We had hoped to take the drive south more slowly, but someone had asked to see the boat the day before we were supposed to arrive in Wellington. It was immediately clear as they arrived that this wasn’t going to pan out, as the guy had been looking for boats for four years, and his wife showed no emotion other than resignation: this is just a thing he does, and she’s here to support him but knows better than to get attached. Anyway we gave the tour, packed the car, and set out on the eight-hour drive early the next morning. The huge bruise on Jazz’s leg constrained her sitting position such that Andrew would be doing all the driving in the near future.
Captain took a little while to figure out his best place in the car. Here he is being surly about his carrier, and then trying to get under the accelerator. The car, meanwhile, was finding its own way to be surly: the battery in the one working key was starting to fail, resulting in occasional difficulties unlocking the doors. We had unusually clear blue skies, which meant that the sun streamed in through the windows and threatened to burn us (New Zealand has a much thinner ozone layer), so Jazz rigged up an improvised shade out of her own hair.
We stopped at Lake Taupo to see the sights and walk the cat. Walking a distinctive cat often gets us a lot of attention, but in New Zealand we’ve found that to be a very mixed bag. A few people gushed over his beautiful green eyes, but we also had a lady walk up to us and tell us that cats kill birds. Yes, random lady, please tell us about how our leashed cat is decimating your wildlife; and how is all that sheep and cattle farming going? Or the guy who took obvious delight in telling us that his dog was trained to kill possums, and can’t tell the difference between possums and cats. Who even are these people?
It was a lovely day, but it was also mid day, and our controversial model quickly decided that he was “not having a bar of it” and would be napping in the case, thank you very much.
So we had an unremarkable lunch, and were feeling pretty OK with not having stayed longer at Lake Taupo as we got back into the car for another four hours of driving.
We checked into a lovely little AirBnB and got the cat settled on the piano. Our hosts told us that we’d arrived for the last day of Wellington’s Fringe Festival, which turned out to be their low-key version of SXSW, with several weeks of lots of shows and events. We found a powerpoint-themed comedy night at the Fringe Bar (naming coincidental?), which turned out to be more weird than funny, but the meal beforehand at Monsoon Poon was notably excellent and well made up for the entertainment.
As Jazz did her makeup in the morning, Andrew made her tea. He hadn’t been able to find any mugs, so he used a glass. Gentle reader. Can you. Find the teacups?
As we drove into Wellington for a walking tour, we found the parking conventions wild. It’s apparently totally fine to park on both sides of narrow two-way roads, such that not only is there no space for two cars to pass, but even driving along requires weaving back and forth between the alternating parked cars.
We got into Wellington, found some parking, and met up with our tour guide. We started outside the art museum donwtown, where there are several notable installations.
We continued down an art-filled public park/walkway towards the harbor.
We were brought past a number of well-decorated buildings.
We were surprised by the sheer amount of statuary street art. Sidebar, as we sat for a rest near the worded woman, Jazz sat in something unidentifiable, so the last picture is Andrew trying to rub it off with fountain water and tissues, and succeeding mostly in spreading tissue fragments everywhere.
Wellington just has a whole ton of interesting architecture. Our guide told us stories about every one of these buildings; it really is a fascinating little town.
Our last stop was the Old St Paul’s Cathedral, dating to the 1860s. Is that old? We don’t even know any more. New Zealand is a super young country; the Maori only arrived some 700 years ago, and Europeans didn’t really start settling until nearly 1800. So by the standards of European New Zealand, or the western USA, this is ancient.
Fashion here is something else entirely. We snapped these shop-window shots because it felt rude to take pictures of strangers on the street, but we assure you that they are 100% representative.
In the afternoon, we met up with Andrew’s old work friend Jamie, a native Kiwi who’s resettled in the US and happened to be visiting at the same time. He drove us on a tour of his former hometown, up to some viewpoints and around the coast, and we had a very pleasant catch-up. He also gave us some great advice for our next couple of weeks in the south.
Back at the hotel, we had a nice soak in the hot tub and turned in. Andrew and Captain fell asleep instantly, of course. Plus ça change…
We had planned to spend the morning on more exploring, but it was rainy and looked to remain so. We left the cat at home for breakfast, then picked him up for the ferry. We were a little amused to see these instructions about how to pay at the botanical gardens’ restaurant, because they are very much not the norm here. Even at nice restaurants, it’s typical to walk up to a register to pay. It’s also totally acceptable to split just about any bill in any way, which is convenient for group events. Itemize away!
We had to get out of the AirBnB eventually, but we still had a couple of hours to kill before the ferry, and the weather was still not cooperating. What else to do but grab a beer! We stopped in a tiny bar and had a great time taking pictures of Captain in the funky lighting. Also there was this fun water sculpture outside, and it took us a minute to realize it actually was pumping its own water out the top, not just catching all the rain.
When it came time to get on the ferry, we drove up to the gates and got funneled to the special animal waiting area. Captain, second class kittizen, had to stay in the car the whole time, which would have been bad enough had there not been seemingly constant car alarms going off in the hold. We had been told that we could go and check on him periodically, and that turned out to mean that there was one scheduled, escorted, pet-check session in the middle of the trip. Otherwise, nobody was allowed downstairs, except possibly to turn off their car alarms.
Meanwhile on the top deck, Jazz had a blast going through a local newspaper.
After about a four hour trip, we arrived at the south island, ready to begin the real road trip! This was about when we got a message from our AirBnB hosts, thanking us for “leaving the place in such great shape”. All we’d done was strip the bed and wash our dishes, but it warmed our little millennial hearts to have received a good grade in Hotel Guest.