Across the Cook Strait to South Island
spending Christmas Eve in the empty Portland Hotel in Wellington, I drove around
the city a bit on Christmas morning. Like I've said, though, I didn't
really miss Christmas much because, with the palm trees and the balmy weather
here, it didn't really feel like Christmas and it was hard to imagine people in
America celebrating the holiday, especially since I was wearing shorts and
thongs (that's thongs as in footwear, not thong as in swimsuit -- definitely
not a pretty sight on me).
on the southern tip of the North Island, is the capital of New Zealand and is a
pretty vibrant city packed in close to the bay with steep hills on three sides. On Christmas morning, however, the city was virtually deserted
which made driving on its one-way streets fairly easy. Although there
weren't many people around, Wellington seemed like a nice city and, with the hills and the
bay, it has quite a dramatic setting. The winds blast through the
nearby Cook Strait nearly every day giving the city the nickname of Windy Wellington.
For some reason, The Monkees are really popular in New Zealand,
and you hear them all the time on the radio. Here's Last Train
RealPlayer. If problems, see
caught one of the Inter-island ferries that afternoon and crossed the Cook
Strait bound for the South Island, a two-hour trip. The ferry terminal on the South Island is in the picturesque town
of Picton, a town that I hope to spend more time in during my trip back up the
had made a reservation that evening in a private campground in Picton but after
driving through the very bleak and crowded campground, I made a quick exit
and found a nice room at the Broadway Motel in the middle of town and spent a pleasant night there.
Pleasant, I should say, with one exception --
namely, the three mutton sausages I cooked up for dinner. As you might
know if you followed me around the U.S., my favorite dinner on the road is
brats and beans. That's "brats" as in bratwurst, spicy German sausages
that are a Midwestern tradition and something I got hooked on when I lived
in Wisconsin many years ago. When I got to New Zealand, I was
disappointed to learn that they don't sell bratwurst here, not even in the
big supermarkets in Auckland. They didn't seem to have plain, ol'
hot dogs either. So, in desperation, I bought a package of bland
As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, "What is mutton,
anyway?" Well, it's sheep, Jerry. And as you probably know,
New Zealand is crammed with sheep -- something like 40 million of the
little buggers, which means lots and lots of mutton sausages. I guess
I'll have to find a better staple for dinner because mutton sausages are
really, really nasty. Unfortunately, the Doritos option (always a
good alternative to a real dinner) is out, since they don't sell them here
in New Zealand. They do, however, sell something called "Bulk
Chips" which are like a blander, thicker version of Doritos and are
Other than eating mutton sausages and Bulk Chips, there
are a lot of things to see and do in beautiful Picton, such as exploring the countless
bays and inlets in adjacent Queen Charlotte Sound. However, the town was pretty
packed with tourists, so after spending that night there and eating those
disgusting mutton things, I continued
heading south the next morning.
left: While waiting for my ferry boat to
arrive, I walked around the streets of Wellington, virtually deserted on
center: The Wellington waterfront.
right: The Lynx, one of four inter-island
ferries, pulling into Wellington harbor. The only time I could get a
reservation was on Christmas Day, and I was lucky to get that. It takes
about 2 hours to cross the Cook Strait and, with a car, it costs about US$100.
left: The Lynx pulling into its
center: ...and unloading vehicles.
right: "Windy Wellington" is a
pretty compact city with steep cliffs on three sides, and a well-protected
left: Finally, loading up.
center: The lounge area inside the Lynx.
You wouldn't know we were cruising along at 25 knots.
right: Saying goodbye to the North Island as we head out into the
choppy Cook Strait, bound for the South Island. Captain James Cook
discovered this strait in 1769.
left: A couple hours later, the Lynx pulled
into Picton, the South Island terminus for the inter-island ferries.
center: Picton at dusk.
right: Picturesque Picton.
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Across the Cook Strait to South Island