Wellington, NZ – Wednesday, Feb 5th, 2014

Today I scheduled the East Coast Tour with Kiwi Coastal Tours.  It’s a beautiful day.  One of the few beautiful days I’ve had for a tour on my trip so far.  I get picked up at the hostel at 8:45am by Craig, the driver of the mini bus I was in, Gary, the owner of Kiwi Coastal and his wife Maraea.  We have to stop by the shipyard to pick up 6 more people who came in on a cruise ship.  Craig was a warrior in battle scenes in Lord of The Rings and made leather shoes and jewelry for The Hobbit.  The mini bus was similar to the others but this time I sit in the front passenger seat.  Some of the transfers were easy others were more difficult.  The seat was a little too high but Craig and Maraea were more than happy too help.  We started the tour with a blessing by Gary in the native Maori language.  We stopped on our way to Hawkins Hill for a view overlooking Wellington.

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Next it’s up even higher to the highest point overlooking the Wind Turbines of Te Kopahou.

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We stop by a reindeer farm to feed the reindeers bread that Gary has gotten to eat from his hand through the years.

Me feeding reindeer

We head down close to the beach for a few photos then head back up the mountain to continue the tour.  We make a few stops in the mountains to feed the pigs, but they don’t show up, photos and information from Gary on some of the plants.  It’s time for lunch at Bach Cafe, owned by Gary and Maraea, between Owhiro and Island Bay.  It’s accessible with two ramps to get in.  One through the side door and one in front up to the outside deck.  You can also reach the outside deck through the inside eating area.  Bach Cafe also has an accessible bathroom.  After lunch we drive by the site of the inter-island ferry ship wreck T.E.V. Wahine on April 10, 1968 in heavy seas where 51 people lost their lives.

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We pass by Breaker Bay on our way to Mt. Victoria to view Wellington from across the bay.  I’m dropped off at the hostel around 3:15pm.

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The tour was great with a bunch of information from Craig, Gary and Maraea.  I only needed help a few times.  In the tall grass over looking the Wind Turbines, to get up the hill to feed the reindeers and in the bus a couple times.  I would have probably been easier to get in the bus the way I have in the past.  Transferring to the floor through the side door opening the transferring up to the seat.  My chicken salad at Bach Cafe was very good and the other people on the tour enjoyed their fish and chips and seafood chowder.  I would highly recommend taking a tour with Kiwi Coastal.  They were very professional, give a lot of information and you get to see some amazing views.

 Maraea and I

After the tour, I make the decision to visit the Botanic Gardens.  I took the cable car up to the entrance of the gardens.  The cable car was very easy to get on with plenty of room for a chair.  I have a map of the gardens that gives recommended areas for wheelchairs to go that are flat.  It also has the up hills, down hills and an idea of how steep the hills are.  I do the first small wheelchair route but there is not much to see.  After reviewing the map and seeing the first hill I decide to make my way down through the gardens.  The first hill is pretty steep but I make it down with no problem.  The second hill is steeper and longer and with no chance of wheeling back up the first hill I keep going down.  I probably should have asked for help up the first hill and made my way back down in the cable car.  I did purchase a round trip ticket on the cable car incase I needed it.  As I start down the second hill I need to zig zag back and forth to keep my speed down.  This is not very easy as my wheels start losing traction.  I go a little too fast into the face off the hill a tip over sideways.  Two people walking behind help hold the chair as I transfer back in.  Other than my ego and a slight road rash on my elbow, I’m fine.  I make the decision to continue down the hill but being more aware of my speed.  As I make it to a flat area, two garden employees meet me to see if I’m ok.  I say “yes” and ask if that’s the steepest hill the rest of the way down.  They reply “yes” but offer another way that should be more flat but will miss about 80% of the gardens.  Being stubborn and probably never making back to New Zealand again, I decide to go through the gardens.  The next two hills are not bad going down then two bigger hills follow then the one I fell on.  The first is long and steep which I make alone but had to stop half way to rest my hands and arms.  The second I asked a guy in the gardens to hold the back of my chair because it was much steeper but shorter.  Then at the bottom of that around the corner is another steep hill he helped me on again.  By now I’m regretting my decision to go through the gardens.  The rest of the gardens was not bad until I pass the rose garden and go through the cemetery and across the bridge to the city.  The cemetery was steep but nowhere close to the bridge and small section to get to the city.  I again had to stop on the bridge to rest my hands and arms.  By now I have worn holes in my gloves simply holding on for dear life going down hills.  The gardens are very nice but If your in chair don’t do the Wellington Botanic Gardens alone.
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After my thrilling trip through the gardens I head back to the hostel because I have to pack to move to the Cambridge Hotel on Thursday.  As I enter the guy at reception says they have a cancellation and I can stay through the weekend.  I try to call from the pay phones but none will work.  I head back to the reception desk and he will hold the room until Thursday morning for me.  With my arms already hurting, I make my way 30 minutes wheeling across the city to the Cambridge Hotel to cancel my room.  They have no problem canceling because they will sell the room very quickly with Rugby Sevens going on.  Cambridge Hotel has 2 steps to the reception area entrance and a small lip to go through the bar entrance.  I don’t know how accessible the rest of the hotel is and the location is too far for me.  At Downtown Backpackers the location is good, price is cheaper but the laundry is on the 6th floor with the elevator only going to the 5th floor and I have to towel off because the shower is way too small.  I make the decision to stay at Downtown Backpackers.  So now Thursday I have to go to I Site Visitor Center and get a refund from them for the room because that’s who I booked through.  It was worth the trouble because I saved $216 by staying at Downtown Backpackers.
With the day I’ve had I needed a beer.  I head to the House Bar at Downtown Backpackers for a snack and a few beers then head to my room to load photos and do some writing.

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