Is it possible to spoil a trip to New Zealand? Yes, it is …

Just spent some time at one of the most beautiful locations in the World. It takes more than thirty hours to get there from Europe. I enjoyed New Zealand very much. But as a team of travellers’ we f….d it up. The post is on goods and bads of a New Zealand trip. A subjective one. But if you travel there, do not repeat mistakes we made. Part Five.

To Part Four >>>


DAY 7 ROUTE

After the glacier walk we went to grab a bite before we hit the road to Wanaka, our next stop. In the meantime the road authorities cleared the roads. The NZ Transport Authority announced it on its web page as we were still on the glacier. The news was good as today morning we were still worried, we would need to take a ring road through Christchurch. The latter meant fifteen hours ride at least.

A shorter route meant, in theory, enough time for supper on the early evening, for a shower (the hurricane damage made the village we stayed for the night run on auxiliary aggregates, so no warm water was available) and an earlier bedtime after two nights with less than six hours of sleep for most of us.


Day_7

Only three hours route. In aftermath, although we departed around 1 pm we made it only around 9 pm. Twice as much time as planned … Yet again…


STUCK AT THE MIDPOINT 

While on the Saturday morning we were walking around a glacier, I have fully forgotten the outer world. It was simply kind of catching the momentum experience. The glacier walk was pleasure. But back down in the village, as I changed and went to grab a bite, I felt shortage of sleep, I was hungry and yet again I felt sick.

We are at the midpoint of our New Zealand trip. Up to now we did something like 2500 km per road. I would say 500 of them were idle ones. Even if the views from the window were amazing. Around 2000 km we accumulated only within the last four days. We spent altogether thirty maybe thirty-five hours in the van quite rarely getting out. Only to make some shots. Definitely too much riding. We spent twice as much hours in the van than hours on on-foot sightseeing or focusing on photography. The view points were repeatable. The scenic view points, as well. No pre-selection. Just ‘get out. We shall see. If you see something interesting, we stop’ we hear yet again and again.

Five of us seven are plagued with some kind of a virus. Or is it some kind of a cold? Or both? The other one is coughing. But today and yesterday, against any logics some of us went to photograph a sunrise. Woke up at five or five thirty. With no plan. Neither a location selected, nor suitable weather conditions. A sunrise during the hurricane time? A failure. Not a thought behind. Stupidity maybe? Maybe, lack of flexibility? Out of pure boredom some of the fellows photograph sheep or cows.

During the day light we do not rest. Rarely we eat a proper meal. Just junk food, while riding on the van. The chaotic photo sessions at the sunrise cost us too short nights. During the night-time, we lack the goodnight sleep. You can live on a shortage of sleep one, two or three nights. OK, last year while in Paris, it was partying till one or two the whole time. But it was Paris. Much to do. No matter the weather conditions. Stationary at one hotel. Many opportunities for indoor and outdoor sightseeing or simply enjoying time. Nor sports. No activities requiring physical fitness (maybe besides a walk downstairs the Eiffel Tour). Not more than five hours from home door-to-door. The same time zone. Only three-day stay. ‘Rest, you will at home’ rule easily applicable in Paris. But travelling New Zealand is a totally different story.

Our trip schedule in aftermath is neither a ‘photographic expedition’ as it was originally defined, nor travelling that allows us to get acquainted with the country, nor enjoy vacation. In aftermath, even with many photos shot, the final selection will be limited. Too many repeatable shots. Besides nature and only few outdoor activities, we have nothing in the itinerary that would allow us to get acquainted with the country and people. Not to mention, the country’s history. Even, if this is a short one in comparison to Europe. For most of us (only two of us, me included, are the exception) the trip uses up almost half of the annual payable leave of absence from work. But… New Zealand is a very comfortable location. Good lodging conditions. Good food. Clean restrooms available to everyone. You need to have some decent budget to come here. New Zealand is a perfect country to actively rest and enjoy life. And that what we do here is against all of these. Instead of using that what the country has to offer, we do the opposite. Whatever we do here, it is not a kind of thing, after which you would come home on a blast of positive energy. (Yes, three weeks after originally writing those words I can truly confirm it. I came back home negatively tired …)

The only thought I had on our midpoint day was come back home, rest and sometime in the future begin from scratch. We still have five days in New Zealand ahead of us, but it is no longer pleasure.


