Well, so much for keeping on top of the blog. It's been a couple of weeks, so this may well come in stages. But internet is free at the library here in Paddington, Sydney, so I shall keep coming back until I'm bang up to date...
Friday 16th February 2007 Continued
After leaving The Bug, I got the bus over to Picton, which is, in the words of a travel-brochure writer, nestled at the base of the Malborough sounds. The weather clouded in as we drove into the Sounds, but before then it had been a glorious day (typically spent for the most part on the internet or in a bus).
I was staying (in my tent) in a place called The Jugglers Rest. I was a bit apprehensive about the atmosphere of such a place, thinking that it would be like a small Sidmouth Folk Festival, full of fire-breathing vagrant-types and juggling crusties. I couldn't have been more wrong, however. It was great.
In the evening when I arrived some Japanese were making tempura for everyone at the hostel. I guess it was rather lighter than your average fish and chips ("fush and chups" in the local dialect), but it isn't far off and there was so much of it that by the end I definitely had deep-fried belly.
Still, it was a very pleasant evening and there were certainly some interesting characters at the hostel. These included a precocious American daddy's girl (educated in a posh Boston private school, but now looking to make it on her own as a photographer/writer in Texas), a middle-aged pschotherapist from England (think Shirley Valentine/Anna Ferris' Mum on a voyage of self-discovery), and an odd couple from the Isle of Wight. Both of the latter were in their fifties, although she looked old enough to be his mother (and kept making comments about how she couldn't understand why people thought that was the case). They have been cycling round the world for the last few years and either brought psychicatric issues with them, or developed them as a result. Fascinating stuff.
Saturday 17th February 2007
Set off early on a long walk (making sure I got away ahead of the Isle of Wighters, who were planning the same route). My outing took in a great look-out on the hill behind Picton and then I followed the track out to The Snout (a promontory sticking out into the Malborough Sounds). It was a clear, sunny day and the views were wonderful.
It was quite and eventful day. I stubbed my toe on an eroded wooden step (bending back the nail, and spitting it so much that it bled - nice - but luckily not enough to require a plaster) and had a picnic sitting on rocks at the very end of The Snout. There were so many Cicadas flying about that two got trapped behind my glasses and several more flew into my ears, nose, neck, hair, etc. It was enough to cause a mild outbreak of maddness (waving arms, shouting randomly into the air, walking along bent double with my arms over my face and my hands over my ears...). So that rather took away from the pleasure of walking through the bush. But still, with hindsight, you tend to forget about the little things and concentrate on the good aspects (sunshine, views, the smell of the tea-tree bushes, wild-flowers).
Back at the hostel I compared notes with the mad English couple (she had also stubbed a toe and had trouble with the beasties - they were surprised they hadn't seen me!) and then made a spinach curry and accompanying dahl. This was washed down with a nice Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, courtesy of a friendly (and for once, not too opinionated) Israeli.
Sunday 18th Feburary 2007
I had a nice relaxing morning at the Juggler's Rest, packing up my tent, picking pears from the tree and enjoying the sunshine (again - summer's finally here it would seem). Finished the curry for lunch (and felt pretty stuffed - I really should learn how to cook for one).
The Ferry ride over to Wellington was beautiful. Gorgeous views of the Sounds, and then right down the coast (to the Kaikoura Mountain Range behind). I managed to scrape my shin on one of the raised thresholds on the boat (nice sharp metal edge - I should sue). More blood, but not on a scale comparable to Mum's two horseshoe slices. There must be something in the genes!
The approach into Wellington was also most scenic. Another nestled settlement (aren't they great?), which gives it a compactness you don't often get in New Zealand.
Victoria (friend from Scotland, via Western Australia) was there to meet me at the ferry terminal and we walked back to her house. Or, rather, the place where she is staying. It is a student house, shared with umpteen others, but I was lucky enough to have a room (and bed) to myself, which was a rare luxury on this trip (having a room to myself, that is - I have been lucky enough [or not!] to have a bed to myself throughout my travels).
