We spent the entire of week 4 away on our end of year trip in Wellington and Christchurch. It was a great week full of fun, new experiences and challenges. I had been looking forward to this trip for quite some time so I was definitely excited that the time had finally arrived.
Monday morning we all finished doing the last-minute things before we could leave, such as freezing any milk or bananas that were left over, making sure power points were switched off, emptying the rubbish bins and getting rid of any food that was in the fridges. I had booked a taxi van to take us to the airport at 8:30. Everyone was ready and waiting for the taxi on time, which was a relief. Checking in at the airport and boarding the plane all went very smoothly, as did the flight. In next to no time we were touching down in Wellington. I had never been to this city before and was definitely looking forward to exploring. After we had collected our bags we were driven to our accommodation in a shuttle. We had a little bit of time to put our things in our rooms before we set out again. WE walked along the Wellington waterfront to Parliament House, stopping to eat lunch on the way. We had a tour around Parliament, which is commonly known as the Beehive because of the shape of the building. Until then, I knew very little about the New Zealand parliamentary system. I found it interesting to compare it to the Australian one. One large difference between the two that I learnt is that New Zealand only has one house of parliament whereas Australia has two. One standout highlight for me was that our group had been granted special permission from the speaker of the house to touch the seats and benches where the members of parliament sit. Normally, guests are strictly forbidden from this. AS we were leaving Parliament John Key (the current New Zealand Prime Minister) walked past us, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to see or hear him. This tour was a great way to start off the trip. We walked back along the waterfront and stopped at Te Papa for a short time. In the museum we found some interactive and tactile exhibits. We were able to feel a replica of a whale’s heart, a globe that showed us tactually where the tectonic plates are, a taxidermied kiwi and a house that shook to give you the feeling of an earthquake. After Te Papa we went to the supermarket. We were broken up into three groups, each group was given a list of groceries to purchase for our dinner that night and lunch and breakfast for the next two days. It was an efficient way of getting all of the shopping that we needed, although a bit of a challenge in a new supermarket. After returning to our accommodation with our groceries we ate a delicious dinner of chicken, rolls and salad. Our accommodation was nice. Us four girls were sharing a room and we had our own bathroom which I was relieved about. The staff there were all very lovely. It was a great location too, being opposite the supermarket and nearby to transport, the information centre and in walking distance of a number of restaurants and tourist attractions. It had been a busy first day and we were all grateful to collapse into bed that night.
The first activity that we did on Tuesday was to take a trip on the Wellington cable car. On our way there though, we discovered a Braille wall. There were a few walls, each having large Braille dots on them. We spent some time trying to decipher the message, but it was quite confusing. Most of us could pick out words here and there but we weren’t able to decipher the message. I thought it was a cool piece of art to have in central Wellington. Then we continued on to the cable car. It was a short trip to the top of the hill. Once up the top we explored the museum briefly and then set out on our walk back down to the bottom. Originally, we had planned to walk through the gardens but we ended up walking along the streets instead as it was the quicker route. We stopped and ate lunch along the way. Once at the bottom we caught a bus to the Weta Workshop. Unfortunately our bus was running late so our tour was cut short. We were still able to see a lot of interesting things in the time we had. Once again, we were given special permission to feel the props and costumes from the films. I especially enjoyed learning about how the gun from District 9 was designed and constructed. The designer of the gun needed to draw over 500 different designs before the producer was happy with one. Then we were told about the process that it went through to make the gun from the 2d drawing to the 3d prop that was used in the film. We were also able to touch other props and costumes including a rabbit costume, a sword, chainmail and a wig. We were also taught how they make different effects, for example how they make new leather look old and worn. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen any of the films that were talked about in the workshop but I still thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Then we went back to our accommodation for a short break before the next adventure. We were going on a seal safari which was an activity I had discovered when researching what we could do in Wellington. At first I had been worried that it wouldn’t be a suitable activity for us because it was quite expensive and went for three hours. In the description of the activity it sounded like the main focus was looking out for seals along the coast, but I suggested it anyway. I was very glad I had as it ended up being a definite highlight of the trip. In two four-wheel drives, we were taken along the rugged coastline. We went up mountains, down steep hills, along the beach, over rocks and through streams. We were shaken, bumped, rattled and rocked for three fun and hilarious hours. We all loved it. Halfway through the trip we stopped and got out of the vehicles to have a hot drink and a muffin. There were about fifteen seals on the rocks around us. I definitely wasn’t able to see them and I could not hear them either but I could smell them. Thankfully though, looking out for seals seemed to be the secondary part of the trip, the four-wheel driving the main. When we got back to our accommodation we ordered Thai for dinner as it had been another long and busy day.
