Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Collapsed Coaches

Wednesday 13th October 2010

MP3 track of the day: Not afraid - Eminem

Weather: Nice and Sunny

As it turned out I didn't need the second alarm. It was quite a cold morning and, due to the coach probably being sat at the bus station all night, the coach wasn't much warmer. There were only ten people on the coach so we all had plenty of room; three of those people were a group of Indian students studying over here in New Zealand. From the amount of stuff they were carrying it looked as if they were moving, each one had two to three good size bags and it took five to ten minutes to load their stuff into the coaches holdall. Anyway none of this mattered, we were off on time.

This bus driver was just like all the other drivers I've had whilst being in New Zealand, talkative, happy and completely nuts … but a great character. We set off and I was glad that it looked like we didn't have to turn around due to a 'coach keys in the back pocket' incident again. It was all going swimmingly until three hours in, after our first break, when we stopped outside a fire station. I thought the driver was dropping off some mail (looks like the intercity buses here are like the Greyhounds in Canada in that they deliver mail too) but as I looked out of the window I could see the driver looking at the front left tire.

It soon became apparent that we had some technical fault; after ten minutes the driver announced that the coach was 'loosing air' and that we could all get off the coach, go for a walk if we wanted as it could take a little while to fix the problem. My first thoughts was that it was a tire loosing air, however a lady who sat near the driver said that she had herd him radio back to HQ saying it was the air from the brakes that was escaping. This I thought was a good reason to stop as breaks, especially on the mountainous windy route that lay before us, would probably be an important aspect of the coach.

As us passengers sat in the sun chatting, we could see the driver and a 'bod' open up the engine covers to have a look. More time passed and whilst the driver and this 'bod' found the pipe that was leaking air I found out that the three Indian students did originally have a car … until the engine over heated and died, that was why they had such a lot of stuff for a coach ride.

Just then the coach driver announced that a mechanic was on his way, and so was a second coach. We had to take our stuff out of the coach and get it ready for the replacement. The mechanic arrived first and he had a fiddle around; it soon turned out that the pipe which held the air for the breaks was totally destroyed … oh and the mechanic didn't have a spare … so he went off again. An hour and a half after our coach broke down a replacement coach came and we were off. This coach was a lot smaller than the other, but that made it quicker. We made it to our lunch stop very quickly.

When we arrived at our lunch stop we were told by our driver that a coach would pick us up from here and it would take us the rest of the way to Franz-Joseph. We therefore unloaded this coach in preparation … as luck would have it, turns out the other coach was actually going to pick us up at the next town, Greymouth. I was staring to feel sorry for the Indian students as they again put all their stuff back onto the coach. All through this the coach driver kept smiling and he was great, a really cherpy guy, but a little nuts.

We then raced off to Greymouth and switched to another coach, hopefully for the last time. Our original driver switched with us and off we went at a great rate of knots. The terrain was previously still English like, with rolling hills and lots of live stock. Now nearer the mountains we were heading into Swiss terrain with large green fields, a few tress and an impressive snow capped mountain range located at the back of this beautiful view.

The driver really went for it and even at his stops he was running to deliver the mail. Whilst driving we were sometimes on the left hand side of the road, sometimes on the right and sometimes in the middle … however it was still a very comfortable ride. We arrived at Franz-Joseph 45 minutes late … which was remarkable considering we wasted over two hours in break downs, changing coaches and stops … the driver had pulled out all the stops. One final nice act from the driver was that he took us all to our accommodation.

The youth hostel here is lovely and I checked in before heading out into town to purchase tea for tonight and have a look around. Franz Joseph is tiny so it didn't take me too long to look around; I did see a store offering scenic flights. I stood a while watching the film of the flight on the big plasma screens within the store. I have to be honest that a flight over the glaciers here isn't half tempting, but at nearly £150 it's a bit out of my budget range, and would it really be that good? There are so many 'experiences' here just waiting to take your money off you, I decided that there are also a load of good free walks so I thought I might do these first and then decided if either a flight or a glacier hike would be a worth while investment.

After having two early starts back-to-back I will have a super lie-in tomorrow and then walk to the bottom of the Franz-Joseph glacier. As I said above, there is so much to do here that my original three nights might have to be extended.

Toodle Pip!

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