ferry back to Welly

I’m back in London fighting with sleep and will give up as soon as I post this entry.

I thought I should finish the story. Will it have a happy ending?

FRIDAY, 18th November

The bus from Christchurch to Picton via Kaikoura was late, but when I saw the driver, all was forgiven. Graham jumped off the bus and asked me “No pie?”, so I was kinda obliged to go and buy one, since we had still some spare time before the departure. I tried a seafood pie, which was really good with pieces of crabs, shrimps, but I didn’t like the mussel bit.

I was really happy that I could take my last trip on the South Island together with Graham. It was our 4th ride and just felt right. The road was along the coast and it was so beautiful. We passed seals playing in the Ocean or having a rest on the rocks. There were many road works on the way, which were making the bus late, but I trusted that Graham would get us safely and before my ferry to Wellington departs.

The vineyards of Marlborough

We were late about 20 minutes, but it was early enough to board the ferry on time.

Picton

Awesome weather for passing The Marlborough Sounds and Cook Strait.

When we were getting closer to Cook Strait, it started to rain.

Goodbye, the South Island!

Hello, Wellington!

After getting off the ferry and going out to the streets of Wellington, I got a headache from the noise of the traffic. I wasn’t aware how quiet the South Island was until I left it. That was the only moment when I didn’t like Wellington.

I took the shuttle from the terminal to the Railway Station and from there I went to the backpackers. This time I stayed at Lodge in the City on Taranaki Street; only $15 for a bed in a 10 bed dorm room. It wasn’t very tragic, but the kitchen was a real mess and it was a party hostel. I went to find some peace in the library, but when I came back in the evening, no one in the dining room was eating. They were drinking. When I went to bed, there was only one more person sleeping in my room, the rest of the guys were somewhere on Cuba Street.

Moeraki Boulders and Elephant Rocks

TUESDAY, 15th November

Breakfast. Check-out. Bag in the boot. People in the car (Eeeck! I was responsible for three more lives!) Half hour later: Moeraki. There was still low tide.

some people tried to steal boulders by swallowing them!

The Boulders Family

My next destination was Christchurch and I had booked my bus at 3 pm. By 12 pm we saw the boulders and had plenty of time and petrol to go somewhere else and there was nothing to go but Elephant Rocks again. The valley looked different than the day before, even though I was driving the same road. It was because the clouds were higher and I could see the higher mountains behind the ones I had seen earlier! Because I turned back and went to Oamaru another road, we came across the proper Elephant Rocks!

There were more beautiful views, but I was worried that I would miss my bus, so I didn’t stop anymore.

2:40 pm, back in Oamaru. The whole trip cost us $14 each! And my friends told me that I drove very well and they were falling asleep on the way back. We didn’t have the radio and no one wanted to sing instead.

2:45 pm, I returned the car and asked the rental guy for the lift to the bus stop, which he gladly did.

2:50 pm, by the bus stop and had the time to go to the toilet and then buy a pie.

Who was my driver? Graham! He remembered my name, waited for me to finish my pie (no hot food or drink on the bus!), then asked me to sit at the front, so we could talk on the way. After 3 pm he started the engine when I swallowed the last hot piece of my pie.

I was a bit worried, because I’d arrive in Christchurch in the evening and I hadn’t had time to book my hostel there and I totally didn’t know the plan of the city, which hostels would be close enough to the centre and where the bus stop was. I told Graham about it and he said, he would show me some hostels. In fact he did more than that. When we got to the city and all the passengers left the bus, he told me to jump in and he dropped me off close to the Kiwi basecamp backpackers. Unfortunately, it was full! I tried to stay calm and went along the avenue. I found out that the bus depot and a lot of backpackers were on Bealey Avenue and a couple numbers down I found Rucksucker Backpacker. They didn’t have any free beds in a dorm room, but there was one in a share room, so I took it. I shared it with a French guy and it cost me just a couple dollars more than for the dorm bed. But it was only for one night and if I got a dorm room bed for the next night, I would have to wait till the next morning. I was fine with that as long as I had a place to sleep for now.

