Had a very early start for the interisland ferry. Other than it and getting to Kaikōura by the evening I had no other fixed plans for the day. Not much traffic on the Wellington motorways at 6:00am, even though it was a normal weekday for most. Bluebridge Ferry check-in was slick and I lined up with the other ‘cars under 5.5m’ although a Smart meant AHBART wasn’t the smallest!
When they signalled my line to start boarding the car in front of me didn’t move, the driver was sound asleep until they tapped on his window! No problem getting on the boat, ramp angles moderate, until I had to do a U turn inside to line up. Although it was across 3 lane widths BART on full lock only just made it around, with a WTF look from the crew watching it scrape past his toes! For a little car it has a terribly big turning circle.
The Bluebridge Ferry was great. It was the reasonable cost for this (about the same as flights to Christchurch & airport parking) which led me to consider this road trip.
While waiting to offload the driver of the white SUV ahead of me (seen in the photo above) got out to ask about my car. He had owned an original 500 but, correctly, surmised that AHBART was probably a bit faster. He was spot on with his observation that ‘the short wheelbase, fact that you sit right in the middle, and fat tyres must make it like driving a go-kart’. Could only agree!
Picton, surprising maritime history
The crossing was ok, raining and windy but not rough by Cook Strait standards. Picton didn’t look particularly marvellous but it was good to be back in the South Island. I parked up near the waterfront to find something to eat but decided to check out the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum.
I had been past it on several other visits to Picton but never had the time to linger. The main exhibit is the hull of the sailing ship Edwin Fox. She is a Moulmein Trader built in 1853 and the last of her type. It had a varied career carrying passengers and cargo, troops, convicts & frozen meat (fitted with coal fired steam refrigeration) before ending up in Picton as a floating freezer hulk for the (long gone now) freezing works. After decades abandoned it was re-floated and placed in dry dock for preservation. Found the history and the ship itself fascinating.
These two beds were for a family of six in steerage class, capsule hotels are not a new concept…
Blenheim and Omaka Aerodrome
From Picton I headed south to Blenheim and another ‘do one day when I have time’ stop. The weather improved, it was sunny and warm by the time I got to Omaka Aerodrome. It is a working airport but I was there to see their WW1 & WW2 display pavilions.
The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre features flying original or replica aircraft with many in staged diorama scenes of incredible detail, and with a Weta connection. The ‘Knights of the Sky’ features WW1 aircraft and memorabilia:
“The generosity of Sir Peter Jackson, as owner of the Great War collection, was integral in bringing the exhibition to life in a series of dioramas utilising the formidable creative talents of WingNut Films and enhanced by mannequins by Weta Workshop” (OAHC Website)
Recreation of the Red Baron’s final moments and the British soldiers at the crash site.
The ‘Dangerous Skies’ pavilion focuses on WW2 aircraft and finishes with the:
“Stalingrad Experience, which utilises CGI, laser projectors, surround sound and lighting effects to immerse the visitor in one of the most brutal battles of the Second World War.” (OAHC Website)
It was both immersive and sobering.
In addition to aircraft there is also an incredible display of smaller items; letters, logbooks, clothing, photographs that help convey the human stories. This ANZAC Day memorial featured hundreds of hand knitted poppies.
Kaikōura on the new road
It was early evening by the time I left Omaka and the setting sun made for pleasant vineyard views. Time, and driving, meant I didn't stop to sample the product!
The drive to Kaikōura is spectacular and the 2016 (7.8 magnitude) earthquake meant the coastal section was quite different to last time I was there. The quake lifted the sea floor by about a metre, moved the coast northeast by a similar distance and destroyed the road & rail connections. It is nearly at the end of a massive reconstruction and the road is impressive, only a kilometre or so of roadworks remaining near Ohau Point.
The Ohau Point Seal Colony survived but is very different. The sea bed lift has moved it further out and there is a flash new parking area which makes stopping much safer.
Thankfully the seals seem to have adapted to the new terrain but the stream and inland pool they used to visit has gone forever.
I got to Sails Motel, a small (4 unit) family run place on the Kaikōura waterfront, after dark. Quickly settled in and went out in search of Cod & Chips for dinner before it got too late. Blue Cod is a lovely cold water fish we don’t get in the north and Cods N Cray served up a fine meal. As the name implies they also do the crayfish, which Kaikōura is famous for, but I am not a fan of it. After that spent a bit of time reviewing the cycle trail info for tomorrows ride and went to sleep!