Happy New Year! I think I said that last night, but there’s no shame in repeating the sentiment. I wasn’t so happy about getting up at 6:45am, though... and it’s a good thing Frank set the radio in the kitchen to go off at 6:50am, because I slept right through my iPod’s alarm (either that or it never went off). But I was able to get up, get all my stuff together, feed myself some toast and jam, make a sandwich for lunch, and say goodbye to Fay all before 7:40am. Frank drove me down to the bus stop on Dalton Street for 7:45am, and after bidding him goodbye and thanking him profusely for his and Fay’s hospitality over the last ten days, I boarded the Intercity bus and was on my way to Wellington at 8am.
The bus ride was mostly uneventful; I spent it listening to City & Colour, Coldplay, and k. d. lang (how I love her voice, her control, and her interpretations. She’s amazing). I tried not to fall asleep, but no such luck; I woke up right in the middle of the Manawatu Gorge. So much for that picture opportunity (even though they would haven’t have been that great anyway, due to the bus glass). We also hit a huge burst of rain just outside of Palmerston North, which sparked all sorts of horrible imaginings in my mind that we were going to be pummeled the entire time on the Heaphy Track. However, it only lasted a few minutes, and by the time we got into Wellington the skies were overcast but clearing.
Arriving at Platform 9 (but not 9 and 3/4) at the Wellington Railway Station at 1pm was originally supposed to give me time to do some shopping for the hiking trip before catching the shuttle bus to the Interislander Ferry at 5pm. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan for the fact that today is New Year’s Day, and everything is closed... as such, I ended up sitting in the Railway Station for four hours, reading and writing e-mails and notes. In these types of situations my little vodafone mobile internet key nearly pays for itself. When I went to eat the sandwich I had made for lunch I discovered the avocado had turned into a rather unappetizing brown mush; I ate as much of it as I could, then threw the rest away, much to the horror of the pigeons clustered around my feet, hoping for some crumbs. A sign in the railway station strictly prohibited feeding the pigeons, however, along with other obvious no-no behaviours such as drinking and smoking, and less obvious ones like no lighting of campfires...!
When I got to the Interislander Ferry terminal I ran into Justin and Alanise, a brother and sister duo I had approached when we originally got off the bus in Wellington because I noticed the big Canada flag patches sewn to their backpacks. Turns out they are from Sooke, and their mom grew up in Duncan! It doesn’t matter how far away from home you go, you’ll always find someone from the same place as you. We all got on quite well and ended up sitting together on the ferry. Justin and Alanise’s father is from New Zealand, and as such they are down here for six weeks visiting relatives; they just spent three weeks on the North Island and are now heading down to the South Island to do some touristy things such as visit Milford Sound. I, being the old pro at the Cook Strait ferry crossing by now, warned them that the ride is usually signifigantly rockier than the BC Ferry Victoria - Vancouver runs. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately, in this case!), fate proved me a liar; the crossing was calm and smooth and an altogether simply stunning ride; the sun sinking lower in the horizon, the crystal-clear blue waters of the ocean, and the mountains of the Marlborough Sounds in the distance a greyish blue, fading to a dull rosy colour as the sun’s last rays set upon them. Alanise agreed with me that we were spoiled to the natural beauty of the scene, being from BC, and I told them they would both find the South Island to be very similar to Vancouver Island in scenery, showing them a few pictures from my iPhoto library to prove my point.
This was also the first time I have been able to eat on a Cook Strait ferry crossing without feeling that I was going to lose the contents of my stomach; I had lasagna with cooked veggies and a ginger beer, all for $10.60, which I thought was pretty reasonable for a ferry meal (the portion sizes were reasonable and it didn’t taste half-bad, either!).
When we arrived in Picton, I was surprised to sense myself feeling like I was having a homecoming of sorts; it must be a combination of having been to the South Island twice already and the scenery being so similar to coastal British Columbia. I was picked up by George in the Tombstone Backpackers van, along with another girl from Italy named Lucia. George was also kind enough to give Alanise and Justin a ride to the YHA in Picton so they didn’t have to walk. It was an interesting ride; the front left tyre of the van was decidedly flat! By the time we made it back to Tombstone Backpackers I’m sure we were nearly riding on the hubcap, because there definitely wasn’t any air left in the bottom of the tyre. George took one look at it and said, “Well, I know what I’ll be doing first thing tomorrow!”
So now I am here “rest[ing] in peace” at Tombstone Backpackers, and feeling a lot better about things than I did last night, when I was fretting about traveling and moving all my gear around and the ferry ride (I am so glad it was a smooth crossing!). Tomorrow I can sleep in somewhat, as I don’t have to check out until 10am, and walk down to meet Sally and her entourage at 11:35am at the ferry terminal. I will definitely be getting more than five hours sleep... night!