Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Off to the Alps

Bruce took us to the train station to catch the Trans-Alpine scenic train. No one told them here that the Alps are really in Switzerland and other European countries. The routine was the same as our last two train adventures, but not as crowded. Due to some dream last night, I awoke at 3:30am without ever returning to sleep, so the rocking of the train put me out like a baby in a swinging cradle. Each announcement for some special view by the train staff would rouse me long enough to look, but then I conked out once again. The scenery was magnificent on each trip we have taken; the country is stupendously bountiful. We were headed for Franz Josef, the glacier region of the country. The knowledge of how it came to be called this has escaped us, but we will investigate it and get back to you.

With the train ended in Greymouth, we had to change transport. From there, we were scheduled for a NakedBus ride the rest of the way. NakedBus does not really run this route, so they contract it out to Atomic Buses. The driver charged us an extra NZ$10 for having a 3rd bag in storage. That has not happened yet. I think it was for his pocket. I should have asked for a receipt. Calling this vehicle a bus is like calling a pigging bank a prize winning hog. It was no more than an oversized van already pretty well filled with young people minus one man and one woman who could have been my grandparents. Empty seats were a premium, but there were two together in the back. The catch was the tire hump was there. As it was there was less leg room than a budget airline; sharing with a hump is not ideal for a 3 hour ride. We were going to wait it out for the first stop when someone was sure to get off.

When we did stop only 1 person left us, but that opened a seat for two at the front of the shuttle. In theory, this was true, but the young man in front had both seats reclining back. When I said something, he just put his ear buds in and grandma gave him a sly smirk. I stayed; Ron went back to our old seat. Without me there, the hump was not an issue. He could stretch his legs.

There was no way I could sit facing front with the two seats in front of me reclining. On one seat he had a canvas shopping bag. Did the shopping bag really need to recline? I made a point of stating his reclining seats made sitting behind him difficult. He flicked his head in my way direction, but seemed to catch himself. It was like an automatic reaction knowing I was speaking to him, but if he turned his head completely he would have to deal with me. Seething, I sat behind him thinking of the fun I could have pulling his scraggly underdeveloped retro sideburns out of his face one by one with a small crochet hook. With only twenty hairs on each side, it was totally unsatisfying. I needed more. I stared at the back of his head trying to burn holes in it; his hair looked like black pin feathers of a guinea hen. Grandma turned out to be a whacko too. US American, didn’t you just guess it would be so? She breaks out of her coma long enough to shout “Have you ever heard of Randolf Boodleboob?” Selfish ignorant young man with no manners composes himself after granny’s surprise outburst long enough to say “No”. Granny tells the bus she is supporting him for President of the United States, so we have not heard of him, we will. Okay, sure grandma. You are riding on the EasyJet version of highway transportation and you are supporting this unknown for president. She must have missed a dose or two of her medications.

When we finally arrived at Franz Josef the driver told all NakedBus people this was the end of the line for us. She and the youthful ignoramus missed the announcement. They were sitting directly behind the driver. It was confusing for them. They were not NakedBus or Atomic Shuttle customers, but WormWays Buses. I was certain they needed to stay on the shuttle if for no other reason than to give the rest of us a head start in getting away.

As hostels go, this is the nicest so far this trip. Our room is large, twin beds, an extra large private bathroom, and great amenities for cooking, lounging, watching television and all. Tomorrow we will go on a glacier tour for the afternoon, which should be fun. When we were on a cruise at the tip of Argentina and Chile, we did it then too. What amazing sights.

It seems that grocery stores that are within reach of hostels are automatic goldmines. I had thought that they jacked up prices due to the captive audience, but it seems here that those supermarkets that are nowhere near a hostel are just as expensive. Prices are incredibly expensive even by European standards, aside from Budapest, making it barely a lesser option for eating out vs eating in. 
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