We left the National Park early this morning and headed for Wellington via Tangiwai, Taihape and Otaki. Our bus driver, Gareth, was a welcome and familiar face. He was the guy who took Alba and I up north and we really enjoyed his company.
Our first stop was Tangiwai, where there is a memorial for one of New Zealand’s worst railway disasters. Part of Mount Ruapehu collapsed after a storm and the debris washed out the road and train tracks. The train’s conductor couldn’t see the destruction at night and drove the train into the Whangaehu River. Unfortunately, many people died in this accident.
Next we drove through Taihape and put on our very own gum boot throwing contest. A gum boot, also known as a wellington, is your everyday rubber boot. But turn that into a distance-throwing contest and it becomes a sporting activity just like any other. In Taihape, they even have a special fenced playing field. It must be for those serious gum boot throwers. We all took turns flinging the boot as far down the lane as possible. Lo and behold, I threw the boot the farthest out of all the girls. What an achievement!
Our next stop in Otaki was definitely too short for most people. Otaki is a town of outlet shops that offered cheap deals on good products. Unfortunately we only had about 30 minutes here, so you really had to be an experienced (or desperate) shopper to find what you needed within that time frame.
After a long day on the bus, we pulled into Wellington to find rain and dark clouds. We were supposed to go to a nearby lookout and do a bit of hiking, but none of us were in the mood for it. So, instead, we zipped around the city for a quick tour and were dropped off at our hostels. We decided to meet later that night to watch Gareth’s brother-in-law, Andy, play music at a club.
After settling in at YHA Wellington, Alba and I met a Taiwanese girl named Rosie. We invited her to have dinner and go to the gig with us. After dinner, we met the rest of our group – Tuan and Holly from Canada and Will from Scotland – at BASEment, the bar under the Base hostel. Together we walked over to Blend where we met Gareth and Rob, our new driver for the South Island.
Blend seemed like a pretty posh place in the beginning judging by the décor and ambiance. However, then they started doing stupid bar games and two tables away from us was a huge group from Kiwi Experience. Kiwi Experience is a bus company for backpackers that targets a younger demographic than Stray. Feel free to infer what you will from that statement, and you’ll probably be too generous. As the crazy antics only seemed to be escalating (guys stood on the table while their girl partner had to get something up one pant leg and down the other using only their mouths), we decided to move on to Molly Malone’s, where Andy’s band would be playing.
When we arrived, Molly Malone’s was packed with people. Andy’s band was a cross between jazz, blues and funk, which seemed to be very popular among the crowd. While this type of music definitely isn’t something I’d normally go to see, it was cool to be there just the same. Some people started dancing in front of the stage. Others cheered from their place in the back of the room. It was standing room only by the time we arrived and just seemed to get more and more full as the night went on.
At around 11:30, Rosie and I decided to head back to the hostel. Everyone else besides Alba and Will had already left because we had to get up at around 5:30 am to catch the ferry across to Picton. Alba got back to the hostel about a half hour later. Despite the bad weather, Wellington turned out to be a nice place after all. I can’t wait to come back and spend more time here.