When we made it safely on the inter-island ferry, Jon was looking for campgrounds near Wellington but after driving through Wellington itself with our moronic bus, navigating small busy city streets and intimidating roundabouts, we steered our beast to the nearest parking lot and booked ourselves two nights in a hotel.
Maybe we are, as Sue aptly suggested, “peaking too soon”, but God how heavenly it is to wake up in the middle of the night and not having to negotiate with yourself whether you’ll venture to the bathroom/outhouse in the cold midnight air or whether you’re going to do your business on the Barbie stool in the camper. Besides, Jon has bruises all over his body from bumping into cabinets and the walls of the camper, so we needed some healing time. Read: having our own private bathroom for the next 24 hours.
This morning, we walked to Wellington’s famous Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s award-winning museum. The torrential rains of the early morning were blown away by a stiff breeze and boy, does this cultural capital ooze charm when the sun comes out. It’s a mini San Francisco, with green hills, a cable car and without the pretentiousness of America’s city of high tech and Teslas.
And it has more cafés than NYC if you can believe that…
Oktober Fest was going full force last night, and we saw many a Wellingtonian in dirndl and lederhosen litter the side walk with beer mugs in hand, and we were wondering what the German backpacking tourists were thinking of that…
But the high point today may well have been the Gallipoli exhibit in above mentioned museum. This was a brutal battle for Aussies and Kiwis especially (as well as the Turks, who became Allies of the Germans in WWI). It was a grand plan of Churchill’s but such a waste of lives (a slaughter pit really) and had very little impact on the war on the Western Front. The exhibit took you through a graphic timeline of the battle with personal stories and brutal images of what life was like in the trenches on the Aegean Sea.
I came out shaken and in tears, and Jon remarked that we could never have such a confrontational exhibit in the US because everyone would become a peace activist. The realities, body bags et. al., of war have always been kept from the general public and I think this is why Ken Burns’s PBS series on Vietnam is having such a (delayed) impact on the American public right now. Every head of state who might have to face the decision of sending men into harm’s way should be forced to walk through an exhibit like that although when narcissism reigns supreme (as with Hitler and our infamous whiny little bitch in the White House) male ego takes over and men become mere cannon fodder.
Jon and I then walked back to the hotel and saw that the local rowing club had a fundraiser, selling books for $1 a piece. Since we have one duffel bag and a small carry-on, I’m not sure what we were thinking but we came out of there, lugging a dozen books (!). If things get tense in the camper again, we can just decide to throw books at each other because, clearly, Jon hasn’t got enough bruises already.
One of the books is the delicious Faber Books series– this one of Diary snippets of famous people, listed per date. Thus Charles Greville writes on February 26th, 1831: “A drawing room yesterday, at which the Princess Victoria made her first appearance, a short vulgar-looking child.”
Looking up today’s date, there was a hilarious Samuel Pepys entry on the breaking of wind and a resolution about bowel movements, as well as this one dating back to 1943 by British novelist Barbara Pym (since we seem to be on the topic of war):
Yesterday Italy declared war on Germany. What a strange mad war. A pity they didn’t choose our side three years ago.
I am a wretched melancholy creature when I would like to be noble and strong and very intelligent. I lie in a hot bath brooding about G. […] when I ought to be thinking about the Metaphysicals in a scholarly way or planning a great comic novel.
And if that doesn’t make you smile, here’s a pic of a dachshund puppy we met on the wharf today:
Needless to say, we miss Teddy… as well as our other two-legged friends, our kids Will and Caroline…