Monday, December 10, 2007

All's Well in Wellington; Night in Nelson

The next morning we were off to Wellington, the southern most major city on the North Island. It has a lively bar scene and is also the town where you catch the ferry to the South Island.

When we reached Wellington, the driver gave us a tour and we all got off the bus. To my surprise, the fireman came over and invited me to go out with the gang that night. I was sure they thought I was too old, too square, or too something to hang out with them for another evening. I, on the other hand, wasn't as friendly as they were and wasn't interested in spending another evening with them...unless I could get the Korean girl to go. I approached her. We made polite chit-chat and then I asked for the order. (I was not feeling particularly social or confident after the previous night, so this took some effort.)

"Hey, a bunch of us are going out tonight. Do you want to go?" I asked.
"I already have plans this evening. Will you be heading to Queenstown later in the week?"

Even though her English appeared to be marginal, her blow-off skills were quit sharp.

At the Hostel Bar

I went to the local gym (Les Mills, they let me in for free when I told them I was a poor American). Then I went to see movie "Into the Wild." (As good as the book) Then I went to the bar at the hostel. I spoke to a group of New Zealand airforce guys who were holding a stag party. They were all hammered. They liked me. They invited me to go with them to the section of town with all the strip joints. I did the calculations in my head: drunk military guys plus girlie joints plus hangover from night before. I passed.

Later that evening, a group of locals came in to celebrate someone's 21st birthday. Here are the highlights of the celebration:
- guy annoys girl
- girl spits on guy
- guy chases girl around bar and spits on her
- girl follows guy outside bar and throws drink on him, glass and all
- guy slaps girl in the nose
- bouncers intervene.
- I have enough entertainment for one evening and go to bed.

Nelson, South Island

Once again, we had to be up and out by 8:00 am. Being that I've been going to bed at 2:00, I've developed a routine where I'm sleeping for a few hours in the morning while we're traveling. Up to this point, I've been sleeping on the bus. Today, we took a 3-our ferry ride to the South Island. I slept the whole time. When we got back on the bus, there was a new cast of characters. Of particular interest: a very attractive woman from Holland. In Vietnam, the Dutch folks I met were among the most interesting. They also tended to be a little older and for some reason --maybe the age--I just clicked with them.

We drove for most of the day on the bus and pulled into a town called Nelson. The hostel (Paradiso, $50), was a little ways from town and most people stayed in for the evening. At 6:00, the hostel served free vegetarian soup. They also had jar of cayenne pepper. I put a teaspoon of pepper into my soup. The Dutch woman was sitting at a long table. I sat opposite her and tried to interject myself into the conversation that was going on. As I worked my through the soup, the heat from the cayenne pepper was starting build. My eyes were starting to bulge and water. My nose was starting to run. I looked like someone who had contracted Ebola virus. I was probably not making a very good impression. She asked if I was ok. I knew if I tried to talk I'd start gagging and probably spray her with soup. I nodded that I was fine.

Then everyone started preparing dinner. I left to do some laundry and buy dinner. When I got back I squeezed in next to her. We started talking. She complained about the young age of the group and how all they wanted to do was drink. She had been traveling for 6 months and had spent part of the time volunteering in an AIDs hospital in South Africa. She said in Holland typically you can take a year of unpaid sabatical after working for 5 years -- and you get your job back. She had been to Cambodia and Vietnam. We had plety to talk about. Then disappointment: She was going to stay in Nelson for another day. Nobody spends two days in Nelson. She said another Dutch girl whom she had just met was traveling solo and had glommed onto her. The glommer was upset because they weren't spending enough time together. To avoid confrontation, she decided to stay another day and let the glommer disappear on the next day's bus.

Also, at the hostel: a woman whom I had met earlier in my trip who was in her late 30's and great company. In addition, I met another "adult" woman. Both women were from England and referred to themselves as the "old birds." The three of us became fast friends.

And finally, a guy formerly from Boston who graduated college 5 years ago and has assembled a nice lifestle for himself. He lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and works in a ski shop during the winter and leads trout fishin trips in the summer. He said he typically skis over 100 days a season. (I ski a lot and barely make it to the slopes 25 days.)

Next Day

We drove to a town called Greymouth. On the way we saw some sites (pancake rocks -- large rocks in the water.) The sites bored me. I won't bore you. Greymouth is a small remote town on New Zealand's West Coast. The West Coast is known for it's coal production and coal disasters. It's got an industrial, down a the heels feel, it's kind of like the Revere of New Zealand's West Coast. Outside the hostel (Neptune's, $33) I noticed a familiar smell: rotting fish and urine. I do miss Cambodia.

More New Zealand Miscellania
- lots of people roll their own cigarettes here
- the slogan for the New Zealand armed forces: "Kiwis armed to make a difference." My question: why would you use the name of the world's most defenseless animal in your military slogan?
- sign on the wall in bathroom of our hostel: "Our hot water is produced using coal. Please take care as it can be very hot." Interesting.