Saturday began, as all Saturdays should, with a sleep-in, followed by breakfast. We went for a road trip inland, to the Wairarapa area. To get there from Wellington meant crossing a mountain range, known as Rimutaka’s. This was my first introduction to the sorts of roads I’d be travelling on for the next two weeks. Almost without exception one lane each way, twisting and curving, etched into the contours of the mountains. Sheer rises on one side, dramatic falls on the other. At least on this road the relevant traffic authority had deigned to provide a barrier between the roadway and the steep drop just beyond – other roads later in the trip weren’t so fortunate.
The area is famous for its wineries, so we stopped by at a couple – Ata Rangi and Te Kairanga – to taste their wares. I was quite grateful for the superior knowledge and experience of my brother in law in this area – he was able to explain the process, expound the virtues of different kinds of wine, and most importantly, provide an example that I could follow and pretend I knew what I was doing. I’d never been wine tasting before, but I’m quite glad I have now. I took note of some of the wines I found agreeable after discovering most were available in Australia.
We had lunch at a cafe in Martinborough, where I ate some delicious corn fritters topped with avocado, sour cream, bacon and sweet chilli sauce. Not exactly the most healthy of lunches, but the fantastic flavour made up for it. After lunch, we drove to Carterton to visit Stonehenge Aotearoa – a replica of Stonehenge, adjusted to function correctly as a calendar in relation to its latitude and longitude. Unfortunately when we arrived, we learned that a 90 minute tour had commenced about 30 minutes ago, so we’d have to wait about an hour before we could visit. We decided it wasn’t quite worth waiting around for an hour, so I took some photos from the car park, and we headed home. That night was Wellington’s CYC, so I got to catch up with some vaguely familiar faces.
Sunday morning I woke up to the sound of rain falling on the roof and streaming down the windows. It was falling softly, although an occasional gust of wind flung the rain onto the window with greater force. We had the Nicholls family and Lance over for a delicious roast lunch, followed by an afternoon relaxing.
Monday I caught a lift with Jonners into Wellington city. The day started off cloudy and windy, and slowly progressed to being sunny and windy. Wellington was certainly living up to it’s reputation as being windy.
The ferry we were booked on departed at 2pm, so I planned to take things easy, and relax in a coffee shop with my book. Steve’s flight from Auckland was due in about 10, although it was after 11 by the time he showed up at the train station. He needed to charge the battery for his camera, so we went back to the coffee shop and begged to use a power point for a while. It probably helped that I knew the person I was asking – I don’t think I’d have the guts to ask some total stranger if I could use a power point in their shop for an hour or so.
Anyway, while we were having coffee, Steve suggested we do some research into car hire companies that were more local. He rang a few listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook, and found one that would hire us a car for about half the price that Hertz were going to. With that, it was time to head to the train station, where the bus for the ferry terminal would depart. I’d checked the location earlier in the morning, and the sign there said the bus would leave 50 minutes before the ferry was due to depart, so we got there around 1pm. And waited. And waited some more.
At 1:30, Steve rung the ferry company. They assured us a bus was on its way, and not to worry. I think it was about 1:40pm that a shuttle bus arrived, and the bus driver announced that he was filling in for the normal bus. We never did find out what happened to the regular bus. Luckily the ferry terminal was only about 10 minutes away. We hurriedly checked in, and in the process, handed over our suitcases in much the same way as checking in for a flight. A couple of minutes later, boarding was announced, and we walked up a long passageway that led onto the ferry.
We were both pretty hungry at this point, so we bought some lasagna and L&P for lunch, and watched out the window as we slowly left Wellington harbour. Afterward, we went up onto the top deck to get an unrestricted view of the coastline we were leaving behind. It was really windy up there, and fairly cold, so we had the deck almost to ourselves. Later, when the coastline had disappeared and the coast of the south island was just a smudge on the horizon, we went back downstairs, and found some nice comfy chairs aft. I had a bit of a snooze – the regular motion of the swell was making me feel a bit nauseous now that I was inside and at the front of the boat.
When we got into the sounds of the south island the water was a lot calmer, and there was actually something to look at. We spent a bit of time on the front deck, taking photos of the gorgeous scenery. Once we disembarked, we headed over to the strip of rental car agencies, located Ace rentals, and hired our car. It was a fairly old looking car, probably mid 90s, with the interior trim a brown colour that looked like something from the 80’s. There were plenty of stone chips, scratches, dents and other cosmetic blemishes to ensure were fully documented before we signed our lives away. And with that, we were off to Kaikoura.
Actually, we only got a short distance before we realised we had no idea which road to take through town to get us in the right direction, so it was time to break out the GPS. It was pretty dark at this point, and the last thing we’d eaten was the meagre portion of lasagna at lunch time, so we stopped at a convenience store to fill up with snacks and water, before progressing down the coast towards Kaikoura. It was an interesting drive, with an unfamiliar car, at night time, driving over some mountain range, replete with switchbacks, hairpin turns and generally windy roads.
I’ll leave our adventures in Kaikoura to part 3.
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