Chill

Yesterday I had to get out of my car park, so I went for a drive around Wellington. I love how major routes in the inner suburbs consist of winding, hilly street. I managed to find my way along these winding, hilly streets to the Chapel of Futuna in Karori. It’s magnificent.

So then I headed back up north. I used to be able to do Auckland to Wellington in a day, but in these post-9/11 days, uh, it’s nice to have a break along the way.

Just north of Foxton (no longer New Zealand’s Foxtown, but all their signs seem to be shaped like the local water tower, which ain’t no Hawera water tower), I saw a snow peaked mountain range. I was trying to figure out what it was until I realised it wasn’t a mountain range – it was just some hills.

As I drove on, the snow-covered landscape increased, until I was driving through one of those winter wonderland things. My previous experiences with snow are: Ruapehu once in the ’80s, and Palm Springs on Christmas Day in ’93 (true!). So to drive through landscape entirely covered with snow was really cool.

So I stopped off in Taupo. It’s bloody cold. -4 degrees last night, but fortunately the motel was geared up for chilliness. I’m rather looking forward to getting back to rain old Auckland.

Capitalness

This morning I went to the Museum of Wellington City and Sea. Because Te Papa is so awesome, Wellington’s city museum has to pick a theme and stick with it, and the theme is yo ho ho, the sea (and the city).

There was a chronological history of 20th century Wellington (and plenty of historically significant building pr0n for me to salivate and/or weep over); Wellington’s nautical history, including the Wahine disaster; and a look at ye olde Wellington, including Maori legends read by Joanna Paul.

But the trouble was, there was a school group there too. No matter where I went, the school group followed. I was quietly viewing the Wahine exhibit when, “Now, I want you to look at things like the table with the hole in the middle, and think about why the hole might be there.” (Answer: it was for the ashtray.)

I tried getting as far away from the kids as I could, but no matter where I went, they followed. No, children. Run away, little ones!

I had a look in the Film Archive. There was a display of that guy who make all those films, but that was a bit boring. The only other thing to watch was a 1994 edition of Sale of the Century, which looked like the first episode after it switched to TV3. At first I thought maybe it was a selection of TV from that era, but no. It just an episode of Sale of the Century on loop. And I watched it all.

Then I went to the City Gallery and discovered a curious thing. There was an exhibit of the works of Guy Ngan. He’d done a lot of metal decorative things for civic buildings in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, including the blue stuff atop the Bledisloe building in Auckland, which I have always admired from afar.

But the centrepiece of the exhibit was a giant aluminium wall sculpture (is that the right word) he had made for the Newton Post Office in 1973 (NZ Post had been renovating the building and didn’t want it so they donated it to the Auckland Museum). Now, the Newton PO is where I have my post office box. Its fairly ordinary. The only redeeming feature are the hand-drawn posters that feature delightfully sexist buxom ladies. But it warms the cockles of my heart to think that at one stage some wall inside the PO would have been covered with this massive artwork.

Later I met up with Max who made some nice spaghetti and meatballs and even nicer steamed pudding (yes!), which is perfect for a chilly Wellington winter night. We watched selections from his awesome collections of DVDs, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my last night in the capital.

Tomorrow it’s time to head back up north.

Straight outta Lambton

One is in Wellington now!

I drove here via the Manawatu Gorge (which is windy, twisty, perilous, but thankfully brief), and remembered to turn off at the right place in Woodville.

I stopped off at Masterton and visited the museum/art gallery, which was celebrating the Wairarapa Embroiderer’s Guild’s diamond jubilee. A large hall was filled with all manner of embroidered crap crafts, including the “bag challenge”, in which the guild members were challenged to make a bag with embroidery. My favourite piece was an embroidered scene showing a bride looking in the mirror and seeing herself as a little girl reflected back. I would have taken a photo, but I suspect the guild ladies knew I was up to no good.

I passed through Carterton and Eketahuna. My great-great grandfather (or something like that) came from Carterton. As for Eketahuna, well, it had a really, really big sign with the town name, which appears to be its quirky town feature. (Stratford = Shakespeare; Dannevirke = Vikings!; Eketahuna = has a name).

