Day 7: Wellington

Words by Andy | Photos by Chris

Day 7: Wellington

A bit of a drive today. Four and a half hours, to be precise, but the scenery is pretty nice along the way. Exiting Taupō, we followed the Volcanic around the lake, which stretches for miles: it’s New Zealand’s biggest lake. Banks of pine trees stretch on as far as the eye can see, and then a little bit further as the winding roads ascend the southern mountain ranges. Out of Tūrangi the highway climbs onto the North Island Volcanic Plateau, passing through the fringes of the Tongariro National Park then into the Rangipo Desert, passing the volcanoes of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro.

The treelined landscape starts to give way to an arid landscape as you near the peak, and the temperature drops accordingly as you drive the desert road. We lost about six degrees up there and the air actually smalls sweet, like honey, if you dare to open your window. Low-lying arctic looking brown shrubbery covers the ground for miles as you weave along the highway, criss-crossing the plateau. We encountered some patches of rain along the way, which made the surrounding plant life glisten as we cruised by. Vistas of green open at every turn as the mountains scribble across the entire view, patches of dark green paired with lighter green or brown sections where trees had been harvested.

As the road starts to descend, the plant starts to grow bigger again until, once again, you’re sailing through native fern-filled forests and through NZ Army territory where the training camp is situated in Waiouru. Beyond this point, the land is predominantly farming. Cattle and sheep with some agriculture, too. I was surprise at how many towns we coasted through. Honourable mention to Bulls, who seem to love a pun around their town name, and why wouldn’t you? They’ve got a French Antique shop there, of all things. Nevin is a large town only an hour or so north of Wellington and it hardly seemed worth stopping by this stage, so on we pressed.

One you reach Kapiti, the place where ice-cream of the same name originates, the road becomes dual carriageway all the way to Wellington, planted out with masses of flax and other native grasses along the stretch of freeway, with hills of mottled brown and gold right before you sweep down to the view of Wellington Harbour.

Wellington is a happening little harbour city, and for all intents and purposes, it kind of feels a bit like Sydney, right down to the Old Bank Arcade, which has a bit of a QVB feel, but on a much small scale. We had a wander along the waterfront, where there’s a water sculpture, Water Whirler, by Wellington artist, Len Lye, installed posthumously. I’m assured it’s pretty spectacular at night with accompanying light display but maybe not so much against an overcast sky.

Further around the waterfront is Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand. There are several floors of exhibits tracing Māori migration to Aotearoa right up to modern day migration. There’s a Gallipoli exhibition running at the moment in the lead up to ANZAC Day, which features some awe-inspiring sculptures of diggers that sit on the floor and tower above you, their scale is so large, just part of a well-presented memorial to New Zealand’s soldiers who fought during the war.

By the time we’d had a good wander through the museum, it was time for dinner at Flamingo Joe’s. Oysters (freshly shucked) and line-caught snapper. A gustatory treat to cap off a day where we covered some miles, and still managed to get in almost ten thousand steps. Time to get the most out of the hotel room!

Tomorrow we fly to Christchurch!

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