– Wellington, New Zealand to Greymouth, New Zealand –

We survived the ferry. I guess that’s the most important thing to start with today. We didn’t have time to run, since the ferry left pretty early, but it was raining quite hard off and on, so it didn’t matter anyway.

This morning we got up at 5:30, showered, and packed up our things. It was about 6:45 by the time we were all packed up and in the car, which was still a bit early, since final check in was at 8:15 am, but we were worried about turning in the car, so we left our (terrible) hotel anyway.

Rain while boarding the ferry

It had been too cold to walk to breakfast last night, so instead we went to Mark’s grocery store, from when he was there in Wellington last week for his conference. The grocery store is called New World, and I think it is our favorite.

It was pouring, but we managed to park underneath the store, so we didn’t get wet. We arrived so early that the store was just opening for 7am. We actually had to wait a minute with a few other shoppers while they finished opening the doors. We bought some sugar buns (which I’d never had before, and were awesome) and juice and such for our breakfast. We missed out on yogurt, which made me sad, but we did survive.

Looking out over Cook Strait from the ferry

It was still early when we got over to the ferry terminal, and our rental car agency was closed. In fact, it turns out that the thing never opened while we were there, which is just how they do it. You drop your keeys and some paperwork into a box and leave the car there. Who knew?

We checked in and dropped off a couple of our bags (which we didn’t know we had to do), then carried the rest over to the corner of the terminal to wait for loading. It turns out that being a little early really paid off, as when we arrived, we were the only people at the counter, but about ten minutes later, there was a huge line as the buses started arriving with several hundred people. It was wild. We were lucky we had seats to wait in.

Green hills in the barrier islands

Finally, just after 8:15 (while other people were still trying to check in from the big line), they called for boarding, and we waited on a covered walkway and then took an escalator up onto the ship while it absolutely poured all around us. Clearly Wellington is quite used to that, since the journey was covered the entire way.

The boat didn’t take off until 9am, and it was a scramble to find seats and stake them out when everyone got on. We managed to score a table for four, and no one else sat with us. It was right at the front of the boat, too, so the view was nice, despite the rain. Mark and I both had some 24-hour dramamine to ward off seasickness, and we felt great for the whole trip.

Disembarking from the main deck level

Just like a previous ferry we took, everyone onboard had been waiting for the giant, hot breakfast they served. The prices were pretty high. Thankfully, we had already eaten, so that wasn’t a concern. They did come by with a little trolly cart full of fresh, warm scones that they were serving with cream and jam for $4 apiece, and while I think Mark kind of wanted one (I told him to go for it), he decided that was too much for what basically amounts to a single biscuit. Plus he’d already had breakfast.

Wairua River

It took about 3.5 hours to cross the channel to the South Island. We were expecting 3, I think, so it was later than we thought when we arrived. As you come into the Picton docks, the ferry has to navigate through some lovely barrier islands, which had all of the passengers out on the deck or at the windows taking pictures. The grass here is so green on the hills. It is spring, after all.

In any event, we got off the boat past the cars and walked over to pick up our rental and our bags. It was a surprisingly painless process, save for the people crowding around the baggage carousel like animals. Wait back like 15 feet so everyone can see, people. Geez.

Cliffs at Westport from Cape Foulwind

By now, we were hungry for lunch, and it was after 12:45, so we stopped into another grocery store to grab something to eat. That done, we hopped into the car and hurried off. We had quite an afternoon planned, and it was 4.5 hours to our destination without stops.

Today’s drive was the West Coast Road, which will be most of our coastal viewing for the trip. The first part, between Picton (where the ferry landed) and Westport, was mostly just making miles, although the scenery was nice. We drove past Nelson Lakes National Park and through some mountains. The mountains in the distance here are much snowier than they were on the North Island, and the trees seem somehow more tropical, which makes for a weird combination. New Zealand is for sure an interesting place.

Cape Foulwind Lighthouse

We’ve been hearing about snow a day or two ago further south, but we are hoepful that it won’t cause us any problems. According to the locals, this is fairly strange, as it is so late in the season for snow. I’m thinking all evidence of snow will have melted by the time we make it south.

Westport starts the real coastal drive, and just outside town was our first stop, the Cape Foulwind Lighthouse. It was pushing mid-to-late afternoon when we arrived, which ought to tell you something about the length of our day. The lighthouse is cute, but not historic, as all that remains of the old lighthouse (which was made of wood), is the cement foundation. The view fgrom the lighthouse was quite nice, though, and the landscape was lovely. Cape Foulwind was an apt name though, I have to say. The breeze was decidedly chilly.

Paparoa National Park

Given how late it was getting, we skipped a former gold mine marked as interesting on our map and instead pushed on to Paparoa National Park, which was definitely worth the visit. We stopped a couple more times for coastal views along the way, but the winding roads on the coast made things take even longer, so we didn’t dare stop at everything interesting, or we would never have made it here to our hotel.

Paparoa National Park is famous for its blowholes and pancake rocks, which are basically a really cool-looking sea stack. We stopped there to take the walkway out to view the rocks. It was about a 25 minute round trip, but I’m glad we did it. It was cold out there in the wind though, I have to say.

The largest blowhole ever? (aka New Zealand is gorgeous, right?!)

The pancake rocks are made of thin layers of rock smashed together, like a crepe cake. The rocks have fallen away from the mainland, or been eroded away until they stand out in the water as sea stacks. It’s honestly awesome.

The surf there was rough, and the rock beneath the walkway was worn away by water in places, leaving caves below where water rushed in and dashed itself against the rock walls with a huge, gushing splash every time a wave came in. We didn’t get too see any blowholes, as I guess the surf was quite rough enough for those, but the caves were great all by themselves.

Pancake Rocks

It was late enough, and we were hungry enough, that we also skipped our next stop at a beach walk and rushed on to Greymouth. We didn’t arrive until 8, then we had to run out and buy dinner.

We didn’t spot a restaurant we liked on the way in, so instead we went over the New World grocery store right next to our hotel and bought microwavable rice and lentil soup for our dinner, which we heated up in our little kitchenette. It was not bad at all despite the fact that we had to find something to throw together with a microwave and an electric kettle. We also picked up our breakfast.

Sea stacks at Paparoa National Park

Our hotel tonight is quite cozy, which is nice since it is so chilly today. It looks like things will be warming up tomorrow, but for tonight, we are really happy where we are. This is the nicest hotel of the trip so far.

Tomorrow we will have time for a nice run and then make our way day to Queenstown, where we will be staying two nights to see Milford Sound and some of the other sights in the southernmost portions of the island. Cross your fingers that the snow is gone!

 – Trip Total : 10,994 miles

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