The low-down on New Zealand:North Island

It was very hard for me to keep the blog up to date in New Zealand (which I’m actually glad about), however I did write some things down on my low-tech blog (my Moleskine diary) and I should be able to recall at least some of the highlights, so here it is: the grand account of my epic 30 day mission around the North and South Islands! So don’t get overwhelmed guys, have a slow leisurely read through now and then, as now that I’m in a city and working again there won’t be as much to write about! (The titles should link to the right spots in my Flickr blog).

Arrival (28th Jan)
After a good flight with Air New Zealand (excellent Kiwi Honey ice cream for dessert), I touched down in Auckland around 6pm local time. Then I made my way into town and checked into another YHA, and spent a fairly uncomfortable night as on the 7th floor the heat and humidity was reminiscent of Delhi, and some fat old guy came into the room and promptly started snoring like a Lancaster bomber.

Bay of Islands (29th-31st Jan)
Next day I woke up feeling slightly edgy, wolfed down some breakfast and got onto my first trip with STRAY. I was greeted by a cheerful feller whose driver alias was Spike, and I got into the back of a small white minibus. As I was being introduced as A Finnish tennis player, I noticed a rather pretty girl up in the front of the bus waving at me.

Naturally I was completely confused and started asking myself if I could actually know her. Then it clicked – it was Anna, one of my many backpacker friends from Sydney that I met through Jacob and the Dutch crew. I relocated myself to the front of the bus and we had a good catch-up on what we’d both been up to since Christmas.

We drove to a nice town called Paihia, a great drive which was slightly marred by the fact that Spike forgot to refuel along the way and we ran out of juice about 5 mins drive before Paihia. He put it down to a mechanical failure, but we all knew better (and this was a taster of the Stray bus experience). The next day we took a tour up to Cape Reinga, which was really stunning and a lot of fun, we had a driver called Bruce who was an excellent orator and could really get away with the cheesiest jokes. We drove to a lighthouse that overlooks the point where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet, it was really beautiful. After that we did some bodysurfing in the Sea, drove on 90 mile beach for a good distance and did some wicked Sand boarding on giant dunes just off the coastline. The highlight of the day for Bruce was definitely when, on one of our many races with Kiwi Experience buses, some girls on the overtaking bus flashed their breasts at Bruce in retaliation for our overtaking manoeuvre minutes earlier. He took it pretty well.

Then we returned to Paihia, and had a fun night out, I also met a very nice bunch of Swedes (shocking, I know!), including Petra and Anna, and we all attempted to go and sing some Karaoke but were put off my some people who were clearly professionals. Yeh right. Before returning to Auckland, Dutch Anna and I visited New Zealand’s’ oldest town, Russell, which is very quaint and had stunning views from the hilltop. However its past is very seedy, basically it used to be the place where sailors and the like would come ashore for some drinking and whoring. The theme is continued today somewhat, as someone told me that Michael Barrymore has a house there.

Hahei (1st Feb)
I started my North and South Island MAX pass with a drive to Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula. There I did some Kayaking in the rain, around a fairly nice marine park reserve.

Raglan (2nd Feb)

Next it was onto the chilled out surfing Mecca of Raglan, we stayed in a beautiful guest house in the hills overlooking the bay. I got to try surfing again on the rugged beach there, which was really cool!

Waitomo and Roturua (3rd Feb)

This was again one of those times when I decided not to do the extra paid activity, as dong them gets very expensive if you plan on going around New Zealand for a month (see:Villes MasterCard Statement). So whilst the other went caving and tubing and glow worm watching, I took a stroll on the countryside and rainforest, and had time to get a snap of some Angora rabbits post-shave. Then we went to Roturua (or Rotur-Vegas as the Stray guys call it), which has a funny Sulphur smell in the air, and was the town where “Once were Warriors” was set. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do a Maori cultural dinner due to crap organising by Stray, I really hope I get to come back to New Zealand and experience it.

Mt. Maunganui (4th Feb)
I decided to step off the tour for a day so I got in touch Harley Sutton, the brother of a friend of my Dad. He picked me up from Roturua airport in a small 2 seater plane, and after a few minutes into the flight he let me take the controls of the plane! It was really cool to actually fly a plane, you try to keep your eye on the scenery and the horizon and the nose of the plane, whilst checking the throttle, altimeter, heading and artificial horizon dials. I really wish I’d taken some pictures or something, but for me it was too amazing an experience to think about taking a camera out and breaking it up!

On the beach at Mt. Maunganui I got a taster of things to come, as we climbed out onto some rock face facing out to sea, and jumped down a good 15m into the sea, being careful to get enough clearance and timing the jump to coincide with the swell of the sea against the rocks! Rad! And getting out was pretty tricky too, as the rocks were covered in sharp barnacles, and if you didn’t get your timing right you would be slammed into the rocks or just fall down against them. Jackass stunts! After that we went surfing, and I tried Harleys 7’4” board, and after much struggling to get out back I got my first ever great ride on a hard board (soft boards only until now), it was awesome dudes. In the evening we went for a BBQ at some friends, which was great fun and we got totally hammered, woohoo.