THE ROAD TO WANAKA 

We are yet on another ride heading to the Wanaka lake, where we plan a two-day stay. A technical break. We see the sites, where the storm caused the most damage. We realise, the main problem on a single road in this part of the mountains was to have to remove fallen trees and soil slides at one site to be able to get with heavy equipment to the other site and so forth. Main reason, for which the road was closed for around three days. All soil slides were removed. Eroded roadway patched.

Our longest stop was somewhere at an ocean beach. We agreed on half hour. We stayed there some time longer. For a moment I observed my fellows taking off their shoes and jumping against the waves cooling their feet in the salty water. I took my camera. Only back home as I looked at the photos more carefully I saw how tired they all were … For a full week already we were in a country surrounded by ocean waters. This was however the first time we could have felt it. I heard one of my fellows’ silent comment: ‘I would stayed here longer’. Yes me, too.


JMA_New_Zealand_005

The trees around the beach were of specific shape, contorted by the heavy winds. A view we will see yet many times again on the Southern Island.


The sun was shining. Once or twice I was bitten by some kind of a fly. Tired I found a shelter and sat down to hide from the sun. Only back in the van I felt the itching. That day I put on a white T-shirt with long sleeves and long trousers. They protected most of my body against the bites. In my purse I had some anti-inflammatory salve. It eased the itching a bit. One of the fellows explained to us that unlike our domestic mosquitos that puncture the skin, the flies here rip it off. Hence the itching is more painful.


We hit the road yet again. We stopped yet again at some scenic place for an hour or so. The place was full of locals and tourists. Yet again twenty minutes walk through bushes to see blue water. The assumption that we may do many nice shots here – far-fetched. The only true attraction was to see young people jumping deep down ten or fifteen meters of the bridge into the river. The crowd was too dense to make any clean shots. Tired, I walked back ahead of my fellows, found a path to the riverbed and sat down on a stone. Yet again, I am at a place I could have stayed longer. Close my eyes and listen to humming waters. But we have to hit the road. Yet again. Yet again only a glimpse of New Zealand. And maybe two or two and a half hours of window sightseeing. Yet again. No chance for a proper meal. The itching is a nuisance. I feel sick. Yet again. The medicine I took after I got down from the helicopter is no longer working …


Finally we see the Wanaka lake. A kind of blue water difficult to describe. A beautiful place. You might sit down and enjoy by solely looking at it. We talk a barbecue. But we still have more than one and half hour to our final location. The road would take us to yet another lake. Afterwards to the other side of Wanaka lake, where we rented our house. ‘We still have to drive, afterwards set up the barbecue stuff, then make the coal burn. We will not make it before sunset. Let us go to the house and rest. We had a long day.’ We stop for a moment, to make yet another photo. The blue lakes are gorgeous.


JMA_New_Zealand_024

On the way to Wanaka


THE FALLING MORAL

Somehow a decision was made to still continue with the barbecue. Some kind of joke that nobody rejected as such. Illogical choice. Five of seven of us are sick. We cough endlessly. We are on shortage of sleep. Most of us scratch the itching skin. And yet another barbecue that would last till very late somewhere in the middle of nowhere. We will have enough time for a leisurely barbecue tomorrow. We stay here for two nights … Yes, illogical. But nobody dares to loudly say no. ‘Whom would we harm with saying no? Why the change of mind? Finally, we got to the suggested place. ‘Here under this tree I had my tent as I was here five years ago’. My eyes got wide open. ‘Something happened years ago to one of us. Maybe it was a fine memory. But does it mean we all need to repeat that yet again under current circumstances? Does it mean we would have the same kind of fun with five of us sick on a shortage of sleep? No we will not. A textbook mistake an assumption like that.’ My professional me appeared in my thoughts.

As we parked our van and got out, it was still before sunset. Theoretically. But we were in the mountains. It was already shadows. It was getting cold. Someone opened the trunk and started to unpack the barbecue stuff. Two fellows went to see the place. After five minutes or so they came back. ‘It will take too long’ they said. ‘It is already getting dark’. With heads down, and only half words the decision was made. We skipped this time…


In yet around twenty minutes we were at the house we rented. The house turned out to be a very comfortable spacious villa with a big table in the living room … Multiple bedrooms, two fully equipped bathrooms, the washing room and a backyard with yet another dining table. Fully equipped kitchen adjacent to the livingroom. All, a tired traveller needs. In silence, with only few words, everybody contributed to our late supper. The barbecue was set up in the backyard. It turned out into quite a nice evening. But you could feel it in the air, the moral of our travel fellowship was falling. It was quiet, too quiet …


