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Published: March 5th 2009
After a lovely week with Christina and Bernard, we dragged ourselves up disgustingly early in the pre-dawn, and out into our van for a 5am ferry to Picton in the South Island.
We had culled our luggage again, and packed the car before going to bed, so we didn’t have to worry about that, at least. The city was dark and quiet, we passed only one other vehicle on the motorway on our way down to the dock.
There were, however, others who had arrived before us and we all waited together in the still darkness for the signal to board. We were traveling aboard Awatere, which is a large passenger and car ferry. The bulk of this vessel is needed to combat the large swells often found in Cook Strait.
Paula and Grace eyed the rippling waters dubiously, hoping that the failure to procure Dramamine the preceding day would not prove literally to be a gut-wrenching oversight. Nevertheless, the trip over Cook Strait, was necessary, rough or smooth, unless we wished to stay north!
We drove up a long ramp that took us into the vehicle deck with many other trucks, vans, and cars -
The South Island from Cook Strait
Calm waters today, and a lovely sunrise for our crossing
and a very large horse float. Then we climbed three more levels to stand outside down towards the stern end, on a windy deck, where we could watch the wharf slip away as Awatere slid slowly from her berth.
Looking forward as our ferry swung around to head out, the city and port lights were to the right and behind, and to the left and ahead, the dark of Port Nicholson harbour.
Awatere moved quickly past the bays and headlands of the harbour, and soon we were moving through the narrows of the harbour entrance. Cook Strait is at times a very rough stretch of water. The ferry would be exposed to this open expanse where seas and tides clash, for over an hour.
As it turned out, the passage, although quite chilly and windy, was remarkably smooth (unusually so), they were informed). It was like sailing on an inland lake. There is a forward facing deck over the bow on this vessel, and as the seas were calm, we were able to take advantage of this vantage point.
Paula did feel a bit queasy until she ordered breakfast and ate it, but then her tummy
The South Islands approach
In the sunrise, we see the Malborough Sounds ahead
settled just fine, and she was able to get some spectacular shots of the sunrise over Wellington, and later, the fjords coming into the South Island, thanks to that great camera and her windproof Gortex-lined jacket.
Gracie though was not so protected, and suffered from the cold wind. She spent much of the trip with Anthony valiantly trying to keep her warm in his arms when they were on deck, and plying her with hot tea when they retreated indoors.
The Malborough Sounds were as spectacular as Anthony recalled from trips there in his childhood, green hills all around, and still water in wondrous shades of blues and green. The color of the water didn’t really appear real, more like something in a painting and was unlike any other color Graci had ever seen.
There were flocks of birds conducting business 6 inches above the water, and diving down at intervals. It was still, peaceful, with tiny boats passing the ferry at intervals. The sound of these echoed off the surrounding hills.
Each bay had a little house or two nestled at the shore, isolated from everything but the changeable weather. It must be interesting to
live life like that, solitary, and being the first to feel the effects of approaching storms.
All too soon, the ferry turned into the last bay, and our trip was over. Awatere swung around completely and backed into her berth at Picton. We had some time here before continuing south to our first host's home, in the Awatere Valley.
Some locals we met on our walk around Picton included Kathy, who we talked to in the import-export shop and Juanita (an Australian married to a Kiwi), who we met in the quilting shop. Kathy is an expat, from San Fransisco, and she acted as an ambassador for Picton, urging us to settle there vs staying in the States. She had married a Kiwi diplomat, and then lost him to cancer a few years later.
The town was charming, if touristy, with lovely little shops and multiple homes nestled on the hills around the downtown area. After walking around a bit and a quick lunch (during which we saw a comical little roundish car, much covered with advertising - Anthony said they are very popular for publicity purposes), we made our way to Blenheim and beyond that town
to the Awatere Valley.
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