New Zealand Part 3: Wellington

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Part 1 and 2 are here and here.

Our first stop on the North Island was the capital city of Wellington.

Getting off the ship, we had to dodge the cruise photographers who were eager to take our photo with a homeless teenager in a pageboy wig. “What are you?” we asked. The vagrant looked at us with an expression that may have either said, “Are you people slow?” or “I hate my life,” or some combination of both, and informed that he was, in fact, a hobbit.

Ah, of course – Wellington is home of Peter Jackson and LOTR territory. We found many opportunities to buy grotesque hobbit-inspired paraphernalia in Wellington, which we valiantly managed to resist for the entirety of the day.

Our first stop in Wellington was Te Papa, the national museum. We stopped at the information desk to get our bearings, and an unbelievably personable young gent told us what to see and where. An Australian woman from the cruise found her way into the conversation, and when our museum friend suggested that we go to level 6, she was delighted and said, “WHERE?!?”

“Seeex,” our friend said. The Australian howled. She knew perfectly well what he meant, but it was her national duty to give the Kiwi a hard time. “Taking the piss” is a favorite Australian pastime, rivaled only by making fun of New Zealand.

This would be a good place for me to take a side trip to talk about the fabulously charming Kiwi accent. Before coming to Australia, I would not have been able to tell the difference between New Zealand and Australian accents, which seems absurd to me now. The Kiwi accent is completely unique. Australians like to joke about Kiwis ordering “fush and chups” (fish and chips). I had no problem understanding the accent, but did have to rescue Partner-in-Crime a couple of times – like when we were in a bottle shop and the hostess suggested we try a “bleeend” (sounds like “bleed” with an “n”). After she repeated it twice, I could tell P-i-C was lost, and I had to translate “blend.” I was in love with the accent and wanted to talk like a Kiwi for the entire trip, and a week or two once we got home.

Here’s a skit from a comedy show that will show you exactly what I’m talking about – just a beeet of fun.

Back on the track – Wellington, and Te Papa … Once we figured out where to go (“up the leeeft to seeex”), we spent a couple hours touring the museum. I spent the most time with the Maori exhibit and a large section on phases of immigration to New Zealand. P-i-C’s interest was caught by a section about the complexities of the treaty that was signed between the Europeans and the Maori people.
The exhibit that has stayed in my mind the most is a room that was designed as a modern day interpretation of a Maori meeting house. It was so clever and beautiful.

After Te Papa, we wandered off in search of a free Wi-fi signal to check emails, and ended up setting ourselves up on a lawn not far from Wellington’s many Occupiers.

Finishing our occupation, our next destination was the old-fashioned cable car that takes you up a scenic route, ending at the Botanical Garden. Nothing in the world was going to keep the 12-year old boy inside P-i-C off that cable car, and I too found it a charming way to travel. At the end, we were rewarded with the best view of the city we could ask for.

From the Botanical Gardens, we were on a mission. We wanted to make it to the Parliament for the last tour of the day we could take before having to head back to the ship. If we walked briskly, we figured that we could just make it. Thankfully, the fastest route was through the gardens, and from what I could see at lightening speed, they were quite amazing. I made P-i-C stop ever so briefly and begrudgingly so that I could take one photo of the rose garden but it did no justice, so I have no photographic evidence.
Racing to the front entrance of the government executive building (AKA “The Beehive,” AKA “possibly the ugliest building I’ve ever seen”), we learned that the tour was booked out. The security guards reluctantly let us, along with about half a dozen other dejected cruisers, into the foyer to peruse the gift shop, and some kindly volunteers showed us a DVD about the history of the building. Frankly, I would have been happier wandering the Botanical Garden at a leisurely pace, but the downside of cruising is how little time you have to cram your adventures into.

We took a long walk back, passing the old government building, which is the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere. 

I liked it from this angle, which I thought was very New Zealand: Maori meets European:
I got a good laugh on the bus back to the cruise ship. We were docked next to the stadium where the All Blacks rugby team plays, and our driver had fun razzing the Aussies about New Zealand’s recent world championship. Not having a dog in that fight, I enjoyed seeing the Kiwis get one up on Australia, for a change. 
Our time in Wellington was quite short, but I feel we managed a nice sampler. Over the next few days, we had a few more stops on the North Island to complete our tour. More adventures to come. Mercifully, no more hobbits.

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