Monday, November 30, 2009

New Zealand - the final leg...

From the Fox Glacier we drove south to Wanaka in the lake district. This proved to be the most stunning section of our whole NZ trip. Leaving behind Mount Cook, we drove through thick fern forest, past battered seashore and back in land through the Haas Pass. This latter part took us along sharply windy roads through sheer, green valleys. Bubbling rapids rushed past untouched forest. Every so often we would stop to take it all in.
The mountains then opened up to the lakes and panoramics to dream of. However nice these pictures are they simply can not to it justice. I don't care if it sounds corny, but staring at these unreal views took me to different place. One I like very much.


We spent only a night in this chilled out lake side town. As we walk along the lake shore beach, the reflections of snow strewn mountains in Lake Wanaka are broken by the odd yacht and occasional duck. If only I had more time I could spend a while in Wanaka, but we don't and I can't.
Our limited stay does though include watching Tarantino's “Inglorious Basterds” at the uber quirky cinema. Complete with rows of worn old sofas, arm chairs, cushions and even a VW Beetle, an old style projector, cookies and beer entertain the limited masses. What a film to take our German friend to. A plot not too far from how nastily we can torture and kill a whole lot of Nazis. Luckily Uwe has a great sense of humour and all our darker sides enjoy the finlae of an angry Jewish guy firing dozens of bullets into Hitler's fast mutilated skull!

Only a few kms down the road and the last step on our Kiwi adventure (except quaint little Arrowtown with its odd abandoned Chinese settlement). Fitting therefore that Chris and me take in the a bird park and have the privilege of seeing kiwis with our own eyes along with the unavoidably fascinating tuatara - a living dinosaur with a separate family tree to lizards, snakes or turtles, it even has a basic third eye on its forehead to sense bird shadows!

I like Queenstown with its laid back atmosphere and spectacular setting. A cool place to wander, have a bit of party and work out what great outdoor experience you want to throw yourself into next. Like an alpine resort, minus a dollop of pomposity and plus a relaxed Mediterranean feel.
After the last week of walks, it was fitting that Chris, Uwe and I should choose to lumber up the hill to the look out point rather than take the cable car. The views from the top are breathtaking. Below, jutting out into Lake Wakitipu, is Queenstown with all its neatly laid out streets and tasteful buildings. Beyond this the lake stretches in an “L” to the right and to the front. Far to the left and in the missing bit of the “L” (the bit where an inverted “L” would be) are high rugged mountains. The last snows of winter are clinging in the ridges of these aptly named “Remarkables”.
We sit, have a hard earned beer and reminisce over the last couple of fantastic weeks on the road. Uwe has been a top traveling buddy and we suitably see out our departure with a night on the town. I have no doubt we will cross paths in the not too distant future, probably over a wiess bier in the alps.
(The less said about our farewell Nevis bungee being canceled due to high winds the better. Grrrgh. As if I did not already have reasons to return.)

How to sum up our time in NZ?

Half a month here has not been enough. There is more concentrated jaw-dropping scenery in New Zealand, and in particular the south island, then in any other place I have visited. Lakes, mountains, beaches, fjords, volcanos, glaciers, ocean.... It is so beautiful that touring round it as we did, your mind goes into a mild sensory overload. There is too much to take in. In short, it bowled me over.

As this was what everyone had told me to expect, I suppose it did not surprise, but rather fulfill. What did surprise me were the New Zealanders. Their combination of mixing British attitudes from more sedate times with a rich Maori heritage and a modern cosmopolitan tinge is very endearing. It is though their attitude to nature and the land which most struck a tone with me. There exists a heightened sense of the fragility of New Zealand's natural environment and our responsibility to look after it which goes beyond that of other countries. It showed me that people can on mass give a shit and make a difference. I just hope other larger, more environmentally monstrous countries can follow New Zealand's lead.

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