Oamaru

MONDAY, 14th November

Guess which bus driver took me to Oamaru? Graham! But it wasn’t that time yet when we became friends. More to come.

I arrived quite early in Oamaru, at about 10 am, and checked in at the Empire Hotel backpackers in the town centre; a little bit of a walk from the bus stop, though.

I had a coffee and went along the street to the iSite to check out what were my options for going to Moeraki.

I could go by a shuttle, but it would cost me $70, unless I’d find one more person to share the cost with or I could rent a car for half a day, which was 4 hours for $25 and go by myself. I thought it was a better option and went to the rental to ask about the conditions. The rental was across the street behind the building with a clock, which is Waitaki District Council building.

It was called Smash Palace and it was also a garage. A guy at the rental suggested renting a car for 24 hours for $45 and I’d have it long enough to see more than just the boulders. There were Elephant Rocks at the Waitaki Valley and other beautiful views along the river. It was tempting, but I hadn’t explored Oamaru yet to decide that I needed the car for that long.

Oamaru is famous for its whitestone and the buildings you see in the photos are made of it and look very monumental and intimidating. It’s not a typical New Zealand town sight. In a park near Aquatic Centre, there were workshops. Different artists were carving modern and more traditional sculptures. Whitestone is very soft and easy to work in.

Walking along the streets and passing by second hand shops and cafes, I was getting this feeling that time slowed down in Oamaru if not stopped at the end of the 19th century.

At one of the cafes the waiters wear clothes from the Victorian era. There is also a photo studio where you can dress up in the period clothes and be photographed ($30 per photo).

The buildings between Tyne and Harbour Streets are art galleries and workshops of local artists and you can go and admire their works, which are very interesting. I couldn’t take any pictures of the art work, but I could take a photo of the view outside the windows.

Friendly Bay

By 3 pm I saw everything what I wanted in town. I had read in my guidebook that Elephant Rocks was the place where Aslan’s Camp was filmed for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so it was the reason good enough to go and see them. I rented the car, automatic Nissan Bluebird, and off I went again on the road. It was great to sit behind the wheel once more!

Going out of town I tried to find Janet Frame’s home on Eden St where she spent her childhood. Janet Frame was an Oamaru born novelist. I had seen Jane Campion’s (yep, the one’s who directed The Piano later on) film version of Frame’s autobiographical An Angel At My Table and got a bit excited that I was in the writer’s hometown. I wasn’t successful in my searching. I probably passed the house driving my car up the street and it was getting late. I had read the house was open till 4 pm, so I gave up and went to Whitestone cheese factory, tasted some delicious cheese in a shop by the factory, bought some brie and finally left the town.

Those cows were very friendly and came up to me to say hello.

I thought that these were Elephant Rocks, but I was wrong, when I saw more on the next day.

The Waitaki Valley

I wanted to see Maori rock paintings, but…

It was very disappointing.

I had been driving for quite a while, so I crossed the river in Kurow and went back to Oamaru. It was about 8 pm when I was back in town and went to the Blue Penguin Colony. I thought it would be for free, but the ticket was $25 ($20 for YHA/BBH etc. members). I’m not that big penguin fan, I had already spent some money for the yellow-eyed penguin, so I passed on that and went to the look out. So easy with a car!

And back to the hostel, which was almost empty. I guessed everyone went to see the penguins. Later in the evening when some people came back, they said that they had waited on the car park and saw some blue penguins walking between the cars. So if you’re going to Oamaru and don’t want to spend money, wait on the car park in the evening.

I had another unexpected meeting at the hostel. One Austrian girl I had met in Dunedin came to Oamaru on the next bus after mine. I asked her if she wanted to go with me to Moeraki the next day and she said yes. There was also a couple from Malaysia and they were interested in going with us, so I was glad I would have the company and someone I could share the cost with!