Archive for November, 2007

Arid Atacama – Northern, Chile

November 27, 2007

El Tatio Geysers

 Hola from Chile

The flight certainly seemed quicker on the way back. Could it be because we had our own individual in flight systems and I was hooked on playing “Who wants to be a millionaire”, quite possibly, as they had the English version of the game. I hopped once again in the VIP taxi and back to “Hostal de Sammy”. I’m whacked so caught up on email and had an early night.

The next morning my paranoia has kicked in. I’m chatting with some of the hostal workers who are from all over the place and one of them has been robbed three times. This continent certainly has it’s share of horror stories. I think in Chile though it’s mostly petty crime and they don’t come after you armed. I’m Lonely Planetless and despite my griping about it, it is great for giving you an idea of where to go and stay. I search for an English bookshop but the only one appears to have closed down. I have the added problem of it’s a Sunday so a lot of things aren’t open. I ask for a hint of where bookshops may be and then I head outside. Time to kick this paranoia once and for all. I head for the Metro and buy a ticket at 38p one way (hear that Mr Livingstone !!) to Providencia. I walk for a bit and find tourist information which is also closed. Then I find an English book shop. It’s closed but at least I know where it is for tomorrow. The Chileans must be avid readers as I then find another 5 shops, 3 of which are open. The third miraculously has a South America Lonely Planet in English, ok it’s double the price of the UK but it’s worth that not to have carried it all this time. I head back to the hostel to start planning Chile.

Back at the hostel I meet Richard, a Canadian guy, he borrows my book and I decide that initially I’m going to head north to the desert. He suggests we go to the bus station together to get our tickets. He’s heading south. This sounds like a great idea as I need to go to the cash machine and added male protection would be a bonus. We get our tickets and then head to the supermarket. My journey is 23 hours and includes food, his doesn’t. The Chileans do have a sense of humour. Maybe it’s the sun I don’t know. Richard buys some fruit and veg and as it is being weighed he says the name of each item in Spanish to the grocery man. As he says “tomate”, the assistant says “you say tomato and I say tomate”. I collapse laughing, it was really very funny and I can’t imagine a guy in a UK supermarket coming up with the same quick wit. We head back to the hostel, mission completed and spend the night chatting in the courtyard with the other travellers.

In the morning I catch up on the blog and do the laundry (it’s free here) and then await my taxi. I’d left myself a bit of time. That was just as well as the driver drops me at the completely wrong terminal. It’s boiling, I’ve got all my bags and the woman at information tells me I’m a good four blocks of weaving through terminals. I walk for a couple of blocks and then in danger of missing my bus I grab a taxi. This guy takes me exactly where I need to be and doesn’t want any money but I give him enough to cover the fare and more, I’m just so grateful to have made it.

I’d booked semi cama which is the worst class. I’m with Tur Bus and I have to say the seats are amazing. I have leg room, they recline right back and most importantly there’s no one sitting next to me, well at the moment, I can spread out for my 23 hours. I’m also the only non Chilean on the bus. What must the top price be like ? We tend to stop every 3 hours. I’m going to abstain from the bus toilet and use the ones at stops. You have to pay but they are really clean. It really is a very civilised country. Initially, on leaving Santiago various traders come on and sell food. A few people also seem to board randomly. We get given a salami roll and a bottle of fanta. They do like their bread here. After 6 hours we stop at a town called La Serena one of the oldest towns in Chile and a couple of Aussie girls get on. They are seated across the aisle from me. A crying child gets on and sits behind me – always a worry but he settles down pretty quickly. Another roll is given out, this time it has some kind of fish paste inside. It’s time to sleep. I have packed eye shades and ear plugs and literally fall asleep straight away. I’m woken a little while later, my adjacent seat is now needed for some new passengers. I awake at 7.30am, now the seat is occupied by David our bus steward. He’s been giving us the food and blankets all the way through – and it’s service with a smile !!. I go back to sleep and finally wake up at 9am. Outside the scenery has turned to desert. We get to watch “24” in Spanish and “School of Rock”, then we stop at Antifagusta, another beach side town so the bus can be cleaned. Finally at 3pm, 24 hours after we left, we arrive.

The Aussie girls (Sky and Liz) adopt me, as it so happens I’d picked out the hostel they’d booked at as a possibility for myself. The town, San Pedro de Atacama is amazing, it looks like something straight out of a spaghetti western. I swear a gun fight was going to break out at any moment and I could hear “The Shadows” playing “Apache” in the background. Was that Clint Eastwood walking by ? No…… but you get my drift (I hope !!). We reached the beautiful plaza de armes which is the town square and longingly looked at some tourists downing cold beer. Maybe later. 80% of the income here comes from tourists while 20% comes from agriculture. We found our “Hostal la Ruca” and were all put in the same dorm. After a quick cup of tea and chat with some people who’d been there a couple of days to get a few tips it was time to go for a wander. Or in our case, straight to the square for a couple of pitchers of beers. We just chatted and then went for dinner. I was served a huge pizza which ended up lasting me 3 days.

I woke up early so made some tea. I have been eaten alive by mosquito’s or does Macca the hostel dog have fleas ? Probably, but I think it’s the mozzies. We walked down to the bakery for a pastry and then walked around town to book our tours. The girls were planning to leave for Bolivia the next day and I had a few trips that I wanted to do. We accomplished that pretty quickly and then searched for gloves and hats for the girls as their journey was going to be extremely cold at night. The shops seemed to contain everything you can get in Peru for quadruple the price so I didn’t bother. I’m sure I’ll pick a few things up when I finally get to Bolivia. An earthquake had hit 100km away from here last week so apart from one restaurant collapsing they were digging up the streets to make sure the water mains were okay. I can imagine that no water in the desert would become an issue.

We’d decided to go on the same trip that afternoon so were headed to the Valley of the Moon and Dead Valley. We were taken initially to a look out point where we could see the local volcanoes. You can see smoke every morning from one of them although it’s last explosion was 4 years ago but this was only small. Next stop Dead Valley. Actually it’s original name was Mars valley because the sand was quite red but the word for Mars and Dead are very similar in Spanish so the name got a bit lost in translation. In the distance we could see some really cool sand twisters. It’s windy out here as I was soon to find out. To get in to the valley we had to run down some huge dunes. Some people took their shoes off, although I had a feeling their feet would hot up pretty quickly and they did. As I emptied my shoes the wind picked up and kindly lodged some sand in between my contact lenses. I tried to sluish it away with water which eased the pain for a minute before it started again. Down in the valley the guide threw some stones at the edge of the cliff. Small rocks broke off and the noise sounded just like a xylophone – nice !! Then deeper through the valley and we came to a cave. Dead Valley done it was time to go to Valley of the Moon.

Moon valley got it’s name due to the fact that a lot of it is supposed to look like the moon’s surface. It was incredibly windy once again and I tried to wrap my fleece around me to avoid more getting i to my eyes. Liz was very sensible, she had what looked like an Arabic scarf tied all the way around her head – wish I’d improvised with my sarong. We had to walk up to the main hill so that we could get a good view of the sunset. The setting sun was actually partially blocked by a dune but then the best bit of the tour happened. As the sun set the landscape completely changed colour, it was so beautiful and really I would have started the tour later so you can get more of the spectacular scene(I’ve attached a picture). Oh well, time to go back and remove that contact lens. We went out for a simple pasta dinner – 80% of the food seems to be Italian here and then it was time for bed.

Sun setting over Moon Valley

 I got up early and said goodbye to the girls who were off to Bolivia. I was getting picked up at 8am for my archeological tour. I decided to do this one as you get to learn a bit more about the original inhabitants. Firstly, we were driven to Quitor which housed an old desert fortress. The fortress consisted of 2 houses and 120 walls. It was built high in the hills which enabled them to see any approaching enemy. From there, they could run and inform the villagers who would then take shelter in the fortress. The actual Atacama people arrived in the area around 3000 years ago, way before the Inca’s. Although they were beaten by the Inca’s and also later the Spanish. The recent earthquake had caused a few of the rocks from the walls to fall down so we had to be quite careful as to where we trod. There was a great view over the whole valley. After we walked back up to the top to look at the views we walked down and were driven to Tulor. What I really like about Chile is that when you pay to go in to the local protected areas all of the fees go back in to the individual villages to give them a better way of life (Cambodia – look and learn !!). Tulor was a village that contained around 120 round mud houses, only 7 remain. They were built circular so that they were more protected from the wind. They had rebuilt one house so we could see inside, it did look quite cosy.  Unfortunately a lot of the existing houses are a bit delapidated and full of sand but they can’t remove it as the houses would collapse. At this point a Dutch girl in our group got stung by something and it seemed very painful. The guide just said oh well, you’ll be okay. I don’t think she was allergic as I did see her walking around the town later on. Later that afternoon I decided to go to the museum to find out a bit more. It did go back to the beginning of their people and at least it had some English translations for me to read.

