Wellington (aka Coolest Little Capital)
Surrounded by hills and a rugged coastline, the city boasts a stunning harbour. Wellington’s charm is that it serves up a vibrant inner city experience with a slice of New Zealand scenery. And because of its compact nature, you can sample it all: boutiques, art galleries, trendy cafes and restaurants. Right on its doorstep is a network of walking and biking trails with beautiful wineries and vineyards just a few hours away.
My plan for the one day I had to spend in the self-proclaimed 'coolest little capital' was to start with a visit to a local Regus business lounge for some coffee and some internet access to sort out the rest of my itinerary for north island and start contacting people in South America. Unfortunately, when I showed up at the HP Tower and took the elevator to floor 15, it turned out that the Regus office is still under construction there, the fact conveniently overlooked in the location description on their iPhone app.
Good thing I did not actually have to meet a client there. That would of been a bit embarrassing…
Cable Car and Botanical Gardens
Instead, I spent some time at Qeens Warf taking advantage of free WiFi there (cbdfree network works much better than others and does not limit usage, unlike other networks) before grabbing lunch and catching a ride on the city's iconic cable car to the botanical gardens. Interestingly, unlike other cable cars and funiculars I have ridden on during this trip, this one actually had a few stops along the hill, really serving as a transportation vehicle rather than a tourist trap.
From the top, a nice view of the city was to be had, even if it started drizzling again.
Next, I walked through the botanical gardens, not taking any specific route that could take hours, but rather just going where I felt like it. It was a weird combination of wide paved paths and tiny tracks that reminded me of our Abel Tasman walk. Another distinctive feature I noticed right away was that throughout the park there was a strong smell of freshly cut grass, even though none of the grass was cut from what I could tell. Oh well, I was enjoying it either way.
Eventually, I made it back down to the rose garden with a tiny 'peace' garden across the road, featuring a stone from Hiroshima's town hall. I could not help but wonder how much radiation that thing is still putting out.
The Parliament Tour
Walking further back to the city, I made a stop to tour the parliament building (one hour, free). It was quite interesting and, in some cases, mind boggling how New Zealand's system was working. Unfortunately, they did not allow to take any pictures on the tour. Afterward, I went up to the gallery located above the house floor and watched in dismay as one of the representatives kept going on and on and on about something, repeating herself ten thousand times while there were only about 20 others present on the floor (out of 120) and everyone else was playing with their iPads or chatting to each other. Only once in a while a representative from the 'opposition' would shout something while the other lady just kept on going. What a useless circus (the political system in general, not just the Kiwi one)!
On the way back to the Te Papa museum, I saw a shop that proclaimed to sell 9000 magazines (while on the other sign it said 6000). I had to swing by and check it out and was pleasantly surprised to see quite a big section of aviation-related publications, a bunch of travel ones, and even a couple of gun magazines that drew my attention as both featured the new XDM pistol model with 5.25 barrel. That is the pistol I have been craving since when I decided to get one and now I just got one more reason to, but, man, those things aren't getting cheaper. The basic kit was quoted at $899 in the magazine…
Te Papa Museum
My last stop was Wellington's must-see attraction - Te Papa Museum (also free) combining expositions on a bunch of different themes from the Kiwi history - from prehistoric formation of the islands, to earthquake demonstrations, to local flora and fauna (including a giant squid), and a ton of Maori history, customs and so on.
Everyone told me that I must check it out, but, to be honest, I was not that impressed with it. Like with any museum, I quickly got bored of reading the various stands and called it quits after about an hour there. The fact that I was thirsty and starving probably had something to do with it as well.