But first we had to cross the Cook Strait. It was windier than before and the waves quickly became choppier. We can handle this, we thought; we've braved the open waters of Antarctica and survived 45° sways. We checked on Baby who, although no longer sleeping, seemed happy. So we prided her on her adventurous spirit and stayed put. It didn't take long for us to be the only passengers left on our side of the observation deck. Salty spray ricocheted off8i our faces and wind gusted in our hair (well, in Erin's hair). At one point, the three of us made up one third of the people outside with the lower observation deck closed due to high winds (did they just forget about us up top?). We kept an eye on our daughter who seemed quite content in her stroller, then moved starboardside when we started to enter the sound and gained views. Everything changed almost immediately: the waters calmed, the wind died, and we were surrounded by the beautiful forested hills of Marlborough.
The next few hours were uneventful as we retraced our steps out of Picton, through the Marlborough vineyards, and out of the region. The only interesting thing of note was our nursing spot in St Arnaud where we enjoyed a lakeside stretch and snack. Baby got her first up close experience with ducks.
It was once we turned off into new territory that things got interesting. At first, we climbed a windy mountain route (again, with no other cars around). We followed a meandering river through a pass. Then, as we crested a hill while turning a corner, the west coast suddenly appeared before us.
It was an unbelievable sight... wave after wave came barreling forward, showering anything in its path with spray. Rocky outcrops provided the sea with canvases to make work out of, each creation unique from the one before. It was absolutely breathtaking. The road fell close to the ocean then rose above it, the mist a curtain creating an other-worldly feel.
With barely an hour before Baby's bedtime, there was no stopping now to enjoy. One look at each other shared the same thought: we're coming back tomorrow!