I went to bed early as I was getting up at 3.30am to go on my next tour. As the girls had gone I was sharing a room with a French couple, an oriental guy and another guy who we’ll call meditation man as we often found him sitting in the dark with the door wide open in the lotus position. The French came in and were going out again so were very considerate. It’s nearly 10pm and I’m just dozing off finally when the other two get back. They turn on the light, completely ignoring the fact that I’m there. I cover my head with the sheet to block out the light, all hope of immediate sleep lost. Then they start rustling carrier bags against my ear or that’s what it felt like. Then they decide to go to the kitchen or somewhere – leaving the light on and door open, there are people talking in the courtyard so I can now hear them aswell. I slam it and turn off the light. 20 minutes later in they come again, light on, same ritual repeated. I have to get up for fear of committing violence and have a cup of tea. I stare daggers at them as I go – it’s just so inconsiderate. In dorms you get the incredibly considerate and the immensely selfish – I hope I fall in to the first category. I have now decided that if they are packing at least I’ll get rid of them tomorrow, if not I’ll have a word with them when I get back from my tour. If they don’t apologise then I have decided to invest in a carton of milk which I will distribute amongst their rucksacks. This has the added benefit of not staining clothes but in the desert heat it will definitely make them smell after a couple of days when I’m long gone. Of course, you always have to be a bit careful as it’s very possible that you could bump into these people again. I’m also comforted by the fact that my alarm will be going off at 3.30am – see how they like it !! (Apologies for stooping so low but I really wanted some sleep). Okay, now I have insomnia, the French come in with their torches (so as not to turn the light on – again consideration !!!!!) and I finally drift off at 1.30am – great !! 2 hours sleep.

We wake up as per alarm and are ready in time for our 4am bus. We coincidentally booked the same tour with the same company. Our hostel always seems to get picked up first but we made it on time so that was lucky, unlike a couple of people who hadn’t managed to wake up. The bus did try them again after they’d picked everyone else up but still no sign of them, wonder if you lose your money.

It was a two hour drive to the “El Tatio Geysers”. The temperature in the desert at that time of the morning is -5 degrees. The desert valley looks stunning and between 6am and 7am is the best time to see the geysers at their highest (the picture above is as the sun is coming up). Again, the recent earthquake had caused seven new geysers to appear. We are instructed not to inhale the fumes and to stay close to the guide as the mist can make you lose your way. Four people have died by not following these instructions. The last was a Spanish guy two years ago. They used to have a foot bridge over one of the geysers where you would quickly take a photo and then get off. The Spanish guy stayed too long and died from inhaling the fumes. Some have fallen in, and once you’re in there’s no chance of rescue. After the geysers we were served a welcome breakfast and then it was time to go to the hot pools. I had dressed in bikini but as we only had twenty minutes decided not to bother. The springs turned out to be warm rather than hot so I’m glad I didn’t.

After the springs we went to check out the wildlife at the local watering holes. We got to see vicuna (a deer like animal), Suri (or rhea, similar to ostrich), more birds and then a whole flock of black tailed flamenco birds (I think they meant flamenco and not flamingo although they looked very similar). Then it was time to go to a canyon full of cacti. They were huge and grow 1cm per year which meant some of them must have been nearly 300 years old. We were told not to buy cacti products from the locals as they should be protected. One had fallen due to the earthquake so the locals were allowed to take that one. There was a marquee being set up for a wedding – what a great setting !!

I got back to my hostel and the weirdo’s had gone, so had my alarm clock !! Should have gone for it with the milk after all. The French checked out and I now had two Irish girls who were lovely. I went in to town with one of them, Niamph, for a late lunch early dinner. We came back and she had a bottle of red which after some digging around with the cork we managed to open. A Belgian guy joined us and we invited the owner for a drink. They all spoke Spanish and I got the general gist. I went to bed early and in the morning said goodbye to the hostel’s dog Magga who’d really taken a liking to me. The desert has been amazing, I’d really recommend it as it’s so totally different to the rest of Chile. Oh well, time for another long bus journey and to head to Valparaiso……..

Transport count:

Plane = 15, Bus = 52, Train = 2, Boat =14, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellent = 8

Take care all

Sally x

Advertisements

Easing into life on Easter Island – Chile

November 26, 2007

Rano Kau volcanic craterMoaiHola from Easter Island

The flight to Santiago took 11 hours on Lan Chile. I’ve now gained a day as I’ve crossed the date line and arrived on Monday at 12.45pm but I actually left New Zealand at 5.25pm – woo hoo an extra day’s travelling!! I caught the VIP taxi to my recommended hostel “Hostal de Sammy” – so named after the American owners dog that sadly died last year. Some how I now seem to be 3 hours behind the UK, for some reason I thought it would be more. The hostel feels like an old school house like something out of Mallory Towers. Some of the long term inhabitants think it’s haunted – well the floor boards sure squeak a lot at night. I chatted to a couple of these and went to bed early despite the chatter from the below courtyard as I need to leave at 6am for my flight to Easter Island.

I woke up and was duly collected on time. I thought the flight was 3 hours but hadn’t accounted for the fact that Easter Island is 2 hours behind Chile, so was relieved to finally get off the plane. The usual sight of Orientals taking pictures of the Easter Island sign struck me. It’s almost as if they have to prove to their friends at home that they really did go there. Immediately you are met by desks selling accomodation. I decided to go with Mihinoa which at been recommended to me by one of the guys in the hostel. I had a whole dorm to myself and it was right on the sea about a 10 minute walk in to town. I’m pretty shattered so have a quick wander around town (2 roads) and get some provisions – it’s not cheap here but I suppose they do need to import a lot of things. I have a quick snooze and get up in time to chat to a Dutch couple and two Americans and watch a pretty good sunset. They tell me how lucky I am as it’s the first one all week. It did indeed turn out to be the only one.

So Easter Island, the locals call it Rapa Nui and the Spanish call it Isla de Pacua. Not a chocolate egg in sight. I get up pretty late and have breakfast and walk down to the port and see my first Moai. These are the huge stone statues as pictured which seem to be located all around the island. They do make a pretty awe inspiring sight. Goodness knows how they got them there as it took the locals eleven days to raise one. I then decide to head up the west coast and see another few. I particularly like the ones that have hats on, they look like a prehistoric Mr Ben. I see some more then continue along the water’s edge. There is only one beach here and it’s on the other side of the Island. On this side the coast line is full of black volcanic rock. In fact, the island was formed around 300,000 years ago by the explosions of three volcanos. They then merged together to form this triangular shaped island – and guess what ? Captain Cook also made it here too.

On my way to my fourth lot of Moai further along the coast I am accosted by a stray dog. I’ve heard lots of barking in the fore ground but now one of the little blighters has found me. He’s actually very friendly, which is  a relief, hopefully they don’t have rabies here. As I look at the new Moai he is joined by a couple of doggie friends, one is a little chocolate coloured puppy. Puppy takes it on himself to walk with me and is extremely friendly. I’m worried as he’s now become separated from the other dogs. He follows me all the way to the road and then stops. He must know his boundaries. I decide as siesta time is nearly over to walk around to the museum. It’s incredibly safe here and the other thing that is really nice is that it seems many people ride horses as transport. There are tons as you walk past the fields or passing you in the streets. The museum was quite small and everything was in Spanish so I took my time in reading the notices. I’m finding I can understand most of a conversation and read quite a lot of it, it’s just speaking it that’s causing a few issues (adding an “O” on to the end of everything doesn’t always work !!). I’ve decided to do a Spanish course when I get to Argentina, mainly as Chileans seem to speak a lazy form of Spanish, although you can see here that a lot of the people are original islanders. They have very similar jewellery to what the Maori’s have in New Zealand, in fact there are many similarities all round which would make sense as they probably originally came from the same place.

At the museum I’m also greeted by my original dog friend. He comes in to the musuem and waits patiently by each exhibit until I’ve finished and then follows me to the next one. Is that why they are called man’s best friend? I head back to town and again the dog goes with me but only until a certain point. The children are playing in the sea and a hillside looks like it’s on fire – or is it a volcano ? I take a photo just in case. It looks like it’s about to rain so I decide to have a late lunch/early dinner. I want something local so order cerviche. The waitress looks at me as if I’m Mr Bean ordering a steak tartare. She says “not cooked”, to which I reply I knew that. I’ve never had it before but it’s very Chilean and as I like sushi I thought why not ? I didn’t account for how much there would be. I have to say this has to be one of the weirdest things I’ve ever eaten. There’s a pile of raw fish which seems to have been marinated in some lime juice and other spices, which is lovely but it could have done three people. It was also served with cabbage and lettuce, cold sweet potato chips and a Rapa Nui cake (well I suppose I have got the Easter Island version). The cake is a kind of banana flavour but there’s something pink in it aswell. I ate as much as I could, maybe I’ll ask for a smaller portion next time.

I took a cue from the quick break in the rain to head back to the hostel where I found one of the Americans and a few Aussies playing shithead – what else ? It really is a travelling institution. They kindly let me join them where we managed to play for hours and then yes it’s bed time. No sunset and wow did the heavens open that night.

I again lie in, you can’t help it here the whole place is so relaxed it just makes you want to fall asleep all day long. Mihinoa also offers camping and there are a few sleeping bags hanging out to dry – glad I opted for the dorm. The owner informs me that I will in fact have the dorm to myself until I leave – hurray the biggest room at a fraction of the price (I do hope travelling is not making me tight….and note I said making not more !!). If the weather continues then I have picked the right amount of time to be here. If it’s hot then you need 4-7 days max. The rain eases after lunch so I decide that I’ll walk the East coast today. You can also hire cars, scooters and bicycles but I really didn’t want to be caught out in a huge storm. East I found a couple of Moai sights. I decided as it was less populated I’d put the MP3 in and learn a bit of Spanish. I must have looked a bit of a nutter muttering Spanish phrases under my breath so I kept turning it off if I came across anyone. I found some well hidden caves that had rock paintings in them. They looked quite good but are getting quite worn.

I then made my way through a new botanical garden that contained indigenous trees for the island. Up and up I went heading towards the Rano Kau volcano. The views were absolutely stunning. I could clearly see the 3 volcanos that had created the island. Eventually, I reach the top and it’s a bit windy but the crater pictured is absolutely beautiful. Better even than the photos I’d seen, a real mix of plant life and water creating the blue and green colours. Time to move on and visit Orongo and old ceremonial village.

