Wellington Part 2- The Foodie Tour

In my previous post, I mentioned that there was a lot more to come about Wellington and here we are. So last time I talked about some of my favourite Things To Do and Walking Tours. This post is about some of my favourite Foodie Places.

1. The Enigma Cafe

Enigma is a late night cafe on Courtenay Place. It is one of my favourite places in Wellington and I have spent many a good evening there catching up with friends. The main attraction of the cafe is, of course, it’s late opening hours, providing an alternative place to go. The other attraction is their cakes. If you ever should visit make sure you try their cakes. They have a great selection of home-made cakes, such as their Bailey’s Cheesecake or any cake involving boysenberry. Boysenberry is a New Zealand hybrid fruit made of the European Raspberry, Blackberry, the American dewberry and the Loganberry. The cafe also serves alcohol, which is included in some of their cakes. When ordering a cake or really any dessert in New Zealand you get the option of yoghurt or cream.

The cafe is decorated with graffiti art, as well as local music and arts events posters. You can also find leaflets on the local events in Wellington or simply ask the staff. The staff are very helpful and knowledgeable about the Wellington Arts scene. The cafe is generally bustling with people no matter what time of day you visit. There is also a smoking area outside.

Enigma Cafe

2. Electric Avenue (now called Danger Danger)

Right next door to Enigma Cafe is the famous, or infamous, Electric Avenue. If you have ever had a night out in Wellington, then you have probably ended up here before the night was over. It is a backpacker friendly bar, with cheap prices and the latest chart hits. Generally speaking after midnight you will find that most of the native Kiwi’s will have left and so you will be surrounded by your fellow backpackers. The drinks on offer are classic Kiwi favourites, including the Sauvignon Blanc that New Zealand is famous for as well as your more standard beers and ciders. Electric Ave has, however, been closed down and is now under the name of Danger Danger. The setup is still the same, except now they have extended their food menu to include Wood Fire Pizzas. I haven’t tried these myself, but they definitely look interesting.

I have had many a good night here when it was Electric Avenue, and if you are a cider drinker, like myself, do try the Wild Side, which is a Kiwi produced brand. Or for the beer drinkers out there, try the Tui or Mac’s beers, both of which can often be found on tap. The music in Electric Ave will change from the Chart Hits to some 80’s or 90’s music. One thing I found about New Zealand is the radio stations do play a lot of 80’s music, so be prepared to sing the night away to the likes of Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl and Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun. From the reviews I have seen, Danger Danger still seems to have the same vibe as Electric Avenue did, it is just under a different name, so definitely check it out.

3. Tank

Moving from one drinking establishment to another.. Tank. Tank is a chain of juice and smoothly bars, which sells some really delicious and healthy fruit shakes, wraps and salads. All of the shops have a large menu of juices and smoothies, which detail the ingredients and whether they are vegan and/or vegetarian friendly. The drinks cost around $9-$11 each and come in a choice of Half Tank or Full Tank. The brand is a stand-out orange colour, so it is easy to spot. You can find a Tank in most towns and cities, such as Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch, to name a few. There are 50 stores in total across New Zealand.

My favourite drinks are on the Tank menu are either the Berry Hipster or the All Berry Tank. Both are filled with beautiful berries, as the names suggest, including strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. There is also a great range of illness-fighting shakes, including the Tank Healer and the Xtreme C. Of course, you don’t just have to stick to the menu, as you can customise your shake by adding extra shots, such as the immunity shot (found in the Tank Healer). There is a great selection of drinks and snacks on offer and they are made fresh right in front of you. It is definitely worth a visit after a long night out at Electric Avenue.

Tank Juice Bar

4. Burger Fuel

New Zealand has a lot of great food options, one of which is Burger Fuel. If you talk to anyone in New Zealand about food, you will probably be advised to go visit a Burger Fuel. Mainly on the North Island, the stores are in most towns. The burgers are decently priced and you can choose from a good range of options, including beef, chicken and vegetarian burgers. My favourite burgers are the Bacon Backfire (which is chicken based) and the C N Cheese (beef based).

Burger Fuel is an iconic brand in New Zealand and Australia, which is beginning to branch out into other countries. I’m hoping it will come to the UK some day soon. The burgers are extremely tasty and are more than enough to fill you. Other things to try at Burger Fuel are the Kumara Fries (New Zealand’s native sweet potato made into chips) and Aioli (another New Zealand favourite, of garlic and mayonnaise). The burgers are styled as gourmet, so don’t be expecting the typical fast food style, because these are so much better.

