Adventures of Frangipan

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Akaroa


I went to Akaroa at 9.30am today, primarily to go swimming with dolphins. Akaroa is on the Banks Peninsula, about an hour from Christchurch. It was originally settled by the English and French, and the town is split into two because of that.

The journey was quite boring, except when we stopped at the Hilltop Cafe and they had "Croeso i Caffi Bronydd" written on their sign (along with about ten other languages...)

We got to Akaroa at 11.30am, and I had two hours to kill before my dolphin swim. Akaroa is quite a pretty, quaint little village, but there isn't a lot going on. I went for breakfast, wandered around the shops and and old houses, and got a muffin. Then it was time.

We changed into our wetsuits and could barely breathe. They're 5mm thick to keep you warm, and they're buoyant, so I didn't need to worry about staying afloat. We also got boots, hoods, snorkels and gloves. We looked ace!

Richard and Hamish were our skipper and guide. We went out to where the inlet reaches the Pacific, and looked for the world's smallest dolphin in the world's largest ocean. Did I mention that they're quite rare too? And that the water is only 11 degrees?

Anyway, we saw lots of dolphins, but they pissed off every time we got into the water. Must've been some fun dolphin game, making the daft tourists jump into the cold water for nothing!

Freddy called me when I was on my way back to Christchurch, and we arranged to meet later. Lee and Lucy live behind the hostel that Freddy is staying in, so I caught the bus over to them. We watched a few episodes of House and I saw some of their photos from Slipper Island (a private island that they all worked on before Freddy came to National Park Village).

Lee and Lucy are from Leeds, so we chatted lots about Leeds too. And just being around Lee with his accent is bringing back my Yorkshire-isms.

I got the bus back around midnight and had to walk a few hundred yards to the hostel. I forgot how much fun it was to walk around cities alone at night.

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Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Christchurch


I met Freddy at 8.30am. She had her hair tied back and big dangly earrings on! We got breakfast in Starbucks, went to a secondhand shop, and walked around lots. We went back to Starbucks and then to Whitcoulls bookshop/entertainment shop so Freddy could buy 'House' DVDs. Bad idea. I walked out with six DVDs.

We met Freddy's friends Lee and Lucy at 1pm and walked over to the Arts Centre. We bought tickets for the fudge factory tour, then had a beer while we waited. Having only had breakfast five hours ago, we became very giggly!

The fudge tour was quite interesting and we got loads of samples to taste. It was quite disturbing when they tell you what goes into it though! All that sugar and cream! The tour guide spent some time in Bala, and he liked it because it reminded him of home!

After the fudge tour we decided we needed some savoury food, so went to a French brasserie. Me and Freddy then went over to the cinema, and played table hockey and whack-the-dino while we waited. I was two points off setting a new high score.

Then we watched Pirates 3. Enjoyable and good performances. But long. They maybe tried to have too much going on, and in the end, it didn't make much sense. I think they tried too hard.

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Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Going to Christchurch


The bus was really full today, going from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch, so I sat next to the Canadian girl. We stopped in a little place called Geraldine for breakfast, then watched Shrek 2 on the bus because the scenery didn't change for the rest of the journey. And one stretch of road went for 17km without a bend in it.

We stopped at the Cookie Time factory shop on the outskirts of Christchurch, and were in the hostels by 1ish. I checked in and unloaded my bags, watched a bit of TV, then wandered into the city centre with some of the other Magic people. They wanted to go on the internet and some others were looking for another hostel, so I went off on my own to tourist information and Starbucks, and then bought some clothes.

I went back to the hostel and read LOTR. Freddy called - we're meeting for breakfast tomorrow. After more reading, I spent the rest of the evening chatting to my roommates.

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Monday, 28 May 2007

Lake Tekapo


Mt John is right alongside Lake Tekapo, with a cafe, observatory and great views from the top. So I started today by walking up. It took about 45 minutes, and the views were great, although I wasn't sure which mountains I was looking at!

I got up to cafe, got a coffee and cake, and sat and read the paper. I was told "good on ya" for walking up by a pensioners' tour guide (they came up by bus), and after listening to him, I learned that I had been looking at the Southern Alps, and could even see Mt Cook. I also learnt that the part of Lake Tekapo that was originally built on was now an island, since they raised the lake for HEP purposes.

I took a few photos, had another coffee, and walked back down. I walked past the hostel and into the village, got a few photos of the church again, and then back to the hostel. I chatted to a Canadian girl who I've met a few times and watched some TV. Someone chose to put the Eddie Izzard DVD on later, which made me very happy! I wanted to laugh before all the jokes, but I managed to restrain myself!

I almost forgot to mention: the lady in the hostel had a Bichon puppy! He was called Olly and was very small and very cute!

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Sunday, 27 May 2007

Dunedin to Lake Tekapo


Back on the Magic Bus today, going from Dunedin to Lake Tekapo, which is a little village fairly near Mt Cook, in the middle of the south island.


We started the day by walking up Baldwin Street: the world's steepest street. It has an average gradient of 1 in 3.4, but is 1 in 2.8 at it's steepest point. I made it to the top, but paid for it afterwards: very laboured breathing!


Next stop was the Moeraki Boulders. These are rocks of harder substance cemented together in sedimentary rocks millions of years ago. As the sea erodes the rocks at the beach, these boulders are appearing.

