It’s only three months late but HERE IT IS! The fourth and final part of my South Island road trip.
You know that strange but delicious time in between Christmas and New Years where you’re not sure if it’s Wednesday or Sunday, and 11pm feels like 6pm? Well that’s how life on the road became. We knew that the end of the trip was looming, that the start dates for our brand new shiny jobs were days away, and so we did our best to distract ourselves by hitting the west coast.
The last post on my road trip finished up with a trip to Mount Cook. Now, whilst Mount Cook does back onto the west coast and glaciers, the only way to actually the area is by going down through Wanaka and back up again. Very frustrating, yes, but it meant that – after a week and a half of being apart – we were reunited with our beloved Wanaka. The day we spent there consisted of Puzzling World (meh, average), drinking in the YHA hostel and playing Cranium until it was time to hit the hay. The next morning I stayed in Wanaka with my cousin for a little bit longer, before joining the rest of the crew later that evening.
The drive from Wanaka to the west coast is quite pretty. It’s a little grey, but I imagined that when the grey drifts away then the area would be pretty perfect. But of course I can’t claim that it is, so let’s all just imagine its beauty. We arrived at our campsite quite late and were greeted by our road trip pals, some goats, some sand flies and lots of possums, who were very friendly. Too friendly. It was alarming how close they came to us all as we sat on a bench attempting to cook our dinner on a tiny gas stove. We gave up, opting to munch on cheese and crackers in the car instead.
Franz Josef and Fox Glacier
The next morning we decided we would visit both Franz Josef & Fox Glacier as a lot of people claim that one is more impressive than the other. And a lot of people also rave about how the glaciers should be at the top of your list of things to see. But, if I’m honest, I was a little bit disappointed with them both. I couldn’t actually tell you which one was which now, but I know that both require a little walk (maybe 30 minutes) up to the glaciers, and then for one you can get relatively close but the glacier is covered in dust and rock so it just looks grubby. And the other one is a bit too far away to really appreciate it’s mass and beauty and stuff. What was interesting was reading about the sizes that these glaciers once were, and how every year they are rapidly shrinking. It’s an eerie thought to think that one day they won’t be there. Overall, I’m glad this was part of our road trip but I wouldn’t be interested in going back for another visit unless I had the money to go on to them and put on a fancy pair of those ice shoes.
In between viewing the glaciers we went to a mighty fine place called Lake Matheson. The lake has *I think* a one hour walking track, that loops around the lake and provides gorgeous views of the mountains in the background. The walk itself is very peaceful with not many people on the track (bonus), and, caught in the right moment of stillness, the water perfectly mirrors the mountains, sky and trees surrounding it.
‘There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story’. – Linda Hogan.
The weather when we walked around Lake Matheson was perfect, but before and after being there the weather was, for the most part, drizzly and grey. And I cannot stress enough the pain and frustration of those bloody sand flies. On the west coast they are horrendous. At the two campsites we stayed at here I was viciously attacked by sand flies on both mornings, as I stepped out of my car (yes, barefooted) to have at least thirty swarm around my feet. For anyone that’s bad at math that’s thirty sandfly bites. Only those that have experienced the itchiness of a sandfly bite will truly understand the annoyance and borderline pain of this, and I’m still left with scars to this day (yes I’m a bit of a drama queen but TRUST ME, they’re little buggers).
I think the west coast would have been better if we’d had the money to do a glacier walk, or something more hands on; but the price to go onto the glacier was silly money (even on bookme.co.nz) so we didn’t even consider it. But we quickly moved on and drove through Arthur’s pass (which was nice – with more time we would have stopped to do a few of the walks there) towards Christchurch.
