South Island here we come….

2 Dec


Saturday

Back on the bus again and off to Wellington.  Travelling through the North Island reminds me of Wales… except that it’s more Walesier than Wales… the grass is greener, the mountains are more mountainous, the hills are hillier, the skies are bluer, the clouds are fluffier, the bushes are bushier, the sheep are.. well, sheepier – it’s all incredibly beautiful even on the flat bits (‘flat’ here is a relative term meaning ‘not quite so mountainous’).  The trees seem to be clinging on to the mountains by some magical power at impossible angles. On any other trip I might read a book during the boring bits.  On this trip there aren’t any boring bits…

Wellington is a kinda funky city.. Time again to catch up on stuff, plan my book, catch a movie.. The museum is fun, with a giant squid and an earthquake simulator – although the stories of the refugees to new Zealand brought tears to my eyes, and sadness to my heart.

And then onto the ferry.. I decided to walk to the ferry, which in retrospect was a huge mistake – there’s a reason they run a shuttle service.  Because it’s a LONG WAY.  Especially when you have a VERY HEAVY PACK.

The fun starts when we leave Wellington – watching the beautiful hills recede into the background while the sea breeze gets rid of all the cobwebs.. And after a while, watching the cliffs of South Island appear out of the distance.  But of course, the path to Picton lies through Queen Charlotte Sound, a network of fjords that to the Maori resembled a tree.  Each turn reveals new joys, unveiling new views of islands, inlets, bays, beaches and the occasional mussel farm.  Sometimes the boat seems so close to land that I could reach out and touch it. Shoals of jellyfish pass under the boat… and I wish the trip would never end (although it’s still bloody cold!)

I can only say ‘eat your heart out, Slartibartfast’….

Finally in to Picton harbour.. And after organising the rest of my trip with the help of the information centre, I decide that the best thing to do is to go for a walk back up Queen Charlotte Sound, up the hill behind the town.  There are amazing views of the harbour and of the Sound… a lovely sunset casting new colours and shadows across the Sound – and on the way back, just because God likes to add a little finishing flourish to these journeys – I see rays swimming in the harbour.  This trip really does keep getting better and better…..

FOOTNOTE – for those who aren’t Douglas Adams fans: in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Slartibartfast was one of the designers of Earth Mk 1, a commission by two white mice.  He was responsible for the design of the Norwegian fjords.  After the untimely destruction of the earth to make way for an intergalactic hyperspace bypass, the mice commissioned Earth Mk 2 – Slartibartfast planned to use the same design for the coastline of Africa.

(It shouldn’t surprise anyone that my laptop is called Zaphod – David’s is called Trillian, and Jonny’s was Slartibartfast.  And the network was called the Heart Of Gold.)

Tuesday

On a bus to Christchurch.  If you sense a certain urgency in my travels, you’re right.  I want to get as much time as I can over in Fjordland, and so it’s back to back travel.  I’m going to stay a couple of nights in Christchurch, and I’m glad I did… not so much for Christchurch, which is a nice enough city, the art gallery is fun, and the botanical gardens are awesome (I did turn up when ALL of the rose garden was in bloom though – fabulous).

Mind you, I DID get my lunch stolen by savage killer seagulls on the way.  On the other hand, there were so many seals lounging on the rocks, playing in the sea, hanging out on the beach or just being cute all over the seafront that I could forgive the seagulls.

The best bit of the stay was being incarcerated in the JailHouse- they’ve converted Addington Correctional Facility into a hostel.  We sleep in the cells (the dorm is surprisingly roomy, but the doubles are a bit cosy!) of course – and everything is in black and white stripes, from the table cloths to the crockery.  The staff are referred to as long term inmates, and dire warnings of solitary abound for antisocial behaviour.  Fab fun!

And I liked the sculpture in the dyslexia centre gardens… my son has organisational dyslexia, so I have a lot of time for people who struggle with words and language in this way. The first one is called ‘falling in love’, by the way…spot the heart half way down the pillar

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