Saturday, December 08, 2007

Loft 109 Backpackers, Tauranga, NZ

The Laughing Kiwi, for the record, is pretty nice. I met an excellent Polish chap -- M -- who, over two hours or so, borrowed much of my music for his mp3 player and subsequently, accidentally, erased it all two days later. His traveling makes mine look amateurish. He, M, doesn’t much like traveling in New Zealand because it’s too easy. It’s easy to find a room, to get food, to get from place to place.

This new perspective left me blinking and stupefied. I mean, sure, challenge is good, but… but… I mean… Well. There you go. And he is clearly not a woman.

Which is not to say that women aren’t adventurous, but that being female adds safety issues that are generally compounded in places where the “travel challenge” is higher.

I went back to Picton and spent the night at The Villa – the same hostel that I’d been to on the first go ‘round. It was my last stop on the south island. I’d been feeling really disappointed about leaving the south island because it’s been so damn good (even with the ease of hostel locating), but I heard there could be good parts of the north island, too.


As I was sitting in the hallway using the hostel computer for internet a woman walked in that I recognized. She had been one of my roommates at the Laughing Kiwi in Motueka.


I did most of the things there were to do in Picton when I’d been there previously, so I made myself some dinner and ended up chatting with an older American couple that was staying in the hostel. And when I say older, I mean that they were over 75 (they’d mentioned that they were – I wasn’t speculating). When it rains it pours, I suppose, because there were two other women of… non-traditional hostel age range staying there that night. I’m not sure I’d even seen one before then. After 40 people usually stay in motels.


He was rather quiet, and she was very talkative and I spent most of the evening listening to her various stories and opinions. Her husband was telling me a story of someone he met on a plane. They talked, as you do, during the flight, and he said “It was so nice to visit with him,” as though the guy had come by for tea. I thought was just the most charming thing.


I had time to kill before my ferry, and so wandered around the two main streets. There wasn’t anything particular of note (I went back to the bakerij and it was still awesome), except this:


It’s a war memorial to the “Glorious Dead” upon which they’ve put giant tinsel Christmas decorations.

I guess the glorious dead like to get gussied up for the holidays too.

I took the Interislander ferry on this trip (I took Bluebridge last time), and it was interesting to compare the two. Interislander smelled much better, but charged $10 to watch the videos they had on (Elizabeth and Die Hard 4). They also had lots more options for food, including a café, a different café with more selection, and a pub (complete with dark woods and stained glass). But I thought the viewing deck for the Bluebridge was better – more spacious and located at the front of the boat.


In the lobby of the ferry terminal I – again – ran into someone I knew – the very knowledgeable woman from Nelson, L, who helped me figure out what town I should go to for my Abel Tasman trek (the town whose name I got wrong and subsequently didn’t go to). We spent most of the trip on the upper deck, huddling away from the wind and trying to combat motion sickness.

The nice thing about arriving in Wellington was that I still (mostly) remembered where I was going. I went back to the Cambridge hotel, unfortunately not back to my single room, but to the backpacker rooms. I booked a single night, not sure if I wanted to stick around longer. The room was lovely – giant ceilings, exposed beams, and wooden walls, but not in that hideous 1970’s way, but in the older, architecturally authentic way. They assigned beds, which was stupid, but no one paid attention to the booking, so there.

The kitchen, however, was filthy. Really disgusting. And there was almost no lounging room. So it wasn’t all good.

And who did I see coming in the door but the same woman who I’d met up with in both Picton and Motueka. We were roommates for the third hostel in a row.

We ended up going out to dinner, and as we were sitting I spotted L of Nelson and the ferry, and she joined us for dinner.

New Zealand can be really small sometimes.

What I didn’t know, when I checked into the Cambridge Hotel, was that the LA Galaxy soccer (or “football,” if you’re one o’ them un-AmERican types) team was coming to Welly and playing some team or other the next day or so, and oh my god, David Beckham was coming, isn’t that exciting, and beds were going fast. I tried to book my bed for the next night and couldn’t. I had to call the YHA (Youth Hostel Association) hostel down the street.

The YHA was bright, spacious, and clean, but totally devoid of character. M met up with me there, and as he re-uploaded music onto his mp3 player I watched a gang of schoolchildren on a field trip act out various skits in the dining room. Strange to think that on a school trip they’d have the kids stay in a hostel, but I suppose it’s cheaper that way.

It was six floors, though. That’s a lot of hostel beds. And there didn’t seem to be much-if-any interaction between people who didn’t already know each other. Lovely. But at least I got in.

Small victories.

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