Friday, April 25, 2008

Musing: Crossing The 180-Meridian

CrossingthemeridianDuring the morning of our second day crossing the Pacific, I had a random thought that we might be approaching the meridian so I went up to the bridge to take a look a the navigation computer. Sure enough, I was there just in time to watch the GPS longitude number reach 179.99 East then tick over to 179.99 West and start working its way down. Strictly speaking, this "crossing the line" simply meant that the longitude numbers for my Google map which had gotten more or less consistently higher would now start getting more or less consistently lower. No big deal. From a sort of metaphysical perspective, though, crossing the 180-meridian felt somewhat more significant.

First of all -- looking back -- I realize that I didn't pay any attention at all to the times I crossed the zero degree meridian. I think that was mostly because it always happened in the ordinary course of daily events and (almost) always on land. Specifically, I crossed the zero-meridian on the overnight train from Cadiz to Barcelona, driving from Toulouse to Bordeaux, driving from Bayeux to Blois, on the train from Paris to London and on the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam. Call me crazy, but there's a big difference in my mind between those circumstances and being on a freighter in the middle of the Pacific Ocean crossing the 180-meridian. The vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean is a significant divider of the earth's geography, and it is a significant divider of the world in my brain.

A second aspect of crossing the 180-meridian is that it got me thinking about how far I have traveled in a different way. I've never -- yet -- tried to calculate how many miles I have traveled on The Voyage, mostly because it seems to be an impossible task. Even if I could figure out how to calculate the distance between pins on my Google map, that would only be "as the crow flies" and would not take into account any of the many, many twists and turns, let alone all of the side-trips, etc., for which there are no pins. (Note: For those of you who really know me, yes, I am now thinking about how I might calculate the distance... But I digress!)

One way I have "sort of" tracked how far I have travelled has been by the progress of my passage through time zones. At the moment I am 20 hours ahead of where I started, but although the "time zone thing" has been a constant reminder that I have traveled far from where began in time it has given me little sense of how far I have travelled in space. Upon crossing the 180-meridian I suddenly became aware that I am now more than 300 degrees of longitude from where I started, and that means I am now 85% of the way through my circumnavigation. I can't really explain it, but being "20 hours ahead" doesn't have nearly the significance for me that being "85% of the way" does. Again, you are always welcome to call me crazy.

Perhaps an even more interesting aspect of crossing the 180-meridian, though, is that it coincides with crossing the international date line. Although I have flown across the date line many times in the past, I never really paid much attention to it, mainly -- I think -- because it was always just an extension of the time-zone thing. Sure, you "lose" a day going west, but you "gain" it back when you fly home. No matter how many times you do it, you always wind up back where you started. Your "home" clock and calendar never changed, you just "went away" for a while.

This feels different to me, and in objective reality it is: In this crossing, I will "gain" a day that I never "lost." In fact, by the time I complete The Voyage I will be one full day out of sync with the earth's rotations in my lifetime, and physically one day older than my calendar age. This result has occurred to me from time to time since I first considered The Voyage, as evidenced by this Wikipedia quote I've had in my file for a very long time:
"The first date-line problem occurred in association with Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe. The surviving crew returned to a Spanish stopover sure of the day of the week, as attested by various carefully maintinaed sailing logs. Nevertheless, those on land insisted the day was different. Although now readily understandable, this phenomenon caused great excitement at the time, to the extent that a special delegation was sent to the Pope to explain this oddity to him."
Well, I can tell you there's a big difference between have it explained to you and actually experiencing it.

I happily mused about this during the morning, and at lunch asked the First Officer when we would be putting the calendar back a day. He looked at me like I was an idiot and said in priceless Romanian-English, "We are already on yesterday. You may come back whenever you wish." His point, of course, was that it really doesn't matter what day it is onboard ship because they are pretty much all the same. I figure I might as well keep up to date, so I have decided to make tomorrow today again.

In my entire life, I never thought I would write a sentence ike that last one. Just another mind expanding experience on The Voyage of Macgellan.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Logbook: At Sea... Finally!

