Saturday, May 07, 2005

Southwards, into the rain

Lake Mahinapua

Well my luck with the weather ran out today. It was still sunny when we rolled out of Barrytown, but almost immediately the clutch failed and our bus broke down. So we had an unscheduled hour wait in a tractor garage whilst the other bus was brought up for us to move onto. The tour is led by a typically energetic guide called Spike (because of his mohawk haircut), and there are about 12 of us on at the moment - most of us staying on until Franz, today's destination. A couple of the guys are going all the way round like me, but most have planned extra days in some of the places and will 'drop off' our tour and then join the bus that follows us tomorrow, or the one after that. But the people on the bus seem good fun - and it's not like the enforced wackiness of the Kiwi bus I mentioned yesterday.

About an hour south of Greymouth is Hokitika - the centre of the New Zealand greenstone (jade) industry. Plenty of tourist shops and jewellers, but we were only there for an hour or so, just to buy provisions for the next few days as there's precious little between Hokitika and Queenstown, three days away. Just after we left the rain started, and quickly it became a downpour that fogged up the windows and made everything hard to see. We stopped briefly at an old gold-mining town to get a cup of billy-tea (brewed on the fire in a billy can) and we were off again - we could have panned for gold, but it was really belting down.

The final stop of the day was Franz, where I am now. I'm sitting in an old red bus, converted into an internet place. Franz is the stopping off point for the Franz-Josef glacier, which we're walking up tomorrow. In the meantime, there's not much else to do other that avoid getting wet. Franz is like Aviemore, only about 1/10th the size - we walked around it in 20 minutes. Still, you don't come here for the town, you come for the glacier - and more of that next time...