Wellington Botanic Gardens

The Wellington Botanic Garden was established in 1868, and we made our way through the gardens from the Cable Car outlook at the top of the hill.

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We made our way past the Carter Observatory (which was closed), past the sundial and started our climb back to sea level, when we heard an unfamiliar noise that sounded a bit like a sick seagull … which turned out to be Kaka!  We hadn’t seen or heard Kaka before, so this was quite something!

Kaka

Kaka

Continuing on our walk, we heard and saw various birds, including a few fantails or piwakawaka.  I tried to get a photo of one of these but they’re such difficult birds to photograph, as they never seem to sit still for very long. They’re always flitting about from branch to branch, up and down, and back again.  The only clear shot I managed to get was unfortunately of the back end of the fantail.

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We stopped at the cafe in the Lady Norwood Rose Garden for a much needed coffee before meandering along various tracks through the garden.  Opened in 1953, the Lady Norwood Rose Garden is named after Lady Norwood who was the wife of Sir Charles Norwood (former mayor of Wellington).  The rose garden contains more than 300 varieties of roses, but unfortunately, our timing was very good and the roses weren’t in bloom. Apparently they’re a spectacular sight from November to May.

Lady Norwood Rose Garden

Next to the rose garden is the Peace Garden with the Peace Flame.  The flame in the Peace Lantern is from the fires of the Hiroshima bombing, given to New Zealand by Japan in recognition of New Zealand’s work against nuclear weapons. This next bit of information is from Friends of the Wellington Botanic Garden:

“This lantern has had pride of place in the Wellington Botanic Gardens since 1975, when it was gifted to Wellington by the Japan Society of New Zealand. In 1994, it was adapted to house the Peace Flame. The Peace Flame was brought to Wellington in recognition of the capital’s commitment to a nuclear-free world.

In 1982, councillor Helene Ritchie drove a “nuclear-weapon-free zone” motion for the city council, narrowly winning with 10 to nine votes. Wellington led the way for the nation and, in 1984, New Zealand was declared nuclear-free under Prime Minister David Lange.

The flame, presented by Hiroshima City, was lit from the fires the atomic bomb created there. Fires from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were preserved after the atomic bombs were deployed in 1945, and were united at a shrine in Tokyo in an act of remembrance.

The Wellington Botanic Gardens relocated the lantern to the Peace Garden next to the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, and it has now been home to the enduring flame for almost 20 years. The accompanying plaque “calls attention to the indiscriminate and uncontainable nature of nuclear weapons which kill beyond borders and generations”.

An excerpt from celebrated poet Hone Tuwhare’s No Ordinary Sun also marks the site of the lantern and Peace Flame. The poem acknowledges the devastation caused by the nuclear bombings, and was widely regarded from the 1960s onwards as a call to arms in New Zealand’s own fight to become nuclear-free.”

Waterfall and Peace Lamp

Waterfall and Peace Lamp

The Peace Flame

At the entrance to the Peace Garden is the Hiroshima Stone, a piece of the original Hiroshima Town Hall that was destroyed during the bombing.

Hiroshima Stone

After seeing these, we walked through the rose garden and around to the main entrance, so that we could see the Soundshell, explore the Fragrant Garden and visit the Duck Pond  before making our way back down to the hill to the city’s waterfront.

Sound Shell

Soundshell

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The Duck Pond

Duck Pond

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Wellington Cable Car

On our last full day in Wellington, we chose to take a one-way trip on the historic cable car, from Lambton Quay to the Botanic Gardens at the top of the hill, and then walk back down the tracks through the gardens to get back to the city’s waterfront.

Cable Car map

I had picked up a few brochures from Quest’s reception area and this is what the brochure has to say about the cable car:

“There is simply no better way to experience the hidden charm that Wellington offers than to take this short historic journey from the heart of Lambton Quay, up through the hillside terraced houses of Kilburn and our tunnel of lights to the lookout perched high above the city. The Cable Car Museum and top entrance to the Botanic Garden are adjacent to the lookout.

The Cable Car has a single track with a passing loop half way. The cars are fitted with flanged wheels on one side and flat wheels on the other, which means they can steer around the loop using the flanged wheels whilst the flat wheels slide across the central rail. The system has numerous safety features including two gripper brakes on each car, as well as passenger load sensing, overload prevention and earthquake protection.

