Togs and jandals

John & Susan Simpson
Fri 9 Feb 2024 05:08
If you were in New Zealand and someone said "Get your togs and jandals, we’re going to the bach”, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was akin to the World War I story where a request to ‘send reinforcements, we’re going to advance’ was passed down the line until it reached it’s destination as ‘send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance’!  But no, although the prevalent language spoken in New Zealand is English, we came across a number of words and phrases that were new to us.  Togs means swimming costume and jandals are flip-flops to those of us from the UK.  A New Zealander named Morris Yock began manufacturing rubber sandals in 1957 inspired by shoes he’d seen in Japan, hence the name Jandals. A bach (pronounced ‘batch') is a holiday house.  We were puzzled when we first heard the word as in a New Zealand accent the word sounds like bitch; we couldn’t understand why the couple on the table next to us in a cafe were on the lookout for a ‘bitch’ in a good location!  We went on a mission to find John a cheap second hand guitar by looking in the many Op Shops, or Opportunity Shops, which to us would be charity shops.  I much prefer the NZ description!  Sadly, we didn’t ever find one with a guitar, much to John’s disappointment.  We also enjoyed the road sign instructing us to ‘merge like a zip’ and another warning of 'seal repairs’, meaning they were mending the road with loose chippings.  Here’s another road sign you don’t see in the UK - watch out for penguins at night - but more about penguins later...
A brief stop on our e-bike tour of Wellington

We took the ferry across the Cook Strait from Wellington on the North Island to Picton, where we disembarked ready to begin our tour of the South Island.  The South Island turned out to be the place where we met up with a number of different friends but sadly we didn’t get to see either Sue and Charles Dore or Ian and Sue Lillington.  Both couples were in New Zealand at the same time. But as Sue and Charles toured the South Island then the North and we did it the other way round, the closest we got to meeting up was waving to them on the ferry as our paths crossed mid way across the Cook Strait!  We were, however, pleased to catch up with Noa Goovaerts in Nelson at the top of the South Island.  Noa sailed with us across the Atlantic in 2021 and talking to her about what has happened since we last saw her in December 2021 brought home to us just how far we’ve come.  It felt a very long way from home on the South Island, particularly as we got down towards the bottom of the island.
View from the ferry back to the entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound, leading to Picton
At school I was never very fond of geography, whereas John studied the subject to degree level (allegedly!).  Having travelled around the South Island I wished I’d concentrated harder as the landscape was fascinating and I would have liked to have known more about its formation. Fortunately, John was able to enlighten me! We covered miles on steep and winding roads, over rivers and deep gorges, over flat plains and through mountain passes.  The pine forests seemed to cover almost every hillside and stretched as far as the eye could see and the crickets that live in them chirp so loudly that you can hear them whilst driving with the car windows shut!  At Punakaiki on the West coast we saw the ‘pancake’ rocks which really did look as though someone had made stacks and stacks of grey pancakes and stood them along the coastline.  It is thought that the rocks formed this way when lime-rich fragments of marine creatures were deposited on the seabed and were later overlaid by layers of soft mud and clay.  As tectonic plates move and push the resulting rock upwards, the weather and the motion of the sea erodes the different layers at different rates, creating the impression of pancake stacks.
Pancake rocks at Punakaiki

In the Southern Alps we walked up to the Franz Josef Glacier and learned how glaciers carve U-shaped valleys, pushing boulders and debris along with the ice and depositing them in the valleys.  We went into the beautiful little Anglican Church in the town of Franz Josef and saw the panoramic altar window built to capture a view of the glacier.  A postage stamp issued in 1946 to commemorate the end of World War II showed the view from this window with the glacier still visible but it has since receded to the point where it can no longer be seen from the church.  Interestingly, the glacier’s development is cyclical, meaning that it grows or shrinks depending on conditions.  The glacier reappeared in the church window in 1997 having been missing for the previous 40 years but has receded again now.
Altar window at the Anglican Church of St James, Franz Josef

Franz Josef Glacier, taken from the point the Glacier reached in 1908

We got a closer look at a snow-topped mountain when we took a helicopter tour from Wanaka.  That was an exhilarating experience as we soared above the lakes, rivers and mountains of the Mount Aspiring National Park, listening to our pilot passing on his knowledge of the area through our headphones.  He zoomed into a gully so that we could see the snow fissures up close and descended into a mountain hollow to take a look at a glacial lake, the waters of which were incredibly green.  We landed on a flat plain on top of one of the mountains and were surprised to find the ground beneath our feet to be spongy rather than hard as rock.  Nick (the pilot) explained that we were standing on what would once have been the sea bed and the ground was compressed sand and seashells.  
On top of the world with ‘our’ helicopter

Glacier and glacial lake, Mount Aspiring, Southern Alps

From the air we could see more clearly the ‘braided’ rivers that only occur in glacial areas.  The braiding effect is caused when rocky sediment is washed down from the mountains and forms into rocky mounds in the river bed as the river water floods and recedes.  We crossed many wide river bridges where there were multiple streams of water flowing between rocky islands underneath.
A braided river

The most southerly point we reached was Dunedin on the East coast (latitude 45 52.500S / longitude 170 30 360E) and this is where penguins get a special mention.  We booked an evening tour to see a colony of Little Blue Penguins return home to their burrows on the Otago peninsula.  The penguins spend daylight hours out at sea feeding and collecting food for their young before returning home as night falls.  We realised then why the road sign in Wellington had said beware of penguins at night.  That would be when they’re trying to cross the road.  Our tour group gathered on a wooden platform built above the burrows on a slope leading to a sandy beach and waited for the first signs of the penguins return.  In the dusk we began to see movement on the surface of the sea in the form of a large V shape of disturbed water moving swiftly towards the beach.  We watched silently as the shape transformed into a cluster of little heads and then bodies which waddled and quacked up the beach.  They moved fast across the open beach to reach the grassy slope and then paused to groom and socialise with the other penguins.  Finally they pop into their burrows to reach their nests where they will feed their young and rest until its time to go back out to sea as dawn breaks.  It was fascinating to see and the penguins didn’t seem to mind being the centre of attention.  
The first penguins arrive

Penguin up close

On our way up the East coast we managed to fit in two reunions on the one night we were in Christchurch.  We met Katy and Tony, fellow World ARC Pacific Rally participants on S/Y Tam Lin of Gloucester, and then went on to have a great catch up with our nephew Rob who is touring New Zealand at a more leisurely pace in his camper van.  We were sorry not to spend more time in Christchurch as it looked to be a lovely city, but we were due back in Picton for the return ferry to the North Island and then a sprint back to Auckland to catch a flight back to Australia.

In total we spent 33 days in New Zealand, slept in 15 different beds and covered 3,898 km (2,422 miles) in our trusty rental car.  We loved the spectacular scenery and had some fantastic experiences along the way.  Our next stop is Brisbane, Australia to check up on Casamara and start preparations for moving on later in the year.  Before we leave on Casamara for Indonesia though, there’s more road-tripping to be done as we try to see as much of Australia as we can over the next few months.