , and others with thick multicoloured bushes. At the other side the sea was wild and the cliffs rugged, a bit like parts of the English coast. We could just about make out the silhouette of the South Island from the cliff top and our only companions were lots of sheep.
Today we hopped over to an Island Nature Reserve 15 mins from the coast, Kapiti Island. Only 50 people are allowed there each day.They have managed to recreate a piece of NZ how it was before the first humans brought in all the mammels which ate all their gorgeous birds! There are thousands of birds there, many species are exctint on the mainland and not found anywhere else in the world. The noise was incredible, I have never heard so many diffrent types of bird calls! We hiked to the summit, bird spotting along the way (but neither of us have a clue about birds!). I have been dying to see a Penguin which apparently are often found there, and low and behold I saw one…. dead as a door nail on the beach.