18 May 2007
Twizel, New Zealand
They say New Zealand is the the land of the long cloud and Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world. I say this is one outstanding destination on my Odyssey!
Two days ago, I used the second half of my pre-purchased tram/gondola ticket to take a bus from the center of town and head for the gondola ride. I had no idea of what to expect so once again I wasnt disappointed.
Getting on the gondola is similar to a ski lift and ten minutes later I was deposited at the top of a 3300 foot mountain with 360 degree views of Christchurch to the northwest-Lyttelton (Hey Mike S. first you misspelled it, then I misspelled it and Ralph was looking over my shoulder as the chief grammarian and I consulted a map for the correct spelling) to the south, the ocean to the east and more land mass to the west. It was quite windy on the observation deck, but the sun and views made the trip worth the ride. I decided to walk DOWN the mountain as it looked like some exercise and I am not used to taking a gondola DOWN a mountain. So, walk it is!
Is it easier to walk up or down 3300 feet. I was not prepared with my Merrell shoes as I just had Reeboks, not expecting to make this trip in the first place. Good equipment makes all of the difference on any kind of expedition. Jogging shoes are not supportive enough for downward treks and I was all over the mountain trying for stability. Needless to say, I felt a lot better going down than the people going UP the mountain on foot. The path was the same path used by early settlers to go from Lyttelton to Christchurch and the views of those settlers 150 years ago must have been very moving. As you come over the crest of the hill, there is a seemingly never-ending vista of the valley and the ocean below. A very sobering view! It was a little short of an hour to walk down and good exercise as well.
The next morning, I managed to book my trip from Bangkok to Bali as I am on a mission to find a manufacturer for that piece of furniture that Barry and I have been playing with for a couple of years. It is not a difficult thing to have to return to Bali for any reason! This time, I have to fly from Bangkok to Kuala Lampur for an overnight at the airport and then on to Bali the next day. Fortunately, my flight back to BKK is easier , without an overnight. A company in Bali says they have a sample for me to inspect. We shall see if this product is ready to market! Ill keep you posted on that one in early June!
I went back to Avis for a car as I am driving the southern half of the South Island of NZ. I managed to get upgraded to a Mitsubishi Panjero, a sport utility diesel! Does that scare you, given my history!! Nice car, similar to the Lexus sport utility with all of the bells and whistles.
Drove an hour and one-half south to MountHutt, a local ski area. The area is not scheduled to open until June 9, so I knew I wasn;t going skiing! The signpost said MountHutt was 16 kilometers off the main road. Easy enough as I wanted to see a NZ ski area- with or without snow. The first 2 kilometers were paved road and then it switched to rock, sand, gravel, dirt, you name it. For the next half hour I drove this vehicle up 3800 feet on this treacherous road, without guard rails and my stomach was in my throat the whole way. I was afraid to look out and below where I had traveled as it was a very, very steep climb. Fortunately, I have a four-wheel drive car, but I dont know how to engage the four-wheel drive!! At one point, a sign suggested Warning avalanches and another spot forbade cars from going further up the mountain without snow chains. I am driving on a perfectly sunny day, high winds but loose gravel and I am scared silly!
I reach the base of the mountain 5600 feet and look up at a very impressive setting for some skiing. There is no sign of snow except in a few higher elevations and I dont see how they will have enogh of a base for skiing come 9 June. I guess rocks and stones are considered loose granular conditions here. I would enjoy skiing here someday, but I have no idea how I would get up a snowy mountain to this place. I did notice a platform for Bungy jumping. If the drive up the hill or skiing the mountain isnt enough of an adrenaline-rush, you can tempt fate with a bungy jump. The drive down wasnt fun either as even with a heavy car, the loose stones and gravel make for unsure steerage. I wonder how many people they lose over the side of the road every winter! It is/was that scary.
Drove to LakeTekapo and found a motel overlooking a beautiful lake with snow-capped mountains in the distance. The water has a distinct blue color from the combination of mineralized stone and the reflection of the sunlight
And front the motel end of the lake, there are no houses, signs or anything resembling life as we know it. Just as beautiful a setting as I have seen since Kambala in Tibet. The only difference is the elevation of 2000 feet as opposed to 9000 feet in Tibet.In a very small town-population of 115, it has a Japanese and Korean restaurant as this is a popular waystop for those tourist
I had mapped out an itinerary to stop in Tekapo and drive today to Mount Cook Alpine Village. Mt.Cook is NZ highest peak at 12,500 feet and it is surrounded by peaks that almost approachMt. Cook. These are very rugged snow covered mountains with glaciers (no skiing here either) and the drive to the mountain is along a beautiful lakeshore-Lake Pukaki on the right and the mountain range in the distance. This is as beautiful a drive, as a matter of fact the last two days have been spectacular. Within fifteen minutes of leaving Christchurch, I remarked to myself, I now see why people are crazt about NZ. The scenery is the best, the farms the mountains, the water, without parallel, in y opinion. South Afric is gorgeous but big. What makes NZ is its relative small size with so muc crammed into the land and surrounding sea. It is interesting to note, that the current Americas Cup contest off Valencia, Spain, the Oracle-American crew is predominately NZ sailors! These guys are great outdoorsmen.
The mountains look like our creator took brown/green aluminum foil and crumbled it up into a ball and then flattened it out. The mountains are big and rugged looking and run almost the length of the south island on the western coast. NZ is famous for lamb and the sheep are plentiful here. Hey graze in flocks and there are so many of them, one thinks they are stones as they appear to be statue-like in the fields. Their wool coats are very thick to protect them from the northwesterly winds that predominate here.
I had planned to stay in the alpine village, just below Mt.Cook. The famous hotel, the Hermitage has rooms for 880 NZD a night, but they dont have Internet access. Can you believe it? Even the cheapo rooms dont have I connection. After I tried every hotel/motel in the village, I realized I wasnt going to be staying there for the next. Plan B!!!
I figured I might as well take a hike while here and set off on a three hour return trek up a trial to HookerLake. Glaciers drop into this lakeandit reminded me of Glacier Bay in Alaska. Not nearly as impressive as Alaska, but a wonderful hike over swinging bridges, rocks, gravel, sand and constructed walkways. There were Japanese tourist that didnt look like they were able to cross the street, hiking the trail. Needless to say, I hoofed it as I knew I had to drive somewhere to find I connection.
I ended up in Twizel and every hotel/motel failed to have I connection. Finally, somebody said there was a start-up wireless service in town and I should go to the local bar to buy a scratch-off card for I service. After a couple of beers and lamb shanks (what else up here?) I had wireless service.
You see, today is the last day of my online semester and I am absolutely paranoid about having access in order to send in my grades. It was a struggle and it just tells me that the World isnt completely Flat as Tom Friedman may think!! I service isnt universal and I have spent a lot of time and money looking for and using Internet on this trip. Needless to say, I am pleased the semester is almost over.
I am staying in a motel that has a sign out front-We just look expensive, what a dive for $53.00 (U.S.) a night. This is the best hotel in town!!
After that trek, the driving and the beers, I am tuckered out and will just offer a: Journey well to you! Until the next posting
posted Friday May 2007