To enter Orongo you need to pay but you can use this ticket to visit the whole island and it’s parks until you leave. I had to sign in with the park ranger. Now this man was quite a charmer. He told me he’d like to come to my country, to Liverpool and to Wales because it was the home of Tom Jones (Jack you’ve got some competition – he looked quite like him). Then he looked me in the eyes and said “and now I have another reason to come to your country”. Not a bad chat up line considering it’s not his first language !! He said I could look quite Chilean but my eyes give it away, so maybe I’ll go a hunting for a brown pair of contact lenses. The ceremonial village consisted of 54 houses but all that was left was the stones and partial buildings. Because of the volcano on one side and the coast on the other it meant it had a more prominent position than the original villages on the rest of the island. I must admit it was a good location especially as there were a couple of islets out to sea, which made the view even better. There were also some huge stones with tribal carvings on them which were very impressive. I decided to walk back along the road and so my little walk had turned in to 15km hike – not bad !! I got back and chatted with the Americans and then it was again bed time.

The next day it absolutely poured all day so I decided to have a me day. I did my nails and all the others things ladies need to do once in a while and read my classic “Far from the Madding Crowd”. Well it’s time to leave this beautiful, relaxing place. The owners of Mihinoa took us back to the airport to pick up the people from the next plane (there’s only one arrival/departure gate). They gave the three of us a little wooden Moai pendant as a going away present which I thought was a lovely touch and just shows how lovely these people are. It’s time to head back to Santiago, but if you want to just lie back, relax and enjoy, Easter Island is definitely the place to do it……. 

Transport count:

Plane = 14, Bus = 51, Train = 2, Boat =14, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

My road trip East – North Island, New Zealand

November 26, 2007

Haka at Thermal VillageThermal Village

Ki Ora from New Zealand

I can´t believe it´s finally my last little New Zealand story, wow that means I´m less than 2 weeks behind from the time I write. I am determined to get up to date.

So at Taupo the Urban Retreat guest house kindly called a couple of car hire companies up for me. The second one had a car so the lady came to pick me up. Unfortunately, when we got back to the office she´d locked the office keys in but as the town is quite small (despite the fact that you can fit the whole of Singapore in to Lake Taupo) her partner came with some spare keys and I had a car. Stupid as though it may sound, I was excited and nervous about driving again. I got an automatic just to make life a bit easier. I set out and found my way straight away. I have to say everything is so clearly marked and I´d borrowed a map so I could get to A and B as quickly as possible. I have much ground to cover. I drove straight for Rotorua as I´d not finished everything I wanted to do there before. It took just over an hour so I headed straight to the buried village. The village had been buried in the major earthquake of 1886. I have to say it had the feel of a well tended cemetery which sounds horrible but it wasn´t. It was just really peaceful. There´s a photo below of one of the houses and you can see how far up the mud has come in just over 100 years. It also told the story of a local woman and how she´d helped many survivors during that time. There were copies of letters from people who were visiting at that time. The village takes 1-2 hours to go around so as it was getting later I decided to head back in to town and get a hostel. This time I stayed at Cactus Jacks. It´s cheap enough to get my own room and the atmosphere is great. I think some people have been here a very long time. There´s a great outdoor courtyard and bbq area and it´s November 5th. Yes, I have no idea why but New Zealand celebrates Guy Fawkes night. Of course, I haven´t found a Kiwi who knows anything about Guy, they just know it´s the night you have fireworks.

The next morning I was up early and went to Whakarewarewa. Remember, Rotorua is a highly thermal area and this is the one and only Maori thermal village. Yes, it´s time to soak in a bit more culture. I really don´t feel like I´ve done enough of it. I had a bit of a chat to the Maori security guard whilst waiting for the tour to start. There are currently around 20 families living on the site. Firstly you get to see the old style houses before you see the existing ones that people actually live in. I’ve enclosed a picture above of the village. The steam is real, let´s just say that once the children lose their footballs here there is no getting them back. In fact, there were several holes around that were partly fenced off. One new hole had opened up but so far no houses have been lost, but it could happen. The Maori´s settled here as they had an instant supply of hot water. We got to see how they cooked their food in the hangi (sort of underground oven they used) and saw where they can easily blanch their vegetables on site in the hot water. The villagers still share the bath house and they seem to be surrounded by an abundance of natural plants which can be used for medicinal purposes. One of the water holes that went in to the bath house was called “The Grumpy Old Man” because it bubbled away so much. There was also a couple of churches, and one cemetery had both traditional gravestones and Maori carvings on it which made it look even more special. We also went in to the souvenir shops which showed the women weaving traditionally with flax and our guide showed us how to do some aswell. Just before our guide left us she took us to the huge geyser in the park next door. It’s called “The Prince of Wales Feathers” as it looks just like them. When it gets to 10 metres high it sets the larger geyser off. Then I took a walk around the area and did a bit of shopping. Prices are pretty reasonable here compared to some others I’ve seen. Next it was time for the Maori dancing show. The women used “Poys” to dance with (they almost look like little juggling balls on strings). Then they did a special dance with sticks where they throw them to each other. Then it was time for the men to do the longest Haka I’ve ever seen. They beat their chests so hard that they were left really red at the end of it. I wanted to get a Hangi roll before I left but they weren’t ready so it was time to go. That’s the Haka in the picture above.

Next stop, Whakatane (you pronounce it with an “F”). This is a seaside town which has an island offshore called White Island and this houses New Zealand’s most active volcano. I could certainly see that it was active but it was a pretty cloudy day (as usual) and so I didn’t really stop there for long or take a trip to it as you wouldn’t really have been able to see much. I decided to head on. I drove through another seaside town called Ohope which although a lot smaller than Whakatane seemed a lot nicer and it had a pretty good beach. Then it was time to go on to Opotiki where I intended to spend the night. I soon changed my mind about that. I’d like to find the lonely planet writer who researched this place. According to the book it’s supposed to be a beautiful little town on the sea where there are lots of amazing Maori statues lining the streets. Well that sounded cultural so I thought I might stay overnight. Ok… reality it’s a very small town and I’m really not too keen on little kids who are armed with sticks and aim them like a shotgun at my car as I drive past. I mean, if that’s the kids what the hell are the adults like? As for the carvings there are a few but not anything like the glamorous picture the book paints. Goodbye Opotiki, I’m getting the hell out of there !!

Now it’s dilemma time. I have the choice that I can head around the beautiful coast line in bad weather which may take a while, if I get stuck then a) it’s through 1 man towns, is there anywhere to stay? b) is there anywhere to get petrol if I need it? c) will they be just as bad as Opotiki ? I decide to cut my losses and head through land to Gisborne. Sarah had told me not to go to Gisborne but it can’t be any worse than what I’ve driven through. I drove through squished possums and had a dodgy looking pick up truck behind me for a while (remember I now think anyone from Opotiki is armed and dangerous). I’m loving the overtaking lanes so I can get past all of the huge logging lorries. Although I think they have quite a few accidents here because it’s mostly one lane on each side. People then fall asleep at the wheel and just drive off the side or in to oncoming traffic, as there’s no central reservation. Several windy bends and 2 hours later I reach Gisborne. To be honest it’s a lot nicer than I’d heard. It’s quite a large town with a very mixed population. It also seems to be a real surfing hub and there are several people braving the waves. I find the YHA and then go and have an early dinner. I have to say it was a huge steak. Then I go back to the YHA which is filled with new Chinese visitors. After a bit of blogging I head to bed.

The next day I wake up and decide to have a little drive around up the hills. Captain Cook first landed here (is there anywhere that man didn’t get to ?). I then go to the museum which is full of what seems to be well to do ladies that take coffee. I have one and then start my tour. The museum is quite small but again has a lot about the Maori second world war effort. The best thing is that half of the museum is a Belfast built boat called “The Star of Canada” which was shipwrecked nearby from the early 20th century. It had been purchased and used as part of a house but was then donated to the museum. The other thing that was rather appropriate for the area was a great surf board collection with “Beach Boys” music playing in the background. Well, that seems to be Gisborne done and dusted I think I’ll start heading along the coast to get to the Hawkes Bay area and Napier. I drove via a headland called Mahlia which the book describes as a cross between “The White Cliffs of Dover” and Santorini. Having been to both it’s definitely more like Dover but to be fair the weather is yet again cloudy. Everything was shut so I carried on. I got to Napier for a small late lunch. Napier is actually really nice and on the drive through you pass tons of Hawkes Bay vineyards. Napier was destroyed in an earthquake in a 1930’s so with all the rebuilding it has a real art deco feel to the place.

Time to go and see my old workmates Bev and Pete. I was a broker with Bev in my first job at Dataserv and Pete was one of the sales guys (that’s how they met – ahhh!). I hadn’t seen Bev for about 6 years so it was great to see her again. Her house is a 10 minute drive out of Napier up in the hills. Well, I say house, it’s huge. It shows you what a place in Surrey can get you when you buy you down under. They have several sheep, a couple of pastures, a pool, a ginger cat called Jasper and a mad snouzer dog called Roxy. Roxy tends to be afraid of you at first and then after 10 minutes doesn’t leave your side, just like a small child – well she is only 9 months old. The best bit, I had my own double bed and bathroom. I’d taken a couple of bottles of wine to say thank you for putting me up. One was from a place called “The Mission” a local winery. It just so happened that that was where they were taking me for dinner tonight. On the hill next door to it they have an annual outdoor concert where they’ve been to see such acts as Rod Stewart, it sounded like a right laugh. Dinner was fantastic, I had New Zealand mussels and tuna – it was fab and so kind of them to treat me (that’s us pictured below). Oh, I definitely felt treated!! The wine was also exquisite – straight from the winery !! After a bit more wine when we got back it was time to collapse in to my sumptuous bed – heaven !!

