DAY SEVENTEEN continued

For us, there is a cocktail of emotions when we arrive in a new city, and anxiety is the main ingredient until we find our booked accommodation.  And so it was when we got off the train last night; a new city, a new country, no wifi for me, and a minuscule amount of battery on Gary’s phone.

Check in for our apartment was in Münzgasse Street, a street connecting the Frauenkirche with the Elba River; the church (Kirche) was a visual guide the further we walked.  Although three hours earlier our packs had been uncomfortably heavy, now, with a hint of fear in the mix, we strode unencumbered, and around 10pm we found our street and it was alive with eateries and the Eating.

Our apartment was accessed from behind the restaurants in a dark car parking courtyard where every dark recess seemed occupied by smoking cooks and kitchen hands.  That had a flavour, but our reaction to our home for two nights surpassed any previous first impression: very hot & airless; furniture of many eras and appropriate for the tip shop; a small low coffee table in a decent size lounge area with limited sockets; a kitchenette made more ‘ette’ by a wall dividing the space, and dominated by distinctive cupboards and a cafe style small table with two chairs, unusable in that space; an enormous bathroom with corner bath and hand held shower and an angled pull down blind to keep showering contained; an unremarkable bedroom although the wardrobe with huge hanging capacity but insufficient coat-hangers needs a mention, and the view – yes the view into that courtyard – sound-well, back-of-restaurant space – didn’t quite match the balcony overlooking the Square I’d been imagining.

But it was clean, smelt fine, and has proved most conveniently situated – and furniture can be rearanged; the cafe table en route to the bathroom and with access to a lonely socket works for me.

The euphoria of arrival made for happy and hungry chappies and we headed out to ‘our’ street expecting kitchens to be closed but still serving beverages.  An hour later we’d eaten a meal and downed beer and wine and enjoyed people watching; almost every couple walking past us was holding hands.  There was great joy and serenity in this picture.  We’ve adopted this ‘holding hands’ model when promenading.

We’d arrived in Dresden; a city Gary had selected as a ‘must see’.

DAY SEVENTEEN Friday 7 June

Perhaps we crammed too much into our three Prague days & nights…

The highlight most definitely came with our resolve to improve our relationship with the Castle and the events that flowed from there.

The morning started with a (better) photo opportunity of the Astronomical Clock PHOTO_20190607_101411and an almost drinkable coffee, a new route to the castle along streets that started with ‘K’ – Kaprova and Klarov – stopping to photograph all the statues atop the Rudolfinum in the off-chance that Mendelssohn is still there.  The Nazis had ordered his statue be removed, but the ‘removalists’ not knowing Mendelssohn but looking for a long nose, took down either Wagner or Hitler depending which tale you read.

We walked across the Manesuv bridge and behind us was yet another very pleasant view of endless spires, PHOTO_20190607_142041and then the path climbed through Wenceslaus’ lush vineyard; a vibrant picture of wild red poppies separating the rows of brilliant green vines.  PHOTO_20190607_105631Pausing to pass through security gave us a chance to catch our breath and a few steps later there we were at  Lobkowicz Palace, the building that Google refused to find for us the day before.

With an approach combining helplessness and acknowledgement of stupidity, we were able to gain access to this 16th century palace with yesterday’s ticket.  We have no idea what this palace looks like from the outside – which is unusual when I can clearly recall  other palaces I’ve seen – but its contents were what engaged both of us; that too is unusual.  The voice in the commentary was agreeable, the approach was agreeable (like, if you’re rushed for time move on to the red symbol), and the information given at each point was just the right amount.

