Mountains with snow on are my favourites! They're all great but snow is so majestic. The mountain peaks were clearer than ever at 8 as the coach set off, and the lakes are like mirrors, doubling the red heads and swan necks of the gliding birds. Most of the rivers run through wide beds of rocks: grey and milky near the coast, clear and pale green near the lakes. Bruce Bay was lonely, windswept: it would be so peaceful to settle there.
Further along the coast at Knights Point Lookout the sea is bluer and the sun is warmer and a strip of sandy beach winds around the headland with picturesque rocks beyond. Less attractively the place is full of midges and tiny flies which hitch a ride in the coach.
I thought today would be just one long coach ride, staring out the window, 8 till 4. Actually, thoiugh I spent all the time on the coach gazing out at the scenery and listening to music ( yay! For the on the go playlist on the ipod and for the Belkin battery adapter, bah! For the fact that the hold switch can get knocked off in my bag so the main battery goes phut, and a final yay! For nice music like Patrick O'Hearn) we kept stopping so it was more like a mystery tour!
Not for long but long enough for food, the loo, photos or all three. Picking up in Fox glacier: very like Franz Joseph. A food stop at a salmon farm with hexagonal pools and two streams, one still and one tumbling. The stop on the coast and another at the mouth of the Haast river where the visitor centre runs with steps and stepping stones down into a lagoon. We turned and followed the Haast inland, away from the creeks snaking out to the sea and lagoons fringed with reeds to mountains, plains and lakes. The lunch stop was literally in the middle of nowhere with green mountains just across the plain and the odd snowy peak peeping through - thanks to the recent unseasonal weather although today was brilliant sun.
The rivers get greener the further we get from Greymouth and we stopped at a fabulous waterfall that tumbles into a nice rocky river. I'm getting good at scrambling over the rocks! Just a few dozen feet from the fall was a still pool in the river that was brighter turquoise still. We passed the top of brilliant blue lake Wanaka and stopped at the next lake along : just five minutes by a sunny view I could have enjoyed for hours.
The rivers used to mean gold mining, often sprayed out of the rock by jets of water: now it's tourist gold, green faces from white water and bungee jumps from suspension bridges. The rain doesn't reach the lakes so it's scrub rather than forest - easy to clear for the huge deer farm by one lake (LOTR fix: used for several scenes).
Wanaka the town is touristy - which here means full of cafes and hostels, but the lakeshore is beautiful. That was our last stop before Queenstown and we drove on through mining towns, orchards and vinyards that have mushroomed since they started irrigating the area, past Arrowtown - where I think I'll spend my spare Queenstown night- and in to town.
My hotel is an upscale hostel that's up the hill out of town which means a fabulous view of the lake ($20 extra!) and a shuttle bus in and out. I wandered around the lakeshore, did a little shopping (most tempted by a $4k sheepskin coat!), found that the local microbrewery is now a branch of the Christchurch Dux de lux so I tried their wheat beer and had steak n chips and pavlova for dinner.
The days feel pretty packed and people are chatty (although no-one has as good stories as tim!). it's a hell of a place for a holiday!
Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors