Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Great Kiwi Road Trip - Day I

Invercargill --> Queenstown
187.0 km
18th December '07

I managed to wake up at the highly respectable time of 8 on Tuesday morning, thanks largely to a call from the car rental, reminding me that I had a pick-up arranged for later in the day. (Was actually a really good thing, I was still a wee bit short of finding my bearings.)Managed to wake John up and headed out for breakfast. The food obviously cleared things up a little more, since it the occurred to us that accommodation in Invercargill wouldn't do a whole lot of good to us when we landed up in Queenstown later that evening!! More frantic calling, this time to the backpackers, got us the desired extra night's stay, and again, at cheaper rates than we'd booked earlier!That done, we headed out to see the few sights that this sleepy town offered. It almost felt like home though, given the number of familiar people we kept running into at every corner :|. (The Western Trident had invaded Invercargill for a couple of days :P.) What was not so funny was the number of people who kept enquiring about how my head felt :|. Just for the record, my head was feeling fine! I don' tdo hangovers, much to the envy of some people I know :D.
We were supposed to pick up the car at 1400, but by midday we'd pretty much exhausted all avenues of sight-seeing in Invercargill. Including chasing down Burt Munro's land speed record holding (2-wheelers) 'world's fastest Indian' bike at a tiny display at the back of a hardware store!! An absolute shame I tell you, the bike had actually been on display at the Southland Museum in the city until recently. But when we'd landed up there the previous day we were told that the exhibit had been removed X-(.Anyway, we caught the rental lady on her lunch break, but before too long managed to get the key to our eventually much loved, almost brand spanking new Toyota Corolla 1.8l hatch! And it came with the manual in the glove box :P. I think it might be pertinent here to note that this was only the second automatic (or any car outside India for that matter) I'd ever gotten behind the wheels of. The first time had been mid '05 in KL when I'd failed the company driving test :|. The reason, according to my Aussie evaluator, I kept braking too late!! In my defence, by Mumbai and Kolkata standards I was already being overcautious /:).While John pored over said manual, we started off, only to be immediately cut off by a 4WD that seemed in a massive hurry X-(. My reflexes led to a loud honking that seemed to surprise John :|. But hey, that was the last time I used that piece of equipment for the rest of the trip!
The drive was brilliant to say the least! I'd been warned that we'd come across less humans and more sheep, and I agree. The rolling fields, the sometimes distant, sometimes not quite so distant, often snow-capped mountains, sudden rushing streams made it really difficult from a constant high :). We made a stop at the tiny village of Lumsden to grab some lunch, only to find everything but the convenience store shut :|. Only when we'd set off again did we find not one, but three restaurants, barely a mile away :-<. The absolute highlight of the drive was arriving at the shores of Lake Wakatipu. A spectacular deep blue in the bright sunshine, and stretching from Kingston to Queenstown and beyond. To make things even better, the highway wound its way around the eastern shores of the lake and along the curves of the twisting mountainside.We stopped often and greeted fellow travellers (there seemed to be more people on the road actually, only, you never saw any of them on the road :D) who were similarly awed by the scenery. We also seemed to find more cemeteries along the road than towns or villages, something that prompted John to conclude that there were more dead people in New Zealand than alive :|.

Eventually we found ourselves entering the outskirts of what seemed to be a very large sprawling town. Once there, and with no other means of locating the YHA we were staying at, we had to rely on the progressively zoomed in screen grabs from Google Earth I'd printed out just before we left the boat! I must say the street names, and even the hostel location were spot on! (For which we shall be eternally grateful to GE :D.)Once we'd settled into our dorm (that looked a little worse for wear, but had a spectacular view of the lake) we managed to locate the final third of our road-tripping trio, none other than my now semi-ex-house mate in Perth, Anu. And more importantly, the Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand that she owned :P. The first thing we did was to book ourselves on a paragliding and a jet boating trip for the next day. Then we headed out for some food ad a look around. I think I haven't mentioned the fact that since it's summer here, daylight hours pretty much range from 5 am to 10 pm. So while we weren't ever short of daylight, that only meant that half the things were shut even with everything bright and sunny :-<. Queenstown is not really one of those places you go to look at buildings and things. You go there to do stuff. And true to the title of 'adventure capital of the world', there is absolutely no dearth of things to do. And while some of the things are quite nice and tame, there are others that could seriously test your limits. Satisfied that the next day would bring enough by way of more exciting stuff, we were content to head off along the lake front for a nice view of the sunset. I have to say, I hadn't expected lakes to have waves this huge. But then again, I don't recall having been around any lakes this size before. I believe most people have survived art class as kids, and part of that survival was the ability to render a sunset (or rise) with the sun poised exactly in between two hills with some form of water in the foreground, a few trees here and there, and maybe a few ticks birds in the sky. If that is true, then this sunset was picture-perfect :).
(was) Feeling: surrounded by sunshine :)
Listening to: Vertical Horizon - All of you

No comments: