New Zealand Part Eight: Wellington

20160319_095334_hdr.jpgAw, Wellington.  A highly anticipated destination, but also the end of my trip.  Most of the group was going on to South Island, but I would not be among them.

So now, yes, what you’ve waited for:  the cut.  This is going to be a long one so go potty now, and as our bus driver Pumbaa said, try for results.

Let’s start with some random pictures from the road.





I’ve mentioned that I’m not a tour person, right?  But tours do have many advantages, one of which being a visit to someone’s home for tea and history.  In this case it was Simon and Claudia’s home.  When I tell you these two are the ultimate hosts, that’s not an exaggeration.  They could write the book on hosting strangers.  What a lovely couple they are!


The welcoming committee



Their ranch, Shenandoah, holds a lot of history, and they have a mini-museum in their barn with artifacts.

I really wish I had taken better notes because there was so much to learn here.

Also, Harley Davidsons.

And animals!


We have the same hair color but we are not related


I was chatting with Claudia when Simon pointed out Peter Jackson’s house. Maybe it’s over here somewhere.


I got to pet this dog!

I can’t say enough good things about Simon and Claudia.  They also fed us home baked goods and New Zealand wines and beers.  I could have stayed there all day, and they would have kept us there all day, but we had a farewell dinner to attend.


View from my room at the James Cook Grand Chancellor.

I had a grand time with my tour mates at dinner, said my early goodbyes, and got plenty of pics.  The next afternoon would be the real goodbye.

And then I was going to hit the town with a strong pimp-hand.  Ok, maybe I’m forty so it was more of a gentle tap.  Maybe a solid thump.


Street art

I did very little research, but I knew that Cuba St was the place to be and it wasn’t too far by cab.  After a quick stop at a random bar I moved down the street a little.  From the sidewalk I heard drag queen voices so I had to investigate.  I was not disappointed!  It was Queen vs Queen at Ivy Cabaret.  I saw Mama Deziyah and Kelly Fornia, and both were amazing performers.  Kelly Fornia gave an amazing, on point lip sync performance. Could that be beat?  Maybe! Mama Deziyah actually had the Wellington Footlights join her on stage and performed a selection of Disney songs.  It was hard to decide who won, and I’m not going to choose.  I’m pretty sure it ended in a tie.


Kelly apologized for the glitter. I told her it was the herpes of the craft world.

Next morning was up and at ’em early for the last bit of my tour.

Rumor had it that Sir Richard Taylor walked into our hotel minutes before I got to the coach.  Minutes.  I can only imagine that he was there for a meeting.  What films is he involved with now?

I also found out that Hunt for the Wilderpeople would be at the Nashville Film Festival in 2016.  I saw a story about it on New Zealand television my first morning there, so it was appropriate that I would get this news on my next-to-last day.

After a wrong turn (or “showing Leah where the i-Site is,” according to driver Pumbaa), we were on our way.

We started with Parliament.








And then a visit to Mt Victoria.  I bet it’s a fun running challenge, but I was not up to that at the time.  I’m kind of amazed our coach made it up there.


Richard Byrd memorial




And now, more scenery!




I think this is the grassy hill that the runners would climb. I, however, did not have the right shoes.


20160319_095350.jpg 20160319_095359.jpg

People, you can see why Wellington became my favorite city.  The night before had been a pleasure, and the day was a delight.  And there was so much more ahead!

Last stop with the tour was Te Papa museum.  I said goodbye to my tour mates, and may have been a little hasty in my retreat because I was getting a little emotional.

Te Papa was very informative and interesting.  Please go, and spend a day.  You won’t be bored.


From the Gallipoli exhibit. Please take a moment to check out the size of this vs the size of the guy under his arm. Incredibly detailed statues.  Worth the wait in line.



And I was officially on my own.  It was time to walk again.  There seemed to be lots of events happening on the waterfront but I ended up at a craft fair inside a parking garage.



But I didn’t have time to mess around, I had a bus to take to the Weta Workshop!

I was the only one on the bus, so I got the driver’s full attention.  Boy, is this man well suited to his job.  I wish I had his name, because I would tell you to seek him out, especially if you are a Tolkien fan.  He’s knowledgeable and fun.  He helped me get this picture with a count down between poles…


Clearly I did not get that one pole out, but it isn’t blocking the sign

He explained what would happen movie and tour-wise, and then I had time to browse the store.











No pictures on the tour, sorry.  But it was cool to see the props and learn a little more about the process.  THey had some items from Krampus, and, for all its faults, it DID have some creepy bad guys.

