Wellington is a smaller but more interesting city than Auckland (the Kiwi Experience brochure describes it as the “cultural capital”, as well as being the actual capital of course). I and a large number of my fellow travellers spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day there. The bus skipped one of its normal stops – “River Valley” – because the “adventure lodge in the middle of nowhere” wasn’t doing anything for Christmas, and… well, it was in the middle of nowhere.
Christmas Day began with me in the YHA kitchen mixing and frying pancake ingredients purchased in Taupo. The trouble with buying food while travelling is that supermarkets won’t sell you, say, only three cups of flour, 3/4 cups of sugar, three eggs and exactly the right amount of maple syrup, which means you have to carry around extra random food items for the remainder of the trip. Pancakes are delightfully easy to make, even with the dubious cookware that you find in varying states of disrepair in backpacker hostels. They went down rather well among the group I invited to get rid of them. The YHA reception was enlisted to finish the leftovers. The pancake breakfast merged into the hostel’s own “Champagne breakfast” a little while later.
Lunch (because eating is an important part of Christmas) was a little less well-planned. I’m still not sure whether it was a bad joke or just ignorance on his part, but we’d gotten the impression from our bus driver that Kiwi Experience and/or the hostel was organising a cheap meal. It turned out, after we’d made our way to the given location, that this was for the homeless of Wellington, not for the kind of people who might, for instance, spend a thousand dollars or more travelling from other parts of the world to get there. We gave up on that venture in a mild state or disgust and wandered over to the Te Papa museum instead.
Te Papa was exceptionally well designed and run, but we were mostly a little too exhausted to take much of it in. To be honest, I’ve never been good with museums, no matter how interesting, and after about two hours (punctuated by a very nice “sun-dried tomato wrap” at the cafe inside) my feet were hurting and my brain was in stand-by. Still, it’s certainly a must-see in Wellington.
To round off the unconventional food situation, we had ate junk food at the beach in lieu of dinner. Some of the group decided suddenly to go for a swin in what predictably turned out to be absolutely freezing water.
The following day I was left to my own devices to wander the city and take in some more of the sights. It took me quite a while to find the start of the cable car leading up to the botanic gardens overlooking Wellington. The view wasn’t overwhemling, compared to the other high-up places you get to in New Zealand, but it was nice.
One random thing that struck me about Wellington was its overhead tram wires, running along some of the main streets. In my two-and-a-bit days in Wellington I never saw any vehicles that actually used them.