MP3 track of the day: At the sign of the Prancing Pony- Lord of the Rings
Weather: Franz Joseph: Throwing it down. Wanaka: Sun is shining with a strong breeze
Another early start for another early bus ride … oh well. The bus stop in Franz Joseph was only a two minute walk away from the hostel; however, with the entire worlds annual rainfall pouring down outside, I had to prepare my wet weather gear. I really enjoyed my time here in Franz Joseph, it's a shame the weather didn't hold out for one more day as I might have done an ice climb. The walks I had done around the glacier were fabulous, however I wish I had done the walk I did yesterday (Alex Knob trail) the day before when the views would have been stunning then I could have not bothered with 'Roberts Point' and maybe done the ice climb instead … still how was I to know what was hot and what was not, the main thing was that I had thoroughly enjoyed my time here.
Just as I was about to leave the hostel, for the bus stop, the guy at reception said that, most days, the coach actually comes to the hostels door to collect passengers … I hoped today was that day. It was 7:50am and my coach was due to leave within ten minutes and the coach still hadn't arrived at the hostel. Admitting to myself that it probably wouldn't (and giving a little curse to the driver) I prepared myself for the torrent of rain which stood between me and the bus stop. Just then the coach pulled into view and all rejoiced, looks like I wouldn't be getting too wet after all.
After driving around to the actual bus stop, to pick up any other passengers, we were off! This is now my fifth trip on an Intercity / Newmans coach and I have to say I'm a little baffled. These coach services (which actually act like on big coach service sharing the entire New Zealand coach network between them) are the equivalent of the Greyhound in North America or the National Express in the UK … long distance coaches for the masses. So when you are greeted by the happiest bus drivers on the planet (ever met a happy bus driver within the UK … thought not) things seem a little strange. Stranger still is when they all provide tourist commentary which is nice, but again weird for a long distance coach. The final straw is when, like today, the coach driver pulls off the road twice. The first time is for us to look in a tourist office at an exhibition and the second time is so that we can take a photograph of a waterfall (which was very nice). This all seems pretty bizarre and it feels like Intercity and Newmans are trying to compete with the 'hop-on, hop-off' tourist buses that plague this land like locus'. I looked around the coach at the twelve people on it (one of which decided to sit directly in front of me and then recline her seat … YOU HAVE THE WHOLE BUS TO CHOOSE FROM LOVE, WHY DO THIS INFRONT OF ME!!!) and all were tourists. This has made me come to the conclusion that very few Kiwis use long distance public transport and maybe Intercity and Newmans have had to change to survive. Still if I was a Kiwi and I had to use this service, say, once every two weeks I would start to get a little annoyed at the driver constantly talking. Speaking of which hear lies another problem; because the driver is constantly talking about mountains, rivers or fish migration patterns I find it hard to concentrate on reading my guidebook. You see I use my coach journeys to read about the place I will be visiting and to see what looks good and what doesn't. There is another slight problem with these services and that is regarding food. The coaches are super clean, which is nice, but this is achieved by adopting a 'no eating whilst on the coach policy'. This seems fair enough as there are frequent break stops, however the break stops are usually at roadside cafes with nothing else around for miles. Every road side cafe has notices up saying that you can only eat their food on the premises. This makes traveling quite expensive and I have had to hide away in a cold corner, with other travelers, to munch on something that I had bought from the supermarket the day before.
Looking through the attractions for Wanaka only 'Puzzle World', apparently world famous according to the driver, stands out. Puzzle World has a huge maze, an optical illusion house and many other small puzzles dotted around a theme park style area. My first thoughts include the phase 'tacky tourist trap' however I cannot deny that I am tempted, basically because I want to rest after my three days of constant hiking at Franz Joseph. Also at only $12.00 entry it's quite cheap for a days entertainment. Talking of walks though, there is one, close to Puzzle Word, which would give me a great view of Wanaka and the surrounding terrain, which includes a massive lake and a large snow-capped mountain range, lovely.
The coach ride was lovely; like I said earlier the commentary, the stop at the information center and the stop at the waterfall (so that we could change drivers with a coach coming in the opposite direction) were both very pleasant. The further south we went the better the weather got until we reached Wanaka where the skies were blue and it all looked rosy. It seemed like a good idea to leave Franz Joseph when I did, however I wondered what the weather was like further south.
I found my hostel, another YHA, which is lovely and I dropped off my bags and headed out to Lake Wanaka (located five minutes walkaway from the hostel at the bottom of the town) to take some photos whilst the weather was good. After this I saw a guy I had met in the Abel Tasman Park, almost a week ago, before heading into town to have a look around. It's Sunday today and therefore much of the CBD is shut, I did however notice that prices are starting to creep up down here; my hostel is $2 per night more expensive and takeaway prices, plus supermarket prices, seem to be a little more expensive.
I had decided that, as Milford Sound is my next stop and the biggest tourist spot within New Zealand, I would book my three nights accommodation, plus transport, (at Te Anau the closest town to the Fjord) tonight as not to miss out; Boat cruses on Milford Sound seem to leave from Te Anau and the weather looks good for Thursday. However there is one big problem; I've just been on the bus website and you cannot get to Te Anau in a day from Wanaka, even though it's only six hours away. The reason is that the coach to Te Anau leaves Queenstown at 7:30am, however the first bus to leave Wanaka for Queenstown is at 2:30pm meaning an overnight stop in Queenstown is needed. However before I do anything rash, I'm going to ask at reception to see if there is anyother transport that they know of, orelse I might try to see if I can cancel a night here and then book one nght in Queenstown and then three nights in Te Anau ... what a pain, and Wanaka is only 45 minutes away from Queenstown as well.
The annoying thing is that the hostel here (YHA Purple Cow Wanaka) is really nice; my dorm is like a 6 bed apartment with our own kitchen and bathroom which is surprisingly warm considering the building looks a little pre-fabricated. Also this YHA seems to put on a lot of additional extras; just like in Wellington, tonight there is a takeaway meal option which I went for and had a good steak burger (as I haven't had any good meat for just under a week now) and chips. As I sat down I looked around me and I saw a site that I think I will never, ever, see in a hostel ever again. To the let of me, just before the stairs, there was a zimmer frame parked in the middle of the walkway. A little confused I looked around and what can only be described as a sea of old people were sitting, in this youth hostel, eating their dinner. I asked some of the very few younger residents what was going on as I felt as if I was in an old peoples home (if my mum and dad where residents here they would help to bring the residents age average crashing down its that bad). Anyway after tea I went to see tonight's film (which the Kiwi's call a 'movie' … I'm trying to teach them), 'The Life of Brian' by Monty Python. It was actually better than I thought and also wasn't really offensive to any religion whatsoever. I have to say that I'm glad to have finally found out where the quote “...He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy' came from and the whole room laughed when the people being crucified started singing 'always look on the bright side of life'.
Tomorrow will certainly be a lazy start followed by sorting out how to get to Milford Sound and then, if time, either a visit to 'Puzzle Word' (it's world famous don't you know) or a hike to that view point or just a wander around town … all is weather dependent.