Wellington Harbor

Wellington harbor has great places to eat, walk and shop. It has a boat painted with penguins and seals, each unique and personalized. (Do they each represent individual people?) It is a charming contrast to the military boats, yachts, working boats and ferries, a caution against taking ourselves too seriously. If the penguin-seal boat is not sufficient to deliver the message, there is the painted piano, the painted bollard (that thing you moor a ship to), and a graphic graphic explaining the location of the gentlemen’s loo.

This strikingly painted food truck below sells very popular street food called a fritter (but actually a kind of pancake) containing your choice of chopped abalone, a tiny fish called whitefish, or chopped mussels – specifically, green-lipped mussels. The fritter cake is served on white bread of the “wonder” sort that has been heavily buttered. The green-lipped mussel one is open-faced. I can testify to that because I ate one.

The national museum, called Te Papa Tongarewa (“Te papa” means “our place” in Maori) is on the harbor, too. It is attractive outside and inside, and costs $20 per person. It tries so very hard to tell the story of the Maori and the history of white settlement, so the walls are thick with signs. I won’t try to explain the Maori settlement or the British invasion, land theft and ethnic cleansing, since this is a blog not a book and I don’t know enough to get the facts and figures right. It is sufficient to note that the Maori, who arrived from Polynesia about 800 years ago, were nearly wiped out by the British, who arrived in 1840. The Maori wiped out the moa, the large flightless bird. The British nearly wiped out everything else, between the clear-cutting of forests and burning to create grazing fields and the introduction of everything from pinus radiata (California pines – which grow better in New Zealand than they do in California) to rats.

The objects below are Maori – a carved canoe, a piece of fabric, and a stone.


Melbourne: Royal Botanic Gardens, a Welcome to Country smoking ceremony, and Hosier Lane graffiti

Today we met to board our bus shortly before 8:30AM. We went to the Royal Botanic Gardens and met a guide named Jakobi who took us on an Aboriginal Heritage Walk and had us participate in a Welcome to Country smoking ceremony, which involved burning leaves and herbs. Jakobi explained the First Peoples’ use of several trees, flowers, seed pods, and plants. Then our guide took us off to the side and discussed the history of persecution of the Aboriginal peoples by the British, and the legal status problems and prejudice that are present now. This will be a theme of the tour.

When Captain Cook grounded his ship on the Great Barrier Reef, the Aboriginal people living in the area helped him fix the ship so he could return to Britain. When he reached Britain, he reported that Australia was uninhabited by any people. The Aboriginal people were classified under the Flora and Fauna Act until 1967. That’s not a typo.

The flag of the First People

I realize there are a lot of “but’s”, and “wait’s” and “however’s” and that I am a North American, and we treated our First Peoples horrifically as well. That’s not the point. I am telling you about this because there is a lot of palpable tension in Australia about this issue, and because I hear about it as well as other issues of racism and xenophobia frequently. The murders in the mosques in New Zealand have added tinder to these tensions.

The Botanic Gardens are beautiful, with an interesting mix of native and imported specimens. There were some spectacular beds of succulents. The Aboriginal guide showed us an interesting variety of banksia that has seedpods that are used for transporting fire. The inner core of the pod smolders for hours while the outer case of the seedpod remains uncharred. There is a picture of one of those seedpods above, and several succulents below.

We had lunch at the Abbotsford Convent Bakery, which has woodfired ovens build in 1901 for the Good Shepherd sisters whose convent it was, and who started a finishing school for girls because the bishop told them to, even though they were not an “education order”.  The food was very good and there was far too much of it.

After lunch and a short walk, we were taken to Hosier Lane in the central business district. Hosier Lane is a side street painted with graffiti from Wellington Parade to Collins Street. It is legal graffiti, encouraged by the city council, which paints the lane dark grey every so often so the graffiti artists can begin anew. This is not the only graffiti street in Melbourne but is the most well-known. Melbourne has a reputation for interesting street art including not just graffiti but sculpture, carvings, and yarn-bombings. We walked back to the hotel from Hosier Lane (via a pub) and for dinner, 8 of us went to the Duke of Wellington, walking down to the CDB again. I walked back to the hotel from the Duke and came out with a total of 17,500 steps for the day.

One of our members is leaving the group on Monday. He misjudged how much activity he could handle. There is a lot of walking every day, 3 to 5 miles, and lots of travel within each country.