Wedding Crashers, Back Benchers and an Ever-Entertaining Bus Ride

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

Sunday was my last day of my vacation and I was officially done. I had seen all I wanted to see, I didn’t have a lot of extra cash left, and I was *tired*. So, Sunday was my day of rest.

First off, I went to see the movie the Wedding Crashers. It was quite funny, but it felt more like a play than a film. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it was quite weird for a mainstream comedy I thought. I got a good laugh out of it anyhow. BABAGANOOSH!

Then, I wandered to try and find a bite to eat…. This was a bit more of an undertaking than I would have thought initially. Turns out everything in downtown Wellington closes on Sundays. Except my fair Back Bencher’s cafe. So I returned to the cafe and this time took pictures of the various political figures displayed on their walls. My favourite one is the one above; I’m not sure what it really means in terms of Don Brash, but I’m not too fond of this guy’s politics, so insinuating he is two-faced is just fine with me.

Then, I boarded the bus to go home. It was packed, and I was a bit horrified it would be a cramped trip all the way to Auckland – luckily most got out at Palmerston North, about two hours north of Wellington.

Shortly after we dumped the folks in Palmy, the bus stopped. Apparently one of our luggage lockers was open and dumping luggage over the road. Some folks in a car picked up some bags, but we had to go back to the point where the locker flung open to check if all the luggage was there. My conspiracy theory is that it was a thinly veiled smoke break, as there didn’t seem to really be any problem.


We were now 1/2 an hour behind schedule. Time to make up time! We were clipping along the country roads, and about an hour later, the bus was pulled over for speeding. Add another 15 minutes late to schedule. As far as eventful bus rides, I was waiting for the third thing to happen, but the rest of the trip was fine: a bit rocky, but fine. We ended up getting back to Auckland 10 minutes ahead of schedule, which would explain why I didn’t really get a good sleep on the way home, as I felt as soon as I fell asleep my ass would fall off the bench seats because the driver would take the corners too fast.


Cable Cable Cable Cable Car

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

Today was another day of touristy stuff.. surprise surprise 🙂

Mainly, I went to the top of the Cable Car track, wandered around the Botanical Gardens and had a coffee at the cafe at the top of the mountain and also read my book.

I came home early and checked myself into my *new* room. Nice single room. Ahh the quiet. But, ah, not really. They put me in a room that was facing the bar, so even though it was on the second floor, you still got the “thumpa thumpa” from the music in the bar. I don’t know which was more annoying – that music, or the fact that I am slowly turning into my mother. You see, she would complain if we were at a hotel/motel and she could hear any music. I thought I was pretty tolerant. But after staying in hostels for a week, and spending my big $40 on a room upgrade, I wanted to make sure I had a good sleep. It eventually happened, and I ended up sleeping in a bit longer to compensate myself for my sleep missed due to those rowdy youngins.

That Bitch Stole My Adaptor/ On Top of Mount Victoria/ Why White People Aren’t Good Gospel Singers

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

Friday was another quiet day…. actually the rest of my trip was pretty quiet by all accounts. I didn’t really have much planned, and didn’t really feel like going out to any shows, so I stuck to touristy things.

I started out my day by attempting to find my adapter for my hairdryer. I knew I had it when I left Queenstown… and sure enough I found it sitting inside of one of the girl’s backpacks that I was staying with. So, I took it back, locked up all of my stuff in storage and tried to get my own room for the night. That really ticked me off, because it was my last adapter that I had, and it had to last me when I got back to Auckland too because my other adapter bit it just before I left. But, crisis averted, I found it, and ended up going into my single room without any problems or confrontations.

After that incident, I started my day out by going to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was, of course, pure genious. But, what was most entertaining were the two 13 year old girls who went to see the film and were self-professed “Johnny Depp fans”. I think, in this case, fan was an understatement. They stood in the front of the line bugging the door guy until we were let into the theatre, then they were seated beside me (as fate would have had it!) and they were going on and on about how hot Johnny Depp was. Like I was going to argue with them. They were quite funny, they reminded me of when I was that age. They were making big deluded statements of what they would do when they met Johnny Depp, because he was filming a movie in Japan, and they were going to buy tickets to go “visit” him. I asked them what they would really do if they met him, “For real? Like I really don’t know.. I’d scream, for sure, like totally freak out, then jump him and then probably faint”.

But seriously, anyone who says that Johnny Depp isn’t imitating Michael Jackson in that film is off their effing rockers.

Next trip was up Mount Victoria by bus. The trip was nice, and the view was gorgeous. At times it reminded me of the view from my aunt and uncles in Nanaimo.


Again, one fo those moments where I felt remarkably at home.

