A Travellerspoint blog

September 2011

How does one get a free lunch in Wellington?

*Just ask*

15 °C

The day began a 5am run to drop Jon, along with his 23kg rugby kit full of New Zealand goodies,* at the airport.

  • A literal Freudian slip: Yesterday Jon purchased four 250g chocolate bars to bring home. I was carrying the grocery bag, put it down for a moment to do something and managed to step on it and break all the lovely chocolate bars. I readily agreed to a “you break it, you buy it” policy, took ownership of a kilogram of Whittaker’s chocolate, and bought him new ones. Hey, chocolate always comes in handy.

After dropping Jon off, then sipping tea with Louise until a civilized daytime hour arrived, I headed for a walk up Mount Vic. One more little aside: I remember learning as a kid that there was a growing hole in the earth’s ozone layer, and while I found it troubling, it seemed to primarily concern some faraway country that I had no idea if I’d ever visit. Now then. Yesterday, I was in the sun for about eight minutes before putting on sunblock; this earned me a stinging sensation on my cheeks corresponding to a really attractive patchy red pattern on my face. Yes, explained Louise and Crystal, there is a hole in the ozone over New Zealand, so one burns quickly here. Indeed.

So on went the sunblock, and up the hill I went. There was a Trail (capital ‘T’) leading up to the lookout point... and then there were just trails. Beautiful, leafy, well-kept, practically deserted trails. Hard to believe it was ten minutes’ walk from a city rather than some national park. I wound my up via the trails, never knowing exactly where I was on a map but figuring I'd end up where I needed to. Sure enough, made it to the top just fine and had part of an avocado for breakfast while taking in the drop-dead gorgeous view. It was all sublime (but since when do I like avocado?!).

Next I headed for a swim in Freyberg Pool, this beautiful pool/gym complex built right on the coast with two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. When I went to leave my phone and money for the front desk for safekeeping, I discovered I had no money. Not a cent. It was all in the pocket of my jeans from the day before. Now I had a big chocolate bar in my bag (always comes in handy!) and could imagine surviving on it, devouring it, in fact. But that idea had stomach ache written all over it. I found myself thinking as I swam:

How does one get a free lunch in Wellington?

Good and hungry after hiking and swimming, I strolled up Cuba Street eying the restaurants, cafes and bakeries, and all the people with money to eat there. A casual-looking kebab joint gave me a tickle of an idea. I wandered in and asked, “Say, what could I do to get a bit of free lunch? Could I help you out behind the counter for half an hour or something?” (I'd've been willing to do an hour, but had decided I should leave room to bargain up.) I walked out with a falafel wrap, complete with hummus tabouli, no manual labor required, which I savored in the afternoon sun of a perfect Wellington spring day.

Wandering back through the city, I chanced upon a sign for a Deaf Center and walked in to see what they were about. A Maori woman named Karen, whose lunch I think I interrupted, was more than happy to tell me about the Center and their services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in NZ. I learned that Wellington does not have a special school for the Deaf, but Auckland and Christchurch do. She also explained that they have to work with many different languages and cultures – Maori, Pacific Islander, and so on.

She knew American Sign Language (ASL) and so was able to understand my signing, and when she talked to me she spoke as she signed. Some of her signs were different, but I understood her perfectly because her speech was so good. I assumed she had lost her hearing as an adult and was shocked to learn she had been born Deaf. She explained that growing up in the '60s, she had been forced to communicate orally. Sad, but not uncommon, and the children would actually get in trouble for signing.

I concluded my wanderings with a ramble through the Botanic Gardens, which offered more gorgeous vistas of this infinitely photogenic city, along with a host of no doubt special plants that I am too ignorant to appreciate. If left to fend for myself in the forest, I probably wouldn't make it. At least I know how to forage for food in a city.

