On Tuesday, February 28, the top of Mount Ruapehu was covered in cloud, which made my decision about doing the Tongariro Crossing a no-brainer. There would have been no point as I wouldn’t have been able to see anything, and I didn’t want another night at National Park. I drove down what I hoped would be the scenic Whanganui River Road. It turned out to be the next road along, but the countryside was still distractingly pretty.
I reached Wellington, and after a few issues regarding navigation and the one-way systems, I checked into my fifth hostel in as many nights. Perhaps it was because I’d just come from National Park, but the hostel, not to mention the city itself, seemed huge and very easy to get lost in. Of course, after a couple of days, I got to know my way around. Fabulous as the New Zealand countryside was, it was nice to be back in a city, and to have lie-ins rather than having to get up and check out.
I immediately liked Wellington. It had an attractive sandy bay, a distinctive parliament building, lots of public art and things to look at, and so many bars and restaurants it would take years to visit them all. I really liked the atmosphere of the place. If I moved to New Zealand, this is where I would set up home.
I took the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens with Toner and Claire, both 25, who I met in the hostel. We played in the playground, and later, at the bay, I taught them the Abbott tradition that is the game Cowardy Custard. We also visited the Te Papa museum, where we learned a lot about New Zealand’s culture, history, wildlife and art.
I drove the three of us, as well as Daniela from Switzerland and Hilde from Holland, to the top of Mount Victoria for an amazing view of the whole city by night. We visited a few bars including Bangalore Polo Club, where we were joined by random kiwis Matt and Rick, the Welsh Dragon Bar where we played pool, and two of the Lonely Planet recommendations in Cuba Street: Matterhorn, where there was live jazz and it was difficult to talk, and Mighty Mighty where, bizarrely, virtually everyone else was dressed as a cat because it was the cat-loving event manager’s leaving do.
The hostel had two decent-sized kitchens and I finally got into the habit of cooking for myself rather than relying on fast food. I thought I might as well buy some supplies while I can put things in the car boot rather than carry them. I thought about advertising the space in the car, to help with the cost, but decided against it as I quite like having the privacy there that I’ve not been getting in the hostels.