The uncertainty that I have recently tried to describe about freighter travel continued apace when I called the port agent on Tuesday afternoon for my Wednesday morning boarding instructions and was told that there had been a little delay. The ship was now due to arrive in Napier Tuesday afternoon, but -- because it had missed it's "slot" at the port -- it would have to wait until the evening to dock and begin cargo operations. This activity would take place throughout the day on Wednesday and the ship would sail later in the evening. I was instructed to show up at the port mid-afternoon to board and clear customs. Sure enough, as I was walking along the beach Tuesday afternoon with my friends Molly and Richard we saw the ship cross the horizon, approach the port and drop anchor to wait. The good news was that at least my ship had come in. The bad news was that it was still at anchor when I went out to take a look around midnight. Worse, when I got up early yesterday morning the ship was still at anchor, but I was encouraged to see that it had moved into port when I checked a little later after coffee.

After a leisurely morning of packing up, making sure all my documents were in order and saying my farewells to my Napier hosts, my good friend Hamish picked me up and took me back to The Hawke's Bay Club for a nice long lunch with his usual Wednesday crowd. At about two-thirty he drove me to the port where I was cleared by security and shuttled to the ship. The Marfret Provence is indeed a sister ship of my last freighter, but it didn't look quite as big at first sight and I realized that experience had adjusted my perspective. Because of my familiarity with the layout of the ship, I was able to make my way directly to the ship's office where I met the first officer. He asked for my "ticket" and called for the steward to show me to my cabin. Ronald arrived a few moments later and we climbed up five flights to the cabin I expected, the "same" cabin I had before on the port side of E-Deck. The arrangement of the furniture -- bed, desk and sofa -- is a little different from before, but the cabin is otherwise identical. Thus, the feeling of the entire process was very familiar, bordering on a little bit spooky.

Atseafinally1I expected to be taken directly to see "The Man" from customs, but Ronald informed me that meeting had been pushed back until about 11pm. Meanwhile, I was invited to make myself at home and reminded that dinner would be served at five-thirty. I asked if he knew when the ship would sail and was rewarded with a shrug of his shoulders and a pretty non-committal "Sometime in the morning." With that encounter behind us, he left and I spent some time unpacking and stowing my gear then generally settling in. From time to time I went out on my balcony and wandered around the upper decks to take a look at the port and "supervise" the cargo operations, but I have to admit that after all my previous experience it didn't capture my attention the way it once did. I went to dinner as scheduled and met a few more of the officers and crew plus one of the other passengers, a nice guy named Allan who spends half the year in Canada and the other half in NZ, always commuting by freighter in between. After dinner I went back to my cabin until I got a call just before midnight telling me that "The Man" was ready to see me. I made my way down to the conference room where we executed the usual paperwork formalities in a matter of minutes, then I went out on deck one more time to check on the progress of cargo operations before hitting the rack.

Atseafinally2I woke up a few minutes before seven this morning when the starting of the main engine created its customary -- and significant -- change in the ship's vibration. I pulled on some clothes, got some coffee and was outside in time to watch the tugs help us clear the dock, turn around and point out to sea. I stayed on deck for a little while as Napier receded in the distance then went for breakfast where I met the other two passengers, a nice older couple named Margaret and George from The Isle of Man. Although I was back outside in less than half an hour, I was a little surprised to find that that I already couldn't see any land on the horizon. It's amazing just how fast the curve of the earth takes effect when you are at sea level! So, I said a slightly tardy farewell to land which I will not see for about two weeks until we get to Panama. Because I expect these "Freighter Days" to be very, very similar to the last ones I documented in detail, I do not plan to write a daily recap. If anything unusual -- or even of note -- occurs I will write it up, but I'm pretty much expecting a series of "at sea days" -- sleep, eat, read, walk, iLife, coffee, movies, whiskey, etc. -- punctuated, of course, by relentless advancement of the ship's clock. As you know, it is a lifestyle that I really enjoy -- except, perhaps, for "the clock thing" -- and I am delighted to be back at sea... Finally!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Haircut Chronicle: #14 - Napier, NZ

Hc14napier1 Hc14napier2 Hc14napier3
#14 - April 22, 2008, Napier, New Zealand. While preparing to go to sea I realized that although my hair didn't really need to be cut yet, it would get really shaggy during the month until I next reach land. So, I found this aptly named place in Napier and asked Greg to give me a trim. As usual in the Haircut Chronicles, I got substantially more (or less!) than I asked for! Cost: NZ$17 ($14)

Logbook: Hamish Hooked Me Up!

