• 03 . 01 . 07
  • I only decided to come on this trip relatively recently, so all my flights are different to Amy’s the friend I’m travelling with. Somehow, the cheapest flight to Christchurch I could find was with Emirates, whose service and entertainment was so good that for the first time ever, I wished my flight was longer. And […]

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I only decided to come on this trip relatively recently, so all my flights are different to Amy’s the friend I’m travelling with. Somehow, the cheapest flight to Christchurch I could find was with Emirates, whose service and entertainment was so good that for the first time ever, I wished my flight was longer. And as it happened, my wish was granted as we sat waiting around for an hour in Sydney due to ‘technical difficulties’. This meant that I arrived in New Zealand after Amy, instead of before, which would have been fine except that neither of our phones work over here. When we eventually did meet up later on and piece together our day, we found that we’d probably been missing each other by a perfectly timed 2 minutes in each place, and had been leaving messages for each other at different organisations and information desks throughout the airport. Even after all that, we were still on the road by 5:30pm, in our newly rented car. Our rough plan takes us to Greymouth, Franz Josef Glacier, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Dunedin and back to Christchurch, with stops at as many places along the way as interest us.

The road to Greymouth was beautiful, passing through vineyards, mountain country and valleys, with each crest in the road seemingly bringing ever more incredible views. Coast to coast takes just 3½ hours, which I used to consider a long time, before I lived in a country where that’s the trip to the local grocery store. In that time we passed by about 20 houses, spread amongst 5 towns, and 2 places in the middle of nowhere offering “psychometry tests”. If you stopped at one of those places, you’d need you’re head reading, but at least if you weren’t happy with your results you could get a second opinion…

Just before Greymouth, we came to the Scariest Bridge Ever™. I’ve already noticed that New Zealand has an aversion to building two lane bridges, with the road narrowing to a single lane whenever a river or creek needs crossing. This is all well and good, but in an act of inspiration/cheapness/bravado, one special bridge we came to had been designed with one lane for cars and trains in both directions. Add to this the lack of barriers (obviously), a sign saying “Lights will not flash” and the fact that entry to the bridge was via a roundabout which itself crossed the train track twice, and you can see why those 300m were a little nerve wracking.

A little later on, we arrived in Greymouth, just as the sun began its descent. After checking out one or two beautiful lookout spots, we tried a couple of restaurants for dinner, but the general consensus was that Greymouth closes at 8:30. One sarcastic local asked us if we like Scottish food, before directing us to McDonalds, but it was under the fluorescent striplights at a KFC with no west-facing windows that we ‘experienced’ our first West Coast New Zealand sunset. Which is to say, it was dark when we left, so I assume the sun went down as celestially planned. Suitably unimpressed with Greymouth, we left immediately, once more ventured across that bridge (made no less scary in the dark) and headed off southwards, to where we are now, which is just before Hokatika, another small town. [In an attempt at being frugal/For a new experience/Because we’re cheap] (*Delete as appropriate), we’re going to try sleeping in the car tonight. Assuming we don’t [freeze/get arrested/get killed](*Tick all that apply), we’ll be continuing on tomorrow.