New Zealand Diaries #11 (Courtesy Laura McCullough)

New Zealand part 9: Ferry to South Island

6 Jan. We are up early at 07:00 for a 09:00 ferry. Eat fast and pack up quickly, head to check out. We take a somewhat circuitous route to the ferry along the quay. We’ve done interisland ferries before, but you never know what type it will be. The rental car return is not very clearly marked; it looks like they expect us to just park it in a sort of alley full of other rental cars. So we pull up tight at the back of the alley, and we’re parking in other cars two deep. Drop the keys off in a box in the terminal. There is a huge queue! And I’m glad I noticed online that larger backpacks may need to be checked. We wait in the queue and get to the desk, where we are told we need to check our bags. Bummer.

We travel with two mid-sized backpacks only. Carry-on, no wheels, easy to get through messy streets. We love the freedom that backpacks give. It is annoying to have to check them. But we grab the smaller rucksack that we had prepped, and hand over the bags. They are tagged just like with an airline flight, and tossed onto a conveyor belt. Then onto the gangway and up into the bowels of the ship. We enter the ferry on level 5 and the passenger decks are levels 7 and 8. It’s pretty crowded, no open tables.

We end up on level 8, sharing a table with another couple, Simon & Susan. They are on holiday celebrating their 40th anniversary. Recreating earlier vacations to South Island, and taking 3 weeks to do it! Both of them are cheerful and good companions for the three-hour cruise. (Not THAT kind of three-hour cruise!) It is beautiful and sunny again. Our weather luck really is holding. Windy, of course. The crossing is smooth, very little motion of the ship.

Kelly gets a lamb and kumara pie, following his “order something you don’t recognize” rule of thumb. Susan tells us that kumara is sweet potato. It’s good. The menu lists a GF mince pie, so I order one and it’s delicious! Minced beef, no onion, nice gravy. Simon offers us his “sweet” (dessert) which is ginger nuts. They are a very hard ginger biscuit (cookie). We buy vouchers for wifi on board but can’t get it to work on either iPad, so we get them refunded. We were glad to be on deck 8: deck 7 had the kids room and a kids show. Overall it was a great crossing.

On to South Island! We arrive in Picton, wait a while for our bags at the baggage claim, then wait a really long time for our rental car. Note to us: one waits for baggage while the other grabs the car! We stop at the iSite, walk through a little park to the public WC. They have an adorable train on a knee-high track. The conductor has his knees nearly touching his chin, but he’s grinning. At 20 cents a ride, it’s tempting. But we want to get to Christchurch today. Christchurch is shortened to CHCH by locals; makes sense.

We start our four hour drive going through arid hills. Tons of wineries: Marlborough district. Beige and tan rather than the greens I prefer. The brown hills continue as we move inland a bit, then things green up as we get back towards the coast. A few km outside Blenheim we picked up two young women hitchhiking and we gave them a lift the short distance into town. They told us that New World supermarket has good wifi. Strange, but OK! One was German, one was French-Canadian.

We stop at the grocery for snacks and internet. Kelly finds a hotel online and books us for two nights in CHCH. Then a long drive. Sunny all day, as usual. Kelly took over for 2 hours of driving, his first left-side driving since our wedding trip 20 years ago! We stopped at any interesting-looking lookouts or pullouts. Near Ohau, there was a great lookout that had lots of NZ fur seals! And they had pups! Adorable little things with little balance on land, making cute noises as they call for their parents.

We get into CHCH around 6:30, and we were both exhausted. It’s very tiring driving on the left, on narrow roads where you can’t stop paying attention for much time at all. The hotel is nice, great kitchen area. A fridge for our milk! No hot cocoa packets, though. The in-room guest book has menus for local eateries. A pizza place has GF crusts advertised! So we drive to Hell. No, really, we ate in Hell. I wanted Greed (ham, pineapple, extra cheese) and Kelly desired Lust (6 types of meat). We eat half and save the other half for breakfast. Yummy!

Drop off the extra pizza in our room, and then take a short walk up the street to the River Avon. It’s flanked by Oxford Terrace on one side and Cambridge Terrace on the other. Other street names: Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Coleridge. <3! There are some signs of the earthquake 3 years ago: houses boarded up, other houses freshly painted, empty lots and empty foundations.

We see a “Post Haste” delivery truck, and earlier today we passed a “Refridgerfreighters” lorry. (sp?) Tattoos are very common in NZ. One of our guides suggests that it’s a way for people to connect to their Maori heritage. Lots of tribal tattoos.

Back to the room to collapse. The walk felt good. This is the first hotel we’ve been at with body gel instead of a soap bar. No conditioner, just a dispenser for shampoo. I’ve been trying the local shampoos. The flax oil shampoo needed to be shaken up before I used it. Eeuw. Other flax oil products have been fine. I tried a lavender one that smelled just like spring.

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I’ve been traveling in Hawaii and New Zealand and will be posting links to the pictures soon.

Whenever we travel my wife does a travel diary while I take most of the pictures. I use her notes as my references for later use for books and other things. She has been gracious enough to allow me to share them here on my site for those who are interested.