January 25-26, 2013
(Posted by Xavier)

The ride to Picton retraced much of the route we had traveled just a few days earlier on our way to Nelson. Jumping on board the ferry that would take us to the north island of New Zealand we felt the excitement of seeing new sights but also knew we would miss the people and the richness of the land of the south island. We could not have asked for better weather the entire day. Ferrying past the large natural harbor, green land masses, across the open ocean and into the north island, we ferried into Wellington.

By far Wellington was the largest, most modern and cosmopolitan city we had been in New Zealand. Staying in the large, well equipped (2 multi-station fully equipped kitchens), and centrally located YHA hostel, we took full advantage of its location. We walked along the waterfront on the way to hike Mount Victoria, a high peak that overlooks the city, along the way marveling at the car porches with a view. After viewing all of Wellington from above on a beautiful clear day, we walked back down into the city to experience local activities of beach ball, wharf diving, boardwalk entertainment, and the wonderful Te Papa national museum of the Maori culture and New Zealand Natural History (with a sprinkling of Hobbits). Later that night we took the cable car up the side of the mountain to the Botanical Gardens that overlook the city to enjoy a free Big Band Concert under the stars, all the time experiencing just wonderful weather.

In a way it was a bit of a shock to come back into a big city atmosphere, clubs, bars, night life, shopping stores, restaurants of every type, cars racing down the street, and the first police sirens we had heard in weeks. Was this the other side of New Zealand we hadn’t seen yet? In one way, it was good to have some conveniences we hadn’t had for some time (good wifi connections), but we also knew there was more to see here than just big cities. And with that, we left Wellington, impressed by all it had to offer in terms of culture, modern conveniences, perfect weather — it was a place one could seriously consider retiring to — but we struck out to see more of this northern island.