Then I stopped off at Greytown, which is apparently where Wellingtonians go for weekend getaways. I visited the Shoc chocolaterie, which I highly recommend. Located in a small historic building, the smell of warm chocolate gently greeted me. I bought enough choccie delights to last me a while.

Next I had to contend with the Rimutaka Ranges. It was raining and the road was twisting. Two Mercedes overtook me at points along the way. I listened to the only audible radio station’s broadcast of the Maori Queen’s funeral.

Finally I reached the Hutt Valley and I detoured to Upper Hutt because, um, well, I wanted to see what it looked like. Having seen it, I was trying to get back on SH2, when I found myself going down a road by a school. It was home time and the street was chocker with parents’ cars. Then it started to hail. This will be my lasting memory of Upper Hutt.

Lower Hutt was slightly nicer. My main purpose there was to check out the civic buildings, which are build in a fine post-war modern style. They looked good, even in the rain.

So finally I made it to Wellington. It turns out the best time to come here is the weekend, because hotels have lots of cheap rates. Well, I know that now.

Robyn, 31, Sagittarius

I was planning on another day in Palmy yesterday, but just after I wrote my last LJ entry, I logged into MSN and Regan Idolblog messaged me with the news that not only was he in Wellington, but he had tickets to the Sunday taping of the NZ Idol performance show. OMG OMG OMG.

So I hopped in my car and hooned down to Wellington, and – as if by magic – the rainy grey skies turned into brilliant blue skies and golden sunshine along the Kapiti Coast. When I arrived in the capital, I was reminded of how happy Wellington makes me. It’s just such a cool city.

I wandered around town for a bit before heading over to the St James. I have to admit that part of my decision to go to the Idol taping was because it was in the St James. I’d never been there before and I wanted to check it out. It is indeed a nice old theatre, although I’m not too sure about the barn-like new foyer that’s been build on next to the old theatre.

I haven’t had the opportunity to see any of the current Idol series and I don’t know who anyone is, but I did learn the following: there is this one guy called Ben and he is quite cute, but he is also a really good singer and if you say he isn’t you are just jealous.

There were many Ben fans sitting near me. They screamed a lot. My ears started to hurt. He’s probably a shoo-in for the top 10.

Then I drove back to my motel in Palmy, discovering along the way that since having Lasik, my night vision is quite shit and I probably shouldn’t drive at night.

Even though I wasn’t planning to go to Wellington, now that I’ve been there I think I’m going to have to go back and make that the last stop on my tour de North Island.

Palmy II

The Manawatu seems to now define itself as The Place With The Wind Turbines. The turbines feature in the logo of the Manawatu District Council, on the cover of the latest phonebook, and the Manawatu rugby team are called the Turbos, complete with stylised wind turbine blades in their logo. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the region’s identity when other turbines are build around New Zealand.

I drove out to the viewing platform at Ashurst and… viewed the turbines. Is this what power companies mean that such turbines bring tourism benefits? I went for a drive up among the turbines in the hill, but even that was a bit boring.

Then I discovered that on the other side of the Manawatu Gorge is the little village of Mangatainoka, home of the Tui brewery, mate, so I set off there.

I missed the turn off at Woodville (yes, there appears to be a town in New Zealand called Woodville), and ended up driving all the way to Dannevirke.

Dannevirke, if you believe the town’s self-image, was founded by Vikings. Well, I suppose if Stratford can turn its Taranakiness into a Shakespearean wonderland, Dannevirke can pretend that its Danish and Norweigian settlers were Vikings.

So I finally made it to Mangatainoka, and indeed there was the Tui brewery. I visited the gift shop and bought a “Yeah, right” fridge magnet set, with which I can subvert the dominant paradigm and make things like “Chicks dig projectile vomiting. Yeah, right.” Interestingly, the set comes with only two pieces of punctuation – two exclamation marks, but i dont see whats wrong with that!!

After that I headed back to Palmy, and drove out to Massey University. It’s possibly the prettiest university setting – lush woodland. I also drove around the previously mentioned Savage Crescent (twice!), which is an equally pretty state housing suburb.

The film festival is on here, and I saw “Who killed the electric car?”. Most of the audience seemed to be lefties – who snickered every time George Bush said anything, regardless of whether it was snickerworthy – and beardy scientist-looking fellows, the sort who could probably build an electric car in an afternoon. The film made me feel a bit guilty for driving around in my rental car, but, uh, I’m stick with it for a few more days.

