Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A 1000 Waterfalls and the South Island.

Arriving in to Christchurch was easily done, hour long flight watching Walking Dead and we arrived and collected the rental car before our usual trick of heading straight off to pastures new. (Christchurch would have been new but heh onwards).
Our first stop  was the scenic Lake Tekapo, nestled with a backdrop to Mt.Cook (this is what the guidebook says) (see photo for yourselves). This was our first camping stop in the whole of New Zealand, and incidently also the last time, money well spent; Stones money. It was pretty damn cold, however we survived fed some ducks and headed off to Queenstown, via Cromwell.
Lake Tekapo

Feeding Ducks
Queenstown is the Cuzco of New Zealand. It is a bubble itself of partying, stunning scenery and backpackers. Due to our preferred Milford Sound trip being fully booked we had a full five days in Queenstown. Money restraints limited certain activities that are usually enjoyed (Jetboating, Bungee, Luge etc) we skipped most of these activities as also having done them before in the north. Always can be done on a return trip. In Queenstown we did however get involved with hostel events, including an amazing race which held dubious victors but the winning tab was shared and we received free stuff/food just for partaking, bbq on the green and a cancelled beach party. In honour of ‘movember’ of which we are all partaking a local bar has cheap deals (as-well as everywhere else). I also had far too many Fergburgers, which I had been told to indulge in, as usual a good tip.
Eventually Sunday came around and forcing ourselves out we went to the rainy day tour of Milford ‘Sound’ technically it’s a Fiord. Time for a related joke; “My friend is so dumb they thought ‘Milford/Plymouth Sound’ actually was a noise”. Due to the rain the mountain sides literally turned in to 1000s of Waterfalls, Milford was also breathtaking with aforementioned waterfalls cascading in to its depths, we had an amazing buffet on the boat and due to the wet indulged in the free tea. The underwater part of the tour was actually rather dull and if done again would not bother with.
Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu

Milford Sound

A 1000 Waterfalls

On Mondinium the plan was to head for Wanaka, which is billed as ‘like Queenstown but nicer cause its quiter’ but as all the activities were outdoor related and it was raining a monsoon outside we checked the weather and decided to head for Fran Josef Glaicer so as to hike it in what was billed as better weather the next day.
Franz Josef is a minute town set in forests on the west coast, we did make it for a walk to the Glacier inbetween rain showers avoiding it, creating yet more waterfalls. The walk itself is along the riverbed which ‘could flood at any moment’ was the best part of this experience, the Glacier itself being slightly disappointing as it is kind of small and dirty. The Colombia Ice field(Canada) is much better if you want to go Glacier spotting.
Walking in the 'Riverbed'

Franz Josef Glacier
We stopped off in Queenstown on the way back for another night of fun, Stones (jokily) agreed to ban himself from the Casino and we enjoyed the movember happy hour before eating Japanese and Sake Bombs. I forgot how much I love Ramen. Rest of the night was rather boring, perused a few places I hadn't been and went to sleep due to an early-ish start. Next stop was Dunedin; (gaelic for Edinburgh) and obviously the scottish part. We had a quiet night formulating plans and relaxing, however we were almost screwed for accomodation as Elton Jon was playing the friday night and so all hostels were booked. We did however find a floor in what appeared to be an old decrepid 70's bar/disco with dodgy owner to boot. However it was a pretty good set up. We having sorted a bed set off to find 'the Worlds Steepest Hill', skeptical we were impressed by its incline, however I still believe Marlborough Hill is steeper. Then celebrated are ascension by having a tasty pizza and cheap beer. In the evening we went beer tasting which was fun as usual and followed this with a curry (how british). 
Knowing we had a long drive we attempted to set off early and attempted to spot penguins along the way... however the best laid plans never come to fruition. At all the 'official' Penguin spots/reserves you had to pay an extortionate fee of about $50 and obviously we refused. At the free sites we only managed to see about a  million Sea Gulls and some seals. We had been told to visit 'Moeraki Boulders' as if they were the greatest of all sites in New Zealand. They were not. This is not to say we didn't have fun on this trip, just disappointed to have not found the Penguins. The great thing about having a car is we can go anywhere at a whim, this includes sights or just places with funny names, for instance we drove past a "Shag Point" at chose to visit this due to its comical name. (For those who are interested a 'Shag' is a bird, similar to a Cormorant). When it was late we still made a decision to push on to a hostel in Akaroa despite having none booked, however we lucked out and found pretty much my favourite hostel of all New Zealand, perhaps so far. Careless not planning wins out again!
Steepest Street

