10 days on a big green bus

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Feb 28, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, November 12, 2010

Kiwi Experience – Part 1

Waiting at the airport for Katharine was probably one of the longest hours of my life! I was so excited I was getting some very funny looks as i was jumping up and down! Eventually she came through and 10 days later we still haven't stopped talking!

Christchurch is a really lovely city. Very small and very English, most of the street names are from places at home, Oxford, Worcester, Gloucester it’s very funny! The river Avon runs through the city and is lined by oak, willow and beech trees – i felt very at home, parts of the park we walked through could have been Clifton!

You’ve probably all heard about the big earthquake here in September, what I imagine hasn’t made the news is the constant aftershocks. They are still happening most days and can be quite big. We were in the hotel on Tuesday and the room started to shake, it only lasted a few seconds but was certainly noticeable. It measured 4.5 on the Richter scale, bit scary!

Wednesday started very early to catch the Tranz alpine Train to Greymouth on the west coast. The train ride lasted about 4.5 hours and travels through the most beautiful and varied scenery. It starts by crossing the Canterbury Planes, field after field of lush green farms and lots of sheep!! The train then starts to climb up and up into the snow capped Alps. There is an outside viewing deck which was lots of fun, if not just a bit windy! The views were worth it though, again photos don’t do it justice! Eventually we arrived in Greymouth, and met the Kiwi Experience Bus and our 45 new travel buddies. First stop was to get a fancy dress costume for the evening. Dubious about dressing up (boring as we are) we settled on cat ears and whiskers and looked very silly! We stayed in a place called the "Poo Pub" run by a crazy 85 year old – very odd but fun evening.

The next morning we travelled on to the very small town of Franz Josef, the gateway to the Fox Glacier. We spent the afternoon in the glacial hot pools. Not a bad life this backpacking : ) There are 3 pools with different temperatures from 36 – 40 degrees – lovely!

On Friday we did the glacier walk. WOW. We had such a good day, even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits! It’s a long climb up to the start of the ice and a little bit rough under foot but as the glacier comes into view you start to get very excited and not so worried about falling down again! Before we started on the ice we had to put our crampons on. They are really easy to walk in once you have the hang of it. We began to walk further and further up the glacier, the ground becoming very distant behind us.  The guide ahead of us found an ice cave. I was a bit scared about going through it as we had been told the gap to walk through was very narrow.  We didn’t make it through sadly as someone in our group managed to get stuck, completely. The guides spent about 10 minutes trying to get him out and resorted to pulling him out with rope. Scary and certainly off putting!

 As we climbed higher and higher the ice started to change and we were in narrow walkways winding our way up and up. It was very tricky in places, but the guide carried an axe and makes steps as we go. The different ice shapes were amazing, some very big holes or very high walls, it was hard to concentrate on what I was walking on as i wanted to look at everything. The blue ice was particularly beautiful, it almost looked fake. It took nearly 8 hours, but was worth every footstep. It was such a different experience and definitely one i won’t forget for a long time.

The next day was incredible. Not sure how else to describe the journey down the west coast to Wanaka. The scenery was stunning! I seem to be repeating myself a lot in saying that, but honestly the more you travel the better the views!

Our first stop was Lake Matheson. You will see from the pictures that Mount Cook is reflected in the lake – amazing! This has to be one of the best views in New Zealand. The next hour or two was along the coast, beautiful blue Tasman Sea and lush green rainforest, we even saw dolphins! Then we changed direction and drove through Haasts Pass. We went up and up through the steep Alps their tips still covered in snow. We stopped at a few places to take some pictures and the views were just breathtaking. Lake  Hawea was my favourite. The blue should have been fake.  New Zealand has thousands of glaciers and this particular area has plenty which apparently is the reason for the intense colour. I wish you could all see it. About 7 hours later we arrived in Lake Wanaka, again amazing views as you will see from the hundreds of pictures I couldn’t help but take. Wanaka is a beautiful little town with a lovely feel to it, again I could have stayed longer!

Tomorrow we travel on to Queenstown. To bungy or not to bungy ........
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