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Kaikoura to Nelson

30th September to 4th October 2011

Picton Pickups

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

Mmm Icecream

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

WWOOF

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

Stunning view

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

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

Sunset over Nelson

A weeding We Shall Go

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

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

Aussie Pride

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

Chloe and I having "breakfast"

Nelson the sunniest town in NZ…REALLY??

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

Return to Paradiso

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

Unpacking for Painting

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Start of the Southern Discovery with Magic

28th September 2011

Tremors

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

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

Christchurch to Kaikoura

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

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

Marg'


Co-Pilot Ross

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

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

Diets

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

Kaikoura

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

Fur seal in Kaikoura

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

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

Weather

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

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

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

Nic and Marg' on the way out of Kaikoura


Next stop Nelson!

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Franz Josef and Christchurch

25th and 26th September 2011

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

White Heron - good luck


Roto Mahinapua (lake Mahinapua)

Franz Josef

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

View from outside our hostel

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

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

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

The Glacier

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

The mountain the day of the hike

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

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

Guide giving intro, glacier in background

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

The closest I came

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

the switchbacks up to the glacier


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

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

Glacial Falls

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

Kiwi Center

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

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

Booking Tickets

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

Rugby

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

Andre, me, Lissy, Rune

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

Arthur’s Pass

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

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

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

Over Arthur's Pass

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

The glacial plain of Arthur's Pass


Kea

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

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


Beautiful limestone formations

Christchurch

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Picton and Nelson

22nd to 27th September 2011

Ferrying to the South

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

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

Leaving Welly town

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

Tip of the South Island


Picton

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

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

South Africa vs Namibia

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

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

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

To Kayak or Not to Kayak

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

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

Heading along the Queen Charlotte Highway

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

The bay

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

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

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

Change of Plans

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

Saturday Market

Saturday Markets and Tunic Dresses

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Wellington week 2…

…21st September 2011

Cocktail Parties!!

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

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

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

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

Great Dance Group


Old friends

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

Old Friends

The Beehive

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

The Beehive


Steps of Parliment

Dinner Party

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

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

Lissy and me


South Africa Dinner night

Molly Malones

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

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

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

Face Painting

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

Face Painting


Face Painting


Body Painting ??

South Africa vs Fiji

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

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

Dinner


Enthusiastic South African fans

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

Road Trip

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

Wine Tasting

It was a great day with great girls!

South Coast

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

SICK!

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

Cable Car

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

Me, Vouise and Andy


Wellington

Free Movie

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Wellington cont…

South African Cultural Fest

Went into town to enjoy the actual cultural festival, now that I had the right day. It turned out that South Africa was the only country doing a festival or having a hospitality center. I knew there was a reason I loved being South African….American.

South African and proud

There were numerous tents scattered around showing a host of art, food, treats and biltong!!! The Biltong tent was my first stop and oh boy was it good. There was also a stage with traditional dance and music.

Biltong defined: essentially a hunk of salted and spiced dired meat. And oh soooooo yummy!

I stopped into the High Comissioner’s tent where they were promoting tourism in SA. As I had time to kill over the next few weeks I offered my help if they needed it.

Emma showed up and I introduced her to biltong and a piece of droewors.

Simba the lion

Droewors defined: dried sausage. And just as yummy as biltong.

We got given free cupcakes


When Emma’s mom joined us I introduced them to Boerewors. I had hoped they would have pap, but they only had mashed potato. The boerewors was good but had turned a little dry.

Boerewors defined: directly translated to “Farmer’s Sausage”, a type of spiced sausage made with a good helping of coriander seeds.

The crowd at the Cultural Fest was electric and full of Springbok fever. It was an absolute blast and I couldn’t wait for day 2.

Springbok fever

Discount Tickets!

Afterwards Emma and I headed back over to the Ekhaya suite, I was sure that it was for everyone and wanted to check it out with someone. THis time there were far less business men and we were welcomed with open arms. There was free tea and coffee and free drinks. Lunch had just been served so we got some Lamb Curry and rice. The atmosphere was great and very relaxed. I chatted to a tour operator and when he found out I had no ticket for the SA vs Wales game he said he had an extra two and would sell them to me. Woohoo! Off the game I go and it also meant that Emma’s dad would get to go to a game. Robin, tour operator, actually sold me mine for only $50, half price, SWEET AS BRO!

Scottish Ceilidh

I had come across a posting for a Scottish Ceilidh (dance) that evening on the couchsurfing group page. Emma and I got dolled up, had to rifle through her wardrobe to find something, and then headed out for a great night. It was held by the local Scottish Society and was a hoot. A lot of old timers go there to meet and chat, but there were a few of us who danced. Emma got chosen by “Mr. Rainbowman”, who lets just say was a unique individual. But it was all in good fun. I got a chance to dance twice and the second dance nearly had me collapse, there was a whole lot of twirling and moving and the room was a tad on the warm side. It was fantastic and standing out in the cool night air after felt tremendous.

A fantastic end to a glorious day.

11th September – Game Day

Today was the South Africa vs Wales game and I headed into town to enjoy and even more electric feeling at the Cultural Fest than the day before. You would swear that Wellington had been invaded by South Africans, who apparently all shopped at the same store! It was fantastic, there were vans parked around with supportive slogans and flags, folks dressed in all kinds of team colors and much much more.

