Wednesday, April 23, 2008

And Then There Were 5

We're on a magical mystery tour at the moment. Giovanna joined us in Christchurch and after an Olympian effort to overcome jetlag, we went on the road 2 days later. So far we've been to Lake Tekapo, Queenstown, Te Anau, Milford Sound and we're now in Invercargill. The plan is being made as we go along - something that I'm particularly enjoying.

For such a relatively small country (compared to where we've just come from) New Zealand looks very big. The mountains and plains go on and on, and around every corner there's a different landscape. The mountainous centre of the South Island is completely different to the coast - the latter looking very much like the UK and Ireland. The scale of the Southern Alps is immense. If you want to feel small, come to New Zealand.

Lake Tekapo was a half-way stop on the way to Queenstown, but a good one. And the road that leads from it to Queenstown is a spectacular collection of turquoise lakes, shadowy passes and snowdusted mountains. You can tell you're getting closer to Queenstown because the traffic (what little of it there might be) speeds up. Queenstown is the adrenalin-soaked heart of the area, fuelled by bungy, whitewater, jetboating, skydiving and much else, and it seems to siphon in tourists and spit them out at high speed on the arterial roads that lie on either side. We indulged in a little extreme activity - more on that in a Queenstown post - and two days later we were on the road again. This time to Milford Sound.

I'm getting into blog-debt. I can't do Milford Sound justice without dedicating a post specifically to it. For now, let me say that it was a 300 km trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound, for a 3-hour tour of the waters there. And it was worth every kilometer. That was yesterday. We finished up the day in Milford with a 300km dash to Invercargill (the route brought us close enough to Queenstown again to slingshot off it's heighted energy and reach the South coast). Here, we're positioned for a run along the Southern Scenic Drive (Catlins Coast) to Dunedin, with the option of stopping off overnight if we find something that interests us enough (and weather to enjoy it in - so far we've been extremely lucky on that count).

The dynamic of our group has changed, slightly and effortlessly, with the arrival of Zia Giovanna. This is a group that has worked well in Ireland, Italy and France, so it's no surprise that we get on so well this far from home. As well as being so popular with Nina and Sara, Gio adds two extra camera lenses to the group. Watch here for some of the results (when we get back to Christchurch.

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