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Taupo to Wellington, New Zealand

Oct 8 – 9

I left Taupo Wednesday night and got on the 1am bus. I was freezing the entire bus ride and tried to curl up in a ball to sleep. It worked for a little while…but just for a little while.

I arrived in Wellington at 7am. I was too tired to compare hostels, so I figured I’d just take the bus downtown and book a night at the first hostel I found. I ended up at Nomads Capital Backpackers Hostel, a giant soulless hostel in the middle of downtown.

Unfortunately they said I couldn’t go into my room until 2pm. That should have been my cue to leave and find someplace else, but I paid for one night, stored my stuff in the closet, and figured I’d wander around the city until I could get in the room and take a nap. I had lots of hours to kill.

I walked along Cuba St., but all the shops were still closed. Then I walked along the waterfront and sat on a bench to people watch. By the time it was 10ish, I walked back along Cuba St. and got some delicious tofu scramble at a place called Midnight Espresso (Thanks for the recommendation Craig!)

After that, I went to the Te Papa Museum, a large, free museum about New Zealand history. Normally I would have loved this sort of thing, but I was just too tired to really enjoy it. I ended up finding a dark movie room and let my eyes close.

Finally, I made it to my room – a messy, 10 bed dorm room. Random stuff was scattered all over the floor (and on my bed too), and there was some snoring dude sprawled out on the bed nearest mine in his tighty whities. gross.

Walking back down to the lobby, I saw tons of loud, young kids (including some cocky Slovenian dude who approached me by saying “You so beautiful. You not have boyfriend?” I guess he figured if I didn’t, I’d jump at the chance to get to hang out with him. Hmmmm….not so much.) This place made me feel really old….and judgmental. I love talking to new people, but I had absolutely no interest in meeting anyone at this place. I resigned myself to the fact that I probably wouldn’t be getting the nap I had hoped for, so I left to go walk around some more. I went to Courtenay Place and bought a book (Into the Heart of Borneo), went to Commonsense Organics to buy some tea and bread,

and I went to a boring chain coffee shop called Esquires because it’s one of the only places in New Zealand that offers free Internet access (up to 1 hr only with a voucher you get once you buy something). The family I mailed my absentee ballot to just emailed me saying it arrived!

I can see why people like Wellington. It has a pretty waterfront, laid back people, good food (with nice vegan options), large red brick streets, lots of vintage stores and used bookshops, old buildings, interesting street art, and numerous free museums. Even though I was only half awake for it, I’m glad I got to see the city before all the people came out. I had a good few hours with the waterfront almost completely to myself. Once noon hit, all the streets were packed with large crowds of people. This was nice too, but it felt like different place entirely.

I think I was spoiled with my last hostel in Taupo. I had a comfortable room almost entirely to myself, my own bathroom and shower, a large, clean kitchen, and a friendly owner who really seemed to care about getting to know me. For the same price in Wellington I got a giant, multistory monstrosity with a bar attached, a dirty kitchen noone should ever cook food in, and staff members who charge ridiculous prices for laundry services, Internet access, bag storage, towels, and just about everything else they possibly could ask money for. I wanted to spend as little time there as possible. The one good thing about it was that it’s within walking distance of everywhere I wanted to go – the waterfront, the shops, the museum, the ferry terminal. I actually did end up getting a good night’s sleep. I climbed up to the top bunk, stuck in my earplugs, and passed out for a solid 10 hours.

I woke up good and refreshed – just in time for the Lord of the Rings tour!

Haha. just kidding!! I wish I had some of those ears though – they’re pretty cool.

No, actually I took a ferry to Picton. It’s about a 3 or 4 hr ferry ride across the Cook Straight. There are two ferry companies that take you across. Interislander is the most known one and certainly the most heavily advertised. Bluebridge is the other company. It doesn’t travel as frequently as the Interislander, but it’s about $20 cheaper and the departure terminal is within walking distance from downtown. A much better option, I think. That’s the one I went with.

While walking along the waterfront to the ferry, I saw a penguin! The only time I’ve ever seen penguins was in a zoo and it was super depressing. This little guy just barely skimmed the surface, doing little loops in the water while he looked up at me. I didn’t get a chance to take his picture, but he was cute!

The ferry ride was fun. After being on planes and buses, it was nice to be on some sort of transportation where you could actually get up and walk around. The scenery was great too – pretty mountains all around, some with snow covered peaks.

I ended up meeting the guy working at the cafe and I talked tto him about my trip. He’s from Cochin. He gave me his email address and said I could meet up with his family when I get there. I won’t be in India until April – wow that sounds like such a long way away. It’s hard to even think of anything that far ahead. Sometimes I forget that my trip has just barely started. It seems like I’ve been traveling for a long time already!

Some Notes:

  • In North America, we’re used to getting free wireless Internet at pretty much any cafe or restaurant we pop into. That is not the case in New Zealand. When I asked a bartender if he knew of any coffee shops in Wellington with free Internet, he smiled and said “You’re from America, aren’t you?” Every place overing Internet access charges for it. Most of them offer them some sort of plan that you can subscribe to and pay for hours online with your credit card. It’s something like $10 (about $6.75US) for unlimited access for 24 hrs. Considering most Internet cafes charge $4 an hour and close early, this isn’t a terrible deal if you plan to use the Internet in the evening for more than 2 hrs.

  • People here misuse apostrophes like crazy! Signs say things like “We serve pizza’s and hamburger’s” or “Luggage tag’s available for your use.”

  • Ketchup here is called tomato sauce (I actually even saw it called tomato chutney in one store). I’m not sure what the other kind of tomato sauce is called. If you order chips (french fries) they don’t automatically come with tomato sauce – you have to pay for that separately. And if you do, it’s pretty obvious you’re American.

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