travelling the seven parts of the world

Wellington a nice town at the southernmost tip of the North Island, and is also New Zealand's capital. It definitely gives off an artistic vibe, and the center of the Museum of New Zealand, though I forget its Maori name. The above picture, showing the very center part of Wellington didn't come out too well, but in the real thing, you can actually feel like the ball is hanging in mid air, with no support. In the picture though, you can see the wires that are holding it.

There is really not much else to Wellington, and our main business for arriving here was to leave it - we wanted to cross the straight that separates this island with the bit of land mass in the south. Arriving at the ferry terminal we found out that the ships for today are all booked out (though we only got there in the evening), so we booked a ship for early tomorrow morning and set out to find a hotel.

And what an ordeal that was. It took us several hours and involved leaving Wellington to come back to one of its suburbs later on. And then we got a room in some really remote hotel in the middle of some suburb far from any main roads - and mind you, this was the last room in that hotel, and it was a room for 4 people - only because the receptionist in a booked out hotel found a place for us. Side note to self: if you want to start a business, set up a hotel in Wellington. You are destined to succeed.

In fact, this was the theme for most of our stay in New Zealand. By the time we got out of the country, the "No Vacancy" sign was a part of my dreams (or nightmares).

The main problem is tourist buses - these guys can book out whole towns literally a year in advance, as they take tourists like fish in a can across a previously set and known route. I can understand why you would want to go on one of these buses in some third world or completely unsafe country, like Brazil or Israel, where you would rather be a part of a bigger group than wandering around all by yourself, but why would you want to suffer through a dozen days on a bus in one of the safest countries in the world that has some of the cheapest car rental prices in the world is beyond me. You cannot stop where you want to. You cannot stay in places for as long as you want to. You cannot leave a place if you find it boring. You cannot climb up mountains you want to. You cannot even take a piss when you need to. And worst of all, there is no spontaneity - you will know exactly where you are going to be when.

Mind you, the buses are not the only offending parties with that last bit. There are people who rent cars and plan their trips years in advance as well. I don't know how that works - how on earth can you plan your trip day to day from 20,000 km away is beyond me. That is like setting yourself up for disappointment. I have yet to have a trip where my schedule hasn't been completely turned inside out either upon arrival into the country or just before as yet some another "brilliant" thought dawns upon me. This is especially apparent in a country like New Zealand where the mountains, the valleys, and everything else around you just screams FREEDOM harder than Braveheart, but there you are, stuck in your car moving forward when you would simply like to stop and admire the beautiful world around you, all because you pre-booked your hotel half a year ahead and would have to pay for the night anyway if you didn't show up.

By not pre-booking we might have paid a bit more for hotels, but lack of space in good hotels often made us pick options that are much cheaper and weren't half bad, so the extra expense was sort of balanced out. We did end up spending a bit of time during each day to find a hotel, but nowhere was it as bad as in Wellington, and we never ended up not having a room and having to drive to next town or something.

I do regret not taking a tent and sleeping bags. Those things really are essential to a trip to New Zealand as they enable you to stay cheaply almost anywhere, and we would have probably shaved off a good part of the expenses if we had a tent. Having a tent also brings you that little bit closer to nature, though there aren't any really magnificent animals in New Zealand, so you probably wouldn't quite have as good of an experience if you were, say, camping out in Yellowstone, in the Rocky Mountains. But again, bringing that stuff along on a trip around the world simply was not practical.

So on the next day we set out to the South Island.

The trip itself is pretty short, just a few hours. Getting all the cars on the ship and getting them off was almost a longer ordeal than crossing the straight, which at its narrowest point is just 20 km wide. One of the highlights of leaving the Wellington harbor were the dolphins who followed the ship out of the sea:

The harbor on the other end is Picton, which seems to exist for the single purpose of getting people into the South Island from the north. You can see our car here, with a Picton backdrop, its a red Ford Focus, at the bottom of the boat, the rightmost red car.