The Cook Strait is notorious for being one of the bumpier crossings in the world – similar to the Tasman Sea, the Cape of Good Hope and the Bass and Foveaux Straits, however, our crossing was relatively pleasant. For myself, because I’d taken my sea sickness tablets, not so much for others that kept the ever-patient staff busy handing out and collecting paper bags. The passage is superbly scenic, cruising along the Marlborough Sounds before the ferry takes a sharp right turn out into open waters where it gets noticeably rougher. That’s when you actually cross the Cook Strait. After a good hour you will see the first houses on the North Island and soon you’re already in Wellington, the windy capital of New Zealand.
We were hungry and headed straight to Maranui Café before visiting Te Papa, New Zealand’s much-treasured national museum. Mr A was somewhat underwhelmed and we spent most time at the “force of nature” section, where you get a good idea on plate tectonics and what they mean for New Zealand.
In the afternoon, we drove north to lovely Moana Lodge in Plimmerton, where we were to stay for the upcoming nights.
The next day we took the train to Wellington and spent all day sightseeing: we walked along the parliamentary buildings, took the tram up to the botanical gardens, explored them, then did the walking tour suggested by our Lonely Planet guides that slowly brought us back to the train station, by way of a few detours – most of them of the culinary vegan kind.
After that we had an official “relax-day” – we slept in, had a lazy breakfast, read a little, did the laundry and had a long, beautiful walk along the coast in the afternoon where we encountered yet more seals and I found paua shells of all shapes and sizes. We agreed that this was a place where we could live: Not in the city but close enough, with public transport available to get to work – and the ocean at our doorstep.
However, for now it was slowly getting time to approach Auckland – in only a week we were to be boarding a plane homebound. After checking the weather forecast we chose to approach Taupo by way of the Desert Road, a barren – and in winter often dangerous (and closed) section of the State Highway one across the Rangipo desert on the north island (if you have seen the Lord of the Rings movies, the Black Gates of Mordor scenes were shot there). It’s allegedly the highest part of New Zealand’s highways at up to 1074m above sea level.
We were lucky with the weather (again) and had a stunning vista of Mounts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe (“Mount Doom”) and Tongariro, three picture-perfect volcanoes, further prettied up by the snow that came down to almost street level.
A few times we had to stop for photos and may have had one look to many at the amazing mountains in front of us. Why? You will find out in my next post.