Chapter 7 - Masterton to Wellington

18 Feb 2013

After an enjoyable breakfast we left the very nice Copthorne Hotel in Masterton and headed further south to Wellington, known as the windiest city in New Zealand. The weather was initially overcast but the sun soon shone through and the forecast for the next few days was looking good. However, there was indeed a fair breeze on arrival in Wellington and my choice of shorts and strappy T-shirt was probably not a good one!

Paul dropped us off at the Te Papa National Museum of New Zealand for an hour long guided tour. The tour we found very interesting but did not begin to cover all that the museum held. After a surprisingly good lunch in the museum café Paul returned to take us the short distance to our hotel, we were all given splendid balconied rooms looking out over the harbour. It was with great sadness that we said farewell to Paul who, after completing his duties as our North Island driver, was flying back to Auckland that afternoon and starting another tour two days later. We would miss him. With a free afternoon ahead of us Mike and I decided to revisit the museum and see more of the exhibits - it really was a very good museum. In the evening we had an excellent waitress served meal, more lamb!

19 Feb 2013

Another gloriously hot day! The whole group spent the morning on a 'Hop On, Hop Off' Bus for a guided tour around Wellington. The city really is very hilly with wonderful views. Since 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' were made in New Zealand the whole country has become 'Tolkein-obsessed' and tourists have flocked to see the film studios and the countryside where the films were shot. We had so far been able to avoid this experience but today we were taken to a small and rather tacky museum that housed lots of very life-like statues of the various film characters and associated memorabilia. Luckily the visit didn't last too long!

The bus took us to the top of Mount Victoria, the highest point in Wellington, up a very steep and winding road. There we spent some time enjoying and photographing the wonderful views. This was a site used in several scenes of 'The Lord of the Rings'. The streets in parts of the city were not that wide and suddenly there was a bang and the bus stopped sharply - a car driver had tried to get through a gap that was far too small and had scraped the side of her car against our bus, resulting in much cursing and waving of arms and the exchange of details! We toured around the city sights seeing the odd and aptly named 'Beehive', which houses various government offices, and passing Parliament House. We stopped to go into the Old St Paul's Cathedral, built from lots of different native timbers and which had some very impressive stained glass windows.

We were then taken to the Botanical Gardens which were extensive and very well laid out. Most of the group decided not to go back to the hotel on the bus but to walk back down to the waterfront through the gardens or to take the frequent cable car down the hill. The gardens were beautiful and there were several paths winding down through the gardens each identified by a different coloured flower. It was really very hot and Mike and I decided to seek shelter and have a snack at the café halfway down. Unfortunately most of the customers of one of the two cruise ships in port at the time had the same idea so it was a bit busy! We found ourselves quite a way from the hotel when we eventually reached the waterfront and it took a bit of map reading to find our way 'home'. The sun was relentless and we sought refuge in the Wellington 'City and Sea Museum', a small but interesting free museum in the Docks devoted to tracing the history of Wellington, with an emphasis on its maritime history. There was also a holographic display on various Maori legends. When we had cooled down a bit we set off again and made time for a sit down to enjoy an ice cream each before winding our way around the port alongside the water and eventually arrived back at our hotel. After much needed showers we spent the evening in the bar chatting others in our group before having an early night.

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