Hamish1I had lunch with Hamish on Wednesday -- at the historic, "gentlemen only" Hawke's Bay Club here in Napier no less! -- to get the "final word" on my transport arrangements for crossing the Pacific Ocean. Before I tell you about that, however, let me tell you a little about Hamish, who is undisputedly "The Man" for freighter travel. A long-time resident of New Zealand, Hamish is a Brit who worked much of his life in the merchant service and various aspects of ocean travel. Some years back he decided to strike out on his own and leverage his vast experience and industry contacts in the form of Freighter Travel (NZ). I'm convinced that he knows every company, ship and berth that's available for passengers in the world and he makes the booking process as simple, straightforward and sane as possible. If you recall all the nonsense I went through booking my last freighter voyage with another outfit last winter, you'll know I speak from experience when I say that if you ever decide to travel by freighter, Hamish should be your first, last and only contact.

As a way of illustrating why I speak so highly about Hamish, let me now tell you a little about the saga or my imminent sailing. First of all, it turns out there aren't that many passenger berths from New Zealand to North America. This has something to do with the limited amount of cargo traffic between the lands, and a little more to do with the fact that not all the ships will carry passengers. Also, this is a very popular route with folks who travel by freighter and the few berths that are available are booked as much as two years in advance. So, the fact that Hamish was able to get me a berth on short notice is pretty remarkable and is due largely to the amount of leverage he has with the shipping companies.

Second, the shipping industry has some idiosyncrasies that can make it particularly challenging to deal with. For example, the first ship that Hamish booked me on was sold to another shipping company just a few days later and all passenger bookings were cancelled by the new owner. Thankfully I hadn't been counting on it for long like the other poor passengers must have been. Another example is that unlike the airlines which can replace a plane that is grounded for repairs with any one of many identical aircraft in their fleet, shipping companies have only a very few vessels that are always far apart in both time and space. So, when a "catastrophic engine failure" required that the second ship Hamish booked me on go into dry dock for at least a few weeks, there was no handy replacement and I would have been back to square one. If I had tried to do this booking on my own -- or with the "help" of some other firm -- I am sure I'd have been having a stroke by that point. Thanks to Hamish, I could just sit back and say, "Call me when you've got it sorted!" This, of course, he did, and it was the first topic of our lively and enjoyable lunchtime conversation. (Thanks, Hamish!)

Hamish2Okay, so here's the "final" solution that Hamish has come up with for me. This Wednesday morning I will board the Marfret Provence here in Napier. If the ship looks similar to the Aenne Rickmers I was on back in January don't be surprised, because Hamish believes that they are identical sister-ships. What's more, we believe that I am booked in the same cabin on the port side of E-Deck that I had before. So, I may very well be in for a deja vu experience of epic proportion! Beyond that the details are a little uncertain, for the same reasons that I hope I was able to convey in the Logbook entries from my previous "Freighter Days." Namely, cargo is the ship's sole priority, and passenger go where/when the containers go. Since cargo schedules can be quite dynamic, so must be a passenger's. That said, the ship is now scheduled to transit the Pacific non-stop, proceed to and through the Panama Canal, make a very brief -- i.e. no shore leave -- stop at Manzanillo then head to Savannah, GA where I will disembark sometime mid-May.

That's it! You now know everything I know! I'll try to make one more posting to this website before I leave and give you any updated info I have then. Otherwise, fair winds and following seas... The Voyage of Macgellan continues!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Logbook: Gangster's Gal Right Happy!

Gangstergal1It's been yet another different kind of great week on The Voyage! The rain that poured down most of the time has been a blessing for the area -- which has been suffering from pretty drastic drought conditions -- and a welcomed excuse for me to stay in and chill out after being on the move for so long. During my happy hibernation, I have enjoyed catching up on many of my usual favorites: iLife, Skype, movies, books and sleep. I have also spent an astonishing amount of time on something new, trying to learn how to do cryptic crossword puzzles! I've long been a fan of "normal" crosswords, but have never been able to get a handle on the cryptics. With Betty's help during our travels together, I started to get the hang of them and have now become completely hooked. I've done so many in the past week, in fact, that I've found myself "thinking in cryptics" -- which gives you a clue about the title for this Logbook entry! Although I still can't finish most of them, it's is usually due to the solution involving some sort of non-American-English idiom or spelling that I've never heard of. No worries, though, because you know that once I start working on figuring something out I won't (can't?) stop until I've mastered it. Stay tuned!

