A wonderful three-day weekend was had here in Wellington. Friday was ANZAC day. This national holiday honors the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps who fought in Turkey in WWI. A day much like Veterans Day in the states. It was a beautiful day here so Todd and I jumped on our bikes and headed up to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary – basically a wildlife preserve for native birds and reptiles of New Zealand nestled in a beautiful valley just outside of the city. It was about a 30 minute bike ride UPHILL. Felt good once we got up there but defiantly arrived sweaty. Along the way we passed the National War Memorial and saw a ceremony under way with many uniformed dignitaries, and for the first time, heard the NZ national anthem. (Sounded pretty British) The Sanctuary was lovely. It was a pretty crowded on this holiday so we did not see many birds until we ventured off the main track and onto the less used ‘around the lake’ path. Here we kept quite and our eyes open too find the little birdies. We saw a few goodies but no kiwi. Bummer. Apparently they are nocturnal. We did see the rare and unusual Kaka , the common and melodically noisy Tui , the rusty red and black saddleback rummaging for insects in the bark , and an overly friendly and tiny tomtit . This last little bugger almost jumped on our feet! Cutie! I was reminded at this point that it is this lack of fear that has been so detrimental to NZ bird populations because they have no instinctual fear of predators. We hiked along and near the end of the path came across this strange creature: a Tuatara. An ancient, dinosaur-like species that is endemic to NZ. It is apparently somewhere between a lizard and a snake. Cool and strange looking fellow basking in the sun. We also saw this cute, green gecko which does not look too interesting but has a blue mouth which I saw when he snatched up a fly! So cool! More photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23078002@N04/sets/72157604749928456/
After our stint with some NZ wildlife, we hopped back on our bikes and went DOWNHILL. Wheeeeeeeee!!!! Like a roller coaster ride. We ended up on Cuba St. – Wellington’s hot spot. (Called Cuba St. because the first British boat to arrive in Wellington was called ‘The Cuba’. This has spawned Wellington’s small fascination with all things Cuba. Cafes are called Fidel’s, Havana, and Cuban coffee readily available. A strange phenomenon for this girl from Miami.) Cuba St. was bustling as we wondered into a curry house for a yummy bite to eat and then purchased a couple ‘flat whites’ from a funky café next door. A flat white is NZ’s version of a coffee with milk. I have say that Wellington takes their coffees very seriously, and they are very good. Purchasing a flat white is not a quick process, so don’t be in a rush. You must be patient as the baristas take their time to make it just perfect, especially the milk pouring process which they always finish off with an artistic pattern of cream swirled through the café. I was told upon arrival in Wellington that there are more cafes per capita here then in NYC. I now have to admit that I think this is true. And, no kidding, the coffees are the best I’ve ever had. This may not be saying much coming from me but, even ‘Big Coffee Todd’ agrees. “Best coffee ever.” Come on over and try it out!
We spent Friday evening sharing a nice bottle of red wine (a common practice for us these days) and a movie. Much like our Saturday night too, I have to admit. Today, Sunday, was my football day. We played the Upper Hutt, about a 45 minute drive from Wellington. A physical match on a nice day for soccer and on a not so bad pitch. We won 6-2, and, like my teammate told me, I got the monkey off my back. I opened up the scoring with a chip shot over the keeper, and then added a nice assist and another goal (lefty!) in the second half. We played well and are gelling more and more as a team with each game. Nice to be a part of. Then it was off to the pub. Of course, my #1 fan, Todd, was there and did a fabulous job photo-documenting the action so check out the pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23078002@N04/sets/72157604754259653/
One more interesting bit: Todd went on his first field assignment with GNS this week. (I spent my first night alone in NZ. L Got the bed to myself though!) Todd went to an area outside of a town called Palmerston North about 2 hours away to install a seismic monitoring sensor and related equipment to power the system and transit the data back to the data center. He used a jackhammer, built a fence to keep livestock out, dug a trench to lay conduit in, set up a solar panel, hooked up the equipment cabinet, and assorted other things I don’t get. But here are pictures from his trip which document some nice NZ countryside, sheep, and his work. Enjoy! http://www.flickr.com/photos/23078002@N04/sets/72157604750217402/
Now, it’s off to another work week. Hopefully I’ll get a little closer this week to figuring out what those white-capped albatrosses are doing. If only I could think like a bird…. Well, maybe only sometimes.