What an exciting day we’ve had. We’re on the north island now and exploring the south-eastern coast before continuing on up to Napier. The winds were fierce today as we explored around Castle Point and there was a an extra bit of excitement when Marc strained his ankle. He’s resting with an elevated foot and an ice pack and earlier he got some anti-inflammatories. He’ll be fine, but between his ankle and the wind today we haven’t gotten as far as originally intended. Might as well catch y’all up on the rest of the sights on the south island before our time here runs out.
I left off with Arthur’s Pass and the Keas last time. As we were on a mission to do all the passes on the south island, we hooked around to pick up the Lewis Pass and go back towards the east coast. We stayed in Reefton one night and met our host briefly the next morning on our way out. Turned out to be a fortuitous meeting as Dom gave us a print out of things to see and do along the way.
First stop was the Inanhuaga Swingbridge. Beautiful little spot we actually could drive right up to. It’s not a very long bridge but one of the more entertaining. It was also older and moved more than any others we’d been on. A guardian fantail stopped by to check us out near the middle of the bridge. They are such fast little flyers, and very curious.
That same day we stopped at an unnamed, closed DOC park. It was shut due to flood damage, but we’d heard there was a pretty spectacular waterfall there. Although the ground was a bit soft in places and any sign of the bridges that once stood were long gone, we still managed to climb up the rough path and ford the stream to make our way as close as possible. We worked for it, but it was so worth it.
Well, what to do after such an adventure? We went to Hanmer Springs for the geothermal springs of course. This is by far the biggest complex I’ve ever seen and had a large variety of pools ranging from natural sulphur, aqua therapy and a lazy river to a kids section with water slides and obstacle courses. We got a day pass so we could soak twice. It was so nice to walk home from the spa that night all steamed up and feeling like jelly. The lights in the park seemed to impart a magical glow.
Our next big adventure was doing Jollies Pass and Jacks Pass on our way to Kaikoura. The NZ Frenzy book did try to caution us against going up Jollies but we figured we’ll see. I am glad to say we made it, however we wouldn’t ever try such a stunt again. Kinda scary, narrow, rutted logging truck road with water features and steep drop offs. Absolutely beautiful views from the top though.
Outside Kaikora it was absolutely fog bound when we arrived. So we decided to just do a short tramp next to the tracks to see an old train wreck. Not sure when this happened or even what happened, but my best guess is that part of the limestone cliffs collapsed and sent the train onto the sand. Really eerie scene in the fog with the tide coming in and the silence of the wreck scattered amongst the rocks. Continuing that sense of disquiet was in hearing a flock of birds heading north overhead as we crossed the river on the train tracks before returning to the van.
We stayed in Kaikoura with a friend of a friend. Steve in Dunedin had told us to look up his cousin when we arrived and he’d hook us up with some crays. Indeed he did. Kaikoura is famous for crayfish, although we’d heard the prices there can be astronomical. Our local host sold us two from his freezer and we had them the next night with champagne as we celebrated my birthday a day early. Of course, we did do a five-hour tramp first. We tried to get to Spyglass Point, but only managed to do the four kilometers to the beach and rock hopped about two bays before realizing that it wasn’t in the cards. Still, had an awesome time and the sunset on the waves as we walked back was like the wrapping on my gift.
There was only one more destination on the south island before we headed for the ferry. The Ohau seals have an unusually good deal going for their pups. Each fall and winter, the pups head up the stream 300 hundred meters to a waterfall where they play, fight, and grow stronger as they learn all about being a seal. There is a nice raised walkway built over parts of the stream and we saw seals everywhere we looked. Playing with sticks, rock hopping up and down the stream and sleeping in favorite locations around the path. While not exactly friendly, they were a little bit curious and a lot cute. It was hard to get a good picture of them as they seemed to be constantly in motion. The bowl at the bottom of the falls fairly rolled with sleek brown missiles. It was mesmerizing.
That was the last thing we did before leaving on the ferry to get back to the north island and Wellington. We’re now coming down to the last three weeks of our stay here before we move on to Bali. Already, things have an urgency and a poignancy that wasn’t there a few weeks ago and I’m beginning to feel a little sad at the thought of our immenint departure. While we will come back to New Zealand from Bali, it will only be for a short period of time before we fly back to the states and all the reality waiting for us there. I’m going to miss New Zealand; the land and the people. Hope they’ll have us back sometime.