While preparing my book, Hangi, Haka and Hobbits: Notes from New Zealand, the second in my Planning to the Nth trilogy, for publication in print, memories are flooding back.
During my first visit to Christchurch, a couple of months after the September, 2010 earthquake, there was plenty of damage to the city but it still seemed to be functioning fairly well and the cathedral had survived.
After a couple of nights in Christchurch (such a pretty place, a city built around a cathedral and college, modelled on Christ Church Oxford), I caught the Tranzalpine Rail across to the west.
which is what I went for and am very happy about, except when driving around them, as I did to get to Milford Sound.
Once the road started ascending it became very narrow with hairpin bends. At one spot there was a sign saying One Way Road, which was a worry, because traffic was coming from both ways. How the tourist buses negotiate it all without plunging into the valleys below, I don’t know, but of course they do.
The road cuts through the Homer Tunnel, a one-way tunnel carved through the top of the mountain, to link Milford with Te Anau and Queenstown.
On the other side of the tunnel it was more of the same, except going downhill instead of up. It was worth it, though, in the end, for Milford Sound.
I was already planning my return trip, though would I drive next time or take a bus? I’m not comfortable in buses. How do I know if the driver’s concentrating? What if he’s had a fight with his wife – or his girlfriend – or both? Nope, I’d rather rely on my own lack of concentration than someone else’s.
This is a Kea I saw at Fox Glacier. Keas are the world’s only alpine parrots, large with viciously long, curved beaks and equally vicious claws. They’re known for their intelligence and curiosity, often causing damage to back packs, boots and even cars. They can solve logical puzzles, such as pushing and pulling things in a certain order to get at food, and will work together to achieve an objective. In a bunch, these would be seriously scary birds.
While travelling through the Alps, I stopped for the night at Makarora Tourist Centre, in a little A-framed hut in the bush, surrounded by mountains. I loved it, though with no television or radio I could hear every sound, including a real or imagined scratching at the door. The window above my bed didn’t close properly and I was hoping none of the local inhabitants decided to join me for the night.
I could go on forever but these are a few of my favourite spots from New Zealand’s south island. I went mostly for the scenery and I definitely wasn’t let down.