We were ready for a night out on the town in Wellington, New Zealand. Turns out, it wasn’t ready for us. I guess should say it didn’t really have room for us. We haven’t booked ahead in New Zealand yet and rarely in our last four and a half months of travel; this is the first time it has bitten us in the ass. There were 3 places left with space, as of 11 am on February 16. One was a motel 10 miles out of the city, one was $800 a night and the last was two beds in a dorm at a hostel that was still a whopping $62 USD for two beds in a dorm! We opted for the hostel. It was called Base Wellington. We’d honestly planned on staying in a lot more hostel dorms than we had to date but with 2 of us, a private room is usually pretty similar in pricing and you don’t have to share a room with 10 strangers where at least one of which will snore and all of which will get up to use the bathroom at some point throughout the night. I’m not knocking dorms – they’re a great way to meet people, save money and cook your own food but I’ve found the quality of sleep to be low and a dependence on the hygiene of 20-somethings disturbing. Anyhow, Base Wellington was centrally located and after a few hours of playing hopscotch with parking spaces, we settled into Wellington and really enjoyed a great night on the town.
In Southeast Asia, cheap light beer was available everywhere for 50 cents a glass. In New Zealand, your economical choice is wine for $5 USD per bottle. However, a night on the town required some much missed, heavily hopped beer. As we are traveling on a budget, $8 pints aren’t a regular luxury but when we do indulge ourselves its that much sweeter. Yup, IPAs and Jalapeño balls, mmmm…. Being out early we went after happy hour jugs (pitchers) and eventually found our entertainment via a local trivia night. Again, foreign trivia is that much harder. The sports round was 9 questions about rugby and cricket and one about the Super Bowl. Luckily for us, the prizes given were for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 2nd to last. I’m not saying which we took but the prize was 2 free beers! And you can bet we found the 2 darkest on tap.
My small set of ear plugs came in handy and thankfully none of our dorm mates were late night party animals so sleep came relatively easy. The next day our ferry didn’t leave until 5 pm to take us to the South Island. In the meantime, I’d woken up early to move the car so we had a whole day to enjoy the wet version of Wellington. Where to go on a rainy day? The national museum of New Zealand of course! Oh, and I was on a mission to get a fish burger from this great looking fish market/deli.
The museum was featuring a really nicely done exhibit of WWI’s battle of Gallipoli. This was especially great considering both my and McKayla’s recent obsession/nerdery with this period and this particular war. It mostly highlighted New Zealand and Maori involvement in the conflict, focusing on specific stories while providing a great overview of the particular battle involving NZers and Australians. It used 3D maps that were overlaid with projection showing the movements of the troops on both sides. It made clear the mountain ridges where battles took place, where strong holds were reinforced and where stands were made. They also made sure to highlight equipment used by regulars and reenacting heroic and horrific scenes using giant, extremely detailed sculptures. Other exhibits in the museum included NZ’s history of receiving refugees, Maori culture, current environmental conditions, volcanoes and so many more interesting things in areas that didn’t contain my coveted fish burger. We left the museum with a lot left unseen and went to find my fish. It was everything I could’ve hoped for – a monstrous, delicious, fresh caught, Tarakihi complete with coleslaw and tartar sauce. It came in a paper bag that was nearly transparent afterwards from all the grease. A $4 sandwich never tasted so good. McKayla found herself a a pretty good bacon blue cheese burger out of a semi-permanent food truck. Her burger nearly made me stray from my fish search but I was steadfast and rewarded with my possibly best ever fish sandwich.
Wellington was a charming port city but now it was on to bigger (the mountains are factually bigger) and better (so we heard from a few sources) things on the South Island. The north island has been beautiful and charming, the South Island has some work cutout to match its sister to the north.
I’m sure a nicer ferry exists somewhere but the Intercontinental was the nicest I’ve ever been aboard. After our organized loading and on-time departure we were taken across the Tasman sea in 3 and a half hours while enjoying a viewing area just above a full bar/cafe/dining area. If the rainy weather and the ever-annoying screaming child next to us would’ve been swept away it would’ve been a perfect crossing. We arrived in Picton just at sunset and were able to squeeze into a wet and windy campground just outside of town. We made our best attempt at a NASCAR pit crew tent setup in the blowing rain. The result was a crooked but solid tent setup and an absolutely drenched pair of Haacks. We made a quick dinner and took full advantage of the lounge/TV room where we met some fellow ‘Montanans’ (actually from Minnesota but had lived in Montana for a few years) and watched some terrible movies while we dried out, charged our devices, and swapped stories.