Archive for the 'New Zealand' Category
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Even if you’re not a huge fan of the movies, no trip to New Zealand is complete without a little Lord of the Rings touring. For those uninitiated readers, all three movies were filmed in one fell swoop in the country, and the result has been an upswing in tourism and interest in the films. Lord of the Rings tours proliferate like Ring Wraiths in these parts, with most focusing on different filming locations. We decided to tour Hobbiton, New Zealand’s largest LOTR attraction, which is really home to The Shire. New Line Cinema requested that all sets be destroyed, but the owners of the sheep farm, where The Shire was filmed, negotiated to keep a few pieces intact, making it the only place in the country where the public can see the remaining set pieces. (Allegedly, New Line asked for a second park lot to be built on-site after the contract was signed, and the owners didn’t demand a revision of the contract; the movie studio appreciated the show of good faith.)
Hobbiton is located outside the town of Matamata. As you stroll down the sleepy main street, a sign reading, “Welcome to Hobbiton” greets you, with a creepy, totally inaccurate concrete statue of Gollum in the foreground. Asian tourists maraud the streets like bandits, snapping photos of anything and everything — even us, sitting in a cafe. Needless to say, we were a little concerned about the tour, with cost $58 NZ (about $35 US), and which our guidebook warned us was stripped of the marvelous Hobbit Hole exteriors (due to copyright laws) and was really just a working sheep farm.
We loaded a bus nicknamed Gandalf and started the tour (luckily, it was only us and four Germans). “There’s the high school”, the driver pointed out, on the right. Soon, we were deep into Hobbiton facts. Over 1,000 people auditioned to be Hobbit extras, 300 were selected, and 16 of those were from Matamata. Everyone signed a confidentiality agreement that they wouldn’t reveal their involvement in the film until the release of the third movie. In a town this small, where the local high school was being showcased on a $58 tour, I couldn’t imagine keeping that kind of secret.
We drove through rolling green hills dotted with white sheep, the kind of landscape we’ve been motoring past for days, but suddenly everything felt magical. The filming location was discovered during an aerial location scouting trip, and it met the requirement of what The Shire must look like: rolling green hills; a large, symmetrical tree; and a lake. A contract was negotiated with The Alexander Family, who continued farming their sheep during filming on another piece of the 1,250 acre property. This working farm was quickly transformed into a Hollywood movie lot. A road was constructed by the New Zealand army onto the site. Peter Jackson rented out the neighbor’s house (they were compensated with an all-expense paid trip to anywhere…in New Zealand), and the day’s film was couriered to Wellington and back every 24 hours.
What struck me immediately about the property was how much it looked like the movie. There is no doubt that CGI effects were extensively employed in the films, and that often filming locations were often “stitched” together. But to look at this stretch of sheep farm is to look at The Shire. I was afraid that I’d be disappointed, that it would look nothing like I imagined, but I was enchanted. We toured the property with an old Kiwi who was obviously enamored with the films and the books. He spouted off countless production facts from memory, everything from how the bridge was constructed, to how the garden plants were grown. Jackson employed a full-time nursery to tend to the plants, and cabbages were injected with hormones to keep them looking fresh. In need of an oak tree that didn’t exist on the property, a dead one was deconstructed from Matamata, “rebuilt,” and suited with artificial leaves imported from Taiwan. Our guide, who obviously loved his job, shared his favorite moments from past tours: there had been Hobbit proposals, six-foot Scandinavians dressed as Frodo, and Japanese girls in blond wigs to resemble Rosie.
The highlight of the tour is the Hobbit holes. They are basic facades, none of them extending beyond a few feet; all of the interior shots were filmed on a sound stage in Wellington. Although their exteriors have been stripped, it is still unexpectedly exciting to see the plain, white faces peeking out of the green hillside, their roofs now teeming with sheep, knowing that you’re walking in the footsteps of movie history. Of course we posed for a photo in Bilbo’s doorway.
Finishing the tour, I had incredible admiration for the level of detail, expertise, and sheer determination that was invested in these films. The amount of work that went into The Shire was mind-boggling – and that was but one small portion of the films. I felt the same way walking out of Weta Cave, the Wellington-based production studio who shares a longtime collaborative partnership with Jackson and is responsible for all the technical elements of LOTR. Whereas Hollywood generally subcontracts their production work, Weta Cave is totally interdisciplinary, providing expertise in everything from costuming to sword making to computer graphics. It is located on a residential street, comprising no more than a few modest buildings, and you can’t help but think, “All of that came from here?”
