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Mike Leahy's Diary

Day 3: Rest Day

First Time across the Southern Alps
I have another work out before breakfast in the hope that I can build up some fitness. No chance. Then it's onto a minibus for the long trip across the Southern Alps and down the remote West Coast.

landscapeAwesome! The scenery here is among the most beautiful in the world. I love it. Lakes like huge mirrors reflecting beautiful snow-capped mountains. Forests, creeks, meadows and colourful birds pass the window as we climb across a series of high passes. Everyone is in high spirits. There is evidence of huge landslips everywhere. At one point the road takes a detour where the original road was swept away. This country is certainly very dynamic. Nature is still in charge. It's hard now to believe how flat the countryside was around Christchurch only a short distance behind us. Now we are among snowfields high in the mountains and the contrasts continue. Cycads (palm tree looking things) grow in the snow as icicles hang from rocky outcrops next to the road. It's like seeing palm trees in Antarctica - seriously weird.

Finally we are across the Alps leaving the lenticular clouds floating to one side of each peak behind us. At first I was a little disappointed. I may be scared of heights, but I love being up in the mountains. In my time I have been lucky enough to travel among the highest in the world but none are more beautiful than the Southern Alps of New Zealand. The country is more diverse than any I have been to.

Although winter time here it's a great climate for working. My only worry is that bloody rain. The West Coast gets about six metres of rain per year, which is massively more than the UK. That is why it's so green, and that is why the wildlife is so diverse.

I shouldn't have been sad to leave the mountains. The West coast of New Zealand's South Island is stunning. Vividly coloured paradise ducks take of from waterlogged fields, strange looking crows and magpies feed on the many squashed possums on the road and many birds of prey glide along the woodland's edge. Not long after reaching the West Coast we stop for fish and chips. They taste nice and are well cheap.

We arrive at the huts. They are very nice, almost new, but stink of paint, which makes my chest worse. They are wonderfully situated in the edge of the rainforest. They will be home for six weeks and I'm going to really love living here. This place is close to paradise - at least when it's not raining.

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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