While waiting for the ferry, messages scrolled on the information board about safety for the crossing, location of washrooms, etc. But it was the one about the weather that was my favourite. It said:
Wellington Weather – Mainly fine with clouds moving in.
I couldn’t help but giggle. Mainly fine? What does that even mean? I’m not sure if this was how they described the weather on the South Island but I had never seen it before. And I discovered later that there was one I liked even more than that: Becoming Fine. Well, aren’t we all…
But, it does describe Wellington weather pretty well. It’s either fine for walking around or it’s not. If it’s not, the rain and wind are hammering you in every direction. In my short stay there, I experienced a little of every type of weather. But overall, it was mainly fine. The city, however, I would describe as mainly endearing. More than mainly in fact, it’s entirely endearing.
It wasn’t certain that I was even going to make it onto the ferry. Not because I was late, but almost because I was too early. The very early morning drive went smoothly and I arrived in plenty of time for final check-in. While I waited in line to board, I thought I’d leave the radio on. After about 20 minutes, the cars ahead were being signaled onto the boat. When I went to start the engine, all I heard was clicking sounds. The battery was dead. Apparently my battery couldn’t handle that short time of radio play.
Thankfully, this was nothing new to the ferry crew. They drove a truck over and had me boosted in no time. I just hoped that short drive up the ramp was enough to charge the battery to start up on the other end. (Fast forward: it was.)
As we pulled away from the dock, it was a bittersweet moment. I found that I wasn’t quite as ready as I thought I was to head North. That meant I was leaving behind those beautiful snow-capped mountains. That meant I had no chance to go back and see things that I may have missed on the South Island. But, most of all, that meant there was only a week left on this trip. How did that happen already?! But, I was going to make the most of it. Turns out, Wellington was a great place to start!
For my birthday (yes, I turned a year older the other day), I was treated to a little wine tour in Martinborough by my friend’s aunt and uncle, that were also kind enough to take me in for a few days. The weather wasn’t exactly fine, but as we drove over the hills to Martinborough, it cleared up and we actually got to enjoy our lunch in the warmth of the sun. I have no pictures from that day because sometimes you just have to leave the camera alone and enjoy the experience yourself. Plus, I’m not sure how the photos would turn out after a few wine ‘tastings’…
The next day was clear and sunny. It was, according to the weather report, Fine. A great day for a walk in the hills. One route takes you right up to the wind turbine at the top of the hill. I thought there’d be great 360 views from there. It wasn’t exactly a full 360 and a large fence blocked off most of the northern view. But, further down, there was a ‘bunker lookout’. It provided a fantastic panoramic view of the city – and was also clearly a fun hangout spot for local teenagers.
On Sunday, we had planned to check out the market down by the waterfront. I was looking forward to some colourful local activity and, of course, more great food trucks! As we walked towards it along the quay, the rain started lightly at first but was quickly a full downpour. We sought refuge under a small cover on one of the food trucks and ate our food quickly. (Oh, my butter chicken roti was delicious, by the way!)
Since we were just behind Te Papa (the Museum of New Zealand), we decided to pop in for a break from the rain. I’m not usually one for museums, but I figured I’d take the opportunity to have a look around. What else was I going to do when the city was being drenched?!
It’s actually quite a nice museum. It reminded me slightly of the Museum of Civilizations in Ottawa. The photography section was interesting and there was a really cool exhibit on small houses. But, my favourite spot was a stage set up for the Maori dance and theatre festival happening during the month of June. The wooden art was so colourful and intricate; I could stand there for quite a while just taking in all the details.
As I wandered the rest of the museum, I stumbled into a rest area overlooking the market we just fled from. It was wonderfully bright considering the day was so grey. A few people were still out there braving the rain and went about buying their weekly produce.
After a bit of time exploring the museum, I was pleased to see the rain had let up and so I took the opportunity to return to the waterfront. It wasn’t the first time I had been down to the quay and getting a chance to see it in sunny and cloudy weather made for some fun contrasting photos.
During another break in the rain, I decided to check out the neighbourhoods around where I was staying. Wellington is wonderfully set up for people to walk quickly from the upper neighbourhoods to the center of town. They have all these staircases and paths that cut through the houses and avoid doing the big switchbacks the roads have to do on the steep hills. Those are really wonderful on the downs. However, going up all those flights of stairs is another story! Wellingtonians are definitely in good shape if they do that every day. Although, I discovered later that the trick is to walk down and then take the bus back up the hill! Well, that would have been nice. For one day, however, I was happy to take the walk since it allowed views of the colourful houses and eclectic details of the neighbourhood you don’t get when you drive.
Unfortunately, all the rain meant that I never really got a good stroll through the center of the city. But, on the day I was set to leave Wellington, the sun was shining brightly. So, I decided to delay my drive and head down to check it out. Cuba Street was apparently one I needed to check out, so I headed straight for it. As usual, it didn’t take me long to just start chasing whatever looked interesting in the distance. Not wanting to hit the road too late in the day, I thought 2 hours would be more than enough to have a look around. But, I got swept up in people-watching and the architecture and the street art that I was suddenly rushing to get back up the hill to retrieve my car to head out. It was worth it though! I loved my stroll around Wellington that morning.
As with a lot of the cities I’ve seen on this trip, Wellington has superb street art. I think that’s something I’ll miss when I go back home. Yes, Toronto has its own street art. But, I feel like it’s celebrated more here and allowed to be shown prominently in every corner of the city, not just the back alleys or fringe neighbourhoods. It’s so colourful and speaks to the local spirit and culture. I hope that when I return to Toronto, I’ll see that I’ve remembered the street art wrong or I’ll see it differently. I hope to find the colour and creativity there as I’ve seen down here.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d want to spend that much time in New Zealand’s capital. But, it completely won me over. IT could even be said that I would add it to the list of places I could see myself living.
You are fine, Wellington. Very fine, indeed.