There’s nothing I’d like to do more than curl up on a couch and watch the movies from start to finish.No comments
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Today is Thanksgiving, our first major holiday away from home, and truth be told, it’s a little odd. There is no turkey roasting in the oven, no cranberry relish, no visitors, no pies cooling on the counter, no Macy’s Day Parade humming in the background. It just doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving.
We were planning on spending the day with an American friend living near Auckland, but a last-minute clearing of weather meant that Maikael and Tim had a final opportunity to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (better known as Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings), and we decided to take a detour and go for it. The Milford Track provided a month’s worth of hiking for me, so I am spending the day back at the hotel, catching up on email, calling my dad, watching DVDs, reading Twilight, and soaking in the spa. “It’s just a regular day,” I’m telling myself, but my mind keeps wandering to thoughts of Thanksgiving. It seems like a good time to pause and put myself in the spirit of the holiday; to give thanks.
During the course of this trip, there are amazing moments, phenomenal people, and sights so beautiful I want to cry. It is easy to feel grateful in these moments. But for every moment of gratitude, there seems to be an experience that causes you to ask yourself, “Why did I go on this trip?” I am always dancing on the thin blade of a double-edged sword, loving and loathing the journey, often in the same breath.
As I’ve said a million time before, traveling around the world is hard work. There are the obvious things that make life difficult like lugging around a 25 pound backpack in 100 degree weather, riding on jangling overnight buses, getting sick, and finding yourself constantly in the process of making plans. All of it is exhausting, but what takes a bigger toll is the emotional wringer, the messed-up mind games that this kind of extended travel plays on you. This trip is one big mirror that has reflected the worst of my personality. The pace we’re keeping has led to short fuses and the inevitable bickering that follows. I’ve threatened to go home more times than I’d care to count. I’ve been known to declare multiple times a day, “I’m not cut out for this. I’m not a traveler.”
But this is the gift of this trip. I am thankful for the opportunity to genuinely face myself, to see myself for who I am, even if I don’t always like what I see. It is through these experiences, through the journey itself, that I am growing. (What I’ve learned about myself in four months would have taken me countless years and thousands of dollars in therapy to reveal!) The gift of time is precious, and I am thankful to have the chance to take a break from my everyday life and reevaluate my place in this crazy world. If I can stop fighting myself and see the opportunities for transformation that this trip presents, I’ll be the better for it.
I am thankful for ALL of our friends and family back home, who have followed our journey with interest and curiosity, and who I am excited to reconnect with in March. I am especially thankful to Mark Monda, who keeps our household running in our absence, and Tim Eriksson, who not only took the time the time to meet us in New Zealand, but keeps our website running from abroad (and is schlepping a bunch of crap home for us). And I am thankful to all the new friends I’ve made while traveling, whose different perspectives are helping to shape the person I am growing into.
Most of all, I am thankful for my husband, Maikael. Even though we sometimes irritate each other to no end and engage in our fair share of bickering, I can’t imagine doing this trip with anyone else. He calmly steps in when I’ve reached the end of my tether and does what needs doing. He encourages me daily to keep going with this trip, and is my greatest supporter. Whatever changes may come as a result of this trip, I know he’ll encourage me to be the best person I can be. And even though it’s sometimes hard to see, I think we’ll emerge from this experience stronger than we went into it.
So while there won’t be any pumpkin pie this year, know that I am in New Zealand, sitting in the shadow of Mt. Doom, feeling incredibly grateful to be here.1 comment
Monday, November 24, 2008
Editor’s note: This blog post is dedicated to Mark Monda and Dave Bodette, the only real bicyclists I know.
Somehow, this idea wormed its way into my feeble brain: rent a bike and peddle your way through New Zealand wine country. In dissecting this decision, I can vaguely recollect when the seed was planted. Months ago I read a posting on the Lost Girls’ website, recounting their totally awesome experience cycling through sun-dappled fields in some New Zealand wine region. They made it sound idyllic and perfect, and I wanted a piece of the experience. I imagined a leisurely spin down quiet, dusty lanes, dipping in and out of boutique wineries as sheep smiled from green pastures. I would be reducing tipsy driving while enjoying beautiful countryside at my own pace, a win-win situation.