And then I was driven back to town.  More information from the bus driver, who was planning a Hobbit and Lord of the Rings marathon at the Roxy soon.  I looked up information and pics from the event and it looks like it was a grand time.

After the tour I wanted to find a used book store–Pumbaa the previous tour bus driver told me I should check out Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump so I wanted to find a copy.  The driver to the Weta tour told me to head down this alley and turn left at the end and I would find a good one.  I guess he read the expression on my face because he told me this alley was safe.  In fact, the only person he knew of who was hassled in this alley was Viggo Mortensen, and he was hassled by the police for carrying a sword.  Well, I had no sword and I’m not as intimidating as Viggo, so I figured it was cool.  And it was.


Next up was CubaDupa, a festival on Cuba St.  Lots of live performances and street vendors.






I ended up getting a halloumi plate that blew my mind.  My trip was bookended by amazing foods bought and consumed outdoors.  And then, all I wanted was ice cream.  It’s a summer street festival, so it seems like ice cream would be easy to find.  It most assuredly was not.  I found a food both that had waffles with ice cream, but the line was too long.  I gave up and headed back to the hotel.

Google maps told me to take Plimmer’s Steps.  I did.  Too plimmin’ many steps.  But at least there’s this pleasant statue at the start of them.


John Plimmer

They go up and up.  And then further up.  Oh, and did I mention that there was NO ONE around?  I was on alert.  I heard a noise, but it was a tourist with a wheeled bag.

I got to street level and saw a clutch of teen boys hanging out.  I guess my appearance grabbed their attention.  Well, no where else to go, so right through them I went.

I stopped at the convenience shop for an ice cream and a pile of chocolate. Then bed, where I slept for 10.5 hours (well earned after a week+ of early mornings!)

The next morning I had time to explore before it was time to leave.  But first, breakfast.  Breakfast on my own.




Maybe if you click on this, you’ll see the full size and can read that plaque. I had to walk through.


I took the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens.  If I had it to do over again, I would’ve gotten the one-way ticket and walked down.  But, no regrets.  The cable car was cool!


Are you sick of views yet?  Too bad.  I took a cable car to the top of a hill.  Of course there are more of them.



Hydrangeas are pretty if you don’t have to water them.


I walked up this hill backwards because it was pretty and also because I was getting shin splints.

Listen to the sounds of the botanic gardens!!!!


A video posted by leah (@leahparke) on




…and the time was right!

The cable car museum is a fun diversion.  Stay for the short film about people’s personal cable cars.  Can you imagine?

But here are two old cable cars for the hoi polloi.



I headed to Kelburn because it was there.  I saw this interesting building on the way.  What is it?  I don’t know, maybe cable car related.  But it had fun street art.





I saw a wooden platform and thought it was really nice of the Kelburnians to put that there for us visitors.  Then I realized it was a parking platform.  Well, it was still a nice scenic point.


One last look


And back down, backwards

Check out this video of one of the tunnels:

Cable car tunnel

A video posted by leah (@leahparke) on

On my way back I found out that my hotel had an elevator from Lambton Quay.  That means I didn’t have to take Plimmer’s Steps again.  It also meant that I shouldn’t have taken them the night before.  Damn it.

My driver was there early, which meant airport early.  Didn’t matter, security is a little different there.



Security happened at the gate, which kind of makes sense, but might have higher overhead.  It was hot while I waited.

And no upgrade, officially.  I was in economy on the way back.  No big deal.


Layover in Auckland.  There’s quite a walk from the domestic terminal to the international terminal.  There’s a shuttle too, but I was told it was a ten minute walk.  It was not.  Fifteen minimum.  Kiwis are bad at estimating distances I guess,



I bought my last kinder surprise in the airport and ate them while I waited since they are very illegal in the states.

Flight back was eh.  The guy next to me was a massive manspreader and we were thigh to thigh the entire time.

I watched a doc about Star Wars toys, a doc about Back to the Future fandom, the rest of Beetlejuice, and the Vacation remake.

I got to hang out with the Herricks in Los Angeles, and we had a great time at the Farmers Market and the Grove.  It was so nice of them to come all that way for an afternoon with me!

And then I headed home.  More manspreading, and I’m pretty sure I dozed off a few times.

Mom met me at the airport where it was on the cold side, and we had a late night breakfast after midnight but before the drunks.

It was a great trip, and I can’t wait to go back one day.

One:  LAX and Auckland
Two: Bay of Islands
Three:  Whangarei, Orewa, and Auckland again
Four: Waitomo, Otorohanga, and the road
Five: Rotorua
Six: A Visit to a Farm
Seven:  Huka Falls, Taupo, Taihape, and the Road
Eight:  Wellington

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