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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Chapter 22 ~ The Three-Fold Journey

November the 7th 2016, 12:30...

...that was the day and time when I first set foot on the South Island.

Now, on the 16th of May 2017, I should finally depart from it after a stay of six months and nine days. I've officially spent more than half of my working holiday on the South Island (if you count the 15 days I spent on Rakiura as part of the South Island), and have grown to like the landscape very much. As such, this departure is particularly meaningful, especially since I don't know whether I'll ever return to this place.

But alas, the winds pick up, and I spread my wings to soar to a new place yet again. The days are getting shorter, so the sun is yet hidden behind the horizon by the time I set out in the morning. I take one last look at this wonderful place, and then I'm on the road again.

This particular trip is rather unique, since I complete the three different legs using three different modes of transport: First its over to Picton by bus, then across the Cook Strait by ferry, and finally onwards to Collingwood by train. It's not all manageable in one day, so I stay the night in a hostel in Wellington, before catching the early train to Collingwood.

Part 1: A Completed Circuit

No bus runs out to Cable Bay, but fortunately, John is happy to take me out to the closest InterCity bus stop on his way to work, and drops me off near Hira, where I wait in front of the General Store to be picked up...

...not without noticing that the place has great taste in advertising.

However, what started out as half an hour of waiting soon turns into a tantalizing test of tolerance as the scheduled departure time passes me by, as well as a total of three travelling buses which don't even bother to slow down. Did my booking go amiss? Am I now stranded out here while my ferry departs without me? And why didn't I write down emergency contact numbers for the InterCity support hotline to call in a situation such as this? These thoughts thoroughly torment me as I stand by the side of the road with my luggage, desperately waiting and hoping that the bus is merely late.

Fortunately, the latter is the case. I don't know how it's even possible for a bus that's only just departed Nelson as its first stop for the day - which is 15 minutes away - to be half an hour late, but albeit, that seems to be the case. Oh well, for the most part, I'm just glad that this crisis has been averted, and with relief make my way aboard in anticipation of the journey ahead.

The route may seem a little bit roundabout at first, but since this is one of the shortest bus routes on the entire South Island, it can afford to make a little swerve to the south and connect Blenheim to Nelson, before continuing on to Picton. The route takes me up the mountains, across a pass, and then through a number of valleys, until I ultimately cross the Wairau River, and return to the Wairau Valley, where I've completed my first stay on the South Island half a year ago, and where the vineyards are now ablaze with the golden colours of autumn. With that, my loop around the South Island is finally complete, and all that's left now is to travel down the length of the valley to Blenheim, and then up north to Picton. This marks the end of the first leg of my trip...

...yet not without having seen a number of curiosities on the way here, such as the Mussel Pot Inn, or a giant yellow iguana this time.

Interlude: A Pit-Stop in Picton

From the time the bus arrives in Picton, I still have two hours until the ferry leaves. Time enough for a stray around town, and to pick up something to eat along the way. But first, I check in the bulkier part of my luggage in the terminal, and note that the conditions should allow for a fine crossing today.

My stray should lead me along the picturesque waterfront - which is indeed so picturesque, that somebody just up and framed it...

...and past the Edwin Fox museum, which houses the world's 9th oldest surviving ship.

Some ways along the promenade, I come along a commemorative plaque to Captain James Cook, who was the first European to discover that New Zealand actually consisted of two islands. When the dutch explorer Abel Tasman first "discovered" New Zealand in 1642, he travelled along the west coast of both the North and South Islands, but mistook the Cook Strait for an extensive bight, which he named Zeehaen's Bight. It was only over 100 years later, in 1769, that James Cook established that it was - in fact - a strait, and thus imprinted his name on yet another place on the world.

There's are also some colourful, and surprisingly tame ducks around...

...along with conveniently placed Geocaches (and they're not even past their expiry date yet).

By the way, have you ever wondered how people get around these fjords? Some people own their own boats, but as a tourist, you can also go by taxi.

And there's a pedestrian's bridge also known as Coathanger Bridge, from which I get a good view of the arriving InterIslander Ferry as it prepares to dock at the terminal.

As I wrap up my stray around Picton, I come across its share of war memorials...

...before purchasing a delicious mushroom and steak pie in a café which curiously bears my name (translated from Zeritij), and consuming it in the waiting lounge of the InterIslander terminal, expecting the time of departure, and enjoying my last minutes here on the South Island.

Part 2: A Cloudy Crossover

Not much later, it's time to board the Kaiarahi (Māori for Leadership), together with quite a notable number of uniformed students (or multiformed, since there appear to be groups from different schools), who must have been returning from a field trip.

Incidentally, we're not the only passengers aboard the ferry. A herd of cows also makes the trip to the north island. Unfortunately, their accommodations are significantly less spacious than mine, and also don't offer anywhere near as good as a view.