Of particular interest to me was

  • the ‘music room’ with many string instruments, but also early woodwind instruments and the original parts to several Beethoven Symphonies and Quartets, and works by other composers.  (Since finding out about the goose feather quills involved I see these scores with multi-faceted interest. ) Bejewelled trumpets also took my fancy.  Just to connect Beethoven & Lobkowicz – the man, not just a name being researched.PHOTO_20190607_115705
  • the ceramics room with cut lemon handles on lids of tureensPHOTO_20190607_114231
  • the bird room where an extensive collection of birds adorned the walls – one dimensional, but with their feathers conserved and carefully restoredPHOTO_20190607_121247
  • the oriental room – the painted wallsPHOTO_20190607_121822
  • the Canaletto room with the two famous paintings of views of London
  • the portraits of the family including Velazquez’ little Doha Margarita Theresa, Infanta of Spain (We saw another painting of this adorable child in the Prado.)
  • the cafe
  • the shop

On that day, for us, it was faultless.

We took in a few other sites in the Castle grounds – St George Basilica, the Moat and Powder Bridge but we’d had our fill and were more keen to not see another thing.  Down the trillions of steps, PHOTO_20190607_143846and then randomly picking laneways (found Winston Churchill on a corner) to get to the Charles Bridge which yesterday we’d walked with squelching sandals and three-way conversation.  From there to an icecream and picking up our packs from the Apartment and on to the train.

Much earlier in the day we’d sussed out the railway station so we knew where to go; good move because in the late afternoon our packs were very heavy and it was very hot and we were very tired.  The station was packed!!!!   People, school groups, dogs, more people – everyone was leaving Prague, or so it seemed.  So oppressively stuffy.  We were early and chose to spend some time on a park bench outside mindful of being a sitting target for bag snatchers.  Our train was 10 minutes delayed but it was the train to Berlin, 100 minutes overdue, that had overfilled the station.  The cheer when their platform was announced was welcomed by all.

Great scenery – the train followed the river for the most part and the houses hugged the rail line and the river – and the influence of Prague gradually gave way to country #3.

DAY SIXTEEN Thursday 6 June

Home for lunch;  change of shoes;  wring out the sweat-drenched clothing.

We photographed the Estates Theatre known to Mozart.

PHOTO_20190606_085929

Headed in the direction of the Jewish Quarter and didn’t find an agreeable breakfast spot until we were very close – a few cobblestones shy of endless tourist groups.  Our customary pastry with coffee was replaced by an avocado & egg on sourdough affair and Gary got his first mug of coffee on this adventure in foreign lands.

Too many tourists and too many souvenirs and no bagels.

Next stop St Agnes’ Convent, Prague’s oldest Gothic building housing altar paintings and medieval and early Renaissance art.  Circumnavigated it and headed for the river, which we crossed via the unspectacular Stefanikuv Bridge, and then climbed some steps to walk parallel to the river, but away from the traffic.  We smelt Spring & Summer; we saw Prague from the other side.

Descended and crossed the more interesting Guild Bridge and headed for the Rudolfinum – a Neo-Renaissance building on the river bank, home of the Czech Philharmonic. It has two concert halls – the Suk Hall for Chamber Music and the Dvorak Hall for orchestral concerts.  After a very pleasant conversation with the attendant at the Suk Hall we were inspired to go to an exhibition in the floor above:  A Cool Breeze – a collection of artworks by 17 international artists exploring figural sculpture in modern art.  PHOTO_20190606_120759Loved it and loved the huge high-ceiling rooms, well lit by full ceiling ‘sky lights’.

Then Dvorak’s statue in front of the main entrance and a look at the time…!!!

With fresh energy we set out for Prague castle via Petrin Hill, opting for the funicular to take us up the 130 metres above the left bank of the Vlatava River.  We had had thoughts of climbing Prague’s ‘Eiffel Tower’ PHOTO_20190606_151430but the day was getting away from us.  We strolled relatively casually through pleasant park lands but once we met with civilisation things deteriorated. In short we didn’t know where we were and didn’t know how to progress from an on-line booking into entry to buildings (which we were ever so aware would close in 90 minutes or so) and signage was non-existent at the crucial moment.

it is a good lost tourist story for another time.

