November 15th: Farewell, Wellington!

November 18, 2008

It seems incredible, but our ten weeks in Wellington are up. We’ve moved out of our lovely Mt. Victoria home, packed up our little car, and headed out of town for our last month in New Zealand. It’s hard to believe how fast it’s gone.

Downtown Wellington and Mt. Victoria from Queen's Wharf.

Downtown Wellington and Mt. Victoria from Queen's Wharf.

We’re now on the South Island, and we’ll update with pictures as soon as we can. Teaser: there will be penguins!

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More Wellington color

November 9, 2008

New Zealand, like all good subjects of the Crown, still celebrates Guy Fawkes Day, complete with carnival booths along the waterfront and fireworks over the harbor. It was November 4th back in the States, election day, so for us the fireworks served double duty to celebrate the poll results that we’d watched all day on CNN.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November.

Around the city, we tried to capture some of the great bits of character we see nearly every day.

Becky shows reverence for public art.

Becky shows reverence for public art.

Who'd have thought a club in Wellington would bear the name of our own eastern seaboard highway?

Who'd have thought a club in Wellington would bear the name of our own eastern seaboard highway?

Yesterday afternoon we hung out in the waterfront park for a while.

Curious Jonathan Climbs a Tree.

Curious Jonathan Climbs a Tree.

One morning a couple weeks ago, we made it out of bed several hours earlier than usual to catch the sunrise. We watched the sky change colors over the harbor and the moon slide closer to the horizon.

Early dawn over Wellington and the harbor.

Early dawn paints Wellington pink.

October 31st – November 3rd: Taupo, part two

November 9, 2008

After bungee jumping (in the country where it was invented, no less), we needed to chill out a bit so we went on a sailing trip on Lake Taupo for a couple hours. It was great to spend the afternoon just relaxing on the water with some delicious local beer, chatting with the guide and fellow passengers and watching the sun set as we pulled back into harbor. The boat itself used to be owned by Errol Flynn, so it could almost be called a pirate ship, right?

Drink up, me hearties.

Drink up, me hearties.

We also saw some fantastic Maori carvings, a commissioned project for rock faces on the lake that are accessible only by boat.

the Maori carvings

the Maori carvings

The sun over Lake Taupo.

The sun over Lake Taupo.

On our last day, we drove home via the west coast, following the Whanganui River through the Taranaki region and some of the prettiest hills on the North Island, and stopping at the town of Wanganui for sightseeing and food.

Gorgeous hills surrounding the Whanganui river and tributaries.

Gorgeous hills surrounding the Whanganui river and tributaries.

Stopping roadside to see a small waterfall on the Whanganui.

Stopping roadside to see a small waterfall on the Whanganui.

Take note, San Francisco: Wanganui has had an elevator for pedestrians to skip the steep climb up the hill the city is built on. We rode up to the top, although the view was less interesting than the transport.

The elevator-access tunnel into the Wanganui hill.

The elevator-access tunnel into the Wanganui hill.

Now back in Wellington, we’re somewhat shocked to find ourselves with only a week left until we pack up and leave our adopted home to travel around the South Island. We’ll try to get some more pictures of this great city before we go – we’re going to miss it here.

October 31st – November 3rd: Terror in Taupo, part one

November 7, 2008

With a free few days beginning on Halloween, we headed north to the Lake Taupo area in the middle of the North Island. We arrived at our campsite around dusk, with just enough light to set up and get comfortable in our tent, where we proceeded to scare ourselves silly watching Psycho. (In the dark. In the woods. With the nearest human civilization being the prison a few kilometers down the road. Becky hadn’t seen it before and had trouble sleeping, equally disturbed by the plotline and by how much she actually liked Norman Bates.)

The next morning we explored more of the Lake Taupo area, a hotbed of geothermal activity. (The world’s first geothermal power plant is there, in fact.) The Waikato river flows out of the huge volcanic Lake Taupo through a narrow chute called Huka Falls. About 2 swimming pools of water go through a 10-foot channel every second – needless to say, it’s impressive. We decided against rafting it.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

We also visited the Craters of the Moon, an aptly-named area with steaming grounds and craters filled with bubbling, sulfurous mud.

Craters of the Moon

Here there be dragons?

We wrapped up the day in the best offering of any geothermal area: a natural hot springs water park complete with private pools and a waterslide. We were maybe the oldest people riding the waterslide, but why let kids have all the fun?