We woke up early on Wednesday as it was a full day of travel. I couldn’t believe two days in Wellington were over so fast. I loved the city and had really enjoyed spending time there. After having breakfast, getting ready and packing up our rooms we were picked up by a shuttle and taken to the ferry terminal. We were spoiled on the ferry. The staff took us into an area that was closed off to all the other passengers. We had an entire lounge to ourselves! We were right up the front of the ferry and all of us were able to sit in the front row of seats. It was very comfortable and I really enjoyed travelling across the Cook Straight this way. We couldn’t believe how lovely the staff had been to give us this area completely to ourselves. The trip was smooth, which was a relief to some of the group as I have heard that stretch of water can be rough. Once we reached Picton we had just over an hour to spare before our train left. We wandered around to stretch our legs as the majority of the day was going to be spent sitting down. Then we boarded the train ready for our departure. Again, the train was very comfortable. At different times throughout the journey as we passed points of interest you could plug in your headphones to hear a commentary and brief description. For me, this was a great aspect of the trip. It allowed me to learn a little about the landscape that we were travelling through. I also walked up to the front of the train where there was an outdoor observation deck. I stood out there for five minutes or so before returning inside where it was warm. The trip on the train took just under six hours but it didn’t feel like that long to me. When we arrived in Christchurch we collected our luggage and then walked from the station to our accommodation. We were staying in the jailhouse accommodation which had been a working prison until 1999. I had been really looking forward to this. After we found the jail and put our bags in our rooms we went for a walk to find dinner. We ate at an Irish pub which had live music playing. It was relaxing and enjoyable. It was quite nice to have an easy day on Wednesday after Monday and Tuesday were busy and Thursday and Friday were going to be busy too. Even so, I find travelling can be tiring and was, once again, grateful to climb into bed that night.
Thursday was another busy day. Before we left, we went on a tour around the jailhouse. We saw the solitary confinement cell and the area where the guards took their breaks. There is also a cell in the jailhouse that has been left in its original state, even with the bed that the prisoner slept on and the graffiti on the walls. After our tour we set out, going in a shuttle to the gondolas. They were just like the ones we went on in Rotorua and took us up the Port Hills. Once we were up the top we looked through the souvenir shop, had a coffee in the cafe and then went on a short ride. We sat in a buggy and were taken through a tunnel that taught us a brief history of the Canterbury region. After we took the gondola back down the hill we headed, in a shuttle again, into the city. We went punting down the Avon River. The entire group was able to fit in one punt. It was a lovely and relaxing way to travel down the river. My favourite part was when we were able to throw bread out for the ducks. We could hear them splashing and quacking all around us. After that we had some lunch and then were taken on a tour of the Botanic Gardens on the caterpillar. The caterpillar is a vehicle made up of a couple of buggies joined together. The lady took us around the gardens and explained the flora and fauna there. At times we were able to stop and feel and smell some of the plants and trees. We were even able to walk through the garden that had been designed especially for blind people as the flowers in there were very strongly perfumed. This was another relaxing tour. Then, we boarded the tram which took us through the city. It was a fairly short trip but along the way we went through Cathedral Square. I was even able to just make out the cathedral which had been hugely damaged in the earthquakes. Although I was not able to see most of the damage from the earthquakes myself a lot of it, in particular the buildings around us that we past, were described to me. I was able to experience some of the destruction myself though, in particular by the cracks and holes in the footpath that I was able to feel through my cane and feet. At some points we needed to walk around large holes in the path that were surrounded by fences. The city felt quite eerie to me. It reminded me quite a lot of the Black Saturday bush fires back home. Some time after the fires had destroyed Kinglake my family and I drove through the town. The damage was incredible. To me, Christchurch gave me the same feeling even four years or so after the first quake. Even though I had been to Christchurch before it seemed to hit me quite hard during this trip as I hadn’t spent a lot of time in the city before now. Until I had been to Christchurch for the first time last year it seemed like a faraway place that we only heard about on the news. All of a sudden, I was walking through the city and experiencing in my own way the damage that had been caused. Like the Black Saturday fires, even many years after the tragedy there is still so much repairing to do and still so many reminders of the disaster. Even though, as mentioned, I have been to Christchurch before I enjoyed doing some more of the tourist things there and learning more about the region and its history. Each time I had visited until now I stayed outside of the city and hadn’t experienced much of what it had to offer. I really enjoyed getting to explore the city further. After our trip on the tram we walked to a supermarket to pick up something for dinner and then went back to the jailhouse in taxis. After dinner we had the night to ourselves, which was a nice treat.
