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i woke up at 5:45 am, together with zack, woke up the rests and by 6:45 am, we checked out and later, pulling our bags, walked across the intersection into bluebridge ferry terminal. why did i choose bluebridge over interislander ferries when most visitors and tour packages prefer interislander? well, the main reasons were that the terminal is only a short walking distance (50m) from wellington downtown backpackers. the ticket prices are generally cheaper and bluebridge is also the pride of new zealanders while interislander is owned by foreigners (or so i’ve heard).
it was still dark when we entered the terminal building but check in time was at 7:00 am and we planned on taking the easy approach without rushing. the departure and arrival would be from 8:00 am to 11:18 am at picton. we checked in our bags and sat on the benches waiting along with other passengers. by 8:15 am, an announcement was made that monte stella’s departure would be postponed until 9:30 am as there was some mechanical problem with the engine. zack, ija and aina were giggling at the handsome bluebridge counter staff who got confused with his grammar while writing the delay notice on the white board. we were still fine with it and went outside for some photos. it was a windy and cold morning. i befriended a large fellow smoker of indian muslim origin from fiji who told me that bluebridge is known to change their schedules regularly. he was on his way to visit his sister at blenheim on the south island and went on a rant about the lack of halal meat especially in blenheim and generally in the south. the day before, he got stuck almost a day on the overlander train journey from auckland (where he lives) to wellington when the locomotive broke down and needed a replacement. he also advised me not to accelerate more than 106 km/h while driving on the state highway.
▼ dusk at wellington harbour with monte stella
▼ bluebridge’s santa regina
▼ wellington downtown backpackers in light green, taken from bluebridge terminal
▼ the beehive at centre
at 10:00 am, the handsome employee announced that a feeder bus would be coming to fetch us to interislander ferry instead. we were delighted at the news before he received a phone call and told us that our very own ailing monte stella was actually getting better and finally decided to chauffeur us across the strait. 20 minutes later the door behind the terminal was opened and we walked 100m along the harbour to the docking bay where monte stella’s stern was opening up to swallow us. we stepped on the apron ramp into the vehicle deck, climbed up two flight of narrow stairs and entered the passenger deck.
the seats were comfortable with enough leg room with a large screen showing the imaginarium of doctor parnassus. later we realized that there’s a door behind us that led to the outer viewing deck! everybody scrambled through the door to a spectacular view of wellington city. all of us sat on the wooden benches and at 10:30 am, monte stella began moving away from the harbour gently with intermittent loud grunts. it was windy and cold, but it was also sunny and the view was marvelously lighted into every detail. it was a slow ride but we loved every minute of it. we were leaving wellington bay and entering the cook strait. we also explored any deck that could be accessed by passengers, the side open deck and the stern deck. on the hilly end of the north island, we could also see the swirling blades of a wind farm, and when we left the rock formations of breaker bay, we left the harbour for good and into the deep blue cook strait.
▼▼ leaving wellington city
▼ nice weather
▼▼ leaving the harbour
▼▼ alif on the side deck
▼▼ zack and yomi
▼ leaving north island
we spent most of our 3 hours 100 km trip on the ferry sitting on different benches on the open deck and regularly glancing towards the south hoping to glimpse the coastline of the south island. the cold winter wind was blowing hard against me but hardly undeterred as i began to see an outline of snow capped mountains miles away and i ran towards the others inside the cabin deck to tell them. they came outside and gleefully watching the mountains getting nearer. later we approached the south island through marlborough sounds, covering extensive networks of sounds, islands and peninsulas. the sea was dark green and it was a sight to behold. the ferry captain gave an announcement that the ferry was approaching picton and dark clouds began to engulf the sounds with a light rain and all of us returned to our seats inside the passenger deck. 30 minutes later, the ship successfully docked at 1:30 pm and we began descending the stairs carefully towards the vehicle deck and out through the stern of monte stella onto picton harbour.
▼ snowcapped mountains!
