Friday 10 March 2017

Azamara Journey - Wellington 1

Defying the usual norm, we escaped Auckland’s rain and impending 100+-year storm, and headed south to Wellington’s calm, sunny weather. It was a real pleasure to wander along the city’s waterfront, which is authentic and interesting and varied, unlike Ork’s boring rows of new restaurants and soulless public buildings. Wellington’s waterfront has history, art, poetry and a piano, and is peopled by strollers, runners, cyclists, stall-holders and swimmers. There were paddle-boarders and kayakers, tourists and locals, sea gulls and sparrows, and the sun shone down benevolently on us all.

At Te Papa, there’s a new exhibition, Bugs. It’s designed for kids, but the guy at the desk said that grown-ups spend more time there. With good reason: Weta Workshop has, appropriately, had a big hand in it: it’s obvious, from the exhaustingly meticulous standard of workmanship. I mean, a big bee at the entrance, maybe 40cm long, took 180 hours to make, of which 4 days were spent attaching 2500 individual hog’s hairs to its body. Inside the exhibition were a huge praying mantis, swarms of dragonflies and bees, and another sort of fly attacking a cockroach, all done with mind-blowing detail, fancy lighting and lots of accessible information – but, thankfully, not too much of it (I’ve just been writing an opinion piece about museum guilt, so it was on my mind).
We were back there again that evening, for the Az-Amazing evening that is a feature of each cruise with this company, Azamara. We’re boarding the ship, the Journey, tomorrow for an 11-day tour of the South Island and then across the Tasman (two days at sea!) to Hobart and finally Sydney. The cruise began in Auckland and called at the Bay of Islands and Napier, but my famil begins here at Wellington.

The entertainment was, naturally, Maori, introduced by “internationally-famous actor” Temuera Morrison, who gave the audience of passengers (mostly American, then Aussie, British, Canadian, German, Chilean and Belgian, with just a few Kiwis and four Japanese) a foreigner-friendly version of the language and culture. Then he let loose the concert party with their action songs and poi dances - a good half of which I remembered from my Maori Club days back in the late ‘60s - before the unimaginatively-named Modern Maori Quartet came on stage to give a friendly and professional set of more universally-recognisable songs. It was good, and the audience gave them a standing ovation at the end, which was pleasing.

And then we walked back to our hotel along the waterfront again, the lights twinkling on the glassy water, artworks spotlit, restaurants humming, doors pushed back and tables outside, people strolling, music in the air… it reminded me of Cape Town. And also, coincidentally, of Hobart. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, when I’ll start the journey that will take me there.

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