Day 11 – Stiff and sore was my poor battered body this morning. Certain calcified muscles received a rude awakening with the whole hanging on for dear life thing yesterday. Thankfully not too much exertion would be required from me because today was the big drive. Hitting the road, road-trippin’, cruising down through the west coast of the south island down to my next stop, Franz Josef glacier. The weather down there is supposed to be so-so, quite a bit of rain, but hopefully it clears up a bit by the time I arrive. Wishful thinking anyway. Should be a nice change of pace from Abel Tasman and it’s ridiculously temperate climate. Jk, AT I love you and wish I could stay nestled in your sunshiney sand beaches forever and ever and ever. Amen.
I’m thinking I’ll keep this entry short because most of the day can be summed up with: much driving and much thinking, occasionally both at the same time. Lots of processing of experiences I’ve had thus far, and what it all means, and who am I anyway? Good stuff. Also loud singing to classic Disney music, Alanis and a some Backstreet Boys/Britney thrown in for good measure.
The scenery morphed and changed as I drove along, following the mood of my ponderings or maybe it was the reverse of that. More likely the latter. Abel Tasman’s picture book beaches turned into rolling verdant hills which morphed into a wild grey coastline of fearsome waves that were soon sheep-filled flatlands surrounded by imposing mountains which became windy rainforest roads leading up to churning rivers at the foot of Franz Joseph glacier. There’s my drive, as I saw it, in one sprawling run on sentence. I saw much of the awe-inspiring soul-crushing stuff that I’ve heard so much about. There were many roadside stops, not to spend pennies (as might be expected of me), but to snap pictures. There is too much to take in here, and I both hate and love that cameras cannot do any of it justice.
One really good stop was my visit to the Pancake Rocks. The Maori name is Punakaiki, but close enough (not at all, how terrible.) As the name suggests, they were big pancake-like stacks of rock formations. They are odd and cool looking, and some of them quite distinctly look like people’s faces turned out to the sea. I missed high tide, so I didn’t get to see the blowholes in action, but it was well worth the stop nonetheless.
Arrived to a misty mysterious Franz Josef. Misty mountains indeed. Caught a very brief peak before looking for a hotel room and settling in. At dinner, I met an old New Zealander called Gavin who’s from the area. Couldn’t have spoken to a truer Kiwi, a local through and through. He’s a craftsman who’s been living in Franz Josef his whole life. He had many ideas for what I should do with the rest of my trip – namely not spend much time in the highly commercialized Queenstown and instead opt for a night on a boat in Doubtful Sound, skipping the much more tourist populated Milford Sound. I’m intrigued by his suggestions. He also talked about the helicopter crash from last week. He knew the kid who piloted the flight. Gavin’s take on the whole thing? Heli rides are totally safe. But if the weather looks off, don’t go. He said they can try to push the boundaries of what’s safe or not safe weatherwise to try and squeeze an extra day in. Of course, there’s probably never been a safer time to go than now. Everyone is still keenly feeling the weight of the tragedy, and eager to guard from any further accidents. We shall see in the morning where my head’s at. Weather does not seem to be cooperating so it might be out of my hands anyway.
Day’s end, and still feeling thoughtful and heavy in a way. Journey is coming to its conclusion and I’m mulling and thinking and simmering in all I’ve done. It’s been good. I am feeling quite content, if a bit contemplative.