Posted by: dammer145 | November 1, 2008

The ferry to Picton

As we were too tired from our trip the day before, we were going to have a look around Wellington before we had to catch the ferry. We woke up to a very windy morning (our camper was literally shaking back and forth) and had some breakfast. As the weather was so bad, I called the Interislander company to make sure that the ferry would be sailing. They assured me it would be departing as scheduled.

We made our way into Wellington centre, only a 10 minute drive from the camping. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, although it has a lot less inhabitants than Auckland (400.000 compared to 1 million). We didn’t have very much time so we wanted to do one thing: the Te Papa museum. Te Papa is more or less the defining museum of New Zealand: it contains exhibitions on it’s natural world, it’s history, and a very large exhibition on Maori history, culture, traditions along with a large collection of Maori artifacts. Once we arrived we immediately went on two “rides”: one under the sea that showed us how the volcanic activity in New Zealand works and another that gave us a general overview of New Zealand. After that we went through the various exhibitions in a rather high tempo; we only had about 2,5 hours before we had to make our way to the ferry terminal. Afterwards I bought a book with pictures of New Zealand and Anouk bought a cuddly Tui bird.

Te Papa Museum.

We left the museum and were almost blown away: whilst we had been inside the wind had gained even more strength and it had started to rain now, lashing our faces. The ferry drive was only about 5 minutes from Te Papa. Once we got there we learnt we could have stayed in Te Papa for another 30 minutes: the ferry was running rather late due to the bad weather. We had some lunch in the camper while we waited. The ferry terminal is situated in a rather sheltered cove that by then was covered in thick fog – our camper was being rocked back and forth quite heavily as we ate our sandwiches. Anouk was not looking forward to the prospect of crossing in weather like that.

Bracing the storm together!

The ferry arrived and after all the ships onboard had disembarked we were allowed on. We set off and at first it seemed quite sedate – once we hit the channel however the boat was at a constant angle of about 20 degrees – the wind was blowing so hard from the starboard side that the ferry was being pushed to the port side. By this time Anouk was cutting off the blood supply to my right arm… Once we had crossed the Cook Straight between the north and the south island we came into calmer waters. Before you get to the terminal on the south island you pass through the Marlborough Sounds – a fjord-like set of hills and mountains that rise out of the sea.

Soon we arrived in Picton, the other end of the crossing. Picton is a lovely little town. Situated in the middle of the Sounds, it is surrounded by steep, high hills on each side. Picton is not very big – it has three or four streets, a couple of (surprisingly modern) pubs and restaurants. We checked in to the local camping, then walked to the “centre” for something to eat. We ended up in a place called “Escape to Picton”, apparently famous for it’s seafood platter for two. How could we resist!

Picton harbour.

Now here comes the funny part: via a rather obscure path we started talking with a couple in the restaurant. They turned out to be Flemish, here to promote knowledge about New Zealanders who took part in the First World War in the Fields of Flanders, some of them never to return. He worked for SD Worx, who my mother also has done some work for. Once I mentioned her name, he knew her! What a small world – out in the murky backwaters of New Zealand, in a tiny restaurant with about three tables, we met somebody who I had a connection to – very, very peculiar.

The food was excellent at the Escape. The desert I ordered was a lot bigger than I had expected though – I didn’t manage to finish it.

That evening the NZ rugby team (the All Blacks) were playing in Hong Kong against the Australians (the Wallabies). We headed round the corner to Oxleys, the local pub, to watch the game. In Taupo I had bought myself an All Blacks t-shirt, which of course, I wore that evening. NZ won 19 to 14!

We headed back to the camping and fell asleep, aided by wine and beer.

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