Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 11 - Wellington

July 11 - Wellington

We woke up this morning around 7:15 AM like usual. We wanted to eat a big breakfast to get rid of more food items and leave early enough to not be late for the boat. Our boat was leaving at 10:30 AM, but we needed to check in by 9:45 AM. We figured if we left by 8:45 AM we would have plenty of time to get there and take a few pictures along the way if the weather was clear.

It was pretty warm outside. It was probably low to mid-30s. I don’t like cold weather, but based on what we had been experiencing and the weather in Picton now, it felt really nice. Even the mid-40s to low 50s feels really good. I keep thinking about how hot it’s going to be when I get home.

The first thing we did was take showers. Next we took down the tent and packed our remaining items in our bags. Andy took longer because he had to put his tent in first so he had to move things around so he could do that. Rather than wait around I just went to the kitchen and started getting things ready for breakfast.

We ended up having eggs, fried potatoes, a pear, and a kiwi. I also had some tea. I was going to have more coffee, but there weren’t any free packets left. We finished breakfast and left around 8:58 AM. It was cloudy so it didn’t look like we would be getting any pictures on the way.

The walk took about 20 minutes. The weight was hurting my shoulders and I looked like a giant turtle with my bag sticking out so far. I was trying to rest the weight on my hips, but because I have lost so much weight and the weight was sagging I wasn’t able to do it effectively. Therefore, most of the weight was on my shoulders. I just wanted to keep walking so I could hurry and put the bag down.

The archway bridge wasn’t very hard to walk up, but it was the hardest part since the rest was flat. As we got closer I was counting down in my head how much farther it was. I was saying to myself just 600 yards, 400, 200, I made it!

We got there around 9:20. We checked in and sent our bags off. It felt good to wear my camera bag since it was so much lighter. Usually I don’t like wearing it because it’s so heavy. We went upstairs to wait. There weren’t very many people there at all. Maybe 5-10. We grabbed a few brochures and a magazine to read about places we were going to be going on the North Island.

We sat for a few minutes and then I went to the gift shop. Most of the things were way overpriced like everywhere else. I came back and then Andy went to the bathroom and the gift shop. Slowly more people were starting to show up. Around 10:15 AM there was an announcement about boarding the ship. Soon after they opened the gate.

We let a lot of people go before we got in line. It was really quick, but the walk to the boat took a few minutes. It was similar to walking onto a plane. We went inside and walked to the front of the ship. I wanted to sit in the lounge area when we first walked in because there were couches and chairs. It looked comfortable.

We passed a dining area and gift shop before we got to the front. There were also sections with just one or two seats in a row. I don’t know why anyone would sit there when there were big couches to sit on. They didn’t even look comfortable.

In the front there were more cushion chairs in different sections shaped in a horseshoe with a small table in the middle. I sat in one of these sections, but Andy sat in front of me on a normal chair. The portion we were in had a refreshments area with way overpriced food. For fish and chips it was $12. That was one of the cheaper things. People were actually buying food and drinks anyway though.

There were 6 decks on this particular ship. I think it said it could hold around 550 people. Today there was maybe 200 hundred at most. On the TV in our section was some horrible TV show. It started out as an infomercial, but eventually it became a talk show of some kind. There were guys dancing around as if they were in a school classroom. It was so terrible it’s even hard to explain. There were two whiteboards on the walls behind and to the side of them. They were doing horrible dance moves to some songs. It was awful. New Zealand television that isn’t American shows is very bad.

I don’t know what time the ship left, but it seemed like it was leaving late. We didn’t even know we were moving until Andy looked out the window around 10:45 AM. So maybe we did leave on time. The whole trip was supposed to take 3 hours and 20 minutes. I was hoping to be to Wellington around 2 PM. Once we got there we didn’t know where we were going to stay.

When we first left it was really foggy, which was too bad because the scenery we had seen the previous couple of days in the afternoon was pretty cool. The first day in Picton at the lookout we saw ferries passing through the Cook Strait, the place we were currently at, and it looked neat. However, being so early in the morning there was a lot of fog so we couldn’t see much at all.

We went outside on the upper deck to try and get pictures anyway. We got a few pictures and after a little while the fog started to disappear. We took lots of video and pictures of ourselves and the scenery. It was pretty windy and kind of cold on top. I had to pee really bad so I tried to run back inside and find a bathroom. I had used the one near the front when we got on, so I figured I would go to that one.

