Friday, March 23, 2012

Nelson to Christchurch - Along the East Coast

Back in the car again! The next leg of the trip was the drive from Nelson back to Christchurch. For the sake of variety, we went the opposite way, from west to east coast and then down the east coast. The route started out by going right across the Marlborough wine region. It reminded me of Italy, with the tidy rows of grapevines and the Cypress tree borders.

We also did some more of the winding road driving that we had done so much of. In this picture, you can see that the center line is textured. There isn't a lot of room to move out of the way if someone crosses over the line, so they have really made the center line noticeable.

After we felt like we had made enough progress to be sure we would get to Christchurch in time for our flight, we allowed ourselves a few stops.
A big span of the trip was along a coastal road. Thanks to our guidebook, we knew there was a place called The Store that we could stop. We were so glad we stopped! The tray above contained our completely decadent treats: hot chocolate, latte, banana cake with fresh whipped cream and plum custard tart....SUGAR RUSH!

While we were eating our treat, a helicopter landed outside the cafe. Apparently this place is worthy of a helicopter landing pad!

This span of coast was much different than what we saw in Pohatu. The waves were powerful!

The day was a bit overcast, which matched the misty, noisy, moody coastline perfectly. Here is a video Paul took in which he is still raving about Arthur's Pass. (I also think photo credits go to Paul for the 3 pictures above.) Warning, you will want to turn your sound down around 30 seconds in to this video because the wind gets really strong:

The seaweed was impressive. It was super thick and felt like a combination of leather and rubber. I was tempted to take a bite to see how it tasted in comparison to nori, but I refrained.

A little farther down the road, we stopped again to check out a waterfall a small distance from the road. If we had been there at the right time of year we would have found it full of seal pups. The sign says that the parent seals stash their kids there, where it is safer, while they go hunting for food in the ocean. Quick video of the falls:

Across the road from the waterfall, there was an access point for another part of the beach. We were hanging out there, taking in the view, when I spotted something down a bit farther down the beach. As I got closer, I realized there were a ton of seals hanging out.

I got pretty close without them caring too much. There was one big guy that was keeping his eye on me, but the others didn't care about me one bit.

I watched this seal make his/her way over to the water and jump right into the crashing waves. Their swimming skills are impressive! You can see his head in the left center of the picture next to a big rock.

A video of the seals! When Paul gets close and settles in, you can see the baby seals moving around on the rocks.

After we checked the time, we realized that was about all of the stopping we could allow without cutting it too close to our flight. We had to just settle for views out of the car.

There was still a lot of oohing and aahing from the car.
In the picture below, you can see the orange road sign where the road curves along the coast. When I say this road went along the coastline, it really went right along the coastline! The photo above shows that sometimes the road goes right through the coastline. Those semis barely fit through that tunnel.

I think this span of driving impressed me like Arthur's Pass impressed Paul. I could have spent many more hours taking in the scenery, but we had a flight to catch. And, boy were we lucky to catch it!

We did great on timing the return of the rental car and getting to the airport. We were there plenty early and had a lot of time to hang out before our flight boarded. So much time that we got a little overconfident and let out guard down. We were sitting at the gate at the right time and were commenting about how weird it was that the flight wasn't boarding. In fact, there weren't even any staff people mingling around the gate. The gate was in a weird, tucked away place, so we just hung out waiting for something to happen. Then, a few minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave, we picked up on a faint announcement. WHAT?! That was the final boarding call for our flight! How could that be!? There was still no action at what we thought was our gate, so we jumped up and went running towards where we saw a few other people rushing. Oops! We were sitting at the wrong gate! Our gate was tucked in even further and was not in numerical order. What a bummer it would have been to be sitting there and to have missed it. We figured that we had some good travel karma coming our way after the bag fiasco.

Goodbye, South Island! It was a real pleasure getting to know you!

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