Sunday, January 18, 2009



This is an interesting, 516km (321 mile) drive back into time.

Getting a reasonably early start, for us, 08:00, we head for the sparsely populated west coast of the South Island. To understand New Zealand’s roads, at least the ones we have driven on the South Island, you have to picture well maintained, two-lane, no shoulder highways like the ones in the US prior to the building of the interstate system in the 1950s. Remember? You know, the ones that followed the curve of the land and twisted like a snake on hot cement. The ones that went up, over or around all obstacles with a minimum of grading and fill to smooth out the route. To this picture you must now add one-lane bridges that are, occasionally, shared with train tracks! As you approach these bridges, there are signs telling you who has the right of way. Of course, they are not consistent so you must watch for them each time to see whether you can proceed or have to wait if there is oncoming traffic. Surprisingly, it works pretty well. Of course, one reason it does work so well is that the traffic where we are going is very light. I can’t imagine how it would work on, say, Highway 290 between Houston and Brenham.

Anyway, one of the highlights of the day’s drive is an area called Buller Gorge. The road runs along side the Buller River. It is a very interesting drive. The road is very much like all the ones so far, including a section along the river that is literally chisled out of the rock beside the river. The water is clean, clear and blue while running over a bed made of rocks and white sand. Our only complaint is that there is virtually no place for a car to pull off and admire the scenery! When there is a place, we stop and take in the views.

After exiting Buller Gorge, we come to the coast and the Tasman Sea. The Tasman has a reputation for being rough, but, today it is calm, blue and behaving itself. We stop at "Pancake Rocks and Blowholes" and take the 25 minute walk out to the shore to see this phenomenon. While doing so, we make our first acquaintance with the scourge of the west coast, sand flies. These are not the no-see-ums of the Caribbean. These suckers are the size of a small house fly and bite! We are to learn that they are everywhere.
We followed the coast line for miles (kilometers) and then finally turned inland and began to climb into a forest/jungle that surely must have one or two surviving dinosaurs hiding in it somewhere. This is now a highway lined with Jurassic style ferns and palms. You just know it has to be 90 degrees and 100 percent humidity out there but it is actually 20oC or 68oF. And, to top it off, there are twelve glaciers hiding out there in the jungle. The clouds are lowering and we only catch a glimpse of one, Franz Joseph Glacier, but we can vouch for its existence in this strange place.

Finally arriving at the wide spot in the road named Fox Glacier, we find our B&B, Misty Peaks. Our hosts, David and Lea Bentley have created a purpose built home for themselves with five guest suites of first class quality and appointments. We settle in and then enjoy cocktails with the Bentleys and the other couple staying at Misty Peaks tonight. They are a young couple from Perth, Australia.

The Bentleys offer an optional prepared to order dinner and we take them up on it. Now we like lamb and rack of lamb is on the menu. But, we are tired and not thinking too clearly so we both order rack of lamb. There are 7-8 chops in a rack and we are presented with our own rack, each! The food is good and we give it the old college try and have ice cream for dessert!

During the night, it begins to rain and the heavens really open up, The building has a metal roof and wide porches. The windows are open (no A/C) and the sound of the rain is like a narcotic. We sleep the sleep of the just and the well fed.

No comments: