Appy daze

Scootering around Wellington waterfront. Photos: James Mitchell
Scootering around Wellington waterfront. Photos: James Mitchell
Vaguely aware that her phone could be used for more than just selfies, Lisa Scott stumbled into the 21st century when she discovered something called an "app" while on holiday in Wellington.
 
If you’re anything like me, you’re a small-minded Luddite resisting progress. I’m tech-hesitant.
 
"There’s an app for that," people say.
 

"Don’t wanna," I reply, stabbing at my phone like a bad-tempered monkey looking for the banana button. It took a long weekend in Wellington during a bus strike to change my mind.

As the plane taxied to the gate, the Casanova downloaded the Mevo app, answered some pretty standard insurance questions (done any human trafficking lately?) and reserved a car.

The writer enjoys golden hour at the Wellington Botanic Garden.
The writer enjoys golden hour at the Wellington Botanic Garden.
Leaving the terminal, surprise! A brand-new VW. Unlocked via your phone, a keyless, people-less transaction, we drove into the city to ELO’s Mr Bluesky, feeling pretty Grand Theft Auto, especially when we simply abandoned the car at our destination, no need to pay for parking.

The writing was on the wall in Te Papa, where Janet Lilo’s Top16, a giant three-dimensional profile page using thousands of images collected over 10 years from Bebo, Myspace, Facebook and YouTube, invited me to "Share the Love" and join the hive mind.

Outside Te Papa, purple beam scooters were parked in rows. The sun was shining on a can’t-beat-Welly good day. The beam app charges by the minute, not the distance: the faster you go, the cheaper it is. The Casanova, being a man battle-hardened to female irritation, talked me through installing the app on my phone.

A tranquil spot within Wellington Botanic Garden.
A tranquil spot within Wellington Botanic Garden.
Quickly then, to an art gallery, where some regrettable behaviour ensued. Modern art makes me insane with rage. I know this, and yet I do it to myself every time.

"Oh, let’s," I say ... only to walk into an expensively lit room, empty but for a desk on its side with a padlock stuck to it — security guarding it like it’s the Mona Lisa — and I have to be gripped hard about the shoulders and wrestled outside before I start screaming.

Luckily, the New Zealand Portrait Gallery is the perfect antidote, the place to find winners of the Adam Prize; and painstakingly rendered portraits like that of Marianne Muggeridge’s 14-year-old daughter Lucy, capturing the absolute essence of teenage inner eye roll.

We scootered to the tram station for a brilliantly juxtaposing ride to the Botanical Garden, lifted above the city by the old red tram, to where kaka flapped and croaked. At the lookout at dusk, the Sky Map app showed us the planets visible and inside Carter Observatory we viewed the moon, pock marked and glowing like Melies’ version, through the 150-year-old Thomas Cooke telescope. Technology once astounding, now a little on the heavy side.

A walk up Mt Victoria the following morning accompanied by the Wellington Walk/Ara Rehia o Poneke webmap, which helps you find a track whether walker or MTB rider. Then off to the Wrights Hill Fortress tunnels, rarely open to the public, so a must-do when they are (generally on public holidays). I summoned an Uber to get there, and its near-instant appearance made me lose the run of myself.

Sunset at Zealandia.
Sunset at Zealandia.
"This is f...... fantastic!" I exclaimed. "Why didn’t anyone tell me it was this easy?"

"Ummm ..." said the Casanova, but no time for explanations, we were on a very tight deadline to get to Zealandia for the night tour. Google Maps suggested a shortcut, following the perimeter fence, but Google Maps doesn’t have feet, or any appreciation of "steep".

Panting, sweaty, covered in dust, having scrambled, slid and mostly fallen our way there, "We made it!" I exclaimed.

Wellington Museum visitor host Kate Gallaher explains the story of Ngake and Whataitai.
Wellington Museum visitor host Kate Gallaher explains the story of Ngake and Whataitai.
"You were supposed to be here last week," she said.

There’s no app for that. Disappointment was tempered by kindness, and we were tacked on to that night’s tour and rewarded with seeing a kiwi, walking out from the undergrowth with the lurching step of a toddler who’s filled their nappy.

New ways can only be appreciated alongside the old. Wellington Museum’s Ship ‘n’ Chip tour transports you straight to the city’s waterfront in the late 1800s — a time when the museum was a bonded cargo warehouse holding goods.

The writer fires a Mauser at Wrights Hill Fortress.
The writer fires a Mauser at Wrights Hill Fortress.
An amazing amount of land has been reclaimed — ships were once parked right outside the windows. We heard the stories of the two taniwha who formed the harbour, then collecting a lunch of fresh hoki fillets and fries, ferried to Matiu Somes Island, formerly a quarantine and internment island. Anyone with a German name or a Samoan name during World War 2 was sent here; Italians and Japanese, too.

Now a conservation island run by the Department of Conservation and local iwi. As the ferry docked, a native falcon (returning from extinction as we humans were returning from a history of shabbiness) screeched overhead, promising death from above to the gulls.

Formerly a home to quarantine and internment camps, Matiu Somes Island is now a conservation...
Formerly a home to quarantine and internment camps, Matiu Somes Island is now a conservation island run by the Department of Conservation and local iwi.
By the time we returned to the mainland, I was all "Why type, when you can just ask Google Assistant where is the nearest cool bar?"

The first time you talk to your phone like this you feel like a total knob. But I talk to random dogs, ask them how their day is going — so this isn’t that much weirder.

My phone turned out to like a louche lounge bar vibe, recommending Hanging Ditch, where the liquor bottles are suspended from the ceiling and the martinis are strong. UnderTheRadar told us the gigs on that night, and we scootered happily to and fro until our credit cards were as drained as a vampire’s victims.

There are 2.7 million apps in the naked city. This has been the story of six of them.


 

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