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30+ is Never Too Old For Adventure!!!

Expectations of the Civilized World

There is a certain stigma to being over 30 in the Western “Civilized” world. You are expected to:
– Have a steady job
– Be Settled
– Be Married, preferably with children
– Have a dog and a cat
– Have a car or 2
– Have a nice house
– Be financially settled without debt

In truth most people who follow the stigma are:
– Hate their job
– Don’t feel settled, grass is always greener
– Have a rocky marriage
– Can’t stand the dog or cat
– Have a house mortgage threatening to bankrupt them
– Have student loans and car loans and fake financial security by having multiple credit cards

When People Ask Me How??

People often ask me “how I do it, how do I travel and live all over the world??”, I reply that I just “do”! 15 years ago I was still paying off $25 000 US in university fees, had a car payment, rent. I paid most of it off by working as an English Teacher in Seoul, Korea and getting to travel at the same time. Then in 2009 (6 years ago) I was working 3 part time jobs and on unemployment. But I found a way of saving, I gave up my car and used the bus, I shopped at the charity shops, I learnt to reuse things for other purposes, finally I moved back in with the folks and managed to find a great job as a vet nurse and then I saved! I didn’t buy name brands or expensive cars or felt embarrassed that I lived with the folks at 32. Heck, I paid a small rent and helped around the house. I paid off my school loans and without a car or a home loan I had no debt… which meant I could explore the world.

At Machu Pichu, Peru

At Machu Pichu, Peru

True I am not married or have kids, yes that does make things a little easier. But I have met people from all over who sell everything that society “requires” you to have and takes their kids on an amazing worldwide adventure. Experience is often the best education.

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Creativity Makes the Difference

Another important note is that I travel creatively, I find ways to save money from couchsurfing, to work trade in hostels/ backpackers, volunteer work where accommodation is provided, eating locally, not drinking in excess and spending money that way. I spent less than $20 000 total on a year long adventure to 8 different countries from South America to Australia to Nepal.This adventure led me to to work on cruise ships for 2 years all over the world, and, ultimately, to my present job as a dive instructor with Scuba Futures in Thailand. It might look easy every time I try something new or move halfway across the world on another crazy adventure, but I promise you, if you had to watch me trying to decide to buy my air ticket you would see someone who is crazy nervous and on the verge of hyperventilating, and having an internal battle between my “responsible” side vs. my adventurous side. It is never easy to decide to change, but 9 times out of 10 it is worth it.

Working on a cruise ship - Zakynthos, Greece

Working on a cruise ship – Zakynthos, Greece

Doors are always open if you look and even if the path seems difficult and weaves away from the “required” path of 30+ year olds, it’s one hell of a fun path to follow, so give it a try and do something different.

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Go ahead, follow Alice down the Rabbit Hole and see what LIFE has in store for you!

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

 

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Reflections Of A Year Abroad…Part 2

Here continues my final reflections from my year abroad.. and just in time to start my new adventures coming up…

New Zealand

New Zealand, like Australia, was one of the top contenders for “where I might want to live when I grow up…” While Australia was vast and overwhelming, NZ was stunning and easy to travel in. The people were also downright “nice” as the Aussies put it. Heck I was even wished happy early birthday by an immigration office when they had to double check my info that apparently is similar to a person of interest

I loved NZ and the Kiwis and got to amazing things there. Like dig my own hot tub at Hot Water Beach. Cover myself in thermal mud and take relax in a sulfur spring in Rotorua. Jump off a mountainside and paraglide, screaming all the way, in Queenstown.

Free as a bird

I even ade it to all THREE islands: North (right upto the tippy top), South and Stewart Island (the 3rd) where I did trade work at Bunkers Backpackers, one of the best spots in all of NZ.

A drink with the locals

The Worst Part Of NZ: would have to be the hacking cough I developed for about 3wks, felt so bad for my fellow dorm mates, oh and the price of lamb (so much for my bday roast 😦 )

The Best Part of NZ: friends, paragliding, mud and Stewart Island.

