‘To awaken in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world’ – Freya Stark. This is printed in my travel journal at the bottom of page of Day 25, and I cannot agree more. There is a unique buzz to waking up in somewhere yet to be explored, much like when a new biscuit variant arises in the nibbles aisle.
This morning I planned to hit up Wellington and New Zealand’s main museum, Te Papa. Several things stood out here; I was particularly impressed by the Gallipoli exhibit, which consisted of telling the story of the New Zealanders who fought there through human sculptures 2.4 times the size of your standard edition human. The attention to detail was incredible – you could see individual hairs on an arm and the beads of sweat dripping down their face.
Another section of the museum contained Maori history, detailing the culture and society of the native people. In some ways, the modern Maori culture reminds me of the Welsh, in that they both have rather niche languages and unique cultural histories. Or maybe it’s just the rugby.
The museum also hosted a ‘Colossal Squid’, which consisted of a giant squid in a glass box. Sadly for the squid, it seemed long dead.
Unfortunately I soon got tired of the museum, as despite on paper being an ideal introvert-friendly place, it really wasn’t. This was mostly due to it being half-term or whatever the Kiwi equivalent is, meaning there were lots of children being very loud and hogging the interactive exhibits. The human child insists on pushing flashing buttons, despite a complete lack of interest in the consequence of pushing said button. A bit like the Donald with the nuclear button. I understand the need to make museums interesting to pull in punters, but sometimes it would be nice to have a simple museum where you just read stuff. Maybe I’m just getting old.
After a brief lunch stop for a much needed sandwich, I headed off to my afternoon destination, the planetarium and observatory on the hillside. Very aptly, it is named the Space Place. To get up to the Place, I took the cable car, which took me through a hillside tunnel that seemed to be set up to simulate the mental state of ‘tripping balls’. The cable carriage took me through gently pulsing rings of light cycling through different colours, giving the impression that we were moving a lot faster than we actually were.
I wandered around the astrology exhibits whilst waiting for the planetarium show, which was a refreshing change from the loudness and chaos of Te Papa. The main piece in Space Place was the ornate Thomas Cooke telescope, taking up the whole space of the dome.
The show itself was excellent, but I have to say I kept getting distracted by the Kiwi accent of the narrator. Maybe it’s a bit picky, but I think Brian Cox or David Attenborough would have been much better.
As I walked back down the hillside towards the hostel, I pondered how far away from home I was. Literally the other side of the world. Interestingly, I felt rather comfortable and rather in control despite this. I think this was because I had more freedom to get away from people when I wanted, and the fact that my aims of being in Wellington were simply to explore it and have fun. And with a week to do so, there was no rush whatsoever.
I also wondered what I was going to do next in Wellington. Having consulted the god of travel, his mightiness TripAdvisor, it wasn’t promising that a top attraction in the Wellington area was the train out of the city. That’s right, apparently one of the best things to do in Wellington is to leave the city. I would have to search a bit harder for things to do in the next few days.