Sunday 22nd – Windy, wet Wellington.. We have a ferry to catch tomorrow and so need to make it to Wellington by Sunday evening where we are booked in to Rowena’s VIP Backpackers. With that to look forward to we head south out of Taupo and along the pretty road that skirts the huge lake before ascending into the central hills. The surroundings become gradually more craggy and desert like and the huge central mountains become an obstacle to circumvent. Mt. Ngaurtuhoa is the largest of these. There is still lots of snow about on the peak and the general temperature has dropped significantly. Gradually we leave the plateau behind us and travel through the more verdant wine fields before approaching Wellington. We can tell that we are approaching civilisation again when we come across a polo game in full swing in the town of Sansom. I manage to get a shot of a score before a shower drives me back to the car.
As we arrive on the outskirts of Wellington the heavens truly open and soon we are driving through a deluge of real proportions. The local drivers must be used to it because they continue to speed through it while I am guessing where the road goes most of the time. As the rain eases to a drizzle Marilyn navigates us easily through a quiet Sunday afternoon Wellington to our maze of a hostel. Our stay here is purely expedient as we have to be up and away early to hand in the car and check in for the ferry the following morning. The room is basic but it is lovely to have a soft mattress and a decent pillow to sleep on. Like most of these budget places the kitchen facilities are adequate and it is all comfortable enough.
We stroll around a drizzly Wellington on a Sunday evening so we are not seeing it at its best but we are not really impressed mightily by what we see. It could be any city in its centre. I remember from my last visit that the bayside in the sun is pretty but we are not going to see that tonight and head back for a sleep in a bed for a change.
Monday 23rd – Ferries, funny tummies and mud huts……
We make the ferry with time to spare and soon realise that we are on the smallest of the Interislander fleet of three. I notice that although the day has started fine, there is the usual Wellington wind and I suspect we might have an interesting ride. However we are not worried as we have both endured very rough crossings to France and to Holland. Why should this little three hour jaunt cause any problems to such hardened sailors? Still Marilyn expresses her disappointment that we are on the ‘Baby bear ferry” as we settle in our seats right at the bow with a panoramic view of our journey to look forward to. The captain greets us with the announcement that conditions in Cook’s Strait will be ‘less than favourable’ and we should not use the toilets if we are sea-sick but the bags provided. As we pull out of the lee of the harbour I can see the white tops and estimate it is blowing a force seven. Within moments spray is breaking against the windows of the observation lounge and the bow is crashing through waves that are rapidly increasing in size. I decide to go out onto the outside deck to get the full benefit of the conditions and leave Marilyn looking after the bags. I am surprised after a while, to see her staggering out to join me. Everyone by now is staggering and gripping handrails. She says she is feeling a bit funny but will be fine if she can fix on the horizon. Within a few minutes I turn around to see her collapsed on the deck, a putrid green colour and gripping her newly acquired sick bag like it is a long lost friend. She has mercifully not been sick, but has actually passed out and needs to lie down under the seats.
In this recumbent foetal position the worst of the journey passes for her without further incident and eventually the sea calms again as we approach the inlet to the Sound that leads us into Picton after another hour and a half sailing.
Recovered, she can enjoy the quite stunning progress through this brilliant blue water, the islands and inlets that make up the Marlborough Sounds. The weather has done us proud again and the colours are showing off to their best as we arrive to pick up a fresh car in the little port of Picton.
Hawkswood Staging Post…..
We have nowhere booked to stay tonight and decide to see what we can find near Kaikoura, famous for whale watching and swimming with dolphins. After our recent ferry experience and with the sea still raging in the fresh northerly wind we will probably not go out on a boat tomorrow! Another Highway 1 that hugs the sea is a delight to drive. At times we are literally feet from the water. I have Marilyn on whale watch but the water is a little too choppy. We do see sea lions on some of the beaches however.
Kaikoura is a busy little place and although there are plenty of places to find a room there are only large campsites so I follow my instincts to get out of town and away from the beaten track. Some small campsites right on the water’s edge are spoilt by having the highway also only feet away and seem to have some people from the cast of ‘Deliverance’ staying there long term, so we head into the hills for an hour and spy a little sign that leads to ‘Stagecoach at Hawkswood’ on the Kaikoura Walking Trail. Now this sounds ideal and we head into yet another little paradise. We discover there are campsites ( we would be the only campers) but there are also some little rustic cabins for $55 a night. The cabin we are offered is delightful. Called Pise, it is essentially a little cob hut with a huge pine bed and cosy interior. I like the washstand fitted into a wine barrel for instance.
We have free run of a kitchen and the showers and toilets as there are no walkers here tonight just the three students who help out. The place has an interesting history as a farm and a staging post between Christchurch and Kaikoura. Weary travellers have been calling in here for ages for a roof and some tucker and we are no exception. The last owner, who has recently died in his late eighties, was a lover of the arts and brought ballet and music to Hawkswood and staged an open air festival each year, as well as renovating and building from scratch original horse carriages and coaches. His son and his partner have started renovating the place and have teamed up with two neighbouring farms to create a three day walking experience with stops along the way in this place and two other similar bunkhouses. It is a little haven set in the hills and far enough away from the main road to be very quiet. The night stars here are as clear as I have ever seen except in the Australian centre. Marilyn awards me lots of Brownie Points for finding such a spot and deciding on the bed for the second night on the row. I begin to fear we are going soft and have decided we camp tomorrow when we reach Lake Tekapo – come what may.