Spray Point Station, Waihopai Valley, South Island
Happy March to everyone out there, and welcome to autumn for us! So far, the South Island has been very good to us, and I am writing from deep in the hill country, where the scenery looks like a cross between "A River Runs Through It" and "Man From Snowy River," children attend school by correspondence, a 5-year-old boy collects the eggs and acts out dramas with his train set (involving the trains regularly derailing and everyone needing to be rescued by brave "helichopter" pilots) and the most tolerant kitten in the world is carried, dropped, dragged, dressed up, and strapped into a stroller by an almost-4-year-old who changes her name every few days. Yes, life is pretty good. This place deserves so much description and praise, but that will keep, for now if you want to see where we are, check out Roland and Jenny's website to get a glimpse of our life for the next couple of weeks.
Back in Napier, our Japanese friend Kiyo decided to cut his hair like Matt's, although the result was a bit more snazzy, and he made sure to get photos of us and the "mohi-mohi":
(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
Our drive from Napier to the Wellington area was fairly unremarkable, besides more nice pastoral scenery (and lots of orchards), another expendable part falling off the van, and passing the Tui brewery in the middle of nowhere (Tui being a ubiquitous New Zealand beer):
On Sunday night we camped at the free site in the Wairarapa where we camped with Jessa back in January, having come full circle around the island since then. It was a chilly night but we had an excellent night's sleep, and waking up just before seven the next morning, we were treated to an incredible sunrise:
We drove into Wellington on Monday morning in time to meet an old friend of Matt's (from when he worked in Scotland) for coffee before checking in for the ferry. Then at about 9:30 AM we drove up to the ramp and into the vehicle bay of the Arahura (noteably, the same ferry that took me and Provo across the strait in 2007), where Lucy made the voyage while we enjoyed the ride from the passenger decks. The Interislander is pretty plush, with a cinema, food court, cafe, gift shop, bar, the optionfor wireless internet, and a fancy club lounge on the top deck. It's well done and good that there's lots of diversions, because the crossing takes three hours. Although with the gorgeous day we got, the scenery was pretty much entertainment enough. We spent most of the ride relaxing by the windows in the main passenger deck, then went outside onto the observation decks when we entered the Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound. It was a beautiful day, though very windy, with a swell that made walking around on the top deck while out in the strait a bit of a challenge, but it calmed down when we got to the sounds. I thoroughly enjoyed the crossing (and geeked out over it a bit more than Matt, although he liked it too), and it was a perfect welcome to the South Island, sailing up through the dramatic scenery of the sounds to Picton, which is a picturesque little white town nestled in a basin between the hills, full of sails and ferries and backpackers.
Waiting in line to board the ferry.
Sailing out of Wellington, and saying goodbye to the North Island.
The clouds were absolutely amazing.
I don't think we could have ordered a nicer day.
Passing the Kaitake, a smaller ferry, on the way into Picton.
Sailing into Picton Harbour.
Pretty much the instant we drove off the ferry in Picton, we found my friend Rose, and it was ever so good to see her, and to meet her boyfriend, Tyler, and their friend Celine. The three of them had come off the ice and into Christchurch the night before the earthquake, and had lost most of their belongings in the quake and were just trying to get out and relax and recover for a little while. I hadn't seen Rose in years, but we had kept in touch, and it was crazy to see her standing on the side of the street in this little seaside town in New Zealand! After a resupply mission to a local supermarket, we caravanned to the coast and made for a free campsite about 20kms up a twisting road around very high cliffs, and after not too many curves, found ourselves at our destination, Robin Hood Bay. We could have dealt with about a million fewer sandflies and maybe a little less wind, but it was a fabulously beautiful place to camp, another little gem of a remote bay, at the foot of a very steep valley, with a farm nestled back at the end of the bay.
This is the scenery we were treated to on the drive in.
From our campsite...
Robin Hood Bay from the road above.
Rose, Matt and Celine. Rose: "I think I can deal with camping here!"
We enjoyed the company so much, having spent little time with Americans since leaving home, and even less with old friends. We chatted, caught up (or got to know each other), ukeleles were played, songs were sung, delicious food was cooked, walks were taken, Matt got in a great little surf (and reports that the water is "Cold! Almost like Oregon!" on this coast), and when the wind and sandflies became too much, we all retreated into Rose and Tyler's tent with beer, hard cider, chocolate and a deck of cards for an hour or two before going to bed.
Matt out in the waves.
After breakfast yesterday we all drove into Blenheim, where a few errands were run, but mostly we all just enjoyed hanging out, talking a mile a minute, poking around in shops, admiring the sweet little town, and relaxing over Thai food for lunch. I can't really explain how good it all was, and how nice it felt to spend time with these friends and somehow feel like we all healed a bit, a week on from the Earthquake. In the afternoon, it was time for Matt and I to make the hour-long drive up to the station here, for Celine to hitch north to Picton to catch the ferry the next day, and for Rose and Tyler to head for a backpackers in Kaikoura en route back to Christchurch with their rental car before flying off to Asia. So we parted ways with big hugs and wishes for safe and happy adventures all around, and I'm now enjoying the memories of our day and a half together, our welcome to the South Island!