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.
Wellington Harbour 🙂
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.
One thing about New Zealand for sure – the sky is stupid beautiful!
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.
This little guy looks shady but was super friendly
Even though I didn’t work here, it was a relaxing stay – not a bad view, either!
Nautilus – another winner
Such good bubbles!
[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…