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New Zealand - The Road Trip (part II)

NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 22 May 2013 | Views [814]

Day 2 arrives and I head off with the intention of getting to Bluff, the Land’s End of New Zealand. I head towards the coast and find myself entering the Otago Peninsular. The road northwards winds along only marginally higher than the water’s edge. With no barrier at all, I would be interested to know how many cars have met a watery grave along there. Some 40kms later I reach the Albatros Centre having caught myself remarking innumerable times how stunning the views are. There are several pull-in points for photo opportunities but the camera does not do justice to the reality. On one side the open sea where seaweed grows in long black rope like tendrils from the rocks, swirling menacingly in the strong swell. Between the Peninsular and the mainland on the other side of the point, soft waves ripple the banks and I marvel at the difference. I come back along the other side of the peninsular which is much higher with the need to navigate a few gravel road stretches. However I am equally rewarded by the beautiful views. I rejoin the mainland and opt to take the coastal road via Brighton – another wise decision.

I spend the entire journey taking the scenic routes stopping several times to take in the magnificent vistas – the ocean, Purakaunui waterfall, mountains, Autumn painted landscapes, rugged cliffs, sandy beaches (so many sandy beaches!), pine forests and the varying colours of ferns, including the silver fern – emblem of The All Blacks. At the Florence Hill lookout I chat to two ladies from Auckland also touring and they assure me the best views are yet to come as I head towards Milford Sounds.

The Silver Streak (as I refer to my hired 1300 Nissan Sunny) is demanding a refuel. She has done over 550kms and costs $75 to fill up. The small engine has been economical although hills do present something of a challenge! The freedom of the open road is thrilling and rewarding. It is a fantastic way to see New Zealand. I will have to come back some day to do justice to the parts I’ve had to whizz through and discover the many places I will not have time to visit. Next time I think at least a month and a camper van will be in order. Then of course there is the North Island!

I haven’t yet mentioned the Kiwi obsession with rugby. There are rugby posts, often several, in every park (and there are plenty of those). No wonder such a small nation can dominate the sport.

I am now driving hard to reach my final stop of the day. At this point I expect Bluff to be a quaint little landmark town. I do not yet know that I will walk into the hostel and step back a good 50 years in time to the most outdated place I can ever remember seeing. It’s as though time stood still here and even the counterpanes on the bed were probably in use the same time as the walls were papered. But for now I am on tarmac again and making up time along the wetlands.

My timing is just a few days out as Saturday is the annual Oyster festival in Bluff!

Daylight is fading fast and I only just make it into Bluff before dark. I see the end of the New Zealand ahead, further south than I have ever been.

It was far from a good night’s sleep in the strangest hostel to date so I am up and out on schedule. I drive up to Bluff Point lookout which is shrouded in thick cloud, although the sun was shining by the shore. Giving up on a photo opportunity, I head back to Stirling Point and the famous signpost showing direction and distance to major cities and the South Pole. From there I head out to Te Anau (Teeanow) where coastline changes to dramatic lake and mountain scenery. Still too early for more than a dusting of snow on the highest of the South Alps, it is breath-taking nonetheless. After a quick lunch and expensive refuelling (there are no petrol stations after this point to Milford Sound), I start the final part of the day’s journey. It seems that no matter how the plan looks, I end up doing around 400kms each day. I am extremely fortunate to be doing this trip at all. The Visitor Centre informs me they will be closing the road for a few weeks at 8.30am on Thursday so this really is the last day to drive this route and thereafter, trips will be by plane only!

Milford Sound Lodge is welcoming, clean and exactly what I had hoped for. I check into a 4-bed dorm which I am sharing with an interesting Canadian lady called Liz and we find we have plenty to chat about. There is even a heater and in no time at all, the little wooden chalet style room is cosy.

I have booked an Encounter Nature Cruise tomorrow morning and I am looking forward to not driving for a few hours! There is so much to photograph here that my camera keeps running out of memory. Really must download all the pictures and have a good clear out!

Tags: backpacking, beaches, bluff, car hire, new zealand, otago peninsular, rugby, stirling point, stunning views, te anau

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