Queenstown, New Zealand
Just as the journey to Franz Josef was enlivened by commentary and the journey broken up by regular stops, so was that the other way. From what I’d read, more people go counter than clockwise, but that isn’t reflected in the bus service. One per day, each way.
Two different drivers, which scotched my impression that my original two did this every day and the company would struggle to replace them if they retired. It makes more sense that they aren’t always on the same drive, switching between routes north and south of Franz Josef to save them going mad.
The first few hours we had Andrew, who liked to question his audience; “anyone know what that fence there is for?” though I’m not sure he got many answers. He was an ex farmer, comfortably talking us through opossums, road kill and tb testing.
In the middle of nowhere, about 20 minutes outside Fox, was a barn painted in desert camouflage colours, with “World bar secret HQ” painted on the sloping roof. Driving past revealed the front, on which was painted “shhh…”. Andrew went quiet for a while and I watched Senna, which is a great documentary, with some uncomfortable, unsettling scenes as first Ratzenberger and then Senna are killed toward the end. Really well done and, as the reviews chorus, it brilliantly avoids talking heads, using contemporary footage; much better.
The second driver was an Irishman; today was his third anniversary of moving to NZ and he obviously loved the Queenstown life – he’d had first hand experience of several of the activities he listed, and was dashing off after the trip to take his paraglider for a …glide.
Another fabulous trip, 8 hours done in a near flash, and Queenstown was bathed in sunshine. It is on the shores of another huge body of water, Lake Waikatipu, up to 400m deep, with mountains looming over the water on the other side. A beautiful location, though it hasn’t always been a busy town; after the gold rush years, the population dipped to just 190 until someone spotted the opportunities for adventure out here. The original bungy is from a bridge just outside town but you can also skydive, jet boat, waterski, ski, white water raft, mountain bike. You name it, they do it, with plenty of sedate activities, too, including the original paddle steamer across the lake, now over 100 years old and still coal powered. I compromised, not going for anything extreme, but getting out for a run as soon as I’d walked to my quiet hostel – it’s described as being in a suburb of Queenstown, but at just 10 minutes walk from the centre, I’m not sure where to draw a dividing line between city and suburb. The place is like a small town, but busy, particularly by the water on this sunny day. I went round the edge of the busiest part and was soon on a lake side track, round the edge of the Queenstown gardens. Other than navigating round one group who committed the sin of both blocking the 2m wide path and paying no attention – and were startled by my appearance flying past on the edge as a result – it was just a glorious run in the sun.
Reading: Simon Singh, The Mathematical Secrets of the Simpsons.