Gangstergal2During times that it hasn't rained, I have done some modest exploration of Napier which continues to be a pleasantly idiosyncratic little city. I can't really say I get what makes the place tick, and I have often found myself out-of-sync with it. One example is last Saturday night when I tried to go "out on the town" but found myself wandering virtually empty streets and unable to find any kind of music or other nightlife. Go figure. On nice days I have taken long walks along the shore, one of which brought me into the acquaintance of the delightful young lass you see here. Her name is Molly -- which should explain the answer to the cryptic title above! -- and she gave me just the kind of "doggie fix" I needed. We had such a good time that her human -- a really nice guy named Richard -- has called me a couple of times since to join them on their shore walks. My thanks to both of them!

In the background this week, I have been working on arrangements for moving on from New Zealand. I am having lunch tomorrow with Hamish -- the "freighter guy" who lives here in Napier -- and hope to hear something more or less definitive about getting across the Pacific Ocean. I'll let you know what I find out!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dram: My NZ South Island Map

As you can see on my map of NZ's South Island, I have covered what amounts to something like two-thirds -- maybe even three-quarters -- of the "main" roads. Although that's a lot, it's not at all unusual for visitors to do here. After all, the island really isn't very big and there just aren't that many roads. I did it in about six weeks -- including time on my own and with Betty -- but it could easily be done in a month, and I have met folks who have done it in as little as two weeks. That isn't a pace that I'd suggest, but it does give you an idea of what you can cover if you ever take a holiday to this tourist paradise.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Report: Bozo The Booby

During my recent visit to Cape Kidnapers on the east coast of New Zealand's north island, I got some pretty good video of Australasian Gannets, a sub-species of Booby. Partly because I gave them a bit of a send up in my previous noir-ish Report called "Booby Snatcher" and partly because -- as my friend and world-reknowned seabird expert John Sparks says -- "Boobies are proper seabirds", I intended to edit a Report that would pay the Gannets/Boobies some respect. However, while they are graceful flyers and exceptional divers, they are simply not as elegant as the Albatross I have featured previously and my footage of them soaring around the Cape just didn't seem to warrant such a Report.

A bit stymied, I turned away from the video for a few minutes and started listening through my Podsafe music for something I might be able to use as a soundtrack. I stumbled across a great little piece from Jonathan Coulton which has always made me smile and suddenly started to think instead about some of the non-soaring footage I had of the Gannets. They are, after all, quite clumsy on landing and a bit goofy once aground. In the end, I abandoned my intention to edit a "respectful" Report and proceeded with this "light-hearted" one instead. The title will make sense once you hear to the music, I assure you. So, with thanks to all the Boobies of the world who have entertained me during my circumnavigation of the planet -- and a promise that one day I will do them right -- I offer you this Report form The Voyage of Macgellan. Enjoy!

Lost In Translation: Napier, New Zealand

Books50centsBook Store Sign

Napier, New Zealand

April 2008

I went with Option B.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Logbook: Betty's Blog

(Note: At dinner on our last evening together in NZ, Betty gave me a few pages she had written out for me to include in the Logbook of The Voyage. I am delighted -- and honored -- to do so. She also gave me a few photos she has taken of me along the way -- with captions! -- that I have included in the Photo Log. Thanks Betty!)

Bblog1When the chance came to accompany Macgellan on part of his exploration of New Zealand I jumped at it, as it has been a lifetime wish of mine to visit there. Anyone who has browsed Macgellan's website will realize that he is a "traveler" -- whereas I am still a bit of a "tourist" -- so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I set off for New Zealand with my "wish list" for the trip. My fears were unfounded, we got the map out, tossed around a few ideas for a broad outline and in no time at all we were off. If you ever need a guy to make things happen without any fuss, rush or panic, Mac is your man! A great facilitator, he is also kind, considerate and a great traveling companion, with a wicked sense of humor which makes one laugh often. In the month we have been on South Island, the weather has been great with only a few odd showers and one day of heavy rain. I have done some amazing things (for me!) with Mac's encouragement, sometimes while he has stayed behind to tend his "virtual" life on the internet.

