We don't usually go anywhere at xmas. Partly because we can't afford it, partly due to too-hard basket factors but mostly because we already live in one of the places by the sea that other people rent for their xmas holidays. But driving frantically and at length on dangerous roads from one beach town to its exact analogue on the opposite coast is traditional in New Zealand, so this year we set redundancy aside and went to stay at my sister's house in Granity, the place that featured in my winter road trip posts.
Last time we took the Lewis Pass over the Southern Alps but this time we cut inland via Arthur's Pass. It's a slight time saving from Dunedin and a different, more hardcore alpine landscape to distract oneself from other peoples' driving, which is important during two hour's worth of narrow, madly sinuous cliff-side blind corners.
(Keeping It Real Tourist Advisory- while the Arthur's is undeniably beautiful, it's not a cycleway at all and the number of obviously inexperienced cycle trip peeps trying to negotiate this zero-margin route was fucking crazy. If you're coming here on a bike tour expecting a mature, Euro-style infrastructure and driver consideration, you're shit out of luck.)
Soggy weather shut down any attempts at documentation so you'll just have to image a bunch of heavily-wooded tilt thrust mountains.
Left- Kea, the local hoodrat parrots that hang around tourist areas on the Arthur's, waiting to jack your pies, steal your shiny objects and peel the rubber fixings off your vehicles.
Think really hardened, brazen café sparrows crossed with those bastard temple monkeys and throw in a penetrating cackle at your expense. We fed them the slightly slimy sausage rolls from the Arthur's Pass Café (Keas are omnivorous, not discerning) as a punitive measure but they were all like whatever, ate them, burped in our faces and went off to start shit somewhere else. Tangentially, R says the coffee at AP Café is fine; while I find the pies gravy-heavy and pedestrian, my hot chocolate didn't kill me and because I am a a dirty sleaze bag, I noticed they had a tall dark drink of coffee-guy with a Scottish (?) accent and confiding manner cue Hannibal Lecter fava bean sucking noise.
Right- The Pohutukawas (poe-hoo-too-car-wha), in full bloom when we arrived. Strong sunlight fuzzes up their brilliant crimson to an almost hallucinogenic extent. They're somewhat cheesy introductions from the North Island, dominating the popular imagination in the way northern conifers have come to symbolise a generic xmas in Europe.
Wekas stalk the flax swamp at their feet, crossing the road to raid gardens and get into the rubbish, replacing feral cats which in olden times were possibly some sort of local delicacy. Lol. I didn't see any and did not enquire.
We love fucked-out old hoopty places, will probably always live in one and find new houses generally about as appealing as the refrigerated corpses of strangers dead of unknown causes. New carpet solvents and windows that form a seal make me anxious.
WTF curtains, rotting piles, timber beetles and lumpy walls 4 eva.
Sunset and the sandfly hour. If you're heading to coastal New Zealand in the warmer months, check local sources for the biting insect situation > because that shit can literally make or break your stay and I mean literally literally. Though there's no (known) communicable disease issue, they can be utterly intolerable.
If it seems like there's some sort of direct and highly ironic relationship between the scenic value of an area and the density of its sandflies, that's because there is- the little fuckers favour rivers, undisturbed forest and beaches.
The west coast is infamous for its clouds of hungry Austrosimulium and this year we were treated to both local species, A australense and A. ungulates. which was awesome.
Singing black clouds were dancing around my head while I waited for the shot below. I had to run back to the house before they took me away to meet their evil queen and/or persuaded me to resume smoking.