we hopped on the Trans Coastal train which took us to Picton
via Kaikoura, with great views of seals and huge pods of dolphins leaping and playing,
then through the wineries of Marlborough,with names and tastes oh so familiar now and finally passing through pretty little Blenheim which has just been awarded the title of sunniest place in New Zealand.
At Picton we took the Interislander Ferry for what must be one of the most picturesque journeys in the world.
The ferry passes through the calm waters of the Marlborough Sounds with evocative names such as Queen Charlotte Sound, Curious Bay, Endeavour Inlet and Tory Channel
eventually leaving those ancient drowned valleys to enter the strong currents and rough waters of Cook Strait, which separates the North and South Islands.
Capt Cook landed here in the 1770s and claimed British sovereignty over the South Island. We were lucky and the sea was calm and we soon arrived in Wellington harbour.
Wellington is a great city and I much preferred it to Auckland. Much smaller and easy to wander around but with a real vibrancy and even windier than Invercargill.
We spent virtually a whole day in the National Museum - Te Papa - which is very well organized with lots of helpful staff, modern, very interactive and really captures the culture and nature of New Zealand.
There was a Monet exhibition on with paintings of his on loan from various places, the majority coming from Boston.
It was enjoyable but not as good as the Royal Academy exhibition a few years ago - having said that there are very few Monet paintings in NZ and the cost of transporting them must be phenomenal.
Back in Invercargill we had the Invercargill A&P show where, once again, we were treated to aspects of rural life. Cows with udders so big they made your eyes water (one of the dairy farmers told me that one of the cows yielded 35L of milk).
We learned how to judge sheep and were treated to a demonstration of an automatic 'crutcher' - again the name is enough to make your eyes water!!
The logging and sawing competitions were great to watch and I found out that they have international competitions and that a logging team from Wales were over here last year!
Another entertaining day was spent at the velodrome - the only indoor one in NZ. Very impressive it is too.
The NZ sprint relay team were there to attempt to break one of their records - which they did. It was also the first time I had seen a Kierin race which starts off with a pacer who rode a motorised bike! Very strange. There were a lot of impressive teenage cyclists so I think NZ may provide some competition for the UK team at the next Olympics!
This weekend we went to see the Southern Steel Netball Team play the first match of the season - netball is BIG over here. The stadium was virtually full with people of all ages and both sexes. It was televised on Sky and NZ1 TV. Lyn was very excited and got quite noisy with her support. Yet again for what is said to be a non-contact sport it looked quite physical to me. It was a tense match but the home team won decisively in the end.
We have had some great stories in the local paper over the last few days. One of my favourites was the story of the rejection of an application for a special event licence over Easter. The pubs and bars shut at midnight on Maundy Thursday until midnight on Good Friday. However, you can apply for a special events licence. The authority turned one application down as they did not think playing an iPod through speakers for the evening qualified as a 'special event'! I am inclined to agree but a good try.
The main story on Saturday was about the 5 hour rescue of a horse who fell through the cover of a septic tank. The horse was called Kev and is worth $10000. The owner stated 'He was in big trouble, effectively in the shit". Never a truer word... After a shot of anti-tetanus and antibiotics Kev is in fine fettle again I'm pleased to say.
Now, you've heard of the Pamplona Bull Run? Well, Southland has a similar event but it is a Sheep Run and was held at the weekend in Te Kuiti. Seven thousand spectators lined the streets as 1500 sheep were let loose. Unfortunately, the sheep revolted and decided not to follow the route but started to jump, or knock over barriers, crossed the main road and the rail track and headed for the hills! One poor lady was taken to hospital after being knocked unconcious by the rampaging sheep!!! Only 400 sheep ended up where they should have, partly being shepherded by the Prime Minister John Key - can you imagine Gordon Brown joining in something like that? Sweetness.
Trains and boats and planes took us from Invercargill to the Capital City. After a flight to Christchurch (still amazes me how easy air travel is here)