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Day 17 : Monday 21st March 2005

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To the North Island

After another very good night's sleep , we had breakfast in a local cafe and headed down to the ferry port to hand our first car of the holiday back to Avis. Once this was complete, we headed to the ferry terminal next door to the car rental office and checked-in. I was glad to see that the ferry operated an airline-style check-in for heavy bags. I had not been looking forward to lugging my suitcase around on deck!

We had inadvertently booked to travel on the Lynx, which is the Super Cat version of the ferry, and completes the journey in 45 mins less than the conventional ferry, but for the same price! Given yesterday's experience and the rating of the Cook Straight seas today as "moderate", anything which reduced the journey time was much appreciated! Even better, it appeared that the Lynx docked at a berth near the Wellington harbour front, not far at all from our hotel .

The journey is really split in two parts. The first half is spent negotiating our way through the various Sounds that make up the north of the South Island, principal amongst them being Queen Charlotte Sound. Then, the boat makes a dash across the Cook Straight, an area of notorious sea which lies between the North and South Islands. The first half is sedate and sheltered, but the second half was fairly rough, certainly compared to English Channel crossings for example! The captain really opened the throttles however and this part was over sooner than I had feared.

Unfortunately as we entered Wellington Harbour, it was obvious that the fog and very low cloud that had been present in Wellington on and off for a few days was still present. It had shut the airport and prevented play in large parts of the cricket test match against Australia. Luckily we had decided not to fly here, that possibility had been on the cards as a possibility after our West Coast plans had been shelved.

Once off the boat, we found our hotel relatively quickly and immediately set out on a walking tour that took in the Government area, down to the waterfront and finished with a short, but enjoyable visit to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Unfortunately on exiting from the museum, the weather had only worsened and a fine misty rain had descended on Wellington. The most annoying thing is that it prevented me from doing what I really had wanted to do on this visit, which was to ride the Kelburn Cable Car and get some great views of the city .

With all this rushing about, we suddenly started to feel rather tired, so after a brief sojourn back at the hotel and a freshen-up, we headed back out for dinner and found a lovely Indian restaurant called the Curry Club. I had the Prawn Tandoori, which was excellent , washed down with a new beer for me, the Taj Mahal Premium Lager! Well, one has to try these things, doesn't one?

The Lynx ferry