After spending a whole week at Lake Taupo (the longest we’ve stayed in any one location since we left Ireland), we were starting to get itchy feet again. At 32 days, we’d now covered a whole third of the trip. Overall, Taupo is a pleasant place with a wealth of things to do and see around the area though we were quite disappointed with the restaurants we tried. We’d really enjoyed staying in the Colonial Lodge though, and managed to do a lot in the week (apart from the Tongariro Crossing). Fully rested, it now felt like it was time to move on. So we packed up our rucksacks to head further south. This gave us a quick view of the rest of the North Island as we passed through countryside and more towns. A full day on the bus brought us all the way down to Wellington where we tried to restore our circulation.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and is right on the coast. Although it’s the capital, it has the feel of a small city. A small and exposed city during the couple of days we were there. The winds were ferocious, making it difficult to make your way around the city, and it was bitterly cold. Given that it was the capital city, we were surprised to find the streets quite empty and most of the businesses shut in the evenings. On a Saturday night we spent a long time wandering around in search of an open restaurant that looked appealing.
Sunday morning wasn’t much different looking for a cafe for brunch. It seemed that every cafe that appealed to us was either closed, or jam packed with people so it was hard to get a place. The one we finally went to was incredibly slow to serve the food, bringing parts of our orders at random and almost poisoning the food with seasoning. Kiwis seem to like going heavy on the salt and butter on any food. We did enjoy dinner at the Burrito Brothers that evening which seemed to have a healthy stream of customers, but were surprised at a lack of choice in general when it came to eating out. There are supposed to be more cafes and restaurants in Wellington per head than there are in New York City. Perhaps most of the people had left for somewhere with better weather?
We were staying in Downtown Backpackers, close to the quays. A twin room there gives you a set of bunk beds, much to Brodie’s disgust. The old building has a lot of nooks and crannies both inside and out. All night the wind would howl and rage with gusts of air coming through the windows. The noise was such that it was very hard to sleep. It sounded like ferocious demons were screaming outside, accompanied with loud bumps and bangs. And you don’t even want to know what the bath behind the curtain in the bathroom looked like. Between the noisy nights and the semi-deserted streets, Wellington wasn’t shaping up to be one of our favourite destinations and we were getting quite anxious to move on.
After a couple of sleep-deprived nights and days battling the wind, we were more than ready to board an early interislander ferry across the sea to Picton. The sea conditions were marked as ‘heavy’. While I’ve been on much worse ferry crossings, the movement of the ship in the worst of the waves was quite substantial. Most people really didn’t need to witness a young boy spectacularly evacuating the contents of his stomach at the height of weather before bursting into tears. Though I was willing at that point to put up with quite a lot if it meant getting out of Wellington. Thankfully, after 3 hours we were in the calmer waters along New Zealand’s south island, ready to do explore some new territory and hope it wasn’t going to be deserted and/or wind-ravaged also.