Sunday, December 13, 2009

NZ - Kaikura --> Wanganui

Today was merely a travel day, so I wish I had a bit more to say.  I’ll start with the drive out of Kaikura: the drive into and out of this town is truly a pleasant one.  The road weaves along with the shoreline, whilst a railway takes to a more ordered straight route; tunnels piercing the terrain.  There wasn’t too much traffic, but plenty of folks out early fishing along the shore.  They say the early bird catches the worm, but the early fish catches the worm, too.

Just as the coast fades into the distance: the vineyards of the Marlborough region begin appearing in view… not quite as amazing as vineyards in, say, Tuscany; but still enough to keep the drive from becoming stale.

I ended up arriving in Picton not just early for my ferry, but early for the earlier ferry.  I got in at about 11:30 – including a stop for some food along the way – and ended up catching the ferry leaving an hour before my scheduled ride.  The Interislander service is undoubtedly nicer than the Bluebridge service – the interior is more posh and the exterior provides more freedom of movement between port & starboard sides.  Views to the front and rear are possible with Interislander, but only through windowed areas whereby front row seats are taken quickly; and windows don’t provide the best throughput for photos.

The wind on my ferry ride a couple weeks ago was memorable, but today it was outright craziness.  The nearer we got to Wellington, the more it picked up; and as we entered the sounds the wind was pushing people across the deck.  It quickly emptied to one dedicated smoker, a woman who enjoyed leaning into the wind, and myself; then a couple stragglers remaining within the cabin & periodically trying to venture out only to be brutally reminded of the wind.  I was actually a cabin-dweller, myself, for awhile – only emerging to nab some photos; but I eventually located a nice spot wherby I could sit on the deck & be totally clear of the wind.  I’d hear it in all directions & feel it tugging at my toes, but I was otherwise in a warm & calm world of my own – in a great spot to lean over, into the wind again, nab some photos, and then return to my happy little seat.

Wellington proper was still a tad breezy, but was nothing like the hurricane only a couple hundred meters away.  The sun was shining brightly, or during its intermittent coverings by cloud: the clouds would be whisked away in seconds.  As weather was better this time around than during my last visit to the city, I opted to explore its streets briefly – Courtenay Place, Cuba Street… I even picked up some sorely-needed reading material for the many times I lack a power supply for my laptop: The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan.  Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed whilst searching for Slaughterhouse-Five and Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!  There was a massive selection of Tolkien & Douglas Adams, though… the former of which should certainly not be unexpected.

The drive to Wanganui was pretty lackluster, with terrain offering little splendor.  The sun, however, made some work of the otherwise uninteresting hills: as the sun neared the horizon, the slight curvatures in the hills became massive roaming shadows.  I started hitting the rumblestrips alongside my lane a bit more frequently once the sun cleared the clouds & lit up the countryside.

As I was leaving Wellington, I passed by the very first police officer I’ve seen this entire trip with the radar gun out.  Granted, there was presumable one as I was leaving Christchurch, but officially I didn’t spot any radar gun & officially I didn’t even see them on the prowl: as I passed by, the officer had just pulled over someone who had passed me by but moments before.  I was actually kind of impressed at how quickly they must’ve pulled him over.  I was also a bit uneasy as the guy that was pulled over was only going perhaps 10 km/h over the limit… he didn’t strike me as an aggressive speeder; just someone passing me by out of preference for going a little faster.  My opinion, as a traffic engineer, is that that’s not appropriate enforcement: that’s just an inappropriate speed limit.

Upon arrival in Wanganui, my arbitrarily-chosen midway stopping point en route to Taranaki, I came upon the Anndion Lodge – more like a homestay than a hostel, if you can disregard the numbers on the doors.  Free internet is one particular glory element, along with getting a 3-bed room to myself.  It’s the perfect size for one person, but stuffing three people in here would be a bit tricky.  The communal facilities are tough to match, though, and its décor really is more that of someone’s home than traveler’s lodging.

The showers put out enough pressure that it might throw lesser folk into the wall, but I interpret that as a really really good massage. On the other hand, you’re likely to hit the wall, anyway, on account of the small size of the shower stalls.  Imagine Bender’s apartment from Futurama, albeit without the robot but with one American-sized Fry.

Other folk in the building include a family whereby the husband is an artist, and then another dude who’s an artist.  They’re working on a local skate park just down the road whereby troubled youths are coming together to design & paint the décor at the facility.  I spoke with that latter dude for awhile – it sounded pretty interesting and, memory serving, I hope to swing by it tomorrow morning.

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