Sunday, October 22, 2006

Road Trip

When I was a kid, GM ran commercials for Chevrolet that went “See the USA in a Chevrolet”. At the time, I knew people who never travelled around the US, except maybe to a neighbouring state, or possibly to a more distant one where relatives lived. Hardly anyone I knew (outside my own family) travelled overseas, with the possible exception of Canada, and even that was pretty rare.

I thought about all of that as we began our road trip to Wellington. Technically, we weren’t going anywhere I hadn’t already been, but some of it I hadn’t seen very extensively, and in other areas we visited attractions that were new to me.

I’d never seen the Desert Road in daylight, for example, and the stark beauty of a cold desert is amazing. Our destination, Wellington, is New Zealand’s capital, with all that implies. But it’s also an unusual city, with houses built into steep hillsides. Those houses are reached by steep, winding footpaths or sometimes a private cable car system.

There are plenty of attractions in Wellington: The Houses of Parliament (the tour is good) and Te Papa (the Museum of New Zealand) are probably the best known things to see. But there’s also the Wellington Museum of City and Sea and the cable cars are both good things to see and do. A drive along the Wellington coast is also a must, as is a trip to the top of Mt Victoria. All up, we spent about two and a half days in Wellington.

But it’s a long, long drive from Wellington to Taupo, the next nearest tourist destination, not counting the ski fields of the Central Plateau. In Rotorua, our next destination after Wellington (we’d stopped in Taupo on the way south), we went to a thermal area I’d never been to before, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Managed by the Department of Conservation, it’s probably the best thermal area to visit in the Rotorua area.

We also visited the Rotorua Museum, which is well worth the visit (which I hadn’t done before). In some ways, it was more interesting than Te Papa. Actually, I’d have to say that I’d probably choose the Auckland Museum, Wellington Museum of City and Sea and Rotorua Museum over Te Papa, but maybe that’s just me.

At any rate, we made it back to Auckland and took a brief lull. We’re now in a holiday weekend, Labour Weekend. Soon it’ll be back to work, and my friend leaves to return to the US on Thursday.

No Chevrolets were harmed in the making of the following photos (as always, clicking on a photo makes it larger).

The Desert Road:

Mt Ruapehu from just off the Desert Road. That little patch of white on the lower left side of the photo is snow. It's the closest I've come to snow in New Zealand in nearly eleven years living here, and that means I've had about a dozen years without snow. For me, that's a good thing.

The Houses of Parliament (the building on the left is called "The Beehive" for obvious reasons):
Wellington at dusk from Mt Victoria:

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland mineral terraces in the making:

Traffic sign at Wai-O-Tapu. It's becoming increasingly common at tourist spots to put signs or arrows on the road to remind overseas visitors that we drive on the left side of the road.

Rotorua Museum:

No comments: