the long way home

another in our series of long city walks, today we did the “go the distance” walk along the wellington harbour, and then extended it by walking the rest of the way home via the southern coast. 16.93 km (10.52 miles) from start to finish.

there is common phrase said throughout nz that “you can’t beat wellington on a fine day” (partly a dig by the aucklanders given we are prone to frequent southerlies) and today was definitely one of those fine days.

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the tramp started at queens wharf where one of the local hardware stores was sponsoring a fishing-off-the-pier day for kids. a common fixture at events like this is the sausage sizzle where you’ll get a sausage from the grilled wrapped in piece of white bread. usually free or $1 – today was free courtesy of carters. you can see the jboss standing at the zero marker with her pre-tramp sausage

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the city council and several organizations have rescued the hikitia – the world’s oldest working crane ship from the scrap yard. built in scotland in 1924 it has been in near continuous use since and is currently going through a detailed restoration. the air new zealand employees volunteers are striping an old window using dental tools…

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we had to make a quick stop at the “santa line” so jackie could add a few things to her list. telecom sets up a giant tree in one of the parks along the harbour and has 3 santa line phone boxes for the youngsters (and the jboss) to pass along their wish lists.

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row of boat houses along oriental bay. all along the oriental parade is a string of tiny parks. just one of the little things that makes a great livable city.

the panorama is from the bench in the shade under the overhang.

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oriental bay

view of wellington harbour from balaena bay. the council has recently rehabs the park at evans bay adding these wooden loungers. the jboss stops for a snooze.
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great old build at the bus terminal. surfers, swimmers and walkers along lyall bay.

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lyall bay is one of the all times dog friendly beaches. during summer gromit is not allowed on our island bay beach between 9am and 7pm. dad and a wee one scrambling on the rocks with the rimutakas in the background.
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wedding ceremony out on rocks near waitaha cove. the surfers waiting for a wave at houghton bay. i’m always amazed at how close to the rocks they are.
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big city, small town

with a population of almost 400,000 i have found wellington to have almost all the big city things i would want – arts, entertainment, sports, restaurants, shops, etc.

but what i’m really happy about is the small town feel. most weeks i’ll have some small town experience that will make my day.

some examples:

  • i’m at a family run shop in the cbd buying some preszzies (presents) for the jboss’ birthday. i take 3 items to the counter. the owner rings them up and says “oh my – that’s too much!” she has rung up the correct prices, but she then rings them up again but this time totaling $30 less. “that’s better!”
  • there is a popular coffee shop right outside my office that i stop at a few times a week. within a week of me starting to get my coffee there victor the owner knew my name and what i always get – large flat white, blue milk (2%) and no sugar. note that there are hundreds of people who get their coffee from victor every day and victor knows them all and what they order.
  • [note: i officially condemn the following unless it benefits me] i usually chat with victor the coffee guy while he’s making my coffee. i’ve noticed that if i show up and there are several orders ahead of me somehow victor gets confused and my coffee comes out first… bad victor, bad.
  • one day i’m scooting along on my vespa and it just conks out. i call aa (the nz equivalent of the aaa in the states) and soon the aa truck pulls up and the aa guy starts trying to figure out what’s gone wrong. the service guy is a big dude with giant hands, and the engine compartment on the vespa is tiny, but he’s hard at it and within 10 minutes has me on the road again. he explains what he has done and suggests i take to the vespa shop soon to have then check over his fix. it’s been a long time since i had my vehicle actually repaired roadside. next day i take it to mr. skoot for a full checkup. when i pick up up he explains that my spark plug was cracked and that he replaced it and the connecting wire. he asks if $20 is ok? $20 for service including parts.
  • maybe once a month i have lunch at a small family run malaysian cafe. none of the plates match. the paint on the tables is faded. mom & dad in the kitchen. daughter #1 at the register. they know what i usually get and when i walk in just gesture for me sit down and soon bring over my lunch.
  • during our summer holiday last year i lost a small (but critical) part for my 10 year old mountain bike. i stopped in one of the bike shops near work and explained what i wanted. they guy pulls me back into the repair shop and starts digging through a big box of used parts similar to what i need. soon enough he finds one that will work. back to the register and he asks “is $2 ok?”
  • i get my coffee beans at one of the 5 coffee roasters within 2 blocks of my office. the price is per 100g (3.5 oz) so i usually get 500g to last the week. i’m buying them directly from the coffee roaster dude who always fills the 500g bag so that not another bean could fit. he always puts it on the scale just to be sure it’s at least 500g, but i’ve never see it weigh in at under 600g despite him only charging me for 500. my experience in boston would be them putting the bag on the scale, it saying 510g and them then removing beans to bring it back down to 500.
  • the bus driver waving to me as i step off the bus.

