Our friend Yvonne arrived in the morning and so did the clouds. Gone was the sunshine and as Yvonne, Kirsten, and I walked the streets in the diffused like, I felt like the Wellington I had gotten to know yesterday had been replaced by another, colder cousin.
But still we trudged on through the nearly deserted road towards Mount Victoria. The peak had stood stoically on the sidelines of our vision yesterday, and viewing that towering green mass, we were worried about the climb up it. However as we moved through the pines, listening to the native birds calling our names, we could feel a slight strain in our muscles but not our breath. The hills of Auckland had trained us well.
The wind whipped out hair at the lookout. Below us New Zealand’s capital unfurled amongst the trees, squat buildings huddling together between two volcanic peaks. Yvonne was reminded of a tropic, greener version of LA. We lingered at the top for a moment, trying to locate the part of the city that had treated us so well yesterday. Soon the wind chill seeped into our bodies and we agreed it was time to move on.
Back at sea level, we sat at the harbor and ate our picnic lunches. Another bagpiper called out to the emptier harbor and Kirsten and I tried to explain to Yvonne the beauty and crowds yesterday underneath the sun. It was hard for her to picture in the gray, wind catching the water as it crashed into the rocks. We retreated indoors afterwards and stepped down into the Underground Market. Through the crowds we pushed to take a look at the dozens of craft stalls the formed a maze in that massive space. Souvenirs were bought and time was wasted. We were satisfied.
Out back into the streets and we made our way through more shoppers to the famous Wellington Cable Car. We stepped inside that little red wooden box and looked up as the angled car began to be pulled up by a cable like a child’s toy. Through colorful tunnels that would’ve had Gene Wilder (RIP) singing and we were suddenly at the Botanical Gardens. After a brief stop at the Cable Car Museum, we went out to the outlook. The city stretched out beneath us, lazy in the gloomy atmosphere. Instead of walking again beneath the clouds through the gardens, we opted instead to buy a ticket to the Space Place at the observatory.
The lights of simulated stars illuminated the bewondered faces of the children roaming about the small museum. Mixed with Maori traditions and myths, the exhibits explained the basics of the universe and space exploration through interactive videos and voices. I felt my childhood love of all things space surge in my chest. The little kid in me was going nuts. Soon we filed into the planetarium to watch an animated Andy Serkis explain the cosmic origins of the atoms in our bodies and then listen as our presenter guided us around the southern sky.
The clouds and impending rain still obscured that same sky when we stepped back out into the real world. Even through the day was still young, the hours out were beginning to weigh heavily on our shoulders and still planning to go out that evening, we decided to head back to the hostel and rest.