A TECHNICAL BREAK. CONSIDER AS A THUMB RULE

One of the thumb rules on longer trips with constant changing of locations: stay stationary at least one time for at least two nights. Just a technical break. Always useful. You have a chance to rest. You can wash your clothing and let it dry. Whatever happens during the trip, is it positive or negative experience, use this time wisely. An advice, any experienced traveller would give you. I heard it many times. Not every time, while on travel I needed it. But listening to my friends’ and acquaintances’ various travel experiences I would give it to anybody. No matter the country. No matter the travelling conditions.

On a second day of our Wanaka stay three of my sick fellows went to photograph yet another sunrise and later after breakfast on another drive. ‘They do not want to lose time on being seek and on a good night sleep. It is like a snow ball. The more they do not take care, the more sick we all are’ – another note in my diary. Two of us, me included, skipped fully. Stayed at the villa, rested, slept out and in the meantime made use of the washing machine. One fellow made his own day, sightseeing on foot. The only one of us not sick at all went on canyoning expedition she booked ahead.

Did we use our technical break wisely? As the next day has shown, unfortunately not.


YET AGAIN LOOKING FOR A DOCTOR

On Monday, with most of us feeling sick we had to organise our day all around looking for a doctor. Our travel schedule failed. We were supposed to make our day in Queenstown, the very city in New Zealand known for outdoor activities. It is said, even the bungee jumping was invented there. But instead of quickly departing to Queenstown, around 10.15 am we arrived at the local medical centre. Two our fellows felt that sick that they wanted to see a doctor. It was possible to arrange a visit at 5 pm. Too long time to wait. The new plan was to get to Queenstown and arrange our outdoor day. In the meantime three of us, a driver and the sick ones would come back to Wanaka to see a doctor. Not a big problem. The distance from Wanaka to Queenstown is only 70 km. A one-hour drive. But maybe somewhere alongside our road or in Queenstown we could arrange a visit in a medical centre? In aftermath we did not come back to Wanaka. Luckily for us, in Queenstown, in the city centre there was a walk-in-clinic. But looking for a doctor cost us multiple change of plans and a day that was fully lost.

Was there something we could have done instead? Yes we could have. On Sunday morning as I recall around 10 am we called our insurance company to inform them we needed a doctor. The standard procedure is to call the insurer and people from the call centre arrange the doctor visit. No matter the country. The guy from the call centre promised to call us back in half our. Neither he did in half hour nor during the entire day. In Europe, it was 10 pm on a Friday evening. We were given a call after 24 hours that the visit at Wanaka medical centre was arranged … for Wednesday. But on Wednesday we would be hundreds of kilometers away. Hence, we decided to look for a doctor on our own. You could say, the insurer’s call centre was not professional at all. Yes it was not.

But exactly a week ago, on a Sunday morning in Auckland we were in exactly the same position. We called the insurer’s call centre. The lady who picked up the call said: ‘I take a note that you need a doctor. Find one on your own. With the time difference and your travel itinerary, this will be the best solution.’ So we did as advised. We lost only two hours of our itinerary in the meantime taking our first breakfast. The same solution was possible this Sunday in Wanaka in the medical centre of the same chain that the one in Auckland. Having arranged a doctor visit on Sunday, we would not have to adjust the Monday plans to looking for a doctor ready to see us on the same day. Particularly that Queenstown has much to offer.

No, we did not use our technical break in Wanaka wisely. And yet again we spoiled yet another day of our New Zealand trip.


ARROWTOWN

With cloudy weather I do not think that any of shots we did on the road from Wanaka to Queenstown would be a masterpiece. But while looking for a doctor we visited a place that was not on our itinerary – the historic Arrowtown in the vicinity of Queenstown. The road to Queenstown through Arrowtown cost us only six additional kilometres. The idea was to visit the local doctor and on the occasion sightsee the city. The local medical centre turned out to be a surgeon centre. But at least we were given a hint to try the walk-in clinic in Queenstown.

