Friday, February 27, 2009

2/19/2009 - Back in the North Again

I am awake earlier than usual today. I have a date with the Picton Interislander ferry at 2PM, and I am not sure how long it will take to drive there. Now that I have a semi-permanent bed in the back, camp is easy to pick up and soon I head off for the store.

Or I would, except that the starter doesn't turn over at all.

NOT AGAIN! What is going on?! I walk down to a gas station and purchase some good jumper cables as it seems like they will be used more than the actual battery in the van. A guy is kind enough to jump-start me, and off I go. Given the questionable nature of starting this thing, I come to the conclusion that I will follow the big rig philosophy of just keeping it on all the time until I can find a spot in Picton that they will definitely be able to jump it or exchange the battery. I am worried that it is the alternator, which is a much more expensive proposition.

It stays on while picking up breakfast at the grocery store and does just fine. I stop at a rest area outside of town that is right next to the beach and eat breakfast with the sound of ocean waves overpowering the diesel engine noise. Some sea lions had arranged themselves in with the rocks and were meticulously practicing their "play dead" routine.

IMGP1864.JPGOne of these things is not like the others. . .

IMGP1865.JPGI had just missed the explosive part of the wave crashing thing, which is too bad as it really is amazing to see. You can feel it, too, as the vibration carries to the rocks under your feet.

After two hours of driving, the fuel gauge began to needle toward "empty", but this corresponded with coming into Picton (where the ferry leaves) and I was able to pull up to a gas station that had a shop. I left the van on and went in to talk to them. After being referred to the mechanic, he came back and checked the battery showing that the alternator was, in fact, charging. It should be OK to turn off. Vastly relieved, I proceeded to fill up with diesel. A big semi truck came impatiently in in front of me about that time, waiting for my spot. You know that feeling of surety that things aren't going to go right? I had one of those right before I turned the key, and the feeling was borne out. Not a click and the door lights barely came on. Gah. The guy from inside helped me push Zod backwards as the big truck driver rolled his eyes.

It came to me in a flash, though. Suddenly, the surety that things weren't going to work became a surety that I knew what the problem was. Opening the battery cover, I adjusted the negative terminal, turned the key, and it started in a second. The terminal is loose causing an intermittent connection.

I have enough time before the ferry to visit a local auto electrician. For a ridiculous NZ$40, he puts a new terminal on the battery, and Zod starts perfectly just in time to head for the ferry.

This ferry trip is pretty unremarkable. This midafternoon journey doesn't have the drama or interesting shadows and colors of the evening trip coming from the north to the south. I spend my time working on the blog instead of doing much looking, and I am sad to say that I did not take a single picture of this crossing.

Back on the north island, I start the trip back to Masterton. The last time I made it, it was by train from Masterton to Wellington. I leave the ferry and head that direction, but find a small and cheap campground just out of town (NZ$12) that I stop at. I want to see the trip over to Masterton in the daylight as it is beautiful. Plus, it's steep and probably would be smarter to have more people around in case Zod decides to show me another mechanical misadventure.

It is relaxing and anonymous there as I make up some vegetarian tofu-and-rice Indian food. I will have to eat some McDonald's or something to regain some masculinity over the next few days.

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