Saturday, May 08, 2010

The First Step Home, Wellington, NZ

Part of the Bridge to the Sea in Wellington.

As most of you know, I'm back in the USA now. However, I'd have had a great set of adventures getting back here. New friends. New places. A ton of fun!!! A lot of me can't wait to have more. A lot of me is hurting for downtime. As I sit writing this in Massachusetts, a lot of me wishes I had a place like where I am sitting. Trees through the window. Personal stuff spread out. Sabah on the dog bed. Comfortable. Essentially, a home.

The view from Mt. Victoria.

A view looking the other way from Mt. Victoria.

My final weekend in New Zealand combined a little bit of exploring with a little bit of team training.  I was in Wellington, NZ for a team training weekend, but took an early morning flight up a day early so I would have some time to look around on my own. I got off the bus at the northeast side of the harbor and spend the day walking to the other side and back again.  I could not have picked a better day. The weather was blue bird gorgeous and not too hot.  My first stop was Mt. Victoria. I heard it was a nice hike up to the summit and a great view of harbor. The trail signs were confusing and I would have probably been better off if there weren't any, but if I just kept going up the hill everything worked out.  When I reached the top, I was rewarded with great views over Wellington Harbor and of the mountains on the South Island.  On the way up and down, I gained a new appreciation for city hill living. I've seen a lot of it in Pittsburgh, but the contraptions they had to keep their cars in place or to maximize space for their house were fantastic. 

Te Papa museum.

Giant squid.

After visiting Mt. Victoria, I headed for Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Everyone I had talked to said it was the best part of Wellington and I had told Celeen that I'd visit the giant squid for her. I was a little reluctant to use up a blue bird day on the museum, but I decided to trust my recommendations. It turned out to be great. They had a little bit of everything from history to nature to pop culture to Antarctica. I just can't get away from that stuff, nor do I want to.  I love seeing how information on the places that I have visited is presented. For anyone from the Ice, you need to go to the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch to see their Antarctic exhibit. It is surreal to see clothing that we wore behind a glass display case.

A new definition of boy in the bubble on Wellington Harbor.

After spending a few hours at the museum, it was time to head out again. I wanted a nap and so I headed for the green grass of the Botanical Gardens. The easiest way to get there was to take a cable car from downtown. Wellington was the first downtown I had visited since leaving the ice that was business driven. Everything moved so fast. Everyone was fancied up. People were in a hurry. There weren't too many tourists. Power suits. Cell phones. People on the move. It was quite a blur. It reminded me why I love the slower pace of Christchurch so much.

 A great use of an old stump.

Water lilies at the Botanical Gardens.

More water lilies at the Botanical Gardens.

The cable car trip was great. It was a fun way to gain some elevation quickly to overlook the city and it wasn't a tourist trap, or at least was not priced like one. I think it was $2 which was the same price as the bus. It dropped me off at the entrance to the gardens and away I went to explore the 25 hectares of green goodness. The gardens are built on a hillside right in the middle of the city. Admission is free. A road goes through them. Other people commute through them to work.  I love how integrated they were into everyday life. I spent an hour walking across part of the gardens with a girl who had just picked up her new kitten. The kitten wanted to be out in the sunshine, but she kept carrying it in the box because she didn't have enough hands. Oh man, I was pet starved at this point and happy to help carry the box in exchange for some petting time. So cute. When we parted ways, she pointed me towards the water lily garden which was my favorite part of the Wellington gardens.

Sunrise from where I stayed.

After the gardens, I finally got my nap and then wound down the day tracking down some falafel to eat. When I did, I found myself in the neighborhood that B-Nelson, Raja, Katie and I were in before we went on our canoe trip. It was a little surreal because we had arrived at 10pm and left early the next morning. I wasn't sure I'd remember any of it, but my deja vu was coming from somewhere.

The next day I got to business for my frustrating team training weekend. The team did pretty well, going 3-1, but I had just torn (grade 2) my hamstring and could not play. I was able to make the best of it by filming the team and a little coaching. It was a bit of a bummer to have stayed a few extra weeks for the weekend when I couldn't play, but it definitely made me hungrier to play.  Two more months.