A Reason to Come Back: Everything

Malaysia and Borneo

The plan post NZ was to go volunteer in Sri Lanka at an animal shelter. They had contacted me and asked me to come promising accomodation and no fee. Sounded perfect and I was all set with tickets. Mid Tonga I got a message saying a returning volunteer was staying for 6mths and they were giving her my accomodation, but I could still come I just had to pay to stay… Well that blew that plan out of the water. My ticket on air asia was a ticket to Kuala Lumpur and then to Sri Lanka. I had great friends who I hadn’t seen in years in KL. So I scratched my 2nd ticket and ate the losses, planned a short visit to KL then discovered a converted oil rig in Borneo (a short flight) for scuba diving. Sounds like a perfect recovery plan to me.

I can’t tell you enough about how great it was to see my friend Chauw (first time in 7yrs) and meet his fabulous wife, Viven, and dog Pakkun (who really runs the house). They welcomed me like a long lost relative and put me up, fed me, and showed me around. It felt like home and I can’t thank them enough. I only wish I had had more time to stay.

Great Friends/Family

But Borneo beckoned and since I had to go through immigration it counts as a country on my list. The Seaventures Dive Rig, a converted oil rig, was incredible and with a sealavator that went straight into the ocean a diver couldn’t ask for more. This was my first DIVE VACATION and my first in tropical water, the rig made it truly spectacular in every way.

THE SEAVENTURES RIG!

The Worst Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: Leaving

The Best Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: friends and diving

A Reason To Return: Friends, diving and so much more.

Nepal

Nepal is a country I have always dreamed of going to and never thought I would. Most people go to trek, to get to base camp at the very least. For me, I wanted to buy myself a singing bowl. Since the first time I saw one of this beautiful bowls that “sing” as you pass a wooden stick around the outside, I have promised myself to only get one when I got to Nepal. It took me almost the full 3weeks to find the right one, but she sings just perrtty for me and I love it.

Nepal was fascinating and, unknown to me, would introduce me to someone who would change my life for good in many ways, but bring it crashing down with a terrible betrayal.

But you can’t blame a country for the actions of one person and so I focus on the people like Laksmi and her family who essentially adopted me in Pokhara. I went to dinner at their house, helped my new little brother, Gaurab, with his homework, even moved hotels closer to them (with Laksmi’s husband’s help). I spent many good hours chatting with Laksmi and I will miss my “sister” very much.

The Worst Thing in Nepal: The traffic and pollution

The Best Thing in Nepal: The people and the shopping and the history

A Reason to Return: The people, the shopping and the history

Germany

Cathleen, who I had met in my first country of Peru, and I had joked about me coming to Germany on my way home. Low and behold fate saw to it that I did. While I was super sad to leave Nepal, I was super excited to Cathleen again and well Germany in December means: Gluwein, Bratwurst, Christmas Markets and Christmas Cookies. Woohoo!

Cathleen met me in Hamburg with her amazing friend Hendrik, who put us up for a few days. Then came the whirlwind tour of Hamburg and Berlin with a final stop in Leipzig where Cathleen lived. Fate also allowed me to catch up with Carolin and Nadine, friends from Australia.

The Worst Thing in Germany: My heartsickness at missing a guy and ending a trip (not really Germany’s fault).

The Best Thing in Germany: Gluwein, bratwurst and Christmas markets… and fabulous friends.

A Reason to Go Back: need I repeat the above?? Oh and add the bakeries and the cold meats, mmmmmmm…..

Home

So after 347 days on the road, just shy of a full year, I finally made it home! For those of us who love long term travel, going home is both a blessing and a curse. We get our own bed, we see family, have home cooking, and 3 days later we want to pack our bags and head out again. As someone once explained to me, finally giving me an explanation I could use for non travelers, “traveling is a double edged sword…you live you grow you explore but you never feel settled”.

Starting my job as a vet nurse with a mobile vet barely 3 days after getting home at least helped that trapped feeling from catching a full hold. And being mobile kind of felt like I was still moving.

Ready to Monitor in Surgery

Something I learnt on This Trip: I am stronger than I look, and I love being near a warm ocean.

My Most Memorable Experience: Shaving my head for charity

My Worst Experience: Can’t say that anything was terrible, but let’s just say I learn a lot of lessons about life.

One thing is for sure, I prefer living abroad and plan to find work that gives me that. As much as I loved all the travel, there are times you want to stay put for longer than a month or 2.

So stick around and join me on upcoming adventures including Italy, Korea and Thailand…

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Reflections of a Year Abroad…Part 1

2011 was an epic year in so many ways, good and bad. I still can’t believe that I visited 8 countries (9 if I can count Malaysian Borneo separately, I did have to go through immigration) in under 12months.

