After the Coromandel, we passed through a succession of W Towns: Waitomo, Whangunai, and Wellington. We didn’t stay in Waitomo, but stopped for a couple of hours to see the famous glow worm caves. The caves themselves are that remarkable, but the inhabitants are. Hanging from the ceiling are thousands of glow worms. They don’t capture well on film and they don’t let you take pictures anyway, so I wasn’t able to document it. However, it was sort of like looking up and seeing tiny stars on the cave roof. It was cool, and a nice low key activity since that day I came down with a nasty cold and didn’t feel like exploring much anyway. From Waitomo we drove several more hours to Whangunai, a river town in the southern part of the North Island. There wasn’t much there to see, but it was a good place to stop for the night. We stayed in a YHA with an owner that was a bit hyper with his rules and signage. Daniel took several pictures which usually means he intends to blog about it. You’ll have to stay tuned and see.
The next day about lunch time we rolled into our hostel in Plimmerton, a suburb of Wellington. It was very nice, probably the nicest so far with a great commercial kitchen and a lovely view from our room window:
We had a bit of excitement while we were there, too, as one evening right before dinner, a shark washed up on the beach. It was dead, but still looked ominous.
The first day we were pretty tired, so we napped and did a lot of laundry. We sort of took over the hostel’s clothes line and got a few comments as people were amazed. Daniel and I have always maintained that laundry should be done about once a month, and everyone should own 30 pairs of underwear to make this possible. I guess most people grow out of that after college, but we are still firm believers.
The second day we headed into Wellington. It’s known as Windy Wellington because of the gales coming off the Cook Strait, and that day it was wet and earning it’s name. Both the weather and the city itself reminded me a lot of Seattle. We decided to spend most of our time at Te Papa, New Zealand’s answer to the Smithsonian, but in just one museum. It was really a good museum and very informative. Daniel and I both found the exhibit on the Treaty of Waitangi helpful, which is the basis for Maori relations even today. It is really interesting being in a country where the native people were not beaten into submission or eventually defeated in battle. They instead signed a treaty with the Queen of England and therefore were able to keep some of their rights and land, and their culture and language is pervasive throughout New Zealand. It makes me wonder what the United States would be like if the American Indians had been able to retain their power and way of life.
They had lots of other exhibits, though, including one on earthquakes where you could go into a room and feel the equivalent of about a 5.0 earthquake. There was also this cool map of NZ, where if you stepped on the different regions, photographs and videos about that region would pop up on nearby screens:
The second day in Wellington was sunnier, so Daniel and I explored the city. We took in the view from Mt. Victoria first:
Then we headed to Cuba Street, looking for tacos as they have a small Latin community there. However, our Tex-Mex place wasn’t open for lunch, so we ended up eating falafel. Foiled again! Cuba Street is sort of a funky place full of vintage shops and skate/punk places. This eclectic mix of people once again reminded me of Seattle in the 90s, but there were enough hipster emos in their skinny jeans to convince me we were in the right decade.
From there, I went to the main shopping district, Lambton Quay. I found a NZ department store sort of on the scale of Marshall Fields in Chicago. On their top floor they had a Christmas shop. My first thought when seeing it was, “Buddy the Elf has been here.”
Finally, I ended my afternoon at Mojo, one of many coffee houses in Wellington (Seattle, anyone?) with probably the best mocha I’ve ever had. They serve mochas with marshmallows here, always two, and one of them is always pink.
Wellington is Peter Jackson’s hometown, and I think they might still even be filming the Hobbit right now, but we didn’t see evidence of either.