Dawn of the Dead
Queenstown Travel Blog› entry 4 of 7 › view all entries
Welcome to Queenstown. The town famous for its horrendous januari first hangover. As we walked down shotover street at 10:30 this morning we met dozens of people milling the streets in confusion. The pubs have just closed for the night and those out on the streets are either to drunk to find their tent or don't have a place to sleep and are sleepwalking through traffic.
It's 2007. Sadam Houssein ( or one of his rumoured 24 doubles ) has just been executed. Some asshole islamic fanatics have decided to explode bombs in Bankok, Thailands either to celebrate his death with fireworks or to demonstrate against his fair trial. It's still unclear. That's the only news of the outside world we get out here. If it happens within a few thousand miles they report it. Otherwise the news just goes on and on about the weather.
The weather sucks by the way.. Has sucked for atleast a week in fact.
After leaving sunny Nelson, christmas fed and sunburned ( I look like as skinned seal now )we took the bus to Franz Josef Glacier. About 2km out of Nelson it started to rain. A drizzle at first but it turned into a decent downpour, as our bleary eyes adjusted to the light streaming through the rainsplattered windows of the coach. It was one of those tour-busrides where they make lot's of stops at famous rocks, waterfalls, mountains and one of the 150 lord of the rings locations. It took us about 10 hours to get halfway down the westcoast to the mountain town of Franz Josef.
It wasn't just raining it was cascading by the time we got our packs. Halfway towards town we had heeded the coachdrivers insistant advice to book a bed ( or atleast try ) before we got to our destination. Lucky for us there was still a double available. The further you get Down South the more beds are occupied.
Looking at rain is no fun. Especially travelling through a region famous for it's mountain vieuws and glacier walks. With all the mountains indecernible by thick rain cloudsan fog and no helicopter flights or guided walks going up the glacier there was very little point in sticking around.
After some heated debate we uprooted the next day for a resort town called Wanaka that's situated out of the westcoast wetlands. Wanaka is a little mountaintown that lies on a large glacier lake. At it's deepest point it's beneath sea level wich is unusual here. ( as I've lived a few km below sea level all my life I wasn't very impressed ) The lake is about 45km long and has quite a strong current. The mountains surrounding it are incredible. They are called the Southern Alps and although Switserland has higher ones the view is still pretty spectacular.
We managed to get dorm bed's in a hostel called Matterhorn South and watched the clouds part to reveal the sunshine we lost two street's out of Nelson hundreds of km about 36 hours ago. Wanaka is decidedly touristy so that opened up a lot of possibilities hitherto impossible to indulge in. Like seafood restaurants.
Ilja likes fish. Loves it. So travelling through a country where fishing is the national past time but no restaurant with fish on the menu has been somewhat of a strain on our eating out plans. It's either pig or sheep here. Usually accompanied with lot's of french fries and no vegetables. You have to order that as a side dish. Wanaka as it turns out has a seafood place. The die was cast for todays nightmare. With only one seafood restaurant. Bus, ehr I mean coachloads of European and Asian tourists slavering for decent food the stampede to that place threw up dustclouds that could be seen for kilometers around I'm sure.
Little did we know this is what the night had in store for us as we entertained ourselves at puzzleworld. That's a mini theme park with a very large maze you have to walk through for a few hours. You have to find your way to four towers with different colours and to make it more difficult you have to find them in a specific order. Say Red first, then blue, then yellow, then green and then find your way out. We did. I think we walked every hallway about 4 times. The park also has illusionary exhibits such as a room filled with the heads of Van Gogh, Beethoven, Lincoln and others who's heads turn and follow you through the room as you walk past. I's an optical illusion but a very good one. So is the room that looks like it's tilted to the side. Your actually walking at a 45 degree angle up or down but the room is furnished and dressed in such a way that it looks and feels like it's actually straight. Your senses are completely fooled and your stumbling through the room in much the same way as I notice some of the Queenstown drunks walking around outside of right now.
After puzzle world we tramped up Iron Mountain. An easy 600 meter uphill accross a path of rocks with high Iron content. Hence the name. The hill is one big iron deposit and affords a panoramic view of the southern alps. It was finally sunny and unclouded enough to see them. It's not much of a walk but Wanaka has a town gym so it served the purpose of a warm up.
