New Zealand Days: Wellington

It took us a bit longer than expected but Laura and I finally reached Wellington after numerous differences of opinion with Google Maps, which like a spoiled child kept changing our route in fits and spurts—the last faux pas encouraging us to take an exit we had already passed nearly four miles earlier. Some of the highway markings fell short of the mark as well, though admittedly I may have missed one crucial turn because it was blocked by a semi-tanker to my right.

Getting back to Google’s new recommended route took us down the road to the longest  place name in the world, Taumatawhakatangi­hangakoauauotamatea­turipukakapikimaunga­horonukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu, and that’s the traditional 92-character spelling—according to Wikipedia there is also a 105-character version!

92-character Maori Place Name
Longest Place Name in the World

Laura had one more tussle with Google to get us from the end of the freeway in Wellington to our AirBnB location, and then everything was lovely. Not altogether lovely – I’m blogging because she was more than a bit under the weather yesterday and ended up spending most of the day in bed, and I set out in the morning to see the sights for us both.

I first took care of a personal preference: a hike up to the lookout at the summit of Mt. Victoria, which rose behind and above our lodging’s location. It didn’t look like much of mountain, but its diminutive stature was radically offset by its steepness. My little health app indicated that I had ascended 31 floors on the 1.5 mile trek.

Trail Marking Signs on Mt Victoria
Trail Marking Signs on Mt Victoria

One interesting point about Mt. Victoria is that there is a Lord of the Rings filming location here. Also found here is an abundance of widely recognizable, richly colored plants such as Sweet Pea, Queen Anne’s Lace, Giant Fern, and that thing with nasturtium-like leaves and morning glory-like blossoms.

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The trails are quite well marked, and the things you can see are worth the effort to sort out the occasional unmarked intersections. I enjoyed a stunning view of Oriental Bay along the way, and from the top, the other side of the world as it seemed, including the somewhat busy airport.

Oriental Bay
Wellington Airport and 24-pounder from Mt. Victoria Summit

After a brief stroll around the summit, I headed back down into town by a somewhat different route. To my surprise there was the piece of a set for “Lord of the Rings,” not exactly a hobbit house, but more like a wayfarer’s lodgings.

House of sticks; used in the film Lord of the Rings
Filming location for “Lord of the Rings”

I suspect children from the nearby playground have kept the hutch going all these years.

Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Museum of New Zealand, was the next station on my trek, and looking back along the way I could see Mt. Victoria’s summit, where I had just come from.

Summit of Mt. Victoria
Summit of Mt. Victoria

Although some of China’s terracotta warriors are currently on exhibit, I didn’t have the price of admission on me so I chose instead to look at some of New Zealand’s treasures that have been collected here.

Once inside, I was first captivated by the story of the WWI battle of Gallipoli, vividly writ larger than life with photos, models of trench works, giant life-like statuary, and audio tracks. It was dreadful, knowing the eventual outcome of the battle (New Zealand lost 8,000 men) and also because it reminded me of brief moments during Operation Desert Storm: making every bullet count, eating canned meats, no one wanting to be taken out by a ricochet, and heartbreaking.

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Then it was up to the second floor to see exhibits of the origins of this part of earth that is now called New Zealand. From the beginning, the people were connected to the Earth, whenua (wh is pronounced as /f/ in the Maori language). The placenta was also called whenua so the first people prepared an ipu whenua (afterbirth container), such as the replica on display, to return the placenta to the earth, thus maintaining the connection.

Afterbirth Container
Ipu Whenua

From the beginning, the people used the Earth’s bounty as they pleased. Whenever resources ran low, they banned hunting, fishing, or harvesting to allow the resources to recover. A ban was established by erecting a pou rahui (post denoting restriction) to mark an area off limits, and the people respected the ban.

Pole
Pou Rahui

Then came the Europeans, and they began clearing land, and marking their territory with a pou rahui, several actually, and stringing wire between the posts to “enforce a ban” on crossing the area.

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Ultimately, the Treaty of Watangi, signed 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and more than 500 Maori Chiefs became the founding document of a nation, a symbol of the unique relationship among people which continues to evolve today.

There was more museum than I could see in an afternoon, so I headed back to our lodgings to check on Laura, who thankfully was feeling much better; good enough, in fact, that we went out for dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant in the evening and enjoyed some very good chicken and sweet corn soup, cashew chicken, and egg fried rice, which also provided enough leftovers for our breakfast this morning before departing Wellington, a city we both agreed we had once again not spent enough time getting to know.

9 thoughts on “New Zealand Days: Wellington

  1. Strong legs! That Mountain would have been my undoing.
    Fascinating story on both the burying of the placenta. Something I had heard about, now makes total sense.
    Pou rahui – how a good thing can be twisted for another’s territorial sign….
    Glad Laura is feeling better. Thank you for “stepping” in.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Janette. That hike up Mt. Victoria WAS much more rigorous than I imagined; drank half a liter of water just getting there, and had to buy a replacement before setting off for the museum.

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  2. I vividly remember the museum with the larger than life figures. And I believe I rode a tour bus to the top of Mt. Victoria! We had a delightful morning with a young man named Nathan who told us stories of the filming of LOTR and showed us several spots – along with still from the movie. Such a fun time!

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    1. You rode a bus up?! I always thought you were bolder than I. Oh, and there was a still from LOTR on the sign but time and a hole in the Ozone Layer have dealt it a cruel blow.

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  3. Another really interesting post with great pictures! Love the placenta story and the LOTR set piece. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be having Google Maps let me down. Ha! I’m lost in the US without them sometimes. So glad Laura is feeling better. Safe travels to Tokyo!

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