The next day I drove in to town with the intention of going to see the gannet colony at the nearish “Kidnappers Cove”. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to make the hike along the beach in time to see them before the tide came in so walked for as far as I could anyway. I went back in to town for a while and then back to Bev’s, where she kindly let me catch up on my blog. Pete had gone down to Wellington for a meeting so we went out for a couple of early drinks down at the quay and a further chat. We then drove around the town by night. It’s quite quiet if it’s not a weekend but the art deco by night looked fab, I can see why they chose to live there. Pete came back a bit earlier than expected so they both got to grips with the bbq and we had a lovely fresh meal.

Oh well, it’s time to say goodbye – that’s the bit I hate, hopefully I’ll be back one day. I drove back to Taupo and dropped the car off and went once more to meet the STRAY bus. The new driver was Ricky and as we drove to a new hostel to pick up more people Mary, whom we’d left in Stewart Island got on. She’d been travelling a bit with my old mate Abi so we wiled away the time by catching up on all the gossip and what both of us had been up to since we’d last seen each other. I wanted to stay at the YHA in Auckland but Irina (last seen in Christchurch) was in “The Fat Camel” and so Mary said I should come with her and stay there. Irina had already paid for a double room for all the nights but had in fact received a triple. They couldn’t let me stay there without paying the full triple price, which was more expensive than the dorm even though she had the room already (apparently computer said “NO” – and their systems couldn’t cope). Mad, it’s a Nomad’s hostel and to be honest I don’t think they are much better than Base. We went for a walk along the front and got a coffee. The good thing about the hostel is that they give you a free small meal for dinner, tonight’s offering was fish and chips so we ate those. There was a charity night going on in the bar but we decided to go out instead. We found a great wine bar/restaurant called “The Grove” opposite St.Patrick’s Cathedral. We ordered a glass of wine each and then got chatting to the sommelier who then brought us quite a few samples of wine to taste. By tasting these he then chose us a glass which he thought we might like. To be honest mine was a bit bland. He wasn’t impressed by that so that was the last of the free samples. Must remember only to praise in future. We were a little bit tipsy by the time we got back and set about making our beds. I didn’t seem to have a pillowcase and neither did Mary. As she lifted her pillowcase she found a scabby pair of used pants (women’s we think although to be honest we didn’t want to get too close to them) underneath. Yes, that has to be one of the worst things I’ve seen so far!! Ok, we were tipsy and given the rubbish they’d thrown at us earlier re the room they were now going to have it. The guys on reception were extremely apologetic. I think the problem is that a lot of travellers clean the hostel to stay for free so maybe one individual’s cleaning hadn’t been up to scratch. We managed to both get upgraded to our own double room each. We were on different floors but that didn’t matter. However, it took about ten attempts to access our floors as they kept programming the room keys incorrectly. This hostel has a great concept that each floor has it’s own living/dining area. Which again would be great if they were clean but they’re not. I went to my floor and could hear very clearly a couple making out, were they extremely loud or were the walls just thin? I couldn’t tell. I put my luggage in my room and on my way back to the lift could clearly hear another room shout out “Oh for pities sake !!” (actually that’s the polite version). They’d obviously been some time. Mary on the other hand was kept awake by a party in her living/dining area until around 5am. Needless to say we won’t be giving Nomads a visit in the future.

The next morning I checked out and they managed to get a refund and changed to a hotel – luxury, but sometimes you need it. We went for a coffee and then took a stroll down to the Victorian markets. I finished off the present shopping and said goodbye. Brooke came to pick me up and we headed back to the Half Moon bay area of Auckland where her and John live. I’d caught up with them on my first stop through and was staying with them for my final two nights here. Their place is also great. You wouldn’t on first glance know it was there as it’s down a little alley so it’s really peaceful. Again, I gratefully was shown my bed and own bathroom, I’m being spoiled rotten. I’d again gone armed with wine and after dinner as John was playing in his band at a wedding, Brooke, her friend Jen and I spent the evening on their balcony chatting.

The next day we had a huge lie in and didn’t get up until 11am. What has happened ? It’s absolutely boiling outside, where has this weather been on my whole trip ? John cooked breakfast and then some how by 1pm we had started back on the wine. Well, it did feel  like such a lovely summers day. We literally chatted the day away and consumed Brooke’s home made banana cake and then some gorgeous fish and chips. After watching “The Devil wears Prada” we headed to bed. Well, the poor things did have to get up for work in the morning.

My last day. Time to post everything off, pack, sew and then get the shuttle to the airport. Thanks so much one again to Brooke and John for putting me up. It’s now time to go to South America……..scary !! Buried Village - Te WairoaOn a mission at “The Mission” with Bev & Pete

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 51, Train = 2, Boat =14, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

No whales and more Wellington -North & South Island, New Zealand

November 22, 2007

Return to Wellington - Me, Julia & LisaKaikoura

Ki Ora from New Zealand

It´s yes an 8am departure and my new driver is Noddy. I´d actually last met him dressed as a nurse outside the altitude bar in Queenstown , a rather large nurse at that (him not me) !! I think it´s the first bus I´ve been on where team England aren´t in the majority, but I got talking to a girl called Julia (it´s her first day on Stray – bless !!) and a girl called Lisa. I´d been telling Julia about the strange Madeleine and the odd older German couple when we found out that Lisa too had had the misfortune of travelling on the same bus as Madeleine. She´s still with Carlin the poor poor driver, and I do mean that most sincerely. Apparently he now introduces her to new bus members as “this is Madeleine, she can be a bit annoying” (that´s a polite understatement). Hurray, it´s a short journey to Kaikoura and we check in to the Adelphi hotel by lunchtime. It´s a great old place and serves free soup at 6pm for back packers. The options here are swimmimg with seals, swimmimg with dolphins or whale watching. I´ve always wanted to go whale watching so book on for that. We still have a few hours to kill so we pick up some cake and coffee and Julia, Lisa and I take a stroll round the coast, as pictured above. We walk under some real whale bone arches in the little park on the beach front and then pop in to tourist information. We overhear one of the receptionists telling a couple about the whale watching trip. Apparently apart from whales you can also see pods of up to 1000 dolphins, also if you don´t see the whales you tend to get around 80% of your money back so it´s almost as if you have a guarantee. To say we were getting excited was an under statement. Kaikoura is a small seaside town, it´s quite pretty but you couldn´t spend too long here. Ok, 3pm time to go for our trip. We get there and disaster, the whales are out of the area….I am so disappointed !! I console myself by updating the blog. I contemplate staying one further day and flying to Wellington – yes, as you can see I´m pretty desperate to see them. Especially after I met a woman in Franz Josef who saw sperm whales breeching. Oh well, gives me an excuse to come back or see them elsewhere I suppose.

We have our soup at 6pm and as if to run salt in to the wounds I suggest we watch “Whale rider”. It´s a superb New Zealand film which talks about how the Maoris came to New Zealand and their affinity to whales and how one girl struggles to make her mark in the family despite being a girl. I also bump in to the odd German couple who will be on my bus tomorrow – yipee!!

Yet more disaster strikes in the morning. I lose my key – a lot of places charge key deposit so that´s money down the drain. Oh well, it was bound to happen once. I of course later find it in my wash bag in Wellington – typical. I am 5 minutes late for the bus. Noddy obviously got out of the wrong side of bed and has a go. The Germans assume their usual seating position (a row in between them).Time to head to Picton and the ferry back North, on the way we stop at a seal colony, there are so many seals but they do pong. We can smell them from inside the coach but get out to take some photos anyway. It´s just not the same as whales – although the swimming with seals option is supposed to be amazing.

On the ferry we chill out at the lounge area and I get to watch Arsenal vs Man U. We arrive in Windy (how do people stand it?) Wellington and check in to the YHA. I convince the girls to return to “The Establishment” as it´s Sunday and I finally get to eat my roast dinner. There´s a picture of us below, I had to promise to put them on the blog. The roast was definitely worth going back for. The downstairs area seems to be having a Texas hold em´night but we head home and I say goodbye to Lisa. As Julia and I are making our way back to the YHA we pass what appears to be a portable toilet, only there is opera music blasting out of it. I didn´t think they were that well cultured here…..we do a double take and see that it´s chained up. On further inspection it appears to be promoting a new theatre show called “Urinetown”. Apparently it´s a cross between “Les Mis” and “Rocky Horror”. Well it certainly grabbed my attention. Let´s hope it makes it to the UK, I´d go and see it.

I´m so tired I fall asleep before the light is off. The next day we have to leave at 7am. The Germans have asked that the music be turned off, we´ll let them off until coffee break. Noddy has a long drive today but has finally warmed up a bit and is actually quite chatty. After our coffee break he plays some “Nena” and “The Hoff” to see if he can now warm the Germans up. It works a little. The lunchtime stop is Taupo (site of my earlier sky dive), I say goodbye to Julia as I´m leaving the bus here to head East on the North Island on my own (she´s heading straight to Auckland). How exciting…..I am actually a little bus weary after 5 weeks so quite looking forward to this part of the trip.

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 50, Train = 2, Boat =14, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

Jesus, Mary & Joseph it’s Christchurch !! – South Island, New Zealand

November 22, 2007

Christchurch’s river Avon and boatsheds - very English !! 

Ki Ora from New Zealand

Apologies for title but it´s a well known phrase I use when heading around sharp bends in Sicily with oncoming traffic about to hit head on, and it seemed appropriate given the name of my now favourite New Zealand city.

