Windy, Windy Wellington

I decided to spend a few days in Wellington just as a category 2 tropical cyclone decided to swoop across North Island!  I travelled up to the ferry by coach because the train still isn't running after the Kaikoura earthquake in December 2016.  The road (bit of a euphemism here!) has only been open since Christmas and is closed at night because it's still under construction.  In some places only one half of the road is there - the rest has plunged into the gorge.  The scale of the problem is vast - kilometres of road were buried when whole mountainsides slid down during the earthquake.
One of the landslide sites under construction near Kaikoura
Now the road has been bulldozed out from underneath millions of tons (I'm not exaggerating) of rock and earth and is being reconstructed.  Whole sections - totalling about 100 km - are being built from scratch.  It's a mammoth undertaking.  The mountainsides are being stabilised, but big containers are stacked up to protect road users from falling rock until it's finished.
Containers stacked along the unfinished road.  The remains of the old road can be seen just behind the fence.
Out to sea the seabed has been raised by almost 15 feet in places and you can see the different colours of the rocks.  The cyclone was already beginning to lash down  with rain as I travelled, so it was almost impossible to take photographs through bus windows streaked with rain, but I did my best!
The white rocks are newly exposed - it's a lot further to the sea these days.
In Wellington, although I'm used to Southerly Busters, the wind and rain were something else.  I got blown over once and soaked to the skin twice.  All plans were abandoned - instead of walking the Katherine Mansfield trail I dodged in and out of coffee shops and museums.  I met up with New Zealand author Redmer Yska who has just published a beautiful book on Wellington in the days when Katherine Mansfield's family were settling there.  It's called 'A Strange, Beautiful Excitement' and captures the atmosphere of a newly established colonial capital perfectly - the snobbery, the corruption, the risk-taking and the stifling lives of middle class colonial wives; everything in fact that Katherine Mansfield wanted to escape from.  Redmer is himself from Karori and describes the school that Katherine went to and the village, both now and then.  He makes New Zealand live.

On Wednesday night, despite the weather (Wellington airport was knocked out by a lightning strike) I met up with the Tuesday Poets, Mary McCallum, who now runs a small press, Tim Jones, who also writes speculative fiction, Janis Freegard, Helen Rickerby, and Keith Westwater.  We don't get much chance to see each other so it was great to catch up with what everyone was doing in a new bar called The Whistling Sister. We were all so busy chattering we forgot to take a selfie! This is one they did earlier, sadly without Janis.
Alison Jones, Mary McCallum, Tim Jones, Keith Westwater and Helen Rickerby

On Thursday, my last day, the storm blew out and the sky was blue.  I had lunch  at Lyall Bay with my friend Jane Tolerton who runs the fabulous Booklovers B and B and writes books.  She's just published an account of the women of New Zealand who went abroad during the First World War, but whose work rarely gets a mention.   Make Her Praises Heard Afar, using letters and diaries, is a very good read.  She's coming to the UK in May to talk about it over there.

Then it was time to take the Kaitaki ferry for Picton and South Island, braving a strong swell across the Cook Strait.  New Zealanders manage in short sleeves and bermudas, even at 7 degrees.  I was wearing three layers of merino and my Everest assault gear - a selfie would have been just too embarrassing!

The leaving of Wellington into the clear blue. 


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