Friday, December 11, 2009

NZ - Aoraki / Mt Cook --> Christchurch

My wakeup time was determined by what it’d look like outside the window.  So when the first person awoke, I peered out and saw absolutely nothing… I could barely even make out the flowers on the hill about a meter away from the window.  Back to sleep.  The next person’s alarm went off and in a split-second they’d managed to nail their hands against the wall with cat-like reflexes (albeit dog-like delicacy) to turn it off.  I check the window: still in a cloud.  I resign myself to laying in bed til 9am, when I force myself up so I can eat breakfast and checkout by 10.

A breakfast of an orange, a lemon, and an apple – all of which I’d been carting around with me since Franz Josef and figured I should probably eat sooner rather than later.  I first drove down Hooker Valley Road (insert sophomoric giggle here), but hit the end and peered toward the multi-hour trail I was pondering about hiking, then turned back once I decided spending several hours to climb about in a cloud wasn’t particularly tantalizing.

The next drive took me toward the Tasman Glacier, where a hike spanning minutes rather than hours was a bit more promising.  The Blue Lakes en route weren’t particularly blue or interesting, though they were certainly lakes.  Fortunately it occupied only about a minute of my time.  Up at the ridge overlooking the glacier, I couldn’t help but smirk at an informational sign reading “Where’s the glacier?” as I stared into cloud.

My position was right on top of a low cloud, but some distance beneath some higher clouds.  Within minutes, the sun broke through those higher clouds… not in the sense of blue sky, but certainly enough to cast shadows.  In the span of about 5-10 minutes, the sun wreaked havoc upon the lower clouds: before my very eyes I watched as mountains and glacier emerged into view.  I got the photos I’d sought, and by the time I reached the bottom the lower clouds had all but disappeared.  I could see the summits of the surrounding mountains along with blue sky.  Not bad for a day that was supposed to be lackluster all day long.

I went back to the village to pickup my camera battery & charger, which I’d managed to forget.  I hopefully looked back toward Aoraki / Mt. Cook, but its peak was still shrouded in cloud – I could see about as much as I’d seen the previous day.  Oh well, worth a shot.

My ultimate destination was Christchurch, but I stopped at Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo once again to get some more photos.  I had a tasty lunch of chicken kebabs in Lake Tekapo before continuing on with my long drive to Christchurch.  Along that drive I opted to take the “Inland Scenic Route”, signed as Route 72 (albeit not Motorway 72).  This roadway felt a lot like Rt. 72 in New Jersey: a totally straight road with naught much to look at.  While I don’t know how interesting the alternative would have been – to stay on the motorways – I feel like anything else would’ve been an improvement.  At least I managed to find some decent radio stations so close to Christchurch.

This marked the second time I’d really bothered with the radio, with the first time being when either Gitti or Svenja had tried to find something decent on.  By and large, I’ve been traveling with only two sounds: the breeze by the open windows, and my own singing.  Right up until my short hike to Tasman Glacier, I’d had David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” stuck in my head.  I started pondering how it had been in my head almost endlessly, when all of a sudden: poof, it was gone.  I can’t even think of how it goes anymore… not at all; not even one note.  To replace it I have Bowie’s “Golden Years” as well as the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You”.  Er, actually now that I revisit this as I write it – I haven’t the faintest idea what song I originally had stuck in my head, but it wasn’t “Diamond Dogs” … I’m pretty sure it was Bowie, though.

Finding the hostel was a breeze, and while the room has only one outlet: at least there’s a power strip.  Unfortunately, it’s inconveniently located by the door & far from the beds; hence one must sit on the floor for anything involving a laptop.  The location is excellent, though – a short walk fro the city center.

Journeying into downtown, I just did a quick tour to nab some photos before getting some Turkish nearby (at a place aptly named Topkapi) and then heading to the cathedral to catch a Christmas concert.  It still just doesn’t quite feel like Christmas, despite the so-themed concert, the trees, the snowman decorations, and Santa’s ubiquitous presence.  Maybe it’s my constant sweating from heat and humidity (though moreso the latter).

The concert in the cathedral was a delight and went a long way toward improving my impression of New Zealand cities.  Christchurch is like the other cities in that it looks almost exactly like any other city.  I mean at least American cities have a little bit of variety; Kiwi cities are like suburbs with some taller buildings thrown in.  However, this was the first dose of culture I’d really had here in New Zealand.  It made me realize why I love European cities so much: there are concerts galore at any time of year.  Plenty of free things to keep one occupied, particularly those who don’t do the bar scene and can be a bit bored come evening time.

Tonight’s roommates include a Dutch girl who is working to support travel: a hairdresser whenever she opts to start working again.  Then there is a Polish couple as well as two English guys from near-ish to Birmingham (though not Birmies) – this is the first night in beds for the two English guys in awhile; they’d been sleeping in a stationwagon for several nights.  All three guys have massive massive beards, and even I’m a bit unkempt at the moment.  I can’t help but ponder if there’s some deep philosophical meaning behind that, but I’ll instead say it’s probably just coincidence.  Er, and also that two guys living out of a stationwagon probably haven’t had much chance to shave.

I do have to mention that at our hostel, right beside the door of the mixed bathrooms was a condom vending machine.  I’ve never seen one of these in a hostel before, so I couldn’t help but laugh at how I was staying at such a fully-stocked location.

No comments:

Post a Comment