View leaving the South Island. Our vantange point from our giant ferry made that sailboat look like a toy.
Well, we made it. We are now on part three of our Down Under expedition. First we traveled all over Australia, and then we hit the South Island of New Zealand. Now we are in Wellington, NZ. Wellington is both the capital of New Zealand and the jumping off point for our tour of the geothermically active North Island. Yellowstone and the North Island are the two of the most geothermically active locations on the entire planet, and seeing that I (Sheldon) have never been to Yellowstone National Park, this will be a real treat for me.
Before I talk about today, though, there were a few Kiwi oddities I wanted to mention. The first is their Coke products. They have Coke Classic, Diet Coke, Sprite, and those strange flavors the locals like.
Their currency. Unlike our paper/cotton mixture that gives the greenback that great feel, their money is plastic.
(If you've been to the World of Coke museum in Atlanta, you know what I'm talking about). That's not the interesting thing. While we have Cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke, they have neither. Instead have two other flavors. Coke Citra, which is a lemon-lime flavored coke, and Raspberry Coke, my favorite. The Raspberry Coke I personally think is better than Cherry Coke. For some unknown reason, the drink tastes like they took raspberry syrup and mixed it in with normal coke, unlike the American version of Cherry coke.
Second is the potato chips. I have never seen so many different choices when it comes to potato chips. And not just different choices...downright strange choices at that. We saw flavors such as chicken (like in Australia), chili & sour cream, honey soy chicken, and lamb & fresh mint.
The backside of their plastic money. Very colorful.
And guess what? That's exactly what they tasted like. We even met a man at the Hamner Hot Springs (see yesterday) who gave us rave reviews of the newly released PB&J potato chips. That's right, folks...Peanut Butter and Jelly potato chips. What has the world come to?!
Moving on... today we made the pleasant drive up the northeastern coast of the South Island from Kaikoura to Picton where we would catch a 3-hour ferry ride over to the North Island. Along the way we passed some rocky shoreline that a seal colony called home. Seals were hunted to near extinction in New Zealand until they became protected by law. Now their numbers are rapidly increasing and seal colonies are appearing on beaches all over the two islands of New Zealand.
We decided to stop and entertain the seals with Chris's wonderful impression of what he thinks a seal sounds like. I personally think its more of a distraught sea lion, but I don't think the seals cared very much. It was 7:30am and they still looked a little tired. (Note from Chris: Sheldon just can't appreciate the fine distinction between a sea lion call and that of a seal.)
As mentioned in earlier posts, most of the bridges in New Zealand are single laned, and sometimes cause a temporary traffic backup. On some of the more "busy" roads (busy is a relative term here with an entire island of less than 1 million people), the transportation powers-that-be have decided to let the seasonal creek flow over the road and put up a "FORD" sign warning you of it.
The wonderful flavours of New Zealand potato chips.
They have water depth gauges in the deepest part of the culvert and also the option to divert traffic over a tiny single lane bridge off to the side if the water gets too deep.
After finally making to the bustling metropolis of Picton, and finding a gas station that actually opened its doors on weekends, we returned our rental car and bought our ferry ticket to the North Island. The Interislander (the ferry system's name) is a great way to travel between islands, especially if you're on a budget. The scenery is great as you pass all these uninhabitated islands surrounding Picton, and the ticket was only NZ$45 (US$30).
After arriving in Wellington, we got our next rental car (surprisingly the exact same color, make and model) and meandered off into downtown Wellington.
A neat bridge in Wellington. I really had fun taking pictures tonight.
We found a hotel that looked accommodating enough to call home, and so we unpacked, did laundry, and feasted at a Malaysian/Indian restaurant that Miller had found while taking a 45-minute walk around the surrounding area. I went out tonight planning on not eating much because I had been snacking all afternoon. This may have been the largest meal I've eaten since leaving Atlanta. The food in New Zealand is absolutely delicious, and no matter how hard we try, Chris, Miller, and I fail miserably in our attempts to resist the gastronomic treats this country offers.
Tomorrow, we see what Wellington has to offer.