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Bring Me To Port

January 22, 2011

The Inter-Islander Ferry from North New Zealand to South New Zealand. 

I had heard, I had read… the  trip is one of a kind.  Some would say…why not fly? 

Now, I would respond, you see those mountain peaks, that are trapped under the ocean, winking at you as the ferry whirs by… That is why. 

The Ferry across, taken by some locals every week, for us, once in this lifetime.  ($80 pp) 

With the wind whipping and my sunglasses stained from salty ocean rain drops…three hours after departure and many ominous peaks later we entered Queen Charlotte Sound.  I stood on the ships edge looking towards port.  I saw our ship cut the cold ocean and disrupt white, foamy surf… DOLPHINS saw this as their play land.  They would break and crest in our ships wake with joy.   The dolphins, surfing like children in the boats wake.

I haven’t cut my hair in over 6 weeks and in the ports wind, the unfamiliar hairs tickled my neck and scalp.  But, to watch over 20 dolphins dashing amongst one of the biggest ships and engine propellers made me numb.  Something to behold.

The Captain turned our vessel towards the rusty port docks, precision.  Match the road bridge connectors.  Unload the trucks filled with sheep.  The trailers with horses.  The train tracks met, and more bulk goods are on their way to the mainland.  The humans de-board.  Watching the souls hustle off in a clustered loss, I was happy to be one of the last.

Captain Hook discovered and named these waters back in 1770.  On the final voyage ten of his men were ambushed, killed, then eaten by the local Maori tribes.  I would hope our luck, many years later would be better.


Turns out, it was.  Our rental car we deemed Red Rocket Part Deux. (on the part of it being red again and in honor of a good friends trip to these parts many years ago)

A Ford Falcon, 8011 miles. Actually is it Km’s or miles?  All I know is that I asked our travel agent for a fun car for this island.  And I got it.  Whoops…this sporty number is chewing up gasoline…our last fill up cost $108 USD. ($8 per gallon of petrol) But this rumble’r had punch and when the girls can handle the kick back, I will continue to give it some.

 Static radio

Amongst the mountains and the surf, the radio is sparse.  Which makes finding tuneage challenging, but once you find an oldie or a Pearl Jam song, you appreciate that jam so much more.  I remember seeing an ad at the Picton ferry arrival announcing all car rentals have a MP3 connection.  We need an MP3 connection.  Music on a road trip will soothe the soul and steady the nerves.  But maybe a little wine will help us trudge on?

No Whining

Blenheim (pronounced Blenum) is home to the world famous New Zealand Wineries. In 1977, Napa Valley specialists were brought in to work with the soil to make a better grape.  Boy, did they.  Their best creations are Sauvignon Blanc.   And they are pleasing to ones palate and soul.

After a few winery visits, we asked what wineries had not had their corporate teeth sunk into their grape barrels.  Overwhelming, Bladen was mentioned.  The Red-Rocket 2 would race that way.

Bladen.  A former computer guy from the city of Wellington.  Spent 3 years building the vineyard up.  Now this is his families source of income.  His wine if fine.  His knowledge deep.  His stories grand.

My favorite tale.  His son, an aspiring rock star, gets on “the facebook” and requests a bass guitar for a gig he has that Friday night.  His only offer, a case of wine (from his dads vineyard) or sexual favors.  Of which his former girlfriend posts on facebook… “trust me, take the wine.”

Good thing we did.   Deep. Rich.  So Nikki politely states “We should ship a case home for future anniversaries,  only $600!”  Of which I say…”no, Nikki, we suck at saving grapes”… we pass knowing that we have a huge problem with drinking good wine before its time.  To put that theory to test, we have now consumed both our two purchased Bladen bottles in less than 3 days.  🙂


As often in travel, you will miss targets.  But opportunities for those that continue on will arise.  The perfect example…we missed a quaint little bed and breakfast booking by about 3 minutes.  I know, because the proprietor told us, “you missed the last room by 3 minutes to that guy.”  And I saw a corporate slob with a wrinkled blue shirt, schlepping his black suitcase into the last cabin.  This was wonderful news to us, because the owner recommended a cottage, many miles away, and I knew by Nikki’s wide eyed reaction, a cottage would be perfect.    

We pulled onto the long crushed gravel drive.  Our wheels turned over the stones and we knew we were home.  Pat, the wife, greeted us with fresh cut flowers.  Nikki rushed into the cottage, nearly bowling over this nice 70 year old woman.

I of course was relegated to unloading the luggage as Nikki and Pat toured the little nooks and crannys that we would call home for the night.  I then met the husband, David.  He had a basket full of veges  and dirt on his hands… his hands were strong, like a farmer.  I shook his hand and knew his handshake could crush mine.  I hoped he felt that I was proud to be part of his land, comfortable to be part of what was obvious a great farmstay filled with family history.  Some things you just know. 

I invited Pat and David for wine on the porch anytime that might be good for them.  Less than 10 minutes later we were graced by their presence.  That night would close out with what I love about little slumber spots on the earth that you cannot find at the Hilton.  Wine and stories.  Here are some pictures of what has now become our favorite quarters on this trip. 

With the luggage properly loaded under our little cottage bed, Nikki was content to call this home for the night.

We would awake to soft rain falling on the tin roof.  The roses in the garden window view would weigh heavy from that early morning shower. 

On the drive out in the morning…I saw a hawk dive down into the neighbors grape vineyard, the smaller birds took flight and flew out as a pack, tracking our vehicle for their escape.  I knew the odds of me returning to this cottage would be beyond slim, but it feels good believing if I ever was lucky enough to return, this would be my spot.  Just Nikki and the cottage I mean, I would be out on the farmland earning my keep…   

I grabbed Nikki’s hand and she accelerated some, towards our next destination….The West Coast of South New Zealand.


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