Friday, January 6, 2017


People go on holidays for all sorts of reasons, and they choose the type of holiday to suit their purposes. Caroline and I both needed to get away from city life, and find some peacefulness. We chose a road trip as it means that you're never tied to one place, and we went to the south island of New Zealand as it has few people and plenty of nature. This wasn't a trip to laze and relax, but it was to explore and refresh the soul. This was fully achieved, and at times, the sheer beauty of the places I saw nearly brought me to tears.

I've already written about much of the trip, but the feelings it evoked are important. We flew into Christchurch, and drove straight out to get away from the largest city on the south island. Our first drive was across country from east to west coasts, and we weren't sure what to expect. What we were treated to was a beautiful drive through hills and mountains, skirting beautiful rivers and lakes. It was a pleasant surprise just how beautiful this first day turned out.

Day 1 was a pleasant surprise

Day 2 was a drive down the west coast starting in Greymouth, and ending in Haast and travelling through glacier region. We caught a distant glimpse of the Fox Glacier but I was probably most impressed by the coastal beaches. Hokitika and Haast have interesting seafronts to explore, and the coastal road has its share of scenic stops. There were plenty of fast flowing rivers running down through this region, but there were also the start of our invasion of sandfly territory. These insects are merciless, and it doesn't matter how much repellent you use, they will get you. However, it is a small price to pay for the experience for this amazing region.

We stopped at the side of the road regularly, and were almost always treated to something beautiful, like this fern, the national symbol of New Zealand
We left Haast and headed inland with Arrowtown our destination. Arrowtown is a small town about 15km from Queenstown, the adventure playground of the south island. In fact, the road to Arrowtown crosses the Shotover River, where the famous jet boats traverse the beautiful river while scaring the shit out people! Following the Haast River was a truly beautiful road,one of the most beautiful I've ever driven along. There are plenty of scenic stops along the way with Haast Gates being perhaps the most spectacular, a roaring river gorge. Our stop in Arrowtown saw us stay a few days while New Year struck. We spent most of New Year's Eve in Queenstown, but as the crowds grew in the evening, we decided to leave and head back to Arrowtown and quiet. The NYE show in Queenstown just wasn't the sort of thing we were looking for on this trip.

White water at Haast Gates
The highlight of our stay in Arrowtown was when we decided to drive to Glenorchy. We were having breakfast in Queenstown, and wondering what to do, neither of us really wanting to stay any longer in the picturesque little central Otago town. It had just become too busy, and in our state of mind, that was not what we wanted. As soon as we started driving we knew we'd done the right thing, feeling better on the open road, and suddenly treated to the most beautiful lakeside drive you could wish for. Glenorchy is about 45km from Queenstown, and very part of that trip was stunning.

Big sky, bold colours over Lake Wakatipu on the road to Glenorchy

From Arrowtown we traveled a short hop to Te Anau and took a trip to the fjord Doubtful Sound. This is really remote, with no access from road. We took a boat across Lake Manopouri, a beautiful start to the trip, and then a bus ride across to the Sound. The conditions were haunting, with low clouds masking the mountains, and at one point, the Sound cruise stops, turns off its engines, and just drifts allowing those on board to listen to complete silence, save for some birdsong. It was raining, so many people decided to stay inside the boat, but Caroline and I were outside and the lack of sound was also something beautiful.

Hauntingly beautiful, Doubtful Sound
We drove from Te Anau to Lake Tekapo, an area I'd never heard of. Lake Tekapo is a designated area of darkness making it one of the best places in the world to see stars. The lake itself is a rich turquoise colour in sunlight, and is shadowed by Mt John. an hill with an observatory on top, and amazing views in all directions. Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand is only an hours drive from Tekapo and the range dominate the western skyline. At night we drove around the lake, found a deserted spot and just looked up. Sorry, no photos, as me camera wasn't good enough, but at one point I thought I was looking at a bright sky rather than a night sky. And most amazingly, this is not apparently the best time of the year to see the stars! This whole area whispered of serenity.

Lupins and mountains from Mt John
Reflections on Lake Tekapo
Our last day was a short drive to Christchurch so we loitered around Lake Tekapo savouring its beauty in the morning. We took the Inland Scenic Route to Christchurch passing through the dramatic Rakaia Gorge. It was a final farewell to this beautiful roadtrip which finished as it began, with a pleasant surprise.Once again we expected little from this final drive, but in the end we just had to admit that the south island of New Zealand just doesn't stop giving sights of vast beauty.

The Church of the Good Shepherd on the edge of Lake Tekapo
Sitting in Christchurch Airport, Caroline and I were physically exhausted and almost drunk on the sights and experiences of our roadtrip. More than once we Caroline caught me staring into space with a smile on my face, simply reliving a moment from our time in New Zealand. Mountains, passes, beaches, rivers, gorges, flowers, waterfalls, lakes, fjords, animals....and a great deal of peace.

I woke this morning in Melbourne, feeling ready to tackle city life again. And to plan the next trip....

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