New Year New Zealand
Trip Start Jun 07, 2008
22Trip End Jun 06, 2009
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Before I forget, I have uploaded my sky diving video to the "crawling and falling entry", for those who want to hear my terrible singing....no wonder they threw me out of the plane!
Ok, so I first have to apologise for being completely slack and not keeping you up to date with my travels. I'm now in Chile, but you'll have to wait to hear all about that! Promise not to keep you waiting so long for that one though!
I'm afraid that I haven't managed to upload all of my photos to accompany this entry. I will get the photos of the quad biking and wedding crashing (separate activities...lol) on here as soon as I find a computer which is not so hot on checking for viruses....yep, my memory card got sick!
So, now for the New Zealand stories and photos.....all 6 weeks of them. Suggest you make yourself a cuppa and get comfy....this could be a long one! Now where did I begin? I flew into Christchurch and spent a couple of days there, making great friends and pulling all-nighters on the balcony to watch the sun come up (becoming a bit of a habit and particularly easy to do in Chile, where you typically don't go out until 2.30am and party until dawn - feeling like a student again what with sleeping all day and partying all night....love it). I then headed to Lake Tekapo. This was my first encounter of the beauty that New Zealand was to behold. It was as if someone had drawn the place in pastels or chalk and I had jumped into the picture Mary Poppins styley.....the water was a blue I had never experienced before....there were snow capped mountains in the distance and fox gloves framed the picture. I could have stayed there forever. I soon discovered that this was only the start.....glaciers, lakes, and mountains galore! My one word for New Zealand...."Breathtaking!" or as the Kiwis like to say, "Sweet As".
I then headed to Mount Cook, but due to the temperate climate was hostel bound whilst the rain poured and the wind howled and I did not get to hike around the area....next time! Strangely though, 30 mins down the road they were basking in glorious sunshine. Mountain climates hey, who'd have them! I then hit Queenstown to hook up with the friends that I met in Christchurch and we partied the nights away. From here I headed to Te Anau and booked myself onto an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound...the lesser known and thankfully less popular big sister of the infamous Milford Sound, which is a third of the size of Doubtful and plagued by dozens of boats. It was well worth the extra bucks. There were 7 other fantastic people on board, plus 2 crew members. We sailed, we ate, we drank, we admired the dramatic scenery, we paid a visit to the seals, we caught our supper (I caught 12 sea perch in the space of an hour....not bad for a first timer hey!?), we traced out the constellations perfectly in the pitch black sky, we marveled over the dolphins first thing the next morning......what a trip! I honestly didn't think I'd be able to top it.....but I was wrong!
From Te Anau I went to Lake Wanaka just to pay a visit to the infamous cinema, with its homemade cookies, ice cream and sofa seating and I admired the view of Hugh Jackman in Australia for 3 hours.....phwoar! By 15th January I had arrived in Franz Josef, where the plan was to camp out until the weather was good enough to take a helicopter up onto the glacier. I booked for the morning of 16th Jan in good faith and was gutted when I awoke to heavy cloud cover...it was cancelled......BUT, I was told to return at 11.15am in case a meteorological miracle happened and the midday trip was allowed to go. The gods were smiling on us! We kitted up in really sexy gear and hit the helicopters....I still grin when I think back to the moment we saw the glacier...I have never seen anything like that before in my life. It was immense. The ice looked like beaten egg-white peaks, but with blue food colouring and it stretched as far as the eye could see.
After landing we had to tread very carefully before we got to put on our crampons (boot spikes) to give us grip. I can imagine this is what it felt like as a toddler taking my first steps...unsure of where to put my feet and not being in control of foot direction or braking. We went walkabout up here for about 2 hours and it was incredible. We witnessed 2 avalanches as well! Cool ay? Erm, I may have picked up a few Aussie sayings and a bit of a twang...but promise to get rid of it sharpish on my return! After Franz I quickly visited Punakaiki, with its Pancake Rocks and Blow Holes and then jumped on the Transcenic Alpine Train from Greymouth back to Christchurch, which was cool. Back in Christchurch I took a day trip to Akaroa and failed miserably at my attempt to swim with the Hector Dolphins...they didn't want to play. However, the dolphins in Kaikoura more than made up for it.
Kaikoura is marine life mecca. I went whale watching in a helicopter and spent 30 mins observing a 17m Sperm Whale and I got to swim with both seals and dolphins! AWESOME. The seals were hysterical and would hang upside down half a metre away from you, staring at you with their big wide eyes. I did get a little concerned though when I had one seal under the water, bearing his teeth and another on the surface barking at me...the guide assured me this was "normal" seal behaviour when I asked if they were being aggressive or playing.....hmmm, didn't quite answer my question! It didn't stop me doing acrobatics in the water trying to get their attention though and it paid off as I had one seal playing right in front of me. He formed a perfect circle, nose to tail and spun round and round in circles like a catherine wheel. Unfortunately he was so close that I couldn't even get a photo. I am still to develop my underwater camera. I really hope I have a couple of good shots...it's so difficult though as, with the dolphins, these creatures move so fast!
