I wanted to visit the Wellington Museum. For some reason, the timing never seemed to be right. That changed yesterday.
Leslie and I walked to the train station near our home and rode the light rail to the central Wellington railway station. Exiting the train, we walked to the waterfront and then mainly south toward the museum. Just before gaining the harbor, I stopped to photograph the Hotel Waterloo building. The building, finished in 1937, has a definite art deco style. It is one of several art deco style buildings in the Wellington CBD.
The first business we walked by was MADINZ. It is a store selling New Zealand tourist items and collectibles. What caught our eye were the two Shih Tzu dogs inside by the front door. When we walked in, the younger of the two, Oscar, became very excited. Leslie stopped and petted Oscar. As we began to wander around the store, the dog settled down. The items for sale were very high quality. We did not buy anything only because we already have a lot of New Zealand souvenirs.
As we walked farther, we came to the building at 1 Queen’s Wharf. It is an old harbor office building dating from 1896. Maybe the most well-known business there today is the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. We did walk in and take a quick look at the items on display at the Academy. We did not spend much time because much of what we saw was too modern for our taste.
At the south end of 1 Queen’s Wharf, in between that building and the Wellington Museum, one can see a set of entry gates to the wharf area. The gates date from 1899. I found the seal on the entrance to be quite whimsical.
Finally, we had reached our goal; the Wellington Museum. The museum is in the 1892 Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store. It is a Victorian-style building designed by the same architect as 1 Queen’s Wharf. The bond store was a warehouse that stored goods imported to New Zealand as the customs fees and paperwork process was complete.
As with so many of the museums in this country, there is no set entry fee. There is simply a place to leave a donation. The quaint museum does an outstanding job of taking one through the maritime history of Wellington from the mid-to-late nineteenth century up to today.
The ground floor houses exhibits in a timeline fashion, highlighting many years past. A few of the exhibits that caught my eye included replica crown jewels, a 1958 diorama, and several peace sign emblems. The gems were reproductions made for display at the 1939-1940 Centennial Exhibition. I do not recall the significance of the diorama other than it depicted 1958…say no more. The peace signs date from 1982. They were part of the nuclear-free New Zealand protests at that time. The protests came to a head with the visit of the USS Truxtun. The United States at the time would neither confirm nor deny any nuclear capabilities of the cruiser. Decommissioned in 1995, we now know the boat was nuclear powered. The Truxtun was the last U.S. ship to visit New Zealand until the USS Sampson visited in 2016.
The first and second levels delve into the maritime history of Wellington, New Zealand. The most poignant area of the museum deals with the Wahine sinking on April 10, 1968. The movie in the museum is painful to watch. At least 51 people lost their lives that day. An additional two died later, bringing the toll to 53. The disaster happened during one of the worst cyclones to ever hit New Zealand.
As Leslie and I walked up the stairs to the Attic level of the museum, I stopped to take a photo of the diagonal bracing of the building. I may very well be the only person ever to do that!
The Attic is a beautiful, hands-on portion of the museum. I believe we enjoyed those exhibits the most. If we had visited the Wellington Museum earlier in our posting, I am sure we would have returned. It is well worth the visit.
Leaving the museum, it was time for lunch. We ended up at the München Food Hall and Bier Haus. We both opted for a rueben sandwich on rye and a liter of beer. Yes, you read correctly, a full liter of beer each. That may not have been the best decision we have made lately… Regardless, I thought the food was excellent.
When we left the restaurant, I wanted to walk to a photography store nearby. On the way, we passed near Wellington’s Civic Square. As we got closer, I remembered that a new Ferns orb sculpture was erected the previous day. I walked into the square, and sure enough, the orb was there, suspended above the square. It is an impressive sculpture. The artist is Neil Dawson. He had a similar sculpture in place earlier, but it was taken down. This new sculpture has a stronger internal structure.
After visiting the photography store, we walked back to the Wellington Railway station to catch a train back home. The railway building is another from the art deco era. It dates from about 1937. The front of the station is easily recognizable by the tall Doric columns at the main entry.
We found a train leaving in about five minutes. We got on and rode the 20-minutes or so to our train station. Then it was a short walk home. All totaled, we walked about four miles, so we were both ready for a nap even though it was late in the day.
A couple of weekends ago, as Leslie and I were driving to the parking area for Red Rocks, I saw a sign that piqued my interest; “wind turbine.” The words were on a sign in the Brooklyn neighborhood. It was a brown sign which implies an attraction. I wanted to go for a walk, and I thought that might be interesting.
