5 min read

the road taken :: south island haerenga vol. 1

SH72 New Zealand (c) Leonie Wise

vol. 1 :: christchurch to woodpecker hut

SH72 New Zealand (c) Leonie Wise SH72 New Zealand (c) Leonie Wise SH72 New Zealand (c) Leonie Wise SH72 New Zealand (c) Leonie WiseKea on a car at Arthur's Pass New Zealand (c) Leonie Wise Kea on a fence at Arthur's Pass New Zealand (c) Leonie Wise

we’re awake early and ready to go well before the taxi turns up. we’re headed for the airport for a roadtrip around the south island’s west coast. we’ve got eight days, a vague itinerary and i’m feeling the thrill of being out of cellphone range for most of our travels. it’s been a rough few weeks leading up to the trip and we’re both feeling shattered and in need of some rest.

recently we’d paid a ridiculous sum of money to change our flights to earlier in the day, then experienced a three hour flight delay, sitting at the airport hearing our flight time creep closer and closer to the time we had originally planned on leaving. and neither of us had remembered that good friday means all the supermarkets are closed. so we stopped for a loaf of bread and some basic breakfast supplies, and saved the slabs of lasagne we’d bought at the airport to have for our evening meal. even the best laid plans….

the landscapes we pass through quickly draw my attention away from our lack of good meal planning, and we are still travelling early enough to make it through arthurs pass in daylight. with not enough time to explore as we’d hoped, we stop briefly to see if the cafe there is still open (it’s not) and we’re entertained for a few minutes by the kea that live in these mountains. known for their antics and their insatiable appetite for just about everything, i catch one in the act of investigating someone’s car. they’ll peel the rubber right out of your window frames if you’re away from your car long enough!

it’s dark by the time we get to woodpecker hut, our home for the next few days, so we don’t do much except warm some lasagne, have a cursory glance around and head off to bed.


Bed and window with a view down to the bay below at Woodpecker Hut (c) Leonie Wise

the view outside the window and a need for coffee enticed us out from under the duvet on saturday, and we open the bedroom door to the intoxicating smell of sea spray and the sound of the waves crashing on to the beach below us.

woodpecker hut in the daylight is AMAZING. it’s two little huts (one bedroom, one lounge) connected with an outdoors-but-undercover kitchen and dining area with a small bathroom at the back. it’s beautifully appointed, containing everything we need and not much more and the view from the bed is killer. plus we can hear the ocean from here, which reminds me of my childhood. i could happily stay here for the whole eight days, but we have loads of other places we want to see on this trip too. i have a feeling we’ll be back here again sometime.


Weka at Woodpecker Hut (c) Leonie Wise Reading chair with blanket. Hot tub. (c) Leonie WiseTea and Hot Cross Bun (c) Leonie Wise Nic has an afternoon snooze (c) Leonie Wise The view from Woodpecker Hut to the beach below (c) Leonie Wise

we make a hasty breakfast of toast with vegemite, then jump in the car to head back to greymouth for supplies. it’s a 2-hour round trip out of our day that we didn’t anticipate, but we need supplies, so off we go. the views back down the coast we drove in the dark yesterday are stunning, even with the overcast weather. we gather all our supplies and we’re back at the hut in time for lunch, a pot of tea and some hot cross buns made in a local cafe. one of the neighbours pops in to say hello and, despite these birds having a reputation for being notorious thieves, this particular weka is on its best behaviour. we’ve nothing left to do today but stoke up the burner box on the hot tub, open a bottle of wine and stare at the ocean through the rain that’s lashing at the windows. nic has a snooze on the sofa whilst i duck in and out of the rain every 30 minutes or so to make sure the fire is still going and the water is warming up. i do such a good job of it that the water in the tub ends up too hot and we have to use the hose to put some colder water in.

it’s the most excellent way to end our first full day on holiday, ‘specially as there’s no cellphone reception here. this combination of rustic and remote ‘luxury’ is just what we both need right now.



  1. haerenga (maōri)
    (noun) journey, trip, parting
  2. woodpecker hut so named for the bay that’s below us. there’s no actual woodpeckers in new zealand