Martin Kennedy (a successful Wellington businessman) is credited with the original idea. He persuaded the Upland Estate Company to include it in their plans for the new suburb of Kelburn. The Cable Car was designed by James Fulton, who also surveyed and set out the Kilburn suburb. Construction started in 1899 and it was opened on 22 February 1902, carrying over 4,000 people on its first weekend of operation. By 1904 trailers had been added to the cars to increase seating capacity and a Tea House had been built at the summit. In 1933 electricity replaced steam as the power for the cable car. In 1978 the original system made its last run and was replaced by a new Swiss designed system which remains in operation today.”

Cable Car

 

When I first heard about the cable car, I’ll admit that I thought it was one of the traditional cars suspended from a cable (like the one in Cape Town), so I was quite surprised to see something similar to a tram. The trip up the cable car was pretty smooth, with the two cars passing each other half way, and the cable car stopping about three quarters of the way up, at a station, to let some passengers off before continuing to the top. It climbs an amazing 120 metres in only 5 minutes!

The cable car is fully accessible to wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs. Bicycles are allowed at the discretion of the company. The cable car operates every day of the week and on public holidays (except Christmas Day), with different operating times for weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays. If you’re planning to go on it, check the website for current fares and timetables.

Te Papa Museum

As it was raining and miserable on my first day in Wellington, it made sense to head for some indoor sightseeing.

Te Papa Map

I’d forgotten that it was school holidays, and when I eventually walked out of the rain and into Te Papa, I wasn’t prepared for the large crowd and I had thought that it was going to be a rather quiet museum trip, being a Thursday, but I think everyone had had the same idea and headed to the museum for the day!

Te Papa building

I’d gone to Te Papa specifically to see the Gallipoli exhibit, which has been on since April 2015 and will be available until April 2019.  There is free entry to the Gallipoli exhibit, and it marks the World War I centenary.

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When I arrived at the exhibit, I was surprised to see a queue waiting to go in and a museum staff member controlling the number of people entering at a time.  I patiently waited in the queue and fully understood why they were doing this, once I got in.  Te Papa teamed up with Weta Workshop in creating this exhibit, which tells the story of the eight-month Gallipoli campaign through the eyes (and words) of eight New Zealanders.  These people have been turned into extraordinary larger-than-life figurines that are 2.4 times human size and have been crafted with minute detail, right down the to the pores in the skin, hairs on the arms, legs and faces, dirt, wounds and even blood, sweat and tears!

Te Papa larger than life

Make-up artist putting on finishing touches

Each figurine is a moment captured in time, and the audio story that accompanies each one is really moving and mades the hairs on neck stand on end.  There was one story in particular that really moved me and has stayed with me, and that was the story of Sister Lottie le Gallais.  Her brother was stationed in Gallipoli and she was on board the ship Maheno, heading for Gallipoli, and was awaiting news about her brother.

Te Papa Nurse

I don’t know why her story touched me more than the others.  I don’t know if it was because she was female, or if it was because she was a nurse and I’d recently received news from home that my grandmother had passed away.  She was a nurse, too.  But, for some reason, Lottie’s story moved me more than the stories of any of the others.

All of the Gallipoli stories are sad, they all have tragic endings, lives were lost, and families lost loved ones.  It was tragic and it was horrific, but Te Papa and Weta Workshop have really put on extraordinary exhibit.  Words and photos really don’t do the exhibit any justice.  I walked out of there with goosebumps and I felt completely different to how I’d felt before I’d gone into the exhibit earlier in the day.

The photos shown above are not my own.  I did not take any photos while in the exhibit, purely because flash photography is prohibited, as it will damage the displays (cause the paint to fade, etc.) and I didn’t want to try take photos in the dark.  The pictures shown above are from Te Papa’s website.

We did go back to Te Papa on Saturday, to explore the exhibits on the other levels, that included a full sized specimen of a colossal squid in “Mountains to Sea”, natural disaster in “Awesome Forces”, “Blood, Earth & Fire”, and “Rugby Legends: The Spirit of the Black Jersey”.  Some of these exhibits are temporary, while others are long-term.  To see what’s on display at Te Papa, visit their website for more info.

 

 

Wellington

Winter is not the best time of year to visit windy Wellington, and I happened to have my first trip to Wellington booked for mid-July, which I knew was going to be cold.  What wasn’t anticipated was the frontal system that arrived the day that we flew.  This brought with it gale-force winds, cold temperatures and lots of rain.

