Another early morning today, made even earlier by the roommate who stumbled in around 5am and somehow managed to ascend into a top bunk, even in a drunken stupor (but not before waking up everyone else in the room). My alarm went off at 6:30am, and by 7:30am I was out the door, across the street at the train station, and sitting on a Intercity coach at Platform 9 (no, not 9 3/4, although that would be amusing) that was heading for Napier.
The 5 1/2 hour ride to Napier was mostly uneventful; I had fun recognizing the sites and sounds from when I traversed through this countryside with Mainline Steam, such as the stunning Manawatu Gorge, and the fountain in the city square in Hastings of which the railway line passes right though the middle. I also had fun (and as I am about to type this I realize how nerdy it sounds) listening to songs I know very well on my iPod with my in-ear canalphones and seeing if I can pick up new nuances, mistakes, or backing tracks I hadn't noticed before. For AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top" the lead vocals faintly come in a bar too early at the beginning, and Tori Amos' "Yes Anastasia" doesn't really end with the piano dying away; instead, the note fades somewhat, she lifts her foot off the sustain pedal, and breathes out. Laugh at me if you will, but it gave my ears something to do while my eyes were busy gazing at the New Zealand countryside.
I got into Napier around 1:15pm, and checked into Criterion Art Deco Backpackers, housed in (like so many backpacker hostels here in New Zealand) what used to be an old hotel (The Criterion Hotel) on the corner of Emerson and Hastings (for those who don't know Napier, it's essentially right downtown). I then did mundane but necessary travelling tasks, like washing out some socks, and reorganizing my bags to save them from another encroaching case of suitcase rot. Then it was off to the grocery store to find some dinner supplies, and as I walked I tried to block out the sounds of the open-air concert going on across Marine Parade (they weren't the most talented of musicians). There is something surreal about walking around on November 28th, in brilliant sunlight, wearing capris and a t-shirt.
I do miss the snow and the winter sun (no, really!); down here, the lack of ozone layer makes the sun extremely intense, which is deadly to someone like me with fair skin. I've tried applying sunscreen two or three times a day, but it doesn't seem to make any difference; my face still burns. I've bought another brand of sunscreen (it's criminal, how much they sell it for down here - my bottle cost $23 - but it's because it's always in high demand), so we'll see if that makes any difference. And of course I'm wearing sunglasses, a hat, and staying in the shade whenever I can.
Tomorrow I will be spending the day with my Stefan and cousin Harrison! They are down here in New Zealand for a week visiting Stefan's parents, Fay and Frank, and we are going to go to the aquarium tomorrow, then wander around town. I can't wait; it's going to be so nice to see some familiar faces.
Now it is 11:30pm and I am yawning like crazy… here's hoping for a good night's sleep tonight, and that I actually manage to sleep without waking until 8am. A full eight hours of sleep: it will be a miracle!