Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mount Cook, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

DT and D4 had bade us farewell with much hugs and kisses as they headed back to Dunedin. We all parted by the side of the lake opposite Alpine Motel in Wanaka. As we had time, D2 and I went to assess the eateries for dinner. We settled on some takeaways which we could not finish.After a restful night, we were up and about early the next morning by 7.30 am. I went outside to get some fresh Wanaka air. It was still very dark and chillingly cold. My thermometer showed 3 degrees Celsius. We made ourselves warm coffee and tea with the packets we had. These are items amongst other things that we never fail to pack on our travel. We still had the beef steak and bread from the previous night's dinner. We warmed them up and that was a nice, solid breakfast. We settled our bill which came to $65 and checked out of our suite # 18. Our Atomic Shuttle coach which had been pre-booked arrived at 9.00 am sharp outside our motel. Our luggage was loaded onto the trailer behind the mid-size coach. In the coach were 2 guys from UK, 2 girls also from UK, 1 Japanese guy, ourselves and the driver whose name is Doug, aged 52. This portion of our journey would end at Greymouth on the same day.
Leaving Wanaka ,we next arrived at the town of Makarora where we had the first morning break for coffee and a quick breakfast for those who missed it. It was 10.00am. The drive was scenic and beautiful even in winter. At 11.30 am we arrived at Haast. At these scheduled stops, passengers may disembark or new visitors get on. The next stop was a major lunch stop at Paringa. It was 12.30 pm just in time for some chow at Salmon Farm Cafe. It was a fabulous place, amidst a very rustic setting. Here, we bumped into a 17 member group from Singapore who were with Diner's Travel.
After lunch, the coach driver, Doug, announced that the next two stops will allow us some time to see the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier. We were in the heart of glacier country. We were warned to adhere to the stipulated time to return to the coach as the coach could not wait for anyone late or missing. So we arrived at Fox Glacier at 2.00 pm. There were shops and other eateries nearby. D2 and I walked around and soaked in the atmosphere of the place. Back in the coach again, we proceeded to Franz Josef Glacier which was about 45 minutes away. This place looked bigger than the previous town. There were more people around, perhaps more visitors.
All of us trooped out of our coach and were soon "lost" in the surroundings, surveying and doing mini-walks as we were given much more time here. After the stipulated time, all came back to the coach except for one guy. He was missing! As advised earlier, the coach has a strict policy of punctuality, of responsibility to those who need to drop off and those they will be picking up at exact stated times. Doug did delay a couple of minutes as he completed the switchover for a new driver to take over. The driver's name ...Tayo.
Thus, I wasn't surprised the coach moved off without the missing or late passenger.
But not to worry, since it was entirely the poor guy's fault, he will have to catch the next passing Atomic shuttle to re-connect, likely with Doug's help.
From the glacier, we travelled towards the town of Hokitika, arriving at about 4.45 pm. We saw Mt Cook, the highest mountain in NZ, along the way. It was truly a majestic view. Another beautiful sight was the sunset over the West Tasman Sea. We rolled into
Greymouth at about 5.30 pm and when we emerged from the coach we could catch the unmistakable scent of sea breeze. We were after all close to the sea. It wasn't difficult to locate our Motel with such an apt name......the Breeze Motel. At the motel's office, the owner Bob and Sandra Holbrom introduced themselves to us. They were such a nice, charming and friendly couple who told us they were great admirers of Lee Kuan Yew and of Singapore. Hearing this made D2 and myself feeling very thankful, blessed and proud to be Singaporeans!
And we chatted a little more, mainly about Singapore, before we were shown to our beautiful suite # 9. It was excellent.
From our suite we called D4 and DT who were staying with Maree in Dunedin.
We told them that we were loving every minute of our adventure in South Island.

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