Every journey comes to an end eventually. After returning our campervan in Queenstown and an incredible flight along the Southern Alps we arrived in Wellington. We already passed by Wellington earlier on the trip but because our return flight is from Wellington and we did not want to leave the campervan unused for three days, we decided to only visit the New Zealand’s capital when returning from the South Island.
As compared to Auckland with its population of 1.3 million, Wellington is considerably smaller, and most important, the city is not as widespread as Auckland. The city center and the harbor can therefore easily be visited on foot and the airport is also only a short ride from the city center.
Wellington has a reputation of being a windy city due to its geographical location. We were told so by several people and also by travel guides. But we have been lucky with the weather the whole time we spent in New Zealand, and it was no different when we arrived in Wellington. There was basically almost no wind, making it very nice to go for a walk at the harbor front in the evening sun. However that day was the only wind-free day in Wellington. The next three days there was a strong northerly wind blowing through the city streets and over its hills. Luckily the temperatures were above 20° C and therefore the wind was not bothering us too much when sightseeing, but the evenings got quite fresh.
Bars and Restaurants
Wellington has a very diverse bar and restaurant scene, which made it quite difficult for us to find the perfect restaurant for dinner every evening. The main reason for that is because we often check the reviews on TripAdvisor first before going to a restaurant. But except for the first evening, we were happy with our choice. One evening we also had dinner on the Friday night market.
Te Papa Museum
I am really not too much into museums, but the Te Papa Museum for me was the highlight of my visit to Wellington. First, the entrance to the museum is free, and second, the exhibitions are very interactive and interesting. There was an exhibition about the natural history of New Zealand showing all its animals – the native ones, the introduced ones, and the extinct ones. The most fascinating animal displayed was a colossal squid that was 4.5 long and had accidentally been caught in Antarctica. Very little is known about those creatures as they normally live in depths that are not reachable by us humans.
Another interesting exhibit was about the volcanism that affects New Zealand’s life every day. It explained the different layers from the earth’s core to its crust, how the magnetic field is created, about earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and so on. Ironically, during our stay in Wellington we also witnessed an earthquake while being in our bedroom. When talking to New Zealanders about earthquakes, you realize quickly that they are all used to it and as long as nothing serious happens, people are not worried.
Then there was another section explaining New Zealand’s participation in the First World War from the perspective of six characters, some of them were officers, gunmen, or nurses. It was a very detailed and interesting exhibition, and at the same time also sad to see how many unnecessary lives were sacrificed in that war.
The Hills of Wellington
While the city center is located at the harbor and is flat, the suburbs of Wellington are very hilly. One day we hiked up Mt. Victoria to get a 360 degree overview over downtown, the harbor, the airport, and the Cook Strait. And another day we took the cable car up to the botanical garden to get a different view of the city and visited Zealandia, an ecosanctuary for mainly birds. We were hoping to also spot some of the native Kiwi birds, but we were told they are nocturnal and hence can only be seen on a night tour.
Middle of Middle Earth
We followed already a few traces of The Lord of the Rings here in New Zealand. In Wellington, there were the headquarters for those movies and there are plenty of tours showing the studios. We went on a Workshop tour at WETA where we could look behind the scenes of how masks, models, weapons, and other movie-related items are designed and manufactured. They also let us into some secrets, e.g. that for Frodo’s sword, there existed an original out of steel, but also some made of plastic. The trick is that you show the viewer first the real metal sword, and whenever the sword appears again, our brain does not perceive the sword anymore in such detail and hence we won’t recognize that the subsequent times the sword appeared it was actually a plastic sword.
Christmas Break for our Travels
After Wellington we started our long way back home to Switzerland. As we still had a backpack to pick up in Singapore because of the long story about Ilinca’s lost luggage, our route went from Wellington to Canberra, Singapore, Bangkok, and then to Zurich, with a night that we spend in Bangkok to hopefully deal better with the jetlag.
Back home we will celebrate Christmas with our families and meet friends that we haven’t seen for quite a while now, and our travels will continue on December 29 when we fly back to Bangkok.