Sailing into Wellington, NZ overnight, through gale force winds, pounding rain and high seas— hitting a couple of potholes as they say— was easily the roughest of this trip and definitely the roughest ever in any vessel I have been in; I thought the wind was going to suck the sliding door right off its track. That said, it was pretty cool sliding down into the trough —then bang— everything shakes. Once we ducked into Cook Stait (connects the Pacific to the Tasman Sea, separating North & South islands of NZ) and out of reach of the swell, things settled down to a calm.
The following morning I was chatting with two attendants outside our stateroom on my way to the bistro for morning coffee and mentioned to them about the seas last night…. they looked at me, puzzled, having no idea what I was talking about. I know these girls work incredibly hard, exhaustingly day and night, attending to these rooms; they are the hardest working staff onboard with perpetual smiles like dolphin— both slept through the torrent of wind, rain and mountainous seas. As they giggled, I struck a deal with them—“Next time I know we will be heading into a storm like that, we’ll switch… I’ll do your job for the day so I can sleep right through it!.”
We had a morning excursion that took us into the city to catch the tram from Lambton Quay in the main shopping district to the upper suburb of Kelburn, near the Botanical Gardens. Then onward through the hills, winding down neighborhoods all as crazy as Lombard Street in SF, continuing along the coast, back up Mt. Victoria for a bird’s eye view.
Wellington is built on a mountainside where the homes are wooden and better equipped to withstand earthquakes than brick or concrete. The joke is, “Why do the kiwis build homes on the side of cliffs? So when there’s an earthquake, those at the top can slide down quickly to the coast.”
We saw homes built on the the cliffs with no road access. The only way to get to the house is by private cable cars on rails. You see these rails riding from an adorable garage up to the house. It’s crazy! They had to bring in all the material by helicopter to build it, and getting the environmental authorization to build the cable car is involved and can cost around 200k just so you can get to your house. But the views must be worth it.
The city of Wellington would takes days to explore. There are restaurants that stand shoulder to shoulder, interrupted only by bars and shops to explore— everything you could want. It’s super clean and well laid out for mass transit and pedestrian walks. All the homes built along the cliffs have access stairways and paths that lead down to the central shopping and business district. There’s a reason everyone looks so fit here.
On our way we stopped at the Wellington Botanical Garden. You could easily spend a day here- quite magnificent…
Down in the shopping district, gardens upon gardens are planted. During late summer, the annuals are replaced with vegetables, which are then harvested and given to the various food shelters and soup kitchens— no one… absolutely no one steals them because they know where it is going. But that’s the way people are here. Even the capital grounds of parliament do not have any visible security personnel or checkpoints and you can walk the grounds to admire the gardens. In fact, they recently installed a children’s park on the grounds.
Wellington is a beautiful place to explore but plan on spending some time in this city and surrounding area.
Onward to Pictor— the most Eastern town on the South Island