We Live in a Van....down by the.....Parking Lot

Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
Trip End Jun 20, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Monday, October 25, 2010

Jill's Interjections in Italics

October 25 - Day 8

After a quick breakfast, we're on the road heading to Wellington. During our drive, we passed Tongariro National Park, famous for its 3 snow-capped peaks. The most famous one, thanks to LOTR, is Mt. Ngauruhoe, which was Mount Doom in Return of the King. Tongariro Park itself was the setting forthe evil Mordor-r-r-r-r. So there's your LOTR geek tidbit for the day.

After some sweet dollar-store shopping in some forgettable town, we popped in for lunch at a Subway (the unmistakable smell wafting in the air of Subway bread being baked lured us in....damn you Subway). We both regretted the choice soon afterwards when our stomachs weren't happy...the extra buck we laid out for rotting avocado probably didn't help matters.

Joe had begun reading my novel outloud on this stretch of the trip. It kept me so preoccupied that I forgot that we were going to be entering our biggest city since Auckland and that it would require quick driving decisions - from the left hand side of the road! As we entered Wellington, I was quickly reminded as overpasses, merge lanes and somewhat heavy traffic now surrounded our little van - yikes. Having a mini internal freak out, thank goodness Joe's navigational skills were becoming rather honed by this point and we managed to get to our hostel without too much stress!

Being that Wellington is the capital city, there aren't many camping options near the city center. After much deliberation, we decided on a place called Rowena's City Lodge, which was right on the outskirts of the small city and had tent sites available....hmmmmm....not in our trusty Lonely Planet book, but let's give it a shot. We're pretty proud of ourselves when we find the place quite easily. We drive up this steep hill and stop it in front of the "Reception" sign. When we walk up the stairs, we are "greeted" (and we use the word very loosely) by a crusty, old dude who barked a few words at us. We understood that we can, in fact, have a spot for our campervan there. Once the deal was done, we drove the rest of the way up the hill to arrive at our "campground"....a small, sloped parking lot in back of the decaying house, with houses flanking all sides and a clothes line.....SWEET!! Welcome to Wellington!

Jill managed to find the least sloped spot (an issue when you are actually sleeping in the van) and then we went inside to prepare our dinner and wash up. The place was pretty grim - lots of older men who looked like they would otherwise be homeless and a few German backpackers. The "creep" meter was running pretty high but the (unisex) bathrooms and kitchen were actually in pretty decent shape. Because of these reasons and despite the overall creepiness, we made the decision to stay there for our 3 nights in Wellington - we just agreed that we would go inside only to cook, eat, and use the bathroom/showers. Other than those specific activities, we would be hanging out in our van in the parking lot!

Jill collected various ingredents from our cooler and food baskets to whip up a tasty pasta dish and as we're finishing up and sipping our wine, she notices that the internet just popped up on one of the computers in the dining area. Given that you had to pay to get online access here (as is the case almost everywhere in NZ), we jumped on the opportunity to get free internet and caught up on some emails and other stuff. Another bottle of red later on in the van....and it was lights out for the night.

Now if you've been paying attention that was two bottles of wine later... note to self: when staying in a grungy hostel parking lot, it is not the best idea to have yourself waking up in a stupor, in the middle of the night, having to make your way across an unfamiliar parking lot to a dodgy hostel washroom. All I kept thinking was "please don't let me run into anyone."

October 26 - Day 9

After a surprisingly good sleep in a tilted van in a parking lot, we headed into the "cheery" hostel for some breakfast and to make some plans for the day. We read that the hostel had a free shuttle into the other end of town, so we figured we'd take advantage of it and then make our way back walking through the city. We asked the crusty, old manager about it and he told us curtly that we'd have to wait until 12:30, so we hung out in the lounge working on our journals. At about 12:15, another pissed-off older dude with long, straggly, greasy hair and a wool hat walks in and barks out "WHO'S SUPPOSED TO BE TAKING THE 12:15 SHUTTLE?!?". We tell him that we're taking it but that we were told it was at 12:30. He muttered a few things about how he was about to leave and that there was supposed to be a 3rd person. We shrugged our shoulders, got into the little mini-van and were on our way.

