Onward to the Wild West Coast

Franz Josef Village, New Zealand

The storms had cleared and the sun reemerged as we packed up the red Camry this morning. Breakfast, a toasted bagel and smoked salmon, was accompanied by show tunes blaring from the hotel’s restaurant. I’m now confident to state that I’ve got no interest in seeing Show Boat.

A little before 9 a.m., we set out for Picton, about 30 minutes north of Blenheim. The city is not only the arrival point for the Interislander, the ferry from Wellington, but also home to Queen Charlotte Sound. The sound is the easternmost of the Marlborough Sounds and is a ria, or drowned river valley. The clear turquoise waters, reflecting the blue skies, were nearly stagnant, framed by the steep, lush mountainsides.

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We hiked along the Snout Track, which offered spectacular lookouts along the way, and terminated at Queen Charlotte View, where it was almost possible to see the Cook Strait in the distance. Occasionally, boats plowed rippled across the Sound. Perched high above it all, they appeared almost miniature.

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On our way from Picton, we drove along Queen Charlotte Drive, a picturesque back-road that wound its way through the mountainside, offering one tremendous view after the next. It brought us to Havelock, where we were tempted to order more mussels.

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From Havelock, we began our 515-kilometer drive across the South Island to the West Coast. The scenery quickly changed as we left the wineries of Marlborough behind us and tackled the increasingly alpine landscape. Roads were nearly empty and the setting had us shaking our heads. Could the next turn or ridge offer something even more beautiful?

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We refueled in Murchison before passing through Greymouth and Hokitka, hugging the coastal highway that ran parallel to the Tasman Sea. As we approached Franz Josef, the iconic Southern Alps came into view, including Mt. Cook, the highest in New Zealand.

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The parking lot of our accommodation here, the Westwood Lodge, finally came into view at around 7:30 p.m. We were met by the hostess who didn’t offer the most welcoming of gestures but still, our room was comfortable. It felt like an updated log cabin; from our deck were views of the nearby glacier. A fire warmed the lodge’s main living area.

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Dinner was at Priya, an Indian restaurant in town. It was surprisingly decent, although given the spice, it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. We went to bed early, keeping our fingers crossed for good weather. Tomorrow, we hike the glacier.

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Comments

  1. Oh yes that sound was named after me, clever f NZ wasn’t it?

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