Mee, John, In New Zealand.
Monday, August 12, 2002
to a light diary covering my 3 weeks on the south island of New Zealand.
I'm a 30-something australian male, here for a holiday, catching up with
a friend, a week of boarding in Queenstown... some getting to know the neighbours.
first jetcat out of town, and a perfect pink sunrising over the sydney heads
commenced a day of dull waits. Patience was in abundance, since I'm feeling
very tired after pushing myself to get lots done over the weekend. Before
I say too much however, gotta see if I can get the camera hooked up. Back
in a minute. (famous last words?)
Oh dear, the chinaman wants
an extra $5.00 to plug in a camera, which is definately outrageous. I'm
not going to consume that much bandwidth now really?
to explore the town. A true geek, I arrived in a new country and I've wound
up in front of the first computer I saw. Navigating away from the Starbucks,
past the cathedral I need to wander into someone's backyard and find the
chicken coup which will provide the key to a house full of strangers who
know someone I know. Thus a new adventure begins...
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Well, I managed to find the chicken coop, and the keys within. But not without a meeting the housemates first.
a fairly classic student/share house kinda deal. An old wooden house with
peeling paint and horrendously overgrown garden. Each resident lives their
own life and the sudden appearance of strangers wandering the house is barely
worth an eyebrow raise. They're all very friendly and accomodating, being
all New Zealanders - although I did hear some a female japanese voice talking
loudly after I'd crawled into a cleanly made bed for an early night.
is fairly pasty looking, quite reserved, possibly lacks social skills, but
a friendly guy all the same. He does illustrations, and making a go of freelancing.
Julian, I didn't bump into till this morning, but seems a very bright slightly
extroverted arteest. Pav, I pumped for information about the region at length
last night and he filled out and confirmed what the guide book had already
told me. There is also a very smelly old dog, which, thankfully, has an
aversion to strangers.
So, in between meeting this merry band of men I set forth and wandered the streets of Christchuch.
there's lots of churches. There's a very nice square in the center of town,
in front of the cathedral. The city radiates from the there, and it seems
to do well to try and set some kind of tone for the place. There is a very
picturesque little river winding through the entire town - "city?" - Avon,
and the place is FLAT. Accordingly there are a pleasing number of cyclists
getting about town... although the demographic was clearly 20-40 yo male,
some girls sprinkled in sparesly. Ummm, its a good country town. No sign
of crime or homelessness, although it was a monday. By 7:00pm the streets
were deserted after the 5 o'clock rush hour. It started to cool off after
a very warm day, and today is cold, grey, and rainy. There are two 12 storey
buildings, and the rest are 4-8.
Well, the plan is forming to take
Izzy's car up over to the west coast on a bit of a circuit which will get
me back into town around some time when she is here, and I can explore this
area then. So after my long leisurely sleep-in, at some point I'll set out
for Hanmar Springs, about 2 hours north west, and hit the regular backpacker's
trail... hmm, haven't done that for a long time.
It occured to me that blogspot ain't hosting images, so the pics aren't
much use yet. But I have a plan, involving piggy backing on someone else's
site for the duration... but still I haven't found an opportunity to get
them off the camera. So you'll have to wait a little longer.
And, if anyone who doesn't know me stumbles across this blog and has something to say... try firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Mee, again. Ha ha.
from the backpacker trail. I made my way up to "Hanmar Springs", two or
three hours north west of Christchurch. Surprisingly enough the main attraction
here is the hot springs. But before I got here there was a leisurely drive
across flat green plains, with sheep, backed by brown winter swept hills,
and snow peaked mountains. There are lots of swift running rivers which
remind me that I must comment on the quality and taste of the water here.
Clean, crisp, pure. Reminds me why I feel the need to mix so much cordial
back in Sydney. The water there is really yuck in comparison.
up a couple of european hitchhikers on the way up, just to make it a little
more entertaining. They've been moving for 13 months and filled their role
perfectly. Giving me all the 'trail talk' and providing the personal account
of where to go, what to see, what to do. They'll make their way home soon,
via the US.
Hanmar is very quiet. The ski slope here didn't bother
to open all season. No snow. But the place is very tourist oriented. Lots
of jet boating and bungy jumping etc on offer. Seems an odd spot to be plonked,
but the hot springs explain that. After a $3.60 fish and chips I soaked
up 2 hours worth of hot springs, and felt appropriately sleepy, spent, relaxed
with that stupid grin on face, afterwards. Let an hour of telly wash over
me, and off to bed.
All advice says.. go west young man. So I'll
do that today. Not entirely sure where to. So I'll have to fill in those
Thursday, August 15, 2002
Day 4? and still blogging. How long can this last?
night I wound up in a place named Reefton. Now we're talking! Wow, had
to drive through Leif? pass. Welcome to the forest. I did actually see
the sun for a moment this morning, but it was only momentory. The sheepy
green plains have given way to the kinda forest which you can't see into.
