As many of you know, we lost everything in a house fire 2 months ago and that includes all official documents and crucially also passports. I have dual German and New Zealand citizenship and whilst I got my NZ passport replaced fairly quickly (I needed some form of Photo ID to get my drivers licence and bank cards back), it took me this long to sort an appointment to do the same for my German Passport.
The way this works is, one has to make an appointment at the Embassy (or consulate) and then fill in it the form and leave fingerprints (they do not have that yet on NZ passports) and that means one has to go there in person. Not that I mind travelling to Wellington, I love that city.
However, the last time I booked a flight from our closest airport, Kerikeri, it got cancelled and Air New Zeland transferred everybody by bus to Auckland (4 hours) and then we missed our connecting flight and subsequently the last World of Wearable Arts Show that we had tickets for. So this time around I just did not want to take any chances and flew from Auckland.
So the trip to Wellington actually starts with a drive to Auckland. Luckily I went on a Sunday, early Sunday at that. Weekends on New Zealand (and in particular Auckland) roads are less congested and crucially, fewer trucks and especially less logging trucks. Though in the summer months that benefit gets offset by many tourists who do not know how to drive on our narrow and winding roads. I go to Auckland quite often, on average twice a month. I try to avoid weekday traffic for good reason, in particular around Auckland, which is known for heavy congestion during long peak hours.
To put in perspective, on a recent trip, midweek to Auckland I took 3.45 hours to get from door to door (West Auckland) and the average speed (according to my car computer) was 64km/h – this Sunday the average speed was 79km/h and the time from door to door with breaks just over 3 hours… Now, if I had to do the one day return that makes quite a difference in driving times (and fatigue levels).
Anyway, so got to Auckland and dropped my car off at the Air New Zealand parking facility in the hope that they could give it a valet clean while its parked there (they used to offer that service), only to be told that they do not do that anymore and that this particular parking facility will close in July. That is rather disappointing as it is run by the airline and as a result, if one has a flight booked with them one can check in there and then and also its much cheaper than other parking facilities. Oh well, gotta research other options for our next trip.
I had only intended to stay in Wellington for one night so opted for the “carry cabin baggage only” fare, so for a domestic flight that is pretty straight forward, go through security and board… well not quite. It seemed there were delays left, right and centre on that day. Our flight was delayed by more than half an hour and the explanation given by the captain once we were on the plane: “Sorry we forgot to load the food and did not want you to go hungry”.
Ehm, Sorry? Come again? For a flight that is less than an hour and only gives coffee, tea, water and a cookie (or sorry and some corn chips), you rather let people be late than fly without those 5 things? And how about following through with the announcements beforehand about only 1 piece of cabin luggage allowed, weighing no more than 7kg, and supposedly this will be strictly enforced on boarding…? Clearly, it was not or else I would have had a space for my carry on suitcase (weighing at just under 7kg, thank you). The same goes for the rule: ” only passengers seated in rows 17 to 25 to board”, Hang on a second, why then are there people sitting already all the way from the front to the back?
Never mind, the flight was full but at least it was one of the “International” planes, so we actually had in-seat screens and full entertainment program on a domestic flight, including the welcome screen with a personalised touch.
Anyway, Wellington. So things have changed there too. The Airport Flyer bus was moved but easy enough to find. Luckily it is still as quick to get into town as it was before (so much nicer than Auckland I must say). It costs $12 for a one-way trip and I got off right outside the hotel I was staying at (well I chose the hotel because I knew the bus stop was right there). The Novotel Wellington is centrally located and in walking distance, to all the good things one could possibly want to see (not just to visit an embassy). The address is actually on the Terrace but there is lift access from Lambton Quay which makes it so convenient (rather than walking uphill or up steps to get there). It is more or less right next door to the Cable Car and one could walk to Parliament in 5 minutes and Te Papa in 10. Very central.
The thing about Wellington is, it’s very compact and accessible. Plenty of things to do and see for everybody and I always feel like people are dressed smarter. There are Museums galore (most are free), Theaters and Galleries, Restaurants galore and surrounded by great nature. No wonder they filmed some of the Lord of the Rings in the parks within the city boundaries… I love coming here and have done so many times over the years.
This time, however, I was here for a purpose, getting my new German passport application sorted. I have to say, the Germans do live up to our reputation. Very efficient, very punctual, to the point, no mucking around, no friendly chit chat. The embassy is not quite as bunker like as the American one just down the road but still not that much more welcoming either. I guess that is the price diplomats pay these days.
With that bit over, time to pay my favourite NZ museum yet another visit: Te Papa Tongarewa – Museum of New Zealand
I always try and find time to check out what is new and I read in the news that they had a new exhibition space open, titled “Te Taiao – Nature” and it is amazing.
Even with the hoards of school children doing assignments in there, it is very nicely done, in a modern and sometimes surprising way (like when the shadow of some moa skeletons move randomly). It grasps a fine line between telling people of what is here and why (flightless birds for instance) and what is no longer (extinct) and why. It is a balancing act that they have achieved rather nicely. They do make us think and reflect as well as being educated.
There is a giant “birds nest” and within one can listen to birds song by pressing on an egg under each bird. The sad thing is that many will only display a message “extinct” or “in trouble” and it sets a slightly sombre mood. It is very thought provoking indeed.
If you happen to be in Wellington and have not been or not for a while to Te Papa, go and check this new space out. By the way – the cafe there does some nice pastries and good coffee too…
That was pretty much all I had time for this time though, as I said – a flying visit in more way than one.