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Ferry arriving in Picton New Zealand after crossing Cook Strait

Lucky and unlucky; crossing Cook Strait

We don’t want to pass by Mount Taranaki without seeing one glimpse of it, because of the shitty weather. Yet the only way to see it is to leave Highway 3 for what it is and take a detour on the 45. This road is nicknamed Surf Highway, because of all the good surfing beaches on its right. On its left it gives a nice view on Mount Taranaki.

In silence we hope to find a good surf beach with sun. In Puniho we leave the car for the first time, walk to the beach – an ice cream in our hand – and stare at the waves. The sun has won the battle of the clouds on this spot. Not above Mount Taranaki That is still enveloped by fog. For a few minutes we are in doubt: shall we stay or shall we go?

Southern Island

Half an hour later we’re back in the car again; driving on to Wellington. Our desire to reach the Southern Island has won from our desire to surf on more day. Through little towns and villages with names we can’t pronounce – Opunake, Tokaora, Kakaramea and Whangaehu – and passing more cows and sheep we cruise over the 45, Highway 3 and Highway 1 to Wellington. For the first time in New Zealand we’re driving over long, straight roads and are able to make the hundred kilometers per hour. As long as we’re on flat roads or going down Oesga is happy. Going uphill is not her favorite thing. She makes it, but we’ll go in tractor speed. We can’t be bothered. We’re not in a hurry and our little station car is doing a good job so far.

Cook Strait

We don’t see a lot more than the suburbs of Wellington when we pass through New Zealand’s capital for the first time. The ferry to Picton – the little harbor town on the other side of the Cook Strait (him again) – leaves from the port outside the city. A little nervous we enter the departure hall around 6 o’clock p.m. All travel guides have warn us that we have to make a reservation in January and February. We haven’t. We also have no idea what time the next boat will leave. Having changed our schedule so often in the last few days we just left on good luck. And that’s what we have. There is a boat leaving in two hours with enough space on board for us and Oesga.

We decide that Wellington can wait and book our ticket to cross Cook Strait. To kill time we eat the last crackers we’ve got left with chocolate paste and cheese. We like to leave with a full stomach. Unsure as we are if we can buy some food on board.

Fish and chips

An hour and a half after we’ve arrived in Wellington we drive Oesga into the enormous ferry. We’re used to little ferries, but this ‘big guy’ with its nine stories is something else. Between all big road trucks – a lot of them filled with cows – we’re feeling very small. Staying in the car is no option, so we make our way to the restaurant on the eight floor, where we order some fish and chips. As soon as we flush the wishy-washy down with a beer the boat starts to move and sails into the dark night. .

Three and a half hour after we drove Oesga on board, we’re driving her of board again on the other side of the Cook Strait; in Picton, getaway to the Southern Island. What we’ve feared turns out to be the truth. No hostel is open anymore. The motels we check all have the sign ‘No vacancy’ on the gate. It leaves uso ne thing to do: find a bar and get a beer.

Restless sleep

After one more beer we’re back in the car; looking around for a quiet suburb. When we find one we park our Toyota on the side of the road, take our backpacks out of the trunk and place them on the driver’s seat so we can fold the backseat down. However: it doesn’t want to move. We look everywhere for a little handle, but it’s nowhere to be seen. We do find the option to close it, we can’t find the option to open it. There is no handle on the side, on top or underneath the seat. We’ve hoped for a nice bed, but it seems we have to fold ourselves double. Mickey takes the back seat, I take the trunk. Slowly we sink in a restless, uncomfortable sleep.

Six hours later we are up again. Broken. When we rearrange the car  we see what we couldn’t discover the night before: the little lever to fold the seat down. It’s not located on top, nor on the bottom or the side, it’s nicely ‘worked away’ in the backrest of the back seat; the only place we didn’t expect it to be.

I wrote this story in 2008; now I'm finally taking the time to translate it into English.


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