When last we met, our North Island travels were coming to a close and South Island adventures lay before us. We had turned in our smaller campervan in Auckland, hopped on a flight to Christchurch and picked up our next campervan. The South Island proved to be as lush and full of spring as the North, with rhododendrons and lupine greeting us on the roadsides.
Our big draw to the South Island, however, was the mountains: The Southern Alps and Fiordland. We headed west toward Arthur’s Pass, spending the night in Springfield where we met Lee’s Friend. (See my last post 😉) It was soon obvious that the weather on the west side was a bit “crankier” than the east. Arthur’s Pass was socked in with clouds, but beautiful, nonetheless.
Franz Joseph Glacier
Once on the west coast, we made our way to the community of Franz Josef, just below the Franz Josef Glacier. Even though it was a bit drippy out we were making the best of it. We hiked to the glacier through the rain forest and along the river rocks. Franz Joseph has receded significantly over the years, but the New Zealand Department of Conservation has pushed the trail out to an easy viewing area. Easy, that is, if it were a brilliant blue sky. The clouds lifted now and again, and I stood amazed at the blue tinted ice. Another bucket list item…
We’re 21 hours ahead of Oregon, so we celebrated Thanksgiving a day “early.” Having no turkey or oven to cook it in, we went to the local pub! After dark, we walked quietly into the rainforest behind our campground to see the glow worms tucked in the branches. Whispering to avoid disturbing them, we walked along the path, amazed at the pin pricks of light surrounding us.
Running From the Rain
A girl can only handle so much rain, though. And rain it did. There was yet another front coming in from the west, carrying the promise of extended downpours. Several of the trails we were hoping to hike in the Southern Alps were closed, or carried warnings of dangers from the rain, so we bailed and drove to the east coast to enjoy the south Pacific sunshine. South of Dunedin and north of Milton we found a park right along the beach. Brilliant blue skies during the day and the most stars you’ve ever seen at night. Mark grabbed his camera and tripod and we headed out to the beach at midnight. Orion’s Belt was there to greet us as a familiar friend. We were introduced to new sights as well. The Southern Cross was likely there somewhere, but all we saw was the Fake Cross. We also saw two other galaxies visible to the naked eye!
Back over on the Tasman shore, before we bailed on the weather, we had caught a glimpse of the Fiordland crested penguins. Now, we were biding our time on the Pacific coast, where I knew the famed blue penguins lived. To say the least, I was antsy to see them, so we headed to Oamaru, home of one of the largest blue penguin colonies. Blue penguins are the smallest of their kind in the world. Heading out to the ocean in the morning, they feed all day, and return to their nests about 30 minutes after sundown. The evening of our visit, a smattering of people lined up along the shore waiting for their quiet arrival. One by one, slowly, they began to emerge from the water and waddle onshore. They are, indeed, little and adorable. And noisy!! As soon as they meet up with their buddies, they are noisy little buggers. We stuck around till about 11pm watching the little guys make their way home, being one of the last groups to leave. When we returned to our campground little blue penguins greeted us there, too. A larger one just sat on some stairs leading up to the toilets and communal kitchen. And, they talked noisily all night long, until around 5am when they waddled back to the ocean.
Far From Home
Next, we hopped in our motorhome and waddled ourselves further and further south. Eventually we made it to the southernmost point of the South Island. We were closer to Antarctica than the Equator! The point is windy and stark and oddly understated. Strangely, I was the most homesick I’ve been at that very point. I was the most removed from my friends and family. Thankfully we’d be heading back north again soon.
Milford Sound and our big backpacking adventure awaits us, so we motor on…Northwest…
Our adventures are grand, but I still miss you, so….
Go With Me!