Off to the North Island
Having booked our ferry tickets online at Donegal House we take a drive along the coastline up to Picton, the town that the ferry leaves from. The weather is still unsettled (a word we will come to loathe in Tonga) but it allows for streams of light through the clouds that light the waves from a back angle. The waves are immense and very powerful, which pleases the surfers that we see along the way. There are also seals in various places and finally some bird life.
We arrive in Picton with an hour to spare so we go to the grocery store for snacks. Our favorite snack for on the road is pretzels as they take the edge off but give us a bit of salt. Added bonus, everybody likes them. They are hard to find though and today I strike out. With total lack of exercise, the only vice we have had is L&P Soda (which is a lime based carbonated drink found only in NZ) and these huge bars of Cadbury chocolate. There is a crunchie type, Big Turk type, Fruit and Nut and Caramilk like one. We allow ourselves a few squares with lunch everyday, as lunch is usually some kind of sandwich on the road with Gherkins, sandwich meat and whole grain mustard and tomatoes.
We decide to go check in for the ferry, but , after getting a bit turned around and taking the long way around, we find we are booked on the Wellington to Picton ferry not the Picton to Wellington. She says she is sure they are full but to go back from whence we came (the getting lost part) and see. No Pain in trying, so we return to the main office and are immediately booked on today’s boat – time taken, about 10 minutes.
The seas are listed as heavy which is not a good sign for Cathy who hates boats on the ocean at the best of times. We spend the first hour of the trip in very protected waters in the Queen Charlotte Passage, but then they call everyone inside and we hit the open water of the Cook Strait. It is indeed very heavy with waves crashing over the bow. In one hour though, we reach the protected waters on the other side and glide along for another easy hour.
We arrive just as darkness is falling and now have to find the Top Ten in the dark and along the freeway. Our maps are good for the first bit but become a bit elusive as we near our target. It only takes one wrong turn to really mess us up as it is really hard to crack a Uball in Ruthie (as we would learn later). We do take one wrong turn but get lucky and pop out the other side right on the bridge we need to be on. 5 minutes later, just as it starts to rain, we are tucked nicely into the Top Ten.
We hit the communal kitchen and meet a great Kiwi who describes all of the adventures he’d had near Rotorua. I think he was a little lonely and he entertained us with his pictures for a while. It rained off and on all night.