Monday 9th March – Nelson to Wellington
South to North we go on the Interislander ferry. This is a 3 hour scenic crossing that we spent on a covered part of the deck as although a fine day there was still a strong sea breeze as we sailed across the Cook Straights.
The ferry leaves the South Island from Picton, exiting the Queen Charlotte Sound. We have already explored part of this and the Marlborough sounds in the morning on our way over from Nelson. The Queen Charlotte drive is billed as a must do scenic drive so we had pushed back our ferry crossing to early afternoon to make sure we would see it. In the end this was a bit of a let down. We went for a short walk at a place called Pelorus Bridge. Other than seeing a river and suspension bridge in the first 5 minutes this walk was uninspiring but ate up 40 minutes. We then proceeded along and had a look at the bay from where the Queen Charlotte Track starts. In an ideal world we would have had time to walk part of this but our ferry was calling. Instead we went to Governors Bay (not the one in Christchurch as the lady in our previous hotel insisted it was) which was billed as an ideal swimming beach. We found it less than ideal with wasps, jellyfish and stones. I went for a wade but Vicki declined (Vicki – way too many sting-y, bite-y type things about). Instead we used our last half hour on the south island wandering around Picton which is a nice port town but nothing special. So although the drive was very scenic and sounds very impressive, without chance to go on a serious walk we didn’t really need much more time that it took to drive it as we could easily have just done a few lookouts on the way.
Arriving late afternoon in Wellington we once again opted to head out to explore straight away. You are probably getting the idea by now that we find a run is an ideal to explore a new area. Like yesterday we managed to find the biggest hill and run up it. There is a cable car that goes up to the botanic gardens so instead of getting the cable car we ran up. You get a good view of the city from up there which although not a classic skyline gave us the lay of the land. Running down through the botanic garden (the fragrant garden and sculpture gardens were our favourites) we headed back to the city for a run past the government buildings and part way along the harbour. Although it involved a tough hill again the run was good. There seem to be a lot of good runs around Wellington that would definitely give you a good work out, shame we don’t have more time here to explore.
Dinner was a curry. Very tasty food even if the special beer was special in price (not in the good way) more than anything else, would have been much cheaper back home at Prithi. After our credit card was declined as we may have hit our credit limit (oops, easily sorted with a call to the bank though), Vicki decided I should not spend any more on beer so we headed home to bed.
Tuesday 10th March – Wellington to Waitomo
An evening in Wellington was nowhere near enough. As such we dedicated the morning to it as well. An early start meant our priority was on breakfast. Cuba Street came as a surprise as nearly all the bars/cafes had a cuban theme to them. The previous evening we had seen it and written it off as a shopping street however we were very glad to explore further in the morning. Breakfast at Fidels was delicious in a very relaxed atmosphere. Best breakfast of the trip so far.
A walk along the harbour front filled in what we had not walked along the previous evening. They have dedicated a part of the civic square to a village green for the cricket world cup. It seems to us the New Zealanders are taking the cricket much more seriously than they did over in Oz and are a lot more excited about this. With the black caps doing very well we will now support them as we have been frequently reminded that England went out last night after another thrashing.
Final stop before leaving Wellington was the Museum of New Zealand. We had to move the car so paid to park there but otherwise the museum was free. It was worth every penny. This is a great museum and well worth a visit. Our favourites were the natural history (we now know the difference between a Kea and a Kaka) and the Maori history. We did get stuck in an antiques shop at one point showing an history of NZ by video and highlighting artefacts. As the only people in this terrible exhibit we spent our time trying to find the way out and fortunately succeeded. Go to the museum, but pass on Golden Days.
Leaving the museum we set off on an epic drive. This was to be our longest of the trip. As the left the GPS gave us 5 hours 49 minutes to go. We did break this up a bit (bakery lunch by beach, mini golf, national park views) but it was still quite a slog. Fortunately a large part (say 3 hours) was through national park which made it scenic and much more bearable but getting stuck behind a lorry in the last hour really stretched my patience. I was enjoying the open road before that.
In any case, the are now in Waitomo safe and sound and checked into our 1930’s chintzy hotel (Vicki says faded glamour). We have had a burger, I have had two beers and now intend to get another now I have finished writing and a long day driving. At least the long trips are now done. From here on in we have activities galore on our run in to Auckland.