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Published: November 29th 2011
The Kingston Flyer
I have actually never been that close to a steam engine before. Very Cool!
Winding down with the Weather
The morning after my incredible luck at the glaciers, the weather was anything but pleasant. You will not be able to tell from the pictures I have chosen for the blogs, but I have had nasty weather on the way. But I have managed to time it, so that I have been on the road on those days and not missing out on anything really important. It is also a way of cleaning the dust of the EDS.
I headed further south - into the mountains and stayed a couple of nights in Wanaka. Some of NZ's skiing territory is in this area, but the season was over weeks before I arrived and the summer activities had not really kicked off yet, so it was nice and quiet. I went tramping to the Rob Roy Glacier (must be named after the Scottish hero. No, not the one from Braveheart. The other movie. The one with Liam Neeson. The good one) and saw my first Kea. The worlds only mountainous parrot and a big one. They are supposedly one of the most intelligent birds with mental capabilities equal to a three-year old child. I
don't know exactly how they measure that, but my first thought when I read it was "Does three-year old have mental capabilities that equals a parrot?".
They are extremely curious and likes to pick everything apart. As soon as something new shows up in their area they will use their strong beaks to try to ruin it. And they make some crazy sounds as well.
I ran all the way down, which felt great at the time, but meant that my legs were sore for many days afterwards. I am just not as fit as I ought to be.
Next stop was going to be Queenstown. Tiny gold-rush-era Arrowtown made a lovely postcardy stop along the way and the company of a drop-dead gorgeous Swiss hitchhiker made this the most enjoyable drive so far.
Queenstown is touristy. No doubt about that. They provide every conceivable way of giving you an adrenaline-rush and you provide the money. Add to the mix a beautiful location and "Lord of the Rings" locations and then you get a lot of tourists. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the place. I went on a jetboat through the Shotover River Gorge
In case you were wondering what Paradise looks like. The non-existing village with that presumptuous name is just north of Glenorchy (which is just north of Queenstown). Paradise is full of Hobbits these days, but I didn't see any.
and the speed, proximity to the sheer walls and 360 degree turns was well worth the money. The two crappy photos of us that they tried to sell for $20 dollars - not so much.
But that was really the only adrenaline I needed or rather the only one the many activities that was appealing or not on my "Been there, done that" list.
The following day I went up the Wakatipu lake for a breakfast in Glenorchy and further afield to a tiny village (or rather two houses) enticingly called Paradise. The weather was yet again perfect and on my way back to town I decided that it was time to take to the skies again. This time in an actual plane and with yours truly as pilot.
I don't count this as an adrenaline-rush-thing, but I admit it is close. I got to taxi most of the way, pull the throttle and take off and basically pilot the thing all the way. As long as I did as the instructor told me and he didn't see a reason to take over, I was in full control. Fantastic. Even during the landing he only handled the
Another very nice morning.
rudder and the throttle, so I was indeed pilot for an hour. It wasn't until halfway through high-school that I gave up on the jet-fighter pilot dream and not more than half a decade since I finally came completely to terms with that decision, so actually flying like that (under constant supervision) was stellar. We flew almost the same route as I had driven earlier in the day - up to Glenorchy and Paradise and back. Little did I know that I had now seen one of the holy sites of LOTR-dom twice in a day and from two spectacularly different perspectives. But I would soon be aware of just how ignorant I was about that.
Good Lord, that doesn't Ring a bell
After a fantastic day I settled for dinner seated at a bar and soon after found myself in conversation with a couple of English guys about my age. It started out with the usual backpacker stuff. "Where have you been, how long are you here, where will you be going next?". But, when I told them what I had done during the day, all hell (or rather Mordor) broke loose.
In "Lord of the
This little Cessna Skyhawk SP was to be "my first plane".
Rings" the object of the title has a magnetic and perverting effect on all that bears it. The books and movies has a similar effect on everybody with a geeky streak to them. Peter and William looked the part. But they seemed rather "normal" until I told them that I had been in Glenorchy and later even flown over the place. "We are going there tomorrow. That is Isengard, you know", William said. And then the floodgates opened.
These two guys had been dreaming about their trip for years and meticulously planning it for half a year. The idea is to visit every single location that was used during the filming the LOTR movies, and to try in any way possible to get involved in the filming of the Hobbit that is underway right now - preferably as extras. So far they were more than halfway through the first part of the plan, but had been devastatingly unsuccessful with the last part. One of them tried to muster some optimism and said that they did know many of the security people at the locations quite well by know. I can imagine exactly how those "friendships" have come around. "No,
Glenorchy below and Paradise in the back. This was apparently the place they used for Isengard in the LOTR movies. Imagine that, Saruman's tower was just CGI.