Ready to Go…

Here are a few flashbacks and memories. The titles are all linked to the first blog entry of that country with a few others scattered around. Hope you enjoy…

Peru

When plans to volunteer in Botswana fell through I felt I needed somewhere else to replace those months before heading to Australia and New Zealand. It’s not like any tickets were bought or anything, it was just something my mind had decided on, there had to be a country or two before. I was at a loss of where until a friend said “don’t you know someone in Peru?”. Why yes I did, a co worker from the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo. Fernando was our imported penguin expert for the new exhibit and all of us summer employees got on really well.

So I contacted him and it was on, Peru was destination 1. I honestly had no idea what to expert, I had never been to South America and the only Spanish I knew was hola. But ever the one to shrug off obvious adversities I booked my ticket the day after my 33rd birthday. Now only 4months and 5 days till I would leave.

Peru was amazing, and I loved every minute of it. Cusco is now one of my favorite cities, although next time I am definitely pre-dosing on the altitude tabs… Man that hit me hard.

Fernando and Me

Machu Picchu was at first unimpressive, just a ruined city in the rain… the the clouds parted and it all became clear why it was so revered as a must see, that and the thought of “what bloody crazy idiot would make his people lug thousands of stones up a mountain side that scares the living daylights out of on the bus ride…and down??”. Seriously, it was breathtaking.

Good Friends: Cathleen and Me at Macchu Picchu

Lake Titicaca, just giggle everytime I say that, was awe inspiring and I would love to go back. However, the port city of Puno was a real dump and I was glad for fellow traveler advice to avoid it as much as possible.

Lake Titicaca Local Kids

The worst thing to come from Peru : The altitude sickness that actually had me bed ridden for a day.

The best thing to come from Peru : A great new friend named Cathleen!

A reason to go back : I haven’t tried roasted guinea pig yet 🙂

Ecuador

I was almost to the point of buying tickets when my mom held out a newspaper article about volunteer travel. It had a 2 sentence blurp about Amazoonico Wildlife Refuge in Ecuador. The part that caught my eye was the minimal cost of $120/month for food and accomodation. Bonus! I dropped them a line and soon had that on the map. Or actually I couldn’t even find the town of Tena on the map, but Ecuador was right about Peru so how hard could it be.

42hours later my bus (with the locked bathroom) pulled into Quito. Have you ever experienced the need to pee so bad that you can’t… Let’s just say when I could finally see through the wall of water in my eyes, I was in love with the loos of Ecuador. At least the one in the daughter’s home of a lady I had met in Spanish class and who was kindly putting me up for a few days.

My two months at the refuge came with high highs and low lows. The first month was tough as I was the only new volunteer, all the others were girls averaging 21 and had Spanish as a common language. By now I think I could almost say my name and ask where the bathroom was. In short it soon became apparent I was back in highschool and … I still wasn’t popular. My amazing volunteer co ordinator, Sarah, took me aside and said “you can leave, or you can stay and it will change your life”. Who am I to argue with authority, I stayed and in that first month got through a good number of books and enjoyed my alone time since group time was in Spanish, which I was picking up quite well.

“Walking” a Monk Saki Monkey

The second month was much better, we had a new cycle of fresh blood, English became the common language, I was a senior volunteer (and ok I admit I love being the one who needs to teach others), and I discovered my gift for making cookies… That pretty much made me popular in high school! It was very hard to leave.

Beata Relaxing at Sunset

At the end of my time in the jungle I went to the ocean and saw blue footed boobies… again another thing that just makes me want to giggle.

The worst thing to come from Ecuador : Struggling with the volunteer dynamics that first month.

The best thing to come from Ecuador : Blue Footed Boobies!! Oh and discovering an inner strength.

A reason to return : Perhaps a chance to see the Galapogos.

Surprise Easter Visit

It turned out cheaper to fly back to the states and then to Australia rather than from Peru to Aus. So I found myself with 8days in the states. I decided to surprise my parents for Easter. Officially the best surprise I have ever pulled off. The first time they were ever speechless.

Australia

Australia and New Zealand were always on my list, part of the reason for this trip was to find a place I might want to live and since they were on the “most likely” list.