Just like the glaciers, I’d heard a few hit and miss things about Christchurch. After it’s incredibly destructive earthquake in 2011 the city seems to be in an ongoing re-build mission – even 6 years later. It’s almost stuck in time, a city that can’t free itself from feelings of remorse, and as you drive around it doesn’t take long to spot the numerous collapsed buildings and piles of rubble. We weren’t stopping here for long, we were just grabbing lunch before moving on, and in light of their earthquakes Christchurch has done something very clever with their eateries. With buildings a no-go they’ve turned to containers (the big rectangular things) to create lots of businesses. It’s called the Restart Mall, and it’s wonderful. They’re all grouped together to create a community feel too, so whilst they might not be able to rebuild the old Christchurch it seems they’re inventing a new, more modern, one.
After lunch we felt we should visit the old Cathedral – which is still in place but has significant damage that they will probably be unable to build – and the new, cardboard Cathedral. The cardboard Cathedral is only temporary, but it gives the city a place to go to celebrate, commemorate and feel at peace. Oh, and if you hadn’t guessed, it’s made from cardboard.
We left the city centre and headed off along Christchurch’s peninsula to a place called Akaroa. My only previous knowledge of Akaroa was that you can swim with dolphins here, and as we drove along the coastline I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about the place before. It’s SO pretty! With views galore and cute country homes and the sea lapping in teeny tiny bays I was mesmerised. As we arrived in the Akaroa I was in awe. B-e-a-utiful. I’m not entirely sure of it’s history but for some reason the town is French themed which instantly gives it this ‘holiday in the South of France’ feel. It was as if just entering the town made us feel more relaxed and summery. We walked around town, pinpointing the bakery for our morning pastries, and eyeing up the butchers before going in the buy some sausages (and the butcher was French!!!). We took said sausages outside for a BBQ by the sea and watched the sunset as we, yet again, reflected on our previous two weeks. It was to be our last night together before saying goodbye to Karen the next morning, and so we made the most of it with cards and beers by the lighthouse.
Pastries eaten and goodbye’s had, the now four of us (Sarah, Brett, Dave and I) said Au Revoir to Akaroa and hello to Kaikoura.
I’ll be completely honest here and admit that most of our time in Kaikoura was spent in a bar. The evening consisted of several games of pool and multiple jugs of cider, before having a little boogie with the locals and making our way back to the cars to bed. The next morning we were booked onto a whale watching tour that ended up being cancelled due to weather – so all in all Kaikoura was a little bit nothing-y for us. It’s a nice enough town, with great fish and chips (but also a shed load of seagulls that are SO aggressive) so that was a definite highlight.
Just north of Kaikoura we drove through a place called Ohau Point, and I c
an’t quite believe how lucky we were with this. Ohau point is the perfect spot for seals to gather and their pups to grow, and if you walk up the stream then you will often find the pups dotted in the river and frolicking beneath the waterfall (which we did). However, the earthquake that hit Kaikoura only a couple of months ago caused a massive landslide and Ohau Point is no more. Which is SO sad.Those poor little pups. Fingers crossed that they’ll find a new home and can reestablish a safe place for the little pups.
Our last night of the road trip was spent in Nelson Lakes. We arrived late so couldn’t see very much but we had found a cute little DOC site with fancy showers and flushing toilets and a great kitchen/seating area (I THINK it was called Kerr bay, but not 100% on this). We cooked and ate together before playings cards and absolutely freezing our knockers off. It was freezing. We had blankets and hot water bottles and cups of hot water to hold and seven layers of socks to prevent our toes from freezing together. Despite it being Spring and sunny New Zealand with it’s problematic OZone layer, apparently the ‘hot’ part doesn’t happen until December. Great. So we spent the night shivering and screaming because there was a mouse running underneath our table.
On reflection it was the perfect evening to end the road trip – there was lot’s of laughter, shared stories and, even better, shared chocolate. We were heading to our new home the next morning so we made the most of our last evening together before saying our final goodbyes (it was okay – we had plans to meet again two weeks later).
It was the BEST road trip with my favourite NZ pals. Massive thank you to Sarah, Brett, Karen, Lee, Alan, Shannon, Becca and Dave for making the trip so perfect.