The countryside of the south island of New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It rains a lot here and all that rain has made the country green and lush. The mountains are covered with forests, the valleys are strewn with rivers, lakes and endless fields. I was able to spend a fast five days driving through 1500km of the south island, from Picton to Queenstown via the west coast and then back up to Christchurch. Lisa and I worked out an itinerary in Wellington and decided the best way to cover that much ground would be to rent a car, with the agreement that we would split rent and gas and that I would do all or nearly all the driving since Lisa, who is from Denmark, didn’t want to drive on the opposite of the road. We talked to the owner of the little hostel we stayed at and rented an old Mitsubishi hatchback. We offered a ride to Nelson, 150km west on the way to the coast, to two other Danish girls who were traveling around. I paid for the rental and we all piled in excitedly. We sat for a moment until the Danes said “let’s go! Why aren’t we going!”

I don’t know how to drive stick. For some reason, I expected the rental car to be automatic without having to ask for one, even though almost all the cars in New Zealand are manual shift. I gave it a shot in the parking lot before we decided the horrendous noises would not sound good to the owner of the car. Lisa drove us to a side street in town and I tried again until a construction crew walked over to tell me I should have my license revoked. One of the other Danish girls took the wheel until we arrived at the information center in Nelson. We stopped somewhere along the way for me to practice again with actual improvement. We took a picture together to remember the ridiculous experience.

Lisa and I parted ways with the others in Nelson and drove to Rabbit Island at information’s suggestion to teach me how to drive. The island is an oval in the Tasman Bay just a few hundred feet from shore. The beaches are all connected by flat roads which I drove over for an hour and a half until we agreed I was good enough to drive us around.

c how srs i am drieving, i r rly good

Lisa took over for the time being and we drove southwest to the coast at Greymouth. The drive there was mostly through fields and hills and across lots of one lane bridges where you have to take turns with people on the other side of the bridge.

At Greymouth we stayed in a cozy hostel called Noah’s Ark. This was one of the few hostels I stayed in during my trip in New Zealand that wasn’t a chain filled with 18 year old New Zealand kids having a wet summer holiday. The place had a lot of character which was refreshing.

From Greymouth we moved south along the coast to Franz Josef Glacier. Along the way the scenery changed. We moved inland and back to the coast again many times over, crossing over dozens more rivers and creeks and winding through countless kilometers of lush mountain forests.

I don’t want these posts to get too long so I’ll stop this one here. Next up: Franz Josef Glacier and the rest of my south island trip.

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