The sky was now dominated by deepening black clouds and a climate feel of doom added to our own.  After a wad of korunas were handed over we were in St Vitus Cathedral almost dancing.  Begun in 1344 and consecrated in 1929, this building will be unforgettable because of its stained glass windows;  incomparable even without the illumination from daylight. PHOTO_20190606_164329 We had 30 minutes; wish I’d memorised my guidebook!

Together with hundreds of tourists we took refuge in the entrance way until eviction.  The heavens had opened and the all the gargoyles were spewing more water into the flooded square.  How expert they were!

Trying to meet up with a TSO chorister who was sheltering in another doorway eventually meant the three of us were drenched.  We shivered, we parted – David to the closest concert in St George Basilica and Gary and I to a pre-booked concert in St Nicholas Church; pre-chosen so that we could absorb the finest baroque building in Central Europe, the trompe l’oeil effect on the ceiling, and I’d read something about the organ.  Even though the huge green cupola is visible from all over Prague we had to find it as we now couldn’t see it!

Wet through and cold, in twenty minutes we downed a beer, a coffee, a sausage and a camembert and had sat in a pew mid way in the church. The concert started promptly at 6 and would have been fantastic had it finished 15 minutes later. I attempted to master the art of taking photos with my phone’s camera upside down on my lap; wrote, addressed and stamped 4 postcards (the stamps are enormous small reproductions of the Art Nouveau Prague artist Mucha), and tried to come to terms with the ‘artificial’ marble columns.  The program of Frescobaldi, Caccini, Viadana and the like emanating from an out of sight organ and organist, and with an invisible mezzo who lacked quality and intonation at both edges of her range, added more misery to an afternoon that had gone wrong.

David, finished with his concert, met us, and we walked and talked our way over the famous Charles Bridge (commissioned in 1357) into the Old Town, PHOTO_20190606_191416got persuaded to enter an eating place where we devoured pork and dumplings and goulash and finished the meal with a misunderstanding about the bill which couldn’t be settled with a credit card…

Everyone thought the other was leading us home but it soon became obvious that Google was needed.

Tomorrow needs some planning otherwise we’ll leave Prague with regrets.

DAY FIFTEEN Wednesday 5 June

So bright this morning when I opened my eyes for the first time that I thought I’d slept through half of our precious Prague jewel-finding day!

It was not until the end of the afternoon that Prague showed us her beauty.  In blistering sun we emerged from our apartment to walk to Stare Mesto – the Old Town.  First stop was the beautifully restored 600 year old Astronomical Clock, which sounds the hour after a series of events: Death rings the bell and upends his hourglass, Vanity holds a mirror, Greed clutches a money bag, and the Twelve Apostles parade, nodding to the crowd, before the cock crows.  It was 5pm but it rang and rang…I should have counted.  The hundreds of onlookers dispersed with a similar reaction to that when the cow jumps over the moon in the Cat and Fiddle Arcade; it’s not gratifying.

The square was beautiful with buildings of many eras and colours, Baroque churches and a rococo palace, spires with baubles glistening in the sun, cobblestones, little alleyways, museums, galleries, food of all sorts and a vibrant brand of people, so different to those in our square who seem to lack pizzazz and freedom.PHOTO_20190605_170415

The Gothic spires of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn drew us in.  Enormous vertical clear lead-lighted unusually thin windows were the feature from behind the forbidding iron gates; the Old Town Hall had an interesting frescoed foyer; Powder Gate begun in 1475 as one of Stare Mesto’s city gates was grubby, but brilliantly contrasted was the Art Nouveau Municipal House building almost adjacent.  Reputedly the oldest Prague pub is underground, so too the Restaurant where we had dinner; a beautiful room combining Art Nouveau designs, tiles, window glass, hat & coat stands, and vases et al, with Bavarian-style wooden furniture.  Fish and Lamb.