So we stopped in Arrowtown. I was quite happy about it, as after the not planned visit at the Collingwood cemetery I was curious about the New Zealand settlements history. But the decision was made, we stay here only for thirty minutes. The argument: ‘the cars are parking in the main street. No good shots possible. Besides we must find a doctor’. Pity  I thought. But it is not good time to argue. Quickly I went to sightsee the city centre to make at least some shots of the old-style buildings. In the side streets there were many small coffee shops and restaurants. Yet another place I would stay longer… A place, on which I could easily made a blog entry with photos and some historical facts about New Zealand. Also a perfect place to sit down and quietly grab a bite. But we had to hit the road.


JMA_NZ_122Arrowtown


QUEENSTOWN

Finally close to two pm we arrived in Queenstown. Found the walk-in clinic. Our two fellows, who truly needed a doctor were to wait around forty-five minutes for the visit. The remainder of us had to find some other activity. But truly, what can you do, if your day begins after two pm, even in a place like Queenstown. One of our fellows was to take a jet boat ride. She planned it long before we departed to New Zealand. I was not thinking about that even on the same morning. But with another day filled in with nothing interesting, I quickly made my mind to rescue my day. Yet another fellow decided spontaneously to join us. So, we went to the tourist office to buy us tickets and book seats on a jet boat. The tourist office turned out to be an outdoor entertainment office. The offer was wide. Of things I would be keen to do while there were, among others, helicopter flights above the fjords and mountains. We bought our tickets. But there was still an hour and a half till we were supposed to come back to the office to be taken by a coach to our jet boat ride.

One and a half hour. As we joined our fellows in the van, a decision was made to grab a bite in the meantime. One of the fellows wanted to take a gondola ski lift to one of the surrounding mountain tops. Yet another fellow followed him. Me too. Somehow, with no wordy consent we all bought us tickets. We were at the top after twenty, maybe twenty-five minutes. On a crowded panorama view platform, we did some photos. But we had to come back down to the city centre. For a minute or so I watched people driving go-carts alongside a sled track. If we had only more time … But we had not.

I still think, twenty-five minutes of fun on a jet boat did not compensate the time loss we were going through day by day in New Zealand. But the jet boat ride though a canyon was worthwhile. I found myself laughing and squeaking of fun the whole ride.


On the jet boat in Queenstown. Me is the one in the hood


The next stop is a Mexican restaurant. We were too tired to look for any local food. Even our remaining four fellows, who in the meantime went … shopping. Did I come to New Zealand to eat at an Mexican restaurant? No I did not. It is half past seven and we have still more than two hours ride ahead of us (180 km) till we reach our next motel.

On the way to Te Anau the views are spectacular. A truly scenic route. But it is already getting dark. Photographs would not reflect that what we see. We are tired. Most of the fellows are asleep in the van. We have to hurry up to get to our motel as quickly as possible. We reach it after ten pm. Enough time to sit down and rest for a minute. Take a shower maybe.  Our journey is no longer pleasure ...


DAY 8 ROUTE

Day_8

A three and half hour route on day eight. In aftermath – good planning. But wrong organisation on spot that made most of us lose another day.


 To be continued …

Index of posts and a photo gallery on New Zealand >>>

A long flight home


FAREWELL NEW ZEALAND

Packed and ready. In Singapore I will have a five hours break for which I rented a room in a transit hotel. Still feeling sick. The only thing I can do now is to survive the almost 30 hour-long flights in a relative comfort. New Zealand, even if far away from Europe is a great place to spend vacation. Unfortunately we did not enjoy this country as we should have had.


pexels-photo-414511.jpeg

Farewell New Zealand (Photo: Pexels)


The Christchurch airport is a leisurely one. There are people playing live music and dancing. You can lay on comfortable matrices on the green grass just outside the airport. The passenger facilities are very comfortable ones.


We depart with Singapore airlines, one of the best aircraft services in the world. The flight to Singapore takes us around 13 hours. Almost half of the journey is above Australia. To be frank, this is the first time as I finally realised, how big Australia was. The flight over Australia takes more time than most of the international trips within Europe. As it is still daytime for us I am not sleepy at all. I watch movies, altogether three or four. The on board service is very good. I discovered that in the aircraft, there are small drinking water distributors placed near the rest rooms. You do not need to ask the service to bring you water. But no matter. The flight attendants take good care of you. As we land my hearing fails. I usually have no problems at take offs and landings. This time for too much days we neglected our health. The temporary loss of hearing after landing is the price.


