Buses, Christmas, Birds and Wild, Wild Wind

One
of the features of Wellington is its excellent bus service. Stand on any street
in the city and you will see swarms of yellow, blue, green or multicoloured
buses heading off to places like Karori, Kilbirnie or Scorching Bay. Our
regular bus down from Vogeltown to the city for work is the no. 21, which has a
stop outside the Short Street dairy (Kiwispeak for corner shop) near our house.
From there it plunges down the steep winding Hutchison Road (more like a
downhill ski run than a proper road) to reach Wallace Road and Taranaki Street,
and then the city centre. It’s always exciting when the bus going down meets
another one coming up on one of the tight corners – somehow we’ve avoided a
collision so far. Our regular driver in the morning sports a white moustache
and a broad bush hat, though he’s recently stopped wearing shorts. On occasions
we have had a female driver we nickname the Valkyrie, because she drives like a
bat out of hell with a death wish.

 

Coming
home on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays we usually get the bus which stops
near Parliament at 5.10. Ian gets on there, and Sandie tends to get on some
stops further on, in Willis Street where she can do some quick shopping at the
New World Metro supermarket. She hasn’t missed the bus yet, though it’s been a
close-run thing on occasions. We usually have a middle-aged female driver, who
gives the impression of being a retired schoolmistress. The other week there
was a new driver one night, who clearly didn’t know the route. Instead of turning
right up Taranaki Street he went straight on, to the consternation of those on
board and those waiting at the stop in Taranaki Street. We remonstrated with
him, and one of the passengers went up to tell him the correct route. The bus
did a U-turn further up, and after some further uncertainties finally returned
to the Taranaki Street stop and managed to find the correct route thereafter.

 

The
no. 21 bus stops running after 7.00 and doesn’t do weekends, so on Thursday
(when Ian does life drawing and Sandie does folk dancing) and Friday (when we
stay in town after work for a drink and a meal in some pub or other) we have to
get the no. 7 bus home. This goes through Brooklyn, which is uphill from us,
and then we have a steep 10-minute downhill walk home, with great views of the
lights of Wellington below us on the way. To get a bus into town and beyond at
the weekend, we can walk downhill to Newtown, which is below Vogeltown, and get
a bus from there. The geography of Wellington requires you to pay attention to
elevation as well as map location when planning a route!

 

But
buses are extremely good value here, as well as very efficient and environmentally
friendly. To get to work costs us $2 each (80p), and when we’re whizzing around
at weekends we can get over-60s passes for $5 (£2) to go anywhere on the entire
bus network, which extends quite a way out of the city. So we’re big fans of the
Wellington public transport system.

 

Wednesday
25th June we decided was Christmas in this hemisphere, as you really
need to have it in the middle of winter to break things up a bit. We had mulled
wine that evening and lit the fire, and sat watching DVDs. Sadly we were unable
to get any chestnuts to roast. The Ministry of Education canteen laid on a
Christmas dinner that day, which Ian enjoyed. He even won a free meal voucher
in a draw afterwards! So a belated Merry Christmas to all our dedicated blog
readers.

 

On
Saturday we took the bus to Karori Wildlife Park, an old water reservoir area
which has been turned into a conservation area, with a predator-proof fence all
round and lots of re-introduced native species. The weather was sunny most of
the day, and we had a good time exploring the many walking trails, walking up
as far as the hill on which the Brooklyn Wind Turbine stands. We also saw lots
of birds, especially around the bird feeders, including bellbirds, tui, hihi
and kakas. That evening we went to the Embassy Cinema in town to see Prince Caspian. The cinema is very
stylish and elegant, with what was once apparently the largest screen in the
southern hemisphere.

 

Sunday morning we
woke up to wild wind and driving rain. It was the worst we’d seen here so far,
and it screeched round the house like a troupe of hyperactive banshees. We
stayed in all morning and put on all the heating, hoping it would let up a bit.
It didn’t, so after lunch we wrapped up warmly and went to visit the Te Papa
National Museum in town. This is extremely well done, and it was quite full of
people (no surprise on such a day). We watched some senior Maoris (i.e. OAPs) singing
and dancing, and walked round a small selection of the exhibits there, before
doing a bit of shopping and heading home by taxi. Tonight we lit the stove in
the dining room and huddled round it, trying to ignore the weather outside.

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