Another long journey to another town. A 3 hour drive back to Auckland airport, then a 4 hour wait at the airport because of a flight delay, and an hour flight later we finally landed in Windy Welly. This is New Zealand's capital city and it's 10 times smaller than Auckland. Wellington is not as shiny and bright as Auckland but what it lacks in size and pizazz it makes up for in character and vibrancy. The city is alive with a free spirit. Backpacker's roam the streets alongside locals. It's city center sits in a basin surrounded by lush hills and a harbor that rivals that of Auckland's. We did get some of the infamous wind that Wellington is known for. Wellington can get gale force winds at times that have pushed yachts from the harbor back to sea. Most of the homes are Victorian and dot the lush green hills overlooking the city center and remind me of San Francisco.
Most restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops are located either on Cuba street or Courtenay Place. A local described Courtenay Place as sleezy since most of the bars were on that street while Cuba street had more boutiques and cafes. We went to Fidel's Cafe on Cuba street and enjoyed delicious food there as well. The cafe walls were adorned with revolutionary artwork and photographs of Fidel. Wellington has more restaurants and cafes per capita than any place I've been too. Bring your elastic waste band pants if you plan to visit Wellington. This town is a foodie's wet dream. And I just realized I don't have any pictures of my meals from Wellington and I think it's because I devour everything as soon as it's brought to me. Had delicious braised lamb shoulder at Capitol Cafe, delicous steak at Floriditas, and spicy noodles at KK Malaysian for a late night snack. This town is obsessed with Southeast Asia cuisine and I wish I had more stomach space to try more delicious Malaysian food. And for you beer lovers I drank as many local beers as my liver would allow. They have happy hour in Wellington and offer local beers on tap by the jug which is about 2/3 of a pitcher. Typical American fast food restaurants are also here but I didn't feel like paying an arm and a leg for chicken nuggets.
One of the big draws in Wellington is the cable car ride up to the Wellington Botanical Gardens. It's also a great opportunity to get sweeping views of the city. It's about $5 USD for a round trip ticket.
My friend Judy was feeling sick and she was coming down with a cold so she decided to head back to the hostel. I stayed behind to enjoy more views up above Wellington and decided to check out the aptly named Zelandia natural reserve. This place is a gem and it's only minutes away from the city center. Zelandia has miles of trails that meander around a dam and a lake. They may have filmed some scenes from Lord of the Rings here but I may be wrong. Wellington was the headquarter for that film and they shot all around town.
Most of the animals in the reserve were birds including a nearly extinct flightless bird called the Takahae. The spotted kiwi also live in the reserve but you have to go on a night tour to try and spot them since these birds are nocturnal.
It's amazing that all this lush vegetation is just outside a bustling metropolis. Like I said earlier some of the trails were straight out of the Lord of the Rings movie. I almost chickened out of crossing the suspension bridge. What a wimp right? How am I supposed to bungee jump if I can't even cross a damn bridge.
The Tuatara is found in the Zealandia reserve. It's an iguana-like reptile that is native to New Zealand. See if you can spot the adult Tuatara in the photos below. Look for the colored beads around their necks. I spotted an infant Tuatara and this little guy was not afraid of humans.
Windy Welly is a charming city that is vibrant with life and is proud of showing it. The food scene is bursting at the seams. Backpackers and cruise ship tourist flood the streets. And they are serious about their coffee here. There's one more thing that I noticed about Kiwis. They like to walk around town barefoot. I finally had the courage to take a photo of one.