We hadn’t initially planned on exploring New Zealand wine country. Instead, we were banking on a hike in Tongariro National Park, which our Lonely Planet touted as “one of the best day walks in the world,” to the summit of The Lord of the Rings’ Mount Doom. When gale-force winds and thick banks of clouds dumping bucket of rain quickly derailed our plans, we submitted to Plan B. Hawkes Bay, a well-known wine-growing region, was forecast to receive impeccable weather while the rest of the country was socked in.
Without much time to plan or research our bicycle tour, I employed a highly rational decision-making process: I chose the company with the cutest-sounding name. Reservations were made, and we were soon equipped with helmets, water bottles, maps, and, of course, mountain bikes. I was a little concerned when I studied the map and noticed that we would visit five wineries over 23 kilometers. It seemed like too much cycling and not enough drinking. But I pushed those thoughts out of my mind, focusing instead on the smiling sheep that would soon crowd themselves into my field of vision.
I hadn’t been on a bike in nearly 20 years. Once I started driving I never saw much need for a bike, and my parents eventually sold my teal Schwinn beauty at a garage sale. But you never forget to ride a bike, right? While true, I felt awfully wobbly and petrified as I took my first tentative peddles down the driveway. As a kid, I didn’t remember feeling preoccupied about falling off my bike, but now it took all my concentration and will to keep myself stable. We started down the road towards the first winery, which turned out to be not so much a road a busy thoroughfare. Within five minutes, my butt was aching intensely. “I don’t remember riding a bike being this painful,” I yelled to Tim, over the din of the traffic. “What?” he screamed back.
We pulled into the first winery, a commercial affair lacking charm, already working up a sweat. By the time we reached the second winery, heaving ourselves up the modest hill, I was exhausted. I didn’t understand how the gears on the bicycle worked, and as I madly rotated my hands on the gear shift, trying any conceivable combination, I found myself either peddling with the mania of a speed addict or the lethargy of a whale. We stumbled into the gorgeous Mission Estate property, the oldest winery in New Zealand, a converted church draped in lush, green vines. I should have been taking in the scenery, but all I could think about was the next winery, located at the top of what looked like a giant hill. “I’m tired,” I said. “How far have we come so far?” “About two kilometers,” said Tim.
After a long lunch on the white-washed veranda, where we dined on the best of local, seasonal cuisine, I felt fortified and ready to tackle the hill. Within minutes I was roasting in the midday sun, my helmet sitting askance on my drenched locks. Cars zoomed past us as we steadily made our way up the hill, with no more than a thin strip of pavement to call our own. I quickly gave up and began pushing the bike. “This isn’t what I had in mind for a bike tour through wine country,” I yelled over the rush of traffic. I kicked an empty, amber Tui beer bottle out of my path as my front tire crushed a soda can, forming a neat shape over the wheel. The gap between reality and imagination ever-widening, I soon grew upset, muttering a mantra that Tim rhythmically peddled to: “I hate this I hate this I hate this I hate this.” Where were the country lanes, the sheep, the wineries?
I soon began crying, and was sobbing by the time we reached the crest of the hill. Downhill seemed like it would be a breeze, but I soon found myself gripping the handlebars for dear life, panicked that my brakes would give way or that I would be hit by one of parade of cars careening past us at 100 kilometers per hour. Visions of open wounds studded with shards of gravel danced across my mind. I was completely rattled — literally and figuratively — by the time we reached Moana Park, the only boutique winery on the tour. We took a seat in the tasting room, ruby-red from sun and exhaustion. “On a bike tour, eh?” asked the cellar door manager.
We spent a lovely hour on a cushy stool at the winery, tippling a wide range of wines and learning about New Zealand’s burgeoning wine industry. While it still only produces a fraction of their Aussie neighbors (about .02% of the world’s total share), Hawkes Bay produces a wide range of lovely varieties, Martinborough is gaining ground with their pinot noirs, and the Marlborough region is renowned for their sauvignon blancs. We talked about the world’s changing viticultural landscape (France’s exports to the UK is dwindling), and had an all-around great chat. But the bike beckoned.
We nudged ourselves back on the seats, our butts aching more than ever. We found ourselves commenting on how plush the tasting rooms’ stools were. Anything felt better than that bike seat, which was akin to sitting astride a great two by four.
Within moments we were into the “stunning countryside” that the tour had promised. I saw sheep! And orchards! And vineyards! And pastures! Now this was a bike tour, I thought to myself. The sun gleamed through puffy white clouds as I glided down largely-deserted streets. But the moment didn’t last long. A large power plant loomed on my right, and within minutes the cars began their march back into my life. We rode down a bonafide freeway, and I was too terrified to even notice the stretches of green farmland flanking the road. “This wasn’t what I had in mind!” I yelled, about every two minutes, over the scream of traffic. We hoisted our bikes over a rustic stile so that we could cross over to…another freeway.
