Rainy Day Trains #3 & 4

Upper Hutt – part 3 of an occasional series on greater Wellington suburban areas

Saturday was a miserable rainy, gale-force-windy day, so my visiting bro and I decided to go to Upper Hutt. After all, when one goes to Upper Hutt, one ought to take a posse.

For all your polarfleece needs

I’d never been there before and wasn’t sure what to expect, but after the 45-minute train ride, I found a rather ordinary, slightly rundown town centre.

Most of the businesses were either mainstreet chain stores or curious local niche businesses, complete with a superbly ironically named hairdresser – Urban Hair Studio (if I had a hair salon in Upper Hutt, I’d call it Upper Kuttz).

Home fires burning

A block back from the main street was a new mall called Trentham City Shopping Centre, which seems to have invented that moniker to avoid the negative associations of “Upper Hutt”. The mall was strangely empty for a weekend, though this could be explained by the large number of empty shops. It felt like one of those empty subprime mortgage crisis homes on the outlaying suburbs of some American city.

We had lunch at a lunch bar called Mr Trans, which was a real old-style New Zealand lunch bar. It didn’t look like it had been decorated for about 20 years, and had a selection of awful landscapes on the walls, for sale. But you don’t go to a place that like for the decor. You go there for the lammingtons and the ham and tomato sandwiches and the savouries at decent prices. Though I did feel a little out of place at one stage when I realised I was the only woman not wearing polarfleece.

No women's health diagrams

Upper Hutt City’s motto is “A great place to live”. This reminds me of when Hamilton named itself “Fountain City” in the 1970s, with the idea that while the city didn’t have a lot of fountains, maybe if they called themselves that, people would start building them. As it stands, Upper Hutt isn’t currently a great place to live. Not when the weird new all is strangely empty. Not when a guy was stabbed in the town centre last night.

But I’m sure Upper Hutt will figure out what to do with itself sooner or later.

Paraparaumu – part 4 of an occasional series on why it’s better to go out than stay in

So we had this all-day train pass and decided to make the most of it by heading up the coast to Paraparaumu. It’s about an hour on the train, and all the way it was rainy and miserable. But with a little imagination, it’s possible to see how it would be quite nice on a glorious summer’s day.

Virgin Mary upon the hill

We sought shelter as soon as the train arrived, and the Coastlands mall was there for us. (Curious – Queensgate mall in Lower Hutt is the only mall in the Wellington area that doesn’t have a train station outside its door. It’s also the biggest one. Coincidence?)

Coastlands was full of old people, which makes sense given that the Kapiti Coast is full of retirees. Not that there’s anything wrong with seeing out your golden years in a sunny coastal area, but it just feels a bit strange when the town seems overrun with seniors. Can’t we all live together?

We ended up seeing “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” at the local cinema. Briefly, while the film had funny moments, I found it was hard to get involved in the story when there were no characters I sympathised with. Everyone was either an arsehole or a doormat.

Heading back to the city, the Overlander pulled in and the conductor insisted that we get on that instead of the Metlink train. The Overlander was warm, the seats were comfortable, and the carriage smelt really nice. Not only that, but I wiled away the time by reading a brochure about the history of the Overlander, including the Raurimu Spiral – a wonder of modern engineering, etc.

We were also treated to a bit of scenic commentary from the conductor, whose charmingly clunky spiel ran into trouble with the weather: “On your right, you’ll see the Tasman Sea. Also, it separates Australia, which is over there further. Also on your right, you will see Kapiti Island, but you won’t be able to see anything.”

You don’t get that on the Metlink trains.

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.