From the road, looking into the trees, you can see about 6 feet before it
just becomes a dark mass of trees and things. It is perrenially damp, not
raining, but just that fine mist keeping everything moist, not wet exactly,
but not dry by a long stretch.
The roads all wind alongside what
is now a vast wide fast moving, cold looking river. It's all country town
now. Folks might actually greet me first when walking down the empty street,
what a pleasant change. I'm definately in low-season, last night I had the
backpackers to myself. So wandered over to the pub for a beer and a feed.
The local crowd (of 10 perhaps) all polite and unintrusive. I declined
the rope to join the evening pool comp, and smirked at their customs. Everyone
buys a jug for themself, and just tops up their glass as they go. Leave
your money on the bar, and let the bartender sort it out as he goes. Casual.
was the first town in NZ to get electric light, and sadly I don't have a
copy of the newspaper account of the day it was switched on, but to recount,
they marvelled at the depth and strength of the shadows produced. So much
so that it was very 'surreal' and given on obstacle in front of them, people
had great difficultly working out whether to step over the obstacle or the
shadow. We take it for granted, but next time you're outside with a spotlight...
The hostel stove ran on coal, which was an experience. Coal burns very hot.
No wonder its so popular. The guy running the hostel was a retiring coal
/ gold miner. Very friendly. In the evening I found a bit of walk to venture
on. Deep into some rainforest, was good. I'm now wishing I had enough time
to do a solid "tramp" (hike). The roads all follow the valleys. I'm thinking
a 5 day trek, and seems they're pretty popular. Also keep picturing what
it would be like to ride (pushbike - no, roads, not on the trails silly).
Excellent methinks, but can't decide whether I'd want to do it carrying
the gear, or have a support car, pros and cons.
I'll also mention
the roads are all excellent, watch out for the many one lane bridges across
raging waters. I'm still getting used to the idea that not everything is
an eight hour drive or more away. The routine is already, to drive a few
hours a day between 11-3, take it slow, there's plenty to see, and no rush
anyway - its just not that far. The walking tracks I've seen have also been
excellent. Although I can see some now becoming 6 inches of mud.
So today I'm cruising for the glaciers. Not sure what I'll find there... that's the fun of it right?
notes for today. Still no opportunity to dump my images, and I'm running
out of ram fast. Ugg, people really do get subjected to 640x480 (eg. this
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
Day ???. Oh well, four days running was a pretty good effort, don't you think?
is day ?, gotta count them, must be 10!? I did start an entry on day 5,
but was just too tired to complete it and went off to sleep instead. Day
5, was the day on the glacier.
5) After reefton I drove down to
Franz-Joseph Glacier, and found the major stop on every tourist's map. So
obligingly I took the full day guide trip onto the glacier. Wow, that was
awesome. I ran out of photos on the glacier, and barely have an image since.
Which is a crying shame... but we'll get to that. Driving toward the glacier
is fantastic, and I really started to feel some of the remoteness of where
I was heading. But, on the same token, the road is so good that this extreme
remoteness is accessible to thousands, so it was kinda weird.
wandering around a glacier was very cool, in all senses of the word. With
a guide, we got to crawl in between huge ice cracks and crevices, cross ladder
bridges over cracks of indeterminable depth, and plunge ourselves into frigid,
recently frozen pools of sky blue. Wait for the pics.
6) Well I stayed for a second night in Franz-Josef, but wasn't liking it at all.
The tourist traffic was too much for me really. The standard stay there
is a single day, and around 300-600 people turning over per day. So I went
for a walk out of town, saw the stars and the jungle at the end of the road,
and figured I definately want to get out of this town, and into some bush.
day 6, I took a morning visit to DOC ("Department of Conservation"), and
enquired about going for a hike into the bush and staying at a hut somewhere.
The only overnighter on offer was the Copeland Track, up to Welcome Flat
(6-8 hours). However there is a little 2 man hut at Architects Creek, about
half way. So filling out the return slip, packed my bag, and went bush.
Best thing I've ever done.
I'm an instant 'tramping' fanatic. I understand why it is called tramping,
since from the moment you leave the carpark, your feet are going to be wet,
until they get back to the carpark. The undeniable feature of NZ is water.
Its everywhere. Everything is defined by it. From the carpark, you start
with a river crossing. Get wet first up, and you wont be so worried about
getting wet for the rest of the track. The next 5 hours were spent following
a well marked trail up a pristine valley, with the most amazing views any
postcard can attempt to show. It was just so much fun. Only saw two other
groups coming out of the trail that day. The whole day was watching where
those feet land, with the occasional water crossing 'challenge' to keep things
interesting. I didn't have a clue what I was getting myself into when I
left that carpark.
