Wellington is Wonderful!

After my relaxing couple of days in wine country, it was time to say goodbye to the beautiful South Island and hello to the more populous North Island.  Back in Vietnam, on my never-ending train ride, I had befriended a guy who lived in Wellington, and he had promised to show me the magic of Cricket, as he was getting back from Asia just in time for the “test match” between NZ and England.  Several hours of that train trip were spent trying to impart to me all the various rules of Cricket, and I was looking forward to checking out the match.  However, I had now also made plans to meet up with my new bestie Alex to tour the North Island together, so my time in Wellington would be very limited.  Like, I really only had one full day to see the city.  That meant that cricket was probably going to be missed, but I was still planning on crashing on my buddy Steve’s couch, and staying with a friend instead of a hotel or hostel was sounding pretty good to me!

First, I had to get my cash-strapped self over to Wellington though, which meant I waited on the side of the main road in little old Renwick for the morning bus.  I’d bought a ticket online the day before and made sure I was out on the sidewalk early – my near-miss on the way into town had made me a bit over cautious, but I really couldn’t afford to miss this bus, otherwise I’d miss the ferry & then loose precious time in Welly!  I arrived back in Picton with plenty of time to dash off to an actual ATM and then board the ferry. 
I grabbed some snacks and settled down by a window in the front of the boat, in hopes of having some nice photo-ops.  Unfortunately, by the time we got going and I finished my lunch, I realized the windows were far too salt-encrusted and misted to allow for photos, but the upper outdoor level was full, with no seats possible.  I kept moving around the ferry trying to get some photos and/or a comfy place to nap/read, but never really found anything perfect.  Luckily, the weather was perfect and the channel was calm, and we arrived in the Wellington harbor sans problems.  Here are a couple of shots – complete with the QM2 cruise ship that everyone was super excited to see.   
 (Heading out of the sound in Picton)
(Last bit of the South Island before entering the channel proper.)
(Light houses on the way into Wellington's harbor.)
I met up with my fabulous host Steve who had very kindly met me at the station and we headed to his apartment right in central Wellington.  We wandered around the neighborhood for some dinner & drinks, and planned out my next day. 
I decided to skip the cricket the next day (day one of the multiple day test match was only a half day I think… again – I just don’t understand), but headed out for some breakfast at another local joint with Steve and then hit the famous Te Papa museum. This is the national museum of NZ and I’d heard really great things about it.  The building is cool, and there were some great Maori exhibits, but after a couple of hours, I was pretty tired of wandering inside.  I went back out into the sun (and wind) for some lunch by the water.  The whole downtown central area was really pretty, and full of boats. 
(Maori prayer house - the carvings they do are insane!)

 After a stop at the tourist info office to get the car rental settled for the next day, I then headed into the maritime museum, which my host heartily recommended, and I enjoyed as well! Set in one of the few 19th century buildings left in town, it was a pretty cool little museum all about the history of Wellington & its love affair with boats. 

After that, it was time to hit Wellington’s version of a cable car, to head up into the hills a bit.  While very cute, it was really more of a glorified funicular – nothing yet to compare with SF’s famous cable cars!  The views from up there were amazing though, and the park on the surrounding hillside was just magical.  Lush and tropical, but very hilly, so I didn’t venture too far! 

Finally, I headed back across town to one of the cute, older shopping areas closer to Steve’s apt, and saw the famous water-sculpture thing.  Apparently it was a temporary art exhibit, but when it was due to be taken down, the locals revolted, and so now it’s still there.  It’s really nothing much, but absolutely mesmerizing!  I took about 30 photos trying to catch the water in different stages of falling from shovel to shovel, but I’ll spare you, and just let you know that this would be a great way to kill a half hour, either during shopping, or even if it’s just a pretty day!
Another tasty locals-favorite dinner across the street from the theater that hosted the LOTR premier, and my time with Wellington was sadly done.  It was a ridiculously short visit, but a really cool town.  Up next, I drive on the wrong side of the road for the first time ever (eeeek!), and reunite with Alex to go exploring.