I began to look at Mr. Google’s map to see the location of the wind turbine. After I found it, I remembered seeing a wind turbine farm from the air when returning from one of my trips. I thought seeing several wind turbines at one time would be more interesting than just seeing one. Looking around some more, I stumbled upon the town of Makara and Makara Beach. Since I love to walk on the beach, I decided that was the place to go.
Leslie did not feel like going with me, but she said I was welcome to go. I hopped in the car, told TomTom where I wanted to go and pulled out of the driveway.
By road, Makara Beach is only 30 kilometers (18 miles) from our home. The route TomTom chose sent me through the suburb of Johnsonville. When I reached Ohariu Valley Road, it was like I had left urban Wellington 100 kilometers behind. I instantly found my self in a green, fertile valley dotted with horse, cow, and sheep properties.
Several kilometers into the journey, the road name changes to Takarau Gorge Road. The emphasis should be on the word “gorge.” The road narrows down to the point that two vehicles can barely pass each other. There are several spots where the way is really only one-lane wide. At several locations, painted on the road, were the words “one-lane bridge.” I thought to myself that was an understatement since the entire way seemed to be one-lane. Regardless, even passing several cars driving the opposite direction, I made it through the Takarau Gorge unscathed.
The gorge is visually stunning. The Makara Stream adds to the picturesque feel of the canyon. If there had been places to pull off the road safely, I would have taken several photographs.
As I negotiated the final curve in the road before I saw the ocean, I noticed the house on the curve had a fence completely covered in paua shells. Since Leslie and I have such a fondness for paua shells, I knew I would need to photograph the fence. But first, I thought it was much more prudent to get a cup of coffee.
About 50 meters from the beach, I saw the Makara Beach Café. I drove to the beach, made a U-turn, and parked in front of the café. I was not quite sure if the restaurant was open, but then I saw several people with motorcycle helmets standing near the entrance drinking coffee. I got out of the car and walked to the service window.
The nicest woman, Philippa, was at the window. She took my order for a long black. While she was fulfilling the request, she talked to me about photography (she saw the camera around my neck). She also helped me hone my pronunciation of Makara. There was a distinct difference between her pronunciation and mine.
Receiving my long black, I sat at one of the picnic tables in the patio area to enjoy the coffee. I noticed there were some repairs to the building underway. It was not until I returned home that I understood just what was happening. Back in late February, cyclone Gita made an unceremonious appearance on the west coast of the North Island. In a photograph on the Makara Beach Café Facebook page I saw just exactly what that meant (it is worth clicking on the link to see the devastation). Rocks from the beach and huge driftwood trees were tossed along the main road of the town, well past the café. It was apparent from the photograph that a lot of work went into returning the area to some sense of normalcy.
When I finished my coffee, I decided it was time to walk back to the home with the paua shell fence. As I walked the short distance, I noticed the people I had seen drinking coffee. They were standing near a group of motor scooters. I was able to work out that they were all participating in a rally. One by one, they came to the starting point, waited for the signal, and then departed the town. I continued my walk, took a couple of photographs, and then returned to my car to get my tripod.
I walked the few steps to the beach. Looking north along the coast, I did see the wind turbine farm. However, when I looked in the other direction, it appeared there were more photographic opportunities. I started off to my left.
Not far down the trail, I saw a sign. Two different Makara Walkways were delineated on the poster; one followed the coast while the other wound its way up the hillside to a World War II gun emplacement. I decided the upper route was the one for me.
About 400 meters along the trail, I stopped at a rock pillar formation. It made for an interesting subject for some photographs. After another 250 meters, I was at the point where the trail splits. Along the way, it was easy to see that Gita had compromised the path. At some places, there was no trail left, only the rocks of the beach.
Heading up the trail, I soon came to the opening of a small valley. At the top of the valley was a lone wind turbine. I am not sure why there was only one while across the bay, there was an entire farm of wind turbines. During my stop to take some photos, a man and woman passed me. I ultimately turned to follow them. Soon, I came to yet another fork in the trail. The couple had gone left. I decided to go right.
The trail rose quickly. I stopped several times to wheeze. Ultimately, I made it to the top of the rise. The view from there was one of the best I have seen during our travels in New Zealand. I found myself on a reasonably steep clifftop. The cliff and hills continued toward the south. I could easily overlook Cook Strait and see the South Island. From my vantage point, I was mainly looking through Queen Charlotte Sound, toward the town of Picton.
I was interested in continuing the climb toward the wind turbine and the gun emplacement. However, the rock scrabble trail at this point looked a little iffy. Instead, I decided to concentrate on my photographs. I decided I would descend back to the fork in the trail when I finished with my camera work and continue up toward the wind turbine. As it turns out, when I got back to the fork, I was a bit tired. I also thought Leslie would be wondering why I was gone so long. With that in mind, I opted to walk back to Makara.
