Thought I'd take advantage of the miserable weather here in New Zealand today to update my website.
After arriving in Christchurch I made my plans for a whirlwind trip around New Zealand. I managed to get an open bus ticket which covered a fair few places in the South Island along with a few key places in the North Island. The booking went smoothly enough but the next morning when my first pick-up was scheduled the driver contrived to forget me! A shuttle bus was organised so there was no damage done.
The first destination was a place called Kaikoura which is famed for its excellent dolphin and whale spotting. Unfortunately the weather was fairly atrocious so boats weren't going out. Instead, I went for a walk along the pebble covered beach in the wild weather. It ended up being really nice because the coastline was very picturesque and the waves were rolling and crashing against the shoreline. Bizarrely, no-one else fancied doing the walk so I had the beach to myself. Through the fog I could see a faint outline of some mountains but nothing of their detail. Fortunately the weather took a drastic about turn the following morning and we woke to bright sunshine. A number of the mountains turned out to be snow capped and the views were stunning. The contrast of mountain bordering coast looked absolutely stunning. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to go out on a whale spotting trip but unfortunately the sea did not seem to be in cohorts with the weather and we were informed that the sea was too choppy. Knowing I would be returning to Kaikoura at a later date I decided to move on to a place called Picton which is situated in the very north of the South Island.
In Picton I was the only one not taking the ferry to Wellington so had the afternoon to kill on my own. The weather was fantastic so I decided to go to the Tourist Info Centre and find out about good walks in the area. I was informed of a nice walk to a point by the sea called The Snout. Subconsciously, I think the name appealed to me so I decided to set off. The whole way the weather was stunning and I had forest on my right and mountain-fringed sea on my left. After a leisurely amble for a few hours I arrived at The Snout where I took a seat and had a lovely 180 degree panoramic view of sea and yet more mountains. It was incredibly peaceful and I just sat back enjoying the view. Eventually the peace was rather rudely disturbed by a pod of dolphins! If you had asked me how the already spectacularly view could have been improved one of my few sensible suggestions would almost certainly have been dolphins. After watching them make their way passed I set off back to the town before dark. Afterwards it occurred to me that in about 4 hours I'd seen three people and about a dozen dolphins, I wasn't complaining.
From Picton, more and more people joined the bus and we are now at around 35 people which is some jump from the two that I spent my first day on the bus with. After a few more stops and lovely views along the way we were informed that we would be having a fancy dress party in a place called Lake Mahinapua. The theme was 'What you want to be when you grow up' and we were dropped off by a big Salvation Army store to buy our outfits. I found a fetching orange dressing gown, silk pyjama top, bottoms and shades and decided to go as an eccentric millionaire! Once I found the dressing gown everything else just fell into place! Before the party a group of us played football on the beach and I have to say I haven't worked that hard in a very long time, the sand was so soft it sapped your strength instantly, or at least that is my excuse! There were some excellent outfits and ideas including a guy who turned up dressed as a woman and a girl who turned up as a single mum. We were informed there would be a prize for the best male and female outfits and many people thought I was in with a good shot of winning. Unfortunately, I was beaten to it by the she-male which was truly gutting. That is until I found out the prize was a free bungy-jump which you'd have to pay me to do!
After Lake Mahinapua we set off for Franz Josef which is where I am currently. It is the location of the renowned Franz Josef glacier which, as far as I can ascertain from pictures, is pretty stunning. Along with a host of other people I have booked to do an all-day glacier hike complete with crampons and an ice axe, I can't wait!
That pretty much brings me up to date for my time here in New Zealand which I have been really enjoying. Oh yeah, and our bus driver calls himself Pumba, if you saw him you'd know why immediately, it's uncanny!
Take care everyone,