5. Noodle Canteen

If you maybe aren’t a fan of the amazing Burgers served at Burger Fuel, another great place to try is Noodle Canteen. Based at the top of Courtenay Place in Wellington, this noodle bar offers huge bowls of freshly made noodles for around $11.00 each. It is a budget-minded traveller friendly place, as the large bowls can be used for two meals, or more, depending on how much you eat. For me, Noodle Canteen was one of the few places open after a long day at work and it was on my way home. I could pick up a bowl of their Sweet and Sour box (amazing and full of meat and vegetables), which would then do me for dinner that night and lunch the next day. New Zealand food is often influenced by Asian culture, as there are a lot of connections between Asia and New Zealand.

For me, Noodle Canteen was one of the few places open after a long day at work where I would quite often be leaving after midnight. I could pick up a bowl of their Sweet and Sour box (amazing and full of meat and vegetables), which would then do me for dinner that night and lunch the next day. It’s not out-of-this-world food and it may be something you can find in your own country, but it is definitely good food for a cheap price.

6. Wellington Night Market

One of the highlights of Wellington and their food culture is the Night Market and I couldn’t discuss food in Wellington without mentioning it. It takes place just off Cuba Street on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Friday Night Market is located off Cuba Street by the old bank-turned Burger King. The Saturday Night Market is further up Cuba Street and some of the surrounding shops and restaurants also stay open later. The Night Market showcases local Wellington businesses with a good variety of food and crafts on offer. The market consists of food trucks from a number of restaurants in Wellington. The food is decently priced and the market attracts a big crowd, both of visitors and locals. I would suggest you try the deep fried ice cream, if you are a dessert person. It’s something that you probably won’t try anywhere else.

The Night Market showcases local Wellington businesses with a good variety of food and crafts on offer. The market consists of food trucks from a number of restaurants in Wellington, with mini menus for you to try from. The food is decently priced and the market attracts a big crowd, both of visitors and locals. I would suggest you try the deep fried ice cream if you are a dessert person. It’s something that you probably won’t try anywhere else. If you are looking for something more savoury, there is the House of Dumplings cart, which serve a selection of their homemade dumplings for you to choose from. They are great, bite-sized, and you can mix and match which ones you want to try.

Wellington Night Markets

 

In addition to this list, there are many other great places in Wellington to try out. For instance, there is Hell’s Pizza, which makes brilliant pizzas but for a slightly over-budget price for me. Definitely worth a try though if you fancy a treat. Also worth a visit is the Wellington Chocolate Factory- you can buy chocolate there or take a tour to see how it is all made. You will find the Wellington Factory chocolate in the local stores and the museum shop if you fancy trying it first. There are also a  number of more niche or alternative bars in Wellington, such as The Library, which is a more upmarket bar in a library setting, which makes it a chilled place to relax and catch up with friends. There is also Laundry at the top end of Cuba Street, which does a pretty decent reggae night.

So no matter what you are looking for, there is something for everyone’s taste buds in Wellington.

Next: A couple of weeks by the beach.

A Snowy Crossing at Tongariro

By far one of the best hikes I did while in New Zealand was the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I did the crossing in late May 2016. There was a group of 25 of us who travelled from our hostel in Napier to stay for a weekend in the lakeside town of Taupo in order to complete the crossing. We had all spent a few months at the same working hostel in Napier, where we had become a rather large, but good group of friends. We somehow managed to get a sunny weekend when the crossing was actually open, in between two rather cold and wet weeks. During the winter months the crossing is often closed due to bad weather conditions, for the safety of those wanting to do the hike. The DOC (Department of Conservation) also recommend hiring one of their guides during this time to ensure your safety. Luckily for us we were able to cross without the need of a guide, however we could not climb Mt Ngauruhoe (or Mt Doom for any Lord of the Rings fans) as it required proper winter hiking gear. It is always best to check the DOC website and the closest I-site before doing any hikes in New Zealand, as the weather in much of the country is very changeable. The staff at the I-site’s are kept as up-to-date as possible and will be your best source of advice in this area.

The Tongariro Crossing is estimated to take around 5 hours to 7 hours, depending on your fitness level and is categorised as an Advanced Tramping track. This means you must be prepared with sturdy walking boots as well as plenty of water and snacks. During the winter it is advised to walk with grampons, ice hacks and thermal wear. We had the thermal gear, but not the grampons. It was a risky move, as there were certain parts of the track which were covered in ice and so very difficult to cross, though we all managed it.

We arose early on a clear Saturday morning. It was still dark as we prepared water and snacks and put on extra layers, before leaving our hostel. We had decided to start the track at around 7 am that morning and we had just over an hour’s drive to the Tongariro Crossing. It was a quiet and sleepy drive, with most trying to fit in an extra few minutes of sleep. We got to the crossing as the sun was just coming up and it promised to be a bright, sunny day. Some of our group had decided to dress up for the occasion, namely one person in particular who wore a bright blue Unicorn onesie for the climb.

