Wellington is a city trying very hard to be San Francisco. Between the art deco buildings and the cable car, it’s a wonder that they didn’t import a scale model of the Golden Gate Bridge. Las Vegas certainly doesn’t have the same qualms about monument theft.
What was notable, at least for me, about my arrival to Wellington was my newfound conservancy when it came to spending money. I believe I’ve mentioned before how I’ve been blithely burning through my money on trips and such with the mindset that, as a visitor to a country on the other side of the world, it would be a very, very long time before I returned, if at all. However, the cavalier attitude that I’ve taken towards currency had put me in a bind, and suddenly, the desire to see and do as much as possible was replaced with a vague, gnawing dread that everyone was out to get into the sweet, leather folds of my wallet.
Paid wifi? Yeah, right. City parking? Not likely. Vending machines? What utterly despicable leeches. No, I didn’t care how compelling they were, candy bars hanging seductively against their plastic housing, ladies of the night wrapped in crinkly cellophane.
Fortunately, Wellington offers a number of attractions that are mercifully free, allowing me the chance to hoard my money a little bit longer until I could pull an Ebeneezer Scrooge years in the future.
Economics aside, I really, sincerely, for real this time, recommend the Wellington museum for its sheer size and sheer lack of required payment. Much of the week had, given the cold and rain, been a slog through a multitude of museums and art galleries, all eager to give you your daily suppository of New Zealand knowledge.
That said, Wellington did something right, in the way it conveyed a subtle mood with its exhibits, through organization, music, and yes, the occasional Lord of the Rings prop, a staple of New Zealand attractions. I may have come dangerously close to learning in that museum, because when we left, I realized that the breeding habits of New Zealand birds had stuck in my mind. You think I’m joking. I’m not.
But, for every Wellington, saturated with culture and hipsters, there was a tourist attraction that was slightly under par, trumped up for the sake of the locals with little regard to whether it would be an actual desirable place to visit.
For instance, when we attempted to visit the coveted hill elevator of a sleepy coastal town, we found a deserted concrete tunnel, complete with a single downtrodden bench and an ancient elevator that may very well have been the understudy for the Tower of Terror.
Although there was an attendant to give us a ride and our guts remained mercifully knife-free, the opportunity to clank on up to a hilltop view of the town that could be accessed by road was pretty overrated.
Once we got even further away from Wellington, into New Zealand’s scenic swathes of farmland, towns didn’t even bother trying to distinguish themselves with a tourist trap, becoming simply, “that town with the one lane bridge” or similar. We had become well acquainted with the country’s rural areas, but hadn’t quite anticipated the desolation of some of these areas, often a few houses with a beaten up sign signaling a nearby school. These were the sleepy little country towns that seemed just remote enough to harbor some kind of dark, Lovecraftian secret.
But soon, the quality of the buildings and genetic diversity of the people improved, and then immediately took a dive as we arrived in Hamilton. But it was home, and we were exhausted. With only a few loose ends to wrap up, this was our last great expedition through the sheep infested ranges of New Zealand.