Mandy and Jon's Journey 2005 travel blog

Mandy before the Fall.

Jon trying to fool Mandy into thinking he is asleep so he...

A shrouded valley as we descend from the Haast Pass.

Beneath the clouds.

A closer look at Mt. Cook.

As we came nearer to Queenstown the valley and her hills began...

They are a bit Tolkien crazed in and around Queenstown, but this...

A view of Queenstown from our hillside hostel.

After the wondrous time on the coast we turn Possum, and a little of our anxiety, inland. The little white van has been great, but we worry about crossing the Southern Alps, home to Mt. Cook, Mt. Tasman, Mt. Aspiring, and other large stone, possibly snow covered mountains. The Haast Pass is supposedly less intense than the more rugged Arthur's Pass, but this does little to relieve our worry. Nothing would sabotage the trip like a busted van. So in the back of our minds always was this fear of the great South Island mountain pass.

Of course, the worry payed off. It paid off in the sense that if you do worry about something in the back of your head long enough and subtle enough, the reality is bound to be less horrific than you feared, and alas, when we skipped over the mighty Alps like they were sanddunes and we a rollbar-topped buggy, we both looked at eachother, smiled and laughed as we wound, brakes smoking, all the way back to level ground.

Level ground, you know, is always a relative term and level ground for us that night was a very very unofficial campsite that some people would describe as a grassy hill, covered in sheep poop, tens meters off the road. It was dark when we stopped and cold. It was dark when I couldn't sleep and very cold. After I slept a little it was very dark when I woke and extremely cold. When I couldn't get back to sleep it continued to be quite dark and the cold was getting colder. There was surprisingly more light outside when I went to pee, but the cold was, not surprisingly, much worse. In the morning the sun rose, but I was still cold.

After this night we were very eager to enter the township of Queenstown. First impression of Queenstown would be this - it won't look like this in five years, and it probably did look like this two years ago. This is a town beneath construction, not just under it. The creation of hotels and lakeside homes seem to be enacting the promises the architects of war promise the unfortunate countries they destroy. Perhaps what war-destroyed nations need is a bungy-jump or jet-boat industry to attract investment.

Perhaps that is not what they need.

In any event, Queenstown will undoubtedly be attracting visitors for years to come and it will be able to maintain its allure despite the enormous growth that pervades. Reminiscent of ski towns of the American West, the town delivers on those things that it advertises. It is a picturesque downtown village with attractive shops and restaurants, pleasant parks, and surrounded by natural beauty and adventure. For us, it was a great place to have a hot chocolate and peruse the shops we couldn't afford to shop in. Fortunately, it was the day of the FA Cup Final and we foudn a little Irish Pub and watched Arsenal beat our Manchester United in what was almost a great game.

At sunset we wandered back to the van to find that somebody (I'm not sure who it was) left the lights on in the van. = no battery. We are without jumper cables and everyone we stopped to ask was without them as well. Very frustrated were we until three nice boys from England (lots of English here) came through. Two of them had just been skydiving and our little dilemna was just the thing they needed to use up their extra adrenalin. Thanks, fellas. The two hour ordeal took a bit of energy out of us, and after the night spent previous we called a time out on the van and took up in a hillside hostel.


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