Trip Start Oct 18, 2010
Trip End Feb 20, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Monday, January 17, 2011

The Queenstown to Franz Joseph Glacier Drive

Monday 17th January 2011 

We left Queenstown in bright sunshine and travelled via the lovely shores of lakes Hawea and Wanaka to the Hast Pass which brought us down to the West Coast of NZ; a journey of about five hours.  Our luck with the weather ran out as we left the Hast Pass; rain, low cloud and general misery prevailing.  The clouds are so low we can’t even see the surrounding mountains.  Worse is to come; the remnants of two tropical cyclones are about to hit NZ tomorrow and we are promised a dreadful day.

Tuesday 18th January 2011

1000 in the forenoon

The rain is coming down stair-rods although thankfully no wind is blowing.  This could be a very slow day.

This pause in our onward enjoyment of this country allows us to reflect on what we have experienced since we arrived in this country at the start of December:

  • The scenery is unbelievable and so beautiful it takes your breath away
  • The weather is totally unpredictable and can vary over one hour’s driving from sleet to brilliant sunshine
  • The people of NZ are friendly, honest and decent and genuinely believe in their egalitarian society, (women got the vote here in the 1880s)
  • They have no concept of racism because most of them are of such mixed race that such ideas are silly; English/Maori/Irish/Scottish/Swedish/Chinese family trees are not uncommon.  Surprisingly it’s the Maori who are increasingly being accused of being racist
  • They love their beautiful country but happily leave it for years to broaden their lives.
  • People are confident enough to take on any job role; white-haired grannies drive vehicle ferries, “the kids have left home so we thought we’d run a motel for a twelve-month to see if we liked it”,  “I’m a production engineer but I drive a coach, because I like it“, etc.
Volunteering is a way of life here; (two white-haired pensioners in yellow coats saw us safely across the road at Pahia; “We turned out because there’s two cruise ships in and the town is too busy”)

Although looking at the magnificent volunteer efforts in Queensland on the TV perhaps we should say that volunteering is an Antipodean way of life.

They love common sense solutions to every-day problems, for example you go to the supermarket and realise you cannot carry all your goods home, so you leave your name and address with the supermarket desk, trundle your goods home in the supermarket trolley and then leave the trolley on the pavement to be picked up, before nightfall, by the supermarket truck - easy.

This is not to say that they do not share with us modern social ills, they have an alcohol problem here, they have violence within the home issues and they have drug problems among all age groups; its not paradise but it comes close to it.  The slight ethnic-minority in the woodpile however is the 4,000 earthquakes per year.

I’ve no local pictures to add to this so the pictures are of bungy-jumping at the first bungee jump site ever in the whole world just down the road from Queenstown. 

Bungee joke:  Jumps are free here before 0900, its what we call our “no strings” deal.

The next bit is for power-generation freaks only so you can stop reading here and look at the pictures if power is not your thing.

Hydro-electric schemes

When we went to Mount Cook we drove through a very large multiple-dam hydro scheme in central Otago.  NZ is lucky it has natural lakes holding billions of gallons of water at high altitudes.  By damming other rivers they have created a series of power stations where the waste water from the highest runs into a lake to become the feed for the next and so on down the valley to the sea.  They have modified this further by pumping water out into canals that feed the farms in this dry area  (24inches per year as opposed to 30feet on the coast) allowing irrigation to take place. 

The irrigation arms that run across the fields on giant wheels are huge, the largest being 1.2km long, quite a sight to see.  This water is not lost, long-term, to the hydro schemes, a lot drains back into the lakes, and that which evaporates often falls as rain back into the lakes, not a perfect closed loop of course but no one is complaining. 

The whole 1000megawatt scheme as well as all the other hydro schemes in NZ are controlled by three staff in a town called Twizzel.  The outdoor switching centre, next to the control building is very grand indeed and would dwarf many such installations in the UK.  This town was built as a temporary town to house the scheme builders back in the 1970s, it should have returned to farm land but is still with us, odd looking place with many of the original “pre-fab” houses, but home to 4,000 people.
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