After staying the night in Greymouth, which was pretty much unplanned but not unwelcomed, we headed north to Picton. Our original plan was to spend the morning to afternoon in a town called Nelson, but with the stranding events in Hokitika, we decided to just keep on north until we got to Picton. Picton was the city in the south island of New Zealand where you can catch one of two giant ferries that will take you on a 3 hours boat cruise over to the north island and to the city of Wellington. The boats can even take vehicles as well!
The drive was a bit long, but we made it to Picton with a bit of an evening to spare. We also originally wanted to drive through a town called Havelock which was nationally know to have the best green lipped muscles. However, when we got to Picton, the drive to Havelock (since we didn’t originally pass through it) would have set us back at least an hour and a half each way. Since we had been driving all day we weren’t really in the mood for more of it, so we plopped down in the holiday park and decided to try one of the local restaurants in Picton for some green lipped muscle experiences. To our luck we managed to find a nice cafe that not only had delicious green lipped muscles, but also some local brews that were exceptionally good! Up to this point, it was hard to find any sort of beer that had some heft and bite to it, it was mostly watered down commercial beer or something that tried to be bold but was too afraid to take that extra leap of flavor and bite in case the consumer might spit it out in disgust. We were happy to find some good delicious hearty strong beers for once in our trip and had to try as many as we could and still be able to walk home. Steve can probably elaborate more on the beers we had, but I remember one being called Moa. It is named after the ancient extinct giant bird creature that used to inhabit New Zealand. They touted their beer as being ‘rare’ just like the bird. Apparently there are myths and legends of them still existing in small numbers in New Zealand, so the beer is a tribute to there rarity, not their extinction.
After dinner we headed home and ended up meeting and drinking with an English man who was traveling all over New Zealand by himself. He was fun to banter along with and he was even taking the same ferry we were the following day so we drunkenly vowed to make sure we woke each party up just in case we slept through any alarms. Luckily we all made it up the next morning, only kind of hungover (mostly tired) and headed to the ferry! Now up to this point I had been using a prescription motion sickness patch for when I had to be on a boat in rough water, I get pretty sea sick if the weather is bad enough. But I had used it all up in Australia. I wasn’t concerned about this large ferry being a problem but i took some Dramamine anyway. However, after getting along on the boat, the water did become quite rough and surprisingly knocked that gigantic boat around something fierce. Lots of people were getting sick, luckily I didn’t, but I did have to go lay out on the outside deck toward the center of the boat. It helped a lot and the fresh air was nice. And after 3 quick hours we made it to Wellington!
We arrived and knew our next stop was going to be Ohakune. As we got into the car and drove it off the boat (so cool) we started driving along and started seeing signs for the Te Papa Museum and I immediately said “OH YEAH!” We had originally planned to stop and check out this awesome free museum but almost forgot! We followed the signs and parked the car and headed in! It was a huge museum with 5 floors. Almost every exhibit was free and there was so much to see. We didn’t even get all the way through it before our feet were yelling and the tiredness of a drunken sleep started setting in. We did get to see some amazing things though. They had lots of intractable exhibits about the earth and its plate tectonics and earthquakes and things like that. They had an earthquake simulator that looked like it was built like a house and we went in and it was a wee little quake. We were like “We’ve felt bigger” and gave each other a comical look of disappointment. There was also a lot of exhibits on the native animals of New Zealand. Lots of exhibits on their agriculture as well and how various plants and animals were introduced to the country over time. And then we saw the giant squid exhibit. This thing was massive! Steve had a blast checking out this one. There were also lots of exhibits about the native Maori people of New Zealand. Lots of exhibits on green stone and jade and even some sacred art inspired by the Maori people.
It was awesome to check out and totally free! Well, except of course for parking. That’s how they get ya. After walking around the museum for a while we headed back to the car and then hit up a grocery store to stock up on some food form the rest of the week. We started driving along toward Ohakune to stay at a holiday park there. We made some dinner and got to bed to rest up for the next day. Onto tramping the Tangariro Alpine Crossing!