Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Whirlwind Tour of Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown!

I'm writing from the unbelievably cold and rainy Queenstown, on the night before I head back out to the farm! I've had a lovely three weeks off from WWOOFing, but both my sense of adventure and my bank account are looking forward to getting back down to work. Before heading out, though, I wanted to show you a little of how I've been spending the last few weeks!

I started out in Wellington, which is probably my favorite city in New Zealand. It's full of public art, fabulous museums, small indie boutiques, quirky cafes and restaurants, and a beautiful waterfront--sound familiar? Yeah, it does remind me a heck of a lot of Portland, with much the same energy and vibe to it. I'd go back in a heartbeat (and I will go back mid-March, for a couple concerts/talks during the National Arts Festival)!
One of the big things I loved about Wellington was Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum of New Zealand. Five stories of exhibits ranging from the original signatures of The Treaty of Waitangi, where Maori chiefs signed with both their written name and a drawing of their moko, or facial tattoos:

To the handwoven feather cloak given to Captain Cook in Hawai'i as a mark of respect (sorry, no pictures allowed, but here's a link):

to a refurbished station wagon celebrating the nation's love for all things corrugated iron:
It was an absolutely fabulous place to hang out, and, since it was free, I took full advantage! Most of my grad school statement of purpose was written while people-watching on the fourth floor and breathing a sigh of relief that they hadn't thought to secure the museum's wireless networks so I could harass Mom with editing questions (thanks, Mom!).

One of the other really cool things about Wellington was that I happened to be there during the 15th Annual Unicycle World Championships! Now, I am unabashedly a sucker for public celebrations of weird habits and activities, so of course I had to go and check it out. One of my friends from the hostel, Stefanie from Germany, was here for the competition, so I tagged along whenever possible. I saw races:
The high-jump competition (the first competitor was the neighborhood cat, who received a thunderous round of applause when he wandered through and jumped the bar at 5 cm):
(the last girl in the competition, who went out at about 70cm, or about 2ft, 4 in.)
(the winner of the competition, who won at an eventual height of 122cm, or 4 feet. 4 feet! On a unicycle! This guy was out on New Year's Eve, doing unicycle tricks on Cuba Street, and I embarrassed myself thoroughly by cheering him on by the wrong name. Loudly. Right on, Bristol. Right on.)
I also was privileged to see the artistic freestyle unicycle, both pairs and individual. I sadly had to leave the day of the group freestyle, but I really wish I had seen that!
(Unicycle pirouettes! In tandem! How cool is that?)

Sadly leaving Wellington the day after New Year's, I made my way back across the water to the South Island and down the East coast to Christchurch for a few days. The road down was spectacular, but the camera didn't have batteries. My apologies. We came down the Kaikoura coast, famous for its seals, penguins, and jaw-droppingly beautiful coastline, in the very teeth of a Southerly gale, and it was one of the most glorious moments of my life. Coming down out of the hills into the decidedly flat Canterbury Plains, the seat of Christchurch, was a bit of a thud. I think it would be lovely to live in Christchurch, but vacationing there was a little ho-hum. There was a fantastic art museum, and really lovely botanical gardens, but all in all, I did a lot of reading and sleeping and was more than glad to head out to Queenstown after a few days.

I had originally written off Queenstown as way too touristy to be worth my while, but had some time to kill, so why not? I found out that the drive alone from Christchurch to Queenstown made the whole thing worth it.

(I have become that tourist that sits in the front seat of the bus in order to see the view better. My apologies again for the through-the-bus-window pictures!)

The lupines are out!

The bus stopped for a break at Lake Tekapo, whose water looks almost like celadon pottery due to minerals deposits in the water stirred up by the glaciers.
And once you get into Queenstown itself, it becomes abundantly clear why it is such a tourist spot. It is, simply, out of this world:

(Three weeks later:)
I started this blog post, got to the Queenstown bit, and realized all my Queenstown pictures were still on the camera, and the camera cord was packed away waaaaaaay down in the bottom of my pack. So I thought I would post the blog as is from my next WWOOF farm, but the dial-up there couldn't handle Blogspot. So, three weeks later, traveling up the West Coast of the South Island to my next farm, I get to finish my thought!
Queenstown was absolutely lovely, even if completely freezing, and it was easy to see why it was so popular. But off I went the next morning to start WWOOFing again, this time on a little farm with its own wool processing facility. And the adventure had just begun. . .