Noni Did NZ: When in Wellington, Take the Bus.

Me at the "Vellington" sign.

This time last week, I was marvelling at the fact that I had just come off the most incredible week of my life. Tonight, I’m struck by the bizarre thought that all that magnificent stuff happened a little under a fortnight ago. I’m pretty sure that it’s going to take another week for it to sink in that it’s all flitted off into the past, so I’m dedicating the next few posts to the week I spent in Wellington earlier in the month.

Each post will look at a different aspect of my trip: the people, the places, the premiere and the picture that made it all happen. And you know, some other shit too. And it will probably be out of order. Sorry about that.

If you’re looking for the full list of entries on this topic, you can find them here.

The first entry is about something that is incredibly important to me: public transport.

Shut up. This is serious stuff. Pay attention.

*****

Not being able to drive can be an absolute pain in the arse. It can leave you in quite a spot of bother, especially if you’re in a place you don’t know and travelling alone. Unless you want to be shelling out regularly for cabs, you have to work out the buses and trains and timetables pretty quickly, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to be living in or visiting a place with any to begin with.

Luckily for me, Wellington’s all over it: their public transport system freakin’ rocks.

First and most importantly, like most major cities, they have their transport timetables integrated into Google Maps. It seems like a stupid thing to get excited about, but when you’re as navigationally challenged as I am, not to mention terrible at remembering what time things come and go, this is an absolute lifesaver. It means that even if you’re at a bus stop with no timetable, or are struggling to find a bus stop at all, you’re not stuck. Sure, you get the same thing in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, but it’s the little things that can make all the difference. Without this little bit of beautiful technology, my trip would have been a lot more difficult.

Look! Getting places is EASY. (Of course, I used it on my mobile, not the icky new desktop version. Yuck.)
Look! Getting places is EASY.
(Of course, I used it on my mobile, not the icky new desktop version. Yuck.)

The other thing that impressed me was how punctual all the buses were. Now, I’m not one to complain about services running late, as long as they don’t run early. After all, you can always catch a bus if it turns up after you do, but you’re buggered if it’s already left. I don’t think I encountered a single bus that arrived before its scheduled time or any that ran later than about 5 minutes behind schedule. As much as I love Canberra’s ACTION buses, they could learn a bit from the Go Wellington bus system.

At a number of the major stops, there were even automatically updating signs that told you how far away the next bus was, probably powered by some kind of black magic, or GPS or something, kind of like the ones at the Civic Bus Interchange except there were a lot more of them and they were all over the place.

And there were the trolley buses. I found them incredibly bewildering (“Wait, that bus has a power connector… thing?”), then comically endearing (“HA. THAT BUS THINKS IT’S A TRAM!”). Apparently they’re on the way out, so I feel incredibly privileged to have been blessed by their presence, even if I didn’t take the chance to ride one.

Seriously, Trolley Bus. Pick a side already.
Seriously, Trolley Bus. Pick a side already.

I only had a short trip around the bays to get from where I was staying to the city, but it can be pretty easy to mess up these things when you’re a tourist. Thankfully, all of the drivers were remarkably polite and incredibly helpful with directions and tips. I didn’t miss my stop once, and I didn’t have a single unpleasant trip. I was beginning to think that someone had sent out a memo saying, “There is a plump Australian woman coming from Canberra who is a bit of a bus aficionado; be sure to give her the best public transport experience she has ever had,” because it really was pretty damn good.

That said, like all public transport systems, there were areas that were less than brilliant. There were no services to the city from where I was staying on the weekend, but there was a stop about 30 minutes’ walk down the road (but holy crap, what a beautiful seaside walk it was)… The signage to find stops often wasn’t that great, and there were some really weird streets that were just for buses that were also deceptively dangerous for pedestrians. That said, it’s still a pretty damn good service, as long as you remember to look both ways, you bloody idiot.

IMG_0401
Me: “Seriously? That’s the only photo I got? Why am I even allowed to have a camera?”

But it’s not all about buses. The Wellington Cable Car initially seems to be just a gimmicky novelty for the tourists, kind of like Sydney’s Monorail (RIP), but it turns out that it’s also another cog in the public transport machine, if you’ll forgive the heavy-handed metaphor. Sure, there were a couple of families on board who were obviously out for the day to see the sights, but there were also a significant number of travellers who looked kind of jaded and were busy reading newspapers, most of whom got off at the stop for Victoria University. Whoever they are, I thank them, because they’re probably the reason why my little tourist jaunt to the top of the mountain only cost me $4! Nice.

So that’s the practical aspect of all the public transport options I sampled.

Then you get into the more ridiculous stuff that only weirdos like me care about.

https://twitter.com/NoniDoll/statuses/478653018011729920

Seriously, look! Look at the seats! They’re really pretty! Ferns! Fresh! Green! Lovely.

(Especially when you compare them with the seats of Canberra’s ACTION buses, which look like somebody murdered a Ken Done painting.)

ARGH. MY EYES. (Thanks to Ali for the photos.)
ARGH. MY EYES.
(Thanks to Ali for the photos.)

Basically, getting around Wellington was really bloody rad, from the buses to the cable car to the fact that there were effectively taxi spruikers when I got in at Wellington Airport. (Seriously, that was kind of weird.) Everyone was friendly and didn’t want to charge me through the nose and got me to where I was going with a minimum of fuss.

As a non-driver, Wellington is easily one of the most non-driver friendly places I’ve visited, at least in terms of the routes that I took. Sure, next time I head over, I’ll have to do a little more exploring outside the inner city area, but for now I just want to say well done, Wellington.

Image: Ed Jones via Getty. Click for source.
Well done.
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