My ultimate destination was Nelson but to get there by road means Wellington and the Cook Strait Ferry. Had booked a return Bluebridge crossing back in September. Was glad of that as by January space on the ferries was at a premium thanks to post COVID demand and reduced capacity on their opposition, Interislander, who had a smaller boat substituting for one out of action.
A morning sailing meant arriving the evening before in Wellington and, while can do the trip non-stop, decided to stop overnight on the way there.
Having recently been to Taupo, I went via Whanganui. It's a similar distance to the SH1 Taupo drive but typically has less traffic, especially trucks, and is a fun road.
The Bravo was full of bikes (two in there) and gear but, despite its age, is still a nice comfortable drive on a long trip. I left home late morning and drove through to Whanganui with just petrol/snack and photo stops enroute.
Found could get a reasonable photo on the road hands free using voice command. The phone is in a screen-mount holder with 'Here We Go" GPS navigation running but the Samsung mount leaves the front camera unobscured.
I got to Taumarunui on the fuel in the tank; a quick stop to refuel and grab a snack. The Bravo does ~600-650km on a tank but I usually refill around 550km as the fuel gauge is a bit 'Italian approximate'.
After Raetihi State Highway 4 loosely follows the Mangawhero River, twisting and turning over crumpled hill country with the geography of its creation clearly on display. In places the road shows this too as there are inevitably road works fixing slumps and slips.
The skid marks at this photo stop are not from the Bravo's Michelins!
I'd booked a room at Anndion Lodge, where I've stayed before. It's on the river a bit out of the main town and has some quirky rooms compared to a standard motel. This time I had a glass conservatory in addition to the usual living/bed and bathroom motel combo!
It was a lovely evening for a walk along the riverbank and bridge, to stretch the legs, before dinner. That was nice Chinese food from a nearby takeaway, eaten back at the motel.
Whanganui River cruise
I just had to get to Wellington today, so took the opportunity to spend some time on the river. The Paddle Steamer Waimarie runs a two-hour cruise (not like Gilligan's) from a wharf in the town.
Had some time to check out the Riverboat Museum, great history, and the Moutoa Quay riverside art while they fired up the boiler for the morning sailing. This mirror ball fracture is a map of the river.
As I crossed the road to photograph this impressive art (below) I ran into, not quite literally, some family friends and a work colleague who were also going on the steamer trip. Although NZ is small, and seems everyone knows everyone, given they were also visiting from Auckland for a couple of days it was quite a coincidence.
The Waimarie steams upstream for about an hour, returning to the same Moutoa Quay jetty. She was registered in 1900, the last surviving NZ river paddle steamer, and relaunched in 2000 after being recovered from the riverbed, restored after 50 years of neglect.
This riverside building (below left) once held 'The Whanganui Computer' which held law enforcement data for the New Zealand Police, Land Transport Safety Authority, and the Justice Department from 1976-2005. It was a Sperry Univac 1100/72 mainframe computer, probably outclassed by the phone taking the photo.
Waimarie also demonstrated their mail system. In colonial times pigeons were released as it steamed upriver relaying news of river conditions and other vital information. They released 'Alexander and Baxter': said to be reliable but one, can't remember which, regularly stops 'to make friends', with wild pigeons, before eventually homing.
Waimarie approaches the Upokongaro Cycle Bridge, Whanganui River
This bridge is part of The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail - 'Ngā Ara Tūhono'. Its 'connected pathways run from Tongariro National Park's volcanic grandeur to the magical wilderness of the Whanganui River and, after a short jetboat connection, down to the untamed Tasman Sea coast at Whanganui'. It is not on my itinerary for this trip but definitely on my 'to ride' list.
Keeping these paddles turning is hot work, especially in this weather.
Back to Moutoa Quay to disembark, a neat trip into the past.
Time to hit the road to Petone, Wellington.
To Wellington the long way?
As I headed through Marton the GPS suggested that, although longer, there was only about 30 minutes difference between the somewhat dull SH1 coast road and more interesting SH2 Wairarapa route. Since I wasn't in a rush, I went that way.
Stopped at the top of the spectacular Rimutaka Ranges. There was a bit too much traffic to really 'enjoy' the drive, but it was a stunning day to take in the scenery.
This monument is dedicated to WW1 soldiers who endured marching from Featherstone over the Rimutaka Crossing and on to a war many never returned from.
Petone for the night
Got settled in to my Petone Foreshore Lodge motel. I've stayed there before, and it is good if you have a car as central Wellington is a pain for both parking and traffic. Went for a walk on the beach, a nice clear sunny evening but quite a brisk breeze. Hope that isn't an indication for the Cook Strait crossing tomorrow.
I liked this sign on a roadside mobile dog kennel near the motel.
Dinner was DIY combo of Greek Salad with smoked salmon in the motel as still avoiding public indoor dining...
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