Monday, March 24, 2008

New Zealand Adventures Begin

My adventures to New Zealand began with a mistake. No, don't worry. I just misread my flight departure time ast 5:05 PM instead of 5:50. The consequence was spending an extra hour in the airport. Not so terriblle. Other than that one glitch, though, things have been going really well so far. Highlights included fitting everything into my backpack, catching a train and then a shuttle to the airport, and not getting any of my food taken away from me at customs when I landed.

Last night I arrived at the Christchurch airport quite late and went in a shuttle to Charlie B's Backpackers -- looked like an awesome place to stay, from what I saw of it. I got in at midnight, crashed, and woke up at 6 the next morning to catch another shuttle to the TranzAlpine train that goes through the Southern Alps (mountain range through the center of the South Island) to Greymouth, one of the many small towns that dot the west coast. I was exhausted, and for a short while I was fighting the urge to fall asleep on the train, since it's a scenic train ride with big windows and an outdoor viewing car. My body won, though, and I let myself get some rest so that I could at least enjoy the second half of the train ride. Everything I saw was gorgeous, although I think I missed seeing the location used for Edoras in the Lord of the Rings. I'll post pictures on a facebook album when I get back. There were mountains, lush green fields, tiny train stations, and lots and lots of sheep. Some cows and an occasional horse too, but a lot of sheep. This it the country with 4 million people and 40 million sheep.

After walking around Greymouth for a short time and visiting a one-room exhibit about jade and its value in the Maori (NZ's indigenous nation) culture, I headed back to the station to catch a bus down the coast for four hours until I came to Franz Josef.

Franz has two streets - the main road and the shorter one parallel to it. It's used mostly as a base for people who want to explore the Franz Josef glacier, a 10 minute drive away. Tomorrow I'm going out for a full day glacier hike which should be pretty incredible. Right now I'm sitting inside an old bus from the 70's painted bright red and set up with a rows of computers around the wall. What a great system! My plan is to keep everyone aware of where I am by getting on the internet every couple days - hopefully updating via the blog most of the time.

Have a great week everyone! More to come soon! Don't forget to write!

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