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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Stewart Island

10th to the 21st October 2011

New friends and gardens

Something that I love about Magic Bus is the hop on hop off factor. Not only can you hop off anywhere on the route you can also rejoin the bus at any point (as long as its in the same direction and not backtracking). This meant I could leave Queenstown and go to Stewart Island by intercity and ferry and then return and rejoin the magic bus in Dunedin.

After saying another round of fairwells, I headed off to finish packing, have some breakfast and then wait for my taxi to the bus stop. The bus stop was just too far to walk with all my bags, though in hindsight after the $8, 3minute ride, walking might have been worth it. The bus to Invercargill took about 2hrs and then I had a 5hr wait till the shuttle to Bluff.

Getting off the bus I met Jana, from Germany, who was heading in the same direction. She didn’t have a hostel so I texted Liz from Bunkers to see if they had room. I had organised work trade with Liz for 2weeks for accommodation to she found it rather amusing that I was already getting guests. The bus had dropped us off at the i-site, or information center, where we could leave our bags and explore the nearby botanical gardens. They were just amazing with a pretty decent aviary as well.

enjoying the gardens


bird aviary

After exploring the gardens we hunted down some grub and then hung around until the shuttle came to pick us up. It was only a 20min drive to Bluff then a short wait before the ferry.

Ferry Rodeo

I love being on the water and riding ferries and boats, Jana on the other hand was not a big fan. The waves were also rather enthusiastic, and while I stood holding onto a piece of rope and riding the swell, Jana sat looking a wee bit green in the corner. The waves were quite large, but apparently this was a quiet ride. Chatting to one guy he said he had seen the waves higher than the boat, that made patrons and crew alike a bit nervous.

After getting showered the 3rd time I decided to move under cover. Just as well ’cause 10seconds later an almighty wave came over the side right where I had been standing. That would have drenched me to my undies. After an hour Stewart Island appeared, and looked downright mystical with the low clouds.

Stewart Island

We rode the swell into the harbor and docked. Unpacked and then Jana and I trekked up the hill to Bunkers Backpackers, 5 houses behind the pub!

Riding the swell

Bunkers, Home away from Home

The mark of a good hostel, for me anyway, is to walk in and feel at home. I walked into Bunkers, and the was greeted by all the other hostel guests, the fire was burning and making the small common area feel warm and cozy. I felt none of the shyness I usually do when I arrive in a new place and joined the jenga game as someone handed me a cup of tea. I loved the place within 5min of arriving.

Bunkers Backpackers

Liz arrived about an hour later to get everyone sorted. She was happy to meet me and said 4 words a backpacker dreams of:
– choose any room upstairs
Especially when those rooms contain a double bed and privacy. Once all the others were checked in, Liz headed home planning to meet me at 9.30am to go over duties.

Work Trade

Work trade is where you trade for accomodation, usually its cleaning or running the front desk or cooking. Something along those lines. It is always a useful tool when traveling on a budget.

In the morning Liz popped in and gave me a 10min tutorial of duties:
– clean bathrooms, switch towels
– laundry
– change sheets
– clean kitchen
– tidy and vacuum

Around 2hrs work depending on how many people check out. Some days it took me all day on and off with 11+ checkouts and trying to clean bathrooms and kitchen inbetween folks using it. But I loved it. I have long thought of opening my own hostel, around this size (8 bed dorm, 4 bed dorm, twin, 3 privates) and so this was great practice. Plus the way the hostel is set up it feels just like a house and so its just like keeping your own home clean.

As most of the 12 days I was there the weather was either rainy, windy or grey, I spent a lot of time catching up with myself. I also enjoyed helping guests figure out what to do on the island (kayak, tramping, bird watching, touring etc). I tried to catch up with my blog and got a lot of photos uploaded. But I did manage to ge ta few things in.

Rent a car

5 of us went in to rent a little car and drive round the island. I drove which was rather amusing as it was a manual but the gears had been rubbed off so sometimes it was a guess as to which gear I was in. It worked out to $16 per person and was a great way to explore where we might want to go hiking. We dropped off a couple at Lee Bay and explored a bit there and then went to the point and finally sat and had lunch of bread, cream cheese and chips/crisps.

our little chariot


Anchor chain at Lee Bay


Fern curl in Lee Bay

Rakiura Kayak

Rakiura is the Moari name of Stewart Island meaning, “Land of glowing skies”.

Liz had called the folks who run the kayaks and asked if I could hop on one of the trips. Her reasoning was sound:
– I told them you like to talk….
I assume that she means that as good thing and that I will pass on the good word.

The first time I went to kayak, Jana joined me. We headed down to the bay Liz had directed me too, or at least I thought it was. But turned out I was one bay too early. By the time we got back to the hostel Liz had to run us down by car but they had been booked out by other folks. So we decided to go the following day.

Turned out to be a great decision as our day had only our guide, Bronwyn from Canada, and 3 of us (France, Germany and me). The weather was perfect and as we hugged the coast line there were oyster catches, seagulls and the occasional blue penguin popping its head out of the water. We looked for sea urchins and paua (abalone).

Oyster Catcher (they eat pretty much everything...except oysters)


serene waters

Jana had never kayaked before, so I was in the double with her. I sat in the back so I could steer and also gave her the freedom to set the pace. But I found it increasingly difficult to keep her uneven pace, especially when it involved simply alternately dipping the paddle in each side without actually paddling. I could hold my tongue only so long and gave her some gentle guidance which she picked up very quickly and we were soon in better rhythm, even if only slightly.

Jana and me


We pulled up onto Native Island for a tea break just as the weather started to change. But it made the hot milo and cookies taste even better as we huddled together in the drizzle.

Tea break

Just as we climbed back in and Bronwyn pushed us out into the bay the sun winked through the clouds again and we set off for home as the the clouds started to colour with the coming sunset. A fabulous afternoon. We even got a better view of the little blue penguins (smallest in the world).

A short tramp

When you visit NZ, you will most likely be asked where you will be tramping or are you a tramper. Now, before you get all indignant and horrified at being called a tramp, let me clarify. Tramping is the kiwi term for hiking, usually over a few days. I must admit it took me a few times of just nodding and smiling before I completely understood the term. Stewart Island has some of the best tramping opportunities and at this time of year also some of the deepest mud, as numerous folks told us upon returning to the hostel.

I did not have the time for a multiple day hike and so on the one day that was downright spectacular weather wise. And made the last week of grey rainy weather seem long forgotten. A group of 6 of us went for a 3 hr hike to Halfmoon Bay.

We had about a 2km walk along the road, then a 2km up and down through the coastal forests then 3km back. It was a fabulous walk and the views were spectacular. We got back just in time to start preparations for the bbq.

Sarah's Cove - we think


Dead Man's Beach


Relaxing at Horseshoe point


Island Telephone

After a delicious bbq with fresh blue cod and crayfish, courtesy of Liz and Heath (hostel owners) and lots of other yummy stuff. We headed to the pub for quiz night and then enjoyed the rugby before heading home. A perfect day!

Ulva Island

Tickets were leaves

Ulva Island is just a 10min trip by boat from Stewart Island. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has worked hard to eradicate all predators, such as rats, stoats and possums. It is an ongoing project as rats tend to swim across. This means that is a fabulous bird sanctuary and walking through what is quickly becoming pristine NZ native forests was downright amazing. The little robins follow you and call to you hoping you will scuffle your feet in the earth to agitate bugs, then they hop right up to your feet and eat them, often following you down the path from one disturbed patch to another.

Stewart Island Robin

There were so many birds and all I wished was that my folks were there too as they are avid bird watchers. But they would have been impressed with the number of birds I saw in 3hrs.

Ulva Island Beach

Being sick on the road

One of the biggest things you always hope to avoid while traveling is getting sick. I had avoided it for almost 9mths before the chest cough hit me a couple of weeks before. I had kicked it for the most part for the last week but after picking up a cold the cough came back. At the same time I experienced terrible cramps and stomach issues for a few hours one morning. I knew that I had most like brought home an amoeba or two from Tonga or Ecuador or Peru. On the encouragement of Liz I went to see the nurse. Her response to my cough:
– suck on a fishermens friend lozenge
To my stomach issues:
– I need a sample to send to the mainland lab.