We then went out for a drink and something to eat. It was lucky that I wasn't so hungry (thanks, curry!), as I ordered a gormet hotdog and got the smallest sausage in the world on the thinest single slice of sliced white bread I have ever seen. It was quite comic, but not wholly satisfying. Luckily Victoria's selection (Portobello mushrooms and salad) was huge, so I was able to share some of that too.
Wellington seems lovely (quite quiet on a Sunday night, but with a friendly, slightly bohemian atmostphere and hills rising up all around).
Monday 19th February 2007
Still sunny. Amazing weather, in fact. Something feels amiss! Everyone kept telling me that Wellington is nice, but the weather is always rubbish. Well, not on this occasion.
In the morning, I walked up to the Mt Victoria lookout with Clay (great 360 degree views) and then back down, to the beach, for a swim. I didn't really expect to be swimming in Wellington, so it was a pleasant surprise. The man-made beach was a bit like crushed builders' rubble, but the water was clean and there were plenty of fish and starfish, so it can't be too polluted.
In the afternoon, I bought stuff for a picnic and wandered up to the Botanical Gardens. It's a beautiful spot and the contours (very up and down) make it seem even bigger than it is. Nice plants too. The golden evening light was amazing (lots of photos) and I walked miles, weaving a circuitous route back through the city.
I collapsed into bed soon after I got back, before Clay and Victoria had finished work (they've both got bar/restaurant jobs, so work odd hours).
Tuesday 20th February 2007
Even warmer today. Not even sunnier, but only because that would have been impossible. Wellington looks lovely with a backdrop of clear blue skies. Who'd have thought it?
I spent most of the day in the garden and on the beach. It was Victoria's day off, so it was nice to have some company for a change. And nice to be swimming in the sea again (only a hand-full of times during my whole 3 months in NZ).
In the evening I went with Victoria and one of her housemates (a dreadlocked fire-stick waver - he should've been staying at The Juggler's Rest!), to a little bar called Havana. It was a sweet little place - right up Carolyn's street, with a Latin American theme throughout.
Wednesday 21st February 2007
Up early to get the bus to Napier. Rather a boring journey (although the first bit along the Kapiti coast is quite scenic, and there is a section through a little gorge about half way). It is also cloudy for most of the journey (that's more like it).
Luckily the sun was back out by the time I reached the Hawke's Bay area (the sunniest part of the country, apparently, although about 3 other regions make the same claim).
Spent the afternoon wandering around Napier and getting my bearings. The Art Deco architecture isn't quite as unified/coherent as I might have imagined, although there are some nice buildings dotted around and the town generally has a pleasant atmosphere. It also has a massively long grey pebble beach (backed by rows of Norfolk Pines), although the many warnings about the undertow rather disuade me from taking a dip.
I found half a ready roasted chicken for $2.99, a huge pumpkin for $1.20 and assorted other bargains (including a nice bottle of Hawke's Bay Pinot Noir for under $10). I love Pak & Save.
Thursday 22nd February 2007
I walked to the beach in the morning and made further forays into the town, in an attempt to spot Art Deco details. Still lovely and sunny. The tall palm trees in some of the parks (along with the sun and occasional bit of Spanish Mission architecture) remind me of San Diego. It's almost enough to make you believe the hype.
After lunch back at the hostel I went on a mammoth walk up to the Botanical Gardens (there is a huge derelict hospital next to it - occupying a prime site on the top of the hill, with views all around - surely a major development opportunity), over to the harbour and up to Bluff lookout. All quite interesting, but the centre of Napier is by far the nicest part for wandering around. The rest tends towards "boring suburb" and the port area is heavy-industrial, rather than marina-chic.
The hostel isn't the friendliest I've been in (lots of long-termers working in the vineyards and orchards of Hawke's Bay), but it only costs $11 a night (in my tent) and has everything I might need (which is basically a well-equipped kitchen and reasonably clean bathroom).
Well, I had better leave it there for now, as my time on the computer is almost up (and blogger has been causing me no end of troubles on this computer - I'm not even going to attempt to spell check). I'll try and make further updates later in the week, although there is so much to see and do in Sydney that I am finding it difficult to curtail my wanderings and stay indoors on the computer. I clearly need to find somewhere more boring to stay!