Cruising in New Zealand

Coast to coast

Cruising in New Zealand

Generous relatives, glorious weather and a waka noho (caravan) made a recent fortnight-long holiday in New Zealand a ‘sight-seeing’ treat all the way.

Haere Mai (‘welcome’ in Maori) to an account of my travel goodies before they disappear forever into the unreachable recesses of a speedily enlarging domain that masquerades as my ‘memory’ nowadays.

We set off from Wellington to Picton on a 10-deck inter-island ferry named Kaitaki. Wellington is the southern-most city on the North Island, while Picton is the northern-most city on the South Island. Whilst regular Cook Strait crossers boozed and snoozed, we worked our way from the ferry restaurant up on to the sun deck, where our ears froze and arms tanned simultaneously. Kaitaki meandered sedately through Cook Strait, before coming to a halt at Picton, where the captain steered the enormous vessel into a rectangular berth that had less than a metre’s clearance on either side.

Passage through time

Ah! And now the actual road trip in the waka noho! We started and ended our journey on narrow coastal roads that hug tall mountains as we looped around South Island. An encounter with seals sunbathing on quiet stretches of eastern beach entertained us in no small measure as they alternated between ignoring our presence and growling menacingly when we inadvertently crossed their invisible ‘Laxman Rekha’.

I was also in awe of the fact that such a small country was surrounded by enormous water bodies all along the east by the Pacific, on the south-west by the Atlantic, on the north-west by the Tasman Sea, and not to forget, Cook Strait in between the two islands. The two coastlines are connected by the incredible Lindis Pass, where natural phenomena and human skill have merged seamlessly to gift travellers with a gently winding road that will always be a gold standard in road travel for me.

The coastal belts and lakes we came across were truly splendid. With charming Maori names, they awed us with the many aspects of natural beauty they had, be it in their colour and contour or their flora and fauna. The foreigner-friendly, comfortable camping sites around them provided flawless facilities.

This, coupled with trails on which to climb the surrounding hills, walk along the lakeshores, or just amble along the water’s edge, all added invaluably to our experience. As we enjoyed the impossibly long and beautiful sunsets each evening on the water’s edge, kai (food) and inu (drink) were cheerfully had, after which we enjoyed dreamless and refreshing sleep through nights filled only with the sounds of serenity.

Twin glaciers

The Fox amd Franz Joseph glaciers sat atop all other phenomenon in regal splendour. I’ve lived six long decades without seeing any, until suddenly, two of them presented themselves in all their glory during this short trip. Starting at their bases, we walked in the glacial valleys, while dodging the freezing cold streams and jagged stones for at least an hour before actually sighting the ancient ice. Not only do the huge, heavily-wooded mountains on either side of these valleys still have loose boulders that slide down occasionally, but flash floods could occur at any time… there are notices everywhere informing visitors of these ‘lovelies’ that are just waiting to get you. The ice itself was sky blue in colour, but had a film of black loose soil at the lower reaches where we were allowed to stand and gape to our hearts’ content. The heavy clouds lifted as if in answer to a prayer, allowing us a glimpse of the summit of Fox bathed in bright sunlight… what a sight that was. Fortunately, my wits came together sufficiently to get a couple of photographs. These, of course, will forever live in my treasure album along with some pictures of Mt Everest that I managed to snap.... but that’s a story for another time.
Haere ra!

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