Anyway back to the story…we´d left the steepest street in Dunedin and headed back to Queenstown. We had to drive through a town called Middlemarch which is a tad short of women. Yes, I think the ratio is something like 8:1. They have a ball every year and literally women from all over the country go. It´s a kind of “The farmer wants a wife.” Anyway that´s really just to let you know where it is if you feel the urge (Denise you said to let you know if I found anywhere suitable).

I decided to stay at the YHA with Rachel and Irina as I really couldn´t stand the Base shenanigans of my last visit. I cannot begin to tell you how calm I felt returning to Queenstown with no bungys to do, bliss…. Rachel still had her Ledge jump so I went to watch her for moral support. I think having done the Nevis already she was nervous but excited and was talking about doing back flips off it and all sorts. We rode up on the Gondola and then off she went (I tried to use my old ticket but that was a no go, oh well if you don´t try..). She was screaming with enjoyment, mind you there was a poor girl who´d been unable to do it just tormenting herself by watching every jump (my advice would be don´t think – jump !!). We all met in the Altitude bar, that´s the new bus load below. Hoover, our bus trainee finally got a chance to have a couple of drinks as she had a day off the next day. Cathy her tutor had secretly arranged a Canyon Swing for her as she´s passed and will now be an official driver, we got them little presents to celebrate. Rachel is getting me to contemplate the canyon swing, you get hoisted across a canyon at over 100 metres and are literally hrown around. Is that the familiar sinking feeling coming back ? We´ll see……..

It´s pouring with rain today´Rachel went out for an early walk I bumped into Martina in the kitchen so spent some time chatting with her and then a bit of a blog catch up. I decided to get my hair cut. I was just trying to see how far it would grow in a year but it´s getting a bit much. The hairdresser berates me for having dry hair. Well, I´m sorry but that is not possible….my hair was fab in Oz, it´s the water here I´m sure of it. How can it be dry I´ve not touched a hair dryer or straightners in over 4 months. Come to think of it my skin is awfully dry aswell, I´m sure New Zealand´s to blame. Anyway the sucker that I am I still bought some very expensive conditioning treatment then met Rachel who was about to have the top of her ear pierced. There seems to be something about Queenstown that makes everyone want to mark their body in some way. I wouldn´t mind but the woman doing it was horrible. She wouldn´t let Rachel test the earring first against her ear and then proceeded to pierce it in the wrong place with the wrong earring. Rachel just wanted to get out of the shop, she thought she looked like a ¨numpty¨but she honestly looked fine. At least the rain deterred any further thought of the canyon swing from her mind.

It´s Halloween today. There´s a large party in Altitude tonight. Unusually for me I can´t be bothered to dress up. I normally don´t need an excuse but I think I´ve had enough of Queenstown and want to move on. We went to the bar and a lot of people had made the effort, the best was the bungy jumpers that hadn´t had successful jumps, very topical. Most of our group seemed to finish early, I had one more Ferg burger before bed just for old times sake. The lamb this time – it was sooooo good !! (Suppose it´s healthier than a kebab).

Another 8am start and time to say goodbye to Rachel. She´s heading back to Franz Josef as she enjoyed it so much the first time. I´m off to Christchurch. On the way we had to drive past Mount Cook and it´s amazing blue glacier lake. It´s hard to choose but that could possibly be the best view I´ve seen since I´ve been here. It´s 3895 metres high. It used to be higher but 10 metres fell off the top a few years ago. We stopped for lunch at Lake Tekapo and went to view the local church and their little dog statue as a tribute to all of the working dogs who used to help the settlers. The church was tiny but gorgeous though full of Japanese tourists so we headed off pretty quickly.

We then stopped in a town called Geraldine. We visited a shop where a man had knitted the world´s largest sweater. Then at the back of the shop we went to visit his version of the Bayeaux tapestry. My only conclusion is that Geraldine possibly has a high suicide rate or there is absolutely nothing to do. This man spent 25 years making this thing. Oh and as the last quarter of the real thing is missing he made up his own end to the story and incorporated it in to his work. Only his is not a tapestry. He has a knitting shop hence the sweater, so every time a cog on the machine wore out he´d keep it and break off the individual teeth. When he had 1 million of these he started the Bayeaux tapestry. Not only that, he has also included a secret puzzle within it which nobody has yet been able to solve. So as the man is clearly a genuis I would have thought he really could have done something more prudent with his time.

Finally we get to Christchurch. I´m saying goodbye to the bus as I´m staying an extra night. I opt for Base against my best instincts mainly as Martin flies out tomorrow so I want to say goodbye, after all he´s the last member of my group with me. He went for a run and I said I´d meet him in the bar after he´d eaten. We didn´t catch up in the end due to a pizza disaster but said goodbye the following morning, time for me to go and explore the city.

I decided to head straight out towards the airport and go to the Antartic museum. I have to say it´s brilliant and you need 3 or 4 hours there. The site actually houses the USA and Italian Antartic bases. The New Zealand contingent tend to have around 10 to 30 people based there in winter and around 300 for the summer. That would be a lonely few months. They have a storm room there, where you have to put on a special jacket and shoes so you don´t mark the snow and then just go into the room and await the storm. The chill factor of the wind gets pretty unbearable. You can barely breathe. For those who can´t take the pace there´s a slightly sheltered area. There were also lots of interesting films and stories about the people who spend their time on there. A lot of this is devoted to global warming research. They can’t really tell if this is affecting the area although they do believe the whole thing is shifing nearer to South America. The marine life on display looked almost prehistoric. Then I finally caught up with some Blue Penguins, the smallest of the penguin species. I´d liked to have seen them in the wild but it hasn´t been possible so as it was feeding time this was the best alternative. These particular penguins were ones that had been recovered from the wild where they wouldn´t have survived. One was blind, another had been attacked by a dog – although you´d never have known it. It´s mating season and their calls are coming thick and fast. Pity the male who gets in between an existing couple. Lots of chasing away ensued. Apparently they only have around a 20% divorce rate.

I got the shuttle back to town and did a quick walk around the city tram lines to get more of a feel of the place, it´s quite compact. Then I walked around the market in cathedral square – it has such an English feel to it. Is it possible I´m feeling a little home sick ? Then I took a stroll down to the botanical gardens and over to the boat sheds, pictured above. As you can see they are located on the river Avon and doesn´t it look a little bit English ? I went to the Green Turtle cafe for food and then it was time to go to the arts centre and the cinema. The whole place does feel quite arty anyway but the cinema is tiny with old fashioned seats and it´s so civilised you can even take a glass of wine in with you while you watch your film, which of course I did (silly not to)!! I watched a Dutch film called “Black Book”  which was excellent but as it was based around world war II I was definitely one of the youngest members in the audience. On the way back I bumped in to the boys who´d stayed in Queenstown for an extra night so we had a quick drink in the bar before heading off for bed.

I can´t wait for tomorrow  I´m off to Kaikoura to see the whales…….but Christchurch is definitely my favourite city !!

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 48, Train =2, Boat = 13, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

Return to Queenstown

Dunedin or Dundee ?? – South Island, New Zealand

November 19, 2007

Ki Ora from New Zealand

Hey ho !! It’s time to leave Stewart Island on the 8am ferry. Mary was staying, ( a shame as she’s a great craic – she’s Irish, I’d like to have spent more time with her) but came to see us off at the ferry terminal.The crossing was really calm and I got to read some trashy magazines all the way back. The ferry dropped us back at Bluff where a sign showed me I was nearly 19000km from London. We stopped in Invercargill for coffee. Poor old Invercargill. They wanted to be a separate province from Dunedin so broke away, then Dunedin’s province discovered gold so Invercargill missed out.

Our route to Dunedin was via the Catlins. A scenic drive up the East coast of the South Island. Lots and lots of sheep and beautiful beaches. There are the nervous lambs who run away from the fence at the sight of the bus and then the brave ones who don’t move an inch. It kept me amused. Today was going to be a long drive but as usual we had some lovely scenic stops along the way. We stopped at Nugget Point to look at seals – and yes we saw a few, but you must keep your distance. Dhuresh said that one girl had been chased all the way up the hill by one and it had tried to bite her so I wasn’t going to take any chances. Then on to Porpoise Bay where there are supposed to be hundreds of Hectors dolphins, but there wasn’t a dolphin to be seen today, at least I’d seen some in Milford Sound. We stopped for lunch and then headed to see the yellow eyed penguins but they weren’t coming out to play either. Today is Tracy’s birthday, a fellow passenger. Cathy and Hoover like to try and liven up the bus an hour or so before you arrive at your destination. In honour of the birthday girl we played pass the parcel, which I’d dutifully wrapped earlier. In between each layer was a dare so if the music stopped you had to do the dare. Dhuresh got “sing your national anthem”. I was shocked, he didn’t know the words so Rachel and I helped him – how can you not know it ? There were various happy birthdays to Tracy. Then I got my own dare I’d written which was to strut down the bus like a chicken. My chicken was well and truly deranged but it gave everyone a laugh. Rachel finished up with singing Tracy happy birthday in an Elvis style with a black wig and some bling (kept by Cathyon the bus at all times) which was also hilarious and then we were at Dunedin.

The best thing about Dunedin is that we get to stay in a hotel – luxury!! Rachel had already booked with the YHA so I shared with Irina and Carmen. We’d got in quite late so it was a rush to make it to my Speight’s brewery tour. Spreight’s is one of the most well known beers in New Zealand. A boat has even been sailed from New Zealand to the Thames in London as one guy was missing his beer so much. Funnily enough there were 2,500 applicants to work on that 60 day journey. It’s recently arrived and I think they are now trying to look for a permanent place for it in London. Cathy, who has been on all the tours so she can advise passengers told us to save all of our questions until the end, that way we get extra tasting time.