We anxiously waited at the airport for our flight to board, while constantly seeing every second flight to Wellington being cancelled, and each alternate one being delayed.  It was not a good sign and we weren’t sure if we were actually going to get there, due to the bad weather.

Our 7pm flight finally boarded after being delayed twice, and off we went.  The hour-long flight from Auckland wasn’t nearly as turbulent as I’d expected and the landing went pretty smoothly, considering the howling wind outside.  Being nighttime, we couldn’t see anything out of the windows during the flight or landing, which was probably just as well.  The worst part of getting to Wellington was sitting in the plane, on the tarmac, waiting for the doors to be opened, with the plane being buffeted from side-to-side in the wind.  It felt like we were sitting in a boat and not on an aeroplane!

Nothing prepared me for the strong, chill-you-to-the-bone, icy wind that greeted us when we climbed out the car at the apartment we were staying in.  It was 10.45pm and bitterly cold, but we were just glad that we’d arrived safely.

Wellington weather

The following morning, hubby went off to his work conference and I was left to explore some of the city on my own.  It was 9am, six degrees and raining, so I dressed in four layers of clothing, as well as a beanie, gloves, scarf and rain jacket and off I went.  What I hadn’t thought about was how I was going to keep my backpack dry.  It didn’t fit under my rain jacket and by the end of the day, all my belongings were damp.

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Wellington Waterfront

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Wellington Waterfront

We were staying in the Quest Atrium on The Terrace, self-catering apartments just a short walk to the CBD, if you use the pedestrian access through the James Cook Hotel and the elevator at the back of the foyer that takes you down onto Lambton Quay.

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Lambton Quay is in the heart of Wellington CBD and I walked this street on a daily basis. It’s one of the older streets in Wellington and has been around since the early 1800’s.  Obviously, it looked very different back then.  Tucked away between shops along Lambton Quay is a little side lane called Plimmers Steps, and a bronze sculpture of John Plimmer and his little dog, Fritz, can be found here.  John Plimmer (1812 – 1905) was a builder, businessman and civic leader, and has been called the Father of Wellington.  To read more about the history of John Plimmer, click on this link.

Statue in Lambton Quay

John Plimmer & Fritz, Plimmers Steps

On my way back to Quest Atrium, I got caught in a downpour and popped into the nearest coffee shop to escape the rain.  It’s not easy keeping warm and dry when you’re exploring on foot!  There are many coffee shops and cafes in and around the city, this one happened to be on the top level of Whitcoulls.  While riding up the escalator, something caught my eye and I went to have a look on my way out.  It was a ginger cat-shaped door stop that looked exactly like my kitty back home.

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I met up with hubby and a few of his work colleagues that evening, at a restaurant called Tequila Joes for the Thursday taco special.  All-you-can-eat tacos with Baja Fries and a drink for $25.  The tacos were freshly made and really delicious.  Each taco that was brought out was a different flavour, for example, the first tacos that were brought to the table were beef, followed by pork, then fish, then chicken, etc.  You get to eat as many as you like and then just notify the waitress when you’ve had your fill, so that the chef knows to reduce the number that he makes for the next round.

There’s so much to see and do in and around Wellington.  During my four day stay, I walked through the city, sightseeing and doing a little shopping, as well as visiting Te Papa and Wellington museums, the waterfront, going up the cable car to the Botanic Gardens, before walking back down to the waterfront.  There’s a lot that I didn’t get to see, as it was further out of town (not within walking distance) or had an entrance fee attached.

Taupo Bay, Northland

Taupo Bay lies just north of the entrance to the Whangaroa Harbour, and has a picturesque, gently curved horseshoe-shaped white sandy beach, that arcs around for almost one and a half kilometres.

We left Auckland bright and early at 5.30am, to tackle the long four-hour drive to Taupo Bay. It was still dark when we left home and there was very little traffic on the road (one of the many perks of leaving early). After a quick stop at McDonalds, along the way, to grab some breakfast and much needed coffee, we continued our drive North. We had to add on a 10 minute detour through Kerikeri, to go and collect the keys to the bach from the owner and then return them there on the way home. It wasn’t too far out of the way, and we were able to see what this quaint little town looked like.

Sunrise from the lounge in Taupo Bay

Upon arriving at the bach in Taupo Bay, we were surprised by the location. The photos that were posted on the holiday houses advert really didn’t do this place any justice. It is in such a beautiful spot and is so close to the water! It truly is the ideal surfing or kayaking holiday home.

