Windy Welly / by Marek Charytonowicz

We were almost done with the North Island - the next day a ferry was taking us across the Cook Strait to the South Island, the land of mountains and very few people. The land known from The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit.

For now though, we still had a few things to do in our itinerary. We started from visiting a couple of wineries for a little tasting session. The wines were amazing and we ended up with three bottles of fantastic pinot noir packed in our bags. 

We headed towards Wellington, famous of its constantly blowing winds that brought the city its nickname - Windy Welly. The road was nice and green but pretty quickly it turned into a mountain serpentine road, narrow, winding and with heavy traffic heading in the same direction as us. It was uncomfortable and despite our efforts, we couldn't go allowed 100 km/h - our camper just couldn't pull it off and to be honest a speed limit like this on a road like that was simply insane. 

We were doing our best but despite that from time to time we had a few cars on our back that had to wait for the take over lanes to move ahead. It was a bit stressful but we were doing pretty good and Wellington was getting closer.

And then we heard a police signal. It was several cars behind us and we were wondering what has happened and where they were going. After a moment, the police car took over all the cars but ours. We thought, ok, next take over lane and it will pass us by by nothing like that happened and we realised they were after us. We started looking for a safe spot to pull over but on this narrow winding road with heavy traffic going fast it was an impossible task. It took us a couple of minutes before the road got wider and we could safely stop our camper.

We were given an infringement notice for driving too slow. $150 for being too careful. According to the pretty irritated and rather rude police officer, he was following us for five minutes, we were slowing down the traffic and should have stopped and let it pass where we could. One more minute and we would have been banned from driving in New Zealand altogether. After that tirade he went back to his car and the good cop arrived with the infringement notice and apologetic smile on his face. He understood all our arguments but still gave us the ticket. And then they left.

The truth is we weren't too slow. We were keeping a safe speed in a vehicle that accelerates and breaks with delay, on a narrow winding mountain road with very limited visibility and no pull over bays that were not gravel holes and were big enough to fit our camper. The police did not indicate for us to stop instead chasing us on a full signal and then playing the classic good cop bad cop game.  We suspected they were performing training as there was a third officer in the car and we were simply used as a learning example.

Enough said, this ruined the rest of our day. We arrived at Wellington and visited the famous Weta Workshop where we went on a guided tour around their offices. This company was co-founded by Peter Jackson and is one of the best special effects and movie prop studios in the world. They created the entire world for The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit and since then for many other Hollywood blockbusters. It was a great experience to see and touch the props used in that movies and learn about various tricks used to create what we saw on the screen. After Hobbiton this was the second most important place I really wanted to see and it's a shame that this visit was overshadowed by the infringement notice experience.

We left Weta just when they were about to close and headed to a camping ground outside of town for our last night on the North Island. We didn't really see Wellington, the right mood wasn't there to combat the strong wind and never ending busy motorways crossing the city. All we wanted was a dinner and some peace and quiet. The next day we were finally crossing to the South Island.