There are two passes that we could take eastward on our way back to Christchurch (to return the Spaceship). One is apparently so phenomenal that it has its own national park (Arthur’s Pass), but we were more attracted to the idea of soaking our glacier-chilled bones in Hanmer Springs, so we took the other pass. We made it there early in the evening on Tuesday.
On Wednesday we dipped in the springs twice—after breakfast and after dinner. They have a number of thermal pools, most of which are kept between 34-38°C, but I preferred the untreated (basically unchlorinated) “sulphur pools” that were between 40-41°C, and smelled faintly of rotten eggs. Stephanie and I had at least half a dozen itchy welts on our feet from the sandflies in Franz Josef Township, which the hot water pleasantly soothed.
We were considering sticking around the springs for one more day, but we woke up to rain and cloudy skies on Thursday, so we decided on a whim to head to Akaroa, New Zealand’s only French settlement, situated in the crater of a long-extinct volcano, southeast of Christchurch. On the way we stopped for lunch at a cafe/general store called “The Store” in Tai Tapu and had one of the best meals in New Zealand so far: an open-face BLT that required a fork and knife. We walked around Akaroa after we arrived, but eventually parked ourselves at the holiday park to catch up on blogs, email, and to cook dinner.
Friday was our last day in Spaceship Voyager. We had to return it to Christchurch by 4pm. It was drizzling when we woke up, so we hit the road immediately, left our bags at the hotel we’d reserved for the night, dropped off the van, and walked back to the hotel. And thus our two week South Island road trip, three week New Zealand road trip, and first month in New Zealand came to completion.
So what’s next? On Saturday we became backpackers in the literal sense. With only the packs on our backs, we took a bus up to Nelson, in the northwest corner of the South Island, to prepare to tramp the Abel Tasman Coast Track over the next six days, starting on Monday afternoon. Suffice it to say, our blogs will be unusually silent during that time, but fear not, we’re fine.