Sunday, April 8, 2007

The South Island Adventure Begins!

Hello everyone, and greetings from Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand! Unfortunately the date there is right- our night bus from Auckland to Wellington broke down in the middle of the night, so we ended up having to spend the night in Picton instead of continuing on to Nelson as planned. It wasn't all bad, though, because we got to see the sunrise over Mount Tongariro (a beautiful, classic-looking volcano) and Mount Ruapehu, which was just a wonderfully beautiful, surreal scene to be quite honest.

Several quick snatches of sleep later we were in Wellington, the southernmost capital city in all the world, waiting for our ferry south. I didn't have much time to see Wellington to be honest but it quite frankly looks like an odd place to build a city becauese the whole thing looks like a bunch of houses living on borrowed time amidst towering mountains. I mean it's very pretty city, of course- it just looks a bit like people aren't really supposed to be there or something.

Once we were on our ferry (by the way when I say "we" here I mean me and my friends Amy and Eran, who are fellow study abroad-ers), it was really nice: the weather was great for the crossing and the boat was quite massive, so we had fun looking around. To top it off the crossing is about three hours and about an hour of that is going through the Marlborough Sounds, which are submerged valleys flooded by the sea so the mountains come straight up to the water.

For the record, the ferry crossing had to be one of the most lovely and exciting things I've seen in awhile. I was rather giddy thinking about the prospect of going to a whole new land at the bottom of the world and exploring it, and surrounding the boat were these beautiful towering mountains towering straight out of the water. (You need pictures to appreciate this, I know, but the one on the left has to do for now as I can't hook up my camera here.) It's the sort of scenery that makes you think that you're definetely not in Cleveland anymore, that anything can happen, and that this is going to be something special unlike anything you've seen before. That is, really, the best description I can make of the South Island because the feeling hasn't really left me.

The other awesome thing about South Island, I must mention, is the fact that this is really not a land that's ever been tamed by humans- it is a land where nature tolerates the presence of mortals, and you are quite happy to accept that. The first humans set foot here only in the past thousand years, about the time my Hungarian ancestors decided to stop terrorizing their neighbors and found a Christian country instead, and Captain Cook sailed in here less than 300 years ago. This is a rediculously short time span!

But anyway, to continue on we spent the night in Picton, which consisted primarily of the exciting discovery of an Irish pub and about 12 hours of sleep to make up the bus travel. We explored Picton the next morning (this morning) and it's essentially a little tourist town there for all the people passing through after arriving on the ferry. The shore itself was quite lovely, however, and reminded me a little of Center Harbor, New Hampshire where my family goes in the summers.

(By the way, in a great burst of insight I'd bought some Easter eggs in Auckland, and hid them on Amy and Eran's belongings this morning before they woke up. They didn't believe me when I insisted the Easter bunny brought them though... then Amy being the art major in our crew presented us with great little homemade cards, which are just lovely... we also got eggs when we checked out of the hostel that morning, they're like currency here today!)

Finally we found the right bus and our group, and we got to go to Nelson. Hooray! Along the way we passed lovely vinyards fringed with mountains in the background and other lovely scenery, and arrived in Nelson in the afternoon. It's a sleepy little town with streets of Victorian houses with rose gardens in front, and is rather British except with palm trees. Nothing much was open as it's Easter Sunday, save the famous Christ Cathedral, so we headed over there and admired it and the surrounding gardens. We were also rather excited because our hostel here is a very nice spot consisting of a room to ourselves, a pool, free brekkie, and all in our own little Victorian house. More like a B&B than a hostel!

By the way, Nelson's most famous claim to fame is that Lord Rutherford of Nelson was born here, and they take great pride in the fact that the man who "split the atom"came from here. I rather like it. We're going past his birthplace tomorrow I think...

Ok, that's it for now. Sorry if this is rambling but I want to make notes of things before I forget them! Don't worry, there will be lots of pretty pictures later too... alright that's it for now, I'll catch you guys sometime later down the coast.