Category Archives: New Zealand

11 lessons I’ve learnt whilst travelling

We’re coming towards the end of our trip (NOOOOOO) with only seven weeks left until we fly from Bangkok to Gatwick. I’ve recently become reflective and I was thinking about the things I’ve learnt and decided to write a post about it before I’m sat at home on the sofa and I’ve forgotten everything. So here it is… Eleven lessons I’ve learnt whilst travelling.

1) Trust people

99% of people are kind and helpful. As I’m writing this, nothing bad has happened to us, so TOUCH WOOD… But we’ve had so many situations where people have been like “You’re going to Hiroshima? You’re on the wrong train! Get off quick!”
There was that time where we hitch-hiked in New Zealand and we’ve stayed in people’s houses we’ve never met before. When somebody says “I need to take your passport down to road to get your boat ticket,” just give them the passport!

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2) At the same time, be sensible and look after yourself

It’s important to look after your valuables, keep your wits about you and if you end up wandering around somewhere dodgy-looking at 3am, just get a taxi!

3) If someone invites you to do something, say yes

When someone I’ve just met asks me “do you want to play a drinking game?” Or “would you like to have dinner with me and my family?” My inner introvert panics at the thought of an impeding awkward situation and my instinct is always to make some kind of excuse. But I’ve learnt that you should always say yes, and good experiences always come out of it.

You’ll meet some amazing people who are equally as poor as you, and you’ll end up having a Box/chicken party It’s cheap!

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4) You’ll have crazy highs and a couple of crazy lows
Sometimes travelling feels like you’re in a happy musical. (No really, I literally twirled around and cried with happiness in New York and screamed when we saw the Hollywood sign.) And to balance life out, you’ll spend a few hours crying on the toilet because you’re so ill, and you’ll scream “what am I doing with my life??!!” in torrential downpour wondering why you’ve found yourself at the top of a slippy ladder in a pear tree.

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5) A smile goes a long way
There are places in the world where you’ll get hassled a lot. When it’s hot and you’ve got your backpack on it’s easy to get your feathers ruffled and want to yell “bugger off, I’ve been walking for half an hour and I can’t find my hostel!!!!!!” But I’ve learnt that to smile and say “no thank you” is the best way around it, and you won’t feel as stressed.

5) Living out of a bag gives you perspective about things
I’ve never been particularly materialistic and I’ve always preferred a good book over shoes, but living out of a 65litre rucksack for ten months gives you a good perspective on the stuff you don’t need. It took me a month or so to relearn what my face looks like without make up, but think I’m actually happier with less stuff. I feel calmer and less cluttered. Okay, so I totally didn’t have a meltdown when my favourite dress got a stain on it…. But yeah. Less is more when it comes to backpacking. Oh, and Kindles are one of the BEST things in the entire world. (That’s a sentence I never thought I’d say)

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6) You’ll also get perspective on stress an it’s effect on the body
Of all the places I’ve been, the ones with the fastest pace of life and visibly stressed people are America, Japan, and the good old United Kingdom. I honestly think we all work far too hard to save money for holidays and stuff we don’t need so we can forget about the rubbish climate. (Massive generalisation…I know. Maybe I’m just a summer person.)
When we’d been travelling for around a month, I felt the muscles in my jaw loosening. My eczema that I’ve had nearly all my life has completely disappeared and those paralysing migraines I get about once every six weeks? Well guess how many I’ve had in eight months?… One.
I’m not writing this to make anyone jealous, but as a reminder to my future self that stress is terrible for me, and I need to work on staying chilled. When I’ve figured out how to do that one I’ll let you know!

7) Travelling will change you in ways you don’t expect

Those of you who know me will know that I’m fairly easy-going but I am also a big worrier. I’m a little bit more relaxed now, mainly about travel situations. For example, I no longer check my passport a million times before boarding a plane. And if someone doesn’t give me my change straight away, I can just wait, knowing they’ll get it to me. I’m a more patient now, and less easily flustered.

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8) But mostly, you’ll stay the same.
I have chronic insomnia. I thought travelling would cure me, and dorm rooms would be a kind of therapy and I’d come home with the ability to sleep anywhere. Well, the truth is I still can’t sleep anywhere! I thoroughly believe there is a special place in hell reserved for people who snore and have sex in dorm rooms. Dorm rooms are my own kind of personal hell actually. One of the main things I miss about home is that I can get up and roam the house and play with my cats and make a cup of tea at anytime any hour of the night. Plus there’s always a comfy spot for me to go with my book. Whilst we’ve been away I’ve done a lot of reading on the toilet in the early hours so that I don’t wake Tom up!

