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EPILOGUE: Sunday 29th October: Kaikoura to Wellington - ORDINARY BOYS "Talk Talk Talk"

Our final day began like so many others, with an early start. We used the busy campsite facilities whilst slowly attempting to pack our bags and tidy the van. With a slowly increasing sense of finality, we dismantled the bed and tidied away the bed clothes. By the time of our departure at around 9.30 am, our bags were packed and we were ready for embarkation at Picton. As we drove out of the campsite, a couple firing up the barbeque to have breakfast caught my eye.

We slowly drove away from Kaikoura, back onto SH1, just in front of a double-articulated petrol tanker that started by filling my rear view mirror, but as time passed receded into the distance as we drove up the ever-so-scenic coastal highway. The road closely hugged the coast on a flat plain a couple of kilometres wide between the Pacific Ocean and the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains. At a couple of points, the mountains butted up tightly against the sea and the road took a circuitous route around the imposing rocky headlands.

After about 100km, the road headed inland through the vast vineyards of Marlborough, lodged between the age-smoothed hills marking the Northern end of the Kaikoura ranges. We passed fields being planted with new vines and crossed a long, rickety one-lane bridge with the railway line running above us on a second tier.

The frequency of vineyards increased as we neared Marlborough's main city, Blenheim. Despite a far from glowing report on the place in the Lonely Planet, we were running early for our ferry so we stopped in the City Centre. Being a Sunday, much of the city was closed and only the larger chain stores remained open. The city itself was a real architectural mess with pleasant and colourful art-deco buildings nestled between 70s and 80s concrete ugliness, vying for your eye's attention. When we were to arrive home in Wellington, a week or so later, a news story regarding Blenheim would break concerning a group of four teenagers seriously injured when one of them lit a cigarette whilst the others were trying to get high on a canister of LPG. I guess that should sum up Blenheim for you.

An art deco building in Blenheim. I can't be sure, but I would wager that either to the left or the right of this picture would be an 'orrble concrete piece of crap.

We stopped in for a while at Giorgio's Cafe. The jolly proprietor greeted us merrily and soon delivered our tea/coffee. The quality was pretty good, serving up a delicious coffee and a large, if somewhat unusual, pot of breakfast tea.

Then it was time to leave. Just as we were doing so, the large grey clouds overhead started to pelt down with rain. We drove the last 30 kilometres back to Picton in the driving rain very carefully. Parking up in Picton, near to the harbour, we clambered over the seats to get into the rear cabin to load our backs with our bags. Heavily encumbered, we ran as fast as we could through the rain and into the ferry terminal.

The terminal was packed with passengers heading to Wellington. One particular group of 60-somethings had been on a tour of some sort and were milling around in a large group saying goodbye to their tour guide. One of the group seemed to have an inflatable owl on the end of a stick that he was brandishing.

Shortly, we walked up the gangplank, through the rain and onto the boat. We sat down in the family area and waited. I wrote a good chunk of this very journal during the crossing. The cacophony of playing children frequently rang through or pierced the air. Due to the heavy rain, we only ventured outside onto the main deck a couple of times.

Slowly, the ferry (once called the Isle of Innesfree, then Pride of Cherbourg, then Challenger and now Kaitaki) made its way across the Cook Strait. Rain continued to fall all the time that we were on the boat. Despite the awful weather, the crossing was surprisingly calm with only the rare large rocking motion.

Eventually, the hills at the mouth of Wellington Harbour came into view through the thick, wet mist. The last fifteen minutes of the crossing saw the hills fade in and out of view as the visibility deteriorated but the hills drew nearer.

And then we arrived.

A quick taxi ride through the rain later and we were home.

A journey that had seen us walk for two days of constant rain, three river journeys, four ferry crossings and one boat trip had ended in a thick white shroud of water. I suppose that befits a journal titled, "Two Weeks in a Leaky Van"

I lay awake that night listening to a huge hail, thunder and lightning storm crash all around our little house in Petone. I thought to myself about how apt the title of this journal really was.

Well, to cut a long story short, the van DID NOT leak. However, getting home to a damp bed as the rain leaked through the window frame in our bedroom definitely compensated for how dry the van had been. We'd been wet for two whole days on Stewart Island and been in and out of the water on a good number of occasions; so what if the van hadn't leaked, the water had been our companion throughout our trip and to be honest, throughout much of our 8 months in New Zealand.

A typical New Zealand holiday experience?

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