christmas in welly

christmas morning from our back deck.


one of the simple pleasures of the holiday season is the blooming of the pohutokawa trees. some of the big old trees are quite spectacular. the jboss is standing in front of one on the grounds of the the local island bay school.

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with the schools out for the summer holidays youngsters become a frequent sight buskering for some pocket money. the girls with the violins were quite impressive. unfortunately i didn’t get a photo of the barbershop quartet or the 2 scottish lads in full regalia performing with bagpipe and drum.

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with the massive cafe culture in wellington there are almost always several coffee cafes within sight. starbucks has a few locations, but has thankfully never really taken off and relies on the exotic frozen drinks (carmel mocha frappachino with chocolate syrup swirl and organic whipped cream topping). i will give them credit for trying to introduce iced coffee (one of my favourites) to the local market by having an employee roam the city streets with a ice coffee backpack giving out free drinks.

midland park is my favourite lunch spot and home of the town christmas tree

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kirkcaldie and stains is


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voorjaar heeft afgeveerde

spring has sprung.

today we went to the botanical gardens to see a bit of the spring festival. the highlight today was the tulips. the 25,000+ tulip garden was established in 1948 as a gift from the netherlands in appreciation for kiwi hospitality given to dutch refugees during world war ii. each year as part of the spring festival they sponsor a small celebration in the tulip garden. koffiekoeken all around!

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it was great to get out of the house and enjoy the beginning of spring.

kudos to the jboss for reserving one of the free scooters that are provided by the council at various spots across the city. i don’t think i would have enjoyed the day if i was trying to get around on my crutches.

that said i admit i found it a bit embarrassing. i probably shouldn’t have – but you can always count on little kids to say what’s on their mind. “daddy – why is that man riding in the car?”

the scooter pickup/dropoff was at the cafe at the rose garden, so whilst jackie went to fetch the car i was able to sit and enjoy the sunshine and a band playing the garden.

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extra bonus for the day was a comically bad local band that was playing at the sound shell.

really bad. nick winters bad.

SNL Bill Murray’s Star Wars @ Yahoo! Video

city safari


today we participated in the metlink city safari. hard to describe – but combine orienteering, a scavenger hunt and “amazing race” and you’re close.

technically it is called a rogaine and in a fixed duration event where you challenged to visit as many control points as possible. the control points are indicated on a map that is provided just 30 minutes before the event start. each control point has a difference point value based on it’s distance from the start, remoteness and physical challenge level. one 100 point control point was at the top of a peak several kilometers from any road.

the wellington event is special in that is is sponsored by the public transport system (metlink) so you can use the buses, trains and ferries to get around. actually given the distances between control points the only way you can get many points is to use the public transport for all it’s worth.

there were 6 hour and 3 hour events offered. the hard core competitors were in the 6 hour edition with us and most of the amateurs opting for the 3 hour event.

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here we are getting final instructions after receiving our maps.

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a quick speech by the mayor and we’re off. note the stylish bibs.

it had to be quite the site for others in the city that day. hundreds of fools with maps running all around.

our tactic was to grab one quick control point near the start and then take the bus all the way down to the island bay coast. we would then work our way back to the cbd and the finish line.

the photo on the right was this bizarre place we encountered on the way to control point 3A. it looked like a ride a disney. i kept expected to hear the splash mountain music playing. very weird to run into this in the middle of the wellington neighborhoods. still don’t know what it was.