I went down a different way than I came up so I got lost. I ended up on the 5th floor at a door that said crew only. I had to go back, but the only door I saw didn’t look like it was meant to go somewhere I wanted to be. I thought about going all the way back to the top and down the side I came up, or just going off the side of the boat.

I saw someone come out the door I didn’t think went anywhere and just went in there. It led me back to the back of the boat where we had come in. The area with all the couches was full of people sitting on the ground, in the couches and chairs. It was pretty packed compared to the front where it was empty mostly.

I went to the middle of the boat and went to the bathroom. I had left all my things with Andy so I ran back up to the top to where he was. I took a few more pictures and then went back inside. I had been typing in my journal to catch up and I wanted to do that some more.

As we left the Queen Charlotte Sound and headed for open waters I went back upstairs with Andy. There was a lot of cool rock formations and hills. We took a lot of pictures of each other and the scenery again. After that I went back inside and typed in my journals.

For the next 2 hours I just typed in my journal and occasionally looked out the windows. It was mostly open ocean so there wasn’t much to see. At one point there was something way out in front of the boat that looked like something floating so lots of people went on the front deck to check it out. It looked like sea weed, or possibly a whale bobbing up and down. As we got closer it was obviously a pile of drift wood.

I never got up to look at it, but an old guy was outside taking tons of pictures of it. He came back in and said to his wife that it was just drift wood. He has lots of pictures to delete from his camera. We started getting close to Wellington’s harbor around 1:30 PM. It was a really fast boat ride. I was able to get through an entire day of typing and then we went out on the front deck. I took a lot of pictures, but not having my big lens most of the pictures are of a tiny city far away.

As we got closer I took more, but it was still not that spectacular. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and only has about 160,000 people. Auckland has more than 2 million and is by far the largest city in New Zealand. There were actually a lot of high rises for such a small city. I think it’s actually the smallest national capitol in the world.

It was very compact in size as well. It was set in the base of some hills right on the coastline. It looked a lot like Cape Town, South Africa to us. It felt a little bit like it too as we arrived. We landed just before 2 PM. We still didn’t know where to go or what to do. We went and got our bags and looked for maps of the city or an information center.

We had chosen a hostel that offered camping called Rosemere Backpackers to stay at. It was reasonably priced and close to the things we wanted to do, but pretty much everything was close since it was so small. On the boat there was an announcement about buying train tickets, but we didn’t end up doing that. I was thinking maybe we should have.

Instead there was a bus parked outside with people getting on. I thought maybe we should take that to get to the main bus station and then take a bus from there to the hostel. I asked the driver where they went and he said to the train station, which is one of the main bus stations as well. There are only two in the city and the train station was closest.

I asked if there was another way to get there and he said walk or taxi and the taxi is much more expensive. The bus ride was $2 NZD so I paid for both of us. The ride was only about 5 minutes. I could have just walked it, but he did give us some useful information. Before anyone got off he told everyone where to go in the station to find what we needed. Like all New Zealanders he gave 5 minutes of directions, of which about two things I remembered.

The bus station was through to the end and then there would be A, B, C, D, E, V, and some other lines. I didn’t know where any of them went though. I was thinking there would be an information desk, but there wasn’t.

We walked to the A and B lines area and looked around in our guidebook to see if we could find directions or a bus to take. Some lady saw we were clueless and asked if we needed help. She told us to get on some bus to Cuban Mall and then someone there will tell us the next step. We couldn’t understand half of what she said and it didn’t make any sense.

We went up an escalator to the A and B lines. There was a map, but none of the stops were named after streets so it didn’t help at all. It was a ton of colored lines with a ton of numbers, but we couldn’t tell what went where and when. We saw a college on the map and it was close to the hostel so we figured that would be the right bus for us.

When the bus came about 5 minutes later I asked the driver if he went to Dixon and Willis Street. He was an Indian guy and had to think about it for a second and then said yes. The fare was $2 so we got on. I was trying to watch the streets we passed so I would know if we were close. I didn’t want a repeat of what happened in Christchurch where we went too far and had to walk back.

Luckily when we got to the proper intersection the driver stopped and announced it. I wish they always announced the stops, but this guy was at least nice enough to do so. We got off and had to walk a few blocks, one of which was about 150 yards up a pretty steep hill with our huge bags. I was just wanting them to have room for us.

We got to the building and had to look around for the entry way. There were a few staircases and then a mural painted on a wall. We figured the staircase with the mural was the place to go. We walked up the 15 or so steps and went inside.

