We’ve invented a fun new game since we’ve been in New Zealand. I call it Anti-Google. It’s a very simple concept. In fact, there’s only one rule in the game of Anti-Google, and that is “Don’t Google it.” Don’t research it to death. Don’t stare at a screen full of images depicting it from every imaginable angle. Don’t read reviews or watch a video clip or even head to your local library to look inside those things we call books.
If someone tells you “You can’t miss Pancake Rocks,” then trust them and go to Pancake Rocks to see what it’s all about. If another person offers, “The Blue Pools are really nice,” then by God, take an hour out of your road trip to do the hike to the Blue Pools.
I vaguely remember traveling like this back in the “old days.” You know, before a million images of every famous travel destination on the planet could be fed into your brain with just a few taps of the fingers. I have memories of being in the back of my family’s full-sized van making forts with my brother (No seat belts! It was glorious!), when suddenly we’d feel the vehicle take a turn, slow down and park. We’d all climb out and see something brand new and beautiful.
For the most part New Zealand has been just like that for us. So many things have been a total surprise, and it’s made the experience even better. With that said, I would suggest that if you plan to visit this country sometime in the near future, consider closing this post and not looking at the photos contained within it. Spoiler alert: they’re amazing.
We left Wanaka for a five-day road trip up the western coast. Our first stop was just an hour down the road at the Blue Pools. A short hike took us through a forest saturated with plant life and over two bridges suspended above brillant blue, glacier-fed waters.
We hadn’t been back in the car more than 30 minutes before a gorgeous waterfall along the side of the road had us pulling over again. This is pretty much the way the rest of the day went. See something gorgeous. Get in car. Drive short distance. Stop car. See something gorgeous. Repeat. Mountain lakes, cascading rivers, the Fox glacier, scenic roads, pretty insects. We aren’t picky. We’ll take it all. A 3-hour drive turned into nine, while Brian took about a thousand photos. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. He only took 559.
Long after the sun had set, we eventually reached the town of Franz Josef, named for its famous glacier which draws tourists from all over the world. We woke up the next morning to find ourselves in a beautiful village tucked into the hills with views of snow-capped peaks on every street. We started our day hiking up to the glacier in the morning, and by afternoon we found ourselves flying over it during our epic helicopter tour.
The next day our trip up to Punakaiki, home of the Pancake Rocks, turned out to be a gorgeous coastal drive. Once again, it stretched to take about three times longer than the navigation system’s calculation. By the way, to the designers of GoogleMaps and other mapping systems, you might consider a setting option for “scenic drive with photographer.” It would really keep the kids from getting their hopes up on the travel time.
We really had no idea what to expect when we went to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Honestly, I thought they were flat smooth rocks resembling pancakes and spots where waves shoot up a bit. We began our stroll through the trails with zero expectations. A short while later we were in awe of the powerful and wonderfully unique features water had carved into this magnificent section of coastline. No offense to Brian, but the pictures honestly don’t do it justice.
Over the next couple days we would drive through the Motoeka Valley and tour around Abel Tasman National Park. Along the way, New Zealand kept giving us more and more surprises. We marked our 365th day as a nomadic family with the unexpected beauty which had drawn us to take this adventure.
Our new game of Anti-Google has worked out for us so far in New Zealand. As we climb out of the car on the way to the next new thing, the girls often ask, “What is this? Where are we going?” We have to respond, “We don’t really know. Let’s go see.” In a time when we have such a plethora of information available, it’s been fun touring through this country with a healthy dose of ignorance.