Actually I'm cheating, because we're back home! I was going to update the blog in Hong kong, but never quite had the chance.
We did see that beautiful glacier and were able to walk up close to it. We didn't do an organised glacier walk because our host at the motel looked at us and said these were very strenuous, involving 800 steps before getting near the glacier! However, we did have quite an energetic day. after the walk to the glacier, we had lunch, then walked all the way aroung Lake Matheson, where you can see the famous mountain reflection if conditions are right, which they weren't, but it was a good walk through rainforest anyway. I am endlessly fascinated by the huge variety of ferns, mosses, liverworts and plants apparently growing out of improbably high places between the branches of trees.
Than we drove the 20 or so km to Franz Josef Glacier along a very winding road with gravelled stretches. They call 'metalled' what we would call unmetalled! On the approach roads to both glaciers there were markers showing where the glacier reached in 1750 and 1940, i.e. both a very great deal further than now: a graphic illustration of climate change. Tourists used to explore a lake by boat in front of Franz Josef Glacier in the early 1900's. The lake's not there anymore. We climbed Sentinel Rock to see Franz Josef. This only took about 20 minutes. On the way down we passed a coach party of Americans progressing slowly and rather unhappily up the path. I was twice stopped by them to know how much further it was to the top.
We decided to eat early before driving back to Fox. We had a good meal (I thought). The weather had improved, and after our return we had our long awaited view of Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. This excellent day then ended badly as Malcolm had a nasty reaction to something he'd eaten, and after we'd returned to our motel, was taken rather ill. This was particularly worrying as we were facing the longest drive of the whole trip the next day.
All was well in the end... I've run out of time for now, but will be adding to my blog entries over the next few days, and also adding a lot more photos ,so please watch this space...
Next installment: By the next morning Malcolm had recovered sufficiently to travel, so we set out up the west coast, passing fairly close to Greymouth where the terrible tragedy was unfolding at the mine. It was constantly on the news and in our minds. We travelled over Arthur's Pass, over a most impressive viaduct near the summit, pausing near the Bridal Veil falls. There were many miles of wild and beautiful scenery before we finally reached the Canterbury Plain, then it was straight on all the way back to Christchurch. We had promised to return to the 'Stunning Buns' Italian Cafe and Bar, but were in a dilemma as Malcolm hadn't eaten anything all day and still wasn't feeling like a slap-up final dinner in NZ. We did go back ,and furthermore were remembered, and given the kindest care, attention and advice! I'll always remember it.
Next morning we returned our hire car, and had a most interesting conversation with the only other passenger on the airport minibus. He was a German from the Black Forest who lived in China. He was most perturbed when we talked about the possibility of Australia becoming a republic, and thought it was terribly important that they should retain the Queen as Head of State. He had a very high opinion of British values. He was travelling around New Zealand and then Australia for a month each, equipped with just a small rucksack. How is that done?! He looked very neat and tidy. When we arrived at the airport, looking at our cumbersome luggage he took pity on us and rushed off to find us a trolley! We later saw him sitting on the floor of the departure lounge tapping away on a laptop, which had emerged from his modest rucksack.
After take-off we enjoyed the glorious sight of the Southern Alps stretching away into the distance. I wondered whether I would ever see beautiful Aotearoa again. At Sydney, we didn't know whether we would be permitted to leave the airport. (We had 6 hours between flights). Malcolm had had the foresight to apply at the last minute for e-visas for us, so we managed to persuade the immigration officials to let us out. We took a train to Circular Quay, and had a great time wondering about admiring the famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House and Botanic Gardens. There was a cloudless blue sky and sea breeze, and healthy, tanned-looking Aussies went jogging through the park. After coffee and warm muffins we faced a long queue at the airport to get back through immigration and security, but it was worth it!
Our 8 hour flight to Hong Kong ended at about 4-30 am: not the best time to arrive anywhere. You walk miles and miles through that airport. We thought the hotel's shuttle bus ran 24 hours a day, but after some puzzling Chinese on the mobile phone we found it started at 6am. We must have looked quite weary when we finally reached the hotel, hoping at least to leave our luggage, because they took pity on us and gave us a room straight away at no extra charge!
Hong Kong was quite a culture shock, and hard to sum up. We're glad we've seen it. The centre is full of high level walkways linking highrise office blocks abnd shopping malls, one of which we had to navigate our way through between our hotel and the MTR station. We lunched on a sandwich in Pret a Manger with a lot of office workers, then took the Peak Tram to see the view. You emerge at the top straight into another shopping opportunity! We rode on an open-topped bus to Central Quay, and took the famous Star Ferry to Kowloon. I tried to be nice to a Buddhist monk in a subway, but he wanted a higher some of money than we offered! After that, we got irritated by all the people trying to sell us Rolex watches and new suits, but eventually got to see the Buddhist temple which was our aim. Unfortunately, although we obeyed the instruction outside to be silent and respectful, it seemed to be yet another marketing opportunity. 'Buy spiral incense and it will bring your family 10 days of good luck'! Our next sight to see was the Temple Street Night Market, where we chickened out of running the gauntlet, but contented ourselves with a photo of the entrance! Back on Hong kong Island we were still confused and ended up eating in a Japanese restaurant, where everyone else was Chinese. How do you eat soup with chopsticks?!