9) Always go with your gut
If a person, or a situation gives you a bad feeling in your tummy, or if you find your trying to talk yourself into doing something… DON’T DO IT.

10) You will adapt to anything
When we arrived in Asia there weren’t any knives and forks. I’d used chopsticks before but found them fiddly and they made me eat incredibly slowly. Fast forward a week and I finished a plate of food and say “Oh! I didn’t even think about the chopsticks!” When we first went to Japan, the whole nude bathing thing terrified me. A week later I was strolling around naked happy as Larry.

11) push yourself, but also know your limits.
I can jump out of a plane at 15000ft

I can bungee jump off a bridge .
I will never drive a scooter/motorbike in Asia.
I will never go scuba diving.

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Never say never though. The scary things are the best challenges.

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Two final videos from NZ

Hello from Australia. It’s cloudy!! Bloody typical. Melbourne was cool though. Currently on the greyhound (aka swankiest bus ever) to Australia’s capital: Canberra. A certain someone totally didn’t realise the capital wasn’t Sydney until a few days ago… Hmmm. Anyway. I thought I’d use the albeit very slow bus wifi to share two videos from New Zealand. Here’s the first one, made by lovely Thomas:

 

And the the second was made by Kerry, showing our dolphin swim in Kaukoura.

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The Camping Chronicles: Part II

Here’s to tents flapping in the wind. To swimming in the sea because there’s no shower and watching baby ducks instead of facebook. To learning to speak German by playing cards by candle light. To airbeds and sleeping bags. To not looking in a mirror for three days and sleeping in all of your clothes. To sticking your head out of the tent to see the stars. Here’s to pasta and pesto, to kindles, and to spending thirty minutes boiling water for coffee before realising the gas canister is empty. Let’s hear it for eye masks, more sheep than people, finding forgotten chocolate santas, and cold beer. Here’s to laughter and hugs, shit weather in the summer, and drinking wine from a mug. Here’s to long walks. Here’s to jumping out of the ocean because you’ve seen a sting ray the same size as your tent. Here’s to pulling over at the side of the road to say hello to the seals. Here’s to good friends. Here’s to the bitter sweetness of homesickness. Here’s to a few days left before the plane journey. Here’s to joy.

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The Dolphin and Sick Encounter

After Christchurch, we headed to Kaikura for our much-anticipated dolphin swim. Kaikura, on the East coast of the South Island, is famous for its sealife and seafood.

For some reason, (I’m not sure who is responsible,) we had booked the 5.30am slot. Well actually, we booked it because this is the time when you’ll see the most dusky dolphins, as they’re heading out for their breakfast. This meant waking up at 4.15am, and packing up the tent. This was just as much fun as you can imagine it would be, and was made more enjoyable by trying to put a bikini on in the tent, in the dark. Breakfast was suggested, and I wasn’t at all hungry, but in hindsight, I’m very relived that I poked down a piece of toast….

We jumped in Simson the van, and headed to the Kaikura Dolphin Encounter Headquarters. (The venue also offers the more humorous sounding “Albatross Encounter” and intriguing “Cafe Encounter.”)
After filling out some health forms, me lying and saying I was competent at snorkelling, ho ho ho, we were ushered into the changing rooms and handed items of wetsuit, snorkels and flippers to wear.
Philine and I are both ridiculously tall so we found it absolutely hysterical trying to limber into a wetsuit designed for a much shorter person, ouch. We then sauntered sexily into the little cinema area where we all gathered and watched a briefing video. All seemed well, until at the end of the film when a staff member came through and uttered the fateful words:
“Okay! Great. We’ve been experiencing moderate swell and have had a few people suffering from sea sickness over the past few days, so I do hope you’ve all taken the appropriate medication. If not, we do have some ginger tablets for sale which might help.”
Tom and I looked at each other. We’re both hopeless when it comes to sea sickness, so I sent him off to get some ginger tablets with a great sense of foreboding.

