Are you like me? Got itchy feet? Feeling bored … frustrated … tired of waiting for the Corona-clouds to lift? Well, TRAVEL’s a powerful tonic. And, while adventuring overseas is still not safe, there’s nothing to stop us doing what zillions of tourists from all corners of the world come here to do: go adventuring in our beautiful backyard!
- “I wish I’d never gone travelling,” said no one ever.
- “If we were meant to stay in one place,” said somebody else, “we’d have roots instead of feet!”
- “Travel!” said another somebody. “As much as you can … as far as you can … for as long as you can!”
Several lifetimes ago my wife and I took this advice, and got happily infected with the travel-bug. More recently, with the help of a motorhome (which we no longer have), we’ve ‘done time’ in New Zealand’s gorgeous South Island. And guess what? There’s no better place on earth for putting a spring in your step and a sparkle in your eye!
I’m not gonna tell you Where To Go and How To Get There. (Countless websites can do that.) But I’d like to tempt you with a few random memories …
I’m not big on seafood. But this don’t-miss village on Pelorus Sound (near Picton, in the top right-hand corner of your map), is the Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World. (You didn’t know that – right?) We spent a delightful day aboard the Pelorus Express, delivering mail and groceries to remote, unheard-of islands in these crystal-clear waters … then grabbed a table at the Mussel Pot Café for an overflowing platter of Greenshell whoppers: steamed, smoked, marinated, grilled and cooked-to-perfection as croquettes. Yum!
There’s something almost sacred about a deserted beach, a silent rainforest, and the thrill of birdsong. And we stumbled on all three in Karamea (at the north end of the West Coast and the south end of the Heaphy Track). But my most magical moment awaited us when we crossed a long swing-bridge after a 10-minute easy walk, and entered this lush Nikau Grove. Thousands of these gorgeous palms towered above us like giant feather dusters – and I remember thinking, “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life!”
On the other side of the South Island, just after midnight on November 14, 2016, NZ’s largest and longest earthquake struck Kaikoura and surrounds. The numbers were staggering: 120 seconds (that’s all it took) … 200km of buckled road (ripped up or buried under rockslides) … 190km of munted railway tracks (torn, twisted and dangling in mid-air) … and only 2 million work-hours to fix it! We’d driven this coast road before the quake. We’d witnessed the awfulness just a few months after the quake. And today’s miracle rebuild is an engineering wonder and a sight-for-sore-eyes. And guess what? The fur-seals are back in force – arguing on the rocks and frolicking in the pools!
FAIRLIE GOOD PIES
We suspected friends were exaggerating when they told us about Fairlie Bakehouse and its hand-filled, made-with-love pastries. But then we saw the queue … hanging out the door and halfway down the main street of this South Canterbury town! Winter or summer, rain or shine, they line up just to get their hands on one of Franz Lieber’s world famous pies. So I got a venison-and-cranberry – and she got a pork-belly-with-apple-sauce-and-crackling. Mmmmm! We’ve
been back since … and can’t wait to go again!
“Seen one lake, you’ve seen them all!” That might be true in some countries – but not in the South Island. And Lake Pukaki (in my humble opinion) takes the cake. It’s one of three alpine lakes that run along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin. And what makes it so breath-taking? For a start, the water’s a vivid turquoise (thanks to ‘glacial flour’ that washes down from the surrounding icy heights). And, if that’s not enough, NZ’s tallest peak – Aoraki/Mount Cook – is showcased brilliantly in the distance! I defy any newcomer driving from Twizel to resist the urge to pull over … step out … still their beating heart … and take at least a thousand photos!
I wrecked an expensive camera (ouch!) at the bottom tip of the Mainland. But, if I had to, I’d do it all again. This stretch of coastline (to the right of Invercargill on your map) faces the wild Southern Ocean, and is home to yellow-eyed penguins, roaring sealions, and the remains of a fossilised forest. But what we came to see were some friendly Hector’s dolphins! You can swim with them here (no kidding!) … and, camera-in-hand, I waded out from the sandy beach to photograph these small, rare mammals as they swam oh-so-close to my legs. Unforgettable? Yes, totally! Until a rogue wave took me from behind and, basically, drowned my camera (sob) …
JOIN JOHN & ROBYN COONEY ON ONE OF THEIR UPCOMING ‘MAD MIDLIFE ESCAPES’ IN THE SOUTH & NORTH ISLANDS. PHONE GLEN (HOUSE OF TRAVEL ELLERSLIE) FOR DETAILS: 0800 323 333 – OR EMAIL INFO@MIDLIFEMADNESS.TOURS.