Friday morning was pretty relaxed. We packed up our bags, tidied our rooms, got ready, ate breakfast and made lunch for the day. Then we headed out, leaving our luggage at the jailhouse to pick up later. We walked into the city again, this time heading to the container mall. The mall has been constructed entirely out of shipping containers that have been nicely done up and decorated. I had been to the container mall once before but this was the only activity that we did on this Kickstart trip that I had done before. We looked through a couple of shops and ate lunch at the mall. I bought myself some different lollies from a shop that sold English and Americans sweets. Once we had finished their we rode in another shuttle back to the jailhouse to pick up our luggage before continuing on to the airport. We weren’t able to check in for our flight yet so we walked across to the Antarctic Centre. There, we watched the penguins being fed, experienced what it would be like in a blizzard in the Antarctic (-11 degrees and strong winds) and went on a ride called the Hagglund. The Hagglund is a vehicle that they travel around in in the Antarctic. It was my favourite part of the Antarctic Centre. We went up and down steep hills, drove across metre-wide holes and drove into the water. After our time there was over we walked back to the airport where we checked in, ate dinner and then boarded our flight. Once again, the flight went smoothly. When back in Auckland we rode in a taxi back to Kickstart.
I really enjoyed the whole trip. Everyone we met along the way was lovely, kind, generous and very accommodating. Something I particularly enjoyed was travelling on all of the different forms of transport that we took throughout the week. We travelled by plane, train, taxi, bus, shuttle and ferry not to mention gondola, tram, cable car, four-wheel drive, caterpillar and punt! Usually, we have at least one van with us when we go on Kickstart overnight trips. The only other overnight trip that I have been on with Kickstart where we didn’t have a van was Tiritiri. When we have a van we are able to take everything with us, including food. It also means that we can put our luggage in the van and don’t’ have to worry about it. This time was completely different. We weren’t able to take food with us and had to buy it once we were there. It also meant that we needed to be responsible for all of our own luggage. I made sure to pack a small light bag which I was easily able to manage when travelling. In my opinion, not having the van made it more realistic as, most likely, when I am travelling in the future I will be relying on public transport. When we are driving in the vans us students are able to relax and have some time out. The staff however cannot. We had to be concentrating all the time this trip as we were travelling either by some form of public transport or by foot. Travelling with a cane in an unfamiliar area can be quite tiring but I enjoyed it and certainly loved the challenge. Another reason that I particularly enjoyed this trip was that we were able to experience two New Zealand cities which are very unlike each other. Wellington is hilly, for example, and very windy. I enjoyed getting to experience “windy Wellington” as it is commonly known. Christchurch on the other hand was incredibly flat for the most part. It, of course, was also cooler than Wellington. I think being able to explore two completely different cities was a great choice for our end of year trip. We were also very spoiled in terms of the weather that we had during our trip. When we left Auckland on Monday it was raining. But we flew into a lovely sunny Wellington. Although Wellington was quite windy on Monday we were all grateful that it wasn’t raining. Tuesday was a lovely day. Just after we climbed aboard the ferry to leave Wellington it started raining. But again, we arrived in Christchurch to fine weather. The night before we arrived in Christchurch there was a bad storm, but we had missed that. The weather was lovely in Christchurch for the time that we were there too.
Until next time.