Arriving back in Makara, I decided to stop at the Makara Beach Café again to get a bottle of water. Philippa was still there. She sold me a large and wonderfully cold bottle of water. She is representative of the many Kiwis we have met, so very nice and friendly.
As I strolled back to my car with water in hand, I noticed a sign across the street that was not there when I arrived, “Makara Art Gallery.” I decided to cross the road and check it out. That was a pure stroke of luck. The art is by artist and illustrator Helen Casey. When I walked into the gallery, I saw several of her pieces on display. While I was looking, Helen entered the gallery. We began talking about her work and what precisely an illustrator does.
Helen has done work for magazines, books, and art at several of the New World supermarkets. The work she had on display at the gallery is some of the most unique I have ever seen. She combines gesso, graphite, and varnish into some fantastic, textural pieces. Two pieces caught my eye; a gannet at the beach and a seal on a piece of driftwood. After quite a bit of conversation and thinking, I opted to purchase the seal on the driftwood. It connected with me, and I am sure with Leslie too. It is on a piece of driftwood. Both of us like driftwood. We have collected a lot while we have lived in New Zealand. Both of us love seals. Some of our best memories of New Zealand will include the seals at Red Rocks and Cape Palliser. That meant that piece was destined to be our favorite piece of art from this beautiful country.
Helen packaged the artwork. I put it in my car and turned to head home.
In my opinion, the town of Makara is a must-see location!
I must have gotten sidetracked. I never posted these photographs from 2016…
A colleague at work recommended the Wainuiomata Beach for beachcombing. Always interested in a new beach experience, Lorraine, Leslie, Hillary, and I drove about 30 minutes to the beach. It was barren with few people. From the beach, one could see Cook Strait and the lighthouse complex at Baring Head.
We were hoping to find some beautiful seashells and sea glass. We found neither. All we saw were rocks and driftwood. Regardless, it had its stark beauty.
As Hillary and I walked the beach, we did come across a man fishing. I am not sure how successful he may have been. It looked difficult to me, what with the wind blowing onto the shore and the wave action; I do not see how he could have gotten his bait out far enough to do any good.
On the drive to the beach, we had passed a sign for the Remutaka Forest Park. Leaving the beach, we decided to take a quick look at the park. I am glad we did. I was very picturesque. The only thing that was somewhat irritating was the constant sound made by the cicadas. They were noisy. While I had certainly heard them before, I had never seen one before this trip. They are an odd-looking insect.
Leslie had made lunch before we departed the house. We found a picnic table in the park and had lunch. After that, we took a brief stroll and then went back to the house.
Yesterday, Leslie and I wanted to take a walk. It just so happens that I had looked at the Red Rocks area the day before. Mr. Google indicated it was nearly 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from the parking area at Owhiro Bay to the Red Rocks formation. Since that was about one mile less than our recent walk toward the Pencarrow lighthouses, I thought it would be a pleasant walk for Leslie and me.
As we drove to the southern end of the North Island, we saw large clouds building. We were not sure what the weather might have held in store for our walk. When we arrived, we saw the clouds were across Cook Strait, hugging the South Island. As I parked the car, we saw a man walk from one of the camping vehicles out onto the rocks at the seashore. He stood there, soaking in the view toward Sinclair Head. He looked tiny and insignificant in comparison to the scene before us.
It was a chilly morning because the breeze was coming from the south – the Antarctic south. That translates into the Antarctic. Regardless, we were sure all would be fine once we began our walk.
Our first obstacle was a stream crossing the “road.” It was fairly deep, maybe 18 inches or so at the deepest point. It was also wide at this point, as much as four or five times the width of the road. We encountered the stream about 100 meters from the parking area. That made me glad we decided to walk and not drive.
We were some of the very first that morning to walk on the road. It was very serene. We almost felt alone in a vast wilderness. As we had thought after walking some ways, we began shedding some of our cold-weather gear. It was not bad when the sun was out, but if we found ourselves on the shady side of a hill, it did cool down considerably.
Not long after setting out, we saw an Interislander ferry out in Cook Strait, making its way to Picton on the South Island. We also noticed a fishing boat going back and forth. We were both curious to know what they were trying to catch.
The beach became rockier as we continued along the trail. If we had been beachcombing, I am sure we would have found lots of paua shells. They love rocky shorelines. At times, it did feel like we were walking on the beach. The road was very sandy. There were several points along the way that made me glad, once again, that we were not driving. I am reasonably sure we would not have made it back without some towing assistance.
