‘But we be hopping off in Tasmania or wherever it is’ – Wellington

17th August

Title courtesy of our drunk Irish dorm mates. There were in fact hopping off in  Abel Tasman, New Zealand…

Mad scramble out of Chris’s house and we were headed back to Nomads for our final night in Wellington.

We had a few too many hours to kill before we could check into the hostel so we dropped our bags and searched for breakfast. New Zealand favours its brunches and artisan cafes, with beautifully smelling coffee wafting from within, line the streets. And so this is how we found ourselves eating a full fry up in an Irish pub at 10 in the morning for 8 dollars. Tourists we are not.

Tori has developed a ‘crush’ on New Zealand’s version of Primark come Wilkinsons come Woolworths. So we headed off to find ‘The Warehouse’. Still not sure what she did actually buy in there. Some essential silver polish I think.

The city’s free wifi alerted us that fellow Stray passenger John was also roaming the streets and so we met up, sat on beanbags on the banks of the waterfront and drank coffee.

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John had just visited Te Papa and told is that the Gallipoli: The Scale Of Our War exhibition really was worth a visit.

My knowledge of the western front is, at times, quite extensive. But I knew very little of the horror the soldiers faced in the east, particularly during the Gallipoli campaign. The exhibition is told through the eyes of the Kiwis and, like many First World War exhibitions, paints a bleak picture of the conditions of the trenches and of the futility of the daily slog to try to gain ground. The campaign lasted eight months with a devastating victory for the Ottomans.

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The standout parts of the exhibitions had to be the giant sculptures of individual soldiers and a nurse, designed and made by Weta Workshop. They stood alone in a darkened room at around 2.4 times human scale. Voices read out their stories. These were the moments that stuck with us. The intricate detail that showed the sweat on the faces and the goosebumps on the arms created the impression that these were real people, suffering larger than life problems. It was both effective and moving.

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On leaving the exhibition visitors show their respect to their dead by placing a poppy at the feet of the last model. We will never forget.

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To toast the bravery of all those who fought we met John and Sam for a beer before our free meal with the new Stray bus. The meal was…..fine. The new Stray bus…. intimidating. We finally picked up the courage to say hi and they were all very friendly. Although, the NASA space shuttle engineer and the astrophysicist made us question, somewhat, our choices in life.

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Sam, Tori and I

This bunch turned out to be the liveliest of all the buses so far. Shots, beer pong and dancing. Exhaustion. The early morning ferry start meant our beds did eventually call for us. Oh except two our of dorm mates. Irish. Once we were fast asleep, and at some god awful hour, they returned to the room and decided to shine their phone torches into faces. Then they started reciting poetry. Then they started to sing. How bad can it be? Bad. No sleep. 5am start. Ferry. Rain. BUT we’re going to the South Island which, we have been told, is the greatest. So all is well.

Flo x

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