▼ entering marlborough sounds
▼▼ watching the views with both kids sleeping
▼▼ arapawa island
during that time, the clouds were again clearing and a feeder bus was idly waiting to send us to picton bluebridge terminal about 1 km away. when the bus dropped all the passengers at the terminal, we rummaged through all the checked baggages and found ours. i called ace rentals to inform that we had arrived at the terminal and the staff said that she would be coming to fetch us in 30 minutes. we waited at the terminal with alif and yomi playing at a wet playground next to the building. then i called dorset house to inform them that we would be arriving late since the ferry got delayed. i also tried to walk towards our rental car office lot but decided to return after 300m of walking because it was too far away, about 1.5 km from us. the rental company is located next to interislander terminal, near picton town while bluebridge terminal is further north near the railway terminus.
20 minutes later, a roughly 5 year old white toyota estima (my guess) arrived and the driver, susan from ace rentals came out, she introduced herself and apologized for being late. we got in the car and she drove back to the office and i went inside the office with her to fill up some forms. i decided to take the more expensive insurance that included windshield protection as our trip would be longer than the previous trips. i also had to rent snow chains as required by the law to drive in mountainous roads during winter. she was very friendly and gave me an on hand instruction on how to apply snow chains by squatting next to the car. we shook hands, i got in the car while susan locked the office door and began walking towards the town. inside the car, getting the feel of a new (old) car was one thing, but missing the hand break lever was another thing! as i could not locate the lever, i got out of the car and hollered at susan who was 40m away to come back and helped us. when i told her that i could not find the hand break, she laughed and said that the same thing happened to many drivers before and pointed to a pedal further left to the accelerator pedal. so it was not a hand break anymore! we thanked her and left the parking area, moved slowly passed picton town and drove through sh1 again southbound. it was 2:15 pm.
the delay of the ferry led me to speed things up a little bit, a quick stop for a toilet break on the outskirt of picton near the airport. another long stop at the town of blenheim’s new world for food supplies and mcdonald’s take away. and we drove along dry horticultural farmland with vast vineyard areas and when i drove passed seddon, the snow capped mountains we saw earlier on the ferry came into view. it is the kaikoura mountain ranges and our second snowy mountains after mt. ruapehu. our spirit lifted and the highway descended to the shoreline of the eastern side of the island facing the south pacific. the sh1 runs alongside the tranzcoastal railway line from picton to christchurch and the mountain and sea views were amazing. we stopped near the ohau point lookout and saw a colony of seals on the rock formation below us. later i stopped for a short cigarette break and it was almost dark but the quiet moment, with cattles grazing near the highway gave me a feeling that could not be described with words.
▼ quick stop near picton airport
▼ with companion #3
▼ alif without shoes!
▼ blenheim’s new world
▼ near seddon for an early glimpse of the mountains
▼ kaikoura mountains
▼▼ pulling over near ohau point lookout
▼ state highway 1 alongside tranzcoastal rail track
▼ watching the seals
▼ the seals
we entered kaikoura in semi darkness and did not stop as our journey was far from over. later, all the passengers were dozing off and i was left alone to navigate the road. it felt a lot like night driving to my hometown in kelantan except that time it was really cold. alif shared the same feeling when he asked me repeatedly whether we were on our way home to kelantan and demanded the where about of his grandparents’ house. we took a toilet break at chevron but the freezing wind did not let us stay long before we continued towards christchurch.
when we entered the outskirts of christchurch, i mistook a signpost and turned into harewood st. where i stopped to look at a map, but then ija realized that next to our car was a cemetery and everybody got scared and urged me to leave the place. i had to u-turn and rejoined sh1 and finally found the road that would led directly to the city centre, memorial ave. after 345 km of driving, we arrived on the doorstep of dorset house at 8:00 pm and parked our car at the parking compound at the back of the two storey house. the reception area was already vacant but they left our door key inside an envelope pasted on the main door. our room was on the 2nd floor, with a queen size bed and two singles but no bathroom, so we had to share with the others. i took a bath, zack and ija went to the kitchen area to prepare dinner and later brought our bread with tuna sandwiches back to the room. it was delicious.
next» soul searching road trip oznz – day 8 (13/06/2010)