From one extreme to another. One day we’re as far north as we can go on this island and just a few days later, we’re pretty much as far south as we can go. Wellington is the capital city but much smaller than Auckland. The route Google Maps chose to take us to our place of abode was bizarre to say the least. It took us off State Highway 1 far too early. We drove up into the hills, at which point, the app changed its mind and wanted us to go round the roundabout and back down the narrow hill we’d just climbed. But after two days on the road, about twelve hours driving, we are now settled in our new b&b for nearly a week.
We decided to come to Wellington as quickly as possible, spend some quality time here before travelling back to Auckland at a more leisurely pace. Was that the right decision? It was a tiring couple of days, but here are some highlights.
The sight of the Auckland city skyline as you go round the bend on State Highway 1 really is heart-stopping. Even though I was expecting to see it, when it finally materialised, I cheered inwardly. If I weren’t driving at the time, there would have been a hundred photos, probably.
We stopped for brunch at Te Hana. I think this is Maori for Greasy Spoon because the all-day breakfast I had wouldn’t have been out of place at Jenny’s in Chessington or any other Joe’s Caff in England. Very welcome!
There’s a small toll section on SH1, $2.30, which I remembered to pay online later in the day. That converted to £1.31, much more reasonable than the M6 toll road. But then, there are no toll booths to staff: payments can be made online or at certain other physical locations.
One big surprise was the number of coffee shops that close on a Monday. At one place, even a local couple followed us up to the door and walked away again with disappointed etched on their faces.
We camped for the first time in NZ. Well, I say ‘camped’. We were in a Top 10 Campsite at Motutere, on the shores of Lake Taupo, yes. But we stayed in a cabin and used the communal toilets and showers.
Yes, this boat is in a bit of a heap outside our cabin, but it wasn’t us that took it out onto the lake.
On one of my nocturnal wanderings, I took this photo of the Moon, merely hours after the lunar eclipse that wasn’t visible from NZ.
One of the real highlights was driving through the Tongariro National Park. The stunning sight of active volcanoes never disappoints. And, admit it, there’s always a small part of you that hopes it ‘goes off’.
Yes, of course, we would love to explore this park more fully but there’s just too much else on offer!
New Zealanders do like their big, funny sculptures. A big trout welcomed us to the Capital of Trout, Turangi. Was there a big wellington boot by the side of the road, you ask? Well, yes there was, but we didn’t go back for a photo here either.
Bulls. Lots of model bulls seemingly on all the main roads leading to Bulls.
We had coffee at Coffee on the Moove.
We didn’t visit any other shop with a punny bull-themed name. Nor, sadly, did we come across a Bulls China Shop.
Our next stop was Otaki Beach on the Kapiti Coast, opposite Kapiti Island which we hope to visit later.
Otaki Beach was a bit of a mess, there were literally tonnes of driftwood here. I was going to take a piece home and turn it into a lamp, but, well, I’m just not that skillful.
Interestingly, the sand was darker than usual, and it felt quite spongey underfoot, especially where it was still wet. The sea was wild, roiling, boiling, stirring up the sand so that even the water looked brown. Some people were in the water but at least there was a lifeguard on the beach, and advice to keep between the two flags which were only about 3 metres apart.
I heard Liesel say “Tourniquet FC” and I thought that was a funny name for a football club. Then I saw it. Lovely rural New Zealand, green fields, cows, barns, shacks. There, in the middle of all that, in the middle of nowhere: a KFC.
There are many more cows in New Zealand than sheep, according to our observations. And they are amongst the most qualified cattle in the world. They’re all outstanding in their field.
We stopped once more, this time in Paraparaumu. Here, at the information centre, we picked up flyers for some of the places we want to visit while in Wellington. We have five full days here. No, it won’t be long enough. Yes, we’ll just have to come back again! We had a coffee too and marvelled at the coincidence in languages between Maori and Latin.
It was an Italian restaurant. The translation is Italian. D’oh!
As we approached Wellington, SH1 veered to the right just as it does on its approach to Auckland. But, sorry, Wellington, the city skyline here isn’t quite as impressive. Google Maps took us on an unguided tour and we finally arrived at our b&b. Our host, Craig, made us welcome. He even left a bar a chocolate for me. Yes, me: it was on my side of the bed, so…
It was a ten minute walk down to the nearest shop and more than ten minutes to walk back up, up, up, carrying heavy bags of shopping.
More musical musings from me and a bit of a moan. I won’t be offended if you go and do something more interesting instead of reading this stuff.
We’re following the black highway through the countryside, listening to three different songs called ‘Blackbird’, all nice and gentle and folky. Then ‘Blackbirds’ which is a little more jolly and upbeat. Then, brace yourself: ‘Blackmail Man’ by Ian Dury and the Blockheads kicks in. Wow, that was a shocker: it’s a great, funny song, but it certainly spoiled the somewhat chilled mood on this occasion! That’s the danger of playing songs in alphabetical order, of course, you can’t control the segues. But then, even the shuffle mode itself could bring up such screeching juxtapositons.
On the other hand, we’ve been treated to Billy Bragg, Jack Johnson and others whom I had forgotten were even there, since shuffle chooses to ignore them.
In terms of musical style, we’ve had folk, rock, pop, jazz, even a bit of choral and orchestral. So far, we’ve been sung to in English, Icelandic, Hawaiian, Portuguese, Hebrew and Gaelic, and we’re only part way through the Fs!
There was a challenging half hour or so in the middle of the Ds when it kept telling us what not do do.
Don’t be Careless, Love
Don’t Believe a Word I say
Don’t Forget Me
Don’t go Home
Don’t Jump, don’t Fall
Don’t let me Down
Don’t let the Sun catch you Crying
Don’t let the Sun catch you Crying (yes, 2 different songs)
Don’t let the Sun go down on Me
But during this sequence, I was so delighted to hear the one and only Beatles track on my device, that I played it twice. If Liesel noticed, she didn’t complain.
Do you remember when you bought records and tapes and even CDs from different shops? Then, when you got them home, you filed them by HMV, Virgin Megastore, Harlequin or wherever you bought them? No, nor do I. This is why I don’t get why all the ‘online stores’, Amazon, iTunes, Google, want me to put the downloads (MP3s) I buy from them, in their own little ‘library’ on my PC. I then spend far too long putting them in a location of my own choosing. Sometimes they’re moved, sometimes they’re copied, sometimes they need converting. I want my music to be in one convenient place. And when I copy it to my phone, I want to know it’s all been copied. Once. Not duplicated because of the shenanigans I’ve had to go through previously.
Also, there should be some sort of standard when it comes to the volume of the music. You have to play it quite loud when you’re on the road because the hummmm of the tyres drowns out some of the music’s key frequencies. But some albums are so much quieter than others. When you’ve heard Tom Hingley belting out something, you shouldn’t then have to turn it up to 111 to hear the delicate tones of a more gentle folk singer.