Dunes and ocean

Bidding farewell at Farewell Spit

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Our time in New Zealand was rapidly coming to an end.

We’d been in my homeland for two months, travelling from north to south and east to west all over this small but diverse country. Now, with only a few days left before heading back to SE Asia, we found ourselves at the appropriately-named Farewell Spit.

This long, fragile sandbar at the top of the South Island lies literally at the end of the road, a lengthy, winding drive from pretty much anywhere. Not lengthy and winding enough to deter the local police, mind you – after successfully avoiding them for thousands of kilometres, a bored cop parked half way up the Takaka Hill decided to give me a ticket for ‘crossing the centre line’ as I rounded a corner.

Apparently having two wheels a few inches over the white paint was an unforgiveable risk to all of the other non-existent traffic on the road. Nice one, buddy. Try driving in Vietnam some time…

Still, any lingering grumbles about over-zealous officials disappeared as we drove around the still waters of Ruataniwha Inlet and found our accommodation for the next couple of nights. The Innlet was a great little spot, with a dorm room and cottages spread out in the sprawling grounds. Eco-friendly without being dictatorial about it, it was the perfect place to laze about in the sun reading a book, sing along with random other travellers playing the piano or just sit and chat over a coffee to the lovely manager, Dalia for a while. Yup, we loved it.


Still, we weren’t there just to work on our suntan or take pretty photos of flowers. Funnily enough, the reason we actually were there ended up being a total bust – we were supposed to take a tour with Farewell Spit Nature Experience, but after waiting for an hour for them to turn up, discovered that they’d cancelled the trip due to lack of numbers. Without telling us, obviously. Now that’s professional.

Undeterred, we decided to head out to the spit ourselves. Although you can’t go as far by yourself as you can on a tour, we ended up having a wonderfully peaceful couple of hours wandering around with virtually nobody else in sight. Really, unless you’re a complete nature buff, I’d suggest you’ll have more fun exploring by yourself than cooped up in a coach anyway.

Looking back down the beach at Farewell Spit

There’s just a little bit of seaweed around these parts…

Seaweed, Farewell Spit

… but it’s not the only thing that washes up on this stretch of beach.

Buoy on the beach, Farewell Spit

The sand flats were amazingly shallow – we were only there for two hours or so, but in that time the tide receded at least a hundred metres, leaving dozens of seabirds walking where they’d been floating a few minutes earlier.

Birds at Farewell Spit

Trees soon gave way to dunes, and like little kids we bounded up them to get a better view. With a scorching sun and shifting sands in every direction, it felt more like the middle of the Sahara than little old New Zealand.

Dunes - Farewell Spit

Although I’m not entirely certain you can see the ocean quite so easily from the middle of Sahara.

Dunes and ocean - Farewell Spit

Of course, I had to celebrate the moment with my traditional arms-above-the-head-and-rather-dorky-expression pose. Because, apparently, that’s what I do.

Dave at Farewell Spit

Finally dragging ourselves off the spit, we headed over to the gorgeous Wharariki Beach for more sandy fun, running down the dunes and admiring the towering rocks jutting up just offshore. It turned out to be, honestly, pretty much the perfect day.

This wasn’t quite the end of our trip, of course – we still had a few days left to chill out with family and friends in Hanmer Springs, Christchurch and my old stomping grounds of Ashburton – but for some reason it felt like it. Perhaps because we didn’t have anything specific lined up for our last week (other than vast amounts of napping), turning the car around and heading south seemed like the final act in what had been an incredible, lengthy symphony.

I’ll be posting a complete recap of my two month experience soon, but for now, all I can say is: New Zealand, you were stunningly beautiful … and I’d forgotten just what a wonderful part of the world you can be.

Farewell, my homeland. For the first time in many years, I can honestly say that I’ll miss you.

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