A Travellerspoint blog

Day Sixteen

Wellington to Wanganui

semi-overcast 15 °C
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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

Posted by petty1912 02:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day Fifteen

Wellington

semi-overcast 12 °C
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The sky is overcast today, but the rain stays away - time to explore the nation’s capital. Well after going around and around the one way streets of Wellington one time too many, we go and park near Te Papa and set off on foot to track down the famous cable car. A couple of blocks later we stumble upon a taxi, so we jump in and ask him to drive us to our favoured destination. He pulls up on a very busy city street in the CBD and points to a sign and says “there cable car”. A short walk up an alley way to a ticket booth and finally we had made it. Driving up and down the street we would have never seen the sign. Blink and you’ll miss kind of thing! The ticket seller lets us through a special side gate rather than the turnstile, and we walk along the platform and onto the cable car.

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The first things you notice about the cable car is it is small (a couple of carriages long), its red so it obviously goes fast and it is on an incline. We sit up the front so we can look out the big glass window and see where we are going. The cable car was opened in 1902 to link the hillside suburbs with the city. Since 1933 it has operated using electricity. Wellington is surrounded by hills with just a small slither separating them and the bay. The city is built on the small slither and the suburbs on the surrounding hills. It takes about 3 to 4 minutes to make the whole trip up to the Botanical Gardens.

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Taking advantage of the no rain situation we set off for a walk around the gardens. It is very hilly and slippery, but very beautiful. It is so hilly that you can hire wheelchairs or mobility vehicles for the duration of your stay. We needed one after our walk – pretty tiring, poor Paul having to carry Pat and his sore legs. We specifically went to the gardens to see the Carter Observatory which is the national observatory, but it was closed. Sam was most disappointed.

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After a short stroll through the city centre we headed for the harbour front a couple of short blocks away. This is the area between Lambton Harbour and Clyde Quay Wharf. This area is reclaimed land and once was the main site of Wellington’s waterfront industry. We crossed over busy Jervis Quay (street) via the City-to-Sea Bridge, which is a pedestrian bridge decorated with Pacific/Maori Style wood carvings. It is quite a vision amongst all the concrete. I really like it!

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While we were making our way towards Te Papa, university students were having a circuit race around the area. This included rollerblading around, and of all things in this cold place, swimming in the harbour. Bloody nutters!
At Te Papa we finished looking at a lot of the exhibits that we didn’t get to yesterday. These were mostly the exhibits of the Maori settlement and the New Zealand environment and wildlife. You need a full day to do this place justice. It is a wonderful place – I will be back, without the impatient kids though.

One thing I must say is the big cities are great, but they aren’t really child friendly. Too much walking and way too many distractions. Kids are best were they only had to concentrate on one thing at a time. Tomorrow I hope to go and see the Museum of Wellington City and Sea. I also hope the rain stays away.

Posted by petty1912 14:42 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day Fourteen

Otaki Beach to Wellington

rain 9 °C
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After a long afternoon drive yesterday afternoon we were glad to make it to Otaki Beach. That is before we got out of the van. We had read all the brochures and the place that looked a picture in all the reputable books directed us to this place.

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Enough to say we were glad to be out of there this morning. It was truly a place to avoid at all costs. Unfortunately for us, the rain started last night and it hasn’t stopped. It is also bitterly cold. I finally got on the internet today (but couldn’t upload anything – need an internet café desperately) to find out about the dust storms back home. It couldn’t be more different to here . Yesterday was cold, but Wellington’s temperatures today were a maximum of 9 °C and a minimum of 6 °C.

Anyway, the 70 odd kilometre drive from Otaki to Wellington was busy with traffic. It was a nice change to the quieter state highways and country roads we normally travel. The rain was annoying, but there were a few small towns to get through before entering the capital. The weather had us wondering, what on earth to do to spend the afternoon? We checked into the Wellignton Top 10 Park in Lower Hutt. We were told to head into the CBD (by van as it would be cheaper) and park near the Te Papa Tongarewa, all day parking is only $10NZ. So off we went (used the Navman again) to find the easy car parking. Along the way we passed the Interisland Ferry Terminal, Wespac Stadium where the Wallabies were slaughtered last weekend, the attractive City-to-Sea Bridge and Queens Wharf Precinct. Yep, the parking was there, yes it was easy and yes it was only $10NZ.

