Day One (Tuesday, April 10th)
Greg and I headed out from Palmy Tuesday morning, April 10th; he with his backpack, me with my little red suitcase on wheels (which, for some reason, Greg found highly amusing). We caught our Intercity bus at the stop just outside the main entrance to Massey University, conveniently located 5 minutes from our front step. The bus was very full. We had to sit apart – not the biggest deal, but it made the first short leg of our holiday rather dull. Unfortunately for Greg, the fellow beside him was an extraordinarily, errrmmm… pungent… chap. I did wonder at the time why Greg had such a pained expression on his face. (*Greg says: I wasn't overreacting, the fellow smelled quite horrible, and it's a two hour bus ride.)
Our bus dropped us off at the Wellington ferry terminal around noon. The ferry terminal is just outside of downtown Wellington in a very industrial area. We had several hours to spare before our sailing, so I checked my little red suitcase (on wheels) and we took the free shuttle bus to the railway station. From there we explored the city's centre. First we grabbed a bite to eat at ˜The Feathers Public House' – seems like a regular haunt for business men & women. Feeling much more satisfied in stomach and soul (french fries and tea are such an agreeable pairing), we wandered down to the waterfront and strolled along the pathway heading toward 'Te Papa', NZ's famous and free national museum. At least that was our intention. Wellington is an extremely windy city. Very soon we were both feeling pretty fed-up with the constant fight against the wind. Also, Te Papa appeared to be much further away than we'd anticipated. We found shelter for awhile in an art gallery – free entry with donation. Greg was reprimanded for entering with his backpack (heaven forbid he should knock over any of the,..˜art') so we headed back toward the railway station. We stopped briefly to take a few photos of New Zealand's parliament building, “The Beehive” – so nicknamed because it looks like a beehive. The free shuttle bus back to the ferry wasn't due for another couple hours, so we decided to try walking there. There's a good reason why they provide a free shuttle bus to and fro' the ferry: it's a very disagreeable walk. I'll say no more than that. (*Greg: I took the reigns for the day and thought a nice walk down to the ferry would be welcome. We had just spent a couple hours on a bus, and had a few more to spend on the ferry. While the scenery certainly wasn't anything worth noting, I at least thought the walk was pleasant. Apparently Holly found it torturous.)
Our ferry, the 'Arahura', finally set sail at 6:15 pm. Greg and I were both impressed by the ship. It has a big food court, a bar, a children's play area, workstations, various passenger lounges (including “Club Class”, a private pay-access lounge), a nursery, outside observation decks, a movie theatre,.there was so much to explore, our 3 hour trip flew by. The sea must have been quite calm because I managed to make the crossing without feeling seasick. I was worried remembering my woozy ferry ride on the Chi-Cheemaun. (I even have trouble on dad's boat sitting beneath the canopy if the lake's choppy. No joining the Navy for Hollis, I'm afraid!)
We arrived in Picton at 9:15 pm. It was completely dark by then, so we had no idea till morning what the area looked like. We gathered our luggage, walked into town, and found our hostel without trouble. ˜The Villa' is a pretty big place, but it has a small hostel atmosphere. At the centre is the original old house, surrounded by a labyrinth of rooms leading off rooms – the office, double rooms, share rooms, dorms, the kitchen, the dining hall, the laundry area, the toilets and showers. Out back is a really pretty garden with picnic tables and hammocks, and a hot tub hidden somewhere out of sight. Across the garden are smaller buildings with more accommodation. It was nice, if a bit on the shabby side. The whole place could use a face lift. Our room was right by the office. We had our own little wee hand sink in the corner, testament to the age of the house.
After checking in, we left the hostel for a short walk around town. Picton is not a big place. It's a very sweet little port town, with small cafes and pubs, bakeries, and a very pretty harbour that we wouldn't see much of until the next morning. It was 10ish when we headed back to our hostel, only to find ourselves locked out! That in itself isn't strange – every hostel locks its doors past a certain hour. Our trouble was that we hadn't been told how to enter after lock-up. Our key wouldn't work in the door, and the strange fellow with the braided goatee at reception hadn't mentioned anything about an access code (many hostels use them after hours). We were left with no choice but to ring the doorbell until someone answered. Our rescuer was none other than Mr. Receptionist, he of the decorative facial hair, and he seemed none to pleased with us. “Did I not tell you that we lock up after 9:30?”, he scowled. “Uummm,.no,”, we replied. *Pause, in which time his skepticism regarding our 'story' was made quite obvious* “Oh. Well, we do. And you use your key at the back door to get in after that.” Other than that small drama, the evening was pretty uneventful. We went to bed exhausted after a long day of travel, looking forward very eagerly to the next day's adventures.