Today we crossed from New Zealand’s Southern Island, to the North. Exiting the Airport at Wellington a different pace, population and purpose was evident. But first, some reflections on our experience of the South Island.
Our travels took us from Christchurch on the East Coast, to Greymouth on the West Coast and then southwards to Queenstown. There are whole swathes of the South Island we didn’t even sniff.
What are my abiding impressions? Scenic splendour at every turn. I became punch-drunk on mountain vistas and river plains; sucker-punched by forests, lakes and glaciers. And remoteness. I’m used to the model train-set that is Great Britain, where you are rarely more than an hour from an urban conurbation and less from a motorway. Where the population of the small town where I live is two-thirds that of the entire West Coast. Here, there are vast tracts of uninhabited land, interspersed with “townships” – four or five roadside properties. Where the nearest supermarket is a two-hour drive undertaken once a month. Weather-permitting.
My other abiding memory will be of the people we met:
Jill, in Christchurch, who gave us a unique insight into the impact of the earthquakes in 2010/11, and how the community has been forever changed, and is responding.
Jan, whose amazing beachfront property we stayed at in Rapahoe, and who shared her extensive knowledge of the West Coast, sending us on our way with notes and directions to “must see” places.
Neroli, at Haast, a fourth-generation West-Coaster, who regaled us with tales of her ancestors. Hardy folk from Ireland who arrived amongst the first pioneers, landing cattle from their ships, and eventually developing a particularly heavy-framed herd, which could withstand the gruelling 250 kilometre drive from field to market, without losing condition and value. The descendants of those heavy beasts can be seen in nearby pastures today.
The ranger from the Conservation Department who took time out from grass-cutting, to give us a local history lesson at the far outpost of Jackson’s Bay.
Marc, who suggested we head out of the quaint but very tourist-centric Queenstown, and drive to Glenorchy along the banks of Lake Wakatipu.
All these people generously gave of their time and local knowledge and we greatly benefited from both. They gave our brief visit a unique context through their personal experiences, reflections, and opinions. Thank you.