We stopped at the supermarket in Oamaru, and had lunch at Benmore Dam. We then had a photo stop at Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook in the background. Some LOTR scenes were also filmed here.

Once we were in Lake Tekapo, we swung by the Church of the Good Shepherd and statue of the bronze dog. The church was absolutely tiny: it could fit about twenty people in it. The statue of the dog is because the sheep stations in this part of the country needed dogs to keep the sheep in because there were no fences.

After checking into the hostel, I went for a walk along the lakefront and took photos of dusk.

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Saturday, 26 May 2007

Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour


Yesterday, I slept in. Today I woke up too early, and I was up and about before anywhere was open! So I wandered over to the railway station to get a photo because it's pretty, and the farmer's market was in the car park, so I walked around there for a while.

A little later I went over to the art gallery. It started promisingly, but still had the usual amount of tack which we're supposed to consider art.

At 1pm I went on the Otago Peninsula wildlife tour. Our first stop was the Royal Albatross Centre. We went up the viewing platform and watched the babies. They had the 500th chick on video camera, with a CD case nearby for a reference point to it's size. There was quite a difference! We were also lucky enough to see one dad come in to land and feed his chick: they only land about once every four days and then only for about ten minutes.

After that we went further south towards private farmland which the tour operators have access to for wildlife viewing. The tour guide was telling us that the peninsula used to be all forest until the Europeans came along. And all native NZ trees are evergreen, so any deciduous trees or shrubs were introduced. And they even introduced the grass, which is from Wales! We passed some mud flats on the way, and saw lots of birds and ducks. I don't have my information sheet with me right now, so can't tell you what they were!

Once we got to the farmland, we walked down to the rocky headland where we saw loads of fur seal pups. They were so cute! Some of them ran to the far side, but a few were sat on the rocks just below us and were really curious.

After that we walked down onto the beach where we saw a few Hooker Sealions napping on the beach. We then sat in a hut and watched about ten Yellow-Eyed Penguins coming out of the sea and into the bush.

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Friday, 25 May 2007

Chocolate and Beer


I spent today on factory tours. The first was Cadbury's. There were a couple of displays in the shop and a couple of old cars that gave it a Willy Wonka feel, but otherwise it was just a working factory. With a nice smell! I was surprised by how labour-intensive it was: a lot of the work was still done by hand. I got loads of freebies, but I couldn't eat some because they had gelatine in, so I gave them to people in the hostel later.

After Cadbury's was the Speight's tour, which is the most popular beer in New Zealand. And it all started in Yorkshire! The tour was very informative, but I don't think I took that much in. The tour guide was funny and sarcastic which made it good fun. And we got to try a couple of the beers at the end too.

After I was full of chocolate and beer, I headed over to the university bookshop and got a couple of books from the sale. I started to miss being a student too!

Back in the hostel in the evening, there was nothing on, so we watched Die Hard on DVD!

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Thursday, 24 May 2007

Catlins Coaster


I was picked up at 7.45am by "Bloke" for my trip around the Catlins today. That's basically the long way round to Dunedin, going around the coast rather than in a straight line. Our first stop was tourist information at Invercargill, just long enough to get a coffee.

We had to pick up another passenger there, and then off we went through rolling green countryside. Lots of dairy farms and small setllements. Owaka is the main town around the south coast: it has a population of less than 1000. Most places were just clusters of houses with 20-50 people.

Our first stop was Waipapa Point where there was a lighthouse and we were hoping to see Hooker sealions. No luck, but we could see Stewart Island from there, and we did see some weird looking seaweed: reminded me of the aliens from Independence Day.

Next stop was Porpoise Bay, where we had our lunch. It was a really pretty bay: beautiful golden sand and turquoise water. And with the sun shining and no clouds in the sky, you wouldn't believe we were at one of the southernmost points of New Zealand! It is also known for sightings of Hector's dolphins, but it was the wrong season.

Netx stop was around the corner: the petrified forest at Curio Bay. The area used to be heavily wooded (we're talking dinosaur time now). Sheet floods of volcanis debris are believed to have destroyed the forest. It then grew back, only to be destroyed again by volcanic debris. This happened at least four times over 20,000 years. In the millions of years since, sediments have eventually turned the wood to rock. Over the last 10,000 years, New Zealand's current coastline has been formed, and the sea has eroded away layers of sandstone and clay, exposing tree stumps and logs (http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/page.aspx?id=35598).

Next stop was Lake Wilkie, which is getting smaller because the forest around it is reclaiming it. Then we stopped at a hilltop lookout, over a deserted lookout. Next stop was Surat Bay, hoping to find Hooker sealions. And we did! There were two on the beach, but one chased the other back into the sea by the time we walked over. He was quite happy to sit on the beach and let us watch him for a while though.

Last stop was Roaring Bay, where we stood in a hut and watched five Yellow-Eyed Penguins come up out of the water, onto the beach, and up into the bush for the night. Two of them had a bit of a tiff, and one seemed to get sent to the naughty corner too.

Bloke then drove us to Balclutha, where those of us going to Dunedin got driven by Paul in a different bus, and Bloke drove back to Queenstown with the others. I got to Central Backpackers in Dunedin by 7.30pm, and vegged out for the night.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Cruelty to Animals

So after writing up my blog, and thinking about the horrible zoos in China again, I decided to look up the news story on the internet. No luck, but I did find some other interesting stories.

