Monday, April 23, 2012

Part 2: not the most efficient mode of travel

At 8:04 the next morning, Lauren and I were sitting on our backpacks in front of the Nelson Youth Hostel and sweating. It was hot, I was wearing cotton, and the bus was late. Did we miss it? Surely we would've seen a huge blue bus go roaring past. We'd never get to Queenstown at this rate.

With a mechanical roar, the bus rounded the corner and ground to a stop in front of us. We shoved our bags into the boot underneath and the driver (a wry, silver-haired guy named Alan who lives on a house boat when he's not driving tourists around the country) ticked off our names on a chart. The bus was half-full of sleepy-looking people. There were two of our friends from Arcadia were there, a few Germans, some British guys and a girl, and one lady from Brazil. We flopped into a pair of seats next to some Swedish girls. I was still exhausted. A four-hour bus ride sounded nice. The bus lurched forward and we were on the road.
I shut my eyes and leaned against the window.

"So today we're on our way to Greymouth," said Alan. "If you want to book your hostels you can do it now. Lovely city, Greymouth. We'll be doing a tour at Monteith's Brewery if you'd like to sign up."

The bus got quiet. I shut my eyes again.

"Greymouth also offeres quad biking and ATV rides, if you're into that kind of thing. I'll send around a clipboard and you can tick your names off for whichever activity you'd like to do."

Silence. Naptime.

"And on the way there, we'll be going over this little hill called the Hope Saddle. Let's hope the bus makes it. After that we'll stop for some photos at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks."

In half an hour we stopped for coffee at a café next to a farm. I got a cup of tea and watched a chicken scratch around by the bus tires. It was 8:30. I figured we'd get to Greymouth by 1:30 or 2 at the latest. We packed back onto the bus.

In a few minutes my stomach started to churn and cramp. Oh hell. I'd eaten something wrong. Was there wheat in that Chinese food I'd eaten the night before? Probably. I prayed we'd get to Graymouth fast. I tried not to think about killing myself while gluten knives were stabbing my stomach. I was on vacation in New Zealand. I should be loving it.

As we wound our way South down the coast and into the hills, we stopped more and more. We stopped for pictures at Cape Foulwind. We stopped for a walk through the bush. We stopped at the Pancake Rocks. We walked through the bush again. We looked at beaches. Between each stop, Alan would interrupt my nap with a fun fact about opossum traps or New Zealand weather. After a couple hours, I gave up on sleep and talked to the Swedish girls about skydiving.

We got to Greymouth at 4:00. I staggered off the bus and we checked into a hostel called Noah's Ark. I got the monkey room. Good lord, you've got to be kidding me.
I had to get out of there. I attempted a run around the town, which consisted of a few houses and a supermarket scattered around a train station. I limped back into the hostel half an hour later, defeated and clutching my stomach. I flopped onto my bed. A stuffed gorilla was staring at me from the mantel. It was getting really hard to keep up my love affair with New Zealand.

The brewery tour was cancelled that night, so we had a beer tasting and a nice dinner at a sports bar full of senior citizens. It wasn't a bad deal, even though I couldn't eat the bread or drink the beer.
The trip picked up steam after that night. My cramps faded each day as the gluten crawled through my system. As we headed further South, the roads got thinner and windier. The landscape turned rugged, wild, and colorful. I started loving the photo stops. I forced myself out of bed each morning to go for a run at sunrise before the bus pulled away for the day at 8:00.

We stopped in a few old mining towns along the way. Some of us tried to relax, but we had to get back on the bus after ten minutes or so.

We spent one night in Franz Josef and walked around on a sea-level glacier.

There wasn't much to do in Franz Josef. There were a couple bars, a few hiking trails, and a supermarket. It was like Ohiopyle if the Yough River were replaced with a big hunk of ice. But they did have a pretty sweet sunrise.
Then we made our way to Wanaka with ample photo stops and lots of New Zealand trivia in between. We said a final farewell to the coast line, saw some impossibly blue rivers, and got shouldered out of the way by excitable Asian tourists.

We got to Wanaka around 4:00. I went for a run on the lakeside hung out while some German hippies played the guitar on the sand.
Just like in Nelson, I wished we'd had more time to chill in Wanaka. There were lots of cute cafés and shops in town, and I heard that there was some great hiking and mountain biking just outside of town. But we were getting antsy and sick of being in transit, so we decided to truck on to Queenstown as fast as possible.

The next day's drive was astounding. Our first morning stop was at a bridge over a river.
Lauren wanted to throw herself off. I tried to take a video but failed at using the camera and got this sweet shot instead.
Jesus, what good form.

We stopped over in Arrowtown, another 1900's mining town with lots of pretty trees and cafés.

Then it was a quick shot down to Queenstown.

We said farewell to Alan, hefted our backpacks, and set off to check into a hostel for four blisfully bus-free days.

Thank goodness. The bus was nice, but being tied to a bus schedule is kind of stressful. And we had to be around a whole lot of people all the time. I'd much rather travel by car with one or two other people and a loose itinerary. 

1 comment:

  1. I love reading travel experiences and knowledge that you bring from every place you visit. I'm Argentina, and where I travel I try to do everything there is here to do, like walking in Key west shuttle in Florida.