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Published: January 28th 2011
Mel of the Buccaneer Lodge had been kind enough to rearrange room assignments to let me stay in my room until 1 p.m.. Regrettably, it was pouring buckets, so I did not try to walk out to visit the bay or the blue footbridge one last time. I did go to church, at Picton Community Baptist Church.
The first hour of the service was worthwhile. There was a lot of singing to a guitar, with the lyrics projected on a movie screen to encourage the parishioners to join in. I joined in enthusiastically, though the only song I recognized was "Amazing Grace." There was some excuse for this, as the oldest copyright date on any of them was 1993. Even "Amazing Grace" had been altered by the interpolation of a new chorus between each verse.
Amidst the singing there was a brief Communion service. I did not see them consecrate the bread or the wine; I hope this had been done beforehand. The guitar player, Jonathan, spoke briefly to the congregation. At the end of the hour, I thought it had been a very nice service, and I got up to leave.
Unfortunately, the service wasn't over.
There was a guest speaker, and he launched into a long and rambling sermon. I was reluctant to walk out, so I waited 25 minutes for him to finish, but at the end of that time he was merely starting an entirely new topic, so I rose as unobtrusively as I could and left.
Mel drove me to the ferry terminal in good time. It was a large building, but the space was needed, as I soon saw, when a ferry docked. I bought a hot choc at the terminal's snack bar.
Passengers boarded the ferry by a long tube, as though it were an airplane. Unfortunately, the slope of the tube became dangerously sharp for my knee. I had seen a peoplemover going up before me, and I asked passersby to go and ask for it to be sent back down for me. Once everyone else had boarded and cleared the tube, it was.
It was still pouring rain, so to my disappointment there was only a small covered area where I could sit outside. I tried sitting there for a few moments, but of course that was also the only comfortable place to smoke. So
that didn't work.
I went on into the Queen Charlotte Cafe and Bar, which, being the only non-smoking observation area as well as the restaurant, was jam-packed with people. Almost every seat was already taken. Most seats were semicircular bucket seats, a little too narrow for me, though in the end I wedged myself into one. There were semicircular sofas which looked much more comfortable, but they had no view and in any case I believe they had all been taken.
There was also an entire block of airline-style seating, rows of high-backed seats, which almost no one sat in. They also had no view.
I found a window seat a bit too close to a family of four: father, mother and two rambunctious little boys. I thought seriously of paying the $20 for a "club class" upgrade -- no one under 18 being allowed in club class -- but the door was frosted so that I couldn't see what the seats there looked like, or whether they were near the windows, so I didn't. I thought club class was likely to be for blase frequent travelers, especially those travelling on business.
The ferry had a cinema (which showed "Legacy of the Guardians" to those interested during our crossing) and a truck stop for commercial drivers. In the Queen Charlotte Cafe and Bar, there was a large television screen that displayed, I think, short human-interest clips. I wasn't sure whether it was an actual channel or just a tape. I didn't pay much attention to it.
The rain made the view outside the window one of shades of gray. Distant islands, cloaked in fog, were nearly colorless. We spent an hour passing through Marlborough Sounds, and I was very glad I hadn't paid the extra $20 for another hour's worth of cruise with Beachcomber; that cruise, which is a rural mail run taking four hours (rather than the three of the cruise I did take), alternates its route daily and it would have been following the path of the ferry on the day I would have been likeliest to book it.
When we reached the Cook Strait, we were in open ocean, and the wave action increased. Noise and talk died down, and many passengers looked distinctly unwell. I was gratified to find that I was not troubled by seasickness at all; I did not even have to think of my seafaring Dickerson ancestors.
For the last half-hour to 45 minutes of the trip, we were in Wellington Harbor. Wellington was a city layered on hills; I watched with great interest as we drew closer. In the last few minutes, the family of four, who were evidently travelling with their car, left to see to the vehicle, so I was able to take their excellent seats and watch the ferry be anchored.
I wasn't sure whether I would do better, monetarily, by taking a $2 bus to the railway station and then taking a taxi to the YHA Wellington City, or just taking a taxi from the ferry terminal. I asked the bus driver, and he steered me to the shuttle of a friend of his.
The shuttle was very comfortable; it had a television and a guest book, which I signed. It was decorated with Christmas lights inside, and its seats were plush velour. Its driver told me sadly that his fiancee had insisted that he stop driving and get a real job, and that he would be doing so next month. The fare was $15, and the driver carried my black suitcase in.
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