And then I met Mr. Cat who was in need of attention. And seeing as how I had 15 minutes to wait for my bus, I didn’t mind hanging out with him. He ended up leaving me for a piece of warm concrete.

In the evening, I went to see this marvelous Gospel Choir at Old St. Pauls. This was the concert that I bought the ticket for that was a whopping $10.

The place was absolutely packed. Luckily I got there early, so I got a decent seat in full view of the music and the choir. I ended up talking to the couples sitting in front of me… one couple was originally from St. Louis, and another was from Taupo. As the concert drew closer to starting, the conversations got louder because they had a cash bar at the concert. So here I was, decked out in my dressiest duds I had (which weren’t that dressy), drinking wine in a church and getting a bit tipsy. It felt wrong. But the pastor said it was okay, so it must have been.

Then the choir came on. Seemed like mainly Samoan, and WOW could they sing. But for some reason, the concert organizers kept putting on these white people who just paled by comparision to the Samoan singers… and after a while, it became clear this was the case, as the one group, a barbershop quartet, ended up doing three encores at the insistance of the audience. They were amazing as well.

I wanted to believe in the power of gospel. I loved the music. But there is something bizarre and awkward about watching a bunch of white folk attempting to clap along to Gospel music. I don’t know how to explain it other than they have no rythym. And I’m no different, I realize, but I try to refrain from yelling out “Amen Brother”, as, again, coming from a honky it just loses any cultural currency that it might (*might*) have held.

Overall, the night seemed like it was a recruiting night for the local church, but the music that was made overcame any seedy conspiracy theories that I might have had. I walked home through downtown, wandered into my room and fell asleep after attempting to read “Treasure Island” – a book that I exchanged at my hostel in Queenstown. But, I quickly realized that I didn’t really like the book at all, and ended up giving up and going to sleep with my headphones on.

Almost Fogged In/Gay Ski Week/ Bubble Party!

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

So, next day, Thursday to be exact.

Get all ready to wander out to my flight.
Eat breakfast.
Have a walk around the city one last time.
Get in the shuttle to the airport.
Get to the airport an hour a head of time.

There are about 300 people waiting in line. A whiteboard notice says “all flights for the Queenstown airport are suspended until further notice”.

WTF? Why? It was a bit foggy, but not really. Was there a terror alert? Did they have those here?

Oh well, I figured. As long as I got back to Wellington in time to catch my bus on Sunday night, I didn’t really care.

Now, when I booked my flight to Queenstown, I went to the city’s website to see what was on. I was suprised to see that it was “Gay Ski Week”. Mostly when they say “Gay” they mean men. Fair enough. So, I thought I would end up being a fag hag for the duration of my trip in Queenstown. Turns out, they were staying up more near the Remarkables mountains, and because I’m all “low-class student” and they were all “high-class spenders” I didn’t run into any gay men when I was in Queenstown.

But the guy sitting beside me at the airport did.

We were talking about how bizarre it was that they couldn’t land any planes in Queenstown. I piped in with my theory that it was to milk tourists for more money – because clearly the flights could get into the valley, because it wasn’t foggy at all. Then this guy says that he was staying in a hotel and it was like “Gay Pride in there or something, I mean, I’m all for the gays, but that was a bit much”. This guy was American, and I guess was expected a straight-forward heterosexual ski weekend. I just chuckled, because I could picture the main concourse draped in feather boas and rainbows, and this uber-straight uptight guy walking in with his back to the wall. Maybe someone like Chevy Chase in a National Lampoon’s Vacation or something.

As it was, my flight from Wellington was the first one to make it into Queenstown and the first one to leave. When I heard the announcement that my flight would be the first to leave, I actually said outloud “Fucking Rights” and only some teenagers beside me heard me, and they laughed at me a little.

The flight was, again, completely uneventful, as was the bus ride back to the hostel. I checked in to the new room, and then went for a walk in search of bubble bath as it was going to be my goal to have a proper bubble bath that night (they had a really nice bath tub in the hostel). So, I did some shopping, wandered back to the hostel later in the evening, and got my stuff ready for my bath. I couldn’t find my adaptor for my hairdryer (which I was absolutely certain I had), so I borrowed one off of one of my Canadian roommates, and got ready and went to bed early. Luckily my volume wasn’t up too loud on my headphones, because we were woken up at 4:30am by a firealarm. I thought at first it was someone’s cell phone, so didn’t move a muscle until one of the girls switched on the light and said we had to leave.

Wine-y and Cheese-y

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

I didn’t really know what to expect with this tour – if we would have to spit out our wine after tasting it, or if there were going to be a bunch of wine-know it alls around, and I would feel horribly out of place. As it turned out, the tour was 50% senior citizens, and the rest were a hodge-podge of Ozzies on some break or vacation.

