Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Zealand Day 14: Crossing to the South Island

Our downtown motorhome parking worked out just fine. It actually wasn’t too loud—I don’t think noise woke any of us up. In fact, the whistling wind was just as loud as the traffic noise!

When we got up, we had some breakfast and Alex went down the street for some coffee at a café (Mojo) that my Rough Guide recommended. We kicked our first giant Nutella jar of the trip:

Not sure what it says about our family that we finished the giant jar of Nutella before the giant jar of peanut butter…though did have a head start on the mega-sized Nutella as we had a little jar of PB before we found the big one.

Alex enjoyed checking out some of our fellow campers, including this behemoth:

As you can see, we really were right on the street:

They even gave us an access code to the bathrooms (termed the “ablution block”) so random people wouldn’t use it as a public toilet.

The original plan was to start the morning at the Weta Cave, where the special effects people for Lord of the Rings are headquartered, but this was torpedoed at the last minute by horrific traffic which appeared to be caused by a road race. So instead we headed directly to Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand:

I had read that it was amazing, and this turned out to be true. We’ve generally been steering clear of museums because unless there are interactive exhibits, B gets (understandably) tired of them very quickly. But this one is constructed with an eye to kids, and we all really enjoyed it. There are a lot of models and dioramas of NZ wildlife, a walk-through bush city (though B got distracted by the lookout over the harbor and a giant xylophone that she could play), and several discovery rooms for kids stocked with books, models, and all sorts of things to touch and investigate.

This one had a scale model of a blue whale heart:

After that we headed upstairs to the art gallery, where there was a terrific art detective challenge for kids. Here she is mid-hunt:

The clues led us through most of the exhibit rooms, and encouraged her to really think about the art. One clue was three swatches of fabric, and her task was to find a painting that they were used in and then make up a story about the young girl in the picture. She had a workbook to make some notes in and draw some pictures in, and really enjoyed the entire thing, as did I. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures of the artwork or I’d have more photos of the process!

Then it was time to track down some lunch. The place in the Rough Guide that sounded best turned out to have gone out of business so we ended up getting falafel:

Turns out I should’ve booked the ferry more than a couple days in advance (probably not an issue for passengers, but limited with campervans), as I was envisioning a mid-day ferry, but we ended up on a 3 PM ferry that was pushed to 4 PM because they are still running behind from some foggy weather last week. We needed to check-in by 3 though.

Right behind us in line were this lovely antique Bugatti cars, apparently heading for a rally on the south island:

We watched our ferry arrive, disgorge a bunch of vehicles, and then start re-loading:

We realized that they were actually loading rail cars onto the deck below. Wow!

Then it was out into the lovely harbor:

We camped out on the main passenger deck, where I proceeded to give myself a headache stressing over our South Island itinerary, which I’ve never been happy with.  Too much to see! Brynna immediately located the children’s play area, which had a couple of very small play structures, and most enticingly, a television.

Eventually Alex did coax her out on deck for a little while:

But she preferred the Disney Channel and the, um, activities in the kids’ area. I'm not sure scaling support posts was what they had in mind when they built the ship:

Alex and I took turns on deck:

I even saw some dolphins just before we headed away from the North Island. Spectacular!

Eventually we went down the narrow channel into Picton and drove up up and away along Queen Charlotte Drive. 

Stopping to capture this lovely view along the way:

As usual, we arrived at our campsite after dark, bumping down the gravel road into the Pelorus Bridge campground.

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