Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Bright! White! Tasty!

The b and b was very friendly, as were the couple at breakfast: she thought I was straight out of college (I've already been taken for 25 this week! Must be the hair!) And I swapped stories of nightmare networks with him (he used to run a cabling firm). Actually everyone is frienfly - rhonda from the b and b dropped me in town to save me the walk, a wholesale grocer stopped to sell me a punnet of strawberries on the street and I bumped into Tim from McMurdo Station on the bus again. He told me more about being up there through the summer - the techs go up in august and everyone else in october, about getting lost in blizzards, about the way there's no contrast so you can't tell if the snowcat is about to drop ten feet into a ditch, about all the species of starfish from the huge ones to the tiny ones that eat other starfish, about the people who stay behind in the long dark, and about the penguins. He's seen emperor penguins sit still for a month or two and the little pengui!
ns love the runway because they can belly slide on it and they often keep pace with the big crushers they run up and down to compact the runway: they only go two and a half miles an hour and they run for so long one driver gets off and another gets on, so it's nice to have penguins for company :-)

Greymouth is small and once you've done the jade shops and the nice little gift galleries, there's only the Monteith's brewery tour. This is the local brew and I got to taste all five beers: they do one of the nicest pilseners I've had in many years and a jolly good Munich style lager, but I never get used to porter served chilled! They cold ferment in huge stainless steel vats: we climbed up to peer in at the yeast turning into cabbage shapes. They're also hugely proud of their coal furnace for heating water which was nice and warm after the cellar!

The coach to Franz Joesph glacier stops along the way at Hokitika (more jade, glass blowing, lunch with tim eaten in five minutes flat becuae of the time it took to queue for the loo and stock up on cold remedies for the sore throat and sneeze I can't quite ignore). We also stopped at some little townships to drop off parcels and once , a chap with six shopping bags who was met by his dog.

The road runs along the Tasman coast: what-if - if Abel Tasman had found the West Coast gold which nation would have used it to stay on top down under? We passed the place where the first man to fly across the tasman sea ran out of fuel and landed upside down in a swamp. Turning inland the road crosses several wide grey rivers, twice on single track bridges shared with the train line, passes three lakes and climbs into the foothiils.

Franz Joseph is an absurd town - two streets of motels, shops and restaurants perched at the foot of the hills. I took a minibus out of town and walked for two hours around the foot of the glacier. You walk up the side of one hill through lush vegetation and umpteen tree ferns for a good view or along the river valley and past waterfalls to get up close (I did both but sadly you can't get right up to the ice). What must be fissures in the ice are the most amazing turquoise and I perched on a moderately precarious rock to get more pictures than I know what to do with.

The clouds cleared over the glacier and I could see a tiny spot of blazing white - a snowy peak. When I got back I walked out of my room and saw three snow-capped peaks looming over the corrugated roof!

Dinner was delicious: pumpkin and honey soup, creamy chicken and spinach spaghetti and a fabulous glass of Tattachilla (I think!) Keyhole grenache shiraz- yum!

Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors

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