Annual work do. Fancy dress. Any theme. Brilliant.
And so it came to pass. My stint in Queenstown ended. Sad to leave. Could easily have stayed on with Linda & Frog who are a lovely couple to live and have a laugh with. After an overnighter in Glenorchy to help out and say goodbye to the Robbie, Coral et al at the hotel, I scraped ice off the windscreen, picked up Daniel from the airport, nipped back home to pack the car and we set off around 11.30, a little later than planned. How did I accumulate so much stuff in such a short time?
Driving via Cromwell instead of the Crown Range, due to the heavy load, we past Warbirds over Wanaka and headed past Lake Hawea and Wanaka which afforded us the first of many stunning views. We set off towards the west coast, winding our way through Haast Pass and The Gates of Haast was amazing. How they managed to get a road there is incredible. I dont remember it seven years ago when travelling on a Kiwi Ex coach, which probably meant I was one of many who were asleep during the day.
After a couple of driving breaks, we arrived at Franz Josef. Our intended destination was Hokitika but we'd had enough (certainly my back had) and it seemed more likely to get a hostel here than there. Daniel was also gagging for a beer or three but as it was Easter Sunday you cannot buy alcohol unless it's with a meal. We went to the Rainforest Retreat because it had Sky (for the F1) and a spa. Fortunately, it also had a bar and because we were guests that was a loophole in the Easter law.
The dorm we got was ace. Room 506. Right next to the sauna and spa and opposite the bar. As we were walking in I shouted to Dan
"if possible save me a bottom bunk for my back"
"help yourself.. choose any"
The dorm was empty. It's a good time of the year to travel. Admittedly, the weather was on our side so far but it was so easy to get into hostels last minute and getting more room to move is a bonus.. (although that can hardly be said of the Go Global hostel in Taupo!)
Beer, shower, change, beer, food, beer, F1, beer, vodka, bed.
As we'd stopped 140km short, this was going to be a longer drive so it was important to set off earlier. We popped to the glacier to get some snaps, as it was only fair that Dan did a bit of sightseeing, and eventually set off around 12.30.
After a lot of windy roads up to Hokitika we had a quick break and almost but decided against hiring a classic Maserati for $90 per half hour as my back would never had handled that suspension. It was probably a better option staying in Franz Josef as this place was dead so we set off north.
We drove up the west coast, passed Greymouth and right passed the Monteith's Brewery (well we were driving) and up to Westport. This section has some amazing places to stop at and take (albeit similar) photos over and over again. Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki were a lot better this time than seven years ago when it was torrential rain. They've organised the paths around quite well and apart from the curious nature of the layered rocks I also got to see three dolphins in the sea and two jumped out.
After Westport, we headed inland along the Buller Gorge and north-east towards Picton along some crazy incredibly long straight road, via a town called Woodbourne.
We were behind time so got there at dark so just drank and played cards at the basic hostel right next to the ferry terminal.
Another glorious morning and we headed onto the ferry and started the three hour crawl to Wellington. It was actually good to be heading in the right direction while I could lie down in the open. The only time I went in was to eat or.. well, the toilets in this thing were unbelievably small. I had to open the door to turn around!
Wellington was a total change for me. After being in the south island for only a few months, it was weird to drive along a four lane highway and see and stop at traffic lights. This actually hurt my leg as the clutch was used more here than the last couple of days in total. It was also funny to see how populated it was.. and I've not even got to Auckland yet. Or Manchester!!!!
We slowly made our way out of Wellington and up to stop at Bulls for a break. This is when I noticed how much the driving had affected me so got out for a lie down. For anyone visiting here or driving past, it's well worth popping in the Billi Tees shop.
Onward and upward, Dan drove us to Taupo. The scenery, apart from Ruapehu, was noticably less staggering. I didn't see this when driving down so I would say if you had to drive from one end of the country to the other, then start from the top and work your way down. We were supposed to be staying at my friend Lucy's but after a few beers, a curry and many games of pool (which I found was one sport I could now play without pain) we missed her being awake and had to stay at Go Global. Avoid if possible. Tiny tiny rooms. Bed very soft.
After swinging by Lucy's to say hello and drop off the bike, we trudged to Rotorua to drop off a lot of other stuff out of the car at Leanne's parents. I also got to see Bender and Fry again so stayed about an hour or two :o) The car was noticably nippier after unloading.
And then we got to Auckland to have one final drink in the Steamship.
Daniel got the ferry to Waiheke.
I stayed at Leanne's in Milford before she had to move out on Saturday.
A great journey overall. My back wasn't too affected at the end, thanks to Daniel doing the majority of the driving. Four days is a comfortable minimum to do the trip. The sights were wonderful and the weather was kind.
For more photos (but reduced as a lot were the same) see the facebook album:
MRI Scan - see next entry Back Update#2....
I am now at Diana, Isobella & Paul's place in Devonport. Fabulous. Almost full circle as seven years ago when I first arrived in NZ, I stayed at Di & Isobella's place in this town. Thank you to all the others who offered to let me to stay at theirs.
Love n hugs
x x x