So for the past 29 days, I have been busily bashing away at my keyboard, bringing this story to life. I’ll admit to rebelling a little (I wrote about 3,000 words for part 2 of the story, but since it’s sort of the same thing, I guess it doesn’t really matter). It’s quite an odd feeling, really, having written 50,255 words in the last 29 days. Because when you think about it, that is a lot of words. It is also a lot of listening to music on YouTube (and a bit of Chris Evans on Radio 2).
Time to let my Inner Editor loose, and get editing!
The Queenstown to Milford Sound day trip is a big one. I was picked up for the tour before 7am, and we arrived back in Queenstown around 8pm. A good eight of those hours were spent on the bus, and I spent more or less the first two hours sleeping. We had a few stops along the way, alternating toilet/important scenery stops. Bruce, our tour guide, gave a commentary the whole way down. We got down to Milford Sound around 1:30, and it was onto the cruise boat, out into the Sound itself. Unfortunately, the day had clouded over, and the weather got worse, the closer we got to Milford Sound, but it was still stunning. They say that out in the Sound, you should usually see penguins, seals or dolphins, and we saw rock-hopper penguins and seals, so I reckon that was pretty good. After the cruise it was back into the (warmth of the) bus, and the long drive back to Queenstown. Thank goodness for BBC podcasts!
Early morning in Queenstown
Plane landing on the water
My first full day in Queenstown and it was a big one. The clouds had cleared and the sun was shining, so this morning I got my first proper look around, and to see Queenstown as it really is, with all the mountains and the Remarkables and everything else. It is properly beautiful.
So what’s the first thing one does when in Queenstown? How about a jet-boat ride? Yep! So after getting very wet and cold out on the lake I went and had early lunch/very late breakfast at Fergbakery, and got myself one of their fabulous pork and apple pies. My goodness are those pies something! Then I headed up to the cable cars, up the hill, and had two rides on the luge – fantastic fun and highly recommended. After a rather adrenaline filled morning, I decided I needed more – this time heading up Bowen’s Point. I didn’t make it all the way up, but the views from where I ended up were spectacular. Once I got back down into Queenstown, I went for another ride out on the lake, this time on the Million Dollar Cruise, much more relaxing than the jet-boating, and a different sort of fun. Then I had a massive serving of Indian takeaway for dinner. After a bit of a relax back in my apartment, I headed back to the cable cars and up the hill for a session of dark sky star gazing. I hadn’t done this before (this day was rather full of things I hadn’t done before!), and it was amazing. I unfortunately can’t remember the name of our guide, but she was from Ireland, and the tour was supposed to go for an hour, but she spoke for nearly two, and it was just fantastic. I’m very glad I did this early in my stay in Queenstown, as it was the only clear night I was there. A highly recommended activity, and, once you get back inside, they give you a complementary hot chocolate – much needed after standing out in the cold night for two hours (Canadian goose-down coats are provided, but it still gets cold!). Then I caught a cab home from Skyline because I couldn’t be bothered walking – plus it was well after 11pm, and I had to be up at 6 the next morning.
A very high-adrenaline day, that’s for sure.
Beautiful morning in Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu through the trees
The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu
The path I’d just walked up
The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu
This hill is used in all three LotR films.
Queenstown from the lake
Queenstown in the evening from Skyline
This was another big day of travel, this time entirely by bus. We apparently travelled through some of the most beautiful scenery in New Zealand, but saw little of it, due to the constant rain and low clouds. Later in the day it stopped raining a little, but weather-wise, it was hardly the best day of my trip. Still, some of the photos turned out alright, and I met some great fellow travellers on the bus. All in all, not as bad as it could have been.
After arriving at my hotel in Queenstown and unpacking a little (as I was to be staying there for five nights), I went down into town. Again, there was little to see as a result of the low clouds, and Queenstown is hardly at its prettiest when wet, but still. I found the world-famous Fergburger, and had my first burger from there. My goodness, the hype is not for nothing. Those are seriously the best burgers in the world.
Leaving Franz Josef
On the road.
First look at the Remarkables
There are mountains behind those clouds!
The best burger place in the world.
And the best burger.
I was back on the train, this time heading west across the South Island, first from Christchurch to Greymouth. This train trip was about 5 hours, and, should you be spending lunch aboard any of the KiwiRail trains, the steak and cheese pies are very good (and not just good for train food, they’re actually good!). This train ride covered the Canterbury plains, then through the mountains, including Arthur’s Pass. It was freezing cold in the outside carriage, so a spent a lot more of this train trip inside compared with the trip on the Coastal Pacific. The scenery was beautiful, if somewhat bleak, not helped by the overcast day and low cloud, blocking a lot of the mountain tops. Still definetly worth the trip, though. From Greymouth it was onto the bus down to Franz Josef, where I was to be spending the night. More scenery, this time mostly hills, pastoral land, a couple of huge lakes, rivers, and the Tasman Sea. Arrived at the Franz Josef township around 5pm. Because Franz Josef it getting rather far south, the days are slightly longer, so I had just enough time to march (literally) up to the glacier and back, a 10km round trip that I had to do in an hour and a half, because of the failing daylight. Despite feeling very tired afterwards, it was well worth the march, and Franz Josef is on my list as a place to visit again, and spend a whole day there, rather than just the night. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the glacier, but it is stunning (used for the Lighting of the Beacons in “Return of the King”). And with the sun setting, and the last rays of sunlight before it disappeared behind the mountain shining on the glacier, plus the mystical clouds – wow.
I stayed at the Bella Vista Motel in Franz Josef, which was lovely, and the owners were particularly friendly. So another very busy day, but so worth it.
Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier
Finally, a bit of a lazier day, I was not up at the crack of dawn to go touring, but was able to sleep in. I didn’t leave the hotel (Ibis) until well after 9, when I went to find some breakfast. I ended up at the excellent Hummingbird Cafe in the Re:Start Mall, which was just one block away from where I was staying. I had a delicious bacon, egg and tomato toasted sandwich, and, it being such a glorious morning, ate outside. The Re:Start Mall is made up of shipping crates converted into shops, so after I finished eating, I had a look around there, as well as at the Saturday Market in the street, and then to the other Saturday Market in Gloucester Boulevard. After that, I went to the Canterbury Museum, on the outskirts of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Then I went punting along the River Avon, something I’ve not done before, but it was wonderfully fun and relaxing, especially as there the River winds through the Botanic Gardens. Then it was time for lunch, which I ate at the cafe on the River, then went for a stroll through the beautiful Botanic Gardens. After that, I went for a walk through Christchurch itself, but one can really only do that for so long, as it is quite depressing. Almost everything is either boarded up, fenced up, covered in scaffolding or shipping crates or is simply gone. It looks a lot like Europe did after WWII. But it is obvious that the people of Christchurch are trying to move on, so it’s sort of positive, but it’s still a bit depressing. Despite that, definitely worth the visit.
Punting along the River Avon
Punting through the Botanic Gardens
In the Botantic Gardens
Empty streets on a Friday afternoon
The Cardboard Cathedral
Literally empty streets
Scaffolding and shipping crates
Emptyness (from the top floor of the hotel)
A quick note on Christchurch and the destruction: Christchurch is more or less divided east and west by the River Avon. Everything on the east of the river is reclaimed swampland, whereas the west is solid ground. When the earthquake hit a couple of years ago, the east, reclaimed land pretty much just fell apart, whereas the west shook and rumbled a little, but it pretty much entirely safe and intact. So half of Christchurch looks completely normal. The other half is a demolition zone.