We started out on the drive to the first winery – well a winery and cheesery. They had a wonderful cafe there, and it was warm out so we ate outside. The cherry blossoms were being blown off the trees and right into our meals – hopefully there were edible. We had four glasses of wine (part glasses, mind you) at the first stop.

Second stop was the Penegrine winery just down the street. The building had one some architectural awards, but in my humble opinion, looked like that A. Erikson dude from Vancouver barfed up concrete all over what looked like a typical tin NZ sheep shack. Luckily, the crapitecture had no bearings on the wine. I ended up buying a rather cheap bottle of red pinot noir from this place, as it was the best pinot noir I had tasted. One of the presenters asked us if we had any questions, and one of the ozzies replied “Please sir, can I have some more?” in a wonderful British accent. I think it was then we realized we were all getting a little drunk.

Then off to Waitiri Creek to drink wine outside of a church. This would not be the first time for me to drink wine in a church on this trip (and not meaning drinking wine in a Catholic tradition of the blood of Christ, I mean getting myself tipsy!). They had this fabulous Rose which was very “clean”. It was a word that I thought fit the wine, but I really had no idea what I was talking about. Then, the next wine came around, and the guy that was telling us about them described it as “clean”. The girl I was sitting with and I started laughing, and we embarassed the presenter guy. He actually went red.

The final stop on our tour was the Hayes Lake winery, which is owned by Robb Hay of all people. Those crazy Scots get everywhere, but they made their home in the Central Otago/ Dunedin region, so it was nice to hear someone with the same last name as me (that was another thing that was wonderful as well, because no one has misspelled my name very often here, no added e’s or es’s on the end). They had this wonderful champagne-like bubbly wine, I think they called it methode-traditionelle, meaning they made it in the exact same way as they make it in Champagne in France, but they don’t have the registered trademark permissions to call it Champagne.

From there, we wandered back home, I went to my hostel, then wandered around town. For my last night in Queenstown, I wanted to have a nice meal,so I found a cafe called “Vudu” that had reasonably priced main dishes. Their special was a Venison Sausage, with a cranberry, onion and mushroom side dish, with mashed potato, pumpkin and garlic. It was marvelous. And, compared to the rest of the stuff in Queenstown, was SO cheap!

Milford Sound, aka, Central BC

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

I know that the title of this entry might give some the idea that I was unimpressed with the surroundings. I wouldn’t say that was the case, but at points, I felt eerily at home in this foreign place. The rainforests were covered in lichens and mosses; the trees were evergreen, so even if they weren’t cedar and fir trees, when they were covered in mosses they looked similar. The mountains leading out to the sound were shale and slate (they called something else – sounded like shisksa, but I think that is Jewish for something else). So it was strangely familiar. I’m not sure that it was worth the funds to fly down there to go out to Milford Sound, but it did satisfy my curiosity, and it was still very very beautiful by all standards. But when you’ve grown up in a very similar environment, it is difficult to make that kind of fresh impact.

But back to the journey – it started out with a coffee at Subway and me meeting a girl from Saskatoon who actually had friends in Coronach, SK (Coronach is a town of about 1000 people on the border between SK and Montana). Then, I met my next friend,a German girl named Claudia. The bus trip again was quite pleasant, where we got to stop every couple of hours for a washroom break. We went past Lake Wakatipu, which is around 300m deep in places and has a year round temperature of about 10degrees celsius, so it is really too cold to swim in, even in the warmest months (it only gets to be 25degrees or so around that area). So this beautiful huge lake is relatively undeveloped.

Wander down the road a bit more, into the town of Athol. They even had a school of Athol. I tried to get a picture of that school for my dad, as I’m sure he went there as a kid, but the bus was driving too fast.

First stop, Te Anau. Ie – Tourist Trap. I bought water, went and checked email for the first time in a couple of days, then got back on the bus.

The rest of the trip out to the Sound got more and more fantastic as the journey went on. Luckily it had been a very mild winter in Central Otago, so there wasn’t any risk of avalanches or any weird snowstorms that would sneak up on us. Even the valley that we got to just up from the Sound was fog-free, which for this time of year was amazing as the driver told us.

The final destination was the cruise around the sound. Luckily it had been raining a fair deal, but it was just starting to be sunny, so that meant that we could stand outside and take pictures, that there would be some rainbows and that all of the waterfalls were visible. The trip was nice, I had a bite to eat on board, and then wandered around and took pictures. (There are more pics of Milford Sound on my flickr site as well).