Lake Taupo
Next day I went back to Roturua and rejoined the Stray fun-bus, and we drove to Lake Taupo. Even though I had a brutal hangover from the previous night, I decided to take my chance to do the cheapest skydive in New Zealand. Needless to say it was a pretty cool experience jumping from 12,00ft (which gives you 40 seconds of free fall), the view of Lake Taupo and the mountains was breathtaking and the feeling was great (I did it in bare feet, highly recommended!).

The only dodgy moments were at the start when we started spinning a lot because I forgot to arch my head back, and then when we opened the parachute I had to stand on the instructors feet and push myself up whilst he re-adjusted the straps that prevented me from falling to the earth. My heart stopped when I got off his feet and fell down into position – it almost felt like I was going to keep going!

Tongariro National Park
Next day we had the day to do the Tongariro crossing, truly spectacular hike across some mountain ranges, and for the LOTR geeks we passed by Mount Doom! Unfortunately I didn’t have time to climb it, just as well though, for I left the ring of power on the bus. The crossing usually takes 6hours, but for some reason the Swedes Anna and particularly Petra were on a mission to zoom up and down the mountain in record time, of course I couldn’t resist keeping up the pace and so we did it in 4.5 hours! However, I did pause to take some pretty nice shots along the way of the volcanic craters and thermal lakes.

Wellington-Picton-Abel Tasman National Park
Then it was onto Wellington for the night, and next day we boarded the Ferry to Picton on South Island. The crossing was fairly uneventful, apart from the disastrous death of my favourite blue Havianas flip flops, which somehow happened as I was getting up off my chair to leave the ferry, one of the flops’ moorings came loose as it got caught under my foot. In the next 5 minutes I realised that walking off the ferry without shoes would suck, so I fashioned some extra bindings onto the affected flop with first aid sticky tape, much to the amusement of my fellow travellers.

We got to Abel Tasman and it was raining, I felt like I was in the Lake District. Because of that I slept in the next day instead of going for a scenic sailing trip, which really is too bad because Abel Tasman is pretty beautiful. I shall have to return sometime.

The low-down on New Zealand:South Island

Barrytown
Baz-Vegas, what can I say, this was a tiny coastal town on the West coast, full of colourful locals. We stayed in a guest house that had its own bar, which is always a good thing. The bar was host to an indoor cricket match on the first night, and the 2nd night the staff decided to throw a party where all the guys had to dress up as girls, whilst the girls had to fashion garments out of bin liners. Predictably there was a slight air of unease amongst the guys (well, most of them) at the prospect of cross dressing, but unpredictably that all flew out of the window once the girls brought out a rack full of dresses and a box of various accessories. Suddenly it was like the January sales in Debenhams. I think I even remember being upset when one Dutch guy stole the dress I had been trying on for size just moments earlier.

I also decided to take part in a work shop where you make a knife from scratch, with an eccentric local called Steve who brews his own moonshine. The process and results were pretty amazing really, you start with a rough strip of steel, some wood, and after 6/7 hours you end up with a pretty decent looking blade. After putting our knives down safely out of the way, it was time to end the day by sampling Bruce’s homebrew, which washed down pretty well with some orange juice or coke.

Franz Josef
This has to be one of the highlights of the trip, we had a disappointing first day as it rained relentlessly, but I decided to stick around for an extra day so I could do the Ice Climb up the Glacier. We started just after 7am, the sun came out and it was really beautiful hiking up the ice fields, and we managed to do 2-3 climbs up some ice walls with axes and crampons. I was pretty good at it, I think because of my frame and the fact that I’d tried it before in an indoor ice wall in Covent Garden! I really enjoyed the trip and can definitely see myself getting into climbing generally; I would like some bigger challenges some time…

Queenstown (bungee!)
Queenstown is a pretty nice town to be in, although I found it generally too much after the quiet and ruggedness of Franz Josef. However there are more extreme activities than you can shake a stick at, and I decided to go for the ultimate – The Nevis Highwire Bungee. We drove up into the mountains for a half hour, and eventually reached the bungee site. On seeing the tiny box suspended in mid air by wires in the middle of an awesome valley, with a drop of a few hundred metres to the river below, I think everyone had the same thought: F##K!

