We started out Saturday morning eating at a Chinese restaurant with our flatmates Leigh and Jason, who then introduced us to Andrew, his girlfriend Mandy (Yup, 'Andy & Mandy'. It's been thought of), and her friend B. It was at Andrew's cottage that we were staying at for the weekend, so everyone thought it'd be appropriate to meet them and feel more comfortable.
We don't have any pictures of this experience called "Yum Chow", but suffice it to say, if we can ever find it in the States, we're doing it. It's traditionally Saturday or Sunday brunch time, and it basically consists of this: You sit, and they bring food. You take what you want (usually enough for 3-4 people), and they mark down on your ticket what you got. You're welcome to refuse food at any time, which is good, because it KEEPS COMING. Seriously, they don't stop. They'll drop desserts on you in the middle of the meal simply because that particular food runner had that particular tray at that particular time passing YOUR particular table! Standard Chinese-American fare for about 70% -- egg rolls, sticky rice, fried/steamed wontons, greens w/ soy, tofu, fried chicken, egg drop soup, etc. The other 30% were things we didn't recognize. BG and I thought we might be a little out of place at this, but thankfully no one else at the table recognized them either (chicken feet?? maybe??) and so we were relieved when Mandy took it upon herself to say, "No, thanks, we're good" when anything suspect tried to find it's way to our table.
Following brunch, we went to a Sam's Club-type place and bought stuff for BBQ and to stock the fridge for the weekend. Then we split ways (B wasn't coming, and A&M were going in a separate car). Leigh and Jason and BG and I loaded up our rental car and hit the road -- UP. Turns out, there's only two roads out of Wellington because it's barricaded by mountains and shorline on all sides. So we took this tiny little two-lane "Motorway" (They swear to me it's a main road in the country) and wound up this steep hill like they do in the commercials when they're test driving a new Lexus or something. There were several occasions when I thought we would die if it weren't for Jason's skills behind the wheel. I'm sure that's an overreaction and this path was fairly routine, but it was still new to us. Awe inspriring views if you're gutsy enough to open your eyes and look down.
We made it to the cottage in Martinborough and ate steak, salad, fruit, sausages and bread while everyone drank wine from the local vineyards and had beer or soda to wash it down. BG and I were offered a mattress in the living room, but we opted to break in our tent instead, as neither one of us has a lot of experience with it and as long as we're here, we might as well GET good at it. After setting up for the night (A&M were nice enough to give us an air mattress and plenty of pillows and blankets), we played board games and laughed until the wee hours.
The next day, we woke up early, because, let's face it, we're not used to sleeping in a tent, and had coffee on the back deck while we waited for people to get up and start the day. I even got to brush up on a little guitar because Leigh let us bring hers. At around 2:00, a bunch of us went out to what's called "TK Day", a music and wine festival brought to you by Te Kairanga Vineyards. It's actually held ON the vineyard! It was very sunny, and is primarily an excuse for Kiwis to spend the day getting absolutely PLASTERED, but we left early enough to escape before anyone realized we were American and, in a drunken fit, assume we voted for President Bush. They don't care much about politics, here, but Man do they ever hate THAT guy. I suppose there are plenty of people in the States that describes, too, so political conversations are a little slice of home. :)
Speaking of slices of home, it should be noted that there was ONE band on the roster. The whole festival composed of one band who played on a stage that folded out of the back trailer of a semi. Now, I've been to a lot of rock concerts, and there is only one band *I've* ever seen who could play for a solid 6 hours in the sun, so God bless them for doing it. It should also be noted, however, that by the end, they (the band) were either tired enough, drunk enough, or BOTH enough to bust out John Denver. Folks, this band was like a really high priced wedding band in that they could play a lot of crowd-pleasers and had the chops musically to undoubtedly have impressive sounding originals. But I think we can all agree that when the host plays John Denver, it's time for the guests to leave the party. They also played "Hotel California", "Sweet Home Alabama", and a little Fleetwood Mac. Oh! And "Brown-Eyed Girl". Quick side note to Jocelyn, the bassist screwed it all up and stayed with like 3 notes the whole song. Tell your uncle he's still the man.
Towards the end of all of this, we found out that there had been a Mack truck that had jack-knifed on the SAME ROAD WE CAME IN ON. We haven't heard for sure, but the rumor is two people got crushed in the accident. Needless to say, that road was closed until midnight and no one could get back to Wellington. I'm sure the band was happy, too. I talked to Jason about it, and he said it would take FIVE HOURS to go an alternate route, so it was unsurprising that the pubs and the fish-n-chips shop in this tiny little town were PACKED to the brim with drunk, tan revelers stuck in this little suburb. There was a 30 min. wait for fish-n-chips, so we went home.
There, BG and I took over dinner. With a little advice and help from Leigh (she's a chef!), we made American hotdogs and ketchup, leftover coleslaw, fruit salad, grilled steak-n-cheese sandwiches, fries, and cheese-filled grilled portobello mushrooms (inspired by Baby G's Dad, The Chemical Bridge - thanks for the recipe, they were a hit!). It was all very tasty and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Andrew, Jason, BG & I hung out in the hottub after dinner and talked about music and movies for awhile. Andrew is a wicked nice guy that will hopefully come visit the States at some point. We don't have a picture of he and Mandy yet, but he was an impeccable host and was even nice enough to set us up with jobs working in a brew tent on the south island for ANOTHER music festival (this time, the Blues) in two weeks. His flatmate Barnsey owns a brewery and is hooking it up. Following this, we went to bed.
This morning we took our time winding back into town, and got to stop at a little place called Schoc, which sells homemade chocolate. We bought a seasalt/chocolate bar and are looking forward to eating it over the course of the next...month. It's great, but one bite at a time is all you need.
That's pretty much it. We've spent the day packing for our NEXT trip and catching up on internet stuff. Tomorrow morning we're renting a car and going to Rotorua, where we will go Zorbing and ride on a 2km scenic luge ride. Hopefully we'll see some natural steam springs, volcanoes, and geysers before we head up to Auckland and return the car. We'll spend the day there and then grab ANOTHER car or cheapy bus up to the beaches up north. Hostel-hopping for four days or so, we are aiming to get back home early next week.
Until then, enjoy these pictures. We both hope you're all well, and we're looking forward to getting all of your emails when we get home, telling us what you've been up to. In the meanwhile, much love.
This is the view from the road on the way up. Killer vista, and you can make out the road twisting and turning along the mountain there on the left, going into the center.
We took a walk the first night we got there, and this is from one of the vineyards.
Ahhhh, the band. Can I just say, I've seen more whiteboy dreadlocks here in New Zealand than I EVER have before? Still, they had a clean sound and crisp levels, and were clearly talented. They covered Radiohead, too, so credit where it's due.
This is a recreation of StoneHenge that they set up here in Martinborough for astrology. It was closed when we got there, so this is the picture we could get. Sorry.
There was not a cloud in the sky coming back home today, EXCEPT over the mountains, as you can see. THAT'S where we were headed. The mountains lock in moisture and make it frequently rainy or windy in Wellington. Turns out this all blew over by the time we got back this afternoon, though, and it was still a really nice day by the time we rode in.
....Got home to some good news, today, too! Not only did the New England Pats LOSE, but the CHICAGO BEARS WON! I'm sorry I won't be able to watch the big game in two weeks with any of you, but I hope you all enjoy it. I'll be watching it on a Monday afternoon in some pub here, I'm sure, and rooting for my team from afar. Anyone who wants a copy of the old "Superbowl Shuffle", email me. I'll attach it back to you in MP3 form. GO BEARS!
See you in a week,