Wellington, Day 1 of 3 – 28th March 2019

The gods are looking favourably upon us as we had the most perfect walking weather today. It was a high of +18c with sunny periods and some clouds – absolutely spiffing!!! We were certainly a bit slow off the mark as didn’t make it out the door until 10.30am. We are blaming the jet lag.

You always know you are in New Zealand when you see the Earthquake Evacuation Warning on the back of the door next to the Fire Evacuation instructions. There is a good reason New Zealand is called the Shaky Isles!!! Just let us get through these next few days without experiencing one, please.

First order of the day was to go up the Wellington cable car. This is the only one of its kind in New Zealand. The Cable Car is a funicular railway between Lambton Quay, the main shopping street, and Kelburn, a suburb in the hills overlooking the central city, rising 120 m (394 ft) over a length of 612 m (2,008 ft). The ride takes five minutes.

There was an excellent museum up the top and you were able to go into the original wheel house.

Construction began in 1899, involving three teams working around the clock. The line opened to the public on 22 February 1902. Demand was high, with thousands of people travelling each day. In 1903, a number of old horse-drawn Wellington trams were converted into cable car trailers, increasing capacity. By 1912, the annual number of passengers had reached one million. In 1933, the steam-powered winding gear was replaced by an electric motor, improving control and reducing operating costs.

Fraser didn’t want to feel left out.

We caught a free shuttle bus which carried nine people and fully electric to Zealandia, which is a eco-sanctuary for endangered New Zealand birds. The bus was quite weird to ride in as it made no noise at all. It copes very well with the steep winding roads which Wellington is all about.

Zealandia is a protected natural area, the first urban completely fenced ecosanctuary, where the biodiversity of 225 ha (just under a square mile) of forest is being restored.

First critter we met was the Tuatara Lizard. These guys are born with three eyes!!! They grow at the most two foot in length. They are now extinct on the North and South Islands but still present on a number of sanctuary islands around the coast.

This guy is a Takahe and only 250 exist at present. Hard to see in the photo but he is about the size of a 10lb turkey. Prior to the Maori and the white fella arriving, there were no predators for the plethora of flightless New Zealand birds. The Maori arrived and killed off the Moa and brought the rats and then the white fella brought the gun and the possum. There is a saying in New Zealand that goes “A good possum is a dead possum”. This upsets the Aussies as they think they are really cute.

Next was the Kākā. It is a large species of parrot found in native forests and is endangered and has disappeared from much of its former range. He is very intelligent and though not overly colourful on the outside, underneath his wings have gorgeous orange plumage.

Most of New Zealand’s ecosystems have been severely modified by the introduction of land mammals that were not present during the evolution of its ecosystems, and have had a devastating impact on both native flora and fauna. The sanctuary, surrounded by a pest-exclusion fence, is a good example of an ecological island, which allows the original natural ecosystems to recover by minimising the impact of introduced flora and flora.

We wanted to demonstrate the fern that New Zealand is iconically known for besides its Kiwi – yet another flightless bird. The bush in New Zealand is very Jurassic like and has ferns everywhere but the flora emblem of New Zealand is not just any fern – it is the Silver Fern. This is not as prevalent as all the other species of ferns but is easily distinguishable by its underbelly. Here you see the underside of the fern turned up to show the silver colour underneath.

After our visit to the eco-sanctuary, we caught the bus back to the top of the cable car and walked back into town through the Botannic gardens. The roses were still out in full bloom and even though Kiwis say they are in a drought, it looked pretty green to us.

This picture is Wellington personified. It is built in very steep tight valleys with wooden houses hanging off hill sides. All homes here are built in wood as they withstand earthquakes better. Usually in a good shake of 6.5 or more, you will lose your brick chimney which makes sense. Before you ask, YES, standard home insurance does cover for earthquake damage. Central Wellington only has a population of 225,000 people but when you take in the surrounding areas it is 500,000. It is a very small and compact city.

We got some spectacular views as we were walking down. By now the wind was starting to pick up and you were sheltering behind walls and trees. On our walk down we came through the Bolton Street Cemetery which was established back 1840 and closed in 1891. In 1960, the City Council’s urban plan established a need for a motorway, a part of which would be routed through the cemetery. In spite of protests, about 3,700 graves were exhumed and relocated, most of whom were re-interred in a large vault beneath the park’s lawn. The relocated parts of the cemetery with head stones are linked through a foot bridge over the road. As we walked over the foot bridge over the highway we noticed there were no high fences or overly built guard rails which for nowadays is not the norm.

Last port of call today was the New Zealand Supreme Court. We had been told by our friends Carol and Pete who we went camping with in Hawks Nest about this building that they had just happened to wander into. The inside is meant to be the inside of a Kauri pine cone. Kauri forests are among the most ancient in the world. The antecedents of the kauri appeared during the Jurassic period (between 190 and 135 million years ago). The room is not in Kauri as it is protected and we think it was in a pine of some sort. The young security officer told us there were no tours left for the day but he still let us inside the court room to look around. He didn’t know what the wood was but we are pleased we took up Carol and Pete’s suggestion at it was indeed beautiful.

Rest of the evening was spent soaking our feet in radox!!!!

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