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TRAVEL TALES:Touring beautiful New Zealand

April 26, 2007|By Elizabeth Broedlow

We also toured the fiord on Doubtful Sound. The day-long trip included taking a long bus ride to the area, then a small boat to the launch site, then a bus to the boat dock, and then we were off on a wonderful adventure that was well worth it.

At one point our boat captain turned off all the engines and asked everyone to stand still and be silent for five minutes. I've never experienced such peace. The only sound you heard was the wind blowing, birds in the distance and the water lapping against the shore. Awesome indeed!

On day nine, the temperature had dropped with the onset of a storm, and the rain was just beginning to come down.

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Our tour guide, Sharron Hickman, had arranged for us to stop for lunch at a quaint diner in an old hotel. As we entered and looked around, it reminded me of an Irish pub, with the old stone fireplace and the large wooden bar.

Our serendipitous meeting with a woman named Valerie happened just after we boarded our bus and began our journey back toward Greymouth.

The rain was quite heavy by this time, and the wind was blowing strong. The roads are narrow, with only two lanes and no bike path, and it's dangerous for bikers even in good weather.

Our wonderful tour guide saw this poor soul battling the elements and requested we stop and pick her up. We did, and that was how we met Valerie.

Valerie is a 59-year-old from London who doesn't fancy herself a cyclist, although she said she does get out for bike rides.

We learned she had recently sold her bed and breakfast in London to a local church, bought a little flat for herself, and while on her way to visit a nephew in Wellington decided to stop in Queensland for some hiking.

The area near Queensland is known for its hiking trails, but Valerie decided to rent a bike, buy a helmet and head off that way for Wellington.

Her only companion, she said, was the Lord, and she prayed and sang songs on her journey. This was her eighth day on the road. When we picked her up, she only had two narrow saddle bags on the bike and no rain gear.

We took her to a place where she could spend the night and possibly catch a train to Wellington.

We marveled at the thought of this woman biking alone across New Zealand, and as Americans we shuddered to think of all the dangers our lonely highways might bring about.

We continued our trip on the west coast of the South Island, stopping in Runanga, a small mining town, and visiting Paparoa National Park.

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