Oh joy!
For this process I was handed a jar with scoop, a small square catch tub and a hazard bag all in a paper bag. The sample to be “caught” in the morning and brought in nice and fresh. Images of me as a vet nurse running behind dogs trying to “catch”, urine or something fresh came to mind, never thought I would have to “catch” something of my own.

the sample...

The lozenges helped tremendously with the cough and in the morning I managed to get my sample with no mess. Must be years of experience as a vet nurse. I dropped off the sample at the clinic and Nurse Deb told me the doctor also wanted blood work to make sure it hadn’t gone systemic. As a non NZ resident it also meant I had to pay. Mmmm i had no insurance and was concerned about the cost. Deb checked it up and prepared me.
For:
Full bloodwork including liver functions etc, plus a fecal test and parasite test the total was….. $141.50

I nearly asked her to throw in a couple more tests as that was unbelievably cheap compared to the US. As a mate said she could have flown to Stewart Island, had all her tests and flown back to the US and it would have been cheaper. Just crazy I tell ya. It would take about a week to get final results.

RESULTS: all clear and negative!

Fun Times

There were so many good times I could write 3 blog entries. Instead I am going to do it with pics:

Liz brought me a large bowl of freshly “plucked” green lipped mussels. She also provided the wine, garlic and onion with which to steam them.

Huge Green Lipped Mussels

The occasional game of chess…

Playing island chess

Curious kakas…

A drink with the locals

I was able to fly back to Invercargill on standby, and it only cost $70. I also got to sit in the cockpit (although technically the entire plane is a cockpit as the pilot explained).

my ride home


headphones

Stewart Island was one of the most amazing places I have been to in NZ and I only wish I could have stayed longer! Thanks to all who made my time so much fun!

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Queenstown

8th to the 9th of October 2011

Queenstown bound

Shortly around 2pm it waas time to leave the very picturesque Wanaka. Could definately stay longer next time.

Taking in the view

Our driver was Allen, one of the older members of the team but full of information.

Driver Allen

We had a very interesting talk concerning the effects of 1080, the controversial “poison” used to control possums, rabbits and stoats. Derived from the bark of Africa’s Acacia trees, and used for generations of witch doctors, it is considered a natural compound and does not seem to build up in the environment. But only time will tell of course. Allen’s face literally lit up when I asked him to explain 1080 to me. I don’t think he gets many people actively interested in it.

You Scream, I scream, we all scream for Icecream

Stopping at Mrs. Smith’s (or something like that) fruit stand, we had a chance to pick up some fruit or veggies, or, like most of us,
some fresh fruit icecream. The concept was pure genious, choose your icecream, choose your fruit, its all combined and comes out as a soft serve. I chose raspberries with a touch of banana in cookies and cream icecream. DELICIOUS!!!!!

Bungyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Oh don’t get your hopes up, this isn’t me going to fling myself off a perfectly good bridge. Instead it is our beloved Pompom. We went with the home of the bungy, the Kawarau Bridge, 42m over the Kawarau River and the world’s first commercial bungy site. It is shorter than others but it is the original. At least they don’t use vines. He also opted for the head dunk (you jump off the perfectly good bridge and get “dunked” in the freezing cold river up to your shoulders – perfectly good idea…not). 2 seconds of sheer adrenalin. I am quite happy to stand and take pics thank you very much.

Bungy Pompom

Queenstown

We pulled into what could easily double as a European ski town. That is at least I think so as I have never seen one in person. It was stunning, at the base of the ski slopes at the shore of a large lake and our hostel, Bumbles, was right on the lake front on the edge of town. We had arrived at 5.30pm and we only had 3hrs before the England vs France rugby game. So we dumped our stuff and set to painting faces. We had managed to find some “paint”, if you can call it that, at a $2 store in Wanaka. It was more like an oily base, but it worked and I soon had Tom and Amy with full on English flags and Amelia with a French flag. As I was friends of both I got a small flag on each side, we did consider painting my face with the Swiss flag as I was neutral… We took a couple of pics at the lake side, then off to dinner.

Game day


Go England


Allez lez bleu

The FERGBURGER… da da da daaaaaaaa

Everyone who knew I was heading to Queenstown made me promise to get a Fergburger. Little did I know what gastronomical experience awaited me. I chose the tropical and paid my $13.50. As we waited we saw people handed their large bags of burgers and watched as the hefted them out the doors. Then it was our turn. HOLY SHITE!!!!!! When I pulled mine out I realised it was bigger than my head. I didn’t even know they made buns that big. I swear it must have had half a pineapple on or something. We all set to devouring and all you heard were the occasional grunt of pleasure or the expression of concern
at being able to finish it. I was the only one unable to force it in, leaving 1/4, but I did eat off all the bacon. I was also the only one
that somehow managed to get sauce all over my fingers and face. What can I say I love eating with hands.

FERBURGER!!!!!!!

Go England / Allez lez bleus

Now thoroughly stuffed twice over we waddled over to the pub for the rugby. We went to the Altitude bar attached to the Base hostel and
met a whole bunch of other Magic members. One of the great things about traveling with Magic is you often end up having a friend
at the next town that you met on the bus before. As Magic customers the hostel had some specials including 2 for 1 and free shots at the end of the game. You got to choose your winning team and if it won there would be a $500 tab at the bar for the supporters. The night was fantastic. Pompom (Tom) was in full spirit, even though he is a football/soccer man.

Pompom has spirit

We watched as England, butter fingers all the way, lost to France and then we danced the night away with supporters from both teams.

Paaarrrrrtyyyyy!!!!

I had chosen England so was not able to join in the free drinks. France lost to Tonga for pete’s sake how was I to know the English must had a greasy pile of chips before hand as they didn’t seem able to hold onto the ball. There was a group of 4 frenchmen that hung out with us and one of them seemed interested in dancing with me. It was great fun until he started to wander around apparently surveing his options.

the not so impressive frenchman

Finally just ignored him just as I closed the night out with a very cute aussie who I had actually noticed at the beginning of the night. Unfortunately he was heading out in the morning. Should of had the courage to talk to him earlier.

The night came to an end at 1.30am as the bar closed with a number of police trying to corral the French and the random kilted Scot who was flashing everyone. A good night for sure and rather proud of myself for hanging in there as crowds are not my thing and most times I just want to go home to bed.

The next morning

We rolled out of bed just before 11am. Was fantastic to have a good lie in. After coffee we looked at each other and realised, even after copious amounts of alcohol, none of us seemed hung over in the least. Our only conclusion was that the bar must have watered down the drinks, even the shot of tequila straight from from the bottle. Good for our health, but sneaky, very very sneaky. We decided to skip the Altitude bar and head to the SA vs Aus game that evening.

Go Springboks!!!!

Skyline and luge races

Almost everyone wanted to go up the chair lift and go luging down the track. I didn’t want to luge and almost skipped the chair lift, which would have been a big mistake. Stina and Mans, Swedish, who had partied harder than any of us, decided to run up the mountain and meet us there. Well then, of course, that seems like the perfectly natural thing to do. The rest of shook our heads and headed for the lazy man’s ride. It was $25 but when we were up there, the views were amazing. As we stood and took pics on an absolutely gloriously blue sunny day, the tandem paragliders came over our heads and headed out to glide over the city. I envied them as part of me has always wanted to try it, but fear and cost had held me back.

stunning view of Queenstown

Stina and Mans were already waiting for us and while the others went to go get themselves sorted for the luge carts we went in to grab some water and a coffee. Then we went out to watch the kids play and take photos for them.

