New Zealand 2014

Day 13

March 27

  Since we want to be sure and get to the ferry early, we're both up and ready to ride. I figure we can get breakfast on the ferry since we have plenty of time. Once we settle up with the front desk, we head down to the bikes. There's just one problem - the front desk has not arranged to open the garage doors so we can leave. Alain, ever the gentleman, parks his ST1300 and goes back to the front desk to get it sorted. Finally, we're really off to the ferry and the south island.  
  There's a pretty good crowd already there by the time we arrive, as the gates have not opened just yet. But I'd always rather be early for a ferry than late.  
  The 'traffic directors' motion us over to a special spot where the motorcycles are to wait for boarding. We've got some time, so we stretch our legs and take a look around. There are three other riders waiting - one lives in Christchurch and just purchase a Vstrom 1100 to replace his crashed Ducati. Another is from Dunedin, a city we will visit, riding his Bandit. Then there is an elderly couple riding an old Moto Guzzi.  
  Soon they assign us a lane and we get to head to the bowels of the big ship.  
  This ferry has a really nice setup for motorcycles with the tie down straps and front wheel chocks in place. It's very clear that they are used to dealing with motorcycles and have it pretty well covered. On some ferries I've been on, it's obviously an afterthought to have facilities for motorcycles which can make it a bit 'interesting'.  
  The larger ferries like this one require all passengers and drivers to leave the parking decks once their vehicle is secure. And most of them also have pretty decent restaurants upstairs. I've learned to wait 30 minutes or so until the ferry is underway before heading for the restaurant. Everybody heads there first thing so all you will in a long line if you follow the crowd. After checking out the upper decks, we mosey on down to the restaurant and the line has subsided. I manage to find some pretty good breakfast selections that will certainly fill the bill.  
  But once again they seem to evaporate off the plate right before my very eyes. I guess it just must be the ocean air that causes this unusual phenomena.  
  We get a last look at Wellington Harbor as the ferry prepares to depart.  
  As a creature of habit, I always check out the lifeboat arrangements on board the ferries. The condition of their emergency equipment tells you a lot about the condition of the ship. I hope I am never in position to have to use them, but I think it is wise to at least know where they are located just in case.  
  The horn sounds a long blast and we are underway and out of the harbor.  
  It's pretty breezy up on the top deck, but this little feller doesn't seem to mind. He's just having a big time but I have to wonder if his tiny feet are getting cold in the wind and the damp..  
  Heaven seems to be shining some spotlights down through the clouds to get our attention.  
  As we leave Wellington behind, it looks like they covered every available spot on the hillside with a house. But this seems to be pretty typical in New Zealand around the coast.  
  Off in the distance I see a light house giving out a warning for the rocks that are near it.  
  When I look up I see there are other travelers going by other means, and yet we are all travelers going somewhere.  
  On another ridge, there are windmill generators dancing in the stiff breeze.  
  The rugged coastline has its own natural beauty and reminds me a lot of the California coast in some areas.  
  On the journey, we pass this lovely, isolated haven with no access unless you come by boat or helicopter or are a really good swimmer.  
  But soon we arrive at Picton and we are off the ferry and onto the South Island where the riding is supposed to be even better than the North Island.  
  We take a back road that my friend, Keith (The Right Way Around) has recommended. The first stop is at Kaipupu Point, a lovely overlook. It's also a wildlife sanctuary that is patrolled by volunteers to make sure it remains free from predators.  
  We can also see Waimahara Wharf in Shakespeare Bay that opened in 2000.  
  But new roads beckon us so we get about the business at hand.  
  The South Island appears to be more 'beautifuller' that the North Island if there is such a word.  
  I find a good spot to take another 'calendar' shot of Ruby Red, my trusty steed.  
  Every bend just seems to have another gorgeous view presented before our eyes.  
  Keith has told me that this area, Havelock, has the best mussels on the planet. I have tried them since I landed in New Zealand, but they are just not my cup of tea. So I decide I will forgo the opportunity to sample them again.  
  We make a quick stop at a local service station since we are not sure as to how close towns will be on the South Island as of yet.  
  It's a beautiful place that seems much more rugged than the North Island.  
  Around every bend, there seems to be another mountain range to see ...  
  and to ride up and down.  
  And the roads are nice and twisty which just adds to the enjoyment.  
  But it seems the South Island has its share of construction zones just like the North Island.  
  When we reach Atawhai, the tide is 'way out'. So much so that it looks like a feller would get plumb tired trying to walk out to the water.  
  Soon we pull into Nelson proper, where we will be staying for a couple of days.  
  We are booked into the Century Park Motor Lodge, a really nice facility. Once again, Te Waipounamu has done an outstanding job with the accommodations.  
  After unburdening our bikes, we head out to the peninsula toward Collingwood that we've been told is a great ride.  
  But as we are leaving the city, we are comforted to know we have a place back in civilization when we see the ever present McDonalds and KFC ...  
  And not so comforted by the plenteous traffic we are get stuck in.  
  Fortunately we slip the bonds and get ahead of the crowds soon enough.  
  It's a really nice run out through the country and ...  
  up into the hills overlooking the Golden Bay Valley.  
  It is proving to live up to prior billing quite well as the curves are plenteous ...  
  and a good variety of sweepers and tight bends.  
  And the views ain't half bad either.  
  And just for good measure, there are some hairpins along the way.  
  We get back to the flatlands and I see dark shadows on the mountain sides which ...  
  make me think we may headed into some weather looking out in front of us.  
  But sun holds out and before long it's break time at Collingwood.  
  All around Collingwood, there are beautiful and peaceful bay areas.  
  It's just the sort of place you'd like to pull up a lawn chair and a fishing pole and sit for a while.  
  But the road runs on and we came to ride not to fish, so we keep cooking.  
  I have to wonder what stories this old homeplace could tell if it could talk in a language that I could understand. I wonder how many children climbed the old wizened tree beside it before the house came into its present state.  
  But I leave those thoughts behind as we are climbing another ridge that requires my full attention unless I want to do some off road riding.  
  Since gas might be iffy we take another break to refuel our trusty steeds. My general rule is when I am in an area that I am unfamiliar with, I start looking for fuel at the half tank mark.  
  It's been a great run out to the peninsula, but it's time to head back to the house before the sun gets down.  
  Since there is some nice shops and restaurants with walking distance, we stretch our legs to check them out for supper. There's a beautiful tower on a hill nearby, tastefully lit up in the night.  
  This street appears to be where it's happening, so there should be a good restaurant or two worthy of our appetites.  
  After 'cruising' up and down the street a bit and checking out the menu, we make our selection. I order the fresh gunnard at it is really fresh and really good. I'm not much of a seafood person unless it's fresh, but down here it's all fresh.  
  And I keep experiencing the same phenomena that food just evaporates off the plate. Strange indeed but one of life's unexplained mysteries I guess.  
  It's been a great day and our first introduction to the South Island is impressive. Tomorrow we head out on a loop to do some more exploring. It doesn't take long for sleep to find me with a full stomach, a comfortable bed and a head full of pleasant memories of the day.