Stop 7

Trip Start Jan 29, 2008
Trip End Apr 30, 2008

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The story so far in New Zealand....

Well, we got into Christchurch fairly late on Saturday evening and had a quiet evening, getting numbers together for car and campervan rental companies and having cereal for dinner (the rations are killing me!!!  I need a big dinner out!!!).  The next morning we were up early and we had a car booked before 9am.  We got a cheap deal on a 1.5 automatic which needed bringing back to Auckland.  This option was cheaper than getting a decent sized campervan and we'd all agreed we couldn't manage another two weeks in the cramped conditions of the wicked van again.  This was we get access to laundry rooms, plugs to charge our cameras and our phones and we get to sleep on proper beds more than a few inches away from the other two - luxury!

Neither myself or Sarah had ever driven an automatic car before, so Sarah practiced around the parking lot with the rental guy giving hints and tips.  That's the one thing that's hit me so far I think.  Kiwi's are soooooooo friendly.  We asked directions from the airport twice - the first woman came out of her shop to show us the way and the second lady went back into her shop and rang the bus company for us.  So nice.... As was the car rental guy who came and picked us up from the hostel and everything. 

Anyhow once we were on our way we headed into ChristChurch for a wander.  It's very English.  There are rose gardens and mock tudor houses and a  big park with ducks on the ponds, very strange considering we're the other side of the world.  Myself and Sarah took a tram ride round the town and I so could have been in Cambridge or Oxford or somewhere, down to the punts on the river.  We managed somehow to bump into five celebrating Welsh people - they'd won the six nations grand slam the night before.  As is typical of the Welsh you could hear them for miles and they were all hugs and kisses when we congratulated them.
We drove out of Christchurch following the road west and hoping to get to the West coast before dark.  We drove through Arthurs Pass, which is small windy road right through the centre of the island and through the mountain range.  We really could have been in the middle of a Lord of the Rings movie looking around us on that drive.  There were mountains behind mountains for miles and miles with a bright blue sky behind them.  They were very bare brown mountains, all lose rock, no greenery at all on them.  On flatter ground you could just have been at home, albeit there would probably have been fewer ostrich and llama farms at home.  Plenty of sheep and cattle about though.  We pulled up that night in a town called Hokitika and found a lovely little place to stay the night, with a cabin of our own.  The woman was no nonsense and hushed us out the door as soon as we checked in so that we'd see the gorge before nightfall.  The river up there was bright bright blue and there was a rope bridge over it.  We drove back in the dark and the girls kept going after dinner and found the glowworm cavern she had told us about while I checked up hostels etc through lonely planet.
The next day was Paddy's day and much to Lois' disappointment we had left behind all the main townships and headed to the glaciers in order to get through everything we wanted to see at the cost of meeting Irish People and having a fun Paddy's day.  We booked to do a half day hike on Fox Glacier the previous night and we were all quite excited about that anyway.  We had an hour long rainforest hike to get to the actual glacier - obviously rainforest is quite warm and I was down to my string top by the time we'd climbed up the hill to the level of the top of the glacier.  It was about the time where the guide had to spot us across an area of rock fall that it started getting a bit scary. We survived to get onto the glacier though.  Carl, our guide was very good and gave us lots of information about the glacier the whole way up and turned out to be quite a good photographer on the ice too, as you can see.  The compacted ice, where you can see it is an incredible blue, much like the river water we'd seen on the way through New Zealand.  Carl explained the water retains the colour due to the level of copper and the extremely fine sand particules that never float to the bottom.  The picture of us in the whole is us in a moulin - a drainage hole where the ice melts to allow water to drain off the glacier.  We stayed in Franz Josef that evening and were amazed to see people making so much effort for Paddy's day.  I'd spent the day in my Irish rugby shirt obviously, but the local bar had everyone wearing green and all the staff were in fancy dress - we had a St Patrick and everything.  Irish music blasting, it was nearly better than home! 
That was as much as we could fit in on the South Island if we wanted to get everything done on the North Island and that was still my priority, despite all the discussions with every traveller we met about Sth island vs Nth island!
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