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January 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Christchurch, N.Z.)

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Windy Wellington, and Across the Cook Strait

After 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).


Wellington, 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 To Clarksville.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.


I 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 coast.  I 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 mutton sausages. 


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 palatable.


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.  


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Above left:  While waiting for my ferry boat to arrive, I walked around the streets of Wellington, virtually deserted on Christmas Day. 

Above center:  The Wellington waterfront.

Above 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.


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Above left:  The Lynx pulling into its berth...

Above center:  ...and unloading vehicles.

Above right:  "Windy Wellington" is a pretty compact city with steep cliffs on three sides, and a well-protected harbor.


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Above left:  Finally, loading up.

Above center:  The lounge area inside the Lynx.  You wouldn't know we were cruising along at 25 knots.

Above 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.


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Above left:  A couple hours later, the Lynx pulled into Picton, the South Island terminus for the inter-island ferries.

Above center:  Picton at dusk.

Above right:  Picturesque Picton.


South From Picton

The 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.


The 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.  


I arrived 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 of France. 


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.


Having 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.


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Above left:  The Picton waterfront.

Above 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.

Above right:  A vineyard on South Island.


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Above left:  "Poppies...poppies will make them sleep."

Above center:  The scenery in New Zealand has been spectacular.  This is Highway 1 near Clarence.

Above right:  Jousting sea lions at a sea lion rookery along the highway near Kaikoura.


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Above left:  The Pacific Coast near Kaikoura

Above center:  Rocks on the coast.

Above 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 night.


The Next Update

There aren't 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 my website 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.




Next News

January 12, 2002 -- Part 1  (Dunedin, New Zealand)



Previous News

January 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

December 24, 2001  (Wellington, New Zealand)

December 20, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 16, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 14, 2001  (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)

December 10, 2001  (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bellingham, Washington)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bellingham, Washington)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 3  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 6, 2001  (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 15, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

August 30, 2001  (Webster, South Dakota)

August 18, 2001  (Watertown South Dakota)

August 17, 2001  (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)

August 14, 2001  (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)

August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)


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Home > Travels (2001-02) > New Zealand Trip > January 1, 2002 (Page 2)