Wellington: Wandering Around, Te Papa Tongarewa

We flew from Christchurch to Wellington, New Zealand today, getting to our hotel a little after noon. We then spent the afternoon walking around Wellington’s downtown and harbour for a while and then visiting Te Papa Tongarewa.

Walking Around

Downtown Wellington Street
Downtown Wellington Street

The population of Wellington is smaller than that of Auckland, but, in my opinion, Wellington has much more of a big-city feel to it than Auckland. That’s probably because high hills (or low mountains; I’m not sure how to classify them) and the ocean encircle the central business district of Wellington. As a result, the tall buildings are concentrated in a relatively small area, making it feel more like a true downtown. Auckland spreads its tall buildings more widely.

The hills, don’t don’t constrain residential development, which hugs the hills up to the top and down the other side.

View of downtown Wellington from a side of the harbour, with a statue of a man about to dive in and/or bracing against the wind.
View of downtown Wellington from a side of the harbour, with a statue of a man about to dive in and/or bracing against the wind.

The geography makes the harbour in Wellington very attractive. The downtown buildings come almost to the harbour and the hills/mountains form a horseshoe shape around the downtown and harbour.

Off to one side of the harbour sits a statue of a naked man leaning out over the harbour. Not being able to view the statue from the water side, I can’t tell you if its front is anatomically correct. Enquiring minds no doubt want to know, but I can’t help you there.

I don’t know if the statue depicts the man about to dive in or bracing himself against the wind. Despite the proximity of the water, the latter is equally, if not more, likely because …

Winds of Wellington

Looking out from Wellington harbour
Looking out from Wellington harbour

I didn’t use a “Winds of Wellington” subhead solely for the alliteration. Our guide on the “Mount Cook” tour yesterday warned us that it’s usually extremely windy in Wellington. He said that flights to the city are often diverted to other airports because of gusts too strong for planes to land.

Our plane did land, but it was a rather turbulent landing.

Upon checking in, one of the hotel receptionists also warned us to expect a lot of wind in Wellington.

I know that a single day’s data point is not significant. However, so far, I can confirm the claim that Wellington is a very windy city. We experienced very strong, persistent winds during our brief period of wandering around. Some gusts made it difficult to walk without leaning into the wind to avoid being blown over. And, as I type this, I can hear loud wind gusts out my hotel window.

Apologies, Chicago. I know you’re supposed to the Windy City, but Wellington may have you beat. By far.

Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand)
Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand)

English is the most commonly spoken language in New Zealand, but Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are official languages of the country. Te Papa Tongarewa is Māori for “container of treasures.” It’s also the Maori name for the Museum of New Zealand. If local signage is any indication, it seems to be known as just Te Papa for short.

The museum is very large. It contains a collection of local art of a variety of media, along with exhibits of Maori art, architecture, history and culture. When we were there, there was also a special exhibit on New Zealand’s participation in the battle of Gallipoli, and the cost of that battle to the lives of Kiwis (the people, obviously, not the birds of fruit).

The exhibits throughout the museum are very well designed and laid out. It’s well worth a visit, assuming, of course, you’re in Wellington, New Zealand. And, I’m not saying that just because entrance is free.

Earthquake

Just before I published this, my room on the 12th floor of my hotel started to sway. The shaking wasn’t overly violent, but it was far too much sway for it to possibly be the blustering wind doing it. It lasted for probably about half a minute or so.

People who live in seismically active areas probably think it was laughably minor and shrugged it off. But I don’t live in a seismically active area.

DON’T PANIC.

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