Windy Wellington Wanderings

Saturday morningin Wellington started out nice and sunny, and even a bit calm.  We took a while to get going and it was early afternoon by the time we headed into the city. Launching off into the motorway hurtling down the Ngauranga Gorge within 100m of leaving the campervan park is an interesting way to warm up to the day. We started with a drive up Mt Vic(toria) for a wonderful panoramic view of the city. There is interesting information there, including lots of stuff on the wind in Wellington.  It was windy enough while we were there. We wanted to go to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, so I found it in Nev the Nav. Well to be precise I found two entries and chose the first. This took us up into the hills above somewhere, with more and moresharp bends and narrow roads. We reckoned Wellington must be a big black hole that sucks in second-hand car mirrors from all over the world – there must be lots smashed by cars passing by.

We didn’t see any signs indication we were getting near the sanctuary, but did see signs showing we wereen route to the wind turbine site. Eventually we could see the predator-free fence that surrounds the sanctuary, but nothing like an entrance. Anyway, the wind turbine was interesting in a huge kind of way. It was the first set up in Wellington and maybe NZ, back in about 1993. It is a massive thing and the forces on the tower must be massive as well. It had stopped turning by the time we got there. From what we read this meant that the wind was above 80kmph – it was quite breezy.

We checked the map and realised we were at the top end of the sanctuary, and needed to get to the bottom. Anyway, it was another great viewpoint, and we sat in the car and demolished our lunch. Then we reset Nev to find the other end of the sanctuary. And that was another mission. Harepin bends, harepin bends at intersections, tunnels, and all on narrow roads. As we made our way carefully down one of them, we saw a sign that said “Bus Route” and just laughed.We seemed to descend almost back into the city before heading our way back up another hill.

The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary seems like one of Wellington’s well-kept secrets. We finally saw a road sign just before we got there. There is not much car parking and maybe that is why they don’t help people to find the place. The sanctuary is NW’s first “island” sanctuary on the mainland with the first predator-free fence. It was established in the 1990s and is probably the model for all the ones that have followed. It was created in a valley in Karori that was the original reservoir and water supply for Wellington. It is now a haven for native bird, insect, and reptile life.  There is an extensive network of tracks to explore within the sanctuary, and lots of information boards along the tracks.

We managed to catch a talk on Tuataras – there are 200 roaming free within the sanctuary. Some are visible from the tracks. Given their habit of staying  motionless they are hard to spot but then easy to see. They are an incredibly ancient creature and it is amazing to be able to see them in a valley up the back of Wellington. We had a look in an old gold mine. This was into solid rock and it didn’t get far. They only got 5oz of gold. The mine now has cave wetas on the walls before your eyes.  It was probably better we’d forgotten our glasses. Further on we wandered along tracks listening to all the birds. As we were making out way back out one of the staff recommended a side track where we were able to stand and watch a couple of North Island Saddlebacks from a couple of metres away. These are birds that are otherwise extinctmainland NZ. It was a lovely way to conclude our visit.

From there we returned to Suzi for tea and a rest. Later we went back into the city and the Te Papa car park and I had another run-in with the coupon machine! We met up with Wyn’s son and found a bar to watch the Tua/Cameron boxing mismatch. It was crowded but we managed to get a view of one of the screens. It was a fun place to be part of the whole event and a bit of an anticlimax when it was over almost as soon as it started. From there we went on to another bar with pool tables and met up with Wyn’s neice who we’d been out to dinner with in Wanganui. It was definitely late by the time we headed home from there.

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