IN TRANSIT IN SINGAPORE

In Singapore I said farewell to my fellows. Being in transit belongs to travelling. To have some travel comfort for my around five hours stay at the Singapore Airport, I booked me a room in one of the transit hotels. While booking  I confused the terminals. In Singapore a flight departure depends on the airline but not the direction. My flight to  London is serviced by Singapore airlines, not the British Airways. I will have later come back to the terminal I arrived. No matter. With the Singapore airport sky train you can shorten the walk time. Altogether it takes me 25 minutes to get to my hotel. My transit hotel room is one of twelve small rooms adjacent to a small corridor. There is no bathroom belonging to the room. But at the end of the corridor there are four fully equipped comfortable bathrooms. The rooms are small, with a comfortable bed, plasma TV and some additional space that allows you to move arround. There is no window, but the air conditioning and ventilation system are working well. During a journey that will altogether take around forty hours, a comfortable bed and a ten minutes hot shower are priceless. I set the alarm in my cellphone for two hours checking carefully that I did not confuse the time zones. I slept like baby, took a shower, and all the medicine that I had to ease what ever disease I have.


pexels-photo-777059.jpeg

Singapore at night-time. Seen only through the aircraft window. Maybe while on transit, it would be a good idea to stay here for a day or two? (Photo: Pexels)


The next flight begins. Singapore to London. I sit somewhere in the deeper part of the aircraft. My neighbour is a nice Englishman. The two seat row behind us is fully free. I give him a sign, I want to move there. He nods. The next thirteen hours or so we both have very comfortable travel conditions with additional pillows and blankets. I think I slept for some hours. After that I just rested comfortably on blankets and pillows, with my eyes open (it was already daylight in New Zealand). For the last week or so, it was my first true rest time. I needed however to sleep – in Europe it was the nighttime. I  asked a flight attendant to give me some whiskey. Two shots or more. She looked at me with a bit weird face. I said I was in New Zealand. I have a jet lag. She smiled. Yeah, yeah she said and poured my glass richly. It was enough to put me asleep for the next hour or so. My Singapore to London flight gave me comfort I lacked for past days.

As we land at Heathrow, the sun was just rising. With only few clouds in the sky the views were amazing.


pexels-photo.jpg

London at the morning hour. (Photo: Pexels)


BACK IN EUROPE

It is Heathrow, seven in the morning. I spent around fifteen minutes in the restroom to change and refresh. By definition I do not wear jeans with a belt on longer flights. Now I changed. The flight home will take me only two hours. I love Heathrow. It is a busy airport but still it is London. You can feel it. I called a friend to confirm the meeting of our psychology group (people I studied with) in the evening. ‘I am tired, still in London. But I will come.’ The last forty minutes of my London-Warsaw flight seemed long-lasting. Almost thirty hours on an aircraft, with two five hours breaks it was around forty hours from the end of the world to home. But it was a kind of travelling I enjoy. On the journey back from New Zealand I gained a half day. Back home I fell asleep for more than seven hours. Overslept. Appeared at our meeting with two hours delay. I ordered a steak and a beer. My first non-aircraft meal in two days. And in the meantime got a message from one of my travelling fellows who went to Australia – I do that what we neglected in New Zealand, kayaking and sun bathing at an ocean beach. Yes, I lacked it as well … I was back home at midnight. Fell asleep around one am. Woke up at eight am. No jet lag. Just a new day home. I still feel sick. But here at home this is only me, who makes the decisions what I do. A relief.

(Christchurch, Singapore, London, Warsaw, 9-10 February 2018)


Posts and a photo gallery on New Zealand >>>

With more luck than thought through stormy weather. The New Zealand journey continues

Just spent some time at one of the most beautiful locations in the World. It takes more than thirty hours to get there from Europe. I enjoyed New Zealand very much. But as a team of travellers’ we f….d it up. The post is on goods and bads of a New Zealand trip. A subjective one. But if you travel there, do not repeat mistakes we made. Part Four.

To Part Three >>>


A STORM IS COMING. CHANGE OF PLANS

Weather is stormy. It is raining. Today (Thursday, 1st February 2018) we head North from Richmond to Collingwood, where we booked our next hotel. The distance is only two hours by road. Due to weather conditions we had to change our original plans that were to fill in our itinerary for most of the day. We had to think of an alternative.


