Day 5 - A Wellington Wander


Day 1 - Arrival
Day 2 - Raglan to Urenui
Day 3 - The Long Road to Levin
Day 4 - A Day with Granny
Day 5 - A Wellington Wander
Day 6 - The Tour to Taupo
Day 7 - Rolling to Rotarua
Day 8 - The Redolence of Rotorua
Day 9 - The Beach at Bowentown
Day 10 - Outtrip to Ohope
Day 11 - Meander over McLaren Falls
Day 12 - Mission to Mt. Manganui
Day 13 - Shopping the Strand
Day 14 - Wistful in Whangamata
Day 15 - Cruising to Coromandel
Day 16 - On the Road to Orere Point
Day 17 - Departure

Wednesday, March 20

We all awoke pretty early to a fairly nasty day, solid cloud cover and drizzle. What a fine day for a road trip!

Actually, last time we were in Levin we never made it down to Wellington, which seemed a shame, since its only about an hour further south. If we were going to be in Tauranga (where Richard's aunts live) by the weekend, we had to go down to Wellington today and be back in Levin that night.

So after breakfast, we said goodbye to Granny Stanton (we'd be back that night) and headed out on the southern most leg of our trip.

The drive south was pretty uneventful - the road is a major highway, but still only one lane each way most of the way... only when we were just about in Wellington proper did it grow to a four-lane highway. A significant portion of the drive was right along side the ocean, where strong winds blasted the camper and high seas looked as if they would roll right across the highway.

Waiting at a train crossing on the highway for a commuter rail train to speed past. The ocean along the highway demonstrates just how nasty it is out there today... good six foot waves rolling in!
Almost there... the tunnel on the highway leading into Wellington. ...and a good sized tunnel too!

Once we'd arrived in Wellington, the very obvious was apparent to us - we were a big highway vehicle in a small car city. Negotiating the roads in the camper was challenging, and finding a place to park doubly so. We ended up driving a loop right into and out of the city. At one point we stopped in a semi-industrial area just to grab a bite from a local cafe.

Finally, we ended up on the main drag - the Wellington equivalent of Granville street. And, as luck would have it, we found street parking suitable for the camper, which is to say, high enough (no awnings or signs over hanging) and long enough (the back of the camper stuck out into a bus zone). We plugged our meter and wandered about the streets of downtown Wellington.

Wellington is well-known as a windy city, and today was certainly no exception. The clouds broke a bit, so it wasn't raining much, but blasts of wind made it exciting to walk about.

Wellington is also built right around some very steep hills, and one of the attractions in the area is a cable car service built back in 1902 that goes straight up the hill. Lo and behold, we found the cable car entrance less than a block from where we parked.

A successful city parking job. A stack of coins gave us two hours on the meter. Riding up the cable car to the top of the hill.
At the top cable car station, we walk down the path and look back at the station. Left of the previous picture shows a view of the city, the harbour on the left, the clouds everywhere.

At the top of the hill is a large arboretum, as well as a cable car museum and restaurant. And, being at the top of the hill, there's even more wind. With hoods up and heads down, we wandered through a portion of the arboretum. Being built on a hill, the paths winding around it were quite steep, and we didn't want to go too far down with the fear of having to walk back up again.

Inside the arboretum was a small astronomical observatory and planetarium, allowing visitors to wander through and take a peek at their displays. Needless to say, it was pretty quiet around there as far as tourists were concerned.

Giant ferns along the trails of the arboretum. Looking off the side of the hill the arboretum is on, we could see these huge, deeply green trees. They were quite distinct to the rest of the foilage.
Near the observatory, the girls hang out on the Sundial of Human Involvement. Naturally the girls sat on the numbers that represent their age.
The sundial works by standing on the appropriate date in this figure eight. Your shadow then points to the correct time. Of course, you need a shadow for this to work... Inside the observatory, we were able to get close to the original telescope, a 8.5 inch refractor - very large for this style of telescope (modern telescopes are reflectors).
A detail look at the domain, which is on wheels to rotate by hand, this is the gateway that slides back to allow the telescope to peek out. Caitlin checks out the displays on the walls of the observatory that talk about the size and complexity of space.

We wandered back toward the cable car station, making a short stop at the cable car museum along the way.

Alex and Caitlin inside an original 1900s-era cable car... ...and sitting on the side outdoor seats. The seats themselves are at an angle to compensate for the steep uphill slant the cable cars ran on.
Downstairs, the original cable hardware for running the cable cars is still in the same condition it was in 1928, when it was converted to electric power from steam. The girls mug for the camera beside a 12 foot high main wheel.
Back at the cable car station, we spy the cable car coming up the line. You can see the two cables for the two cars that work this line between the tracks. Heading back down, a quick look at the harbour over the tops of the houses.
Slowing down at a mid point station. Notice the other cable car far down the track... but wait! There's only one track! The girls seem unconcerned about the approaching cable car.
The driver seems pretty cool about the whole thing too... look ma, only one hand! Disaster averted, the upcoming cable car veers off to the left while our car heads down to the right.

After the horrors of the cable car ride, we were ready to head back to Levin.

Hey, look at that! Some nut case brought a camper van into downtown Wellington! A peek at the beehive New Zealand parliament building.
On the drive back, we stop to take a look at the still pounding seas. Holy cow! Surfers!
A quick mug for the camera before heading back into the camper. Notice the angle of the trees (and Alex's hair)... Back in Levin, we dressed up and took Granny Stanton out for a nice dinner at a local restaurant.

After a lovely dinner with Granny Stanton at one of the nicest restaurants in Levin, we packed it in for the night. Tomorrow would be the long drive up to Taupo.