I had two weeks booked for a half work, and half excuse to visit the South Island (home) roadie. I’m pretty fortunate that my “work” requires a lot of travel and in general, meeting, photographing and interviewing creative people across New Zealand and Australia. It’s hardly a drag….
My two weeks were strategically planned to coincide with one of my favourite times of year in the South Island – Autumn. There is nothing more crisp, fresh or beautiful than the misty freezing mornings or the first bitter and wintery weather systems that start to sweep through. Yes, I’m a total sucker for having to don my woollens and defrost my car every morning!
While I had accommodation sorted with friends and family the whole way, I didn’t have wheels! Getting paired with the new Jucy Styla was pretty perfect as it was INSANELY economical being a diesel, grunty, smooth and really….nothing like what you would expect from a rental car at all ha!
I flew into Queenstown to be instantly swallowed up by the snowy Remarkables just kind of standing there to greet everyone getting off the plane. I was reminded straight away that the immense majesty of the landscape down there is on a much more massive scale then ever remembered!
I quick chat with the Jucy team at the airport and a chilly shuffle across the car park to pick up my wagon and I was off!
I spent three days in Queenstown, splitting my time between shooting at the delicious and local fave; Vudu Café and Larder, lunches with friends, sneaky explorative cruises up the lake just to take it all in and some intense fireside computer time.
By Wednesday I reluctantly realised it was time to keep the wheels turning and I decided to crack into a large driving day through some of my favourite country. I left Queenstown and her golden colours to wind through the misty Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell. Then I cruised down Lake Dunstan and all its strange, bare hills and through the back roads of historical village; Clyde. I LOVE the landscape through there and on to Roxburgh. It’s weird and alien looking! Dry and bare and scattered with HUGE boulders like they’ve fallen out of a giants pocket!
It took me about 3 hours or so before I made it to Dunedin where I promptly made for the studio of artist Jon Thom, spent a couple of hours interviewing and taking pics then made and U Turn to head back along the same road I came. Seems a little silly – but it was such a beautiful drive, and heading back but in the opposite direction allowed for a totally different view!
What’s more I was heading for Lake Wanaka….only my most favourite place in NZ!
Wanaka had me for the weekend and I lapped up every second. It’s much more low key than Queenstown and the small town vibe suits me just fine. But the skyline catches my breath just the same and it doesn’t matter how many times I leave that place …I spend a lot of time staring sadly into my rear vision mirror!
Due to some last minute shuffling of appointments further north, I cut my Wanaka time short and left in good time on Sunday. Again – one of the best days spent driving in the South Island I believe! I hit Tarras then ventured through the high country of the Lindis Pass and on into the Mackenzie Basin. This area is quite something…desolate (except for the relatively recent circles of green from new irrigation) stony, sparse bordered on one side by tussocky hills and the other, the rugged and black Southern Alps. I always half expect to see a woolly mammoth rolling a long in the distance!
It’s been my tradition for at least the last 8 years to always without fail stop at Lake Pukaki and have a wee silent moment taking in Aoraki/Mt Cook. On this day the usual saturated blue of the lake was more of a glacial milky colour which made everything look silver. Sigh. It’s a pretty special place!
After another 3 hours ish I reached my parents place just north of Christchurch where I bunked down of for a few days to catch up on some work.
On the Wednesday, pre-dawn, I loaded up the Styla and once again pointed her north. In just a couple of hours of low lit driving I slid out of the Hundalee ranges to arrive seas side just south of Kaikoura. The sun was just coming out and I stopped for a second to take it all in as fisherman quietly launched their boats for the day. My timing was kind of bang on as in the rosy gold light I could make out shapes jumping and realised that I was watching an enormous super pod of dolphins frolicking their way south! Awesome!
Tradition struck again with an obligatory piece of fresh battered fish from The Cave restaurant for breakfast and a quick drive to the peninsula look out to enjoy it while taking in Kaikoura, her north and south coast and the snowy peaks to her west. It’s a pretty incredible location!
I continued north and through to Blenheim where I stayed with and interviewed NZ’s Queen of Colour, interior designer Alex Fulton. While it was only 24 hours I lapped up the best Japanese I’d ever had in NZ and a decadent platter with local wine….they don’t do things by halves in Marlborough!
The following morning it was another early one to zip the half hour on through to my last port of call in the South Island; Picton. As they sun came up I drove the car into the bowels of the Interislander Ferry then armed with all warm things I had, found myself a rail side posse to take in the pure magic of the Marlborough Sounds. We slid through Tory Channel then on over the straight to eventually enter Wellington Harbour and the North Island. Wellington always surprises me …its white little houses clinging to the rolling ridges and tops around the harbour, kind of reminding me of San Francisco!
Wellington looked after me for another 3 days. I took photos at Khandallah’s best kept secret; Tea Pea, visited the new harbour side HQ of fashion brand; Kowtow and for the first time ever explored all its exposed suburban bays where houses cling and hide behind rock while the Tasman has a good go and ripping them off! It was kind of unlike any other urban touring I’d ever done!
All in all I had two weeks exploring what I thought was very familiar territory….but for the most part it felt like I was seeing everything again for the first time! That trip is surely one of the most gratifying with its quick and continual changes of scenery. Probably my favourite.
You can also read about Julia’s road trip here