Tuesday, 19 July 2011
NZ pt III – South Island by Bus
02/01/11 – 02/02/11
02/01/11 – 02/02/11
It was all too brief. We left Cara and family after just a couple of nights (and had a lovely time, thank you very much) and headed back to the Big Green Bus in Wellington town centre. As we'd stayed an extra night, we now had a new bus and new driver:
All aboard, we travelled around the corner and promptly got off again to take the ferry over to the South Island. With a pain-free three hour crossing completed, we were back on the bus, with the first chance to meet our new coach-load full of new young people (starting to feel my age now). Most had been together from the north island and had formed quite a clan. As we took our seats, the reception was somewhat frosty, so it was Katy's job to make new friends (Tim didn’t really mind not making friends!) and hope that they liked us. Thankfully our wit and charm shone through, the frost melted and we met lots of really lovely people.
First stop, Nelson. The town was nice enough but nothing special. However, a short walk from our (rather nice) hostel was a very significant place... the official Centre of New Zealand! It was conveniently located at the top of a hill and provided a great view across the bay.
From here we got lost walking back down the hill and ended up on the wrong side but conveniently close to a chinese garden which we had a nice walk through, stopping briefly to watch local youth standing on a delicate and ornate bridge, spitting into the meandering stream.
Back on the bus the following day, we stop off at yet another beautiful lake. Here was another stop along the trip where most of the bus would shuffle off to do the various activities they'd signed up for so we had alot of time to take in the scenery (which was thankfully stunning). Onwards to Westport where we had a nice late afternoon fire by the beach and watched some of our more foolhardy passengers take a dip in the ocean.
Day eleven of our tour saw us heading toward Lake Mahinapua. Another beautifully sunny day, we stopped off at the Punakaiki (pancake rocks)... heavily stratisfied limestone stacks which did look remarkably like stacks of stone pancakes.
A final stop off for the day was at Greymouth, a place with a metaphorical dark cloud hanging over it as a couple of months before our arrival, several locals were killed in a mining disaster (one which occurred shortly after a well publicised one in Chile in which everyone was rescued). Although day to day life was continuing, the place felt quite downbeat.
Anyway, our destination for the day was the Lake Mahinapua Hotel (a hotel? Hopes raised), aka the 'poo pub' (hopes firmly dashed). Accommodation was in prefab cabins, behind a pub, next to a lake and a few minutes from the sea. A beautiful place.
The pub is owned by an old fellow called Les and it is a bit of a KE institution* to stop there for a fancy dress party. The walls of the pub were covered with group photos taken at the end of said fancy-dress nights past, but as the walls got filled he now also has album after album stretching back over many years... and now we're in there too somehwere. Our theme was "come as something that your name begins with" Katy went as a Kiwi (“sweet as bro”) and Tim went as a Tea bag (obviously)! A very fun night was had by all (but especially by the kooky canadian woman and the lucky german guy we caught having sex on the way back to our room).
Next, Franz Joseph to the Fox Glacier (no polar bears or mints) Katy had a lovely hike up above the glacier (Tim sufferring from recurring achilles-heal pain at the mention of excercise). An amazing view; to be able to look down on this majestic icy creation, quite breath-taking. It was a nice little town so we were happy to spend a couple of days here.
Then onto Lake Wanaka and a truely beautiful setting. The lake is enormous and viewed from one of the surrounding hilltops you can see more lakes connecting for miles around.
Next stop Queenstown. Just at the outskirts, we stopped so that a few of our bus buddies could throw themselves off of a bridge at one of AJ Hackett’s most famous bungee-points, (something we would've loved to have done if $’s weren’t an issue). Unfortunately Queenstown is somewhere you want to have a lot of $$$’s to enjoy all the crazy things that are on offer here.
Instead we just chilled out. Katy hiked up to the top of the gondola, up through the forest, to be rewarded with a beautiful, if wet; view of the surrounding area.
The most we splurged was to have one of the infamous Furg Burgers. They were recommended to us and now we recommend them to you... if you ever get to Queenstown, you have to have one of the best burgers ever.
And OK, we managed to get out for drinks for the first time in a year (probably) in a Queenstown bar where we drank and kareokied(?) the night away. But having not drunk any real amounts of alcohol for so long took its toll and we had to retire early while the others carried on for many more hours... a good night i think.
Another small splurge was the day trip to the Milford Sound, which was a beautiful boat trip, if a little wet and windy, through the Sound and the waterfalls. And if I'm honest, it wasn't all that. I think we have reached 'spectacular view saturation point' on our travels and - as beautiful as it was - we found ourselves comparing it to other places like those we'd seen in Canada. But as complaints go, this is not a bad one to have!
Surrounded by rolling hills, we walked down the long, tree-lined driveway to find that neither Jane or Bryan were home. Instead, we were greeted by two lovely very friendly dogs; Milly (the hairy one) and Bella (the curly one).
We had our own room off the main house, and a proper bed (this means alot to us!). Our work here was split between the house (general tidying), the garden (mowing, de-poohing, chain-sawing a tree), the animals (stroking, throwing balls!). We had a great time. Katy got to do another mosaic, this time a table depicting the kittens, Ray and Undy (it’s an American wrestling thing)... with some artistic licence, there’s only so much she could do with the selection of broken tiles available.
And then there was the farm. Here we would help Ross, the farm manager and all-round nice guy. We got to experience our first sheep-shearing, packing the wool-bales by stomping them down, (great for the legs!) and sweeping up the wool. Also, Katy had the job of de-nutting the sheep, apologising to every one of them as she did it, Ross thought this very funny, the sheep didn't. Tim became a dab hand at catching and holding them for me to do the deed. My greatest compliment from Ross was," you're as handy as a piece of string". High praise indeed, I thank you. We had a great time in Cheviot. Tim went to work most days on his little red quad-bike in the sun shine, helping to install a new irrigation system in a field. Katy ran up and down big grassy meadows and hills. We walked the dogs by the river. Katy also got to go out riding with Jane which was super fun.
Jane is a great cook so we we're spoilt with amazing meals every night and a lot of MEAT. Bryan owns and operates Cheviot Meats, an abattoir next door to the property, so everything is fresh and only the best cuts for us. We weren’t complaining, especially Tim - he does like his meat. Bryan took Tim for a tour of the abattoir which was very interesting and a reminder of the work he’d left behind.
Evenings were spent watching the TVs many channels as Bryan was an obsessive channel hopper!
As with everywhere else we've visited, our time was running out in NZ and we had to get our last flight before our ticket ran out, so on her birthday Katy got up early went for a final long run up and down the beautiful hills of Cheviot, NZ. Jane very kindly took us to the airport (stopping off for a bit of birthday cake along the way) and with a fond farewell it was time for us to take our flight which would see Katy have her birthday in both NZ and OZ.
(* By institution, I mean of course that they have engineered a profitable business entrapping tourists in a pub in the middle of nowhere... well done them!)