We woke up early in the freezing morning in Blenheim, with various extremities suffering from exposure. In the daylight we could see that our corner of the 'Holiday Park' wasn't much more salubrious than a supermarket carpark. Duncan joined us for brekkie before heading back to Christchurch for a 2pm flight, eventually attracting the unwanted attention of the New Zealand police due to the rush he was in. (Very unlucky, when you consider we had covered more than 2000km a few weeks ago and seen exactly two speed traps).
We unplugged the campervan, as if it was just a big toaster (well fridge, really) and headed towards Nelson via Picton. Picton is the place where the ferry between the North and South Islands leaves from, making its way thorugh the spectacular Charlotte Sound. We'll be passing that way again at the start of June when we leave Christchurch behind for good, and go check out Wellington and beyond.
Just outside Picton we saw an enormous logging shipping facility with what looked like around 100 tips of 3 or four hundred logs each. Moored alongside was a ship with all its hold doors open wide, and specialized log-moving vehicles buzzed around in front of it - looking tiny in front of the ship, but at the same time dwarfing the logging trucks that they were unloading. Those logging trucks look plenty big when you share the road with them. I know that the logging industry here is probably being run along sustainable lines, but the sight of this enormous appetite for timber is still unsettling. It's made worse by the fact that there are signs all around the top end of the South Island of deforestation.
Despite all that, the road between Picton and Havelock is not to be missed. The road rises and falls along the coastline, which looks out onto Charlotte Sound. The views from on high are magnificent and the peace and quiet when you pull in and sit at the shoreline is something that oddly, up until now, has been hard to find during our stay so far in New Zealand. For once, we could hear a variety of birdcalls coming from the trees. And fern trees - the first we've seen since Queensland.
I finally saw a tamed version of the Pacific thanks to the insular and peninsular complex of Marlborough Sounds. Warmth at last - all of this scenic experience was blessed with sunshine as warm as you'd find on an Irish spring day, and that sunshine lasted us all the way to Nelson, where we found a campervan park within walking distance of the city centre.
We ate the best homous and falafel I've tasted in, well, perhaps ever (if you're ever in Nelson City, call in to Falafel Gourmet - they make from scratch with carefully sourced ingredients). Things were looking up.