Elusive Penguins and Albatross

Beer Can

Moeraki Boulders
Akaroa, as previously stated this hostel was amazing. Set in the hills of the Banks Peninsula, an amazing location. We took pretty much the only spaces left, me in a dorm and Welsh and Stones in a Caravan, a true camping holiday experience. The next night we moved to what they call the 'Stargazers', cabins in the campground with sheets of glass so you can look at the stars while you slept - this has easily been one of my favourite places to sleep. It also encouraged me to wonder if I have slept outside at all on my travels, took me a while to remember that I have, on the Voyage from Panama to Colombia. Final 'proper' morning we made eggs and had a lie in knowing the next two would be early starts. In the day time we visited Okains Bay, a nice secluded beach with very few people. It was like everything else in the Banks Peninsula, stunning. We swam in the Pacific for what is probably the last time on this trip, a good farewell, I should add we actually ran in to the sea naked (cause were crazy Europeans Nila ;) ) and as usual; Stoney watched.
Bird at Onuku

Yachts in the bay

My Stargazer

Okains Beach
We drove off to Christchurch at 8am to return the car before spending the day wandering around the rubble caused by the earthquake and meandering before spending the night in the airport due to a 4am check-in.
Red Zone Barrier

Collapsed Church
NZ is now over and it has been fun, albeit quite rushed from time to time. The downs have included hostels, People and the prices. However it has more than made up with for this with stunning scenery, a few hidden gems of hostels and of course nice peoples generosity. I don't think I would travel in NZ again but I definitely would return. Once again time to up an leave, 3 days in Australia before hitting Asia again, one last time. As usual the summary picture that summarises both nothing and everything.
Lakes, Mountains and snow.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Heading West to go East - The Land of the Long White Cloud

Qantas being useless and deciding to cancel all flights the day before my flight put me in a spot, luckily my ‘Qantas’ flight is actually a joint venture and run by Lan Chile who are not on strike or incompetent. I flew west, ended up in the east, I left on a Saturday and arrived on a Monday at the good old time of 6am minus my stick(which they lost but is now found). Welshie eventually found me at the airport and we set off to our current housing to wake stoney up. Shockingly he was awake.

We eventually went to the hostel but so annoyed with the lack of service, closing the bar on Halloween for a 'staff' party' and other complaints we returned to the free house we had available and drank beers in the hot tub. Not bad start although the shitty hostels will become a theme (more later). Next day we collected the rental car and drove off to Raglan. Raglan is a pleasantly small town on the west coast, a surf capital. The weather not being great and it being cold, we settled for Skim boards rather than full surf boards and headed to the beach. In the evening we chilled with other hostel members in the hot tub and socialised till Jet lag and guitar playing canadians bored me to sleep. After a morning jaunt of Kayaking across the estuary we set off for Hamilton and Mata Mata visiting Bridal Veil Falls on the way.

Hamilton being the home of Hobbits, right next to the shire. In Matamata we stayed with Welsh's dad old friend where we drank copious amounts of lovely red wine and rested before heading to Rotorua for Zorbing, Luge and Polynesian Spa treatment. All of which were awesome, and mostly involved making our ways down hills in various methods (except the spa obviously). Rotorua itself stinks of sulphur due to all the hot springs. After this we headed to Taupo, adventure capital of the north where we went out in the hostel bar, stones disappeared and then we went Bungy jumping into the Waikato river before some more natural hot springs in the river itself..

After Taupo we went to New Plymouth, which is even worse than old Plymouth cept a nice coast line. We hit Inglewood for another old friend visit. Whanganui followed but failed to sort us with the main reason to visit, we did however go up an underground eleveator and climb a couple of towers before shooting off to Wellington to see my cousin Doug, his wife and twin sons. They live in an area called Island Bay with a house over looking the south coast, which was awesome.

In Wellington we went to a few sites, museums and enjoyed the sunshine by drinking cider by the seafront. A rather casual night out followed in the hostel. We left Wellington and ended up heading to Napier for a few days, a change of pace, up till now we had only spent at most two nights in a location. In Napier we took turns on who would drive while going wine tasting, which was awesome. We went out on the saturday, Cider & beer tasting followed by games followed by pool party followed by clubbing. I may have gone in the pool without my clothes. After Napier we went to Mount Manganui where we climbed aforementioned Mount where Stoney struggled and then chilled on the beach in the sun. I went for a much needed run and a swim to cool off. We then headed to Auckland to await are flight the next day to the South Island. This rounds up the North Island. It sounds like a rush, because it was, and thus the writing reflects that.
Wine Tasting (because I am driving I only got one and mine was 3 times bigger than Stones!)

Tasty Yacht in Wellington

Cider in the Sun

Wellington Cable Car

I like New Zealand, it is a beautiful country however I have some grievances. Number 1, the Hostels. They claim to be for backpackers but charge you money for every little extra. In South America internet and breakfast is free, here it is not, even Wifi(which has been free in EVERY other place I have been) You can't claim to be a 'backpackers hostel' when you rinse them for money at every point.

Number 2: Roads and Driving. I don't mind the roads or driving as they are certainly better than some countries. However, the "Motorways" are all one lane and drivers speed up when you get to the overtaking section making it harder to overtake or I think "Oh I don't need to overtake anymore as they are now driving at the speed limit" only to slow down as soon as it ends. Also they are very accustomed to tailgating, all in all they are bad drivers, not the worst but pretty bad.

Thats all for now, more pictures when I put them on the lappy. Now uploaded. Link at the top.