Wow! I feel like I've had a blood transfusion...I thought yesterday's drive was spectacular, but it has been surpassed by today's epic journey form Nelson to Greymouth. I've driven around 500km today but hardly 100m of it was in a straight line - so many winding mountain roads and meandering river valleys, it made us giddy.The guy at the backpackers in Nelson said that the stretch form Westport to Greymouth has been voted in the 'top five drives of the world' and I can now see why. The road winds through the red earth of the cove-filled sandstone coast, lined with palm trees so densely packed that they actually spill over and grow in the road, and the turquoise, wind-tossed Tasman Sea on the right. Later the rock turns to limestone, and we stopped to walk around the eerie Pancake Rocks at Punakaika.
Someone said you run out of superlatives to describe the scenery of the South Island and that's exactly how I feel. The sheer variety of vegetation and landscape is overwhelming. I used to imagine that the South Island would look a bit like Scotland - but I couldn't be more wrong! The lush, dense rainforest spreads across everything, down the step river gorges and right up to near the snow line. The weather is still very warm and the skies have been a majestic blue all the way. A roadside thermometer in Westport showed 18 degrees - I wasn't expecting that kind of temperature in the south.
At the start of the journey between Nelson and Westport there are lots of look-out points to stop at and admire the snowy volcanic peaks all around (one of them is called Ben Nevis, but couldn't look more different - it's a perfect volcanic cone). We also stopped at Owen River!
We've seen so many birds today I can't even remember them all - two kingfishers, lots of cormorants, a family of chaffinches, red kites, kestrels...
We're going to stay tonight at the home of Rob's friend Selwyn, who I haven't even met but have spoken to on the phone and he has kindly offered us a bed for the night,. Right now we're just hanging out in an internet cafe waiting for him to come home from work. Last night at the backpackers in Nelson was great - we stayed up late chatting to people from all over the world (all united by a common love of all things kiwi!).