PHOTO_20190605_181614

From there to a definite highlight – Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Marionette Theatre tucked away in Zatecka Street, a few blocks from the bustle of the Square.  It was inspired.  The ‘sound track’, a recording by the acclaimed Drottningholm Court Theatre Orchestra boasted singers the likes of Bryn Terfel, Barbara Bonney and Haken Hagegard, and the production employed many unexpected effects that made us all have a good chuckle.  High recommendation!

Our day had started with photographing every spire we saw – afterall Prague is The city of a Thousand Spires – walking in the direction of Charles Square.  The Cerny upside- down horse in Lucerna arcade kept us amused …PHOTO_20190605_093714and St Ignatius church left us speechless with its Baroque grandeur.  The quiet monuments remembering the bombing of Prague and another, the deaths leading into the Velvet Revolution, made us pause and acknowledge how safe we’ve been all of our lives.  A Benedictine Monastery, The National Theatre, and Fred & Ginger’s ‘The Dancing House’ – a Frank Gehry creation – from the top of which we could look over Prague (see all the spires we’d missed) and the longest of the Czech rivers, the Vltava.

PHOTO_20190605_123545

Gary is sucking on a green chupa chup.  The status of marijuana is not clear in Prague and all mini-marts have a dazzling array of green items…

DAY FOURTEEN Tuesday 4 June

Woke to another perfect day with swallows circling outside our Juliet balcony; sent a comprehensive report about Saturday’s Verdi requiem performance to Simon; got ready to leave; roused Gary.PHOTO_20190604_082249

Finished the Nescafe and the English Breakfast Tea Bags and two ridiculous pastries purchased the day before for the ‘just-in-case’ scenario – ridiculous, as in visually completely different, but both containing the same custardy substance.

Bye bye Barcelona.

A swift walk 4 x 4 blocks to Passeig de Gracia station where we successfully operated the ticket machine but less competently negotiated the stairs (see Day Twelve), and caught a direct train to the airport.  Walking from the train we noticed a little dog was also going to fly, his cabin baggage sized kennel on his mum’s back.

With loads of time to devote to whatever Barcelona airport’s departures required – our backpacks were considered ‘special’ and had to be taken to an isolated conveyor belt – we walked the length of Terminal 2 stopping for coffee and attending to a forgotten Festival of Voices issue.  Security was as always – I’d forgotten to drink or throw my water – and boarding had all the similarities of previous times excepting that the size of the ‘small bag’ allowance redefined ‘small’; a fully laden backpack plus two over the shoulder bags didn’t raise an eyebrow for example. PHOTO_20190604_113115

Flying over the alps was stunning.  Whose alps?  Not sure.  More research. PHOTO_20190604_144628

No fuss exit at Prague airport but our booked driver was delayed.  What a surprise when he did appear; quite alternative looking (hippy-esque), with few English words (asked if we had drugs in our backpacks) and a swish BMW.  The drive to our apartment seemed lengthy and complicated but revealed a green healthy landscape and so many distinctive buildings, both residential and public.  Wenceslaus Square was a buzz with what looked like a concert about to happen but it turned out to be a protest of some 100, 000 passionate Czechs wanting to oust the Prime Minister or as I saw, the Crime Minister, Bablis. PHOTO_20190604_191736

We drank beer and ate a vaclavske trdlo, found a supermarket for provisions and returned to our new home to write a blog;  the excitement of the protest an audible presence. PHOTO_20190604_185924

Icecreams and people watching on the Square; Gary is not impressed, giving it full marks for tackiness prompted by obvious pining for Barcelona.

Maybe tomorrow will show us why Prague is a jewel for so many.

Prelims before crossing the world then DAY ONE away

The Credit Card being hacked at the eleventh hour, and subsequently cancelled by the bank, added flavour to the prelims. But the focus of our preparation to depart was centred around teaching old cats new tricks; how to use a cat door for the first time.  Mother, Turtle, worked it out quickly and practised many times, whereas daughter, Tigga,  wanted to push it open with her feet.  This would work well if the micro chip was in her feet!

