Cook Strait Ferry Crossing, Capital of Cool & Te Papa

This is one of a series of stories written for us by UK based customers Glynis and Graham, following their travels around New Zealand last Summer.  We hope you enjoy them as much as we do...

Arrival in NI - 29-31 Jan

The strangest thing about arriving in the North island is that you get off a ro ro ferry after more than three hours, collect your luggage and then just walk out without having to go through customs and passport control. Most peculiar. That's not what I expect after a ferry crossing.

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Actually, it's not like leaving from Dover either. You sail out through breathtaking scenery for an hour. It looks like the fiords. Then you hit the high seas. Myth has it that the Cook Strait is choppy. I can't believe that. Mill pond does not describe it. The sea was really calm for the entire time and we stayed out on deck, in front of the bridge, because we don't expect to make that journey again so we wanted to experience every moment of it and I really hoped we might see something cetaceous. We didn't.

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I have to admit it was windy though. In fact I was only able to stay on deck because I put on my wool beanie, then my sun hat, which I tied on with a headband under my chin. To top it off I pulled up the hood on my fleece and tied that on with a scarf. And I did have several layers on because it was in the high 20s on land but it gets cold in the middle of the sea. I know this. I go on cross channel ferries so I had a pack full of layers to put on. People in vests and shorts could only cope with a few minutes of the wind so we mostly had the deck to ourselves for the whole journey.

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We are staying very centrally. Wellington is a windy, hot, cold, cloudy, compact, sunny, rainy, urbane, busy, trendy, metropolis. I had to check but apparently it's the capital. I didn't know but the government buildings were a clue. (I confess i assumed it was Auckland) It is all contained in a few streets but then the suburbs stretch for miles around the bay. It has all the requisites of a Western city. Business district, government buildings, chic shopping and trendy hip. Lots of street theatre. The odd beggar.

The first night we ate in one of the restaurants on the harbour. There are many. It's all very hip and I now have to use the word I use with care, cool, because that's what it calls itself in the advertising.

I don't know who's drinking all the coffee but every third place seems to sell it.

Today we took the cable car up to the botanical gardens above the streets, watched the obligatory film in the cable car museum and then walked back down through all the interesting bits at the back. Wellington is a flat bit in front of hills like much of the rest of NZ so the town rises up the at the back and the shops are designed so you can use their lifts and escalators to get around the different levels. After a break back at the ranch we set off again. We found our way around the streets and it was much like shopping anywhere. Cuba street is the happening area and there is a buzzing atmosphere which could be anywhere in any European city.

Then we thought we would have a quick look in the Te Papa museum. Well the quick look ended up being hours and hours. It was fascinating. We gave the Lord of the Rings a miss but the rest of it was really interesting. To get you started, at the entrance you can go downstairs and look at the foundations which are designed to withstand an earthquake with a video explaining how it works. So now I am an expert on how to earthquake proof a building! Spend a LOT of money and keep your fingers crossed.

Too much to describe but if you ever find yourself in Wellington then go there. It is a celebration  of all things NZ and makes a lot of things clearer. There was a lot of hi tech, interactivity but one thing was a 15 minute video on where NZs have come from. I wandered over and noticed that one place was Chilham. The next village to us. it only had about 7 different sites it talked about so I waited to hear what was going to be said. And it came up. Chilham, the White Horse and a man talking about why people left, which was very odd to see.

Picking up the car in the morning and then off to Napier.