Tag Archives: Southern Cross

AKL – LAX – PHX – LHR

Just catching up with myself here…

My last night in Auckland I met up with my friend Joanna, who had finished her Magic Bus experience. We were both leaving NZ the next day, she being off to Sydney and I of course being LA-bound. We were staying in rival mega-hostels in the city centre but had coordinated our meet-up days earlier from Rotorua. It was more complex an operation than you might think, as her phone didn’t work in NZ. So I had to check in to the Surf ‘n’ Snow then find my way to the Nomads Fat Camel before we could explore the food ‘n’ drink options available. It was nice to have someone to laugh with on this last night.

And the Sky Tower looked kinda cool all lit up at night:

Next morning I had a bit of time to stretch my legs so I wandered into Albert Park and discovered a festival of lanterns.

I also saw some trees that seemed enchanted

and a building society sign that reminded me of the night sky.

Soon enough it was time to collect my trusty backpack from the hostel and once again catch a bus to an airport. On my flight to LA, I had a neighbour who was spending a year travelling the world. I took a few suggestions for my next big trip…

But back to the current trip. I had yet another flight to catch, a short jaunt to Phoenix. (Where my mom and brother were late to pick me up! They had a very good excuse, though. Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m only mentioning it to make you cringe! Heh heh… The worst part of the experience was when an evil phone ate all my quarters. But I digress.)

Then had a few lovely days in Tucson with family. Kicked myself that I hadn’t brought my AV cable for the camera with me, as with that I can do beautiful slide shows of my escapades on my grandma’s big TV. And you can’t just go and buy one of these cables. Three words: wild; goose; chase. Watched the Lord of the Rings films instead. (“I was there. And there. Oh yeah, and that bit was pretty. You saw the photo of me with Mt Doom, right?”)

Then, guess what, I got on another bus (shuttle) to the airport and flew from Phoenix to Heathrow. Ah, that old familiar flight. Except this version was delayed by two and half hours, so we departed at 11:30pm and arrived late afternoon the following day. (Flight attendant: “The hours of daylight are approaching rather quite quickly so if those passengers in window seats would close the window shades…”) During the flight the guy at the other end of the row from me (we had two empty seats between us) invaded “my” one of the empty seats with his feet. Grrr, my empty seat, get off! I am normally a really non-irritable person but that foot got some hard stares from me. Yeah, I’d pull up my silk eye mask and everything, just so I could really scowl at it in the dark. But I don’t think it was the foot’s fault really, I just wasn’t going to get much rest on this particular flight.

So then I re-entered the UK. They seem quite used to me by now, I hardly get questioned at all by immigration. But I wasn’t heading onwards to Bristol just yet. I would be staying in London, first in Shepherd’s Bush with a friend, and then in Muswell Hill for a very special weekend workshop.

I was really looking forward to a lot of things. Not least some sleep!

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Law and order in the Wild West

Friday we departed Marahau and started making our way towards the west coast. Stopped off for one our roadside lunchbreaks, hiked down near a river with plates in hands and were met by a couple of tethered goats who eyed up our sandwiches. Later stopped for ice cream with real fruit (I had boysenberry) from a quiet little place called Motupiko. Really felt off the beaten track as we travelled along. Really nice. Stopped to make dinner later and were attacked by the evil sandflies so had to retreat inside the van to eat. Then did a bit of a ‘skyline walk’ which gave great views of the four rivers plain on which the town of Murchison is built (the rivers Matakitaki, Matiri, Buller and Mangles – there will be a quiz later).

Then we continued our scenic drive through Buller Gorge, and on to Westport to camp for the night…

In Westport we located a holiday camp, went up to the office and found it closed. Now, there was a phone there that one could use to contact the management…however J suggested we park outside and just use the showers. I went along with this, then later emerged from said shower to find J waiting for me. How courteous? Well, actually he’d been sent to retrieve his friend from the shower by the irate owner who’d discovered our van outside the camp, and had been letting down the tires in the shadows when J had returned to the van. In short, we’d been busted. I learned later that the guy had used some choice words (or certain choice words over and over) until he’d cooled down a bit. At any rate, he wasn’t happy. We gave him some cash and departed. He said he’d be giving out our vehicle registration to every campsite in NZ, which makes us chuckle everytime we tell the tale. J was contrite that evening, but we later came to the conclusion that these “Top 10” type sites are a rip-off. Evidence, our campsite the next night, a family run affair: just as clean, comfortable (and one might say friendlier…) and at least half the cost of the fancy chain one.

The next morning we had to top up the low tire at a petrol station, then we made our way to a park with public toilets. J was just pulling up to the kerb when the cleaner promptly informed him he had performed an illegal move. “In New Zealand we don’t park in the direction opposite to traffic. What country are you from?” England being the response, a discussion of the nuances in traffic laws followed. Meanwhile, I was in the back of the van quite ready to use the loo, if only I could escape without a further lecture ensuing on the use of safety belts or some such thing. I sat quietly and listened. Oh dear, the friendly banter had turned to politics, the EU and the punishment of unruly children. Really, all this? Before 8am? Eventually, the cleaner had to move on, job to do, and ablutions were able to be performed. The loo had an automatic toilet paper dispenser that tried my patience, but aside from that things seemed ok now. I hoped we’d steer clear of further correction for at least a day.

We departed to visit the seal colony at Cape Foulwind (nice name). It was a beautiful morning for it. Continued on to Charleston, where we took a longer walk with further views of gorgeous seascapes. A reminder of how far from home(s) I am:

Noodles for lunch, then Punakaiki for the Pancake Rocks and blowholes (much more touristy here, but again quite stunning scenery).

Am in glacier country now….via Hokitika, with its jade, its goldrush history, its view of the Southern
Alps in the distance, and its sand and driftwood sculpture competition.

And via Pukekura (pop 2, according to Lonely Planet) where one could, if one wanted to, visit the Puke Pub and eat road kill (“you kill ’em, we grill ’em”). Yes, if one wanted to. I instead recommend Lake Ianthe for a lunch stop – we made and ate toasted cheese sandwiches here, while sitting by the lake, looking at those Southern Alps, listening to the lapping of the water, the buzzing of flies and the sound of the occasional car passing along the main road.

So glaciers to be explored and all that. We met up with some of J’s friends he met on the North Island, who are now working/lurking round these parts. Had a few drinks with them in a bar just outside Franz Josef village. A really good group of people. We’re going on a horse trek with them later. I managed to injure my hip getting into the van yesterday so that will be interesting. (A stupid injury but really painful so stop sniggering at my misfortune – it’s not an unrelenting so called barrel of laughs and scenery here, you know. Honestly.)

"Unisex toilet" in Hokitika cafe
Sign in the men's
Update on this post since I last wrote (and the power went out just before the exciting moment at which Kramer hits the Publish button)… Last night a few of us went for a walk out to the terminal face of the Franz Josef glacier. It was cool and quiet, a welcome break from the heat (there has been much wilting by day, along with comparisons of our sandfly bites). And we were pretty much the only ones there. When we got back to the carpark we did meet some other creatures, we think they were Kea. Here are some photos so go to it, bird identifiers:
And here’s the glacier:
 Pretty, isn’t it?
Planning on doing a tandem paraglide, probably in Queenstown. Just trying to get it added to my insurance…
My other hobby is hunting the Southern Cross (aka Crux). Apparently there are two pointer stars that will tell me if I’ve found the correct cross.
But for now, time to publish and exit into the sunshine once again.