Easter Weekend FTW

Hello, Internet, today is Friday, March 29th… GOOD Friday, as I am routinely reminded, because – and I should know this as well as anyone – the fact that a place is a world-renowned tourist destination does not mean that it is not also a small fishing village with more than the average number of churches per capita.

That’s right, you guessed it… (k, you probably didn’t):

I’M ON STEWART ISLAND!

This was always “on the list”, as it were. My parents were in New Zealand in late 2008 – one of their many jealousy-inducing journeys – and when I told them about my plan to move here, this was their top recommendation.

I can’t actually remember anything they said about it just right now. I know that they enjoyed the birds (because my parents are forever enjoying birds… that’s kind of their thing), and I know that they warned me that it would be pricey to get here, but… no, they must’ve said something to me that caused me to make it Top Priority, because here I am, pricey or not – the first new place I’ve flown to since JANUARY 2ND!

NOTE: I have to specify “flown to” because I have been to at least two new places since then… I went to Kiwiburn, which is up near Taupo somewhere (I am about to be slaughtered by my Wellington friends… death by ignorance-of-geography-based ridicule!), and then I was at a bach (Canadians, this is Kiwi Code for “cottage” (ON) or “cabin” (NL)) in the Wairapa, and both of those places were new. But the trips, in both cases, were more about the event and less about the place. It’s not like I went hiking or took tons of pictures or was a tourist. ANYway, the point is, I arrived at the Wellington Airport yesterday afternoon and went “oh wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?” BUT I have a “Real Job” ™ now, which involves being around for 5 days/week, with the exception of long weekends… like this one right now.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that Golum is still grasping for fishes in the departure lounge.

taken Dec 26 in the stupid-early morning... but still accurate

taken Dec 26 in the stupid-early morning… but still accurate

I am also a happy – and not a little stunned – to report that I went through no security. None. I arrived at the airport an hour (and a bit) early, like a good little traveller. I put my reference code into the flashy machine and got my boarding pass. I went and had a glass of wine. I ate some curry for late lunch/early dinner (travelling meal rules: eat when you can). I reported to my designated gate. I scanned the barcode on my boarding pass and got on the plane. At no point did I go through a security check. At no point did I show my identification. MAN. Remember when people trusted each other, fellow North Americans? No? Neither do I.

Anyhow, two hours after that excellent, but mildly disorienting experience, I arrived in Invercargill, the southernmost city-con-aiport on the South Island. I arrived at my hostel, where an aggressively friendly young man greeted me, took my not-very-much-money, and gave me a key to the room where I could sleep and, more to the point, dump my belongings until it was time to sleep.

Just south of Invercargill is Bluff, a town which is known for two things: 1) the ferry to Stewart Island leaves from there; and 2) oysters. So, I set out to go find some oysters to eat.

I did not have to try very hard. I went to a pub owned by Monteith’s (an apparently NZ brewery which produced actually the least palatable “summer ale” I have ever unfortunately purchased), had a TOTALLY DECENT pint of red (go team red!) and 6 oysters, and listened to two men about my age play the top hits of the 90s and early 2000s just slightly too fast. It was, except for the oysters, and the port I had for dessert, and the fact that it was an unseasonably warm autumn evening, very much like being at the campus bar at university.

This morning I woke up before sunrise (I do that now, because having a “Real Job” ™ has unexpected side-effects), so I followed a chunk of the “Heritage Walk” I discovered by picking up a flyer at the airport.

This is my favourite thing to do in a new place: walk around, following a map to… somewhere (bonus points if it’s interesting), get lost a few times, take some pictures, and get the feel of the place. So this morning, I started with a war memorial, went through a few churches, a hotel, a stonework water tower (Impractical and unnecessary? Yes. A thing the town is proud of? Yes again!), a pretty excellent green space, and then wound up in Queen’s Park, which is the best tourist attraction nobody ever told me about ever. Seriously. It has an aviary with all kinds of interesting birds, and there are alpacas and deer and an unimpressed-looking ostrich, PLUS some of the best-kept gardens around, and tons of flat grassy areas for croquet or frisbee or whatever your game is. And a pretty band rotunda. And nice gates! And a fountain!

This ostrich is unimpressed.

This ostrich is unimpressed.

 

Any park with a fountain is a-OK by me. Even if it has soap in it.

Any park with a fountain is a-OK by me. Even if it has soap in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to cut my marvelling at Queen’s Park short in order to go back to the hostel, pick up my stuff, and then walk to the airport. I have only been in two places where it has been possible to walk from my accommodations to the airport, and I must say, Invercargill is prettier and has better drivers. It does, however, smell more like horse poop, since it is in the middle of farming country. But, it turns out that is a smell I find comforting, so it’s all a win.

(You get 10 points, Reader, if you can guess the other walkable-airport place. Also, a postcard, if you want one.)

So I got to the airport and checked in with Stewart Island Flights, where I was given a boarding card made of laminated red construction paper, and then I sat in THE FRONT SEAT OF THE PLANE, RIGHT NEXT TO THE PILOT and he flew (quite skillfully, I might add) to Stewart Island.

This was my seat, guys!

This was my seat, guys!

And, friends, Stewart Island is AWESOME. I had been here for not-quite-2 hours when I went swimming in the ocean. And everywhere is the prettiest thing ever. And people are nice, and friendly, and helpful. And there are a zillion walking trails, and some fairly affordable water-taxi options. And a nice restaurant on top of a hill. And a few art galleries and local artisans exhibitions. And a film house doing regular screenings of a local film.

Only downsides so far: 1) most places are closed for Good Friday, and nobody open will sell you alcohol unless they are a restaurant and you order it with your meal (or you are staying at the hotel that’s selling it to you – WIN!) – but this will go away tomorrow… and I will be prepared for Sunday, when the same rules apply; and 2) internet at my hotel is $0.10/MB. This is actually sort of a good thing, since I would be heavily tempted to be online if there was an affordable way to do so, and I am SO looking forward to being offline and in the real world for a while. But you will understand, dear Reader, if I upload this without any pictures, like the cheapskate that I am. I will edit it with photos on Monday, when I am back at the incredibly inexpensive Invercargill hostel with the free wireless. Deal? Deal.

The plan for the long weekend includes: 1) hike; 2) see pretty things and occasionally take photos; 3) read; 4) write; 5) never stress about anything ever.

The tally for Good Friday is: 1) I probably walked 15-20km today; 2) SO MANY PHOTOS; 3) 50 pages; 4) 7 (tiny notebook) pages. And this blog entry. And a letter, and a postcard; 5) NAILED IT.