The fast way round

South Island Travel Blog

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Still clean and shiny
21 years ago I finished up at Kinleith and shot around the South Island.  A flying trip to see friends (and the country) before I was to go Police College for 6 months as a recruit.  I was 20 years old.  I had a 911 Porsche and 10 days off before I was to start my new career.

Life was good!

I started out from Tokoroa and stopped in a couple of North Island towns to see friends at university.  I took an afternoon ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton, arriving late at night and unsure of where I was to find a bed.
So many beautiful lakes
  As I drove through the dark streets I saw a motel sign with vacancies and stopped there.
  Next morning the very pleasant woman from the motel joined me outside as I packed myself back into my car.  She loved it!

I raced off heading for Christchurch where I was to pick up Mike, one of my oldest and best friends from childhood.  We grew up together two houses apart in the same street.
  Mike had moved to the South Island with his mother shortly after his father's passing.  It was good for him as he'd got into a bit of a rut, working and earning good money as a Bushman in Tokoroa, but also playing hard with the wrong kinda guys.  Now that he was down here he was looking at getting into the army as a medic.
Lake Tekapo
 

I got to Christchurch in prety good time.  This was my first trip to "The Mainland" (as Sth Islanders like to call it) so I was torn between looking at the scenery and making the most of the empty roads.  The Sth Island is a big expanse of empty countryside.  The roads are free from North Island traffic volumes, tour busses and camper vans being the main users.

I have to admt the scenery lost out.  This was the first real tour I'd had in my car since I bought it a couple of years back.  It was too good a chance to miss let pass me by. 
  The road from Picton to Christchurch was a superb mix of long straights and gripping windies.  My car performed perfectly during both.

The next week Mike and I raced from place to place as we made our way clockwise around the Island.
Benmore Dam
  I'd like to tell you where we went and what we saw but much of it was a blur.  I pretty much left the sights to him to choose as I was totally ignorant of what the mainland had to offer.

We stopped on the edge of a couple of lakes, one of which was Lake Tekapo.  I know this because of the little dog statue.  The rest of them were all of the same spectacular beauty, so have lost their individuality I'm sorry to admit.

Mike wanted to visit the Benmore Dam, which his father had worked on.  Benmore Dam is the country's largest earth dam.
  As we sat on the top the view down to the valley below was fantastic.  We hung about up there for a while, taking photos of my car, the dam and the valley.  Oddly enough we met a man driving his own 911.  We sat and chatted for a while before Mike and I jumped back in the car and headed back to Kurow for the night.
Car looking a little dusty


Next day we set out again and as we turned off the highway to visit sights of interest I discovered the truth about South Island roads.  Most, except the highways, are gravel.  This makes wide racing tyres a bad choice, and the lovely shine I had on my nice red porsche had now become a very dusty greyish pink.
 
The combination of heat and dust made me suggest we stop to see a mountain river.  The walk through the trees to the water would be a very pleasant change.  The river was also feb by water from melting ice on the mountain; it was bound to be very very cold.  That made me suggest that we also take a dip.

We parked up and headed through the bush.  At the other side we found ourselves on a broad stretch of stones where a herd of cattle were grazing.  Water casceded down the mountain into the rive about 40m from us.
Toro! Toro!
  Yep, it was going to be cold alright!!
  As we stripped off I grabbed my towel and did a little bull fighting.  The cows didn't charge me, instead they chose to run away, but I had managed to delay my entry into the water by a couple of minutes so that was good.
  At the rivers edge we paused.  It was deep and about 15 meters wide.  Across the other bank water splashed from high above, almost a thin mist due to the distance it had fallen.
  Mike was hesitant.  I leapt in. 
  The rules were we had to be head under or it didn't count.  I don't think I touched the bottom, even after my hair got wet.  I think the speed of my retracting testicles was enough force to shoot me straight up and back out onto the stones.  Eeyooww, it was cold!  Mike finally did his bit after some time of me convincing him.
  We returned to the dusty car and to our drive.

We were doing a bit of an S-type route.  Next we were in Dunedin where we stopped for lunch.  We swung by the Otago University to see if there were any students worth chatting to.  Not much was going on there during our lunchbreak so we hit the road again.  We had a lot of ground to cover.

Our next important stop was Queenstown.  Prior to starting work at Kinleith I worked in a 1hour photo lab.  My old boss was now running a lab here and I decided to walk in and surprise him.
  He was surprised, pleasantly.  He took the afternoon off and showed Mike and I around the area.  We took the gondola up the mountain for lunch.  He took us to Arrowtown and up to Coronet Peak.  There was no snow but it was still pretty cold as we wandered around the ski complex.
  After doing the loop of the valley Mike and I left him to it and went to find an hotel. 

We headed out for dinner later than we'd intended and then found a piano bar that was almost deserted.  We were quite intoxicated by then and we sat around the piano trying to hit on the entertainer.  She was several years older than us and I can still see her mocking smile in my mind as we proved to her how young and drunk we were.

That was pretty much the theme of the trip.  Driving all day, partying in the evenings and then going home alone.  I was kinda hoping the Southern lasses might be excited to meet a North Island man but I was still far too shy to work any sort of charm, even with Mike's encouragement and a skinfull of beer. (sigh)

Heading up the Western coast we discovered the cost of petrol hurt!  It didn't make me slow down much but the stops to fill the tank were not pleasant at all.  When we got to Kumara we had to make a decision if we were going to head back to Christchurch via Arthur's Pass or continue North and cut across through the Lewis Pass.  We decided on the longer route through Lewis and our next stop was Pancake Rocks, at Punakaiki.

I stayed with Mike a couple of days in Christchurch and he showed me around the city.  I made my way back to Picton and relaxed on the ferry ride overnight. 

I decided my exploration was going well so i took a route home to Tokoroa that I'd never taken before.  It turned out to be a very bad idea.  I should have realised it after my lessons down south, a state highway with a number higher than a million is going to be gravel!  The drive from Stratford to National Park was long and dusty and very very winding.  My tyres couldn't cut through the top layer of metal so I found myself skidding more than was healthy.  Being impatient I was driving faster than a smart would have driven.  That didn't help!
  That drive still tops my list of worst drives ever!

When I finaly got home my poor red Porsche was now invisible due to the several inches of dust covering it.  I'd polish it all up again tomorrow, first I had to sleep!

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Still clean and shiny
Still clean and shiny
So many beautiful lakes
So many beautiful lakes
Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo
Benmore Dam
Benmore Dam
Car looking a little dusty
Car looking a little dusty
Toro! Toro!
Toro! Toro!
South Island
photo by: Besandri