Swanning around South Island

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Where do I start this blog? First of all apologies for not posting anything recently. As we moved to South Island we soon realised that wifi was difficult to access and expensive when it is available. We arrived in Wellington on the Sunday evening, 20th February and ran into difficulty. We have come to trust the GPS in the car but she (it is a woman's voice) let us down dramatically. We asked her to find motels which she usually manages without turning a hair but for some reason she kept taking us to addresses which were obviously not hotels or motels, one was an office block, one a building site and the third in the middle of a roundabout. After 3 tries and lots of cursing we switched her off totally in disgust and found somewhere ourselves. It was difficult as we expected lots of hotels to be near the airport as at Gatwick or Heathrow but Wellington Airport is much smaller with only a couple of small motels in the vicinity.

After collecting Richard and Beverley from the Airport the next morning we had a quick look around the town centre and then caught the ferry to Picton on South Island where we stayed that night. Our journey was a logistic challenge as we were heading out to Marlborough Sound to stay at another bach belonging to yet more friends of R & B. The challenge arose from the fact that there is no road to the bach. A water taxi, (a small catamaran) goes around that area of the Sound twice a day and the journey to the bach jetty takes around 2 hours depending upon how many stops are needed. We had to take everything we needed for 3 nights stay, clothes and food, so we had to pack bags and cold boxes and then leave everything else in the car at Picton harbour. It is a stunningly beautiful area with very few people living there. Thankfully the path from the jetty to the bach was short despite being very steep and we soon unpacked and had lunch

It was much later in the afternoon before we learned of the earthquake that had devastated Christchurch town centre at lunch time. There is no cell phone signal at the bach so Jim and I decided to walk through the rain to the only place that might offer internet access, Furneaux Lodge, some half hour on the track round the bay. We found it easily but there were a number of people in the same boat trying to get messages home or check with relatives in Christchurch. Unfortunately I could not get through by telephone so we sent an email to say we were safe and then we started the more difficult walk back as darkness had descended. Some of the people at Furneaux Lodge had left Christchurch just before the earthquake so their relatives were obviously concerned. It did not seem appropriate for us to hog the computer as their communications were more critical.

Although being relatively close to Christchurch, the isolation of Marlborough Sound meant such an horrific event could take place so near without affecting us. It was hard to believe that people were suffering real hardships as power, sewerage and water services were destroyed while we continued to relax away from the turmoil. There was nothing we could do but stay where we were.
The bach is in a great position overlooking the Sound. Jim and I tried kayaking but after 30 seconds I was in such pain I gave up. The kayak is designed for someone taller so my legs would not reach the footrest but were raised high. This meant that I was positioned as if I was in the middle of a sit up exercise, permanently at the painful point. It was agony. Jim had a similar problem because he was too tall, so we retired defeated feeling like wimps. Jim and Richard tried fishing but caught nothing. Luckily we had enough food with us.

There were lots of wekas, flightless birds a little larger than kiwis, living around the bach and one was a regular visitor to the kitchen to find food if we forgot to close the door.

After Marlborough Sound we travelled by car through the Buller Gorge to the west coast and spent time in Hokitika, visited the Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier and then through the Southern Alps to Wanaka. Beverley and I took a helicopter flight over the glaciers, including Mount Tasman Glacier and then had views of Mount Cook. Seeing the features of glaciation that I learned about at school was fascinating and we enjoyed the flight after we recovered from the shock of seeing the pilot, who looked all of sixteen! It is hard to describe the scenery of NZ. Wherever we go there are great, wide landscapes, all stunning, and all worthy of photographs. The vistas seem to go on forever and are constantly changing from seascapes to lakes, mountains to forests and everywhere there are waterfalls. The problem is that it is impossible to capture the grandeur, variety or colours of the country in a few pictures – it is the vastness which makes it so special.
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Comments

Anna on

I actually knew what a Weka was! But only because it is the name of some software I use (created by some New Zealanders) and it has a picture of the bird as the icon...

Robyn Stoddart on

Hi there, so pleased to hear you are all ok. I knew you would have missed the big shake, thank goodness. I look forward to seeing you when you arrive back in Wellington.

Marilyn Lewis on

So glad to hear that you are both okay. We figured you probably weren't in Christchurch at the time, but it' good to have the confirmation.
By my reckoning (i.e. the time difference with New Zealand) it is probably Thursday, the 3rd March 2011 with you by now; and I think, if I remember correctly, that it's your birthday, Sue. So we both hope that you have a very good day, and enjoy whatever it is that you are doing.
Lots of love,
Marilyn and Ken

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