Straight from the dragon's mouth.

Straight from the dragon's mouth.

The next day, deciding we hadn’t gotten enough fright on Halloween, we went to check out Taupo Bungee on the Waikato River.

From this platform, fearless thrill-seekers/fools jump to the river below.

From this platform, fearless thrill-seekers/fools jump to the river below.

After watching a few jumps from a safe distance, we girded our loins and flung ourselves, screaming, off a cliff. Even the memory of it still terrifies us.

Becky plummets down 154 feet to the Waikato River.

Becky plummets down 154 feet to the Waikato River.

More soon to come from the rest of our trip to Taupo.

October 13th and 14th: Southern Wairarapa

October 22, 2008

Last week we spent a couple days in the southern Wairarapa area, at the southern tip of the North Island. We visited Cape Palliser and Aorangi Forest Park, hiking into the Putangirua Pinnacles to check out the badlands structures along the riverbed. They were pretty impressive, though we still favor South Dakota’s version.

The sculpted badlands of the Putangirua Pinnacles.

The sculpted badlands of the Putangirua Pinnacles.

The area was teeming with sheep, some so overloaded with wool it looked like they might topple over, and some newly shorn and looking cold, naked, and startlingly clean. And lots of cute baby lambs. Also in the background of the picture below are some mountains on the South Island, possibly the Kaikouras.

Look at those faces. And Jonathan doesn't understand why I want to take one home.

Look at those faces. And Jonathan doesn't understand why I want to take one home. It could graze on the Mall.

In order to better see the South Island, Becky climbed on top of the car.

Becky is king of the world!

King of the world!

Cape Palliser is famous for its fur seal colony, one of the only mating sites in New Zealand. The road runs right along next to the water, so when we pulled over we were right in their backyard. Jonathan was a little terrified when one just a few feet away opened its mouth to make a noise we interpreted as either a cry of attack or a yawn. “Big teeth! Pointed right at us!”

These beasts are clearly fearsome.

These beasts are clearly fearsome.

We also climbed our way up to the Cape Palliser lighthouse on a long, rickety, steep staircase that felt like something out of Indiana Jones. (Okay, not quite, but only because there were no Nazis chasing us.)

they built the lighthouse *before* they built any access to this ledge. Crazy much?

Fun fact: they built the lighthouse *before* they built any access to this ledge. Crazy much?

October 5th – 7th: Napier, part two

October 13, 2008

As promised, more pictures from our time in beautiful Napier and Hawke’s Bay.

Taking inspiration from the National Tobacco Company factory.

Taking a cue from the National Tobacco Company factory.

The gorgeous ceiling in the National Tobacco Company lobby.

The gorgeous ceiling in the tobacco building lobby.

Another cool Art Deco building in downtown Napier.

Another cool Art Deco building in downtown Napier.

Hawke's Bay from the highest point in Napier.

Hawke's Bay from the highest point in Napier.

The Hawke’s Bay area is well-known for its vineyards, so we spent a day on the wine trail. We also stopped at a nearby olivery, where we gorged ourselves on all the different varieties and bought way more than we planned, and at a creamery. We tasted a bunch of smelly cheeses, and Becky even discovered that she can eat some kinds of blue cheese.

Say cheese!

Say cheese! (Click on the picture for more foolishness.)

On the drive home, we caught another spectacular sunset. We just can’t get enough of this New Zealand countryside.

A lonely tree under dramatic skies.

A lonely tree under dramatic skies.

October 5th – 7th: Napier, part one

October 9, 2008

Becky finally got a few days off, so we drove up the east coast to Napier in Hawke’s Bay. The city is best known for its Art Deco architecture, courtesy of a major earthquake in 1931 that left most of the city needing rebuilding. Many of the buildings have been preserved to showcase the unique style, leaving it with the highest concentration of Art Deco structures in the world.

The local newspaper office from the 30s - it's now a realty company, but the art deco design is preserved both inside and out.

The local newspaper office from the 30s - it's now a realty company, but the art deco design is preserved both inside and out.

A mural on an alley wall - check out the streetlight emerging from the painting.

A mural on an alley wall - check out the streetlight emerging from the painting.

A row of shops in downtown Napier.

A row of shops in downtown Napier.

Even the manhole covers get Deco'd.

Even the manhole covers get Deco'd.

Us in the gardens along Napier's beachfront.

Us in the gardens along Napier's beachfront.

