Picton, New Zealand
A big move north today as we gradually make our way back towards Auckland and the onward flights.
Drawing the curtains this morning revealed a stormy and rain-lashed Christchurch, so I am really glad we had a day here yesterday rather than today – it would have been a lot less fun. After brekkers the concierge recovered the car from somewhere nearby and loaded it with cases for us, then we made a dash through the rain and jumped in. Bye-bye to Grand Chancellor and bye-bye Christchurch. Getting out of the city seemed dead easy now I have the one-way roads sussed and we were on Hwy 1 north in no time at all. We even had a motorway for a few miles, though it doesn’t let you drive any faster than the main roads.
I kept the car moving across the Canterbury plains and we made a quick 150 km to Kaikoura, a town by the Pacific Ocean, for coffee. The rain had stopped soon after leaving Christchurch, but it had stayed grey and cool this far. Temptingly we could see blue skies on the horizon and as we hadn’t had a day without sunshine yet, I hoped today wasn’t going to be the exception. Kaikoura is one of the main places in New Zealand for embarking on whale and dolphin-watching cruises, but looking at the steep Pacific waves and grey skies, it didn’t seem awfully tempting today.
From Kaikoura it’s back heading north with the views along the coast getting more and more spectacular. Snow-covered mountains on one side, steep Pacific breakers on the other. It wasn’t long before we broke out into the sun. At about the same time we reached Ohau Point, which is supposed to have a seal colony. We piled out to take a look, nearly got blown over, but indeed there was a large colony of seals on the rocks below. You could see them, occasionally hear them, and if, like me, you got within 200 feet, you could smell them! These were New Zealand fur seals, though I am not quite sure what difference they are from other seals (apart from the passport, obviously).
After a bit of seal-watching, it was back on the road for another 150km to Blenheim for coffee and a bun. We reached there before 2.30 and I pulled the car up right outside a deli. Got out the car and found they were closing. 2-bloody-30, can you believe!? They only opened at 10, so that’s hardly a working day now is it? There are some people where I work at the Uni that would consider 2.30pm a bit of a late morning start. Those young New Zealander’s that come to work in London for a year or two must think they have dropped into the seventh circle of hell. Mind you, I think that about London too and I was born there!
But anyway, rant over. There was a second cafe over the road that was staying open until the dizzyingly late hour of 3pm. We got our coffee, etc. I noticed there was a Turkish kebab shop down the road with a very prominent, large sign outside ‘Yes, We Are Open’ – I am not sure if the sarcasm was deliberate or not. Did a bit of a tour of Blenheim, but there wasn’t that much to see, so we headed off out. It turned out that whilst driving away from the town centre the town looked a lot nicer with parks and wide streets, but Picton and the ferry port were calling.
Picton is only 20 mins down the road from Blenheim and we got there in plenty of time to secure a massive apartment in the Broadway Motel – our biggest yet. Picton itself is pretty, but a bit of a disappointment. It’s really just a dropping-off point for the ferry and I suspect that most people do basically what we did when we arrived going the other way, and drive straight through. Still it’s a bed for the night and means we can be up at a civilised hour for the ferry back to North Island in the morning.