Thursday 23 May – or is it Friday already, and what time is it really, in Doha (?); the usual questions arising from date line crossings, eye masks, and technology in one’s pocket.

After 34 hours on the move we’re now settling into our Madrid apartment positioned close to rail, metro, museums and Vodafone.  Earlier today (like 5pm – it’s now 10pm locally or close to 6am tomorrow in Hobart) the sim cards went in – a different variety for each of our phones, and of course Gary’s refused to allow texts or messages to reach him.  It was hot in the apartment and it got hotter, so off to Vodafone.

Over a beer I could drown in (my over-adequate Spanish) and a decent cappuccino, Gary chatted with the UK; such a wise suggestion from young Mr Vodafone Spaniard with limited English and charming enthusiasm.  Gary is now disconnected.

There’s nothing remarkable about the apartment barring the three flights of beautiful wooden stairs with low level ornate metal struts leading to our door on the  tercero floor, that tripped both Gary and I due to uneven riser heights.

This could have been the start of Gary seizing the world on crutches, had the possibility of being identified as infidels publicly munching  in Ramadan not been a featured headline.

A stroll around the block tonight revealed lots of dogs with owners, tempting laneways,  Juliette balconies, graffiti defaced awnings, and jamon and more jamon. The supermercado provided all we needed to get through our first night, then sleep seized us both.

 

Day 1 arriving NZ & Day 12 leaving NZ

Sunday 22 July will be remembered as the ‘taping of the axes’ morning.  Ron’s prized axes, individually wrapped in newspaper within a tightly bound cardboard box, were then protected with more cardboard and taped, and then secured within two supermarket bags which in turn were taped and taped again, allowing absolutely no entry (or escape).  “What would happen at Customs?” was not expressed too loudly…

We had about 90 minutes before returning the car and sitting in Christchurch’s airport so it was essential that we got a feel for the city in the daylight.  We walked in the direction of Oxford Terrace and the river where we had eaten the night before, passing the sad remains of the Cathedral. A cyclist rode by audibly muttering pull it down and move on.  Shipping containers were holding up walls of other buildings, windows are still boarded up, office buildings look forsaken, the remnants of a CBD… yet emerging evidence of a city rebuilding.

Another scone to finalise the ‘can’t fit in our clothes’ trip and the transition from holidaying to home began. The return of the car and shuttle to airport was incredibly smooth and again, the friendliness of New Zealanders, was noticed and appreciated.  The airport was open and airy and relatively small.  Some anti Maori jibes in Duty Free were unnecessary – so too the gift candle holders that came with our Frangelico – but Christine and Ron made successful final purchases, and together we emptied our wallets of all NZ monies.

We had an agonisingly long wait in Melbourne airport before the last leg, but the pilot’s miscalculated landing left us in no doubt that we’d hit Tasmania running!  Emma was there to collect the bulging suitcases and their owners.

11 days earlier at 4.45am, Emma had driven us to the airport; our bags were checked through to Auckland so Melbourne was just a walk from domestic to international.  At 4.20pm NZ time (2.20pm Australian time) we were in New Zealand, brimming with excitement.  A small wait for the shuttle to the car hire place and then we became firm friends with Deidre (on my mobile), who guided us to our accommodation in Parnell, and would lead us in and around all the cities we visited on both islands.

Here, Christine had the meal voted #1 Worst.  Here, we encountered an impressive NZ accent that convinced us that the Fish of the Day was ‘turkey’.  Christine, unwell, and Ron retired early; Gary and I toasted NZ.

 

 

 

Day 10 Queenstown

Queenstown for a whole day and two nights!  How good to wake up and know that exploring time was (relatively) unlimited.

It was agreed that the shops we’d walked passed en route to and from dinner needed investigation, as did the waterfront and the Gardens, and further afield Arrowtown, and The Warehouse in Faulkton which we’d driven past as we neared Queenstown.

