Not having a set plan for the day, we took our time getting going. We were pleased to see that the rain had passed, but disappointed that the wind had not. There was some sun between the small breaks in the clouds, but for the most part it was going to be a cloudy, cold day.
We took off downtown in hopes of getting some breakfast. After our Lonely Planet recommendation was closed, we opted for the first café we could find (with Google’s help) that was open. The country of New Zealand seems to get two days off for the New Year, one of which was today. Not a lot was open, and the city seemed to be somewhat of a ghost town. We shortly arrived at Victoria St. Café where we stuffed ourselves full of large English breakfasts (minus the beans). Leah opted for the much healthier berry porridge, but somehow ended up just as full as the rest of us.
Happy to now have growling bellies, we continued on our way to try our luck at the Cable Car which scales the nearby hill, bringing you to Wellington’s Botanical Gardens and a nice city overlook. On the walk over we found that the number of people was growing as was the number of sales signs in shop windows (maybe explaining the number of people). We finally reached the Cable Car only to learn that the line continued down the alleyway and wrapped onto the nearby street. Well, we aren’t really into waiting in lines, so, instead, we hiked up our pants and started the uphill climb. It took us through the nearby neighborhood, by Doug’s study-abroad home, Weir House, and up the very big hill. On the way we also passed a group of college-aged students wearing Georgia Tech paraphernalia, which turned Doug around in excitement, but not so much that he wanted to run after them to say, “In 10 years you could be taking 6 months off and come back like me!”
We finally reached the top only to realize that we weren’t yet at the Cable Car, but we were in the Botanical Gardens. But, the gardens aren’t your typical gardens. Rather than some nice flat terrain at the peak of this hill, we were greeted by a garden nestled in the valley of the hill we were currently on and those surrounding it. So, if we were going to go in the gardens, we were committed to scaling more hills. When has that ever stopped us though?
We ventured downhill, not really knowing where we were headed, reading signs every now and then, before landing at the Treehouse Visitor Center. It was here we realized that none of us were particularly interested in seeing the plants, but more so the views of downtown Wellington. So, with the help of the receptionist, we made our way back uphill to the Cable Car, where the best view of downtown was said to be. Up and up we went until we finally arrived at the top of the Cable Car where we spent a good 10 minutes enjoying the view before saying a much unenthused, “Well, OK,” and deciding we would take the Cable Car back down.
The ride itself, was also a bit anticlimactic, with not a whole lot of views and was more of a funicular than a cable car. However, there were a few highlights. First were the 3 tunnels we went through which had individual LEDs coordinated to create a light display. Maybe, we’ll just say that those were our New Year’s fireworks. Along with the LEDs, there was the construction of the Cable Car itself. It consisted of two tracks, each containing a car. Both cars were counterweighted so at every stop, the cars would oscillate a lot to a little depending on how far up/down the track the cars were from one another. It was quite the thrill (a little bit of sarcasm there). We got off happy to know we didn’t need to wait in such a long line for such a basic ride.
Without much else in mind we decided to take a walk to see the set of St. Paul churches (old and new) as well as Parliament. We arrived at the “Beehive” as it is known before deciding we should really go in this ridiculous looking building. And, upon doing so, we realized that in order to actually see anything you needed to go as a tour. Well, it looks like we’d be doing that, but the next one wasn’t for 30 minutes. So, we put our names in and did a quick drive-through of the St. Pauls before returning for our 1 p.m. timeslot.
The tour started with a fantastic 10 minute video on the construction of New Zealand’s government, which was perfect for those who were unaware (all of us). The remainder was a walking tour through the three buildings led by Janet, a very monotone lady who in her own right knew a lot, but didn’t do the greatest job of delivering the knowledge. She took us through the Beehive, the Parliament House, and the Library offering tidbits of information here and there but most really emerged with the help of tourist questions. And again, her delivery, well, could have been a bit more enthusiastic. An example:
Tourist: Why is it named the Beehive?
Janet: I don’t know really. I guess it’s because it looks like a beehive.
::30 second pause::
::quizzical tourist looks::
Janet: Well, I guess it could be because… ::a very plausible story of how the architect used to use the logo of the Beehive matchbox to show others how the final design would look::
We gathered quite a bit of information but some teeth needed to be pulled during the process. We particularly enjoyed seeing the green carpeted Debate Room where Parliament meets when it is in session. We also really like the meeting room decorated with Maori carvings. None of these we can show you, sadly, because pictures were not allowed. But, you do have the option to watch the debates on TV and/or visit the meeting room to present your thoughts/ideas for a bill (both only while in New Zealand, of course).
By this time we were famished once again so we found ourselves chowing down on some kebabs from Abrekababra, one of Doug’s former haunts from his study abroad days, before deciding what would be next. We had a few options, but on top the list was another visit to the Te Papa museum to see the Gallipoli exhibit. We arrived happy to learn that the line was shorter than yesterday, but still a bit long. So, we took the opportunity to place another bet. At what time would we be permitted to enter? Leah – 3:50. Doug – 3:52. Lynn – 3:53. Stephen – 4:00. And what would be the prize? Well, whether or not we would be seeing Into the Heart of the Sea that evening. We stood in line and waited and waited, getting it down to the wire between Leah and Doug, before we were finally allowed in at 3:48. It looks like it would be Leah’s decision!
Onward through the Gallipoli exhibit we went, a very heartfelt presentation of ANZAC’s part in the Gallipoli campaign. Unlike the rest of Te Papa, this exhibit was very interactive and well organized. We enjoyed it so much that we spent a good hour in there learning the stories behind various Kiwis who lost their lives there and admiring the larger-than-life models of some designed by artists from the Weta Workshop, a creative design studio famous for its contributions to The Hobbit and other popular films.
The remainder of the early evening was spent lounging in a café over hot drinks, walking up even more hills to see the oldest cottage in New Zealand, and retiring to our Airbnb for some rest and jacket re-waterproofing.
By 7:30 p.m. we were hungry yet again and set off for dinner at Charley Noble, the venue for our fancy but not-so-fancy dinner. We ended up there with a bit of a wait so we killed time at the bar watching the bartender make Leah a fancy strawberry milkshake. When we were finally seated, we enjoyed a plethora of more and more food (bread, olives, lamb, pot pie, grilled vegetables, steak, potatoes, chocolate, strawberry trifle, and profiteroles) before calling ourselves stuffed.
Before the night was over, we realized we would not have time to see Into the Heart of the Sea. So in an equally ridiculous fashion, we watched Kung Fury on Netflix to make up for it. Should you watch it? No (Unless you are on a severe amount of drugs, then maybe, but probably still no).
Daily Walking Mileage: 14.0
- New Zealand was the first country in the world to give all women the right to vote in 1893. Whoop whoop!
- New Zealand has 7 political parties represented in their current Parliament: National Party, Labour Party, Green Party, New Zealand First, Maori Party, ACT, and United First.
- If you ever come to New Zealand, don’t bother to visit the cities. They aren’t nearly as unique or spectacular as the bush.