Chocolate, Red Pandas, Gallipoli, Rivendell and a trip to Sydney… all for a fun-packed time with Mum!
It doesn’t feel as though I’ve been out in New Zealand for that long, but it’s been over 6 months now!
After hearing and reading about all of my adventures out here (and having a ridiculous amount of holiday hours accrued) my Mum decided to come and visit. So I made a list of things I’d heard of (or done before) that we could do around Wellington.

For the first couple of days, to get used to the time change/get over the jet lag, we took it a bit easier wandering around Wellington in the sun, heading along the beach in front of the house, or sitting in the yard in the sun.

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Walking around Wellington, past the government buildings – it has lions just like Trafalgar Square!
View over Wellington, in the sun, from Mount Victoria

Wellington Chocolate Factory Tour

On the first Saturday, we’d organised to go to the Wellington Chocolate Factory, for their tour…

Picture – Mum outside the Wellington Chocolate Factory.
Needless to say we were all fans of this idea – and it was really interesting to hear about the chocolate-making process from an independent maker, where a lot of their process is by hand. It was also great to learn about their bean-to-bar process.
I could see the common-traits between chocolate and coffee beans, such as how bitter the chocolate tastes is more to do with how early the beans have been removed from their pod, and most likely then burnt, rather than heated gently.

In future, the guide was telling us, they aim to have people speaking about chocolate in a similar way they sometimes do about wine – asking for a rich, fruity flavour, or a sharp, nutty flavour – instead of most people thinking of chocolate as ‘dark’, ‘milk’ or ‘white’.

And a bonus, was seeing all of the amazing packaging designs from Inject Design (which are designed so that labels peel off easily and they fold out into memento posters). Check out my favourite:

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Pictures from Behance – designs by Inject Design and Gina Kiel
Salted Brittel Caramel bar
Bean to bar process

After spending time around the waterfront on several nice days, including catching up with some old family friends, we’d spotted a poster for the “Gardens Magic” events, a series of open air concerts in the botanic gardens – so one evening we headed along to see the Cumbia Bros (a kiwi-influence Latin-themed band).

It was a really great atmosphere, and good to have a chance to see some of the gardens at night, along with the light installations from MJF Lighting and Massey University School of Design.

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Wellington Cable Car (and cityscape in the background) – one of the ways to the Botanic Gardens
Cumbia Bros at the final night of the “Gardens Magic” event series

Gallipoli (at Te Papa Museum)

One day we were in Wellington, as I had a couple of meetings, so I dropped mum at the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum (NZ version of the Natural History Museum). When I joined her later in the day – she’d covered a lot of the museum (there are 7 floors guys, so go mum!) and was working her way through the Gallipoli exhibition.

From somebody who didn’t really like history at school, this exhibition was stunning! Maybe I would have paid more attention if we’d done field trips which had involved huge* models made by Weta…
*by huge, I mean most of the models of people were a couple of metres tall…

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Pictures: Entrance to and various figures (made by Weta) from the Gallipoli Exhibition at Te Papa

Weta Workshop tour

Mum and I also headed to Weta Workshop for their tour, which (as per my previous post) can’t be photographed for copyright, so instead here are some photos from around the shop and outside.

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Mum outside the entrance of Weta Workshop with William the Troll
Some of the models inside the shop area
At the last section of the tour, they actually also had one of the sample models created for the Gallipoli exhibit at Te Papa, and it makes you appreciate them so much more, hearing how it could take around a day to affix hairs individually to create each eyebrow…
When you think of the scale, and the number of models, it definitely makes you look at the exhibition in a different light!

