I awoke in my tent to the sound of a groan. It was the noise of an old man attempting to rise after a rough nights sleep on hard, cold ground. At first I thought it was Craig until I realised that the noise was emanating from my own body. Everything ached. Everything was sore. It turns out that when you are not accustom to sleeping in a tent much then going “back to basics” can be a little harder than expected. Our foam rolls (henceforth on our travels known as “Aladdins Fucking Carpet!”) were far too thin and constantly rolled up at the ends. Craigs had the added benefit of having some silver foil on it which I suppose would help if we needed to cook a chicken in an emergency but mainly did bugger all for us.
It was at this point that we remembered our wild and manly claims that night before that jumping into a large body of water was going to be our new road trip ritual. Yesterday the lake water had turned out to be far more inviting that we ever could have imagined, however the large waves of the Southern Pacific seemed to leave a little more to be desired. The key thing is thought that we are both men of our word and a deal had been struck. It was time to suck it up and dive into the ocean.
Much can be said for the energy giving properties of caffeine to do a good job at waking up in a morning. Its warm, taste and slowly brings you around to have a focus for the day. Dunking yourself under the crashing waves of the sea on the other hand has an affect 20 times stronger in a fraction of a second and makes you feel alive like nothing else can. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t jump under the waves and think “Wow, I am so happy to be alive right now”, what actually happened is I jumped in, scream “HOLY FUCK CRAIG, WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING??!?” and ran back out again. Sometimes I guess we feel alive against our will too. In hindsight I am glad I did it. It isn’t something that used to be on my list of daily activities and was certainly outside of my comfort zone but that is what adventure should about. Doing the things you are not sure about doing just because you can. In the moment though I was freezing cold, regretting life decisions and well in need of the traditional wakeup coffee!
Over the course of the trip so far most of the days drives have been relativly short but quite tiring. Every day involved some driving and some adventuring but we realised that we had not really travelled that far, yet we had quite a long way to go. With this in mind we made the decision to use the day to make as much progress as we could and do a long drive up the coast and across to the Able Tasman national park all in one shot. This meant about 5 hours worth of driving for the day but would then put us into the area we wanted to be in for us to relax and chill out a bit more for the next few days. The things about New Zealand though is that just going on a big drive can be part of the adventure. Around every corner the scenery changes and we spot more and more natural wonders and amazing sights. These sights are not advertised tourist locations, but rather just little added bonuses on the trip. They are the type of things that would attract a crowd in the UK but over here they are just yet another amazing outcrop of islands or cliffs or gorge or river.
As we headed north there was one attraction that we did want to stop off at which was the Punakaki Pancake Rocks further up the west cost. The pancake rocks formed over 30 million years ago under the sea and then over time the seismic activity has lifted them out of the water for the elements to then cut away at the rocks and leave these strange and amazing pieces of natural scenery. Due to the way the tide comes up into some of the caves below there are also blow holes that water sprays up and out of at certain times of the day. Unfortunately we were not there are the right time for this, but just watching the waves crash against the cliffs was enough to get a decent enough idea of just how powerful the water was and how crazy it would be to be caught inside one of those caves. The ocean is such a powerful beast and moments like this make you realise it and respect it for that.
As we were exiting the little loop track of the Pancake rocks we looked over and spotted a familiar face. Hundreds of miles from home and we bump into another person that we know! This time it was my flatmates friend Amy with her Son Mekalo who were on an adventure of their own up the west coast. It was such crazy timing as if our timing was off by just a minute we wouldn’t have been in the same place at the same time and would never have even noticed each other. Its so weird how that happens here, yet also quite comforting in a way. No matter where you are there always seems to be a friendly face if you really need one.
We hit the road again and headed across the country, taking our way to Takaka on the North coast around Golden Bay. Even thought the drive took hours the miles just slipped by as the scenery forever changed before us.
Eventually we hit Motueka on the coast, only a small hop over some hills from our final destination for the night. In our mind we only had about 30 mins to go as it seemed pretty close on a map but we hadnt bothered to zoom in on the map and see just how windy the road was that lead across the pass. On closer inspection the entire road was switchbacks and hairpin turns stretching for miles and slowing our progress right down. It would have been fine if we were the only ones on the road but we somehow managed to get ourselves stuck behind the slowest cars in the whole of NZ who slowly struggled to get up the steep hills. Every few mins we would say “just a little further” before taking a turn and seeing even more road stretched out in front of us.
When we finally made it to Takaka the place was packed. It seemed like everyone had had the same idea as us and gone there for their holidays. The streets were lined with people and cars and we knew we could possible find any accommodation there so we went into search mode to try find somewhere to find a bed for the night.
We eventually found a place at a campsite just down the road, at which point we realised that camping in New Zealand is serious business over the Christmas break. There must have been a thousand people on this massive site, most of them Kiwi families having their Christmas breaks away. Most of the tents were more like temporary encampments then the sort of thing I was used to seeing. Many of them having shelving, tables and whole kitchens set up inside of them. Outside sat the truck with bikes in the back, kayaks on top, towing a boat along for the ride. This was not an uncommon occurance and it seems to me like the Kiwi dream involves staying in a tent to afford all the toys to have fun all day. To be fair enough the place was a hive of activity with good facilities which is more than we could ask for.
We ended up getting one of the last available places that happened to be next to a British and American couple that were travelling together. They had been in a car accident the day before that had written off one of their cars and had then all piled into one car before continuing. They came around a corner to find another driver on the wrong side of the road and had to swerve into the ditch to avoid a head on collision. Luckily no one was hurt but it did make us much more aware of the dangers that could be lurking around any corner as we continue our trip.
The 6 of us chatted away all night as the sun began to set. I would love to tell you what we talked about for hours on end, however a combination of a long day, time passing and lots of ciders means that I cant really remember much.
What I can remember is that we ended up taking a wonder out onto the beach before heading to bed to sit and watch the stars. Out there with nothing much around the sky was so bright and the stars some of the most amazing I have ever seen. Yet another day of adventuring down and another amazing day spent with great people.
One last consolation was that after the fun nights sleep on Aladdins carpet I ended up going into a store and buying an air bed. BEST PURCHASE EVER! Should have done it days ago!