Day 5 - Saturday 23rd February – Wellington ferry across Cook Strait to the South Island
We woke up at 5:44 a.m. Yeah!! We'd had more sleep. We went down to breakfast at 7:30am. We took our valuables and passport down with us ‘in case of earthquake’ and not being allowed back up to our room!
I've never stayed in a town where the threat of an earthquake has been so evident or possibly imminent. Buildings are being strengthened with visible supports to earthquake-proof them. The main government building has columns on the front and visible metal earthquake rods have been placed between them like braces on teeth. I have downloaded the ‘GeoNet’ app on my mobile phone to track earthquakes in New Zealand. They’re happening all the time; not surprisingly though as New Zealand straddles a huge fault line and sits on the ‘ring of fire’.
We all agreed to go over to the museum at 10am, but before that Jeff and I went for a quick walk round the corner to look in some shops. We weren’t expecting to find a group of British Morris dancers(!?) practicing on the pavement around the corner from the hotel(!).
On the waterfront lots of very excited ‘younger than us’ people were running around bearing paddles and wearing life jackets. A huge rowing event was taking place and numerous teams waited by the boat launch pushing their many-seated boats into the water. Some were already out on the harbour waters competing. Wellington is obviously a great venue for outdoor sports too.
Jeff wanted to see the Gallipoli exhibition at the ‘Te Papa Tongarewa’ – Museum of New Zealand. It was an interactive Media exhibit called ‘Gallipoli: The scale of our war’ with cleverly reconstructed scenes to show what day-to-day life was like for those who fought in the war. There were model soldiers scaled up 150%; and the music and narrative was very moving. However, I went to the indoor craft market on the Waterfront with another member of our group where I got some inspiration for colourful ‘wraparound skirts’; then I joined Jeff in the exhibition. Jeff was relieved that I hadn’t bought any ‘greenstone’ (jade) in the market because we would be going to a ‘certified’ (proper) New Zealand greenstone outlet later on in the trip.
At 1:30pm prompt we all met back at the hotel ready to take a shuttle bus to the ferry that would take us to the South Island. It is often described as one of the most beautiful ferry crossings in the world and it didn't disappoint. We sampled New Zealand craft beers (all in the interests of research) while the sun blazed down; and the dramatically huge tree and bush-clad mounds that were the very steep hills (drowned valleys caused by the geological sinking of a mountain range) of the Marlborough Sounds soon came into view. One of the features of a volcanic landscape is the steep cone-like appearance of the hills that probably went as far down into the sea as they were high. The waters are certainly very deep round there (like Madeira).
The south island was what we expected and wanted from our holiday really. It's like the Lake District but on a much larger scale with much more dramatic and higher mountains. We landed in Picton in the heart of the Marlborough Sounds. Picton is a typical harbour town, with tidal coast, a wide main street with cars parked on either side and shops and restaurants all the way down. It’s beautiful and the tidal coast is quite sheltered. We booked into a small but very well-equipped(!) motel and went to the supermarket to buy food for a packed-lunch the next day. We also bought food for dinner and ate in. I'd been in touch with Mum and Bobs by hotel Wifi over the past few days. I did miss them and hoped they were both happy and well.