Andrea: "My friend arrives today!" is what I was thinking when we woke up at 6:30 to sneak out of our campsite without paying the fees. Actually, I was probably thinking more along the lines of "[email protected]£"! It's 6:30 in the morning!" but I thought I would clean it up to keep the blog family-friendly. Either way, I was super excited to be meeting up with one of my best friends in the world, Brie, for 3 days. She was visiting friends in Australia and we bullied her into coming to NZ to see us too. So, after successfully not paying at the campsite we were on our way to Picton to catch the ferry to the north island. We were sad to leave the south island after almost 3 weeks touring the beautiful landscape but excited to get to see more of the north island too. We were going to Wellington to meet Brie and see the city and also attend our first (and only) rugby match of the 2011 Rugby World Cup; USA vs. Australia.
To our surprise, Picton was only 30km from where we were so we were there at 7:15. And our ferry didn't leave until 10:30. That's quite a lot of time to kill. We found a parking spot and made our coffee and ate our cereal on the benches next to a harbor--a great way to start the day! While munching corn flakes on the bench, we noticed some ducks waddling toward us with hungry eyes. These birds were used to humans! We taunted them for awhile by eating really slowly and chewing excessively and they surprisingly didn't attack like every other bird in NZ likes to do. Vern was getting ready for Andrea vs. Avians Round 3, but he was in for disappointment. Contrary to popular belief, I do not hate birds. No, the Andrea species only attacks birdlife when she feels threatened and in this case she did not. Ducks don't have pointed beaks like the others and are loveable assets to the joke world for having "bills" instead of "beaks" and for the fact that they never carry cash. After not fighting with them nor sharing our cornflakes with them they grew bored of us and waddled off. Our morning rituals completed and the park water fountain drained into our many water jugs, we set off for the ferry. We waited for a long time in an endless queue of other campervans until it was time to board. Just another uneventful 3 hour ferry ride for us, but perhaps more memorable for others. Vern spied a man and his wife sitting on the ferry backing up his holiday snaps to his laptop of him and his wife... sitting on the ferry! "That's one for the family album, Margaret!"
Arriving in Wellington means instantly playing the "where do I park (for free)?" game. We played that for 2 hours until it was time to pick up Brie and then at the airport played another game of "where can I not park and just pick up" We got there in the end and Brie was introduced to GEM. It was love at first sight. We drove her to her hostel and went into the adjacent bar for some drinks and gossip (Vern's favorite!). We ordered some nibbles but then found out that there was a free BBQ on that night so we were in luck. There was also a good happy hour special from 6:00-6:15, so more of a happy 15 minutes. Taking full advantage of this, we laid the table with five discounted pitchers of beer to do us for the rest of the night, got our free food and settled in. It was also quiz night which made it all even better! We almost didn't make it into the game because we spent a good 30 minutes trying to come up with a clever team name. Brie's suggestions were wildly inappropriate and mine were just cheesy. I wanted 'Two and a Half Men' which we all liked and thought was funny because we were 2 girls and a guy, but Brie still vetoed it. I threw out 'Big Bang Theory' (we had been talking about TV shows that we hate so these came up) and the much more appropriate variation of it, 'Gangbanging Big Theories'. We thought it was funny but still reluctant when they called the last call for entrants so the name stuck. Gangbanging Big Theories was set to win! Some rounds were better than others: we got 10 out of 10 on the 'Name the Flag' round but Vern's paper plane unceremoniously hit the ground first in the 'Paper Plane' bonus round. We ended up 5th. At the end we got to see other people's team names and they went a little something like this: 'Blue Eyed Girls', 'Amy's Ants' and 'We are Nice Church-Going People' (something along those lines) so our name was a bit inappropriate, but the most clever so we get style points for that.
