The ferry ride from Wellington to Picton proved to be beautiful and exhilarating, definitely one of the more beautiful boat rides I’ve ever taken. Wellington Harbor is simply gorgeous, and we were escorted out of the harbor by a floatilla of sailboats, heading for the open ocean. Cook Strait turned out not to be the bumpy monster I had been told, and we spent most of the trip taking in the sights as we bid good-bye to the North Island and turned our gaze to the mountains of the South.
We picked up our car in Picton and headed straight to Blenheim. As it was Sunday, not many shops were open, and the town (one of the larger ones in this region) was mostly quiet. Before leaving on this trip, I was looking at some of the satellite photos on Google Earth with my brother, and the area around Blenheim one of the only areas in New Zealand that offers the 2-meter accuracy (high resolution) imagery. Just messing around, I asked Jaymie to find a tree in Blenheim, and I would go claim a leaf off of that tree for him. He picked one out, near a bridge in a park, next to a stream. Kath and I made a bee-line for it after arriving in Blenheim and found it right away. Google Earth is amazing. It is like a global shrub-cam.
The wineries north and west of Blenheim, focused just north of the tiny hamlet of Renwick, are well worth the visit. We got the chance to taste the latest releases (and some of the reserve stock) at about 8 or 9 of the different cellar doors before heading out of town, back to Highway 1 in Blenheim for the trip south to Kaikoura, a stunningly beautiful place in a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific. What we call New Zealand is really just the tips of some mountains that rise out of the sea were two continental plates collide. A large sea shelf extends from New Zealand’s South Island to the southeast, but right around Kaikoura, a deep sea trench (occasionally as deep as 1600 meters) extends right up to the land directly below the peninsula. This causes a great variety and number of marine life to call this area home, including migrating whales, seals, albatrosses, and dolphins.
Katherine just returned from a whale watching expedition, while I spent the morning hiking around the head of the Kaikoura peninsula. We are probably going to camp tonight at one of the campgrounds in town, and then head our trans-alpine trek to the north coast of the South Island, what they call “The Top of the South.” We will hike into Abel Tasman National Park, camp overnight, and then take a water-taxi back.
You can view some of the photos of the above events, including a movie clip of a sperm whale diving that Kath captured, by clicking here.