I had to drag myself out of bed at 4.30am for the dolphin swim, but man was it worth it! As the sun came up you could see the silhouettes of the dolphins in the distance. Dusky Dolphins are known for their acrobatics and they were leaping and spinning in their hundreds. The first time we got in water they managed to scare the living daylights out of me as these flashes of grey tore past me at a rate of knots. My god they are fast. I soon got used to it though. You would have laughed if you'd seen and heard me, singing the Adams Family theme tune, of all things, through my snorkel to try and attract their attention. It worked! I had numerous dolphins circling me, trying to "name that tune in 7". It was unbelievable. I gave up trying to photograph them though and just enjoyed the experience. It was phenomenal.
On my way up to Nelson I stopped in at Blenheim to sample the delights of the Marlborough region...well I decided it would be rude not to. I got to Nelson and chilled there for a while, awaiting the arrival of my new travel buddy. I think the gods were on holiday though the day I decided to check out Abel Tasman National Park. I booked myself onto a cruise & fly tour to really try and experience the coastline in all its glory, but the sun was not shining and my plan of basking on the golden beach, staring at the turquoise water was replaced by drinking red wine sat by a roaring open fire for 4 hours! Equally enjoyable though. The flight back was cool and from the air you could see the area's magical beauty.
Scottish, but oh so English sounding Dan and I met on the Heli-hike in Franz and somehow I managed to convince him that I was a necessary addition to his North Island road trip....I could see the pound signs halving in front of his eyes as he realised we were on similar schedules ;o) So, after a few more days in Nelson we hopped on over to Wellington, where we partied hard to an amazing live band in an Irish bar surrounded by 4 hen parties and then walked around the incredibly innovative Te Papa Museum the next morning in a hungover haze, trying to work out who stole the last hour of the previous night and what they did with it. The next day was spent in Martinborough, walking from vineyard to vineyard...seriously, it should be illegal to have that many wineries in walking distance to the town! What a day though....great wine....and I mean really great wine, great company and amazing food!
Good wine was soon to become the theme of the trip....together with the new Kings of Leon album, meat pies (particularly those from the BP garages...I totally recommend the Butter Chicken one, yum), instant noodles, hangovers and being asked for ID at all the supermarkets...RESULT, apparently I look under 25...whoop, not bad for a nearly 30 year old (8 days and counting...assuming you're reading this on 9th March). We hiked around Tongariro National Park for 5 hours one day....the views were pretty special and it was well worth pushing through the burn of the uphill climb. We parted company for a couple of days so that I could go to a Maori Cultural Evening in Rotorua and Black Water Rafting in Waitomo and Dan could go and visit a friend in New Plymouth.
The Black Water Rafting (a pretty extreme way of describing a leisurely float down an underground river on a big rubber ring in the dark) was sooooooooo cool. The tour lasted 5 hours in total and also involved abseiling into the cave, squeezing through minute gaps in the rocks, admiring the millions of glow worms and rock climbing back out again. It was so much fun. I was still buzzing when Dan picked me up and we set off up to Whangerei, so that Dan could meet his Canadian cousin, Jordan, for the first time. My god we had a great time with these guys. Within hours of arriving we were all wearing silly hats, doing Spangle shots (you suck on a lemon that is coated one side with ground coffee and the other with brown sugar and then do a shot of vodka) and rocking out to Singstar (karaoke for those not in the know). I really felt like I belonged here.
Somehow we managed to drag ourselves away for a few days and went off exploring the top end of the North Island, where we visited the spiritually significant Cape Reigna (where the 2 oceans meet), climbed the giant sand dunes, squeaked across the white sand silica beach and then went quad biking along the sea front and over the dunes of Ahipara. It was brilliant....I'll admit to it also being a little scary though as we each took it in turns to plummet over the edge of a sheer drop down a dune in 5th gear with no breaks....but, my god, what a buzz...better than any roller coaster I've been on. Going behind the guide with his supercharged quad had its drawbacks though....by the end of the 3 hours I felt like a budgie from all the sand in my teeth and was covered in sand stubble.....attractive.
My last night in New Zealand was spent back in Whangerei, where we crashed a wedding...well, Shelley (Jordan's girlfriend) had been invited, so Jordan, Dan and I decided we'd invite ourselves to the evening do (finally the stilettos I have been carrying around for 3 months come in handy). Nobody really noticed though...particularly as the bride was from Manchester and they assumed we were uni friends. The father of the bride was way too busy trying to chat me up to worry about the randoms helping themselves to his free bar. We bopped til we dropped, got a photo with the wedding party and finally passed out in the car at 4am....only to get up at 8am, drive back to Whangerei, shower, pack my stuff and get on a 2 hour bus to Auckland, before getting on the plane to Santiago.
I loved every second of New Zealand and I wish I could have stayed a bit longer. Leaving Dan and the clan in Whangerei was really tough and I'll admit to shedding a tear or two on the bus. Someone once said to me that you know it is nearing time to go home when you find saying goodbye to people too difficult. I think they may have been right!
So, that concludes the New Zealand entry.....the first installment of South America will follow in a few weeks when I have a little more to tell you other than what the nightlife in Santiago is like.
Love you all.