There was a story dating back to 2003 about a zoo that was about to open. It wasn't so much a zoo as a theme park or circus. You could have your photo taken with the animals, watch elephany shows and pig races, and even eat the animals, specifically alligators. But the general manager alleged that the only reason you wouldn't be able to eat the tigers would be due to international law (http://www.captiveanimals.org/zoos/china.htm).

A story in The Guardian in April 2007 talks about China preparing to lift the ban on tiger products, which are used in Chinese traditional medicines. Xiongsen is a battery farm for rare animals: it is breeding tigers in captivity to put pressure on the Chinese government to in turn put pressure on the international community, to end the ban on tiger products. It breeds tigers and most get caged. Some then participate in the "feed show", let loose into a pen with live prey. But the tigers are too domesticated to kill quickly, or even kill at all. The restaurant serves tiger, lion, peacock, snake, bear, crocodile and civet cat. And to to top it all off, there is a freezer storing parts of dead tigers, waiting for the ban to be lifted so they can be sold (http://www.guardian.co.uk/animalrights/story/0,,2056433,00.html).

However, there is some good news: when nature fights back. Six bears that were captive for their bile to be extrated (again for traditional medicine), killed and ate one of the keepers when he came in to clean their cage. And the other keepers had to wait two hours for the bears to calm down enough so they could remove his body. Don't get me wrong, I'm sad the guy died: he was just doing his job and for all I know he may not have enjoyed it, but somebody is likely to pay for slicing into a bear's flesh and milking its bile (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4331266.stm).

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Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Milford Sound


Had to be at the Kiwi Discovery office by 7am this morning for the Milford Sound trip, so me and Dimitri left at 6.50am. The bus picked us up a little after 7am, and off we went.

We drove alongside Lake Wakatipu for ages (it's a big lake). The driver was doing commentary on the way, and I found out that Queenstown was originally colonised by a Welshman, William Rees, and a Russian guy. He also told us that there were loads of cars in the lake, from people not being able to drive round the corners: the road is right next to the lake.

The drive to Te Anau wasn't that exciting: I fell asleep and just kept waking up to listen to the commentary. We stopped in Te Anau for breakfast. With all the other tour buses.

On the road to Milford, we made a few photo stops. We drove through the Te Anau downs, grassy plains surrounded by beech-covered slopes; then stopped at some small mirror lakes, with a better reflection than I got the day I was at Lake Matheson. We then travelled through the Eglington Valley, past lake Gunn and another lake, and stopped at Monkey Creek to taste the really clear river water.

We then drove through the Homer Tunnel: a 1.3km tunnel carved out of the granite rock, which took 27 years to finish. It only got lights last year: apparently the bus drivers used to switch off the headlights and scare passengers.

The tunnel brings you out into Cleddau Valley - same one as Milford Sound is in - and if you're thinking it sounds kinda Welsh, you'd be right. Milford Sound, the fiord, was discovered by John Grono of Milford Haven, and the fiord, river and valley were named by him.

We then stopped at The Chasm: I missed the explanation about this place, but basically you leave the car park for a five minute walk into the beech forest, where there the river creates a waterfall through the rocks. It was cool, but all the buses get there at the same time and everyone queues up for their photos. Cleverly, they have created a one-way system, but I still wouldn't like to do the trip in summer: apparently there are ten times as many buses!

We arrived at the port by 1pm for our cruise. It wasn't the most exciting trip in the world, but we did get to see some waterfalls, a sealion and some dolphins. The mountains are huge: you can't really comprehend it until you see another cruise boat right next to them. And the sides are incredibly steep. I was surprised there was any vegetation growing there at all. They take you all the way out to the Tasman Sea, and you can understand how Captain Cook sailed past, not realising how far in the fiord went. And you can really feel the difference in the tides too!

Don't know how long the cruise lasted - an hour and a half maybe - but we got the bus from the port, and went all the way to Te Anau with a stop. I managed to sleep, listening to the music TV in the background. I got some food and a hot chocolate in Te Anau, then we watched Love Actually back to Queenstown.

I'm having a bit of a junk food/fast food diet here in Queenstown: falafel kebab night before last, Subway last night, McDonalds tonight. Watched some TV before going to bed, and there was a horrible story about zoos in China that feed live animals to tigers for the amusement of the crowds. There was a cow that was still alive after ten minutes of being eaten. It was really gross, and not at all natural: in the wild, tigers hunt alone and kill before eating. And people could pay to take animals in, and push them through a food spout for the tigers. And they had taught chimps and bears to ride bikes and juggle with fire, which they could only teach them to do through force. There was also another zoo that kept animals in concrete cells, and the animals developed habits like weaving because of the boredom. And the crowds lapped it all up. As you can probably tell, it had an affect on me.

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Monday, 21 May 2007

Queenstown Walks


God I hate having a cold. It's starting to get my throat now too.

Went back to Vudu for breakfast, but I had the pancakes today. Also yummy. I'll miss out tomorrow because I'm going to Milford Sound early, but I'll be back there on Wednesday!

I wasn't too impressed with their chai latte, so after a quick wander around the shopping area, I got another chai latte in Starbucks and walked over to Queenstown Gardens, which is on an 'arm' jutting out into the lake just south of the town centre.

