Monday, February 13, 2006

up and down a mountain

Sunday was my day off pretty much and I was determined to see not only museumy stuff (inc. Te Papa, the national museum which had some grouse exhibitions on the Italians in New Zealand, things from the collection of a mid-20th century commercial artist called Bernard Roundhill, and a more permanent one on the Treaty of Waitangi, and other stuff and the Wellington Museum of City and Sea which was amazingly good particularly the I think temporary exhibition of key developments in Wellington). Then I went to Kelburn in the cable car, which has been going since 1902 (well, in fact there seems to have been a time when it wasn’t running, but the promo guff surrounding it tends to gloss over this) and which is more or less straight up the side of a mountain, then although I had a return ticket I meandered down again, walking through Kelburn a bit and through the botanic gardens and the awful desecration of a cemetery by the Wellington Urban Motorway. In the evening I met with Pete, a friend of James’, and his wife Deb. They live in a beautiful 1958 house in Highbury which is I guess half way down (or up) a mountainside. Oddly enough we got pizza from a place in Kelburn which I had already walked past that afternoon. It was the Health and Fitness pizza which, although that title doesn’t sound promising was actually delicious. I walked back down some stairs which P&D called the ‘scary stairs’ but the only scary thing was the busted-up house or hut about half way down them – otherwise I wasn’t a bit scared. The walk back took me down Willis Street, a street I had, like Kelburn’s Upland Road, never imagined I would see again after yesterday, and everyone was out and about – well not everyone, the ‘young people’.

I fell asleep during, ironically, the awful film Valentine (ironic only because I believe Wayne mentioned this in the blog comments a few weeks ago) which nevertheless was the most engaging thing I’ve seen on NZ tv since I got here, but unfortunately woke up totally at around half past one in the morning and two hours later (as I write this) have been completely unable to go back to sleep. Since I intended to get up early and go for another walk, in one sense this isn’t the worst thing that could happen, but in another I know that I will ‘pay’ for it later on today, and probably fall asleep somewhere and miss my plane. That kind of nightmare.

A very strange yet dull thing happened after I woke at 1:38, and I promise I was not asleep, and also that I was not so excited by this I could not sleep thereafter. I was watching a dreadful, truly, truly dreadful film on tv called Wanted. And for a short time I was thinking, 'is that guy Richard Grieco?' - an actor I had not thought about as far as I can recall for about ten years. And then I decided it wasn't, though I was wondering if one of the boys in the film (made in '98) was the actor who plays George Michael in Arrested Development. But that bit's not important. What's important is that I then turned over to another channel (Sky movies 1) to find another apparently pretty awful (though I wasn't following it so closely) film starring... do I need to even go on? ... Richard Grieco. Richard Grieco!!!

Richard Grieco!

Anyway, after that I still couldn't sleep so when 5 am rolled around, I went for a walk. I had decided to walk around to Oriental Bay and it was of course still a bit dark when I started and I just went for it man, for about half an hour. If I may back pedal a bit a few people who had been to Wellington previously told me that they had climbed Mount Victoria but it had not occurred to me at all that this was a thing to do in fact I had quite forgotten about it. But anyway after a while I got sick of walking around the harbour shore and I decided to go up the hill, and I just went up and up, it was of course pretty bleedin' steep, and I pressed on, and it's amazing those suburbs that are crammed onto hills, and the houses genuinely don't have any street frontage - I think that's illegal in Melbourne or maybe it's just that no-one could imagine doing it (and there's no need) - anyway up and up and then I saw a sign saying Mount Victoria lookout and damn it, I was climbing Mount Victoria - the hunter had been captured by the game, eh? And so I gave in to its charms such as they were/are and kept going and got to what I thought was the lookout and felt pretty flash and it started to rain, and then (like some dumbarse cartoon about climbing Mt Everest) I looked over and there was the real lookout - even higher. So against my better judgement I went up there too, accompanied along the way by a horrible skinny middle-aged runner woman and a fool on a bicycle (not only did he ride his mountain bike up the hill, he rode it down. I wouldn't trust my own leg muscles/co-ordination/shoe rubber on that wet grass, so god knows why he trusted his brakes). At the top also was some zen anoraked man who was just moving around the lookout at a 90 degree rate to check the view from every angle. It is a pretty impressive view. You can see the airport and so on and so forth. Well I guess if that's all you wanted to do you'd just go to the airport. Which incidentally is something I intend to do soon. My flight is in 3 hours. (By the way if Mt. Victoria is a mountain and other mountains are a mile high, we need a new word that means 'tiny mountain'.)

I spent the last couple of hours wandering through town and doing things that started to become a bit ridiculous. Then I got a bus to the airport which was pleasingly only $5 and had a few thrills eg a nutty tunnel ride in an oval-shaped tunnel (that surely must once have been a cable car tunnel?) through a mountain. The bus driver probably does it 10 times a day but I know if I tried it once or 50 times I still wouldn’t be able to avoid scraping the sides. The housing styles out by the airport were really fascinating too, some of the houses had art nouveau stained glass in them but appeared to have had all kinds of stuff added to them so you couldn’t see their original shape (or maybe they were kind of, for want of a better word, jerry built from scrap from actual Edwardian houses?). It was a nice day for it anyway as it was sunny and mild.

So on the whole (I’m writing this on the plane I think about 25 mins out of Melbourne) a successful trip, quite pricey, always interesting. In terms of culture the NZers aren’t massively different from Australians (and I suppose they see Sydney and to a lesser extent Melbourne as the local big cities, and they have the ability like most Australians to juggle pride/involvement in their own place along that ‘greatest in the world’ rubric while completely realising their low-key status in the scheme of things) although there are many little touches I really like. As mentioned above, the architecture is great; in Wellington, the way the city’s laid out is fascinating; the food’s pretty good. I might have been unlucky but I think the New Zealanders are a little more standoffish than Australians generally speaking; as I get older I find no shame and in fact even some pleasure in catching the eye of fellow pedestrians and nodding or saying good morning (obviously not to everyone in a busy street, but if it’s the only person I’ve seen for ten minutes – that makes sense, doesn’t it?). This doesn’t seem to be the done thing in Wellington, starting with the lack of eye contact. I don’t have a problem with this, just find it interesting. <>

The draggy part is I have more work ahead of me in the next few months than I’ve ever had before, and it’s going to be very gruelling. And I hate gruel.


danny said...

hey david

glad you had a good trip! I reckon the eye-contact greeting thing depends more on the wealth of your suburb more than national-cultural differences - places like oriental bay and kelburn would be different to Newtown or the hutt valley! That said, in a lot of pacific cultures it's a sign of aggression to look someone in the eye which has led to more than a few misunderstandings over the centuries :)

safe travels and catch you back in Melbourne sometime.

David said...

That makes sense. As I hope I made clear, I can't be bothered with people who make such big fat generalisations about a culture - or even about one standalone person - so I don't know why I did it. I guess I was just tired. If I still feel weird about that in a day or two I'll take it off the blog and then won't your comment, and this reply, look bizarre.

David said...

And furthermore I have also noted that the people round here where I live tend not to make eye contact either.

boy said...

Danny you know full well David has the eyes of a gorgon. Now new update PLEASE