7 of us went. We got in at the student price (oh those were the days, I’m just lucky there are some younger passengers on this bus). The guide was an extremely jolly man. He gave us a tour through rooms with huge copper vats and told us the history to New Zealand’s hop industry. Then it was time for tasting. We could pull our own at the pumps and there were 7 varieties to try. There’s Michael and Martin at the pumps below with the jolly tour guide. I have to say the apricot flavoured one was my favourite. I saved my boat question until the end which got us a further 10 minutes free drinking time and then it was time to go. Martin had managed to drink the most. We walked next door to the pub for one as you got a discount if you’d been on the tour, and ended up playing a game of “I have never”, I have to say the boys drinks vanished alarmingly quickly on that one. Then it was back to the hotel to meet the others for Tracy’s birthday. They’d all gone to bed already. But we got Tracy and Kim up (I couldn’t stop calling them Cath and Kim) and had a drink with them. I’d also arranged to meet up with Andy and Carolyn who’d been on my first bus. They’d hired a spaceship when they got to the South Island rather than do the bus. A spaceship looks a bit like a 7-seater in the UK but the back seats are removed to create a bed and you have a cooker that pulls out. Not sure what happens for showering and toilets though. Spaceships are always orange and white just like the Stray bus so there is an ongoing game with all of the Stray drivers that if you see one before they do and shout Spaceship then they have to buy you a drink later. Unfortunately, the drivers are like fine tuned professionals and it’s incredibly rare that you shout it first. It was great to see Andy and Carolyn again. The others went for some food but I stayed with them for another drink. We then went in to town to the Octagon area to meet the others and have a few more bevvies…the guys went back and I stayed for a while longer. Then boo hoo it was time to say goodbye. I doubt I’ll get to see them again whilst I’m here but you never know.

I woke up the next morning and was due to be going on a tour of the Cadbury’s chocolate factory. I have to say this did appeal but I also had the opportunity of staying in my luxury hotel bed for an hour longer so I chose that. Again, I’d have liked to have spent one more day in Dunedin but as the next bus wasn’t due for three days I didn’t have the time. I went for breakfast and bumped in to Martin and Ben so had it with them. Then left them to have a quick walk around town. Dunedin does have an extremely Scottish feel to it. The architecture just has that look. The picture below is of the railway station which also houses the New Zealand sports hall of fame. It has an incredible mosaic floor. I was going to take a look but time was catching up with me so didn’t get a chance so just had a quick walk inside the building itself.

Before we left we went to what is classed according the the Guinness book of records as the steepest street in the world, Baldwin Street. It doesn’t start off too badly but then really does get steep. The residents must just get used to getting their shopping up there. Cathy offered a drink to anyone who could run to the top without stopping – Martin won. I’d just decided to walk. Rachel got to the top and decided to have a go at rolling down it. She didn’t get too far. That is not the best idea. One girl once decided that it would be great fun to get in a wheelie bin and whizz down. She crashed in to a car at the bottom and died. Yes it really is that steep.

Well on that sad note it’s time to head back to Queenstown…….

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 46, Train =2, Boat = 13, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

Dunedin Railway StationMichael & Martin behind the bar at Speight’s Brewery

Stupendous Stewart Island – New Zealand’s third Island

November 19, 2007

View from Observation Point - Stewart Island

Ki Ora from New Zealand

Yet another early start but I can truly say I’m feeling so much better than yesterday morning. Before heading to Stewart Island I’m off for a visit to the farm. The bus dropped us off and we met the farmer, we’re in New Zealand so obviously it’s a sheep farm. We got to put on some wellies and gloves and for some silly reason I didn’t take up the offer of an extra pair of socks even though I could see myself breathe.

First stop was a visit to Millie the sheep who was only two but was huge. She wanted feeding and was eagerly trying to jump over the fence to get to us. The farmer had around 6500 sheep and as it was just coming to the end of lambing season 4500 lambs. They also needed feeding so Mary an Irish girl became “Mary had some little lambs” and bottle fed two of them. There was also a very friendly pig but it was time to get on the tractor and go meet the real stars of the show the sheep. The farmer kept various dogs in cages but let two out so he could demonstrate how they herded the sheep together – very impressive. Then Rosie a black retriever came with us in to the shed. The sheep are kept in the shed on really cold days but generally it’s used to sort out which sheep needs shearing.

The first exercise was for Rosie to herd the sheep in to a narrow passageway so that they were ready to be sheared. She’s obviously well trained as once she did this she jumped on top of the sheep and posed for photos barking away. As some of the sheep had already been sheared it was up to one of us to use a gate to herd the sheared sheep into one area and the sheep that still needed shearing in to another. Mary (she’s a game girl) had a go. She almost had it right but fell at the last hurdle, probably as the sheep who of course follow each other put on a mad rush. Then Ben a German guy decided to have a go. Yeah!! He succeeded but did end up with a lot of sheep dung on his hands. Time to shear a sheep. About 6 people volunteered for this. I’d have liked to but at this point my big toes have gone numb and I can barely walk. I’m so obviously a city girl I had no idea a farm would be this cold. Given I was nearly shivering I’d probably have damaged the sheep so just watched instead – and possibly the sheep dung had put me off a bit. The farmer said he generally takes about 3 minutes to shear one sheep and this skill takes about 2 years to learn. A skilled guy takes around 45 seconds. The guys had a go and did well, although the sheep did look as if he was having a professional grooming session at Tony & Guy. I have to say the sheep shearers calendar looked pretty good though. Time (thank god, where have my feet gone? ) to head back to the farmhouse. Obviously as we are in the sausage capital we had some for breakfast, they were so good.

Next minute the bus was here and it was time to go to Stewart Island. So, I have to say before I got here I was completely unaware that New Zealand had a third island. I just thought it was a case of North and South. But no underneath the South Island there it is with it’s 300 inhabitants. The worst thing about Stewart Island is getting there. You get on the ferry in a very orderly fashion but then you have to cross the Foveaux Straits. Apparently this is the third worst stretch of water in the world and this is due to the fact that it’s only 30-40 metres deep. A few days before, the weather had been so windy that the ferry was cancelled and I’ve met people who’ve been on ferries where they’ve crossed with 5 metre swells that entirely cover the boat as it crosses. Other crossings have resulted in an 85% of passengers being seasick. I’m looking forward to this journey – NOT!!

I got on the boat and started to read, within a few minutes that made me feel queasy so I stopped. I got chatting to one of the guys next to me called Dhiresh. It turns out that he lives the nearest to my house that I have met since travelling (sorry Mary). In fact I could walk there in 15 minutes as he lives just over the hill and we share the same doctor – small world !! He has also spent a couple of months in Columbia so I’m feeling a lot more comfortable about that trip. In an hour we had arrived, we’d been very lucky, the sea had been kind. We were staying at Kaka Cottages, a short walk up the hill from the ferry terminal.

Time to go look around. I’m loving the local trading post/post office as pictured below, so quaint!! I went further in to town and got some advice on where a nice walk would be. Rachel decided she was going to cycle and as she sounded a bit advanced for me I said I’d catch up later after my hike. The absolutely wonderful thing about Stewart Island is that you get a glimpse of what the old habitat of New Zealand would have looked like if the settlers had never arrived. It’s quite dense bush and the birds sound like wind chimes. They are also obviously trying to protect was species are there which is great. I walked through a narrow bushy path and just listened. You could actually see where the storms earlier in the week had hit as some trees had fallen across the path so you had to navigate your way around them. I came to Observation Point a look out area where you can see a great sunset. That’s it in the picture above – well the view, not the sunset. After the bush I came to the road and came across Deep Bay a lovely quiet beach. The water is so clear. The weather today is just gorgeous. I then walked past a golf course and along by a more rugged beach. I was making my way to a place called Wohlers Monument. Wohler was a missionary as well as a doctor who worked around the area for 40 years. To get to it I had to cross a fence which said danger animals on the loose – stick to the path, but I didn’t see any. They were probably talking about a stray sheep judging by the droppings. On my way back I bumped in to a few of the guys so carried on walking with them. We saw a huge seal on the rocks but he just looked at us and then carried on wallowing. He looked too heavy to get off the rocks and it was as if he was waiting for the sea to take him away again.

On the way back I decided to cook some real pasta so went to the shop to get a few essentials. I did my UK usual which is to check out the discounts. Oooh some pumpkin soup, I’ll take a pack of that. I looked at the expiry date – June 2007, wouldn’t that be illegal to sell in England ? I suppose they have their own rules here. In fact, now I come to think of it, on my walk I saw a tiny police station and I’ve just seen a police car. There’s something very distinctly “Hot Fuzz” like about this place (you need to see the film to understand). On the surface everything looks fine and dandy but in this small community under the surface anything could be happening, it’s all incredibly possible !! Those who have been here will know what I mean.

Dinner was tasty, I had to give Rachel extra helpings of my special sauce (no pun intended). Everyone went up to Observation Point to view the sunset. Rachel, Mary and I decided to go to the pub and get a bottle of wine instead. It was the end of quiz night. Their was some loud banter going on between the local women. Well, I say women – I think they were, only they were bigger than men and they had several tatoos but were probably in their 50’s. Yes, Stewart Island can be a scary place.

Oh well time to go to bed, I would so like to have stayed here longer but just don’t have the time…..the only down side…..SAND FLIES!!!! There are millions here. Definitely try and visit if you can though it’s been a New Zealand highlight.