By the time I found the hut, things were getting
a little tense... light fading, unknown territory, no-one for miles around,
cold, wet, drizzling, thunder, lightning, this is not a place where you
want to crawl up under a tree for the night, I guarantee you that. Phew,
found the hut, chop some wood, fire. King of all I survey. Snowy mountain
ranges, dark green lush rainforest, red sky, long flowing waterfalls, birds,
green green moss. You gotta go there. I'm coming back with a full pack
and a one way ticket in. Highlight of the trip without a doubt.
No photos. But image heaven, and you've got the picture.
Day seven was more of the same. Coming back down was so reluctant. Just
wanted to head up to the top two huts and be lost for a few days. Alas I
had only food for a night, and an emergency. So more rock hopping, and physical
challenges, and got back to the carpack before dark. Drove back through
franz-josef, and stopped by a lakeside for the night. Again, not a soul
in sight, beautiful snow peaked mountains backing, lush green forests, and
this time with a perfect calm lake with a mirror reflection of the whole
scene. Perfect. Except byo fire. The night in the car was pleasantly not
uncomfortable, and the heavy frost and steaming lake in the morning another
wonder of God's glorious creation. A constant reminder of Him.
Maate, what a day that was. I told Isabelle I'd be back Monday, and here
it was monday morning, and I'm half an island away (technically only about
3 hours driving, but I certainly was not in a focused driving mode. A
leisurely morning (instant) coffee and muffin (choc-chip) at the local minimart
(the only place in town open), I enjoyed watching the locals trapse through
in their wellingtons (or Rubbers?), grab their bits and pieces and get along.
One quick misadventure on the way over Arthurs Pass I should
recount. Running out of petrol on the freezing, wind swept plains at the
top of the pass. Oh, I thought there would be lots of towns on the christchurch
side... nope. Got a fun ride immediately with a fijian studying agriculture
here, and visiting his uncle at Hokitita. 30km to the next petrol, and waited
maybe 15 mins for a ride back with a car camper from Nelson/Golden Bay area.
That was fun. Just made it back to the petrol station 10minutes before
they closed for the night.
Christchurch, Isabelle, and the funny Churchill St crew. Home :-)
Ok, which catches up to yesterday...
I followed Isabelle to University, and we (she) pruned her vines. As a viticulture
and oenology student (wine) she gets to maintain a row of vines for a season,
and produce wine from it. This was all fabulously interesting for me (although
a little unprepared for the cold dry wind of the field). So we spent the
day chopping and weighing and tying, and generally contributing a day of
love and attention toward 10 bottles of Chardonnay.
Today we're going Otago. Yippee for me.
Friday, August 23, 2002
I'm in Queenstown. Got here a day early. Here's how...
Turlough (sorry dunno how he spells it), and I got in a car and drive south-west.
It started flat and dull. A little dusty even as we powered across the
foothills of snowy peaks. Eventually we turned up and into the hills. A
little greener, a few more sheep. But gradually it got colder, and less treed,
more tundra, brown, bleak and perhaps a little mean.
was to scope out the Otago wine region. What have they got? What are they
planning? What does it taste like? Can they give us a job?
and Turlough are doing a one year course on Viticulture and Oenology (spelling?)
at Lincoln this year. They want to work on a vineyard, or in the cellar.
They like wine. So much so that they want to make a career of it. Isabelle
dreams of a little winery in a nice place with James by her side. Turlough,
I dunno, the fireman turned wine merchant turned wine distiller, as long
as there's a beautiful blonde and a dog in his future, he'll be jolly.
finding a room in Cromwell (the 'Chalets' are a little more remenisent of
school camp than my recent idea of chalets, but no mind). We set out and
launched our assault on four of the local wineries. Tasting, schmoozing,
critiquing, and asking good questions. I may now know more about the South
Otago wine region than any of you ever will. Frost was the most amusing.
One cold morning and the whole crop could be lost. But each had only just
pockets lost unusually. I'm surprised by the terrain they are planting in.
Some of so rocky terraces were blasted out. One grower is working hard to
establish a reputation for Pinot Noir, to distinguish the region from the
famous Sav Blanc's coming out of a more northern region. The wines all taste
fine to me, but i'm just not all that into it at heart. I'd be proud of
any one of them. Some beautiful rugged country these people are living in.
Very much like the Okanagon region of interior British Columbia (Canada).
It was curious to observe the personality and business differences between
the small risk takers who have pioneered this area. As large investors gobble
up sheep farms at spiralling high prices. Grapes are going in everywhere.
Golf, what else... Restaurants, and helicopters from Queenstown. Welcome
back to the rest of the world.
Night Two was a summer cabin in
the caravan park - no heating. Lots of empty $70 motels in town, but the
backpackers was washed away by the flood, two years past, along with the
oldest pub in NZ. Alexandra was a mining town which seems to be doing very
well. We couldn't really work out why. Just a rural intersection I think.
