Saturday October 31, 2015 (New Zealand, Oceania, Video)
We’re still not having the absolute best luck with the weather. That much we know. We arrived in Nelson after a beautiful ferry traverse from Wellington to Picton. We had absolutely perfect weather for the journey: calm seas and blue skies. Sandra and I each took turns napping on the ship, but we made sure to get up to the observation deck on the InterIslander ferry to drink in the views of the beautiful Tory Channel. I learned something interesting that perhaps you didn’t know: when ferrying between Wellington and Picton, you actually don’t end up much farther south or north than you started! The journey is almost entirely in an east-west orientation. Strange, considering you’re transferring between the “north” and “south” island, no? I thought so. And I’m glad you agree.
Our rental car company, Omega Rentals, has a system whereby you can just drop off and pick up rental cars on either side of the ferry. It’s a really cool idea. It saves us a lot of money because we’re not paying somewhere in the area of 150 NZD to take a car across the channel. We just drop off the car on the north island, get shuttled over to the ferry terminal, and then a new rental car awaits us in the parking lot on the other side. Off we go! Magical, really.
So after landing at Picton we took off in the direction of Nelson where we’d booked an Airbnb for three nights. The plan in Nelson was to explore Abel Tasman National Park. It’s an area famed for its blue-green waters and incredible scenery. On the drive to Nelson we stopped off at the Cullen Viewpoint just outside of Havelock. It was a short hike up to a lovely lookout where we could gaze across the sound. Beautiful! We were slightly unfortunate to catch the view at low tide, so the waters appear a bit sandier and brown than they otherwise would. But no matter – it’s still gorgeous scenery!
After arriving in Nelson the weather took a turn for the worse. Our first full day in the town was overcast and rainy. We knew we wanted to hike in Abel Tasman, but we were hoping for some beautiful weather to make the most of it. It wasn’t meant to be, unfortunately. Even after waiting a day for the weather to clear, we were rewarded with gloomy skies on the next. We’d read an article online about a semi-challenging day hike that involved taking a water taxi from Marahau to Bark Bay and then walking back – a distance of about 23km in total. We thought this would make great exercise. Somehow we managed to keep our spirits up after hiking for five and a half hours in a constant rain. Sandra’s iPhone, stored in her rainjacket pocket, didn’t appear to tolerate the downpour so well. It’s now safely ensconced in a tupperware container full of rice in hopes that once turned on again the screen doesn’t have the distinct blue haze that it did when we first attempted to start it up. Fingers crossed.
I didn’t even bother bringing the camera along for the hike, but we did manage to capture some cool views with the GoPro. It managed to be sunny at some short intervals throughout the hike. Although somehow being sunny didn’t prevent it from continuously raining. Anyway, you’ll be seeing those videos eventually. I know I keep threatening to show video footage, but it’s really going to happen. I promise. I think maybe tonight I can put together a video of our time in India. A bit late, I know. Sorry. We’re lazy travellers.
The next day we stopped into the WOW Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum. Yep, it’s a real thing. And I was pretty excited about it until we saw the admission fee of 24 NZD per adult. Yikes! Even though the Kiwi dollar is valued a bit below the Canadian dollar, we can’t afford to be spending that kind of money just to take a wander around a museum. So I took a picture of the only classic car around – the one parked just outside the cafe. Perhaps that gives you some idea of the interior of the museum?
Of course the weather improved on the day that we drove out of Nelson. We took some pictures along the harbour. We were destined for Blenheim – wine country! Sauvignon Blanc galore! And at first, the drive treated us to some gorgeous weather. Until we got closer to Blenheim and once again the weather got gloomy and overcast again. Ugh. It doesn’t help when the locals continue to exclaim, “We haven’t had rain in weeks! How strange.” It appears we’re mildly cursed on this portion of the itinerary. But one can only complain so much about touring around in New Zealand!
The good news is that we still had gorgeous weather for a stop at Rotoiti Lake. We walked out on the pictured dock to drink in an interesting sight: the waters surrounding the dock are teeming with eels. Yep. Eels. Sandra was freaking out a bit. Apparently a big crew of young’uns on the Kiwi Experience tour had pulled up to the lake not too long before our arrival. Out hopped a bunch of eager kids who threw themselves bodily into the lake. Until one more cautious individual remaining on the dock noticed the presence of the multitude of eels. The swimmers managed to exit the lake more hastily than they had leapt in.
We’re now in Blenheim and we’ve had a very lazy day. Technically we went for a short run. But mostly we’ve just relaxed at our Airbnb. Blenheim is a cute little town, and we’re now preparing to head out for dinner at a wood-fired pizza place. Great!