I walked around the lakeside trail, which had good views across the lake, and then into the central part of the gardens, where there was a duck pond with a little bridge over it, and benches dotted around.

I walked back into town, looked around the bookshop (at diet books: too many muffins and treats, and too much food in general!), went on the internet for an hour, and then headed back to the hostel. I changed into my boots and decided to do the walk up Queenstown hill, which requires 'moderate' fitness.

The worst part is getting from town to the start of the walking track. It's like Bull Lane and Castle Hill, but a lot longer and probably steeper too. The whole walk, from the hostel and back, only took two and half hours though, so I can't complain too much. And the views were really amazing - The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Aspiring, Lake Wakatipu, and Ben Lomond. Strong wind though - got blown off the rock I was stood on a couple of times!

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Sunday, 20 May 2007

Gondola and Luge


Me and Anna said goodbye to Dave and Steph (again) before heading off for breakfast. We went to Vudu Cafe, and although my meal first came out with bacon and sausages on, we had a very nice breakfast.

Anna went to use the internet and I headed back to the hostel, where I read and chatted to Nastasia until Anna got back. We then went up in the gondola to the Skyline complex, on a hill overlooking Queenstown. We also bought five luge rides so we did that straight away. It was quite scary at first, because if you push the handles too far forward you'll brake and go over the top, so you're kinda weary of that! But after one go on the 'scenic' route, we had our other four on the 'adventure' route - much more fun!

We had a snack and took lots of photos, had a look around the souvenir shop and then headed baxck down in the gondola, narrowly missing out on seeing someone doing their bungy jump from The Ledge.

Once back in town, I headed over to the internet for a couple of hours, then to Starbucks for a chai tea latte and a veggie falafel kebab from a Turkish food stall. I wandered back via the lakefront, not really knowing which way I was going, and spent the rest of the evening in front of the TV - CSI!

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Saturday, 19 May 2007

Old Friends in Queenstown


My cold is getting worse, so I'm feeling sorry for myself.

Going to Queenstown today, but the bus doesn't get here until 2.30pm, so we have to check out and leave our luggage in the TV room. After that, I went to yesterday's first coffee shop and had a chai tea latte. It was really tasty - I definitely recommend it.

Still feeling crappy, so went back to the hostel and spent the rest of the day eating and watching films (again). "The Island" and "Kinky Boots".

The bus arrived before Kinky Boots finished, and off we went to Queenstown. I read and slept for most of the journey, but I did notice how blue the Kawarau River was, and we saw some old shanty towns from when the gold rush was around here.

We stopped at the Kawarau Gorge Bungy site and watched one person throw themselves off. It's by no means a big jump anymore, but it was the first commercial bungy site.

We got into Queenstown and to the hostel by 6pm. I'm in another studio apartment. It feels like being a student again for some reason, and I don't much like it. I am with Dimitri though, another one from the Blue Ice Bar crowd. And later on, Dave walked past and spotted me. Turns out he, Steph, Anna and Nastasia are back here after a night in Milford Sound. And Dave found Shehan (Blue Ice again) too. We watched Steph's bungy DVD and Shehan's skydive DVD before going out. Steph did the big one: 130 metres, and was still high off the adrenaline days later! And Shehan got to do his freefall head first. I'm going to ask if I can do that when me and Kris get to Taupo! We didn't stay out long: me and Steph were both ill. When we got back, we looked through Steph's photos from her volunteering in Malawi because we met a girl who is on her way there.

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Friday, 18 May 2007

Coffee and TV


Alex, the slightly strange Austrian, left this morning to check into the YHA. Maybe he didn't like us, or maybe he just didn't like being the only guy with five girls!

Stopped at a cafe for a coffee and scone and there was a Bichon there! Very cute puppy! And very familiar excitement when 'dad' showed up!

Basically spent the rest of the day drinking coffee in cafes and watching films. Inside Man, with Denzel Washington and Clive Owen. Alex was replaced by Ted, the spacey snowboarder "dude" from Colorado. Not the most intelligent guy in the world!

Went to Cinema Paradiso with Cecilia in the evening. It's not like an ordinary cinema though: you sit in armchairs or on sofas, or maybe a VW Beetle, and you can bring food and alcohol in with you. You can also order food at the beginning which they have ready by the intermission. And they have homemade ice creams. Anyway, we went to see Babel, which has to be one of the most serious films I've ever seen. I'm not sure there was any comic relief at all. And Brad Pitt looked pretty old in it.

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Thursday, 17 May 2007

Day of Walking


The accommodation in Wanaka is in a motel-type unit: six people in two bedrooms, sharing a kitchen, bathroom and living area. Unfortunately, six people makes it quite cramped. So me and Rachel were very happy when everyone else checked out this morning.

I spent the late morning on the Waterfall Creek Walk, to the left hand side of the lake (Eely Point yesterday was to the right). It was one hour each way, but I was disappointed that there was no waterfall. I did find the creek though, and it was quite pleasant, between the rocky beach and autumnal trees.

I had lunch and then said goodbye to Anna. Cecilia arrived as she was leaving, so after she had checked in, we walked up Mount Iron, just behind the town. It didn't take too long and there were fantastic 360-degree views from the top. We stopped in Puzzling World on our way back, and got frustrated because we couldn't figure out any that we tried.

