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PROLOGUE: Friday 13th October: Wellington to Picton

Before I start on this travelogue/blog about a journey in the South Island of New Zealand, I thought I should just explain what this journal represents. This is an attempt to give you, the reader a chance to see and understand some of the places that can be found in New Zealand. I'm not setting this out as the Best of the South Island as we visited some odd places that are sure not to be on most people's "Must See" lists. Also, this is not supposed to be either an introspective insight into my, or anyone else’s 'feelings' about anywhere, nor is it supposed to be a Primary School style listing of what I did on my holidays. Another thing that will become abundantly clear as you read through this journal is that I have associated a song with each day of our trip. These songs are not representative of anything in particular that we did on that day, nor should you take the songs as any type of sarcasm directed at any of these places. As such, the fact that I have associated "Ghost Town" by the Specials with our trip between Dunedin and Timaru does not mean that I believe that either of these places suffer from any particularly bad social strife; either literally or metaphorically. In fact, most of the songs that have been used are either songs we heard on that particular day, or in a couple of the examples, they are songs that we sung along with to help us stay awake and sane on some of the very long journeys between New Zealand towns. Now that the purpose and method of this journal is clear, and as long as you're sitting comfortably, then I can begin.

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I'm listening to rain fall on the roof of a camper van that I'm currently living in. Jenny and I are currently parked up in a holiday camp in Westport, on the West Coast of the South Island two days into our holiday. I'm already behind on the journal as I only bought the book that I'm writing this in from a shop in Nelson yesterday.

Our holiday started on the evening of Friday 13th October. I was at Wellington Railway Station by 5pm waiting for Jen to arrive from work and then the bus to take us to the Interislander Ferry Terminal. I'd come straight from a strange day at work. It had the feeling of an "End of Term" day at school for so many reasons. Ross, the guy who sits opposite me since I'd started my job was leaving to do a move in with his girlfriend. Nothing strange in that, except his girlfriend moved to Fulham a couple of months ago, so he's off to live on the Fulham Broadway with her. The sight of Ross clearing out the flotsam and jetsam from his desk into boxes, the things that accumulate over a few years of working in the same office, coupled with the final sign off of the 2005/6 accounts and the fact that everyone was being given their end of year pay reviews all added to giving the day a sense of finality. Despite this, at the back of my mind I was trying to shut away the thoughts that I'd be returning to pretty much the same thing in only 16 days time.

Jamie, my boss, had been kind enough to give me a lift to the railway station in his car. This saved me from the lottery of the Wellington train network on which I would have been forced to lug my backpack if it hadn't been for Jamie's assistance. During the journey, we'd discussed the topics of the day - ranging from Seagulls to Salaries.

As the clock approached 5.20, an overloaded Jenny arrived at the station from work, looking quite warm. A quick drink later and the shuttle bus to the ferry terminal arrived. The driver was a very cheerful middle-aged Maori man. He delighted in telling us that we would be catching the faster, more reliable ferry of the pair in Interislander's service. Apparently, it never runs late. Even if it leaves late, it makes up the time.

Somewhat disappointingly, the boat left half an hour late and arrived at Picton ten minutes late.

OI! What you lookin' at? A view of Wellington from the back of the Interislander ferry. A misty evening made the view a little disappointing.

During the three-hour choppy ferry crossing, we both largely concentrated on trying not to feel sick. Successfully as it turned out. Also, we managed to read the Dominion Post, watch some of the Auckland vs. Wellington rugby match and play 3 holes of Golden Tee golf (-2, for the record!)

The award for "Most Annoying Passenger" jointly goes to the pair of loud, obnoxious teenage girls and the middle aged man in a muscle vest whose text ring tone seemed to be set at about 100 decibels and went off with annoying regularity. To add insult to injury, he was obviously aware of the annoyance as he tried to silence it by covering the speaker with his hand part way through the tone each time it went off. JUST TURN THE VOLUME DOWN YOU PILLOCK!

Finally at Picton, we walked the short walk to our chosen accommodation; a brightly coloured backpackers called The Villa. On the way, we spied a Mini Golf course that we'd play the next morning.

A view from Picton Town centre showing some of the suburbs and the hills rising in the distance There's things in them thar hills!

At the backpackers, there was a short, but very slow queue for service. In the background, an American was indulging in what sounded like a one-person conversation due to his volume. Listen very carefully, and you could just about hear the almost inaudible voice of the other party in the conversation. In another room, someone strummed tunelessly at an acoustic guitar.

Eventually, we were in our room, a small high-ceilinged affair. Dropping off our belongings, we went in search of dinner. Most places in Picton, a small town, were already shut, but a quick search found the Rumba Bar where we made it just in time for last food orders. Thanks to this, we were able to share a plate of nachos. Then it was back to the hostel, where we found the volume of the television just loud enough to drown out the voice of the American, still in his one sided conversation, before bed.

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