4/5/12 - 11/5/12
Sitting on a ferry at the moment, but no ferry like I'm used to. The NZ Interislander Ferry, the Kaitaki, is a 7 deck cruise ship-like conveyance that could give any of Carnival's boats a run for their money. Complete with bars, lounges, food courts, cinema and a number of other comfy locations to put your feet up for the 3 hour cruise across the sound. Linking the north and south islands, this is the popular method of transportation between the few. And to my delight, there is WiFi access (for a fee, of course).
I have apparently been bitten by the Dorkland bug and pulled a dork move myself, leaving my camera in my checked bag. aldsfj;dslfja;dslfjk Marge has hers though, and I'll use the iPad to get a few key pics here and here. Blah. The weather this a.m. is quite chilly at 11C with cloudy skies and drizzle. LL Bean and I have become great friends and I have practically been living in my warm, windbreaking fuzzy jacket. This and the PacSafe messenger bag I bought for this trip are the best purchases I've ever made and well worth their weight in gold these days.
We are heading to the metropolis of Picton, Nelson and other points of interest in the Marlborough Sounds. I read last night on the plane that of the 4 million people living on NZ (yes, 4 million peeps and 40 million sheep - Baaa), 3 million of them live on the north island. Of the 1 million that live on the south island, most of them are in Christchurch and Queenstown. So, that means alot more sheep in the Marlborough Sounds. I have to laugh at that. After riding for 3-4 hours through the mountains of the north island seeing only more sheep, cows and a few random farms, hearing that the south island is more remote is rather humbling. I guess we're heading out of the "urban" areas now, eh?
Speaking of "eh," I found myself contemplating how very, very different my personal world is from the world of Kiwi. It was very obvious on the plane yesterday when I went to get on another domestic flight for the trip to Wellingon. I was too shell-shocked from 14+hours on a plane to notice that when I went from International to Domestic flights in Dorkland, there was no security check. That may not seem important, but you have to understand that the international passengers collect their bags, go through customs and then go to an entirely different terminal, out the door and around three parking lots to a different buidling. I realize now that I checked in with Air New Zealand domestic, was issued a boarding pass and off I went to the little propellor plane. No security check or other check point. Hmmm. Yesterday, however, when I checked in, I was sent to the other side of the domestic terminal and went through a teeny, underwhelming checkpoint to get to the gate for the Wellington flight. That plane was much larger than the one to New Plymouth, but that was only difference between the two. Huh? The flight crew also served wine (NZ wine only, though, probably a plug for the wine-growing regions) and snacks (cheese and crackers with grapes - really nice snacks) and beer, along with regular beverages, at no cost! Free! Unheard of in the US.
So, when I get to Wellington and meet up with Marge, we're in the cab and I'm describing the non-security versus minimal security and the cab driver chimes in and says it depends on the size of the plane. Really? I guess the bad guys don't want to be uncomfortable on the small planes in NZ so they only want to blow up the ones that serve wine and snacks? Crazy!
I really did underestimate the difference between the two worlds, Kiwi and Yankeeland. I guess I figured that because this is an English-speaking country, it wouldn't be that different. Wrong! Half the time they are speaking a different language, or at least the slang is a bit on the foreign side, and everything is different. From the loos (toilets) to the road works (construction) to the highways (2 lane, gravel roads with one-lane bridges that are tight for a cow, much less a car) to the hotels (our lodging in Wellington had the "swipe dock" for the key just like the one in Auckland, but I had already learned that lesson the hard way previously in Dorkland). Strange indeed. And everything is very, very expensive. Most dinners (referred to as "tea" or "entrees" - don't order a "main" - it's a 5 course meal) run in the $28 - $35 range, with appetizers starting at $10 NZ. Drinks run about $10 for a wine or beer, water is about $4 for a bottle (cheaper in the i-spots). NZ does do tourism very well. There are "i-spots" (information areas in every small or large town/city) everywhere and most people (except the JAFAs) are very friendly and helpful (if they can understand you - lots of "eh's, say again," but always with a patient smile).
Ok, time to grab some rolling food and use the loo (aren't you glad I shared that with you?). And take a pic of Marge; paybacks are a @itch.