Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Te Papa, Featherston, Waipawa, and Napier (and Motion Sickness).

Last night at 12:30am, just as I was drifting off to sleep, Wellington had a minor earthquake... likely no more than a two-point-something on the Richter scale, but I felt it as my bed rocking back and forth. Wellington regularly experiences minor tremors - the city is built on an active fault line - but you can imagine what it did to my blood adrenaline levels. I didn’t fall asleep for a long time.

When I woke up this morning I didn’t feel very well, which was exacerbated by the sore neck and shoulders I got from sleeping on my pillow wrong. I made my omelette for breakfast, and about halfway through got a very queasy stomach. Lying down on the floor helped to abate it, but I wasn’t keen to be starting the day nauseated, as I knew we had at least a four-hour drive ahead of us to get to Napier.

After checking out of the motel we went and visited Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. It was my second time going there, and as such I knew what we were getting into; Te Papa is fantastic, and it was unfortunate that we had only a few hours to spend there, as one can easily get lost and spend the whole day wandering around and looking at all the fascinating exhibits. Some of the interactive displays are so engrossing and well-designed that one can lose all track of time. We limited ourselves to the third and fourth levels, and took in the Colossal Squid, Awesome Forces, and Blood, Earth, Fire. Even though I had seen all three exhibits before I found them interesting the second time around, and learned a few new things.

The most poignant additions to the museum were a model survival kit illustrating the supplies every household should have in the event of an earthquake, and a small poem, donation box, and comment book for visitors to leave messages for the residents of Christchurch. The survival kit exhibit was illustrated with pictures of Manchester Street after the earthquake, and I could see the restaurant we were eating at in the background; it was a sad reminder of the devastation from which we escaped, while so many others did not. I also steered well clear of the interactive walk-in exhibit featuring a house going through an earthquake; I didn’t feel the need to relive that experience.

We finally set out for Napier around 1pm, and since we were taking SH2 we found ourselves on the very windy, very steep pass up, over, and down the Rimutaka Ranges. Unlike the train trip through the Rimutaka Gorge, which I thoroughly enjoyed, this trip, courtesy of my dad’s just-a-little-too-fast driving, gave me a severe case of motion sickness. I didn’t actually throw up, but just thinking about it now makes my stomach queasy.

We stopped for a picnic lunch at 2pm just outside of Featherston at the site of the Featherston Military Camp, which in 1916 was the largest camp in New Zealand (4500 men in huts, and another 3000 in tents). Here soldiers received the last of their training before marching over the Rimutaka Ranges to Wellington and the ships that would take them overseas to fight. In 1942, the camp was restarted to hold Japanese prisoners-of-war, and on February 25th, 1943, forty-eight POWs and one on-duty solider were killed in a riot. Today, the site is a memorial to peace; there are forty-eight ornamental cherry trees planted in memory of the dead Japanese, and a cross for Private Walter Pelvin, as well as a camphor tree sapling grafted from a tree which survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. The message of peace, however, wasn’t shared by the four chickens who came over to us and fought over the apple cores we threw on the ground for them. They also fought over the remains of my sandwich that my dad fed to them, which was technically cannibalism, as it contained chicken...!

Piling back into the car (my stomach somewhat more at ease, even though I ate little lunch), it was drive drive drive... thankfully the highway between Featherston and Napier is nowhere near as windy, as it mainly passes through rolling hills and farmland. When we entered Waipawa I took my parents up for a little detour to pass by Skye’s house, and as luck would have it she was out in the garden! I definitely surprised her, but she was delighted to see me again and meet my parents, and invited us all into the yard where she showered my parents with praise about how wonderful I was (they were skeptical) and pointed out all the things I had done in the garden for her. Several beds needed weeding... I was instinctively bending down and wanting to get to work putting things in order again.

When we finally bid adieu to Skye (and Finn, sitting on the back porch, quietly knitting), it was 6:30pm, which put us into Napier here at 7:30pm or so. We checked into the Criterion Art Deco Backpackers, and while I’m content to be staying in a room with a bunk bed and single bed, my parents are lamenting for the lovely two-bedroom apartment we had in Wellington. I’m just trying to help the budget, mum and dad... and besides, here we get a free continental breakfast!

Tomorrow we are going to wander around downtown in the morning, taking in the Art Deco buildings, and then in the afternoon we’ll head out to Frank’s, where we’ll socialise, pick up my mail, and take him out to dinner. I can’t wait to see him again, although the excitement is bittersweet, as this is the first time I’ve been back in Napier since Fay died in January. Nevertheless, Frank seemed quite excited about our visit when I spoke to him on the phone this evening, so perhaps things will go well. Goodnight!


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