Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ferry across Cook's Strait; top of South Island

Where did the deer come from?  

When the first humans arrived at the islands of New Zealand they found no animals except one species of small bat.  There were birds, including 2 native flightless birds -- the large moa and the small kiwi -- but the only animal was a bat about the size of a human hand.  So all animals now found in New Zealand (except that bat) have been imported by mankind.  In fact, the moa and kiwi are believed to be flightless because there were no predators they needed to escape.   The Polynesians brought rats, pigs and dogs to their new home.  I think they also brought a special type chicken.  The rats and dogs were nothing like the vermin and fido that we all know.  Their rats and dogs were specially bred for use as food and did not resemble what we now know as rats and dogs.  Today you can find all kinds of animals both in captivity or domestication but also in the wild.  As we were driving down a highway on the southern section of the North Island we spotted a few dozen deer near a cow pasture.  These deer were the large variety.  So, who brought the deer and when did they arrive?

We arrived in Wellington early Monday afternoon so we drove to the ferry terminal and rescheduled our passage for early Tuesday morning.  Then we found a hotel in the hot and trendy Cuba Street district of downtown Wellington.  We walked the street and people-watched all afternoon.  Lots of young kids with tattoos and body piercings of all sorts.  Pink and green and orange hair and all the typical modern youth forms of rebellion.  We thoroughly enjoyed it all.  Had a good Thai dinner on Cuba Street and called it a night. 

The Interislander is a great ferry -- large, clean, and operated right on time.  We were the second car to drive into the loading bay.   This ferry has everything you might want to make the passengers comfortable for the 3-hour passage from Wellington on the southern tip of the North Island to Picton on the northern tip of the South Island.  The bow area contains a very large food service and dining area.  There is a separate area for commercial truck drivers; a large recliner room that can be booked by large groups; 2 movie theaters; a very large bar and lounge area with big screen sports; a gaming area where you can play all the one-arm bandits; and several deck observation areas.  They even have private sleeping cabins for an additional $40 NZD if you are tired.  We quickly scoped out everything and selected a seating area behind the bar where the walls were glass and provided the best view.  This was on the 8th deck level so we were fairly high up but the movement was negligable.   This passage was a very pleasant experience, made even better because I was able to book it online and get 2 substantial discounts.  Need to remember to book our return passage online for those special savings.

The drive from Picton to Nelson was a bit of a surprise.  Turns out that the entire area is wine country.  And their wine country is very organized.  Bill wants to buy a winery and stay here, but there is not a chance that is happening.   We stayed in Nelson Tuesday night.  Great little vibrant town, except it rolls up the sidewalks about 6 p.m.  We stayed in a downtown hotel thinking it would be in the heart of everything, but when we headed out for dinner we found that literally everything was closed and streets were empty.  But we found a McDonald`s that was open and called it an early night again.

Today we drove through the mountains from Nelson to Westport.  This was a very picturesque drive.   We were surprised by the huge amount of logging that is done here.  It appears to be only fir trees that are logged.  They clear an entire mountain face and then re-plant in neat and tidy lines.  The sheer number of these faces that have been replanted is unbelievable.  Makes for very beautiful scenery as you drive through the mountains.

A few of the things we have noted during our road trip so far:

On both the North and South Island the ranchers shrink-wrap the bales of hay.  That sure looks weird to see these shiny pale green plastic smaller-than-usual bales of hay placed around the pastures on the hillsides.

Also on both islands there are a huge number of catteries.  This is a term that we were not familiar with; but assume it means the same as a kennel, except strictly for cats.  We have seen at least 2 dozen cattery signs during our road trip so far.  Guess the New Zealanders either have more cats as pets than dogs, or they kennel their cats more than they kennel their dogs.  Haven`t seen half-dozen dog kennel establishments.

Bill wants to apply for a job that was advertised in a local newspaper near Nelson.  The position is Bird Scarer.  The ad requests that the bird scarer provide his own gun.  Bill feels that he is amply qualified for this position.  If he can`t buy the winery then he wants to be a bird scarer.  I think we need to get back to sailing soon.

Tomorrow we will arrive at the Franz Josef Glacier.   

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