First sight of Mount Ngauruhoe

The first part of the trek is a gentle walk across the wooden pathway. It gives you a good view of the valley you are walking into as well as of Mount Ngauruhoe on a clear day. The mountain remains looming on your right-hand side for all of the Tongariro Crossing, though of course there is the option of an additional 3 hour hike to cross it as well. As the incline starts to increase there is a detour to the Soda Springs, which takes around 10 minutes. This is a little waterfall, which when I was there was partially frozen and had some tremendous icicle formations. This stretch of the walk gives you a little break to take in the stunning views all around you as you walk alongside a gently flowing stream. It was here that we met another group of backpackers, who were also doing the trek. We would see them on and off during the hike, as we all walked at different paces.

Icicle Formations at Soda Springs

The next part of the walk is the climb. The path does get very steep and sometimes quite thin in width, meaning you have to walk along as one long line of people, one by one. This part of the walk sometimes includes steps, while at other times you have to find your own footholds in the snow. After an hour or two of climbing, you will come to a plateau of sorts. For us, this was a beautiful, untouched, snow covered landscape stretching to the base of the surrounding mountains. Here we took a short break for some water and snacks, before beginning the next part of the climb. In this section you are closed in by all the mountains around you, but it gives some amazing views.

Now for the real climb, which will take us to the summit of Mount Tongariro, where we would stop for some lunch and to enjoy the peace of the snowy mountains. At the top you get a terrific view of the sulphur lakes and the burning red rock that was uncovered by the snow. During our lunch break here, we met with the group of backpackers we had met before at the Soda Springs. We also met another group, one of which had also dressed up in a Unicorn onesie and another who was in a dinosaur onesie. Just goes to prove there are plenty of mad people out there, probably especially among backpackers. There is a lot of tectonic activity in this area, due to Mount Ngauruhoe being a dormant volcano. There are a number of sulphur lakes and you can quite often see clouds of steam rising from the ground in different areas of the mountain range. The sulphur lakes were frozen when we visited, but you could still clearly see their distinct colour. From the summit, was watched the long lines of our fellow walkers, who looked alot like an army of ants against the snow. The climb up is hard work at times, especially in the snow, but it is, as they always say, well worth it. The climb back down again can be just as difficult however, as we were about to find out.

Sulphur Lake

From the summit, there is a steep drop down the other side towards some of the sulphur lakes. At this time of year it was not only covered in snow, but also in layers of ice, making it particularly difficult to climb back down. Most of us managed it by climbing slowly and at times having to slide down on our butts. It may not be the most graceful way to do it, but it was definitely the easiest and possibly the safest. With so many people climbing the Crossing that day, we did have to be careful not to slide into anyone else, or even one of our own group. There were a few tumbles, but everyone managed to get down in on piece eventually, after a lot of laughs as we slid into each other or someone went racing past, faster than they meant to.

From here you can enjoy the sites of the Sulphur Lakes, as there are a couple which can be easily accessed from the main path. When we were there, the lakes were mostly frozen, as I have mentioned before. Some walkers decided to make the most of the frozen lakes by throwing stones at the ice, as it made an interesting sound, unlike that of a normal iced-over lake. The sound echoed and bounced off the surrounding mountains making it sound even more unnatural. We stood and enjoyed the sound, with some of the group joining in and throwing stones. From here, there is another short incline and then you are out from the middle of the mountain range.

The girls and I on the Tongariro Summit

Once over this last hill, the walk became much less snowy, as we were dropping down into the forest part of the national park. The pathway spirals down the side of the mountain and eventually reaches the forest, giving you some brilliant views of the jungle-like forest which is native to New Zealand. This last section of the hike can seem like it goes on forever, as you are now over the majority of the climb. For us, the walk had been difficult and most people were starting to feel tired, as the sun was beginning to go down on a rather long day. The forest walk takes around an hour and ends in one of the carparks. There are warning signs in this part of the walk, as there is constant conservation work going on to protect wild animals from predators and to protect the native bush from the ice melt coming down from the mountains.

Once down from the mountains, it was a mission to get back to our cars. We had one car in the end carpark, to take the drivers back to the start to collect the rest of the cars. This would have worked well, if all of our cars had decided to work properly. After a couple of jumpstarts and one burst tire, we managed to get back on the road. It took a couple more hours than we expected, but we were extremely glad to get back to the hostel when we did that evening.

This was, as I have said, my favourite hike in New Zealand. The company was great and we had a lot of laughs while struggling up hill, or sliding back down the ice. We were a big group, which meant, no matter what paced you walked at, there was someone around to chat to. The walk was difficult, but afforded some amazing views, especially because of the snow. I have seen pictures of the hike during the summer months, when you can see the brown, reds and greens of the dirt, rock and native bush; but I think I prefer the snowy walk we did. It felt much more magical and like we were in a different world completely. I would definitely recommend the hike to anyone visiting New Zealand, as it is like nothing else you will do.

Next Stop- My favourite city in New Zealand.