Monday, May 22, 2006

Brisbane ->Auckland ->Wellington ->Picton -> Christchurch -> Lake Tekapo -> Mount Cook ->Queenstown -> Routeburn Track

Fowler arrived early in Brisbane and spent some time at the airport rearranging flights to New Zealand before getting into town. It was a straight forward train and bus to Boley and Anna's house in South Brisbane - and a very nice place it turned out to be. Boley was working from home so the pair were able to catch up over an excellent breakfast on the terrace - while the sun went to work on another toasty warm Queensland day . Topics of conversation obviously centred on the pros and cons of life down under. The main problems with down under were the tropical heat and humidity of summer, the lack of English Premiership Highlights, icey undrinkable cold beer instead of cellar temperature beverages and the lack of any welcoming, cosy local boozers. That said, the residential area was very nice, publishing work paid well, good climate apart from summer, nice lifestyle and great standard of living - proof of which was the house - which was light and airy and very comfortable (and incredibly cheap compared to somewhere like London).
Fowler had his very own room - a big creature comfort after all the dormitories and later on had a wander round town while Boley caught up with some paper work. Arthur the cat also introduced himself - a constant thorn in Boleys side when trying to get to sleep with either scratching at the door, meowing or sleeping in the bed.
Boley pointed Fowler in the direction of the CityCat catamaran which takes a very pleasant route into the city along the Brisbane River from the University. Nice places to walk included Paddington, the South Bank Parklands (which has its own artificial beach - as if they havent got enough already!), Brisbane City Hall, the Queensland Museum and the shops in the city centre. After a tasty home cooked meal on the first night Anna and Boley suggested we went to the Tukka restaurant in the West End. Tukka specialises in Australian food - so Fowler plumped for the Wallaby - which felt a tad harsh as he'd been petting a cute wild one not a couple of weeks ago!
The last night Boley and Fowler took a trip across town to Oxford 152 - a micro brewery - then back into the city to meet Anna and friends at a Belgian restaurant - then on to catch some live music at the Troubadour. An excellent evening which rounded off a top visit to Brissie.
Auckland beckoned - and after a flight in which Fowler only managed to watch two thirds of Kong Kong - it was a slightly chilly welcome after landing. After getting into Auckland it was straight to the hostel then straight to the Viaduct Harbour with a couple of people from the dorm - and a nice evening sipping drinks round the boats. After a manic time in Oz it was nice to stay in one place for a whjile so Fowler decided to spend a good few days enjoying Aucklands sights - including: Dolphin and Whale watching, Mount Eden, Kelly Tarlton's Antartic Encounter, Auckland Museum and Cultural Show (including a bonus Haka!) and the Lionzone Brewery.
Before long it was time to get mobile and meet up with Dee in Picton mso Fowler headed south in a hire car and drove to Wellington in a day - which turned oput to be quite a long drive. The rest went somethig like this:
-Get to Wellington half asleep and lucky not to have driven off the road at some point.
- Get sketchy nights sleep at the YHA - its always a lively hostel when you dont want it to be!
- Book tickets for the ferry for the South Island in the morning.
- Get some food at the supermarket - and crate of beer in case of emergencies.
- Get in queue for ferry to South Island.
- Fowler realises hes lost his phone. Possibly the worst time in 6 months to lose it as Dee was contacting via SMS as to where we'd meet up in Picton.
- Fowler panics.
- Fowler calls hostel - they cant find it.
- Fowler drives on ferry and calls Orange in the UK from the ferry - to bar his phone from making any calls.
- Fowler decides to settle down for the 3 and a half hour journey with the papaer and a coffee.
- Fowler reads that the sea forecast for the Cook Straight is ''very rough'.
- Within seconds the boat is lurching and up and down like a see-saw and some of the biggest waves Fowler has ever seen seem to almost engulf the huge car ferry - sending sea spray from the bow to the stern of the ship.
