We left Auckland at 12 noon on the Friday, and it took us about 9 hours in total to drive Wellington. We stopped by Lake Taupo to have something to eat in a cafe. As seems to be the way in NZ, a lovely lady kicked off a conversation with us while we were eating so we stayed a little longer in Taupo than anticipated.

We originally intended to get the 8:25 am Saturday morning ferry from Wellington to Picton, but rang up the ferry company (the interislander) and changed it to the 2:40am crossing as we heard the weather forecast for Saturday and it appeared that the 8:25am crossing was going to be rough with lots of rain and minimal visibility. No thanks…

As I write this, we are in the staff car park at the Interislander ferry terminal. Its 10:51pm and Mrs E, myself and the Spaniel are trying to get some shuteye. Our little car is chocca full of ‘stuff’ for our holiday, and it’s feeling a little cosy… The ferry terminal building is closed and there is nowhere to go. Wellington was frenetic when we arrived, as everyone was leaving the Bulls and Hurricanes rugby match – the stadium must have jam packed as the streets were bustling with hoards of people leaving the stadium. We drove around town to see if we could get something to eat, but there were just a few bars open. Mrs E spoke to one of the ground staff at the ferry terminal to ask where we could get a drink. Bless him, he offered to make us a cup of coffee and for us to stay warm in his office, but we politely declined – I was pooped, and by UK standards it wasn’t cold. So here we are in the staff car park, listening to a BBC radio programme I downloaded on the iPad, whilst the wellington post-rugby match traffic hums by in the overpass above, and the Wellington blustery wind buffs against the car. Wellington is living up to its nickname of the windy city, that’s for sure. OK, time for some for shuteye…

We boarded the ferry at 2am, and just a handful of people boarded with us. As we got out of our cars in the belly of the ferry, we could see that most people were carrying sleeping bags and pillows, so likewise, we got ours out of the car. The Spaniel remained behind, and we both felt a little guilty, but she’s just a dog, right…?

Everyone then looked around for a comfortable bit of floor and then literally bedded down for the night… I couldn’t tell you much about the crossing. We think it was fairly uneventful, as we slept through most of it. There are 3 parts to the journey (see the route here):

  1. Leaving Wellington Harbour
  2. Crossing the Cook Strait
  3. Travelling down Queen Charlotte Sound before arriving in Picton at the top of the South Island

Part 2, the Cook Strait section is renown for being choppy, I did wake up briefly during this part and felt like I was being hurled around in a washing machine, but it may bhave been exacerbated by the fact I was sleepy/dreaming and on the floor. Fortunately, I fell back asleep before the nausea had chance to have an effect…

The crossing is supposed to have breathtaking views. Instead we got THE DARKNESS (see below). However, we were clearly passing by big hills and mountains, as there were large dark shadows lurking in the background, which were intimidating in their silence…

As we arrived in Picton it was still dark. We slept in the car for a few hours until daylight, and even though it was wet (VERY wet), the view down the sound was spectacular. We were now on The Mainland, as the South Islanders call it, and we had been welcomed by the beauty of this place… (and some rain)

Before we went anywhere, we were both starving and in need of food, so we popped into Marion’s cafe in the centre of Picton. Marion, who is now in her 80’s, had the cafe for years, but she persuaded the current owner (I forget his name) to take it on. How do I know this? The owner sat down with us after we had eaten and had a natter with us. This may be a South Island thing, the North Island is VERY friendly, but Mainlanders seem a little more forthcoming.

After brunch, we popped to Picton’s i-Site, which essentially a tourist information centre. We go to these wherever we go, as they provide lots of useful tips on what to do and where to do go, and they are contain a Department of Conservation member who can provide information on what walks to do in the National Parks (more on this later).

We were then on our merry way to Nelson

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