That’s how the Lonely Planet guidebook describes Wellington, New Zealand, and they are not far off the mark. We continue to be amazed at the beauty of this island nation. We were surprised to learn that New Zealand is larger than England.
In the past few days we have spent time in many places. Our “typical day” looks like this: we wake up, and it’s about 30 degrees outside (and about 55 inside “Fiona”, our campervan). We have a nice hot breakfast of oatmeal or eggs and then we unplug the van and drive. If we see something that looks cool, we stop.
When it’s time for lunch, we pull over and make ourselves some cheese sandwiches and have some fruit (I bought 6 pounds of apples and 4 pounds of pears today for about $4 American!). Then, we drive some more,unless we hike or visit a museum or cultural show. By mid-day, the temperature is usually about 50 or 55, and the last few days have been sunny & clear. Eventually, we show up in a campground, plug Fiona in, and grill some dinner. Tonight, for instance, we are having some venison steaks that were given to me by the guy I bought my fishing license from in Taupo. He heard me say I loved venison, and he said, “No worries, mate! I will fix you right up!” And then I was holding 4 inch-thick steaks. No worries indeed! We spent 7 days on the North Island.
One of the highlights there was the visit to Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand (think “Smithsonian”). Fascinating. We were very impressed with the relative youth of this nation and the way that they have welcomed (at times) immigrants and refugees. Te Papa also has a number of very informative exhibits concerning the affects of human culture (both Maori and European) on this island, which has only been inhabited for about a thousand years). We also learned quite a bit about New Zealand’s politics, and the ways that it has been a good friend to the US and the UK over the years. I was interested in some of the material dealing with WWII, which indicated that when Japan entered the war and NZ became a potential target, the Allies had to station US troops here because so many Kiwis were fighting in Europe and North Africa.
After our time on the North Island was finished, we took the Inter-Islander ferry across Cook Strait to the South Island. The crossing took about 3 hours, and it was extremely rough. In fact, the captain almost didn’t sail because of the high seas. The waves were 5.4 meters high (17.5 feet). Sharon was a little green around the gills by the time we hit Picton, but recovered quickly. The South Island is more rural than the North, and we have really enjoyed the scenery. Today, we beachcombed near Nelson en route to Abel Tasman National Park. Tomorrow, we will take a water taxi into the park and be dropped off for a 4 hour hike down the coastal trail.