Matiu / Somes Island

Taking advantage of a sunny day, I finally made it out to Matui/Somes Island – which is the island that sits in the middle of Wellington Harbor. It was one of my Wellington must dos, and I had not made it out, and with my time winding down, knew this might be the last nice day for it, so I paused my writing flow, packed a picnic and set out to catch the ferry to the island.

You can learn more about the island here:

The island has a fascinating history, as it has served as a quarantine station, military outpost, interment camp and now wildlife refuge. The island gives the opportunity to discover nature by traveling along various tracks, and I ended up walking on each track on the island and extending my stay there because it was such a lovely day, and I was enjoying my tramp so much.

When you arrive on the island your first stop is the quarantine station, where you check your bag and shoes for bio-security risks. Once cleared, you are able to start exploring.

As I walked, I was immediatly greeting with stunning views of the harbor, Eastborne and Petone.

My first stop was the cemetery monument.

Between 1918 and 1920, Somes Island was used as a human quarantine station during the influenza pandemic, and many died on the island.

I trekked along from the Monument along Cable Bay to the lookout over Shag Rock. Birds, flowers, skinks and Tuataras were plentiful. I felt like I had the island to myself, as everyone else had headed to the visitors center first.

From the overlook I headed to the lighthouse, stopping to check out the Weta Hotel.

Those are some gargantuan insects!

Then I enjoyed the lighthouse, before beginning my trek to the Southern Lookout – I am pretty certain I took a million pictures – it was so pretty!

Here at the southern lookout, I realized that I was not going to have time to see everything I wanted unless I booked the later ferry back, so I called the company to secure my seat on the later boat, giving me more time to enjoy this peaceful oasis.

My next stop was the old WW2 gun emplacements, so I went up the “steep track”. Along the way I got the opportunity to observe the amazing fantail, which may be one of my favorite NZ birds.

Then, at the gate, I made an interesting observation about the weathering of the gate.

I wonder how many times those pieces of wood have been slammed together?

At the top, I explored the gun casings, and just genuinely enjoyed the views, pulling out my lunch for a stop at the picnic table.

I headed back down to the visitor area, where I explored the animal quarantine station, which felt an awful lot like animal prison – which, I guess, it was, in a way.

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After that it was down to the visitor center, where I learned about the other uses of the island, particularly its use as an internment camp during WW2 and the attempted escapes.

Next, I wandered back to the wharf, and with time to spare, checked out the old degaussing station, and listened to the stories of Meg Pilcher, (a fascinating lady!)then to the North Wharf before leaving the island and heading home.

I am so glad I had this beautiful weather to enjoy this amazing sanctuary!

Wanderings in Wellington

I know, I know, I know – I am not so great at keeping this updated daily like I was doing before. . . but, in all honesty – so much of my time now is school visits – which are fantastic – but for confidentiality sake, I have to blog about them more in a batch than individually, so I am waiting until I have a few more to share some of my reflections and thoughts – look for a big blog post on that in the next few weeks for sure. That being said – next week I will have some exciting posts for you from Australia, so I don’t want to stay behind. This post will cover my fun exploring Wellington from when I left Nelson on March 23rd, to when I come up north to Auckland on April 5th. Wellington is a city full of fun and surprises.  (I swear, even though it is my current home, I am always finding new stuff to do here – it really is the “coolest little capital” in the world.

Weather in Wellington is truly unpredictable, and I have found that my Wellington survival kit always contains sunscreen – (this girl burns!), a rain coat (My Columbia Jacket may be the best thing I brought with me), a sweat shirt, a hairband (the wind!) and a hat. It has become second nature to have that all on me (where in the past, it would have just lived in my car) – No car here though!

This time period is no different – we have had rain, sunshine and my first real feel of an earthquake.

So I flew home from Nelson on the 23rd – a short – less than an hour flight across the Cook Strait,  and then I ubered back to the house (buses, luggage, hills and stairs just had no appeal), and started on the fun that was unpacking and laundry after being gone. I also did some administrative work, planning my upcoming travels and blogs, and worked through some lessons for the class I am sitting in (Science for NZ teachers). The Ludbrooks were out for the evening enjoying the ballet, so I wandered down to the House of Dumplings for dinner (YUM!) and then came back to the house, where I was working on planning my South Island trip details – when I heard a sound like a train whooshing through Aro Valley – I thought it was a truck, until, about 5 (or so) minutes later the house began to shake -it shook for a few minutes and stopped – my reaction was -oh that is an earthquake! No damage was done that I have heard of and while unnerving, it wasn’t horrible.

Friday was a big back to Uni day for me. I had several meetings lined up with professors and we had a Cohort Catch-up with the other Fulbright Teachers, so my Friday was quite productive.

SPACE PLACE

Friday night I decided to finally go up to Space Place, even though I knew the sky was going to be too cloudy to look through the telescope, I felt like some Space geekery was in order. I loved it! The guide to the Southern Skies, the Maori legends surrounding the Pleiades, or Matariki, as they call them, the planetarium show focused on the Southern Hemisphere – (That uses the same software I use in the Star Lab with kids, by the way), and even the telescope that wasn’t open for viewing were all fascinating and did my heart good.

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I stayed there pretty late (hoping the clouds would clear, but they didn’t (so I will be back on a clear night).

Cuba Dupa

Saturday was Cuba Dupa – one of the many festivals in Wellington – seriously – there is always something going on! Cuba Dupa is this cool festival with all sorts of performers, and an added bonus was that Lavie, one of our Fulbright teachers was performing as well so some of us went out to support him – and he did a great job!

After Lavie’s performance, I wandered around the festival taking in the music, the fun, and a lovely peanut butter gelato (Yum!)!

Wellington Museum

Midweek – between school visits, Reinhardt work and mundane things like cleaning, paying bills and the like, I took a wander to the Waterfront and the Wellington Museum – It was really quite cool to learn more of Wellington’s history. The museum focused a lot on the Maritime history of Wellington, which of course makes sense, but also had the Bond Store – a replica of the buildings original purpose, to collect taxes on shipped items for the crown.

What you will not see in the pictures is the portion that was the most impactful for me, the section dealing with the Wahine disaster, a great tragedy that occurred in 1967 when a passenger ferry sank in Wellington Harbor.

Days Bay Kayaking – and a bonus Festival to boot!

Saturday I headed out to Days Bay to enjoy the sunshine, and use my Groupon Voucher for my Kayak rental. I was excited to finally use the rental, and to get in a kayak! The sea wasn’t exactly calm, but it wasn’t terribly turbulent either, so I spent a nice hour in the bay enjoying the views.

After Kayaking I wandered across to the pavilion where there was a festival going on – the Local Wild Food Challenge – a cooking competition, tasting and festival – it was very interesting, and I enjoyed the  Maori chef who talked about how he prepared a Hangi (a traditional meal cooked over hot rocks underground), then let us taste the food!

Southeast Asian Night Market

Keeping with the tradition that there is always something going on in Wellington, I ventured out to the Southeast Asian Night Market.

Here I watched some cool cultural shows and tasted different foods from across Southeast Asia – I tolerated the cold rain as long as I could, then I headed home and worked on the final touches of my Mid-Point presentation for the following day, April 3rd.

Midpoint Presentations

We (the Fulbright Teachers) gathered on April 3rd at Victoria to give our midpoint presentations. It was great to hear what everyone was up to, what their reflections were, and how their projects were progressing.

Thanks to Sue – who came to NZ for spring break from ATL – I have some pictures from my presentation, and some other pictures too:

Next I am off to Auckland!