This waterfall, on the edge of town, was apparently built by prison labor.

This waterfall, on the edge of town, was apparently built by prison labor.

More pictures to come, featuring alcohol, tobacco, and firearms cheese!

Wellington color

October 4, 2008

We’ve taken a bunch of random pictures in Wellington that don’t really fit into any narrative but that we wanted to share. Here’s a handful.

There's a quarter-mile-long sealife mural, with little educational labels and everything, painted on a wall along the Oriental Bay beachfront.

There's a quarter-mile-long sealife mural, with little educational labels and everything, painted on a wall along the Oriental Bay beachfront.

A calla lily growing wild along one of the many pedestrian-only streets in our neighborhood.

A calla lily growing wild along one of the many pedestrian-only streets in our neighborhood.

An example of the pedestrian only streets around here -- Becky climbs this one coming home from work. There are people with postal addresses on this street and zero car access to their houses.

An example of the pedestrian-only streets around here -- Becky climbs this one coming home from work. There are people with postal addresses on this street and others with zero car access to their houses.

Mmm, noodly goodness.

The London-based noodle restaurant Wagamama, which Becky was crazy about during her term studying abroad, has expanded to New Zealand. Mmm, noodly goodness.

An Argentine Royal Armada sailing ship is docked in Wellington this week and has been open for tours, so we checked it out. They're on a year-long tour of the world promoting international cooperation and have had guest crew from different countries' navies.

An Argentine Royal Armada sailing ship is docked in Wellington this week and has been open for tours, so we checked it out. They're on a year-long tour of the world promoting international cooperation and have had guest crew from different countries' navies.

 But little did they know that there was a clandestine pirate in their midst. (Turns out International Talk Like A Pirate Day really is celebrated throughout the world - our housemates threw a party.)

But little did those sailors know that there was a clandestine pirate in their midst. (Turns out International Talk Like A Pirate Day really is celebrated throughout the world - our housemates threw a party.)

September 23rd – 29th: About (and above) town

September 29, 2008

Another update! We haven’t left the city at all, but it’s still been pretty busy. Becky’s been working for about a week, waitressing and occasionally bartending at a swanky seafood restaurant on Queen’s Wharf. In her first week she’s already served a tableful of drinking, singing politicians whose names have recently made the papers for bribery and corruption scandals. (And we thought we’d gotten away from DC.)

Taken from near Becky's work, overlooking the Wellington harbor.

Taken from near Becky's work, overlooking the Wellington harbor.

Our house is circled in red, to the right of the church on the hill.

Seagull! (Our house is circled in red, just down the street from the brick church on the hill.)

A couple days ago we went to the top of the mountain on whose foothills we reside. It was hella steep — we were glad we weren’t the hacking, sweating fools we saw running up from sea level.

Wellington and the harbor from atop Mt. Victoria. The brick church, near the bottom of the picture, almost looks like it's at water's edge. Queen's Wharf is the innermost wharf in the bay.

Wellington and the harbor from atop Mt. Victoria. The brick church, near the bottom of the picture, almost looks like it's at water's edge. Queen's Wharf is the innermost wharf in the bay.

Over Becky's shoulder is a straight shot to Antarctica. Anybody care for a swim?

Over Becky's shoulder is a straight shot to Antarctica. Anybody care for a swim?

We’re heading back into the country this weekend, so expect more pictures then, if not earlier!

September 15th – 22nd: Home Sweet Wellington

September 22, 2008

For the last week, we’ve been getting settled in Wellington: learning our way around the neighborhood, stocking our kitchen shelves, buying lamps and hangers, the works. We’re beginning to really explore Wellington and already have favorite Thai and Indian restaurants; this town is charming.

Oriental Bay as seen from a bit further up our street

Oriental Bay as seen from a bit further up our street

Jonathan’s been working for a few weeks now, and Becky’s on the job hunt with a handful of good prospects. We’ve been getting to know our roommates too and have done a little barhopping. Unfortunately for everyone back home, we haven’t been bringing our camera with us much when we’ve been out, so the shots of downtown will have to wait, but we don’t have to go far from home to get a great view.

Wellington from our front porch

Downtown Wellington from our front porch

Becky poses on the front porch. Our bedroom window is left of where she stands. (Check out the stairs we have to climb just to get to our front door!)

Becky poses on the front porch. Our bedroom window is left of where she stands. (Check out the stairs we have to climb just to get to our front door!)