Day 19, National Park, New Zealand – Wellington (Saturday)
After the adventures of the prior day I planned on having a low key travel day. I got up, ate some breakfast and packed. I decided that I would catch up on backing up photos, booking rooms and other internet chores so I purchased the hostel’s internet for $5 and after checking out sat in the kitchen. I grabbed lunch at the gas station and started my bus journey to Wellington. The first bus was a small bus just like the trip into National Park.
We got to Turangi for the transfer and I was a bit hungry. I still had 15ish minutes until my transfer bus and someone walked by with a soft serve ice cream. I asked the couple I can been talking with since before the first bus to watch my bags and I jogged off to find the source. It was a burger king. After some particularly slow (but very kind) service I was walking back and saw the lady of the couple wave and inform me that my bus had arrived. I jogged back, thanked them and then waited. The bus driver was loading people up and I was by no means late, but I hadn’t eaten my ice cream. The NakedBus chain typically has a very strict no food or hot drink policy, but it is up to the drivers to enforce. After the driver had loaded everyone else I let him know I was on the bus, but was trying to eat my ice cream quickly. He told me not to worry, to eat my ice cream on the bus, and to not let the other bus driver find out. Happily suprised I got on the bus and leisurely ate my ice cream. Just like the last time there was a driver swap, but instead of doing it outside the city both busses were fairly on time, but we still had to wait about 5 minutes for the new bus driver to arrive. By that time I had finished my ice cream and could enjoy the bus drive to Wellington.
The view along the bus drive were spectacular. We could clearly see all three mountains in the Tongariro National Park. The bus driver seemed to notice all the shutter clicks because he offered to pull over so we could get it out of our system. He found a nice open stretch of road and pulled over. He also warned us that none of the other drivers on the highway would be on the lookout for photographers, so we should be extra careful. Here are some of the pictures I snapped:
We then had a rest stop at a town on route, the bust driver instructed us to “Be back in 30 minutes, I’ll find out how many people are missing and radio headquarters and then we leave in 31 minutes.” The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful. We arrived in Wellington around 8 pm, the Guy Fawkes (They had delayed it to the weekend) fireworks were at 8:30 pm. Unfortunately for me the hostel I chose was a 25 minute walk away along the bay. As I was trying to quickly walk to my hostel crowds were pouring by perpendicularly to me to get to the water front for the fire works. I checked into my hostel, threw my stuff down, and grabbed my GoPro.
Now almost every experimentalist knows the motto well “Know thyne equipment.” I have not found the GoPro interface intuitive and the actual instructions are quite lacking. As such my photos of the fireworks are sub par. It didn’t help that I couldn’t find a good place to shoot from in the 5 minutes before the show started.
Once the fireworks were over I was quite hungry, so I’ll admit going to McDonalds, however I did so for a reason. They had a Kiwi burger. Now it didn’t have the fruit kiwi in it, but it was meant to be characteristic of New Zealand. I loved it, it had beets as a topping. Beets and burgers are perfect together! I’m sold on this philosophy. I got back to the dorm in the hostel and realized I was the only person in that 6 person room for the night, that was nice, especially since I had an early morning ahead.
Day 20, Wellington, New Zealand – Auckland (Sunday)
I got up, packed, and went to quickly check the farmers market. They were just setting up and none of the food stalls were up yet, so I had a dilemma, wait for the food vendors to open, or start walking the 25 minute trek back to where my bus had dropped me off, the train station. I checked out, came back, and they still weren’t running. I hemmed and hawed internally and then took off, running late toward the train station. While walking as fast as comfortable while loaded with all my gear a cyclist came up along side me. He asked me what I thought about Jesus…
A bicyclist evangelist… No suit and no partner… so he wasn’t Mormon. I decided to cut to the chase “I think he’s an a wonderful Son of God and is my personal Savoir.” This caught the cyclist off guard and caused him to wobble on his bike. Within a few more words he said God Bless and left me alone. I still don’t know what denomination he was.
I got to the station, saw the check in place closed, check to see what platform, got to the mostly empty platform and jumped on the train. I just turned a single corner and there was a conductor with my ticket in his hand. He seemed as relieved to see me as I was to see him. I took my seat and the train journey began.
The Northern Explorer is a beautiful train. On this day it had (from front to back) one engine, one baggage car, two passenger cars, a dining car, two more passenger cars, and a viewing car that just had railings and a roof. The weather was also gorgeous. I hit gold with this part of my trip. The scenery along the route was fantastic. I also did a time lapse experiment with my GoPro, but haven’t taken the time to try to do anything with the results. Here is a small selection of the photos I took:
I also had some great conversations with strangers, some with a random guy who had a lot of cameras but was obviously an amateur, and some with an older Irish lady. At the end I used my international cell phone to give Terry a call and he was waiting in is car just two blocks up the road. I got back to Terry’s place, recited some of my adventure, and went to bed.
Day 21, Auckland, New Zealand (Monday)
I got up and right away booked my flight out of Australia, since they also have a policy that you must have an outbound flight, though they don’t enforce it as strictly as New Zealand does. I also activated my international credit card; the replacement for which had been generously shipped to Terry’s house by my father. I then tried to register for the 2014 InterNoise conference and my credit card was rejected. It turns out my travel notice had not been extended to my new card. Half an hour of collect calls to my card company later I was able to register for the conference. I then decided to make sure I had my Australian Visa confirmation… and couldn’t find it. I knew it had been approved and had been emailed to me, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I finally (with heart pounding) checked my spam folder, and there it was between two Viagra ads. I then went on a long walk around Terry’s community, was walking back at the same time school was getting out. We then went and had dinner with the family. I met Terry’s sister, her family, and more of Terry’s immediate family. It was a great evening. By the time we got back I was ready for bed, especially because I had another early morning ahead, an early flight to OZ.