August 29th, 2010

Picocon

NZ/OZ 2010 part 6 -- Picton by ferry, Christchurch and Greymouth by train.

We left off at that part of our narrative where we took two nights in Wellington YHA, to give us a day off for laundry and admin. Laundry proceeded without a hitch, but the attempt to book our travel around the south island for the ensuing week were confounded by the fact that the Flexi Pass website had been coded by dribbling incompetent morons and we weren't able to book any inter-city bus trips online. In the end, weeping with frustration, we had to visit the i-Site in Wellington to get them to book it via the agent's portal which isn't available to the general public.

The following morning we repacked a subset of our luggage in backpacks and left our very large cases in storage at Wellington YHA. Around lunchtime we made our way to the Interislander ferry terminal, where owing to the fact that the Flexi Pass people were still dribbling incompetent morons, the ferry people didn't have the booking we'd made from Auckland six days earlier (nor the booking for another two poor Flexi Pass users at the next window), and they had to delay the ferry for a few minutes while the girls behind the desk phoned the Flexi Pass people to ask them to send over the details of our booking. The guys on the pedestrian access ramp waved out of the window at the guys waiting to untie the ferry as we boarded, and the ferry was permitted to depart.

Flexi Pass website and data handling are coded and administered by dribbling incompetent morons, I don't know if I mentioned that already.

The Wellington-Picton ferry was a your standard vehicle ferry, there's not that much I could say about it, apart from the fact that the approach into Picton is waaay more picturesque than the departure from Wellington.

We arrived in Picton in the mid-late afternoon, and were met by the person who runs the Tombstone Backpackers (across the road from the graveyard) in her little minibus. Rather nicer than the Auckland hotel, and much less expensive. And she told us that while she had to charge people for her wireless Internet, there was free Internet at the town library, and while Julia went to the local aquarium (very disappointing, apparently) and the Edwin Fox museum (the last remaining EastIndiaMan and the world's ninth oldest surviving ship, much better) I took full advantage of an hour or two online.

The following day we took the train from Picton to Christchurch, and the day after that from Christchurch to Greymouth -- styled the "TranzCoastal" and "TranzAlpine" respectively -- providing lots of opportunity to look out at the wildlife and scenerey, but sadly not quite such good food as they'd had on the Overlander a few days earlier.

And then that evening we took the bus from Greymouth down to Franz Josef, in the South Island's glacier country. But more of that in the next post.
Picocon

NZ/OZ 2010 part 7 -- Clearly Minty

We arrived by bus at the little town of Franz Josef a little after 5pm and booked ourselves in to the YHA round the back of the town. We stumbled onto the main street and found ourselves at Beeches, where the food was excellent and there was some great art from Tim Hurford (whose wife works there) on the wall.

In the morning after a lie-in we jumped onto a little helicopter, which flew up the valley and over Franz Josef Glacier and then over the ridge to Fox Glacier, the goal of our flight, where we landed. We stood around on the surface for a while, saying "clearly minty" and giggling insanely. We discovered that the surface of the snow was too hard to get a finger into, never mind build snowballs.

A flight back to town for lunch, and with the principal aim of our trip to glacier country accomplished, we debated how to spend the afternoon.

We discovered that the foot of the Franz Josef Glacier was only a "couple of hour's walk" from the town, so we thought we'd try it. The first three or four miles were along roads, but then we descended to the valley floor to continue along the moraine, some of which was very hard going -- indeed, the last couple of hundred yards involved scrabbling over large rocks. In due course we got as close to the glacier as safety would allow, and there's a photo of me holding up a chunk of ice and grinning like a loon.

The walk back was long and hard and we were both getting quite slow by the time we regained the town. We slept well that night.

Up early, again, for the bus to Queenstown -- of which more anon.