Tom, Amy, Stina, Amelia, Me, Freya, Mans


Luging


What a pretty picture

It did look like a lot of fun and was actually more like go cart racing than luging. As we enjoyed the sun, Mans decided to do some sit-ups and pushups. This guy is truly amazing, makes one feel quite inferior. Once everyone was done we gathered and decided to head down. Mans and Stina would run down, of course and the rest of us would cable car. While some of them went to go take photos at a cool spot I ran to the loo then sat and waited for them…right next to the paragliding hut

A crazy idea

As I sat there and watched people go in and out of the paragliding hut and leave for their flights with their pilots, a crazy thought came to my mind. So I built up the courage and after a couple of false starts went into the information hut. The guy didn’t try and sell it, I had said I would be coming back and might do it then. But he did end with this statement:
“well we are weather dependent, today is perfect and you are here…”

As I stood outside with the pamphlet clutched in my rapidly becoming sweaty little paw, I started to have visions of me being able to do this, to jump off a perfectly good mountain and hope a thin piece of material would hold me up. But I needed the others to give me that final push and they were taking an awfully long time. I started to think they might have left without me. Just as I was nearing the point of running in the opposite direction and heading home they came around the bend. I couldn’t say anything by then and just held up the pamphlet, in my now sweaty and very shaky hands. They were a little confused:
“Hey, What? You want to paraglide? You? Now? Really?? Yes you should!”

The took me by the shoulders and guided me in. “I think I want to paraglide, no I do want to paraglide, I think”. It was a cost of $199
but with things like this the sheer fear took over my usually cheap skate mind and I could barely comprehend the cost. I was shaking so much that I don’t think my signature looked anywhere close. But it was accepted, I even got a free t-shirt. I then had about a 15min wait till my pilot came up. I had hoped the others would walk with me to the start or wait for me at the bottom, but they had other ideas and I was too nervous to articulate how much it would mean to me. Oh well, just go with the flow. While I waited I chatted with the young fellow in the hut. He was from Scotland and was doing some training flights with these guys until he could get his tandem license. This group was the only one allowed to fly over the city and 2 of the pilots were the Queenstown safety officers. So I assumed they had a high safety record. It is amazing how long 15min can be when you are waiting to meet your pilot to jump off a mountain with. But eventurally Jaimie, my pilot, showed up and we headed to the top.

What the hell am I thinking

I was shaking so badly that I was afraid I would fall out of the ski lift we had to use to get higher up the mountain. Jaimie then used a quad bike to take the shoot up and told me to walk, he would return the bike and meet me at the top.

This direction to fling yourself off a cliff

I think they make us walk to diminish any possible fight we might have left in us before the flight. I am fairly certain the steeper the hill the shorter my legs. Just as I was getting to the top Jaimie caught up with me. Damn I really need to get fitter.

The cliff..doesn't look that high right?

Jaimie was a kiwi, although I thought he was Aussie at first, so there was a definate chance he might drop me after we took off. He had started paragliding after being convinced it was a great hangover cure. It didn’t cure the hangover but he was addicted and ten years later he hadn’t died, yet. I made him promise that he was not going to get me addicted, as I already had a rather expensive hobby with scuba diving. He said he would do his best to avoid it!

Pilot Jaimie

He got me buckled in, in between laughing at how much I was shaking, I made the disclaimer that I would most likely scream and there was a high potential for foul language. He replied with:
“I love it when they scream”…

My instructions were as follows:
– I am going to look back to make sure the shoot catches the wind (always a good thing)
– you look forwards and when I say so take a few steps then run us off the moutain (run us where????)
– Ready? Go go go

Oh shit!!!!! I couldn’t go anywhere as, yes the shoot did inflate, but it also meant that the wind against the shoot held me in place and no matter how hard i tried I wasn’t pulling us anywhere. Then Jaimie turned round and ran us off the perfectly good stable mountain top. My response went something like this
-Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh sh&% sh&% F*&^% F*&^% f*&^% ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

aaahhhhhh, smile for the camera, ahhhhhhhh

That continued for the vast majority of the flight. After he had reminded me to open my eyes, and to breathe, and to release my death grip from the rather delicate equipment, I realised how amazing it was. There was about 10 seconds of pure heaven, just after he said “its about as close to being a bird as you can get”.

high as a kite

I marvelled at the quiet, at the rush of wind in my face and ears, the sun on my skin… Then he made an abrupt turn, my ecstasy changed to exilharation combined with a healthy dose of FEAR!!!! We skimmed over the tree tops, buzzed the skyline cafe and headed over Queenstown. The view was spectacular and as the expert pilot that he was, Jaimie was able to take some photos with his handy camera on tripod contraption (photo cd included in price).

The other side of paragliding

I was just beginning to relax, enjoy the views and the feeling when Jaimie informed me there were 2 styles of paragliding. This and what we were about to do.
– You may want to hold on again and remember to breathe.

In the next seconds we were doing a death spiral, or flipping over or doing both, I am not exactly sure as I was screaming so hard that I couldn’t breathe. There was actual a second or two that sheer terror seem to strike me. Meanwhile Jaimie was laughing in my ear. After the deathdefying stunt he kept telling me to breathe and open my eyes
– But I can’t do both at the same time!!!!!

All too soon, but still unable to breathe normally, we were coming in to land on the rugby field. So after skimming a house and choosing our spot to the right of some lads playing touch rugby I was given a new set of instructions as the earth appeared to be rapidly growing nearer.
– As we land take a few steps and stand up

Trying to remember to keep my eyes open I started running in mid air in preparation, but apparently I only remembered that part and not
the stand up part. We landed, gently, and then Jaimie stood there as I still swung my legs and said:
– you need to stand up
– oh!

The best I could do was hunch over, as I was hyperventilating and shaking so much that my legs could barely hold me. My trusty pilot thought I was kidding until I showed him just how much I was shaking.
– you need a beer
– will it come with a straw as I don’t think I could hold the glass

I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, laugh, curl into a ball or jump up and down. All I could manage was breathing, barely. He showed me the video he had shot, which involved screaming and swearing and me with my eyes closed. Of course I paid the extra $20 for it. After a good 10min I was finally under control enough to walk. I said cheers and attempted to walk in a straight line to the pub to meet the others. The only downside of the whole adventure was not having someone waiting there for me afterwards. It is times like this that you really wish you had someone to share it with.

Jaimie you promised not to get me addicted, well you failed, I dream of going up again and am going to have to find a group in my home town. The only problem is, the only way I can afford it is to marry a paraglider, so if you know of any single ones, let me know, you owe me for getting me hooked on paragliding!

Free as a bird

SA vs Aus

The only word I could use to explain the feeling I experienced walking away from the landing spot was euphoric. I barely noticed where I was going and had to think hard to remember which direction to go in. The others texted me to say they were going to the store and to meet them in the pub. I replied asking for at least 1 of the 5 to join me as I didn’t want to sit in the pub alone. Mans and Stina joined me. We grabbed a free beer from the coupons Jaimie had given me then headed to meet the others. This was going to be a tough match but I hoped South Africa would continue my high and win through to the semi-finals. Throughout the entire game SA had 80% of the field. We played better. but somehow the blooming Aussies managed to slip through and win by 2 points. It was devastating for the current world champions. But what you going to do, there are only so many times you can say
we should’ve won! But at least my paragliding high was still there, with only a few notches knocked out of it.

Burritos

We all headed back to the hostel where we had a group meal of burritos with sour cream and salsa. Amazing for a backpackers, but when you go in on it as a group it works out really cheap. Then we sat and did photo swops and chatted about how we all met. It turns out that Amy, Amelia, Stina, Mans and I had met the 1st day of my Magic bus in Christchurch. But we hadn’t really chatted. We had then picked up Tom, aka pompom, in Picton and only then did we end up chatting. And here we were a group of 6 good friends all promising to visit each other in the relavent countries.

Dinner with friends

Farewells

Once again it was time for farewells. Monday morning, early, Tom, Amy and Amelia headed out for the Milford Sound cruise. They had to leave 6.45am and even though most of the dorm was awake I will never understand why one of them would use a hardryer and then put their hair up in a ponytail. It takes all types. We said farewell and hugged, I will really miss Tom he was like a little brother. I lay in bed for another 20min then went to make some coffee and say farewell to Stina and Mans who were heading onto Dunedin. These 2 cousins are just so full of life and so open and honest that you can’t help but love them. They will be deeply missed too, but it is a great excuse to go to Sweden.