Bok Befok


I passed by the High Comissioners tent and Molyne came out to ask if I had got the message about volunteering. Turns out they had called the wrong number but I was more than happy to step in for a few hours. It was actually great fun and I got to chat to a lot of people from around the world interested in South Africa.

Just as Mike showed up Molyne returned. We wandered around the Cultural Fest taking in the sites and sounds and then headed to Ekhaya for lunch.

After lunch I picked up my ticket and then had to catch the train home to grab my stuff and drop off the other ticket. I did such a quick turn around that I had the same conductor on the train, much to his bemusement as I was now draped in flags and oozing springbok fever.

Mike, the welshman, and I met at Ekhaya for a drink. It was rather amusing watching the friendly rivalry between the Springboks supporters and Mike. We then headed to grab a pint of cider. As we were waiting to grab something, a couple of Saffers looked at me (barely reaching the bar) and made the comment “Would you like to stand up?”
Ha ha hadee ha. Got to love Saffer humor.

MIke (Wales) and me (South Africa)


As we grabbed a table and watched the game on I noticed someone had face paint to went over to ask if I could get my face painted. In the end I painted 2 guys faces and no one would paint mine. But they gave me the paint and I headed over to have Mike hold a mirror and paint my own. After I had finished, Mike painted the other side. As we basked in the glory of our masterpieces another Saffer walked past and said we had the red and blue on the wrong sides…Bugger

Self painting


Oops!

We attempted to remedy it but just made it worse so went and washed it off and started again. Much to Mike’s dismay as I was interrupting his drinking.

Me and my ticket!

The game was spectacular and very very close. Too close for comfort. Everyone assumed the Springboks would beat the Welsh by 20 points. The final score was 16/17 to South Africa. We just barely scraped through.
The best way to describe the game is through photos, so sit back and enjoy!

Waiting for Shuttle


Welsh Supporters


A very brave South African Supporter


We had great seats


A great time was had by all

It has to be some of the most fun I have had in a long time. And when the South African national Anthem came on, I couldn’t help but shed a tear at the patriotism around me.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Wellington/Rugby/Ekhaya – Days 219 onwards

8th September 2011 and more

The day after arriving, I pretty much did the following: sleep, movie, sleep! ‘Twas a good day!

Discovering a ‘Home away from Home’

Following my veg out day recovering from the overnight bus trip I headed into Wellington town itself. It was a Friday and I had heard about a South African Cultural Festival in the Civic Center. Hoping to discover some long missed South African delicacies I made my way there with much haste. Only to discover… nothing but sealed up tents. Popping into Tourist Info I was informed that the festival was only over the weekend. However, there was something going on at the Amora Hotel called the “Ekhaya Suite”.

Wandering over that way I discovered a very spiffy looking set up with important looking people. Apparently it was open to everyone, but it seemed way to formal. So I decided to head out and go to the Te Papa Museum and see if I could catch the Springbok team that was making an appearance.

“Ekhaya” means ‘home’ in Zulu. And within a couple of days that is exactly what this place became for me. My home away from home…with biltong

Meeting the Springboks

The Te Papa Museum is incredible and I could lost in there for hours. But I headed up to the 4th floor to see the Moari dance performance and hopefully get a chance to meet the team.

The performance was incredible. The group had just returned from touring Europe and I could see why. After a few dances they came into the crowd to let you try poi. These are light balls on short ropes that were traditional used to strengthen wrists, but now are part used in dances by women. It looks a lot easier than it is. I tried and almost tied myself up in knots. We also got the chance to try the haka, which was a great laugh.

Traditional Performance

At the end of the end of the performance you were in awe of the Maori culture and spirit.

Hier kom die bokke!

Finally it was time for the Springbok team to take the stage. We all eagerly formed a line, which then turned into 3 and finally into a slow moving mass. But I got to chat with some Irish and a Welsh guy named Mike. It took us almost an hour to get to the front of the line. I had worried that I had nothing for them to sign… well there is always something, but there were children present. But they handed out paper flags and so I was all set as I got to the stage. They are a lot bigger, even sitting down, than you think but full of smiles and even looking a little shy they happily signed and posed for pics. It was 3minutes of meeting compared to 1hr of waiting, but it was worth it. In line the Irish had asked me who was the best one to get a photo with, and I had to admit that I actually had no idea which was which.

Later that night when I called my folks to make my dad jealous over meeting them my dad asked: “Did you meet John Smit?”
“Which one is that?”
“The captain”
“Oh!”
“He was head boy of Pretoria boys high where I went to school”
“Oh!”
“Next time you meet him tell him I went there”
“Ummm ok”.

Who knows I might get to meet them again…

Bokke! Bokke Bokke!


Meeting the Springboks

After meeting the team, Mike and I wandered around the museum a bit, did the interactive Haka exhibit and went for a pint of cider.

Opening Game

Friday the 8th September was the much anticipated opening game for the Rugby World Cup, between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Tongan Ikhale Tahi teams. While I waited for everyone to arrive I enjoyed the Ukelele concert and the drumming group.

Emma, her dad and I had planned to watch it in the outside fanzone, but the weather turned cold and so we headed indoors to the town hall. I was concerned about a lack of atmosphere…but fear not, for as soon as the Tongan fans arrived it didn’t matter who was scoring, cause they cheered and sang regardless. By the end of the game you would sworn that Tonga had won by a landslide with the party atmosphere surrounding us. All in all it was a great way to start the world cup!

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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