After a reasonably choppy voyage across the Cook Straight the ferry rolled up into Wellington about 1pm. We hopped off and after again visiting a another Jucy branch to try to get them to rectify some of the van’s issues (they fixed the flappy bumper and sticky door and gave us 2 free cans of gas for the stove) we headed into Wellington City Centre.
The country’s capital is in good nick and we were very pleased with it. For the parts that we saw it was pretty hip and funky with some great looking shops, bars and cafes. Cuba Street in particular played host to many of these delights and also a top notch busker who was playing his guitar like it was a xylophone and drum combined. We didn’t give him any money though because he did miss a couple of chords and his hat was already looking more full than our wallet.
We picked up some cheap sushi for lunch and headed down to the harbour to eat and view the scenery. It was proper windy (so was Milly) which made it a bit shit but the locals didn’t seem to mind as we watched a bunch of the nutters diving into a sectioned off part of the harbour. The sea was rough as Gail Platt on a hangover so you wouldn’t catch us doing it.
Across the road (well over a pretty cool bridge) was another local fella doing back flips off a raised flower bed. I was gonna smash a couple out myself to show him up but Milly told me not to pick on the locals as it could end us up in trouble.
After we’d nipped about a bit and strolled pass Xero’s headquarters (Xero is an accountancy software company) we threw ourselves into the National Museum which is located on the harbour. Somehow Mill managed to pass as a minor so we got a discounted rate to view their new Insect Exhibit. To be fair, it wasn’t great. There were 3 or 4 sections to it where you could go down a slide, make an origami butterfly and tap some buttons as quickly as possible but other than that the rest of the museum was well better.
We mooched about a really cool World War I exhibit which had giant manikins and other interactive bits and told you heartbreaking stories about how the Kiwis and the Auzzies (Anzac I think they were called in the war) kicked the shit out of the Turks in Gallipolli and helped our side maintain access to the Suez canal.
There was also a very impressive exhibit all about the country’s history with its arch enemies; volcanos and earthquakes. There was a small room which you could go in and it shook to give you the feel of the 2010 Christchurch earthquake. And it showed some amazing footage of the various other weather phenomena which has hit the country in the recent past. It was really intriguing and had us hooked.
Unfortunately we didn’t get much time to see the rest of the place because we’d spent that much time in the aforementioned exhibits that it had got to 6pm and closing time. Bit gutting really because we could have spent hours more in there – especially when we’d got chatting to Bernie, one of the curators who was explaining the plight of the Kakapo (the only flightless parrot of which there are only 200 left they estimate).
Given that there are literally no cheap campsites in Wellington’s vicinity and the weather forecast was poop for the following day we made the descission to head north and stop off at a DoC campsite in a small town near Whitby which was about an hour’s drive outside Wellington.
It was nice camp for one of the DoC ones and it even had drinkable water and a chemical toilet. It also had a small (5km) walk right next to it called the Battle Hill Loop, which took you up a 750 meter high hill at which one of the old civil wars took place in the 1800s. Some of the dead from the battle had their graves next to the campsite. As with most campsites it came with a complimentary flock of ducks which Milly couldn’t resist making friends with.
We’d finished the walk by 9:30 (we drastically turned from lazy ‘lie-iners’ to ‘up-at-the-crack-of-dawners’) which was bloody great because the wind had picked up massively whilst we were trudging up the hill and the heavens opened as soon as we’d got back to Brucey. Given this rain and our plans for the forthcoming 9 days we hit the road again and made the 4/5 hour drive up north to Tuangi.
It was still pretty miserable in Turangi so after we’d been to the i-Site and booked in the following day’s adventure we mooched up to the local thermal pool place, a short distance up the road in Tokaanu, for some R&R. The pools were super cheap at $10 and we had 20 minutes in a private pool which although looked pretty minging wasn’t too bad. The water is pumped from the thermal area which surrounds the pools and there are signs everywhere telling you not to put your head below water because some form of amoeba can give you meningitis. The pool is about 38 degrees and was lovely because half of the pool wasn’t undercover so you got the old hot/cold effect. We also went into the public pool after that for a while which was a tepid 32 degrees. They’d treated this one with chlorine so getting your noggin under wasn’t a problem.
After we’d finished in the pool, we did a little walk which was next door to the baths which took you over and around all the thermal spots in the area. It stunk of sulphur (or eggs) and was pretty cool to see all the steam spouting up (more about thermal activity coming up in later posts. There’s shit loads of thermal activity going on in the North Island).
By this point, the rain had got worse so we sped off to find a spot for the night – another DoC place, conveniently located next to a prison. Luckily between the prison and the site was an amazing gorge, which I’m not sure our pics do any justice as it was bloody amazing!