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Yet again I seem to have left it quite a while since my last update, so I will try to keep things reasonably concise. My only excuse is the distraction of all the things I've done as detailed below :-P. I'd better start with my first stop after Queenstown.
Besides being a picturesque lake-side town, Wanaka is noted for two unique attractions: Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World and the Cinema Paradiso. Puzzling world is a cool little place with a maze and 4 illusion rooms set in some crazy architecture just outside of town. Inside there's an art gallery of 3D holograms, a room with 168 famous faces most definately following you around, a room of distorted perspection (watch yourself become a dwarf then a giant!) and, probably best of all, a room where gravity has gone wrong; the entire room is tilted which really affects your perception of the horizontal and creates illusions such as water running uphill.
Cinema Paradiso is different to most cinemas in the modern world. For a start, there's only one screen and it's running off two 40 year old projectors, giving the film a less clinical and more cinematic look. The reception area is a little cafe selling quality homemade food (such as delicious cookies and ice cream) at reasonable prices and they still have an intermission half way through the film to allow you to go to the loo or buy some more refreshments. The most noticeable difference is the seating; rather than just rows of standard chairs, there is instead an eclectic collection of old sofas and recliners and even an old Morris Minor in the corner with the roof removed but the windscreen intact. It was a great experience and it was helped by seeing an excellent film, Keeping Mum; if you haven't seen it try and get the DVD - it's a great black comedy starring Rowan Atkinson and Maggie Smith.
From Wanaka I hitchhiked up to Fox Glacier on the west coast. I was picked up by Anika and Alex, two girls recently graduated from university in Germany and doing a little round the world tour. Walking on the glacier (I did a full day guided trip) was a really interesting experience; they're not as flat as you'd think but equipped with crampons and led by two great guides we worked our way up the ice, passing through cravasses and tunnels with stunning deep blue ice on either side, to get a fair way along this 13km long block of ice.
Hitching to Greymouth, a dreary place further up the west coast, I was given lifts by a spanish couple and another two different German women (one of whom was living in Ireland before she came out and had a wonderful hybrid accent!). Greymouth was just a passing point on my way north but before I headed all the way up to Nelson on the north coast of the south island I stopped in Barrytown, a tiny little hamlet, to make a knife. From scratch. I spent the whole day there, first forging the steel then cutting out the handle and riveting it to the blade then finally sanding and polishing the whole thing down in to an awsome bowie knife; Ben Jermy eat your heart out! To get more of an idea about what the finished product looked like, have a look at the pictures on their website. We also got to have a go throwing axes at a big wooden board (getting them to stick in was bloody hard!) and after we'd finished, we celebrated with a bit of home distilled moonshine; a great day.
From Nelson I had easy access to the Abel Tasman National Park, the most visited NP in New Zealand. The famous coastal track is incredibly well tramped with up to 27,000 people a year walking along it, normally in 3-5 days, and it passes along stunning coastline with beautiful golden sandy beaches. It also happens to be the sunniest place in NZ, which I can attest to having had 5 days of glorious blue skies whilst I was there. I walked the track in 2 days (which meant a slightly long 33km/20.5 mile first day), meeting mainly English people in the well-maintained huts then came back along the little used inland track, meeting not a soul in the two and a half days I was on it. The inland track cuts right across the heart of the NP, climbing steeply to follow a ridgeline through beautiful beech forest with the occasional viewpoint providing 360 degree panoramas of the surrounding park. The path is rough but well marked and well worth walking, so I was rather surprised to find in the hut log books that the last people to pass through it had been over a week ago. On the last morning I climbed up to Castle Rock, a terrific viewpoint with views across the bay to Nelson, back over the tree tops of the park and down through a valley to the sea to watch the sunrise over the ocean; a magical experience.
I took my leave of the south island yesterday, taking the ferry from Picton on the 3 hour jouney across the Cook Straight to Wellington. I felt rather like one of the immigrants arriving in America 150 years ago as we pulled in to the harbour and I disembarked into the bright lights and hurly burly of a busy city. After being in small places for so long, the wide roads, sky scrapers and hurrying commuters were quite a shock, but I'm sure I'll get used to it again. I should be meeting up with Fiona and Nish today, as they're arriving tonight on their way south through NZ. After they've gone I think I might try and find a job here as it's a convenient stopping point on my journeys and I need a bit of extra cash!