We left the North Island from Wellington harbour. The ferry that we had seen bear oceanward from hilltops around the city with new friends for company carried us one morning across the Cook Strait. Those same hilltops bowed further to the horizon with each wave that crashed across the bow, underfoot damped to a gentle roll by the vessel’s size.
The approach to Picton, the port on the South Island, navigates one of the coastal inlets in the Marlborough Sounds. The boat meets this landscape at a slower pace and there is shelter from the ferocity of the winds through the Strait. The others remained sheltered in the lounge, soaking up the last of the wifi rather than the first sights of new land.
West of Picton we had a few days of fine weather. We swam in the sea and in tidal inlets. We wandered beaches and clambered about on rocks. This area is supposed to have the South Island’s best weather but the rain eventually—sooner than hoped—arrived.
The forecast promised better conditions on the east coast. The decision was made to go where the weather was good now, thinking that we would be coming back up at some point. But enthusiasm for life on the road and the new places along the way remained low. We hardly gave ourselves time to adjust back to it. Kris and Saunders took increasingly to sleeping in the car. In Christchurch we didn’t even get out to walk around the earthquake-damaged city center.
The default choice is to drive. While it’s always an option and it feels like something has been achieved New Zealand is not a big country. From the north west we did three 300km+ days to our final nights camp on the shores of Lake Dunstan.
In the morning only an hour’s drive remained to Queenstown. There would be the Wellington-type situation of having someone to stay with, and the end of this chapter of the trip.