Quick stop in the supermarket, then back to the hostel for supper, and they were showing The Island on the big screen in the TV lounge tonight. Me and Rachel have four new roommates.

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Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Journey to Wanaka


Up and out by 7.30am. Cool, fun driver called Lefty today. We stopped at Lake Matheson first: where all those postcard photos of Mt Cook reflected in a lake are taken. The only reflection I got was of trees and cloud: its a really crap day!

Originally I was going to stop in Fox Glacier for a couple of days, but since I've already done the hike and can't afford another splurge yet, I decided to keep going through to Wanaka. We played Blind Date and a bus quiz, and also had a game of Bridge Bingo, where you have to guess how many bridges there are between Franz Josef and Makarora (the answer is 27 by the way). We stopped at Ship Creek (rugged west coast beach) and Bridal Veil Falls for photos, crossed the Haast Pass, and stopped at Makarora for lunch. The weather started clearing by then and we could see the snow-capped peaks of Mt Aspiring national park. Lefty also told us about some kids in Makarora who get to school by jetboat every day. Quite a cool way to get to school, don't you think?

After lunch we stopped alongside Lake Hawea for more photos, and arrived in Wanaka a little later. Steph and Dave were leaving as I was arriving, but Anna was still around for another day. Also found Dimitri and Shehan here (other people from Blue Ice Bar).

Wanaka is a small town (around 7,000) situated at one end of Lake Wanaka, surrounded by Mt Aspiring National Park, and the Treble Cone and Cardrona ski areas. Essentially a big lake surrounded by big mountains, and some small towns in between. They filmed lots of LOTR around here and Queenstown (100km away). There are lots of LOTR tours, but since they put melded different parts of the country together for scenes, nowhere would look exactly as you expect or remember it.

Moved into my room, then wandered into town with Anna. She went to the internet, and I took a walk to Eely Point, about 20mins away. Took too many photos yet again.

Pirates of the Caribbean was the highlight of my evening!

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Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Heli Hike


Sore head. Very sore.

The rest of the crowd left on the bus this morning. It was gorgeous weather - perfect for glacier-hiking - so I walked down to the booking office. There was no room on the full-day hike so I opted for the heli-hike instead. That's when you take a 10min chopper ride around the glacier, land about halfway up, hike on the glacier for two hours, then get choppered back out again.

An hour and a half to recover from my hangover then. Went for a cooked breakfast, drank lots of water, then back at the booking office by 10.15am. We got suited and booted, looking very cool in our matching blue raincoats, and split into three groups for the helicopter.

I was in the first group and got to ride shotgun. having heard mixed reviews of helicopter rides, I was slightly nervous. Totally unnecessary though: it was awesome. So much fun! Everyone should have a go in one. Once all three groups were on the glacier, we put our ice talonz on, split into two groups and went on our hikes.

Walking on ice is really weird. You have to dig your spikes in to grip, but they don't feel much more secure - kinda like digging your fingernails in. You get used to after a while though. You feel as though your guide doesn't really know where he's going, which turns out to be true because the glacier is always moving, and caves and crevasses can open and close all the time. So essentially you're wandering around looking for points of interest.

We got to crawl through a couple of ice caves and walk through some crevasses. It also turned into a bit of ice-climbing when our guide couldn't find an easier way through. He had a lot of confidence in us! Right near the end, he found a big ice cave. Or at least, it was big from the outside. The gap for us to get through was quite small. It was downhill, so we had to slide and shimmy a little, and we had a rope that went half way down. The hole got smaller and smaller, and near the end, I did wonder how all the others had got through. That was pretty much the end of our hike, and then we got choppered back out, changed back into our own shoes and coats, and I went back to the hostel to change out of my wet trousers.

I had lunch, then spent another afternoon on the internet. Goddamn Facebook - quite addictive! Blue Ice do a pizza and drink deal every evening, so I went there for supper. When I got back to the hostel I packed my bags up (leaving at 7.30am tomorrow), and watched some TV.

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Monday, 14 May 2007

High Five! Woo-Hoo! Sleep When You're Fucking Dead!


Magic Bus arrived to pick me up in Hokitika at 8.30am - I've now got Bevan, the guy on the back of the brochure. We passed through Ross, gold-mining "hub" of NZ: it's a town of about 500. Then on to Franz Josef by 1pm. I'd put my name down for a scenic flight, but the weather got gradually worse, and by the time we reached Franz they weren't running any flights.

We checked into Chateau Franz (not nearly as posh as it sounds!), and hung out there watching Snatch for a while. It started pissing it down, so I spent a lot of the afternoon in the red internet bus. I headed back to the Chateau, read and then had some supper. Dave spotted me on the veranda and invited me out for drinks later because it's his birthday.

We went over to the Blue Ice Bar around 9pm, and Anna, Steph, Annika and Cecilia were there too. We had a really great night. There was a very drunk Irish girl (woman, really) who came over to chat to us. She spawned the toast of the night: "High five! Woo-hoo! Sleep when you're fucking dead!". We must've repeated that about fifty times in the next five hours! We had to have a spare glass to chink with because she kept managing to spill our drinks all over the table. One of the locals bought us all shots, and we invited everyone else in the bar into our group, so everyone was crowded around our little table. There were also steel pillars in the middle of the room which the drunk Irish girl had been poledancing around earlier, so we got everyone up dancing and trying to climb the pole. I was the only girl who climbed it - only got about half way up though!