To the southeast

So I bid farewell to Wangaz and hit State Highway 3, heading southeast.

Ratana
I was hooning along when I saw an signpost pointing to Ratana. “Hey, it’s that place,” I thought. So I turned off and drove to Ratana Pa. It’s a curious little place – a settlement wholly centres around the Ratana movement. There’s the temple, some houses and a few other related buildings, and that’s about it. It’s all very nicely kept, but I felt a bit weird being there.

Feilding (i before e, except after journalism school)
Mr Slack recommended Feilding because it was sale day. I also discovered that it was market day too, so I bought some apples and fudge. Feilding appears to be a town for a rich farmers. I was surprised at the number of little boutiquey shops that sold the sort of nick-knacks that people with too much money buy.

I wandered down to the saleyards (sadly I was too late for the guided tour), but I saw some farmers up on the platforms admiring the bottoms of the cows, or whatever it is they do up there. It smelt like fresh cow poo, which isn’t an entirely unpleasant smell, but you’d probably have to have grown up on a farm to appreciate that.

There’s a clock tower in the middle of Feilding. It was playing music from a speaker, which seemed to alternate between a Spanish guitar type song and some ’90s house music. This is a direct threat to Stratford’s glockenspiel clock tower.

Palmerston North
It seemed like a good enough place to stay for a few more nights, so I found a nice motel (albeit one where some middle-aged bogans were having a loud party last night). Yesterday I visited Te Manawa, the art gallery, museum and science centre.

The art gallery had a good selection of exhibits, with Lauren Lysaght’s “Trifecta” works, a garden made of old racetrack signs of horses names and betting slips, retrospective of Natalie Woodhams, and two films by Annee Olafson.

The museum had an interesting exhibit on Savage Crescent, one of the first state housing developments in New Zealand. It included an old government propaganda film from the 1940s (I think), that showed a young married couple unable to afford to buy a house or even able to rent a nice one. Yes, well.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do today. I seem to have exhausted Palmy’s treasures in one day. I could, like, drive out to the wind turbines.

Down the ‘Naki

New Plymouth
I was going to go to the Bowls Museum, but it was closed. Actually, it was unattended, but to have got it attended would hav involved going into the adjacent bowling club, and that might have made me look like a bowls enthusiast.

Inglewood
This is where the FunHo! toy museum lives. You’d never get away with naming a toy company that these days. I had a look at the collection of old FunHo! toys, and I was reminded that FunHo! made excellent sandpit toys.

Whangamomona
From Stratford I went along the “Forgotten World Highway”, aka The Road Between Stratford and Taumarunui. About halfway along that is the little settlement of Whangamomona. There’s a hotel, so I had lunch there. A self-proclaimed farmer’s wife, who was helping out behind the bar, made me some potato wedges. The walls of the hotel were covered with various photos of the area, as well as a good 100 years of local rugby team photos. Once a year Whangamonona declares itself to be an independent republic, but at the moment it was just being a nice little settlement.

Stratford
Stratford-upon-Patea is taking the whole Shakespeare thing a bit too seriously now. Like, having all the streets named after Shakespearean characters is cool, but the mock-mock-Tudor is a bit much. Nailing black planks of wood diagonally across a 1950s fibrolite shack does not make a Tudor building.

Hawera
There’s a water tower in Hawera. I walked up it, but didn’t go all the top because I got that fear-of-being-inside-large-concrete-spaces thing. However, it did offer lovely views of the ‘Naki and the mountain.

Patea
I took a photo of the giant concrete canoe – the one they sing in front of in the Poi E video. Across the road is the Poi E Information Centre, but it appeared to be closed. Further down the road was the HQ of the Patea Maori Club, which was totally awesome to see.

Wanganui
Where I am now. There appears to be some sort of school-sport-related event in town, meaning all the nice motels are full, so I’m staying in one that the Lonely Planet describes as “clean” and “good value”. However, it is “a cracker day out there,” as the computer/kite shop man just said to another customer.

