In the spring of 2016, Henderson Productions took an extended do-it-yourself driving tour of New Zealand including this journey across the Cook Straights.   We’re excerpting portions of our trip in this blog beginning with    

We set off before dawn at 5 AM in order to make our 10:45 sailing across the Cook Straights to the North Island.    MUST talk to our travel arrangers about THAT!   Ridiculous.   It’s a 4-hour drive.   Fortunately, there was no bad weather and this early on a Saturday morning, little or no traffic.  It was a little difficult to capture pics in the early hours though.

Gorgeous landscapes once the sun came up

There are, apparently, almost no flat straight roads in the country.   For those not familiar, that means up and down and round tight corners and sometimes around tight corners while going up and down.   In the dark.   With no moon or stars due to cloud cover.     We came into Kaikoura as the sun was rising and ate our breakfast watching the surf before heading on.

A little beach watching for a breakfast break

Avocados were 6 for $3.   Great bargain.   A couple shacks on the beach called Nins Bins and Craig’s Crays offered “fresh cooked crayfish” which would have definitely hooked us in if it was later in the day.   We were in and out and back again to cow farms with bull studs and bull sales offered.    There was the “Old Barn Function Centre” which I thought a perfect use for such a building.  We had another conversation about pronunciations.   Try Rurangi.     Give it a go.   I’ll come back to that.

Now, wine vs sheep.   We are torn.   We have traveled 1250 miles (2000 km) in 7 days and can’t decide which there are more of.    Wine, wine everywhere.    Way too many sheep to care.   (Just made that up!)    Honestly, if we had another day, setting up in Blenheim and just sliding from one to the other would be worth considering.    And some of these vineyards are named “Johanishof” or “Traminer”.    Yep – does indeed look like German wine country with these rolling hills.    Very, very green and all the vine leaves are just turning golden yellow.    Many in this area do have the windmills to keep off the late summer frost but doesn’t look like they’ve needed them as much as further south.

Back to sheep vs wine.   There are also sheep EVERYWHERE!   Every scraggy mountainside, tucked between a mountain cliff and the ocean, spread across the valley plains.     Just amazing.   BUT…. just this morning we have passed at least 100 vineyards.    From our eyes – it’s a toss up.

We were almost across the Cook Straits as this was written.   The signs where we lined up in rows of 18 cars per row indicated the seas were “moderately heavy” with swells “up to 3 feet”.    It was rockin’ and a rollin’ a little but not remotely worrisome.    We drove on board and, for the first we’ve ever seen, made a u-turn as there’s only one way in and out.   The ship has a food hall, a couple bar areas, a driver’s lounge, a movie theater ($13.50 each!), several interior lounges with either picnic-style tables or comfy chairs (where we opted), an upper open-air deck and exterior walking decks on 3 levels.    Not bad at all.

Departing Picton on the ferry across the Cook Straits.

Back to Rurangi.    Have you tried it yet.    This is Rick’s solution to figuring it out: “They must have lemons there.”   “What?” I ask.    “You know, lemon Rurangi.”      This is how we spend our driving time.

What’s your experience in New Zealand?   We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on Facebook at “suehendersonphotography