The trip back was uneventful. We pulled in at 8pm, I got some groceries and wandered back to the Bumbles (my hostel) and read a bit of “Ham on Rye” and went to sleep… this time in preparation for my wine tour the next day.

Monday’s Flight to Queenstown, or "How I Could Feel Like I Was Flying Into Kelowna, Yet I Was About 10,000km Away"

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

As flights go, this one was no biggie. I heard horrific tales about leaving the Wellington airport when it was windy out, but comparied to the Fort St. John’s approach, Wellington was smooth.

I got into Queenstown at 12:30pm or so, and boarded the shuttle to my little hostel. The shuttle operator was kind enough to drive us up for a bit of a scenic tour to where the rich-bitches have their houses so we could take some pictures of the lake. I arrived at the hostel just before they were about to close for lunch and got my room assignment – and it was right across from the lake. It reminded me so much of Vancouver/Kelowna/Whistler that it really really weirded me out. The weather was nice, so I went for a walk to the cruise ships and went for a cruise on the Steamship…. (more pics are on my flickr site of the steamship).

I got back at 4pm or so, wandered over to the Information Centre and figured out where my tour was leavning from to go out to Milford Sound, then I also found where the grocery store was. From looking at the maps, it looked as if the only grocery store was either out by the airport, or halfway up the mountain towards Cornet Peak. I was convinced it was a conspiracy to milk tourists for all the money they had, and honestly, I’m still convinced that their little “Fog-in incident” was another one of those ploys.

Anyhew, I wandered back to my hostel with new food in hand, and made dinner in the weirdest common room I’ve ever been in. It was mid-season, so there was no one staying for skiing, and it wasn’t yet warm enough for the hikers. So there were a few people like me who were travellers, and the rest were long-stayers who worked in Queenstown or the surrounding area.

I’ve never worked in a tourist town, but I got the feeling really quickly there was this big rift between those that are the tourists, and those that were once tourists that get stuck working because they can’t afford to travel. That makes the ex-tourists very bitter and not very friendly. Queenstown was also the only place I’ve been to that actually encourages tipping; so you get really great service in the cafe’s and restaurants, but almost begrudgingly so.

Again, this night I went to sleep early, as I had to walk into town for my big trip out to Milford Sound that left at 7am.

7am? You mean I have to be awake before that?

Movies and Hot Soup..

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

My Sunday was another slow day; I met up with another friend and we ended up watched a few movies at her place – one was the movie Harvey from the late 50’s? and another we watched was called Dirt – this great southern US tale, starring Puddy/ The Tick guy as this horrible wife-beater. We had some hot soup from a chinese veggie restaurant, then I stole some washing powder and wandered back to my hotel/dorm for the evening. See they had this great single room available, only $59 a night – it was “no facilities” meanining there was no bathroom, but for an extra $40 it was SO worth it to have my own space for one evening before flying to Queenstown. I did much laundry, watched Spiderman Two, and got ready for my flight the next morning to QTown…

Travelling Friends, a Walking Tour and Being Publicly Flogged

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

So travelling alone is a strange experience. I think my friend Nao said it best when she said that it was both exhilarating and lonely. It forces me out of my shell, as I know that I won’t see anyone I know, so I have to start talking, but it is also exhausting because you *always* have to be on. But its something that I’ve gotten used to, at least partially, and I’ve made some interesting friends along my trips.

So my dorm buddies where a good example. There was the 20 something kiwi-asian guy who was looking for a job and had just moved to Wellington and who was, for all accounts, a bit of a stoner. One night he wandered in after having a “smoke” and he wasn’t finishing his sentences. He reminded me of one of my roommates from way back when, when I asked him how he was doing, he stared back at me and said “ahhh, yup”. But anyhew, so that was roomie number one. Roomie Number two was a German girl named, you guessed it, Stephanie. Or Steffie as she liked to be called. She was always tired from working, yet would talk and talk and talk when she had a moment. Roomie Number Three was a German guy named Felix. The way he introduced himself was “You know, like ze cat? Black und White? Mrwooowr?”. Indeed. Then Roomie Number Four was an Irish girl who we didn’t see much as she went out drinking and didn’t get back until 4am.

So my Saturday started out a little rough, although I did get up and go for my Walking Tour. I met up with one woman and what looked like three other tourists, but it turned out they were doing a training tour for the other women. So I was the sole walker on a tour with four tour guides. The tour lasted a bit longer than it should have, I think it was 2.5 hours instead of the usual 1.5 – which was fine with me because I didn’t really have anything to do anyhow.

