Waikanae, NZ to Wellington, NZ

4.5 mi / 7.0 mph / 157 ft. climbing
Home: Stuart and Tae’s AirBNB

It’s Monday, so unlike the once-a-day train we had to catch on the Wairarapa Line on Saturday, the Kapiti Line has trains running every 20 minutes even in the middle of the day. Not bad service for a suburb an hour outside of Wellington (buses extend MetLink’s reach even more-impressively, we’d seen them go by on country roads 3 days of bike riding outside Wellington!) With that frequency, we simply dallied until checkout, rode over to the station, and hopped aboard the train that was waiting for us.

Heading to the Waikanae train station, one of our two small bits of riding for the day.

The Kapiti Line is like the Auckland trains (and unlike the Wairarapa), in that you just roll your bike onto the car with you. I figured a mid-day train would maximize the space for our giant bikes, and while there was room (one other bike was in our car), the train was surprisingly busy. We had a nice chat with an Irishwoman-turned-Kiwi, who normally drives into Wellington, but as a senior citizen, gets free mid-day rides, so why not take transit to her afternoon meeting?

The conductors on these Wellington trains have also been universally friendly and helpful. I don’t know what Wellingtonians think of their transit system, but they should be quite proud of it.

Arriving at the Wellington station, it was odd to feel like we were entering the capital for the first time, despite arriving “here” from the South Island nine days ago. But the ferry deposits you on the northern edge of the city, and we just vamoosed from there to a roundabout tour of Wellington’s hinterlands, and only now were in the city proper.

Well, it’s really our second time here; this core of the city was familiar from our 12-day stay around Christmas, and simple things like knowing how to stop at the bathrooms before leaving the train station (last time we had exited and needed to search and backtrack) made us feel like experienced locals. We navigated the downtown bike lanes like pros (not that we did bad at that last time), and brought ourselves to a cheap(-ish) easy lunch at Taco Bell, which we visited once during our last stay. We also knew which grocery stores to visit/avoid, and knew the outdoor shops that would have the best odds of selling some of the merino pieces Rett was looking for. The constant learning/discovery that goes hand-in-hand with our travel is cool, but can also be really exhausting, so it’s nice to have the rare opportunity to return to familiar surroundings.

The biggest difference was how many damn people there were all over the streets! Which makes sense; a big reason we had stayed in Wellington over the holidays is because we assumed people would have fled the city for their vacations. But apparently we hadn’t known how correct that assumption was, and we had subconsciously come to believe that holiday-quiet Wellington was “normal”. Well, and now I actually recall that our first pre-Christmas arrival day here was maybe this busy, but the relative-emptiness of the next 11 days is what got stored in my memory bank.

During that merino shopping trip, Rett fortuitously stepped off a curve and tweaked her ankle. Fortuitously? Yes, because the ankle ended up being fine, but for a few minutes she stood by our bikes parked on the busy sidewalk, nursing the tendons while I ran around the corner to check another shop. If she had come with me, the woman who saw our bikes and was curious about our travel wouldn’t have found anyone there to stop and talk to. And then she wouldn’t have quickly realized that she had met us before! This was Cat, who had stayed in a palapa 20 feet from ours on a Mexican beach precisely two years ago!

March 2022 Baja beach denizens Cat, Rett and Neil, improbably meeting for a second time!

We had known that our pseudonymous Playa Estucasa was a special place from the moment we arrived there, but had no idea what cosmic nexus point it is, one where travelers arc out from that beach, rocketing wildly through space and time, and then boomerang back to new places where their bright star trails cross again. Because our up-until-now wildest “small world” reconnection also had its origin on that beach. We formed a much stronger bond with George and Penny than we had a chance to form with Cat (with George and Penny we reinforced the bond with our impromptu Nova Scotia “hurricane party”), but even though our recrossing with them was improbably distant in both time (6 months) and space (2300 miles) from the Estucasa nexus, here with Cat it was 2 years, 6600 miles, a whole other hemisphere, and the urban streets of a national capital versus an off-grid beach peppered with some 30 people. Just the fact that this is our second unplanned reconnection from that beach amplifies the unbelievability of both of them.

And shit, it’s actually our third reconnection from that nexus! Number three was somewhat reversed: on the Mr. Money Mustache (early-retirement) forums, I had been participating in a thread for forum users planning/succeeding in a 2021 retirement. A user named “JoJo” began posting to that thread in 2020, with regular progress updates. I didn’t “know” them, but I surely had read their posts. On that Baja beach in March of 2022, a woman named Lisa appeared for a couple nights who we had met two weeks earlier on a whale-kissing trip (a surprising re-meeting in itself!) We had talked about early retirement, and I found that she was also a fan of Mr. Money Mustache. But it was only when, a year later, I went to add my 2nd retirement anniversary post to that thread, and I saw JoJo’s 1-year anniversary post where they wrote “I kissed a whale”, that I realized that “JoJo” was Lisa, and we had met! On the magical nexus beach! There were only 113 people who added themselves to that “2021 Cohort” thread, and two of them (at least!) were among the ~30 people at Playa Estucasa on the same night for a party potluck dinner. What are the odds? About as impossible as meeting someone from that beach on the streets of Wellington, New Zealand!

Day 2

Our Wellington AirBNB was super-cute (our second top-tier AirBNB in a row), and a throwback to the early days of AirBNB: we got a personal welcome from our hosts (we were in an accessory unit behind their house), there were homemade (and delicious!) baked goods inside, along with plenty for breakfast, including yogurt, fresh fruit, and hand-mixed muesli. I’m not sure if they’re new AirBNB hosts and haven’t yet learned that they don’t “need” to provide all of that care and personal touch, or if they simply enjoy being world-class hosts.

I made an errand run out on the bike. First to Chemist Warehouse, where we could finally get 100 generic ibuprofen pills for NZ$4, as opposed to the 20 for NZ$4 at most other stores we’ve been by lately, as opposed to the utterly-insane NZ$16 for 20 of the name-brand “Nuprofen”. Literally a 20x price difference for the same product! Then over to the New World grocery, then exploring some of the new bike-lane infrastructure on the way back to our AirBNB. The crazy thing is that I rode across most of Wellington doing these errands, and not because I rode really far, but because Wellington is incredibly compact. Which explains why there are so many people on bikes, it’s really quick and easy to get anywhere.

I also figured it was time to swap out my incredibly-worn, yet still-perfectly-functional, front tire with the “spare” I’ve been carrying.

This was far from the only spot where the rubber was just gone, revealing the fabric casing beneath. But, I’ve been riding over gravel and rocks and roads and everything else with no problems while it’s looked like this! Go Schwalbe!


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