Some Days


Some days just weren’t meant to go right. Today started off with a tepid shower, and went downhill from there. Okay, not all downhill. There were some good points. But there were definitely some crappy points as well. On the whole it was not my favorite. Ah, shucks, why don’t I just shut up and tell you about it…

Dore and I got up a bit after our alarm went off at eight. For whatever reason we were both just tired, and dragged a bit as we got up out of bed. I hopped in the shower of our hotel room first, only to find that the hot water was anything but. After fiddling with the poorly labeled taps for a while I came to the conclusion that yes, the right one really was hot, and no, it wasn’t going to let me take a shower in anything but a weak stream of water that could most flatteringly be described as “not cold.” As I toweled off afterwords, I looked around at the bathroom decor. The old brown tiles of the bathroom must have seemed like a good idea in whatever decade they had been installed (the forties, perhaps?) and may well have looked opulent at the time, but now, chipped and dirty from years of low-budget accommodation housecleaning, they just looked chipped and dirty, as all low-budget accommodations seem to eventually become.

We got out of the hotel quite a bit before the ten o’clock checkout time, and headed down the road toward the Te Papa museum. We knew that we’d be facing a tough time getting something for breakfast because of the national holiday, but by the time we finally made it around the harbor and found a cafe that was open we were both famished. We ate hungrily, and completely cleaned our plates of the few crumbs that were left.

After breakfast we hit the museum. This was, by and large, our major triumph for the day. I really can’t say anything bad about the museum, except perhaps that it was too large for us to take it all in during one visit. But that’s just our failing, and actually is a point in favor of the museum. I especially liked the fossil and animal specimen exhibits, which were both informative and really well targeted toward both youth and adult audiences. I thought the art collection was probably the weakest point of the museum (I didn’t see any works by any famous artists I was familiar with), but even there we did see a humorous and very well executed exhibition of small human figure sculptures that Dore and I both quite liked.

By the time we were done with the museum, Dore was pretty exhausted, and starting to get into a low blood sugar haze. We left somewhat hurriedly, and went in search of food. After a few duds, we happened upon the Hummingbird restaurant, where we found the menu quite to our liking. Dore had a nice corn chowder. I ordered the steamed mussels, but they ended up bringing me mussel and mushroom cakes. Luckily I noticed and asked the waiter. He apologized for the mix-up and put in the correct order right away, then, in a move I’ve never seen back home, let us keep the cakes on the house. Sweet! I’m used to restaurants taking the incorrect order away and (presumably) dumping it in the trash.

I have to say, the mussel and mushroom cakes were phenomenal. Better, actually, than the mussels that came a bit later. But both were quite good. Dore and I left quite satisfied, but not before getting a bit of a shock. Dore had ordered a bottle of soda with her meal. It ended up being only 220 ml (or about 8 ounces), but set us back NZ$7.50 (about US$5.00). Yikes!

We walked back towards our car along the waterfront, which was really nice. It definitely had the feel of a really nice boardwalk, and we were enjoying being out in the sun. But after a while Dore and I started to get really tired. We were almost back to the car when we decided that we wanted to go up the cable car, or at least look at it to decide that it was too expensive. But when we made it to the station, we found that it was actually quite reasonable, so we bought our tickets and hopped aboard. A few minutes later, and we were atop the city, looking down over everything. It was a grand view, but we were still really tired, and now even farther from our car.

So what did we do? Ride down of course.

No, wait, that is what any sane person would have done. But no, we’re past that point now. We started walking through the botanical gardens, which start right outside the cable car station. My idea, I’m afraid.

Our walk took us part way down a steep hill, and after a few hundred feet we found the idea of walking back up too painful to even consider. So walking back down to the city it was. We took many little breaks along the way, taking full advantage of the benches that were provided along the path, but we were both beat by the time we finally emerged at the bottom. We popped into a service station and bought an ice cream cone, which perked us up a bit. We dragged ourselves the last block to the van, dropped our packs in the back, and hopped in, relieved to finally be back. We were ready to be on our way onward and out of the frenetic city.

I turned the key. Nothing happened.

Scratch head. Turn key.


I checked everything with elaborate carefulness. Clutch in. Brake on. Turn key. Nothing.

Oh hell. The battery’s dead. Did I leave the lights on? Nope, they were off. The interior lights? Nope, off. Look down at cigarette lighter. The GPS.

I forgot that on some cars the stupid GPS charger draws the tiniest bit of power even when the car is off. Damn it!

Long story short, we called the roadside assistance people, and of course it’s our fault so we’ll have to pay. And of course it’s a public holiday, so an extra fee will apply. We waited for about an hour before the mechanic showed up. He brought over his extra battery, hooked it up, and we tried to turn over the engine.


We scratched our heads. The mechanic thought the battery might be completely dead. He pulled out his tester, but found that it was only a bit drained. I’m pretty sure it should have even been enough to turn over the engine. Hmm…

The mechanic scratched his head for a second, then had an idea.

“Here, get in and try starting the engine while I tap on the starter,” he told me. I followed his instructions as he leaned under the car with a long metal bar. Tap tap tap… vroom. The engine came to life.

“The starter’s almost dead,” he said simply. “If this happens again just have your wife start the car while you tap on it.”

We paid him and finally got on our way northward. We drove a few hours to Palmerston North, where we got some burgers and fries from a takeout restaurant and finally made it to a holiday park. We parked and immediately set in on the food. It was predictably awful, but in a comforting, homey way. In some small way it made us feel a bit better. Where we had been a bit depressed about the day, we finally felt able to laugh a little bit, kick back and relax. Tomorrow will be better.

We can only hope.

Categories: Blogroll, New Zealand Trip 2010 Tags:
  1. Ian
    April 9th, 2010 at 13:20 | #1

    But, if it’s the starter engine, then it’s not your fault, and you don’t have to pay, right?

  2. Ryan
    April 10th, 2010 at 18:13 | #2

    Correct. We had to pay up front when this happened, because when we called roadside assistance we thought it was a dead battery (i.e. driver error). But after we found out it was the starter motor I ended up calling Escape (the rental company) and they said that they’d reimburse us for the original bill. The awesome thing is that I didn’t even need to ask about that — they just offered to cover it once they found out it was a mechanical problem.

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