We did have a few minor hiccups with our stay, but this wasn’t the owners fault. We’ve stayed in many baches over the years, and a certain amount of dirt (grass, seasand, dust, etc.) is expected, especially when you’re packing up to leave and accidentally track in something by mistake. Linen is not provided, and nor is a cleaning service, so guests are asked to please take their own sheets and towels, and to please clean up after themselves before they leave. Cleaning supplies are provided and we found a vacuum cleaner in the passage cupboard. Unfortunately, whoever had stayed in the bach before us, hadn’t had the decency to clean up at all before they left.

We walked into the bach to find crumbs on the kitchen counters, old food on the carpet in the lounge, dirty used coffee mugs in the kitchen cupboard, and when I went to go put our sheets on the bed and make it up for the night, I found popcorn husks spread all over the mattress protector. It looked like someone had had a fine time eating their popcorn in bed, and that they’d just slept on top of the mattress protector, under the duvet, without bothering to use any linen. Most disgusting of all were the toenail clippings all over the floor in the main bedroom. Clearly, they hadn’t vacuumed or cleaned. It’s really not the kind of thing you expect to come across, as its not only disgusting, but shows that these people had absolutely no respect for the house they were renting, the owner, or the people coming in after them. Needless to say, the following night we found a dirty bowl in the kitchen cupboard coated with oily salty popcorn husks; remains of their last snack. They hadn’t washed that out either and had just dumped it back in the kitchen cupboard.

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Other than having to clean up after some inconsiderate people, our time in Taupo Bay was really pleasant. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise each morning, went for walks along the wide sandy beach when the tide was out (at high tide, there’s not much beach left), I sat on the deck in the sun while hubby went surfing, and we drove to Mangonui to buy dinner one night.

If you’re looking for really great fish ‘n chips while staying in Taupo Bay, drive 20 minutes to Mangonui and get takeaways (or sit down and eat there) from Fresh ‘n Tasty on the Mangonui Waterfront. The fish was perfectly cooked with a crispy batter and the chips were done to perfection; crispy and golden on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Definitely the best fish ‘n chips we’ve had in New Zealand in the last 4 years!

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There’s isn’t anywhere to buy groceries or essentials in Taupo Bay, so if you need (or forget) anything, it’s a 20 minute drive to Mangonui to the little Four Square store on the waterfront.

We were told that there was a shop with a limited range of essentials, a 5 minutes walk away at the holiday park, but it’s currently under renovation and is closed. I’d forgotten to pack coffee (shock, horror! The one essential we can’t do without!) and we managed to thankfully get some from them, even though the shop is just a shell. They’re hoping to have it up and running for the 2017/2018 summer season.
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Other than the minor inconvenience of having to clean up someone else’s mess, these few days away were very peaceful, relaxing and quite, and we’d definitely consider going up there again.

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Rotorua Natural Hot Springs

Rotorua is a town near Lake Rotorua and is renowned for its geothermal activity and Maori culture and you know when you’ve reached Rotorua as the air in the town smells very sulphurous.

The geothermal activity in Rotorua means there is no lack of thermal pools. The natural hot springs merge with cold rivers or streams, creating clouds of steam and making areas of the river or stream the ideal temperature to swim or bathe in.

As we were only overnighting in Rotorua (on our way from Gisborne to Auckland), we only had one afternoon to explore and we had chosen to go to the Buried Village of Te Wairoa yesterday and the Polynesian Spa afterwards, before heading out for a late dinner at Che Chorizo, so we didn’t have time to visit Te Puia and see the Pōhutu Geyser, although we did drive past Te Puia and got to see the top of the steam plume when our GPS decided to take us in the totally wrong direction while we were trying to get to the Buried Village!

Geyser at Te Puia

The steam plume from Pōhutu Geyser at Te Puia

Pōhutu (‘poor-hoo-too’) means ‘constant splashing’ in Māori and this geyser is the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, erupting once or twice every hour, sometimes reaching heights of 30 metres (100 feet).

On our way to Te Wairoa, I did see a road that looked like it had access to a public reserve and possibly looked out over Te Puia. We went to have a look before leaving for Auckland and it does look out over the reserve that Te Puia is situated in. Right along the edge of the reserve, near the road was a stream that was fenced off with warning signs saying “Do not enter” and “Danger, hot water”, as a hot spring enters the stream at a large, natural pool and the water in this pool was actually bubbling. I’m not sure if the bubbles were just natural gasses being released (the whole area had a strong stench of sulphur) or if it was a combination of gasses and really hot water! Further down, along the banks of the stream were cracks in the earth where steam was escaping and even bubbling mud pools!

