We walked from the hotel to town center to get the bus for the next in our many cruises in NZ. This one was one that Beth Anne has been anxiously awaiting. Its purpose was to try and see Hector’s dolphins. These dolphins are quite rare and we were luck enough to get to see two sets. One of them was quite playful and playing in under the bow of the boat. Poor Joe was up top taking pictures of another set much farther off the back of the ship and wondering what the tour guide was talking about and why everyone was clustered about the bow.
On our way to the boat as we were talking to the bus driver we discovered that he also drove a bus later that evening to WillowBrook. We were booked to have dinner and another Kiwi Encounter there. He told us that we could get a free ride, but we would have to come back from the boat tour and be ready to go in about 45 minutes. We did not have our voucher and because of the very strict drink driving laws here and the fact that we had already been in one checkpoint we decided that free bus was worth a quick cab back to the hotel. So we got off the bus and grabbed a cab. We got our voucher, grabbed a quick change of shoes and returned to town center only to discover that we did not qualify for the free bus. It was $30 for the bus or we could take in the Maori show and ride for free. We decided we would decide when we found out how much extra the show was. $48 was the amount; per person. Since we had seen a show already we decide to just shell out for the ride. We had a nice dinner and then headed off for the Kiwi encounter. It was not good. It was rushed and not nearly as informative as the one at Rainbow Springs. Even the girls commented that the only goof part was getting to see more Kiwis. Live and learn, live and learn.
*A Maori proverb
We had a didn’t have much planned for today except a drive to Christchurch. We had some trouble finding a place to eat. One of the things that we have had trouble getting used to and will continue to have trouble with is the hours of service here in NZ. It was Sunday and most places were not serving. Most stores close at 5 and even The Warehouse, NZ’s Wal-mart/K-mart equivalent, is only open until 8. Most of the cities and towns we have visited so far are much more like the older mid-western town. Butchers and bakers and grocers and boutiques line a main street and it all closes down by 5.
We got to Christchurch early enough to visit the International Antarctic Center. Overpriced and disappointing we spent the next few hours looking at how things work in the Antarctic. We got to “experience” an antarctic storm, we got our first taste of penguins. No, you can’t eat them but there is a small group at the Center which are injured. They are cared for permanently there. We got to watch a beautiful film in HD of scenes from the Antarctic. So far the two things that I have found are good to watch in high def are sports (yawn) and nature shows. I wonder when we can get one.
After seeing what there was to see in the Center we got a ride in a Haaglund. This is the vehicle which is used in the Antarctic. We went up 35 degree inclines and over 12 inch crevices and into 4 feet of water. It was the most exciting thing for the girls, even better than watching the penguins get feed.
The grocery store was next were we continued in our quest to find the best mince pie in New Zealand. Brigit is a complete convert to the pie culture. And Beth Anne is loving the huge amount of Salmon found here. Joe and I are finding lovely beer and cider selections. 🙂
Today was one of the days that I had been waiting for since the early stages of planning this trip. I have always wanted to see whales and we were going to head out into the open Pacific ocean and hope to see them. We were up early, not 5 am, but early. We got to the Whaleway Station to catch our bus. And yes that was what it was called. We arrived to find that there was a seasick warning for our scheduled cruise. We asked about a later one and were told that it would only get worse not better. So we decided to risk it and head out. We did not know or perhaps understand how bad it was going to be. 1.5 to 2 meter swells are not something to take lightly. Initially we were all laughing at the boat’s ups and downs but for Brigit that soon changed. She was beginning to turn green. Now you might have noted that we have had a cold issue. But if you know anything about motion sickness you might know that cooling down your body temperature helps a great deal. Also being outside helps a great deal. Neither of which Brigit was inclined to do. This boat was restrictive about when you could go outside and there were others would were beginning to get sick around us. In a loud way, if you get my meaning. So now, Brigit is green and I am beginning to turn and I am trying to carry her, unwillingly, outside on to the deck in 1.5 meter swells. This is not fun. I spent the next 30-45 minutes huddled with her outside waiting for the medicine to take effect. And it did, Brigit passed out standing up, leaning on me.
Now while all this is going on Joe and Beth Anne, who are also a bit queasy, but better than Brigit and I, are looking for a whale. Finally they spotted it, a sperm whale. They both got a really good look and some OK pictures. I did get to see it but not for long. They also got to see a seal feeding in the sea and battling with sea birds for a barracuda.
After returning to land everyone perked up almost instantly and we went to lunch and the grocery and back to the hotel. Then we headed out to the beach again. The girls lasted about 5 minutes before their shoes, socks, and leggings were off and they were in the water. They ran in and out and got wet up to their waists and still complained about going home even thought they were blue and shivering.
Back at the apartment we ran into a lovely older couple who wanted to know where we were from and we spent the better part of an hour comparing travel stories about them in the USA and us in NZ. They were nice people, sort of beginning to be an expectation of Kiwis at this point.
After a yummy lamb chop dinner we packed up for our trip to Christchurch tomorrow.
The very best part of our time in Wellington was the fact that our walk home from the botanical gardens walked me past a sight I had spied out our hotel. So the first night it looked like this and I was a bit concerned over the whole Wellington stay. 😉
The next morning I peeked again and the red light was gone. I might add it never returned over our whole stay either. In its place I could see the cemetery.
It looked old and interesting. Those of you who know me well, know that I have an odd taste for getting to know a place and that includes wanting to see the local cemeteries. This one looked right up my alley. That was why I was so happy when I discovered that the botanical walk lead right through this cemetery to our hotel. I was able to walk and read and take pictures. It was unlike any cemetery I have seen. Many graves were fenced and planted with flowers. Many of them were hidden and not easy to get to from the paths that wound throughout. It was truly lovely in many ways.
