.: New Zealand's South Island
Tonight I am listening to the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and recalling our holiday in New Zealand. We may book our China-Japan flights this weekend, which is very exciting because I haven't been to China before. Yet, I wouldn't mind visiting NZ's South Island again. It's such an easy destination, few language problems (except for the really thick accents of the far South), road rules almost the same as in Australia. What I really loved was the magnificent scenery coupled with a feeling of solitude. Dramatic mountains coupled with coasts silent but for the wind and the waves.
I could seriously imagine us living in Christchurch - somewhere with the life and intelligence of a university combined with the facilities of a city, yet small enough the escape into natural peacefulness is simple. I'd love to have some research or teaching post where I could potter along without pressure, just a desire to learn and create. I suspect that "commercial pressures" are inescapable, but it's a nice fantasy to have.
[image:587,left][image:589,right]We began the day with a drive out along the Otago Peninsula, stopping to take in the magnificent views of Otago Harbour from atop the brilliantly green hills. Our destination was Larnach Castle, the 19th Century home of banker William Larnach and some very tragic tales of suicide and unhappy relationships. Set in a classic English garden, the castle is full of furnishings from across the world, the interior workmanship and materials a wonder to behold, as is the view from the tower.
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[image:599,left]On the way back from Larnach Castle we stopped off at Clifton Farm, who specialise in sheep with coloured coats. We purchased a beautiful grey-brown sheepskin from their wooden shed full of woolen products. Then it was back to Dunedin for some lunch and a chance to look at the impressive bluestone architecture of the city.
[image:508,left]After the beauty of the South Island's Alpine regions, the remainder of the trip was a bit of a let down. The rolling country grasslands just could not compete with the magnificence of the mountains, forests and lakes. We left Te Anau and drove westwards to Dunedin, passing through small towns and sheep farms, not too different from some of my favourite parts of rural Australia.
[image:511,left][image:512,right]Arriving in Dunedin early in the afternoon, we checked into the Aberdeen Motel, then drove back through the university city to the historic and ornate station. From there, we boarded the Taieri Gorge tourist train, a diesel hauled collection of heritage and custom built panoramic carriages that follows the Taieri River for a distance of 77 kilometres, although our trip was only up to Pukerangi, 58 kilometres from Dunedin.
[image:462,right]We had a lot of fun in the morning exploring quaint and historical Arrowtown. It's far prettier then Queenstown and we regretted not finding some dinner there the previous night, for there looked to be some very reasonable eateries.
[image:463,left]Our next destination was Te Anau at the foot of a lake of the same name. As we departed Queenstown I couldn't help but think that the range of our left might be fencing in Mordor. Snow clouds still dusted the tops of the hills, even in late Summer. We passed a vintage steam train pulling tourists along through the valleys. It would have been a fun and very scenic journey for them.
On reaching Te Anau and the Anchorage Motel we were quick to unpack and book a Milford Sound cruise though the reception. Not stopping for lunch, we set out towards this famous part of the Fjordland National Park.
[image:395,left][image:397,right]If yesterday belonged to the Elves, then today it was Orcs and Men. We departed our motel early, driving past the townships towards our first stop, Franz Josef Glacier. Throughout the morning, Howard Shore's music for the Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers provided an appropriate soundtrack to the scenery outside. As we drove up the gravel road to the glacier the sight of dead trees eerily combined with the Mordor sounds of The Prophecy from the car speakers.
[image:405,right]Despite the frequent short showers we walked up through the damp forest steps for a distant view of the Franz Josef glacier, the first that either of us had seen.
[image:414,left]About 25 kilometres south of Franz Josef is a second, and more spectacular glacier, Fox Glacier. Here, we were able to walk up from the carpark almost to the base of the glacier. Temporary waterfalls fell from fog shrouded valley walls, forming rivulets into the main flow from the glacier. We stepped carefully across the moonlike rocks until we reached the blue ice face of the glacier. It was as if we were on another world.[image:412,right]
Our flight from Sydney was late arriving in at Christchurch and, due to understaffing, it took us an hour to organise the car hire. We did manage to hire a Vodafone SIM card for the mobile phone from the desk at the airport. It was quite late by the time we exited the airport. We wandered around the centre of Christchurch during the evening, dining in a Korean cafe that seemed to be frequented by local students. Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and seemed quite attractive.
The first night was spent in the Ashleigh Court Motel, located in a quiet side street but fairly close to the city. For whatever reason, I couldn't sleep, so I amused myself by watching the Australia versus England one day cricket final on the Pay TV station. The delayed telecast was just like being back at home!
At the beginning of 2003 we wanted an overseas holiday. The main problem was that most other places in the world are far away for Australians and quite expensive. One place is not so distant, not so expensive to travel to and somewhere that is truly worth a visit. And after watching the first two parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy at the cinema, it's somewhere we were keen to see. I am, of course, talking about New Zealand. And so it was that my wife and I spent a week at the end of January of 2003 driving around the South Island of New Zealand.
We flew across from Sydney to Christchurch with Qantas and had organised the hire of a Toyota Corolla with Hertz, mainly because they were recommended by STA Travel and the prices were much of a muchness. For accommodation, we purchased Golden Chain vouchers - we still had to book a room prior to arrival at each location, but at least we had a listing of motels and some certainty of prices.