After breakfast in Nelson the following morning, it was all about dashing to get onto the bus as a group driven by a guy called Poncey. After a tip off from a girl at Kaikoura, she told us that out of the two coaches available, his was by the far the most fun and active. And she wasn’t wrong. From the off he was jeering us all on and making sure we kept our energy levels up whilst telling stories and jokes to keep us from passing out whilst on the road. He was also a strange mix between Harry and Hill and Freddy Kruegar which made his personality ever more intriguing…
From Nelson, we headed off towards Westport, aptly on the west coast. The weather was impeccable for our first stop off which was a nice relaxing visit to Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National park – one of the most beautiful and peaceful lakes in the world.
Following a daring swim, we then headed over to Murchison to tuck into some of its famous delicious ice cream before winding through the lush green landscapes of the Buller Gorge for our next activity – the Buller Jetboating!
On the bus, we then recruited another member to our gang – Quay – a british Chinese guy from Essex. He is one of the guys I still keep in contact with today and he became my photography buddy, so much so, we were unsurprisingly known as Team Photo after we continuously slowed down the group from moving on by taking shots!
The Buller Jetboating was an adrenaline filled ride through the jaggy cliffs of the gorge. Packed onto the boat with our goggles and safety gear, the driver sped through the gorge whilst continuously performing donuts and 180 degree turns, sliding round dangerous bends and generally ensuring we didn’t leave the boat dry. The gorge was only around 1-2 metres deep, so he had to be pretty accurate with where he was steering the boat. It was dry season and we were told that in the wet season the gorge can rise up to 8 metres and beyond, the dry marks clear to see on the cliff faces. The danger that lurked high above on the winding roads was evidently clear when we also sped past a car that had plummeted 10 metres from the road above. The driver had lost control a couple of weeks ago and fractured his spine as a result.
Back at Westport, Quay and I then headed off to check out the town and get snapping. It was a dead town really, with very little to do. Again, similar to Christchurch, it had an abandoned feeling, almost like walking into a Midwestern town in the USA, with nothing but tumbleweed and some doors of a local bar slamming in the wind.
Later that evening, we then headed to one of the local bars with the rest of the troops and Poncey to play some drinking games and killer pool. Pauric managed to win out of the 20 odd people taking part, with me coming a half decent 6th. As the night went on, we then met Andy, Lydia, Tamar and Jordiana, so the group just kept on expanding.
The following day, Team Photo was off to a flying start as we stopped off at Cape Foulwind not too far from Westport. The weather was pretty scabby with rain and wind pounding down on us in waves as we walked along the turbulent coastline.
Later, we also had a chance to wander around the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks – this was like a little fantasy grotto land with the rock formation seemingly formed artistically rather than naturally. Nearby, huge blow holes would shoot water out into the air spectacularly soaking everything and everybody around them.
From there, we then moved onto Lake Mahinapua for the main party event of the trip – the Poo Party. The theme was Bright But Tight or Bad Taste and we had an hour or so in the nearby town to do a quick sweep of any gear for fancy dress. I dressed up as an old granny in a disgusting stained pink jumper, a stained tea cosy for a hat, some fake glasses and some amazing yellow trousers. Pauric dressed up like a Noddy-cum-fireman, with Quay buying the tightest clothing he could possibly find.
Steak dinner was later served up to the hungry rabble in preparation for the ensuing drinking session that left us all in disarray for the next day’s trip to Franz Josef.
Nelson Lakes National Park
Buller Adventure Tours
More Photography :
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters