South Island Road Trip

I am on an ambitious road trip on the South Island of New Zealand. First I flew to Queenstown and drove north to view penguins at the Wilderness Lodge in Lake Moeraki about 30 miles north of Haast. The drive over the Crown Range and through Wanaka immersed me in beauty. I found myself pushing to get to the Lodge for the 7:30 p.m. dinner AND stopping frequently to take pictures.

Along Highway 6 north of Queenstown

So frequently I got to meet Rohan and Dhaval who stopped at three scenic stops with me. Dhaval took this picture of me.

On Friday there were lots of work crews repairing rock slides and slumps. It is spring time in New Zealand so it time to repair winter damage. New Zealand keeps miles and miles of roads in good shape–a lot per capita–only 1.5 million people on South Island. Highway 6 goes from Invercargill to Queenstown and then on to Franz Joseph National Park and beyond. To conserve resources they use one lane bridges and one side gives way and waits if there is someone coming from the other direction. It is a bit unnerving at first, then I realized that I hardly ever actually encountered another car when I approached one of these bridges. One exception is the bridge just outside Frankton and Queenstown Airport. It has a light and there are cars waiting, but the scariest part is the spotty surface. The tarmac is worn away.

Cattle crossings are called Cattle stops.
Cattle crossings are called Cattle stops.

Then there are the different signs. My least favorite: “Drive with Care, Accident Black Spot”. I am not sure what it indicates except it cannot be good.

Then there are the switchbacks, just out of Arrowtown, so severe my GPS thought I had done a u-turn.

I rented a very affordable car (saving money for accommodation) from Snap Rentals in Qtown. It is the same Nissan we drove in Auckland except it has 247,000 km and the seats are broken down and the radio does not work. It did the job and with the excess insurance I did not have to worry about the loose gravel and other road hazards.

Nissan from Snap Rental

I drove through lots of rain showers. The weather was the most severe in Invercargill. Fortunately I had dashed into hotel reception before the heavy hail started to fall.

I love noticing uniquely New Zealand things. On the way out of Invercargill I saw recycled feed sacks full of “Horse Poo $2”. Just leave the money by the stand on the honor system. There are numerous roadside picnic spots. And they call it freedom camping when you can stop your self-contained camper on the side of the road.

I am glad to be moving to a bicycle tomorrow. My neck and back were so sore I called Matt at The Dairy Private Hotel to book me a massage. Juliana at Body Sanctum in Qtown did an amazing job. I am undoing her good work as I lean over my computer to write. (straighten up!) Also glad to finally have a decent internet connection. I have a lot to share. Stay tuned.

Travel theme: Edge


Preikestolen, Norway in the fog
Preikestolen, Norway in the fog

Pulpit Rock was a real hiking challenge, for me. My son Tevis did not seem to work as hard to reach the top or to descend safely. It is also a mental challenge and I have lots of friends who would be terrified of the edge–especially given the 604 m drop (and no safety rails). When we saw pictures of Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock on Pinterest, all on a sunny day, we agreed it was one of the things we had to do when we visited Norway.

Preikestolen trailhead marker
Preikestolen trailhead marker

We left on the first ferry from Stavanger. There was only about 50 feet of flat before the climbing began so we were glad for the cool, foggy morning. We shared the trail with hundreds of European girl and boy scouts who were in Norway for a jamboree. It did not take long for this to become a “one step at a time” physical test for me. I found all of the languages, none of them English, oddly soothing as I focused on my ascent. Tevis waited for me at several points along the trail, always looking irritatingly fresh.

the trail

The last 100 meters was the hardest. I was so relieved to get to the top and see Tevis waving from the distance. I did not find the edge particularly intimidating; it might have been different on a clear day. We ate our picnic lunch and recovered from the exertion. We agreed that even with the view-robbing fog the effort was worth it.

Tevis and American Julie made it to the top!
Tevis and American Julie made it to the top!

I did not think I was concerned about the edge at the time, but notice how I am leaning away from the edge and into my son Tevis! I kept remember the stories of people who hiked to the top with their dogs and then stupidly tossing the ball and watching in horror as their dog chased it over the edge. Preikestolen legend or true story? I do not know, I just know that I breathed a little easier for children and dogs as we hiked away from the edge.

Descending was just as challenging, mainly due to the crowds ascending and my overall weariness. It took me 2 hours to hike up and another 2 hours to hike down to the Visitor’s Center. 

When I saw the Where’s My Backpack “Travel Theme: Edge“. I immediately thought of Pulpit Rock.