Not much time to explore Wellington, so our ‘must do’ list was minimal – the cable car. We aimed to catch the first one on Sunday and Ron’s morning run established our most direct walking route. When you walk, you see, and so we did observe a few of Wellington’s streets and iconic buildings before arriving at Lambton Quay with only seconds to spare. Of course Gary was anticipating extolling the virtues of this mode of transport to support his desire for Mt Wellington to be accessed this way, but I haven’t heard a peep from him since. This wasn’t what any of us expected; a climb of 120 metres in 5 minutes. Finished.
We were now at the top entrance to the Botanic Gardens having passed the terraced gardens of the houses in the suburb of Kelburn. The friendly cable car attendant (everyone in NZ is friendly we’ve decided) showed us a route down to the city through the gardens and this was super. Can’t remember specifically what we saw although today (Day 7) I learned that 99% of NZ trees are Evergreen and that now influences my memory. The deciduous trees are from elsewhere (like the 70 million possums!!!). We did see a bird. Ron’s research had identified it as a Kea – an unusual parrot endemic to NZ – and crowned Bird of the Year in 2017 (hmm?): unusual in that it is an alpine parrot, and curious about humans. It has dark olive green feathers – didn’t see its underwings which apparently are scarlet. We also found Picnic Cafe.
The walk took us through the Bolton Street Cemetery and as with all old cemeteries – this one established in 1840 with the settlement of Wellington – there was much to see. Curiously the cemetery was dissected by a motorway with a connecting footbridge high above the city traffic; subsequent research revealed the controversy and concern this had created in the 1960’s with the necessary exhumation of 3700 bodies. New season jonquils coloured a forlorn corner of headstones in the lower section.
We sussed out the ferry terminal, took in the grand railway station with its Doric columns, marble terrazzo floor, vaulted ceiling and intricate iron work, tried to snap the green lady pedestrian light, and found ourselves almost captives of the Catholics having stumbled onto their patch of valuable real estate. Ron leapt a wire fence, Christine scaled it, I clambered over it, and Gary coerced one leg at a time, with urgency, to complete our escape.
Wishing to see more, the car took us to Wright’s Hill Fortress, built in WW2 to protect NZ, but now offering 360 degree views of the city and plenty of walking tracks for next time.
Queuing for the ferry at 12.30 and the excitement was mounting: Christine’s first ‘big ferry’ adventure and our individual expectations for the South Island, and memories of the North. After trucks, lorries and cars with trailers were loaded, it was our turn – all well organised and fluid. We found seats next to a man with extensive knowledge of both islands, which was useful and exhausting, but took our leave to go up on deck to witness the event.
Wellington to Picton is a three hour + ferry trip and it takes a surprisingly long time to sail through Wellington Harbour and leave the North Island. Looking back we could appreciate the hilliness of the city and steep cliffs and rugged rocks flanked this part of our voyage. Once we were in open waters – Cook Strait – we went downstairs for a light ale – an IPA, which we’ve since discovered is an Indian Pale Ale (not the International Phonetic Alphabet).
Land ahoy! and very close!!! We sailed through the Heads and the Tory Channel with spectacular rugged scenery on either side and into Queen Charlotte Sound: so many Bays Blackwood, Bay of Many Coves, Lochmara, Erie, Oyster to name a few; remote houses surrounded by New Zealand bush right down to the edge of the water; isolation, beauty. The light was fading and up on deck it was bitterly cold, but we stuck it out until called to retrieve our car.
In the lightest of rain we found our Air B&B which overlooked moored bobbing yachts, settled in to watch the news report about the destructive weather around Auckland and Coromandel, and drove the short distance into town to eat at Oxley’s. The pub piano was painted blue overall with flowers and I managed a rendition of Happy Birthday in G major to add to another table’s celebration.