Around the World Trip: New Zealand, South Island
I’m already on my last day in NZ. Could have done with a couple more weeks, but it’s getting cold now so I’m looking forward to Fiji next. NZ has been as picturesque as I had been told but unfortunately I’ve had to miss out on some of it due to time and money constraints. I will miss the amusing Kiwi habits of ending every sentence with “Eh?” pronouncing ‘I’ and ‘E’ the wrong way round, saying “Choice”, “Sweet as…” and “Too easy” (meaning “Okay – that’s good”) plus being every bloke’s “Bro” as I didn’t realise that I had relatives here.
So, the south island exploits… I continued south with a couple of Yorkshire lads, both called Dave, that I had been travelling with on the ‘Magic’ bus since Rotorua. They had saved enough money working overtime down the pits to treat themselves to a holiday (just kidding). The Magic bus network is a backpackers’ bus service that takes you to places of interest that you wanted to go to, didn’t know you wanted to go to or definitely didn’t want to go to, thus creating long trips out of supposedly short ones, especially seeing as the bus keeps stopping for a ‘break’ every 45 minutes.
We’re talking serious bus fatigue here! Plus the drivers are also tour ‘guides’, although the quality of their incessant commentary is often lacking. I personally believe that their employers implant a microchip into the gaping space in their brain that activates their vocal chords at ‘key’ points on route, meaning they don’t even realise they’re talking utter bollocks. Harsh? Maybe. My favourite drivers were Mike ‘Dirty Dog’ (Why the nickname? “Think of your worst nightmare and times it by a trillion.” Ooh freaky.) and Colin, a Mr Bean lookalike who had a photo of himself posing with an AK-47 above the dashboard. Muppet.
After taking the ferry from the north island and sniggering like school boys every time the PA announcer said that someone was wanted on “… the Captain’s dick” (meaning deck – great accent), we arrived in our next stop of Nelson, a pleasant town close to the Abel Tasman national park. Naturally, myself and the Daves took the opportunity to take a cruise and hike through the park whilst we were there, before heading off again to the next stop of Greymouth, visiting Cape Foulwind and Punakaiki on the way. Cape Foulwind is where you can see a seal colony and, from what I could gather, is so-named after the smell of seal shit and rotten fish that hits you like a club on a seal cub when you reach the shore. Punakaiki usually has spectacular blowholes but they weren’t playing that day.
And so to Greymouth, conveniently located halfway between two decent stops. Not a great town we thought as we headed back to our hostel from the pub, nonchalantly kicking away the tumbleweed that rolled through the town centre. Where is everyone? Our hostel, Noah’s Arc, was unique with every room themed after an animal. There was the cow, monkey and sheep rooms, but I was booked into the tiger room – ooh my reputation precedes me, grr…
On the way to Franz Josef the next day, the Magic bus stopped at the old gold mining town of Ross, where you could pay $6.50 to pan through some grit and keep any gold that you found. I can’t believe people actually paid for grit. Tourists will buy anything!
After sleeping on the bus to get over the excitement of Ross, we arrived in Franz Josef, a small ‘township’ next to a huge glacier. Myself and the Daves took this opportunity to walk to the base of the glacier, passing the kind of stunning ice and rock formations that would have had my old Geology teacher in a permanent orgasmic state.
Continuing the whistle-stop tour, the next day we headed off to Wanaka, passing Lake Hawea (one of many beautiful lakes on this island). Wanaka is set against the backdrop of a lake and mountains and would be lovely in the summer. It is also the home to Puzzling World, with its maze and mind-bending illusions which were amusing, but not as hysterically funny as the (middle-aged) Japanese tourists seemed to find it. Strange people. And talking of weirdos, after sampling the nightlife we were burgerfying ourselves when a local walked into the takeaway and asked: “Do you have anything that goes with morphine?” Sure thing, have you tried the Combo meal – Burger, fries, drink and a wrap of your drug of choice? The syringes are by the straw holder. Would you like to jack up here or takeaway you junkie freak. Some people…
Anyway… the next day saw us continuing to Queenstown (hurrah!), but first we made the most bizarre stop of the whole tour – an orchard to buy some fruit! The village (the name escaped me in the adrenalin-fuelled excitement) is so proud of the local industry that it has erected a statue of pieces of fruit to commemorate the fact. Country folk, eh?
So then to Queenstown to meet up with a Norwegian bloke who we met earlier in the trip, known as Roy the Mighty Fjord Boy. And then there were four. Queenstown was so-named after Captain Cook’s first visit there when he discovered a tribe of Maori transvestites mincing around (I think). It’s also the site of the world’s first commercial bungy jump. In the visitor centre they showed footage of the development of the sport, from the islands of Vanuatu where tribesmen throw themselves from heights with vines tied around their ankles, usually underestimating the length a little (that’s gonna sting), to the Oxford Dangerous Sports Club, before A.J.’s first jump off the Eiffel Tower in 1987. Roy the Mighty was the only ‘jumper’ of the four of us. Nutter…
QT is a great place (on a lake, surprisingly!), scenic and great fun with lots of activities, such as luging (much more fun in the dry!) and jet boating at 85 kph over the water (or skidding over the river bed when it’s a tad shallow) whilst performing 360 degree spins every now and then. There’s much more to do if you have the time and money – which we didn’t!
After two nights in QT we were off again, this time to Dunedin, the ‘Edinburgh of the south’. I’m not sure why they say this, although it does have a kilt shop, a small castle and some ginger-haired people live there. A bit of an uninspiring place, not helped by the naff weather. Dunedin is also home to the world’s steepest street – Baldwin Street as if you didn’t know! Yep, it’s very steep. Nuff said…
Next stop was the Moeraki Boulders, large, smooth spherical rocks that are grouped together on a beach for some reason. Good photo opportunity. Then it was on to Lake Tekapo for us to freeze our butts off in the mountains. We didn’t do much as none of us remembered to pack Arctic thermals, but the Korean-run takeaway did present the most confusing menu I had seen since Thailand: ‘Pizza n/a in a moment’. I’ll just have chips then?
The last stop was Christchurch, although on the way our driver Tirry (Terry) announced someone wanted him to stop for a ship shot. I was confused as we weren’t on the coast, until we pulled alongside a field for some Japanese (and an Irish guy?!) to take a photo of sheep. Great accent as I said. Tirry’s microchip was clearly malfunctioning as we entered the ‘city’ as he said:
“If you’re into horse racing”, sure, most backpackers are Terry, “New Zealand has the two largest race tracks in New Zealand.”
Thanks for that pearl of wisdom mate!
So that’s it. We wandered around Christchurch, but time is too short, money too tight and the weather too cold to do much. I’m off back to the sun next – Fiji. Bring IT ON!