Bblog2New Zealand is a place of stunning scenery and it has absolutely everything -- fabulous beaches, snow covered mountains, glaciers, fjords, orchards, vineyards, sheep and cattle spreads, etc. -- all within sight of each other and so easily accessible, as well as craft/art galleries and places of historic interest. It is also the "adventure capital" of the world, so if you can name it -- or even think of it -- you may depend on finding it available from the Kiwis. What makes this place tick? I really cannot fathom. It seems to suffer from an inferiority complex and everything, everywhere has to have a handle or slogan as the biggest, largest, longest or only one in NZ, the southern hemisphere or even the world. As the current idiom in the UK would say, they really "Big It Up" or -- as I saw in a Maori dictionary -- they "Heap It On!" This really is not necessary -- it can actually become a bit irritating over time -- and driving along we would try to guess what the next place would promote itself as. The town of Cromwell takes the biscuit with its huge sculpture of fruits, something like a giant Carmen Miranda hat. Sometimes this over promotion falls flat and following on Mac's line about "You Got Franced" we would sometimes say "You Got NZ'd!" One time that stands out is crossing "The Longest Swing Bridge in New Zealand" and returning by a "Flying Fox" zip line. Actually, it may be the longest in NZ but it takes less than a minute to cross and only a few seconds to return, at a ridiculous cost of fifty dollars!

Bblog3Minor carping aside, I have loved being here. The highlights for me have been a tandem micro-light flight -- like being on the back of a Harley but without any bumps! -- and a tandem hand glider flight which was possibly the best. Being towed aloft then silently soaring like a bird (without having to flap one's wings!) and spiraling down to land on wheels (no running required!) will live with me forever. It was so exciting that one day I might just do it again! That experience was just fractionally ahead of taking a four seater ski plane to fly over Mt. Cook, Mt. Tasman, Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers then landing on a high altitude snow field. Walking far enough away from the other passengers to experience absolute silence and stand alone in brilliant sunshine amongst snow capped peaks was another magical moment to recall and savor. Really, it is difficult to pick the best experience as the last few weeks have produced such a kaleidoscope of so many colorful and exciting things: Whales, dolphins, gannets, boat trips on Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound -- where you can also find NZ's "steepest public road" -- Steward Island, Banks Peninsula, a ride on the rural postal deliver van and many, many others. I hope this doesn't sound like boasting, but I am so happy to have had the opportunity to do this trip and I have loved every minute! Thanks to Mac, my honorary nomad son!

Bblog4Now we are in the North Island and have come as far as Napier. It is time for me to strike out on my own for a couple of weeks and bring my geological interest to the fore as I move around this very active volcanic region. The smoking White Island, Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Taranaki are on the agenda before I leave for a week with my niece in Australia en route for the UK and home. Yes, I will miss Mac, but I leave him in Napier with hopes that he will have time to recoup and catch up while preparing for the next leg of The Voyage.

You may wonder what being on The Voyage is like. Well, I learned that I brought too many clothes with me and that normal day to day living has to be managed along the way. It is not like being at home or on a "normal" two week holiday, as everything needs to be fathomed out each time you move. For example: Where is the ATM? I got myself a nationwide debit card before I came for using ATMs at no charge anywhere in the world, only to find that it flatly refused to give me any money. In desperation I went into the bank and was told I while one normally should press "cheque" for a debit card, one must press "credit card" instead until they get the system working right... which will be very soon! Can I do my laundry at this motel? Will it be dry before I move on? My hair needed a trim after six weeks, so I needed to locate a hairdresser then beg to be fitted in as I was only going to be in town for the day. I managed to walk in off the street in Wellington and never thought there would be a language problem until I got a German lass to cut my hair whose English was more than a trifle strange, and only slightly better than my non-existent German. But, at the end of they day, I'd gotten a haircut of sorts. I can see why Mac keeps "The Haircut Chronicles"!

Bblog5Remember to get the tank topped up with petrol when you see a filling station as distances in the countryside can be lengthy in between stations. What are the local parking and traffic regulations? Here in NZ you must park in the same direction as the traffic flow or you will be fined and towed away. Citizens of the US must remember that there is no right turn on red even if it is safe to do so. Also, left turns must yield to oncoming traffic turning right in front of you; a real idiosyncrasy that is very easy to forget! Where is the chemist? At home you know where everything is, what TV programs are available, whether your internet connection works, etc., etc. At home you know where all the cafes are and whether you want to eat there or not. On The Voyage you have to hunt around for every meal! Being along on The Voyage has been a truly amazing experience -- one that I will really cherish forever -- but it is not any easy life. Mac has been on The Voyage for over 600 days now, and he is a remarkably focused, experienced and durable traveler. I think I would have said "Stop the world, I want to get off!" a long time ago!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Logbook: Hawkes Bay

Hawkesbay1Betty and I pulled out of Wellington on Thursday morning, quite satisfied that our two days in that city were enough to get a feel for it and equally convinced that it is not our kind of place. There's nothing wrong with Wellington, but for us it was just a city with nothing in particular going for it. It took us most of the day to make our way northeast, across the mountains, on a scenic route that was similar to our South Island experience but with perceptibly more trees on the one hand and somewhat more substantial development on the other. By late afternoon we were cruising through what is known as the Hawke's Bay area -- one of NZ's major wine producing regions -- and on into our destination at the small city of Napier. Situated on a wide, pleasant bay of the Pacific Ocean, Napier is a delightful town which is particularly known for its Art Deco architecture. Though this attribute is not as obvious as one might expect from reading the literature, it is fairly evident and rather more tastefully in balance with the rest of the town's character than the seemingly arbitrary, overdone excess which you may recall I observed in Ranfurly.