Steam from the natural hot spring

Steam from the natural hot spring

Steam rising off the natural hot spring

Bubbling mud pit (and charred tree branch)

Bubbling mud pool and a charred tree branch

If you plan on visiting Rotorua, don’t get caught like we did and end up with too many activities to choose from and not enough time to fit it all in. Do some research, decide on what you really want to see and plan a route, so that you can get as much sightseeing done during your visit as possible.

 

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If you don’t want to spend money visiting the hot pools at a Spa or tourist destination, I discovered once we had gotten back to Auckland that there are quite a few free natural hot pools in Rotorua. Visit these websites for more info:

http://www.newzealand.com/in/article/3-free-natural-hot-pools-in-rotorua/
http://www.backpackerguide.nz/5-free-natural-hot-pools-in-rotorua/

Buried Village of Te Wairoa

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We overnighted in Rotorua on our way back to Auckland from Gisborne and decided to go see the The Buried Village before relaxing in the natural hot springs at the Polynesian Spa.

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The Buried Village (Te Wairoa) is located close to the shore of Lake Tarawera, 14 kilometres southeast of Rotorua. On 10 June 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted violently and unexpectedly, the village was destroyed by the eruption, becoming one of New Zealand’s greatest natural disasters. The Buried Village is open to the public and recovered relics as well as the devastating story of Te Wairoa are on display in the museum, along with the history and timeline of the eruption.

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After wondering through the museum and seeing how the Tarawera eruption drastically changed the land and lives of the people of Te Wairoa, we entered the grounds to explore the archeological site and see the excavated ruins.

The depth of the volcanic mud

This shows how deep the mud was!

Although the archeological site is now green and peaceful, the site still reveals the devastation from the eruption. Excavations into the volcanic mud show just how deep the mud was and signboards along the way give insight as to what the ruins used to be, as well as stories of the people who once lived there.

The whare of the Tohunga, Tuhoto Ariki

The whare of the Tohunga, Tuhoto Ariki

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Te Wairoa Village was a Māori and European settlement founded in 1848 by the Christian missionary Reverend Seymour Mills Spencer as a “model Maori village”, however Te Wairoa survived for fewer than 40 years before it, and the nearby Pink and White Terraces were obliterated by the eruption of Mt Tarawera.

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Pink & White Terraces

“Considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, tourists came from all over the world to view the geological treasures called the Pink and White Terraces. The Pink Terraces were known by Maori as Otukapuarangi (“fountain of the clouded sky”), and the White Terraces or Te Tararata (“the tattood Rock”). Separated by 800 metres, the Terraces were a layered formation of silica acid and sodium chloride, created over a long period of time.” (from http://www.buriedvillage.co.nz)

“On the 10th June 1886, the violent and unexpected volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera shook the peaceful village of Te Wairoa for more than four terrifying hours. Rocks, ash and mud bombarded the village and ended more than 150 lives and many livelihoods, as well as destroying the eighth wonder of the world, the Pink and White Terraces, and buried the staging post for travellers to the terraces, Te Wairoa Village, under two meters of thick volcanic material. In the gloom of the day the wreckage of the hotels and houses, and the burial of 8,000 square kilometres of countryside brought awe and dismay to survivors and rescuers.” (taken from the information brochure “Buried Village of Te Wairoa”)

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The remains of the Baker's Oven and a water tank

Ruins of the Baker’s Oven and a water tank

The hotel

Ruins of the Hotel

The hotel's wine cellar

The Hotel’s Cellar

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To end our visit at Te Wairoa, we took the Waterfall Trail and descended down some really steep stairs to the base of the 30 metre Wairere Falls. There is so much more to the story of this Buried Village than what I have written above and there was far too much information for me to try and memorise. It’s definitely a must see if you’re in Rotorua.

img_8594img_8595Walkway at the base of the waterfall

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The bumpy ridge is from a lava flow

The Okareka Rhyolite Lava Flows

Layers of rock from different lava flows

Layers in the rock from different lava flows

The three volcanoes that erupted

Mount Tarawera – the three volcanoes that erupted

To read more about the Pink and White Terraces and watch a short documentary video clip on the eruption and the search for the terraces after the eruption, click on this link: www.stuff.co.nz