All's Well That Ends Wellington

Trip Start Feb 02, 2009
1
38
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Trip End Dec 24, 2009


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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Monday, September 28, 2009

 Hello!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the New Zealand leg of this trip has been the car journeys. We spend pretty much every other day on the road and Martin has quickly come to enjoy the same music as me. Which is a good job. This has led to us driving along and merrily singing Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash and Dry The Rain by the Beta Band amongst others at the top of our lungs. Martin's interpretation of some of the lyrics may leave something to desire but his gusto is unquestionable. I recently suggested we try disc one of my Learn Spanish CD to mix things up a little and he graciously agreed. For a Pole who only started speaking English six months ago and whose primary purpose on this trip is to further his English and as a result his job prospects this is very good of him. I always fear that with every piece of new information I learn a little of the old information gets pushed out. Like Homer Simpson when he goes to a wine making lesson and forgets how to drive. But this doesn't concern my Polish friend. As for me I could really do with the Spanish as I shall be in South America for the best part of three months in the not too distant future. And at the moment my Spanish is a tad on the 'basic' side.

The chap who presents the language tapes – Michel Thomas – has world renown and boasts that you won't need pen or paper on the course and the audio alone will sink the language into your head. You will never need to memorise anything and should just relax and let it make it's way into your brain. He also sounds like he is permanently sucking on a lozenge which is a little off-putting. As a learning tool he has two pupils – a boy and a girl – who he teaches the new vocabulary along with you and then asks them to formulate it into a sentence. In a sense you are the third member of the class but the one whose mistakes are never ridiculed. As the tapes go on the sentences he wishes you to say get more and more complicated as you would expect. This is actually a very entertaining way of learning as he is very harsh on the boy and lets the girl get away with murder. Many is the time he'll make the boy repeat a word like 'Puerde' three or four times until he gets it perfect and all the while Martin and I are screaming at the poor idiot 'puerde!' until he eventually gets it right. We must be quite a sight for other cars, shouting and celebrating when we finally say 'It is important I have the reservation now' correctly and the numbskull male pupil stumbles his way all over it.

We stayed for a couple of days in Franz Josef, home of the Franz Josef glacier. We went for a walk up it during the day and settled into the hostel at night. We got talking to – as co-incidence would have it – the same three Irish girls I had shared a room with in Queenstown. They were telling us how the Fox Glacier – the one just down the road – came to be named after a former New Zealand Prime Minister back in the mid-nineteenth century. I told them how shocked I was to have learned that the Franz Josef glacier was named after a Nazi. One of the girls said she'd heard something about this before and luckily this gave my story some credence.

“You'd have thought they'd have the sensitivity to change it by now wouldn't you?” I continued.

“And he was a real Nazi?” asked one of the girls.

“Oh yeah. Head of the Gestapo.”

“That's amazing!” Another of the girls chimed in. “I'm surprised they could have got away with calling it that in the first place.”

“Well Nazi's were pretty popular before the war” I said “They had the Olympics and everything. Seems the New Zealand Prime Minister wanted to get on their good side and thought naming a glacier after one of them was the way forward. He even had white hair so the snow on top makes it look a bit like him.”

I was going to add that they were originally planning on drawing thin wired spectacles to one side of the glacier to complete the effect but decided this was a little too far. I was waiting for someone to point out that it seemed strange to name every landmark in the entire country in the Nineteenth century and then save one glacier for the 1930's but this never entered the discussion. These were really nice girls but I just couldn't resist. I also told them I was incredibly wealthy as my father invented the little diagram showing which way up batteries should go into electrical goods. Spare time plus cheap white wine will make fools of us all in the end.

As we drove through our final destination on the South Island, Nelson, Martin got quite excited as he'd heard they had a 'French Joe's' supermarket. Quite the connoisseur of such things he spends a considerable amount of his time comparing various food stores and has always liked 'French Joe's'. in fact he'd been banging on about it for days. I'd never heard of it but it sounded quite cool and so we took some time driving around before we finally pulled up outside a supermarket. “Here we are” he said happily and I looked up at the sign to see it read “Fresh Choice”. That made much more sense. The Polish accent will make for tough translation on occasions. I kind of missed French Joe's though. Even though it had only existed in my mind for a few days. It had sounded to me like the place that did the best croissants and bagels in town and all the staff had to wear berets. So we kept calling it French Joe's just for fun.

Martin and I then spent the Sunday borrowing bikes from the hostel – the Bug – and riding down to a local Flea market. Now; any romantic images that may have leapt into your brain upon reading that last sentence throw them straight back out again. This was two rugged, bearded men riding purposefully to seek out lost treasures. Yeah, that sounds pretty camp too so go with whatever you feel comfortable with. Once there we were both careful not to buy anything that weighed too much as we both have a long time left in our trips and a long way to go. I say both of us, I lost sight of Martin for a minute and when he finally re-appeared I could see he'd been purchasing. He had in his hands a huge African tribal mask and a twenty year old wooden tennis racket. Hmmmm. An interesting choice to be sure. These, he claimed, would make “great gifts for people back home”. I asked him if he couldn't simply look in a skip in Poland and save himself the trouble of flying the stuff back but he wouldn't hear any of it. The tennis racquet he was convinced was a antique and should be hung on a wall and the mask he wanted for his friend who “collects scary masks”. As you do.

After a relaxing four days in Nelson we headed off to the North Island and Wellington. This we had to do via the Cook Straight and the ferry. Notoriously the most dangerous waterway in the world. Second only to Michael Barrymore's swimming pool(zing!). Ha! And the Guardian Travel B*** Review said I couldn't do topical comedy. Shows what they know. Where was I? The Cook Straight, of course. So after a fairly rocky ride across the sea we arrived in Wellington. Now, Wellington is my kind of place. A large city by New Zealand's standards but by no means overwhelming. They have a beautiful dockside and plenty of museums and art galleries to keep you occupied. If that's your bag of course. By a stroke of luck the owner of my hostel, Andrew, is a huge Pearl Jam fan and, as the new album has just come out, played it a lot. Almost too much but he mixed it in with some rare live shows to keep it fresh. You never want to overindulge even on your favourite band but this worked out nicely. I also got to stay in a room with a girl who is almost as much of a West Wing fan as I am. She had only seen each episode three times though which is nowhere near often enough. All I need now is a taxi driver who's a lifelong QPR fan and I'll have the full set.

Next time; All Being Well (and that basically means weather permitting) I shall be jumping out of a plane from fifteen thousand feet and going “Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!” a lot. As things stand we have a one day window of clear weather to make it happen. But if it does apparently the adrenaline rush you get lasts three days so the next instalment should be interesting. No more “I listened to a good song in the car”, oh no! Real danger, excitement and adventure. And only here on ATWIEH! Watch this all fall apart when it rains for a solid week...

Love, Dan.
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