We have had a couple of interesting days: some for trip-related items, some for travel-related items. The trip aspects have been as we had hoped. We arrived late into Christchurch, but the next day we took a the TranzAlpine train to Arthur’s Pass in the Southern Alps. When I heard “alps,” I envisioned snow capped crags, ala the Matterhorn. Well, the scenery was spectacular, and the mountains were big, but very little snow was evident. Our Canterbury Trails guide, Mandy, got us seated on the train, picked us up Arthur’s Pass and led us on some beautiful side trips to see beech forests, waterfalls, and huge stone formations that made me wish I knew more geology; however, it gave Janelle an opportunity for some bouldering. After returning to the hotel, we crossed the street (always looking to the right first) and had dinner and some local brews at the Old Government Bar. The OGB is in the old Government Building, now a hotel. The bartender, originally from Miami and an Iraq/Afghanistan veteran, might have been part of the USMC’s Sunset Parade unit, the way he flipped and juggled the bottles and drink containers.
The half-day Pacific Coastal ride on KiwiRail to Picton was not crowded, the cafe car was neat and well stocked, and the train was exactly on schedule. As we rode along with the Pacific on our right, Janelle saw some dusky dolphins frolicking in the surf, and we saw hundreds of fur seals and pups on the rocks within yards of the tracks. It was a thrill to see them “in the wild.” We could have been watching a documentary.
Even though we only had about 24 hours in Picton, we were busy. We had a very nice dinner at our hotel, the Picton Yacht Club, hiked up to the scenic overlook about 300 meters above the town, and went through the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum that features artifacts and the hull, built in 1853, of the last remaining ship that delivered convicts to Australia, among many other cargoes.
Now on to the “not so lovely” travel aspects. As you might have heard, a little thing called COVID-19 has disrupted planet Earth, and New Zealand is no exception. Our reunion with my grade school-high school friend, Mike Russell and his wife, Ellie, had been negated with the travel ban between Oz and NZ. Next, flight cancellations and disruptions have wreaked havoc on the travel and tourist industry. As a result, we will be coming back to the U.S. three days early (maybe the door to NZ will not hit us on the way out, and we will turn the lights out). We will cancel our trips on the North Island and extend our stay in Auckland, which is now our departure port. (Sigh). But this will be an “okay” solution of a tough situation. Now to figure out how to get from LA to BWI…more later.