Road Trip Round Up: The North of the South, Days 7-10

December 23, 2014
So for two reasons I’m going to finish up Kim and Kristen’s road trip in one succinct post:
A) It’s Christmas Eve. If I don’t do it now, it’s never going to happen. Too much other cool stuff is going on.
B) My photos are limited because the weather was limiting.

Without further ado, my final map.
If any of you actually take the time to look at my maps (Look at my map! So many minutes go into these maps!) you may notice the problematic text just north of Christchurch. Woodend, to be specific, is where I put a full tank of diesel fuel in my petrol run VW Golf. I have 28 reasons why it’s not my fault that this happened, but the fact of the matter is that it happened.
Luck seemed to be on my side, after it wasn’t on my side, and this incident happened at a garage (instead of just a fuel stop). So we pushed poor little Red into the garage, where the darling 75-year old mechanic judged me (silently, but harshly) then quickly got to work. He instructed Kim and I to “Go for a walk”, which if you’ve ever been to Woodend, NZ (think Willows, California), you’ll know is short and not exactly scenic.
Walk we did, and about an hour later little Red was back in action. Plus, the mechanic only charged me $70 to pump the tank, which in NZD, is practically free. We bought him a respectable bottle of Merlot Reserve, then got on the road before he could change his mind.
The drive from Christchurch to Collingwood, with one lunch stop, one fuel stop, one pee break, and driving rain, is 8 hours. It’s merciless. And it’s my fault. I thought, Let’s show Kim the far side of Golden Bay! I’ve heard it’s amazing! I’ve never been! We only have 2 nights, and it’s really far away! Perfect! In retrospect, totally would have just stayed in Nelson.
When we finally arrived, we scouted out our little piece of paradise, our bach:

Exciting, huh?

This leg of the road trip really made up for how amazingly everything worked out on the first leg. This time around, the weather was vapid. We were complete failures when it came to organizing our food situations. And it felt like we spent eternity in the car.

I had booked two really cute little baches, one for two nights (pictured above) near Collingwood, and the other for one night (not worth picturing) in the Marlborough Sounds. The thing about secluded baches deep in the natural Kiwi landscape is this: they are not near supermarkets and they are not near restaurants.

I mean, obviously. I knew this. But it wasn’t convenient for me, so I kind of just ignored this fact until we were there, starving, isolated, exhausted, and still starving. So after our 8 hour drive, we got back in the car and drove 20 minutes to the nearest food. Battered and fried food. Didn’t even care.

The day after The Drive, we headed over to the north side of Abel Tasman National Park and yet again used the trusty guidebook to find three cool things.

Cool Thing 1: Wainui Falls and Swing Bridge, Golden Bay, NZ

Just what it sounds like, a 20-30 minute hike through beautiful rainforest, across a spectacularly Kiwi swing bridge, to a stunning waterfall. Exactly what we drove all that way to see!

So much higher than it looks…

Back on the road, looking out over Golden Bay:

Cool Thing 2: Limestone outcroppings, called “The Grove”, Takaka, NZ

We stopped in the grove for a picnic, then took our wine hiking with us. Conventional? No. Perfect? Yes.
The limestone features here and in this area are pretty impressive, worn into bizarre shapes and groups by wind and acidic water. These plus the ferns make for some dramatic Jurassic Park looking scenery.
Wine hikes are the best hikes.

Cool Thing 3: Rawhiti Cave, Takaka, NZ

This was a 45+ minute hike straight up the side of a hill, ending at the most impressive showing of stalactites that I’ve ever seen. Allegedly there are more than 1 million stalactites in this cave!

Following the cave adventure, we searched for edible food and wi-fi (both rare yet possible) and then took a takeaway pizza with us to what is supposed to be one of the most amazing beaches in New Zealand.
Wharariki Beach. This beach is really decorated. The guidebook said something about this beach “being an orgy of amazingness”, or something like that. It gets 5/5 stars on Trip Advisor. It’s Google image search looks like this:


So imagine our surprise, when we roll up to this beach with our pizza and wine, and we are greeted with 100km winds, a bajillion seagulls, and this:

Cool beach guys. Looks exactly like the photos.

We ate our sandy pizza as fast as humanly possible, while being dive-bombed by seagulls and blinded by razor sharp sand wind. Good times.

After our relaxing time at the best beach in the world, we treated ourselves to a pint of beer at the ONLY bar for a 50km radius, then I’m pretty sure we went to bed while it was still light out.

The following morning we got the hell out of cold and rainy Golden Bay got a refreshingly early start on another day of driving. To break it up, we stopped for a little lunch and wine tasting in Montueka and Nelson.

Cool clouds, no?

Unfortunately, the following photo is the only one I have from the next 24 hours. It is the view from our 2nd bach.

Basically, we ate, then we drove, then we ate, then we drove. We slept, then we drove, then we ate, then we drove. We did stop for some wine tasting (again) in Blenheim, but no photos happened, and they’re all about the Sauvignon Blanc, so I don’t have that much to say about that.
What was completely unexpected, however, was that we left Picton in the rain, and as we drove south it got hotter and sunnier, and hotter, and sunnier. By the time we got to Kaikoura it was 30 degrees (86 F) and just stunning. I’ve never actually seen Kaikoura in the summer or sun, so it was a great treat.
Another treat was that there were still just a few baby seals playing in the waterfall pool. What? Does that sound completely cute yet totally made up?! It’s not. Every winter, dozens of baby seals are left, basically at baby seal daycare, in a pool at the base of a waterfall. Scenic and adorable! Sound familiar? I posted about it here last winter.
Anyways, no photos of that (shocking!), but I’ll leave you with a few of the beautiful, dramatic ocean scenery of Kaikoura:

And with that, it was finished. We drove the final 2 hours to Christchurch, and the weather turned back to pelting rain and 10 degrees (50 F). We’d come to expect as much from the weather, and decided just to be grateful for the gem of an afternoon we were handed in Kaikoura.

I had booked both baches based on the fact that they had kayaks, but it was never warm enough, or still enough to be safe to go out for a paddle. I had hoped to show Kim the jewel colored water from the tree fern paths in Abel Tasman, but it was gray and misty every day we were there. I had hoped for Tui birds, fantails, and maybe even a little blue penguin, but they were all too smart to come out in the weather we were having!

But with wine and pizza we persevered, enjoyed lots of beautiful scenery anyways, and lingered in Kaikoura, since the sun and ocean felt like a gift to us after all the rain. It was a great way to end our travels, and hopefully a sweet last memory for Kim to tuck away before hopping back on a plane to California!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Findia Group December 24, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Come on, you must want to tell me something!