It was a lovely warm day out, we took a nice walk around the harbour, around the CBD, then up to the Beehive and we ended at Old St. Paul’s. There was a notice on the door for upcoming performances at the church, and one was a gospel show for the next Friday.. so I made it my mission on my way home to buy myself a ticket to go. At a whopping $10, I figured I could work it into my budget.

Then, I had lunch with one of the ladies at the Back Bencher’s cafe – I have pictures from later on at the end of my trip from the same Cafe as it was the only one what was open on a Sunday at 6pm before my bus ride back to Auckland.

Again, I wandered home, this time past Cuba Street, to Real Groovy to get my tickets and I stumbled across a CD sale and decided that I needed to augment my CD collection in the “Amazing male singer/songwriters who died in the late 90’s” category by purchasing Yes by Morphine and Jeff Buckley’s “Sketches for my Girlfriend the Drunk”. And of course my ticket to the Gospel night.

So, I wandered “home” again, had a nap and then got ready to go to the the-a-tre. The show I chose to go see was called “Public Lashings and Whipped Cream: Confessions of a Teenage Dominatrix”. It was a bit more interactive than I would have thought, and with being a student, I got a cheap ticket. Instead of putting me, cute innocent student, at the back of the theatre, they put me front row centre. So, I ended up getting mildly flogged during the show. I didn’t have to get up on stage or anything, but it was humiliating enough.

I wandered back to the hostel afterwards, chatting again with stoner dude and called it an early night.

Getting the Land Legs and Going to a Gig

Originally uploaded by scrunt.

Well, after an evening of getting used to my top bunk in my coed shared dorm room, I started out into the city of Wellington at around 12noon. I didn’t know much about anything in Wellington, so I just started walking in hopes that I would get lost. I made my way to Espressoholics – a great coffee shop whose decor reminded me of the decor of DV8 in Vancouver – and had a cup of coffee. Well a “flat white”. (NB – I still haven’t figured the difference between a flat white and a cappucino, nor a long black and an americano).

From there, I wandered down the street to the Info Centre, and booked a walking tour for the next morning at 10am. I knew it would be pushing it a little bit, as I was going to a gig Friday night, but I did it anyhow.

I checked out the local City Art Gallery. I loved the fact that most of the attractions in Wellington were either free or cheap. The Art Gallery had this great exhibition on called “Big Town, Small Town” I believe – and all these very intriguing pieces – one was a half-sized replica of a beach house, another was a large (20ft long) airplane made out of cloth and stuffed fabric. Also, there was a small exhibit by the Australian artist Noel McKenna, who painted on old glass windows in a very childlike and reserved manner. I almost bought a book of his artwork, but refrained, as I didn’t want to have to lug it all the way to Queenstown and back. In the end, I forgot to go back and get it, so now I’m Noel McKenna-less.

I walked back to the hostel, engaged in a strange film conversation with my dorm-mate, and had a nap. I woke up in time to attempt to find Room 101 – which was the basement to the Bodega. I had no clue where I was going, and it was around 10pm, so all the young hooligans were out (good lord, am I that old?). I walked along like I knew where I was going, but I didn’t, so I was hoping to find a discreet location to check my map. I had an idea where I was going, and luckily my idea turned out to be correct.

I was meeting a friend at the gig, someone who has posted on a website that I’ve posted to for years and years. The gig was great, it started off with some Peaches knock-offs – but instead of synth rap, they were doing synth-country songs. Second act up was Lady Luck – they seemed the most engaging of the three bands. The last band’s name has totally slipped my mind, but they were essentially a female-fronted “Faint”, but the lead singer looked like the woman off the Northern Pike’s “She Ain’t Pretty She Just Looks that Way” Video – she was wearing the same dress and had the same hairdo.

I wandered back to the hostel, drunk on Hoegaarten, and my poor feet needed a bit of a rest after walking around all day and standing on my feet all night at the gig.


Originally uploaded by scrunt.

This is the first picture of my journey to some points south. My day started at 8am, when I realized that I needed to return library books to the Central Library here in Auckland, which would mean that I would have to leave the comfort of my link bus before the Intercity Coach bus stop, drop off my books, and then walk up the g.d. hill with my backpack full of crap. Luckily, I was travelling kind of light, so it wasn’t too much of a pain. It was more the pain of getting up early matched with the pain of me being an idiot and not returning my books the day before when I had been downtown.

The bus trip down to Wellington was pretty decent for a 12 hour trip. We stopped a bunch of times along the way in weird little towns, and the driver actually acted like a bit of a tour guide – telling us what was coming up on either sides of the bus. The weather was really great for my whole trip as well, where I was only met with a bit of rain in Queenstown and Milford Sound, and a bunch of fog in Queenstown Airport.