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It turns out that the Te Papa Tongarewa (or Te Papa for short) is the National Museum of New Zealand and what an amazing place it is. The building is thoroughly modern and inviting. Arriving at lunch we only spent a couple of hours here and hope to spend a few more. Signs ask you not to publish any photos directly of exhibits and display them, so I won’t post anything to dishonour that request. My favourites are the Awesome Forces display about earthquakes, volcanoes, etc – the Mountain to the Sea which is about the animals and birds of the nation. There is a whole whale skeleton on display as well as another giant squid (called the Colossal Squid).

The museum is spread over 5 levels and I have 3 yet to explore. I should also mention that it has no entry fee. So if you visit take the opportunity to make a donation to ensure that this marvellous facility gets to remain “free” to all those whom wish to visit – it is a gem!

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With the weather not letting up, we decided to head back to the motor park, quickly passing by the Cricket Museum and the National War Memorial. There is so much we would like to do but the weather reports mentions more of the same, so it looks as though it will be more indoor activities. So don’t know if we’ll get to visit the botanical gardens or ride up in the cable car. Tomorrow will tell!

Posted by petty1912 14:38 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day Thirteen

Napier to Otaki Beach

rain 9 °C
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To orient ourselves in Napier and its position on Hawkes Bay, we drove up to the Bluff Hill Domain and Lookout. Situated directly over the Port of Napier (can’t actually see the town CBD), you look northwards towards Gisborne. A strong cool breeze was blowing so we didn’t loiter too long. It was freezing! It pretty much wrapped up the rest of the day – cold and rain periods. It doesn’t dampen our resolve to walk around the CBD and visiting the Aquarium.

In 1931 a massive earthquake (7.1 on the Richter scale) obliterated the city of Napier. As a result many of the buildings that were rebuilt we done so in the architectural style of the time – art deco, Spanish mission and striped classical. Consequently, it now has one of the best collections of 1930’s architecture in the world. We did a walk from Marine Parade on the shorefront down Emerson St (Mall) up both sides of Tennyson, looped up Hastings, Browning and Herschell Streets to return to Marine Parade.

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The buildings are beautiful. The curves, zig zags, angular arches and columns. The colours are amazing. I spent most of my time looking at the store windows looking at all the different leadlight panels above the windows at storefronts. To see so many of these buildings together and side by side gives an incredible ambiance to the city. A lot of the shop ceilings above the sidewalks have moulded ceilings. The influence was even in the manhole covers. Many of the store owners even dress in the 1930’s style. The stylish heels of the time are also very popular here. It was abit bizarre to see at first, but it all seems to gel. The CBD has a great café and art gallery culture. It made for a very interesting morning.

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We then visited the National Aquarium of New Zealand. The building is about the same size as the one at home in Townsville. This one however has many creatures from all over the world, not just those found here in New Zealand. There is even a Kiwi Habitat. The walk around takes you through fresh water species found here, then the salt water varieties from overseas such as the Amazon and Guyana. The tank of piranhas was very popular. It is hard to imagine such small fish are so deadly. There was a display freshwater eels, so big that their girth was thicker than a man’s arm. Damn ugly looking things too!

My heart went out to a 1.5m saltwater crocodile. People were saying how scary and ferocious he looked. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that he was a baby, of sorts. At the end of the walk is a underwater habitat that you can inspect via a moving walkway. Small sharks, stingrays and native fish swam beside us and over our heads. It was great fun. My favourite tanks held the delicate seahorses and a specimen of a giant squid caught by a trawler at great depth. I saw one last time at the aquarium at Picton. I don’t know if this is the same one or not.

With the rain hanging around and two kids not really keen to visit winery’s and behave themselves, we decided to head towards Wellington. Knowing we wouldn’t make the whole way, but keen to get as close as possible and save some driving the following day. Paul was relieved that the trip has only one mountain range and that was just before getting near Palmerston North.