Stina and Mans

I left an hour later to take the bus to Invercargill, followed by a bus to Bluff and finally a ferry to Stewart Island.

Queenstown has been one of my favorite stops, and it has everything to do with friends, Ferburgers and throwing myself off a mountain top.
I will be back!

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Nelson to Greymouth to Franz Josef to Wanaka

4th to 7th October 2011

Our Coach Captain

Moving onto my second Magic driver, we met Soap (apparently because he is so clean – or so he says). However, don’t call him a driver, he is our Captain, and our bus is a coach, nicknamed Snowflake as she has no markings on her yet. In fact he even has his own theme song (pilfered from an Aussie artist), everytime we hear the word “captain” we have to shout out SOAP! . All rather amusing and gets everyone in the right mood. He also plays games along the way and hands out small bars of soap to the winners.

As we headed towards Greymouth we crossed over Hope Saddle and marveled at the inversion fog covering the valley. We are now heading into the West Coast of New Zealand, famous for its friendly residents and laid back attitude. We also stopped at Cape Foulwind, named by Captain Cook after he was blown off course and gazed down at the fur seals. Greymouth is a required stop over and we all planned to head into town for the Monteith’s Brewery tour.

Kilkenny Lookout

Our captain stopped at the lookout to show us a feat of human engineering. The road that has been cut into the mountain. It was only wide enough for a single vehicle and just barely high enough not to take the paint off the top of lovely Snowflake the coach. As we walked along the route, Captain Soap drove through and met us on the other side.

Driving through...barely

Pancake Rocks

Just outside of Greymouth we had a speedy 30min stop at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.

Pancake Rocks

The rocks were formed their pancake like appearance after immense pressure was exerted on alternating hard and soft layers of marine creatures and sediments millenia ago. The subsequent erosion has created these stacks and also have numerous blowholes that can be quite impressive during high tides.

Monteith’s

After getting ourselves reasonable settled and dressed warm, we headed out to grab the complimentary taxi to the brewery. As the brewery was going through and overhaul you don’t actually get to go through it. But you pay $25 and watch a video then get to enjoy some samples and finally a dinner at a local diner. The video was informative, the samples were non stop. Our “guide” was fantastic and full of jokes. He sampled each of the main Monteith line, but let us keep refilling our glasses with the one we preferred if we weren’t too into the other beers. I focused on the apple cider, wish they had had the pear cider on tap though. Then we all got a chance to try and pour. Good fun and we were all pretty sozzled by the time we left to dinner.

Learning to pour


Group shot


Mmmm dinner

Seriously?????

As some of you who have kept up with this blog from the beginning will remember, my bag was attacked and made holy by mice in Australia. This morning I woke up and went to get some breakfast, rather confused as to why my food bag seemed to be leaking its contents as I walked… Yup, the mice struck again and managed to get into 2/3’s of my food. Bugger it all!! I went and told reception and their response was:
“mmmm will have to put the cat in that room then”. Ahhh yes this is Greymouth!

Panning for Gold

After discovering holes in my food, we packed up and hopped on Snowflake to head into Franz Josef. Our little stop along the way was the town of Ross, famous for its gold reserves. The big companies have been making yearly offers to move the town 2km down the way, moving the actual houses, paying each resident double and giving them a share in the mine. But change comes slowly to the West coast and each had been turned down, although the vote is getting closer.

We stopped at the wee information center and I decided to “pan for gold” for $10. I thought we were going to go to the stream, but they had a set up outside the center for those on a time limit. It is actually a lot harder than you think and you have to be sure to keep your fingers out of the water as the oil makes the gold flakes float. But eventually I managed to slosh out all the rocks and discover the flakes at the bottom, also found a small piece of jade.

Woohoo GOLD! I think...


my little vial of gold

Return to Franz

We pulled into Franz around 1pm. The weather seemed ok, and I had planned to go kayaking. But I was seriously in the dumps. Felt really tired, still cranky after the mouse incident and in general just being a grumpy sod. I went down to check out the kayaking and still couldn’t decide. I was staying at Montrose Backpackers, where Andre and I had stayed before, so I went to Arlene (the Scottish Manager) and asked her opinion, she looked at me and said exactly what I needed: “quit whining and get out there, you will love it”.

I went to pick up some food and take a nap. When I woke up it had started raining and my mood still hadn’t improved. I hate it when I feel like that. But after 2 weeks of being pretty sick and not being able to do anything, I knew that kayaking was just what I needed, I just didn’t want to admit it. I went down and checked in and met Ben our guide. He’s from California and a right hoot. As soon as we got to the lake the bad weather remained over the town. It was beautiful and the minute we were on the water of lake Mapourika, I felt much better. Ben took one look at me and said “yup kayaking works everytime”. We crossed the lake and moved into the kiwi sanctuary. We saw a white heron fishing, you are considered blessed if you see one as they are quite rare. He let us come quite close.

White Heron

We had to go in single file for the next section as it was through a rather tight waterway in the sanctuary. We also spaced out so that we could see the amazing reflections caused my the mirror like qualities of the water. At times I couldn’t tell where the path turned to steer and had to ask my partner in the front to tell me left or right.

The mirror effect

On our way back the heron was still there and still seemed relatively unperturbed by our presence. Returning across the lake the weather remained clear and calm and it even seemed to have improved over the town.

passers by


The Crew

On the way back it looked like the running of the bulls. One of the local farmers was moving is herd, down the only road in town.

Running of the bulls??

Met our fearless kayak leader for a beer that evening then headed out for an early night as the bus leaves at 7am the next morning.

Lake Matheson

The next day we headed out early with a stop at another small glacier town, called Fox Glacier. We picked up a few and then went to walk to the scenic view of Lake Matheson, our driver… sorry I mean captain, was Soap again and he played his theme song and we all sang along. One chap won a small bar of soap for best singing (he was not overly impressed).

Our Coach Captain

Soap had expected the whole return trip to see the lake would take a total of 30min, giving us another 30min to relax and grab a cup of very expensive coffee at the cafe. Turns out it was 30min one way, so we all did a fairly brisk walk way too early in the morning. But the view was stunning and I saved myself some money on the very expensive coffee.

Lake Matheson

Wanaka

The drive today was absolutely stunning as we headed along the west coast. There were a number of breathtaking lakes along the way.

lake views

The coach was continuing with our captain to Queenstown, but a large number of us were hopping off in Wanaka. Said to be a smaller version of Queenstown, it is a very quaint village on the shores of a stunning lake. We were staying at the Purple Cow backpackers and loved it immediately, from the views out of the main window

The view

To the cat named Smokey, who was known for his rather disgruntled personality, unless you had food.

Smokey

Sun bathing in Spring???

The temp was barely 15C, but it felt way warmer and Amy, Amelia, Pompom (aka Tom) and I found ourselves sunbathing on the shores of the lake. All too soon someone had the idea to run in and take a dip. It was bloody freezing but hilarious at the same time.

Sunbathing??


The very cold lake

We spent the rest of the day walking around town, picking up some food and then sitting and talking pretty much all night. It was great fun. Then it was time for bed and a bit of a sleep in the next morning, as the bus only picked us up at 1pm.

My good deed

That morning we went and hunted down some face paint at the $2 store and then the others went hiking. I headed back to the hostel to work on my blog. Well I was there I noticed a guy holding something that look like an animal. It turned out to be a small bird, possibly a finch. He and his girlfriend had found it sitting on the side of the road. It looked dazed and had most likely been hit by a car or flown into a window. They were attempting to give it milk. I recommended sugar water and a dark box to keep it calm. It seemed to improve and didn’t have the death claws so there was hope. But when the bus pulled in a few hours later it was still relatively out of it and not ready to be released. I hope that it recovered after I left.

