Giant Toilet Paper

Our alarm went off at 5 am this morning, Jan 5th. We walked to the train station at 6, as we were booked on the 7 am train to the port of Picton. It’s about 330 km (=200 miles), but took 5 hours. Land travel is slower in this country.

As there was no time for breakfast at the room, we bought some stuff on the train.
When the train reached the coast, we saw dolphins jumping in the ocean. This attempt to get a picture failed. They were just too far away.
This tree is called the New Zealand Christmas Tree, because it always blooms around December. This was at a 5-minute train stop at a little township.
These things that look like giant toilet paper throughout the countryside are probably hay bales. For some reason, they wrap theirs in plastic.
Speaking of toilets, here was one on the train.
Vineyards started to pop up in the country 20 years ago, conversions from former pastures. We saw many from the train, some so new that there were extensive fields of unweathered posts and wires, but not even seedlings. The fans are to discourage frost when it gets cold.

The train had no wi-fi (at least for passengers), but did have a mains outlet, which I used to charge AA batteries.

We had lunch on the train. There was more green curry than Merrianne could eat the night before, and they had no rice left over to sell us at closing. She cleverly bought a cup noodle from a gas station, discarded the flavor packets, and made noodles. The takeaway container was a solid, leakproof plastic, which the dining car heated for us as a courtesy. I bought an Indonesian Rice, but the train was out of cell range at the time (a normal occurrence), so their credit card terminal didn’t work. They opened a tab, and came by our seats later with the card and handheld reader, when we got service again near Blenheim.

We arrived at Picton early, about 12:30 pm. Plenty of time to catch the Ferry to the north island. Our bag checked onto the train in the morning would be automatically transferred to the ferry, for pickup at Wellington.

Crowded amorphous queue for walk-ons to the ferry.
The deck on level 10 was the only place where it was relatively uncramped. This photo was taken at about the halfway point. At no time was land completely out of sight.

The ferry actually did have free wi-fi, but it was unusable due to the thousands of passengers trying to get on. My netbook never was able to connect. My phone connected but took minutes to load simple pages – sometimes interpreted as a timeout.

Lounge area on Deck 7. When there was an annoucement that we had docked at Wellington, many people got up to exit, even though the announcer said that only those with cars should queue, and that walk-ons should remain seated.
Baggage claim at Wellington. Imagine the same size baggage claim as an airport, except that the ceiling is higher, and insteads of the hundreds of passengers on a plane, there are thousands on the ferry. It was 17 minutes from the first bag coming out until ours appeared.
As soon as we got our bags, we were able to get on this shuttle. The driver said it would be $20 to get us to the airbnb. I said, “$20 apiece? Then $40,” and he didn’t correct me. Only hours later did I wonder whether it was $20 for both of us.
Dene, our driver. He was a former heavy machinery operator, having left the trade 5 years ago at age 54 to drive. His running commenntary, pointing out sights and explaining Maori names, was like getting a tour of the city. Even if we paid more than we should have, I didn’t feel cheated. Turns out, he and his brother laid the foundations of many prominent building in town, including the museum, house of parliment, and Peter Jackson studios. He also told us about the time he drove a fare all the way to Auckland for $3200. It was a couple businessmen, and the Wellington airport was closed due to fog.
Our AirBnb was a very average home on Salek Street.
Our host, Belle, was a sweetheart, and showed us all the amenities. She was tall, like, Lucy Lawless tall. Look where she put her microwave. I had to tiptoe.
Putting clothes in the dryer.
Merrianne was feeling zonked by the time we got to the AirBnb. She lay down while I went out to look for dinner.
Our AirBnb was super convenient to everything. The airport is 1.2 km, and there was an old shop district a few blocks away, with a few large stores. This is the inside of Pak ‘n Save, a huge supermarket with excellent prices. Pak ‘n Save is the NZ chain, while Countdown is the Australian one.) I picked up a Roast Chicken dinner from the heat lamp section for us to share, which included peas and Kumara (sweet potatoes). Also some slices of pizza to heat later, and some pies.
The Pak ‘n Save regular price for pies is 1.39. And we thought the sale at Night ‘n Day was such a bargain at $2!