Trip Start Mar 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Thursday, June 2, 2011

The weather in Wellington is notoriously bad: windy, rainy and generally uninspiring. Or so we're told – you’d never know the day we were there!  It was a glisteningly bright winter’s day, with the sun shining over the Marlborough Sound as we went to explore the city before our planned date with the ferry that afternoon.

Wellington is a very attractive little city. We started off rather bleary eyed in the morning, packed up the car and set off to get some coffee!  Our journey took us back down Cuba Street and its surrounding area.  We dipped into a huge bakery with walls lined with ridiculous cake tins, and three minutes later one could spot a very happy small Australian with a flat white in her hands.


Our main aim of the morning was to head to the national museum, Te Papa, down on Wellington’s waterfront. It’s an area that is very much in keeping with Wellington’s artsy reputation, with the most terrific an bizarre sculptures leading the way from the shopping district down to the water, including a little footbridge with metal whale fins soaring into the air – awesome. 

Te Papa itself is brilliant and well worth a visit. It’s a terrific combination of natural and social history, with a huge area devoted, unsurprisingly, to earthquakes and geothermal activity.  We lined up behind a bunch of excited kids to get into the earthquake simulator and see a faux loungeroom rock.  A seriously terrific place for children (and big kids), it’s filled with a heap of interactive exhibitions, showing the development of New Zealand’s land mass and fault lines, and lots of interesting things. We also spent an age in the section devoted to the bizarre creatures lurking seep in the seas off New Zealand, including a preserved and slightly worse-for-wear giant squid, that was in some places stitched up!

We retired for lunch via a wander in their mini rainforesty area outside, planning to get back to the hotel in time for our early afternoon ferry across to the South Island – and not before grabbing a stack of wool bargains from the shops on the way back to our car. The crossing, which takes around three hours, was scheduled to get us over the Marlborough Sound by around sunset so we prepared for a relaxing cruise in the meantime.  First, we had to wait a good hour to get onboard since the ship was running late, and then we managed a new first: driving into the rail cargo area of the ship to park the car! In a rather random arrangement, we were directed to drive down the narrow rail corridor to enter the ship, and then arranged in a weird formation over the rail tracks!

Very cleverly, the ferry has a mini cinema to show movies during the journey, but we chose to chill out in the lounge and check out the pretty scenery.  Having pulled into the South Island port of Picton just after sundown, we planned to drive a little further south before stopping for the evening, aiming for Blenheim which we understood was in the heart of the Marlborough Sauv Blanc country. Having sampled one or two wine regions of late, we were excitedly expecting a really cute country town.  That’s um…not exactly what we found!

We hit the main part of the town and spotted a pub spruiking accommodation, so we thought we should check this out.  Poor Justyn had a bit of an ordeal trying to get any info from the overworked bar manager – it seemed as though everyone in town had arrived for drinks. Still, he managed to discover it was cheap and pretty basic upstairs, but an option.  We decided to check out a few more entries in our accommodation book, and quickly discovered that the most of the other motels were renovating during the low season, so if they had any rooms available, they were going to be pretty expensive.  So it was back to the pub to check in!

We might have had basic pub accommodation in the Barossa, but this one was pretty special! It looked like it hadn’t been updated since the 70s and while investigating the little nooks and crannies – like the 'business lounge’ and guest kitchen, we discovered that no-one had emptied the guest fridge since the 70s. Justyn ran out of there aghast, grabbed the small Australian and off we went in search of a decent meal.

Blenheim’s an odd place, as we soon found out. The whole town seemed to be deserted – either that  or the entire population was at the pub! We wandered down one of the abandonned streets and saw another pub in the distance, so we thought we’d check that out.  It was like a dodgy back room with some fairly suspect clientele.  The skirted past the game of pool, waited a while for drinks (despite there being only about seven people in the establishment) and sat down while watching a regular being denied entry after being kicked out earlier in the evening.

Prospects for dinner were not looking good. By this stage it was about 8pm and we were worried we were not only going to fail on finding a nice place to eat, but run out of serving time!  We took off again and while wondering whether we should just opt for a kebab we decided to walk a little further down a side street and found… a wine and tapas bar! It was like we’d struck gold!  We managed to be the only ones there, and the very friendly waitstaff told us that Kevin Bloody Wilson was in town – a particularly terrible Australian comedian – and almost the entire population was there (with the remainder in our pub!).  Having only seen suspect takeaway on our wander through town, we enthusiastically got stuck into some delicious modern tapas, including some rather delicious beef and pork belly.

We turned in soon after, deftly manouvring past all the chaos on the street outside the pub, avoided the kitchenette and crashed, ready for an early start the next day, all in the name of whale-watching.
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