Over the last few weeks I’ve had the tough task of mapping out unexplored parts of Aotearoa armed only with a bunch of $1 Grabaseat flights and a change of shorts. Not unexplored in the absolute sense of the word – those cheeky devils Captain Cook and Abel Tasman beat me to that, but mapped out in the universe known as ‘Jason’s World’, where temperatures average 21.5 degrees and the mangos are free.
Anyone who knows me knows I love to travel and while I have been known to grumble because I was forced to take the plastic stool on a bus ride from Poipet to Bangkok, I’m always looking forward to the next adventure (Tonga’s sneaking up quickly). But I have to admit I’ve really neglected to visit much of my own country of New Zealand (ok technically I’m Australian but that was a really long time ago and an accident of birth so don’t start getting all haere mai on me). Fortunately my good mate Rob Fyfe is determined to help me get better acquainted with this great country by foisting $1 flights on me and making me fly to all sorts of exotic locations. Like Palmerston North.
Wellington – Home of the sophisticated hippy
First on the hit list was the urban paradise and geek capital of New Zealand. A short 40 minute flight north of Christchurch, we landed at Wellington airport and surprisingly a smooth descent. Crystals lovely aunty and uncle were there to collect us and took us back to their place in the suburb of Mt Cook (not to be confused with that really big mountain – climbing to the top of this suburb doesn’t require oxygen tanks or pick axes). They have a fantastic place with a very convenient downstairs flat that is fully self-contained. And when I say self-contained I really mean you could camp down there for days, obviously the big-screen cable TV helps.
We didn’t actually have anything planned for Wellington so we took it as it came. A walking tour of Newtown unearthed the Pacific roots of Wellington and a few curious curiosity shops, along with well-rounded Wellingtonians. One shop we didn’t get to, but in my mind typifies the homely goodness of Wellington, is Deliaro, a shop run by a good friend’s mum that specialises in high-quality locally produced foods.
Mt Cook is also a short walk into the city centre so we did the obligatory wander through Cuba mall, sadly disappointed with the single-shot coffees at Espressaholic but the rocky road and yoghurt dessert made up for it – partly. Finished the day sniffling like a girl after watching Hachi. Don’t get it out if you’re a little insecure with your own masculinity.
Sunday was time to head down to the waterfront to experience the farmer’s market, which included buying fresh snapper or whatever else they’ve brought in that morning. The lead singer on the boat is more showman than fisherman, which makes it worth visiting even if you’re not into seafood. Hang around too long though and you’re setting yourself up to be the target of his next bad joke – you have been warned.
The eclectic mix of people that hit the market is representative of Wellington itself. A underlying bohemian current that thumbs its nose at the conventional and looks with disdain on the mainstream. The modern hippy movement could well be a knee-jerk reaction to the boring politician and web 2.0 world that permeates modern Wellington.
Next up was Palmerston North and while many of our friends gave us the ‘you’re mad’ look of disapproval for even suggesting we were thinking of visiting this hidden gem of the Manawatu, we were determined to let the place speak for itself. In fact, we very nearly missed our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My tardiness had us sitting in traffic on the way to the airport with barely 20 minutes to go – and we had bags to check-in. My wife was incredibly self-restrained and hardly said a word. I counted myself lucky and even luckier when she texted me while I was parking the car that we’d just scraped in. Obviously our trip to Palmy was meant to be.
Check back next post for the mildly exciting conclusion to this whirlwind tour of this country’s hottest hot spots.