We were all then ushered onto the bus that took us out to the water, where we boarded the boat. The boat took us out into the ocean, where we were scanning the waters for signs of the dusky dolphins. The sun was just coming up, and the boat was bopping all over the place in the waves. We saw lots of albatrosses, which were amazing. I’ve never seen them before; gigantic seagulls, about the size of a dog with a six foot wingspan. They were huge and fascinating. I loved watching them dive into the sea for their breakfasts, and how they just bobbed about on the waves, clearly completely unfazed by the “moderate swell.” We were then advised that once we’d swam, the blankets provided wouldn’t keep us warm if we didn’t get our wetsuits off first. I was like “well durrrrr” but little did I know…

The boat then let out a huge horn blast, signalling dolphins had been spotted and it was time to get in the water. I crammed my snorkel on, and whilst the lady was checking I’d fitted it properly, I saw dolphins doing backflips out of the water, it was so exciting! We made our way to the back of the boat and flopped into the water. It. Was. So. Fucking. Cold.

I stayed close to Tom. Everyone looks exactly the same with their wetsuit hat and snorkel on, but luckily Tom’s beard made him easier to identify. He had to put some vaseline in his moustache before we hit the water. I thought this was so his little face didn’t get cold, but it was actually to create a better seal with the snorkel. Haha.

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Anyway. We hit the water and there were dolphins everywhere. Hundreds and hundreds of them swimming around us, circling and leaping out of the water. It was at the same time completely amazing and completely overwhelming. I was shocked from the cold of the water and also panicked by the waves and the snorkel so I had a little hyperventilating episode and then sorted myself out. Once I had recovered, I put my head under the water and there were beautiful dolphins everywhere. I started to sing through my snorkel to them (don’t worry reader, I hadn’t gone completely insane, we had been advised that this would get their attention.)

As I sang, the dolphins came right up to me, looked me right in the eye, circled me a few times and then headed off. It was too awesome to put into words. As I raised my head I could see the little guys jumping around. They don’t just leap out of the water, they do full on summersaults and backflips, slapping down into the waves. It was absolutely incredible!! After a while, the dolphin pod lost interest in us mere humans and headed off for some more breakfast.
The horn on the boat went, signalling us to come back onboard. I made my way back to the boat, tried to pull myself up and then abruptly fell back off again which made Kerry laugh. There seems to be a running theme on this trip of humiliation every time I go near a snorkel! I had a bright red float with me, which made me look even more silly. Anyway, I finally got on and we headed off to find the next group of dolphins. I was feeling pretty panicked by the waves and the snorkel, but managed to calm myself a bit. All the while a creeping feeling of nausea came over me…

 

 

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(Looking a wee bit worse for wear…)

The horn blew again and off we went. More amazing dolphins, we must have seen at least 800 dolphins all together. I kept taking deep breaths and daring myself to put my head under the water. Every time I did, there were dolphins everywhere. Beautiful. Unfortunately my body began fighting the waves and I felt sicker until I was just clinging to my float, staring into the water telling myself “don’t be sick, don’t be sick, don’t be sick.”
Finally the horn blew, and I made my way back. Back on the ship I identified Philine sitting opposite me (not easy with those masks on) I slapped my way across to her in my flippers, clinging to anything to keep me upright. The boat was bopping and lurching so much. I heaved myself next to her saying “oh my god I feel soooooo sick.” to which Philine replied “I’ve just been sick three times in the sea.”

Hilarious.

Somehow Philine went out again, as did all the rest of the group except me and another English girl who was feeling ill. Then it happened.
I was very sick into a bucket. After a while, the crew member said “we’ve got one coming home!” I replied, “Does he have a beard? If he does it’s my one.” She said no.
Then everyone started coming back and the girl goes “Oh look, there’s the beard!” I saw Tom on the other side of the boat looking very sick and with a huge bogey hanging out of his nose. I said “yep! That one’s mine!” Anyway, to cut a long story short, the rest of the trip was spent violently being ill into a bucket. Tom was doing it. Philine was doing it. People were being sick everywhere. Luckily they had enough buckets for everyone.

Kerry, however, was absolutely fine, sat around, smiling at everyone and drinking chicken soup. To do him credit, he did manage to take some photos and videos, which is really lucky, as the rest of us were in no state to manage it. I felt so sick that I couldn’t get my wetsuit off, to get my clothes on and warmed up, and I couldn’t get back inside. Philine was in the same state so we just sat there shaking with the cold, head in buckets, rubbing eachothers backs and waiting for it to be over. I’ve never been so cold, or felt so ill in my entire life.