My first impression of Australia, especially after 3 months in South America, was “Oh shite!!! I can barely afford a coffee”. I was shocked at the prices and the Aussie dollar was stronger, of course that changed a few weeks after I left… I quickly worked out plans to mooch… I mean visit any friends and family I had, along with sorting work trade with hostels.

Yes my finger is down its throat


Forcefeeding Kookaburra at Currumbin Wildlife Center

Australia ended up being a country of many new experiences:
I attempted work trade at a farm that has now become known as the Looney Farm by all of us who were there.
I saw Koalas, Kangaroos, Platypus and many other strange and wonderful critters.
I saw friends I hadn’t seen in over 10yrs.
I shaved my head for charity.
I swam with manta rays.
I force fed Kookaburras.
I swam in a freezing lake.
It might have been expensive, but I have some amazing memories that are worth every penny.

Carolin and me!!


Carolin and Me on the Day I Shaved my Head for Charity

The worst thing to come from Australia: The cost.

The best thing to come from Australia: Shaving my head for charity.

A reason to come back: Friends and a little town called Coral Bay.

Tonga

I discovered this amazing organisation that spent a month on the island of Tonga every 3months running a vet clinic. I contacted them months before arriving and was super excited. Accommodation was included and there was no fee to volunteer. A great way to experience island life and do something good for the community.

This was a month of extremes, as it turned out there had been a misunderstanding and I went from being a vet nurse to designated pee/poop cleaner and coffee maker. But I had committed to a month and so I pushed through proving my skills on more than one occasion when they needed me to monitor during surgeries when no one else was available. I think one of the biggest problems was that I was there in the middle of a year long trip and to volunteer while reserving my finances, the others were there as a vacation and had money to spend.

My Favorite Puppy

At the same time I met some amazing people, locals and expats (including 4 South Africans, what are the odds) and got the chance to visit one of the outlying islands.

No Matter What, It Sure Was Pretty!

The worst thing to come from Tonga: My treatment by the other volunteers and the organisation.

The best thing to come from Tonga: Fulfilling my commitment and discovering an amazing culture.

A reason to go back: maybe for a vacation and not to volunteer.

I must admit I had a hard time finishing this post for some reason. So many things that go through my mind and writing this entry makes the journey complete. Luckily there are still many more to come.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Australia, Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Duendin, Lake Tekapo and Christchurch

22nd to 27th of October, 2011

Family

After my super cool flight in the cockpit of the Stewart Island Flights, followed by another long wait at the Information center for a bus, I arrived in Invercargill and looked lost. I was meeting family, my cousin’s dad and his wife. I had never met Marlene and only had a vague memory of Vic, so it proved to be interesting. Luckily there weren’t too many people and so I simply glanced around for 2 other people looking as lost as I was. It didn’t take long. They greeted me like an old friend and I was ushered into the car and told of the weekend plans.

Back at “home” I was shown to what can only be called my “wing” of the house, with a large double bed, a tv room and a bathroom with a MASSIVE tub, that has jets. I know what my plan for the evening is. I had some dinner and we watched the end of the Wales vs Australia game. Then bed time, well first long soak in bath followed by bed.

Dunedin Tour

The next morning after a yummy breakfast, Vic and I headed out for a bit of a tour of the peninsula. We went up to a great view point and he pointed the outline of the volcano crater that created the lake Dunedin now sits around.

Me and Uncle Vic

Lunch and a wander through the amazing botanical gardens completed the morning half of the tour. The Rhodedendrons were spectacular.

Rhodies

Then we drove around the lake to the peninsula and past the only castle in the Southern Hemisphere. We would have gone in but the cost was an arm and a leg so we skipped it. Back home along the water with a stop at the university, very beautiful grounds.

Dunedin Uni

My afternoon involved naps, blog and uploading photos, you can’t get much better than that while on the road.

Lammmmmbbbbb
We had planned to go out for dinner but instead decided to stay in have roast lamb and then watch a movie. I found it delicious but Marlene was disappointed that she hadn’t seasoned it properly, the cook is always the worst critic. The movie we got was 127hrs, about the young man who got trapped while hiking and had to cut off his own hand. The movie was really fantastic and except for 2 spots where we had to skip to the next scene as the DVD was scratched, all was good. Vic and Marlene now swear never to go back to that movie store as this has happened before.

Rugby World Cup 2011 Final

The main plan for sunday, other than packing, again, was to go over to some friends and watch the final of the rugby, New Zealand vs France. This was a repeat of 1987, the last time the All Blacks won the web ellis trophy, so tension was high. Most felt that France did not deserve to be in the final as they had lost 2 of their pool games, including one to Tonga, while NZ had won every game so far. Either way, France has a history of upsetting the Kiwis at vital games, so well people feel pretty assured that they will win, there is always the high possibility that the Frogs will wake up and suddenly wreck the home nations plans of victory.

Excitement was high and we all sat on the edge of our seats as the haka began. During the haka the frenchies got a bit of an attitude and crossed the imaginary line moving closer to the All Blacks, they were later fined for this act. In my opinion other teams should be allowed to face down the challenge.

From the start the game was tense and the frogs seemed to have found their stride as they were playing really well. The All Blacks were battling to keep up the pressure and missed quite a few kicks (to be fair so did the French). Nearing the last 15min the All Blacks were forced to send in a 4th string reserve, essentially the bottom of the barrel, everyone groaned until he converted a penalty that ultimately won the game for the team. I think he should just retire now as its not going to get any better.

While it wasn’t the fantastic win the nation hoped for, and some say the French deserved to win, it was a good tense game and the best team won. Go All Blacks. In any case ifthe French had won everyone would have said they didn’t deserve to even be in the final, so this way, its a win win, the French prove their worth and the Kiwis can stop whining about not having held the trophy for 24yrs.
See song on youtube:
24yrs waiting

Return to Magic

Early the following morning, I said farewell to everyone and Vic drove me to my next pick up point for the Magic Bus. I had two more journeys before the end and only 3more nights in NZ. Where has the time gone. Originally I had planned to go with Magic from Invercargill to Dunedin on their Catlins tour, they were even willing to give me a cheaper price as I was missing the first half. Unfortunately the tour only started in November and I was leaving the country before that.

As we headed out of Dunedin we made a stop at the world’s steepest street. Nope that doesn’t mean we flew to SF, cause it turns out that the steepest street is in this sleepy little University town.

Some of the others ran up but even just standing made you worked muscles you never knew you had. I am pretty certain they must be stranded if there is even a hint of snow or ice.

steepest st


Moeraki Boulders

We were told we were stopping to see large round boulders on the beach. Well that didn’t stimulate the enthusiasm but hey you never know. And they are officially the coolest boulders ever!!! They just seemed to “grow” out of the earth. At first glance you might think they are perfectly round drop stones from a glacier but on closer inspection you see they are not.

Moeraki Boulders


According to Wikipedia:
The Moeraki Boulders are concretions created by the cementation of the Paleocene mudstone of the Moeraki Formation, from which they have been exhumed by coastal erosion.

The main body of the boulders started forming in what was then marine mud, near the surface of the Paleocene sea floor. This is demonstrated by studies of their composition; specifically the magnesium and iron content, and stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon. Their spherical shape indicates that the source of calcium was mass diffusion, as opposed to fluid flow.

The larger boulders, 2 metres (6 feet) in diameter, are estimated to have taken 4 to 5.5 million years to grow while 10 to 50 metres (30 to 150 feet) of marine mud accumulated on the seafloor above them. After the concretions formed, large cracks known as septaria formed in them. Brown calcite, yellow calcite, and small amounts of dolomite and quartz progressively filled these cracks when a drop in sea level allowed fresh groundwater to flow through the mudstone enclosing them.

Lake Tekapo

We stopped at a couple of other lakes and such and were awestruck by the color of the water. Due to the copper sulfate in the rocks, the water is a stunning milky blue. It quite literally looks like someone has dyed the water. Getting into Lake Tekapo we stop first at a tiny little church on the far side of the “town”, or rather small collection of gift shops and restaurants.

tiny church on lakeside, about 100yrs old

We also visited a statue erected to honor collie dogs, who without their help the sheep farmers would never have been able to run their farms.

Finally we dropped all relative travelers off and made our final stop at Lake Tekapo Hostel. I was put in a 4 bed dorm while the others were put in a 6 bed, but it meant we all had bottom bunks.

Braai/BBQ time

When we stopped in Oamaru our fearless driver had picked up a few things for the BBQ. Only a very hungover scotsman, the driver and me were participating, but with $10 each we got a fair amount of meat and even a small thing of coleslaw.