Posted by sbw2109 01:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Abusing the Rental Car

*A symphony in three parts*

Part I
Thursday, my first full day in Wellington. Brian, Jon and I headed to Red Rocks, where there is a seal colony, slightly limited in time limit as we had to get back to cook dinner for ten people. The paved road to Red Rocks goes only so far, then becomes a dirt road which one can follow order to get closer to the colony. I was driving when we reached this decision point, and I think we made a democratic choice to proceed. Though it may have been a liiittle unilateral, as in me saying, “hey, we can do this!” and driving right on ahead.

We made it through the shallow stream just fine. But I went a little too slow over some gravel, and we got stuck. When I pressed the gas, the wheels just spun deeper down. Thanks to the pushing prowess of Brian, Jon and a cheerful passerby (Kiwis are so friendly!), we got moving again. Then it was just potholes, big ones and lots of ‘em. Jon, whose credit card the rental company had, seemed to be trying to cringe too hard, especially when the belly of the car scraped every now and then.

We eventually parked and walked perhaps 20 more minutes to the Red Rocks and the seal colony. The NZ coastline was absolutely stunning, ditto the crystal clear water washing around the rocks. The seals were… smelly. But it was fun to see them lounging on the rocks in the late afternoon sun. I almost stumbled right onto one – their fur matches the rocks impeccably – and he bellowed at me. Whoops.


Brian drove on the way back out. As we regained the paved road without incident, I mused out loud, “Hm, the way out seemed much shorter than the way in.” Came the reply from the boys, “Yeah, felt that way to us too.” I set myself up for that one.

Then back “home” to Deb, Crystal and Louise, where we cooked a “thanks for letting us all stay here” dinner of challah, pulled lamb tacos, sweet potato quesadillas, salad, and kiwifruit cheesecake. Everything went over swimmingly, especially the cheesecakes with a fern design for the All Blacks.

Part II
Saturday. I let Jon off at the base of Mount Vic so he could run up to the lookout point, and I was to drive up and meet him there. About a minute later, hugging the left curb too closely as I had been all day, I struck it with the tire, and heard it rapidly deflating as I drove on. Expletives. I pulled over to inspect. The tire was completely busted. More expletives were on the way when I noticed a big yellow AA van directly across the street. Another classic case of Sharon Has More Luck Than Brains. I got the spare and the tools from the trunk, the AA guy helped me change it (which needless to say went MUCH smoother than if it were just me), and we were back in business.

Part III
Same day. Let’s just say I was having an off day by this point, and was feeling clumsy and self-conscious handling the car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. I commented glumly to Jon, “we’d probably be better off with you driving on your expired license.” Shortly after that, a car changed into my lane, taking out my right headlight with a sharp crashing noise. We both pulled over to take stock. When I went back to look more carefully at the lane markings at scene of the accident, I saw that I had misread them and it was actually my fault. As there was no insurance on the rental car, I had to pay. It was fortunately not too terrible, but I sure would’ve rather spent the money bungee jumping. Sigh.

We returned the rental car a few hours early, got some Thai food and decompressed over the New Zealand-France match, which the All Blacks dominated of course. I’m scheduled to leave NZ on October 19, but if the All Blacks end up in the final on October 22 (which they’d better!), I may have to stick around for it.

In Other News
On friday, we prettymuch managed The Perfect Day. Started with leftovers breakfast burritos (yum), drove up for a hike around the beautiful yet deserted Kapiti coast, got some famous Kapiti ice cream (yum again), caught a sunset game of mini golf at quirky Carlucci Land, then went to a USA v Australia Rugby World Cup game (alas, the US had a rough go of it). I'll post some pics of all this if can figure out how.....

Posted by sbw2109 19:40 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Gettin' outta Dodge

*Leaving in 48 hours*

sunny 15 °C

Notes to self: 1 - Leaving the country for a year requires more advance planning than you are inclined to think. 2 - Ari is my better half in so many ways.

Posted by sbw2109 08:40 Comments (1)

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