“Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me” – Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
Headlong in leave of Greymouth, I came of myself once more in vivid leisure of the West Coast Highway. Roaming down the juncture of the Southern Alps and a wild coastline – fresh promise blasting through the open windows, freedom spilling from the radio – I fled my misfortunes with impunity.
Days prior, an extra-tropical cyclone ran amok along South Island. The strike of which was evident all the drive to Franz Josef, where it seemed that entire forests had uprooted and now careened down unyielding rivers, run grey with the flesh of granite. Straining bridges and vanquished sections of road made for nervous progress. A sobering caricature of savage beauty unchecked.
On reaching Franz Josef, a humble alpine style tourist town, I set out upon several walks, blocked at each by fallen rain forest. Finally, the next morning, I found success on the Robert’s Point Trail – a popular trial to the head of Franz Josef glacier, which had been cleared of the storm. I had long since learnt that the warning signs at trail heads on South Island are to be met genuinely, and was once again reassured of it. A trail beyond the stature of it’s final destination, the Robert’s Point Trail winds precariously through rain forest, up the length of a humorless valley carved wide by raging melt water. The trail itself, often skating loosely up slopes like a squirrel in chase, boasts a sky walk and a number of suspensions bridges to attend the nerves. The highlight of which is a drooping suspension bridge 300ft long and barely a foot wide, across a wicked torrent 100ft below, with no sides to comfort. Springing and swinging upon which gave the discomfort I imagine akin to filming sweeping aerial footage whilst stepping one foot afront the other. A sensory collision of imbalance, dizziness and vertigo. The adventures of which ultimately lead to an immense view of the glacier, shrouded by bare peaks and waterfalls. An entirely incomprehensible space, inhospitable to the last.
Come morning, recovered from my sensory hangover, I took to the South along a stretch of highway that chases down to Haast before abruptly traversing a comparative chink in an otherwise forbidding armor of alpine glory. It ought to be said that the masterpiece of road from Haast till Wanaka surpasses even its northerly Trans-Alpine counterpart as the finest road trip in my lengthy New Zealand travels. Upon arriving in Wanaka, after delay of countless stops, I held up at a picturesque camp on the shores of the lake. Time and weather growing restless, I took it up to lay siege to Roy’s Peak that same day. ‘Lay siege’ hardly does justice to the ask of the Roy’s Peak hike. A gruesome monotony of steep, loose dirt road drones its way up the face all the way to the summit ridge. A prize like no other awaits the embattled spirit at the summit ridge, however, that is only succeeded by the summit view itself.
Wanaka could not be perched in a more idyllic setting, I thought, as I studied it from the summit. Consisting chiefly of two main roads run parallel to a perfect lake shore, lined with coffee shops and surrounded by enumerable peaks, there are endless outdoor activities and endorphins to suffice a lifetime. Which is evident by the chill and gaiety of its populace.
Having exhausted my schedule to the last, however, and with a marked determination to return to it one day, I turned my gaze from the farthest South and started back up North. Up past the stately Mount Cook, stood tall in sight for a days travel, to my current camp just South of Christchurch. So begins the journey back up North, with my mind fixed on Northland and my eyes glimmering with Kaikoura peelers.
Its a long way North,
and if you don’t know of my wanderings for a while, don’t think me lost. Besides –
You can always find me where the skies are blue.