Back on the road again

All packed and boarded we headed out of Wanaka on our trusty Magic stead and off towards Queenstown.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Kaikoura to Nelson

30th September to 4th October 2011

Picton Pickups

On the way to Nelson we stopped off at the ferry terminal in Picton. We had around 10 folks joining us. As the passengers disembarked we saw a white pompom beanie come bobbing up and down towards the bus, enthusiastically waving and smiling. This turned out to be Tom from England, but I dubbed him PomPom. Got to love the folks you meet on the Magic Bus.

Mmm Icecream

The day was perfect, the drive was beautiful and the company great. At our lunch spot, in the middle of nowhere, the cafe owner gave us double scoops for the price of a single. Woohoo! I got Hokey Pokey, vanilla with honeycomb pieces, it was delicious. At this cafe they also serve a variety of interesting pies, such as rabbit, venison even possum. Then we hopped back on Marg’ the Magic Bus and headed the rest of the way to Nelson, the sunniest town in NZ.

WWOOF

Wwoof means – willing workers on organic farms. I had organised 3 nights of Wwoofing at a lodge just outside Nelson, not exactly a farm but they count as well. Nic and I figured out where it was and we organised for me to hop out of the bus along the road. We just hoped it was the right stretch of road, as it was a long walk into town. As I waved farewell to the crew on the bus I settled down on my bag to wait for my ride. Luckily it didn’t take long till Alan showed up. We picked up their son at school and then headed up the hill to the lodge. The view was breathtaking.

Stunning view

Within a short span I was given chemicals and sent to scrub the shower. It took me a good hour and I was fairly high after cleaning the glass with the water resistant coating…weeeeeeeeeeee

For dinner we had Thai Curry and watched the sunset. I great evening which was followed by heading into town to watch the SA vs Samoa rugby game. I walked in with James and Chloe dressed in my flag, with springbok paste on tattoos on our cheeks, to discover the entire bar supported Samoa. The others grabbed a drink and settled unobtrusively in a corner, I sat at the bar and supported the Boks, as much as possible without risking severe bodily harm from the Samoa supporters.

Sunset over Nelson

A weeding We Shall Go

The task of the day was weeding the elevated vegetable garden. Normally this would seem like a breeze, but considering it had spent a couple of seasons cultivating its weeds, the garden wasn’t too impressed when I was trying to pull them out. Add to this the fact that it is at a height of 4ft, meant some of the particularly stubborn weeds threatened to cause me to fall backwards. Luckily I remained somewhat stable and it only took me 3hrs to weed a plot approximately 10m by 1m. Wish I had taken photos, cause I was rather proud afterwards.

Later the 3 of us wwoofers went into town to check out the last few minutes of the market and walk around a bit. The Aussie vs Russia game was on and the atmosphere was electric, with the Aussies all decked out and everyone else (no matter of nationality) all supporting Russia. In the Rugby World Cup the motto is pretty much anyone but Australia/England or France. Unless you are from one of those countries of course.

Aussie Pride

With the rugby game on in the town of Nelson, Candace and Alan (our hosts) were running a snack cart at the game, the boys were watching it live, which left the house to us. It was great having a big house to relax in. We watched movies, I made Toad in the hole for dinner and when everyone did arrive home we watched the next game on the telly.

Chloe and I having "breakfast"

Nelson the sunniest town in NZ…REALLY??

Woke this morning to torrential downpour. It was actually rather impressive. The region did need rain so we didn’t mind the rain too much. It also meant that Alan’s plans to redo the whole garden were put on hold. Instead we worked on changing the beds and cleaning the bathrooms, which took just under 3hrs and gave us the rest of the day off. I worked on my blog and then we all went and sat in the hot tub in the rain. Felt fantastic. A little afternoon nap and then time to make dinner. I had offered to make the Schmidt’s famous Spaghetti Bolognese. In between brownouts and thunder and lightening we sat down to enjoy the meal, followed by icecream. After the rugby game I asked Candace to take a look at my back in exchange I would make her a necklace. She had me stand and bend and squat, then announced that my pelvis was out of line, she gave me some stretches and assured me that would help. Well then, now that I know whats wrong I can work towards fixing it… but then again I am terrible at remembering stretches.

Return to Paradiso

I had been offered work trade at Paradiso hostel for a few days, so ended my time with the lodge and was able to get a ride into town. It was still pissing with rain so moving bags was fun. But I managed with minimum rain dampness. I was put into a small 4 bed dorm and had to quickly dump my bags and slip out as there was someone sleeping. My chore for the day was reorganizing the chemical cupboard. The dilemma – the chemical cupboard was not under cover…and it was still raining, buckets, in fact, cats and dogs. Luckily around 3pm there was a short break in the weather, so I quickly went about tidying and sorting the chemical cupboard. All of 20min for a nights accommodation. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, doing my strings and my blog.

Unpacking for Painting

Trade work for this day was to help unpack the tv room for repainting. This involved removing all detachable items, gathering the furniture in the center of the room and sorting through the VHS tapes and book trade shelves. Its always dangerous going through the book shelf, so far I have managed to keep my book baggage down to one for reading, one for journal and one for guide. But now found myself with 3 extra for reading, and I just couldn’t decide which one to leave behind. So now I found myself with 4 for reading, 1 for journal, but no guide. However, I did have my next journal ready in the wings.

But it was an enjoyable couple of hours of trade work!!

As far as weather went, it was still raining. Nelson is the sunniest town in NZ and it had rained for the last 3 days, solid. Without even a glare to call sunshine. The first time I was here I was sick, and now it was raining constantly. I decided to head out the next day, if nothing else I was fairly certain my departure would ensure the sun’s return for others. Murphy’s Law.

The good news was that during the crappy weather I had managed to secure work trade at a hostel on Stewart Island for 10 days. EXCELLENT!!!

Tomorrow is was off to Greymouth and then Franz Josef on the Magic Bus.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Start of the Southern Discovery with Magic

28th September 2011

Tremors

On February 22nd, 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit barely 5km beneath the surface of Christchurch with devastating results. Today, almost 8mths later, the city center is still fenced off, monuments and historical buildings, churches remain rubble and repairs will be ongoing for many months to come, if not years. There continue to be after shocks every day.

It is therefore disturbing on many levels, when you discover in the morning that there were 2 aftershocks during the night. The only time you want to hear the word tremors is in relation to the movie. Luckily they were very mild ones, and most of us just assumed our bunk mate had rolled over… but its still nerve racking.

Christchurch to Kaikoura

After a good breakfast and sorting of bags, I headed outside with a group of other travelers to await the first of many Magic Buses. This would be the second trip I would do with Magic, the Northland 4 day tour being the first. Waiting with me were cousins from Sweden, friends from England and a few Germans, promising a good mix on the bus.

Nic with his trusty sidekick, Ross, was our driver and our chariot was Marg’ (Margery). Nic, with his baby face and near comical Kiwi accent (I mean that as a compliment), was full of enthusiasm and soon had us in stitches as he rattled off lines from the NZ movie “Boy”.

Marg'


Co-Pilot Ross

We stopped for lunch at the Antarctic Center and low and behold who do I see coming out, but none other than Andre. His flight had been delayed and so he had wandered over to check out the center. It was good to see him again.

The center is an interesting stop, there isn’t enough time to go through it but there are some fascinating exhibits and information boards scattered around outside and in the lobby. We then continued on our journey up the East coast.

Diets

Listening to a bus driver rattle off his typical meal plan is like spending a day at a fast food joint. 3 of us, Jen (Scotland, been with Nic’s bus for a while), Tamsin (UK, dietitian) and me, spent a majority of the trip to Kaikoura trying to convince him of the benefits of eating healthy and that chewing 7 vit C tabs a day isn’t an alternative. We eventually got him to eat an orange. Oh the small victories!

Kaikoura

The weather was beyond spectacular, it was in fact, PERFECT! Clear skies, cool but not cold and warm sun. We pulled into Kaikoura and marveled at it’s beauty. Nic drove us through town and then to a fur seal colony. They are so close you could almost touch them, you would most likely lose your hand, but hey its up to you.

Fur seal in Kaikoura

Our hostel, Dusky Lodge, came with spa tub, heated pool and a sauna. Pure heaven to a backpacker. The front desk was great as they didn’t overcrowd the rooms, and Tamsin and I ended up having a 4 bed dorm to ourselves.

