You don’t have any idea when staring at a flat map of the South Island, just how rigorous the driving might be. Today was quite a day – I maxed out on energy and driving and don’t want to do that too often. All up, once I spent the morning crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island, I then had four hours of driving to do to get here, and what driving it was too.
But let’s start with the 5.30 am beginning of the day when I got up and sorted and drove the 20 mins to the ferry. It was a splendid day for a crossing, so I was very lucky.
We were inevitable half an hour late, but the scenery was superb and I had booked a cabin for this crossing, which was a little like being on a cruise. First though, breakfast.
It was very still, the sky dazzling blue, and with fountains spraying high and kayakers paddling, a lovely sight as we left the harbour and past into the open sea.
Once we moved out into the strait, I moved up into my cabin and cast myself down on the bed for a power nap. So lovely with the gentle rocking of the waves. After the nap I had a shower in the ensuite, and then headed down to the cafeteria for water, and the outer decks to check out the view as we approached the spectacular Marlborough Sounds, which lead into Picton.
The water is jewel-like, and mesmerising. I got my exercise negotiating the stairs up and down to the top deck viewing space. The route can be seen on my screen shot. We arrived at Picton and eventually I joined the small cavalcade of camper vans disembarking and with great relish, set off into the South Island for the start of the real adventure.
First there were hills, some very striking and we wound through them until we hit the Marlborough plains were there are a patchwork quilt of vineyards. I enjoyed reading familiar names as I drove past – and my palate provided a memory of each as the name flashed by: Wither Hills, Villa Maria, Cloudy Bay, Brancott Estate, to name a few, and the one most often at our supermarkets, Stoneleigh. I’m sure I’ve missed some. All the stubby little vines were pruned and leafless, and must be in the prelude to sprouting forth in bright green growth.
I soon turned north west and into the foothills of some mountains that I wound through, before coming out in a mussell town called Havelock.
I was surprised how long it took to get to Nelson, through the winding hills and past numerous obstructions in the way of road works due to the recent flooding which caused slips and capsizing of the road in some of the steeper spots. It took two hours to get to Nelson (for some reason I always thought it was a hop, skip and jump from Picton). Nah.
With an hour yet to go to reach Nelson I encountered a narrow bridge and a spectacular river ploughing through the rocks, so I parked and made a cuppa and took photos.
Nelson was enjoying late afternoon Saturday ambience and a relaxed vibe as I drove through looking for a car park. Got one, got some cash out, and found a new sushi and kimchi place that was enjoying some brisk trade. I availed myself of some sushi, and then headed back out to the van. At this point I envisaged a straight-forward drive to the Pohara Beach in Golden Bay. I was so wrong. It baffled me how what looked like comparatively short distance was going to take two hours.
Two hours of slow tight bends – 45kms of hair-pin curves to negotiate up and down the range of hills leading to Golden Bay. It was much worse than the Remutakas the day before, leading in to Wellington!
However, it was all worth it, when I ground down the other side and the entire valley opened out to my view. It was like a vision of Paradise, and the golden sunset added the final touch.
The road levelled out and I could drive faster, and after what felt an interminable time, I drew into the small township of Taikaka, (where I will go tomorrow to fill up on diesel.) I was too late to book in with the office, but they are relaxed enough here to let you get a powered site and pay tomorrow. So I’m backed up against the beach, and powered up, and have eaten a delish dinner of miso soup, toasted sandwiches, and small salad. And taken a brief walk to the beach to appreciate the sunset.
I feel sure I will sleep well tonight!
One thought on “Day 4 – Wellington to Pohara Beach, via Picton and Nelson”
Wow! That sunset shot was absolutely stunning! If course they are all so beautiful, but that one really strikes one exactly as described: “…a vision of Paradise.” New Zealand is the only country left on my bucket list and your posts always make me want to jump right up and book a flight, carefully researched, pre-planned itinerary be damned!
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