Eventually, me, Steph, Annika and Cecilia decided it was time to leave. I thought it was around 2am, but Cecilia reckons it was closer to 3am. Anyway, we ran back (just for fun!), and swapped email addresses at the hostel. Steph showed me that she'd written about me in her diary, although she did call me "Fern". Called me 'bubbly' too!

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Sunday, 13 May 2007

Hokitika


Phoned home again this morning: Mum's birthday party. What a racket they were making too! And apparently Marcus was in a three-piece suit, so I can't wait for those photos!

We left Greymouth at 8am, and it was a short, fairly uninteresting journey to Hokitika, home of jade carving. Everyone else was speeding on down to Franz Josef Glacier, but I was spending one night here. Checked into my hostel, had some breakfast, and sat around for a while.

I took a long walk along the beach, and took way too many photos of crashing waves, black sand, driftwood, colourful stones: incredibly boring, but I enjoyed it! When I reached the town again, I got a coffee at Stumpers, a big cafe bar. I took a little walk around town, then bought a jade necklace. I took another walk, then sat on the beach reading. I got a bit cold, so I went back to the hostel for a jacket and headed back a while later for sunset, but a wall of cloud had appeared, blocking out the sun!

Back at the hostel, I had some supper, read, and watched CSI.

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Saturday, 12 May 2007

Nelson to Greymouth


Free breakfast at the hostel, Tasman Bay Backpackers. So I filled up on coffee and toast before checking out and getting the Magic bus at 8am. Today we were driving to Greymouth.

We went through a place called Bridgewater, which is home to someone Rutherford, who won the Nobel Prize for splitting the atom. And it was home to William Pickering, founding head of NASA. Interesting facts for you to share.

So we drove through the Buller Gorge, rated in the top 10 drives in the world by Lonely Planet. I can understand that: gorgeous thickly forested slopes with one winding road following the river. We stopped at Berlins for coffee: a cute little place on the roadside, with the river on the other side, and surrounded by steep, wooded slopes. The whole population of "Westland" is half that of Nelson (30,000 to 60,000), so it's quite isolated! You drive for a while, pass a small town, drive a bit further, another small town, and so on... There are also lots of railway stations that were built during the gold rush, but then never used.

Early afternoon the bus dropped us off near Westport, for an hour's walk along Cape Foulwind to the seal colony. It's very rugged coastline, and the seals have found a very sheltered part, so they can bask on the rocks or play in the small pools. Back on the bus we followed the coastline, crossing a couple of gorges, to Punakaiki: the pancake rocks and blowholes. Called pancake rocks because they've formed in layers that look like pancakes stacked high. The tides were pretty low so the blowholes weren't great.

We got into Greymouth around 3pm and checked into Noah's Ark Backpackers. I was in the Pig Room with Anna, Cecilia and Annika. It was all pink, with a Babe poster, pigs painted on the walls and a few pig ornaments. Sounds cheesy, but it was kinda fun. Anyway, got some food at the supermarket, then sat on the veranda reading, with the cat on my knee.

We went on the Monteith's Brewery Tour at 6pm, which lasted an hour and a half, and included tasting! I met an American guy (who looked like a short Freddie Prinze Jr) who said I had the most perfectly spoken English accent! After the tour and tasting, we got transported over to the Railway Hotel - proper local place - for our BBQ meal. We stuck around and had a few drinks, and were joined by Steph and Dave, also staying at the hostel. Steph is a huge LOTR fan too, and we managed to alienate everyone else from the conversation! We also had the longest game of pool ever.

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Friday, 11 May 2007

Ferry to Picton, Bus to Nelson


I woke up really early, packed, and phoned Mum at 6.40am. After wishing her a Happy Birthday, I got the shuttle bus over to the ferry terminal. The driver liked me cuz I was the only one who figured out how to open the door, and I carried one of the cases out of the bus.

The ferry trip was fairly uneventful. I got some photos from the top deck as we were leaving Wellington but it was pretty cold so I stayed inside for most of the journey. I got breakfast and a couple of coffees, and read a fair bit. As we were coming into the Marlborough Sounds I headed out onto the deck again. My camera battery died so I didn't get many photos, but I did get a couple of the cows in containers. And I'm not that weird: several others did too!

The Magic bus picked us up from outside the ferry terminal at Picton and we drove to Nelson. We passed through Marlborough and lots of vineyards - huge wine-producing area of the country! We stopped in a small DoC walking area outside Havelock, and were in Nelson by 3pm.

It started raining not long after we arrived, but I still wandered into town (in my waterproofs). Nelson has a really pretty town centre: tree-lined streets, wide pavements, and obviously well-planned. I got a coffee in Lambretta's, then spent the evening reading and feeling sorry for myself because I still didn't feel well.

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Thursday, 10 May 2007

Happy Birthday Mum


Got woken up by Nain at 8am when she called my mobile. However the delay was so long, that I ended up phoning her from the landline at the hostel instead. After chatting to her and Rebecca for a while, I headed out for breakfast. Crap weather today.

After breakfast I wandered along Lambton Quay, then around the government buildings, Victoria University and Old St Paul's Church. I got a crepe for lunch, then headed back to the hostel because I wasn't feeling well.

