Aha! We have a reliable interweb connection again so I am poised with all my draft posts to catch up with myself! It will take a few days still but here’s the last post from the North Island of New Zealand to be going on with…
We stayed just outside Wellington on the West coast at a place called Paraparaumu or Paraparaparam or Pram depending on how local/familiar/lazy about place names you want to be.
As evening fell, we went for a walk along the beach. Think darkish sand, loooong beach, people walking dogs, Kapiti Island looming a bit with the evening sun behind it, the headland marking the start of the chunk of land that has Wellington on the other side of it in the distance. No matter how long we walked towards the headland it didn’t seem to get any closer.
Some oyster catchers on Pram beach (look at their little legs go!):
The next day we walked to the train station and caught a train (about an hour) into Wellington. After about 15 mins on the train, we finally caught up with that headland. It’s deceptively far away, which is something that happens quite a bit in NZ, where views are often uninterrupted by housing or industrial buildings for miles, so the other end of a view can seem a lot closer than it often turns out to be.
We went up the Wellington cable car (more like a funicular railway), and after admiring awesome views of the harbour, walked down into the city through the colourful Botanical Gardens.
After lunch we wandered along the seafront, obligatory ice creams in hand. You take your life in your hands strolling leisurely along Wellington waterfront, as umpteen people scoot, cycle or skateboard past at great speed nearly taking you out!
We saw some people dragon boating too:
The superlative ice creams seemed to warrant some proper attention, so we sat down on a bench for a while, slurping away and people watching.
People watching can lead to shameless stereotyping. Which I’m about to indulge in. So I saw middle aged classy ladies hot footing along in designer outfits clutching little designer paper bags containing their latest purchases, young people scooting past at 60mph or cycling lazily in circles with mates, all on hired scooters or bikes. Occasionally some bright spark would scoot past faster than the speed of light and then suddenly skid to a halt and leave the hired scooter in front of us. You look away, look back, and one parked scooter has suddenly become two.
Every year, Wellington hosts the “World of Wearable Art” (WOW for short), which could explain the number of people wearing very creative clothing, piercing and makeup combinations sitting on the low curbs chatting away. But I also had the impression that’s probably quite an all year round phenomenon for Wellington, too.
Then there were business people marching past purposefully, scarves tucked in against the wind, couples out for a stroll, children racing along (one little girl in a fairy dress and leg warmers on a scooter was particularly cute).
We met up with my cousin and his partner for post work drinks at Flamingo Joe’s, where we were served by a vertically challenged Portuguese waiter (he described himself as a hobbit) with a great sense of humour and commendably honest advice regarding cocktails.
From there, we drove around the very scenic Wellington coastline, stopping for photo opportunities of impressive wind surfers (Wellington is known for being very windy, so ideal for windsurfers I presume) and quiet little beaches, round to a trendy restaurant by the surfers’ beach next to the airport.
Wellington airport is a phenomenon in itself. The planes appear to fly into the middle of the city. They land on what seems to be an unfeasibly short runway between what seems to be an unfeasibly narrow gap between the hills, before taking off from the other end of the runway. I’m still confused about exactly l how this works!
To round off a lovely day, we drove up Mount Victoria and enjoyed looking at the 360 degree nighttime panorama of the city with all its coastline.
The next day, after I’d had a chance for some strokey time with King Fred (I’ve been missing our cat, big time!), we went to the wildlife and bird sanctuary in Kapiti called Nga Manu. It was raining, but we saw the kiwi feeding in the dark of the night time shed. Kiwis are an incredibly rare, endangered species of flightless bird, very difficult to spot in the wild. It was quite amazing that we got to see this one even in such controlled conditions.
Other birds we saw included the wood pigeon (a much more splendid bird than wood pigeons in the UK), a couple of Keas (very good at prising windows from their rubber seals with their beaks apparently!), lots of mallard ducks, pukekos (think mini road runners with windmill feet), tuis, tiny silver eyes, the ubiquitous sparrows (known here as café birds because they often fly into cafés), among others. We also saw various kinds of ancient lizards and some eels at feeding time. Euw!
The rain seemed so much a part of the landscape here I didn’t mind braving it for a quick hot foot round the bush walk with Tash. Our only problem was whether to bother with the brolly or not, as when it was up it blocked our view of the tree canopy and any birds flying by. But nothing stopped us hearing the magical call of the tuis and all the other beautiful birdsong around.
The next day, after a hearty breakfast altogether on the seafront at Pram, my aunt and uncle and I set off for the ferry to the South Island…