New Zealand- Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 362 (172)

Hanmer Springs

Saturday 5th March (2005)

Hanmer Springs sits nestled between the ridges and peaks of mountains on all sides. The view outside our window is breathlessly stunning and the brilliantly clear and fresh skies reveal the peaks in glorious and crisp detail. They also look deceptively close. This morning was our opportunity to rest in paradise but we were awoken at around ten by one of the hostel staff workers wanting to know if we intended to stay here for the night. Oh well, so much for lying in. I went down to pay for tonight and was all ready to tag on a third night but our room had apparently already been booked for tomorrow so we’ll spend tonight here before moving onto our next destination, wherever that will be, tomorrow.

A full day of inexpensive relaxation was on the cards today so we went downstairs to make breakfast and a packed lunch and then slowly packed everything for a trip to the thermal baths. A commercial company in Hanmer Springs operates the thermal baths here. They have built a swimming pool complex that utilises the waters from the naturally occurring thermal springs but the truth is that there is nothing much natural about the experience. The Hanmer Thermal Reserve, as it is called, is literally just a hundred metres or more up the road so I donned the small day-pack and we set off on foot to investigate it. At just NZ$10 (€5,80) each to get in, it’s actually quite cheap compared to pretty much any other commercially operated thermal springs that we’ve visited previously. There were various other additional activities such as a series of water slides, massages, saunas and so on but we stuck with just the basic entrance to the thermal pools.

Inside the reserve, there are a series of thermal pools that look like swimming pools of various shapes. The temperatures range from around twenty-eight to the hottest at forty-one degrees Celsius. The really hot pools are the sulphur pools that have not been treated with chlorine. If you can stand the rotten eggs stench, they are supposed to be very therapeutic with medicinal qualities. These were off-limits to Sandy because of her condition but I was able to tolerate nearly ten-minutes at a time. They are also the smallest of the pools and could accommodate about a dozen people. Linking some of the pools are what looks like an attempt to recreate the look and feel of a stream, with shallow but flowing water in which you can lie and enjoy the warmth of the water. Ultimately, however, they don’t look particularly convincing and were very reminiscent of the sort of water slide attractions found at Centre Parcs. We spent much of the day moving from pool to pool and sitting under the heat of the sun, just relaxing. Natural or not, it was a very tranquil experience that both Sandy and I enjoyed very much. Neither of us has felt this relaxed in a long time.

With a feeling of total contentment and revitalisation, we finally said goodbye to the thermal baths and wandered back down to our hostel. I hooked up my laptop again to try to update my web-site with all the Australia and New Zealand updates but that glitch in my blog software was still giving me grief and by now people were starting to e-mail me that they were unable to view the updates for those two countries. I’ve since rectified the problem but this still leaves me with the chore of uploading all the necessary files and this is a painfully slow process. The hostel owner had told me yesterday that I was able to hook up my laptop but I need for it to remain connected for a good couple of hours to get all the updates sent off. Every now and then, someone would ask about using the Internet whilst I was connected and I would allow them to simply sit at my laptop for a few minutes, rather than unhooking it so that they could pay to use the hostels computer. One of the hostel owners finally wised up to the fact that they are losing custom when my laptop is connected so I told them that I would cover the costs. I gave her a NZ$20 (€11,60) note and she seemed happy with that. They charge an outrageous NZ$2 (€1,16) for fifteen-minutes of Internet access and I think I’ve used well beyond NZ$20 (€11,60) worth of connection time so I’m up on the game.

We chilled out for most of the afternoon and just generally relaxed. Eventually, I walked up to the nearby fish and chip shop to get us both dinner. The sun was still warm and pleasant. I can’t believe how crisp and clean the air is here. After dinner, we went out for a walk in the warm evening air. It isn’t so warm as to be uncomfortable – just very pleasant. The last task of the day was to scan through the guidebook to see just where to go next. We’re essentially going to follow an anti-clockwise rotation around the South island after we make our way over to the West coast, and we’ve decided to try our luck with gold panning in a town called Murchison. It’s a couple of hours or more from here and the route takes us through another mountain pass that should prove quite stunning. It also takes us through a small place where I’m told there are some truly natural springs, so we’ll look out for those. I’ve been thinking a little farther ahead for the next few days as well and have made some calls to inquire about walking on the glaciers. If we want a less strenuous walk on the actual glaciers themselves, this will involve what’s known here as a heli-hike. A brief helicopter flight would take us up and onto the glacier, where we would then participate in a one and a half to two-hour guided walk. It sounds like an opportunity of a lifetime but the steep NZ$240 (€139,20) to NZ$300 (€174) per person price tag will take a bit of thinking about. We’re not completely sold on the idea of forking out that much money so we’ll have to make an on-the-spot judgement when the time comes.