However, soon enough I was being strapped into my leg harness, and was shuffling towards the edge of the platform, vaguely aware of what the guy was telling me to do, but also going into a slight trance-like state as I prepared to do what I really wasn’t sure I’d ever want to do. I stared at a point ahead of me on the mountainside, and jumped forward with my arms spread out in my best approximation of the perfect dive. Suddenly I was out of the trance, and my first thought was simply “Shit, I’m falling!”. But then I was falling down fast towards a beautiful blue-green river far below me, and I loved it, I pointed my arms forwards and just wanted to touch the water. Of course I couldn’t, as the jump was ONLY 134m down. The bungee line reached its elastic end point after 8.5 seconds, and after that I bounced back up 3 times before being hauled back up to the platform. Truly amazing.

(video to follow!)

Milford Sound
Very pretty, although we arrived there on a gorgeous sunny day which is rare, and so we didnt get that whole misty-waterfalls effect. But really amazing scenery, deep fjords and tall mountains, and we even saw some seals and Dolphins swimming in the sound!

Stewart Island
I spent 3 days on this lovely island, and it was well worth the extra expense. On arriving I went on a fishing trip to catch blue cod, which was great fun although very different form how I usually think of fishing. Basically you get a long line of rope about 1cm thick or less, with two hooks on it onto which you place some fish meat, and you then drop this over the side of the boat until it hits the bottom. Then you pull it up just enough so that it isn’t lying on the bottom, and you then just have to feel for the fish biting below, and you then give a quick tug at the right moment and haul up the fish fast if you are successful. We caught an amazing amount of fish, which we cooked for supper, yummy! We also managed to catch 2 little sharks, each about 2 feet long, but those we threw back into the ocean. I also couldn’t believe how many seagulls and albatrosses were constantly following our boats and trying to steal our catch. I really don’t like Albatrosses; they look very sinister, almost like mechanical birds. You’ll be happy to know I didn’t shoot any down though.

Apart from that Stewart Island has amazing coastal and jungle treks, I had time to try a short one, which was really cool, I even managed to sneak up on a deer in the forest, it was my Deer Hunter moment.

Dunedin-Christchurch
Dunedin is a fairly nice student town, although I felt one night was enough there. On the way to Christchurch, we stopped off in a remote bay in the Caitlin’s Wilderness, where the rare Hector Dolphins come to swim and play. The water was absolutely freezing, but I just had to go and see if I could get one of the Dolphins to swim near me. Luckily after about 10 mins I was floating around in the water when I saw one of them heading towards me, which made me happy but also a little bit nervous! Still, the dolphin swam by about a metre from me, and after that I had to get out of the water before hypothermia set in. The experience is hard to describe, but I felt pretty humble and quiet afterwards, but also quite peaceful. Cool.

Christchurch was very pleasant too, the Cathedral Square was very English/European so I felt slightly at home there. But again, one or two nights was enough there.

Kaiokura
Kaiokura is a beautiful spot, the colour of the water is stunning and the mountains backdrop makes it a pretty special place to be. Dolphin swimming is hugely popular, and you have to book far in advance, so I had to give that a miss. However I did go swimming with seals, which was really good fun! They are very playful on the whole, but you have to respect their space and you can’t chase after them. However I got a good look at a few individuals whilst snorkelling around them, very cute with their big staring eyes.

Wellington
Spent two days in Wellington with the Parkers, which was great except by then the trip was really starting to take its toll on me and I really struggled to stay awake on the first night! However Wellington is probably the most liveable city in New Zealand, I like its San Francisco –like houses on hills, and there are some nice things you can do around there. Was also really great to escape hostels for two nights, and staying with Dave and Tanya was really cool!

Back to Auckland
And that was pretty much the trip! Overall it was a great way to see New Zealand over a month or so, and I can recommend it, although by the end you are really sick of the bus journeys, they get very tiring on a tight schedule. In fact looking at the route map afterwards is amazing, because before the trip you get no sense of how much you will be covering, but afterwards it’s a feeling of “wow, I can’t believe I’ve done so much in 30 days!” I saw amazing things everyday, breathtaking beautiful scenery, did some really fun activities, and met a lot of really cool fun people along the way. New Zealand is an amazing country, and I really like the Kiwis. I missed some great spots out, like Mount Cook, Wanaka, and really didn’t get to experience Maori culture at all, which is definitely my biggest regret! I really hope I can come back and spend more time re-visiting some of the places I liked best.

Sweet as…..

Posted on | Posted in Australia/NZ

Updates

very soon….oh yes.

But basically, I have started working for a cool little web agency here in Melbourne, getting my CSS brain cells jiggling again, and found a really cool flat with a cat and all that, except the hat.

No worries again

Instead of “sweet as”. New Zealand was awesome, did not want to leave!

Now I have just arrived in Melbourne, and had a really nice sunset last night as I was heading towards St Kildas beach,
so i’ll take it as a good omen! Only thing is that I really don’t know where I am now, and the old Mastercard statement is quite scary after all that bungy and skydiving (and beer), so I gotta work pronto!

