Wellington – Dunedin (NZL)
“We definitely would not set sail on Lucipara2 today”, Ivar remarks. He does not need to check the weather forecast to know that the wind is blowing hard at sea. For the last few days a storm has been building and it is predicted to reach maximum force this afternoon. That is exactly when we are scheduled to cross the Cook Strait, the infamous channel between New Zealand’s North and South Islands, on a ferry. Whenever we voiced our concerns about the wind forecast to Wellingtonians, the answer was always the same: “No worries mate, the ferries always run.” Still, we feel a bit anxious when we drive our campervan to the ferry terminal in the pouring rain. Minutes after joining the queue, Floris receives a text message. “The ferry is delayed by two hours,” he reads from his phone. “Apparently it’s still going”, he adds in disbelief.
To kill the time, we do some lastminute sightseeing in downtown Wellington. A short distance away is a historic church. Old St Paul’s was built in wood in 1865 and is the city’s former cathedral. As soon as we step inside, the serene interior takes our mind off the weather. The arches spanning the church’s nave resemble the hull of ship, turned upside-down. “I refuse to read anything symbolic into that”, Ivar jokes.
We are long back at the dock when our ferry finally appears. It takes another few hours before we are on deck – parked behind a truck transporting live sheep. Sat at the bow behind large windows, we listen to the crew’s safety instructions. The announcement ends with a warning. “It’s quite rough in the Cook Strait”. That proves to be an understatement. As soon as we leave the shelter of Wellington Harbour, paper vomit bags are handed out. The ferry ploughs through rough seas and moves up and down, causing a deafening noise whenever the ship hits the water after coming off a wave. The windows through which we observe the spectacle regularly get drenched in sea water. It isn’t until the ferry turns and the waves come from behind that the sailing gets a bit smoother. Finally, in the shelter of the Marlborough Sounds, the sea is calmer. But we are in for another surprise. Due to strong katabatic winds, no ferry can dock in Picton. A long wait begins for the wind to abate and the dock to be available, as there are three ferries ahead of us. At 1 o’ clock in the morning, delayed by more than 10 hours, we finally drive onto the South Island. Despite the somewhat false start, we’re relieved and excited for our South Island road trip to take off.