Beep, beep, beep, it shrilled, calling us out of our slumbers at the ungodly hour of 5.30am. We had a busy day ahead, and needed to set the alarm clock to make sure we were up bright and early. It was a matter of getting up, showered and dressed, eat breakfast, have a very quick tidy up (dishes and make the bed), throw the bags in the car, and off, off, and away. We were travelling across the Cook Strait down to Picton (South Island) on the Interisland ferry Arahura, then drive down to Christchurch but first we had to travel down to Wellington in the peak hour traffic. As it happened, we made very good time, and then we were informed that the ferry was running 30 minutes late. Never mind, we would rather arrive in plenty of time than be running late. The check-in operator handed us a free copy of RV Lifestyle magazine to while away the time.
At last the ferry arrived. We watched while the captain manoeuvred it into position on the wharf, then trucks, cars and railway wagons disembarked.
Then it was our turn. We may well have been in starting position on lane 4, but the big trucks went on first, followed by those cars in lanes 1, 2, and 3. It seemed strange driving our little Toyota Corolla on board, as last time we boarded a ferry, we were part of a group of eight excited people, three caravans and one motor home embarking on a three month trip. This time we are going “down south” for a mere five days.
I watched as the crew chained down the wheels of the trucks. They don’t bother with the cars, one of them told me, just rely on the hand brakes to hold them in place. Then we climbed up the narrow steps to the lounge area, where another crew member welcomed us aboard. With 90km winds blowing, it didn’t promise to be an easy trip. The captain made an announcement warning that the seas would be rough, and to be very careful if we walked around, better to remain seated, he advised. And that sick bags were there for our use. Oh dear – will we be in trouble? It certainly seemed like it as big waves hit the front windows with force, and as the bow ploughed up and down through the open sea. Robin is not a good sailor at the best of times, and decided that he would try and and sleep through the worst of the trip. My way is to immerse myself in a good book, and concentrate on the story – even better if it is about serial killers wrecking havoc and the smart detective who is closing in fast to save the day.
The Arahura (meaning Pathway to Dawn) is the oldest and smallest boat in the fleet, and was built in 1983 in Denmark for $45 million. The 148 metre long ship is powered by four diesel electric motors, and can carry a total of 60 rail wagons, 125 cars, 12 trucks and 550 passengers
The rough seas were left behind as we entered the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. The Marlborough Sounds are an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys at the north end of the South Island. According to legend, the Marlborough Sounds were formed when Kupe, a great Maori warrior, was chasing a giant octopus and finally caught it in Cook Strait. The battle that ensued formed the waterways and headlands of the Sounds. Most of the properties dotted along the shore line in this part of paradise are only accessible by boat.
It didn’t take too long to disembark at Picton, then we were on our way to the next stage of our journey, driving down the coast to stay in Christchurch for a family birthday celebration.