The town of Picton is small. In fact I would bet the population doubles when the Ferry from the North Island arrives.
So we’re waiting in the Picton terminal for our luggage to appear. A woman standing next to Carrie asks her where we’re from. Carrie tells her we’re from West Virginia, and asks where she’s from. It turns out she’s from Maryland. As a matter of fact, she went to my high school (although six years earlier. After a little more conversation, we find that she is grew up in Calverton, about six blocks away.
She’s about 10 years older that I am so we didn’t have any mutual friends but we did know some people in common around that time. Mostly teachers.
Since when do I have to be up at the ungodly hour of 5 am on my vacation? Well, since we are booked on the ferry from Wellington to Picton. Today is an early morning ferry ride followed by a drive to Kiakoura. The ferry ride was our first encounter with a potential luggage issue. So the night before we pack and repacked and unpacked and finally got it to a reasonable amount. Turns out it was a non-issue and we checked the big pieces and found a locker for the small ones. It was also the first time we were frustrated with vague instructions from our tour company. We were told to drop out car off at the terminal. However, we arrived and there was no terminal for our car company and there was no key drop for our car company. So we had to run around with all of our luggage and try to figure out what to do while not missing our ferry. It resolved itself as most things do here with incredibly helpful service industry people coming to our rescue.
The ride over was uneventful. No swells, no sea sick, no issues, except Brigit and Beth Anne almost blowing off the upper observation deck. If you look at the pictures you can see what I mean. We arrived in Picton and had our small world moment of the trip. See Joe’s post about this.
After that we stopped for a bite in the Frog and Dog and headed out to see the Mainland (South Island). Now the North Island, as you have seen, is beautiful. But it is a soft sell; it is only buttering you up for the hard sell of the South Island. We we left Picton we drove through the some of the wine country. Here there was all the makings of a French meal. Sheep on the one side and wine on the other. It was all rolling hills and blue sky and puffy white clouds. Then wham!
Ocean, beautiful ocean. It was an amazing color. I blue-green that I have not ever seen before. If you know me at all you know how I feel about the water and I was in love. Then around the next curve, there was this:
Holy Beautiful Vista Batman!!!!!! We stopped and took pictures at the beach with at the beautiful smooth rocks and the cool black sand. Then we stopped and took pictures of the seal colony on the huge craggy rocks. The 6 or so yearlings in the pool playing was so fun to watch. After stopping in the hotel and going to dinner we took a walk along the beach and the girls, in their new winter coats and hats took off there shoes and ran in and out of the incoming tide with the snow covered mountains in the distance and the moon overhead.
Up and going again today. We walked to the Te Papa Museum. We passed through the harbor which must, given the clarity and color of the water, never be used. However, we did see ships there which leads me to believe that pollution in New Zealand is apparently clear.
The museum was interesting but other than the Giant Squid not better than most DC Museums. It was free and I would like to go back and see more of the New Zealand focused exhibitions but the girls were focused on science and animals mostly. Beth Anne did want to see the Reactive Architecture which was very interesting for the adults but not what she was thinking it would be. After walking around for a few hours and having lunch there, we marched the girls to the cable car and took it up to the top of the city.
While we purchased a return trip, once we were up there we found that some flower prints that the girls had noticed out the window of our hotel were also at the top of the botanical garden as well. So we ate the minor cost of the return trip and walked home. We were able to walk down and through windy paths and discover some beautiful plants. We found a playground with interesting equipment and we stopped to let the girls play a bit. I was again struck by the strangeness of tulips and daffodils and flowering trees and spring!!!
It was a long day of driving but we finally got to Wellington around 6. After finally finding the hotel with many a reprimand from the GPS, we asked the porter for a dinner recommendation. He suggested The Red Dog, which he called ahead for reservations. We decided to walk since Joe had enough of driving in a city on the wrong side of the road. As we were walking to dinner we passed the Wellington Museum of art which currently is covered in polka dots. Brigit decided then and there that our first stop in the morning would be the polka dot museum.
After getting up and dressed and leaving for the museum, we again walked, the girls finally reached code blue cold level. But we arrived at the polka dot museum to discover that the featured artist was yayoi kusama and the exhibit was entitled “The Mirrored Years.” It was equal parts amazing and terrifying. The art was amazing. There were 2 emersion pieces. One was titled “Firefly Room.” It was my favorite.
It was also terrifying in that many of the modern art pieces were made up of objects strewn around on the floor and we were there with Brigit. One titled Clouds had me holding my breath the whole way through. It was made up of largish things painted to resemble clouds which actually resembled, well, bean bags. And Brigit was in this room. Yah, so I was worried that we would be asked to leave the country when Brigit decided to bounce on the priceless art piece. We were lucky. Actually the woman who we paid told us to come back and let her know if the girls were good and if they were they would get a prize. So Brigit and Beth Anne left the museum with totes and lollis.
After the museum, we discovered that we were right next to the central city library which we, of course, had to visit. It was lovely. At the main entry there was a cafe where you could sit and have a light meal or tea. The children’s section was large and well stocked and from the piles of books everywhere apparently well used. Brigit had me read 4 or 5 books and Beth Anne asked me to take the picture of 4 or 5 different books that she wants to read when we get back. The check out system was self serve and the staff was very helpful. I only wish I had had more browsing time. The information staff was quite helpful and because of them we were finally able to find winter outer-wear.
Across the street, the gentleman who was working at Dwight’s Sporting Goods store was very happy to see us. 3 hats, 3 pair of gloves and two winter coats later the cold alerts began to stop.
This allowed us to march the girls up and down Cuba street, discover again that there are set lunch and dinner times and finally eat some amazingly good and quite expensive Mexican food. I think we could have eaten at Rio Grande 6 or 7 times.