Our third journey of this trip on an Intercity bus was about to begin. This time it was from Taupo to Wellington where, to be accurate, we were to have a pre-Christmas week.
It was so pre-Christmas that we even managed to get to the Salvation Army Big Carol Sing held in the beautiful St James’ Theatre. We belted out Hark the Herald Angels and others and put our money in the voluntary donation KFC cup! We felt almost Wellitonian.
The Desert Road and Flat Hills
It was going to be long one of about six and a half hours. The stupid thing is that on the previous trips I had felt cold! The much needed air conditioning was cranked up and after just a two hour journey my feet and arms were chilled. This time I was prepared I had my socks and trainers on and even a jumper at the ready. Then we found out our bus was an older one with no air conditioning. Great at nearly thirty degrees but Jonno did manage get the roof vents open until someone said they were chilly and closed it!
About an hour and a half after leaving Taupo the bus takes you over what is called the Desert Road. In the dry parched summer it does resemble the desert and is quite an eerie place.
Around 1pm we had a 40 minute lunch stop at Flat Hills. This is a little cafe/campsite which feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. Great place to stretch our legs and get the novelty photo shot.
The traffic in Wellington was shocking by New Zealand standards so we had about an hour extra on our journey than scheduled but it was a easy bus ride to our lovely little apartment just off of all singing all dancing Courtney Place.
Thankfully, there are not many times on our travels where we feel unwell but we both had a couple of days here in Wellington when we didn’t feel great. Luckily we had our own space so could just take time out for a lie down whenever and wherever we chose. Quite good timing really. Considering the number of different places we eat, sleep and drink (as in soft drinks and water before you assume!) we are amazed, but thankful, that it doesn’t happen more. Luckily we had visited Wellington before so we could afford a few quieter days and a few return trips to our favourite things.
A JWalking First
Via Social Media we had been in contact with a couple from Wellington who followed our blog and were interested in knowing a bit more detail about our decision to up sticks and our travels. So it was a mid-day that we found ourselves in the lovely cafe called Prefab to meet Carolyn and Chris who will be embarking on their own adventure in March. They have bought a one way flight to Paris and intend to house sit and travel around Europe and see where life takes them. It seemed really strange for us to be imparting our knowledge because we don’t really feel that knowledgeable and just plan a bit ahead and have the philosophy that something will come up. Trying to adopt that mindset can be a bit scary and it does take time but after an hour or so over lunch we are sure Carolyn and Chris will embrace the lifestyle change ahead of them. Maybe our paths will cross again at an airport or cafe in Europe one day, who knows?
A JWalk Down Memory Lane
We really had mixed feelings about being in Wellington once again. It felt like a real tipping point. The end of the majority of our North Island adventure and the journey across the Cook Strait ahead of us before starting our South Island road trip. So real anticipation with a hint of nostalgia.
Once we felt more like ourselves we did some serious JWalking around Oriental Bay, which is the very scenic beach area of the city, and up to the lookout on Mount Victoria. So things weren’t all the same we used a different track to get to the top which for some of the way took us through some very interesting houses perched on the hill overlooking the harbour.
How could we return to Wellington and not visit the Te Papa Museum? You can lose yourself in there for a least two days and not see everything but we had a far stab at it. We felt obliged to revisit the Gallipoli: The Scale of War exhibition. It closes in March next year and if you are anywhere near it GO. The most memorable feature are the models made by the Weta Workshop (those of Lord of the Rings) of eight New Zealand‘s who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. The models are 2.4 times human size and took over 24,000 hours to create plus countless more researching the individuals’ histories. Although these models are the show stoppers, there are many 3-D maps, miniatures, models and dioramas not to be missed. The exhibition really brings the War to a personal level and is very moving.
Keeping on the military museum theme we also wanted to see the war memorial and military museum in Pukeahu National War Memorial Park which was a little walk away from the harbour. This time the master film-maker, Sir Peter Jackson, designed the movie-like recreations of the First World War. Ranging from an 11 tonne tank to a diorama of 5,000 miniature soldiers – it is a sobering exhibition but ensures the story of these young Anzac soldiers is not forgotten.
The Last Post and a Chance Meeting
To commemorate the 100th year since the end of the First World War we read that the Last Post was being played each afternoon at 5pm at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. With all the sacrifice highlighted in our museum trips and the fact that we missed the November Remembrance services in the UK, we felt we should go to pay our respects. It was a very well organised. Representatives from the services attended in full uniform and a bugler played strongly. A Museum representative read the story of just one New Zealand soldier from the First World War which, once again, made it very poignant.
The chance meeting was with a security guard from the Museum. He started up a conversation with us before the short service explaining that he attended most days. We felt it was more because he had wanted to rather than part of his job. We asked him if he was ex-military but he said not. We said how well we thought the museum depicted the history of the First World War and he started to talk about Peter Jackson and the displays. He then divulged that he had worked for him as a stunt man and was actually Sean Bean’s stunt double as Boromir in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Add in his time spending 12 hours in make up to be an Ork blown off a cliff and we are in serious hero worship territory. Such an unassuming guy who only seemed to mention all this in passing. Perhaps we should have a box set binge.
Star Wars Strikes Back
Last time we were in Wellington we visited the “step back in time” cinema that is The Embassy to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. By chance, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released the very week we were in town again! It was a given. We scheduled for a rainy day so as not to feel too guilty about being inside and at 8.30 am headed for our luxury seats in the The Embassy Theatre, a very smart cinema indeed.
The screen was vast and called The Grand and the Dolby sound system shook the seats. We didn’t enjoy the film as much as The Force Awakens, maybe we miss Hans, but it was a great way to start the day but weird emerging into the light and clear blue skies at mid-day.
For nostalgic reasons we couldn’t leave Welly without taking a walk around the Basin Reserve, The Test cricket ground in Wellington. We had seen some of the most recent Test between the Black Cats (NZ) and the Windies (West Indies) on the TV a few weeks before and been pointing at the screen about where we sat when we were here last time. Our schedule just didn’t work this time to see a game. The next match was on the day we were due to leave on the ferry but it was great just to take a look around the ground whilst the groundsmen were doing their stuff.
Heavy Seas Ahead
On our last evening in Welly we received an email from the Interislander Ferry company. Panic – is there a problem with our booking? Scarily they were asking if we wanted to change our booking as massive swells were forecast in the Cook Strait on our crossing early the next day. JWalking sea legs will be needed!
14/12 – 19/12/2017