Napier is a big logging port, but I don’t recall seeing any managed forests this afternoon. While we were in the Bay of Plenty, it was a veritable fruit bowl. More apples than I have noticed before. Sheep, beef cattle and dairy farming just as prominent as everywhere else we’ve been. There were lots of vines and cellar door sale signs to tempt you also. But, no drinking and driving for us.

As we were about to drive through the range/gorge to Palmerton North we noticed a large wind farm spread across the length of the ridges. There must have been over 50 windmills in total. It was a very windy day, but not all the turbines were rotating. By the late afternoon the rain had stopped and we decided to stop for the evening to camp by Otaki Beach, only about 70km out of Wellington. We hope to get an early start to explore the Nations capital over the next few days.

Posted by petty1912 14:37 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Day Twelve

Lake Taupo to Napier

overcast 14 °C
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After some light rain overnight, we awoke to fog and an overcast sky. It was cold also. The park we stayed at was pretty busy and with New Zealand school holidays starting next week, the town is gearing up for the summer rush. Next week this place will be full of people from other parts of the country.

There is an attraction here that my boys have been waiting to see for more than a week. The Huka Prawn Park. Sure we have prawn farms back home, but not one with tours, prawn fishing and a restaurant. This farm is spread over six hectares and is dedicated to the production of a freshwater Malaysian prawn. Everything grown on the farm is eaten here. Nothing is exported.

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We took the half hour guided tour. Learnt that the water from the thermal power station next door is piped to the farm, cooled and then used to grow these tropical, fast growing, highly reproductive and disease free (in NZ anyway) species. We got to hand feed baby prawns and look at all stages of development. Before the tour, we had a hour to kill, so we went fishing in the ponds. Armed with bamboo rods with light line and baby hooks we all set off to catch lunch. Twenty minutes later there was another dozen or so people joining us and the only person to catch a prawn was Beedo.

After a walk around the entire park and feeding the brown trout in the Waikato River we got to soak our weary feet in the thermal foot bath there. While we were doing that we sat and watched the Huka Jet Boats set off up and down the river. It was a very relaxing morning.

After lunch we had hoped to go on a lake cruise. The lady at the booking office in the morning said that rain and westerly winds were forecast. The tackle shop at Taupo said the opposite. Well the rain came and went, then came and went again. Then the westerlies arrived and the lake was a mass of white caps. So there would be no cruise for us. Very sad, we were looking forward to it. Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia. We then headed back near the Waikato River to visit the Honey Hive and Huka Falls. The honey hive is devoted to all things relating to bees and honey. They have a live hive, so the kids can see first hand the inner workings of a hive. They sell mead, honey sweets, honey beauty products, honey favoured foods, etc. There was something to satisfy all tastes – literally.

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The Huka Falls may only fall 5 or so metres, but it is the shear amount of water (220,000 Litres per second) that makes it such an incredible sight. The sound is thunderous. We stopped first at the upper look out, then drive down to the main carpark and walked the couple of minutes each way to see it face to face. The water is so blue and very clear. Coming from such a water starved nation, the sheer amount of water, both fresh and clear is amazing.

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Due to the weather – we decided to drive further down along the Thermal Explorer Highway to Napier in Hawkes Bay. The drive was again through volcanic, mountainous regions. At times we were surrounded almost entirely by old extinct volcanic cones. It was very impressive. One of the first things we noticed about the vegetation was how much drier and less lush it was. The only really bright green we saw were the dairy and sheep pastures. Forestry plantations were the most dominant they have ever been. A lot of felling was taking place – right up to the roadside in places. Looks to be a very hazardous occupation and not one for the faint hearted in the steep mountains and deep gorges that we traversed today.

Once we crossed the ranges we came into the expanse of Hawkes Bay and it’s vineyards at Eskdale. After not being able to find fuel anywhere between Taupo and the Napier outskirts we made a quick stop at the first servo we came across. Tomorrow we are looking forward to visiting the local aquarium and soak in the famous architecture. We will be taking lots of pics to show Uncle Pete who got a mention today. He is the only person that we have seen on our holiday since we left home that we know, and that was at the Brisbane Airport. More than halfway through the trip now and there is still so much to see and do.

Posted by petty1912 14:35 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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