I was delighted to be on dry land. We decided to rename the morning from the “Dolphin Encounter” to the “Dolphin and Sick Encounter.” And a “moderate swell”?! I don’t even want to imagine what a “major swell” would have been like!
Travelling is a funny old thing. One moment you’re nearly crying in awe of these beautiful intelligent animals, and the next your body is up shit creek without a paddle. But I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

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Christchurch

After Omaru, we happily boarded our final intercity bus of the trip. The buses have been really easy, and cheap, but we were really bloody fed up of sitting on the bus by this point!

Christchurch was our destination. Having suffered two huge earthquakes, one in 2010 and another the following year, Christchurch is a shell of the city it once was. There’s not much there anymore, and it’s really sad to see. Loads of the buildings are now unsafe to enter, so they’re decaying and covered in graffiti. Some of the older churches remain, propped up by scaffolding, but most of the buildings have been demolished and then turned into carparks. So I guess it would have been handy if we had a car – plenty of places to park!

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We had another long slog to get to the hostel. This time in the rain. Luckily it was a nice one again – phew! We did some laundry, made some food and then fell asleep, totally knackered from seeing so many places and walking so far.

The next day was a lazy start – I love a relaxing morning when you’re not rushing to check out! We waited for the rain to stop, but it didn’t, so we headed out into the city. We walked past a lovely memorial – A church badly damaged in the first quake was rebuilding when it was destroyed by the second. Instead of starting again they decided to take 187 of the stones from the building (one for each person who died) and lay them out as a memorial pathway.
Next we found the cardboard cathedral. The original again fell in the earthquakes, so a Japanese designer made this one – complying to earthquake safety standards by 130% and made with cardboard pillars and a plastic roof. Despite not being huge, it seats over 700 and feels enormous, and so full of light.

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We then walked to the city square where another church is propped up with scaffolding and full of pigeons. All round the city is street art, which is really beautiful and gives the place a sense of optimism and hope for the slow but steady rebuild.

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One of the coolest places we saw was the Re:Build mall – a shopping area made using shipping containers.

We then headed back to the hostel and prepared for the arrival of ZE GERMANS!

Philine and Kerry arrived and it felt so good to see them! We headed to the supermarket and then had a few drinks in the campervan before heading out for a night out. We walked for what felt like an hour in the rain to several bars that were having private parties and then finally found an Irish bar that let us have a drink. We had been walking for so long that we decided to get some food (macdonalds of course) and then head home. We had to walk for about 45minutes again in the rain. (everything is so spread out in Christchurch) before finally seeing the golden arches.

It was closed. But the drive through was open. We tried going to the window and pretending to be in a car but the server was having none of it. He suggested that we call a taxi and get the cab to drive us round…. We were stumped…. And quite drunk… And very hungry…
We stood around moaning for ages and then a car pulled up and a man got out and walked towards us, speaking in sign language. As Tom’s mummy is a teacher of the deaf, Tom can speak sign language too, and quickly started conversing with the guy, and then said “okay, he says he’ll take me round if I do his order too!”

Tom Copley = my absolute hero. Turns out the guy was French, and it was his first day in New Zealand. It was an awesome, yet very surreal moment. We all found it absolutely hilarious that in order to get a Macdonalds when you’re drunk in Christchurch, you have to be able to speak sign language to a deaf French man. Challenge accepted!

Philine and Kerry slept in their van parked on the street outside the hostel. We were very relieved to find them still there in the morning, and after a bit of recovery, we were on the road to Kaikura.

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Queenstown, brothers, bungee jumps and paradise.

This post should have come before Omaru and Dunedin – I’m confused and trying to catch up whilst we have wifi. Sorry! Scroll down after this post and you’ll find the other entry. Xx

Our favourite Darth Vader breathing bus driver took us to Queenstown. We checked in at possibly the worst hostel of the trip so far. The only redeeming quality was that we had a room to ourselves, but it stank, sheets were dirty, kitchen was too grim Tto cook in and I got woken up by people loudly having sex in the disgusting communal bathroom, having lost one of my treasured ear plugs. And moving swiftly on….

Queenstown was so cool! It’s basically loads of nice shops and bars at the base of a huge lake with a nice beach. There’s lots to do and lots to see. We wandered the town, and then dropped into a tourist info office to book our bungee jump for the following day… Another activity that I forced Tom into doing. Poor soul.
We had the choice between a 43m jump off a bridge, or the ‘Nevis’ – 130m ish jump off a purpose built platform. Having seen a video of a fellow traveller doing the Nevis, we decided to go for the bridge – the Nevis looks bloody terrifying! The woman at the office also told us that we could jump together off the bridge, which made it seem less scary, and we could continue on the theme of “if we die, we die together.”

