Discovering the Capital

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Tuesday, December 9, 2003

The day after my tramping adventure in the Abel Tasman, I was back on the road again to sail across the Cook Strait and reach the capital of NZ, Wellington. Believe it or not, the driver of the shuttle to Picton- which is the Messina or the Dover of NZ - was the same guy who had taken me to the Abel Tasman. I was the only passenger, so we had time to talk and clarify his obsession with cleaning the vehicle's windows - the company he worked for would have fined him if the windows and the van in general had been dirty, and he was obsessed with cleaning anyway (surely his wife must be a happy woman!).

I crossed the strait on the Lynx, the fast-speed catamaran. A little adventure in itself -a chance to see the Queen Charlotte Sounds and the Milford Sounds and leave the South Island accompanied by the splendour of the landscape. I thoroughly enjoyed the crossing, but was a bit sad to leave the South Island, where I had felt particularly at home...

In Wellington I was expected by the very patient (yes, the fast-speed catamaran got there late..) Graham and Tricia, fellow globalfreeloaders and family with the couple of globalfreeloader I will stay with in Hamilton. A local landscape consultant and a retired teacher respectively, Graham and Tricia offered me the opportunity to learn about the geology and the Maori community of the area. Graham took me to see Wellington's fault, also known as the Australian fault (!), one of the five faults of our planet. It was a great experience to walk alongside one of our planet's evolutionary scars and yet be immersed in the greenery and sounds of nature, so far away in time from that momentous event. I was to complete the geology lesson the following day, when visiting the children's section at the Te Papa museum, pottering around all the interactive bits (you can enjoy an earthquake simulation and touch stones from different strata of the planet, see how the local landcape changed after the fault came up, etc). Also, for the first time since my arrival in NZ, I had the chance to visit a maerea, which is the place where the local community meet (think of The Whale Rider, and of those lessons Pai the young girl spies from outside the window). The decorations (in wood and Paua, the local iridiscent shell), all pertaining to the Maori beliefs and mythology, were truly stunning.

Wellington is elegant yet a capital without snobbiness or pretentiousness. With its winding roads going up the hills and its busy harbour, it reminded me of Trieste - and the whimsical weather and constant wind added to the similarity!

Three days after my arrival, it was time to bid farewell again to my hosts and get a taste of the train system in NZ, making my way to Hamilton.
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