Dinner time

The hostel had the sweetest cats and every now and then when a rabbit was killed (they are serious pests in New Zealand), the cats were given a treat. In truth I don’t think it knew what to do with it but it was awfully cute watching the reaction.

Weather issues

Had hoped to go horseriding, but the weather was downright foul and so spent most of the day writing and reading. Mailed a parcel and just chilled, always a good day when you can take time out, so it wasn’t a total loss. The walk to town was always fun as the wind blew so hard it nearly took me with it. The Magic bus arrived with a whole huge group all of which had put money in for the BBQ, so they had a downright royal feast, which left the rest of us drooling. They even had icecream. It also brought with it a pair of Dutch who seemed to have gone a bit sour our last meeting and did not seem enthused to see me. Oh well, I wasn’t enthused to see them either. There is always 1, or 2 in this case.

Off to Christchurch

My last morning in Tekapo and my last full day in New Zealand. Can’t believe it has been 2 mths and that tomorrow I would be heading to scuba diving!!!! The hostel cats seemed determined to claim my bags and were soon making themselves quite comfortable and using them as a playground.

Hostel Kitties

Arriving in Christchurch I checked into my hostel, Jailhouse. It used to be an old jail and the rooms are the actual cell. The only thing they had was a 10bed or a 2bed. The twin was double the price but it was my last night so I figured what the hell.

Jailhouse Hostel

Tattoo

I have always wanted a tattoo, but love the Maori designs and spirals (my favorite shape), and always promised myself if I ever got one it would be in New Zealand. Well I had barely 24hrs left in the country so figured I would go check it out. I had picked up a flyer 2mths before during my first visit to Christchurch and now I headed out to have a meeting with an artist. I had checked their website and asked around and they had a very good reputation. I hoped to chat and maybe even get a rough sketch of what the tattoo might look like.

I was super nervous walking to the store, but kept reminding myself of all the insane things I had already done, shaving my head, paragliding and so much more. Have always wanted one so this was the perfect time. At the office (which seemed a little small from what I was expecting with only one chair and artist). The manager, I think, sat to chat with me and just wrote down notes then said come in at 11am in the morning (note I needed to be at the airport at 1pm) and it would be no problem. I felt a little rushed and since we hadn’t even discussed price I asked the question. He immediately launched into how good they were and they charge a minimum of $200 even if it is just a tiny spider tattoo, mine would cost around $350. I gaped a bit and tried to look composed. Definately not in my budget, I was thinking $100 at the most. I didn’t even want to tell him that, as he continued to say how the days of $50 tattoos were over and how they are now works of art. Am sure they are, but $350 is another 2 days diving on the oil rig in Borneo… I asked about a small sketch and he said he would do me a deal and charge me $200 for that. I politely said thanks and I would think about it, stepped outside walked away and then almost gagged at the thought of that.

Was feeling a bit down as all the nerves I had had were now completely let down and I was feeling unbelievably exhausted. I had some korean food for lunch, which perked me up a little and got some passport photos for my Nepal Visa, then walked around before heading back to the hostel and collapsing in a heap. I felt like I had just run a marathon. Amazing how much disappointment can effect you.

Emily from England

After about a 2hr nap my new roommate showed up. I had hoped that I would not get a roommate and could spend my last night in New Zealand curled up in a ball sleeping and reading.

But Emily, who was just starting her trip in New Zealand, and I soon hit it off and were chatting about places she should go and things she should do. Then we headed out for a quiet dinner, not! She had stopped in at this small restaurant the night before and had ended up sharing a bottle of wine with the bartender. He was very happy to see her again and soon we were drinking jam jar cocktails and eating delicious pizza. While most bars have pool, this one had a putting range. It was a fantastic night, and I had a feeling that after 4 jam jars and something called Agua mixed with red bull, I might feel it in the morning. But may as well go out with a bang on your last night.

Emily and me


Agua (not water) and Red Bull shot

Farewell NZ

Last morning, feeling more than slightly rough, both of us consumed copious amounts of water and while Emily headed out to start her tour I headed out to the airport, to hopefully survive my 11hr flight to Malaysia. Why did I break my rule of no flying with a hangover… oh well at least it was fun.

I love NZ and hope to come back, have made some amazing friends and seen amazing places. Thanks to all those who helped me on this leg of my journey.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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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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