[Delayed post due to loss of internet]
Today was day six of my nine day Backroads trip in New Zealand. The first half of the day was a bike ride, and the second was a hike. I hate using the word “magical” unless it is to praise David Blaine, but hey, it was a pretty special day…
The bike ride
We’ve got a big ride tomorrow, so I wanted to give my legs a slight rest. I opted for a relatively quick 90 minute ride along the coast from Lake Moeraki to Haast. It started with a couple of nice climbs followed by a big downhill and a long flat. Whereas it’s rained incessantly up to now, the weather today was absolutely perfect in every possible way. Blazing blue sky, little wind and no precipitation whatsoever. In addition to the pleasures of a lovely coastal ride, two visual highlights included:
A view from the first climb, Knight’s Point, which nicely displays the rugged coastline of Southwestern New Zealand. It reminded me a lot of Big Sur.
A view of the Haast River from a long, single lane suspension bridge. Again, the deep colors of the rivers here continue to amaze me.
The lodge where we stayed last night and tonight, the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki, was started by Dr. Gerry McSweeney and his wife Anne Saunders in 1989. In addition to running an excellent, quiet little lodge, Gerry is also an outstanding conservationist and guide. During the afternoon, he took nine of us on a four hour hike down to a completely deserted beach to give us a tour of the local ecosystem. What’s interesting about this pocket of land on the southwestern part of New Zealand is that it is almost perfectly preserved and completely uninhabited. This is a historical accident as the first highway did not penetrate this part of the country until the mid-60’s. By that time, New Zealand had really gotten its conservation act together and this part of the country remains highly protected. It’s a bit like the Galapagos in this respect.
The hike itself was good fun. It’s a four mile hike that includes some pretty steep climbs up the imposing face of the coastline. It took us through the rain forest which then suddenly opens up to the beach. Gerry and Anne keep the entrances to access this part of the coast line well hidden, and there was not another soul to be found. All I can say from the four hours and that I was almost shocked by how beautiful it all was including…
Seeing one of the rarest species of penguin, the Tawaki
Seeing spectacular coast line shots
Seeing and getting incredibly close to a thriving seal colony
Eating the inside of a sea urchin
And the only downside was having to climb back up this face of cliff through steep trails, Indiana Jones style
So now that I’ve seen New Zealand when it’s not pouring buckets, it’s like a whole new place. Seeing New Zealand in the rain is similar to that girl in pony tails, glasses and an artist smock who might just be pretty. The sun comes out, the New Zealand loses the glasses, lets the hair fly and puts on a mini skirt. A stone cold fox of a country. (Yes, I am referencing She’s All That).
All and all, it was a “magical” day.