Wellington, and Across the Cook Strait
spending Christmas Eve in the empty Portland Hotel in Wellington, I drove around
the city a bit on Christmas morning. Like I've said, though, I didn't
really miss Christmas much because, with the palm trees and the balmy weather
here, it didn't really feel like Christmas and it was hard to imagine people in
America celebrating the holiday, especially since I was wearing shorts and
thongs (that's thongs as in footwear, not thong as in swimsuit -- definitely
not a pretty sight on me).
on the southern tip of the North Island, is the capital of New Zealand and is a
pretty vibrant city packed in close to the bay with steep hills on three sides. On Christmas morning, however, the city was virtually deserted
which made driving on its one-way streets fairly easy. Although there
weren't many people around, Wellington seemed like a nice city and, with the hills and the
bay, it has quite a dramatic setting. The winds blast through the
nearby Cook Strait nearly every day giving the city the nickname of Windy Wellington.
For some reason, The Monkees are really popular in New Zealand,
and you hear them all the time on the radio. Here's Last Train
RealPlayer. If problems, see
caught one of the Inter-island ferries that afternoon and crossed the Cook
Strait bound for the South Island, a two-hour trip. The ferry terminal on the South Island is in the picturesque town
of Picton, a town that I hope to spend more time in during my trip back up the
had made a reservation that evening in a private campground in Picton but after
driving through the very bleak and crowded campground, I made a quick exit
and found a nice room at the wonderful Broadway Motel in the middle of town and spent a
pleasant night there.
Pleasant, I should say, with one exception --
namely, the three mutton sausages I cooked up for dinner. As you might
know if you followed me around the U.S., my favorite dinner on the road is
brats and beans. That's "brats" as in bratwurst, spicy German sausages
that are a Midwestern tradition and something I got hooked on when I lived
in Wisconsin many years ago. When I got to New Zealand, I was
disappointed to learn that they don't sell bratwurst here, not even in the
big supermarkets in Auckland. They didn't seem to have plain, ol'
hot dogs either. So, in desperation, I bought a package of bland
As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, "What is mutton,
anyway?" Well, it's sheep, Jerry. And as you probably know,
New Zealand is crammed with sheep -- something like 40 million of the
little buggers, which means lots and lots of mutton sausages. I guess
I'll have to find a better staple for dinner because mutton sausages are
really, really nasty. Unfortunately, the Doritos option (always a
good alternative to a real dinner) is out, since they don't sell them here
in New Zealand. They do, however, sell something called "Bulk
Chips" which are like a blander, thicker version of Doritos and are
Other than eating mutton sausages and Bulk Chips, there
are a lot of things to see and do in beautiful Picton, such as exploring the countless
bays and inlets in adjacent Queen Charlotte Sound. However, the town was packed with tourists, so after spending that night there and eating those
disgusting mutton things, I continued
heading south the next morning.
left: While waiting for my ferry boat to
arrive, I walked around the streets of Wellington, virtually deserted on
center: The Wellington waterfront.
right: The Lynx, one of four inter-island
ferries, pulling into Wellington harbor. The only time I could get a
reservation was on Christmas Day, and I was lucky to get that. It takes
about 2 hours to cross the Cook Strait and, with a car, it costs about US$100.
left: The Lynx pulling into its
center: ...and unloading vehicles.
right: "Windy Wellington" is a
pretty compact city with steep cliffs on three sides, and a well-protected
left: Finally, loading up.
center: The lounge area inside the Lynx.
You wouldn't know we were cruising along at 25 knots.
right: Saying goodbye to the North Island as we head out into the
choppy Cook Strait, bound for the South Island. Captain James Cook
discovered this strait in 1769.
left: A couple hours later, the Lynx pulled
into Picton, the South Island terminus for the inter-island ferries.
center: Picton at dusk.
right: Picturesque Picton.
next day was sunny and warm as I headed south on Highway 1 while enjoying the
beautiful scenery on the east
coast of the South Island. After a few hours, my gas gauge began pushing
the big "E," so I pulled into a petrol station south of Blenheim and filled 'er up, then walked inside to pay.