Wot I did on my holiday

Ashura666 desired to go diving during his time in Aotearoa New Zealand, so me and Teh Matt decided to come along for the ride, so we turned it into a road trip. We hit State Highway One and headed up to scenic Tutukaka.

(Ha! That sounds so easy, like we didn’t spend a good day panicking because every rental car in Auckland was already rented, but eventually fate smiled on us when a car rental place a block away from Matt’s bachelor pad had a car available.)

Monday

Conclusion about the trip from Auckland to Whangarei: Very scenic. Roads not as windy as I expected.
Conclusion about Whangarei: The less said, the better. Pak’n Save was particularly forgettable.
Conclusion about the trip from Whangarei to Tutukaka: Windier than I expected. Ngunguru was very scenic. I still can’t pronounce Ngunguru to a pleasing enough degree.
Conclusion about the accommodation in Tutukaka: Clean and tidy, with splendid views and a delightful piece of folk art made from old wine bottle corks.
Conclusion about dinner at Schnappa Rock: Rather good. Crazy Emma recommended it to us (true), but we would have gone there anyway.

Tuesday

Ashura-san got up early and went diving so Matt and I were lazy arses and slept. When we finally awoke, we drove along the coast and hung out at Sandy Bay, a surf beach. Matt went swimming, while I took some photos along the beach and read “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, because that’s the kind of krazy stuff I do on holiday.

(This omits the part where I got up early to to drive Ashura to the marina, but the car wouldn’t start. It turned out the bumpy road to the cottage had shaken the battery cable loose.)

Fish n chips were acquired from the Ngunguru fish n chip shop. They were all right, but their paua fritters scared me with their greenness.

Wednesday

Matt decided to go out on the boat, leaving me with the car for the day, so I decided to explore historic Northland.

My first stop was Kawakawa, formerly known as Train Town, now known as The One With The Toilet. Yes, I visited the Hundertwasser toilet. It’s all that. I was going to say it’s a pity there isn’t anything more to do in Kawakawa, but maybe it’s a good thing that the loos are the best thing about it.

I continued further up north to Paihia and then Waitangi. I was last in Waitangi about 20 years ago. I went to the Treaty House because, like, that’s the birthplace of the nation.

I’m not sure, but I might have been the only New Zealander amongst the visitors. A quick glance in the visitors book revealed very few mentions of New Zealand.

The Treaty House was kind of strange. Part of the display was dedicated to factoids about the construction of the house itself, but it’s not the house that’s important (and it is a rather unremarkable house – not like Pompalier House across the harbour in Russell, or nearby Kemp House or the Stone Store in Kerikeri). It’s what happened in and around it in 1840 that is. The treaty signing itself happened in a tent, and you don’t see 19th century canvas manufacturing techniques being examined.

I was hoping that the Treaty House would give me some insights as to what it means to be a New Zealander. All it left me was wondering why the house needs to be “restored” every 30 years or so, and what present-day ills would be corrected at the next restoration.

I much preferred the big lawn area over looking the Bay of Island, surrounded by the Treaty House, whare nui, and flagpole. That says something to me about being a New Zealander.

Passing through Whangarei on the way back, I stopped off at the Countdown to get some provisions. I had to end my visit prematurely because I was so grossed out by the suburbanness of the supermarket. The checkout lady wanted me to look at a dress some lady was wearing in the next aisle. It was a really ordinary looking flowery dress. “Mmm, it’s nice,” I said, nausea welling.

On Wednesday night, I saw the Milky Way for the first time ever, and it was magical and special.

Thursday

One more set of dives for Ashura, so Matt and I again hung out at Sandy Bay, where I read more of “Collapse”.

Ashura, Matt and I all have Canon cameras, so there developed a competitive spirit to take the most excellent holiday snaps. It wasn’t enough to take one picture of a nice sunset. No, we would be mucking around with exposures and making panoramas and comparing results. I think I totally nailed the Tutukaka sunset:

Tutukaka sunset

Then it was time to head back down to Auckland. Delightfully, some clever person had skilfully changed a number of Warkworth road signs to read Wankworth. Ha ha!

A splendid few days were had. Of course, I’m still planning on doing a comprehensive exploration of historic Northland, but that’ll be a while off.