When our pitchers were drained we called it a night and Vern and I climbed into GEM for our night of urban camping, i.e. sleeping in a parking spot outside Brie's hotel. We weren't looking forward to having to use the bathroom in the middle of the night - so sinking 5 pitchers of beer had been a smashing decision. The following few hours were the scariest camping night we had ever had in GEM. The street we were in was a popular cut-through for drunk people and we could hear screaming and sirens all night. I woke up a few times with my heart pounding out of my chest! All was fine, though, until we inevitably had to use the loo at 3:00 in the morning and ended up going in a dark alley (no one was around) that turned out to be some poor guy's driveway. About 10 minutes after we got back in the car we heard 2 very intoxicated girls coming down the street. One of them screamed, 'Why don't those f*cking Jucy people not park here and get a room somewhere else!!' I was just thinking, 'Oh, God, please don't slash our tires'. She didn't and just hobbled past. That was luckily our last scare for the night and slept until 6:30 when we could hear the buzz of the city waking up. It was a bit strange to come out of the campervan with men in suits walking by, but no one said anything so we officially survived our urban camping experience and were determined never to repeat it.
That morning we picked up Brie and found a cafe with a great coffee and bagel deal. We also learned that Wellington has free wifi in the city center so we sat there catching up on emails, etc. We grabbed another coffee as we left and kept our second bagels for lunch. The plan for the day was what is said to be NZ's best museum, Te Papa. The name roughly translates into 'Our Place' in Maori and is supposed to have the most extensive Maori exhibits in the country. I'm not sure about all that but I do know it was 'America Day' at the museum, gearing up for the USA vs. Australia rugby game that was the next day. We got starred and striped visors and pinwheels and cowboy hats. It was perfect because we had nothing festive to wear to the game ourselves. In their effort to celebrate 'all things American' the museum had American-ish feature acts in the main reception area all day. We arrived early and the first act was a horrific high school boys choir singing American songs. I didn't know whether I should be insulted because they were implying that Americans were uncoordinated kids who couldn't sing, but we just decided to sit there wondering how they got the gig. Brie got visibly upset a few times, storming off and murmuring about why they couldn't nail simple dance moves and that they guy who coordinates their shows should be fired. I know you probably think we're mean because we are picking on high school kids and to that I have two things to say. A.) you obviously don't know me very well. B.) they were really bad. And it was funny. They did leave a lasting impression, though--their rendition of the song 'Hair' (long beautiful hair...) was in my head all weekend. When we weren't laughing at kids trying their best at singing we were perusing the displays. Every space was very full of information and hoping to cut through the chuff I asked Vern to sum up an exhibition on Everything Kiwi (into which he'd wandered ahead of us) in 3 words. He said, 'Sheep. Cam. Good,' so Brie and I went to check out the sheep cam. A TV screen sputtered out the video feed from a camera strapped to a sheep's head in a few different situations: feeding time, nursing time, etc. It was not good. Next time he gets four words (or maybe two). We had fun playing with interactive displays: one alien game where you had to pick which animals and plants to bring to another planet to survive and an immigration game that reminded me a lot of Oregon Trail. There was also a haka demonstration where you could partake in the haka (Maori fighting dance that they would perform before battle to intimidate their enemies. The rugby team performs it before games), and we watched a bunch of topless Frenchmen try their hand at it. Not very intimidating.
After the museum we hit the campsite for the night. We cooked Kiwi burgers (burgers with all the usual fixins plus a fried egg and beetroot = delicious!) and watched X Factor US. We discussed Vern and me starting a band because we already have matching waterproof pants, similar to those worn by bands in the 90s like TLC or Backstreet Boys and of course we have some sweet dance moves (cause sometimes couples copy each others bad habits). The groups name, you ask? 2 Limited. When prompted about the name choice in music magazine interviews we shall answer 'we are many things, but above all we're realistic.' It was a bit of a silly night. Our album drops December 9th. That night we fit 3 people in GEM! Vern and Brie slept with their heads toward the back and I slept in the middle with my head in the front. This body positioning was in accordance with the advice from a trio of girls we'd met travelling in the same camper as ours. It was cozy but great to be sandwiched between two people I really love, albeit at their feet!