We left our rooms as independent couples but curiously followed much the same route into town, following the path around Lake Wakatipu.  Gary and I walked downhill on Suburb Street.  The surrounding streets were named Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart; our accommodation was in Melbourne Street, off Sydney.  The pathway is part of the ‘Queenstown Trail’, 120kms of paths suitable for walkers and cyclists.  (for another trip)  We passed the Ice Skating Rink – here Ron and Christine left the path to walk through the Gardens – we continued around the Point and wished we hadn’t.  With wind off the snow it became bitterly cold; the monument to Scott of the Antarctic was appropriately positioned! Lots of bird song from within the trees and frisbee golf around the massive Douglas Firs.  We drank coffee at The Bathhouse; never had I finished NZ’s oversized ‘trim’ lattes on the trip so far, but this one was especially good and warming.

Retail therapy.

We left for lunch at Arrowtown after 1pm.  It is an historic gold mining town from the 1860’s with plenty of character in a picturesque setting on the Arrow River.  We spent some time reading about the lives of the Chinese miners and shuffled through the mounds of greying leaves which must have been a spectacle before falling.  I recall being told that 99% of NZ’s trees are evergreen; obviously here in the valley are the 1% that aren’t.

From Arrowtown we drove to Faulkton to investigate “The Warehouse” that had been promoted as a place to find anything we wanted at a cheapish price.  The cost of living in NZ is frightening. One look and we were out of there – a fusion of KMart, Best & Less, Shiploads…

Back home for resting although Gary & I took the car to explore the burbs.  Hilly. Tired.

My Thai restaurant was the choice for dinner, where ‘authentic Thai tastes and techniques are applied to NZ ingredients’.  And it didn’t disappoint.  Asian umbrellas hung from the ceiling, and had it been daytime, we would have had a great view of the Lake and The Remarkables –  the mountain range, not us, nor the tables of Canadian school children surrounding our table, who were mid a massive trip around the world: had come from Sydney and next stop Fiji.  We had a view of the waterfront street below which was alive with tourists, not all Australian we suspect, unlike at Wanaka.

Rated #3 of NZ dining experiences.  Our shared plates included –  Mataba Chicken – Thai roti pockets filled with chicken curry, kumara & onions, and served with pickled vegetables; Soft Shell Crab – stir fried in their special scrambled curry with red pepper, onion, egg, celery & spring onion; Mussaman Curry – chickpeas slow-cooked in peanut Mussaman curry with pumpkin, and served with a refreshing cucumber relish & Thai roti.

The walk home uphill mentally helped to reduce the bulge.

 

Day 11 Queenstown to Christchurch

6 hours in the car would have been far too much had it not been for the variety of scenery along the way.

We left at 9am knowing the forecast for severe winds and rain.  It had rained during the night but the morning was just grey.  We headed out of Queenstown on the road to Cromwell, passing the Arrowtown turnoff and the road to the historic Cardrona pub, which we would have visited if we’d been on the ball.  It was all somewhat familiar having been our route into town on Thursday, but in reverse the steep rugged hills were still impressive, and the dips into the valleys and the challenges of the ups kept us all alert.  We had a good glimpse of the saved Christchurch house that had been relocated to this area and featured recently on Grand Designs.

Our focus was on the ‘best carrot cake in the world’ to be found at Tepako 3 hours away, so an English woman who sold me some trousers said.  We came to the conclusion there are no New Zealanders working in the South Island whatsoever – everyone is from somewhere else and with accents to prove it.  Nor any/many Maoris.

The wind became ever increasingly ferocious and Lake Pukaki had waves lashing the shores.  With a backdrop of snow covered mountains popping in and out of clouds of all hues, the unusual bright turqoise colour of the Lake was exceptional.  We thought it artificial but have since googled to see it is the result of glacial flour.  There were salmon farms in this region and we realised that neither Salmon or Trout had been on many menus.

