Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The long and winding road to Nelson

Day 5 (Thu, 24 Nov 2011)

Wellington to Picton (via Cook Strait): 92km
Picton to Nelson: 113km

Today, we crossed over from the North Island to the South Island via the Interislander Ferry. From our motel, it was a 25-minute drive. Don't believe the "15-minute drive to ferry" sign on the AA Mana Motel billboard - we kept to the top end of the speed limit and didn't face any jams, yet it took us almost half an hour to reach the terminal.

We crossed over with our car and Apex Car Rentals is great cos they give you a free ferry ticket for your car, worth over $100. This means you don't have to disembark and change cars at the South Island, just drive on board and drive off after. A great bonus especially if you have lots of luggage.

The trip takes about 3 hours and the Interislander is a large liner, with restaurants and entertainment. Something like a smaller cruise ship. It is one of the most spectacular ferry rides I've ever taken, past the Marlborough Sounds.

I thought we had quite good weather and reasonably calm waters but still, Kenneth and Lesley-Anne managed to get slightly seasick, even though they had taken motion sickness pills. Both of them, Kenneth especially, have quite severe motion sickness problems.

Driving off the ship.

The disembarkation point was Picton and we decided to stay here for lunch. It's a beautiful harbour town with lots of beachfront cafes.

We then drove to Nelson via the Queen Charlotte Drive. This turned out to be a very winding road up and down the mountains, quite unnerving for those of us unused to driving through mountain passes. Even though the distance was only 1/3 of what we covered yesterday, it felt like a lot more and took a lot more concentration.

It was very, very scenic though. I think for this trip, I will run out of adjectives. There just aren't enough words to describe the beauty of NZ. Everytime we think it can't get more beautiful, we see another scene that blows our mind. I took lots of photos but nothing you see on the screen comes close to reality.

We made lots of stops whenever we saw photo opportunities. That's the advantage of going free and easy.

We saw quite a few of this bird, not sure what it is.

Throughout the drive, we passed by majestic, towering walls of conifers. Awe-inspiring.

A couple of hours later than scheduled, we finally reached Nelson - a city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay and oldest settled city in South Island. It's not a common tourist stop because there's not much to do here.

To be honest, I planned this as a pit stop only because I was so taken by the hotel where we're staying the night - the Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco Resort. It's a little pricey and it's not conveniently close to shops or the city, but it was so pretty I had to stay here.

And if you think the pictures in the website look fantastic, the resort looks even more gorgeous in real life. It's like a dreamy English village, postcard-perfect sights at every turn.

This is our cottage. Isn't it sweet? It's like something out of a fairy tale.

The inside is very luxurious. 2 bedrooms upstairs and a posh bathroom, heaters in every room.

Downstairs, it had a self-contained kitchen and every appliance we could ever need, including a dishwasher and washing machine. It even had a fireplace! We couldn't stop taking photos.

Too tired to go out for dinner so we treated ourselves to dinner at The Orangerie, the hotel restaurant. We had scallops, angus beef and lamp chops.

Sunset view from our cottage.

We love this hotel so much we're going to leave later tomorrow so we can enjoy it for as long as possible.

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