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STYLE TRAVEL GUIDE: Jo Morgan's South Island

5 April 2022
Jo Morgan at top of mountain

Interview: Josie Steenhart

From buying her first motorbike at 15 and revamping a passenger bus to live in with husband Gareth and their kids, to travelling through nearly 140 countries and setting herself the goal of summiting all 24 of New Zealand’s 3000m-plus mountain peaks after only taking up climbing in her late fifties, Jo Morgan has always had an adventurous side – to put it mildly.

Off the back of her new autobiography, Dancing with the Machine, we caught up with the extraordinary Kiwi adrenaline junkie to get her unique take on travelling in the South.

What do you love about the South Island?

Because it’s my home territory I’ve always loved coming back to Otago and Southland in particular. I enjoy the lakes and the mountains and particularly the unpopulated wilderness.

What are a few of the spots you’ve had your biggest adventures in/on?

Having ridden motorbikes since the 1970s around the roads of Southland and the Lakes, these hold some of my fondest memories of adventures. Over later years, when I’ve been mountaineering, it has been the highest peaks of the Southern Alps and the mountain huts that have been the setting for more recent adventures.

Favourite local spots to visit?

Bannockburn because of its cycling trails and because it’s the access point for the Nevis 4WD track across to Garston.

Favourite local spots to eat/drink?

My brother John’s in Invercargill or, when he’s on holiday, his crib in Arrowtown. The reason? Free parking for the campervan, lots of gin and his wife Fran’s speciality – mince pies. Can’t beat their prices. I could include my three other brothers but I might get into hot water.

Favourite places to stay?

Because we’re often in our campervan, the DOC camps on the Milford Road are our favourite – particularly in the Eglinton Valley, that is heaven. But Oreti beach is pretty cool too.

Travel by self-contained camper is fraught with parking issues if you want to stay in local towns to and eat and drink. They often treat campervans as if they are the bludgers of our previous budget tourist era.

Favourite local activities/experiences?

Track day at Teretonga [Park] on my Ducati 1098 and flying in the float plane at Te Anau with the gorgeous pilot Kylie.

Any other “secret” local spots/intel you’re prepared to share with us?

If you ever get the opportunity, take the jet boat from Lake Hauroko down the Wairaurāhiri River to the Southern Ocean. Johan and Joyce will give you a good briefing on what is the steepest jet boat ride in the country through ancient forest where the predator control efforts are making a real contribution to the wildlife down there.

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