No walking, 50km on a bus stuck in the mud
Up before 5am. Bleary-eyed, we walk over to the school in Methven, a farming town down river and near the first bridge to cross the Rakaia river.
To get up to the trailhead on the other side, there’s really only one option: take the school bus 50km up the south (right) side of the river, early, before it picks up children on its return voyage.
Only there’s a problem. The Rakaia river is flooded. Instead of being braided, it’s like a lake, full bank-to-bank.
The road to the trailhead is dirt. Several small streams cross over the road. Usually these are a trickle, but the heavy rains mean these have washed the road away. The bus driver revs the engine and tries to cross. We’re stuck in the mud.
The driver rocks us back and forth, mud spraying and rocks kicking up. We’re free, but the rock spray has cut the power steering. We limp back to Methven.
We cannot make it to the trailhead. We’re not hiking today (and there’s a group of kids who have the day off school!)
Rather than being stuck in Methven, we hire a car and head for Banks Peninsula, past Christchurch. We’re there in just a couple of hours, or we would have been had we not stopped at every fruit stand along the way. I’ve had 15 plums, apricots & peaches in the last 10 hours…
Akaroa is the center of Banks Peninsula, and the biggest French settlement in early New Zealand. It’s beautiful along the Rues here, lined up along the blue-green bay. We’re staying at the Smokehouse Salmon cottage, some of the best cold smoked salmon in the world.
Being a French town, there are croissants and good bread, and snails and foie gras. Pretty insane transition from a a flooded, muddy mountain spitting us off in the morning to the Riveria in the evening.