Fall has arrived here in Wellington, and with fall comes rain. (Something that I hadn’t taken into consideration when packing all of my tank tops and tshirts) But despite the weather, New Zealand continues to provide fullfillment for the curious, adventurous individuals with a drive for experiencing such a brilliant culture! (Yay!)
Aside from University, which I attend 4 out of the 5 weekdays, there have been festivals and celebrations galore the past couple of weeks! The first one that I went to with my friends, Solny, Matt and Chris was a music festival bringing the summer-long Anual New Zealand Arts Festival to a close.
It was held on an absolutely beautiful, sunny day down near the bay. We found a spot on the grass amongst hundereds of other people: Families, students, locals… all of whom enjoyed a vast range of live music for free from an acoustic, folky/bluesy band, to a south african band, a pipeband, and ending with Wellington’s own and favorite: Fat Freddy’s Drop.
Fat Freddy’s Drop is a group of Kiwi guys who “truly embraces the New Zealand spirit” by playing an audience-uplifting medely of instruments and create a reggae sound that can’t help but make you groove- sitting or standing.
The next big celebration held here in New Zealand was my friend, Solny’s birthday, for which a whole mix of wordly kids (American, Kiwi, European, and Asian) went out to a nice Indian restaurant to eat while wearing bright red party hats. After singing happy birthday amongst her bright candles flickering in a plastic choo choo train setting and embarassing her a proper amount, we walked the 20 or so minutes back to Stafford House through the city without removing the hats once. It was so much fun to watch people smile at our party hat mob and take pictures of us.
We also couldn’t help but celebrate with one of our favorite statues… That night, we decorated a bunny cake (mistaken at first to be a mouse) quite beautifully and Solny made her wish for the 20th year of her life! Yay, Solny!
We also couldn’t help but give her a New Zealand memento… just in case she doesn’t remember where she celebrated her 20th birthday.
The next adventure was one I just got back from today! My flat building, Stafford House, put on a day trip for anybody who wanted to sign up. For 20 dollars, we had a bus ride to Carterton, where we checked out the Paua Shell Factory & Shop, Pukaha Mount Bruce (New Zealand’s Wildlife Centre for Breeding Threatened Species), and *exciting drum roll…* A night-glow hot air balloon festival!
We were greeted kindly onto the Japanese bus (the symbols at the front of the bus mean “No Smoking”) By our driver, Rick.
He then took us the long way up to our first stop through a more New Zealand-y scenic route along the beautiful yet deathly frightening windy roads across the mountains. I had mentioned the state of many of the roads here before, but couldn’t provide a decent picture- so I thought I’d try again. Is it not absolutely gorgeous?
When we got to the Paua Shell Factory, the woman who greeted us told us a bit about the rarity of finding Paua Shells and of processing them. She showed us many types of shells- one of which is found off the coast of California, another of which is found only in the northern banks of the Mississippi River, some off of Australia’s coast, and then the ones genuinely unique to New Zealand- they just so happens to be the most beautiful of the bunch! “Perhaps America can do it bigger, but we can do it better!” our guide commented when showing us the difference in the brilliant colors of the two shells. I’ll have to agree with her.
We were shown them before cleaning and polishing, and then after. It’s an amazing difference!
After the Paua Factory, we headed to the Nature Preserve, where we took a beautiful walk through a bright green, mossy forest
and checked out some of the rarest birds in the world. One of which is the Takahe. At one point, sightings of the Takahe were so rare that they were presume extinct! Luckily, that was eventually proven wrong, though they are yet one of the most rare birds in the world to this day, native only to New Zealand.
After a sighting of the Takahe, we ventured to the Kiwi house!
Because Kiwi birds are nocturnal, they were kept behind large glass, lit up with red light. While it was difficult to see them clearly, we still could watch them eat and walk around. What a funny bird! Did you know that Kiwi birds have nostrils at the end of their beaks? It was fun to watch them sniff around the ground. Another crazy fact is that the Kiwi bird’s egg is almost the size of their body before being laid! This was my attempt at a long-opened shutter while in the nocturnal house.
This picture’s a little better, I suppose.
While continuing around the nature preserve, we saw a great variety of birds and eels… and ducks… throughout the walk.
At last it was hot air balloon time! We hopped back on the bus and arrived at the Hot Air Balloon Night Glow Festival just in time. While they didn’t take off from the ground, they lit on and off, often to the tune of a musical medely. The colors of all of the balloons were beautiful!
What better way to finish off a perfect day trip with than fireworks?
So celebrations galore! Other than all of this excitement that I just filled you in with, school has begun to really pick up, and work due-dates are coming up quickly. Our last weekend before mid term break (During which road trip number 3: The South Island is all ready being planned) is just this next one, and then the rest of the term is just going to fly by! I can’t believe how quickly this crazy adventure is going by!