On this day in 1985 I was in Christchuch.
Queenstown seemed very crowded and touristy after the peace and serenity of the previous few days at the glacier.
I’d travelled by bus through more beautiful scenery, river gorges, serene lakes, through rainforest on the western side of the Alps to beech forests and farmland on the dry eastern slopes.
Queenstown was a pretty town on Lake Wakatipu, snuggled in-between the mountains. But it was a resort. The resident population of three thousand increased to thirty five thousand during holiday season.
I explored the town, the gardens and lake side walks. Large trout were visible in the lake from a jetty.
I took the gondola lift up to the Skyline restaurant for spectacular views over the town, the lake and mountains. The gondola itself was absolutely horrible. I don’t particularly have a fear of heights but I didn’t enjoy that ride at all. It was a tough decision whether to get the four minute ride back down or a long walk. A couple of days after I’d left town, there was an incident where one of the gondolas near the top slid back down the cable, taking all the others with it, crashing into the terminal at the bottom. Several people had minor injuries.
I wanted to visit Arrowtown and was offered lifts even without actually hitch hiking. I found everyone to be very friendly, locals and fellow travellers. After an interesting day in the old mining town, I waited for a bus back to Queenstown and ended up chatting to a local lady who’d lived two streets away from where I’d lived in London. Small world.
A few of us from the hostel visited local caves and walked through part and took boats through the darkest caves. The glow worms were remarkable, blue and green light shows on the ceilings , like looking at the night sky.
Milford Sound has spectacular natural features, a fjord carved during the ice age, steep cliffs, tall waterfalls and just stunning scenery. But on the day I visited, it rained and rained and rained. I didn’t see any of it’s beauty.
This was the only disappointment of my travels so far. I just had to imagine the scenery from the postcards I bought.
I then travelled across to Dunedin on the east coast and up to Christchurch. There is a strong British influence on these cities, churches, old style buildings but still wide streets, squares, gardens. So much of the Christchurch I had seen was devastated in the 2011 earthquake.
My tour of the South Island came to an end with a train journey back to Picton and ferry to Wellington. It is a truly beautiful part of the world.
My three weeks of back packing and hosteling had worked out well. All the hostels that I stayed in were comfortable. There were so many fascinating people that I’d met on these travels. A Dutch guy growing orchids outside Auckland, a farmer from Western Australia, girls from UK, Canada and Australia, travelling around NZ on the same youth hostel circuit I was following. It was nice to meet up with familiar faces on occasion and it made a change from the constant introduction conversations when meeting new people all the time.
I wrote a comment in my journal about travelling with a fellow twenty something “rather than talking to a middle aged woman I sat next to on an earlier stage of the journey”. I guess now I am the middle aged woman!
I loved NZ and wanted to stay longer. I had a work visa for Australia but could I work in NZ? Could I postpone my flight back to Melbourne?