A little later I headed over to the internet and used another 3 hours of my loyalty card. I got a curry for supper, followed by a Starbucks coffee. I headed back to the hostel around 10pm and tried (unsuccessfully) to phone Mum to wish her a Happy Birthday.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Wellington Day 2


Yesterday I bought myself a Starbucks mug/flask, to do my bit in not wasting takeaway coffee cups. When I started this morning with a Starbucks coffee, I had to explain that I'd already paid for the mug, even though I quite obviously got it out of my bag. Anyway... topped up my phone and went on the internet for a bit.

Headed off to Te Papa Museum of NZ at 10am. Nice and early cuz everyone says you need ages there. I was bored and heading out again by 12noon. Apparently not in a very museum-y mood, which is a shame cuz there was loads there. I did see some ugly-looking fish and a 20 metre whale skeleton though.

So after that I walked along the waterfront, cut through Civil Square to Lambton Quay, and took the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens. Stopped in a different Starbucks on the way, but didn't have to explain about the mug.

So, Botanic Gardens. I had a good, hearty walk around, and checked out the Sundial of Human Involvement (nothing sinister - you just have to stand in the right position and make a shadow), the Herb Garden, Lady Norwood Rose Garden, Begonia House, the Flame of Peace, and a Henry Moore sculpture (he gets everywhere).

I took the cable car back down, wandered around a bit, and got a crepe on my way back to the hostel. Later I spent 3 1/2 hours on the internet (I have problems!), got a cheap Chinese buffet dinner, and a Starbucks coffee and muffin (same one as this morning - had to explain again).

Whilst I wandered around yesterday and today, I haven't been feeling the love for Wellington. Maybe it was hyped too much. Maybe I expected too much. I think I've been harsh though. It's difficult to wander around cities without shopping or wanting to stop in cafes for ages, especially when the weather isn't great. I kept trying to think why I love other cities. Mostly it comes down to shopping and entertainment. Which Wellington does have, but I'm not bothered about at the moment.

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Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Wellington Day 1


Started my day with breakfast at the hotel, then I wandered along Courtenay Place and Manners Mall, one of the main pedestrian strips. I picked up a few leaflets at visitor information and had a coffee while I looked through them. Then I went to the bank and a very pleasant teller sorted out my card issues. Then I did some shopping - warm jumpers, a NZ SIM card, and decent waterproofs, since I will now be here for winter and thus need warmer clothes than I packed!

I also poked around several secondhand bookshops, and spent a a while looking for an internet cafe Freddy told me about without any luck (she's not too great with directions!). I went to a cafe called Fidel's for lunch. Apparently Billy Boyd and Domonic Monaghan talked about it on the LOTR DVD cuz they loved it.

Popped back to the hostel mid-afternoon and I had a message to call Ben, which I did, and we arranged to meet around 6.30pm. Spent a while on the internet before I met him, then we went up to the Mt Victoria lookout. It was pitch black up there, but great views of the city below. We then went for dinner at a little Malaysian place, and I made a big mess with my laksa. Then to Fidel's for a drink, and then we had to pick up his friend and drop him off at the train station.

I was back at the hostel by 9pm, and wanted to watch House, but everyone in the lounge was making too much noise!

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Monday, 7 May 2007

National Park to Wellington

Last-minute stuff to do first: wash clothes, finish packing, etc. Had quite a bit of time to myself too, so read yet more LOTR and had lunch. Then went over to Schnapps for a coffee and chatted to Ashleigh for a while. Came back and said 'bye' to Cy, then walked to bus stop at 2.15pm. Bus arrived at 2.45pm and I was on my way.

Mostly uneventful bus journey - I slept or listened to my Zen or read. Passed through lots of V-shaped, non-glaciated valleys with interlocking spurs (I knew Geography would come in useful some time!). And sheep clinging to precipitous slopes. And roads winding around the valleys and mountains: no straight lines here - Romans didn't get that far!

Got into Wellington at 8.30pm. I was very happy to see all the twinkly lights of the city. I got a taxi from the station to my hostel at The Cambridge Hotel. I phoned Steelo's uncle, Roger, and he met me in the bar ten minutes later, singing 'Land of my Fathers' like he promised! We went for a walk to the waterfront and he pointed out various landmarks to me, then we went to his offices (he's a publisher), where he gave me a book, "New Zealand for Free", we had some wine, and he called his son, Ben, and a guy who works for him, Matthew, saying I would be in touch with them too.

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Sunday, 6 May 2007

Wednesday 2nd May - Sunday 6th May


Wednesday. Lazy day off - slept in until 10am, surfaced around noon, watched Patriot Games and had lunch. Sat with Freddy and watched the rain pour down (and boy, did it pour). She left at 2.15pm, to catch the bus to Wellington and then move on to the South Island. We are hoping to catch up in Christchurch at the beginning of June, and hopefully go to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Went to work in the evening, but not much to do so I signed off at 7.30pm, and instead spent my evening watching CSI:NY, ER and Kept.

Thursday. Didn't have to clean in the lodge at all today since I'm the only one there, so I started on the last two motel units that have been upgraded. Worked until about 2.30pm, and spent the afternoon reading LOTR. There was a crowd in from the mountain in Schnapps, getting merry. Spud kicked them out around 10pm. Later found out that they drove (bad enough in itself) and one was car surfing and fell off! To make matters worse, no-one in the car realised she'd fallen off, and she was found by someone else later!

