After three nights in Rotorua, we took another Naked Bus for a four-hour trip from the center of the north island to the southern coast. The road took us through sheep country, villages, and the suburban hillsides surrounding Wellington. Most of Wellington’s suburbs look down on the city which is nestled into a cove with a scenic harbor.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, one of the most charming capital cities we’d ever visited. Not overgrown and crowded like London, Washington, Moscow or Tokyo. More quant and a subdued like Ottawa. Lonely Planet considers it ‘one of the coolest capitals in the world.’ It’s an easy city to explore with quaint streets, concert halls, museums, galleries, government buildings, markets and shops all within a few minutes walk of the harbor.
The busy retail and arts scene are along Cuba Street which was a five-minute walk from our center-city hotel. We strolled down Cuba street several times, enjoyed lunch and dinner, and were charmed with the funkiness.
One attraction on Cuba Street was an artsy tower of ceramic, colored buckets. Water ran into the top buckets until they filled, then poured the overflow into the next lower bucket with a noisy clank then that bucket dumped water into the next lowest bucket. And so on until the pool below was filled and water was pumped to the top. It was fun to watch for a while, until a bucket splashed you if you stood too close. After passing it several times, we sidestepped it to prevent from getting drenched. It was noisy and damp.
One afternoon we heard a jazz band playing on Cuba street. Ahead of us a rag-tag jazz group of musicians dressed in loud, mismatched clothing were playing New Orleans jazz and parading down Cuba street, followed by passersby, children, and curious tourists like us. We followed, enthralled by the spirit of the group. We finally saw what the street performance was all about, stragglers were handing out flyers announcing a CD release party at a local saloon by the jazz group. It was a low-cost PR promotion, entertaining and fun. We liked the spirit of Cuba Street.
We were restricted by stormy weather most our time in Wellington. Heavy rains and brisk winds kept us huddled in coffee shops and restaurants and spending afternoons at the Te Papa museum. I left my camera in our room most of the time, disappointed at dreary days and frequent rains. I managed to get a few photos when there was a lull in the rain, concentrating on the attractive architecture of the city.
Walking around the harbor we saw interesting modern designs. One of the most intriguing street sculpture was a metallic globe seemingly suspended in the air, but held aloft by thin wires attached to nearby buildings. We walked beneath it, admiring its trompe l’oeil features that made it look like a suspended planet.
Te Papa Museum
We spent an afternoon in the impressive Te Papa museum dedicated to all things New Zealand — history, culture, geology, and art. The building was impressive on its own, five stories high, with a very modern design, large windows facing downtown and Wellington Harbor. The cafe was also good — we had a couple delicious lunches waiting for the rain to break so we could get out and explore more of the city.
We saw an exhibit of a giant squid captured in 2007 by a trawler fishing for Antarctic toothfish in frigid Antarctic waters. The trawler was being filmed for a documentary and video caught the crew hauling the 500 kilogram squid aboard, an Antarctic tooth fish still in it’s pincher beak. Fortunately the squid was put on ice and preserved for scientific study. It was later turned over to Te Papa where it’s on display in a large glass enclosure.
Wellington cable car
We took a funicular ride to a mountain looking over the city and harbor. One stop was at the university, the last stop at a museum and park with views of a homes perched on hillsides.
Next: Cook Strait between New Zealand’s north and south islands
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