March 6, 2023
We started the day at Belen Bakery, a 100% vegan bakery. Delicious butter chicken pie and cinnamon swirls. From there we took the funicular up mountain to see Wellington from above. Much nicer day than yesterday. We explored the gardens, winding about until we were back at the funicular to make our way back down.
After our short morning sightseeing Wellington, we drove four hours north to Turangi. This stop wasn’t useful, as we scratched our original plans to leave Wellington early in the morning so we could hike the Tongariro Crossing. The Tongariro Crossing is a difficult 13 mile hike across the mountains, and it just wasn’t going to fit into our plans.
The drive to Turnagi gave us our first look at the north island aside from the Wellington. Most of New Zealand’s highways are still two lane roads with occasional passing lanes. Lots of road construction. Trucks, trailers, tractors all share the road. The drive felt long.
We saw corn growing for the first time. Otherwise the sights were again beautiful.
This is a good time to mention the clear, intentional inclusion of Maori heritage in New Zealand’s culture. Beyond just naming cities, schools and streets with Maori names, many signs are written in Maori and English, and Maori people are commonly seen in commercials and other visible roles. Instead of saying “New Zealand”, Aotearoa is commonly mentioned. “Kia Ora” is the primary greeting. It makes me think about how differently (better) we could integrate our indigenous heritage.
I also want to note how friendly every NZ person we’ve encountered is. Be it at the airport, restaurant, hotel and everything in between everyone has been extremely pleasant. Road crews give thumbs ups and friendly waves. Their laid back culture is obvious in how unstressed everyone appears to be. No one works too hard, shops are closed in evenings and weekends. People have rich lives beyond work and it shows. What a novel concept.
New Zealand has a passion for environmental responsibility. Every town and city has copious amounts of bike lanes and recycling bins.
We’ve all noticed many more father’s doing things alone with their kids. Bike rides, running, hiking, swimming, etc. This is not nearly as common a site in the US.
While there are clear cultural differences, there is zero culture shock. It’s amazing how similar life is here for as far away as it is. Not sure what I expected but I suppose just a few more differences. Maybe this is just a reflection of how much traveling I’ve gotten to do.