Monday, March 17, 2008

The Interislander and Beyond

The Sea Lions acting just like our cats

Mary Ann as we enter the Sound to Picton

The Interislander

Wellington view from the Interislander

Well, you know me and travel. On with the adventure. We were pretty excited about the ferry trip between the North and South Island. We only arrived about 45 minutes before they began loading, but there were a lot of cars, campers, and trucks there before our arrival. The weather was just incredible, no clouds, warm and brilliant sunshine all day. It couldn’t have been a better day for the crossing. No problem with the wait as we could be outside and had a nice chat with two New Zealand couples that were going biking for four days on the South Island. They were about our age and advised they would be biking on an abandoned railroad right of way, staying in upscale lodges and certainly replacing the calories with good refreshments and fine food.

We were laughing about my telling them about the modest mazda (compared to their very nice sedan with bikes on the back) and one of them pointed out a huge container ship nearby. He explained that the New Zealand car dealers and rental car companies go to Japan to the used car auctions and buy up thousands of “pre-owned” cars for use in New Zealand. He suggested that because of my mileage he suspected it had a lot of kilometers added in Japan.

The loading was interesting as it is loaded and unloaded from the back, so you drive in and then around the bow so you are parked facing the back for quick unloading. There are two car and truck decks. The lower deck is mostly campers and huge eighteen wheeler trucks. Our ship, the Amahura, had 9 decks with four of them above the car decks accessible by the passengers. They have a couple of bars, food court, children’s play areas, movies for adults and kids, gift shop and lots of seating both inside and out. We spent most of our time on the outside decks with Mary Ann taking a lot of photos, along with everyone else. We had some very nice conversations with others at the rail, from Chicago and New Zealand.

Upon arrival in Picton we headed through the Marlbourough (Province) wine country. I thought I was in Central Washington, except that they have thousands of acres (hectares?) of vineyards. We of course thought it was really beautiful, but some might have thought it to be somewhat dry. After you leave Blenheim you reach the Kaikoura Coast which is a beautiful coast line similar to the Northern California Coast. Hmm, it is on the Pacific Ocean isn’t it? For about 100 miles it is ragged rocky coastline and is called the “marine watch.” Sea lions, whales, and dolphins call this home. At several turnouts we stopped and saw a lot of sea lions leading the good life basking in the sun.

The drive from Picton to Christchurch was 212 miles and we arrived about 6:30 p.m. We had no trouble (because of my excellent navigator) finding our apartment and we are now settled in. Tomorrow we begin the exploration of Christchurch and the Canterbury region. Now aren’t they just overdoing this English countryside thing a bit?

Quirky Driving Note: All over New Zealand, and even on the main highway #1, they have not bothered to spend a lot of money on bringing bridges up to standard. It would drive a U.S. highway engineer absolutely bonkers. Rather than having the bridges the same width as the road, or a divided bridge, they just left the decrepit old bridge from the early days when there was no problem crossing with the horse and cart. They handle these ancient one lane bridges with a sign that advises who has the right away. I am amazed that some of the bridges are wide enough to handle the long haul truckers.

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