SOUTH ISLAND ROADIE: WELLINGTON TO KAIKOURA

I just wanna dance this past week was so good! My sister Kelly and her husband Adam came to visit us from Cleveland. Seeing our first visitors step off that plane after nine months alone in New Zealand was like seeing Justin’s almond butter arrive in a care package – 100% nutty joy.

After a week of bombing it around Wellington, we grabbed the ferry to the south island for our first foray into the southern alps.

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The ferry ride from Wellington to Picton is 3.5 hours. With an apparent boatful of car drivers we had the “Trucker’s Corner” to ourselves.

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The day before we arrived the winds on the northern south island were so fierce, roofs were ripped off houses and a campervan was overturned. The mighty wind lingered for our journey, rocking our ship like a crib on the open ocean, only to subside when we reached the caribbean blue waters of the Tory Channel.

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In Picton, the washed masses exited the boat to collect whatever rental vehicle they were rich enough to afford. We grabbed our Subaru Forester and began our road trip down the barren east coast toward Kaikoura.

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A short ways in, we stopped in Blenheim to grab some of that primo Marlborough white. One hour later we arrived in Kaikoura. Kaikoura is a medium sized town by New Zealand standards – pop. 4,000. Nothing much to do but ogle at the mountains or hop on a boat and enjoy the abundance of whales, dolphins, seals and penguins.

We arrived at dusk. And though we missed the crayfish trucks north of town (Kaikoura translates in Maori to “meal of crayfish”) the fading light was enough to help us find this excellent freedom campsite off Kiwa Road. Ocean in front of us. Big mountains behind us. Thanks to the camping app “WikiCamps NZ” and the wonderful Bryers who purchased it for us.

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With swiss cheese holes in our itinerary, finding this remote beauty brought a wave of relief to night one. Like the sun that buttery chardonnay also went down easy.

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That night Jess and I slept in the tent while Kelly and Adam took the subie. Traveling light, they opted to leave their sleep pads at home – a decision they regretted immediately upon feeling the ribbed car seats on their backs. This shot was taken first thing Sunday morning where I found Adam sleeping in the passenger seat and Kelly looking like a tired Al Pacino.

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We awoke with big plans. We could kayak with the seals … or hire a private fishing charter … or maybe take a helicopter whale-watching tour. All those plans went to shit when this storm rolled in. The clouds – though they killed our plans – brought a dark electric beauty to the already stunning landscape. Who doesn’t love a good storm?

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So we hit the town instead, where I got a lesson in spittle drainage from Ty Pennington’s brother.

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With Kaikoura in the rearview, we continued down Highway 1 toward Christchurch. I put on an Adam Carolla podcast and everyone fell asleep. But I bought that shit back to life with a lunch stopover at Black Estate Winery in Waipara! After a sampling of four wines, we each grabbed a glass of something different (I chose the 2014 rose) and took our charcuterie board to the porch to enjoy the spring sunshine and the vineyard.

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All fun and games. But we had mountains to climb. Once this meat was safely in our bellies, we hit the road once again, this time curling west toward the rugged colossal peaks of the snowy southern alps. Little did we know what beauty and danger lied ahead..

TO BE CONTINUED

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