Welcome to my personal travel journal! If you don't know me, that's OK! I hope you'll enjoy reading about some of my adventures and misadventures, and hopefully learn something new about a corner of the world.

Recent updates:
2015-10-06: Day 8 of Niue in 2011.
2015-10-05: Day 7 of Niue in 2011.
2015-09-29: Day 6 of Niue in 2011.

For list of trips, see TABLE OF CONTENTS.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

After an exhausting day, I left the museum at 8:30pm and headed over for dinner. It felt amazing to be back in a modern country with many choices of what to eat! I ended up at a small Chinese restaurant for some comfort food. I absolutely enjoyed this meal as it was the first truly hot meal I've had in weeks, and it put me in a great mood! Later, I discovered that my camera spazzed out and lost a bunch of photos. I was able to recover most of the photos, but sadly not all.
Exhibit on the Treaty of Waitangi. This has always been a source of contention between the Maoris and Pākehā, or New Zealanders of European (and sometimes applied to all New-Zealanders of non-Maori) descent. There are some interpretation differences in the treaty between the English and Maori versions. New Zealand does not have a constitution, so a collection of documents are referred to, one of which is the Treaty of Waitangi.
I really liked this poster! There are actually a lot of old-school "Kiwiana" pictures and logos I really like. I'm still on the lookout for a shirt with one of those "Keep New Zealand Beautiful" logos on it. If you know where I can find one, let me know! You can see the logo here: http://www.knzb.org.nz/
There was an interesting exhibit about Polynesian navigation, about how people would use the winds and diffraction patterns of waves to look for land. Some of the navigation feats described were very impressive. One of the most surprising things I learned is that Polynesians apparently drilled holes in coconut shells, which they peered through at stars to help them navigate - kind of like a primitive sextant.
There was an interesting exhibit on the Moriori which sought to clarify some misconceptions. Apparently, they were not wiped out from New Zealand by invading Maoris as commonly believed - this was a story promoted in part due to political reasons. It is now believed that the Moriori are an offshoot of Maoris who settled in the Chatham Islands and adopted a policy of non-violence. Sadly, this resulted in them being effectively wiped out by a Maori invasion in the 1830s, an account made popular by the book and film Cloud Atlas, and touched upon in the popular book Guns, Germs, and Steel. One of the more haunting reminders of the Morioris now are numerous faces carved in the trees on the Chatham Islands. I wonder if this was one of the inspirations for the "Children of the Forest" in the Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series. Pictured here are feeding funnels used by the Moriori during long and painful tattooing.
The area outside the pounamu exhibit. Pounamu (New Zealand greenstone, a type of jade), is found predominantly in the south island. In fact, the most commonly accepted Maori name for the south island is Te Waipounamu, which means "the waters of pounamu." Pounamu bears a very important role in Maori culture, increasing an owner's mana, which is a type of honor. (Note that in other Polynesian cultures, mana is seen as a life-force, and is the source of the concept of mana in many RPG games). Pounamu has made the south island iwis (5% of Maoris) exceptionally wealthy and powerful.
A collection of pounamu hei-tikis. A hei-tiki is a neck pendant (hei) that's shaped like a person (tiki), and used to be commonly worn by high-ranking Maoris. According to Maori (and related Polynesian) mythology, Tiki was the first man created by the god Tūmatauenga or Tāne. I wonder if this is what tiki bars are named after. These particular hei tikis are made of pounamu, also known as New Zealand greenstone, a type of jade found in New Zealand.
A cool collection of Maori fish hooks. Stylized ornamental fish hooks known as hei matau have become increasingly popular in the recent years outside of New Zealand, and are strongly associated with Maori culture, New Zealand in general, and the Maori creation legend of how New Zealand was fished up by the god Maui. In fact, the commonly-accepted Maori name for the north island is Te Ika-a-Māui, which means "the fish of Maui."
A painting of Milford Sound I really liked.
One of the "mating helmets" used in the preservation of kakapos. Apparently they prefer mating with a person's head more than their own species, so this helmet was made to make it easier to collect semen samples from males. You can see a hilarious video with Stephen Fry on the BBC and their encounter with an overly-enthusiastic kakapo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T1vfsHYiKY).
A sweet Maori mask carving from centuries ago.