After that we went back to the hostel from hell and started watching “Jaws” on the laptop. I’m not sure why. Good film though. Then we popped out to meet Fabian again for a drink in his lovely hostel (more than slightly green-eyed) and then headed back home to bed.

The following morning was the day of the bungee!! We headed to the bungee office, and checked in. We mentioned that we wanted to jump together and the woman eyed us suspiciously, saying our weights needed to be within 30kgs of each other, and she wasn’t sure if they were. I found this absolutely hilarious because she clearly thought Tom was a right fat bastard because we were only 16kgs apart in the end! She then took a big green pen and wrote our bus number on our hands. I think she did this so that if you change your mind and run out in the street they can chase after you and force you onto the correct bus. We had a long sweaty-handed wait. The toilets were absolutely packed with people doing what you imagine people do when they’re terrified…

We then embarked on a twenty minute scenic drive to the Kawarau bridge. We didn’t appreciate this drive because we were panicking. We went into the centre to check in again and be weighed again. This time they write your weight on your hand in big red numbers. I spent most of the wait shuffling around embarrassed with my hand in one pocket. It didn’t help that there were loads of miniature Asian women who weighed like 50kgs. Felt like a right heffer!!
We then decided to go onto the bridge and see what we were in for. This made Tom panic more and me panic less. The river below the bridge was a stunning turquoise colour, and I realised that if my bungee snapped I’d just go for a swim!

Kawarau Bridge is where the world’s first commercial bungee jump took place. The originators took note of the Vanuatuan land jumpers (Karl pilkington hahaha) and made their own version in New Zealand.
The best thing about the whole operation is that when you’ve done a few bounces, two blokes in an inflatable boat come out into the river with a big stick to pull you down onto the boat and undo your bungy. For some reason I thought this was absolutely hilarious and I think I may have found my dream job!!

So on and on we waited, until we were finally re-weighed and then put our harnesses on. The instructed demonstrated how we would hold on with our arms around each other and under no circumstances were we to let go. I imagine if you let go you would be like a pair of conkers or something. We sat down near the edge of the platform and had a towel wrapped around our legs and tied together then attached to the bungy. You can see all this in the video. We then stood up and shuffle shuffle shuffled to the edge of the jump. (Very hard when your legs are tightly strapped together.) looking over the edge was terrifying. That was the scariest bit. We were told not to jump, but just to lean forward. We started to lean and then we

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And did some bounces. It felt like when your car goes over an unexpected bump in the road, but multiplied by 1000. Tom’s fingers touched the water and splashed me. Then on the bounce back I’d forgotten to keep my head down (I always do this on roller coasters) and my head flopped about a bit. Idiot. Then we did a few more bounces and all of a sudden the boat with the big stick was coming to get us. Hehehe. We have more photos and video evidence. But as I said, wifi is shocking.

So we were done! I’m so glad we did it. And in the best place in the world too. We hopped back on the bus to Queenstown, eager to get there because we were due to be meeting up with Tom’s brother Billy and his mates.
It was a gorgeous day and we were enjoying wandering the town and the feeling of having survived death. We walked along the beach, then headed to the supermarket when we get a text from Billy saying “we’re on the beach, come meet us!”

So we must have walked right past them. How funny! Tom crept up behind Billy and wrestled him. It was really good to catch up and it felt completely surreal yet completely normal! We went out for a few drinks that evening and Billy’s lot went on a bar crawl concluding with a 5am swim in the lake. I think I’m getting old…

The next day we were up early for the 7am bus to Milford Sound. Guess who was driving?? You guessed it! Deep breathing Vader bus driver of course!
The bus had a glass roof and I couldn’t figure out the point of it until we got closer to fjordland and the mountains got bigger and bigger until you could only see the tops of them through the bus ceiling. The scenery was incredible. We came through a mountain tunnel into a valley area where we were surrounded by enormous stone mountains. On the return journey it was raining, and there were waterfalls coming down all the mountain sides. The scenes we saw are so hard to put into words and photos don’t do then justice. It was a long journey, but probably the best bus journey I’ve been on.

