Day 247 - Tuesday 11 May
This morning Ian, Elspeth and myself headed over towards the coast for a piece of sightseeing. First we headed North East to Mount Maunganui via Tauranga where we stopped off for some lunch. From there we followed the coast south as far as Whakatane and the lovely Ohope Beach where Elspeth used to live. We drove back to Rotorua via some of the many beautiful lakes surrounding the city as the sun began to fade. I think that my memory is fading and that we actually did this trip on Sunday and the house moving today. Also, this morning Elspeth's friend, June Hicks, kindly ran me into town where I picked up my tickets, got hair cut in Wilson Bros. and bought some flowers for Elspeth. No matter -
Day 248 - Wednesday 12 May
Today Ian and Elspeth dropped me down to the airport to fly to Christchurch
. Maybe it was tomorrow. Let's pretend it was today. As we approached the airport it was fairly foggy but it didn't look like anything to worry about. The first disaster was that the travel agents had booked my flight for yesterday (or maybe the day before). Secondly, the flight was probably not going to be able to land due to fog. Had my ticket been booked for the right day they could perhaps have transferred me from the Air NZ flight to the Quantas flight via Wellington to CC. It was too late for that but after a frantic call to the travel agents my flight was changed to today's. Sure enough. the flight couldn't land so we were bused to Hamilton and boarded a flight to Wellington then another on to Christchurch. I arrived in CC around 8pm. The Kirra Tours rep was supposed to meet me but wasn't there. I got a taxi anyway to the hotel where I was booked to join the tour leaving tomorrow. My Korean taxi driver turned out to be a keen golfer and gave me his home number to ring him on my return to CC after the tour for a round with either himself of his golf mad wife. At the Pavillions Hotel the rep met me and after apologizing for not meeting me, refunded my taxi fare. I checked into my basic motel room then got a taxi into town. It was raining and I dandered around a few bars before walking back to the hotel and having a few beers in the hotel bar with an Aussie guy.
Day 249 - Thursday 13 May
Groggy this morning at breakfast
. At the Kirra Tours tables there seemed to be some mistake. This must surely be some pensioners outing. I sat down and ate a nice cooked breakfast then, when I went up for more coffee, I somehow managed to knock over the entire coffee machine. I made a quick exit for a fag before boarding the bus. On board the bus there were 24 other passengers. Most over sixty and some over seventy or eighty. There were Americans, Aussies and Kiwis with a few English and one Israeli woman. All turned out to be very nice although it was disappointing that there was no one my age. As we left Christchurch we each had to go up to the front of the coach and introduce ourselves. Terribly embarrassing. We pass through Canterbury Plains before heading up into the snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps. Past Lake Tekapo and on to Mount Cook National Park, home of the tallest peak in NZ. Unfortunately, the summit was obscured by cloud but I took a walk over to the base of the mountain. From there we went on to Omarama where we stayed overnight in a motel.
Day 248 - Friday 14 May
We get wake up calls at 6.15 every morning. Breakfast is at 7 and we leave at 8. We travel on down to Dunedin - the 'Scottish City' which is just like Scotland - bloody freezing. We check into our dowdy motel after lunch and have the rest of the day to ourselves
. I walk into town and check out what is on at the cinema. Nothing much, but as I walk out of the cinema I bump into a wee English lady called Liz who Nicola and I met on the bus trip from Melbourne to Sydney. Unbelievable. We only had a quick chat as she was on her way to catch a bus back to CC. I went to the casino in town where the security guard was from Belfast. Had a quick chat with him then, after a quick punt in the casino, went back to bed for 9 after having an Indian dinner.
Day 249 - Saturday 15 May
Heading west we make our way to Lake Manapouri and on to Lake Te Anau. We stop overnight in a remote place called Fiordland National Park Hotel. As everyone else goes to bed straight after dinner I was glad to see a couple of Aussie girls arriving late at the hotel so had a few drinks with them in the bar with the barman.
Day 250 - Sunday 16 May
Wake up this morning feeling rough. Sore throat and chest (which I still haven't shaken) and decide to forego the trip over the lake to the glow worm caves
. I phone reception and leave a message for the driver and go back to bed. I get up about ten and discover to my horror that today wasn't glow worm day but the trip to Millford Sound, the highlight of my trip. To add further woe the hotel doesn't make food during the day so I have to starve. Also it is a perfectly clear day, perfect for seeing the Sound. I go for a short walk before the rest arrive back at 4 to tell me what I missed.
Day 251 - Monday 17 May
Bloody glow worm day. Take ferry across Lake Te Anau to see some worms. In the afternoon the driver/guide has kindly tried to organize a flight down to Millford Sound and then back to meet the rest in Queenstown that night. Unfortunately the flight is cancelled due to low cloud. Back aboard the bus we drive along the road alongside Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. We stop to watch a film crew making an advert for Toyota. Tonight, as part of the trip we have a paddle steamer cruise across the lake to a restaurant for dinner. Our hotel - Ridges - is easily the best of the trip. The steamer is due to leave at 6 but I head into town and meet up with an English couple who invite me to join them in an Irish bar. I phone back to hotel and cancel my place on the trip and spend the rest of the night with the English couple. They have been in Queenstown for a year and are leaving next week. They invite me back to party on Friday for their going away. I am late back to the hotel.