After a store run, dinner and a dip in the hot tub and the pool and the sauna, we all got ready to go to the pub quiz in town. Nic, Jen, an Irish guy and I went to quiz night, all very excited for the game. It was due to start at 8.30pm but the rugby delayed it till 9pm, it started at 9.30pm. We had 7rounds with 1 of them being a joker worth double points. We chose the Cartoon round. All was going well until we got to the cartoon round. The last question was replaced by an obscure sports question because they thought no one would know who the actual voice was of “Chef” in South Park. Turns out we knew that answer but not the sports question. Now, I tend to take my quiz nights a bit too seriously and got a little annoyed that we lost points when we knew the answer to the original, Isaac Hayes. Add to that the long delays and that it was almost 11pm and we weren’t even half way… the lot of us got up and left. Oh well it was fun while it lasted.

Weather

After such a stunning arrival day I was sincerely looking forward to some walking in the morning and exploring along the coastline. The weather, however, had other ideas. It was cold and grey and miserable. I walked into town once to look for coffee and explore. I also stopped into a pharmacist to see about getting my 3rd bottle of cough mixture. The pharmacist recommended against it, saying I was wasting my money and just to let myself cough till I was over it. As long as there was no fever or blood I was fine.

Back at the hostel I worked on my blog, uploaded photos and read my book. Going into town once more to mail a postcard. In the evening a bunch of us watched “Eat, Pray, Love”.

In the morning as we drove out of this tiny town on a stunning wild coastline with gorgeous snowcapped peaks in the distance the weather was clear and sunny and promising to be just like the day we drove in. Go Figure!

Nic and Marg' on the way out of Kaikoura


Next stop Nelson!

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Franz Josef and Christchurch

25th and 26th September 2011

Andre picked me up around 10am and we headed out towards Franz Josef. The drive was spectacular, again. It took us about 6hrs to get there with all the stops along the way.

White Heron - good luck


Roto Mahinapua (lake Mahinapua)

Franz Josef

Finally pulling into Montrose Backpackers around 5pm, we checked in and went to sort out the glacier hike.

View from outside our hostel

We were both keen to do the full day vs the half day, $180 vs $123. I was a bit concerned about my cough but since I was feeling much better I figured what the hell. Talking with the girls at the desk it seemed that the same infliction had been working its way through all the guides as well. Technically they were full but they managed to find another guide and we were both signed up. I was also comforted by the fact that we didn’t all go in one group but rather were split up into 5 groups depending on physical ability. I was pretty set on number 5, Andre was leaning towards number 2.

We grabbed some lunch and heading back to the hostel. We decided to head to the pub for dinner and also to catch the much anticipated Scotland vs Argentina rugby game (it was a deciding factor as to which team would make it through). We opted to split a large pizza that was half meat lovers and bbq sauce and half lamb and mediterranean veggies, delicious!

2 of the staff from the hostel joined us to watch the game. They were both scots and we spent a lot of time yelling at the TV. It was a great game and we had it down pat when out of nowhere in the last 5minutes Argentina scored a try. They were leading by 1 point with 2minutes to go when Scotland got a chance for a drop kick and…. missed. I thought Arlene, the hostel manager, was going to tip the table upside down. Instead she went and got herself a large vodka on the rocks.

The Glacier

The next day was an early rise for the glacier hike. I had started hacking again and was rather concerned about hiking up a glacier in this state. But the weather was absolutely drop dead gorgeous and a guide I spoke to said she would probably do it even with the cough as they never get perfect days like this.

The mountain the day of the hike

So, feeling much more confident, I set out to get all my gear: boots, socks, waterproof pants, waterproof jacket, gloves and hat. I felt quite the adventurer or maybe it was more like the michelin man. Andre and I joked about how my group, number 5, will most likely be all the Asian tourists who like to stop and take tons of photos… I think we may be psychic!

Finally our 8.15am departure group left at 9.15am, turns out there were a few who hadn’t brought lunch or anything, love the unorganised. We headed the 10minute drive to the glacier and did a short hike through the forest surrounding the glacial plain. Once we arrived we were given an introduction and then separated into groups.

Guide giving intro, glacier in background

Saying cheers to Andre I headed for group 5 and it was soon obvious that the 10 Chinese tourists were in my group… sometimes I hate being right. But it was all good and we even tried chatting now and then. After the guide asked them to stop taking pics we were able to head out and start the walk. I had mentioned to the guide that I maybe should have done the 1/2 day as I really did worry if my cough would handle this. She radioed but said the half days were full and to see how I felt further up the plain. I was getting really worried, as I hacked one lung and then the other, my chest really hurt and with no one who really spoke English to encourage me, I felt this might turn into a miserable experience.
As I have mentioned before, I am ashamed to say that I am not a happy sick person…

The closest I came

Just before we crossed the yellow ropes that led to the switchbacks up to the glacier, Jess our guide took one look at me and said “I am turning you back now, you won’t make it and this way you get a full refund”. She also pointed out that when she asked if anyone had seen a glacier before I had said that I lived in Alaska for 6mths, so at least I had seen one. I hate to admit that I was grateful but also felt like a failure. I had really thought I could make it, but considering it would have been close to 20km of hiking with half of it fairly vertical, I am not sure if I would have managed easily even if I wasn’t sick.

the switchbacks up to the glacier


Heading back I felt a bit defeated, this wasn’t helped by the guide of a half day group who said to his folks “stand back, move aside, let her pass”, its not like I had the plague for pete’s sake.

Heading back to the carpark for my 11am pickup I was able to enjoy the beauty of the plain.

Glacial Falls

Just before 11am, the company’s bus pulled up and I went to get in. The driver looked very confused and said he didn’t even know I was here. Apparently the message hadn’t got through. No worries though and soon I was back in town. I got my full refund after ensuring the manager over and over again that I did not cross some magical yellow ropes.

Kiwi Center

I decided to pop into the Kiwi Center at the end of town. It was $25 and normally I would never pay that much, but it all went to conservation and considering how endangered these unique birds are, I figured what the heck. Plus it gave my wounded ego a bit of a boost.
The center was actually quite remarkable. They use monitoring equipment to track the birds and tell them when eggs have been laid. Then they collect the eggs and raise them in the center for the first year, upon which they are released with a much higher survival rate. Left to their own devices, about 95% of the chicks die within the first year due to predators like stoats and possums. However, through this project 95% of them survive.

The center provides valuable information and the best part is the nocturnal room. Here there are 2 1yr old kiwis, that will shortly be released, kept in enclosures separated from you by a low fence. You could almost reach in and touch them, which you wouldn’t do of course. They were amazing! I mean, I was expecting something unique, but these guys were just brilliant, and their fine feathers looked almost like hair. Kiwi eggs also take up 2/3’s of the females body mass and looks like a mini ostrich egg. I watched them for a good time utterly bemused and then finally wandered off to the exhibit about the glacier. The entry fee permitted 24hrs entrance, so I planned to return later or in the morning. The glacier exhibit was really interesting but the best part was the video about the Kea’s, an alpine parrot renowned for its intelligence and mischievous behaviour. In the video you see them pretty much dismantle a tourist’s car, pulling apart mirrors, removing the rubber window seals and much more. Good thing to keep in mind when you see them.

Booking Tickets

I decided to do some more searches for tickets to Germany. So far I had been searching on and off for about 2 weeks and every ticket I found involved at least a 10hr layover in New Delhi airport. Not something I relished, no matter how impressive the airport might be. I already have a 10hr layover in Bangladesh when I fly to Kathmandu. I settled into the internet cafe and casually began searching and checking email. With about 3minutes left to go I found a ticket with no layover and a decent price, I had barely 2.5minutes to lock it in and pay for it. Made it just barely. Woohoo I am going to Germany!!

