Entering the Marlborough Sounds

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

My time in Wellington was a little more hectic than I'd envisaged. I woke up early on Monday morning as I knew that the Oasis tickets for Australia went on sale at 11am our time. So I found an internet place with fast computers, as I didn't know how long it would take for all the concerts to sell out. As it happens, they sold out within an hour so more dates were added anyway! Regardless, the fact that I bought them early means that my tickets are for the front section of the crowd, which was a nice result.

In addition to going to see Oasis in Brisbane late November, I'm also going to see Teenage Fanclub in Melbourne in August - I bought tickets the same day! Therefore I spent a lot of time in the afternoon comparing flight prices. In the end I managed to get a good deal, flying out from Christchurch on the 12th August, and arriving back on the 21st August. When I was in Mount Maunganui, I met a guy from Melbourne and played him at pool/table tennis for a couple of days. We've emailed a couple of times since, and he says I am more than welcome to stay at his place when I visit. In fact, there's a chance that he'll be going to the gig too as I did buy a spare ticket.

That evening I went out for a few beers with a couple of people from my dorm - an English guy called Alex and a girl from Christchurch called Kelly. It was a pleasant evening in a really nice bar, although even Wellington is fairly quiet during the week. I also accompanied Alex to the Embassy Cinema the next day to watch Batman Begins - the place where Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers had its world premiere. The screen was huge and the seats were so comfortable! A nice touch was that each seat had the name of a different actor who appeared in the film.

At about 6.45pm I received a call from Richard, the guy I thrashed at pool the last time I was in Wellington. He wanted a rematch! Actually, we'd been trying to organise it for over a week, but various misunderstandings had meant I'd given up on seeing him again. So it was nice to hear from him, and we ended up playing pool for 3 hours in total - I was an unconvincing 15-9 victor. Another stop at a takeaway followed, then I headed back to the superb Cambridge Hotel - an early start the next morning.

I had already resigned myself to paying $15 for a taxi to get to the ferry terminal, when Alex told me about the shuttle service that actually picked up from the Hotel at 8.15am...and only cost $2! So once again, I was delighted as I'd spent way too much cash in Wellington before then! After various other stops, we arrived just before 9am. I checked in my main backpack, and soon enough, we were heading on board.

For the first part of the 3 hour journey, I just chilled out on a seat next to the window, and listened to some music. It was pretty dull outside so there wasn't too much to see...until we reached about halfway. At this point, the blue sky started to appear, and the magnificent Marlborough Sounds could be seen in the distance. They say that the Marlborough region has more sunshine hours per year than any other in New Zealand, and it made a nice change from the previous days weather in Wellington.

I decided to move to the other side of the ferry, as it offered better views of the Sounds. Within 10 minutes of doing so, I was amazed to see a pod of about 50 dolphins at the side of the boat, diving in and out of the water. The captain then announced the news and everyone rushed to my side to see them. By this time though, the dolphins were quite far away. I felt quite lucky - there can't be many better sights than seeing dolphins speeding through turquoise waters, with the beautiful Marlborough Sounds in the distance.

Most people went outside onto the viewing decks for the final part of the journey, as the ferry penetrated deep into the Sounds. It has been voted one of the most scenic cruises around, and it certainly is, particularly when the sun is shining. Already, it became clear that the South Island is indeed more grand and dramatic than the North Island.

Picton itself is a very picturesque little town, surrounded by the kind of scenery that drew me to New Zealand in the first place. Amazingly for winter time, it was actually quite warm - a perfect day. Therefore I immediately went for a wander, and as recommended by the Information Centre, did a 90 minute return journey along the Tirohanga Track. At the halfway point, there was a great lookout that provided stunning views of Picton and the Sounds, so I sat down for half an hour or so and took in the scenery.

Another trip to the Information Centre followed, as I've decided to spend a few days doing the 71km Queen Charlotte track. You can only get to the beginning via a water taxi, but they also transport your main backpack to your chosen destination - and there are some really nice destinations along the way! The hostels and homestays on the track are slightly more expensive, but it makes life so much easier (and more enjoyable) for a novice 'tramper' like me - I don't have to worry about using a stove or staying in a hut!

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