Tuesday, 25 August 2009

New Zealand - The South Island

Our newly established travelling trio has now been on the South Island for 10 days. The fourth member of the team, our ’03 Nissan Sunny, remains a trusted friend and continues to cart us and our ever accumulating piles of rubbish around New Zealand without complaint, save for a single puncture today.

The four of us have packed in a number of adventures in the last week and a half so I’ll summarise the highlights:

- Wellington. Capital of New Zealand and all round nice place.

Visited the national museum and parliament (culture!), stayed in the ‘best hostel in Australasia 2007’, cooked dinner under the premise of economising - then spent our budget on giant steaks, went for a beer at the only Welsh pub in the southern hemisphere.

- Nelson. Our first stop on the South Island, small but pleasant enough.

Used Nelson as a base to explore the Abel Tasman (newly christened “Abu Hamza”) national park. Essentially a bit of nice walking on the north coast, think the Peak District but prettier.

Had heated Connect 4 competition over some beers at our latest local.

- Franz Jospeh. Tiny hamlet at the foot of the Franz Jospeh glacier.

Very much a one trick pony, stayed for two nights and spent the day hiking along the glacier. After our previous experience with glaciers we were relieved to find that this one was actually quite good “fun”, not requiring a 3am start, several years of climbing experience or causing you to fear for your life.

- Wanaka. Picture postcard ski town.

Visit to Cinema Paradiso which featured Dan and Simon watching the film from inside a Morris Minor and freshly baked cookies in the interval, dodging various snowboarders in inexplicably large clothes.

- Queenstown. Extreme sports capital of the world.

Took part in a blind-folded pub crawl (featuring one bloke wearing a traffic cone as his blindfold), Cable car to the top of a nearby mountain and luge (tea tray on wheels) back down, mini golf (Burger victory), frisbee golf (Pearson victory) and hired scooters for a day.

Last but not least “Heli-Rafting”, basically getting a helicopter to the top of some white water rapids and attempting to raft back down. Great fun, if a touch extravagant.

- Te Anau and Milford Sound. South Island Fijordland.

The most beautiful place we have seen in New Zealand and up there with anywhere on our trip thus far. Snow capped mountains rising out of deep blue seas and yellow grasslands. Really stunning stuff.

In between these places, much driving, walking, impromptu caving, eating of subways, playing of monopoly, taking photos of mountains and arguing over control of the stereo.

This brings us to the south of the south island, the furthest from home that we will be on our trip, some 190,000km from Blighty and only 5,000km from the south pole. We now work our way back up the east coast before our flight to Fiji on the 30th...nearly time to crack out the shorts.


- We fought the law and the law won – On one particularly careless day last week we acquired both a parking ticket ($40 fine) and a speeding ticket ($80 fine – the culprit shall remain nameless at this point..)

- Dan’s feet – Dan managed to bring an unwanted souvenir back from South America in the form of some Chilean foot worms*. After 3 weeks of insisting “it’s getting better”, defeat was finally admitted, the doctor visited and antibiotics administered.

- Keeping up with the Jones – we have tended to stay in 4 person dorms on the south island, leaving a spare bed available. The first of these was filled by a mysterious and largely mute character by the name of “Jones”, identifiable only by the name on his bag. Several other “Jones’” have followed:

Hairy Jones (biker)

Herr Jones (German)

Aussie Jones (self explanatory)

The Jones’ (3 Aussie blokes)

- Finally, Dan’s whistling highlight of the week:

Context: Trip to the Franz Jospeh glacier

Song: Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby

*Probably – test results pending

Sunday, 9 August 2009

New Zealand - The North Island

We have arrived in New Zealand to continue our travels in Australasia, continent 2 of 3.

We flew into Auckland around a week ago. On arriving at 4am we went to our hostel where we promptly crashed out in the lounge, our jet lagged mugs later startling a number of people getting up for breakfast. Around midday, Mr Simon Reynolds arrived to increase our number from 2 to 3 and mercifully give Dan and I someone else to talk to..

We spent a couple of days in Auckland, taking in the Auckland museum (the first of our trip – cultural black holes that we are) and the Sky Tower (think the Seattle space needle but smaller), before hiring a car and setting out on the road.

The first stop for us and our trusty Nissan Sunny was ‘Northland’ and the Bay of Islands. This is pretty much what it says on the tin, so we had a poke about some of the islands, took in ‘Jam Night’ at our local and then fired up the Sunny and headed south to Rotorua.

Rotorua is a non-descript place, famous for geothermal activity and Maori history. After some time looking at various steaming rivers, lakes, mud pools (and deciding we didn’t want to pay an extortionate NZ$100 to watch some half naked people dance about – again, culture failing to make the cut) we continued south to Lake Taupo.

En route to Taupo we did 2 lots of caving, one professional and one “independent” outing, consisting of us wandering down a cave we found, bare foot and in our swimming shorts. This later caused much amusement to our professional guide, who went on to tell us of people drowning, dying of hypothermia or just generally disappearing when venturing into caves without the requisite knowledge, skill or equipment..

We have spent the last couple of days in and around Taupo. Highlights of this were me doing a bungie jump (Messrs Reynolds and Pearson declining on grounds that they were “not interested”) and us trekking around Lord of the Rings own ‘Mount Doom’ (pretentious black and white photo above) , which at this time of the year has replaced the giant glowing eye with a covering of snow.

Onto Wellington tomorrow for our final stop in the North Island before catching the ferry south..


- Driving Test – within 10 minutes of hiring our car we found ourselves driving the wrong way down a 4 lane carriageway in downtown Auckland. Cue minor panic, a swift 180 and much questioning of Simon’s driving skills and/or will to live.

- Theft – we left Santiago on the 28th of July, flew for 13 hours and landed in Auckland on the 30th July. I don’t really understand how that is possible (“international date line” allegedly) but think that the 29th of July should probably be added to my passport in the list of items I’ve had stolen from me.

- All about context – Dan likes to whistle. This would not be noteworthy except for the fact that Dan’s whistling is context sensitive. For example, whistling a sea shanty when on a boat (any boat), or the McDonalds theme when walking past a fast food outlet. The last week has seen two real gems:

Context: On a sailing ship with a family of Germans
Song: Dad’s army theme tune

Context: Talking to Simon about life in the police
Song: Casualty theme tune (while attempting the theme tune to The Bill)