Or “The Adventures of Tintin”
It was time to leave Fox Glacier and its amazing landscape and continue south towards Wanaka. As it was the weather was nudging us away anyway, thick clouds hanging over the mountaintops, ready to burst at any second. Not needing a second invitation, knowing that Tintin would not be the best vehicle to be in when the floods started, I hit the gas pedal and off we crawled.
The road continued its way south, out of the mountains and along the shores. We stopped along one of the many beaches that we saw to soak in the atmosphere of a pending storm and enjoyed the pristine waters of the Tasman Sea coming in all the way from Australia.
But south was the way we were going and with many kilometres in front of us before we reached our destination it was time to get back on the road and let the wheels spin their way on the asphalt. Mountains gave way to hills and forests as the landscape started to become a little less dramatic. On the top of one of the cliffs along the way we stopped, not because the view was extraordinarily magnificent, but because this view meant that there was nothing between us and the Antarctic.
Slowly but surely we continued on our way when the road made its way a little inland in order to pass the end of the Southern alps at their lowest points – Haast Pass. At only a little less than 600 meters even Tintin could manage it with (almost) no difficulty. But for all of you who have ever driven in mountainous roads, they never seem to go straight up, but meander a little here, then a little there, only gradually gaining height.
But we had plenty of time and on the way we had planned some stops. One of them was a leisurely walk through the forest to a waterfall that was called Roaring Billy. Well, you can’t see that it was roaring, but the tranquillity of the place was a highlight on this day.
With no toilets around, the surrounding bushes were the quietest place to water a little, and the way the rivers were quite low, a little more fluids only helped the environment :-)
Next in line was Thunder Falls, only a very short walk from the road. This didn’t cause it to be less spectacular, but it was a little more crowded!
The last stop we had planned for today was at Blue Pools, named such because of the clarity of the water. Again we had to cross a swing-bridge on the way there and it seems that Ronni gets too much fun out of swinging it around, making me almost topple over into the river!
As we thought that the day had reached its end and our destination of Wanaka only a stone’s throw away, we got some of the best views of the day served on a silver platter. My love of mountains is widely known, so you can imagine how my heart rejoiced as I saw some of my best friends posing like this!
We reached Wanaka late in the afternoon, our stomachs growling with hunger as the crackers we had eaten for lunch already digested for hours. Somehow it seems that we cannot live the life of the supermodels where one leaf of lettuce lasts a whole day! As it turned out, Wanaka was going to be our resting place, where we didn’t really do much except plan the rest of our NZ trip and discover that Hong Kong might be just a tad more expensive than New Zealand!!??
But with views like this every evening, who needs to do anything anyway??
After looking at the weather forecast for the Fjordland region and the appalling 5-day rain showers that would await us in that region, we changed our plans and decided to give the area a miss, especially after we had gotten a 4-day intimate knowledge of fjords while we were sailing in Patagonia. As part of this trip we have gotten quite a finesse at deciding what is good value for money (for us). Instead we opted to add one more stop for penguins, ‘cuz I mean, you can’t really get enough of those adorable clumsy creatures, can you?
So off we went over the Crown Range road that connected Wanaka with Queenstown. The road made its way through the mountains and with Tintin huffing and puffing like an exhausted dragon I was questioning the decision to take the shorter but steeper route over the longer but flatter. But Tintin like a good soldier gave it his best and just as it appeared that gravity would pull us back into the abyss we reached the top and got a great view of the valley below.
We actually didn’t venture into Queenstown but only into a mall next to the airport to pick up our funky new sunglasses and continue our way to Dunedin. With my eyes crying out in joy and the bright summer sun hidden behind the grey veil of the glasses we headed east, towards our beloved penguins. When the growling of my stomach was starting to become louder than the engine it was time to stop. Talk about a beautiful rest area :-)
Although we left the mountains behind us, the road still wasn’t entirely flat (is it ever here??). Luckily for us this meant that we could appreciate the scenery around us, some of it just begging to become part of my 2012 paparazzi album.
It was late afternoon when we finally reached Dunedin on the east coast, the three of us (Tintin was part of the team by now) tired and hungry. We decided to stay three nights here, enjoying the city which had a lot of character and old Victorian/Edwardian/whatever English queen or kind style buildings. When compared to Wellington or Auckland I felt that Dunedin (or at least its center) was much more to my liking and I felt a weird sense of nostalgia to our years in Ireland. So we spent the day just roaming the streets, having some local fish and chips (and a Whitefish patty which didn’t agree with me at all!) and enjoying the architectural striking buildings!
Tomorrow we’re off to see the penguins! Yippeeeeeeee....