It’s finally time – to pack up my bag again and move on from New Zealand. What calls me onward is not a new country, but instead a return to a home that I haven’t seen in months. I would enjoy staying in New Zealand for another six months, but unfortunately a lack of good job options and my non-infinite bank accounts have conspired together, and the clearest course for me is to return home to rest and rebuild my finances before starting out again on another world trip.
For now, what that means is that I am taking my leave of Christchurch. While the city has been amazing to me, I haven’t had the time to see anything of the North Island as of yet, and so I’ve planned out a road trip in order to remedy this.
Drizzle… why does it always have to drizzle and spit when I try to sleep out under the stars? Seriously, I love the idea of sleeping out without a tent or anything, but its starting to get silly how often it rains on me just enough to be annoying. I actually ended up moving into the car to sleep off the final bits of the morning when the rain started coming down enough to worry me, which wasn’t nearly as cramped as I expected it to be… but still not anywhere near as comfortable as the nice soft grass I had been in earlier.
After a bit of stretching and popping of joints, I finally roused myself for action. After paying for the campsite I took to the road nearly immediately, not wanting to waste any time that I could be spending exploring the awesome city of Wellington. I had gotten more than a few recommendations on things I should see and places I should go, and so after a quick trip to the i-site to get a city map I started off to find myself something delicious to eat for breakfast/lunch.
And what food there was to be had… Wellington reminds me of the artists section of New York City, in that it’s full of neat creativity and amazing small coffee and lunch shops. While wandering around I saw some amazing murals and art installations, but I think what caught my mind more was the simple Feel of the city; the fact that creativity and invention was simply in the air surrounding you. Forgive my hyperbole; I know that sounds corny, but its the best way to describe what walking around Wellington actually felt like, without actually taking someone there.
After a rather nice little lunch of Nachos (Ed Note: Finally a city with actual fake-Mexican food!) I moved on the the national museum – Te Papa. The outside of the museum was impressive, to say the least, but inside it actually reminded me a huge amount of the Museum of Science back in Boston – A large open center lead out to each of the main exhibits, with amazing shapes and lights peaking out from each of the exhibit halls. My main goal for the museum was to check out two of the biggest shows that Te Papa’s known for – its Colossal Squid and its Earthquake / Maori history.
The squid itself was gigantic and more than a bit intimidating, though it was quite different from the giant squid that I’d seen in the Smithsonian in Washington DC… Colossal Squid are the heaviest squid in the world (that we know of), but Giant Squid are the longest. A small difference it seems, but it means that the Colossal squid is nearly a meter in diameter, ten meters long, and weighing in at nearly 500 kg (over 1100lbs). However, a Giant Squid is nearly 20meters long, while only weighing in at 275kg (600lbs). And yes, I do feel that this information is quite relevant to my roadtrip to Auckland.
The Earthquake and Maori history section of the museum was quite interesting as well, but didn’t really have anything that I hadn’t seen before, so I worked my way through it fairly quickly, wanting to head onwards to my next stop in Wellington – The Weta Cave! Weta is the group that does props and special effects for many of the biggest Holywood movies – notably Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia. Since so many people kept coming to their complex asking for tours, the folks at Weta put together “the cave”, or a place to showcase some of their best works and show a short film about what they’ve done and how they do it. I got to see the original statue of Lurtz (the Uruk-Hai Captain from Lord of the Rings), Narsil in its broken state, and many other props from many other movies… And even a few video games as well. The video that they showed was quite interesting as well, and did a great job of showcasing the extent of Weta’s work, and some of the New Zealand film industry too.
After the Weta Cave, I jumped back into the car and got on the highway again, heading up towards the town of Taupo. Most of the way up the highway was just what I had expected – small winding roads traveling through amazing scenery and landscapes. I did have a few fun moments and frightening situations though – I took a turnoff to explore the “Adrenaline Forest”, what I thought was a cool woodland that I could check out. Not so – it was a kids camp. Disappointment.
The rest of the drive was quick and simple, but it took forever. For every kilometer that I had to go, it seemed that I had to drive three or four, and I found myself averaging just about 30kpm… or just about 17mph. On a main highway. I seriously do not understand how that held true, but this evening was just not happening for me. My original plan had been to camp out in Taupo so that I could hit the thermal pools that night, or maybe early in the morning. When 10:00 rolled around and I had been tearing away at the last 100km for an hour, I finally gave up on the fight and pulled off at a picnic spot to set up camp.
At first, it seemed like a near-perfect spot to set up my sleeping pad and just lay out in my sleeping bag. But then the bugs started showing up. I seriously don’t know where they came from, or what they eat when I’m not around, but I found thousands of sandflys literally coating my headlamp and the light in the car. It became so bad that I could barely see the light from the car, there were so many bugs. But it was nearly 11:00 at this point, so I set up the tent in the dark, and somehow was able to keep it out of the bug-radar until I was snugly inside with the screen zipped up and my sleeping bag snuggly around my neck.