Monthly Archives: March 2012

From the mountains to the ocean…

The Mexicans say the Pacific has no memory… that’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory… which is not necessarily true, but it’s a nice quote from The Shawshank Redemption and we get to the Pacific in this post… so it works!!

However, when I left us we were on the West coast so have a bit of traveling to get there first!! As you may gather later on, I am a great fan of traveling by train, there is just something terribly relaxing about it. This is therefore the first of New Zealand trains…
Kingston Flyer
Don’t worry, they do tend to be a bit more modern, but this is the Kingston Flyer, which alas didn’t start running until the Summer Season started in October. Which in itself seems a bit unusual to write. I’m not sure if P&J realised that I purposely picked this route, simply so we could stop here to stretch our legs and so I could have a look around… but I did. The joys of being the main driver!!

There is a certain quirkiness about places like New Zealand, that you will also find in Australia and Canada… something that is terribly British, but just wouldn’t be allowed here at home.
One due to space and the other would have the PC brigade up in arms!!

And driving through the mountains has the added advantage of meaning more gratuitous shots of snow-covered mountains and lakes for which the South Island is famous for. I could have probably have spent weeks just traveling up and down these mountains in a camper van, walking up a different hill everyday and then moving on to the next…
Lake Putaki and Ben Ohau Mountain Range

All of this driving however brought us into the semi-destroyed city that is Christchurch. I shall cover this city in more detail later on, mostly due to the fact that we were here only for one day. That and we’re about to get aboard the KiwiRail TranzCoastal from Christchurch up to Picton.
On of those things that always surprises me once you leave Europe is, with the exception of suburban routes, you find considerably less rail travel than you do at home. New Zealand is comparable to the UK in terms of size (it’s actually 21,000km2 more land) but it has only a quarter of the length of track*. Therefore there are only three rail routes of any distance. The TranzCoastal, the TranzAlpine and the Overlander.
We, however, are traveling on the TranzCoastal, which travels up the East Coast of the South Island, bringing us views of the Pacific Ocean…
Pacific Coast
Pacific Coast

Apparently, later in the season you can sometimes see dolphins and whales playing in the bays.

The train finally terminates in Picton, from where it is possible to catch the ferry across the Cook Straights to Wellington. We didn’t do this, deciding to spend the day in Picton and catching the ferry the next day.

Picton itself is one of those small seaside towns that most people just never visit. Straight from the station to the ferry terminal (or if by car, just plain missing the town). Which is a shame as it really is a lovely place. Probably helped by the glorious weather when we were there!!
Picton Harbour
And as you can see… there is very little traffic in the town… that and Canadians just aren’t used to roundabouts… ;o)
Picton Roundabout
And on the morning of our departure, watching the morning fog roll out of the harbour…
Picton Harbour mist

* – it also has only 1/14th of the population of the UK

Messing about on the… fiord…

You know… I did this trip faster than it’s taken me o write it up… however; on with the story!!

There is a region in the South of New Zealand called Fiordland (yeah, I know.. they can’t spell fjord) where the mountains meet the sea… and in some cases raise out of the water up over a mile in height!!
Milford Sound

Milford Sound is the “touristy” area… it even has an airport… Admittedly there aren’t any shops and no-one actually lives there. The road in has no-stop sections that are at risk from avalanches and people have been cut off, even with the construction of a 1200m tunnel through the mountain. A 1200m tunnel with a gradient of 1:10!! A 1200m tunnel with a gradient of 1:10 in which is held an annual foot race in late summer. A naked foot race. OK, you’re allowed to wear shoes.

And if you’re going to explore, what better way than by sea kayak…??
sea kayaking

Have I mentioned what a truely beautiful place that New Zealand is?? This next photo is on the way between the small town of Te Anau and Milford Sound called Mirror Lakes. If you look real close you’ll realise that I’ve put the photo in upside down… whoops!! ;o)
Mirror Lakes

And I will say one thing, a days worth of sea kayaking gives you really achey arms and shoulders… so best get all activity out of the way before you can’t any more!!

A time to be sad…

I am an optimist, which is a wonderful thing to be. I think it is safe to say that if I had to choose between picking the sunnier side of life or not I would so much choose the sunnier side of life. Indeed, I am enough of an optimist that when getting an answer of “crappy” to the question, “how are you today?” I will look on the bright side and generally try to help. Last night alone I got to give suggestions on a long term back injury and the old “why can’t I get this guy to like me” situation*…

Thing is… as much of an optimist that I am, there are still times when I feel sad. There are still times when I feel world weary and just plain tired. There are still times when I know I’m not posting cause every post takes me one closer to a post I just don’t want to make… They say that there are only two things in the world that are certain. And alas the future always comes around…

*insert grumpy face here*

* – though without actually telling him that you like him… cause that would be too easy…