It’s true you can’t live here by chance,
you have to do and be, not simply watch
or even describe. This is the city of action,
the world headquarters of the verb—
Friday, September 11, 2015 (continued)
Crazy capital city streets
It was not long from the time they made the announcement that passengers could go back to their vehicles, to when the ship was docked, and we were turning out of the ship and into busy Wellington traffic. We had decided to try to head immediately toward the Wellington funicular, even though it was much later in the day than we had originally planned on. We had many tense and frustrating moments trying the follow the GPS’s instructions through the winding and climbing roads of Wellington. In other words, we had many “Rusty!” moments. But we needed to find decent parking. After being in mostly country and smaller cities, Wellington seemed absolutely huge and crazy busy in comparison, even if in reality it was a medium-sized city. Really, the landscape was no different than everywhere else, which of course is challenging, but just add lots of people, buildings, streets, traffic lights, and a multi-lane highway.
We definitely took the part of crazy tourist drivers lost in the city with a big campervan. At one point, we did make it to the top of the funicular, but did not turn soon enough into the $3 parking, so we had to go back down and around the city center at least two more times before settling on a parking lot at the Te Papa Museum on the waterfront. Te Papa is New Zealand’s premiere cultural museum for the entire country.
After accidentally paying twice for parking validation, since we didn’t pay for a long enough expiration time, we started making our way on foot—finally—to the bottom of the cable car ride. We trekked as fast as we could on foot through the busy streets, getting a taste of the city’s architecture and waterfront. It was about a 15-20 minute walk to Lambton Quay.
Wellington Cable Car
From street-level on Lambton Quay, we went down an alleyway marked with a miniature red cable car. The ride up is quick. The cable car goes up about four street levels, which are steep streets, and travels through tunnels lit up with different colored, animated LED lights. It’s sort of like the scene in the tunnel in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (except without the scary images).
We spent some time looking over the city from the view at the top and wandering a small fraction of the Wellington Botanic Gardens. If we had arrived early afternoon as we were originally supposed to, it would have been a really nice to see more of it; it was very extensive. We mainly saw the Australian garden section. But we wanted to get back down to our campervan before the parking expired and it got too dark, since we still needed to drive a ways to our holiday park in the city of Lower Hutt, on the opposite site of the bay.
On our way back, we found the waterfront access-way, which was much quicker and easier to walk than through downtown, as we had done in our rush to get to the cable car. (Another thing we didn’t notice till later.) It led all the way along the harbor back to Te Papa. We got some nice city night lights photos and a bit more of the Wellington city flavor.
We got to Lower Hutt and our campsite around 7 PM, one of our latest arrival times of the whole trip, and made a dinner of scrambled eggs, ham, cheese, toast, and beans (for a second time) in the kitchen common room. The campground was a bit more deluxe than some of the other ones, but not necessarily nicer than the Wanaka and Jacksons stops. We chatted with a native New Zealand woman who had asked us about the United States. She and her family were going to New York City and Washington, D.C. We told her as much as we could, but as we hadn’t even been to those places ourselves (at least yet), we couldn’t really say much. It seemed to be a theme that New Zealanders were more interested in the big U.S. cities when we talked to them, but the biggest city in the U.S. we’ve all been to is Chicago. It sort of makes sense when you consider that, although most Kiwis live in the metropolitan Auckland area, New Zealand is still very remote and cut-off from the metropolises of the world. We also talked with her about differences between the U.S. and New Zealand. Those kinds of conversations are always fun, and proved once again how friendly Kiwis could be!
Before retiring for the night, we took turns showering and journaling back in the campervan. We were glad to be on dry land again, even though the ferry ride did go by fairly fast and the city sort of put us in a frenzy. But we had come mostly for natural landscapes, so while it might have been nice to hang around in Wellington a bit longer, we were also glad that we would be heading back out into the more wild parts again the next day.