Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thursday Afternoon

After lunch on Tuesday we set off to find a beach. Failing in this pursuit, we decided instead to take a detour to Mount Taranaki, an extinct volcanic peak in the Taranaki District. We stopped for a hike through the forest, which was wonderful. The mountain rises above the flat farmlands, capped with snow and wreathed in cloud. Its flanks are covered by a dense verdant forest which echoes with the sounds of birds I’ve never heard before. I fell behind to take photos as we went. Weaving through wizened moss-shrouded trees and primordial stands of fern, it was clear the path we were following was crafted with care to disturb the landscape as little as possible. I felt as though we’d strayed into some strange dark fairytale.

We hiked for an hour before returning to the car.

Ljuba called ahead to our Bed & Breakfast in Wanganui, but the proprietor informed us that he’d expected us the previous night. After some arguing it became clear that he was not going to budge on his position, so we decided to head on to Wellington. We stopped for dinner at the Red Flame Thai restaurant in Wanganui, and drove the remaining few hours south to Wellington.

We’re lodging at Wellywood, a five-story zebra-painted hostel in the heart of the city. We have two private rooms with bathrooms and comfortable beds, and there’s free wifi in the enormous 4th floor lounge. The city itself is very clean; I haven’t smelled pee even one time. Everyone seems young and alternative, and I haven’t seen anyone who seems especially destitute. It’s incredibly windy. There are unicycles. There are unicycles everywhere. Later we discovered that this was due to Unicon, the unicycle convention, which was hosted in Wellington first week of January.

Wednesday morning Ljuba and I walked around town a bit and had lunch at Floriditas. The place was beautiful and hip, as many Kiwi establishments seem to be. It struck a compromise between modern paisley and white-bricked 30’s hospital ward. I had zucchini strips with mint and lemon, and Ljuba had some kind of pearl barley chicken dish.

Wellington is home to Weta Workshop, a special effects company with which I’ve been enamored for some time, and I discovered that they have a small gift shop/mini museum on the premises in Miramar, about 10 minutes from our hostel. We dropped in around 4 and spent an hour browsing through their books, miniatures, and original movie props. They have a friendly Sheepadoodle named Hendrix who milled around diverting attention from the works of art on the shelves. It was beautiful and I want to work there.

After leaving Weta, we returned to Wellywood and changed for church. December 7th is orthodox Christmas, so we were attending a Serbian Orthodox Christmas Eve service. The main room of the church is large and open, with portraits of saints lining the walls and a large wooden fa├žade on the rear wall. I lit two candles, one for Pam and one for Ben. Father Ljubo led the service, attended by four alter boys. I didn’t really understand much as the liturgy was delivered in Serbian with snatches of Serbian-accented Kiwi English. There was a lot of chanting and censer-swinging.

After the service, we adjourned to a side building for some bread and hard alcohol. I quickly found a shot of Rakija pressed in my hand, only to have it replaced after I dutifully downed it. After Rakija we were served warm sweetened Rakija.

Dinner was at Osteria del Toro, a gorgeous new Italian place right outside the door of our hostel. The food was delicious and there was a surplus of staff attending us.

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