Hawkesbay2As had pretty much become our custom, we followed our long "road day" with an "easy day" on Friday, happily filling the time with a lengthy, relaxing brunch, a bit of walking around town and a visit to the moderately entertaining National Aquarium. On Saturday morning we drove a bit southeast to Cape Kidnappers -- so named because it is where Captain Cook thought one of his crew had been kidnapped by local Maoris -- for a tour to visit a large Gannett colony. It was fairly late in the season so many of the birds had already left, but there were still quite a few on hand and they gave us quite a show. The most remarkable aspect of our visit was that we were able to get right next to the colony, with only a few feet separating us from the birds who seemed to be completely unaffected by our presence. Because of our proximity, I was able to shoot a lot of "up close and personal" video that I hope to edit into a Report very soon.

Yesterday morning we drove to the nearby little city of Hastings for brunch and a visit to the Sunday Market, then returned to Napier where I scouted out and secured a place for myself to stay a while. For reasons that I will soon explain in detail, I will be remaining in Napier while Betty continues on her own exploration of the North Island. Thus, we had our final dinner together last night, reminisced about the really wonderful exploration we have done together over the past five weeks and bid each other fond farewells. Betty has been an excellent co-explorer on The Voyage and I have greatly enjoyed her company. I will look forward to seeing her again, confident that our paths will cross somewhere, sometime in the future. Thanks Betty!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Logbook: North of South to South of North

Southnorth1We had yet another beautiful drive last Wednesday from Murchison to the north coast town of Motueka. It really is amazing how many different kinds of scenery NZ's south island has in such a small geographical area, and I reprise my assertion that just driving around to enjoy the views is by far the best value. Motueka is a mid-sized town that serves as the tourism center for Abel Tasman Park which Betty took an all-day boat tour of on Thursday. Since I have already been to the Park, I spent the day in town, grappling as usual with the internet and taking care of some chores. Motueka is also the home to a very busy little airport where you can take bi-plane rides, sky dive, hang-glide and fly micro-lites. Betty was keen to give the micro-lite and hang-glider a try, so we made a couple of trips out to the airport during breaks in the weather on Friday for her to give it a go. To say the least, she loved it all! We spent most of Saturday taking a day trip out to Farewell spit -- a lengthy sand spit at the very northwestern corner of the south island -- but were unable to see much due to really foul weather and consoled ourselves with coffee and a cryptic crossword at a nearby cafe.

Southnorth2Sunday was the last day of our month long exploration of the south island as we made our way to the ferry-port town of Picton for an evening of sorting and packing gear in preparation for crossing to the north island of NZ. The three hour ferry crossing yesterday was a pleasant ride from Picton, out Queen Charlotte Sound, across Cook Strait and into Wellington Harbour. The ship was packed with people and an amazing assortment of vehicles -- as you can see in the photo -- ranging from cars to RVs to stock trucks full of sheep. I'm not sure what the economics of transporting live animals to the north island is, but I do know that they were a point of interest for many passengers. Upon arrival in Wellington, Betty and I got a new rental car, found our way to our accommodations and settled down for a brew up after a successful day migrating from the north of the south island to the south of the north island.

Southnorth3We were both "good tourists" today, spending most of the day on a walkabout of Wellington. We toured the downtown area, wandered along the pedestrian malls, took the famous cable car up the hill and strolled along the waterfront. Wellington is a lively, picturesque city that seems to have a pleasant mix of business, government and leisure aspects. There are a few interesting sights, but I would not say it is a spectacular place. Although Wellington is NZ's second largest city, it is still quite small with a population of fewer than 200,000 people. Despite this relatively small size, Betty and I both commented on how loud and bustling the city seemed to us after spending so much time in wide open and sparsely populated areas. We plan to spend the day here tomorrow then head up the east coast on Thursday. Stay tuned!