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!

The Great War Exhibition and Pukeahu National War Memorial Park

Monday was my first actual school visit, and we visited a lovely high school and had some great conversations with the staff – while most of my project is focused on younger students, I found that it was very beneficial to have the opportunity to see “where the students are headed” and talk about the options for secondary schooling in NZ.

After we finished at the school, I decided I would visit the Great War Exhibition, which was put together by none other than the famous Peter Jackson (it often feels like I am a little bit of a Peter Jackson groupie here in New Zealand, but I will take it – I might totally pull a fan girl moment if I run into him on the street, by the way, #justsaying).

All silliness aside, this exhibition was well done, moving and seriously though provoking. In the US WWI is discussed, but in many cases, education, knowledge and information of WWI is much more overshadowed by WWII – I think owing to the length of our involvement in WWII the US, as well as the fact that, for me (and many of my peers as well), I had a grandfather who fought in WWII, so I was “invested” I guess?

For New Zealanders, the Great War was one of devastating loss. As an isolated island nation, it was also the first glimpse many Kiwis had, post colonization, of the world outside of New Zealand. This journey was well done, and really opened my eyes to the historical roll that NZ forces played in the War. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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For more information, and much better images than I could hope to capture, visit the Exhibition website: http://www.greatwarexhibition.nz/

Just down from the exhibition is the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and the Hall of Memories. These touching memorials serve to commemorate the losses New Zealand has had in War.

I have a few pictures below, but you can also learn more at the websites: http://www.mch.govt.nz/pukeahu-national-war-memorial-park and http://www.mch.govt.nz/pukeahu/park/national-war-memorial/hall-memories

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One really cool thing on display was from a school project at one of the local Girl’s High School.

The assignment was to design a gown with the position of being pro or anti conscription in mind.  I loved the gowns, as well as the thoughtful explanations (what a cool design project idea as well!).