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Nelson Wellington

7th February 2012

A Tortuous Trip to Picton, Perhaps Home to the Eighth Wonder of the World

Picton Harbour
    I awoke to a gorgeous sunny morning, and a female mallard duck with her brood of ducklings sitting in my car's shadow.
    I made my way across to the i-Site and spent quite a while uploading two week's worth of blog (I could use my IAC account there) and went through a back-log of emails. I had a very nice one from the police. Apparently when I was travelling through the back of beyond on my way to Queenstown, I was travelling at 111km/hour, and the national top speed limit is 100km/hour. They congratulated me, and presented me with an $80 fine. That was jolly nice of them I thought.
    Having caught up with the rest of the world, I sauntered back to my wagon, idly stopping to look at the babbling fairly small Maitai River, which had been a raging torrent in December, causing much destruction. I have learnt a lot about the power of water on this trip.
    Then it was a case of ploughing over the Bryant Range, much of it covered in pine plantations, with huge swathes freshly felled. The road across to Havelock was tortuous and uneventful. The only "excitement" was my cursing a couple of Kiwi lunatics who were hell bent on overtaking any vehicle if there was just over a car's length for them to slot in to. So much for keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
Downtown Picton
    Reaching Havelock was a major milestone, I had now completed a lap around the South Island. This called for a celebration, and I really pushed the boat out with a coffee and scone at the bakery.
    I had forgotten how convoluted the road from Havelock to Picton was. The speed limits of 50km/hour were hard to reach never mind exceed. For that extra twist of pain, rains came down with fearful ferocity.
    But I reached my destination unhindered, and went straight to the ferry terminal to book a crossing back over to Wellington, and having no desire to arrive there at 11pm, I opted for the 8am crossing the next morning. That done, off to find a campsite. There I was given a warm welcome by a granny. "Just park anywhere you want in that area there," she said pointing to a map stuck on her desk. "You are really roughing it sleeping in a car," she added. I thought sleeping out in a one man tent would be even rougher, but I didn't raise the point. "It will be alright if I drive out at 06:30 in the morning?" I asked. "Just sneak out quietly and I won't hear you," she replied with a smile and a wink, "with ferries coming and going at all times of day and night we have to expect that."
Looking Down Queen Charlotte Sound
    I went off to explore Picton. The museum I wanted to visit appeared shut. I checked at the cafe/shop/cinema next door. "Is the museum next door shut, or is it open on request?" I asked. "It shuts anytime from 3pm, there is no set rule," laughed the two guys at the desk of the combined cafe/shop/cinema. "Blast," I replied. "It says in the guide book that the Edwin Fox is the 9th oldest ship in the world. I find that hard to believe," I added. This created guffaws of laughter from the two men. "It is a load of bull," said one of them. The other butted in, "When you push them, they always move the goalposts, adding extra qualifications such as it is made of teak, was built in India, transported convicts to Australia etc. etc. So it all depends on how you define a ship." I gave my "I understand smile". "The remains were moved here from one of the sounds. The locals were taking it apart and using it for firewood," said the big jovial chap, "but the museum has lots of interesting photographs, models and artefacts. It is worth visiting." Sadly I will have departed before it opens in the morning.
    Nearby stood a large covered area containing a large hull with a few holes down the side, the remains of the Edwin Fox. Would I define that as a ship? Debatable point. From a different viewpoint, would I call the Mary Rose in Portsmouth a ship? Large display boards outside stated how the Edwin Fox was the most diverse existing historic sailing ship in the world, having been more places and done more things in world trade than any other sailing ship. Its claims to fame were: the 9th oldest ship in the world, the oldest merchant ship in the world, the world's last surviving East Indiaman, the oldest surviving ship that brought immigrants to New Zealand, the last surviving ship out of 1040 that transported convicts to Australia, it had circumnavigated the globe 34 times, carried troops to the Crimean War, took Chinese labourers to the West Indies, took soldiers and beer to India, and carried tea and wool to England. Crumbs, I bet it is not in the Guinness Book of Records.
Hull of the Edwin Fox
    I left this eighth Wonder of the World, and went for a walk up and down the High Street in town. The street was just a string of souvenir shops, arts and crafts stores, cafes, bars, restaurants and the occasional convenience store. Five minutes later and I had covered them all. As I walked past one building a guy asked, "Excuse me, is there anywhere you would recommend to eat around here?" "I have only just arrived myself," I said, "but the lady at the ferry terminal told me that the Flying Haggis does good pub grub." The chap gave me a puzzled look, so I reiterated, "The Flying Haggis, it is on the opposite side a few buildings up," and pointed to the building. "Haggis," he said slowly. "Yes, Haggis," I replied, and I started to explain about the mythical Scottish animal and what a haggis actually was. The poor guy's eyes glazed over, he wondered what planet he had arrived at. "I'm from the US," he said. Ah, that explained it. At that point his friend came out of the shop, and asked me straightaway, "Do you know where we can find a gas station?" "He has only just got here too," said the other chap, and they wandered off across the road together in a daze. I found it strange since small New Zealand towns seem to be laid out very much like small US towns, and it should not be beyond the wit of man to fathom them out. Maybe I'm being unfair, they were old like me.
    That was my height of excitement in this important gateway port, so I returned back to camp to calm down and watch the rain. The excitement was too much for me.

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Nelson Wellington

Uploaded from Top10 Campsite, Napier on 10th February at 16:55

Last updated 10.2.2012