This is part 2 of my 2018 trip to New Zealand post covering my time in Wellington, NZ. Click here for part 1 of my New Zealand travel story.
So there I was at an airport about the size of a living room (okay, I’m exaggerating but it is tiny) and my flight to Wellington had been cancelled. There was one (one!) airport employee responsible for handling all the problems that occurred due to the cancelled flights and she offered to book me on a flight from Auckland to Wellington. However, they could not provide transportation to Auckland so it would be entirely my responsibility to organize transportation. There were no buses that would reach Auckland in time though and I didn’t have a rental car or anything. A decision had to be made. Instead of going to Auckland to catch the flight, I decided to focus on going to Wellington directly. My phone told me there would be a bus from Hamilton to Wellington in half an hour leaving from the bus station in the city center. Luckily, the shuttle driver who had taken me from my hotel to the airport was still there. I asked him to take me to the bus station while simultaneously booking the bus ticket while I still had access to the airport WiFi. He took me to the bus station and I kind of went back into 2012 backpacker mode, using the remaining couple of minutes to refill my water bottle in the bathroom, buy an emergency sandwich and board the bus. At the time I was originally supposed to arrive at the airport in Wellington I still had an 8 hour bus ride ahead of me.
Now it probably sounds worse than it was. Yes, the bus ride was lengthy but I enjoyed the scenery passing by my window and even spotted some snow as we went through a mountainous area. The fog was long gone and the day was so sunny, mild and beautiful. We stopped in Taupo with its vast lake sparkling in the sun and I really enjoyed being back after 5 years.
As dusk was already settling in the late afternoon we stopped at a motorway restaurant literally in the middle of nowhere. I left the bus and had an instant 2012 backpacking flashback. Breathing the fresh air rich with the scent of trees and earth and water simply made me want to grab my hiking boots and my New Zealand buddy Matt and set out for an adventure. Inside the restaurant a fire was burning in the fireplace so the room had this snug and cozy feel to it. I ordered nachos with cheese and salsa and avocado which had been such a fav of mine back in the day. I sat there at my table looking outside as dusk was slowly starting to color the world a dark blueish shade. In this moment I felt almost grateful that my flight had been cancelled. I felt 22 again, traveling the country for half a year, with enough time to roam freely, to stay wherever I want – never knowing where I’d end up sleeping or eating or making new friends. Something deep inside me suddenly started yearning for this freedom again. Spoiler alert: Now that I am writing this post I already know something that is going to happen next year 🙂
TL;DR: I arrived in Wellington eventually at around 8.30 pm. I couldn’t believe that after 5 years of walking these streets in my dreams during the night and on Google Street View during the day I was finally walking these streets again for real. I checked into my hotel, dropped my luggage and started wandering Cuba Street staring at everything in awe. Everything looked as if I had never been gone. I was extremely tired from the stressful day and long bus ride and barely managed not to fall asleep during my delicious dinner at scopa.
You may or may not know that Wellington is famous for its coffee. So my main priority when I woke up the next morning was getting my hands and my mouth on a delicious hot Wellington Flat White. I sipped my coffee amidst the Sunday morning buzz at Midnight Espresso, watching the people on Cuba Street walk by – still incredulous I was really there.
I pretty much spent this day walking around the city, as if to make sure that everything was still there. And it was. Sure, some shops and restaurants had disappeared, others had opened their doors but all in all I recognized the home town I had left behind so long ago.
Something I had been really looking forward to was rummaging through the numerous (vintage) stores on Cuba Street. Wellingtonians have such a unique style and having lived there has profoundly influenced my style and fashion taste. Also, in Wellington I always seem to blend in seamlessly fashion-wise while I would forever get stared at by strangers here in Germany. Also, more than anywhere in the world everyone just seems to have their own uinque personal style and seems to not give a single damn about anyone else’s opinion. There are people looking all dapper in their business attire, girls looking like they raided their grandma’s closet and goths with 20 cm platform boots all mingling on Cuba Street and all looking fabulous af. This city’s vibe is incredible and it’s the reason I instantly fell in love with it back in 2013.
