Well sunshine hasn't been a problem since my last posting. Despite the warnings of grey skies from fellow travellers I have seen nothing but glorious weather for the last few days.
Don't worry - I'm smothered in factor 30 sun lotion!
On Sunday morning I had breakfast in the Cathedral (of Cathedral Square fame) and then atended a eucharistic service. I love the way that the clergy really don't care who you are. I certainly wasn't wearing my Sunday best - Levis I bought in downtown LA a Wolverine t-shirt, and the threat of a beard on my chin, my mother would have been ashamed - but still the Dean greeted me with a freindly smile and a handshake and asked me if the weather in Ireland was just like this.
I told her it was and thanked her for a nice service.
I checked out the Museum, and saw some Moa skeltons and reconstructions of old Maori settlements. Then I had a look at the city's art gallery, which had some bizarre kinetic sculptures by a guy called Len Lye (who's probably very well known, but I hadn't heard of him before).
I wanted to see Gloomy Sunday at the Arts Centre cinema, but it was sold out, but the lady in the ticket kiosk said I could check out the junior drama improv session going on in the theatre which was absolutely fantastic. I sat with her and her son for about an hour and only left when he started giving me the 'Are you my new daddy' eyes. I thanked them both and left, with the theme tune to About A Boy in my head.
My roommate for the night was a nice little Korean girl called Pin, who was also planning on getting the Transalpine express the next day across to Greymouth.
The train crosses the Southern Alps and the Caterbury Plains, and is supposed to be one of the seven greatest train journeys in the world. It was fanstatic - I must have taken about forty photograps of the views as we made our way through towns and valleys and between snow capped peaks.
On the train my allocated seat was double booked with a journalist called Jamil. I hope he wasn't covering the epic journey as he snored peacefully through most of it.
We passed through a small town called Otira - population 45 and counting - which had an interesting story attached to it. Apparently an Auckland couple were looking for some cheap profit-turning property in the south island and found a pub in Otira, which was on sale for 70k. They thought this was a bargain, and bought it. On reading the title deeds however they realised that they hadn't just purchased the pub, but also the hotel, a row of houses and the surrounding buildings. In fact pretty much everything except the train station!
They are trying to encourage people to live there, and keep the rent ridiculously cheap.
Needless to say I instantly thought of that novel I'm eternally halfway through. I could definitely finish it off here!
No distractions whatsoever...
I also met a barber called Vince who had emigrated in 1961, and promised to help me set myself up in NZ if I ever decided to take the plunge myself.
When I got to Greymouth I met a mad Devon girl called Tracey, who I'd spend the next week and a half with touring round the south island. She convinced me that there were better places than Greymouth to spend an extra night (turns out she was right!) so we headed on to Franz Josef home of the famous glacier (not as famous as the Fox Glacier, but that's a bit harder to climb...)
We also went horse trekking, with the Southern Alps as our back drop, which was amazing.
The Franz Josef glacier was an amazing experience. We stayed an extra day so that we could do the full day hike. Some people got a helicopter up to the top - but I'd say that is almost certainly cheating. You don't get to know something until you conquer it - although our hand-held guided tour of the glacier probably couldn't be accurately described as a conquest!
It was fantastic though, and reminded me of when I climbed Nevis with the lads I graduated 5th Year with.
And now we're in Makarora, where ne can do many things like jetboating or skydiving (I think) but it's so remote and lovely that I just want to sit, soak up some some and write in my journal.
My sketchbook is getting beefier by the day.
The coach tour I'm travelling with is organising a cook-up tonight, along with a few kegs of beer.
This solitude is nice. Tuning me up for the partying ahead.
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