Rugby

Back at the hostel Andre returned and looked very concerned when he saw me. He had got on the bus and couldn’t find me and none of the guides knew about me leaving. At the office one of the girls said I had returned but he didn’t know details. Shame, so sweet! But all was good and we figured out our plan for the evening. Laundry, dinner and rugby at the backpacker pub. I still had leftover pizza from the night before so was covered on food. At the pub we met up with Lissy and Rune who had also been on the glacier that day and watched Wales annihilate Namibia and 3 Welsh lads annihilate shot after shot. During the 2hrs we were at the pub, they had about 3 pints of beer each, and 3 shots each of “3 Wisemen on acid” and “Cocksucking Cowboy” (excuse my language). I don’t have any idea whats in them and don’t think I ever want to. I think those boys are going to feel it in the morning, and it looked they had no intention of stopping as we headed out the door.

Andre, me, Lissy, Rune

It was an early night as everyone, apart from me, had just spent 10hrs on a glacier and hiked a good 20km.

Arthur’s Pass

This morning we planned to head to Christchurch, but first we stopped in at the Kiwi center. Luckily I had fished the arm band out of hte trash but the front staffed remembered me regardless, so I didn’t have to pay again. Once more the Kiwi’s astounded me, I think I could sit and watch them for hours. Then we met Lissy and Rune for coffee and finally hit the road. Our journey was going to take us back up over Hope Saddle towards Greymouth. Just before we would turn right and head over the midlands on Arthurs Pass, the mountain pass that takes you through the Southern Alps. It lies in the saddle between the Otira and Bealey rivers.You can take a train along this pass as well.

We stopped for lunch and met up with one of the girls from the glacier office, actually, the one who had given me my refund. She was hitching to Arthur’s Pass and was very excited that we could give her a ride. After some yummy grub at the all natural and organic cafe we headed out towards the pass. The scenery was breathtaking, and if the weather hadn’t been so crappy on the way up there were some definite photos stops we would have stopped at.

The mountains rose up on either side of us and the rain obscured out visibility as we made us way up the windy road. Eventually we broke through the cloud bank and were thrust into a stunning landscape.

Over Arthur's Pass

Leaving our passenger in the town of Arthur’s Pass we headed onwards towards Christchurch. The scenery just got better and at one stop we got to see the Kea’s. I had so hoped to see them in the wild and had thought missing the glacier hike meant I would not get the chance.

The glacial plain of Arthur's Pass


Kea

It was amazing seeing how the topography changed and even more interesting being able to chat to Andre about the geology and the rock formations.

Am sure this must be in one of the Lord of the Rings movies


Beautiful limestone formations

Christchurch

All to soon we pulled into Christchurch and up to the hostel. Even 8mths after the earthquake you can still see the devastation on the edges of town, and downtown is completely fenced off.

Saying farewell to Andre, we parted company and he headed off to see family and I got checked in to the Kiwi Base hostel. It was great traveling with Andre and I hope to grab a beer with him in the future, hopefully over a fire in the game park back in SA.

The hostel was still doing earthquake repairs here and there and occasionally you had to side step past a repairman. I was meant to be in a top bunk, but fluttering my eyelashes and looking miserable, I convince a young english lad to trade. I made him dinner for compensation and he seemed quite happy with that. Chatting with the other backpackers and watching the rugby made the night quite complete. Tomorrow I would be starting my full South Island tour with Magic bus. So off to bed to try get to sleep before my roommates and hopefully spare them the worst of my hacking cough.

I great trip so far and the main part of it is yet to come.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Picton and Nelson

22nd to 27th September 2011

Ferrying to the South

Early start this morning as we grabbed the 6.59am train to town, just barely… Then it was just a short walk over to the ferry to get checked in. The ferry was huge and to get to the passenger level you had to go up this tiny spiral staircase for about 5 floors. It didn’t help that there was distinct smell of urine as you climbed.

After finding a place to sit I went outside to explore. I love riding on ferries and boats and just being on the ocean in general. The weather was cold but clear, with a few clouds. But the wind was particularly strong and nearly blew me off my feet a few times.

Leaving Welly town

The trip took 3hrs and was pretty typical until we reached the top of the South Island. The weather completely cleared and the views were spectacular. I felt like I was pulling into a bay in Scotland or somewhere else as wild. It was stunning. While I was outside I chatted with a Canadian girl and we exchanged travel stories as we stared in awe at the passing scenery.

Tip of the South Island


Picton

Picton is a tiny little coastal town and with the weather being perfect, you just wanted to pack up and move there. The hostel was like a second home with free tea and coffee, spices, oil and big cushy chairs where ever you looked. There was also a fireplace and free hot water bottles. Just the place to try recover from this chest cough that was sounding more and more like my lungs were trying to crawl their way out of my chest. The best part about Sequoia Hostel was the free hot chocolate pudding cake and icecream every night. There is heaven in a hostel.

After making a store run for food, I settled into one of the chairs with a sandwich and some tea and just chilled for the whole day. The weather was heart-breakingly perfect, but all I could do was sit and watch the clear blue sky.

South Africa vs Namibia

That night was the South Africa / Namibia game in the TV room. The room was crowded and everyone had chips, cookies and drinks to share. I filled a bowl with biltong and brought in my saved castle lager beer from the Ekhaya suite. It was a great game but a complete walkover. By 50 – 0 we all started hoping that Namibia would score at least a penalty. My favorite part of the game was when the South African player, nicknamed the “Beast” due to his sheer size, literally ran over a tiny Namibian player. Kudos to the Namibian he stood down the charge and it was quite frightening watching it on tv. If anyone wondered what a charging buffalo looks like just watch this clip:
The Beast Runs over Namibian

We finally ended the game with the highest score so far in the Rugby World Cup, 87 – 0. Ouch!

I chatted with a couple of the folks watching and they all tried to convince me to come kayaking the next day. Andre, a fellow saffer, offered to give me a ride to Nelson on Saturday as I would have missed the planned Magic Bus ride in the morning. I said I would have to see how I felt in the morning as my hacking cough might overturn us, and none of us could convince Andre to do all the paddling.

To Kayak or Not to Kayak

In the morning I still felt shitty and when I went into the kitchen I found Andre having breakfast. I told him sorry but would have to decline the kayaking. He said his plans had changed and he would be heading to Nelson that afternoon if I still wanted a ride. I contemplated and realised since I had not started my route on the Magic Bus it would not cause an interruption. Plus, since he was heading all the way to Christchurch I could just hitch a ride with him and then start from there, the same town I would be flying out of. This meant I would not miss out on a section of the route. So what the hell, I decided it would be pretty cool to do some of the coast line, renowned for its beauty, with Andre and his car.

I spent the morning chatting with folks and making some bracelets. The girls, Freya and Jen, headed off on the Magic Bus at noon. Around 1pm, Andre returned and we got all our gear packed in. He point blank refused to take any money for gas as he was heading in that direction, but I did promise to buy a beer.

Heading along the Queen Charlotte Highway

The drive was spectacular and the weather was perfect, again. Am really liking the South island so far.

The bay

Andre is a geologist for one of the largest gold mining companies in Africa, so it was really interesting driving with him and discussing the different geological features. We chatted about growing up in South Africa, about uplift and earthquakes and rugby. A great 5hr drive.

Arriving in Nelson, the sunniest city in New Zealand, Andre dropped me off at the hostel and we planned to meet up in the morning to drive into Abel Tasman National Park. That evening the hostel, the sister of Sequoia, also had free pudding and icecream. Just delightful as both items are a luxury for a backpacker.

It turned out our German mate, Lissy, was still in Nelson and so we met up with her at her hostel down the road after pudding. The Paradiso hostel was pretty sweet and they had free soup and bread. Since it was cheaper we decided to move over there for the next night. We were all exhausted so it was an early night.

Change of Plans

Woke up feeling crappy, this was becoming a bit too much of a habit. After we moved hostels we still hadn’t heard from Andre concerning the Abel Tasman trip. The girls managed to borrow someones van and headed into the park themselves. I did not fancy hiking around for hours so decided to just wander around the saturday market, meant to be one of the best in New Zealand.

