Small Silent Insects, Breakneck Roads, Buckets of Rain, and Fantastic Views Make for Dangerous Driving (on the Left): Nelson to Hokitika

Last night we stayed at Paradiso backpackers in Nelson, which is a lovely hostel. Probably lovelier still, if you're 20 years old, and want to party the night away – but what backpackers isn't? (More on that later) We woke up bright and early to a complimentary breakfast and coffee, and went into town to see Christ Church Cathedral, and a little jewelry store whose claim to fame is that they were the jewelers who made the One Ring to Rule Them All. -It was all good. Nelson is supposedly the sunshine capitol, but it was gray, rainy, and cold, so we decided to hit the road.

With batteries in our speakers, so we could play our iPod (thanks Daniel and Darius), we headed Southwest on State Highway 6. And it went from gray, rainy, and cold, to pouring down buckets of rain within a few minutes. Dizzle handled it like a seasoned veteran of driving on the left (no, not flashbacks from 'Nam), and kept our little car from slip sliding all over that tiny, curvy road. Baby G meanwhile, was busy snapping pictures of the scenery and views – which were breathtaking, and apparently, we're not even at the really amazing part yet.

As we wound our way Southward, we stopped off at a place outside a town called Murchison, to see the Buller Gorge Swingbridge. It's the longest swingbridge in New Zealand, and has a whole mini-gold panning/jet boat/zip line attraction thingy going on with it. We immediately signed up for it. How often does one get the chance to do a whole mini- gold panning/walk/zip line attraction thingy? Except that we didn't do the jet boats – it wasn't offered and we didn't ask, nor was the gold panning thing an attraction for us. So we started to walk across this really really long swingbridge, above a rushing river, with lots of rocks and sharp edges everywhere – a prime location for BG to injure herself. However, BG and D made it safely across the bridge with a nice adrenaline rush to accompany the sense of accomplishment. After a scenic walk around the area, we geared up to do a tandem zip line back across the river.

This was all well and good until we saw the attendant (a five foot nothing blond sprite) whip out a wrench to tighten up the “ride.” Dizz encouraged BG to seize the moment and throw caution to the wind, and ride the death trap. And we did. Without injury, without cursing once, and whooping and hollering the whole way. It was great.

And the good feeling lasted us all the way back to the parking lot where we made ourselves an impromptu picnic, celebrating facing a fear of heights. The good feeling lasted even until we were back in the car. It lasted, in fact, up until the moment when Dizz realized that we were under siege. The dreaded sandfli of New Zealand had smelled our fresh blood, sensed our naiveté, and decided to strike. They struck hard.

We must've looked like complete freaks, running around, swatting at the air, and jumping over each other to get these tiny, silent, vengeful bugs away from us...we think that there's still one holdout in our car. It reminded Dizzle of that scene from “Tommy Boy” when David Spade is drunk and Chris Farley pretends the car was filled with bees to fool the police officer who'd stopped them. Better that than the scene when Farley sings “Maniac” while being sprayed with water by Rob Lowe after cow tipping, right? You're just SKIMMING right now, aren't you. Admit it.

Anyway, to get the flies out, we rolled down the windows and drove fast, hoping the air rush would sweep them back to their homes. It mostly worked.

Not long thereafter, the rain let up at the same time our road turned due South along the West Coast. It is a road not unlike those in car commercials, as far as the curviness goes. But we rolled down the windows and turned up the music and relaxed with it a bit, pulling over occasionally to snap a photo or let someone pass.

We made it to a gas station outside of Greymouth and grabbed a can of coke and some insect repellent, and then continued on to Hokitika, where we are now.

After a day of driving, neither one of us was too keen on staying in a backpackers full of drunk kids, so we were surprised to find this little place tucked away about 3 miles out of town. We parked in an empty parking lot and entered the door marked “Reception”. Inside, there's a doorbell with a sign that reads, “Please ring bell and wait – it takes us 5 minutes to get there!”


So we rang the bell.

And waited.

And the proprietor of this hostel, Keith, rode up on his bike and told us we were welcome to use whatever we liked and make ourselves at home. It's our second day on the road, and we've already had a hostel experience we're not likely to enjoy as much this entire 10 days: We have this place completely to ourselves. Dizzle just made a fire in the wood-stove, and Baby G made a delicious dinner of meat ravioli, garlic bread, soup, and cheese. We are currently listening to the rain in this beautifully rustic little living room, and alternating writing on the laptop and working on a “Lord of the Rings” jigsaw puzzle. It doesn't get much better than this for a rainy day on vacation, does it?

Tomorrow, we are looking forward to waking up rested and driving down to the Fox and Frans Josef Glaciers to do some exploring. If breakfast is anything like tonight has been, it'll be a very nice wake-up call.

Have a good night, Guys. We'll blog to you tomorrow.


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