Australia and New Zealand are best friends, like Portugal and Spain or Canada and the United States. Australia is also the only place you can fly to and from New Zealand for cheap, so instead of doing Australia, then New Zealand, then an expensive flight after that, we chose to do Sydney, then New Zealand, then back to Australia, then a not so expensive flight after that. Long story short, after Sydney we went to New Zealand. First stop: Wellington.
I mentioned the US and Canada in relation to Australia and New Zealand and it is actually quite interesting how similar these countries’ dynamics are. All are former British colonies (Canada not entirely, but go with me), and both feature relations between a fiery, exciting, red-blooded country (the United States, Australia) and a quiet, calm, scenic country (Canada, New Zealand). New Zealand’s scenery is known to be particularly astounding, put on the map by the Lord of the Rings movies.
The above is what we knew about New Zealand. And the above is pretty much what we got. We’ll get into the scenic side of the country in subsequent posts, because right now, its time for Wellington!
This abstract painting-like image is actually an out-of-focus sunset photograph we took while landing in Wellington. I think it is one of the more beautiful photographs I’ve ever taken.
And this is Wellington, New Zealand’s political and cultural capital. We found it to be a nice but ho-hum city.
Wellington’s harbor is quite beautiful, although the beaches aren’t too grand. Also, I have no idea why that fountain is there; as far as I know it has no meaning.
From sea level, Wellington’s harbor reminded us of southwest Ireland; it was stunning.
Wellington’s coast was lined with Victorian style houses like these. Inna loved them, but she was even more excited about the blue Mazda3 in this photo: it’s the same model and color as her old car and New Zealand was filled with them; we saw more here than in the entire United States!
These are New Zealand’s Parliament buildings. The strange looking building to the left is the Beehive; it houses New Zealand’s executive branch and is one of if not the most architecturally distinct buildings in the country.
This is Cuba Street, Wellington’s most happening place. Cuba street is lined with art, restaurants, shops… Exploring here was fun!
These are three of the more interesting works of art we found in Wellington. Can someone please tell me what the one on the right is?
Remember in my Sydney post when I mentioned that every Australian and New Zealand city has a war memorial, all built between WWI and WWII? Well, here is Wellington’s. It was one of the more powerful ones, in both Inna and my opinions.
Inside the memorial (called the National War Memorial) was a shrine that paid tribute to the different branches and departments in both ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, formed during WWI when both were territories of England) and the modern day New Zealand military.
This museum, which we did not go into (other than to go to the bathroom) was located behind the National War Memorial. In front of the memorial was New Zealand’s tomb of the unknown soldier, which I somehow forgot to take a picture of.
Earthquake!!! During our third night in Wellington, a 7.8 earthquake rocked Kaikoura, a coastal city on New Zealand’s southern island, 100 miles south of Wellington. The earthquake woke us up but it didn’t feel too large, so we went back to bed (Inna and I are from California, earthquakes have to be pretty big to phase us).
The following day, Wellington was almost completely shut down. Almost every business was closed, as were most government functions. This was super annoying, one because we wanted to visit Wellington’s highly praised Te Papa museum today, and two because the earthquake was nothing! It barely woke Inna and me up, and then we just went back to bed. I get that the earthquake was a big deal in Kaikoura, but we were 100 miles north! Earthquakes that far away should not shut down a major city like this, especially not in a country as developed as New Zealand.
It turns out that four of Wellington’s large downtown buildings were condemned due to earthquake damage, and there was fear that the buildings would topple onto other buildings next to them. Last I heard, these blocks were still shut down (although I am sure they’ve opened by now). This is crazy to me, New Zealand is a developed country and is known for earthquakes; how can a country like this be so unable to handle one?
I’ll get more into New Zealand’s lack of earthquake preparedness in another post; for now, I’ll leave it here and move on with this post.
Alright, back to traveling. Remember the great shopping at Cuba Street? Well, while we were there we stopped by an Army Surplus store and bought some camping gear. Everyone who’d been to New Zealand told us that the country’s nature and scenery were its must dos; to experience New Zealand properly we had to get out of the city; we had to roadtrip, camp, appreciate the landscapes and wildlife and views. So that’s what we did.
If you’ve been following this travel blog, you know that Inna and I are big advocates of not renting cars. Car rentals are one of the best ways to spend a lot while traveling, something we don’t like to do and can’t do on this trip, where our money needs to last us a year. But New Zealand was different. You have to rent a car here. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time. That’s what everyone told us at least.
And they were right. New Zealand’s drives, its scenery and roadtrips were all unbelievable; almost every drive was as beautiful as the most spectacular drives on our US roadtrip. Driving New Zealand was amazing and that’s what we’ll get into in our next post.