Saturday, 9 October 2010

Museum Overload

Saturday 9th October 2010

MP3 track of the day: Band of Brothers suite two - Micheal Karmen

Weather: Windy in the morning with rain in the afternoon and evening

Okay so at around 8:00pm I ventured out into the windy dark Wellington night; my target, the summit of Mount Victoria. I have to be honest and say that I wasn't entirely looking forward to this; part of the trip would take me through a wood and, even though I had my head torch on, it would be pitch black (also remember that this was the wood for the setting of the Nasgul, a cloaked nightmare on a black steed with a huge sword, chasing Frodo … which I tried to put to the back of my mind) and I'm not a shamed to say that I was bricking it whilst walking through this section (I would have taken the bus to the summit but they stopped running at 6:45pm). Getting to the summit in record time I setup my tri-pod to take some photos of the beautiful scene that lay before me. Wellington is beautiful at night and it was certainly worth the trip through 'Nasgul wood' to see. Unfortunately the winds were so strong that it was hard for me to get a decent night photo, only when I went to a lower level, to get a bit of cover from the winds, did I manage to get one (yes only one) decent photo before I gave up and decided to walk back the way I came, back to the hostel. I made it back to the hostel okay, few!

This morning I woke up with just enough time to get ready and to arrive at the 'Te Papa' museum just as the doors opened; the time, 10am. As you enter the museum you are greeted by a huge staircase in front of you with a shop to your left. Looking up you can see the staircases that take you to all five floors of exhibits. With five floors of exhibits there wasn't a moment to loose so off I went to level 2 (as level one was only the shop and restaurant).

Level 2 was all about natural history with the first part devoted to New Zealand's past and present wildlife. Here I learnt about all the different species of animals and plants that live within New Zealand with particular emphases drawn to native and immigrant species (the latter being frowned upon). Everywhere you go within New Zealand the wildlife plays a big part in peoples lives, thoughts and conversations. New Zealand emphasis the problems it faces with immigrant species driving native animals and plants to extinction; there is a common hatred shared between the people of New Zealand and the politicians and no where is it more evident than in the little information boards scattered within the displays telling the general public either to protect or kill the animal, or plant, they are looking at.

Next up was a display devoted to the giant squid, the only giant squid in a museum anywhere in the world. Due to the depths these creatures live, within the seas of our planet, very few are rarely seen (in fact no one has ever seen a male squid). It was just sheer luck that when a New Zealand fishing vessel was hunting within the Antarctic seas one fish, it had caught on it's line, proceeded to be caught be this giant squid. As the ship pulled up it's catch along came the squid, not wishing to let go of, what it thought was it's catch. The ships crew could hardly believe their eyes and it took a further three hours to harness the huge animal on the ship safely. Three months of careful scientific study and preservation took place before the squid, now dead, was encased in it's final resting place for all to see here at the museum. Should it have been caught? Who knows, but it was pretty impressive (and quite minging at the same time) to look at this beast.

Believe it or not, time was pressing on and I hadn't even completed this floor. Next I went into an exhibition about how the earth is made up and how volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis are created (all relevant topics within this part of the world). The only annoying thing about this part of the museum is it had a participation piece which needed you to jump as hard as you could on a metal surface to register a certain level of earthquake. As you can imagine, every child within the complex was having several goes, each time making a rather large noise. The final part of this section was devoted to how New Zealand was formed and it's break away from Africa and Australia. Dinosaurs, plate tectonics and original plant life all featured highly within this section.

It was nearly 1pm and with me getting hungry I breezed through the 'outside bush' comprising of information on all New Zealand's native plants before heading to the space section. I was looking forward to this exhibit however you had to pay to enter so I thought I might look into it if I had time at the end of the day. This was level 2 completed and so I headed down to level 1 and to the restaurant. The restaurant was expensive, however as the museum was free to enter I felt that firstly I didn't mind paying an extra $5 for lunch and secondly that I should give the museum something in the way of a monetary contribution. $15.50 (£7.75) later and I was tucking into a beef and ale pie, a large chocolate brownie (unlike Canada cake here is good) and a bottle of sprite.

After thirty minutes I was back on the case and up to level 3. This level only had one exhibition which was devoted to ancient Maori legends and myths of how the earth was created etc etc. All was very interesting but it didn't take me too long to complete this section.

By now it was 3:30pm and I had been in the museum for over five hours; concentration was wavering and instead of reading every last detail (like my sister would) I went around the exhibits at a leisurely pace briefly stopping for more information when I found something of interest. Level four had the most exhibits; firstly there was an exhibit on the green gem stone that is the symbol of New Zealand. This exhibit identified all the different ways it was shaped and the different designs of figures and necklaces that have been created (a prime target to purchase as a souvenir when I get towards the end of my New Zealand trip).

Next up was an exhibition on old Maori buildings, musical instruments and weapons. The central area of the fourth floor was devoted to the 'treaty of Waitangi'; the most important, and debated treaty within New Zealand's history. I spent ages looking at the pros and cons of the treaty to try to work out for myself who I thought won and lost from the signing. In the end it was difficult to decided; white man certainly won over the Maori but there were benefits for them also (and compared to the destruction, within north America of the native people there , the Maori's, I feel, did come off a little better). I'm not going to go into detail about the treaty, if you are interested then just Google 'treaty of Waitangi + New Zealand' and I'm sure you will get more information than your brain can cope with.

Both time and my ever shrinking concentration span were not on my side. I went through the fashion area, modern New Zealand, immigration history and finally the exhibit on New Zealands military history with the greatest of speed. I then proceeded to level five to have a brief look at some New Zealand art before getting to level six to see the sculpture garden. As a) I couldn't see many sculptures out of the windows and b) it was raining (I picked the best day to go to the museum) I decided not to venture forth into the garden and decided to spend the last 30 minutes within the military section on level four.

I was actually quite disappointed over the amount of space given to New Zealand's past military involvements compared to the space given for everything else. I almost managed to walk around the small square of information on World War One and Two before I looked at my watch to see that it was 6:00pm. Time hadn't been called but as no one else was around I decided to finish what I was reading (a sad exhibit about a mother who had lost her son in World War One, had received his medals and possessions but could never afford to travel to Europe to see his grave … it reminded me of that sad letter I read in the Ottawa military museum in Canada) before heading down to have a look to see if I was locked in.

There were still people around so I asked a lady, who worked there, the time of closing to which she replied 'anytime now'. I decided to head out of the museum, eight hours and my brain was fried. In an ideal world I would say that you would need three to five days to do the museum justice; I would suggest picking an exhibit to look at in the morning, before leaving the museum in the afternoon to soak all the information in and then returning the following morning to look at another exhibit. Finally I headed to the supermarket close by and bought a weight watchers pasta dish (I'm not on a diet, it just looked the nicest out of all the microwavable meals) and a huge caramel slice for pudding.

Tonight the plan is to get an early night ready for an early start tomorrow to catch the ferry to the south island. I shall miss this hostel; YHA Wellington is one o the best hostels I've stayed in, great staff, good promotions, all the facilities you could possibly need including a travel desk which helped me book my ferry and bus journey to my next port of call, Nelson. I should be arriving there at 3pm my time so until then.

Toodle Pip!

P.S. If you want to find out more information about the 'Te Papa' museum in Wellington then please click here.

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