When we reached Milford Sound, we left Billy and co, who were staying in the village. We headed onto a cruise boat to see the sounds from the water. I was a little apprehensive about this, but the boat wasn’t very big and there was a buffet which we didn’t pay for which kept most of the annoying people busy whilst we were out on deck in the wind. Author of the Jungle Book, Rudiard Kipling described Milford Sound as “the eighth natural wonder of the world,” and you can see why. The scale of the mountains was insane. We had a cloudy day but it made it really atmospheric. We stopped at one point to see a big seal colony. The seals are nocturnal and they were all so sleepy and funny during the daytime.

Milford Sound is definitely one of my favourite places in New Zealand, and our trip so far. It was absolutely stunning, and even in the height of the busiest season it still feels so untouched. I’m so lucky lucky lucky

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Dunedin and Omaru, or, beer and Penguins.

Dunedin and Omaru

Well. There are several towns in the South Island that don’t even have electricity yet, so it isn’t all that surprising that the wifi is pretty scant here. Or rather, the free wifi is pretty scant haha.

We’re currently travelling with Philine and Kerry in their campervan, and camping each night in our tent. I’m a convert! We treated ourselves to an airbed and an extra sleeping bag, so we’re no longer sharing, and it’s soooo much better. Happy Heppy.

Anyway, I digress. I have some catching up to do.

After Queenstown we headed back onto the bus to Dunedin, the so called “Edinburgh” of New Zealand. I couldn’t really see the Scottish influence, but it’s due to the Scottish people who settled there that it got its name. Can you believe that it took the original settlers three months to get to New Zealand by boat? Mental. What if you got there and were like “oh I don’t really like it, can we go home?”

Our hostel in Dunedin was so lovely. Such a nice change from the shit hole we stayed in in Queenstown. It’s weird that you can never tell what a hostel will be like before you arrive. I never have high expectations. But this place was great – lots of space, big clean bathrooms, and Tom was delighted that they offered free breakfast including vegemite!

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The weather was pretty rubbish – cold and wet. But we wandered the town, checked out the museum, bought camping supplies, then saw that cinema tickets were ten dollars (five quid) so booked tickets to see The Revenant that evening. Tom really wanted to go on a Brewery tour, but it was fully booked so he settled to go for a tasting session instead. As we were walking to the pub, we bumped into Max and Mathilde – the French couple that we worked and lived with for a few weeks in Hastings. They came for a drink with us and it was great to catch up. It felt so surreal to bump into people we knew!
The film was great, really harrowing, but a brilliant story. We were in Dunedin for less than 24 hours, but I felt we gave it a good go!

The next day we walked bloody miles to the bus depot to go to Omaru. After the bus we then we walked another hour with our backpacks on to find our hostel. Absolutely shattered we found the hostel, which was another nice one – lucky us. Then after a bit of food, a recharge and a good bash on the hostel piano/ukulele/guitar we walked back into town (we did well over our 10,000 steps that day!)

We found a brewery and Tom did another taster…

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Well someone looks happy…

We then went to the beach to see the penguins. I won’t go into too much detail, because I know a certain someone who might be reading this (hi Mum!) might be very jealous. But we saw lots of tiny blue penguins coming up the beach to go to bed. They were so lovely! There were seals on the beach too, who barked at the penguins when they got too close and disrupted their beauty sleep. We were seated in stands in order to see the penguins and surrounded by a Chinese tour group who kept standing up so we couldn’t see. You can imagine how annoying this was… they also talked very loudly through the English commentary despite our being silent in the Mandarin section. After a few minutes of being British and not saying anything I’d decided I’d had enough and very loudly whispered “SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!!!!!” (quiet enough to not startle the penguins but loud enough to get the point across.)

We were so charmed by the little penguins. After we left the colony, there were special penguin assistants in high vis jackets who stopped the traffic to let any straggler penguins cross the road. (Mum, I think this might be your dream job?) We then walked another hour back to the hostel.

 

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(You couldn’t take photos in the colony, but I got this snap of the little guys crossing the road.)

The next day it was pissing it down and we had 5 hours to kill after check out time and before the bus, plus we had our huge bags so we couldn’t visit the shops. So what was the answer? Macdonalds. The only place where it’s acceptable to sit for five hours rinsing the free wifi and buying only two hot chocolates. We did manage to apply for our Australian visas whilst we were there. I’ve never spent so much time in Burger King and Macdonalds before this trip. It’s terrible, but cheap and the wifi is free. 😀

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Wanakabakpakawanakabakpaka

So I’ve got a bit of catching up to do. I’m blaming this on terrible wifi not laziness, but in truth it’s been a combination of the two.

