We left Wellington in the early am to reach the car / people ferry in time. We joined the queue and
waited for directions. The ferry was expect to be full. Full of cars and people. Today we would cross from the North Island of NZ to the South. The trek would take about 4 hours by boat. There are no bridges nor tunnels from one to the other. As this is an active tectonic area I doubt either would last long. The previous major earthquake a few years ago moved the S. Island 5 meters (about 18‘) closer to the North Island. I imagine a tunnel or bridge would have become non functional and resulted in many deaths. As it was, Highway 1, one the NE coast arteries on the South Island became impassable and six years later it is still out of commission. The community it feeds remained isolated for quite some time. It required a couple of months of work to open a smaller service road.
We parked as if Tuna in a can. Getting out of the car was a squeeze even for us and we made our way to the passenger decks. There we discovered more tuna, oops people. After walking the decks looking for a place to lounge we were a wee bit put out. There was no comfortable looking place left. However, we came across a ticket upgrade that allowed us access to a lounge with plenty of seating. And for only 15 bucks! The upgrade gave us a $10 commissary voucher. We would have indulged in food anyway, so for 5 extra bucks we could travel in comfort.
We arrived in Picton ready to roll. Squeezing back into the car we left the boat and never turned back. Like a line at Disney one doesn’t leave feeling that getting back into it would be easy. Leaving Picton we flowed with the other vehicles all heading to the S island and never stopped.
Passing vineyards after vineyards, some with grapes covered in 1,000’s of square meters of netting we navigated tight turns and narrow bridges to Nelson.
The bridges in NZ are of two types. Those we are all familiar with and those not; one lane bridges. For one lane bridges the roads approaching narrow and one side has right of way. Signs are posted before the bridge and directions painted on the pavement. If two cars approach at near the same time one car can continue while the other waits. I know it sounds a bit confusing but the system works well.
We arrived at our AirBnB mid afternoon. The weather wasn’t looking good. We were planning on hanging here for a couple of days anyway and schedule more of our trip S. Luckily; Rena and her partner Andrew our, AirBnB hosts, was born in the South Island and offered suggestions for our stops. First on our list was the Center of NZ hike. It was a smallish mtn in Nelson. While W/ and I huffed and puffed our way up the hill for a sweet view of Nelson, Andrew put together another 20 some stops we might enjoy on our way S. As we only planned three days at a time he suggested stops for the next 3 days.
Returning from our hike (called a stomp in NZ), we cleaned up and Andrew made a presentation using Google Earth and Apple TV. He pulled up the route he worked on and talked about the various stops with a few Google Earth Images. Then we copied them to a thumb drive and the following am set about for the drive S. Oh how sweet technology is.
Using his routes as a guide we made our way to our another scenic overlook. New Zealand if famous for it’s variable weather. At one iSite (NZ tour guide information centers) the booking agent told us NZ has every season every day. The comment is not quite fair. We’ve not yet had snow on a daily basis but I would agree we often have had all three seasons in a day; rain, fog, Sun, cold and warm. Our first scenic view was all white. 🙁 A cloud had settled in around the lookout.
Never daunted we drove on. And as predicted by the iSite agent the day began to warm and the clouds cleared. Not wishing to do a blow by blow of our stops I will say we had plenty to see and do. For our three day journey we walked a swing bridge and I rode a wire rope crossing a river. (W/ decided not to try that adventure.) Later; Seals were abundant and the vistas with emerald colored water artistically inspiring. There were rocks stacked like Pancakes and huge chunks of the Earth pushed upward over 2 meters. We stomped a few trails and witnessed the ever continuing results of tectonic activity.
We found some rest from the daily grind in Blackball. There we hung with some Kiwi friends we met in Fiji. Lauren and her partner Neil live here. Lauren has cruised extensively with her family in the Caribbean and crossed the Pacific with them. Neil is a Caver, photographer, and they publishing a book Cave Exploring New Zealand. I do believe they offer some discounts yet for pre – orders! Currently I understand it is being printed now. They worked and we played. One day we took the sweetest Black Lab (Kaha) on a stomp to a waterfall; which we never found. Of course Kaha didn’t care. He was happy to be out nosing through the brush as opposed to lying in wait on the back porch. Before we smelled of aged fish we moved again. Saying goodbye is never easy and cruisers are always saying good bye or in the french version; Au Revoir….until we met again.