Day 132 & 133 – (13th & 14th Jan) – Routeburn Trek & Milford Sounds

28 02 2011

Day 1 – We had an interesting search for accommodation last night; after failing to heed Sarah’s advice on booking accommodation ahead. We arrived in Queenstown at 9:30/10pm. We must have visited or rang a dozen hotels and hostels before finding somewhere out of town – but not before ringing one hostel Jen found in the lonely planet at about 10:30pm. Jen called enquiring about a room and got: “Do you know what time this is?”.  To which she apologised and told him it was 10:30pm. He said in a posh British accent “Dam right it is… Good night” and slammed the phone down!

We had an early start, taking an hour and a half transfer from Queenstown along Lake Wakatipu to the start of the Routeburn Trek. The routeburn is a world renowned alpine walk along mountainous valleys, glacial rivers and clear lakes. Today saw us walk close to 30km in just about perfect conditions. We had time for a wonderful picnic close to a small lake at 1200 metres and a brief dip in a 120C lake.

We both enjoyed the trek, but just didn’t feel as blown away by the whole experience as maybe we should have been. Don’t get me wrong the Routeburn has some great views. It’s just that those great views weren’t constantly with you – the trek made you work hard to get those breath taking views.

Day 2 – A much shorter 8km trek to the end of the Routeburn from where we took a transfer to the absolutely stunning Milford Sounds. I cannot begin to describe how nice it was out on the water sailing between the fjords. We were so happy to have perfect weather conditions after the terrible weather we had sailing the Patagonian Fjords for three days.

It was on the long bus ride back to Queenstown from Milford Sounds that I realised New Zealand pretty much has it all. A great country where common sense prevails and bureaucracy is kept to a minimum (remember we have just come from South America – where there is paper work for going to the toilet). For a half pint country it has everything – grand mountains, lakes and volcanoes, stunning beaches, green valleys and old forests, a rich culture with friendly people and plenty of space to go round. However, I would find it difficult to live here because Kiwi’s can’t pronounce my name correctly. Instead of Jez, they say Jiz – you see, Kiwi’s like to strangulate vowels. I love the accent, but if the country could collectively make an effort to get my name right I could consider living here 😉

New Zealand is sometimes described as a Little Britain or Britain 30 years ago. I would have to disagree. Whilst we may share a common ancestry; an obsessive interest in the weather, tea in a time of crisis, a desire to say ‘sorry’, a common sense of humour (namely irony and self-deprecation) and rambling or as they like to say ‘tramping’. However, that’s as far as it goes. Kiwis have a far better relationship with nature and the outdoors than Brits. The backyard is seen as an extension of their house; rather than something that’s going to have to be mowed. They unfortunately have abandoned any notion of eating out in a nice restaurant or having a couple of jars down the local pub. Kiwi’s also have an enthusiasm to give anything a go – I guess that’s why it’s the home of Zorbing, bungee jumping and anything else that involves throwing yourself off, out of or into something. All in all New Zealand is simply full of happier people.

I find the language both fascinating and a little confusing. There is a definite habit of not ending sentences or ending them with a kind of question. This is done by way of an inflection at the end of the sentence or the classic use of ‘as’. ‘What’s the water like?’ – ‘Cold as’. ‘How was the party last night?’ – ‘Sweet as’.

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