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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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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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