18th - 21st January (Windy Wellington)
We packed up our tents and drove into the very pleasant Picton town with lots of quaint little shops and cafes. We got to the ferry terminal at 13.00 to check in for our 14.00 ferry. Leaving through the Marlborough Sounds, with its scenic wavy coastline consisting of loads of mountains poking their heads through the water, covered with trees, as the ferry sped up the front deck got a bit cold so I sat on the back deck soaking up the rays and breathing in the smell of the caged cows beneath and the exhaust fumes from above. The crossing took about three hours. Our hostel is a fifteen minute walk from the centre, the campsite part of which is a fairly small backyard, every day when it looked as if no more tents could possibly fit in, a couple more would appear - it felt like Reading festival without the rain.
After a supermarket shop we went to a fairly cheap curry house and once again I was less than impressed. Although tonight is a Thursday the nightlife in Wellington looks like a weekend, the upmarket bars are doing a brisk trade with mostly well dressed business classes I presume and the Irish bars with live music cater for the not quite so well dressed - I know where I will be tomorrow night!
Wellington being the capital, there are plenty of internet cafes at $4 per hour (around half the price of some places around NZ) and most of them have Skype available. So over the next couple of days I spoke to several of my friends which made me feel very happy - especially speaking to Smudge and Stu H, the newly proud fathers. Finally, the ten euros I put on my Skype account back in Thailand has been used up - Skype is great. Wellington is known famous for being windy, on the first day, the sun shone for a while but most of the rest of the time was overcast so I spent a lot of time making the most of the cheap internet. The city is nice, not too overcrowded, with cafes, coffee shops, art gallerys and museums, plus of course the usual chain stores and fast food joints. Back at base, I cooked a fairly hot Thai red veggie curry, then we went for beers, the Wellington atmosphere made me feel like a session but with my more refined friends I managed to get two pints before getting home at midnight - at least I will feel ok in the morning!
The next day Tom felt a bit tired, so Sasha and I wandered around looking for art gallerys and things to do; we found the terrible 'beehive' building, a late 60's monstrosity I believe, and the rather nicer adjoining parliament building before heading to the seafront to try our hands at inline skating - I was much better than I expected, having been rubbish at rollerblading and ice-skating when I was younger, I was quite quick but couldn't stop or turn. Sasha was a bit shaky but improved gradually. We both managed to get through the hour unscathed. Sasha cooked jacket potatoes and corn on the cob. I did a clean sweep of yanif, trumps and 15's - damn, I'm good! We all had a pretty bad nights sleep with the souped up boy racer cars speeding between each set of lights along the strip.
The next day, the others went to a monastry, so I did more internet and skyping - happy birthday to Dad. I couldn't find a pub showing Liverpool whoop Chelsea which was on Sky so I went to the impressive Te Papa museum, before meeting up with Tom and Sasha to go to a Hari Chrishna thing, I thought it was just going to be a street party and a bit of a laugh but as we went up some stairs and Tom and Sasha dissapeared into a room full of strange people, I realised this was not a place I wanted to be so legged it back to the safety of the internet cafe. When I met Tom and Sasha later they laughed at me but when they told me about the singing and dancing I felt I had made the right choice (despite the lovely free food I missed).