They are shooting something for "The Hobbit" there right now.
you can not get in. No, not even after the shooting is over. No, Peter Jackson will not talk with you. Yes, I'm sure that you have excellent skills with a sword" and then a lot of sighing.
There are a couple of details that can describe these two lovely guys perfectly. The first was the diary or travel plan that William showed me. Handwritten - and this is absolutely true - some passages were written in Elvish! The other came up when I asked what they actually did when they visited all those places. "Well", William said, "Sometimes we bring out the costumes and then we re-enact some of the scenes. We haven't brought all the stuff. Just enough to make it seem real".
This was the one time where I really had a hard time containing a laughter that would have come out it a very condescending and unintentional way. But I managed to keep it in. Since then I have however had quite a few giggles picturing them next to their campervan in almost full orc-attire swinging their replica swords at each other (they had had to buy the swords again(!) in NZ. They had
And the mountains of Fiordland in the back.
cleverly realized that it would be tricky to get swords into the country).
I hope all the best for Peter and William. That I will someday spot them as Orc #223 and #224 in the credits for the Hobbit, and that if they read this, they will recognize the affection with which it was written. You guys were by far the most pleasant and funny company I have had on this trip and well-worth the hangover! I read a few days later that Orlando Bloom had been spotted at a restaurant just outside Queenstown and there were a few pictures from a set that had been built in Paradise (I didn't see a thing like that when I was there, but they must be very good at hiding their activities).
Sounds of Silence
I got out of Queenstown a bit late the following morning and headed towards the Fiordland. A beautiful steam engine train was the only excitement on an otherwise gloomy day, but the weather forecasts promised some decent odds for seeing the fiords in good weather. So when in Te Anau I made a booking for a day-cruise on Milford Sound. Then a day of rain
No sense of scale
It is not just on pictures. Even when you are there the eyes simply cannot cope with the enormity of the place. That waterfall in the middle is 155 meters high. That is three times the size of the Niagara Falls. And yet it just looked tiny (Maneken Pis size).
and then a booking for an overnight cruise on the Doubtful Sound. I figured that I would at least be lucky and be able to see something on one of the cruises.
Here is why I wasn't overly optimistic. Milford Sound gets seven meters(!) of rain on average every year. The record seemed to be 700 millimeters in a day. That is pretty much what we get in Denmark in a year. Oh, and the most that has been recorded in a year. 14 meters of rain according to the guide on one of the cruises.
That is also why my luck still seems so unlikely. The Glaciers, Wellington and now the Sounds in perfect weather. Just to good to be true, but that was indeed what awaited me. I have started to think about poor John D. He is a guy who travels exactly the same route as me, but trailing me by two days. He have had almost continously shitty weather, while I get to see everything in its utmost glory.
The Sounds are such places that makes you feel as insignificant as you truly are. Everything is just grand. Carved out by glaciers, they
are fiords rather than sounds and the mountains drop vertically into the water and continues below. Even when we were right next to the walls there was about 200 meters of water below the keel. Dolphins, penguins and seals provided some additional excitement and on the overnight cruise on Doubtful I even had some great (again English) company.
The best part was on the morning on the Doubtful. We sailed all the way into one of the arms of the fiord and then the crew cut the engines and instructed us all to be completely silent. It took a while for the last of the Chinese passengers to get the concept and for them to overcome their reluctance to quietness, but then there was nothing but birdsong and gentle audible watercolors. Mesmerizing. The crew called this little event of not doing anything "The Sounds of Silence". Clever.
Oh, and the road from Te Anau to Milford is probably the best driving road I have ever seen. Even with a quadruble Kea attack.
All the way South
As planned the weather after the cruise would be bad and I sort of aimlessly went south. I stayed a night
As far South as I got
Across a sheep-shit-laden field in stormy rain to get this shot. It was actually quite pretty there.
in the most southern town on the island - Invercargill. I can best describe town by listing the names of the downtown streets: Tay, Dee, Don, Jed, Nith, Forth, Wood and Spey. As if more than one syllable would be too pretentious.
I was really tempted to go to Stewart Island which really is the southern island of NZ, but hopeless weather forecasts and a pricey ferry ticket ruined that plan. Instead I went to Slope Point to get as far south as possible and then headed back north.
Burn like a Good Bonfire
P.S. Now I am even more behind with this blog. Anyway, in the next post I am flying again, tramping in snow and enjoying the company of some fellow mammals. And much more actually.
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