We breezed by the lavender farm and the chocolate factory, a slow blur as we cycled by. To borrow a Kiwi turn-of-phrase, I was totally knackered by the time we reached the fourth winery on our tour. I sniffed at the two dollar tasting, and rushed out to make the final winery of the day. It was closed by the time we made it, but it didn’t matter: I wanted nothing more than to get off these bikes for good, the sooner the better. But first we had to negotiate a narrow, one-way bridge. Maikael and Tim confidently peddled on, but I lagged behind, teetering, as an entire row of cars waited for me to cross. “Is there anyone else?” a woman in the line yelled to me from her car as I passed her. I just smiled and bobbed my head, too afraid to break my concentration with talking.
I slowed to a snail’s pace as we approached our destination, having nearly completed an entire loop of town. I was sunburned. My hands were raw. My butt ached. My legs screamed for mercy. It was then that I passed a young boy on a bike. “Don’t go so f&*%ing slow!” he yelled at me as I carefully negotiated around him. Kiwis are an extremely friendly and polite bunch of folks, and I was so shocked that I was left speechless. It was the cherry on top of a great sundae of a day.
When we returned our bikes, we were asked to sign their guestbook. I was miffed at the route they had planned. What kind of a wine tour goes through heavily-trafficked areas? I asked myself. But I realized my real problem laid squarely with heightened expectations, which has the ability to ruin almost any experience. It’s one of the demons I struggle with most, and it reared its ugly head all day. I seem to be incapable of experiencing something for what it is without letting ballooning expectations get in the way, and if I could overcome one thing on this trip that would translate to my everyday life, it would be learning to lower my expectations. And I was reminded, once again, that trying to simulate someone else’s successful travel experience always blows up in your face.
After a few moments of contemplation, I finally settled on a message for the guestbook. “A memorable day.”2 comments
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
If we could do New Zealand over again, we would concentrate our time on one island, rather than trying to traverse both. This country is much bigger than we could have imagined, which has meant a lot of time in the car driving. But the upshot is that we’ve basically been on an extended roadtrip for the past two and a half weeks, and in that time things have happened that we’ll be talking about for years, a curious inside joke that only the three of us will ever understand. Namely, Scroggin and stoats.
Stoats: We first became aware of stoats back on the Milford Track, where Ranger Ross introduced us to these weaselly creatures who were originally brought to New Zealand to kill rabbits. But they’ve taken on a life of their own and are wreaking havoc on all sorts of native wildlife species. In our time here, we’ve become a little obsessed with stoats, especially Tim. They are almost always taxidermied in any museum we visit, and the first person to spot one will yell, “Stoat!” Then, Tim will snap a photo of said stoat. He has considered purchasing stoat.com or, if that’s taken, stoatattack.com. We’ve dreamed up a few movie plots concerning stoats – don’t you think A Fistful of Stoats would be a blockbuster hit? At least once a day, Tim will remark, “I was reading something interesting about stoats this morning.” Since his hermit crab died, I think he should consider getting a pet stoat when he returns home. It’s certainly more interesting than a conventional dog or cat.
Scroggin: Maikael, Tim, and I took what had to be the world’s most bizarre tour of a candy factory when we were in Dunedin. After buying out a defunct biscuit company, Cadbury manufactures their candy out this location, their trademark purple silos dotting the town’s landscape. The Lonely Planet promised us Cadbury’s “version of a chocolate waterfall,” and I was pumped. I imagined Gene Wilder skimming through a chocolate lake in a colorful boat, as Oompa Loompas threw candy to us from the sweet shores. Instead, an industrial shovel, not unlike that of a dumptruck, lowered a gushing stream of chocolate to a darkened pit below, as we observed from a railing in a nearly pitch-black silo. It was weird.
After shelling over ten dollars, we donned hairnets and embarked on a tour with the world’s meanest tour guide. She was an overgrown toddler, wearing purple overalls and a Playskool microphone speaker strapped around her middle. “Don’t be afraid, I won’t bite,” she repeatedly admonished us, beckoning the group closer. But she was scary, and we didn’t doubt her ability to snap our head off at any moment, like a chocolate Easter bunny. She made us dance like monkeys and answer tour-related questions with the promise of delicious Cadbury chocolates. Instead, we were pawned off Crunchies, which Tim accurately described as sweetened floral foam covered in chocolate.
