|September 21, 2011
We had a couple of hours drive to Picton this morning to drop off the car and get the ferry across to the North Island. We stopped to fill the car up and grab some drinks for breakfast. With the drives to and from Dunedin we’d spent a hell of a lot lately on petrol and even today we’d have to fill up again, ensuring we had a full tank before we dropped the car back. The drive to Picton was quite easy and we dropped the car outside the closed rental agency offices and checked in for our sailing. Thankfully they actually checked in larger bags so we were able to get rid of our suitcases for a few hours and just have the weight of our smaller bags on our backs. We’d started off with fairly well packed cases, both weighing under 20kg (about 40lbs for you imperialists!), but the smaller bags we had were stupidly heavy. The trouble with having a laptop which is regular sized (rather than the mini one we had before which is now broken), a “proper” camera with three lenses and a camcorder plus all the leads that go with all of these is that they weigh a bloody ton! OK, not quite a ton but the combined weight of our smaller bags is the same as one of the larger ones. Even the larger ones had managed to expand thanks to Elizabeth’s extravagant purchases and I was even considering chucking clothes away already!
The ferry ride over to Wellington was a little rocky but the scenery was really nice and Elizabeth reckons she even saw some dolphins. I didn’t see anything but then I was trying not to look out too much and was too lazy to walk onto the outer decks!
Once at Wellington, we discovered the Interislander Ferry doesn’t come very close to the actual city and, even more annoyingly, the shuttle buses they provide only go the train station. We paid the couple of dollars each to go the train station and were really annoyed when about 30 seconds later we were at the station, still with about a 30 minute walk left into the city. It seemed like such a con and a bloody waste of time doing a shuttle to the station when most people were going to the city. Nevertheless, we needed the exercise and the walk around the harbour in Wellington was very pleasant. Even the usually horrible wind had subsided and dragging our bags around the pretty bar-lined wharfs wasn’t so much of a drag.
We remembered where the YHA was from last time we were here and checked in easily, the girl behind the desk being very friendly and helpful and making sure we had some stuff to do, checking what we had done before and what new things we could do this time around. We’d had lunch already so we decided to head out and make the most of the lovely weather. The girl at the hostel has suggested taking the cable car up to the Botanic Garden for some views over the city and a stroll around. We paid for a return ticket but by the time we had taken the cable car to the top, we realized that most of the paths down were quite easy and worked their way through the gardens so we didn’t end up using our return tickets. The cable car ride up to the top was quick and easy and many people seemed to be using it to get home from work/school to their suburbs as the top of the hill, rather than just a lazy tourist trap. With the sun shining and little wind, the views from the top were really pretty and you could clearly see across to the other side of the harbour and to Mt. Victoria. The gardens were really pretty and even though there were lots of things not in bloom due to the season, we got to see some cool cacti and many other brightly coloured plants, too, as we walked through the gardens. There was a sundial in the gardens which we reached just as the clouds covered the sun. While we looked around, the clouds cleared and I was able to test it out. On the floor was a sort of figure-8 and if you stood on the month you were in and, with your back to the sun, raised your arms in the air, your arms would indicate the time. It was about 4.30pm when we were there and my arms (well, my head actually as I was holding my camera for a picture) perfectly dissected the blocks indicating 4 and 5 o’clock. It was pretty accurate! Elizabeth had really wanted to see the rose garden but of course this was all completely bare at the moment so it wasn’t anything much to look at. We ended up strolling around for quite a while and worked our way back into the city, finishing up back at the harbour just next the The Beehive, one of the government buildings shaped like a, er, beehive!
After another walk around the wharfs, we were back at the hostel and decided to have a rest before dinner. We decided to try a small café called Sweet Mother’s Kitchen for dinner but when we got there the place was very busy. We’d tried to eat here last time we were here and it was equally busy but given the guy said we’d only have to wait about 20 minutes, we decided to head next door for a quick beer and then come back. This place had been recommended to us by a few people so we were keen to try it. We grabbed a cider at the place next door, making use of a 2 for 1 voucher we had before heading back to the café. The food was mostly Tex-Mex although there were some Cajun style dishes, too. We both went for burritos and had a bottle of wine with it. The food was really good and we soon got chatting to the couple sat next to us. The guy was from London and his girlfriend was from near Queenstown but they were both living in Wellington now. It is really interesting chatting to people who have moved here and their impressions as it is definitely a place we could imagine living, if only it wasn’t so far removed from the rest of the world. The fact the nearest major country, Australia, is a 4 hour flight away is definitely a major negative for us as it was something we both grew to hate about being in isolated Bermuda. Of course, NZ is nowhere near as small and there is so much stuff to do here that you wouldn’t always have to leave for vacations but it is nice to have that option. There are some things about Zurich which aren’t perfect but the fact we can be just about anywhere in Europe within 2 hours by plane or just four hours to Paris, Munich or Milan by train means that the location is ideal. Let’s face it, nowhere is going to get everything spot on, is it?
September 22, 2011
Today we headed out to the Weta Cave. These are the studios where much of the design work was done for the Lord Of The Rings films, amongst others. The bus ride to the studios seemed to be expensive considering the journey was only about 20 minutes and the not-so-cheery driver was a joy to behold, too! Along the ride, which took us along the harbour, I noticed a sign on the hills, in “HOLLYWOOD” style which said “GO ALL BLACKS”! They were certainly behind their team.
