We picked up Mark and Martin, friends of mine from Sheffield who we bumped into (literally!) in Auckland when I had no idea they were even in NZ, from Christchurch and headed out to Arthur’s Pass in the centre of the south island. We stopped off on the way in Sheffield for a famous pie, I must say it’s changed quite a lot. I know I’ve only been away for a 7 weeks but I don’t recall Sheffield being backed with snow capped mountains or being especially famous for pies, but there you go I guess time must distort memories…
Arthur’s pass was utterly spectacular and the drive up there was awesome; winding slowly upwards between huge mountains and along flat plains surrounded on all sides by huge and sometimes snow-capped peaks. For me, it is the most beautiful spot that we have yet visited in NZ: there’s plenty of photos up on flickr sites but none really do justice to the place.
It was in Arthur’s pass that Viv and I hiked the toughest walk that either of us had ever done to the summit of Avalanche peak, 1km ascent to 1800m, no flat bits and lots of scrambling up rocks, but the views from the top in the company of Kea parrots (yes parrots, on a mountain – more about them later) were so worth it. Apparently there’s some nutters who’s idea of a good time is to RUN up there!
Back at the campsite we were often amused by the ‘cheeky’ Kea’s antics in trying to pinch food and then lolloping away about 10 metres before trying again when your back is turned. On our second night camping there Mark was less amused when a Kea pecked through the side of their tent while they were asleep (!) and had a good munch on one of his books. The following night they got short shrift when coming anywhere close to our campsite, but they didn’t let this bother them – why not just wander round the back of the tent where we can’t see them and while we’re all distracted with playing cards in our campervan and peck another even bigger hole in the tent and have good feast on whatever food is inside! In this case the birds’ benificiary was Mark, kindly donating tomatos, cheese, crackers and bread to them. I’m not sure what they had against Martin’s food. I had thought that we had escaped Kea damage until I next had to drive through rain to find that a windscreen wiper had been pecked through! Despite their predilection for vandalism we still found them to be a very adorable bird, partly just for their bare faced cheekyness! It says in our lonely planet that all Kea’s seem born with a gene that makes them cheeky – they’re not wrong!
After an enjoyable few days in Arthurs pass we all headed off in the silver bullet through miserable driving rain down steep roads that made the silver bullet’s brakes smoke and to the very grey Greymouth. There’s little of interest in Greymouth other than the brewery of our favourite NZ tipple – Monteiths. We felt duty bound to pay the brewery a visit and even more duty bound to sample thier range of excellent beers – a most enjoyable experience! After this we parted company with Mark & Martin having had a genuinely great few days in their company.
Next stop we went to look at some ice. But not just any ice! This ice came in the form of bloody massive glaciers snaking their way down mountains. It was bizarre being able to walk right up to the terminal face of Franz Josef and Fox glaciers and see this huge mound of ice right in the middle of summer. We decided that Fox would beat Franz Josef in glacial fight to the death. Franz is the more popular local favourite boasting a wide terminal face while Fox is the less fancied up-start from down the road and claiming a greater length and being more unstable in character – big up the Foxy!
Today we find ourselves in Queenstown and tomorrow I will be leaping out of plane from 9000 feet and Viv will be floating (hopefully!) down river rapids – an adrenaline packed day for the both us!
Lastly thanks everyone for the birthday greeting and e-mails. I will get round to responding to all of you (promise), just not getting that much internet time at the moment.
J-Hob & Sev