As we approached Queenstown, the chief air steward announced that 'the time now in New Zealand is 1230.  And the year in New Zealand is 1973.'  
His passengers needed all the humour they could get - landing at Queenstown's tiny airport was hair-raising.  The town and airport lie in very mountainous country and the plane descends through a steep-sided gorge so that the wings seem almost to touch the mountainsides the lower you get.  
It was all too much for the woman sitting next to me, who kept on saying 'O my God - I can count the leaves on the trees!'
This splendid sculpture of a Maori welcoming party greets you as you step out of the arrivals hall onto New Zealand territory.
 Not everything has gone quite according to plan on my journey.  At Hong Kong, I tripped over my own shoelace and fell arse over tit in the Baggage Claim hall.  I also snapped the shoelace.  I acquired a new pair from a street-cobbler in Wan Chai, who gave me them for nothing because I was 'so old'.  He looked to be in his 90s.
On the bus from the airport into Queenstown, my suitcase fell out of the bus.  I've never had a suitcase with four wheels before and I wasn't holding onto it tightly enough.  As the bus pulled up at a stop, it rolled down the central aisle and straight out through the centre doors.  The backpacker on the pavement has promised not to bring charges.
I'd calmed down by the time I reached my lakeside hotel in the town.  The view above was taken through my bedroom window; below is the view from the garden.  
It's Lake Wakatipu - and it gave me a taste of the splendours to come.  
The mountain range is called The Remarkables and they are well-named.
 I picked up my campervan the next morning - Sunday.  I'd spent the evening falling in love with Queenstown - a real charmer, and full of relaxed and exhausted bungee-jumpers, skiers, mountaineers, hikers and any other kind of adventure-seekers you care to name.  I really loved the lively, good-humoured atmosphere.
And, after Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, it was so good to be cold again!
I forewent a Fergyburger - the queue was too long - and had a creamy vegetable pie from Queenstown's best baker instead.  The girl who served me was called Inga and was Danish.  She was so impressed that an English pensioner was flinging himself around the world that she gave me a very large slice of thick, New Zealand apple pie and two scoops of ice-cream for nothing.
I've tried to mention my travels as often as possible ever since - with mixed results.
NOTE:  Australians and Kiwis seem to have two main food obsessions - pies (of any kind) and fish 'n' chips, which seem to be obtainable everywhere and which Kiwis call 'fashion chaps' - it takes a while to get used to the accent.
Speaking of food...it's been no surprise to see so many branches of McDonald's everywhere but I had no idea that Subway was quite so universal.  There seems to be a branch of Subway in every town and village in New Zealand, no matter how small. 

My campervan's interior before I messed it up.  I'm sitting on that bench right now writing this blog.
 The first place I drove to was the local supermarket.  Still in ludicrous disbelief that I was in New Zealand and in charge of a campervan for the next two weeks, I kept taking pictures of it.  My pride wasn't matched by my parking skills, as you can see...

 My route to my first destination took me along the whole length of Lake Wakatipu, 
which just got lovelier and lovelier the further I travelled.
I mean - just look at that!
 See what I mean?  I just kept stopping - again and again.  It was a hard lesson to learn - if you keep stopping to look and take pictures each time a splendid view appears, 
you will never get anywhere in this sublimely beautiful country.

 My last two views of Lake Wakatipu...

Eventually, I managed to reach Te Anau in one piece.  I tried to remember what Jilly, at the campervan company, had told me - hook up the van to the on-site socket, switch on the gas supply and the water heater and the water-pump.  Amazingly, it all seemed to work as she'd described - and I made myself a celebratory cup of tea, as you do.
I was looking out over yet another vast lake to the fiord-like inlets in the mountainsides opposite.

And - as I have found out may times since those first nights - the air steward was quite right.  It is still 1973 in New Zealand.  Its people are trusting, good-humoured and unhurried.  They like to listen and they like to talk - to 'pass the time of day'.

Right now, it's only my fifth night here and I already know it will be heart-breaking to leave.

Distance travelled so far:  13,740 m / 22,112 km
Watch this space...


Val said...

Entertaining as ever.
Gasps and sighs, wishing I was there too!!
A moment on the lips? New Zealand won't import Ozzie ice cream cos the cream content is too low!
I've not tried them but the New Zealand Gourmet Pie Company make traditional savoury New Zealand pies here in the North East? I think they do farmers markets etc and mail order.
Fab award-winning fish'n'chip shops in Auckland suburbs - you don't get cod though! I think it was snapper they said was the nearest to cod and my hubby loved it. Everything's cooked to order instead of kept hot and drying out like here! The one we went to catered for our mixture of carnivores, vegetarians and did gluten free for my daughter in law who's allergic. Ironically she had a part time job in Subway in her small hometown in Northland - so wouldn't pinch any free sandwiches!
What higher praise can you give than to say, already, that you don't want to leave?!!

Masa said...

Thank you for the interesting travel report!!