A couple of weeks have passed since saying goodbye to Taranga, and I’m still trying to sort through and process all of the adventures we had.  Jonathan and I both started off keeping daily journals, but I only made it to Day 12 before I fell hopelessly behind and had to copy and paste chunks of his journal entries into mine (which kind of defeats the purpose). By Day 16, I’d resigned myself to the fact that he’d be the sole chronicler of our camper van days (a critical job when every day brings a new location and new adventures and it soon becomes difficult to remember even where we’d eaten lunch the day before).  Throw into the mix the impossibility of my memory being able to distinguish Maori names like Makarora from Moeraki and I’d be hard-pressed to confidently name destinations other than  “Newton” and “Queenstown” without Jonathan’s journal as my crib-sheet.  So, thank you, Jonathan, for your meticulous I-Pad journaling.

First, some important stats:

  • 33 days, 32 nights.
  • Total mileage: 6255 kilometers, with Jonathan at the wheel for about 2 hours of that (during which time he managed to crash into the truck of the owner of the auto repair shop we visited for a Taranga checkup)!

This translated into some serious road-time, as we rarely stayed in a place for more than one night.  I still have callouses from the steering wheel.

So what moments stand out from the S. Island?

  • Monteith’s brewery: A highlight in an otherwise unexpectedly blah Westport to Greymouth drive (reputed to be one of the finest in the world but don’t believe all the hype). Don’t get me wrong–it’s attractive, but overrated. At one point we pulled off the coastal road (reminiscent of California’s Highway 1) so that we could soak in the view while we had a snack and some coffee.  We immediately realized that we couldn’t keep the van door open for more than a few seconds unless we wanted to invite a serious case of sandfly infestation and keeping the doors closed converted the van into a sauna rather quickly.  It was a short stop.
  • Helicopter tour of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers:  Zara and I got to sit up front with the pilot and we were one of the last flights before the weather closed in for the day.
  • West coast wildlife center:  For true kiwi fans, the opportunity to see (in simulated night-time conditions) three Rowi, the rarest kiwi in the world with fewer than 400 left.  Pricey but worth it to hear Zara’s impassioned speech later in the afternoon on the importance of protecting endangered animals.
  • Buller Gorge Swing Bridge: The longest swing bridge in NZ (only Jonathan and Zara made it across)
  • Punakaiki Pancake Rocks: Fascinating but Zara was disappointed that they didn’t smell like syrup and we miscalculated timing, so missed the “must see” blowholes triggered by high tide.
  • Hokitika Gorge: Another swing bridge (but much less swingy so even manageable by wimps like me) over turquoise waters.
  • Hokitika Beach: Cool driftwood art on beach.
  • Puzzling World at Wanaka IMPORTANT:  We beat Jonathan at a game!!!  Zara and I paired up to challenge Jonathan to the Great Maze and we won!  As it may be another decade before I beat Jonathan at a logic game, I have to milk this victory for all it’s worth.

 (Stay Tuned for Part II…)

The West Coast lives up to its reputation as the rainiest part of NZ

The West Coast lives up to its reputation as the rainiest part of NZ

Walk to Fox Glacier

Walk to Fox Glacier

On top of Fox Glacier

On top of Fox Glacier

Co-pilots!

Co-pilots!

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

Hokitika Beach

Hokitika Beach

Hokitika Gorge

Hokitika Gorge

More pancakes

More pancakes

Pancake Rocks

Pancake Rocks

Westport to Greymouth Drive

Westport to Greymouth Drive

Monteith's in Greymouth

Monteith’s in Greymouth

As far as I made it on the swing bridge

As far as I made it on the swing bridge

Buller Gorge Swing Bridge

Buller Gorge Swing Bridge

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