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Windy Welly

22-24 April 2010

My final night in Kaikoura is a ‘sweet’ as one the owners of the backpackers makes a hot chocolate pudding for us to share as ‘it’s a cold night’ and we eat it with ice cream in front of the fire. All the people staying there are English, which is unusual as I haven’t encountered many and it seems to be more mainland Europeans travelling at the moment. I have been joined in the room by another girl but she is fast asleep by the time I get to bed (10pm) and I hope that it stayed this way as I had a sleep taking night and woke myself up by shouting ‘short bread’. Fortunately, my roomie had left by the time I got up and this saved any awkward moments or recipe sharing.If you are in the mood for some armchair psychoanalysis, then answers on a Freudian slip, please.

The weather is glorious and the coach trip to Picton (2.5 hrs) is on the coastal road for the main part but then it dips into Marlborough country (not the fags) and I notice that the hills are very dry. This region and in particular, Blenheim, boasts in the region of 2,500 hours of sun per year. It is also home to over 100 wineries and the Wairau Plains (it has a continental climate and free-draining soil) make it perfect for wine. Although it’s pretty, the scenery is nothing compared to the wineries and landscape of SA.

The coach arrives in good time for the 2pm ferry and I recognise some people from my whale watching trip. I get spoken to by an English business man who’s on business from NY but I soon head to the cafe as I am beginning to feel a bit queasy (possible something to do with the conversation!) I keep popping out to have a look at the Queen Charlotte Sound to take some photos, avoiding any sudden movements.

I manage to hitch a lift from the quayside to my backpackers with a tour company and they provide a useful commentary of Wellington:apparently it’s on the Alpine fault line (the Pacific moving in one direction and the Australian in the other) which runs through the centre of the city and if a major earthquake occurs, it’s curtains for Welly. (NZ has an astonishing 15,000 earthquakes per year but most of them are not noticed, which is just as well).

I walk the rest of my way to the backpackers and check into a single room as I am feeling antisocial. The room is just big enough to swing a gerbil but I sleep well and then transfer the next morning to a 4 bed dorm with one other girl in it and she is from Chile. She has been in Wellington for two weeks and judging by the tone of her voice, she has overstayed her welcome as she tells me ‘it’s very boring’.

I go off in search of the Te Papa Tongarewa museum and the infamous giant squid that my fellow travellers told me about when I was in Kaikoura. The museum is NZ’s innovative and interactive national museum and it has an exquisitely carved marae, art collection and you can be shaken in the Earthquake House.

The giant squid doesn’t disappoint. On February 22, 2007, it was announced by authorities in New Zealand that the largest known Colossal Squid had been captured. The specimen weighed 495 kg (1,091 lb) and was initially estimated to measure 10 m (33 ft) in total length. Fishermen on the vessel San Aspiring, caught the animal in the freezing Antarctic waters of the Ross Sea. It was brought to the surface as it fed on an Antarctic toothfish that had been caught off a long line. It would not let go of its prey and could not be removed from the line by the fishermen, so they decided to catch it instead. They managed to envelop it in a net, hauled it aboard and froze it and after being prodded and probed by scientists, it’s now in the museum.

The museum is much bigger that I expected and after all this talk of squid and the onset of museum fatigue, I head off in search of lunch and the cable car. Unfortunately, the route to the cable car takes me through the shopping district and I get a bit distracted and decide to go up the cable car the next day instead. I end the day by going to see ‘Boy’ which is a new local film and I can highly recommend it.

The next day, I manage to escape the tentacles of the shops and take the cable car up to the botanical gardens but walking around, I am struck about how quiet it is and the lack of a great number of people for a capital city. The cable car has linked the harbour and the hills for over 100 years but it takes less than 10 minutes to get to the top. I take some photos of the view and then walk back into town via the botanical gardens and find some proteas growing in a local park.After a visit to the market and some retail therapy, I visit the other museum in Wellington which is housed in a category 1 historic building in the wharf, built in 1892.

It’s an interesting account of city and sea and there is rather a lot made of the 1905 ‘Originals’ All Black tour and in particular, their game against Wales. Now, you rugby fans out there will know that on this tour they played 32 matches, scored 830 points and only conceded 39. Their only loss was to Wales, played at Cardiff Arms Park on 16 December 1905 and although still considered to be one of the sport’s great matches, the circumstances of the Welsh win are still debated because the referee denied a try to All Blacks wing Bob Deans. When I got my lift from the quayside the day I arrived, the tour rep pointed out a Welsh pub (it claims to be the only Welsh pub in the Southern Hemisphere with genuine Welsh hosts) which is situated in a building that was originally a public latrine. I guess that the Kiwis are still pissed off about the win after all....

Tomorrow I am off to Auckland (and my final week in NZ) on ‘The Overlander’ train which takes 12 hours and I am promised: ‘fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu, the world famous Raurimu Spiral, and stunning river gorges - all from our panoramic windows or open air viewing decks allowing you the best possible views’.

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