Day 5: A nautical adventure!
For today’s activities I booked a tour called ‘ship n chip’ for $49. I booked this because I thought it was well priced as it included a museum tour, lunch (fish and chips) and a return ferry trip to Somes / Matiu island for a couple of hours. The island is visible from Wellington harbour, it’s really not that far out or that big. I also thought that a tour would be nicer so that I wouldn’t be alone, I think I was still a tad freaked out after my panick at Zealandia.
Well, that’s what I thought… I turned up at the museum, and guess what? I’m the only person booked on the tour. Oh. PANIC! Of course I’m petrified I’m going to get stranded on the island, even though it apparently only takes 45 minutes to walk it in its’ entirety.
I’m definitely NOT messaging my parents, joking that at least there’s a visitor centre so there won’t be a ‘castaway’ situation, but that’s obviously the scenario running through my head. I’m annoyed at myself for being afraid. I mean, what’s actually the worst that’s going to happen? I rationalise this and decide I’m going. I’m committing and if I get really scared, I’ll just wait at the visitor centre but I’m sure nothing that terrible will happen.
To begin I had a tour of The Wellingtom Museum which is situated in the harbour. I learnt that the museum used to be a store house, it was super important in the port. It was a place to hold things from overseas when duty needed to be paid. It was the head office for the people that controlled the port and therefore the harbour (so kind of a big deal).
I watched a kind of video / Victorian theatre technique that explained Maori legends and superstitions specifically relating to Wellington – I found them really fascinating. I learnt that the Maori word for New Zealand is ‘The land of the long white cloud’, Lambton Quay used to be where the shoreline was, and Miramar used to be a lake. Apparently there were a couple of big earthquakes that created more land.
I then started learning about the slightly dark history of Somes island.
It used to be used as a quarantine island. An example I heard was of a Chinese immigrant who was suspected of having leprosy, so they sent him across to the island. The islanders weren’t very happy so they sent him across to the tiny island at the top. I have no idea how he survived there for a year, but he did, before he died. It’s suggested that he actually had a liver disease and was perhaps the victim of some racism. Back in the day, they also used to send Germans to the island as there were some pretty strong feelings after the war.
The Maori legend says that a Maori God created Somes island and the little island (Ward / Makaro) for his two daughters. This was explained through the tukutuku in the picture below (this panelling is a form of traditional Maori art work).
After the museum I picked up my fish and chips and packed it for the ferry. By this point I was pretty nervous, but as we approached the dock, the queue was huge! Most people were heading over to Days Bay and I double checked with the ferry drivers that they ‘definitely weren’t going to leave me stranded in a castaway situation’ He laughed but I was serious.
It was reassuring that the ferry was so busy, I guess partly because I hoped that if I did end up stranded on the island, these people would all be able to give an account of me being on the ferry
1. How morbid is that
2. Overactive / over dramatic imagination
3. They were probably too busy to notice I was even there
Still, I had hope that others might get off – and they did! Plus there were two people on the island waiting to greet us and a few volunteers. Hooray! I was so relieved I didn’t have to pretend to be Tom Hanks pretending to be a castaway!
I brushed my shoes in the visitor centre (I’d bought some seeds across from Zealandia, although ironically, they were apparently planting said seeds). We had a chat about pests and the island before I headed to the information centre where I watched a video about Tuatara. Okay here’s something I didn’t learn last time. Get this, they’re reptiles right, ergo, they need warmth from the sun, but wait… They’re nocturnal! How on earth does that work?!
I tried to spy some seals as I’ve heard they sometimes bask on the rocks but I didn’t spot any. I did however notice a fine grey cloud slowly but surely sweeping its way towards me. I often joke that I’d make a great weather witch but this time I knew for sure it was blowing my way. I made it to the lighthouse just in time to feel the rain come down.
During the day I saw Cormorants, Red Crowned Parakeets, a North Island Robin, a Chaffinch, and then this tiny little bird with a bright silver ring around its eye. It was small and brown, around the size of a wren almost. I did wonder if it might be a Silvereye but when I googled it, it was green in colour so I can’t be sure what this bird was.
I then saw a lizard, either a Copper or Common Skink which was very exciting! And then another just before it started to rain pretty hard.
I had planned on sitting on the hill for 20 minutes but the rain got so bad and with the island being open and exposed I ended up walking back to the wharf and sheltering in the little visitor hut where I had my arrival talk.
When I left the island I was pretty happy that I stuck to my plan, that I spotted some wildlife and found the lighthouse. Overall, I think that the tour was worth it, because I learnt a lot in the museum that tied in with the island trip, I have also found that many of the different activities I’ve completed this week sort of tie in together, or I find that I learn another little snippet of information about Wellington. The only suggestion I perhaps would make, is to begin the tour at the museum earlier so that you have longer there to fully appreciate it before heading to the ferry.
I was pretty damp and chilly when I got back to the harbour so I decided to go to the waffle hut on Courtenay Place before heading home. I’d highly recommend trying one! (Yes, it was as good as it looks).
*Please note: I haven’t been asked to promote any of the businesses mentioned in this post. I’m just sharing my week of experiences in Wellington*