Nobody was behind the counter so we just stood and waited. A few seconds later a few girls walked through a door and said the guy working there was in the back and would be back in a minute. A big rugby looking guy came in and asked what we needed. I asked if they had camping and he said they did.

He said it had rained a lot and it was really muddy out there. We told him we didn’t mind. He gave us a long explanation about how some other people recently came in and wanted to camp and he told them no, but he split the difference in cost with them for staying in a room.

The campsite was going to be $21 per person and the dorm was $29. He said it would be $25 for the dorm bed. The guidebook said it would be $27, so from that standpoint it was a good deal. It also included free breakfast and internet and on Wednesday free dinner at 6 PM. It was Wednesday! It was going to be pumpkin and kumara soup. It was the best deal we had the whole time we were in New Zealand. I had read that Wellington was much more expensive than most cities in the country, but this was great.

The room we had was right in the foyer. About 3 feet away from where we were standing so we didn’t have to walk very far. There were actually 3 stories in the place. There was a TV area, big kitchen, dining, and a few patios. We just wanted the kitchen and free breakfast, anything else was extra.

We went in our room and we were the only ones there. I was hoping it would stay that way. It was a big city with not much to do and it wasn’t the travel time of year. Based on those things I figured it would be kind of empty. That didn’t end up being the case.

There were three bunk beds in the room. We both took bottom bunks that were on the far side of the room and closest to the windows. It had a large area where we could throw down all of our bags and people wouldn’t have to walk around them to get by should more people come.

The room was big enough, but the ceiling was about 17 feet high. There was one light bulb hanging from the ceiling, so lighting was useless in there. It was also cold from the windows being opened and the heater being off. We turned the heater on to warm it up a little bit.

After getting our beds picked out Andy went to put our food in the fridge and he said there was no room and there were lots of people in the kitchen. It was only 4 people, but the three fridges were jam packed with food. It was about 3 PM by the time we got our room and we didn’t really have any plans for the day.

We wanted to do the city walk to see the government buildings, a church, and the civic center. There was also a waterfront. Since it was going to be dark in a few hours we thought we would just explore. Wellington is small and compact so it’s very easy for walking.

We walked down the street and stopped to take a picture of a church just around the corner. We had to walk a few blocks to get down to the civic center. There was an I-Site so we went inside to find some information. We saw a brochure for a Lord of the Rings Tour so we thought that sounded cool. We asked a guy at a desk if it was possible to do and he booked it for us. The price was $115 NZD per person and it included lunch and 30 filming sites plus video clips of the movies and behind the scenes information. We booked it for Friday, the 13th.

It was really expensive, but one of the things to do in Wellington and one of the reasons we wanted to come to New Zealand was to see places that were used for the movies. Wellington has the most out of anywhere and we had already seen a number of the other sites in the South Island. We thought about doing it ourselves, but we thought we would at least save money on gas, and save some time, plus it included lunch. We also thought we may not know what exactly to look for even if we could find the locations. Many of them were in city parks and forests.

We went outside and saw a floating ball between a few buildings. I had seen pictures of it before. I stood under it and acted like I was using magic powers to keep it suspended. Andy went up on a flight of stairs and pretended to hold it in his hand. It worked pretty well actually. My picture looked dumb because I looked so tiny under it. It didn’t look more than 30 feet in the area, but it still didn’t turn out that well.

This area is the Civic Center. It is an area with museums, restaurants, and bike and kayak rentals. After finishing there we walked across a bridge and down to the harbor. There was a walkway full of people. Many of them were running, riding bikes, taking pictures, or just walking around. It was a pretty nice little area. This part felt a lot like Cape Town to us.

We wanted to see the government buildings so we had to walk for about 15-20 minutes to get there. Everything in Wellington is relatively easy to get to since the city is so compact. It was hard to tell on the map how far places really were.

We tried to walk along the harbor for as long as possible since there was a walkway and we didn’t want to walk on the busy streets. We passed in front of the train station that we had been dropped off earlier from the bus from the ferry. It wasn’t even that far from where we were staying. Without our bags it would have been a 15 minute walk.

We saw a few neat buildings so we took pictures of them. Just down the street a few more minutes was the parliament building, which is called the Beehive because of it’s shape. It looks really weird. It has a series of rounded outer walls that get smaller and smaller as it goes up. When it was first built the people didn’t like it, but now it’s an icon of Wellington.