First stop...Parliament....as mentioned, Wellington is the capital city of NZ. We initialy just intended on taking a look at the buildings - as one of them is structured in the shape of a beehive - but then Jill mentioned that they probably give free tours to the public, so we went in. Sure enough, she was right and we joined a tour that took us to all 3 buildings, gave us lots of history, info on the earthquake-proof construction, and as timing would have it, our tour was ending just as Parliament was going into session. We watched as all the MPs walked by us towards the debating chamber...some being interviewed by the media on the way in. Our tour guide told us that we were free to watch Parliament in session, so after a surprisingly light security check, we entered the seating area for the public. Couple of obervations...first of all, who knew that Parliament in session was so intriguing? What struck us most was how much of a frat-house atmosphere it all seemed like....people yelling out mockingly while someone else was speaking, name-calling, loud, raucous laughter, people reading the newspaper, some falling asleep, some holding side conversations. Just riveting stuff. The second thing that intrugued us was that one of the topics being discussed in Pariament was the filming of The Hobbit (the prequel to Lord of The Rings). We were told earlier by our tour guide that Warner Bros were in NZ currently having discussions with the government as to whether The Hobbit would be filmed in NZ or not (apparently, there is some stiff competition from the UK). Hearing the MPs argue over what the government was doing to secure filming of The Hobbit in NZ was pretty cool.

Happy with our dose of Parliament, we head out to explore the rest of the city. Now today is Tuesday in NZ and in the back of my head, I know that the Giants are playing the Cowboys on Monday Night Football in Dallas, which would be Tuesday afternoon here. As we walk down a main road, we hear some sports commentary coming from an outdoor speaker....could it be...??? Is that...? Wait a second....Sure enough, the commentary is the Giants game! We locate the source (an Irish pub of course) and walk in to find the game on in the far corner with only 1 guy watching. With a huge smile on my face, we sit down, order some lunch and beers and watch the game. Score when we walked in...20-7 Dallas.....boo. Final score...41-35 Giants....YEAH BABY!! That made my day. [Whereas I found the best Bailey's and coffee I've ever had... that made MY day!] We start talking to the 1 other guy watching and find out that he's a Giants fan from New Jersey named Moses. He an acupuncturist working on a cruise ship currently docked in the harbor. We decide to tour the city a bit together and head out of the bar, happy with the Cowboy beatdown.

First stop was the red cable car, which clinks up a steep slope...starting right on a main street in the middle of the city and ends a few stops later to one of the suburbs of Wellington. Weird little method of transportation for both city dwellers and tourists. Great views of the city from up there and was a nice walk down. Spent the rest of the afternoon with Moses exploring the city, including cool cafes and bars of Cuba Street. Picked out a decent place for dinner after much deliberation and back to our van in the parking lot.

October 27 - Day 10

Walked back into town this morning and stopped in at a cool record store. Decided that we needed some sweet beatz for our van (as we were both getting sick of the eclectic mixes of Tourism Radio) so we finally decided on a 3-disc set from the Ministry of Sound...2 of them ended up being embarrassingly bad but the 3rd one was pretty good...car-dancing....here we come! The record store was also attached to a cafe, which amazinly enough for NZ, offered free wifi....crazy! Some catching up on emails and stuff but the one that made us happy was from my friend Ben in Bermuda, who told me about the birth of his (and his wife Chloe's) 3rd child...Viggo Joseph Cooper. Congrats guys! Very strong name...middle names are SO underrated!

The rest of the afternoon was spent being complete nerds. [I was just going to support Joe.] We went on a movie tour, which included being shown the exact locations of several scenes from the LOTR movies, most of which were on Mount Victoria, overlooking Wellington. Our guide Ted was pretty knowledgeable and brought his laptop to show us the specific scenes in the movies that corresponded to the locations we were looking at. Of course, he also brought props and we quite cheesily posed for photos in re-enactment of those specific scenes. My friends Iain and Lynn are currently arranging a beating for me I'm sure. See pics below.

A walk around the waterfront and an excellent Mexican place for dinner later, we were on our way back to our hostel and our van, which we are surprisingly growing to love. Today's our last day on the North Island for now. We booked our ferry trip to take us to the South island tomorrow, where we'll be for the next 2.5 weeks. The adventure continues....

When we did arrive back at our parking stall abode, I went to retrieve our towels (and my underwear) from the clothes line but they were gone. Jerks, I thought to myself, they stole our towels and perverts too, taking my underwear. Oh wait, as I got closer there was my underwear. Ok, so just jerks. Oh and hold on, there is a towel on the ground. Windy Wellington indeed, our towels had been blown off the clothesline! One had landed just below the line, the other was unfortunately over the fence and in the neighbour's yard. I felt awful for immediately jumping to conclusions, but really it was just the vibe of the place. Joe's first manly deed of the day tomorrow would be to climb the fence and retreive the towel as we wouldn't want to startle the neighbours late at night.
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Laural Walker on

I am not sure how I missed this entry upon it's arrival but I am SO glad I went back to read it! Rogue underwear, Joe's odd knowledge of LOTR, and Jill's surprising knowledge about Parliament tours ... i feel i know you 2 so much more!!!
xoxo L

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