After glacier country, we got back on the bus and headed to Wanaka. We had a really huge bus driver who could barely fit up the aisle of the coach. He kept leaving his microphone on and deep breathing/coughing into it for the entire journey. But for me, the highlight of the journey was when he did an emergency stop at a roundabout and exclaimed “crikey tits!”

Wanaka is a small town at the base of a big blue lake. There’s really not much to do there, and we’d booked three nights in the hostel. We were back to dorm rooms, all blokes (standard) but I was just delighted to have a bed to sleep in, and a lot of sleep to catch up on post-camping extravaganza. I’ve also discovered ear plugs. God send. The hostel was small, but so friendly, and we actually had a great time and met some really nice people.

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Above is the most photographed tree in New Zealand – can you see why?

On our first day we did very little. Wandered the town and then did some shopping and cooking. On the way to the supermarket I had my eyes glued to a bookshop window (standard) and Tom suddenly spun round on the spot, staring at someone who’d just passed us. He said “Oh my god I think that was Richie McCaw!” A kiwi guy walking towards us confirmed “yep, that’s our Richie!”
For those of you who don’t know, McCaw was the captain of the All Blacks – taking the rugby team to victory last season, and possibly the biggest NZ celebrity. Typical kiwi style, he just wandered the streets, respectfully being left to his own business.

The next day was pretty much the same. In the evening we met up with Ernest, our lovely fruit thinning friend, who happened to be in Wanaka. When I went to hug him, I hadn’t realised that I’d dropped half an icecream down my front so I awkwardly covered him in chocolate which was embarrassing. It was great to catch up and see how he’s getting on. Ernest was staying at a backpacker’s hostel called Wanaka Bakpaka. Isn’t that just the best name ever?! I kept muttering it to myself “wanakabakpakawanakabakpaka”until I felt more crazy than usual.

The next day we tackled Mount Iron along with Fabian, who we’d met in the hostel. It wasn’t too much of a challenge – 45mins up hill but it was pretty hot so we worked up a bit of a sweat. Good views from the top too. Again, fairly chilled day as there is sod all to do there if you don’t have a car to see the area, and don’t fancy spending a small fortune in the restaurants.

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The next day we had a long wait for the bus, but we spent it on the beach so that was gooood. And guess who was waiting to take us on the bus to Queenstown? Our favourite deep-breathing bus driver!

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The Camping Chronicles

DISCLAIMER: No photos in this post due to rubbish wifi. Apologies.

After Abel Tasman, we continued our camping extravaganza with a trip to Westport. We only really went to Westport on the way to the glaciers because I had a strop and told Tom that I wasn’t happy doing a ten hour coach journey on a vehicle with no toilet.

So we jumped off the bus at Westport. It was a town that looked a bit like the Wild West. The best thing about Westport is that you don’t need to look before crossing the road because there’s NO ONE THERE. We plodded to our campsite, or rather, “holiday park,” which was a bit like redneck America. Oh well. There was a good barbeque area at least, so Tom was pleased. The weather was fine on the first night, but I didn’t sleep anyway. Thanks body.

We “awoke” to rain. Rain rain rain. Rain that lasted all day. As there was nothing to do in the town, we stayed put and dry in the TV room and had an internet day. By the time it came to going to bed, it had been raining none stop for well over twelve hours and showed no sign of stopping. We leapt over the puddles around our tent and tentatively stuck our heads through the door flap. It looked rather the same as outside; puddles everywhere, but with the addition of water running down the walls. Luckily we’d had the foresight to keep our valuables with us, so they were all okay, but everything else was pretty drenched. We tried to mop up the damage for a while, then decided it was hopeless, and went to see the manager to see if they had any cabins available that we could stay in.

They were all full, but the kind woman said “if it gets really bad, just go and sleep in the TV room.” We went back to the tent, and after a few minutes of discussing what constituted “really bad,” we made the decision to go inside. Everyone else on the site was sleeping in vans/cabins/their cars, except for a kiwi teenager, who joined our little sleepover. I muttered to Tom “if he is a snorer, I’ll kill him.” And guess what… He snored.

The next day, we were more than happy to pack away our completely sodden tent, and get back on the bus. Seven hours later (I caught up on a lot of sleep on board,) we arrived at the campsite by Franz Josef Glacier. We erected (hehe) the tent and left it out to dry, and then walked half an hour into town to go to the supermarket for some supplies. When we returned, we did some washing, which was a relief as I’d been in the same clothes for THREE DAYS and then went to bed.

