Travel Tales #15: Windy Wellington

I am writing up my gap year travels from 2006-2007 so that I can self-publish a book to pass on to my niece and nephews. I hope they will read about my adventures and be inspired to explore themselves…and I hope you enjoy my travel tales.

Wellington, New Zealand, April 2006

After a few days staying with Charlotte in Lower Hutt, I made my way into Wellington to stay at the YHA Wellington City, which was a very large, clean and modern place, although I was learning that this tended to mean less friendly – there were so many people there that it was hard to make those connections that you tend to find in smaller, more homely places.  I nevertheless decided to become a YHA member as I liked the feel of them in general, and signing up entitled me to cheaper stays for the duration of my travels.

I found Wellington to be a lovely city, although after spending some time off the beaten track on the ‘East As’ trip and in smaller towns like Rotorua and Taupo, it felt a bit of a culture shock to be in the capital, and I remember realising that I was not a city girl at heart.

On my first afternoon in Wellington, I visited the famous Te Papa Museum, something that everyone I met recommended as a ‘must do’.  It certainly didn’t disappoint – it is an enormous building with brilliant exhibitions, and best of all it was free entry (there nothing more appealing to a gap year traveler than a freebie).

The following day, I took the cable car up to the Wellington Botanic Gardens and, neatly bypassing the Observatory and Cable Car Museum, I took a walk through the peaceful gardens, including the extremely pretty Lady Norwood Rose Garden.  On the way down, I walked past government building that is known as ‘The Beehive’ on account of its design.


View of Wellington from the cable car

Wellington is referred to by many Kiwis as ‘Windy Welly’ on account of the strong winds that blast up the Cook Strait (which separates the North and South Islands) and into the city.  Apparently the wind has been known to knock people off their feet, and I certainly experienced some strong blasts during my stay.

I was starting to feeling a little lonesome on my own in the big city so was grateful to receive an invitation from Charlotte to join her, some friends and her brother Alex (who had arrived from the UK the previous day for a visit). We went out for the evening to some bars in Petone, where I rediscovered my love for NZ sauvignon blanc.  At the final bar we went to, I was told that we were sitting at a table next to Tana Umanga…a fact that was rather lost on me, but the cause of great excitement to the rest of the group since he was the captain of the All Blacks at the time!

The following day involved a much needed NZ brunch to soak up the excesses of the previous night, and then a drive up to a wind turbine on the top of a mountain just outside of the city (Kiwis would probably call it a hill, but it was a mountain to me!). There were amazing views from the top, and I was told that on a clear day you could see the South Island, some 90 plus kilometers away.

I was a little sad that the time had come to leave the North Island, and for a leg of my journey to be over already.  Additionally, I felt a little trepidatious about crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island (with my non-existent sea legs), but I also left feeling very grateful to have experienced all that the North Island had to offer – from bubbling mud pools and geysers, to homestays, farmstays, exhilarating horse rides and everything in between.

Previous travel tales:
#1: Nerves
#2: Departure
#3: Tug boats, peaks & pandas
#4: Islands, animals & markets
#5: Sunshine & hostels
#6: Fun & feijoa flavoured vodka
#7: Bays, bravery & the meeting of oceans
#8: Dolphins & premieres
#9: Glow-worms & geysers
#10: Thermal baths & wonderlands
#11: Prisons, earthquakes & wineries
#12: Surf and scenery
#13: Farms & galloping horses
#14: Homestays & Wellington suburbs