There’s a story in New Zealand history that speaks of the huge journey and sacrifices our settlers made.
It goes like this – when the ships entered Wellington harbour and the settlers looked up at the gargantuan bush covered wind swept hills, the disappointment was palpable. It’s said some of the men started to quietly cry.
Wellington was wild. Untamed. Not at all like the bucolic bliss of the Yorkshire wolds or the South Downs.
We didn’t have quite the same reaction, flying into Wellington in early July. In fact we flew in on a golden cloud. No #filter required.
The plan was to spend two weeks in Welly looking after a friend’s cute pooch and to spend some time together and for me to actually finish writing my book!
But y’know, plans of mice and men and all that. I did some work on the book, and did spend some time with the man but didn’t quite get to completing my objectives. Work, family dramas, and the shock of a death of a friend put paid to that.
Story of my life!
We did have time to walk on the wild side for a bit. Look at these hills a short drive away from where we were staying in Lyall Bay on Wellington’s South Coast. And there were seals! Lots of bachelor seals lying about on the Red Rocks.
I should add that this natural wildlife experience was only about 3 kms or so from the central city of the world’s funkiest little capital. In fact as an Aucklander who feels we have the market on seaside living, I was staggered to learn that nowhere in the Wellington area is more than 3 kms from the coast. Really. It’s just so cold and windy at times it’s hard to actually sit on the beach and enjoy it.
It was freezing when we were there. In fact one night it sleeted and the hill road across the Rimutakas was closed, more than once. In this picture you can see the hills in the distance – that’s not cloud, that’s snow.
The wind howled like a banshee and then in the morning it was gone, and we had a beautiful day. Crisp, clear, calm.
Wellington’s wind is not the only natural phenomena that scores the city a lot of attention – there’s also the regular earthquakes. In fact whilst NZ’s most recent large earthquakes were in Christchurch, in the South Island, it’s actually Wellington that’s been predicting the next Big One for decades. Walking along the flat parts of town I was reminded of this by these helpful signs.
And then, just to retrieve some sense of humour, a little further down the road there was this.
Gotta love a council with a sense of humour and a desire to be a little wild and wacky.
Wild and wacky is really the city’s mood and it’s refreshing to see this reflected all around the city. For example, the staid old tourist attraction, the cable car, was ‘tarted up’ with a light show in the tunnel for a local festival, whilst we were there. Where else in the world would the local council mess with one of the city’s biggest attractions?
But then, where else in the world would you find this hanging in the airport terminal?
Or find ‘Middle of Middle Earth’ painted on the sign at the airport terminal?
Yes Wellington plays it down, it’s not flashy and bleeding edge modern. Yes it’s windy and so cold even the Yorkshireman was pleased to return to the relatively balmier climes of Auckland. But I realised after two weeks in our funky little capital city, what happened to those descendants of the weeping first settlers – they found a brilliant sense of humour, a sense of creativity and spirit and they developed backbone.
Where: Wellington – bottom of NZ’s North Island
Why: Cool cafes, foodie joints, it’s like a baby San Francisco, creative scene, fantastic natural environment and wildlife and it’s the middle of Middle Earth
How much: Accommodation in Welly can be expensive so it’s best to try and snag a deal (or find a friend). Try watching cheap fares on www.grabaseat.co.nz