It happens to the best of us. For me, it hit me in Wellington. A week and a half into my New Zealand journey I got homesick. All I wanted was a familiar face, a hug and a home which could rightfully be on several different continents. I arrived into Wellington at 8:30 in the morning absolutely knackered after taking a night bus from Taupo at 3am. My schedule only gave me a day and a half in Wellington so I had wanted to get there as early as possible and the 3am bus after a day of hiking Tongariro seemed like a good idea at the time. My bus trip however wasn’t completely without hiccups. What should have been a get on the bus and pass out, instead was slightly more long winded but we got there in the end and miraculously on time thanks to my two bus drivers.
I manoeuvred my way to Base Hostel in Wellington feeling completely punch drunk and desperately in need of sleep. But I was determined to put my bags in the hostel, freshen up and explore the city that I was told would remind me of Halifax. My first call was Te Papa. Completely interactive and jam packed with information on the history of New Zealand both geographically and culturally it is a brilliant museum. It also has the only colossal squid on display in the world! One of the main reasons I had wanted to go to Te Papa was the exhibition on the Mauri culture. Their beliefs, stories, how they got to New Zealand and their relationship with the settlers fascinated me. Especially after I had had the opportunity to go to a hangi at Tamaki Mauri Village in Rotorura. You are taken to a pre-European style village, welcomed in by traditional ceremony, taught games, shown traditional dances and the famous Haka. The evening ends with a traditional hangi feast of roasted sweet potato, vegetables, stuffing and lamb. It was delicious.
Day two was Remembrance Day and I woke up slightly less homesick. After Te Papa I had one of those strange telepathy moments where you are thinking of someone and all of a sudden your phone rings and it’s them. Then as I was googling away cafes I discovered that Wellington had a Butlers Hot Chocolate! A taste of Dublin and equivalent to a hug. I went and got one directly and wandered around the city. Down Cuba Street which felt like the North Lanes in Brighton and the waterfront and surrounding area which really did have a Haligonian vibe to it. Wellington felt like someone had conglomerated all of the places I had been or lived into one city. Even the weather reminded me of Ireland.
So on Remembrance Day morning feeling slightly more myself and embracing the weather I decided to go to the ceremony at the National War Memorial in the pouring rain. I arrived to find a few military personnel with guns outside the memorial at attention and a very poor speaker system to share the ceremony that was inside. I am not sure if perhaps the ceremony itself wasn’t open to the public or it was full as I was late or it is not frequented by the public so hey weren’t prepared but it wasn’t very well organised for people outside. I didn’t last long past 11:11 but headed to the main building having seen a few people give up before me and head that way. What I found was a brilliantly designed exhibition on Gallopoli and WWI. I didn’t have time to go through the whole thing due to the ferry but the parts I saw were filled with hundreds of tinted photos, exerts from diaries, military reports and newspapers. It was very well done!
From there I rushed off to stuff in a quick lunch at The Rogue & Vagabond, an eclectic craft beer and music venue, before taking the Interislander Ferry to Picton where I would start the second half of my adventure. It was pelting rain, gusting wind and rough seas so the crossing wasn’t exactly a highlight. I spent the majority of it drinking a hot lemon and ginger curled up on their sofas. Once we hit the Sounds it levelled off and in fairness the view helped to take your mind off your stomach. Arriving in Picton, the air was damp and chilly as I made my way to my hostel and I wished that I was going to a cute B&B instead of a hostel. My wishes were answered as The Villa is just that. An old cozy home covered in vines and flowers that just happens to be a hostel. It feels just like a B&B. They even make home made dessert in the evening. It is also situated right next door to the local award winning Picton Bakery. In lieu of that I took a break from my porridge the next morning and chose a feta, spinach and sun dried tomato scone for breakfast and later berated myself for not taking something for lunch as well.
Noon came and I along with five other girls stood crammed in the hallway with all of our bags waiting for the Stray bus. It felt like the first day of school somewhere new. I was soon to be put at ease though as we all clambered on board and our guide/driver Nipper introduced everyone to everyone and made us feel at home; throwing in his New Zealand catch phrase “sweet as” into every conversation. And that was the beginning of the South Island adventures as we headed off to Abel Tasman National Park.