Monday, April 13, 2009

Absolutely, Positively Wellensteins

Rach had been doing her 2 - 3 days a week in Wellington as part of a secondment, and I said that the kids and I should go down and visit. Thanks to a local airline's bargain flight site, I was able to actually make good on this, rather than it becoming another one of those "always meant to" things.

$59 each way for Ella and I, and Betty still flies free (although she doesn't get a seat)! We got to Wellington about 2pm, it was cold and windy and starting to rain.

Had to phone the rental car guys for them to show up with our Corolla:


Despite this very slightly bad start, they were great. I especially like the mismatched wheelcovers, also unlike every other rental company, kid seats were completely free.

The Corolla was somewhat smaller than we're used to, but we managed to cram the pram in the boot, as well as all of us into the car.

I didn't get lost at all on the way into the city, getting us to Our Place no problem. Rach met us there, with some lunch as Ella had not been able to steal enough lollies from the plane to keep us going.

We had a brief (i.e. a couple of hours) look at a relatively small amount of the free stuff. The big hit for Betty was the big map of New Zealand that you stand (or in her case, jump) on. Ella showed a surprising amount of interest in plate tectonics and volcanism.

Te Papa really is an incredible place - if you haven't been, you really should make an effort to get there somehow.

Once we'd (actually, probably just me - I am the most prone to museum boredom in our family) had enough, it was off up the motorway to Cheryl's place in Porirua Ranui Heights. 'Auntie' Chezza was kind/mad enough to put us up for the next two nights, which was probably quite good, as the Corolla may not have made the best campervan in the world.

I had not been to her place before, despite her having owned it for a hell of a long time. It's a great place: massive garden, and like pretty much everywhere in Wellers, a great view. Here's a few pics (click for slideshow):


Because I am an idiot, I went for a run the next morning. Being from Hanimalton, where everything is flat, running on hills was a bit of a novelty. It was actually not too bad a way to get a look at the area too, as long as I ignored the massive leg and lung pain.

We decided to use that day to visit the Karori Sanctuary, a place I'd never heard of before, but highly recommended. It's not too hard to find, being pretty much right in the middle of a suburb that's very close to the CBD.

Once you've paid the entry price, had your bag frisked for mice (!), and walked in a couple of hundred metres, it's hard to believe that there could possibly be a city anywhere nearby.

Everything here is amazing, but some of the highlights were:

Green Geckos:


Shag nest (hurrr):

I am not really that interested in birds, but as we were walking through I found myself getting excited every time I saw a Saddleback or a Tui.

Another place that's well worth the visit - we ended up wandering around for nearly four hours!

Hunger brought us out in the end - eating the native wildlife is frowned upon, I can't imagine why. There was a little bit of drama actually finding something to eat, but an awesome playground down on the waterfront took at least some people's minds off their hunger.

After lunch, we did a bit of a drive-around of some suburbs that I don't know the name of, then tested out another playground (where some maniacs were swimming in the sea):

Back to Cheryl's after that, where I cobbled together dinner using some of her tomatoes.

The next day we went back to Te Papa. We'd intended to go to the Monet and the Impressionists exhibition. However, the 3km-long queue plus 8 billion schoolkids made us reconsider.

Instead, we spent the morning seeing another 3% of the museum. This place is truly huge, it would probably take a week to see everything properly.

Betty went polynesian:


and Ella forged some money:


We then wandered through the city in search of lunch, stopping only for photos of landmarks:


We ate at a French place with actual French people working in it, with accents and everything. We ate outside - not because it was nice and warm, but so as not to destroy the place:


At last it was time to go on the cable car. It wouldn't be a family holiday without some kind of train (well, pretty much):


Betty is only looking apprehensive because she wasn't allowed to drive. Actually, I think she only wanted to drive due to the awesome book you could read while doing so:


Cable-car museum next BECAUSE IT'S FREE but also quite interesting. Cue sideways pictures of kids on old cablecars (I wasn't the only one taking a picture like this, believe me):


The Wellington Botanic Gardens are picturesquely arranged on what appear to be a series of sheer cliffs. Don't worry though, for those of us pushing little Ms. Hefty in her pushchair, there were some merely near-vertical paths.

We descended about 900 vertical metres from the cable-car stop to a playground, which was very good, probably even worth the titanic struggle back to the top. Ella (maybe with some encouragement from someone who isn't not me) rolled down some of the gentler hills.

She enjoyed this so much that she tried it again where it was too steep. Standing up out of a barrel roll, as both her parents yelled out in panic, she slipped over onto her arse, then bounced over a bank taller than her to land, on her feet, on the path. This was much to the horror, shock, and finally amazement of some people sitting on a bench who would have been well hit had it gone wrong.

Here's some people playing in a playground:

(I told you Bethan was heavy)


Note how no sky is visible in either photo. This is due to it being blocked out by the aforementioned hill, which Wellingtonians probably consider more of a gentle slope.

Back to, and then down the cable-car, then off to my first cousin once removed Toby and family (some of who are my second cousins (not removed)). Sorry, this cousin thing's all a bit of a novelty to me.

Having met us only once before, and quite briefly at that (and before El Destructo arrived), Toby, Hilary, Emily, Leandra and Tom had invited us to stay for the night.

The girls got to sleep in an amazing bedroom under the stairs:


while Rach and I luxuriated in the rest of the basement (about two-thirds the size of our house):


It was really good to catch up - my extended family make up for their relatively (hurr) low numbers by being, well, just good people. The Fiennes house was a whirlwind, mostly of various sporting endeavours (possibly a glimpse of the future for us?), but they made time (and dinner) for us AND THEY HAD LOTS OF PLAYMOBIL which I've just realised we completely forgot to tidy away.

We'd love to return the favour if they're ever up this way - I'm sure we'll find somewhere to fit them all.

Here we all are:


From the left: Emily, Toby, Tom, Hilary, Leandra, Idiot Boy, El Destructo, an unknown beautiful lady no wait it's Rach, Invisible Girl, and o god I've forgotten the dog's name. Nice dog, I'm just terrible with names. Hopefully someone will remind me.

Due to the cheapness of the tickets, we had quite an early flight the next day, back to seemingly subtropical Hamilton.

AAAA+++++ would visit Wellington again as they say on TradeMe.

If you are insane you will click here for a massive slideshow. You have been warned, although I guess you could just leave it running in the background for a couple of hours.