Saturday 8th November – Monday 10th November
Kaikoura to Wellington, New Zealand
Train journey, Kaikoura to Picton
On Saturday morning, we picked up the Coastal Pacific, travelling through to Picton in the north of the South Island. The journey was stunning once more, and we we able to see some of the vineyards that New Zealand is rightly famous for.
Ferry journey, Picton to Wellington
Saturday afternoon saw us on an Interislander ferry from Picton back to Wellington, on a journey that I (Joanna) am told was fairly calm – I cannot comment, as I was huddled below decks, studiously staring through the window at the horizon for the most part – I am a terrible sailor, which was not helped by the planned crew emergency drill that lasted for around an hour in the middle of the journey, culminating in a very bored “abandon ship, abandon ship” command from the captain…
The first part of the journey takes you through calm blue waters, interspersed with beautiful green islands. You then leave the South Island to cross the Cook Strait, before heading into the harbour and towards Wellington.
Somewhat surprisingly, we didn’t actually travel north by any appreciable amount on our journey from the South to the North Island, as can be seen from the map below.
Wellington Sky Show, Wellington Harbour
Another surprise on Saturday was discovering that Kiwis celebrate Guy Fawkes’ night, meaning that we were treated to an excellent pyrotechnic display in Wellington Harbour on Saturday evening. As you may be able to hear from this video, the “oohs” and “aahs” that accompay fireworks are universal (although in fact, I think that the group standing behind us, who you can mainly hear, were actually British).
Walk to Mt Victoria lookout, Wellington
On Sunday we woke to a beautiful (and slightly less windy than usual) day in Wellington, so we took the opportunity to walk up Mount Victoria through a lovely park, to get 360 degree views of Wellington and its surrounding harbour/suburbs. Seeing the city in this context really gave a sense of the beautiful land and water that can the found in this part of the North Island.
Another evening in Wellington also gave us an opportunity to return to The Email (see our previous post about Wellington) and find another restaurant to please our tastebuds. This time we went for Mexico which (unsurprisingly) served up some fantastic authentic Mexican food. Special mention is due for the dessert: fresh churros with xocolate sauce and crushed salted peanuts.
Carter Observatory, Wellington
Monday was our last day in Wellington before heading back to see Doug, Julie, Sam and Joe for the evening. We had a couple of clear nights while on the South Island, but our knowledge of the Southern skies are limited (for which read: virtually non-existent).
A trip on the Wellington Cable Car took us to Carter Observatory, where a visit to the planetarium gave us a crash course. A video about the search for life in space was followed by an excellent presentation by one of the Observatory’s astronomers about how to find your way around the Southern sky. It was slightly embarrassing that all the school children in our planetarium presentation knew more about the Southern Cross than we did, but at least we know now!
Tradition of the day
The Carter Observatory also gave us a bit of background to some of the Maori myths and legends surrounding the night sky. We were particularly fascinated to learn about Matariki, known in the UK as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters, and one of my (Simon’s) favourite things to look for in the night sky (it’s actually a cluster of young stars, so looks fantastic even through binoculars).
Matariki disappears below the horizon in the New Zealand night sky around the end of April/beginning of May each year. It reappears about four weeks later in the eastern dawn sky, just before the sun. This usually marks the end of the old year, and is a time of reflection.
The next new moon after this occurs is the start of te Whetu o te tau, the Mauri New Year (around the time of the shortest day in the southern hemisphere). Celebrations vary, but often involve rising before dawn to greet Matariki rising, songs, and eating kumara (a sweet potato) cooked in embers. It also represents the time to start preparing for the planting of new crops.