Mountain roads to the Coast
Digital Imaging Ambassador
I had spent the summer living in a tent in Queenstown, living simpler, transitioning to small living space. OK a bell tent might be bigger than most bedrooms but hey it was my whole home. It was quite an interesting chat or maybe persuasion telling my girlfriend Jess that we be shitting in a bucket and emptying it into compost. She wasn’t exactly thrilled but a hot outdoor shower looking up at the stars will make up for it. The toilet only took a couple of a days to when her over and the camp cooking was better than most home cooked meals. Or maybe it was me trying to sweeten it to her even more to get used to my lifestyle.
Loz and Alex the ones behind Will and Bear landed with grins on their face, pleased or more blow away to how different it was compared to the chilly autumn weather we had last time. They joined us in the bell tent palace for the night after last minute preparation and painting of some roll bars or roof racks I made for ‘Peanut’, my 1972 Land Rover.
What seemed like a good idea at the time turned out to be a interesting turn of events but it made a good story in rain or shine, literally. I took the top off ‘Peanut’, baring all and as I say before, rain or shine. As we set off from Queenstown it didn’t take long for us to notice we had inherited the genes of a ginger, our noses, ears, foreheads, arms and all were burnt seasoned with wind burn.
I warned them that the coast is a different story, it rains, it rains and it also rains but with the odd blue sky day. And we had a blue sky day to our luck. With a few cheeky waves for the evening we kicked back to a family meal. From bell tent to a little local secret, a submarine. Right on the beach break and no interruptions to views we stayed for a couple of days then venture more off the beaten track. Several hours on the dirt road weaving through the west coast bush and we arrived. It was well and truely clear we had arrived, we were surrounded… by mosquitoes. I had seen had my fair share of mosquitoes on the west coast but never to this extent. They followed us out into the surf. With one slap I had 10 squished on the back of my hand. I’ve seen pretty bad pictures of the flies of the Australian outback but this was pretty bad. The best way is to get around a campfire. Then wont hang around. We saw weather coming so we knew it was best to make a move.
Rain hit hard, and without a roof on ‘Peanut’ Jess swapped with Alex in the other car. So here me and Alex sat, driving down the road… in wetsuits. It was actually a brilliant idea, warm and toasty the whole drive and ready to get into the water. May have looked ridiculous as if two seals were driving a convertible car in thundering rain.
Catlins, was amazing, where raw bush meets the rough sea. Hiking and surfing. Couldn’t ask for any better. Maybe some good laughs at Papatowai’s ‘the lost gypsy’ gallery. It’s pure creativity where you walk into a old bus with hundreds of creations of junk on the walls like a switch and a baby doll on the ceilings has its head spin around and freak you out. That’s not really a good example but its something you really need to witness to understand.
Onwards to Wanaka after a few days left us breathless. I was going to say about the beauty of the mountains but then I remembered driving through central Otago it was a very different reason. We out of breath as our heart raced and our gobs screaming. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life. A honey bee is a cheerful little critter but having it buzz between legs while its up your shorts and your driving is a very different story. Being that the land Rover wasn’t the fastest of vehicles the bees wouldn’t get squished on the windscreen, more so deflect then again off the surfboard down onto us. Over the course of two hours every hive we passed which happened to be every 10mins we had several in our hair or on our lap. Me screaming asking Jess to get rid the bee stinging my eyebrow may have looked like I was getting physically abused by Jess but i’m sure seeing two dudes driving a roofless truck the rain in wetsuits would be slightly weirder. Either way we found many pros and cons to taking the roof off the Land Rover.
I’ll just say, I’ve driven the crown range numerous times, I just didn’t take into consideration of the fuel level. I kid you not I reach the pass summit, parked for 10 seconds to order the best burgers in all of Queenstown before the kitchen, then the engine cut out, the spare fuel tanks empty. The worst regret was calling them back to cancel as all we had at home was 2min noodles. Now it was a matter of descending the zig zags of NZ’s highest paved road of 1076m with not petrol. Every drip from the spare was gathered. Starting in 1st gear while pushing to get over the crest, it began. Each and every corner was a masterpiece, NZ’s finest driving of pure accuracy and determination to maintain a maximum speed to get around every deathly corner and over every bit of uphill. Peanut’s 2-3 pump braking system isn’t the most advanced and questionably reliable under the normal circumstances. With Jess holding onto the sides and tensed up, myself hanging out the side of the truck while holding the wheel, I can now look back and see I have a keeper (jess). Someone that actually puts up with me. I must say it was the most economical yet thrilling driving I’ve ever done in my life. We had made down the hill on zero fuel and somehow had sucked the last drips that we could putter 300m down the road to the bell tent, aka home. The only problem was I didn’t think we would make it home for hours and could have actually got the burgers.
Glenorchy is where it all started, it was the the first stop with Will and Bear on last years road trip. It seemed fitting to get back there. Sadly Jess flew out a day early so she missed out. It was my favourite day of the trip. We spent the day sipping in the sweet summer sun while floating down the river on blow up beds. Such a good way to end the trip. Good times and many more ahead