Published: March 5th 2008November 19th 2007
(Once again, speeding my way through the NZ trip portion)
The next morning we woke up (in Fox Glacier Village) and raced out to Lake Matheson because they have this really famous lake which, if you view it early enough in the morning, gives you a mirror view of Mt. Cook. Steve had taken a morning run to the lake and really wanted us to see it, so off we went to Lake Matheson. By the time we got there it wasn't quite a mirror any more, but I did see some lovely views there. As we were heading out, a farmer taking his cows down the road (on his little ATV) slowed us down a bit on our way northward.
On and up the lovely western coastline we drove, up towards the Pancake Rocks of Paparoa National Park in the little town of Punakaiki. This is a lovely roadside viewpoint of these fantastic rock formations and blowholes. If you stick around a bit, you'll be able to see wonderful geysers of water gushing through the blowholes.
Just down the road a bit from the Pancake Rocks was this lovely little holiday park set right on the coastline.
Cool rock formations at the Pancake Rocks and Blowhole park
We set up our campers and walked about 50 feet through some bushes and - voila! - there was the ocean. Dave and I went crazy taking sunset pictures of our kids...
The next morning as we got ready to take the campervans further north, Karen mentioned that there was supposed to be a park entrance fairly nearby and we would be able to hike in a see a cool hanging bridge. Sounded great, so off we went, following Karen and Dave's campervan.
As we made our turn off the roadside I was a little surprised that we were going down a dirt road, given that this was a national park
, but hey, we were just following K&D's motorhome. Down the road we went, further and further, untl we reached a CLOSED GATE. Now, normally a closed gate might imply that we were not
supposed to enter, but clearly this was absolutely no
deterrent to Karen. Out she popped from their van, opened up the gate, and on we went down this totally deserted dirt road. After about 10 minutes we were truly wondering where the heck we were going, but then we rounded a bend and there
was this abandoned train station and a dirt parking lot. Ta daaaa!
We parked our vans, got out and walked down the train tracks for about 30 minutes, constantly wondering if we were a) in the Paparoa National Park or b) in someone's bizarre private railroad fantasy/hell in a desolated part of NW New Zealand (where they can't hear you screeeeeeam).
I think it turned out to be a little bit of both. We eventually made it to the hanging bridge (indeed cool), and at the very end, as we were walking back out to our campervans, we see an oncoming little train and think, "Hey, how great is this! Maybe we'll get a ride!" but nooooooo, instead we saw the engineer with a gas mask on, pumping out a mysterious cloud of gas, waving us to get away! Whooooops! Back we dashed to our campervans and headed for clean air. We still don't know what that was all about, although presumably some deadly bug or weed spray.
We continued northward, following what Karen read is one of the Top 10 Most Beautiful Car Rides, or something like that. This part of the coastline is absoultely gorgeous
Sunset near Punakaiki Beach
We found a great holiday park and set up our campers about 40 feet from the beach. The kids had a blast.
and I highly recommend it to anyone.
We eventually turned off the coast and headed east, via Westport (not actually stopping there, although I would have liked to) and over to Murcheson (a tiny little town with a tiny museum and 2 antique stores, all of which we visited), on our way to our next camp, Nelson Lakes National Park, near the teeny town of St. Arnaud.
We set up our campers - for the last time! - and took ourselves a bottle of wine and the two families sat out on the dock facing beautiful Lake Nelson, soaking up the sun. This was to be our last evening together with the HAndersons, as we were heading on to the North Island (they wanted to stay a few more days in the south), so we were getting sorta choked up at the thought of leaving them.
As I consider all of our time on the famously rainy South Island, I feel so blessed that we had SUCH great weather. Only 2 rainy days on the whole Island; a drizzly day in Dunedin and a deluge of rain on Doubtful Sound. How great is that?
There are more photos below