Wellington: Wind, Great Museums, an Encounter with Gollum, and Still No Kiwi Birds

December 10, 2017

Me: “Is it always so windy here in Wellington? We heard that the city is known for its constant strong winds.”
Uber driver (on the way from the Wellington airport to our accommodation): “Nah, don’t believe everything you hear. We also hear that in Switzerland there’s always snow.”
Me: “Good point…”

And so began the 3 windiest days of my life…

In my (short) experience of the city, Wellington is not just plain windy. The wind changes intensity and direction all the time. If you’re having something to eat outside, you’d better hold on to it, or else it might get blown away any second. There’s no telling from which direction the next gust of wind will come. Your hair is constantly a mess and a pain to untangle – but that’s only important if you care about that kind of thing, of course. On the other hand, clothes you hang out to dry (tightly secured to something fixed), are dry in no time at all. And it’s fun to watch the clouds go by, quickly and in all imaginable shapes.

But of course, there’s more to Wellington than the wind. The harbor is nice for having a walk, doing some people watching, and sitting at any one of the countless terraces to try one of the local beers or wines.

The Mount Victoria lookout is a great place for having a view over the whole city – and, if you go up on foot, it’s also great for burning off some calories and walking through a bit of green space.

The Te Papa museum is a treasure of interesting and well explained displays. We went there twice during the few days we spent in Wellington, and we still didn’t get to see it all. Many of the displays are interactive and made with incredible attention to detail.

While we were there, there was a temporary exhibition dedicated to the soldiers from New Zealand who fought in the 1st World War. The exhibition followed the stories of a few of these soldiers, and a doctor and a nurse, telling the story of the battles from their point of view. As illustration, there were huge and incredibly life-like models of these characters, which had been made by the same studio that made some of the props and special effects for the “Lord of the Rings” movies – more on that below.

As Wellington was the last stop on our New Zealand trip and we still hadn’t seen any of the famous kiwi birds, we decided to visit a bird park in Wellington which has some kiwis. What we hadn’t realized was that kiwis are night-active, and during the day they sleep hidden in holes they make in the ground. So our visit to the Zealandia bird park didn’t bring anything in terms of finally seeing some real live kiwis, but it was nonetheless a beautiful walk in lush forests and we did get to see some other native birds.

On our final morning in Wellington and New Zealand, just before catching an afternoon flight out of the country, we went to the Weta Cave workshop, which made a lot of the props and special effects for the “Lord of the Rings”. We had a guided tour through the workshop and got some very interesting explanations about how props are made, what the design process looks like, how monsters and other creatures are brought to life – and how they’re sometimes thrown in the trash if the movie in which they were supposed to star doesn’t see the light of day after all.

Bye-bye New Zealand

The few days we spent in Wellington concluded our New Zealand trip. We had 3 very full and exciting weeks here. But let me tell you, if you’re planning to visit both islands of New Zealand, 3 weeks are nowhere near enough time. We spent most of our time on the road and, while there are also beautiful places to see just from the road, pretty much everywhere we were we had the feeling of not having enough time and of having to rush to the next place. Even with all the rush and with trying to fit in as much as possible, there were quite a few places that we would have loved to see, but to which we didn’t make it. And it’s really a shame to travel through such a beautiful country and not have enough time to take in its beauty and just enjoy the amazing landscapes, without the pressure of having to move on to your next destination. We decided to go back to New Zealand, but of course, it’s very far away from our home and has a time difference of 12 hours to Central Europe, so we’ll have to see when in the future we make it back.

Next stop

From Wellington we’re flying back to Europe to spend Christmas with our families. So we’re taking a break of a few days from traveling and just enjoying some downtime and some winter days and traditions in Switzerland and Romania. After Christmas, we’ll fly to Bangkok, where we’ll spend New Year’s Eve, and continue our travels for the next 3 months in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. At least that’s the rough plan. But plans can (and do!) always change, so we’ll see as we go where our travels take us.

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