Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t  do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

Friday, September 11, 2015

Our last morning on the South Island started with pleasant weather, there was nothing that lead us to believe that our ferry to the North Island would be any trouble. We had one of our most leisurely mornings getting ready, since the Interislander ferry terminal was literally less than a mile down the road from us in Picton.

We checked out the Picton waterfront, which was clean and nice. We walked by the war memorial—a lot of New Zealanders lost their life in World War I, especially in the Battle of Gallipoli. Gigantic palm trees lined the shoreline promenade. From here, we could see Picton harbor and Queen Charlotte Sound, the particular arm of the Marlborough Sounds that Picton was on. Here we collected some shells and took photos of the boats, washed-up seaweed, jellyfish, and kelp.

The Marlborough Sounds is much like Fiordland, but lower and more rounded-off. In fact, geologically they are ancient sunken river valleys. Whereas Fiordland was formed mainly by the carving of glaciers, Marlborough was formed by rivers where the land has sunk into the sea.

We crossed over a footbridge nicknamed the Coat Hanger, appropriately named, since it resembles one, then walked back down the same way we came on the promenade, back to the campervan, to head to the Interislander check-in.

When we arrived, the lady at the booth informed us that our ship was running two hours late because of heavy seas. It may have looked calm in the harbor, but the Cook Strait must’ve been a different story. We had no choice but to wait. We turned around and found a public parking spot near the Picton i-Site, where we discovered a free Spark Wi-Fi zone. We decided to call the parents, since it was a good opportunity to pass the dead time we would have to wait anyway while we waited for our ship to come in. We sent more pictures over Viber and told them stories about how we had come up with yelling out the word “Rusty!” in place of a string of curse words when the roads had particularly tight curves or scary drops. Our—who can, without saying too much, only be described as interesting—kitty-corner neighbor back at home, whose name is Rusty, inspired the use of this euphemism with his random outdoor rants, so it’s sort of an inside joke with our whole family.

Interislander Ferry

Around 11 AM, we headed back to the ferry terminal to check in. Campervans were instructed to queue in line 3. Everyone was given vouchers for complimentary coffee or tea while the ship was docked and offloaded with the vehicles coming from Wellington. Inspectors came by each vehicle asking if we had any wet gear or shoes on board, and if so, they needed to be dried or discarded; they were environmental agency officials who were making sure an invasive species of algae, known as didymo, did not spread to the North Island.

Boarding finally began around 12:45 PM, and it only 15 minutes before all the vehicles were parked, partly because everyone was already lined up on the lines how they would fit on the ship, and the ship set sail almost immediately, so it was altogether quick and efficient. Our ship’s name was the Aratere.

Cook Strait

The first hour of our ride on the Aratere was through the Queen Charlotte Sound, which was quite picturesque. Rolling green hills and calm sound waters. We took turned going around the ship and taking photos. We waved Picton and the South Island goodbye as it faded into the distance.

We parked ourselves for a while at a table in the corner of the food court—seating was sort of first-come-first-serve, but there was plenty everywhere of all kinds. It was a big ship. One crewman named Des had told William that he was a photographer, when he saw his DSLR, and that he had traveled all over the world doing photo assignments. He told us about the old small whaling villages on the edges of the sound, and apparently there was a point where whale bones were erected in an arch somewhere along the shore—whether this was true or not, we never knew because we never spotted them. Partly why we never knew, because it was hard to discern what he was saying because his Kiwi accent was quite thick.

The second hour turned out for the worse. Almost the moment we made it out the Cook Strait, on the open sea, William started feeling seasick. At first glance, the sea did not look that rough, but the swells were actually up to 4 meters! William felt queasy and had to rest his head sideways on the table with a sick bag nearby for almost that entire portion of the ride. After using the bathroom, though, he did feel a bit more relieved, but it also coincided with getting closer to the harbor of Wellington. Philip also started to feel queasy, but not till a bit later (perhaps seeing William feel sick did not help).

Since our campervan and therefore food were parked below deck, Jessica and Philip did get fish and chips and some hokey pokey ice cream—a unique New Zealand flavor of vanilla ice cream with honeycomb toffee chunks (NZ is known for its honey production)—in the meanwhile from the ship cafeteria, for lunch. Jessica spoonfed a few bites of ice cream to William, till he felt good enough to get up when the swells went down as the boat entered Wellington Harbour—actually remarkably better—enough to walk around the boat again as we approached the city. We took photos of Pencarrow Head, apparently the oldest lighthouse in New Zealand (according to Des again), on a peninsula at the entrance of the Harbour.

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