I was catching the 8am ferry from Wellington to Picton via the Cooke Straight, so I drove into the outskirts of Wellington around 6.30am. There are two companies that make the crossing, InterIslander and BlueBridge. I opted for BlueBridge as it was a whole $5 cheaper 😛 The crossing takes about 3hrs in good weather, and there’s even a movie theatre on board. I would’ve been tempted to watch Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them if I hadn’t already seen it in theatres, but the lure of some stunning natural landscapes kept me on deck.
The weather was perfect, and I saw a pod of dolphins skimming along their merry way. When we got to the land formations of Queen Charlotte Sound, while the weather wasn’t inclement, there were all these low-lying clouds around the spikes of earth jutting from the sea and the effect while hauntingly beautiful. A Kiwi who does the crossing often mentioned it was a unique day – you could do the crossing every day for ten years and never see it do this.
I’d been planning on helping with the first vintage of some folks I’d met back on Waiheke who had started a vineyard in Blenheim. I stayed in their gorgeous little sleep out and did A LOT of wine tasting around Marlborough. It was delicious and educational 🙂 However, the fruit was taking longer than expected to ripen, so I continued on my journey with a view of swinging back around when the fruit finally ripened.
[Truth is, I never made it back because it took weeks for the grapes to ripen to the right level and I wanted to see the South Island before it got too cold. About a month after I left they were able to harvest a respectable sum for the first harvest and for such terrible weather and I expect a decent Pinot Noir from there in the years to come.]
I took a scenic, winding drive up past Picton and stayed the night at a little hostel that offered free kayaking and was next to the Queen Charlotte Track. It’s one of NZ’s Great Walks and I did about 45 minutes of it the first night – it was terrifically muddy in places and I hadn’t yet found proper trekking shoes. I did come across a wild/escapee goat on the trail. While I didn’t bring my camera with me kayaking, we came across hundreds of little jelly fish – none bigger than my hand and most quite a bit smaller. They didn’t look like they had tentacles, and it was a really cool phenomenon to see so many all at once.
The next day, on my way towards Nelson, I stopped by the Pelorus River – made famous as the Barrel Scene in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
(And yes, I TOTALLY pretended I was an archer elf 🙂 Sadly, I was traveling solo at this point so didn’t have anyone to document my nerdy-awesomeness.)
I spent the afternoon in Nelson. It’s a cute little town but easily done in a day. I happened across their weekly market day, explored a cathedral, and took a stroll through a lovely garden. The weather was cold and drizzly, but I didn’t want to head to my campsite so early in the afternoon, so I hunted out the local cinema and an afternoon viewing of Kong: Skull Island. It was, as I’d predicted, delightfully entertaining – a great way to spend a less than accommodating afternoon.
I then proceeded to the campsite I’d picked for the night, just on the outskirts of Nelson. To my consternation, I couldn’t find the bloody place! I’d followed GPS but it took me somewhere that was definitely NOT a place I could legally car-camp overnight. Thankfully, I was able to look up another site that was less than hour’s drive away, free, AND had a bbq! As it was slightly nearer to where I needed to be the next day (Abel Tasman), I turned Shadowfax further West…