North Island – Wellington

Wellington – our final destination on the North Island. We chose an AirBnb (private room) located at Upper Hutt, which was approximately half an hour from the CBD. It would be an ideal base if visiting the Capital of New Zealand were our sole plan.

Instead, we wasted quite a bit of time commuting from places to places daily. For our first stop the following day, we had to drive 2hrs to Putangirua Pinnacles at the Wairarapa Aorangi Forest Park. This supposedly outlandish rock formation was a filming location for one of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (not that we are LOTR fans).

Well, it was worth the travel as this relatively easy 3 hours loop track showcased the best examples of the geological formation of New Zealand’s badlands erosion. It was something extraordinary to us, as we have never seen such unique landscape.

The first part of the walk involved walking uphill to admire the view of the Putangirua Pinnacles on a viewing platform. The ascending climb was a great workout for tightening our glutes for sure! To get up close with the actual rock formations, we had to descend into the valley and onto the riverbed that took about 45 minutes. For this part of the walk, the trusty old sneakers will not be able to make the cut; a sturdy pair of hiking boots is definitely essential as the ground is covered with uneven loose rocks.

As there was no clear indication where the return track was, we circled back and forth along the rocky terrain only to discover the way back to our starting point was to follow the river flow. It was amusing having to hop and leap over the flowing stream on several occasions. Plain silly fun! 😛

As with so many things, word of mouth and personal recommendation are often the best way to explore any city. Martinborough, a small wine district (about 50min away) came so highly recommended by the locals that we couldn’t just brush it off.  Thus, that prompted us to attempt the winding roads the next day again. Granted that the scenery of Rimutaka range was remarkable, but having to negotiate the winding road 5 times, in a span of 3 days, was pretty taxing. An accommodation at the charming colonial wine district would have been a much smarter choice. Lesson learned!

Ata Rangi, meaning ‘dawn sky’ or ‘new beginning,’ is a small but very reputable family run vineyard in Martinborough.

The founder’s daughter, Britt, began the intimate wine tasting session at the vineyard with an introduction and history of Ata Rangi, followed by a very informative and cosy indoor tasting experience. Booking is necessary as there are only two sessions per day at 11:00am and 2:00pm.

Since we were in the city, we dined out mostly. Here are the 3 noteworthy restaurants in Wellington.

Apache – a modern take on popular Northern Vietnamese hawker street food, with a touch of French influence. The beef cheek stew was excellent and if you like your fried chicken a little sweet, you could try their popcorn chicken with Sriracha mayo.

Ombra – a casual Italian restaurant known for their pizza and gnocchi. We ordered the potato, scamorza (smoked cheese), oregano pizza, which was interesting. The gnocchi was underwhelming, that said we are not gnocchi lovers. The cod roe bruschetta was unique too but a tad too salty for our liking.

Pickle and Pie – a NYC styled Deli. We picked this place for breakfast solely because they serve the classic pastrami bagel, which was amazing and should not be missed! The pastrami was well seasoned and nicely smoked, definitely, highly recommended if you are a pastrami lover.

With that warm, awesome pastrami bagel sitting nicely in our bellies, we were ready to sail to the South island via the Interislander Ferry. Silly noobs that we were, we left our laptops and reading materials in the car without knowing that accessing the car during the sail was strictly prohibited. With nothing much to do onboard the ferry, we walked the entire passenger deck a couple of times and even went to check out the viewing deck. Be warned that it can get REALLY windy, so please remember to keep and secure any loose items such as sunglasses or hats if you intend to get out there!

By crossing the Cook Strait, we marked our halfway point of our 3 months travel down-under.

Now, we look forward to the purest untouched landscapes of the South! Watch this space!

Next – South Island Marlborough

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