Monday, 10 March 2008

Mon 25th Feb, Crossing the Cook Strait

Mon 25th Feb 2008, Ferry Windy
Early start today, a 6am-er, Wayne and Debbie kindly picked me up at seven and ferried me down to the erm ferry at Picton. This is the first ferry I've been
on that has (A) multiple decks and (B) a check-in baggage facility, looks serious
The 10-story, 180 metre craft pulled out of a tranquil Wellington harbour and
headed out towards the Cook Strait (so called cos Jimmy Cook the ledge from
Whitby spotted it from a lookout point on the South Island. There was a bit of
cloud in the air but the sun began to shiiiiiine through as waved goodbye to
Wellers, my base for a few days. As we cruised past the airport, past Red Rocks
and out into the open sea the wind began to pick up at Karori Rip where the two
tides meet, it's notoriously rough here even on calm days, which today
definately was. A hardy bunch of passengers were out on the sun deck with
and like me were giddly photographing every inch of coastline still visible.
The journey takes about 3.5 hours but as soon as you leave the North Island the
South Island mountains are clearly visible. The wind became exceptionally
strong, the strongest I've ever experienced as white crested waves sped across the sea. I clung onto to the top deck safety rail and faced off the wind for a good half an hour as one after the other my fellow passengers succumbed to the stinging
'stiff breeze'. It was great for clearing out the cobwebs, not so great for the
old chap who got blown right off his feet. It was amazing how the wind got up
so forcefully given that either end of the journey was a calm as calm can be.
Eventually I took shelter inside the boat until the looming S. Island mountains
came clear into view and we curved around the near side of Perano Head and
through Whenkeul (Whenke = Octopus) Bay. We cruised through the near empty shipping lanes of Tory Channel and the beautiful vista of Queen Charlotte Sound (QCS) opened up infront of us. A 'Sound' by the way is an estury formed by water cutting thru the underlying rock and at here the rocks are towering mountains that flank the river, they plunge aggressively from the sky to the bottom of the sea, imagine Scottish Loch's that open out into the sea. QCS gradually revealed
itself to us with lots of interesting looking tree-lined inlets providing
tantalising insights into what might lay ahead on my journey though the South
Island. The cruise up QCS is worth the fare ($60NZ) alone - on a good day
at any rate. I couldn't help but think how hardcore the first group of Western
sailors must have been to float their wooden vessel up these imposing natural
alleyways not knowing what was lurking around every corner. Maximum repsect.
We finally cruised into Picton as the sun bathed the little town which lies deep
in the Sound. I spent most of the journey dashing from one side of the boat to
the other to get the best photies, I hope they turn out alright!

Little place of 4,700 inhabitants, I sat under a palm tree on the seafront and
basked in the sunshine for an hour until my bus to Christchurch arrived. End

Picton to Kaikora

I spent the first half of the bus journey being excited by the new scenery and
landscape that was unfolding as we made progress along the coastal road that
cris-crosses the east coast railway line. I then spent the scond half of the
journey calulating exactly how long it might take to get to Kiakora as I'd
a litre of milk in Picton and was now crossing legs harder than a bride at an
arranged wedding, error!


is a groovy looking little town that sits on the coast. We had a 30
minute (much appreciated) break, I had a nosy around and could see the
attraction to the place, the beach provides access to swimming with dolphins and
sperm whale spotting whilst the mountains enable trampers adequate opportunities
to stretch their legs. [Picture shows Kiakora beach]

Kiakora to Christchurch
was a less traumatic affair for me as the bus driver
rather helpfully pointed out places of interest and indeed seals basking in the
sunshine on the rocks which I would have completely missed if left to my own
unobservant devices. We passed through the flat wine-growing region of the
Canterbury Plains. They get the least amount of rainfail on both islands here,
it's a little like Cambridgeshire and East Anglia in England. The main reasons
for the lack of rainfall here are the complicated weather patterns and the fact
that this region lies in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps on the Western
side of the island, the clouds get stuck on the mountains here and dump their
contents on the western side of the country, a bit like the way Lancashire gets
all the rain that Yorkshire deserves but for the dastardly Pennines!
The bus was hot but not overcrowded, we cruised into Christchurch centre some
5.5hrs after the start of the journey. I quickly got my bearings and trudged
off to my single (much coveted and about twice as expensive as a normal 'dorm'
room) at my pre-booked lodgings Dorset House which is right opposite the main
park in the city, nice.

Beaut of an evening deserved to be celebrated as such so what better than to hit
the top Belgian Beer bar in the town. Walking through town generates a surreal
de ja vous feeling for an Englishman. Christchurch is more English than any
English city I've been to. There are red brick buildings, stone clock towers,
street names named after old English cities eg. York, Chester, Gloucester and so
on. There's an Oxford and a Cambridge Terrace (the swankiest area naturally)
which flank the river Avon. There's people jogging and cycling in the park,
fish and chip shops, botanical gardens and the list goes on. So, back to the
matter in hand, a nice bottle of Chimay Blue, followed by a Red then a Yellow
ensured that I adhered to the Eating is Cheating motto, The Rear would have been
proud. Moved on to a microbrew ale at Dux De Lux then met a couple of German
girls whose names I cannot remember and followed the bars as they sequentially closed, all except for a music bar, ended up playing pool then headed home on the beer scooter having definatly done my bit for the NZ brewing industry.

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