But during the introductory film, which must have been produced in the 1980s on a budget of $24, we became acquainted with Energy Scroggin, a uniquely New Zealand product whose name makes us giggle. Earlier in the day I had heard a guy in the gift shop talking about scroggin, and I was therefore an expert. “Do you remember when we used to make scroggin for camping?” he had asked his buddy. I was intrigued. The guy called it scraw-gin, but Tim insists on calling it scrow-gin. He vowed to buy a Scroggin – however you choose to pronounce it — at our next grocery store stop, and it was love at first bite. “It’s got blueberries and nuts,” he says, when we doubt its magical properties. We munch on it continuously, which is probably why we’re not feeling so hot these days. “Gimme a Scroggin,” Tim calls from the front seat, and I oblige, snapping off a square of the half pound block. Tim became panicked when he saw me throwing away the Scroggin wrapper yesterday, the telltale scarlet paper flashing through my hands, mistaking it for the candy itself.
Scroggin and stoats come up in conversation at least once per hour. So when Tim returns home in a few weeks, you’ll know what he’s talking about.2 comments
Friday, November 21, 2008
We find ourselves in Windy Wellington, the capital city’s nickname based on its famous weather conditions. In 1968 a ferry boat capsized just off Wellington’s shore in windy weather, killing 15 people – not what you want to read in your Lonely Planet guide as you negotiate your way into the city via the Interislander, a ferry that connects the north and south islands, which is what we did two nights ago. It’s a beautiful ride, surrounded by lovely vistas and stunningly blue water. But we were tired. We had spent the day driving from Christchurch, winding our way through Dr. Suess hills, cartoonishly green bumps sprinkled with crazy palm trees. We passed through the town of Kaikoura, where craggy, snow-capped peaks dramatically descend into the cobalt waters below. If only there was more time.
By the time we reached Wellington, we were ready to crash. It’s not a big city, particularly by capital city standards – just 100,000 people. But in a sparsely populated country of four million people, where sheep outnumber humans (honestly), it felt huge. We circled the block to find a parking spot, finally settling on one across the street from our hotel. The sign said we should vacate by 9 am, and the owner of the hotel said as long as we moved it by 8 am we should be fine.
I awoke at 9 the next morning and found Tim flipping through a phone book. “We need to move our car,” I said. Tim said, “There’s one other thing we need to do first.” My stomach sank. “They towed our car, didn’t they?” “Yep,” confirmed Tim. He had gone to move the car at 8 am, and found the street eerily free of vehicles.
Apparently, we had missed the small sign, cloaked by darkness, 30 meters away from our car that read, “Clear Way, 7 to 9 am.”
I’ve never had a car towed in my life, but I’ve seen the signs in the US, threatening $500 fines. This would be much worse than the ill-fated fine we received in the Portuguese toll booth. And we would waste our whole day getting the car out of the impound lot. I imagined having to decode Wellington’s undoubtedly complicated bus system to find the lot in the next town over, where a surly Kiwi with a wool knit stocking cap would be holding our car hostage, demanding to keep our passports in his possession until the check cleared.
Tim and Maikael set out to free the car. The gentleman at the front desk – the absent-minded one who had told us the car was fine until 8 am — called City Hall to help us locate our car. Apparently, it was parked in an unsecured lot just a few blocks away. Not only did the city have the decency to tow it to a convenient location, but a ticket was slapped on the windshield, allowing us to pay the ticket online and take the car immediately. The staggering cost? About $110 NZ, which comes to about $60 US.
Before coming to New Zealand, we were warned about speeding tickets. An Aussie told us that, in 50 years of driving, he had only received two speeding tickets, both in New Zealand. They will zing you for driving one or two kilometers over the speed limit, but apologize profusely while issuing the ticket. Our tow was the equivalent gesture, the embodiment of that famously polite “aw shucks” Kiwi attitude: while they hated to tow us, they would make the whole ordeal as easy as possible.
