Picton, NZ to Upper Hutt, NZ

21.1 mi / 10.3 mph / 429 ft. climbing
Home: Kelly’s AirBNB

I got the feeling that some of the other people at the holiday park were there for multiple nights waiting for vehicle slots to open up on the ferry. One of Interislander’s three boats had been unexpectedly out of service for the past couple days, so that presumably screwed a lot of people as they needed to shift to other sailings. Luckily our booking was sailing as expected this morning, but recalling how difficult it had been to find good seats on our Wellington-to-Picton crossing, we weren’t excited that we’d probably have another fully-booked boat even though we’re now well outside of the holiday travel season.

It’s Picton Bay, both a great-value Sauvignon Blanc from Trader Joe’s, and…this bay that the wine is named after.

The Interislander passenger terminal is literally right next to the train station, so the train-to-ferry packages they sell definitely make sense. Unlike our January transit where there at least half-a-dozen bikes, today we were the only ones (a few weeks ago in Dunedin we had seen one of our fellow January-ferry cyclists ride by, recognizable by his boogie-board). We had to wait a while for a train to get split into pieces and driven onto our lowest deck before we could board (yes, train rails run directly onto the ferry, and it can hold a complete train of railcars), all while non-bike passengers were getting the jump on us. But, it turns out that it didn’t matter: compared to last time, this boat was carrying less than half the number of people, so finding good seats was no problem (the January ferry didn’t take a train, so I guess filling the lower deck with cars instead contributes many more humans?)

A cruise ship peeks out from Shakespeare Bay (I never thought something as huge as a modern cruise ship could “peek”).
The view back to the Picton extension of Waikawa from the top deck of the ferry (the point of land in the middle is labeled on Google Maps as “The Snout”, which seems appropriate!)
A bit of long narrow peninsula that doesn’t seem like it has much time before it becomes an island.
And soon after, here is some proof of peninsula-to-island transformation.
Rock pyramids as we exit the protections of the Marlborough Sounds and enter Cook Strait proper. For scale, the low block in front of the leftmost pyramid is covered with hundreds of seagulls.
As we entered Cook Strait, I was genuinely confused to see these distant snow-covered mountains on our right. It turns out that the big one is Tapuae-o-Uenuku, the highest-in-NZ (outside the Southern Alps) mountain that so captured my attention on our second day riding the Molesworth Trail. The very top had a few patches of snow/ice on it on January 4th, but now on March 14th there was far more snow, and at much-lower elevations.

Over the last few days, some of the Cook Strait’s famous winds had been tearing pretty intensely through the gap between the islands. But dumb luck from our “delay” gave us a low-wind crossing today, just like we had for the January crossing. The luck was even more valuable this time, because with both of us feeling under-the-weather, a rocking and heaving boat would have been especially unpleasant (even if nausea isn’t a specific component of our illnesses).

Getting ready to disembark from the Interislander Ferry. Today it’s just us and the trains! (it’s sort of amazing that they let civilians walk around down here; in addition to the trip-hazards you can see every five feet, to get to the stairwell to the passenger deck we had to walk down a 3-foot wide path between the railcars and the wall, stepping over multiple steel bars used to strap the railcars down to the deck.)

So with little drama, we were back to the North Island! And immediately, the green, jungle-y, tree-covered hillsides had us nodding to the memory that the North Island is pretty great too. Instead of staying in Wellington-proper again, cheaper accommodations and Lord of the Rings sites drew us to the suburb of Upper Hutt. There is a train (actually, multiple trains!) that would take us and our bikes to Upper Hutt, so we had that option in our back pocket if we were feeling too sick to ride, or if Wellington’s winds were doing their thing. But thankfully neither was the case, and, the ferry terminal is already partway north up the harbor on the way to the Hutts, so we just rode.

The route up the Hutt Valley is a single path squeezed between mountains on the west and the harbor on the east. But cycling is pretty popular in the Wellington area, and the infrastructure is continuously expanding, so good cycling accommodations exist on what would normally be a nightmare-highway.

Ok, riding on a “sidewalk” on the wrong side of the road is never my first choice, but here it wasn’t too bad.
Because, yeah, the crossover to the “right” side of the road when the “sidewalk” ran out wasn’t ideal, but we got here, and are now cruising along the harbor.
This brand-new offstreet section of bike path has something I’ve never seen, a two-bike highway with a bike frontage road!

Once we reached the suburbs past the northern end of the harbor, however, the bike-route efficiency decreased significantly. It turned into much more winding, crossing back-and-forth over stuff, on gravel trails, with some unclear routing. But half the point of riding this was to explore the area around Wellington, so efficiency wasn’t the only goal. I’d intended to have us mostly on the east side of the Hutt river, but we missed the bridge, so decided to just stay on the west side. And it worked out fine. Well, until Rett’s shifter cable snapped. I carry spares and it’s not a big job to replace it, but that certainly hurt our efficiency too!

Riding a segment of the Hutt Valley Trail. Tradeoffs!

Upper Hutt has less than half the population of Lower Hutt, which has half the population of Wellington-proper, but that’s still enough people to make it the 18th-largest city in New Zealand! It feels like a pretty quiet suburb, with our AirBNB in a section of a single-family home on a main street just a block from the Pak’n’Save grocery store. We have three nights here to re-acclimate to the North Island!


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