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this is one of the two maps that we were given – this one covering the southern portion of the course. you can see our route with the green line bus journeys and the blue when we’re off on foot.

note that the map has no street names, so you have to use your map reading skills to keep track of where you are and how to get to your next control point. since this event was tied to the public transport system all the bus/train/ferry stops are marked (the little red numbers). they have a nice system here where you can text the stop number to a metlink number and it replies with when the next bus/train/ferry will arrive.

we only made one logistics error (it can been seen on the map as the blue line heading nowhere), but we quickly recovered.

one of the control points was directly across the street from our house on tiber street – a bit small worldish.


here we are at the finish, still on speaking terms.

after the results were tallied we got 270 points which earned us 39th place. no need to mention that the team below us included a family with 4 kids under the age of 10 and several families with little ones in backpacks.

we figured we covered about 5k on foot and 10k on the bus. fully expecting to be quite sore tomorrow.

after the race the organizers had the full spectrum of snacks. everything from healthy bananas and organic sausages (kiwi oddity here – don’t expect to get a bun with your hotdog or sausage – it will be served on a piece of white bread) to cookies and dominos meat lovers pizza.

we’re looking forward to doing it again next year and expect that we can get several other teams organized from work colleagues and their families.

i ordered fettucini, not puccini

tonight we went to see puccini’s la boheme at the majestic saint james theater.

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on the plus side we it continues to be great to live in such a compact city where it’s a breeze to get around (sans car). after putting on our best opera outfits we took the bus into town for a pre-show dinner. walking along cuba street we pick scoopa – a small modern italian cafe that had been on our list for quite a while. the food was ok – but given other place that have been great i don’t expect we’ll be back soon.


also a plus i’ll always enjoying going to the saint james theater – it really is fantastic.

on the down side i wasn’t impressed with la boheme – “Arguably the most popular of all operas”. i just found the story line boring – a group of bohemian in post-wwii paris including one who abandons his new girlfriend who has tb, only to confess his love on her deathbed – yawn. puccini ain’t got nothing on aaron spelling.

since we went i’ve found out that most current productions (including the one we saw) are based on a 1993 australian modernization moving the setting from 1830 to 1957. so i guess it’s easy to just blame this one on the aussies.

perhaps i should remember that cats is one of the most popular of musicals…


pan handling

today was the karori nature sanctuary’s annual street appeal and the jboss was out begging accepting contributions.


jboss’ review of the day:

My two hour stint on the bucket brigade was pretty successful. It’s hard to say how much I collected as the bucket is sealed. I did have several people drop in $5 and one dropped in a $10, but the majority put in $1 and $2 coins. The hat with the bird on it was a good attention getter. Antony said I looked like dork, which I’m sure I did, but hey, I can be a dork if the cause is right. The two hour session was an interesting people experiment. My general assessment is that women donate more often than men. Women in Paris Hilton oversized sunglasses never donate (and often speed up to pass you by) and men in suits never donate (they were always on their cell phones). I will do it again next year.

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[ed. since this post we’ve been back for a tramp at the karori sanctuary and it really is fantastic. hard to believe you are just a few minutes from the cbd given the abundance of wildlife and density of the forest. unfortunately i forget my camera. looking forward to going back. highlights of the trip was encountering a pair of kaka birds (not joking – that’s their name) eating lunch and a large flock of tuis chowing down in a fruit tree.]

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1,2,3,4,5,6… 7

this weekend was the new zealand sevens.

at the simplest level it is an international rugby league with teams from 16 countries that play a series of 8 tournaments around the world. the format of the matches is radically different than traditional rugby with only 7 players on each side and a match composed of two 7 minute halves. the result is a very fast paced match that is decided in under 15 minutes. the next match starts just minutes later with 24 matches played during the first day. the second (and final) day begins the playoffs with 20 matches to ultimately determine the tournament winner.

new zealand has won the sevens championship 7 of the 8 years it has been running, and the nz tournament is hosted here in wellington.

the format would make it a great event but the wellington crowd has decide to improve on it a bit.

take the best halloween customs you’ve ever seen and mix it with mardi gras and you start to get a sense of the nz sevens.

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tickets are nearly impossible to get, but fortunately the celebration spills out of the stadium and into the city.

in keeping with the sevens theme tickets are sold in blocks of 7 and groups spend a ton of effort on the costumes.

during lunch on friday the cbd was packed with amazing outfits. on saturday the jboss and me walked around the city and had a great time.

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next year we’ll make sure somehow we have tickets.

added bonus, nz won the tournament in a close final against samoa