Lower carbon travel – seals, gold seats, and 30°C

By Greig Wilson, resident BDM and first-time travel blogger!                                                                                         

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On Thursday 6 August I set off from Wellington bound for Christchurch, to get there in time for our six-monthly strategy day, which was the next day.

The catch: I could not fly.

The intent: To travel using lower carbon transport options and test how much work I could get done along the way.

The day started off well. I got dropped off by my wife and kids – and there was a seal to welcome me!

I was travelling on the Kaiarahi ferry. There were very few ‘no vehicle’ passengers so I was able to get on board before the majority of travellers and choose a table that I desired. I managed to get a table at the front of the ship, with good views, and next to a power outlet (these were in relatively short supply!). We took off on time at 9 am.

I had issues getting the Wi-Fi to work so I switched to a Personal Hotspot and proceeded to get about an hour and a half of work done (I boarded 45 minutes prior to departure) before we lost service for a couple of hours. I filled in the remainder of the trip by having a wonderful chat over coffee with an 86-year young gentleman about carbon reduction and renewables, Trump, history – and generally solving the world’s problems. I also took in the stunning scenery of the Marlborough Sounds and saw dolphins off in the distance. It helped that it was a stunning day, and the strait was as flat as a millpond!

We arrived into Picton on time, three and a half hours later. I then had an hour and 5 minutes to wait for my bus. I passed the time by checking my emails and making a few phone calls.

When I booked the bus with Intercity, I paid an extra $10 for a ‘Gold’ seat which includes a soft leather reclining chair, complete with individual USB charging ports, free Wi-Fi and plenty of room to stretch your legs. However, on the Saturday prior to the trip, I received an email to say that there would be no gold seats available due to ‘operational issues’.

So, I didn’t get a fancy bus with seats like this.

Instead, I got this. Still perfectly comfortable though. And it was only half full so plenty of room. The bus was clean, had safety belts (see selfie photo), and it had an on-board toilet – however, not sure if it worked as the driver recommended we use the scheduled stop for a toilet break!

Early on in the bus trip, I discovered it was pretty bouncy so it was tricky to write emails on my phone. I resorted to making phone calls and reading documents (e.g. tenders/contracts) on my tablet. I also took in the wonderful scenery en route to Kaikoura.

We then had a scheduled 40 minute stop in Kaikoura. Once again I passed the time by making a phone call to a colleague about a recently released UN tender investigating the feasibility of implementing ocean energy technology in Nauru.

The bus driver warned us of road closures south of Kaikoura. On an earlier trip he had waited 30 minutes, however, we only ended up waiting 10-15 minutes. I made the mistake of grabbing a seat on the right side of the bus so didn’t get the best views of the coastline – but still breathtaking nonetheless.

A little further on he reported that the air conditioning was malfunctioning, and soon the windows were completely fogged up. He said we could stop and wait for a replacement bus from Christchurch, or grin and bear it and press on. No one wanted to stop so we pressed on. The temperature indicator at the front of the bus soon displayed a temperature of 30°C. Luckily I don’t mind the heat – I did get a bit dosey though…….

Finally, we made it to the Garden City at 7:40 pm, on schedule. I then had a short 10-minute walk to my hotel. Door to door it took me just under 12 hours.


Travel time – door to door

  • Plane:
    • I would normally leave home about an hour and a quarter before my departure time to give me sufficient time to check in my bag
    • Flight time – assume approximately one hour
    • Arrive and then wait for my bag – assume approximately quarter of an hour
    • Uber to the city – assume approximately half an hour
    • TOTAL = 3 hours
  • Ferry/Bus:
    • TOTAL = 12 hours (as mentioned earlier)
  •  Comparison:
    • The ferry/bus journey took four times as long as the equivalent plane journey


  • Plane:
    • Uber from home to Wellington Airport – assume $50
    • Flight – assume seat+bag @ $200
    • Uber from Christchurch Airport to the city – assume $40
    • TOTAL = $290
  • Ferry/Bus:
    • Uber from home to the Ferry Terminal – assume $15
    • Ferry = $58
    • Bus (standard seat) = $68
    • TOTAL = $141
  • Comparison:
    • The ferry/bus journey was less than half the price of the equivalent plane journey

Carbon Emissions


As long as you are a patient person (like me!) then it is a very relaxing way to travel i.e. no rushing to gates to catch your flight etc. There is also the added benefit of having more time to appreciate the beautiful scenery.

The increased travel time and lower cost of the ferry/bus were as expected. But the carbon emissions of the ferry/bus journey were quite a bit lower than the rule of thumb of five times less than a plane journey!

In terms of work completed – across the 12 hours of travel I realistically did about five hours of work. This is lower than I expected. Next time I’ll try the train – at the time it wasn’t running due to ongoing maintenance requirements. That way I should be able to book a seat adjacent to a table and thus be able to use my laptop. And it won’t be as bouncy as the bus so I should be able to get a lot more done.

And next time I will consider using an electric taxi service to get to the Ferry Terminal. One was just announced in Wellington last week.

Bon voyage!!