The museum was larger than I expected and had six floors filled with exhibitions. While I was there, there was also some kind of poetry event happening on the fifth floor with food and drink. There actually was a reasonable number of visitors in the museum, but everyone was spread out across the large complex, making it a somewhat empty and private experience.
Here is a painting of the Pink and White Terraces, which were completely destroyed in the 10 June 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. This was of of the places I really would have loved to visit. The resulting area of destruction, the Waimangu Volcanic Rift, is a fascinating place to visit and includes Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world, but that's a story for another day! Another interesting result of the Tarawera eruption was the creation of the world's largest geyser, the Waimangu Geyser (the namesake of the valley), erputing up to 460m tall between 1900 and 1904.
The outside portion of the museum. Sadly, it's closed for the night - I guess I'll just have to come back to it some other day.
View of Wellington at dusk from the museum.
The preserved specimen of the largest colossal squid to have ever been caught. It was caught in the Ross Sea of Antarctica by New Zealand fishermen, is 4.2m long, and weighs 1091 pounds! I wonder how it tastes.
The museum was surprisingly polished and of high quality. Some sections were geared towards a younger audience, but there was a lot to explore and see. It was also emptier than I expected it would be, but I guess winter is low season for tourism in Wellington. Note the cool Maori motif to the left of the picture.
After a short walk, I was back at Te Papa around 4:30, where I plan on spending the rest of my evening. Luckily, today was one of the late days for the museum, as they were open until 9pm.
The cemetery was very atmospheric in the dark and dreary day. A highway separates two burial sections with a pedestrian bridge linking the two. I wonder if the highway was put in before or after the cemetery. Across the pedestrian bridge, a small group of burial plots stand in the shadow of modern office buildings with bright lobbies and kitchens overlooking the plot.
Just outside the gardens to the northeast was an old-looking cemetery with some surrounding memorials.
My last stop in the gardens was the Peace Garden, which had a tranquil waterfall. There was an inscribed message of peace, and apparently the lantern here was lit with the fires from the bombing of Hiroshima. I didn't spend much time here since there were two people smoking pot, so didn't want to bother them. Seems like a nice place for a smoke here.
The hills opposite the greenhouse. It's kind of dreary in the winter, but can imagine this to be a beautiful place when the roses are in full bloom and the weather is nice out. I kept bumping in to a girl visiting from China throughout my walk, so I had a quick chat with her, but she didn't seem that interested in exploring the area together.
There was a nice tropical greenhouse near the lower portion of the gardens, which was a nice opportunity to step out of the cold drizzle for a few moments. It had a good display of plants, but nothing too stunning.
The embassy of the People's Republic of China near the park, which I felt obliged to take a picture of. It was less fancy than I expected, but had a gorgeous setting right beside the park.
There was a cool visitor centre called the tree house there with some cool exhibits and a pretty tall observation deck, where I took the picture of the duck pond.
A nice duck pond in the park.
A cute little house in the gardens - not sure what it's for. Reminds me of settings in fairy tales.
The Botanic Gardens was a large sprawling place, with interesting vegetation throughout and a few building complexes, including the Carter Observatory. I can imagine this to be a great place to visit when the weather is nice during the summer.
Some of the houses around Kelburn were built on some really steep hills, I wonder if some of them have private cable cars.
View of Lower Hutt across the harbour.
One of the typical views of Wellington you see on the postcards. It started getting drizzly again, so I used the free hot drink coupon that came with my cable car ticket to get a hot chocolate at the café by the station for my walk through the gardens. I wished I had got the macchiato instead. Chatting to the barista, I asked if the weather is always this bad in the winter. His response: "Oh, it's usually worse." I guess Wellington does have a reputation for its weather, so maybe I should be happy that it's at least not windy and stormy!
The cable-grabbing mechanism in one of the older cars. I suppose this must be similar to the mechanism in the famous trolleys of San Francisco.
View inside one of the old cars. The museum also had some pictures of private cable cars. Apparently many houses in Wellington are built on steep cliffs, so many of the houses there have private mini-cable cars to reach them. Some of them looked like over-sized buckets on rails.
There was a cute museum at the top - free, with suggested donation. There was a cool model of the winding room in the museum, and some of the older car models that you can climb on. The slanted outside seats on this model were pretty cool.
