(Recapping the past few weeks of my solo travels in South Island – hitting up the east coast places I didn’t get to on my recent tour)
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My last day in Wellington marked my first time ever boarding a ferry as large as a baseball stadium. Okay, that’s a mild exaggeration. But the Bluebridge Cook Strait ferry (from Wellington to Picton) was massive – after all, cars, motorcycles and tons of luggage are carried on it as well. It’s probably the closest I’ll get to a Titanic-like vessel.
The ferry itself was beautiful – the chairs were set up in a way that allowed you to have far more room than even airline seating. We would have had even better views if the windows weren’t dirty, but going outside yielded some stunning views, especially as we narrowly crossed into the Cook Strait. No icebergs, thankfully.
Despite the beauty, I somehow tricked myself into thinking I was excited to cross over to the South Island. I wasn’t fooled, because the ferry didn’t even get 5 minutes out of Wellington when I started tearing up – and then read a lovely goodbye card from Alexa and was gone. I was sitting next to two lovely elder couples, which was the most embarrassing part. Pretending to nap while wiping away tears and listening to music probably seemed hysterical.
I was hit hard with sadness and mixed feelings about moving to the South Island. My mind played things over and over, such as how my first moments in Wellington were beyond exceptional (I freakin’ got there on Halloween and we had a Weta Halloween party in our decorated haunted house. Doesn’t get much cooler than that). It was really hard for me to face up to my fears and try out backpacking for the first time.
The waterfront in Picton was the highlight – a tiny inlet of water that was home to many ships and boats in the marina. Picton also happened to be one of the only areas I saw in the South Island that was also home to rolling green hills (something that North Island is beautifully plentiful of). Otherwise, the central area was pretty dull and the main thing people do in Picton is venture off for hour-long hikes in the surrounding areas.
Sidenote: The North and South Island are only 14 miles apart. That’s crazy. My drive to work back in California was farther than that.
Kaikoura was a rainy, freezing mess. The extent of getting to see the town was a brief walk along the beach when I arrived that evening. The morning after was gloomy and bone-chillingly cold. It was so cold and rainy that I didn’t even want to attempt to go outside at all in my seven hours of waiting for the bus. Thus, no whales, seals or penguins were seen – even though that’s what Kaikoura is known for. And I’m okay with that.
Bonus: Having a private room to myself in the hostel, because May is apparently dead season.
Two nights in Christchurch weren’t eventful, other than being cold (and very depressing, again). Despite how I would never want to live there, I’ve somehow managed to see the city four different times already – that’s even more than some of my favorite areas. It just happens to be the main connecting point for airports and buses, I presume. I think I’ve met my Christchurch limit by now – seeing too much rubble and warzone-type areas dampens my mood.
Dangerously hilly and the oldest city in New Zealand, and also home to the world’s steepest street (Baldwin St). Lots of intricate Victorian architecture and a beautiful university, but otherwise, there wasn’t much to do (recurring theme of South Island – have you noticed?). After spending two nights there, I was dawdling and trying to find things to do to kill time. The Dunedin Botanic Gardens were the highlight – but sadly, by this city, I felt like my time in New Zealand was ending. I was getting tired of such little things to do.
I fell in love with this place on my recent tour – until I spoiled it for myself with Australia (everything happens for a reason, again). I couldn’t look at this place the same when I came back. Lots of rain, lots of hiking, lots of beautiful views of fall foliage (red, yellow, orange-leaved trees everywhere) and crisp lake air. I’d compare it to a remote laketown that elder, rich couples take vacations in for a winter weekend, but that’s it. Very beautiful place, but just not stimulating enough for me – ESPECIALLY after I lived in Wellington (I’m in love with Wellington as much as I’m in love with Melbourne). Otherwise, the central area consisted of five main streets and was a ghost town. A very cutesy place, but absolutely dead compared to its neighbor, Queenstown. In my honest opinion, Wanaka is my favorite place (tied with Abel Tasman) in the South Island, though – great place to visit.
I’m sure the town is bustling when snow season starts up in late June (Treble Cone has the best snow in the Southern Hemipshere), but I’ll be long gone by then. Onwards and upwards!