For the last few days, we hired a car so we could go a bit further afield. This meant that one day, we decided to head out to Napier, via the Wairarapas (really twisty road through the hills – I nicknamed it the arm-workout). Thankfully with us switching over driving every hour or so, it didn’t feel quite as far as the 300(+)km it is… on the way back, we came around the south side of Lake Taupo, and then took the Desert road (State Highway 1) so for the most part it was a scenic drive – with some really changeable weather areas in between too for good measure!
Picture – Looking down the pavilion on Napier sea front
We also headed out to Rivendell – the area that was used for filming that section of the films…
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Welcome to Rivendell
Mum and I under the gateway arch, through which the Fellowship of the Ring left Rivendell

Red Pandas at Wellington Zoo

I’d arranged for mum and I to go and do the Red Pandas Close Encounter at Wellington Zoo…
(Thanks Erin and Mum for the birthday present – took a while to do it!)

In the morning we headed out prepared with a packed lunch, water and sunscreen – the last two an absolute necessity that day as it was a scorcher.
After a quick wander around the bottom section of the zoo, most of the animals were sheltering from the sun so we headed up towards the close encounter meeting spot.

The guide explained to us the procedures and then we were in!

I think what first struck me, was how delicately the pandas move around, gently padding either across branches or the ground. But then the first panda climbed up onto our laps, and walked back and forth eating the fruit we lured him down with – and I was so surprised at how light they were only weighing about 5 or 6kg*!
*put it in perspective a small dog can weigh similar – i.e. Chewy weighs around 5kg…

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Mandatory selfie with mum and the red pandas (and various other photos with the red pandas!)
Such a warm day, that the zoo animals are getting ice creams!


At the end of mums trip, we’d decided in advance to head somewhere neither of us knew…
(and also meant that mums flights back weren’t a solid block from NZ)

So after plenty of discussion, we decided on Sydney!

Day 1 Sydney

We arrived in Sydney just before 11am, so were able to find our way from the airport to our hotel, drop our bags and then start exploring.
For the first day, we didn’t plan to go far – and our hotel was well placed, just between George Street (one of the main roads) and Sydney’s China Town, about 15 minutes walk from the harbour.

So we walked through China Town, which was getting ready for the Chinese New Year, towards Darling Harbour. On our way though, the rain started coming down heavy – so we ducked under one of the shop overhangs until it eased off a little, then headed to a nearby café until it stopped.

We carried on walking during the afternoon, and crossed over to explore Sydney’s Hyde Park, and the Anzac memorial buildings there.

Picture – Sydney Town Hall
After a recharge at the hotel late afternoon, we eventually made it to our original destination – Darling Harbour, and found a nice restaurant/bar for dinner with (really good) live music.

Day 2 Sydney

As we had explored a bit of Darling Harbour the previous day, we decided to head in the other direction, and walked along George Street towards The Rocks area and the Opera House…

The morning was quite clouded over (but still pretty warm) so it was great for wandering about. So we did just that, walking around the base of the opera house, then around Dawes Point and up to the Observatory, to look over Sydney Harbour Bridge.

After completing our ‘tour’, we had a bite to eat from The Rocks weekday markets back around through the partially renovated Barangaroo area and circled back to the hotel via Darling Harbour.

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Panoramic of Sydney Opera House
Opera House from the other side of Circular Quay
Mandatory selfie of Mum & I at Sydney Opera House
Sydney Harbour Bridge heading towards the city, and with one of the massive ocean liners coming in to dock

Day 3 Sydney

With it being Chinese New Year, there were a lot of events and performances on… So we set off from the hotel with the intention of going around the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and seeing the blessing performance outside beforehand.

The blessing involved a drum and dragon performance, and was really good to see – although not too different from those in China Town in London. The crowd it had drawn though was pretty large, so we decided to skip the gardens that day.

