From Taupo, we went to a tiny little place on the edge of no-where New Zealand called River Valley, where most people went on a huge white water rafting trip and I curled up in my room to stay warm. Any illusions of Spring were over and it was very clearly winter. The thing I remember most is the travel sickness I felt getting to River Valley in the first place, this utterly gorgeous pink blossom tree in the grounds, and realising just how unfit I was on the walk back up to the bus.
Then, we were off to Wellington, affectionately known as Windy Wellington for good reason. It is the capital of New Zealand, and is built on a wind tunnel between the two islands. It is the place where you get the ferry from the North Island to South Island town Picton. I loved Wellington. It was great fun! There were museums, it was quirky and fun, even if a little windy. So rather than a blow by blow account of what I did in Wellington (I imagine a narration is actually quite boring, apologies) I’m going to list my favourite things:
As a big ass movie nerd, I was extremely exctied o find out that there is an entire props making studio right in Wellington! It was in one of those brochures that lists all the Lord of the Rings things you can do. Its a little ways out from the CBD, but it is easy to get a local bus out to the studio which helps to keep costs down. I booked direct with the Weta Caves as well, you pick a time and off you pop. Very easy and well worth it.
Basically, the tour is a little bit of the props they have made for movies, with bits of history, fun facts, and how they were made. I was in my element. As a hardcore movie fan and a lets-figure-this-out-as-we-go crafter/cosplayer I think I found my dream job. I got to ask all sorts of questions about props, swords and model making. Our tour also included some of the miniature sets for the Thunderbirds animated TV show. All in all, I think I would have happily moved into the building if they had let me. My poor brother got a series of incoherent, caps lock messages about 3D printing, lego and swords. No photos of the actual tour of course, but they had some models in the shop that were amazing!
Te Papa mueseum is the National Museum of New Zealand and – please take not penniless backpackers – is free for most exhibitions. It has a collection of traditional and modern art installations, a section on Maori cultural practices and buildings and for those with wandering attention spans (or children) there are loads of interactive sections of displays and a fairly strong empasis on multi-sensory experiences. It was a wonderful museum to be in.
When I went, the museum had an exhibition on the Battle of Gallipoli during the First World War, in conjunction with the Weta Studios. In and amongst the maps of the battle, extracts from diaries, videos and audio-visual interactions, there were giant-sized and amazingly life-like mannequins. It was a heartwrenching exhibition about a battle I had scarcely heard of before the trip.
There is more than enough to do at Te Papa without paying for the temporary exhibits. And, the cafe is pretty good too, even if a little pricey as museum-food usually is.
3. Wellington Botanical Gardens
The Wellington Botanical Gardens are plopped right on top of one of the hills surrounding the CBD. If you want to tick something off your tourist list, you can catch the cable car up to the top. We, poor backpackers that we were, decided to walk one of the tour paths up to the gardens, through and back down. It was a very uphill walk and I was embarrassed by my mediocre fitness levels but the view of the Wellington harbour was incredible, and I very much enjoyed the botanical gardens, especially as I love nothing more than taking pictures of flowers.
After so many hours spent on a bus, even with the walking breaks, it was nice to spend a few uninterrupted hours walking.
I can’t imagine that a tour of Parliament is on many people’s Top Things To Do In Wellington list, but I took a politics course and what with the terrible things going on in my own Parliament, I was curious to see about how the New Zealand’s set up differed from the UK set up. The building is called The Beehive, and we got to see the House of Representatives amongst others. It was a really interesting trip, and I firmly believe that Westminster should be taking tips. Especially in Proportional Representation voting systesm. However, I’m no going to get into a rant on politics. It was a very interesting tour around the Parliamentary buildings and I enjoyed myself immensely.
Who doesn’t love learning about Space?! On our way back through Wellington up to Auckland, we went up to the Carter Observatory which is called ‘Space Place’ or the Space Museum and is a really small and awesome planetarium. What was awesome about this particular planetarium was how they wove Maori legends with science, or stories about constellations slotted in with the map of the stars. It was amazing to see the incorporation of culture and science together, rather than just some cool photos and facts. We also watched a video in the planetarium dome which was to do with the Maori legends to do with creation and the moon. It was amazing and I fully recommend children of all ages pop in for a visit. It’s actually up in the Botanical gardens, so why not see some space and then some of Earth?
I enjoyed Wellington, and would happily go back there again. It’s got a reputation as the Hispter Capital and I loved it. It was quirky and didn’t take itself too seriously.