Our ten-hour road trip to the northern point of the South Island was characterized by a series of wonderful misadventures. We discovered that one road was closed, meaning that we were forced to take a detour that added two hours to our already eight-hour journey. This detour provided us with a rugged and radically evolving landscape that we would have otherwise been unable to see. It also gave us more time to “D&M” (have Deep and Meaningful conversations about life and such). During our long drive, night arrived and it brought its friend, rainstorm. The road was difficult to see, but we continued carefully on. At one point, whilst driving on a rocky cliffside, we notice a sign that said, “Careful! Seal Crossing!” And we started joking around: “How’s a seal even going to end up here? Ooh, better be careful while it waddles across the highway! Remember that time we hit a seal on the road – right after we took out the speedboat and ran into a deer?!” Hahahaha. We laughed too soon. At the next curve we came across a roadside massacre, a mass of marine road-kill, a tossed seal salad. Some previous travelers had been clubbing baby seals with their car! Moral of the story: don’t joke about the ridiculousness of sea creatures crossing a land road because, in the pitch black, you might be closer to the sea than you think. Plus, if someone saw fit to make a sign about it, it has probably happened before. And will happen again.
After our intense drive, my two friends and I arrived at our hotel at 2 am. We then had three hours to sleep before we got up for our ferry (be at the ferry an hour before departure. Sounds good. Three vs. four hours of sleep don’t make much difference to me). Naturally, we all fell into bed in our clothes and woke up about three minutes before we needed to leave. Three minutes is just enough time to fall out of bed, stumble to the bathroom, and splash cold water upon the numb-with-sleep face. We, the walking dead, then make it to the ferry line. We wait, we board, we ascend the stairs and promptly fall back asleep on the ferry floor. It may have behooved to stake out our choice of sleeping quarters because, unfortunately, we settled in the designated children’s area. Brilliant. Usually, I think the sound of childish laughter and tomfoolery is endearing. But, oddly enough, there is an axiomatic equation of life that dictates: every lost hour of sleep is inversely proportional to how one feels about the ‘cuteness’ of a kid’s loud voice. In other words, I’m huddled over here on the floor, trying to decide whether to use my thin sweater as a pillow or blanket and IS YOUR CHILD CAPABLE OF COMMUNICATING ON ANY LOWER DECIBEL?! Our most nagging ferry demon was a particular little boy who took it upon himself to narrate his friend’s racing car game. I can only assume that 1) his friend was hard of hearing and 2) the boy-demon had no idea what was actually going on in the game he was scream-commentating. I can only wonder if the friend driver was as annoyed as I by his buddy’s voice in his ear:
He-demon: HE’S TURNING A CORNER!
Dead-tired me: Thank you. I was wondering. And so was everyone else on this boat.
OH! OH! HOT DOG! HE’S TURNING ANOTHER CORNER!
Another corner? There’s more than one?
AND ANOTHER TURN! LOOK AT HIM GO!
He must be a real corner-turner.
[5 minutes later]
HE’S APPROACHING THE FINISH LINE!
AND HE’S PASSED IT!
And there was much rejoicing.
AND HE’S ON ANOTHER LOOP!!!
WHAT?! Why?! You said he passed the FINISH LINE! GAH! Can’t you tell how many loops your buddy has before he actually finishes? Do you even know what you’re doing? You’ve probably never even been a commentator for a real car-racing-game before! Next time, don’t give me the false hope that this is all about to be over, you little punk!
Yes, we had a less than stellar start to our morning. But, on the bright side, we were in Wellington! That first day, we ate a delicious breakfast at a small café called Floriditas, explored the unique albeit slightly-to-significantly-above-my-price-range vintage boutiques on Cuba Street, visited the innovative Te Papa Museum (where my friend and I had the entire simulator ride to ourselves. It broke down, so we got to sit on the ride longer than other patrons and were also able to experience some nice whiplash), wander along seaside streets, dine at an acclaimed restaurant called Ortega, and see the visually incredible film Samsara at the Embassy Theatre – a refurbished, historic cinema that has basically hosted all of the world premieres of Peter Jackson’s films.
On the second day, my friend’s sickness was really settling in. I blame it on her playing Spin-the-Bottle with a group of other students a few nights before; if college partiers know how to do anything, it’s how to spread disease. Anyway, she’d lost her voice and breakfast proved to be a rather silent affair. The other girl and I are both quite quiet – better listeners than talkers – and we also happen to not be the most chipper of morning people. But we survived, partially due to the rejuvenating powers of caffeine from two stellar Wellington cafes, Surf Café right next to the beach and The Hangar Café. This rainy day I also managed to convince my slightly less geeky friends to take me to the Weta Cave. Weta Workshop designs and manufactures products for various entertainment industries. Weta had a huge hand in bringing to life The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, District 9, and even Avatar – so, naturally I had to check it out. I wandered through the Cave and then paid to go on a tour of the workshop. Pictures were not allowed in the workshop, but I saw multitudes of intricate props, high-tech machinery, and employees who were incredibly passionate about their work. Weta seems like such a fun, involved, dedicated, and welcoming environment in which to work. I had an overpowering urge to try to join their numbers until I remembered that I’m afraid of heavy machinery. Then our tour guide mentioned how Weta workers often provide help outside of their respective departments – such as when our guide went on The Hobbit set to help dress people such as Evangeline Lilly – which prompted me to beat my head against a hairy King Kong replica in order to control the waves of jealousy.
To further supplement my Lord of the Rings binge, we also visited Kaitoke Regional Park, the filming location of Rivendell (although, granted, it looked a little less elvish when devoid of spiral-y buildings and a pointy-eared Cate Blanchett).
Wellington, sometimes originally called “Wellywood,” offers many other gems for film and/or Tolkein nerds. Tired from a busy and fulfilling day, I spent the evening at the hotel, eating room-service brownies and getting my friends hooked on Community. The next morning, we caught a ferry and began the enchanting journey back to good ol’ Dunedin.