I’m in the middle of the north island of New Zealand now. I hung around in Christchurch for a couple of days, soaking up the sun (and rain), and communing with the baby ducks at the Botanical Gardens, right across the street from my hotel. I indulged in Thai and Indian food, and walked around a lot, reacquainting myself with the town. The weather was kind of up and down—two really nice days and some not so nice. A big storm came in and dumped a bunch of snow on the mountains, so I made my decision to head north. I took a bus from Christchurch to Picton, where I got on the ferry to Wellington. I had never been to the north island before, except the Auckland airport. The south island is much more wild and interesting for hiking, and the north island is much more populated and less mountainous. That’s why I had never been as interested in the north island, at least until I ran out of things to see on the south island.
The bus trip was actually a lot more scenic and interesting than I thought it would be. The trip to Picton is composed mostly of rolling emerald green fields full of frolicking sheep, alternating with endless vineyards. Just about every place you could stand and take a picture on the south island looks like it could be a postcard. There were towering snow-capped mountains in the background all the way—it was incredible. (I’m at a backpacker with no SD card reader on the computer, so I can’t post any pictures just yet.)
The ride was pretty twisty, and at one point the kid sitting in front of my suddenly and without warning lost his breakfast all over the stranger sitting next to him. It was quite gross. I felt bad for the kid, as well as his victim.
We got off the bus and onto the ferry boat at the Picton ferry terminal. The boat was HUGE—almost six hundred feet long (http://www.interislander.co.nz/Our-Ships-And-Services/Kaitaki.aspx). The terminal had posted that the ride over to Wellington was expected to be quite rough. The straights between are famous for being stormy and turbulent. I thought such a huge boat would surely be immune from a little wave action. Think again. The boat pitched so violently that I needed to hang on to railings to even walk around. I saw many people doing their own quite disgusting impersonation of the poor kid on the bus. There were cookies tossed and chunks blown in all directions. I think I even saw someone praying to the Porcelain God, Ralph.
I hung around in Wellington for a couple of days, where I ran into a group of ice friends. We took in an Irish music set at a pub last night, which was nice. Decent food and culture, too. I could get used to this.
I rented a car and headed north this morning. I’m staying at a little town called Turangi now, near the south shore of huge Lake Taupo. I did a great day hike around an emerald green mountain lake, got some groceries, and headed back to my hostel. It’s a smokin’ deal if you’re ever in the Taupo region. $26NZ (about $18US) dollars a night, for a single room. It’s called the A+ Lodge. It’s in a quiet residential area. A little old and run-down, but very clean and well kept. They also have a dachshund puppy, which is a major bonus. That’s one of the worst deprivations of living on the ice. I didn’t get to so much as pet a cat for eight months. That puppy might have a bald spot by the time I get out of here!