The first thing I saw upon arriving in Wellington was Gandalf riding a giant eagle. Obviously.
No, surprisingly, this isn’t another bad Lord of the Rings joke. I actually did. here look:
Yes, we had landed in Wellington safely and after another joyfully uneventful airport experience (cc: Manchester Airport), we took a taxi to our hostel. You can tell we were on the home straight, as we started splashing out on things like taxis rather than working out complex and annoying ways to get away from the airport cheaply.
Unfortunately, short and amiable taxi rides make for very little blog content. Apologies. Who can forget the Melbourne fiasco of December 16? Clearly, all of us, quite easily.
We arrived at Wellington YHA in a joyful mood, having had an easy taxi ride and knowing that some poor souls were staying in the Base Hostel down the road, being subjected to stagnant rooms with weird dehumidifiers and a healthy portion of disappointment. (When I say a healthy portion of disappointment – you get a free meal at Base, and I can confirm it is absoloutely a healthy portion of disappointment).
Instead, our YHA room was clean, comfy and had plug sockets by the bed. You may not think that’s the best thing in the world, but at the time I did. Such is the life of someone who accidentally prepaid for 10 nights in Base hostels. Never do it. Ever.
Having spent around 12 hours in Wellington on our last visit, mostly blighted by queuing for and sleeping in a blisteringly hot room in the Base Hostel (for gods sake let it go man), we were looking forward to properly exploring the city.
Our first night after arriving involved a wander around the city with a collection of various people who we never saw again, which was typical of traveling really. We all added each other on Facebook, but upon realising certain people were prone to long, emotional, overdramatise posts, my first activity the next day was to swiftly consign them to the lost friendship bin. Sad, but necessary.
Our next activity was the monster museum that is Te Papa Tongawera. (Just for clarification, when I say ‘monster’ I just mean huge. It’s not specifically Frankenstein/Yeti based.)
We had frequently been told by Kiwi Experience drivers and passengers that we would never get round the whole museum in a day. There was too much to see and do. However, what they didn’t realise was that we were two history graduates. Museums were our bread and butter. If I can turn up at 9am after a night out and listen to an hour lecture on Franciscan Monks, I can bloody well see the entirety of this museum, thank you very much.
4 hours later, we were flagging and everyone else had been proved right. Clearly out of practice, like Michael Owen returning after a hamstring injury, we were still talented but not showing it on the field.
(Note to self, never compare yourself to a man widely criticised as the most boring football commentator currently broadcasting, you fool Alexander.)
We began with a Gallipoli exhibition, which was both entertaining and a bit moving at times. This was centred around the stories of 8 New Zealand soldiers and nurses, all of whom had been painstakingly recreated in giant form, down to the detail of the hairs on their arms, which to be fair was very impressive and a little bit scary:
After this we had wandered around a deep sea exhibition (complete with creepy giant squid) and a garden (properly cultivated, not just someone’s back yard), before heading to the Maori floor full of, mostly, things we’d already seen in Rotorua. We also had a bit of fun in the gift shop…
The Maori floor was also notable for being the scene of our discovery that our Australian Superannuation (Pension) refund would be taxed at 40%, and therefore we were a bit skinter than we thought. Cursing the dissolution of the Commonwealth and the fact that 200 years ago the colonies wouldn’t have dared to tax us, we had a quick walk around Wellington before heading back to our hostel, packing and slipping off into a fraught sleep haunted by the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
The next morning saw us heading up to Taupo for a 2 night stay where hopefully we would be able to do the Tongariro Crossing and Skydive we had missed out on last time. Having had 3 days in Taupo last time, all of which had been rainy, it would have been a fairly hefty slice of unluckiest to have it rain for the next two days.
Naturally, nature had taken its lead from the ATO and completely screwed us over with 2 days of solid rain. Obviously.
Hastily reducing that 2 night stay to a one night one, we spent the day killing time in Taupo and enjoying the bliss of more YHA comforts. We did little, other than souvenir shopping and a reunion with the heavenly Pak N’ Save which had been such a source of wonder and comfort on our first visit (translation; it was cheap). With quiet Kiwi Experience buses and all our friends scattered over the country, it felt very much like the end of a long holiday. Actually, it felt exactly like he end of a long holiday, because it was the end of a long holiday.
The next morning we trundled out of Taupo on our last ever Kiwi Experience bus, through some brilliant scenery cleverly disguised by the absoloute torrent of rain falling on every side of us. We were heading for Auckland, our final destination, back for some reunions with friends and a merciful, blissful reunion with our heavenly Haka Lodge Auckland.
Alex Odlin needs to let that obsession with Base Hostels go doesn’t he?
You can see more of his wit… well, nowhere, as he has a limited supply. Made painfully clear in this blog.
Next time: The End