February 27th, 2004

full steam ahead

Puff and blow

Up early (thanks for the lift Gary!) to catch the TransAlpine train to Greymouth. A very scenic ride even if it did get rather chilly in the observation car and decidedly damp when we got to the top of Arthur's Pass - the sun over the Canterbury Plain was morning bright and the queue for the buffet was worth it for pancakes and maple syrup. There are a lot of trees up to their armpits in water, bright yellow and green against the sky-blue reflections: I saw one bird of prey, one kiwi and some delightfully comical black birds with red heads bobbing away.

Greymouth is grey, river and stone. It's also deserted in the evening - apart from the carver in the jade shop who drilled and mounted a piece of jade for my charm bracelet on the spot (and didn't charge me for it when I bought a pendant :-) and waitresses in the restaurants and a total of ten people, mostly tourists eating dinner, I didn't see anyone this evening! Houses yes, people no - they must all be on holiday!

It's much busier up at Punkaiki, half an hour up the coast on a fabulous winding road that hugs the shore and creeps round tree-smothered cliffs that shoulder their way into the road. The beaches and the Tasman Sea are grey too and the spray is white, white, white. The pancake rocks are more impressive than they sound - layer on layer of limestone and mudrock so it weathers in stripes as well as chunks. The spray eats away at the cliffs to make caves and curves and blowholes and the curving paths meander enough to make you feel you're alone even when two buses arrive at once. I wonder if it's relaxing to live on the coast and look at the sea and run a guesthouse and make jewellry and sell muffins to tourists, or just as hard work as anything else.

The weather is the definition of chageable. I quite like hot sun and rain at the same time but the hail that drenched me when I wandered across to look at the Grey river was unexpected. The music for this entry would have to be Crowded House Always take the weather with you! Makes much more sense now I've seen NZ!

I didn't expect beef and mussels to go together but they make a very nice pizza topping actually!

Other travellers are nice and chatty. So far I've met a couple from Amsterdam who spent a week at the hot springs after falling off a horse, a twice-laid-off network support engineer fron San Diego who gave up after the second layoff to go travelling and a lovely guy who lives in Alaska, has the Wyoming accent he grew up with and works as the equipment supervisor at the Antarctic base! The world seems larger every time I look round...

Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors
full steam ahead


Not all my posts seem to be getting through: with my luck they'll be stuck in a queue and all come hurtling out together as duplicates. Bah!

Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors
full steam ahead

Kitsch'n stuff

It's not all uplifting scenery and warm sun here. I should record the quirks too :-) yesterday I saw New Zealand's largest teapot collection in Hokitika and today I've seen a huge tower of fibreglass fruit in the orchard country of Croimwell as well as the tilting towers of the puzzle house at lake Wanaka. Somewhere there must be a giant kiwifruit!

Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors
full steam ahead

Lorra LoTR

I finally succumbed and went on a LoTR tour today - briefly tempted by a wine tour but kulcher won out (plus there are wineries near Picton too!). It turns out my lake view is a locatio itself!

The promised 4x4 was a nice sedate range rover rather than one of the landies with theme plates - I spotted GIMLIS and ARWENS too - but we managed a bit of off roading (another good reason to learn to drive!). The Remarkabled got used a lot: there's deer heights where Gandalf rode to Minas Tirith, where you come out of the Paths of the dead, where Gimli fell off his horse, where Legolas jumped on his horse, where Aragorn fell off the cliff... We didn't get up to the slope that's Dimrill Dale, but all the actors except Sean Bean got airlifted up (men of Gondor walk! I guess). From the lakeside near Closeburn (and from my room!) you can see Amon Hen and Mount Earnshaw which was much snowier as Caradhas (less so as the Misty Mountains). The scrubland at Twelve Mile Delta is lovely off roading and we gazed at Ithilien like Faramir, saw a bridge rather than oliphaunts, decided not to lie down on the ridge where Frodo and co spent so much time arguing about rabbit recipes they got!

Paradise is a forest - past tiny Glenorchy with the stables they used and a library the size of a garden shed, past the lovely house built as a bribe by a suitor (she turned him down!), past the jet boats which provided the wave to wash away the Nazgul by doing a quick 360 is the forest where Boromir got shot (declined to lie down on moss...) Which doubled as Lothlorien when they put a yellow filter on the lens and spraypainted the fallen beech leaves gold!

Isengard is a scrubby field but the 360 pan Saruman does when he's casting is the hills you can really see there and the next paddoc down is the one Gandalf rides through on his way there. Nice place to stop for lunch (cocoa and biscuits!). After all that I thought I might as well get the LoTR guidebook and it turns out Franz Joseph was beacon lighting, Doubtful sound will be Anduin and south of Rivendell and Arrowtown will be the Ford of Bruin. It appear I am fangurl after all!

Lots of other film locations here for *other* films: Vertical Limit was shot in the Remarkables as were an advert for fresh breath strips and the upcoming Vauxhall advert :-) Willow was filmed round here too: the island of the sorceress is on the lake.

A good beer day: I had a glass of Monteith's Celtic red on the TSS Earnshaw - the lovely steamboat on the lake - and a Speights with my thai supper. The steamer is fabulous - wood and brass, roaring coal furnaces and sweating stokers - and the captain let me steer! He even took my photo wearing his hat :-)

I walked into town this morning along the lake but the rest of my exercise has been dashing from shop to shop - much retail therapy including lovely hand-dyed merino and pretty unspun fleece roving for dreads. Most things are very tasteful - am desparately seeking required LoTR tat!

Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors