Day 5 – Wellington
Our flight to Wellington left Auckland at 1:30. Since it took 4 hours to get from Auckland to Paihia, we decided to leave at 8:00 am to give us enough time to get to the airport. By now I felt like I was getting used to driving on the left, although I would still tense up at a roundabout and still had no idea how to signal when entering or exiting the roundabout…
We had lightened up enough to comment on the scenery and make jokes, many of them LOTR related; for example, when we drove by some workers cutting down trees, I’d exclaim “Wizards should know better!!” We also listened to a talk show on the radio where they were discussing whether or not the World Rugby Cup matches should be moved from Christchurch because of the earthquake. We hit traffic in Whangarei, and there was a lot of road work still going on, but we managed to make it to Apex car rental by noon, and by 12:15 we were at the airport.
We had lunch at “Wishbone” in the airport, which was like the New Zealand version of Europe’s Pret a Manger. Marc had a tandoori chicken wrap, and I had a lamb, spinach and kiwi relish wrap. They were fresh, filling, and a bargain at only $7 each. Next we went thru airport security, where we were able to keep our shoes on and didn’t have to pull out our liquids. Also, we were able to board the plane without anyone looking at our passports… We had used the self-service kiosk to print our boarding passes and tags for our luggage. The lax security seemed highly unusual, and then it occurred to me: Who would want to kill a bunch of New Zealanders, the nicest people on the planet??
We caught a Super Shuttle to our hotel and we were the first stop! The Super Shuttle was $24 and when I tipped the driver it was apparent that he rarely gets tips. Our hotel was Central Stratford Apartments on Willis Street ($278 for 2 nights). The hotel was fine, it had a separate sitting area, a kitchenette with a 2-burner convection cook-top, kettle, toaster, cooking dishes and plates/silverware/glasses, a small dining table, and a tiny bathroom with a washer/dryer. The mattress was the firmest of the trip thus far. I had requested a unit on the upper floors since some of the reviews on TripAdvisor had complained about street noise; we were on the 10th floor and it wasn’t a problem until Sat night when we could still hear some noise from the party-ers on street level. The apartment was very clean and perfectly fine. The European washer/dryer combo was a pain however… It was extremely noisy to run and took forever to figure out how to use it, and it also took forever to do a load of wash and to dry it (3 hours total for a 3 KG load). And the clothes came out wrinkled, probably all because I stuffed it too full… I regretted not using the full-size washers and dryers at Captain Bob’s.
After checking in, we decided to take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens. The forecast had called for rain but it was only overcast. I thought the Botanic Gardens were a bit of a disappointment… Perhaps it was too late in the season to see them in all their glory. The rose garden was nice and a lot of the rose bushes were in bloom. I did enjoy the sounds of the cicadas throughout the park. But compared to gardens like Kew and Butchart and the Hawaii Botanical gardens, it was just okay. We had bought a return ($12) for the cable car, but ended up walking down far enough that we realized it hadn’t been necessary to buy the return. We continued to wander through a graveyard that lined both sides of the freeway and learned that the building of the freeway had been a huge controversy in the 60’s; many of the graves were disinterred and the bodies deposited in a mass grave. It had an uber-creepy feeling.
By then it was 6:30 and dinner was our next priority. We decided to hit an international food court mentioned in the guide book and that we had seen on Willis street. Although the guide book said it was open until 8:00 pm, when we got there at 6:30 all the food shops inside were closed down which we thought was weird since it was a Friday night! We continued to wander and found an Indian restaurant that charged $18-24 for mains, but that was only charging $11 per main for takeaway. We ordered chicken tikka massala and lamb saag for takeaway. We stopped at New World Metro on Willis on the way back to the hotel and picked up a 6 pack of Monteith’s Golden Lager (a New Zealand beer $14), 2 yogurts for me ($2), 2 muffins for Marc ($6), and 1 liter of orange juice ($6). The grocery store had an extensive deli and bakery section, and there were so many things that I would have liked to try. So many temptations, and I wondered at how I could feel like I was depriving myself so many goodies while also feeling guilty about the food choices that I was making…
We ate dinner at our little table and then watched some TV. We watched the Maori station and a bit of a rugby match. I enjoyed the Maori station and was glad to see the preservation of their culture and language, but was perplexed by rugby… It seemed similar to US football, only more violent and dangerous due to lack of padding and helmets. But it was more interesting to watch than US football since it didn’t seem like the game was being stopped every minute.
I also felt a bit guilty for watching TV in our hotel room on a Friday night… On the way back to the hotel, there had been so many restaurants and bars filled with people and I felt a bit guilty about holing up in our hotel room, but we were quite tired. Wellington has a much younger, hipper vibe than Auckland. I hoped that tomorrow we would have more energy to partake of all the city had to offer. Also, when we came back the reception area of the “hotel” was closed, and I had been planning on asking for more laundry detergent. This was one inconvenience of staying in serviced apartments rather than a regular hotel.