Today our ferry crossing from Picton (South Island) to Wellington (North Island) is scheduled for 13:30 (ETA 16:30). We'll drive up to Picton, and drop off the rental car, before boarding. We're told this ferry crossing is like a leisurely cruise on a fine day. Making our way through the Marlborough Sound, towards New Zealand's capital, nestled on the flanks of a flooded vulcano. On arrival we pick-up our other rental, for our exploration of the North Island. We plan to take the cable car for a panoramic view of the city and it's surroundings, and have a nice dinner in one of the many excellent restaurants. We'll be staying at the charming Boutique B&B, the Ruby House, hosted by Mrs. Elizabeth Barbalich.
Left Joyanne at 10am and followed her advise in taking the scenic route, the Queen Charlotte Drive, with beautiful views of Charlotte sound after every bend, but most winding road so far, and narrow. Check NZ Rent-a-Car in at Picton ferry depot, before checking in for the ferry (departure at 13:45). Picton is a small town, with big boats.
Arrived in Wellington around 16:45, there a NZ Rent-a-Car person was to pick us up and do the paperwork for the 2nd car. Had to wait for half an hour at the ferry depot ... Employee of NZ Rent-a-Car came eventually, very shabby looking car! Drove us to the office in centre of Wellington for paperwork, checked car and several things not ok, most importantly the bumper was hanging half loose, employees tried to fix it, lost their temper because they were totally stressed out (boss had just packed up and left them to sort everything ... too many bookings, not enough usable cars!) Not their fault, but still, lost us two hours in total waiting here and there. Could have done other things in Wellington.
When we finally found Ruby House, host Elizabeth told us there had been a mistake and we had been booked in the Parkland hotel (Best Western) instead. Drove to the Portland hotel and were welcomed by a rude receptionist, and got a small twin room... The Ruby House looked much better. Wellington was turning out to be very unpleasant.
Had an evening stroll around town (the Beehive, shopping streets) to get our bearings. Each city quarter (Cuba,...) had it's own characteristics and style. But everything seemed so gloomy, grey and dirty... Wellington just did not seem to have a friendly and safe atmosphere.
Had dinner at the place-to-be, cafÈ Leuven, as mentioned in Ian Brodie's LOTR's guidebook. Belgian beers and dishes. Ate mussels and Flemish stew, and met some Sydney and Canadian travellers.
Strolled around town some more in search of a harbour promenade, but no such luck.
Didn't feel safe in Wellington really... dirty streets and alleys, grafitti, boom-boom cars, shady folk - Very different from the South Island.
Jean-Jacques Halans ©2003