Another thing that Wellington is famous for is its food. In my book, holidays are not the right time for dieting and I had a long list of restaurants I wanted to try. I started out early each day by having a massive breakfast at Southern Cross or The Aroma. While I absolutely enjoyed it, I also completely overdid it, got stomach cramps and couldn’t eat a thing anymore until mid-evening. Great job, Liz, totally acting like the responsible adult that you are. Funnily enough I had never ever been to the Southern Cross while I lived in Wellington but it quickly became my favorite place during this week. The cozy atmosphere allowed me to read or get some university study done (I had an exam upon my return) and I loved the fireplace. As it was winter in NZ, after hours of walking around the city it always felt good to enter a warm, cozy place. Another culinary highlight I had missed sorely was HELL Pizza. I’m a massive fan of disgusting pizza creations with the famous (veggie) hot dog pizza being my fav at home. HELL Pizza however allows you to take disgusting pizza creations to a whole new level by offering awesome toppings that you can’t get anywhere in my area. Once more I noticed how un-German my food taste is – if I lived in Wellington permanently I’d probably be twice my current weight 😀
I did not only eat though! I also rode the famous Cable Car up to the Botanical Gardens. What’s awesome about the Botanical Gardens in Wellington is that you can simply walk through the gardens by following the path downhill until you reach the city again. That’s what I did and I absolutely enjoyed this walk. The day was perfect for outdoor activities – fairly mild at about 12° C and with almost no wind, which is very unusual for Wellington (I was pretty lucky as there was almost no wind all week long. Only once there was the regular Wellington wind that pushed me sideways while I was actually trying to walk straight. Wellingtonians will understand.).
The day was even pleasant enough for me to sit and read by the waterfront for a while enjoying the ocean view. Living far from any ocean back home, cities by the sea always have a certain kind of magic for me. For an instant I even contemplated hopping on a ferry to the South Island just to see and take in as much as possible of this beautiful country while I was there. I was looking out over the waves watching the ferries and boats as they came and went when a male voice put a sudden end to my thought process: “Excuse me, I would like to use this shower.” He pointed. Glimpsing up I noticed I had been sitting underneath a waterpipe the entire time that actually served as a shower for the divers in the bay. Some people read in the bath tub, I sit and read in a shower by the harbor – whatever floats your boat, right?
One extremely sunny day (that allowed me to take my coat and sweater off <3 ) I went to my old house where I once lived with 5 flatmates. Getting off the bus and walking towards the house felt strangely like coming home from work. It’s so weird to stand in front of your former home but to not live there anymore. I even walked around the house and peeked into the backyard through the fence like a total creep.
But Wellington seems to be a place where people don’t linger long. Of all the people I knew back then, only a few are still there or have returned after having lived overseas for a while. While I was sipping some lemon-honey-ginger at The Laundry, I looked outside watching locals and tourists pass by on Cuba Street. Isn’t it weird that this place somehow retains its unique vibe although the people who once walked this street are all gone? It almost seems like this place, its houses and shops and streets have a life and a free will of their own.
Of course a must do on my last day was the Te Papa museum. I had visited the museum in 2013 already but it’s huge, the exhibitions change from time to time and it’s free! I was especially impressed with the exhibition on immigrants, their backgrounds and their reasons for coming to New Zealand in past centuries and decades as well as today. I also explored the outdoor area on this beautiful sunny day.
I definitely enjoyed my week in Wellington and I feel a bit like a spirit who still walked the earth until she has completed her final quest and who has now eventually found peace, haha 😀 I missed this place so much for such a long time I had even started doubting it was real. Now I know that it is and it still will be when I visit again next year. … … wait, did I just say that? I need to stop the spoilers…
Now the last part of my journey was the very fun 35 hour flight back home to Germany. I found it a little more exhausting than the first flight but all in all it was alright. When I arrived in Munich after 33 hours I learned that my last flight from Munich to Nuremberg had been cancelled. 2 flights out of 9 on this trip were cancelled – luckily not the long ones that would’ve got me into serious trouble. And I have to admit that Lufthansa handled the situation extremely well by instantly providing me with a train ticket, a drink and a snack so I eventually made it home by train with only an hour delay. I was right in time for my sister’s birthday party 🙂