For today we originally planned kayaking in the Abel Tasman national park. It was heavily raining all night and the wind was strong. We called the tour operator to cancel. Kayaking under those conditions made no sense. It was not a problem. Money we paid in advance was quite quickly returned back to our account. A practice, we will see in New Zealand yet again in two days, when cancelling our glacier walk. Later in Queensland we will hear in a coach driving us to our jet boat ride: ‘We are very sorry to all of you, who had to cancel because of the rain’. I do not know, whether it is a thumb rule or not. But the forthcoming approach by all the operators, with whom we dealt with, made me once again confirm the professionalism of the tourism industry in New Zealand. You can book your attractions and pay by transfer long before you come. But, if the weather conditions are too poor to make it, you just call, cancel and in a manner of days you get your money back. No paperwork, no discussions.


LOCAL COFFEE SHOPS. RECOMMENDABLE

In the night, we were housing in a lodge hotel with a comfortable living room. Unlike our male fellows, who got outside earlier, we made us a cosy long morning start-up. Around 10 am we packed all our stuff onto our van and left the hotel. As due to the weather conditions the day turned into a leisurely one, we went to eat a slow breakfast to a local Richmond restaurant. Yet again we saw many locals and tourists enjoying their morning.


JMA_NZ_116

JMA_NZ_117

Yet again a slow and rich breakfast in a local coffee shop. And a delicious coffee. Definitely, one of advantages, while traveling New Zealand


THE LOCAL WINE AND CHEESE. ON THE MUST-DO LIST

Afterwards to fill in our itinerary, we visited two wineries to taste local wines. We tasted altogether around fifteen sorts of wine. The wines are of a specific taste. A bit sour in comparison to European or Latin America wines we are accustomed to. Unanimously we have selected only one that suited us all.

On our fifth day in New Zealand we discovered yet again that of things we liked most here were New Zealand cheeses. In one of the wineries we ordered a plate of cheese. Yet again the plate confirmed our theory. To be frank, each time we visited a hypermarket we bought some sorts and made us a board of cheese. Either while in a hotel or on the road. Not forgetting a sip of wine. Sounds like luxury. But it was not. Hence, a recommendation for all of you New Zealand travellers: the local cheeses are a true country speciality. Do not skip it. Just enjoy.


LESSON TWO. TOO MUCH WINDOW SIGHTSEEING IS LOSS OF TIME

The plan for the evening was to check-in in the motel in Collingwood and make photos of the Golden Bay – considered one of the major tourist attractions in this part of New Zealand. While heading there we were riding in the Abel Tasman park to sight see. As on days before – mostly through our van window. Yet again we rode and stopped at overhaul bays to make photos. Yet again. ‘Boredom, boredom, boredom’ as one of the fellows loudly stated. Yes, after yet another day of this practice I can repeat it once again: New Zealand is green and picturesque. If you rent a car or a van and ride from one location to the other on a tourists’ itinerary, forget taking additional scenic rides. You will have them almost all the time. The country has much more to offer than sightseeing through the window.


IS THERE A PILOT ON BOARD?

Yet again we ‘had much time’ and were ‘ahead of the schedule’. ‘We should call at some famous surfers’ restaurant to eat a hamburger’. The restaurant turned out to be a food trailer. I skipped this time. Yet again however we added some idle kilometers to our journey. And on the steep mountainous road curves we overheated our brakes. So, we had to stop once or twice for longer minutes to let them cool down. ‘A watch for his next birthday would be a good present idea’ I thought.


As we finally checked-in in our motel and asked our host about the walk to the Golden Bay, she opened her eyes widely and said: ‘At this hour if you go, I will have to ask the firefighters to bring you down. Soon it will be high tide.‘ ‘Yet again we f…..it up’, I thought. ‘How is it possible that none of us checked it? One of number one rules, when you travel countries with low and high tides. Check the low and high tide times’.

We had to decide what to do instead. The weather was windy. We knew already another storm was coming. But still it was not raining. The storm was still away. We decided to take a walk. Just a walk around. No map. No specific plan. I think we all had enough of the constant sitting in the van and senseless riding. Some fresh air and stretching the legs would do good to us all.


