Distance Traveled: ~180ish km (Trip Total: ~2580 km)
I wake up quite early to the alarm that actually works on my US phone. It’s only 153 km to Picton where the ferry is set to bring me across the channel to Wellington, but the locals advise me to count on at least 2.5 hours to make it there. When I told the motel manager that I wanted to see a cricket match, she looks at me with a dumbfounded expression. “Now why would you ever want to do that lad? It’s the most boring sport on the planet.”
Here, at 5:45 am… I question my commitment to operation Flammenvogel.
The great heroes of our time, and times long gone, had to suffer in order to accomplish great deeds. Like them, I too must persevere. The operation is a go!
Dear God in heaven, that is just the most terrible expression a human being can make. I apologize. Just pretend you never saw that.
Let’s move on.
The road out of Motueka towards Nelson is nice enough, but rather plain. I find that today I have to actually contend with other traffic on the road, which is something I experienced little of on the South Island. The sun hangs low in the sky at that difficult angle where it’s always in your face, making it difficult to see into the shadows. I try to be extra careful on the bike under these conditions.
I actually get lost for a little bit in Nelson itself. Either I missed a sign for highway 6, or there wasn’t one, because I ended up just in the middle of the city downtown area before I knew it. I fired up the GPS for the first time in a few days to get by bearings again.
Outside of Nelson, the road gets very foresty. It weaves in and out, up and down, through these little windy canyons, as I contend with more than a couple logging trucks hauling lumber around blind corners. I actually feel pretty stressed with the difficult terrain and poor lighting. At a different time of day it would have been a pretty beautiful chunk of road to savor.
At the town of Havelock, I encounter just a bizarre sight. An entire town on the edge of a dried up bay, with beached boats lying abandoned in the muddy sand.
I don’t know if this is just a crazy low tide, or if the sea level is different on Mondays or if there was some irrigation/drainage/damming situation going on, but it was almost a bit unsettling to see. I’m used to boats floating on water, not sitting around in the mud.
The road from here on out gets incredibly sinuous for the last stretch into Picton. Deep, hard switchbacks that you need to take very slowly. I get caught in neutral more than once having to shift all the way down into 1st gear at times. It’s pretty, but the road is almost too slow to be enjoyable on the motorcycle. I’m averaging 30 kph for a very good chunk of distance. It seems to be a popular road for active people, and I come across several cyclists charging up the steep switchbacks and also joggers, both with and without dogs in tow.
Picton itself is a pretty small town, which really only serves as a gateway for massive ferries to dock and shuffle people and vehicles from one island to the other. With the slow going on the roads, I was concerned about time to make the 10:45 ferry, but such fears were for naught. I had plenty of time to buy my ticket and queue up with the parade of cars, campers, motorbikes and industrial trucks that all are heading to the North Island.
I’m in Row 9, which seems to be where they send all the motorbikes.
I have a fun time talking to the other bikers while we wait. One of them is a Kiwi who traveled to the states, met a girl in Missouri (or Missouruh), south MO, and stayed for 18 years. They just now moved back to NZ last month.
Eventually we make our way onto the ferry and park our bikes at the very back bulkhead of this massively long vehicle deck. After tying Olga down gutentight, I climb the staircase to the passenger deck.
It’s actually quite pleasantly furnished with many couches and chairs and little tables to work at. I claim my own small couch and dump my gear, getting comfortable for the 3+ hour boat ride to come.
As we get underway, the ship cruises smoothly through the channel as we forge ahead towards the open sea. The Captain says we’re doing about 18 knots, which may not sound like much, but on a boat that feels quite fast.
After a while of enjoying the view, I head inside, grab some food and a drink, and get comfortable. Once the land is left behind and we reach the open sea, there isn’t much to look at other than ocean. I listen to music and play some games on my tablet, letting my body relax for a while.
I find that the time passes quickly, and soon we approach the port of Wellington, New Zealand’s capitol. The weather’s gotten a bit drab and gray, but it’s still dry.
The loudspeaker announces that people should go belowdecks and report to their vehicles, so myself and the other motorcyclists weave our way down like a colorful, well-armored flock of sheep. We bid eachother farewell, and Olga and I take our first hesitant steps onto a new landmass: The North Island.
I fire up the GPS and have it take me to the Basin Reserve, New Zealand’s oldest and most historic cricket field. I arrive just as Wellington is finishing their last few overs at bat. The crowd has this stadium packed, and Monday afternoon CRICKET FEVER has taken the city by storm.
I must say, it made quite the impression on me.
But wait! I’m actually attending a Cricket game! And look! There’s an unmarked black-painted wooden shack selling beer just down the way! Operation Flammenvogel is a success!
There’s some time before the “second innings” where the teams trade sides offensively. Kids and families get to play around on the field while the cricket equivalent of a zambonie packs down the pitch to make it smooth for the pulse-pounding action to come.
I take a stroll through the cricket museum while the field is being prepped and look at little bits of old cricket paraphernalia enclosed behind glass panes. It’s a rather small museum, at a rather small stadium. The grand tour does not take much time.
Despite the rather underwhelming game and environment, I’m pretty happy just because I made it. I talk to the gate attendants who are around my age. They said that if this was a weekend game, it would have more people, but it’s Monday afternoon on a workday. Only some scattered families and grizzled old retired people with dense looking scorecards made it out today.
Also, this is Domestic Cricket, which is kind of like AA baseball. Actual crowds will go out to games for the “Black Caps” which is NZ’s national team. They also play in a bigger stadium with real facilities and KFC emblems painted on the grass.
I have fun with a beer or two and a scone while I watch Wellington Bowl to Auckland. It’s kind of like baseball, but slower.
I stay and watch for a while until I start to feel the tiniest drizzle come down, and call it mission accomplished. It looks like Wellington is going to lose, but they have a few more hours before they know for sure.
I go back to my hotel, which is hidden on the 4th floor of a downtown apartment building and get down to blogging. I have to say, I’m exhausted. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything crazy tonight, especially since I had to park my bike with the Thrifty rental car people next door at the hotel’s recommendation, and the gate is locked now.
The friend-of-a-friend who lives in Wellington who I wanted to grab dinner or breakfast with is unfortunately up in Auckland right now, so no dice there. If I had an off day tomorrow I could explore the city in earnest, but instead I’ll be riding northeast to Napier: the self-proclaimed art-deco capitol of the world. I’m actually pretty interested in seeing what it looks like. Art-deco is the shit.
Have a good one, ladies and gents! Hopefully I’ll have more thrilling stuff to share tomorrow.