January 31, 2002 - First Stop, Picton

Well, the overnight train was a bit of a bust. Too much motion and too uncomfortable to get much sleep. The best comparison is taking the flight to NZ in economy with turbulence the entire way. I'll take the day trains from now on. At least there will be a view.

I met an older couple from Virginia getting off the train who were also cycling. They have a bit more experience touring and have even cycled cross-country from DC to Seattle. They just arived yesterday, took the train from the airport station and are taking the ferry to Picton and then the train all the way to Invercargill and then cycling north via Queenstown.

It turns out that they made an excellent choice, as the train south from Christchurch was canceled two weeks later and the prevailing winds weren't northerly for the month of February.

There are nine other cyclists on the ferry and five of them, including me have the BOB trailers. The other four are the older couple and a young German couple who have toddler in a trailer. They are cycling around the world. The baby was born on the way and the woman is pregnant again! Needless to say they are traveling with an enormous amount of stuff.

I've decided to to spend the day in Picton. I was originally going to ride to Blenheim, about 25km, but I'm a little tired. I chose a place a little outside of town, Bayview Backpackers in Waikawa Bay (4km from the Picton ferry dock). It is clean and has a range of rooms, shared showers and kitchens. It is a BBH Hostel. BBH(Budget Backpacker Hostels New Zealand) is an network of independent "backpacker" hostels. YOu can by a BBH card for NZ$40 that gets you a $2 discount per person per night and a $20 dollar phone card. Ten nights and it will pay for itself.

The first hint of what was to come arrived with the local newspaper. The weather report says Southerlies 20-50kph for today, directly to windward for my trip. And I thought I was being prudent for trying to relax the first day and not press on to Blenheim. It turns out that it was a portent of the monthly forecast.

While I was in Auckland, it was a simple matter of walking into an Internet Cafe, after I found one that would let me plug in the laptop, a connect to their LAN to get Internet access. Not so here in the South Island. At best, one seems to be able to beg use of a phone line, but not their account. As I didn't have a local ISP, I gave Mark a call. He recommended Actrix.

This seems to be a good choice. They have a pre-paid plan at one cent NZ per minute with a minimum of a NZ$10 (less than US$4.50) initial prepay. They also have a national freephone access number. I signed on. 600 minutes should last me through the South Island at least. It takes about five minutes to exchange mail and upload the web log, ten at most.

Updated: 16 March 2002