Day 8 Travel Notes
This morning was still blustery and wet when we left for Wellington. We had to backtrack the same 9 km of gravel and 31 km of winding, narrow road to get back to the main highway at Featherstone. Then the fun of going up and over "Rimutaku Hill", a series of tight switchbacks and steep grades. Jan did great but it was a little stressful for her. Apparently this is a main artery into Wellington and the traffic at that time of morning was quite heavy. We found our way to downtown Wellington and the vicinity of our hotel (The Duxton).
It was within sight of Te Papa, New Zealand's National Museum and we decided to go there first. We enjoyed it so much we stayed until the middle of the afternoon, skipping lunch and looking at all the exhibits of history, culture, geology and biology, There was also a traveling exhibit, Dinosaurs From China, which had some of the largest fossil skeletons I've ever seen.
It's hard to describe Te Papa, particularly after only one visit. First, the building and physical facilities are wonderful. The use of space and arrangement of exhibits made it easy to get around without feeling you were missing something. Though many of the exhibits are aimed at school children they are still interesting on an adult level. One I first thought of as rather over-dramatic turned out to be a revelation to me. They had a model of a small cabin set up to simulate the effects of an earthquake. From the outside it seemed like an amusement park ride but inside it was quite realistic and the accompanying video was very effective.
I could go on for many pages describing everything we saw there but it would not do it justice. The best I can say is, if you get to Wellington you must go to Te Papa. When our feet started to wear out we headed out to our hotel to check in and get settled. Later we wandered around some of the shopping areas nearby, found an internet cafe to send/read email and then stopped in the hotel bar for a drink. The weather was very windy and rainy and some of the high-speed ferries were canceled. Tomorrow we are supposed to cross over to the south island.
For dinner tonight we went to a place called The Green Parrot which was just around the corner from the hotel. We were told that it is the oldest restaurant in Wellington. It was, what they call "Good Kiwi Tucker" - not fancy but obviously popular with the locals and tourists alike. Then we made an early night of it because we needed to get up early to get to the ferry terminal.
Day 9 Travel Notes
We got up to continuing rain and high winds in Wellington and on the Cook Strait. I am convinced that Wellington is the Chicago of New Zealand. The hotel desk said that the ferries were running late but couldn't give any details so we checked out and headed for the terminal. When we got there they told us it would be another hour before the boat got in from the south island. We went into the terminal and waited along with a large number of others. The PA system kept announcing further delays and finally that the crossing back would be canceled due to weather. We immediately got in line to reschedule but, since we were taking our rental car across, the best we could get was for 8:30am the next morning.
We were scheduled to be in Blenheim that evening so we needed to make changes and find a place in Wellington to stay for the night. We headed back to The Duxton and they were able to get us into a suite immediately. Our travel agency in NZ was able to cancel the reservation at Blenheim (though we still don't know what the cancellation penalty will be) and we decided we could get back on schedule by going directly to Hamner Springs once we crossed the strait.
Once we got the immediate problems dealt with we went out to explore more of Wellington. The hotel provided umbrellas (Brollies) and we hiked out to a nearby shopping area to play tourist and buy souvenirs.
Later we were still concerned that the weather looked as bad as ever and worried we might be delayed by another day. We spent the evening in our room alternating between watching weather forecasts and Back To The Future III.