As we walked up there was a fence with a decent sized grassy area. Next to the Beehive is a long gray building. I thought that looked more like a parliament building, but that wasn’t the case. It was something government related though. There was a security guard standing at the front of it.

We took lots of pictures and then continued walking to our right along the path next to the grassy spot. There were people walking right up on the steps of the buildings so I thought we should probably do that too. There are free tours through the buildings every hour, but we didn’t plan on doing that.

Next to the gray building was a smaller crème colored building. So in total there were three buildings in a line. The Beehive, the long gray building, and then a smaller crème building. In front of the final one there were two TV crews setting up and filming a shot with reporters. I don’t know what they were talking about though because they were too far away. They were both there less than 10 minutes.

I was hoping to be in the shot, but they weren’t pointing the camera in a way that would be possible unless I walked across the grass up a hill, which would make no sense because there was no reason to go that way. We continued walking, stopping, and taking pictures. It was starting to get a little dark because it was cloudy and there were mountains blocking the sun as it was going down.

There was an old church we wanted to see called the St. Paul Church. There was one across the street from the parliament buildings so we walked over to it. It was big, but not very impressive looking. It was an Anglican Church. We found out later that wasn’t the old church we wanted to see. It was actually a few blocks down. We may go back and see the right when if we have time on another day.

We were getting hungry and it was getting dark so we were ready to go back to the hostel. It was about 5:30 PM when we started walking back. We decided to walk a different direction back, and not really knowing the streets well we figured we would just take the most direct route.

This route ended up being a really steep street. It wasn’t that bad, but after a few hours of hiking around and carrying my bag I was getting tired. There were lots of people walking this street though. It looked very similar to roads in Quito, Ecuador that we walked down due to the fact that it was steep, lots of traffic, and the architecture of some of the homes.

We were looking on the map the whole time trying to figure out where we were. It didn’t look like we were getting any closer based on the streets we were passing. We turned down a road that looked like it connected to the street we were staying on, but it really just led to a staircase. It had a lot of people walking on this path, which did eventually led to our hostel. It was about a 3 minute walk down.

We made it back to the hostel around 5:45 PM. There was someone staying on our room. It was a girl that was by herself. I don’t know where she was from. We never talked to her. We went to the kitchen to get our free soup.

There were lots of people in there cooking food and just sitting around. There was a really big pot, but I didn’t know if the soup was ready or not. A few of the people were offered some as we walked in, but they declined. The guy that made it said it wasn’t very good. We made salads to wait a little bit to get our soup. It looked like a pot of orange water.

After eating my salad I asked about the soup. A girl was eating it at the table and said it wasn’t very good. She was sick so I didn’t really want to sit by her for very long. I asked the guy cooking the soup if we could eat some and he said sure, but he also said it wasn’t good. I didn’t care. It was free. That’s what I told him.

I ate a bowl of it. They were right. It wasn’t good. It was way too watery and had no real flavor other than a light pumpkin taste. Of course it wasn’t going to fill me up. We ended up making some ramen noodles. We had our Satay. It also wasn’t enough so we had cookies, chocolate, and a pear. I figured I could make it to breakfast and eat lots of free cereals and toast. We had hot chocolate and tea to drink.

After dinner we went back to our room. It was 6:30 PM. Bed time. I wanted to type in my journal to get caught up so I did that for the next few hours trying to remember what we did at the Abel Tasman Kayaking trip. I didn’t get to type at all so I got farther behind.

I couldn’t remember anything we had done. I was able to remember some things, but specifics on the islands we paddled too and what we saw were hard to remember. I have seen so many things that I can’t even remember it all. I needed to look back at some pictures and videos to remember, but that didn’t help since my computer is too slow to play the videos fast enough and we didn’t take many photos since we were on the water and didn’t want to get our cameras out.

As we were sitting in the room the girl that was in the other bottom bunk kept coming in and out. She wouldn’t just leave or stay. Another girl showed up around 8:30 PM. She was Brazilian I think. She kept knocking our battery charger off as she was trying to plug in her netbook. She kept saying sorry. She also needed to just leave. She finally did.

As she was gathering her things to go out for the night she couldn’t find her key. I don’t know if she ever found it or not. She had been there for 30 minutes and already lost the key. I ended up falling asleep around 9 PM. I woke up a little bit later when my computer bag fell on the ground. I think it was around 10 PM. I tried typing some more, but I still couldn’t remember much. I finally gave up and just went to bed at 11 PM.

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