Just like Wellington’s blustery weather, which can turn on a dime, the day improved quickly. After fortifying ourselves with breakfast at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, boasting cuisine from the Southern US (the menu helpfully translated: huevos rancheros [ranch-style eggs]), we spent the morning wandering through the city. I expected it to be much larger, but it’s really a collection of cool boutiques, tons of bookstores (at Arty Bees, one section of books was titled, “Whining About NZ/NZ Politics”), funky coffee shops, good pubs, and an eclectic mix of eating establishments (I was bummed that the Maori restaurant had closed). We didn’t have time for the tour of Parliament, but saw its neighbor, the spectacularly ugly Beehive. A modern architecture monstrosity, the Beehive houses office workers who buzz around the concrete, beehive-shaped building, which I expected to be delicate, soft, and creme-colored (maybe with cute little bees painted on the side of the building?), but most certainly isn’t.
Next stop, the Embassy Theatre, which hosted the world premiere of Lord of the Rings. Although it was completely refurbished for the premiere, the outside of the theatre is charmingly unassuming, just like New Zealand itself. Hand-lettered signs, advertising Show of Hands, a new Kiwi flick, as well as the new 007 movie, graced the front of the theatre. An entire New Zealand movie industry has sprang up in the wake of Peter Jackson’s success, most of it based in Wellington, whose second nickname is Wellywood. We flipped through the newspaper, noticing that movies that were released six months ago in the US were finally being released here. Even movies that were opening in Australia when we were there a month ago haven’t premiered here yet. The manager at our hotel explained the connection between lagging openings and a burgeoning film industry: “It takes so long to get movies here that we just make our own.” I was eager to see a Kiwi movie, and Show of Hands was the perfect pick for the day: the movie begins with a meter maid who issues a ticket in the most polite way possible.
The movie was great fun, and we stayed to watch the credits roll to see where it was filmed, which I never do (as it turns out, New Plymouth). As we exited the theatre, people began filtering in. Suddenly, we were approached by an employee cradling a white basket filled with ice cream bars. “Would you like an ice cream cone?” he asked. We thought this was a very odd gesture at the end of a movie, but maybe they do things differently in the Southern Hemisphere, we thought? We stood there, dumbfounded by our luck, and had difficulty choosing between chocolate-covered vanilla or boysenberry ice cream; Maikael studied one of the cones and enthusiastically cried, “Two scoops!” After selecting our cones we thanked the guy profusely; I’m sure we looked like total rubes who had never encountered the mysteries of ice cream in our entire lives. As we made our way out of the theatre, Maikael innocently asked the employee, “So what’s playing next?” It was the premiere of the new 007 movie, and as we made our way into the opulent lobby, we were greeted by a wall of well-dressed people. Finally, we put two and two together: we were in the midst of some super special screening, and the guy had mistakenly thought that we were going into the theatre rather than coming out.
We practically skipped down the street, delighted by our ice cream cones and laughing at our good fortune. It was certainly better than spending the day at the impound lot.2 comments
You may have noticed that I’m looking a little tired these days. In fact, the deep, purple bags under my eyes have taken up permanent residence. Simply put, I am tired. Given this compounding factor, nothing seemed to be going my way today, from debating whether to stay in Dunedin another day to receiving the wrong sandwich at lunch. After a crying jag at lunch, I stuffed myself into the backseat of the car and spent the next six hours in an iPod-induced daze. By the time we arrived in Christchurch this evening, all I wanted was a real hotel with a bathtub, a hip bar, and free wireless Internet access, all of which was promised to me at Hotel SO.
When we arrived to discover the Hotel was entirely booked, I crumbled. We quickly moved onto the Lonely Planet’s top pick for the city, Jailhouse. I sulked in the car while Maikael and Tim inspected the premises. They enthusiastically returned to the car, promising me a cool night of accommodations. The sky was grey, the buildings were grey; it was pretty much perfect. I stepped through the bars and into a real jail, which was decommissioned in 1999. This is hands down the best hostel we’ve stayed at on this trip. We ran up the stairs, looking sufficiently institutional. The doors to our rooms are heavy metal things, and our bed linens are jail-striped. Everything is brushed metal and industrial. The toilet/water fountain combos from the former cells, great metal behemoths, now serve as planters. Even the toilet seats are clear resin embedded with barbed wire; someone had fun designing this place. We took a walk through solitary confinement, and the room next door was left intact, boasting colorful art and inscriptions from the previous occupants (read: lots of naked ladies). The only creepy thing is when the door to my room slams shut; it echoes throughout the corridor, as I await for the warden to shout, “Lights out!”
I even got my Internet access and was finally able to finish uploading our photos to the South Island New Zealand and Milford Track albums. Who would have thought that access to the outside world would have been so easy in lock-down?3 comments