Instead, we headed to Sydney Zoo!
I know what you’re thinking, I somehow managed to talk my mum into going to 2 zoos within a week of each other… but this time it was actually her request!
Apparently there used to be a TV show with a koala, and plush toys of the main character – so mum was intrigued to see if they’d been at all realistic!
It was really interesting still – as we decided to head to the smaller Wild Life Sydney Zoo on Darling Harbour, which is mainly for native Australian animals (rather than animals from around the world like the larger Taronga Zoo)…

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Great warning signs… for the Tasmanian Devil enclosure
Kangaroo perched on the rock-shelf in Sydney Zoo
One of the koalas just hanging about
A wallaby, digging into the fruit platter
Really cute flying sugar gliders (that’s as big as it’ll ever be – and it can still fly around 50 metres, from the right height)
Hands down… I think Sydney Wild Life Zoo has some of the best warning signs around!
After walking a lot the previous day, mum and I decided to take it a bit easier for the afternoon, and what better way to do that than to head to a beach… We set off and headed around to Circular Quay to catch the ferry out to Manly.
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Pictures – Ferry trip out to and from Manly
Manly is a pretty cool suburb out at the opening of Sydney Harbour. There is one Main Street running from the ferry terminal along to the beach, filled with surf shops and cafés.

We sat and people-watched for a while, watching the beach volleyball and surfers out making the most of the sun and waves.

Day 4 Sydney

One place that I had heard a lot about even from the U.K. was Bondi Beach. So being that close was too good an opportunity to pass up.

In the morning, we headed out from the centre of Sydney to Bondi,  and after walking through the the town, we headed down to the beach area. Being over a weekend, Bondi was predictably busy, so after walking up the high street and settling in a café for lunch, we spent some time walking through the markets at the end of the beach.

After that, we decided we’d both come so far to not go on the beach, so we weaved through the sunbathers on the sand, and walked in the shallows… a slight mistake as (we hadn’t noticed) lots of little jellyfish had been swept up onto the beach!
The first we knew of it was when I had a slight sting at the back of one foot, and then another on the side of my other foot… when I lifted my feet what looked like a fishing wire – but was actually the jellyfish (tentacle) slipped off…
We quickly decided walking in the shallows wasn’t the best plan! We headed up through the sand to sit on the grass knoll behind the beach and people watch for a while.

The main attraction at Bondi for me is that I’ve heard of a couple of surfing events there – so, although there wasn’t one on, it was still interesting to watch the surfers at Bondi (and, after our visit to Manly the day before, compare surfing styles).

Before leaving Bondi, we decided to check out the walking track around the coast towards Bronte Beach, via Marks Park, which was a really nice walk in the sun.

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Bondi Beach, pretty busy over the weekend
Looking out from the shallows of Bondi Beach (pre-jellyfish attack)
Heading along the coastal track towards Bronte Beach
Plenty of surfers out and heading out to take advantage of the waves
Pretty cool street heading back to the train at Bondi Junction

Day 5 Sydney

Mum left early in the morning to catch her flight, so I had most of a day to fill around Sydney…
I decided, as we hadn’t managed to fit it in, to check out the Chinese Friendship Garden for the morning.

The Gardens were really nice, and so peaceful considering how close to the ‘busier’ areas they are (less than 5 minutes from Darling Harbour and about 10 minutes from Paddy’s’ Market).

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Pictures – various areas within the Chinese Friendship Garden
After the Chinese Friendship Garden, I decided to head to something that mum wouldn’t have found so interesting, as I’d heard about the Graffiti Tunnel up in the University Campus.

The Tunnel is one of the largest ‘legal walls’ in Sydney, which means that anyone with paint is welcome to contribute… I was expecting that this sort of scheme would have attracted some really talented artists – and initially it may have* – but what that seems to have translated as though, is just a lot of people making their mark to prove they had been there.
*I wonder if because of the likelihood of their pieces getting painted over by anybody and everybody who wanted to, graffiti artists don’t want to create pieces there that would just be destroyed.

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Two pieces on the way to the Graffiti Tunnel
Areas within the Graffiti Tunnel
Anyhow, after my jaunt out to the university (and getting asked for directions around the campus – bonus for passing as a student still!) and a bite to eat, it was time for me to head back to the airport – and back to Wellington.