And I cant wait to get out of hostels again, its all too much, im sharing with what seems like 10 girls in one room, you think that might be nice but jeez its all too much for the chill finn this time!

So I’m going to have to figure out where I am, what there is, get a job and appt, then I’ll post pictures and more details on my trip!

Hope everyone is well!

1,2,3…Bungy!!

Woah! I just jumped off the Nevis Highwire bungy jump in Queenstown, NZ, and let me tell you it was pretty amazing – 134m of freefall from a suspended station above a river gorge. The feeling of jumping off that platform is indescribable, one second you are shuffling towards the edge with your feet bound up together, the next you are falling straight down a gorge towards a rather nice looking river. The first thought it “F**k Im falling”, the next is “WOOOAAAAHHH!!”.

I never thought I’d want to bungy, but after doing my skydive from 12,000ft in lake Taupo, it had to be done! Curiously both times I was hungover, which I think prevented me from really getting too nervous about it all. Highly recommended! (Video to follow).

2 weeks left here in NZ, it’s been really amazing and action packed hectic travelling around the country, but I’ve been meeting cool people and seeing amazing sights and experiencing mad things 🙂

Sweet as, Bro!

Hi all,

got to Auckland safely and went up the northern-most tip of North Island to Cape Reinga, was really amazing already and I’m only just beginning!
The country is rugged and beautifull, sometimes like a tropical Scotland.

Tommorrow I start my big tour around NZ, expect silly amounts of pictures in a month or so.

Byeee

Blue Mountains

So the day had finally come, I had bought a cheap rain jacket ($30) and a new baseball cap, my bags were packed and I was sitting in my favourite breakfast café in Newtown (Sydney) eating a “Canadian breakfast”-a big waffle with bacon, banana and maple syrup. It felt good; I had pretty much had enough of working at home for a month and doing the same shopping trips at my local IGA supermarket. A lot of my friends had left apart from an English friend (Tom) and the two Duchies (Carolijn and Muriel), and though we made the most of our remaining time it was clearly the end of an era. There was a light drizzle outside which made the café very cosy, and I was looking forward to leaving the flat and getting on to new horizons.

Before getting on the plane to New Zealand I had time to go visit the Blue Mountains with one of my local favourite Aussies, Dru. First we went body boarding at the North Curl beach on one of Sydney’s northern beaches, which was great fun (and I was pretty good for a beginner!), but also costly as it brought back a cold I had been fighting off. Had a great stay up there, saw the Three Sisters and some really cool views and rode a very steep railway.

Now I know why Dru drives all the way to work from the Blueys – his parents’ house is amazing! And you wouldn’t believe the size of the TV, truly choice for watching the Australian Open semis. I would have stayed another day, but I decided to return to convalesce in the Railway Square YHA in Sydney, in the hope that I would recover from my cold before I got to New Zealand – and it worked!

Photos

Bye bye Sydney

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens


Well, the time has come, it’s been good hanging out here, but I’m also glad to be doing more travelling again. Off to the Blue Mountains tommorrow, staying with Dru’s family, then Saturday it’s time for New Zealand-I really can’t wait! My blogging might get a bit sparse next month, as I’m quite happy to take some leave from web stuff again!

I also watched Memoirs of a Geisha, and I have to say that it’s getting a far badder rap than it deserves. Beautifully shot and the story etc is pretty good, maybe not Oscar winning material, but good enough!

I got bugs…

Cockroach

I hate cockroaches. Especially huge-pumped-up-been takin steroids down the gym-ones. Just as I was enjoying a quiet moment downloading the latest Ricky Gervais podcast, the ugly critter appeared from nowhere and proceeded to scuttle it’s way around my room. After I realised it wasn’t going to just piss off I reached for the industrial-strength bug spray, but it took at least ten rounds of gassing before the little f###er even started twitchin’.

Perhaps my xenophobia was heightened by the fact that I watched the Directors’ cut of Alien last night…

I leave you with a Pearl Jam classic:

Bugs
Pearl Jam

All these…

I got bugs
I got bugs in my room
Bugs in my bed
Bugs in my ears
Their eggs in my head
Bugs in my pockets
Bugs in my shoes
Bugs in the way I feel about you

Bugs on my window
Trying to get in
They don’t go nowhere
Waiting, waiting…
Bugs on my ceiling
Crowded the floor
Standing, sitting, kneeling…
A few block the door

And now the question’s:
Do I kill them?
Become their friend?
Do I eat them?
Raw or well done?
Do I trick them?
I don’t think they’re that dumb
Do I join them?
Looks like that’s the one

I got bugs on my skin
Tickle my nausea I let it happen again
They’re always takin’ over
I see they surround me, I see…
See them deciding my fate
Oh, that which was once…was once up to me…
Now it’s too late

I got bugs in my room…one on one
That’s when I had a chance
I’ll just stop now
I’ll become naked and with the…
I’ll become one