Early Monday morning, on February 1st, we readied ourselves to catch the ferry into Auckland City Centre where we would jump onto the Airport Express Bus for our flight to Wellington. Although Gulf Harbor Marina personnel had assured us that the ferry would be running in spite of the fact that this day is a holiday, no ferry arrived. The weather was deteriorating even by 6 AM it was raining pitchforks and devil babies! Fortunately, the security staff at the marina is very helpful assisting us in finding transportation to the airport. We took a private bus service, arriving with time to spare for our 12:30 departure. On arrival in "Welly", Ken and Wendy, our friends from "Cop Out", met us at the airport and somehow managed to stuff us and Earl and Marsha with all of our luggage into their 5-passenger station wagon. We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies! Ken and Wendy had sailed "Cop Out" down to Wellington last year. They spent some time cruising the Sounds and then during the NZ winter, they berthed the boat in Wellington and flew back to Canada for 6 months while the rest of us had sailed up to Fiji. Now they were back and we were very happy to see them again – it had been a full year since we'd last gotten together with them. Frank and I stayed aboard with Wendy and Ken, while Earl and Marsha took the opportunity to stay in a "honey-moon" hotel in Wellington. The rains had followed us south, so we spent the afternoon in the Te Papa museum. It was fantastic! Each area of the museum is dedicated to something unique and to the history of the country, its culture, its fauna and flora. One of the highlights for us was the marine exhibit, showcasing a HUGE, well preserved giant squid that had been captured somewhere in the Antarctic and brought to Te Papa. The museum was interactive and had many attractions that we could participate in, including a 3-d film of the capture of the squid, and an earthquake re-creation room. We stayed until closing time and then went out for a delectable meal at a local Indian Restaurant. Afterward we dropped Earl and Marsha off at The Bolton and returned to Cop Out where we stayed up late chatting and catching up with Ken and Wendy.
Sunday morning, we picked up Earl and Marsha and headed for the Botanical Gardens, the historic cemetery and just generally strolled around the beautiful city of Wellington, as Ken and Wendy pointed out landmarks and government buildings. Being the capital of NZ, Wellington has some impressive architecture, including everything from Parliament to the famous theater where Lord of the Rings held the world premier. We did not have time to visit WETA studios, but covered as much as we could in the short time we had there. That evening we feasted at an authentic Mexican Restaurant. Wow! It wasn't Tex-Mex, but as good as it can get for New Zealand.
Monday morning we boarded the "Interislander" ferry for Picton, on the South Island. The ferry ride lasted about 3 ½ hours and was a treat. It was as large as a small cruise ship and just as nice. We were overcome with wonder and amazement as the vessel entered the Marlborough Sounds. The surrounding beauty of the reflective waters and the green, green mountains and little islands is an awe-inspiring sight to behold, and one that can only be experience by arriving on the water. Here, our South Island adventure begins.