Franz Josef, New Zealand
I’d saved two hours of bus journey by staying in Cromwell rather than Queenstown, as journeys north and south all start and finish in Queenstown but pass through Cromwell.
One on the way there and one on the journey to Franz Josef, but it was still a 7 hour-plus journey, starting at 9. I was a little nervous, given previous slight bus sickness and odd-timed breaks, but it couldn’t have been better.
The journey is split into two, with one driver covering the first four hours (from Queenstown) then picking up the southern based coach while the driver of that one takes the northern coach up. With two drivers, we had two lunch breaks, and both see their role as being as much about tour guiding as driving, so were full of information about the landscape, roads and towns we passed through. They even had a couple of stops purely for photos, and one for a short walk to a waterfall, so this was just like being on a tour. It’ll probably be the same on the way back, but that’s my fault for covering the same ground.
The Northern driver stopped for an age at the changeover point to check where everyone was staying. Fabulously, he then dropped everyone right outside their accommodation, which made perfect sense for those who were at the motel on the glacier side of the ‘temporary’ bailey bridge. For everyone else, it meant delays while we backed out of various places. Franz Josef is tiny, nowhere was more than 5 minutes from the bus stop. Still, churlish to be miserable about such great service. The driver also ran through our options for reaching the glaciers, essential for those staying just one night who needed to get on with it seeing as we arrived around 4 and might want to book a shuttle.
I didn’t, I’ve two full days here so chilled out, walking to the supermarket under overcast skies, coming out to pouring rain. “Oh stop raining”, said the weary girls huddling in the doorway, suggesting they’ve had enough of the west coast precipitating on them. Twenty minutes later we were shooting the breeze in glorious if cool sunshine. That was a first for NZ; the temperature is often cool, but the sunshine has always been roasting when it hits. That factor had brought my chat companion here from Queenstown, avoiding mugginess. And spreading his own conspiracy theories. I was with him on the power of the banks, but then we got to the “911 was a bit stagey” moment, which is becoming as much of a red flag as when Hitler is introduced into an online debate, or the line “you know who’s to blame, don’t you?” is uttered by a stranger in a pub.