COLLINGWOOD

Collingwood seemed like a true end of the world. Quite deserted with some old buildings in the small city centre (a couple of blocks only) and many properties for sale. Only few properties seemed to be new or renovated. Street art on walls was a remainder of past times. People in elegant historical clothing. I looked at a street plate. ‘Kings Arms’ stood there …


JMA_NZ_118

Street art. A remainder of past times in Collingwood


The city was very silent. Seemed to be deserted. Maybe, because a storm was coming. Maybe, I was not in good mood, tired of constant riding. We turned at a crossing to get closer to the bay. A silent city on my right hand and endless horizon on the left one. In the forefront many colourful wild flowers. I was thinking of people, who close themselves up in a monastery for a weekend to disconnect from the outer world. ‘This place would be perfect for them.’ I thought. ‘The difference would be the views and the fresh air from somewhere over the Pacific.’

Suddenly I heard a child’s voice. ‘Hello’ it said. I raised my eyes and looked around. A small girl was waving at me through a window. Naturally I waived back and returned the greeting. ‘The place is not that deserted as I thought’. I smiled to myself.

At one of the streets we saw a guide post indicating a historic cemetery in a half hour distance. (A practice of indicating time to get to a location is widespread in New Zealand. Quite a practical one.) We decided to visit it. The cemetery was an abandoned place, but well-marked and ring-fenced. The old graves seemed to be fallen. But the grave stones were true story tellers. We read of a man, who came to visit but accidentally died in the river. Of a couple, who came from England in the late XIX century, and died one after another twenty years after. And finally of a man, who died fulfilling his duties.


JMA_NZ_119

The Collingwood historical cemetery


DID WE NOT FORGET SOMETHING?

This made me think of the New Zealand’s history. In comparison to Europe, a newly one. But still it would have been interesting to hear of the immigrants and their stories. How their life at the end of the world began. About the good times and bad times. Hopes and disappointments. We had no such plans. Pity. Later next week, on the day of our departure, while in Christchurch tired and sick I was sitting on the sofa in our hotel lobby looking at the display of leaflets with tourist attractions. I picked up one with the word ‘heritage’ on it. It was of a historic tour through mansions of two immigrant families. And about story telling. Having visited the Collingwood historic cemetery I realised the first time that we had nothing as such in our itinerary. One of our fellows, a couple of days after, proposed to visit a historic city in the vicinity of our planned route. ‘Was me not the only one, who missed something?’ I thought. We had at least a glimpse of how it was in the old times. But it was too short. One of major mistakes of our trip itinerary. Not mentioning any insight into the Maori culture.


Like the night before the Thursday-Friday night was a stormy one. We grabbed a bite (unfortunate choice however), but quickly returned to the hotel. We spent the evening on processing photos.


A PENNY FOR A THOUGHT, ANY THOUGHT…

In the morning my fellows went to see the sunrise at the Golden Bay. Two were feeling sick. But still they went there on a shortage of sleep. I was tired and already with a feeling that my immune system was failing. Too much sitting in the van with no true outdoor activities for another consecutive day made me indifferent to photographers’ ambitious plans. I skipped this time. After one hour my fellows came back totally wet. I guess going out for a longer walk during hurricane time was a bad idea. I heard only of ‘a field of sheep where the heavy rain caught them, and that the grass was green and soft, when one or two fell in a hurry escaping the rain shower’. I played a scene like that one in my head, not foreseeing that the next week I will be unwillingly falling on green wet grass choking … Nevermind. After we put our luggage into the back of our van, all the wet clothing was put onto luggage staple to dry. As I can recall next day we realised that two other of our fellows got sick. The unfortunate morning raised my second thoughts about our travel style yet again. At least we ate well for breakfast in a local restaurant. Ultimately we spent there around an hour. In New Zealand you have to count in slower way of doing things. All dishes were freshly made. Based however on bit different recipes than we are accustomed to.


THE NZ TRANSPORT AUTHORITY

Our journey deeper South was this time fully planned as long-lasting. From Collingwood to the Franz Josef glacier area it is more than 500 km by road. The trip took us around ten hours mostly through mountainous areas. We made us only a few short breaks. One was to shop in a supermarket. Afterwards we visited yet another coffee shop. This time, not a good choice at all. While on the road, we had to follow the NZ Transport Authority web page to confirm that roads are open after damage incurred by the storms of yesterday. We were lucky. The road to the place we were heading to was opened that day. What I liked much was that somewhere in the middle of road more than hundred kilometers ahead of our next stop, the road authority employees stopped us at a crossing to warn of the road conditions. We were asked in detail about location of the house we rented. Our lead fellow confused the locations. The man said: ‘Look for another accommodation. You will not get there’. Only after we gave the precise address, that turned out to be at the other side of the mountains, than previously indicated, the man gave us green light. ‘Please, drive carefully. Not all debris was moved yet away from the road‘ he said. ‘Please guys, be carefull‘, he repeated.


