The start of an epic adventure

DeerSheep Andrew and I planned an epic adventure to see the wonder that is the south island of New Zealand. Our trip included a lot of driving, a lot! The south island is really not all that big, and most of the time in traveling distances by car are longer due to the curved nature of the roads. I’m actually beginning to believe that there is a country law about not paving straight roads! The first days of our trip included a lot of driving. Our plans were compressed last minute and we still wanted to head all the way south; we figured we’d be able to handle more driving at the start of the trip. The drive through the north island was fairly uneventful, there was some lower cloud coverage around the Tongariro National Park mountains which obscured the most exciting views, and at one point the clouds in the sky looked like they could have been copied and pasted from an episode of the Simpsons. Needless to say, some shenanigans and lots of sheep and cows and deer and farmland later…

Goofing around at the National Army Museum (Te Mata Toa)

Can you spot the surprise Easter Eggs?Our first real stop was Wellington, but just as a gateway to the south. The north and south island are separated by 50 nautical miles and a three hour ferry. We spent a full day driving to Wellington then set up at a Holiday Park, a facility with cabins, camper-van spaces and tent sites. Thanks to my dad and brother, I have a swanky tent that we were able to use and it helped to cut the cost of our trip because camping is fairly inexpensive. After a fairly decent night, thanks to new foam mats that Andrew’s parents got for us, we stumbled upon a pleasant surprise! Having been Easter weekend, on Sunday morning, an “Easter bunny” deposited two Cadbury eggs just outside our car door. It was a very sweet way to start off the trip!

The ferry to Picton was pretty nice. We got some nice views of Wellington, a fairly hilly city, and then got to enjoy beautiful views of the south island as we approached Picton through the Marlborough Sounds. What are ‘sounds’ you might ask? Because I did. A sound is a narrow inlet or strait, that often contains islands or connecting two bodies of water. In New Zealand, some places called sounds, like the Doubtful Sounds, are actually fiords. A fiord is similar to a sound but was created by a glacier. In the case of Doubtful Sounds, a glacier carved out a valley along the southwestern part of New Zealand then receded. So anyways… lots of beautiful pictures as we got our first glimpses of the mainland of New Zealand!

The Ferry! Bye Wellington! Hello South Island!

South Island ahead!

The inlet we came through, tiny! Ferry ride over!

When we finally arrived in Picton, we drove off the ferry and headed towards Nelson. But we’re on vacation! So we stopped along the way. First stop? A chocolate shop. Yum! I would have taken a picture of the scrumptious chocolates, but we ate them so quickly… We drove on-wards and stretched our legs around the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve. Why? Well, it’s a scenic reserve, and let’s be honest, part of The Hobbit was filmed here, so it’s a legitimate part of Middle Earth, and as I may have mentioned, my blog title is a play on the title of the first section of the book the main character in The Hobbit writes. What chocolates we had up until this point, were now demolished.

Feet in Totara Flats Peaceful Deep breath, getting into relaxation mode

Our second pit stop was the Carluke Scenic Reserve. A let’s give it a go attempt at finding a cool spot landed us on a walkway with no time frame and no description but a name. We walked for about 30 minutes and skipped some stones in a the creek and decided to trust the advice in our guide books, picking locals brains and, if all else fails, placards. There are so many gems in New Zealand that every time you look out the window or walk a few feet, another stunning view presents itself.

A little foreboding... But turned out great. A chance to stretch our legs and skip some stones.

Not too late in the afternoon we made it to Nelson, a rather large town known for it’s art scene. Regrettably, being Easter weekend, just about everything was closed. We’d already booked a hostel for that evening, one of our favorites in fact, so we asked for some advice and called a few places til we found a promising microbrewery and restaurant that was open in Mapua Wharf, about thirty minutes north of Nelson. Another lovely drive, we stopped at Rabbit Island on the way, and while there were not any rabbits, there were some stunning trees and a beautiful beach. The wharf in which the restaurant resided was far more stunning, especially as the sun began to go down and light up the sky with a wide myriad of colors. While most of the shops were closed, we still peaked in the window of a few places, like a funky looking hat shop (which I’m sure our wallets were glad was closed!).

In Nelson! Shenanigans... Hat Shop

View! From Rabbit Island In Rabbit IslandMapua Wharf Every view is so wonderful!

Our first day in the South Island? A success!

In the morning, Andrew and I decided to explore Nelson a bit, even hiking to the top of a hill to the Center of New Zealand. So, for any civil engineers out there, this bit is for you. The “Center of New Zealand” is actually the survey point for Nelson, which is the middle of the various regions in New Zealand. Hmmm. Nice view though!

Center of New Zealand The view from the center of New Zealand

Regrettably, the shops were almost all closed, so the remainder of Nelson will have to remain a mystery. On the upside, there were a handful of dollar shops open, so we dug up a fantastic solar powered addition to our road trip transportation module:

The flip flap

In other news, I was promoted at work. I’m the new assistant manager at my store! Woot, woot! It’s only a fixed term position, but I’ll probably learn a lot of great skills and hone others in the meantime. I’m still hoping to secure an engineering position before I leave, and even have an interviewing for a promising job I may have mentioned, once, or twice or three times in this blog. FINGERS CROSSED!