In order to get ourselves and our stuff to South Island, we set sail one early April morn. Our ports of call, Wellington and Picton, contributed our on-going study in contrasts. Two cities in the same country separated by the Cook Straight and different as night and day.
Lying at the bottom of the North, the capital city of Wellington is a hip uni town with a creative class and a population of about 180,000. And if you want to catch a boat to South Island, you have to go through Wellington. No complaints from us on that one as Welly has great museums, restaurants, bars, trendy shopping and entertainment venues. Throw all that together and add the nation’s capital to the mix and Wellington is a world class city. An interesting port of call.
Traffic, be it foot, wheel or hoof moves between the Islands via two commercial shipping ferries. We drove our ride on board just before 7AM among the other cars, semis and motorcycles and headed for Picton. People are a bit part of what’s on board these vessels. Livestock and freight trucks dwarfed our ute on one of the parking decks. Who knows what other kinds of freight lay in the bowls of the ship. An interesting concept and fact of life for a country divided by a channel of water that can’t be bridged.
Lying at the top of the South, Picton is the port of call when entering New Zealand’s other half. At just under 3,000 people, Picton feels very different than its counterpart to the north. More of a tourist town because of the ferries, you don’t really go to Picton for what it has to offer, you go because that is where the boat takes you. Not to say it is a bad place. Nestled in the Marlborough Sounds among stunning hills and sparkling blue waters, Picton really is pretty. There are plenty of vacation homes, called cribs on South Island, and a big as marina. But by and large the businesses in Picton are there because of the ferry traffic.
So began our tiki tour of South Island. The differences in port cities are as great as the differences in the Islands. It’s the theme of contrasts here in New Zealand. That one constant; there will be something completely different just around the bend. As a bloke in the Canterbury high country told me, “Two different countries really.” I felt that driving off the ferry in Picton a month earlier.