The road highlights were the spectacular views from the highway at Manawatu Gorge (just after Palmerston North) and the stormy area between Featherston and Upper Hut, where stormwinds and pouring rain made the driving a real adventure – and even in this weather the landscape was fascinating.
Cape Palliser was our first longer stop and is absolutely worth the drive! The landscape is beautiful, flat fields being replaced by rough cliffs and rocky golden hills, next to a turquoise ocean. Before you reach the actual cape, a 30 minutes track leads to the Putangirua Pinnacles, a mystical area where corrosion and rain have shaped rocky spires and towers next to an ancient river bed. I was especially fascinated by the rocks we found along the way – once parts of the riverbed, mud turned into brown stone, they displayed several layers of shells, their shapes pressed into the stone, showing how much life there once was in the river.
The Pinnacles are also one of the many movie sets for Lord of the Rings in the area. A lot of the filming was done around Wellington. The rough rocks we walked by were ruled by ghosts in the movie: Dimholt road, the path to the city of the dead.
Reaching Cape Palliser, the first thing that caught our eyes were the rocks that line the coast, forming steep cliffs or diagonal shapes, spread over the yellow fields and sticking out of the ocean. On some of these rocks there are seals to be found – we watched one of the colonies for quite a while, and are still fond of them. Photos might turn out to look all the same after a while, but watching them never gets boring.
The lighthouse at Cape Palliser has charm, too, with it's traditional white and red painting - especially when the sun is about to set. We didn't climb the 250 steps up there, but enjoyed the view from the seaside instead, taking in all the beautiful rocks and hills around it. On the way back to the campsite we were welcomed by a beautiful, glowing red dusk sky.