Sunday, March 14, 2010
Wellington to Picton to Christchurch
Wellington to Picton to Christchurch
There are two main islands which make up the country of New Zealand. The ferry ride between the two takes about three hours, and, from North to South, from the port of Wellington to the port of Picton. For those of you from Prince Edward County, it must come as a shock to realize that it takes three hours to go from Wellington to Picton. It is what it is.
The night before we headed to Picton, we were treated to a fine New Zealand storm. We had just returned to the trailer park on the outskirts of Wellington when we were hit with hail, driving rian, and gale force winds. They say that you can have four seasons in one day in Wellington.
It is an incredible trip from Welly to Picton. Once we had tucked our vehicle away in the bowels of the ship, we took our place on board. There was plenty of sunshine, and rough seas leaving Wellington; however, as we approached the South Island, through the Cook Strait, the seas calmed and we began to approach the harbour. It takes perhaps an hour to get into the town of Picton, through the fiords. Cliffs on either side tower several thousand feet above the sea.
We struck out from Picton, down the coast to Kaikoura. distances and times are deceiving here, as some roads twist and wind with recommended speed limits of no more than 30 kilometres per hour. As you crawl along the ledge of the ocean, or the side of a mountain, with inches between the edge of the road and eternity, you begin to respect the speed limits.
There are whale watching expeditions out of Kiakoura. We passed on this because we had seen the orca whales performing in Wellington. But the mountains, with snow, and the grinding ocean at our feet, made the stop worthwhile. The Pacific was not inviting at this location, with a deep drop-off, slashing waves, and a difficult pebble shore. (friends from Holland who did take the whale watch trip received 80% back when they returned. That is the guarantee if you do not see any whales.)
We were treated to a wonderful display of seals, old and young, basking in the late afternoon sun, just before we arrived at Kiakoura. There were more than a hundred of them: young ones fighting over the turf, old ones keeping an eye on the flock, all taking advantage of the sun. As we headed off, one large one was attempting to cross the road, right in front of me. Put up a sign! All I needed was anothere headline about Canadians killing seals!
The road from Kiakoura to Christchurch is made up of two entirely different venues. The first, from Kiakoura to Cheviot, is your basic shit-your-pants twists and turns. The second, smooth sailing at 100kph. Go figure: they look identical on the map.
We stopped at a little craft fair in Cheviot. There were eight ladies at the side of the road, in front of the elementary school selling their wares. Spinning and weaving, working the wool. One lady told us she gotr the wool from Peggy Sue, but only once a year. Beautiful sweaters, scarves, and other knitted items.
Christchurch proved to be somewhat enigmatic, on the Sunday afternoon. We took the tram route around the city core, and it was a pleasure. I watched the Salvation Army band, with a thought for Bram Humphries, at the Art Gallery stop. They played the Army standards: How Great Thou Art, and`added an upbeat When the Saints Go Marchin' In. I particularly enjoed an exerpt from handel's Xerxes. Fine stuff!
The area around the bus terminal needs a little attention. Pretty grungy, for such a fine city. We watched the boys and men prepare for an afternoon concert at the cathedral, saw the cricketers in the park, but passed on the punt ride. Careful with that one, George!
Sunday, March 15, 2010