Chapter 10: My legs hurt.

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
Trip End Nov 2004

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Wellington rocks. It's funny - most people I've met in New Zealand (travelers and locals) have nothing nice to say about the major cities, but I disagree. I guess it makes sense, because people generally come here for the breathtaking scenery and outdoors-y fun, but my time in Auckland & Wellington rates very highly. Thursday night after I updated this site I went to check out "Matrix: Revolutions," and I saw it in the most comfortable theater ever, for 1/2 what it would cost back in the States. The movie itself was fine; not as good as the first, but I think I liked it as much as the second. It was easier to follow, anyway.

Friday I explored downtown Wellington for a few hours, and then walked over to Te Papa, The Museum of New Zealand. The locals are justifiably proud of their new national institution. It's 6 floors full of excellent modern interactive exhibits covering basically every topic you could think of that's New Zealand-related, from geology to wildlife to art to history. I killed over four hours absorbing as much as I could until my brain was fried and my feet were screaming (if only they knew what was in store).

That night I was keen to check out the club scene in Wellington, so at 11:30 I walked down Courteney Place towards Dixon Street. Oddly enough given the huge number of clubs and cafes in town, there's only one gay venue, so my destination was obvious. My first hour at Pound was less than inspiring: I stood around with a drink in hand, listening to Lionel Richie remixes, surrounded by lesbians who looked like the Beaver or Anthony Soprano, Jr. I'm not trying to be mean - that's just who they most resembled. Finally the male contingent showed up after midnight, and a smart, funny, and exceedingly good-looking guy named Ben rescued me from the bar (and from the scary-looking old man who had just wandered over to say "hi"), brought me out to the dancefloor, and introduced me around to some Wellingtonians. I ended up staying out until 3-something, crashing w/ Ben, marvelling at his good taste in music, and then stumbling bleary-eyed back to the hostel at 2pm on Saturday.

Somehow, despite my lack of sleep, I decided that afternoon to climb Mt. Victoria, which has great views of the whole region. The walk up was fun and only mildly taxing, but in typical New Zealand fashion the skies opened up on the way down, so by the time I got back to my room I was soaked even though I had my anorak on. At 10pm, after checking e-mail and grabbing some nasty fried chicken for dinner, I thought it would be a good idea to rest my eyes... and I woke up at 6:45am Sunday. Oops. There went my plans to go out again Saturday night. Probably just as well, all things considered.

Took the ferry on Sunday morning from Wellington to Picton, and rather enjoyed the smooth & scenic 3-hour ride. The boat was huge, and it even had an on-board movie theater and a little food court. We (me and a bunch of Magic Bus friends) met the bus in Picton, and rode a few hours west to Nelson, which has the reputation as being the sunniest city (town?) in New Zealand. Thank god! I met an Aussie guy named Dave in my room at the hostel, and as soon as I set down my pack he invited me on a hike with two of his friends. Being something of a masochist, I said "yes," so we embarked on a 3-hour trek up a really steep hill to a radio tower and back down again. The weather was gorgeous, and the company was fun, so I had a good time even though my legs didn't.

Yesterday I put them through yet another challenge, as I went on a 4-hour hike through Abel Tasman National Park. Like the Bay of Islands, Abel Tasman reminded me of Acadia in Maine, but the water was a prettier blue, and it was warm. The hike was well worth doing despite my protesting feet, and I met a bunch of cool new people along the way. One of them (Chris from London) went out for a nice, well-deserved dinner with me afterwards, and then we headed to the pub to meet up with more people from the bus. We decided we really liked Nelson. Partly it's the climate, but partly it's the atmosphere. The city is only home to 50,000 people, but it's very relaxed & scenic, and it somehow seems more cultured than it should.

Today was basically a bus day, as we drove the long distance down the west coast from Nelson to Greymouth. We passed through some beautiful terrain, and could see the snow-capped mountains off to the south for most of the ride. We stopped for some good photo opportunities, and saw a seal colony and some bizarre "pancake" rocks on the coast (hard to explain, but the wind & water has eroded the rocks so that the edges look ridged like pancake stacks). I'm relaxing in Greymouth tonight, as there's nothing else to do here, and then tomorrow I'm heading down to Franz Josef Glacier, where I'm planning on attempting a skydive again. Wish me luck! Later,

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