The ferry across to the North island was really nice, albeit ridiculously overpriced. We got some lunch on board (it's so hard not to be bourgeous when you half the price of everything to get what it's actually costing) and napped in the "reclining lounge". Four hours later we were in Wellington.
It was straight into the van and to Lower Hutt, where Sue and Roy live. I'd contacted them earlier and they'd agreed to let us stay with them, the original plan was for one night. After getting a little lost on the way, we eventually found the house and it is amazing. We were welcomed in and told that dinner was in the oven, despite them both going out for dinner than night! We had beef stroganoff and a massive house to ourselves. It was such a luxury to be in a house, where there is room to move about, compared to the cramped space of a campervan. We had a bit of a chat when they returned, followed by a film and then bed. Sleeping in a bed (or just on a mattress) is an amazing feeling. Not having to move boards around or get into a sleeping bag and being warm are all things which are foreign to us now. Needless to say, it was a great night's sleep.
Our first day in Wellington we went to the national museum, Te Papa. It's been generally agreed that it is the best museum we've been to on our travels. Especially considering that it's free. It's all interactive to combat the monotony of reading page after page of text all in Times New Roman (in fact I'm not sure if I saw Times being used anywhere) and the exhibits were all really varied. There were six floors and as it was the school holidays, there were loads of kids running around. This meant that you had to queue to get to play with the interactive games, or be the person who takes forever on the game while a small queue of young children forms behind. I still had fun though, creating my own squid, finding out if I'd survive on a new planet and seeing if I could sail from London to NZ successfully (I couldn't). We learnt all about the natural wildlife, bushes and plants of NZ, about the Mauris and all the other immigrants to the country and how natural disasters occur. Fun fact, NZ has over 10,000 earthquakes a year, and in 1951 only had a population of 2 million! It's only 4.5 now, I'm starting to question how all the people fit onto the UK, considering how much less land we have. We all had a go in the house which rocks about as if an earthquake was happening and learnt how to secure all our belongings in case it happens. We spent a good 6 hours in there before coming home for dinner. That night we had chicken, and pudding!
Sue and Roy have travelled to just about everywhere, they say there's only four more countries left that they want to visit, so the dinner conversation is always fun and filled with exciting stories about their travels. We got the offer of using their sauna after dinner, and we jumped at the opportunity. I've never heard of having a sauna in your house, but I reckon it's a pretty good idea. So after having a bit of a spa treatment we relaxed with our nightly film.
The next day in Wellington began late. We lay in, and discovered that it's just as hard to get up out of a bed as it is to get up in the campervan, although for very different reasons. We headed back into the city and saw some of the sights. We walked along the promanade and almost rented pedalos, saw the parliament building and did a bit of shopping. We went up in the cable car too, taking us from the main shopping street up to the botanic gardens. It wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped, but still a more fun mode of transport than your regular bus. It was a bit like the tram in Hong Kong, only a lot cheaper and a lot less queues. We had a walk around the botanic gardens, having a look at the trees, plants and duck pond. We realised that we could easily walk back down to the city but as we'd bought a return and were insistent on using it we walked back up to the top just to come back down again.
Wellington seems to be a really nice city, especially for a capital, as far as big towns go, it's definitely one of the better ones. Although, the fact that there is traffic is a little off putting, throughout our entire trip of the South island, the most traffic we encountered was maybe a queue of 3 cars travelling behind a slow moving truck. All the roads were single lanes and it was amazing. Here, it's much more like home, but we'll see if that continues as we head up north.
Last night we came home for dinner again, this time have corned silverside, a type of corned beef that is apparantly a common NZ dish. After an amazing dinner, we all sat down to watch the nightly film, had pudding and then retired to bed.
Today is a relaxing day, just to make it all that more harder when we all cram back into the tiny cold van. We have been spoilt by Sue and Roy and loved every minute of it. Tonight, it's back to sleeping on the side of the road, using torches and waking up partially frozen.