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 45, Train =2, Boat = 12, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

The Post Office and Trading Post

Mystical Milford Sound – South Island, New Zealand

November 12, 2007

Seals at Milford Sound

Ki Ora from New Zealand

The alarm went off at 6.30am. I’d organised all of my bags but fell straight back to sleep. I woke up at 6.55am, whoops, I’m supposed to be on the bus. I get ready in lightening speed. Where is everyone ? Where is Abi ? She’s supposed to be on my bus. I check out and luckily the bus is still there. I grab the front seat, more leg room. Rachel has made it but Abi hasn’t – oh dear she was on a tighter schedule than me. All I can assume is last night turned in to a rather large one. I feel awful. I have a new driver Cathy (or Shaft, but she hates being called that) and Hoover a trainee, so called as she can down pints faster than any of the other Stray drivers. I tried to sleep on the bus but it wasn’t happening. I recognised a few of the people from Ali Baba’s bus.

We stopped at a little town called Te Anu and booked out boat tickets for Milford Sound and the Stewart Island ferry. I grabbed a coffee and a sandwich with Rachel and got back on the bus. Milford Sound had been a definite on my New Zealand to do list. We boarded the boat which seemed to cater for Chinese and Japanese tourists in a big way. The scenery is absolutely beautiful. It’s just this long stretch of water with mountains either side as in the picture below. It was a glorious day for our short cruise so we all went upstairs on to the outside deck. It’s not actually a bad time to see this if it’s raining as you then get more waterfalls. Rachel insisted I do a BBC holiday version of the trip. Considering my delicate state it came out quite well.

We were quite lucky in that we got to see seals on the rocks at the side as in the picture above. The penguin was not so visible. Then unbelievably I moaned that I never saw dolphins and suddenly a pod of twenty or so arrived. It’s so difficult getting pictures of them out of the water but I managed to get one in the end. I think the best part other than that was how close the boat got to the actual falls. At one point we were literally being sprayed with water. I really would recommend this although the Marlborough Sound that we came through from the North to the South Island was pretty good too. After a couple of hours it was time to get back on the bus.

We stopped at a scenic walking area called the Chasm. More water and some very large rocks. The walk wasn’t too long – I am suffering !! Time to go back to Te Anu and yeah, Martin got back on the bus. That’s three of the old gang back together. We took a scenic drive to Tuatapere the sausage capital of New Zealand, our home for the evening. Yes, sausages were on the menu. Some how I managed to stay up until the end of the film. I took the top bunk as I knew that once I fell asleep I wouldn’t move an inch, I’m looking forward to feeling normal tomorrow………

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 44, Train =2, Boat = 11, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

Milford Sound

Bungy Jumping in Queenstown – South Island, New Zealand

November 12, 2007

The Ledge Bungy - Queenstown, New Zealandajhl710250073729.jpgThe Ledge Bungy - Queenstown

Ki Ora from New Zealand

Well we had a wonderful lie in as the bus wasn’t coming until 12 and the Purple Cow being the wonderful place it is let us extend our check out time for free. I just can’t recommend them enough. I’d have loved to stay here a couple more days but time being of the essence it was time to move on to everyone’s New Zealand playground Queenstown. Yes, there’s a million and one things you can do here. Basically anything that’s fast and furious. To do everything would cost around US$150,000 and take over a month. For me Queenstown is where I’ve saved a certain activity called “BUNGY”. Yes that flinging yourself off buildings sport made famous by A J Hackett in the 80’s when he hid on the Eiffel Tower all night so he could bungy off it in the morning only to get arrested. But feeling the strong arm of the law does get you noticed and the business is now global with new sites opening all of the time. The journey was just going to take over an hour and it was raining. Our new driver Ali Baba ( I have no idea why he’s called that) asked who wanted to do the Karawai Bridge jump which was on the way in to town. The fab four (Abi, Jack, Dominique and I) put our hands up. Since I’ve done the sky dive I’ve been more worried about it, after all it’s up to you not your instructor to throw yourself off. I always said before I got here that I’d either do this bridge or the Nevis as the bridge is home of the first ever bungy jump. The idea was first thought out by pacific islanders who used to do something very similar. Apparently the women used to do it as a sign of fertility but then the missionaries came and made the men do it instead. Upon arrival at the Bridge we got to go into the viewing centre to watch a video on the origins and history of the bungy. This did not calm me. We then paid our money and were weighed. Dom & Jack paid upfront for the 3thrillogy (3 jumps at different locations). Abi and I decided we’d do this one first and see how we felt from there. Our bus passengers went out to the viewing gallery to watch and Muffin took my camera to get some photos. Abi and I arrived at the jump point first and were asked who wanted to go first. With a sudden urge to get everything over and done with and then relax and watch the others I said I would.

So on goes the harness and a towel is put around your ankles so the only method of walking is to waddle like a penguin. Satisfied that I was strapped up it was time to go to the platform. At the bridge you can also get dunked in the water but I decided that due to the ongoing rain it really wouldn’t be necessary (chicken). The river is 43 metres below me but I didn’t look down. I waddled to the edge and have to wave for the camera, the viewing platform is cheering. I held on to the bar at the side until that was no longer an option. My toes literally hanging off the edge I heard 5-4-3-2-1-BUNGY !!!! Before jumping I’d decided I’d do whatever the man told me, hesitation is not an option. I dived (quite well considering I’m not good in a pool) and down I went. The river was getting bigger and suddenly I bounced. After a couple of further bounces I waved at the viewing gallery. Then it was over, the boat was in the water holding out a pole which I grabbed and they lowered me in. After being untied I went to the bank and started to run up the path so I could get back to the platform. Then I nearly threw up twice, but thankfully I didn’t. I turned around to watch Abi do her jump and then went back to the gallery to watch the others. Domnique did hers and then Jack, he held his head before going and almost looked like he tried to grab the platform before jumping. To be honest (and I mean this), I felt it had been quite tame. Abi and I immediately signed up for the 3thrillogy aswell and collected our jump certificates – woo hoo !!

We all got back on the bus and were cheered by our fellow passengers. Now it’s time to get to Queenstown. We checked in the Base hostel. Abi & Dominique wanted to get tattoos so we went to the parlour to check out designs and when they could get booked in (just to stress, I do not have one, I debated a tiny one but decided against – possibly one of the wisest decisions I’ll ever make). We also then booked our next jumps and all met in the bar for happy hour and some food. The “Altitude” bar does do huge meals for a pittence. All the gang turned up and we were reunited with Neil who’d got there the day before. It turned in to quite a big night. They had a band playing and Martin was leaving us the next day so we all went for it. After the bar closed we went on to “The World Bar”. It’s a bit of a meat market but they serve their alcohol in teapots, so it was a battle over who wanted to be “Mum”. It’s the nicest “Tea !!!” I’ve ever tasted. Abi and I went back around 1am after all tomorrow is going to be another thrilling day.

Apart from a lost and found section at the end I may also write up a dormitory do’s and don’t. For instance girl in the bunk below Dominique – please don’t bring a strange man in ot your dorm at 7am in the morning, stay with him there until the afternoon, let him leave and then fill it with a security guy from the bar below an hour later. It gets very confusing and awkward for your fellow dormers and for your information the gentleman’s club is across the road, it’s not Base. Thank goodness we were going out to do Bungy no.2 the Ledge.

You’d think that having done one bungy you’d feel better about the next – oh no!! It’s almost as though now you know what to expect it gets worse. We walked through town and caught the Gondola which takes you 400 metres above Queenstown. At the top we met Jack. He wasn’t initially booked in as he really wanted to do a sky dive that morning. A sky dive and a bungy in the same day – is he mad ? Clearly. We all walked to the office and booked in. We were the first jumpers of the day at noon. We’d really wanted to do this one at night but it was only available until around 6.30pm at the moment. We were weighed, somehow I’d lost a kilo from the day before – now this begs the question have I discovered a new and revolutionary weight loss program. Yes !! Forget “The Atkins”, “Hip and Thigh” and “Slimfast”, the stress of doing bungys on consecutive days is working for me. Although obviously I guess it’s a more costly diet than most.

The viewing platform is a lot nearer for the ledge so we had congregated some random spectators. Well, those who think you must be mad to do that, suddenly I was having those same thoughts. At the jump site we were asked who was going first, before I could move my lips the others quickly said “let’s go in the same order as yesterday”. Yikes – that means me first. I got harnessed up. Unlike the other bungys the main harness is around your waist and you have the option to run off the platform. Of course some people back flip, dive etc. but running was good enough for me. I can tell you in the above picture I look a lot happier than I felt. Oh well here we go, 5-4-3-2-1-BUNGY !! I stood behind the red line as instructed and I ran. In fact my legs were still running as they left the platform. Oh my gosh !! This one feels completely different because of where the harness is you fall differently and it feels like your stomach has moved up in to your mouth. The bounce back was incredibly high. I think I shouted woo hoo, followed by the “F” word followed by some more blasphemous comments. Then there I was, even though this jump had been a slightly increased 47 metres I am now dangling above fir trees 400 metres above Queentown (see pics above). Once you’ve stopped bouncing you have to wait for a rope to be lowered and then unclip something on your harness to the rope. It all felt so manual, I’m not sure I really was enjoying myself. Finally I reach the platform as I’m hoisted up. Now the best bit I get to watch the others do theirs. Abi was going for a perfected swan dive as was Dominique. They went straight away no hesitation. Then it was Jack’s turn. To be fair he was still reeling from the sky dive and he does like to think about these things. He went to run and stopped, head in hands. We were cheering him on and after a few attempts decided to go silent so he could focus. The viewing platform however had found out his name and were now cheering him on. The guys decided that someone else should take their turn. There was a poor guy watching this who’d never done one and was waiting to go. He looked more scared than Jack. I don’t think it helped that the A J Hackett guys were saying “come on Jack, the girls have all done it.” Anyway he went to go again and stopped, but on the second or third attempt he did it. This in itself is quite a feat as once you have so many refusals it’s very rare for someone to jump. Also in terms of bungys the Ledge has 1 in 40 refusals where as the others here have 1 in 250. I’m not sure why that is maybe it’s because the jump site is easier to walk away from.

