Written on January 19, 2014
I somewhat planned a trip on the Wellington Harbor Ferry… and the rest of it was left up to chance.
I didn’t like the “winging it” part as much.
I’ve always gotten myself into hilarious and somewhat stressful situations, but when traveling, I have a tendency to get into them even more. That’s the fun in traveling… you live and learn. I assume I’m not alone, since wandering and getting lost is part of travel, right?
Upon boarding the ferry, I hoped and prayed that I wouldn’t get seasick. Despite the incredibly choppy waters, I was fine both ways… thank you, balance bracelets. I ended up standing on the top deck for the views and for some well-needed oxygen.
Ah, but Wellington decided to be fierce today, so the ferry was battling against 35mph (or more) winds. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced continuous wind this horrendously. We’re talking virtually impossible to stand up without getting knocked over, even while clinging to the side of the ferry. My only other experience of this was on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty in NY. So much for getting any GoPro* footage of the ferry ride.
*Sidenote: I cashed out a hefty sum for a GoPro chest harness, just because I wanted something to capture all my adventures without having to run around with it (and run the risk of dropping it off a cliff). Thus, this seemed like the best option.
When the ferry stopped, here’s where I went wrong (and this has happened at least three different times in NZ alone): I had my earbuds blasting with music so I missed the announcement the crew mate was saying over the speaker system. Thus, I had no idea that it wasn’t actually my intended stop that we were docking at.
Since everyone on the top deck was getting off, I followed. Fail.
It wasn’t until I arrived in the ranger center with Matiu/Somes Island verbiage all in my face that I realized that I was supposed to stay on the ferry to proceed to my intended destination.
But again, everything happens for a reason.
The island is incredibly small; it encompasses a gentle walking track around the 24.8-hectare island. Thus, I pretty much walked the whole thing in under an hour. The summit points had breathtaking views, but otherwise, there wasn’t much else to do (other than look for wildlife, weta, find the lighthouses, look at sheep). Everything on the island is protected, and the only people who live there are the rangers. It ended up being a tiny hidden gem that I would have passed over if I hadn’t accidentally gotten off the ferry.
I went in the opposite direction of this huge pack of annoying tourists who were shouting loudly, so I had the walking paths to myself on that side of the island.
It was beautiful. This is why traveling alone has its ultimate perks.
Outdoor landscapes of New Zealand are perfect. Sometimes I get disenchanted with Wellington CBD, but that’s because I’m not a downtown city girl. I absolutely marveled at the rolling green hills, sparkling ocean, the quietude (the only peeps were from seagulls, crickets and cicada bugs), the never-ending amount of hiking trails… and this was just on a teeny-tiny island.
I even passed a “Weta motel,” which ended up just being two trees with a sign near it (but no Weta bugs to be seen, despite me standing still and observing it for 15 min). I’m still quite depressed that I haven’t managed to see a real Weta yet.
And the sheep! On one of the summit viewpoints, I reached the top and then looked down to see fluffy white clumps in front of me… a pack of sheep were lying down on the fields, only about 20 ft. from me. I was ecstatic. They’re adorable up close. This gives me more reason to love my plush sheep backpack I bought on my first day in Wellington.
After I had explored enough, I was able to board the ferry to Days Bay, as intended. Days Bay is a lot larger than Matiu/Somes Island; one could easily spend a full day there.
I was welcomed with a hefty sandblast the minute I set foot on the beach that bordered the ferry dock. Yet, I still loved how I was technically on a different island than Wellington CBD.
I will say that Wellington has pretty craptastic beaches, especially the sand granules which are extremely hard when you walk through them (or get sandblasted on your face and lunch). Having grown up (practically) in Maui, I’m a hard person to please when it comes to beaches.
I beelined for the Tip-Top* ice cream parlor when I got there, since I love me some ice cream. I asked for mint chocolate chip and I ended up getting orange chocolate chip, which I was told about (thankfully) when I had met up with a Kiwi in LA. Surprisingly, I liked it… although I prefer mint much more.
*Sidenote #2: To all visitors, do not get anything BUT Tip-Top ice cream in NZ. I’ve tried a handful of different ice cream places and none of them have been as great as Tip-Top’s brand. Pam’s ice cream scarred me for life.
I took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, following the roads through the neighborhood until I reached a sign for the East Harbour Regional Park. Instead of going up the paved path, I decided to opt for the narrow path with signs posted along the railways that read that this path was being destroyed and re-graveled in late January. It stated that you’d be hiking at your own risk.
Well, duh, of course I wanted to take that path instead of the boring asphalt one.
So up I went, up, up and up, until I got some breathtaking views of the waterfront and forestry below within 15 min. of trudging up in my flip-flops and dress*. Not the best attire for hiking up incredibly steep inclines.
*Didn’t intend for hiking to occur, although I should have learned by now that I should just wear athletic shoes everywhere unless I’m for sure going “out.”
When I reached a fork in the road, I ended up taking the wrong one. Again, I always opt for the “prettier, more scenic” routes. That’s well and good unless you’re on a time schedule (and I had to get back to the ferry dock by a certain time). About midway through that new path, I realized that I was probably hiking to the other side of the island, but I didn’t think anything of it and hoped that the trail would end on a new street eventually.
Well, it didn’t.
I was once again in love with the beautiful trees, rainforest-like atmosphere in this trail… but when an hour passed by and I was still on the same path, I realized that I could be in trouble if I didn’t get back to the ferry in time.
When I finally reached another fork in the road, I realized that I indeed hiked in the opposite direction, and the way back was about 1hr 15 min again. I had to trudge along the same exact path… I hate doing that, since I always like coming down a different route on the other side (but there was no option for this said path).
There were definitely points in the hike where I felt like resting or collapsing from exhaustion. I’m sure my footwear had a lot to do with this. By the time I reached the road again, it felt like I could breathe again…
I’m not quite cut out for backpacking. I could barely last a three-hour hike on my own, for goodness sake (without the huge pack).
It was another adventure in itself to walk back to the ferry dock, since the wind either blew me back or was so forceful that I couldn’t open my eyes or move. I never thought I’d be affected by wind, but oh boy… I can’t wait to see how winter in Wellington will be.
Ending note: My face got massively sunburnt again. I just never learn…
Another day, another adventure…. it beats any “good” day back home, at least (despite the bruises, blisters, exhaustion, and aches).