View from the top at Kelburn station. The track is quite short but steep, rising 120m over a distance of 612m, encompassing only four stations, one of which is right beside Victoria University.
The cable car station was in one of the buildings downtown. The ticket booth operator suggested I can buy a one-way ticked and walk down through the botanical gardens if I'm not in a hurry. The cable car reminded me of a lot of similar cable cars in Japan. There are two cars, moving in opposite directions at the same time on the same track, which pass each other is a small double-tracked section between the two end stations at Talavera Terrace station.
One last view of The Beehive with one of the lions of the Wellington Cenotaph in the foreground. I was happy I finally got to visit the government buildings of the country I have lived and worked in for a part of my life and have come to love. The weather was improving, with only a light drizzle remaining, so I decided to take a ride on the Wellington Cable Car up to the Botanical Gardens.
A view of the parliament library under renovation. The tour guide noted to me that NZ has a rectangular library and a circular (executive branch) parliament building, while it is the opposite in Canada. One other interesting thing I learned on the tour is that there is a room in the parliament specifically meant for any member of the public to voice their opinions and concerns to the parliament, and that while speaking there, the have the "protection of the Queen" and nothing they say there is admissible in court. The room itself was very cool, as the walls were lined with Maori carvings representing the different iwis (tribes) and deities. I really like the NZ government from my one and a half years there - they consistently rank as the least corrupt and most open government in the world, and they feel very responsive to the people. It really shows in how people speak of the government and police in NZ.
"The Beehive", which houses the executive branch of the New Zealand Government. The tour was very informative, and included visit to the earthquake pads the building sits on. The building is effectively disconnected from the ground, separated by a pervasive gap that went through the walls, stairs, and even the railings. The tour was surprisingly nonrestrictive, with the kids being allowed to sit in the Prime Minister's chair and stuff. It was also amusing to see the empty Senate chamber, since the Senate was abolished in New Zealand. However, when the Queen comes to visit, she still sits in the upper house chamber, and sends a representative to order the lower house members to attend her there.
A view of what appears to be the front of the parliament. Construction started on the current parliament buildings in 1914, after the previous building was burned down in 1907. However, these buildings were only officially opened by the Queen is 1995 after delays caused by the war and earthquake retrofitting, even though the buildings have been in use since 1918.
After a bit of a hurry near the end of the walk and walking around looking for the entrance, I arrived at the public entrance a few minutes late for the hourly tour. They were able to get a security guard to escort me and another late arrival to join the tour. Sadly, we missed the Beehive section of the tour, but we did get a ride on a fancy century-old cage-style lift in the parliament building which was surprisingly smooth. We were told that the Beehive isn't too exciting as supposedly, it's just offices.
Downtown Wellington is very compact, with a nice mid-level hum of activity, making it feel like a lively city. It seems to have better character than Auckland. I would have loved to live here for a while and explore the pubs and restaurants the area has to offer.
The waterfront between Te Papa and town was a nice area. There was a historic crane boat, a building with stock tickers on it, TSB Bank Arena, and again, lots of joggers.
Another view of Te Papa with some weird shiny sculpture things. The rain was letting up, so I decided to walk to the parliament buildings through downtown.
The main entrance of Te Papa. The museum is surprisingly large and modern. Any city in the world would be proud to be home to this museum, which is especially impressive considering the entire population of New Zealand is only 4.4 million, and the population of Wellington is only 200,000.
There was a small side exhibition about Te Papa's earthquake dampers, which I took a quick look at. Coming out, the rain seems to have subsided a bit, so I decided to continue on my walk towards the parliament buildings.
Te Papa, officially Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. I was surprised at how many joggers, and people in general, were out jogging in the rain. A woman cycled past me with a little girl on the back of her bike, loudly singing "rain, rain, go away" as they trailed off in the distance.
There were quite a few large hostels around the area. Seems like Wellington is pretty popular with backpackers. Throughout the day, I'm surprised at how amazed I feel looking at the modern conveniences I've been away from for the past month.
Wellington has some awesome-looking sewer covers.
It was shockingly cold in Wellington, coming from Fiji. It was raining, but I had a pleasant stroll while catching up with my parents on the phone. The rain got worse, so I decided I should stay indoors today, so decided to turn back, in the direction of Te Papa. Here is a view from Oriental Bay towards downtown Wellington.