Sail­ing south, dwarfed by the big rigs

Sunday Star-Times - - On The Road - He­len Med­lyn

Morn­ing. I tip­toed over the wet, new­ly­mown grass to the ablu­tion block for a hot shower, got dressed and was blown about by the gale-force wind as I wound up the sta­bilis­ers of the car­a­van, got into the car with sev­eral kilo­grams worth of grass clip­pings at­tached to my shoes, and set off.

Con­tro­ver­sial as it is for not be­ing up to scratch, the Kapiti Ex­press­way brings a swift­ness and sim­plic­ity to the jour­ney south.

I loved that I was mak­ing good time to catch my ferry sail­ing – ever at the back of my mind is a ferry cross­ing in 2014, at the end of my first South Is­land trip on ‘‘Po’’, my Harley.

I’d ar­rived at Pic­ton to an empty park­ing lot and felt very chuffed for be­ing so early.

The lovely young girl at the kiosk said, ‘‘You must be He­len.’’

‘‘Yes,’’ I replied, think­ing what ex­traor­di­nar­ily good cus­tomer ser­vice.

‘‘You can go straight on.’’

‘‘Thank you so much.’’ A mar­shal at the foot of the ramp smiled broadly: ‘‘Glad you could make it.’’

I was quite taken with be­ing so warmly wel­comed and – full of joie de vivre – headed up the metal slope to the top deck ... which is where I en­coun­tered a ferry bust­ing with ve­hi­cles, all neatly parked, and peo­ple look­ing at their watches, say­ing: ‘‘What time do you call this?’’

I was last on. Oh, the ig­nominy. I scut­tled around, quickly tied Po down, and scooted up the stairs. Look­ing at my ticket, I saw my mis­take.

The sail­ing was at 8am, not the check-in. Bless Blue­bridge for wait­ing.

Af­ter what seemed a mere twin­kling of an eye, the ramp was up, the en­gines rum­bled and we were on our way north.

The mem­ory of that blun­der en­sured I got to the dock in plenty of time.

We were di­rected to wait in the line for tow­ing ve­hi­cles and even­tu­ally sent to the bow­els of the boat, where I’d never been be­fore.

Here, where the big rigs set­tle, lit­tle Vee was dwarfed, and drew many amused looks from the silent, griz­zled-bearded blokes de­scend­ing from their moun­tain-high cabs.

It was a doozy of a cross­ing. White caps on the moun­tains copy-cat­ted by white caps on the waves, but once in the Sounds, we were blessed with that peace that comes from be­ing held softly by the land.

Those green-backed hills

Ris­ing from the dark.

The sight never gets old. Shad­ows deep in their mus­cu­lar folds. Sun bright on their ver­dant skin. Like spines of gi­ant drag­ons Who, long ago, frol­icked in the sea Un­til, de­cid­ing to have a nap,

Fell asleep

And sank into the deep.

Pic­ton. Down into the guts of the boat I re­turn with the big men and their big ma­chines.

Thun­der­ous en­gines fire to life, shak­ing my ears in the cathe­dral-sized cav­ern of the hold, and lis­ten to the bang and bash of the boat’s metal deck as the be­he­moths each pull their five axles, 18 wheels and 40 tonnes down the gang­plank, herald­ing our ar­rival in the South Is­land.

When opera singer He­len Med­lyn with­drew from per­form­ing, she threw cau­tion to the wind, took out her sav­ings and bought a lit­tle car­a­van and an SUV. She’s been on the road ever since, en­joy­ing a mo­bile life­style.

Though con­tro­ver­sial, the Kapiti ex­press­way brings a swift­ness and sim­plic­ity to the jour­ney south.

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