We’d planned a complete circumnavigation of the South Island but shortly before we arrived we discovered that the coast highway from Blenheim to Christchurch was severely damaged and completely gone in a couple of sections, thanks to a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that centered over Kaikoura in November 2016. There is now only one way to get to Christchurch and that is to backtrack over the mountains, a long slog joined by everyone else who needs to cover this territory, including the trucks now necessary to move goods that were previously delivered by train, as the rail line is parallel to the highway and also closed for at least the coming year. 

We are obviously disappointed as this section of coastline is by all accounts spectacular, but really, how much more “spectacular” can we take? We will miss seal and penguin colonies but we were lucky to see them further south, so we put the best face on it and started out early on what would be a very long day of drive, stop, shoot photos, drive, stop, shoot photos. Ha! So boring! 

Having to go back over previously covered territory gave Jack the opportunity to order for the second time a pulled pork sandwich he found particularly good at a cafe in Murchison. No complaints from the skipper. 

Hour after hour we squiggled over mountains and through pasture lands, knowing our days in New Zealand were about to end. 

After a while the view starts looking like a mall painting, the winding road, the puffy clouds, the artfully placed fence. How can this be real?

We drove all the way to Akaroa on the Banks peninsula, a former French settlement nestled in an old volcano crater. We would love to spend a week here. The towns are charming, the setting is awe-inspiring yet homey.  We arrived on Anzac Day but after the municipal activities had ended and it was quiet and largely free of tourists or even many locals. 

We found an outdoor cafe and had lunch in the sun, then started the long twisty drive back up over the crater rim to a cafe we’d passed on the way down for a restorative coffee. At the top we found where everyone had gone. Seems the soldiers and dignitaries who’d celebrated Anzac Day at the town monument were continuing their celebration with the best view in town. And who can blame them? We lingered as long as we could then reluctantly made our way to Christchurch with one day left in our New Zealand adventure. 

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