Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hope it doesn't do what it says on the tin

I wonder if the NZ authorities really want us all scruffy travellers trailing round their country; at times they go out of their way to make it sound uninviting. After braving Dead Man's Beach in Stewart Island, yesterday saw an assault on Avalanche Peak at Arthur's Pass, hoping that the name was a mispelled invite to 'have a lunch' and not anything more threatening. But weather was anything but threatening, clear and sunny throughout, and in any case myself and current travelling companion Zoe from Holland are veterans of the Milford Track and so undeterred by threatening nomenclature. Or else have formed a belief that divine providence in the shape of helicopters will swoop down and carry us to safety any time we get into trouble. Anyway, Avalanche Peak (about 6000 feet) was duly added to our list of the NZ equivalent of Munros (summit photo attached). OK, so this list currently numbers 1, but got to start somewhere. NZ walking tracks are excellent, mainly to ensure that walkers stick to them and don't wonder off into the wilderness, and the Dept of Conservation which governs the wilderness areas has a thorough system to ensure us 'trampers' report our comings and goings. But the cairns on the summits are a bit underwhelming, maybe because they don't last long. Apparently the summit of Mount Cook (NZ's highest) and much of one side of the mountain took part in an avalanche a few years ago, lowering the mountain by about 20 feet. I'm sure it doesn't happen often, but doesn't encourage you to linger on the tops.

I also spent my 1st night at a bach, which are NZ 2nd homes, sort of like but'n'bens in Scotland, but just as often on the coast as in the hills. This one was built by Terry Donaldson in the 1960's, before he settled down to among other things act as my Dad's boss in 1980 when my family was out here for a year. These architectural skills have been passed to his sons and grandchildren, who built an impressive house out of driftwood on the beach in the course of an afternoon. Many thanks to Terry and his family for their hospitality, really glad we've stayed in touch all this time, just a pity that Motanau Beach was about the only place in NZ covered by thick cloud while we were there.

Zoe and myself have agreed an amicable division of labour; I drive the hire car, she cooks (extremely well), and in between we spend the time disagreeing about films and music. Have now reached Hamner Springs for some sulphurous R&R, whale watching in Kaikoura next if the Japanese 'scientific' community haven't sent them all to the dinner tables of Tokyo by now.

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