DAY 6 ROUTEDay_6

Day 6 route was planned as the longest one on a day with no extra activity in the meantime. But in aftermath, this was already the third day out of six, when most of us made more than 500 km on the van daily.


LESSON THREE. LOOK AROUND AND ASK THE LOCALS

As we arrived at our rented house it was still before sunset. We had a reservation in the local (well recommended restaurant) famous for … the Asiatic kitchen. Still it was possible to order local New Zealand food there. I decided to eat a hamburger asking the waitress to give me the most typical one for the region, and a New Zealand beer.

The restaurant was full in and outside. Dance music was all around. Behind the bar there was a dancing floor. A well visited restaurant in the middle of a busy touristic place. Midst of mountains. And people enjoying the evening. Friday evening. Even if a bit sick, I would have stayed there for an hour or so. Music and a leisurely fleur made me feel better. Unwillingly I followed my company home. Some of the fellows insisted. Tired and sick after the early morning wet ride. Understandable. I would do the same.

In aftermath, leaving too rapidly was a mistake, I think. Staying only a bit longer, talking to people and most of all looking around the place would save us some worries of the evening and allowed to sleep longer the next day. That, I realised however only the next day morning, when we returned to the place in the full daylight.

Our worry was that for the next day we booked a flight with a helicopter to a glacier to take a walk there. But due to the wind and rain the most helicopter trips had been recalled. On arrival we were told by our Landlords that may be tomorrow helicopters would be flying out. Our flight was however at the other side of the mountain, to which there was still no access by road. The other worry was whether the road at the other side of the mountains we were supposed to take to ride further South would be opened. A soil slide of the length of 100 meters had to be removed. The local forces worked day and night to remove them. Particularly that 800 tourists were stuck there.

Our mistake on that evening was that we neither looked around the restaurant nor asked around. There were at last two operators offering glacier walks at this side of the mountain located … in buildings adjacent to our restaurant with all the contact data and info displayed in the windows. Locals would tell us in the evening the same, what a nice lady from the local road authority told us the next morning. Many people cancelled the flights because of the weather. A simple call in the morning to one of the operators at this side of the mountain or a morning visit by only one of us at the opening hour would be enough to arrange our glacier walk.


MORE LUCK THAN THOUGHT

So, with more luck than thought we made it. In the early morning on a shortage of sleep we went to make sunrise photos. It did not work. We did not find any truly remarkable spots. In aftermath, waste of time and the good night sleep for at least two other hours. Good that two of our most sick fellows skipped this time. On the way back we stopped at the police check-point to get some inquiry as to whether the passage to the other side will be cleared today. In the morning it was not. But on the advice of a lady from the road authority we managed to switch our glacier walk from one operator to the other at our side of the mountains. As we arranged our flight, it was around 8 am. It gave us only time to come back to our rented house, quickly pack and return to the flights operator building. Consequence: nobody of us ate any breakfast. I managed only to eat an energy bar that I had in my bag as emergency food. 


THE GLACIER WALK. RECOMMENDABLE

At 9 am on Saturday we were already sitting in a helicopter on the way to the glacier. It was my first time ever on a helicopter and the first time ever on a glacier. The tour operator gave us all necessary equipment including waterproof jackets, trousers and shoes. For almost three hours we had real fun. I did even use up battery on one of my cameras. Photos still to come.


JMA_New_Zealand_013

A walk on a glacier. One of the outdoor activities you may enjoy in New Zealand


Our tour was very professionally prepared. It turns out that each day before tourists are brought to the mountain a number of people prepare each passage digging ice stairs on steeper ice slopes. At least twice we had to be escorted on steep narrow passages where we used ropes as auxiliary equipment to crampons that we had on our shoes. Couple of weeks before the departure to New Zealand I put more attention to my leg muscles workout. It made my glacier walk easy. But for a moment I felt stuck between two icy walls. Three guys, who escorted us through the walk were of true assistance. Kind, helpful and providing good mood. ‘Lady, I am not helping you. I just wanted to hold your hand’ said one of them, protecting me of a bumpy ride.

Part Five >>>


List of posts and a photo gallery on New Zealand >>>