Mish: Impossible Part III

After you’ve been away from home for a few months on end, you start to miss the weirdest things. In my case, sometimes it’s been things that I don’t even have that often at home, like my mom’s French toast. About a week before this trip I had a mad craving, so I asked her for the recipe; the text conversation went like this:

“Hey mama, what’s your egg-to-milk ratio for French toast?”

“Hi! I just put a little milk. And I add a little cinnamon and vanilla.”

With that incredibly precise recipe, I set out to recreate her masterpiece on the morning of Day 3. Let’s just say it didn’t end too well. Consider this a cautionary tale—some things are just never going to be the same when you’re living in a different country. Also, if you want to try to recreate a little bit of home when you’re abroad probably don’t try it in an unfamiliar AirBnb kitchen. You’ll most likely end up without butter and with some burnt soggy bread.

The good news is this particular AirBnb kitchen, though it lacked butter, did have maple syrup (the real Canadian shit, none of that maple-flavored knockoff noise.) So doused in maple syrup and bananas, the mediocre imitation of my mom’s French toast wasn’t so bad, especially since I got to eat it while watching the sunrise on a cloudless morning over the seemingly endless tidal flats of Golden Bay.

Golden Bay at low tide--reminiscent of those PNW beaches at home.

The final destination of any trip westward at the top of the South Island is Cape Farewell, where the sunny Nelson region meets the wild West Coast. Most guidebooks would lead you on State Highway 60 to Collingwood, then on Collingwood-Puponga Main Road straight up to Farewell Spit, the iconic sand bar that defines the top of the South Island and endlessly confuses whale echolocation. (This was the site of February’s mass whale stranding.)

 

But holacarly doesn’t follow the guidebooks, she follows Instagram tags. I firmly believe in a well-researched road trip, and included in the research should always be a quick Instagram search. I found a little gem by the name of "#KaihokaLakes" in my pre-trip research. Nikau palms and white sand dunes next to the sea? Yes please. The thing with Instagram is that there’s usually not very much instruction on how to reach the 'gram-worthy destination, that part is left up to the adventurous ‘grammer. This particular location requires a slight detour from the main route to Cape Farewell, via a narrow unpaved road that winds its way through farmland and rolling green hills dotted with sheep—very New Zealand-y.

 En route to Kaihoka Lakes. That's so New Zealand.

En route to Kaihoka Lakes. That's so New Zealand.

After a bit of driving further into the heart of the middle of nowhere, there’s an unmarked gravel turnoff that leads to a small parking area with a DOC sign, a public toilet, and not much else. Technically, this is part of the West Coast region, known for it’s unpredictable weather and often-wet conditions. So even though it wasn't raining at the time, the track through native bush around the lake was a bit of a muddy venture that eventually led to a sign indicating the end of the trail, and prohibiting access to the coast beyond that point.

Turned out this particularly instagrammable location was actually part of private farmland. Now, admittedly, I’m a born rule-follower, but I didn’t go all that way just to stop directly on the other side of the hill from the dunes. So I tapped into my latent teenage rebellious side, and (carefully, in open-toed Birkenstocks) bushwhacked to the top of the hill where the tangled shrubbery and vines gave way to wind-whipped sand dunes and clear blue skies.

At the top I turned around to take a look at the lake from above, and New Zealand did that New Zealand thing where it whacks you with a rainbow at the perfect time and place. Just another one of those, “Are you kidding me?” moments that have become a consistent part of life in this country.

Driving just a little further out will get you to the road trip grand finale(s): Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach. If I didn’t already feel like I was living at the edge of the world, I certainly do after visiting these places. Farewell Spit is 26 kilometers of sandbar that arcs into the Pacific Ocean and marks the northernmost point of New Zealand’s South Island.

[Fun fact tangent: Geographically, Cape Farewell is actually further north than the southernmost point of the North Island. So from the South Island, you can stand at a higher latitude than the North Island. Far out, right?]

Just walking along the spit itself is pretty impressive, but if you want a better view of the region, you have to get a little higher than the beach. So, my intrepid Kiwi travel buddy suggested climbing a hill just beyond the driftwood-laden edge of the beach.

Having already trespassed onto private land earlier that day, I thought, “Well, what’s one more fence hopped?” So I stepped up onto one of the five wire rungs and swung my other leg over the top onto the wire just above it. I felt a strong snapping sensation and immediately thought, “Great, I broke this fence.” I looked down, nope, not broken. Again >SNAP< and I realized, duh—this is an electric fence.

Telling the story now, it seems obvious that yes, a fence holding in livestock in the veritable middle of nowhere is of course armed with an electric current. However, may I remind all of my country-savvy friends that this is the kind of thing that is not common sense for someone born and raised IN. THE. CITY! So folks, if you ever find yourself hopping a fence, please take note of where you place your feet, carefully avoiding the rung with the little black plastic piece on it. There it was, my first electrocution—just racking up the new experiences every day here!

Anyways, after that shocking turn of events, we hopped back in the car en route to Wharariki Beach. You can hike there from Farewell Spit if you’ve got the time, but if you drive there you get to mingle with the friendly and rather bold peacocks that frequent the Wharariki parking lot. A fifteen-minute walk leads you through grassy hills that I can only describe as a cross between the Hobbit movie set and a Dr. Seuss illustration. It’s pretty darn picturesque.

Just a little surreal.

When you arrive at the beach it’s undeniable that you’ve reached the start of the Wild West Coast, where the erosive forces of the wind and waves have their way with the shore. It’s an incredible landscape that’s so grand it almost seems unreal and, for me, it was yet another place where I was reminded of just how small we are in comparison to this wide, wonderful, wild world.

With that, the last of the essential Golden Bay road trip boxes was ticked, and "Mish: Impossible" became "Mish: Accomplished." Thanks for coming along for the ride on this three-part blog series. Until next time, stay curious, stay wild, and stay away from electric fences!