Saturday, January 21st, 2023
Distance travelled on North Island 138 kilometres
Distance travelled on South Island 32 kilometres
With a lunchtime ferry and only about 140 kilometres between it and us, we enjoyed a rather more leisurely breakfast than we had been used to. Our host had actually been to Prague some years before and we chatted about the city as we ate our breakfast.
We packed and left at around 09:00. It was raining lightly, more an intermittent drizzle than any kind of downpour, but the skies were quite dark to the south, which was where we were heading.
Before setting off, we had, momentarily, considered getting out our waterproofs, but went without them. Of course, the rain immediately intensified, but not to the point where we got really wet. One of the reasons we like the Softail model is the protection that the screen gives against anything but really heavy rain. Our legs got slightly damp, but that was about it.
Luckily, before we had done thirty kilometres, the sun came out and we were riding in a bright sunshine that was to last for the rest of the day.
The drive south to the ferry in Wellington was on a real and very new, motorway style, highway. As I have mentioned, our SatNav was overdue an update, so it once again thought we were in some fields and kept trying to take us back to the old highway. As luck would have it, we ended up having to leave the new road and seek out a stretch of the old one anyway, because the new road did not yet have any petrol stations. There was no way my shattered credibility would have survived a repeat of the previous day’s debacle with petrol.
Good signposting and a lot of big arrows painted on the tarmac led us easily to the Inter Island ferry. Check-in was very easy and we were directed to a purpose built shelter at the water’s edge for bikers who make crossing. The bay looked lovely and (I am pleased to say) quite calm in the sunlight !
One “biker” was already sitting there in the shelter – a motorcycle policeman who turned out to be from Christchurch. He was about Lucie’s age and, as we started talking, we forgot that he was a policeman at all. His name was Graham and he had come north to collect a new police bike, which we were parked next to and I soon found we had quite a lot to talk about. We were surprised that he complained about the bad motorcycle gear the New Zealand Police Force issues to its riders and he showed us that the boots he had on were his own, not Police issue. When we joked that maybe he or one of his colleagues would catch us somewhere on the road, he said that he would be the only Highway Patrol in all of Christchurch on the following weekend, so we could rest easy.
Us bikers were loaded first and Graham, who had done the trip many times, showed me the best way to safely secure the Softail. He probably did not want it to fall over and scratch his new Honda !!
Being the first on board meant we were able to find a place by the windows at the very front of the passenger cabin. I have quite a fear of the sea, so I could not really relax despite the fact it was dead calm and the sea was a gorgeous blue. The chairs were very comfortable and Lucie immediately fell asleep – and stayed that way for almost the entire crossing. I read and was thus able to see the rather picturesque route out of Wellington and the longer approach, down a winding inlet, to Picton. The voyage lasted just three and a half hours but Graham, who does it regularly, said that in bad weather, crossings of twice that duration can be the norm. I preferred not to even think about that.
We left the ferry in Picton and, again, were amongst the first off. Riding behind a motorcycle policeman can have its advantages !
We headed south along a fairly unremarkable stretch of the SH1 towards Blenheim and easily found our destination in the village of Grovetown which is, essentially, one of its northern suburbs. We stayed at the Dragonfly Cottage B&B (26 Fell Street, Grovetown, Blenheim), which was run by a nice lady called Ann.
Do not confuse this, with just plain old Dragonfly Cottage which, apparently, exists in Wanaka (we did not know that and stayed somewhere else when we got to Wanaka) !
We had initially booked to stay in a caravan in the garden with the idea that we would at least give it a try. Our adventurous resolve did not last long. Sadly, although furnished with everything that was needed, the caravan was really tiny. Even I was too tall to stand comfortably and using the bathroom facilities would have entailed walking to the house. Ann had spare rooms that were actually in the house, so to save myself adding injuries to my head to those I had on my knee, hand and lip, we gave up and paid a bit extra for an “upgrade” to a normal room. The room was not huge, but it was nicely, if slightly eccentrically furnished and I could stand up without fear of banging my head.
Ann recommended to us the local Italian restaurant, Rocco’s Restaurant (5 Dodson Street, Mayfield, Blenheim), which was about 3 kilometres down the road in the direction of Blenheim.
Rocco’s has been owned and run by an Italian emigre family for many years. I had lasagna and it was very tasty, but Lucie was not too excited about her penne al pesto. There was nothing wrong with it – but she expected more from a “real” Italian. Luckily, the dessert, a simply wonderful pecan pie, was so delicious it saved the day.
Our upgraded bed was a tiny bit short, but soft and comfortable. Despite a comparatively relaxed day, I fell asleep at once.