Interislander Ferry To the South Island

To the South Island
Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura, New Zealand

My second early start in three days. Purely symbolically I set my alarm a few minutes later, but I was still up around 5.30 so I could hop on a bus and then get the train and shuttle to the 9.00 ferry. I left at just the right time for a hug from the hostel manager, an early riser, and set off in the dark. The 6.33 train is a commuter special, and it felt like a familiar Monday morning feeling as we trudged up the stairs. Paraparaumu had by far the most people getting on the train, I’m not sure why but was glad there weren’t more cramming on at the next stops.

The ferry is a big one. There are a few but I was on the Interislander because the flexi bus pass allows passage at the normal cost in hours. That is to say, flexi passes are sold in blocks of hours, and each bus trip’s scheduled length is chopped off your total hours’ credit as you go. It works out at about $7.5 per hour, which is cheap for the ferry, which is 3 hrs 10. Check in took about as long as it does when getting on the intercity busses; about 3 minutes, and I was shot of my bags. Phew, now I’ve got all my clothes back it’s all a bit full again. The advice is to pack and then take a load of stuff out, but I wouldn’t have believed I could do without so much stuff without being forced to. Lesson learned for next time, I think – mostly that it’s much easier if you have some space in the bag. A tightly packed bag will only sometimes go back together neatly, and if you’re travelling a lot you’ll have to pack and repack so much that you’ll start to dread it.

The ferry trip is pretty scenic, though of course I was dozing through a lot of it. Cutting through the islands on the way to Picton is stunning, a great introduction to the island even kiwis recommend. “Just wait till you get to the South Island”, even North-islanders will say.

View of vineyards backed by mountains on the coastal road
South Island, coastal road.

The German girls in Waipukurau had not liked Blenheim but loved Kaikoura so I said yes to that thought and was booked on the bus at 1pm. Baggage reclaim was busier than the busiest flight, with the same ‘got to stand by the carousel and wait’ twit factor crowding the whole space, but I was able to grab my bags after a short chase and dive through the crowd*. The bus driver was keen to commentate during our two hour ride, mostly on all the settlements (rather than the stunning countryside) and how busy they were. That’s a level of ‘busy’ that is pretty quiet to an English person but still, a bit of local colour. Kaikoura looks a great choice, with mountains in the background and the sea crashing in. The hostel backs on to the railway tracks – “be careful, and if the train’s there, go round, not under” said the hostel owner, “don’t give Fred a heart attack”. Not so much ‘no trespassing on the rails’ as ‘don’t scare my mate, yes of course I know him, we all know each other’. A quick and careful walk and you’re on the beach, pebbly but with wash crashing in dramatically enough that swimming probably isn’t a good idea outside the safe spot nearer town.

*actually I asked and was allowed through.

A view of the beach, blue sea and mountains in Kaikoura
Kaikoura hills and beach.

Reading: Updike, Rabbit is Rich. Brilliant books. Midlife crisis in this one. Nothing that can’t be avoided by not having a marriage or kids. As I sit in the sun and plan my next move, pondering which sights to see, that seems like truth.

A river wends through town, mountains behind
Town centre.

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