Wellington

I used to live in Hamilton, and so did Mike. In 1997 I moved up to Auckland, and he moved down to Wellington. Ever since then I’d been meaning to go down there to see him, but was too slack to do so. Then Mike said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “I’m having a big piss up for my birthday and you’re coming down for it whether you like it or not.” Choice!

So a fine Friday came along and I jumped into my automobile and drove for eight hours in a southerly direction. I had considered flying down, but as much fun as flight attendants with peanuts and orange juice are, that doesn’t quite make up for such things as the moment when I was driving into Taupo and suddenly the snow-capped splendour of Mount Ruapehu popped up in the distance.

I eventually made it to the capital city. I really like how the motorway was built along a fault line (well, it’s not like there was anywhere else to build it). I negotiated the one-way streets and drove around in a circle until I got in the right lane to get to Mike’s spatial palatial house of desire. His street has a big hill with a tunnel at the end of it, but only buses are allowed through the tunnel. You don’t get that sort of thing in Auckland (or Hamilton, for that matter). In Auckland car parks have been provided so the citizens of the city do not have to lower themselves to use public transport.

That night a cornucopia of delights awaited me. First up was the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. It was claaaassy, but wonderful. We headed to a skanky arse bar for a Private Function. After eating all the dip we left and went to Barney’s, Wellington’s premiere night spot. I wish there were more clubs like Barney’s around where I live. It was totally going off. We entered as the Grease medley was playing. That was followed by that famous tune celebrating a famous gay hang-out, “YMCA”. Other delights to rock the night were “Venus” and “Blue Monday”. If you like watching old men get down and shake their booty in an attempt to impress 18 year old girls, then Barney’s is the place.

The next day was big party day which means, of course, that the guests of honour had to shave their hair off. We abducted Mike’s friend Darryl who was kind enough to shave off the hair of both Mike and his flatmate Helen. We then buried the hair in the garden and prayed to the mother goddess spirit*.

Then party time came at Glenn’s house which used to be a brothel. We know it used to be a brothel because there is a basin in every room. Cool. Mike claimed that I was guaranteed to score at this party, but I didn’t so therefore he is a bloody liar, and probably just said that to lure me there. In fact, I have serious doubts that there were any heterosexual guys there.

As the evening progressed all the fairy bread and jelly shots were heartily consumed. There was the token person-who-drank-too-much, but most people were relatively well behaved party goers.

Eventually the party ended and we went home. I was about to retire for the evening when a glamourous young lady by the name of Ms PollyFilla knocked on my door. She had come home from a busy night out. By then I was very tired so I quickly slipped into a coma and didn’t come out of it until the following morning.

Sunday was tidy up day, and it was discovered that a large amount of beer and wine was left over from the party. Hooray! That’s New Year’s taken care of.

A bit of sun bathing upon the brothel balcony (a.k.a. fire escape) took place, then I demanded that Mike accompany me to Te Papa. He didn’t want to go and said it was crap, but I made him go anyway. But after looking around, I agreed that the Museum of New Zealand was, indeed, crap.

Back to the brothel where cards and trivial pursuit were played and fish ‘n’ chips were eaten. Yay. Then back to Mike’s haus where we watched those boring Olympic sports that no one actually cares about (softball, anyone?).

The next day I bid farewell to the fine city of Wellington. Heading along the motorway I noticed that it didn’t quite look the same as it had on the way there. Then suddenly I saw a sign proclaiming “LOWER HUTT”. Great. I was hoping I could go through life without ever having to go to Lower Hutt. As soon as I could I turned around and got back on state highway one and made my way back up north.

I had lunch at Taupo on both the way there and back. On the way there I at at a skanky doris cafe that did not pretend to be anything else. On the way back I ate at a skanky doris cafe that was trying to be a hip deli. Even service station pies are better than skanky doris pseudo delis.

You know how all those small towns try and make themselves interesting by giving themselves slogans? Turangi is the “trout Capital of the world”, Hamilton is no longer the Fountain City, or “Where It’s Happening”, but now is something like “More than you’d expect”. But the best town motto is for Foxton. It proudly proclaims itself to be “New Zealand’s Fox Town.” What?

I drove through Hamilton without stopping (a first) and then back to my home in Auckland. Oh, what an enjoyable weekend!

* No we didn’t. I think it just got biffed in the rubbish.