Friday. I took a whole hour for lunch today, and I was still finished cleaning by 1.30pm. So I read lots of LOTR today! Chatted to Ange and Zeus in the afternoon. Ange hasn't been in work for ages cuz she's had pneumonia. Recovered now though, and back to work next week. Not many customers in Schnapps, so plenty of cleaning jobs getting done. I finished last, around 11pm, and stuck around for cake. Chatted to Spud's mate Steelo for a while. He thinks I'm brave for travelling alone, and reckons I would've hated Camp America. And he called his uncle in Wellington who I'm going to now meet next week. Jonny and Tony had a game of pool and I was the prize. A step up from the game previous, where the loser got a shot of Chartreuse.

Saturday. A whole half hour of work today. One ensuite room, who literally slept and showered, and used no other facilities. I spent the rest of the morning watching Enemy of the State, then had lunch, packed my rucksack, and read LOTR. New cleaner arrived today - Taiwanese girl. Very neat and very quiet. Not working tonight, so watched some rubbish high-school basketball film, where basketball is all the kids have keeping them off the streets and out of gangs (cliched, sentimental rubbish). Luckily, Star Wars Episode 3 was on after that. Yummy Hayden Christensen. Mmmm.

Sunday. Last day of work - hurray! Did a few hours too, but was finished by lunchtime, so ate and watched Sideways. Only worked until 8.15pm in the evening, but had a few drinks with Spud, Kyla, Craig and Becky.

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Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Wednesday 25th April - Tuesday 1st May


Wednesday. My 100th day away from home. Day off, so after watching the end of the cricket (Sri Lanka knocking NZ out), I went for lunch with Rick. It being a national holiday, nit many places were open, so we got some food in a bakery in Taumarunui, and went to a spot by the river in Owhango to eat. Had some problems trying to use my NZ bank card so spent some time on the phone to them, then greeted Freddy when she got back from the crossing. We chatted for a while, then I tidied my room, went on the internet, and later watched CSI: NY.

Thursday. Finished work by 11am. Yes, two hours work. Phoned Dad - apparently just after midnight is the best time to catch him! We talked for about half an hour before my phone card ran out of credit. I spent the afternoon reading my Practical Photography magazine, learning techniques and choosign my next camera and all the equipment I'll need! Schnapps wasn't busy so me and Jo relieved boredom by finding lots of cleaning jobs, including getting chewing gum off the undersides of the tables. Can you believe adults do that? I thought that was something twelve-year olds to rebel in school. After work I stayed for a few drinks with the locals, then me, Spud, Kyla and Steelo had a couple of games of doubles pool. Me and Spud won both!

Friday. Two and three-quarters hours work today. Just about paid for my accommodation for the week! Went to the petrol station for milk and bread. Spent the afternoon making a big bowl of coleslaw and one of pasta and veg in a tomato sauce. In Schnapps, the last customers left at 7.30pm, but I had to stay open just in case anyone came in. A couple of guys came in later, but I was still closed down by 10pm. Started reading Lord of the Rings again. If I can read 20 pages a day, I'll be done before I leave NZ - just a bit quicker than the three years it took me first time round!

Saturday. Couldn't start work until 10am, took a lunch break, and I was still done by 1.30pm. Spent the afternoon reading and watching TV. Went to Schnapps at 8pm with Freddy for a few beers and a dessert, because she's leaving next week. We walked back around 11pm, and I watched the end of Sin City before bed.

Sunday. So excited - Wellington in nine days!! Finished work by 11am, then the bus of 30 16-year old boys arrived. What fun! Luckily they went straight back out again. Since it was a nice day, I went for a walk along Fishers Track, just out of the village. Not an unenjoyable walk, but certainly one where I felt like I wasn't really going anywhere. It took an hour each way, and I went to The Station on the way back for a coffee and huge slice of carrot cake. Got back the lodge before the boys and went for a shower. Good thing because they trashed them pretty quickly! Schnapps in the evening. Pretty uneventful except that me and Spud had a bit of a falling out.

Monday. I avoided walking through the downstairs hallway all day, so I could avoid the smell of 30 teenage boys. They left me plenty of work in the bathroom, kitchen and living area anyway. No sooner had Freddy and I sat down for lunch than they got back from their morning field trip, trashed the bathroom and turned one TV up loud, so we couldn't hear what we had on. I went into Schnapps early, partly to avoid them and partly for a slice of the yummy chocolate cake we have at the moment. I was fairly busy once I started work - just enough for one person. Me and Spud seem to be OK again too. Had a couple of drinks with him, Kyla and Kyla's boss later on. Got back to the lodge around midnight. A lot of the boys were still up. The place was a pigsty.

Tuesday. Not a day I was looking forward to, but at least it's all over. If anything, clearing up after 30 teenagers certainly has reminded me that I definitely don't want children! All broody girls should spend a couple of days clearing up after teenagers - it'll stop population growth! And also, it could be worse: at least I don't clean in San Antonio or Faliraki. The addition of alcohol would make matters so much worse! Anyway, it took me from 9am until 6pm to get it all done, and Cy made half the beds. At least everywhere has had a really good clean tho! Freddy got us a slice of cake and a muffin each from the petrol station, which we enjoyed very much when we finished! Then we watched House in the evening.

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