The road was wet, so where it was hardpacked gravel, there were numerous potholes filled with water. There were two other points where we had to ford small streams. Neither of them was as sizable as the first. The other surface we encountered was water washed rocks, each about four inches in diameter. It looked like river rock that had been trucked in and dumped along the road. I am sure that was to overcome some of the more difficult, sandy portions. There was even one stretch of a couple-hundred meters that was covered in seaweed. That really smelled bad.
As we walked along, some people did pass us on foot. Periodically a vehicle passed us. One couple asked as they passed if we were going to Red Rocks. Of course, we said yes. The woman went on and on about how colorful the rocks are. They also added that if we continued for about a kilometer beyond Red Rocks to Devil’s Gate, we should find some seals. That extra distance was not originally in our mind, but we both mulled it over as we continued to Red Rocks.
When we arrived at Red Rocks, a family was sitting there. They had been ahead of us on the trail. The family was a man and woman with three very young children. I guess the oldest might have been six. We were surprised they were able to walk so far. Approaching them, Leslie asked if they wanted me to take their photo. They were happy with the offer. They posed while I used the woman’s cell phone to capture the shot.
Finished with that, we marveled at Red Rocks. They are only in this one location along the coast. There are not endless meters of the rock, but rather a very concentrated area. The stones are there as a result of the subduction of two tectonic plates; the Pacific Plate and the Australian Plate. As parts of the plates washed away over the eons and other portions were pushed up, the red rock formations became visible. The rocks are between 200 and 250 million years old. I am glad we were able to see them. They were stunning. We were also lucky that we arrived while the sun illuminated the rocks.
In several places along the beach, we saw private baches. I am sure they have continually wonderous views of the Cook Strait; however, they appeared quite primitive. I did see one that had a satellite dish, but the others did not even seem to have electricity. Neither of us aspires to live off-the-grid, so we do not plan to buy one anytime soon.
From our vantage point at Red Rocks, we could see Devil’s Gate. We looked at each other and said what the heck! So, the march continued. As we walked on, a couple of 4X4s went by us. We saw them drive up and through Devil’s Gate. That was when we first noticed just how steep and rough that portion of the road was. There is absolutely no way our vehicle would have made it through the “gate.”
Shortly before we got to the “gate,” a man passed us; walking with his very young daughter. On his back, in a backpack-contraption was his even younger son. They walked on through the “gate” while we continued up the grade. Nearing the top, I had to stop and offer a hand of assistance to help Leslie up; it was that steep. On the other side, it was steeper yet. Both of us had to go very slow and carefully.
Once we were on somewhat more stable land, we saw the seal colony. The man with the two children asked us if we were visiting. We told him we were. His advice to us was there was no need to walk much farther along the beach. He said there usually are not more seals beyond this point, Sinclair Head. We heeded his advice and spent our time looking at the seals there.
The seal colony at Sinclair Head does not match the numbers of the seals we have seen at Cape Palliser. Regardless, they were just as easy to see and access. There was one seal in particular that rose from a nap long enough to yawn and then lay back down. Obviously, the seal’s back needed to be scratched. The seal rubbed its back over the rock for a couple of minutes.
When we tired of watching the seals, we made our way back up the incline to the “gate.” When we got to the point where we could see through the gate, we realized just how far we had come. I know our car would not have made it, but I sure wished it was there.
Just at the base of the incline on the other side, we saw some vehicles approaching. I decided to wait for the cars to drive through. I wanted to get some photos. As one can see from the sign beside the “gate,” even the authorities deem the passage “extreme” requiring “suitable driving skills.” They even refer to the road as a “track.” That is a very descriptive word.
Two of the vehicles just contained a driver each. They seemed to be friends. Both cars parked at the base where the incline begins. One of the drivers jumped out, ran to the top of the “gate” and stood there to guide the other driver. That first vehicle was a VW Toureg. He did not make it up and over on his first try. The car slid back about halfway down the incline. On the second try, he did make it over. That driver came back to the top to guide the other. The second vehicle, a Toyota, made it over on his first try.
During this activity, Leslie sat on a boulder near the road. Suddenly, I noticed there was a seal very near to where she sat. Neither of us had seen it before. We probably would have stepped on it as we left if I had not spotted the animal. I took the opportunity to take some more photographs.
At one point, the seal raised and coughed a few times. One of the things I noticed when this happened was just how big the teeth are. It would not be a good idea to get too close to one of those wild seals.
During our walk back, there were many more people and many more vehicles. Because of the narrow road at points, it was a challenge to navigate. I think we both thought we would never make it back to our car. We just kept putting one foot in front of the other.
Ultimately, we did make it back to the car. From the parking area, I took a photograph of Devil’s Gate. We both could only marvel at just how far we had walked.