Heading North Again

April 11, 2011 Comments Off on Heading North Again

307 km

Interesting fact about NZ: It is extremely difficult to find what Americans would call “regular” coffee. Everything is espresso, which I don’t care for. And today Paul of the Coffee Caravan slammed us for even asking if he had any, and as he made it for us implied that we were coffee idiots who didn’t know what we were ordering, which was only half true. He was friendly, but I was offended. If you want filter or plunger (French press) coffee, NZ seems to say, make it at home.

Anyway, before leaving Golden Bay, we stopped (on the advice of our Wallace and Gromit innkeeper) at Te Waikoropupu Springs, locally known as the Pupu Springs. They’re sacred to the Maori, and after going, you can see why. The water is shiningly clear and bright blue, and everything in it is brightly colored, mostly blue and green. I felt the way someone from the 50s would feel if they were suddenly shown high-definition television. It’s clear and brightly-colored and sharp in a way that you hadn’t thought possible, until you saw it. The water is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom, 10m down, but because it’s so clear you think it’s only three feet or so, and astonishment ensues when you read the informative little plaques. An Australian tourist who wanted to discuss all this with us mentioned with pointed surprise that the displays claimed that this was the clearest, largest spring in Australasia, and expressed scepticism that it was actually clearer than the springs on Fraser Island. We nodded politely.

Whatever, Fraser Island ain't got nothin' on Pupu Springs.

For something so pretty, there’s not a lot to do there once you’re done gawping, and we were soon on our way to Nelson. Lunch was the best kebabs I’ve ever had. (In New Zealand? What gives?) We took a little-traveled scenic highway to Picton that cut many kilometers off our route, and found ourselves with some time to kill before the ferry. We walked around downtown, debating whether we should get something for the ferry beforehand, and when we passed a free-standing public restroom, Simon announced that he had to go. When he emerged, he was grinning broadly, and advised me in the strongest possible terms to use the toilet. Nonplussed, I went in. There was a button to close the door. I pushed it and the door whooshed cleanly shut and a pleasant voice said, “The door is now locked. Maximum occupancy time is ten minutes.” And a terrible cheesy soft-jazz version of “What the World Needs Now Is Love” began to play gently over the loudspeaker. You had to push a button to get toilet paper, and then when you were done, there were three sensors in a row over a sink, one for soap, one for water, and one for hot air. The toilet flushed automatically when you started to wash your hands or when you pushed the button to open the door. It was the best bathroom I’ve ever used. Huzzah for Picton.

The ferry ride was nearly as boring as last time, except fortunately we’d found a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in a bookshop, and read some of it on the ferry, having finished the preceding book a few days earlier. We got to Wellington late-ish and found our hotel…with no one in it. The desk was closed and said to request assistance from the bar staff, who turned out to be one guy just closing up. He checked us in, apologizing that there was no one else booked for tonight, and no one had checked the computer to see our reservation (made earlier in the day). He handed us milk and a key, and told us to go on up. As we were bringing the suitcase in, I saw his girlfriend come pick him up. We were completely alone. Once we were ensconced in our room, I realized that the milk was expired, and when I went to take a shower, found that there was no soap to be found anywhere in the room. I guess that’s what happens when there’s never anyone in a hotel. It was actually a little creepy. Empty hotels creep me out. Ugh. At least there was a fan—Simon and I have grown progressively more dependent on white noise, and the presence of the fan was important. Whirrrrrr…

[back-posted]

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