The pro Active gym has a nice little atmoshpere. There was also no one there so we had an excellent work out. I stuck to upper body stuff but did do some deadlifts. Most of my muscle has stuck around on this trip. I'm not as shrunk as I was at this point on the trail in say my trips to Mexico or Syberia. The shower was a bit short because they closed at 19:00 but that atleast left us with a headstart to the restaurant.
One that was sorely needed. The place was packed and there didn't seem to be any management. Just a handfull of 15 year old girls who looked stressed out of their minds because they had to wait on every table in the place. Kiwi's can't handle a full load I've noticed. They seem to coast the best on just one or two people. Only then are they able to smile and get your order right. After some urging they managed to reserve us a table for 20:30 that finally became available around 21:15 or so. One of the waitresses was running around pulling her hair ( litterally ) saying to every colleague she passed: "I can't remember anything anymore. My brain is fried." Most of the patrons politely ignored her or were perhaps to famished to pay attention.
We decided not to make it too complicated and just ordered Gambas and the fish of the day. Ofcourse you get a lot of sloppy potatoes and or french fries with that wich I decided to skip. The side order veggies had no dressing but atleast it was green. Ofcourse the poor little waitress managed to overbill us an obscene amount of money by turning the side dish of vegetables into a main course but we got that straightened out. I noticed the cook actually emerging from the kitchen with a desperate: what the hell is going on!? look on his face. He didn't take over a japanese fish restaurant in New Zealand to actually be busy. I'm sure the rest of the year the Kiwi's provide him with a level of business he can handle. The usual 2 people just there for his fish and chips.
One more day in Wanaka because the weather looked so nice it was worth going on a tramp. We decided on the Rob Roy track that runs along and up mt Aspiring. The highpoint at the snowline provides an excellent view of the Glacier. It takes about an hour to drive down there and so the busdriver regaled us with stories on his hunting exploits ( he's murdered some 45 deer amongst others ) That's nowhere near the record wich is held by helicopter hunters. You bullseye deer from a helicopter. They drop like flies when you do that. They totaled about 280. Apparantly some have come close since but the records still stands according to our homocidal host. According to legend the weather worsened and they had to stop. Couldn't go back out the next day and when they finally went up to get the antlers and skin and meat the murdered deer had grass growing over them.
That's how much it rains up there. Vegetation will spring up almost overnight. The sun disappeared and turned to drizzle. We though we were Ok as we traversed the rope bridge accross the glacier river. We should have known better. the higher we climbed the harder it started to rain. By the time we finally reached the end of the track after climbing over high tree roots, wet rocks, boulders and waded through wet streams it was snowing up there. Tongariro was bad. This was well. A lot more wet that Tongariro. Soaked, cold and miserable despite wearing every piece of outdoor gear we stumbled off the mountain. We met some Australians coming down who shared some hot tea with us ( we must have looked like complete basket cases to them ). Not even the heater in the bus could warm us up although I pretended it did ofcourse. We had the same driver. He of the Red deer mass murder who kept asking me questions about dutch drug policies, organised crime etc until the subject turned to his cat revealing perhaps more of his sympathetic nature. He owns a black cat and calls it. Make sure you're sitting down.. "Nigger"
The shower was blissfully hot and worth the sandflies bites I had to endure to enjoy it. We shopped around town for sunglasses ( wich I though I had lost but then found again stored in an unlikely place in my pack )
Queenstown turned out to be an even bigger problem to get a bed in. We ended up at the Ridges Hotel overlooking the lake for the day price we normally pay over three nights. It did afford us some privacy to celebrate New year's eve wich we did with french cheese, champaign and pistachio nuts and chocolate. Lord of the Rings was on TV and after midnight Robby Williams crooned loudly enough to drown out the noise of all the drunks around this zombie town.
In about an hour we leave for the tiny town of Te Anau where we can enjoy another busy dorm Hopefully it won't rain to badly in Milford Sound.
I keep singing monty python's Always look on the bright side of life under my breath. Things are getting a little grim but were hanging in there. We might need a vacation from our travel through NZ though..
Happy new Year