May 2024

South of the North Island and North of the South Island


Scott and I overlooking Wellington.

Scott and I overlooking Wellington.

Well, it’s been a few days and we have lots to catch up on!

We left National Park Village a few days ago to make the trek down to Wellington. The drive was probably the easiest so far – not a whole lot of twists and turns on scary roads…so I decided to take the wheel for a bit and give poor Scott a break.

We arrived in Wellington around mid-day to the open arms of the Collinges. Relatives of mine through my cousin’s marriage (Keri to Ben), Keri graciously set us up to visit and stay with them for a night. Wellington was quite warm and sunny upon our arrival, and Margaret immediately offered us a beer and a seat on the deck. After a few hours of chatting and catching up, Jim took us for a lovely drive around the town to a lookout point near their neighbourhood of Kandallah, nestled high above the hills in the city. We then were toured around the downtown area, and Scott and I were quite enamoured with Welly – there was a gorgeous beach right downtown with a spectacular fountain right out in the ocean and tonnes of people running, biking and swimming wherever you looked. We then took a jaunt down to see the Cook Straight, where our ferry would be going the next day.

The fountain at Oriental Beach, in Wellington.

The fountain at Oriental Beach, in Wellington.

Back to the house for dinner – Margaret had made a wonderful Moroccan tajin, which we enjoyed over a delicious bottle of New Zealand red wine. We were so thrilled to be welcomed so fully into their home – it was really great to visit and speak with real Kiwis about their home country and travels. It was also nice to have a break from Happy Diwali – although we really love her, she’s got a hard bed and no ensuite. The Collinges put us up in a huge guestsuite complete with bedroom, bathroom and tv area (and office so night owl Scott could get his email/internet fix well into the night). We were in heaven. The bed was so soft and it was nice to have a personal shower and real towels (a break from our lightweight travel ones!). Scott and I were really sad we were only spending one night with them…we really enjoyed their company and it would have been nice to explore more of the eats, drinks and amenities Wellington has to offer.

Us with the Collinges

Us with the Collinges

The next morning was spent getting ready for our journey on the ferry. Margaret took me out for a little drive to see Bruce and Nancy’s old house (10 Cotts Street, I believe?) which was really neat. I’d seen pictures of it as a child, and have heard many stories, so it was cool to see that in person. Scott spent the morning reading the paper, being obessed with email, and trying to avoid the rogue neighbourhood rascal cat Fergus (who is just an adorable Bermese cat that has taken the roam of the Collinge’s place).

Off to the ferry we went, which reminded us both quite a bit of the ferry from Vancouver to the Island. It was pretty cool out, so we spent most of the time inside, but did manage a few visits outside to enjoy the scenery.

Our arrival into Picton was hot and welcoming. The sun was out full force, and it was WONDERFUL. We drove about 1.5 hours to our campground, spending some time at a few of the lookouts the area had to offer on the way. The roads were, again, windy twisty crazy ones, and we saw two cyclists making their way up the hill. We thought they were pretty brave – not only for the insane climbs they would be doing, but because there is virtually no shoulder and low visibility for vehicles. We ended up running into them on one of the lookout paths – they were hiking up in their clipless shoes, so I shut my mouth about the crummy dress sandals I was wearing and followed them up. Turns out they are from Boston and are cycling a good chunk of the country in only 3 weeks – they had done Rotorura/Lake Taupo in only a few days and were already on the South Island. Inspirational.

Bruce and Nancy's old house in Wellington.

Bruce and Nancy's old house in Wellington.

We made it to our campground at Porelus Bridge later in the evening and sat out in the glorious sun to enjoy the evening. We were near a really nice river, so we explored the riverbed and skipped stones for awhile. We also had our first run-in with Wekas: native NZ birds (look sort of like a Kiwi/Duck hybrid) and they are quite bold! One tried to eat Scott’s toe (which he wasn’t very pleased about) and this morning, one jumped into our van (they have no wings) to try to steal our food. Driving to the West Coast today, we saw quite a few signs to watch out for them, and spotted a large group with some babies on the side of the road. Scott thinks they are pests and isn’t very nice to them, but I am quite enjoying them being around.

Today was a long drive to get to Punakaiki. We saw a sign as we were driving for a “Seal Colony,” so took an hour detour to go visit that area. It was stunningly gorgeous, and we were at a great time of year to see seals – Nov through Feb is their mating season, so there were tonnes lounging on the rocks (including wee little babies!). We were really happy we made that stop.

View of Queen Charlotte Sound from the ferry

View of Queen Charlotte Sound from the ferry

We are now in Punakaiki hoping to see the pancake rocks and blowholes, but it started pouring rain again upon our arrial. We are trying to wait out the rain and then make the 5 km trek to see them…but we’re not sure it will happen tonight. We might go tomorrow morning instead, in the hopes that the rain lets up. We find that often it will rain in the afternoon/evening, but mornings are sunny, so we might take our chances. We’re a bit fed up with the weather here…too similar to spring in Alberta. It’s not reliable and always changing! I’m ready for uncomfortably hot weather!

Tomorrow, we’re going to continue South so that we an maximize our time in the Wanaka/Queenstown/Milford Sound region. Not sure how far we’ll make it yet (either Franz Joseph or Haast), so we’ll see. We’d also like to thank everyone for the comments you are making on the blog – please keep it up! I know we are doing bad with replying, but the internet is really crappy here. They all have strict MB limits, so usually we only have time for quick email checks and the blog/picture post before it runs out.

Queen Charlotte Sound

Queen Charlotte Sound

Before I sign off, I’d also like to comment on a few random NZ facts: 1) eggs are stored on shelves here, not in cooled areas in the grocery stores and in homes. 2) the baking is phenomenal. We are chalking it up to heavy European influence, but it is so fresh, cheap and delcious. 3) yoghurt is also amazing and comes in way more flavours than at home. We recently enjoyed passion cheesecake and vanilla hazlenut. Yum! 4) There are 40 million sheep in the country (every rolling green hill is dotted with them), which means there are approximately 10 sheep per person. Apparently, Margaret told us that Kiwis feel that tourists will be fascinated with sheep when they come. It’s sort of true, at least for us! LOL.

7 comments to South of the North Island and North of the South Island

  • Meredith

    Seals? Cute! I am amused that you wrote this in the FUTURE! haha It’s only the 9th here! 😉 Too bad about the rain but be happy you aren’t here in snow and -25! :p HAVE FUN GUYS!

  • Keri

    Glad you guys made it to Welly and the weather behaved. It is a lovely place when the sun shines and of course the Collinges are top notch hosts. Have you had any fish and chips (or fush and chups) yet? I can’t wait to have my fix in January! xo Keri

  • Betty Ryan

    Bruce and Nancy’s house looks the same as it did in 1974 or 75, it was I think? Its still so cute.

  • Cheryl

    The wekas and seals are so cute! Scott is like Kelly with the illogical bird-loathing, it sounds like. And Bostoners seem to be cool people – the 3 Boston guys we met at Kalalau were awesome. They packed in a mini guitar and bongo drums!

  • Dad

    All of these years I have put off getting animals because I thought they were bad for asthmatics! I guess I can finally get that Jack Russell Terrier I have always wanted. If Fergus the cat was ok for an overnighter, I am sure a dog will not affect you adversely and prevent you from coming over once in a while for dinner and a visit!

    Dad & Lorna

  • Kim

    That’s right! you stayed at a house with a cat!! I will no longer accept cats as an excuse to you not visiting!

  • Betty Ryan

    I don’t think the cat lives there full time. It just visits. Otherwise if it lived there Kenna would have had another hospital adventure.

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