Two months ago yesterday, I arrived jet-lagged and starry-eyed in the Auckland airport. It seems like forever since I’ve seen the snowy Midwest, but I know that all too soon I’ll be seeing it again — this time sans snow. I’ve also arrived at the halfway point in my semester at Massey, something that’s come in a similarly quick fashion. This means two weeks of break: or, as we’ve been planning since our arrivals, a roadtrip around the South Island. Since I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update during this time, I’ll give you an intro now.
Just as I was in February, Saturday found me sitting on the tarmac in the Palmy airport; this time, however, I was departing. Flying to Christchurch brought us above the green paddocks of the Manawatū and sent us southbound toward the ocean. In a half hour, we were gazing across the Southern Alps, rugged brown peaks on the coast of the bright ocean. From the plane, rivers were criss-crossing threads of silver, reflecting the afternoon sun. Almost immediately, contrast with the North Island could be seen.
At the airport we were met by Chris and Amy, who — as long-time readers will recall — we met in February for a backpacking trip in Rangiwahia. They had finished their stint working in a vineyard, and were joining us on our South Island roadtrip as part of their last weeks in New Zealand. After barely fitting our packs in the trunk (er, boot) of their already full station wagon, we made our way to a camp ground for the night. Cam, Joe and I found the 3-person tent to be…cozy. At least no one is going to get cold on this trip!
In the morning, we packed back up and headed south once again. Christchurch is a city in recovery, the impact of a devastating 2011 earthquake still apparent in a skyline disrupted by cranes. To drive downtown is to navigate a labyrinth of cones and one-ways; still, the sights stand out. Most notable is the Re:Start mall, a shopping center constructed out of colorful shipping containers. After making our way through the city, we made our way through rural Canterbury — scenery that reminded me very much of driving I-35 through Iowa. Fields of pasture were punctuated only by sheep and small towns, eventually giving way to steep hills and the city of Dunedin. Here, autumn was apparent: trees were well into their colors, and the breeze had a chill to make you zip your coat up.
Dunedin is the home of Scots, Speight’s, and a Cadbury chocolate factory. Although we’ve only spent a short time here, it seems like a cool city. Perhaps this is owing to the students at University of Otago, or a downtown populated by restaurants and art galleries. It’s located right on the east coast, and this evening a short drive brought us to the beach. There, we saw the sun set into the Pacific — an ocean I’ve seen once before, in San Diego — and spotted penguins, sea lions, and seals.
Tonight we’re hostelling, and tomorrow it’s back on the road — not before a visit to the Cadbury factory, of course. We’ll be heading down to the Catlins, home of rainforests and wildlife on the southern tip of the country. From there, it’s Invercargill, Queenstown, and as many national parks as we can get to before our departure on the 17th. To say it’ll be an adventure is an understatement…