But nice local people, and probably beautiful in a few more weeks - spring.
A couple more wineries this morning, and time for goodbyes. I really enjoyed
my time with Isabelle and Turlough on their adventures, and I learnt heaps.
But dizzy lights of Queenstown beckon. They dumped me at Wanaka, and I
got a bus into town.
That's it. I'm the advance party for the mission beyond on Queenstown. Cya.
Monday, August 26, 2002
There are some more photos up there under "dump3", but I can't tell you any more since I'm experiencing some curious internet access points, and the various restrictions they try to hide the fact that they are running on windows.
Anyway, less of the boring stuff, and more of the fun.
is a lay day. Woken at 6:45 by the breakfast cook, Kate, I dozed for a
few more moments till the troops arrived at 7:00. We took porridge, bacon,
eggs, toast, and tried to work out what was going on with the ski-fields.
It snowed overnight, and there's nothing like the sight of snow on the balcony.
All fields are closed for high wind.
Yesterday was a day of blizzard
conditions perched high upon the Remarkables. The road up is fun, think
Pikes Peak and you're on the right path. This was Day One for most of the
crew. Steve F. and a second carload found their way into town at around
1:30am, whilst Steve C. found me just preparing to leave the unit a little
after dusk on Saturday.
Saturday I awoke to the rustling of 4 irish
girls preparing to meet their 9:00AM bus, out the front, at 7:00AM. It was
a horrible night back in backbackerville as six people were squashed into
a tiny room in a house purpose built for housing on a people per sq foot
basis. I lounged around most of the day after a couple of urgent downtown
items. Did the tourist round of exploring the town. Yes, McDonalds and
friends are here, Tiffany's, Louis Vuitton, Hard Rock Cafe, the list goes
on and on. Hunted out a flight home, snow rental prices, coffee, sunnies,
sheepskin everythings, I'm all shopped out. Found the hotel, checked in,
transfered luggage, wondered how much I should touch. Waited.....
the skiing was... er .... fun? I'm boarding, and aren't overly impressed
with the Burton step-in bindings. Perhaps after practice, but I couldn't
get into them without sitting down. Have a niggling achillies tendon keeping
my attention, but not a real problem as yet. I just can't really comment
on the conditions, just wasn't exciting. On the side of one of these treeless
mountains you're totally exposed to the elements and the wind made it impossible,
combined with being in the clouds, you've a flat light such that you can't
tell the barren hard pack patches from the deep fluffy powder pockets, you
might be getting the idea.
We wandered the town this morning,
with an express interest to get our names down for heli-skiiii. I wasn't
at all hard to sell :-D but took my casual distinterested face. Now the
excitement begins. A plan is forming. This is a ski week after all. (someone
say "Open that credit card up?"). Tomorrow Steve C will take us skiing if
it kills him. So heli should happen on Thurs or Fri. Nice climax to the
week. This could get fun.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
WOW, have I said that before.
Well we reached the climax of the week on Wednesday. Heli skiing was absolutely fantastic. Superb. Brilliant.
Do you ever have those days when you can't get the grin off your face?
The sun shone all day. There was fresh, untracked snow on the ground. There was a guide and 3 others. This was.....
for just a sample.
one more day to go sadly. Today we took it easy and got up to the Remarkables
at about 11am. It was crowded, and the light was really flat like last time,
and my boots hurt, and... moan, moan, moan ;) A couple of lazy runs and
back to the benches for me. Got into it late, for a few harder turns on
the last few runs as the crowd wound down and the sun weakened. Just like
those beautiful days at Big White for a moment there. Got away on my own
for a few runs and just the listening to people on the lifts, on the runs,
listening to the mountains, the quiet, perhaps meeting a local. Beautiful
really. An inkling of work... why would you?
Getting late already.
We've been dining it up most evenings, and not a lot (any) free time out
for this kind of thing. Just one more day to go. A last hard blast or two
down the mountain.
God Loves You All.
Sunday, September 01, 2002
The last day was
Coronet Peak. We slept in a bit, but still got onto the snow by about 10.
I guess everyone was really getting worn down. The snow started out hard
and frozen but was slushing up nicely with the perfect sunshine on it. We
cruised around slowly and took an early lunch in the sunshine. I ducked
out of the apres-lunch group ski thing and found a deserted T-bar. Excellent
move. Powered my way down a gruelling run over and over, needing two rest
stops on each run. Does the T-bar count as a rest? I dunno. Must've got
about 6 runs in pretty much by myself. Now that's more like it. All the
skiing had been so crowded (excepting the heli of course).
home... did I mention that already? The trip home was uneventful. I matched
my 3 take-offs with 3 landings and discovered the 5:45pm ferry doesn't run
on Saturdays. Welcome back to the world.
Hope you enjoyed the trip.