So, the plan was to head to the South Island to see as much as possible, in about ten days, ready to head up to Auckland to be reunited with Lady Bowles (who by this stage was up at Mount Maunganui working in a cafe around the corner from Sarah and Martin´s after doing a road trip with a couple of friends from the UK...)
So, I headed South on the Interislander ferry and bused it down to Christchurch. I hired a little blue car which, like me, had clocked up a few miles but was running just fine thankyou very much. Although the indicator was on the wrong side so I was going around roundabouts with my wind screenwipers on quite alot.
After months of public transport it was refreshing to be independent and able to siing at the top of my voice without strange looks and complaints... Really was strange going from sharing a train carriage with 60 people in china to just me, my rucksack, my music and the open road.
I really did appreciate how lucky I am... NZ is a once in a lifetime trip for some people and here I was getting a second chance.
So, where did this little tour take me?
Mount Cook - It was raining and didn´t see the top but the drive there was fantastic (I could remember how to do it!) and I met some nice people and we went for a soggy walk in the trees
Queenstown - gave a couple of american girls a lift. Tried to educate them on the music of Pulp. They weren´t interested, but had no choice. hahaha. Had an adrenalin fix at the site of the first bungy jump.... and I was only watching. Realised I had left my bag at our luch stop so had to drive back 30minutes each way. Lovely honest people of NZ.
Early start to go to Milford Sound. It was snowing when I left! The road was around the lake across from the Remarkables where some of the Lord of The Rings films were filmed. Another fab drive. Got as far as Te Anau where the road was closed due to an avalanche.. they had cleared the hillside using explosions and one had come down and landed on the (closed) road. It was going to take a while to clear.... decision time for indecisive Bennett. Stay or go? Went. Although in the evening I went to a tiny cinema to see a German film called the life of others (Das Lieben des Anderes) it was good. You should see it if you haven´t already. Sad not to make it to Milford Sound for a secon time. It´s an NZ must do and that´s twice I´ve not done it now!! Maybe next time...
Wanaka.... Hmm. Went for a walk around the lake and got tipsy in a bar by myself drinking beer while reading Jane Austen. Such a lady.
The drive from Wanaka to the famous wild west coast lived up to its reputation. At times it was like I was driving under water and I swear all the other cars were driving in the opposite direction. It was like in Point Break. you know the bit at the end when Keanu is going to catch Patrick at The Ultimate Wave.... the rain is pouring, Keanu has his windscreenwipers going and even the hardcore surfers are turning away. But there´s Patrick looking stoically out to sea. Keanu lets him go, to die the Ultimate Death and Keanu throws his FBI badge into the sea and rain, his t-shirt clinging to his nicely honed chest, disillusioned with life and his job.
Errr, sorry about that, from Wanaka I went to....
Fox Glacier. Finally walked on it hurray!! Weather was too bad for this in 2004. We walked for an hour or so up to the snout and along the side of the glacier... then we strapped on spiky bits (that´s the technical name) to our shoes and ventured out onto the ice. It was really fab.... up steps cut into the ice, through crevasses, peering down Moulins (holes in the ice) and generally looked in awe at the view. Although I was very disappointed that it didn´t taste minty. I bet everyone says that but if it ain´t broke...
From Fox, I did a long old drive up to Westport with a few stops on the way...
First, or was it second...don´t have a map handy... was Lake Matheson where you are supposed to be able to see great views of Mt Cook with a perfect reflection in the lake. Hindered by the clouds but the walk was lovely. through trees, reeds and grassy bits.
second stop, or was it first, at Okarito beach which was gorgeous. The rain cleared (so maybe Patrick got away?) and left blue skies on a windy dune backed beach with lots of pebbles and hungry sand flies. It was very wild and very pretty. and I had it pretty much to myself. Well, me and the sand flies. I returned to a car with a flat battery. Hmm. Luckily one of the nearby houses had a mother and daughter in it. The daughter had a camper with a jump start kit thing and the drama was all over in about 10 minutes. Girl Power.
Final stop was at Punakaiki, aka Pancake rocks. Interesting rock formations win a kind of layered fashion. Geology never was my strong point!! Lots of blow holes and surge pools and wild water. From there I wanted to head over to Kaikoura but tiredness and bad weather stopped me, so I ended up in Westport. A not very interesting town. But the not very interesting towns are less busy and so you get dorm rooms to yourself. Hurray!!!
So I went to Kaikoura the next day. Kaikoura is one of my favourite places on the planet - snow capped mountains leading down to a gorgeous blue sea where whales and dolphins swim close to shore thanks to a deep rift just off shore. Took myself on a couple of nice walks and ate cray fish (the name Kaikoura means eat crayfish so it would be rude not to...)
Then I wound my weary way back to Chistchurch where I had to hand back the little blue car. I was very sad. We had become very attached. But obviously, Little Punto, the metallic blue Toyota Echo meant absolutely nothing to me and I was thinking of you all the time.
I clocked up an average of around 300km a day and was a little bit tired to say the least. But it had been a great trip with some fantastic scenery and lots of wows. The whole time I as aware of how dynamic the environment there is... there was a volcanic eruption (a guy survived being trapped by debris while camping in a tramping hut), the avalanche between Te Anau, water running down hills and into waterfalls over the road I was driving on, landslide warnings and pitted, gravelly roads produced by road resurfacing works.
Sat next to an Aussie aeroplane engineer on the flight back up to Auckland. He tried to lessen my concerns about flying. And talked his wife (who really was called Kylie!) into giving me a lift to my hostel when we arrived. Nice people.
The next day, I was stood under the Sky Tower in Auckland when I saw her... our eyes met across a crowded pavement and we ran towards eachother, our arms outstretched in greeting... I said, "Shall we go get a beer?", "That´s a good idea" came Celia´s reply.
The Fellowship was reformed.