Last stop on South Island
17.11.2009 - 18.11.2009 63 °F
We planned two nights for Fox Glacier because tourist brochures said the drive from Queenstown to Fox Glacier was supposed to take seven to eight hours, but my GPS said only takes 4:30 hours. I can only imagine the brochures meant for us to stop a lot along the way. We arrived early enough at the hotel to go to Fox Glacier the same day, which we covered in our blog “Bait and Switchback”. So the question remained what to do with the extra day? Checking our guide books we found some short treks we could take that didn’t involve climbing a mountain.
First off we headed to Lake Matheson. The lake’s hour and a half trail was well designed with bridges, boardwalks, a few inclines but not difficult to walk. In fact, all the short, local trails we’ve walked on have been lovingly maintained. The paths are covered with small rocks and wherever there is some water run-off, they design small drains with rocks arranged around them to look more natural. There were plenty of places to stop and admire the view of Mount Cook.
After getting back to the parking lot we stopped for a quick bite to eat at the Lake Matheson Café before heading out to historic Gillespie Beach. The beach was the scene of heavy gold mining activity. In 1932 a gold dredge was built that extracted gold from the black sand on Gillespie Beach. We hiked up to see the remnants of the gold dredge.
But the draw for Jeannine and me was just the beach itself. It was unusual to see a beach full of large round pebbles and grey sand. I took a moment to build my own cairn.
Next morning we took off for Christchurch but first we had to cross the Alps. It was discovered long ago that Arthur’s Pass was the best way over so we took that route. The Pass is famous for dramatic views and interesting rock formations. We stopped in a small town to get coffee and were treated to a Kea prank (Kea are the intelligent alpine parrots we mentioned before.) While we were waiting in the café Jeannine spotted some fluttering movement in the kitchen by the open back door. Turns out a Kea flew in and grabbed a bag of bread and took off with it. We went around the back to snap a picture.
A few hours later we arrived in Christchurch which was a Church of England settlement modeled on 19th Century English society. In 1850 four ships set off from England to create a slice of England in New Zealand. We only have a day to explore the historical area so , I selected a hotel that is in the heart of the city center called the Hotel So. It was billed as a cool modern, hip, designer hotel with state-of-the-art technology and eco-friendly architecture. It did not bother us that the room was only 12’ x 8’ because it was so cute. At only $69 NZ ($51 USD) it was bargain for the location.
We left the comfort of the hotel to seek out food! On our way to a vegetarian restaurant we stopped at ChristChurch Cathedral. The doors were open and they were having an Evensong Service. We decided food could wait and attended the service. The voices of the choir were an angelic blend of boys and men and we were transfixed. We found out that the Cathedral Choir has sung Evensong regularly since 1881 and that the Cathedral Grammar School was opened before the Cathedral to train choristers to sing at the Cathedral Services. Today the 20 boys in the choir receive scholarships at the school maintaining this 125 year tradition. It was quite spiritual to stand in that space.
We continued to the restaurant called Dux de Lux. The restaurant is in an old Tudor mansion and was quite busy. You stand in line to order from a wonderful menu of vegetarian options and homemade beer and then take your seat. We got there just before a huge rush. The business was surprising because it was a Wednesday night. After a meal of corn and vegetable fritters and tofu red curry with ginger roasted vegetables we struck out again for a stroll to work off the meal. We wandered over to a striking house across the street with beautiful sculptures and found it was the headquarters for the NZ Dyslexia Foundation. One of the most original sculptures was “Talking Seats” where you sit down and a voice comes on to give you a story about dyslexia. It was quite touching.
To satisfy a request from our readers, we have included a photo of one of the workman in shorts and boots!