That night was bloody perishing! I couldn’t sleep for the cold, any body part that came loose of our shared sleeping bag immediately went numb. Anyway. Let’s just say that I still wasn’t a camping convert. I was delighted to watch the sun come up through the tent wall, what a relief. We got booted up and headed out to do the Franz Josef Glacier valley walk.

For most people visiting New Zealand, this is 1.5hour round trip, but as we had to walk at least an hour to get to the carpark where the walk started, it was more of a day trip. We were quickly beginning to realise that we are in a big minority travelling by bus and foot. When we check in at most places, they ask for your car registration and then look at you like you’ve got two heads when you say you don’t have one. That sounds like a rant, but I actually really enjoyed extending the walk and taking more time to look at the beautiful scenery.

The mountains are huge, and jungle covered. We really enjoyed the walk to the carpark through the rainforest, listening to the crazy birdsong. I sometimes feel like I’m at home in the lakes, but then I see some kind of crazy tree that I’ve never seen before, or I’m stopped in my tracks transfixed by a weird bird. The path to the glacier was rocky, but rewarding when we got to the top. Seeing a glacier that is retreating feels special. I know that if I return to New Zealand it won’t look the same, or might not even be there at all.

In the afternoon we went to the “Glacier Hot Pools,” which we’d managed to book cheaply online. The three pools of different temperatures felt great after a long day’s walk, and it was a really relaxing treat! We returned to our campsite tired, and ready for a rest. Having hired some wool blankets I was feeling more positive, but alas, still frozen, so no sleep. Thank god for coffee!!

The next day we went on a kayak trip across Lake Mapourika at the base of the glacier. In doing this, we realised how lucky we’ve been having grown up in the Lake District or spending a lot of time in the lochs of Scotland. The lake seemed a bit small and poxy compared to Windermere/ Loch Goil. Tom was in charge of steering the two man canoe, and took great pleasure in deliberately crashing us into the other members of the group and then pretending to apologise profusely, which was absolutely hilarious at first but then got a bit awkward when people were getting pissed off with us. At one point we hit the side of a German couple and steered them completely the wrong way and nearly beached them. I was laughing so much, and it only got funnier the more pissed off they got. We saw a rare white heron, which was cool. Then we went on this little detour down a river track. When we had to turn to go back the way we came, we embarked on an Austin Powers style 30 point turn whilst everyone waited for us. I don’t think we were very popular…

We got a lift back to the town and waited for the bus. It was late. Tom checked his phone to discover we had a text: the bus was delayed due to a mechanical issue and would be an hour and 45 mins late. Bummer. Whilst we waited we enjoyed using the most hilarious public toilets: you press a button to open the door and then a recorded voice proclaims “welcome to the toilet! Door will automatically open in ten minutes!” and then some light piano jazz started playing. I’m glad there was a toilet in there because I probably would have wet myself laughing if there wasn’t.

We waited and waited for the bus, and then a bloke in an official looking uniform jumped out of his car saying “hey, are you heading to Fox Glacier? Need a ride?” – turns out he was a bus driver from another company, who when heading home after his shift always heads past the bus stop to see if anyone needs a lift. He was so kind, and dropped us directly at the campsite, which was a massive help. Everyone we’ve come across in New Zealand has been so friendly to us with our huge backpacks. 🙂

We pitched the tent, and then went to hire some kind of blanket from reception and were given a double duvet each! I was in heaven and actually slept well for the first time in over a week. It was so nice to finally be warm enough! Waking refreshed, we headed off to do the valley walk at Fox Glacier.

More stunning scenery that almost made it impossible to not look longingly after the people driving to the car park at the beginning of the walk. Fox Glacier had fewer people, and was actually even more impressive than Franz Josef. The final ascent was steep, and covered with warning signs saying “no stopping” due to the hazard of rockfalls. After our picnic at the top, we began the descent and came across a family surrounding the grandma, who had fallen and cut her head open. There was so much blood everywhere, all down her face and top. Luckily she was conscious! Tom legged it back up the hill, to where we’d seen a guide and sent her down to help. We then carried on our way because there wasn’t much we could do to help. Seeing the accident shook me up a bit. You always forget that an easy-seeming walk is often more dangerous than it looks, and we’re only flesh and blood after all. We returned to the campsite and watched Harry Potter on the telly, and ate chocolate which cheered me up!

So that was me done, I’d seen some of the most beautiful sights ever, survived six nights in a row of camping, and found myself almost looking forward to a dorm room!

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