We have stopped in Oxford, out on the Canterbury Plains, with my aunt. The aunt I have, quite simply, adored for years.
We have stopped after 1,700kms - the distance from here to Dunedin traveled these last 5 days, via the convoluted route I chose to take Gert on. In my 8 years away from New Zealand, I've only driven once. There was that visit to Ireland to see Rob and Angie. I was a bit nervous back then but Gert put me in the driver seat and told me to drive from Dublin to Connemara ... so I did. And I loved it. It does all come back and I used to have a big passion for driving in NZ.
This trip has been something else again and we have driven some truly interesting New Zealand roads. The Haast Pass, then the road between Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph, and yesterday it was the Arthurs Pass. All been spectacularly memorable with their 25km hairpin corners, kms of twisty-turny mountain roads, mountain passes, and gradients that once saw me drop the car into second-gear.
That was this road: 'State Highway 73, and remains an important communication and transport link between Canterbury and Westland. There are 11 bridges with a total length of 406.6 metres (m). Road gradients range from 1 in 30 to 1 in 8. Five bends through a zig zag section facilitate ascent and descent over the Pass.
Over the years work has been done to improve blind corners and ease bends. However, the nature of the landscape and the weather can still make the Otira Gorge and Arthurs Pass road a challenging driving experience.'
There have been a million stops to take photographs along the way ... stops so Gert could buy my exquisite greenstone/jade necklace in Hokitika. Stops for pies, and stops just to wander along some beach or mountainside lookout.
Yesterday, on safely reaching the other side of the alpine pass, we stopped because I needed out of the car for a bit ... and voila, we met a Kea, who was most confused when I mimicked his cry.
As per the rules, we didn't feed him but we did 'chat' for a while, and that was just lovely.
Arthurs Pass ... I wondered why I didn't remember anything about that 'interesting' alpine crossing. I had never driven it before, I just thought I had and I have to say ... I won't be in a hurry to take a 1600CC car across it again. The little red car is a valiant little car and I'm completely loving it but, by crikey, that was an interesting road.
Absolutely loving the whole driving thing though.
It's summer here. It's a little confusing but easy enough to embrace. Auntie Coral has a chicken roasting in the oven tonight, there are new potatoes boiling, and I can hear her cutting up some silverbeet. She kicked me out of the kitchen but I'm on dish-duty.
All is good out here on New Zealand's Canterbury Plains.
I'll wrap this meandering post up with a photograph I took of that Kea I met ...