chilling feet

chilling feet

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

North Island - Wellington and Wanganui

(For breakfast we took the advice of our Wellington hosts and went to
Maranui, a really cool place set in the old life saving club.  Great food
and especially unique atmosphere with a view over the water)
To begin our North Island trip summary, we would have to start in the capital of New Zealand - Wellington, which also makes sense as this is where our journey began. After a short flight in from the deep South we picked up our rental car and headed in to Cuba street for some food per the directions of our trusty car rental guy's advice. We were not to be disappointed with the choice as it offered us free live music, a bustling night of street vendors (which landed us some amazing Moroccan wraps), and countless cute little shops for Sarah to browse and for me to feign contempt at as we walked through (I actually quite liked the shops and usually do as long as we are not stuck shopping for hours).

(Old St. Paul's Church in Welly - I was quite surprised
to find a marine flag let alone the US Marine flag on
display in this church.  Such an ornate and peaceful
place to spend some time)
One of my favorite parts of Wellington was finally meeting Dan.  Dan is a friend of none other than my good pal +Bryce Ashby in +MEMPHIS TN.  They know each other from back in the day when they were both being amazing and volunteering through the Peace Corp (yes people are really that awesome still).  I have stayed at Dan's house before even when he was out of the country visiting family back in the States.  This does not mean we have not spent good amounts of cyber chatter discussing the illustrious movie The Big Lebowski (not for underaged viewers or anyone shy of language - basically ask me if you should watch it and I'll tell you on a case by case basis).  It was a real treat to not only meet Dan but also his wife and daughter as we stayed two nights in their wonderful home.  We were blessed by their kind hospitality, drank their tasty coffee which was so graciously made for us, and of course took any advice they had to offer on what we should do in the city.  Armed with their advice we ate in places we would have definitely missed otherwise (the first picture in this post is from one of their recs), we drove more of the scenic waterway which helps make Wellington so special, and definitely saw much more of the real city than we would have on our own.

(They have an amazing museum in Welly and we both loved this modern
interpretation of a traditional Maori building.  The attention to detail is
staggering.  I will add another photo below of a more up close shot)
The second picture is from Old St. Paul's Church, which as you can see, interestingly enough has a United States Marine flag hanging in the sanctuary - quite odd I thought. This has to do with the history of this building and it's unique role during WWII.  During this time United States Marines were deployed to New Zealand to help protect it's shores from invaders, and it was neat to learn that the women of NZ thought of these young men as their "sons" during this time.  A good number of them would gather for worship at this location and by visiting the church one can enjoy watching actual footage from the time.  We thought this was a cool connection being Americans in New Zealand.

(If you have not put this together yet - NZ has a lot to do with the history
of Antarctica.  Not only close in proximity, they have many explorers who
have been a huge part.  Here Sarah is pointing to the part of Antarctica she
will be in for six months coming this next March!)
We looked over the city from awesome lookouts, checked out a few breweries we discovered nearby, hit up the museum (as you can see from the last picture), ate some delicious sushi, walked around the town popping into shops, went to a few key locations for the Lord of the Rings movies (of course), and started an unfortunate trend we discovered we would be making again and again on our North Island trip - not having nearly enough time in any one place.  I think we could have spent weeks in Wellington and would have continued to find more exciting things to do.  Although our hosts may have tired of us by then! Seriously though, thanks Dan!!

(You really cannot believe how long this tunnel goes into the hill where
one simply finds an elevator to the top of a hill - pretty amazing)
To keep from writing twenty-four different posts about our travels, this post will also include the short side trip to Wanganui.  A stop we made on our way North in preparation for getting close to Tongariro National Park, this little town is cute and has a few attractions of its own (though maybe not quite as many as Welly).  The main thing I saw when researching online beforehand, although I could not understand really what it was, is the Durie Hill elevator.  There is a 213 meter long tunnel leading into Durie Hill and at the end of this underground walk is an elevator that will take a person to the top for a fee of two dollars.  After doing some reading at the site the best I can figure is that this elevator is truly just a commuting tool for those who live up on this not so sizable hill.  It would make more sense to me if the hill was a mountain or even a large hill, but after riding to the top and walking down I was baffled.  However, we could not deny the strange and peculiar joy we did receive from walking the mysterious tunnel and riding up in the historic elevator.

(I'm too dazed to make a decision - these were some good cup cakes)
Having experienced the main attraction to Wanganui (not counting the Wanganui Journey which is one of the great walks - and we really wanted to do -  but does not run during the Winter because of its extensive time spent in canoes on the river pretty far out from town and the danger of death is high) we put our priorities straight and went to Cherry Cottage Cupcakes (worth it) and then scored some coffee to go with our cakes.  Being thoroughly sugared and caffeine filled we then blew town in search of Tongariro.  A few more pics are tacked on to the end of this deal - more posts to follow.  Will they be able to do the Tongariro Circuit or will the weather be too bad? Stay tuned...

(I added this to the teaser post last time but added it again here because I really do love this place.  Having first visited the Weta Cave with +Scott Smith, this place is a must for anyone who is into movies and in particular the Lord of the Rings movies.  This is out front of the building where they have life sized versions of the trolls from the Hobbit movies.  Pretty dang cool.  Sarah played along and acted like she really liked it.  I think she did)
(Old St. Pauls from the outside - really really neat church)
(At the museum in Wellington, this is an awesome waka boat of the Maori - they are huge.  We will have more on these in a future post but they are crazy cool)
(As promised an up close look at the modern Maori sculpture/building in the Welly museum.  The attention to details was mind blowing.  We really liked this exhibit) 
(New Zealand has done a good job jumping into the Craft Beer world and Wellington offered a few of them - this is Black Dog and came highly recommended by our scouts +Gordon Paulson and +Miriam Williamson.  Good call on this one guys)
(Not the prettiest day in Wellington.  Dan told me "You can't beat a good day in Wellington.  But getting a good day is the trick."  Apparently when everything comes together Wellington is the nicest city on the face of the planet.  We still enjoyed our time there but this was the sort of weather we had - a little rainy and not making for the best long distance views but we were ok with that as it was still tons of fun)
(Downtown Welly in site - it's a hilly town that reminds me a little bit of towns like SanFrancisco and such)
(I could not resist getting the bowl size.  Don't worry, we split it.  But seriously, that cup of coffee is bigger than Sarah's head!  I love this photo)
(At the top of Durie Hill is a memorial tower you can climb - it has a pretty good 360 view inside of this protective cage.  Again, not the best weather but it was a really fantastic structure to climb - windy!) 
(Here is a shot of the tower from outside.  Narrow and fun to climb.  Similar to climbing a lighthouse)