New Zealand gas stations are generally a lot more appealing than the
countless drab mini-marts in the U.S., like Circle K's and 7-11's, and
this one even had a "tea room" inside. Very nice.
I wasn't in the mood for tea, but I hungrily eyed the
assortment of ice cream barrels by the cash register, so I asked the
friendly cashier about one of the flavors, something called "Hokey Pokey."
In the U.S., the Hokey Pokey is a stupid dance done at weddings, which undoubtedly
is one reason I've never gotten married. But Hokey Pokey in New
Zealand, as I discovered, is a kind of ice cream filled with butterscotch,
gum drops, and all sorts of other goodies. Two big scoops of Hokey
Pokey in a cone it was, then, and I got back on the highway heading south,
steering with one hand and slurping my yummy ice cream cone with the other.
Later that afternoon, I
stopped at a couple of public campgrounds run by the Department of
Conservation (or DOC, pronounced "dock"), which is the NZ equivalent to
the Park Service, Forest Service and BLM all rolled into one. Neither campground was that appealing with the tents there crammed
next to each other, so I kept going and spent that night in the pleasant coastal town of Kaikoura (pop.
3,600), where I was lucky to grab one of
the last vacant motel rooms.
next morning, I decided to press on to Christchurch and take refuge in a motel
there for a while, update my website, and return some e-mail. I figured that by then it
would be after New Year's Day and the crowd situation might be a little better. As I drove
south from Kaikoura, I passed by a bearded guy on the shoulder of the road wearing a kilt
and playing the bagpipes, way out in the middle of nowhere. I'm sure he had an
interesting story but before I could comprehend what I had just seen, I had
driven a half-mile past him. Every now and then, you see
something pleasantly odd like that in New Zealand.
in Christchurch around mid-day and, from the name, expected to see lots of churches,
ministers, and pious-looking people here... perhaps even a Flying Nun or two. As
I discovered though, Christchurch isn't all that religious, but it is the
second-largest city in New Zealand, with a population of about 300,000.
Being on the South Island and away from the stronger Maori influence on the North Island, Christchurch is
probably New Zealand's most
"English" city. In fact, many people call Christchurch the most English
city outside of England, just as Quebec, Canada is probably the most French city outside
Christchurch was named in 1850 by the early settlers, members
of the Church of England who wanted the town to be more stratified and hierarchical
than Wellington or Auckland. It started out that way, but then the class
barriers started breaking down and... horrors!... Christchurch became more like the other
cities in New Zealand.
spent most of the past four days in my motel working on my photos, website, and
other tasks, I haven't checked out Christchurch very much yet, but I like what
I've seen so far. After I get this update posted, I'll explore
Christchurch some more and will post a review in my next update.
left: The Picton waterfront.
center: The grocery stores in New
Zealand are a lot like in the U.S., but some of the food is pretty
strange. I can't find any of my staples, such as Doritos, chili,
bratwurst, relish, or Raisin Bran. They do have "Kellogg's Sultana Bran,"
though. Judging from the purple box, I think a sultana is like a
raisin. This is in Blenheim.
right: A vineyard on South Island.
left: "Poppies...poppies will make
center: The scenery in New Zealand has been spectacular. This is
Highway 1 near Clarence.
right: Jousting sea lions
at a sea lion rookery along the highway near Kaikoura.
left: The Pacific Coast near Kaikoura
center: Rocks on the coast.
right: Because the camping situation
in New Zealand has been so disappointing, I've had to stay in motels.
Fortunately, though, New Zealand motels are wonderful. Most of them are small and
family-owned, and have "self-contained" rooms (i.e,, with a kitchen,
refrigerator, and dinnerware). They're pretty reasonable, too, averaging
around US$30 per night. I've stayed in some nice ones for less than $20 a
many places in New Zealand where I'll have local access to my ISP, Earthlink, which is why I haven't
been very good lately about responding to my e-mail. For some reason, Earthlink
has about a million places in Australia with local internet access, but very few
places here in New Zealand. I'll try to update
again once I get to Dunedin ("Dun-EDEN"), which is south of
Christchurch and is supposedly the most Scottish city in New Zealand.
Yummm... I can almost smell the haggis.
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
New Zealand Trip
> January 1, 2002 (Page 2)