March 11, 2015 Wellington, New Zealand

I forgot to mention in the last blog when we arrived in Napier we couldn’t figure out why there were cars parked everywhere…on every side street, full parking lots, and up on the grass.  Turned out they were having one of the 2015 World Cup Cricket championship playoffs.  New Zealand was playing Afghanistan.  There were quite a few Afghanistan fans staying at our hotel and dining in the restaurants.  Cricket is so popular in New Zealand and every restaurant TV had cricket games playing.  Seemed like a weird form of baseball to us!
Before leaving Napier we stopped by Pak n Save to pick up a few supplies.  I stopped by their bakery department and bought some fresh blueberry muffins.  They were delicious!  I told Bill at last I found something better here than back home.  Our sales receipt gave us four cents off per liter at their gas pumps so we decided to get gas there too.  Their gas pumps are without attendants so you put cash in the machine and push your pump number.  If you need money back you have to trot back into the store and wait in line at the service counter.  A bit of a hassle but with the price of gas here it is worth it to get the four cents per liter discount.
The drive to Wellington is four hours and with stops for lunch and rest it took us over five hours.  We took turns driving.  We have found driving here to be tiring.  It is as if you are constantly fighting your brain which is yelling that you are driving on the wrong side of the road.  And so much to remember with the turn signals on the right of the steering wheel and the passing lane to your right.
We arrived in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand around rush hour but fortunately most of the traffic was driving out of the city.  Wellington reminded us of San Francisco with its high density housing dotting the hillsides and the hilly streets.PicsArt_1426408702263PicsArt_1426414012484PicsArt_1426416659144
We settled into our motel and asked the hotel proprietor for a restaurant recommendation.  He said there was a restaurant at the bottom of the hill with great fish and chips.  We made the short walk down the hill.  After two weeks I have come to the realization that I am happiest ordering off the sides part of the menu instead of the entrees.  I can make a delicious dinner from a garden salad, fresh mashed potatoes and fresh bread.  Here I ordered a garden salad and some garlic bread.  It was the best salad I have had since leaving the States.  Bill said his fish and chips were the best he has ever had.
The next day we caught the city bus to the cable car.  When you board the bus you place your $2 coin in a small tray next to the PicsArt_1426415408139PicsArt_1426414160097driver.  A machine prints you out a ticket.  Seemed like a waste of paper to us but the purpose is to show proof you paid should anyone ask for it.
There was a line at the cable car ticket booth because there was a cruise ship in town and everyone wanted to ride the cable car.  We enjoyed chatting with a young lady who was a librarian at PicsArt_1426414286388PicsArt_1426414434844PicsArt_1426414988362the local public library.  She had hoped to make a quick run home via the cable car to pick up something she left, but got caught in the cruise ship line.  The cable car was fun to ride, especially the trip downPicsArt_1426415181715 when it was less crowded and we stood in front and Bill chatted with the very friendly cable car operator.  The trip up and back was steep and went through two tunnels.  Quite different from the cable cars in San Francisco.  The two cars are connected by ONE cable where the cars are  balanced, one car is going up and the other car slides down using gravity. As you can see the PicsArt_1426414782503PicsArt_1426415307090cable looks pretty small. At the top we walked through a cable car museum and enjoyed the great views of the Wellington area.
After lunch we walked to the New Zealand Parliament building.  After going through security we signed up for their next tour.  IWe had an hour to spare and they said we could sit in the public gallery and watch a Parliament session.  We went through additional security where we basically had to leave everything behind with the guards except what we had on and Bill’s wallet.  Today’s meeting was a question and answer session.  On one side of the room was the government and on the other side the opposition.  The opposition was asking questions of various government members.  The session was presided over by the Speaker.  We were amazed as the government and opposition members yelled at and interrupted each other and shook their heads and rolled their eyes.  We received a copy of the twelve questions being discussed.  There were such questions as:
To the Minister of Climate Change:  Is the Government’s objective to increase New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions or is the Government’s objective to decrease New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions?
To the Minister for Economic Development: What reports has he received on GDP growth in New Zealand’s regions?
To the Minister of Justice: What advice, if any has she received about Iriheke Pere given that it is over 18 months since he was shot in the back while he was handcuffed and not resisting arrest.
To the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has she made on steps to protect children? 
Some of the greatest heated responses came came from questions related to roads.  One member of the opposition asked the question to the Minister of Transportation: How much has been spent in total by the New Zealand Transport Agency on roads in the Northland region under the National Land Transport Programme set by the current Government since it was elected in November 2008?  This question led to a lot of yelling by each side and eye rolling by the opposition.  The man who asked the question then held up a big photo of the road mounted on poster board.  This infuriated the Speaker who asked him to remove it.  When the opposition man got up to take it out he held it up and paraded it out for all to see.  This infuriated the Speaker even more and he told the man to collect all his things and leave the session which he did.  It was all very entertaining and fascinating and we were sad when our hour was up and we had to leave for the tour.
We had a nice tour of the Parliament building, a beautiful old building. Next door is a building called The Beehive which is very much like our White House except it is not a residence.  PicsArt_1426415666243PicsArt_1426415558968Their elected government is confusing to us and we still don’t get the government vs opposition thing. The Crown (currently Queen Elizabeth) appoints the Governor General.  For the first time since arriving in New Zealand we met some Americans also taking the tour who where from California and Utah.

We finished the day with a drive through Mt Victoria Tunnel and a drive up a steep, narrow and winding road to the Mt Victoria Lookout which gave us a nice view of Wellington and the harbor.
The road was extremely narrow made worse by residents being allowed to park on the side of the road, making it a one lane PicsArt_1426415775513PicsArt_1426415904748road in places.  You never knew what might be coming at you as you rounded each curve.  A real nail biter for me!!
The next day we caught the Interislander car ferry from PicsArt_1426416196165Wellington to the PicsArt_1426416563374South Island.  Our ferry was named Arahura meaning “Pathway to Dawn”.  It is capable of carrying 125 cars and 550 passengers with a crew of  45.  It has eight decks.  We got there early and were near at the front of the long line of cars, motorcycles and campervans.
The trip took about 3 hours and we sailed 50 nautical miles.  It was a perfect day for sailing with blue sky and calm seas.  We sailed through Queen Charlotte Sound and Cook Strait.  James Cook first sighted land here in 1770, but he wasn’t the first PicsArt_1426417350246PicsArt_1426417262976PicsArt_1426417111149PicsArt_1426417054187PicsArt_1426416991400PicsArt_1426416928534PicsArt_1426416833818PicsArt_1426416747242European to do so.  More about that in the next blog post.
We landed at Picton, a small seaport on the South Island and began the drive to Nelson, our next overnight destination.PicsArt_1426417538107PicsArt_1426417436045
Some observations:
They only put the house dressing on salads, they never give you a choice of dressings.  Fortunately most of them have been very good.  A couple times I have been disappointed to find beans in my salad….lima, kidney, etc.  Love the roasted pumpkin seeds in my salads.
Pharmacists are called chemists.
Catsup is tomato relish or tomato sauce and is not as good as the ketchup back home.
Churches in New Zealand are small and plain, usually made of stone or wood.  We have not seen any large, grandiose churches.
Eggs are not refrigerated in the grocery stores.
There are no artificial sweeteners on the tables in restaurants.  Only sugar and raw sugar.
They do not put salt and pepper on the tables in restaurants.

1 thought on “March 11, 2015 Wellington, New Zealand

  1. karnold249

    Love hearing about your trip. You are now in ares we haven’t explored. Can’t wait to see your next post. I love your comments about how things are different. Travel safe.

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