Wellington to Wanganui
26.09.2009 - 26.09.2009 15 °C
“Absolutely, Positively, Wellington!” What can I say other than I really love this place! Sure it has alot of one way streets and more hills than the Himalayas, but I could see myself here. Saturday was a pretty changeable day, weather wise. The wind came and stayed. Wellington Harbour was a sea of whitecaps, which happened to be a great introduction to the hazardous nature of this deep water harbour which would come in handy later in the morning.
Today Paul and I managed to spend a couple of hours together, without the kids. (Yay – and thanks to Beedo! ) We decided to spend those hours at the Museum of Wellington City & Sea. I especially wanted to go there to see the exhibit on the Wahine Disaster. It is a fascination of mine and ties into my other love of lighthouses.
For those who don’t know, the Wahine was an interisland ferry operating between Lyttelton (near Christchurch) and Wellington. The Wahine was a state of the art roll on/roll off vessel built in Glasgow in 1965, and pride of its owners fleet. On April 10, 1968 the Wahine sailed into the worst ever recorded storm in New Zealand. As it entered Wellington Harbour Heads, the radar failed, and then it hit a reef. The conditions were awful, 100 knot winds and huge swells. Over the course of many hours and rescue attempts, the crew and passengers abandoned ship – into the lifeboats and into the mercy of the dangerous sea. All passengers made it to the lifeboats/rafts, but in the ensuing hours, 51 people lost their lives. People on shore could only look on helplessly as the seas were too hazardous. Tug and pilot boats tried to tow the Wahine to safety, but it wasn’t to be. Today, Wellington observes Wahine Day. It was a tragedy that is still very much in the minds of the people that live here.
The museum has a few items from the Wahine on display. These were quite sad to see as they are in great condition. The Wahine went before her time. The centrepiece is the short movie of the incident that you sit and watch whilst sitting amongst these recovered items. It brings home how the city could only look on at the events unfolding before them, they were in shock. It was so sad, it made me cry.
The museum also has lots of information on the city of Wellington, its settlement and growth to the capital city that it is today. Did you know that New Zealand women had the right to vote decades before Australia? Kiwi’s have a strong sense of civil rights, the importance of the environment (no nuclear ships here) and national identity. They thrive on being a small country down the bottom of the globe.
Our last handful of minutes was spent walking from Queens Wharf back along the Harbourfront to Te Papa. It was great to be alone. This was our last outing in this fair city. We then jumped into the bago and headed northwest to Wanganui.
The fine weather allowed us to enjoy the ocean drive that we missed a couple of days ago. The road from Levin onwards was the first time we saw practically no fruit growing. There was some maize (harvested), but the predominate industry was beef and sheep farming. Lots of rolling green hills as far as the eyes could see. Of course there was some dairy – there always is. I love seeing the long black and white Friesian Holstein conga lines as they head off for milking. Who said cows were dumb?
Wanganui is not what I expected - it is a large thriving city. It is built along the Wanganui River which flows into the Tasman Sea. The river and the region have strong Maori cultural, spiritual and historical significance. The river starts at Mt Tongariro and Maori have dwelled along its banks for over 800 years. Once a commercial hub of the district and main highway to the central plateau region, it was a major visitor attraction in the late 1800’s and 1900’s – known as the “Riviera of the South Pacific”. Today it is more geared towards outdoors activities such as hunting, tramping, fishing, etc. It is also pretty famous for its glass blowing, which I hope to go and check out tomorrow. Then we are volcano spotting –anyone for Mt Taranaki?