Monday, January 14, 2013

Wellington - Second Stop 1/12/2012

It was a treat for us to return to Wellington. Similar to other places we have visited, there are many options for how to spend time in this cosmopolitan city that is clean, compact and easy to navigate. Besides the ones we took on our first stop, offered tours included visiting the Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum, taking the funicular up to the Wellington Botanic Gardens and the Begonia House or traveling to the Pencarrow Lodge to see a working sheep farm and views of the storm coast. One could, on their own explore the waterfront or the four districts of downtown, including the Cuba Street District, where one gets a taste of Bohemian shops, cafes and delicious coffee.

Throughout the trip tours have been offered in many forms of transportation. Some have highlighted urban or natural settings and others wildlife. We have attempted to find some form of balance among them all. It seemed unthinkable that we would come to New Zealand and not see at least one sheep farm. Thus we headed out to Penacarrow Lodge on the southeastern head of Wellington Harbor.

After passing through the suburb of Eastbourne, the Burdan Gate was opened, enabling us to ride on an unpaved path by the sites of many early shipwrecks, the Penacarrow Lighthouse and lakes formed at least 7,000 years ago when earthquakes raised the beach ridges, causing the valleys to fill with water.

We were welcomed at the lodge with afternoon tea. We were then invited outside to watch as the dogs mustered the sheep. One dog was the barker, getting the sheep to move away from us. The other was silent as he moved the sheep toward us. The dogs were constantly watching the owner to receive their next command. If they are too far away to hear the owner’s voice they received their instructions by following the owner’s movements. A sheep who strayed was no match for these dogs.

I am sure these animals did not appreciate the amazing views they had from their home. 
From our vantage point we had expansive views across Cook Strait and the South Island.

Before heading back to our ship, we came to understand why this area is known as the Storm Coast. Cook Strait connects the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean. It is the only major gap between the two main islands of New Zealand. As winds blowing from the north or south (our guide told us that there are no east-west runways at the airport because the winds never blow in those directions) funneled through this passage they become faster and stronger. They can be unpredictable and dangerous. This fact, along with the location of the Barrett Reef near the entrance to the harbor, explains why this has been an area of many shipwrecks.

We made a stop to see the remnants of one of these disasters and headed back toward the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse.
Pencarrow Head Lighthouse
Baring Head Lighhouse

The Lighthouse was the first permanent lighthouse built in New Zealand and was constructed from sections of cast iron shipped from England. Its first keeper, Mary Jane Bennett, was the first and only female lighthouse keeper in the country. Because it’s position high on the hill, it 
was often obscured by fog. 

The light was decommissioned in 1935 
and replaced by the low level Baring Head Lighthouse, which is still in use.
Continuing back to the  Burban Gate we made our way along the unpaved road, taking in the views of the rugged coastline and some unexpected goats up in the hills.

Back in the city, we drove past some of the city's most important landmarks and returned to the ship. We still had one more lesson to learn. Wellington is one of the windiest places in New Zealand. Climbing the steps into the ship we had to hold the ropes on both sides of us for fear we would be blown away. From personal experience we can verify the nicknames of  “the city on the roaring 40’s” (because of it’s location on the 40th latitude) or "Windy Wellington”.

Penacarrow Lodge is at the top of the hill.
Leaving the habor we could see the area in which we had spent the afternoon. How interesting to see it from two different vantage points.

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