- Waves start to calm down after an hour and a half.
- Enter Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound on South Island. Just breathtaking scenery all around but Fowler left his camera in the car - and the final kick in the teeth is that a pod of dolphins raced across the stern of the boat.
- Drive off the ferry into Picton, and find Dee after some panicing as the only communication was via phone.
- Stay at Vila hostel - which has a hot tub and free apple crumble in the evenings.
- Catch up with Dee - lots to talk about and lots of things to plan!
- Dee has bought steak and some vegies, so we use the outside BBQ. Steak very nice.
- Have dunk in hot tub then eat apple crumble.
- Head down through vineyard region towards Kaikoura after coffee and Fowler buys a second hand sleeping bag. The idea is to camp for a few days as Dee has a tent.
- See some more great scenery along coast road - with mountains only just inland - very rare.
- Get into Christchurch, set up tent, play table tennis and pool at camp site before heading into town to watch the FA Cup Final between West Ham United FC and a team that play in red apparently.
- Wait till 2am to watch match in a huge nightclub then transfer to a quiter pub with some random Kiwi hammers.
- A classic match but did it really have to go into Extra time and pens - we really needed to sleep.
-Butters heroicly stays up with Fowler to watch the end of the game despite having limited interest in soccer.
- Hammers lose game but Fowler is prouder than ever to be West Ham as the team gave it 110% and played their part in a real cracker.... and they were robbed blind at the end.
- Fowler curses Steven Gerrard on the bus back to the camp site.
- Butters and Fowler almost freeze to death in tent.
- After Butters finds Fowlers' lost phone in the car the pair then head to lake Tekapo after a nice coffee and a bit of shopping in Christchurch.
-Lake Tekapo fantastic - and a sprinkling of snow to boot.
- Butters and Fowler set up tent in snow at the YHA campsite.
- Steak for diner again on the Barbie, yum.
- Play Crib with a couple of Canadian girls who are equally as mad as to camp out.
- Butters and Fowler almost freeze to death in tent. (Luckily saved by hot water bottles provided by the YHA).
- Trek up the side of Lake Tekapo and meet strange person at the observatory - then proceed to watch the NASA chanel for a while. Take in great views.
- Stay extra night at Tekapo then drive to Mount Cook - and give Canadian girls a lift as they dont have transport.
- Hike up towards Mount Cook - armed with gas stove, wine and plenty of provisions.
- Stay overnight in a small shelter next to the Tasman glacier with a couple of crazy Czechs.
- Play simple yet effective Czech card game most of evening.
- Butters and Fowler almost freeze to death in shelter.
- Get up and watch the Kea birds flying around.
- Hike up to a nearby ridge for a first class view of Mount Cook.
- Hike back down and stay in YHA at Mount Cook village.
- Thaw out. play crib.
- Drive down to Queenstown (through yet more nice scenery).
- Decide to do Routeburn track - which starts near Glenorchy. In addition to essential hiking equipment needed for a 4 day walk Butters carries 20 cans of beer - in his pack making it slightly heavy.
- Walk through lush forest and valleys into snow capped mountains and waterfalls.
- Stay at Falls Shelter, make nice meal on camping stove and play crib, drink beer. Weather still good at this stage.
- Almost freeze to death in the bunk room of the shelter.
- Next day weather turns after an hour or two. First snow then rain. Fleeting glimpses of the huge valleys. Get to next shelter (McKenzie Shleter)- play crib , drink beer make nice meal on stove.
- Next day is extremely wet so its decided to make a beeline back to car.
- What took a day and a half before - the pair manage to walk in 6 hours ( possibly partly due to the amount of beer that had been drunk.)- the rain absolutely lashes down.
- Fowler asks Butters where he thinks they should stay in Queenstown, the answer comes back loud and clear: "In a ****ing hostel".
- Get back to Queenstown, and stay in a hostel. Take a visit to the casino and Butters wins 50 bucks on roulette - on the number that Fowler said wouldnt come up.

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