Saturday Market

Saturday Markets and Tunic Dresses

The Market was fantastic, there were tons of stalls and food and homemade products all over. I walked passed a clothes stall and some of the little tunic like dresses caught my eye. But they were $60 and so I walked away. However, all that happened was that I walked in a large circle and found myself back there staring at the dress. The seller came over and suggested I try one on…just to see. As I pulled the one that had caught my eye on, it “hugged” my figure and the lady exclaimed “you have such a nice Goddess Ass!”. Ahh schucks I think she had me sold right there and then. She felt a different dress would look nicer and went over and pulled one out with some funky colors that looked like it was made in the 60’s. It was so not me that it was me and when I tried it on, I knew I was about to lose a few nights stay at a hostel. I was able to get a $5 discount but that was all. It all was worth it when I got back and put on some tights and my little tunic dress, it was super comfy and just made me feel good.

Andre had finally got back to me around noon saying they had had an epic night and only just surfaced. But we still planned to head out to Franz Josef the next morning.

Luckily with starting the Magic Bus in Christchurch it meant that I would be around again and be able to do Abel Tasman then, hopefully.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Wellington week 2…

…21st September 2011

Cocktail Parties!!

Hanging out at the Ekhaya suite was great in that I got to meet fellow South Africans, eat good food and get free biltong. It came with another perk too, fancy cocktail parties and dinners. However these were on the 6TH FLOOR… I was pondering this dilemma with one of the guys working there and he was determined to get me in, even if he had to call me the “Under Secretary to the President of the Republic of Empangeni”. Empangeni was the small town I was born in. It was quite a hoot, and it would become my title for the rest of the time I was in Wellington.

As we tried to figure out how to get me on the list, I was chatting with someone and mentioned I had face paint. Next thing I knew I was the official face painter, was on the program and on the list for the cocktail party plus 1. Bloody brilliant!

Emma was my plus 1, and since she was working I went home to get stuff and she directed me through her closet for clothes to bring to her in town.

It felt great to get dolled up and feel all important and spiffy. Actually I was rather out of my comfort zone, but Emma, a budding diplomat was in her element and so I just followed in her footsteps. We met some amazing people, had champagne handed to us before we were even finished the first. Little bite size snacks you see those chefs doing in competitions. The best part was the dance group who did dances from a variety of South African tribes and as soon as the music started everyone was on the dance floor. One diplomat expressed the following sentiment which hit it on the nail
“You can tell this isn’t a European or New Zealand party because it barely took 2 minutes for everyone to cut loose”
All very hoity toity and a whole lot of fun…. I better not get used to this.

Great Dance Group


Old friends

It turns out all my old school friends seem to have immigrated to Aus or NZ as it turned out I had a mate in Wellington too. So we were able to meet up for a coffee and chat about old and new times. Its crazy to see where all our lives have led us in the last 16yrs since we graduated high school.

Old Friends

The Beehive

Lissy and I spent her first morning walking around Wellington and going on a free tour of the Parliment building known as the Beehive. It was recently voted the 3rd ugliest building.

The Beehive


Steps of Parliment

Dinner Party

Well I am on a roll and apparently am in with the staff of the Ekhaya suite I got invited to a very sort after sit down dinner party. I was able to invite a plus one again and this time I chose my friend Lissy who had just arrived from up north. As I had worn my only dress to the cocktail party and Lissy had nothing fancy, Emma let us rifle through her closet again. I love that girl. We had a grand old time, trying on dresses and jewellery and even picking nail polish. Ahhh to be girly, its actually quite a lot of fun!

If I thought the cocktail party was overwhelming, the dinner party was even more so. You walked in and were met by 2 rows of 5 waiters all with silver trays filled with drinks, you didn’t know who to take one from. Totally out of my element and loved every minute of it. The settings were fantastic, the speeches were amusing, especially when the MC asked us the organizers would like the table to settings to remain at the end of the evening… and the food was pretty good too…especially after 3 glasses of free wine.

Lissy and me


South Africa Dinner night

Molly Malones

After the dinner party, we headed to the local Irish pub round the corner, Molly Malones, to meet up with some friends of Lissy’s. We got there and pushed our way through the crowd. It was literally shoulder to shoulder. Crowded pubs are never a place I choose to be and was hoping we would move on. But Lissy, being the young 20 something she is, has no fear and was all about staying. I figured I had to start conquering my fear of crowds. We circled around, and much to the amusement of the bouncer forced our way back in again. Lissy found me a corner and went to grab us a cider. She returned with a cider and a vodka and orange each, plus two more ciders on the way, all paid for by an Irish fella. I am truly in awe of her skills.

It is never a thrilling experience to be elbow height and when you are armpit height its even more unpleasant. One “gentleman” was kind enough to use me wedge his way through the crowd by putting his elbow on my shoulder and heaving through.

It was a good night all the same and I spent most of it occupying my mind by tidying up the glasses piling up on the ledge next to me, much to the amusement and appreciation of the bar staff. Finally it was time to extricate ourselves and grab the night bus home. The ride was up a very windy road and after a number of drinks it made you feel quite queasy.

Face Painting

For the Saturday game I had promised to do face painting at the Ekhaya suite. I also managed to get tickets for Lissy and I to the game, again for $50 each. I arrived around 11am and didn’t stop painting faces till about 4.30pm when Lissy dragged me away to the game. By then I was on the point of blubbering as I had not even had a chance to eat lunch. But it felt great to be in high demand and even had folks arguing over who was next at one point. All rather amusing. I figure I must have painted close to, if not over, 100 faces in all varieties of the South African flag.

Face Painting


Face Painting


Body Painting ??

South Africa vs Fiji

We walked to the game with a couple of other “bokke” fans and it was one of hte best experiences ever. We walked waving flags, singing Shosholoza/Nkosi Sikele and numerous other favorites. We were joined by other fans and eventually formed quite an abnoxious group.

At the game I kept passing people whose faces I had painted and there was great comradery amongst all of us. Our seats were super close to the field in the corner in the middle of the Fiji fans. The game itself was a bit of a walk over but was a good game and the Fiji players played well. With 10seonds to go, I turned to some of the Fiji fans and said “great game guys, thanks for playing”, the replied “come on its not over yet there is still time”. Ahhh optimism at its best.

Dinner


Enthusiastic South African fans

At the end I managed to just grab the train home and Lissy went out to party with mates. Would have loved to join her but was just too exhausted to do anything but sleep.

Road Trip

At Emma’s suggestion we rented a car and spent the whole of a wet cloudy sunday driving in the vineyards outside of Wellington. We had a picnic lunch and 2 wine tastings. At one vineyard we met some South African supporters and ended up chatting with them. Towards the end of the we headed back to Welly and drove along the south coast, just as the weather started clearing.

Wine Tasting

It was a great day with great girls!

South Coast

At the end of the day Freya, Jen and I stopped in town and Emma and Lissy returned the car and headed home. We all went to the Ekhaya suite to watch the England game and finally headed home at 9pm.

SICK!

The last few days in Wellington were spent with me being sick. It hit me really hard one night and just sat in my chest. Then moved to my sinuses and back to my chest. I hate to admit it but I must have been a misery to be around. I am ashamed to admit it that I get “man flu” when I am sick and pretty much curl in a ball and sulk. But after 9mths on the road relatively sick free it had to happen sometime.

Cable Car

I did get a chance to go with some of my wonderful friends from the Ekhaya suite up the cable car. It was not exactly what I expected, more like a vernicular. But the view was stunning the company fantastic. I will miss them when I leave.

Me, Vouise and Andy


Wellington

Free Movie

On our last night there Emma managed to get us a free ticket to “Friends with benefits” that included free popcorn and a drink. It was good to have a movie night and get some down time. At the end we realised that we had to run for the last train. You never realise how short you are until you have to run for a train with taller folks that just take bigger strides. It didn’t help that I was sick and feeling cruddy. But we made it in time, barely and got home without having to pay an exorbitant amount for a cab.

Wellington has been a great town, and I truly enjoyed my time there. I will miss my great friend, Emma, and her folks and all the wonderful people I met there.

But the ferry calls and so does the South Island. So am back on the road again.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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