In May 2008, I went travelling on my own for the first time and was out of England for a month. Along the way I took in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand before coming home. I kept a journal of my time on the road, so here’s a day by day account of my trials and tribulations that has the undeserved title of Dave’s Odyssey.
Day 10 – Fox Glacier – Wellington
A 7.00 a.m. wake-up call was an improvement on the early starts of the last few days. After checking out we headed for Franz Josef Glacier. A path ran close to the face of the glacier but you had to be quick to get there and back to the coach in time. An earlier lookout point gave you an ideal view of the glacier at least and what a sight it was.
After a quick shot I endeavoured to get as close to Franz Josef Glacier as possible. The path until this point had been steep but easy to follow. I now faced a series of streams, bridged by rocks, in order to get to Franz Josef. Green markers laid out the path to the glacier face but it soon became apparent that I wouldn’t have time to reach the end of the path. I took another photo closer up and headed back so as not to be left behind.
Our coach stopped off at a café near Franz Josef next. As we parked up a group of teenagers to our left were balancing gunge-filled containers on their heads and being filmed by cameras. It was some New Zealand children’s show we had stumbled upon. The kids were annoyingly noisy so I made a very quick exit to the café. I’ve never been great with kids! They frighten me!
This café had a piece of art worth a purchase were it not for the $1,250 price tag. It was a car door with an image of Jim Morrison painted on the side. The accompanying notice advised that delivering it to the States would cost at least $400 for guaranteed safety. How much it would have cost to get to the UK is anyone’s guess. I love the Lizard King and The Doors but my hard-earned pennies simply wouldn’t stretch far enough for such a purchase, beautiful though it was.
It was our last day on the south island of New Zealand so the coach took us through yet more fantastic scenery, all the time heading on to Christchurch. We stopped off at the town of Hokitita for lunch. Like most towns in New Zealand so far, there was very little there. The New Zealand mentality seems to avoid over extravagance. Certainly the vast scale of Singapore is not on offer here but I prefer it this way.
After lunch I had a wander around Hokitita. One shop dealt in the Wild West and military history in general. You could buy swords, pieces of armour, models of tanks, artillery etc. The options were endless. I spent some time chatting with one of the women that worked there. It was a pity I couldn’t afford anything. I imagine wielding a sword for the remainder of this tour wouldn’t have gone down too well though!
Before leaving Hokitita the majority of the group perused the Jade Shop. Jade is on sale everywhere in New Zealand but the pieces, though well crafted, are inevitably expensive. I don’t doubt the skill involved in making the jewellery, but for these prices I’d be hoping for something like a diamond.
Heading on we drove through the Southern Alps and found the landscape changing once again. The mountains covered in trees were now bare and the rainforests were also behind us. The steep, winding road led us onto a brief stop at the far from encouragingly named “Death’s Corner.” It was host to a spectacular view but the main attraction was a kea that drew the group towards him before emptying his bowels. It certainly knew how to make an impression.
Before reaching Christchurch we stopped off for ice cream at Arthur’s Pass, drove past the scene of one of the battles in the first Narnia film and finally entered the Canterbury Plains. We soon came to Christchurch airport and enjoyed the luxury of a flight to Wellington that took less than an hour. We’d said farewell to our driver, Dave, in Christchurch and were now greeted by our new guide – Cameron.
Cameron’s first act of duty was loading all our suitcases, single-handedly, onto the coach. When he finally reached his seat and spoke to us through his microphone he was breathing heavily between words. Poor guy. Cameron spoke pretty quietly which didn’t impress some of the group but it may have been down to fatigue and he’d saved them a job loading luggage so I’m not sure what their problem was!
Driving through Wellington it was clear what a contrast the north island would be be compared to the south. The capital appears vast and somehow more modern than the towns on the south island. It was a pity we had little time here. The Ibis Hotel we stayed in was also on a larger scale than the previous hotels. We returned to the card that you need to swipe to get into your room but on entering and placing the card in another slot I was impressed to find not only did the whole room light up but the television came on as well. It had the message “Welcome Mr. Brown” imposed on a variety of viewing options, including the latest films. Can’t complain.
By the time I’d unpacked and showered it was after 9.00. The following day promised a half-day tour of Wellington. That left just the afternoon and evening to get a feel for the place. After that we’d be moving on yet again. The brevity of our stays in each town proved the only downside of the tour. To be fair the amount they crammed in across 31 days was pretty impressive. There’d be nothing stopping me from coming back to the places I most enjoyed in future.
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