With 40 hours left in New Zealand and over 230 miles left to drive to catch our flight home, somehow it just made sense that we should add an extra 7o miles to our trip and a couple of unexpected detours. Because….when are we going to be back in New Zealand, on this type of a road trip…besides we can sleep on the plane, right?
So we were on the road early, still feeling the high from our glacier hike and feeling relaxed from our soak at the glacier hot pools the day before.
The forecast said rain, but we seemed to have gotten on the road before the clouds rolled in, and although they chased us and eventually caught up to us, we had a great (although long) drive for our last full day in New Zealand, zipping along the West Coast of the South Island, and winding through the Southern Alps as we headed to Christchurch.
I can’t remember who told us to make a side trip to Hokitika Gorge – but it was one of those places that is so far off the beaten path as you drive towards it, you start to question whether or not you are still going in the right direction….did you go too far….did you make the right turn….should you turn back…and then you find the parking lot, and realize that a lot of people have made the same pilgrimage that you have, only somehow you found yourself driving on an empty road for the last hour…
Hokitika Gorge is also one of those places that you can’t believe it actually looks like that, and when you look at your photos afterwards, you can’t quite believe that you were there, and the water was truly that colour.
It also made me wish that this wasn’t a drive through type stop for us because the water looked soooo inviting, but alas, the road trip must go on!
We stopped in at Hokitika for lunch, and also to take the obligatory tourist photo of their driftwood sign at the beach.
The day was half over….but we still had one more photo detour and 230 miles of driving before we could rest our heads (and feet) for the night.
Because you can’t leave the South Island in New Zealand without seeing the Pancake Rocks…right? Right? Well, that’s the idea I had in my head, so on we went to see the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.
Limestone formations that look surprisingly like huge stacks of pancakes. Weird. But also a nice place to take a stroll and stretch our legs, grab a flat white and check it off the list before we started the last leg of our journey for the day and for our trip.
Only another 4ish hours (more like 6) to go and the width of the South Island to go before we could check into our last hotel, pack up for the last time, and enjoy our last true flat white.
We drove through the Southern Alps and had an opportunity to enjoy the views with just the perfect lighting as the sun started to set behind us.
We found a cute little honey stand which had a sign that made me laugh. Seriously the cheapest honey that we came across. I think the souvenir shops were selling them for $20 – $30+ per small jar.
As we wound through the Alps, the rain finally caught up with us and the clouds turned the sky dark well before its time, and as grey clouds turned into black night, we found ourselves rolling into Christchurch.
We knew that Christchurch was known for its English heritage but also that it had experienced some devastating earthquakes in the last 5-6 years that had destroyed a lot of its historical stone buildings and had effected much of its landscape.
Knowing that Christchurch had earthquake damage was way different than seeing it with our own eyes.
We spent our last morning in New Zealand wandering the streets of Christchurch, taking in both the sights of earthquake wreckage and public art installations and murals that created a landscape of contrast.
And so with a last glimpse at destruction and art, we headed to the airport to complete our 10 day road trip in New Zealand. Still buzzing from the adrenaline rush of our sea kayaking tour, black water rafting, bungy jumping, glacier trekking adventures and feeling amazed at the beauty of the natural landscape, we settled in for our very very long flight home.
But New Zealand had one more surprise in store for us. Air New Zealand gave out Hokey Pokey ice cream as their dessert!! What? Ice cream on the plane. Kind of in love.
Until next time New Zealand. Stay beautiful.