“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
From stumbling across seal colonies to walking among the trees, the past week of travelling around the south island has only fostered my fondness for this country. My folks who, for some reason, decided to make the long trip across the globe to visit yours truly, joined me. I’m sure the fact that the Lions are touring New Zealand at the moment played no part in the decision to come. Whatever their motives I think we can safely say we saw plenty of what the south island has to offer, largely by fluke.
Prior to visiting they had cobbled together some form of route, and by that I mean there was an A to B each day, somewhere to sleep from one night to the next. Other than that their plans hadn’t got much further. But in all honestly I don’t believe the trip needed much more planning. Flexibility is a key component to any travel plans but as we found out no more so than when travelling around New Zealand. My advice to anyone thinking of doing it would be simple, have a vague route in mind each day but don’t be afraid to stray, don’t miss the opportunity to take road less travelled and explore what lies at the end of a gravel track. That is where you witness the true beauty of this country, discovering what few have seen and witnessing scenery that many won’t.
What struck me the most about the South Island this time round was the stunning variety and amazing transition between one type of landscape and another. One minute we were walking along the golden sand beaches of Abel Tasman, the next we were driving through alpine forest on the way to the aptly named ‘Wild West coast’. To the West, raging seas and unfathomable rock formations; to the East the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps. There is simply no place like it.
The roads around this country are not ones that need to be rushed, they should be driven and enjoyed and that is exactly what we did. My mothers slight fear of winding cliff roads may have also played a part in why we didn’t rush the journeys but like I said, there was no need to and through taking our time we were able to appreciate the stunning topography for longer. There aren’t many places in the world were stumbling across waterfalls, mirror lakes and secret coves becomes a daily norm but New Zealand’s South Island is one of them.
Travelling with your parents is, unsurprisingly, a very different kettle of fish to travelling with a busload of your peers but nonetheless still a good one. Last time I spent my nights in hostels eating cheap noodles and drinking cheap beer, this time round our evenings were spent in far nicer accommodation eating my mothers home cooked food. Both scenarios have their merits and I’m glad I have been able to experience the two.