Lake Tepako was next, also a brilliant turquoise colour from glacial action, and equally turbulent.  It was very windy.  We later read that the winds were measured at 120 – 130kms/hr in the Canterbury/Marlborough regions.

We imagined we knew where the carrot cake was – on top of a hill, exposed to the elements – but wise to the weather we ventured further into the town and lunched in warmth.  For future reference: Astro Cafe at Mt John’s Observatory; a glass-walled pavilion with 360 degrees views across the Mackenzie Basin; an $8 access fee to the car park and then a walk.  Perhaps now on the tiny ‘regret’ list.

Change of driver:  from Gary to Ron.

Fairlie and Geraldine’s Antiques & Collectibles didn’t have anything for Ron, and Ashburton, a big town, mostly closed for a country Saturday, was lean on icecreams.

A decision to head for Christchurch’s watery suburbs before checking in, and a request to see the Port, encouraged Deidre to take us to the depot for shipping containers.  Ron was not amused… no water, no ships, just mountains of weathered containers. We moved on (with emotion) and found ourselves in the long Christchurch – Lyttleton tunnel which opened out with glimpses of water.  We chose the Simeon Quay exit and momentarily had views of yachts but no easy access, and so we sped along (and back) a road that clung to hills housed with history on one side and drops to secluded pretty bays on the other. With feelings of defeat in some sections of the car, and tourist delight in others, we stopped at “Super” for a beer, a reimagined hotel with a bizarre menu, most of which we couldn’t pronounce and required a 25yr old vegan hipster on drugs to decipher.

We chose Southwark Apartments again but this time with one suite for our last night together, not two separate rooms as before.  We didn’t get what we paid for; we’ll see how this pans out once the Manager returns to work!  Nonetheless it made for a pleasant walk into the CBD and the recently rebuilt (2013) and opened (2018) Oxford Terrace on the Avon river – a new development of restaurants, offices and shops.

Most eating places had an off-putting bald headed, black coated, wired-up ‘bouncer’ at the entrance which persuaded us to go to one that didn’t.  We randomly chose Botanic upstairs. Fantastic.  Rated #2 eating adventure of our trip. (#1 remains Cotto Auckland, Day 2)

Confit duck leg with celeriac puree, vegetables, and cherry brandy sauce  (June)                Zucchini, pea, and shiitake mushroom risotto with walnuts and feta (Chris)                        and would you believe                                                                                                                          Fried chicken and buttermilk waffles with jus and egg and bacon (Ron, Gary)

The beginnings of the axe wrap began…

Day 7 Christchurch to Greymouth

The Tranzalpine railway departing Christchurch on NZ’s eastern side at 08:15, arriving Greymouth on the western side of the South Island at 13:05 promised to be a special treat after so much car travel.  Gary was a trifle concerned about the directions for returning our hire car JDG 460, which amounted to ‘park it in the car park and give the keys to someone at the railway’.  All went smoothly though.

The train had an open carriage at the front which allowed for photos without glass reflections and sensory overload: wind in your hair, bitter cold, proximity to nature’s theatre of chasms and snow-capped mountains, the braided Waimakariri River, et al.

Stopped at Arthur’s Pass to add engines for extra braking for the 8kms tunnel downhill run and we all hopped off for breathtaking air.  At Otira the train stopped to remove them. Arthur’s Pass, 737m above sea level;  Otira at 377m above sea level.

When we emerged from the tunnel the sun had gone and the valleys were damp and shrouded in mist.  It was the West Coast.

Greymouth, and a new vehicle HUZ 322 after a long queuing procedure for all brands of rentals within the small station building; pharmacy, lunch, postcard posting, drive.

173kms to Franz Joseph Glacier. Drove past our accommodation into the township; drove back and unloaded into two very new, very contemporary furnished, very spacious rooms and then hunger (how could we be hungry with the sum total of our day’s exercise being sitting??) drove us to the Snakebite Brewery.  Chinese.  How odd – snakes and Chinese in NZ…

Snakebite Brewery