There are a few miscellaneous stories I’d now like to recount for your reading pleasure. Remember that half marathon Sandra and I ran in Bangkok? As I’ve mentioned previously, Sandra and I can be lazy travellers sometimes. And that can sometimes manifest itself in the form of procrastination. Sandra had discovered this half marathon run in Bangkok and we had an approximate idea of when registration opened. But then we forgot about it for a bit. As the date drew closer, we decided it was time to sign up. Only to discover, to our great dismay, that registration for the half marathon was closed. It was full! We were both crestfallen. We had really been gearing up and planning to run the race, and now the best we’d be able to do was a 10.5km race instead – there was still room for that race.
But then I decided to run a little experiment. I started thinking to myself: I wonder how much work the web developers actually put in to stop registrations. What does a website do when they want to stop people from signing up for something? I started looking at the source code of the race website. There were a bunch of form buttons where you would select your sex, age category, and the race you were registering for. The website code was very logically written. Which was fortunate for me. I noticed that when you hit the “Submit” button on the form, you basically just submitted a three digit code specifying your sex, age group, and race. After checking the values for the different radio buttons, the meaning of each digit became clear. And to “close” the registration, the website had just removed the buttons allowing you to set a value of “half marathon” for the “race type” digit. So I made a new button with those values. Then I submitted the form. And I received a confirmation showing that my application for the half marathon was successful – we just had to pay!
The rigamarole involved in the payment process is another story unto itself, but I count this as a successful hack for us. We hacked ourselves into joining a race. I felt like Jonny Lee Miller in 1995. The rush! Whilst in Nelson, Sandra and I had a food joint called the East Street Cafe recommended to us. A vegetarian place with some beers on tap. Great mix for us! We stopped in and perused the menu. I noticed a particular entry whose ingredients appealed to me. It was spicy. It had sour cream. End of story. Sounds like a Mexican masterpiece. I’m in. The waiter stops by and I request the item by name. I have no idea where the name comes from, but I ask for the “Kissadeer”, as it appears on the menu. He smirks a bit, but nods.
The food arrived some time later. And as the waiter lowered the plate in front of me, he announced, “And here’s the kess-uhh-dee-ehh”. I’ve tried to mimic the Kiwi accent here. I immediately facepalmed and acknowledged my foolishness. Do you see what I ordered? The quesadilla? Unfortunately their clever little pun only makes sense when one pronounces an ‘r’ like an ‘a’. Which I don’t. Anyway, I felt like quite the moron. Damn you, Kissadeer! We went for a brisk evening grocery trip to pick up some dinner. At the checkout lane next to us, an middle-aged, colourfully-dressed woman was called back after she walked away with her groceries. It looked like she had forgotten her payment card or something. She thanked the employee and continued on her way. This woman seemed like your everyday scatterbrained person with lots on her mind. No worries.
Sandra and I paid for our groceries and exit into the parking lot. This same woman was mounting her moped parked right next to our rental car. As Sandra was getting into the car, I noticed that the woman dropped her grocery receipt on the ground. I vamped the conversation with Sandra while watching the woman out of the corner of my eye: would she pick up the paper she so obviously just dropped on the ground? It didn’t appear so. She put on her helmet and got ready to exit the lot. I quickly walked over, picked up the receipt, and gestured toward her and said, in what I thought was a fairly polite voice “I think maybe you dropped this?”.
“No. I will not pick it up. It is dirty now.”
I was confused. I furrowed my brow. Was she honestly refusing to pick up her garbage because it had just become dirty by falling on the asphalt parking lot? She had a French accent. I’m not going to mimic the sound, but just add it in while you read her quotes. She was flustered. She paused a second and then continued accusingly, “Where are you from, Germany?”
Now I didn’t know this at the time (we made sure to ask our kind German hosts after this encounter!), but apparently Germans have a reputation for being strict about their recycling and garbage regimens. Good on them, I say! We could all stand to improve our habits with respect to the three R’s! I didn’t want to respond to her with my actual country of origin because I felt it would just create or reinforce a negative stereotype she was about to form in her head. I thought on my feet.
“I’m from a country where we don’t throw our garbage on the ground.”
Zzzap! She was visibly upset now. She was nodding furiously as if teaching me an important lesson while she said: “I see that. Well, you had better watch yourself behaving like that in this country. If you’re not careful, you will run into some violence.”
I stood there, still basking in utter confusion as she started up her moped and sped off. And thus went the most bizarre grocery store parking lot experience I’ve ever had. It’s one of those interactions where I’ve gone back through it a couple of times and thought of some real zingers I could have used on her. Mostly, though, I just want to sit her down and ask her why she thinks it’s acceptable to throw her junk on the ground. There’s really no excuse, people. Litterbugs stink!
So that’s it for story time. Tomorrow is the 31st, and that means it’s the Rugby World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand. What a time to be alive. And what a time to be in New Zealand! Due to the time difference from London, England where the game is being played, we will actually be watching at about 4-5am on November 1st. But we’re looking forward to it. Unless you’re an ardent Australia supporter, keep your fingers crossed for New Zealand so we can be around for the ensuing madness! Tomorrow we drive to Kaikoura and rugby victory!