Tuesday 13 January 2009 - Sunday 18 January 2009 26 °C
Next stop was Queeenstown, the extreme sports centre of New Zealand! Were we feeling brave?? So much to choose from, we could jump into thin air off bungy platforms, swing across canyons or throw ourselves off mountains! Obviously not very brave on our first day because we cruised across Lake Wakatipi on the steamship TSS Earnslaw hahaha!!! Was a nice journey around the lake, you could look down in the centre of the ship to see the working engine room where two boiler men were working hard shoveling up to 2 tonnes of coal per journey into the furnaces!!! Rather them than me! Day two and we were feeling a bit more adventurous, it was time for another form of water transport this time the Shotover Jet! We were hurtled down the Shotover canyon by two big V8 engines, skimming along in only 10cms of water at some points. Then came the famous 360 degree spin, our driver Nick gave us the signal to hang on tight and we were off, being flung around the river completely out of control! Great fun!! After our white knuckle ride it was time to shed the splash coats and lifejackets to head back into Queenstown. Made a detour past the Remarkable Sweet shop which sells about every kind of sweet you can imagine including the most delicious freshly baked fudge….with free tasting…well if you insist!! Dad and I managed to restrain ourselves and only tried about 5 (over two trips!! Haha).
Day three and someone was feeling adventurous…it was Dad who had decided to throw himself off a mountain…in the safe hands of Piers his paragliding pilot! We rode the cable gondola up to the launch side…about a third of the way up Dad asked me how much higher we had to go…um, quite a way more Dad!!! He started to look a bit worried after that as we were quite high by then already!! We headed up the hill (with Piers carrying his 35kg paragliding wing!!!!). Bit surprised when we reached the launch site, it was about 10m of grass then a sheer drop, thought it would take a bit more of a run up than that!!! Mum was down on the ground with video camera at the ready, we had a system all worked out, I’d txt with the colour of the wing and direction of take off so she would know which was Dad…message away, it was all good. Then we discovered the wing had KFC on it so messaged that, then the wind changed so the take off was in a different direction so had to txt that! Final signal was a ring on our NZ number to say Dad had taken off! What with the pressure of capturing the moment on film and numerous mobile phones I think Mum was a nervous wreck by the end of the flight and Dad was cool as a cucumber!
After a cooked breakfast to celebrate Dad still being in one piece we headed up the road to Wanaka. Just as beautiful as Queenstown, if not more as its much less developed. We went to the local cinema in the afternoon, Cinema Paradiso. Opened in 1985, it’s a one screen cinema, basically in a big shed! The seating is made up of lots of different old sofas and recliners, theres even an old Morris Minor you can sit in!! Apparently the locals leave their old sofas outside the cinema so they can be used for seating. The toilets and projection room are all plastered with old movie posters. Its an old style projector and the film goes a bit squiffy when they change between the reels!! One time they were screening Star Wars and the projectionist accidentally put on reel 6 after reel 3 and it cut to the end and a big fight scene, he was none the wiser having never seen it before and one of the audience members had to knock on the window of the projection room and tell him!! Classic! All the staff were really lovely and it was so relaxed, I wish that was my local cinema!
Back in Harry the Horsebox and cruised to our next stop, the Fox Glacier. Mum and Dad came up trumps again with a helihike on the glacier!! How exciting! Hooked up at the campsite and saw one of the strangest sights I’ve ever seen! A German tour called the Rotel. Basically a massive arctic truck- which they sleep in!! One side is covered in little windows where their bunks are and the other side has a fold out awning section with all the supplies in the back. They go off in the coach while the lorry goes ahead to set up at the next campsite! Probably about 20 of them, all sleeping in a lorry!! They were very efficient and off early the next morning as we walked up the road to rendezvous for our helihike. Were told at the glacier guiding place that the weather didn’t look too good and rain was forecast for later in the day but we were ok to head up for now- they did issue us with big rain jackets though!! Caught the slightly temperamental retro Bedford bus down to the helipad and were given boots and socks and it was time to fly up!!! The flight up to the glacier was great, the views of the glacier were spectacular, the pilot flew us around in a little loop before we landed….on our very high tech helipad….a ring of rocks in the ice! Nice! Out the helicopter out onto the ice…oooer this stuff is slippy!! We all had to crouch down to avoid being blown over by the helicopters downdraft. Time for the very useful additions of crampons and alpenstocks…felt a lot more stable with those! We were up on the glacier for 2 hours hiking around and exploring ice caves and tunnels. Our guide Simon hacked out steps for the difficult bits so it was pretty easy going, you just had to make sure you gave your crampons a good stamp into the ice. It was like another world up there, was very strange to think that just around the corner were fields and towns where it wasn’t cold at all! We were very lucky with the weather, it was lovely, no rain, the cloud kept coming and going though, it was amazing how quickly the cloud could descend along the glacier. As we were arriving we saw a lone guy hiking up the glacier, turned out to be one of the glacier guides who was off on a hike of his own. He had started off the day before and slept overnight on the glacier and was now off up to one of the huts on top of the glacier…all on his own! He mentioned the weather and didn’t seem too concerned ‘if it gets bad I’ll just stay another day and hike out the next morning!’ Rather you than me mate!!! Apparently the Fox glacier guiding company have emergency barrels with tents, food, warming clothing etc just incase you do get stuck because of bad weather! Luckily we didn’t have any cause to use them and all too soon it was time to hop back in the helicopter and fly back down to the town. As we were taking off our socks and boots the guy in the boot room said..'if you could straighten out your socks so they look like they havent been worn for the next group that would be great' Ewww! Glad we had worn our own socks underneath the thick ones!
Time to move on again and we were heading for Arthurs Pass, I found a shortcut in the map book and after checking it was drivable and sealed we headed off. Halfway along the road the tarmac ended and we were onto gravel..oops!! The road became really twisty and climbed up pretty high. We were driving along it, kicking up the biggest dust cloud for what seemed like forever! I was starting to think we had gone the wrong way, it all got a bit tense in the cab for a while! All of a sudden we popped out at the junction, I still wasn’t convinced we were in the right place and had to wait for the next town to be sure!! We reached Arthurs Pass for our first night of freedom camping, we weren’t quite in the middle of nowhere though, there was a Department of Conservation hut nearby so a few motor homes and tents were nearby. That was lucky for the family next to us who had just discovered their gas bottle was completely empty after being assured by their hire company it was full! We lent them ours so they could cook their dinner!
The weather had been nice when we arrived but the next morning it was blowing a gale and being in a gorge it was just funneling the wind down, the rain was coming down in sheets! Not much we could do in the Pass in that weather so headed out and up towards Abel Tasman National Park. Lucky for me, the rain did a good job of cleaning the motorhome of all the dust from the day before!