We took the gondola back to town and met up with the others for one of Queenstown’s best meals. The “Ferg Burger”. This is the burger of all burgers. The original is big enough but you also have “The Codfather” (the fish option) and the huge one “The Big Al”. I managed to eat the whole thing – see this bungy diet is just so flexible.

It was time for Abi to go off and get her tattoo so I decided I’d go back to the Karawai Bridge bungy with Dominique and watch Neil and Muffin do their jumps. Muffin has no fear she just leapt out to the platform rather than waddle. They all decided they’d get dunked. Dominique had now also decided to do it again and went in a little further than she was supposed to and the force of the water pulled her t-shirt and bra up. Well, the A J Hackett boys enjoyed that one, and she’s got it on DVD. We were all suffering from too much adrenalin by the time we got back so just watched DVD’s for the evening. As I went to leave I said to Jack “What a day !” “Yes, I’m just dreading tomorrow”, was his reponse.

We got up early and maybe it was the shame of the day before but our young lady hadn’t even made it home, in fact she didn’t the following night either. At least we could get ready without tiptoeing around. Yes today is the day for Nevis. The Nevis bungy is currently New Zealand’s highest (the highest is in Macau, well until next year when there will be an even higher one in Queenstown). Nevis is 134 metres. So only three and a bit times the height of what we’d already jumped. No wonder I’m nervous. Today’s victims are Neil, Muffin, Abi, Dominique, Rachel, Jack and me. We were weighed at the check in station in town. Amazing, I’ve lost another 400 grams. We were picked up by the shuttle for the 40 minute drive to the jump site. You have to drive up a ridiculously steep slope on the side of the canyon and the driver was doing his best to scare us. The check in area is a hut and we all got harnessed up, the more traditional way this time. He told us the 8.5 second free fall would be just as good as sex – trust a man to think that 8.5 seconds was good !!

The platform stands like a cable car high in the middle of a canyon. To reach it 4 people are transferred at a time in what looks like a metal meat crate in the howling winds. For Nevis, the heaviest jump first which means I’ve got a long wait. The first people were already jumping before I was across. I really did my best not to look but you can’t help it. Once in the cable car there is no let up. Yes, they kindly have a partially glass bottomed floor so you can see people fall. You end up with half a cable car full of elated post jumpers and then people like me waiting their turn nervously. Or in my case, for a change , silently. I think I did sing “get your tits out” when it was Dominique’s turn. She didn’t, but the instructors had been at the bridge the day before so knew what I was referring to and egged her on aswell. I just sat in the corner. Neil went first and let out the most dreadful deep throated scream. I mean if he feels like that no wonder I’m nearly having kittens. Rachel went next. Her jump was good although she did look a bit scared when she finally got hauled in. Dominique went and of course immediately went again in the bomb position she was shown. It’s supposed to make you go faster – like you need to. Then it was Jack. Poor Jack, unfortunately they weren’t as patient as “The Ledge”. He didn’t get to do it. To his credit though he has since done it. Brilliant achievement!! Muffin as usual had no fear and then second last to go it was me. Rachel had come to check on me as she said to Neil that she thought I might not do it. He said “don’t worry about her, there’s no way she’s not going to”. It would have been easy not to as Jack hadn’t. The thought definitely crossed my mind. Then I thought I’ve paid for this, there’s no way I’m not going to. My turn. The instructor said how quiet I’d been apart from my titty song. I double checked what I had to pull after I’d jumped, and then checked again and again. In fact I love my DVD as I hope I’ll never see myself looking that petrified ever again. Although I might if I ever get to walk down the aisle.

Time to stand up and make my way to the edge. The towel and waddle once more taking effect. I held on for dear life. The river below looks like a trickle of water, not that I really looked down. I think he shortened the count down to spare my suspense. So 3-2-1-BUNGY !! Off I went, a pretty good dive. I was looking at the top of the canyon ahead. All I can say is WOW WOW WOW WOW. Well I could go on like that for 8.5 seconds. I’m not sure if I screamed or just said woooooooo !! The water is getting bigger, the rush is incredible. You didn’t get as near to it as I’d thought. Then the second bounce feels like you are doing another bungy as you’re so high. It’s absolutely brilliant, I want to go to Macau and do the 200 metre one. I pull my chord at the end of the second bounce as instructed and turn upright. Some people forget to do this and end up being hoisted back upside down – that really would cause a blood rush. My hoist cable clicks in to place, it’s automatic, I love this jump. I’m waving, cheering, I just want to let go completely and hang there. Then all too soon I’m back at the cable car. Your first question is “How was that ?”. Well, it’s on par with the sky dive and maybe even better. I am now addicted, well as long as they are over 100 metres. I nearly went again. Muffin did. Time to get shipped back to land in the meat cart. I bought the DVD this time – hope to bore you all with it when I get back.

Time for another Ferg Burger and then Dominique went off to get her tattoo. It’s my last night in Queenstown. This does mean that we’ve now done the 3thrillogy so below is a picture of Abi, me and Dominique in our 3thrillogy t-shirts. The others are staying longer but I need to move on. We went to “Altitude” and then “Buffalo”. We got Sarah a special T-shirt from all of us as due to a car accident she couldn’t bungy. She nearly burst in to tears but it could also have been that she’d realised she’d lost her passport. I met up with Lisa and a few others who’d just got back. Then quelle surprise, creepy Justin from Rotorua was there. Does he just follow back packers around ? Well, got a few more drinks, drunk and dialled home and then went to bed. In fact the homing instinct kicked in so didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the others. You know how I am when that happens !!

Queenstown is fun……you could spend a fortune and all I can say is the bigger the height the bigger the rush. Go for it !!

Oh yes and after I left Neil still had the “Ledge” to do and did it naked – I’ve yet to watch it on facebook – nutter !!

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 43, Train =2, Boat = 11, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

The 3Thrillogy Girls - Abi, me & Dominique

I wanna be in Wanaka – South Island, New Zealand

November 10, 2007

Kite flying at lake Wanaka

Ki Ora from New Zealand

9.30am and time to leave Makarora that was after our boiled eggs with soldiers. A concept we’d introduced Muffin to in Franz Josef as they don’t have them in America and she’s now addicted. Although the first thing I heard that morning as I woke was moaning Madeleine asking why we stop there – give it a break love, you’re on holiday after all !! I managed to leave my towel, luckily my trekking face flannel is nearly as big. I think I may write a lost and found section at the end of this trip and see whether I’ve gained things or not. It’s amazing what you can get along the way. We drove for 2 hours along spectacular mountainous scenery and finally arrived at Wanaka. This is not an official Stray stop but it should be. It’s on the way to Queenstown but had come highly recommended. It’s also a big ski resort but we are now at the end of the season. Dominique, Abi, Sarah and I all got off. We had one last group photo outside Wanaka’s puzzle museum below. Carlin was trying to encourage Madeleine to get off but thank goodness she didn’t. I later found out that she stayed on his bus practically all the way to Dunedin at least – I feel sooooo sorry for him. We stayed at the Purple Cow hostel which I can thoroughly recommend, they can’t do enough for you. We ended up with our own little 4 bunk apartment and had a well earned cup of tea. We were just chatting in general and had come to the conclusion that we’d have a really girly day as it was a bit windy outside. Not an hour had gone by when we saw Martin, Muffin and Jack walk past the window. They’d decided after a quick look around that Wanaka and Lake Wanaka was so nice they’d stay for the night aswell so Carlin had brought them back. Although he was in fact distraught that his only nice passengers left on the bus were Neil and Mads. That’s the great thing about this trip, if you don’t like the people you can just get off and wait for the next bus.

We went off to have a look around town so that we could get some food to cook for dinner. It was so windy. Apparently further South winds were at 120km per hour so we were getting the fall out from that. There had been quite a lot of damage around Stewart Island and Invercargill. The day was however sunny and the lake looked a brilliant blue colour. The waters as usual were so clear so we could see huge fish in there – rod anyone? The other 3 turned up and had brought a “Winnie the Pooh” kite. Yes, I am still getting more mature by the day and so are my friends. However, in Denmark, Winnie is not called Winnie, oh no he is known as “Peter Plys” – at least I’ve learnt something new today and I’ll never look at “Winnie” in the same light again. We thought “Peter Plys” might have got damaged or blown away but he managed to cope as you can see in the above picture with the lake in the background. After sourcing the food it was time for the girls to take a well earned siesta in an environment where you don’t get woken up every ten minutes. Dorms can be exhausting places.

Each room made their own dinner and then everyone came to our room to eat. It was great still being with the majority of our group. After dinner, Jack being the Peter Jackson fanatic that he is had booked the tv room so we could watch “King Kong”. I’m not sure why but I always seem to fall asleep at the part where they put chloroform on Kong. It seems to seep through the screen and get me. Apparently I was snoring quite loudly – well I did have a cold (I don’t normally) !!

I woke at the end at we all went to bed admiring the amazing stars in the sky, they are beautiful here……

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 43, Train =2, Boat = 11, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

The gang minus Rachel outside Wanaka’s puzzle museum