It seems my time is now marked either pre-flood or post-flood these days. I am sure it was the same with Noah, and for all who have escaped a flash flood with a child strapped on their back. Here is the pre-flood story of our trip south and our first impressions of the South Island as we left the Tandem staff conference for the long drive to Dunedin.
Sunday, January 29
The ferry meanders through azure waters, navigating the labyrinth of land that reaches out like craggy fingers stretching into the sea. Dusky dolphin splash in our wake. This is the Marlborough Sound at the northern tip of the South Island. Our first glimpse of the South Island is one of mystical beauty and we are moments from jumping off the gangplank and immersing ourselves in it.
Now we have left the boat behind and are driving through the countryside, amazed by the buttercups, Queen Anne’s lace, and purple clovers that line the road—God has picked wildflowers from home and planted them here among palms, firs, and magnolias. He has evidently chosen the best of each climate and gathered them here in this bouquet named New Zealand. Sheep and vineyards stretch across the landscape, each with its own boxes of bee hives, as if to prove that this is the land of milk and honey.
At last we reach Nelson, the Kiwi’s holiday spot, and sag into a chair at the best pizzeria I can remember. The eleven of us plow through one pie after another, draining carafes of water like sunbaked ground. Each of our families had a casualty on the windy road in, and we hope the pizza stays down.
Monday, January 30
What a shock last night when we found the campground! It was a shanty town of tents and campers, cars and awnings as far as the eye could see. We barely eked out a spot for our three tents, touching one another and bumped up against a camper trailer. But, we slept like champions and rose to a gorgeous morning and made the short walk to a deserted stretch of beach. I am amazed that the shells here are much like those on the coast of Maine: clams, mussels, sea urchins, and sand dollars mixed up with shells from the Florida shoreline and coastal birds that are uniquely New Zealand.
Today we drove across the South Island over to Westport. Along the way we stopped at New Zealand’s longest swing bridge, which we had to cross, and then ran into a man with a jet boat who gave us an incredible deal on a boat ride up and down the Buller River. Wow! We were soaked and ecstatic—it was like white water rafting in a speed boat with the opportunity to do the rapids over and over! Yes! In the middle of the ride, our guide pulled over and panned for gold and actually found some gold flecks. We need to add this to our Lifelines repertoire. 🙂
It was drizzling when we made it to Westport to walk out to see the resident fur seal colony and share some fish and chips wrapped in newspaper from a local food shack.
Tuesday, January 31
Much thanks to Paul, the motel owner who told us about a fantastic hike in the area, which we followed past rushing waterfalls, through tropical forests, over an ancient swing bridge, and through old mining tunnels. We felt like true explorers!
Following our hike, we continued south with a short stop at the famous and fascinating pancake rocks, on to our next campsite just beyond Hokitika. After dark, we visited a small dell by the roadside that was filled with glow worms—an incredible New Zealand phenomena. The greenish points of light against the dense woodland were like the pinpricks of stars in the night sky. Unfortunately, glow worms in the light of day are extremely ugly.
Wednesday, February 1
This morning in Hokitika we visited the kiwi center where we watched the antics of these famous, flightless, nocturnal birds. We also got to view New Zealand’s famed Tuatara lizard and feed giant eels (though Dan was the only one crazy—I mean, brave—enough to pat them!
Our next stop was at a glass blowing studio and then on to a Jade carver’s house where we saw the process of turning native “Greenstone” into Maori-inspired jewelry. The native Maoris used the durable greenstone for weapons, decoration, and even for money.
By the time we reached Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers it was pouring so we pressed on, hoping to Catcha glacier sighting later this trip. In the evening, we tramped through growing puddles to our motel room in Haast, which is where we encountered the flash flood. For those who have not heard this story, please refer to my previous post.
Stay tuned for our upcoming post-flood adventures. We would appreciate your prayers for housing and for a new vehicle, both of which we lost on February 1st. More posting soon.