Mt. Bruce, Tauranga, Wellington and Picton

Out in the ‘Napa of New Zealand’ we stop at the Tui Brewery to try a couple of the brews. Although it doesn’t taste like old tram tickets to me, I don’t think I’ll be buying mass quantities of it, even with the clever advertising.

On the other hand, the National Wildlife Centre was worth all the time and gave me more of a buzz. They are helping to make Mt. Bruce predator free. Their captive breeding program of endangered birds has been successful not only in reintroduction within Mt. Bruce, but on some of the other small islands as well. I think when we have jobs again I’ll have to sponsor a hectare. But we get to see all sorts of birds, including the Kiwi, and it is one refreshing moment in an otherwise sad heritage of ecology on the islands and leaves me with hope that some of the devastation can be rectified.

Around here the land is cut with deep gorges. Log trucks weave past, crossing over the center line. Rattling, buzzing, whining and popping around and around we travel to Morere Hot Springs for a little soak. Situated in native bush this is an excellent little place.

The men’s room is getting showers put in so I duck into the ladies’ room to take one. Of course some women come in and Erica let’s them know there’s a man in their presence. But they don’t mind. I hurry off with a downward glance when done and hear one of them, don’t be so nervous she admonishes me.

Collected together we cross the street from the springs to have a little treat at the café. The owner is rambling something about civilization having a decision between going with the Greeks or the Arabs, and we took the wrong fork down the Arabic road. He redeems himself by bringing out a box of fuzzy little ducks, trying to hop out of their little prison, that have been abandoned by their mom. Erica holds one and pets it while hoping it doesn’t decide to let go of a poo.

It’s time again to test the camper van’s capabilities as we tumble and weave, with exhaust popping loudly, over the heart-stopping roads of the Taurara Ranges and down to Kaitoke Regional Park. This is a beautiful place and our wish to stay longer is fulfilled when the van won’t start in the morning.

After a jump from the ranger we continue on to Wellington and park in the ferry lot. We bike around the Beehive and get lost trying to find Te Papa. Erica gets a flat and gets mopey and I get mad. The van is taking a toll on our emotions and is chipping away at any sense of adventure and fun we should be having on this trip. I can’t help but feel like an idiot for buying that thing.

But we easily get the flat fixed and have some amazing Indian food before getting lost inside Te Papa. Afterwards we’re stuck in the Warehouse once again to buy oil, as the last place charged eleven bucks for one litre. I am able to buy 6 for the same price. I don’t really care if the quality is low it just needs to help to keep the thing running until we can get to Christchurch and sell it. Or blow it up. Who knows? Nobody will buy it and there’s a certain amount of glee I would feel to see it engulfed in flames from my own spark. There’s a certain amount of deviousness we might not be up for to cover our tracks in an insurance fraud. I hope we can sell it. I hope it makes it so we can sell it.

The weather matches our emotions. On the bike ride back to the ferry a gust of wind coming down a side street as I cross over picks up my front wheel and I nearly spill. Rain is soaking our clothes. In the van that night it feels like a gang of midgets who detest the color of blue, especially on a camper van, are seeking vengeance on the Bedford. I can imagine them out there with tiny clubs, banging away at every side and howling at the massive wreck while they skirt up and down the sides. The van rocks with their hammering and crawling. In the morning we’re sitting in a very large puddle of rainwater and the weather is not letting up.

The van decides to start and we clamber on board a ferry bigger than some of the buildings along the harbor. The sun deck will be closed for the entirety of the trip which is unsurprising since the spray from the bow hitting the waves is coming up to where I am peering out on the 7th deck. The three hour trip passes with land always in sight, and much better weather as we pass in to the Marlborough Sounds.