Happy New Year!!

Trip Start Dec 16, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, January 1, 2010

After spending a couple of amazing days in Kaikoura, on December 30th Brianna and I hopped on the TransAlpine once again and headed north to Picton, which is on the northern coast of the south island, in order to catch the ferry to Wellington.

When we boarded the train, one of the workers said that our bags would be transferred to the ferry for us, which was a great relief since my backpacks a quite heavy.

After a short trip, we landed in Picton and walked to the InterIslander Ferry Terminal to check in. This was no ferry it was a behemeth luxury city-on-water, so we were very excited.

Upon giving our names at the ticketing window, we learned that we were not booked on the ferry. We were, in fact, booked on the Blue Bridge Ferry, which is entirely different and a 20 minute walk from where we were.  Although we were booked on the Blue Bridge, our bags, per the TransAlpine, ended up on the InterIslander.

20 minuter and a couple of kilometers later, Brianna and I were checked in on the Blue Bridge, where we proceeded to board a shuttle bus which drove us to the ferry terminal... right next to the InterIslander.  (I'm making a frowny face.)

The 2+ hour ferry ride was pretty fun, and I insisted, as we arrived, to stand at the bow and shoot some video.  It was freezing cold, raining, and ridiculously windy (see the video below).  Anything for the shot, though.

We had to get to the train station to try to catch a shuttle to the other ferry in order to pick up our bags, but we ended up taking a cab, as not to wait in the icy rain. Brianna actually said, "oh my God, is it snowing?" Yay, summer in New Zealand.

We finally got to our hotel and checked in with our bags at about 5pm.  We were starving.  All we had on the ferry was some trail mix and some wine/beer/coffee/coffee/coffee.  Eve, the concierge informed us that not much was open, being the holidays, but she pointed us in the direction of the downtown nightlife where she thought wee might find something.

After walking in the rain to Courtenay Street and checking out all the great restaurants, we settled on Italian.  Warm pasta and garlic bread... Mmmmmmm.

Walking back to the hotel after dinner, and let me just interject here for a moment— Wellington, other than Courtenay Street, was like a ghost town.  Barely anyone was out, there were NO cars except for the occasional bus, and I felt like we were in Vanilla Sky or some weird zombie flick where the streets are empty— but after a bit while on our way back, a guy on a unicycle passed by and I commented (and no offense to unicyclists) that at some point you have to decide you want a girlfriend, and that maybe being on a unicycle may not be the way to get one.  It's fun if you're a clown, I suppose.

New Year's Eve Day, we left our hotel and walked up a big hill to the botanical gardens, which were truly magnificent. There were all these trails leading down into what felt like rain forests. There were amazing flowers in bloom and the scenery was so great, we didn't fell like we were in a city.  We made our way to the rose garden where there were dozens of varietals, each with it's own distinct fragrance, so we went "tasting."  It was really cool how the names like Strawberry Dream really smelled like strawberries.

After lunch in the rose garden, we left the Gardens and took the tour of Parliament.  We got to see all three buildings— the Bee Hive (where the Prime Minister's office is), the House, and the Library.  We also learned quite a bit about the history of New Zealand.

And then we saw them. Unicyclists.  "WTF," I thought.  Is New Zealand all rugby and unicycling?  Weird. So I stopped one of them and asked what the deal was.  Turned out, the World Unicycling Expo, which happens once every two years, happened to be in Wellington over the holiday.  Apparently they have events like basketball, hockey, freestyle... ON UNICYCLES!!  Okay, NOW unicycling is COOL! Unfortunately, none of the events would start until after we left Wellington, but we did get to see people jumping off things and doing tricks in the streets.

Later on, I had gotten in contact with a friend of my friend Merry named Nigel, who lives north of Wellington.  We spoke briefly about our New Year's Eve plans and we decided to get together in the city, so later that evening, Brianna and I met Nigel, his wife Narinder, and daughter Isabellea, for some drinks and live music by the water. Merry hadn't seen Nigel in 25 years but had kept in touch.

We had a great time.  They are amazing people, and I look forward to seeing them again soon.

New Year's in Wellington was fantastic.  I hope all of you had a good one, too, and I wish everyone the best for 2010
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