The Weta Cave was really cool and had some great replicas of some of the creatures and costumes from the films produced there. We watched a video about the studios which gave a great insight into what kind of things they do at the studios, from designing the characters and outfits to actually making them, including full suits of body armour, weaponry and even full size vehicles. The Cave had a mini museum but was mostly a shop, selling replicas of many of the items seen in the films. The cool thing about these replicas is that they were actually made by the same team that made the original. However, I’m not sure what we’d do with a life-sized suit of armour or a statue of Gandalf or a laser gun, especially not at the prices they were charging, so we left empty handed!
After getting the bus back into the centre, we stopped for lunch at a café called Kapai. We had gone to the Weta Cave with a young Canadian guy called Grayson and he joined us for lunch, too. He was only just over 18 and had taken a job straight after high school so he could go travelling for a few months before going to college. Lunch was good and was helped by a discount voucher we had from the hostel giving us a wrap and a drink for $10.
After lunch we headed to the national museum, Te Papa, which is hosting days for all of the countries who are playing in Wellington. With the USA v Australia match tomorrow, today was USA day. They had various things on throughout the day but many of them seemed to be quite strange and a bit boring. However, we arrived to find a line dancing demonstration going on and we watched that for a while before wandering around the museum for a while. We had visited this museum before and had spent a lot of time here so we didn’t go around all the exhibits again. We did revisit the section which talks about the tectonic plates and the natural disasters which affect NZ. With the earthquake which had hit Christchurch back in March, this exhibit included pictures from that disaster and some of the damage was horrific. On one of the interactive screens I pressed a button saying “recent activity” expecting to read more about the March quake but instead it showed things even more recent. Within the last week there had been three quakes in the Christchurch region which had measured between 3.5 and 4.0 on the Richter scale. While these are nowhere near as large as the March one, it is one of the things you just don’t think about when you are here. You never feel threatened or in danger as you travel around NZ but the threat is always there.
As we were about to leave, we noticed there was another “performance” for USA day and this was a percussion artist. The performer was an aged white guy sitting on stage using a variety of African drums, drum machines and his voice, amongst other things. He was using a mixer to record little pieces at a time and play them over the top of each other. It was quite weird and when he stopped to talk he went on about how he has travelled around Africa and the Middle East and learnt from some “master drummers”. Not only was this really strange, it didn’t have anything to do with America other than the fact that the guy was American and claimed to have his musical influences from the mixing pot that is New Orleans. Neither Elizabeth nor I thought he was very good, or very interesting, or worth hanging around and watching and so we walked out. There is so much about “American” music that is interesting but this certainly wasn’t it.
In the evening, we went out for dinner with our friend Randa and her boyfriend, Troy. We went to a restaurant called Red Dog for dinner and then a bar called The Apartment for a drink afterwards. It was great catching up with Randa again and it was nice to have another bloke that I could talk about rugby with, even though the girls soon got bored of that! It was a fun evening and it’s a shame we live so far away as it would be nice to hang out more. What we hadn’t realized either, that not so long ago Randa had been travelling around the south of France and hadn’t known we were in Zurich!
September 23, 2011
Today we had a lazy start and lazed around the hostel for a while. It wasn’t so much of a lie in as that just isn’t possible in a dorm room, even though most of our roommates weren’t back until late. In fact, an Argentinian guy in our room had brought one of his friends back to the room and when two Scottish guys got back about 4am, they found this strange guy in their beds. The Scottish guys were quite drunk and pissed off that someone had stolen a bed but even once the Argentinian had left one of them was still going on about it and he was quite rude to Elizabeth when she told him to shut up! In the morning, both of the Scottish guys apologized and we said it was OK. I’d have been annoyed if some random person was in my bed, too, but there is no point shouting about it in the middle of the night.
At midday we headed again to Te Papa as today was their Australia Day. They had a demonstration of Aboriginal dancing and a small group from a tribe near Brisbane had come over to show us some various dances. It turns out they had only landed in the early hours of this morning and had come almost straight to the museum to perform. The guy leading the group didn’t seem very comfortable talking in front of quite a large audience but the various dances were really cool. The other members of the group seemed quite young and the kid playing the didgeridoo only looked about 15. After a couple of dances, they demonstrated the different noises you can make with the didgeridoo and it was really cool listening to the regular sounds as well as a sound like a bird call. The kid also demonstrated circular breathing and played one really long note, without pause. The demonstration was surprisingly interesting and was over after about half an hour, but I could happily have sat through more. Compared to yesterday, this actually appeared to be culturally relevant!
After another stop at Kapai for a baked potato lunch we visited the Museum of Wellington City and Sea, another museum we’d visited previously. They had a special photo exhibit for the World Cup and it detailed photos taken by a Kiwi called Peter Bush charting his life as a rugby photographer over the past 60 years. Some of the photos were really great but the stories behind them were what made them interesting, including one where he had captured two opposing captains embracing after a tough match and the club took offence to the photo and banned him from their stadium!
After a short rest and a quick change, we went to meet Dennis just after 5.30pm. We had worked with Dennis in Zurich and he was travelling with a group of Americans and Aussies and Kiwis for some rugby and they were all going to the Australia v USA match. It was good to catch up over a few too many beers but before long we were looking for the shuttle bus to the stadium. The atmosphere inside was pretty good and we were sat near some over-zealous and drunk Americans as well as an Aussie special needs guy – I’m sure he wasn’t really a retard, he just acted like one! Elizabeth wasn’t looking forward to the match and in the end she was right to be, as America got beaten fairly easily although it was nice to be near the front and able to heckle Quade Cooper, the Aussie number 10 and a complete dickwad! After the match we headed back to the bar, called The Cambridge, to meet Dennis but they had gone straight back to their hotel so we did the same. We had an early bus ride tomorrow and wanted to get at least a little bit of sleep!