Mandy and Jon's Journey 2005 travel blog

Sheep & The City

Arriving at Picton

A Closer Look at those sheep

First Morning In South Island -- aaaah. A nice place to wake.

We set sail from Hawkes Bay with great anticipation and after a wonderful breakfast, interfused with meditations on nationality, we hit the asphaly southward towards Wellington, the South Island, and new adventures.

The driving was sweet, easy and it felt good to be on the move once again. After an afternoon of smooth driving we pulled up short of the Hutt Valley in order to find a free place to park the van, cook a dinner, and bed down for the night. We have this little tactic where we search the roadmap for dead ends that are close to water and near a trail head. Usually, if we are lucky, we can find a little out of the way parking lot or grassy area where we can park overnight without disturbing anyone and without being disturbed. This night was a good find and we cooked a nice little dinner in the back of the van before getting an early sleep.

Waking early and not too cold either we cook up some porridge, tidy up the van, and off we go. We drop down into the Hutt valley to witness the suburbia that spreads north from Wellington. The traffic thickens, the lanes multiply and by noon we are in the city center trying to locate a hostel for ourselves. After a little innercity chaos, we locate an acceptable hostel set on a hill overlooking the downtown. We both grab a shower and then set off to what we have been repeatedly told not to miss; Te Papa. Te Papa is the nation's premiere natural science and cultural museum. We walk the ten or so blocks through the heart of Wellington to the waterfront and snack a bagel sandwich before encountering the enormous structure of the museum.

Right in line with our budget the museum, and almost all of its attractions are free of charge. The only real problem is deciding what to see first. The place is gigantic and there's no way, with only four hours or so before it closes, we can see everything. We make a short list of things we want to check out and head off. A very modern museum, the Te Papa is full of interactive and animated displays. We spend some time in the geological area that describes, in great details, the tectonic theory and the evolution of New Zealand from its volcanic creation to present. They even have a little house you can go into and every three minutes it replicates the sensation of an earthquake as it shakes and rattles on a system of shocks and hydrolics. Wowzer! There are huge exhibits on Maori culture and the history of New Zealand settlement. The museum possesses large collections of native arts and crafts as well as impressive collections of modern and contemporary art. The whole place is overwhelming to some degree, but we have a great time learning the history and taking in the artwork. By six oclock we are exhausted and sort of stumble out of the museum ready for some dinner and a little less stimulation. We find a good Malaysian restaurant and after dinner find a quiet cafe called "Castros" where we have a class of wine and watch the young radicals smoke cigarettes. After this and deciding to call it a night we make our way back to the hostel by running from store-front awning to store-front awning trying to stay dry in the driving rain. All laughs, however, and it is nice to return to a dry room where you can actually stand up straight.

Our ferry is lscheduled to leave Wellington the next day, but due to a tragic collision the night before, our boat has been detained in Picton and we won't be able to leave for the South Island until the following day. Nothing we can really do, so we find another hostel and keep ourselves busy walking around Wellington for the day and enjoying the television that accompanies our new room.

The next day our luck is better and the boat will leave as scheduled. We drive our little van aboard, and make ourselve at home in the lounge on the top deck of the large ship. The weather is not ideal for the crossing and Jon feels acutely unwell as the boat pulls into somewhat rough seas. Not usually susceptible to seasickness, he fears that the fish and chips eaten in the ferry cafeteria have not helped the situation. Cards are played, small naps are taken, and after a rough start the remaining hours of the crossing are quite pleasant.

We land at Picton in the late afternoon and although the fog and low clouds still hug most of the surrounding hills you can see that the South Island is a different place than the North. Picton is a small town, however, and after a quick grocery stop we head off to find a camping spot and make a plan of what to do.

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