On Saturday we had the whole day to explore Wellington itself. Unfortunately, one day is not enough time to see everything Wellington has to offer, but we tried!
First, we headed to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Unfortunately, we were a little overloaded on New Zealand information, so we weren't able to give the attention to the museum that we had hoped. So we headed into the city itself.
Walking along, we found a really cool tea store. I loved the displays and took some pictures. If I ever come across a random assortment of china I know just how to showcase it now :)
Then we took the cable car to the top of the Botanical Gardens. The ride was pretty neat and we had some great views of the city to the harbour. And then of course we had the pleasure of walking back down to the city centre through the gardens. I've discovered, sadly, that April in New Zealand is not when their gardens are in their prime blooming season. You know, with it being Fall and all, most of the flowers are past their prime.
An entire valley of hydrangeas which was a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!!
After we reached the city centre again, Dave willingly undertook a twenty five minute trek across the city to find Martha's Pantry. I had read about this tea room in our guide book and my experience there far exceeded my hopes and dreams. I wish I had something similar to this much closer to home. (Janice, do you know of anything???)
The tea and scone with jam and cream were amazing but I especially loved my fancy hat! (And please ignore the horrible cold sore on my upper lip. It's healing nicely but pretty prominent in these pictures. Unless I can somehow convince you that it's a spot of jam which might not be any better!)
After our experience at Martha's Pantry, we walked back to our hosts' apartment, heading down Cuba Street and perusing the menus at various restaurants, trying to find a place to eat supper that night. After about half an hour of walking and perusing menus, we ended up going somewhere completely different with Donny and Marika. So much for all our hard work. Ha!
That night we headed to our hosts' second home, on the coast about an hour north of Wellington. Before that though, we had some excitement when our car wouldn't start. Donny and Marika stayed with Lorna, their friend's mom, waiting for the local car assistance to show up, while Jim, Dave, and I drove to the other house and got settled in.
On Friday morning we woke up to this view of the Wellington Harbour. It was quite amazing. Donny and Marika are friends with a guy from their church whose parents live in New Zealand and so we had arranged to stay with them in Wellington. We had assumed that we would have two days to explore the various sights around the city but Jim, our host, had other plans and took us out on an all-day tour of the southern part of the North Island. First, we went to Rivendell.
Well, okay, that above part was just a cool forest, but then we did stumble upon Rivendell.
This is actually where the scene from The Lord Of The Rings Movie was filmed, but thanks to computer animation, it looks a little different :) Check out the movie version here.
After a stop for lunch we headed out to see a seal colony on Cape Palliser. However, the road had other plans for us.
That part where the water is flowing is supposed to be the road. Below you can see how we would have risked being swept into the ocean if we'd chosen to cross over. Needless to say, seeing seals was not that important to us.
So we contented ourselves with taking some interesting pictures of the coast.
And then a penguin crossed the road! (Okay, I just wish a penguin had crossed the road.)
After that we headed back to Wellington and rested for a bit before heading to a great Italian restaurant for dinner. And then we geared up for the next day -- exploring Wellington itself.
April 6, 2014 -- We made the first leg of our journey on our road trip through New Zealand. This view of mountains and sheep soon became a familiar, although no less exciting, one!
April 7, 2014 -- We stayed on a lavender farm overnight. I drank lavender tea and ate lavender honey for breakfast, and I showered with lavender soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Then I took some pictures of lavender. I think I got the full experience :)
April 8, 2014 -- Discovering the unique teas of another country is always a fun experience for me!
April 9, 2014 -- We saw these amazing purple berries (?), flowers (?), things, on our 12.6 km tramp through Abel Tasman National Park this day.
April 10, 2014 -- Our crossing from the South to the North Island on the Interislander Ferry was the main event of the day.
April 11, 2014 -- I haven't seen this sign before!
April 12, 2014 -- I had the best time drinking tea at Martha's Pantry this day. More to come on this amazing tea experience :)
While Natasha was off walking around peninsulas and meeting seals, I went on a three-hour Maori cultural tour. The entire tour group consisted of me, Donny, a middle-aged woman from Denver, and our friendly tour guide, Morris.
Our first stop on the tour was a pa, or fortified Maori settlement. This pa had been abandoned for quite some time, so all that remained were grassy mounds and depressions that showed where palisades and homes had been.
However, the pa has an interesting history to it. The land had been part of a contentious land deal between settlers and Maori in the mid-19th century, with the settlers eventually taking control of it. More recently, in the 1970's, the government gave the land back to the Maori, to honour the original agreement. However, the Maori chief (who happened to be Morris's grandfather), decided to give a small part of the pa back to the town as a gesture of goodwill, and created a small park.
While we were at the pa, we also learned a traditional Maori greeting, including introducing yourself according to your mountain, river, and canoe, and the Inuit-like gesture of touching noses (hongi).
After the pa, we headed to the seashore, where we saw carvings of Maori deities, and heard some of myths. One surprising tidbit was that the god Maui plays a key role in these myths, and this god is a part of Pacific cultures from Hawaii to Tahiti through to New Zealand.
Our next stop was teatime, hosted by Morris and his wife in their home. This gave us a chance to introduce ourselves in Maori fashion, while enjoying tea made from forest leaves. After finishing our tea, we wove a flower out of flax leaves we had cut earlier; mine ended up looking a little strange, since weaving with only one hand proved a bit challenging, but it was still a fun activity to try.
We also spent some time learning a song in Maori. At first I assumed it was some traditional song that had been passed down over hundreds of years; it turned out that the song was written by Morris's sister, specifically for this tour. So, although it was neat to have a chance to sing something in Maori, the fact that the song was written so tourists would have something to sing lessened the authenticity of the experience.
The final part of the tour took us to a forest a little ways out of town. Morris led us on a brief hike, giving us a chance to sample edible plants (some of which were tastier than others, shall we say), describing the ways that the Maori used plants for everything from deoderant and salad greens to ropes and canoes, and pointing out notable trees. A couple of the trees were many hundreds of years old, and were very impressive indeed. Unfortunately, it had started raining by this part of the tour, and I had to choose between taking pictures and staying dry... so there are no pictures, sorry :(
All in all, I really liked this tour and it gave me a chance to experience Maori culture and history in a direct, personal way.
My first activity in New Zealand was supposed to be a bone carving session with a Maori sculptor in Christchurch, but when I hurt my hand I figured that wasn't going to work out so well. I emailed John, the sculptor, to let him know, and his response was "That's okay; come by anyway and I can show you around." This seemed like a good back-up plan to me, so I showed up at his studio planning to have a look around, maybe buy a small item, and then be on my way.
Well, upon meeting John I discovered that he only has one arm (he lost his right arm in a childhood accident), and suddenly my excuse of "I can't carve because I hurt my thumb" seemed pretty feeble. So, newly inspired, I signed myself back up for a three-hour carving session, and Marika decided to join in.
We spent the rest of the morning filing...
...sanding, and sanding some more, and gradually turned rough-cut chunks of bone...
...into some lovely necklaces, if I do say so myself. Apparently it's a Maori tradition to give the first thing you make to someone else, so I was very happy to be able to give the necklace to Natasha, and I think she was pretty happy to receive it :)