"" Writer's Wanderings: New Zealand Diary - Picton

Monday, December 23, 2013

New Zealand Diary - Picton

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The cyclists staying at the Alpine Lodge in St. Arnaud are scrambling to ready their bikes for their race this morning as we go to breakfast. They will be assembling soon in the park area by the lake and heading south on their race. We on the other hand are headed north to Picton.

The host of the B and B in Picton had asked us to arrive early if we could because of an event they  plan to attend. It is less than a two hour drive on mostly straight roads to Picton and we are enjoying the ride in sunshine. As we near Blenheim where we will make a turn to Picton, we are amazed at the acres and acres of grape vineyards. At one point they stretch as far as the eye can see. I wonder who harvests all of those grapes? Could they all be picked by hand? I make a note to check to see if there is such a thing as a grape harvesting machine.
Sorry, the muffin's all gone.

Just a little after ten, we arrive at the Echo Lodge in Picton and check in with our host. The room is not ready but we get our key so that we can return after our day of activities. Right now a cup of coffee sounds good. We find a parking spot near the aquarium and Information Center that is good for four hours. Our tickets for the ferry for tomorrow are good for the 1:05 but we check in with the ticket office to see if we can get them changed to an earlier ferry to Wellilngton and get a better start to the day.

No such luck. It turns out that one of the ferries will be out of commission for maintenance so the morning ferry is canceled. On our way back to the Information Center, we discover a sign that tells us entrance to the Edwin Fox ship exhibit and museum is free for the day. We check on the hours and promise to return later.

At the IC we enquire about what easy tracks there are around. We’d like a walk but not a climb. The lady points out one she thinks will fit our needs and we go off to find a coffee and muffin. The day couldn’t be more perfect for enjoying it outside with a view of the harbor and a close encounter with the wildlife on the street--ducks.

Main street in Picton is full of neat little shops and cafes. We wander a bit and find a gift for someone for Christmas then find our way to the track that is to lead to Bob’s Bay. The walk is not as easy as we anticipated. There are some good climbs up but they are interspersed with some level spaces which help us recover and of course the decline to Bob’s Bay and the beach.

The beach is just stones and shells—shells and more shells. There is no place to sit. I was hoping for a bench or picnic table. The edge of the grass where it meets the beach is raised a bit and we settle there. Except for the incessant whine of a chain saw from some men cleaning up a big piece of drift wood from the beach further down, it is quiet. In a little while a young man appears on the beach and leaves his gear, strips his shirt and wades out into the water. He doesn’t make it out to his where his knees are wet before hopping back to shore. The sun may be out but the water is still cold.

As he passes us, Bob asks about the water and from his response, I deduce he is likely German or Austrian. I’m probably wrong but I doubt he’s a lifelong Kiwi. He heads to the end of the beach where an outcropping of rocks allows for a more dramatic entrance to the water and plunges in but not for long. He passes by us again with a big grin as if to say, yes, I did it, and then pops on his earphones sits on the beach and has his lunch.

We would like to see the ferry leave and pass by us but we wait almost fifteen minutes past departure time and there doesn’t appear to be any movement in our direction. Three dogs run past us and into the water, turn and expectantly wait for their master. Sure enough he has a stick and they are rewarded with a swim out to fetch. Amazingly the littlest dog gets the stick first. I turn to Bob and suggest we leave before we get a doggy shower.

A couple of minutes up the track and we see the ferry coming out of Picton Harbor. I snap a few pictures and we continue on our way remarking that we hope tomorrow’s ride to Wellington and the North Island will be a good one. Certainly the ride to the South Island wasn’t with the bad weather.

By the time we reach town again, I’m thirsty and hungry. We’d forgotten to bring our water bottle with us but it’s time for lunch anyway. We find something we like at the same café where we had our coffee earlier and sit outside to enjoy the sandwich and drinks.

We would still like to see the Edwin Fox ship before we quit exploring for the day but when we stop by the car, Bob pulls out the bag of salt and vinegar chips we have there (his grandson has gotten him hooked on those) and we sit near the kids’ park and watch the families as we eat them. A little blue eyed boy walks up to Bob, the kid magnet, and flashes sad eyes at him. Bob holds out the bag of chips. The boy takes one (not a handful) pops it in his mouth and runs around the other side of the bush without saying a word. I hear Mom say where’d you get that? He steps back, points to us and she looks. I guess we looked safe enough. She says loudly, I hope you said thank you and he nods. We chuckle.

The Edwin Fox is celebrating a birthday of sorts and the society that has formed for its preservation is having a party and a free day at the museum. We pop into the area where the ship is. The Edwin Fox was built in 1853 in India as a trading ship. In her illustrious career she has been used as a cargo ship, a troop ship, a ship to carry convicts to Australia and immigrants to New Zealand from England.  When the sheep industry blossomed in NZ, she became a freezer ship. She was towed to Picton in 1897 where she was still used as a freezer and then a coal hulk and later to become a tourist attraction.

It is amazing how well preserved the ship is considering the years it sat out in the weather. The top deck is missing and only a small part of the other deck is restored to show what it might have looked like back in its day. Below in the hull where all the goods were held there is a small area restored to show what it looked like for passengers. Its size surprises me. And the fact that we can walk on the actual wood of the ship does too since they are trying to preserve it.

The museum is interesting but we don’t linger. It’s too nice outside to spend time in a building smelling of artifacts. Outside again, we head for the car. It’s time to go to the place we want to revisit for dinner, The Mussel Pot. It is a forty-five minute ride and some of the twistiest road we have traveled. The last time we were this way, it was raining. This time we get to see the beautiful views we missed in the haze and rain.

Havelock is not a big town but it has a lovely harbor and marina that leads out to the Sound. We arrive to find that the restaurant will not be open for dinner until 5:30. We have an hour to wait. The main street is deserted. None of the shops are open except for the small grocery. We stand and read some information in the town center about several famous people from the area one of whom helped with America’s space program.

The marina draws us and we see a sign that advertises a café there. To our good fortune, the café is open and has a wonderful outdoor deck that overlooks the marina. We sip coffee and tea and relax while we speculate where people have taken their boats for the day and what we might have done if we still had our sailboat. We decide selling the boat was good as we much prefer to travel further than our sailboat would have taken us.

A little while more on a park bench savoring the warm sun and we are on our way back to The Mussel Pot. Our green lipped mussels are every bit as good the second time around and I am so glad we came back.

On our drive back to Picton we stop several times for pictures. I wonder how many pictures I really need of these scenes but they are too spectacular to pass up. I have a lot of work ahead of me when we get home to weed them all out.

We drop our things in our room at the Echo Lodge and then take a short walk to stretch our legs. When we return we join a couple from Canada in the guest lounge for a cup of coffee and a tasty treat of fruit bread that our host has baked and left for us to enjoy. We swap travel stories for a bit and then excuse ourselves to our room. Since we couldn’t change our ferry tickets for an earlier departure we need to find a church service in the area. Lucky for us, we find the perfect answer.

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