It's still a bit before we actually depart, so I take the time to familiarize myself with our route back... well as the spacious ferry. I quickly realize that it can't be the same ship I took on my trip to the South Island, since the floor layout is radically different. Apparently, the InterIslander fleet consists of three ferries - the Kaitaki, the Aratere and the Kaiarahi - which alternate their duties of ferrying people and goods across the strait, with two of them being in service simultaneously, while the third one undergoes regular maintenance. This particular ship features an open-air viewing deck, along with lateral sidewalks, and a forward-facing lounge - complete with a café and kid's corner.

And then we're off! Out of Picton Harbour and into the Grove Arm of Charlotte Sound, passing the Snout, Waikawa Bay and Whatamango Bay, before taking a turn into the Tory Channel. It's almost two hours into the 4.5 hour crossing before we finally clear the sounds and enter the Cook Strait, where we soon pass the inbound ferry on the halfway point. Outside the shelter of the sounds,, the wind picks up considerably, whipping me around and chilling me to the bone as I stand alone on the deck, filming, and nonetheless grateful that this time around I can at least see Then, another two hours later, we pass through Fitzroy Bay and enter Wellington Harbour, where the wind continues to blow relentlessly. We pass by the lighthouses of Pencarrow Head and Makaro - or Ward Island - and the sun has already set by the time we finally land at the InterIslander Terminal in Wellington.

After the docking procedure is complete...

...I take the free shuttle bus to the Wellington central station...

...from where my hostel for the night - the Hotel Waterloo & Backpackers - is just across the street.

Interlude: A Welcome in Wellington

Incidentally, I've made plans for this very night. Oxillious, a sibling fox and creator of worlds much like myself, would like to meet me, and so we have arranged a meeting on the one night where I pass through Wellington. Thus, I leave the hostel right after checking in, and make my way to the centre of town, where I unexpectedly run into quite a commotion.

It's the Lux-Festival, which is celebrated all over the central city with bright lights and colours. They may be a month early for the Festival of Lights here, but then again, I wouldn't have been able to attend it had they held it on time. One of the main events is an animated circus show projected onto the wall of a tall building, which I watch to pass the time while waiting for my vulpine friend.

And then, Oxillious makes his appearance. Just like me, he's hard to miss, even when not wearing his tail.

Talking about our respective projects, we stroll through the streets of Wellington, and eventually arrive in...

...where we have a bottle of Karma Cola each, and a bowl of authentic African cuisine big enough to feed two hungry foxes.

The evening quickly flies by as we engage in spirited world-building discussions, and before long, it's time to head back, through the Lux Festival again, and into the hostel. After all, I'm up to en early start tomorrow.

Part 3: A Carriage to Carterton

The last part of my trip would take me from Wellington to Carterton.

Wellington is one of the two places so far in which I've neither arrived nor departed by bus (the other having been Oban): Back in November 2016, I arrived in Wellington by train and left by ferry, and this time around, I arrived by ferry, and am leaving by train. That was also one of the reasons why I chose a hostel right across from the station. Getting up early, it only takes me 5 minutes to walk to the station after checking out - yet somehow, I feel like rather than in Wellington Central, I've instead arrived in King's Cross.

Since I still have some time until my train departs, I sit down in a café near the platform and eat a humble egg-and-bacon sandwich while watching the daily masses of commuters arriving from the suburbs pass me by.

Afterwards, I get onto the modern suburban train...

...where I notice an unusual billboard that involuntarily reminds me of a musical number from the Lion King.

Before long, the train is on its way, and while the weather is quite wet in the beginning, as we drive along the shoreline of Wellington Harbour and through Lower Hutt, but as we travel up the Hutt Valley, it gradually becomes better, and by the time we've reached Upper Hutt, it has at the very least stopped raining. Subsequently, we pass through a tunnel under the Tararua Range, and soon emerge in the Wairarapa Valley. Just as we leave one of the side valleys, the great Lake Wairarapa can just barely be seen in the distance. It's name means "Glistering Waters" in Māori, though personally, I like to call it "The eye of the fish". From there, it's mostly a trip through farmland, and not long after, the train arrives in Carterton.

Along the way, I also notice a herd of deer in one of the many pastures - although the fattened up specimens here have little in common with the lean and agile animals found in European woods. It makes me wonder, though, how graceful and agile cows must have looked before they were first domesticated.

Epilogue: A Sparky Start

I don't have to wait in front of the Carterton station for too long before Sparky comes along and picks me up.

Driving out of town and past the fields, it's only a short time until we arrive at her farm, where I'll be helping out for the next two weeks.

It's a lovely big place...

...and for some peculiar reason, I am instantly enamoured with my sleeping quarters.

Sparky should soon set me to work, and I for my part should soon find this place quite enjoyable. But that's a different tale, and shall be told at a different time. So stay tuned for more tales from the travelling fox.

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