After crossing the Alps in Tongariru National Park, we headed straight south for Wellington. We didn't make it in one day and made one more stop close to Palmerston North, but the next day we arrived in New Zealand's capital.
Although Wellington is much smaller than Auckland and has about one million less inhabitants, it is still New Zealand's capital. In earlier days Auckland actually was the capital, but it was moved to Wellington, because of its key position between the North and South Island. It also serves as connection hub between the two islands, with several ferries starting from Wellington heading for Picton on the South Island.
However in its size lies its beauty. While we didn't like the concrete jungle of Auckland, Wellington completely caught us with its charm. The houses are small and colourful and from afar look like they have been sprinkled on the surrounding hills like decorative flakes.
The central city is all in walkable distance and contains countless unique little cafés and restaurants.
Anywhere in the city you can find amazing street art and the city seems to be full of imaginative artists.
|official art is none less impressive: this wooden whale is a bridge|
The film industry left a big mark on the city, now giving it the unavoidable label "Wellywood". Lord of the Rings premièred in an old and impressive cinema in Wellington and the famous Weta Works are just a 10 minute car ride away in the nearby township of Miramar. But apart from the movie industry, theatre, musicals and operas are also high in fashion with posters of new shows advertising them everywhere in the city.
Apollo 13: Mission Control
Bilge Rat and I caught by the flair decided to go for the theatre. We watched "Apollo 13: Mission Control" a really cool piece that originated in Wellington but just came back from a world wide tour. The innovation about it is that it is interactive, it actually involved and includes the audience into the actual show making them the actors. Instead of seats the audience is seated in Houston Mission Control behind monitors, telephones and other operation equipment. Every visitor get its own little individual role. One acted as Russian-English translator, others as medical supervisors for the astronauts. The real actors would take the role of the coordinators and try to get the three astronauts safely to the moon and back. But it wouldn't be called Apollo 13, if the journey would go all well. And some hard work and initiative on the side of the audience is necessary for the crew to be brought back safely to earth.
Another highlight was a local Zine festival we heard about browsing the streets of Wellington. We went there and browsed through lots of Wellington self made little magazines, tapes and art. Most were a bit to artsy for our taste, but in the end we left the festival with quite a bit of stuff to read and listen to.
Botanical Gardens & Cable Car
Wellington also has nice free accessible botanical gardens on the top of surrounding hills. The coolest way to get to them is to use the old cable car up the hill. It starts right from the central shopping street Lambton Quay and takes you up to the border of the botanical gardens. Some plates tell the history of the gardens, when one single man got the job of creating some nice gardens for the city.
|the view from the cable car|
The central building of government is also a sight by itself called "The Beehive" by the locals. If the politicians really are a busy as beans is out of my knowledge, but politics is always a topic on every NZ dinner table. We even got ourself a newspaper, cause we wanted to know what is going on ourself.
The coolest shopping street we discovered was Cuba Street. It is full of little alternative shops, from decorative art shops, comic shops and second hand book shops to little cafés and vegetarian restaurants. The Zine festival mentioned above was also here.
If you want to get out into the nature, nearby Mt. Victoria provides excellent walkways through hillside forest. The view of Wellington from the summit of Mt. Victoria is also really nice. Another reason for us to go there, however, was that just here right next to Wellington the filmed some scenes from Lord of the Rings.
Parking & Lodging
After getting friendly advice in the local Youth Hostel, we found out the best way for parking in the city is by "Coupon Parking". Coupons can be bought at lo:t cal convenience stores for 7 NZD and are valid for one day each. Parking in coupon zones is free on weekends. And the closest such coupon parking zone is on Oriental Parade. That's where we parked our car and spent some nights. Before that we spent two nights at Rowena's Lodge and after being fed up with the unfriendliness of the people there going over to much more friendly and warm Maple Lodge. While the first house is really cool both in architecture as in interior design, the people operating it are just too unfriendly, we always felt out of place and unwelcome there. Thus we recommend you the Maple Lodge.
|where we parked|