Driving NZ – Picton to Nelson

Day 14 of our extended New Zealand vacation brought a couple of surprises. Not only did I lose (and find) our little point and shoot camera, but it took 7 hours to travel from Bay of Many Coves to Nelson on New Zealand’s beautiful South Island – a distance of about 150 km! And there was one more

Our water taxi transport from Bay of Many Coves to Picton was scheduled to pick us up a little after 10 o’clock, so last night we opted to head out for another round of night photography rather than follow our usual habit of re-packing most of our stuff the night before. So as I packed my bags in the morning, I realized I hadn’t seen our Sony Cybershot in a couple of days. Everything came back out of my suitcase and day pack. Then everything came back out of Mr. GeoK’s suitcase and day pack. After spending a few minutes thinking about when I’d last used that camera, I fired up the laptop and dashed off a few emails to the most recent places we’d stayed and the operator of the whale watching excursion, pressed send and, with fingers crossed, started re-packing.

Our water taxi ride was really enjoyable. As sometimes happens, I was so caught up in making photographs on the way there that I forgot to put my camera down long enough to really take in the views. For whatever reason, I left the photography to the guys that morning, and just enjoyed watching other boats in the sound, the clouds against the sky and the wake of the water taxi.

The rental Highlander we had reserved wasn’t ready for us when we reached Picton just before 11 o’clock. So we asked what was ready and settled on a Camry. The friendly lady staffing the Hertz counter was skeptical that our four roller bags and four large day packs would fit in the boot, but our oldest son seems to have a knack for all things that depend on spatial reasoning and he soon had everything stowed away.

Meanwhile, on a whim, I asked whether they’d found a camera in the Highlander we’d returned a couple of days ago. To my surprise and delight, it was in their lost and found bin!!! Woohoo – we had our little camera back!

After a pretty good lunch followed by a short walk to the Village Bakery for take-away dessert (they make excellent raspberry buns), we finally got on the road to Nelson about 1:30 in the afternoon. We had a hard choice: the Queen Charlotte Drive scenic route or the slightly longer, but far less scenic state highways. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn we opted for the scenic route (although we did kind of regret that choice when we started to encounter corners tight enough that we had to slow to about 15 kph in order to stay properly in our lane).

We made two stops between Picton and our lodgings just outside Nelson. The first was to walk the short Governors Bay Track, which is just a 10 minutes on foot to a lovely beach. We arrived at high tide, so there wasn’t much beach but it was still very pretty:


Our second stop was just before the Nelson end of Queen Charlotte Drive, at Cullen Point Lookout. We walked a little longer here, making our way to the upper lookout point where we spent a bit of time checking out a New Zealand trig marker (aka survey marker – read this post to get some insight into why we’d find a trig marker so interesting).


The boys were hot, so they went ahead of us on the walk back down. We were happy to reach the car, where Mr. GeoK started it right up and a blast of cold from the air conditioning vents provided immediate relief. As we backed out of our parking spot, we remarked how amazing it was that the kid in the red shirt running down the hill seemed so unaffected by the heat. Then we realized it was K, racing to get to the parking area before we pulled out onto the road. Mr. GeoK and I still wonder when (if?) K’s older brother was going to say something! Note to self: even (especially?) when they’re teens, check the backseat for both kids before starting the vehicle!!

I wish we’d had time to stop at the Pelorus Scenic Reserve; there are a few short walking tracks, several geocaches to find and it’s where Sir Peter Jackson filmed the scene where the dwarves escape Lothlorien by floating down the Forest River in barrels. But that’s another stop that will have to wait until our next trip to New Zealand; as it was, we didn’t reach Nelson until shortly after 5 pm and our hostess was waiting for us at our lodgings for the next few days.

After supper at a nearby village, we settled into our temporary home and watched the sunset over the estuary…


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