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Gundry Adventure

Goodbye Vernon

NEW ZEALAND | Sunday, 6 April 2008 | Views [586]

For those of you thinking that I had sold out and become a sad git, chasing photos with celebs, I would like to point out that it was Suze who stole Collingwood's beer and was grabbing the players for photos.

Anyway after the excitement of the Test Match we had a few chilled days travelling to, and enjoying Wellington which is at the Southern end of the North Island. We managed to meet up with an old friends of Kirsty's and spend the afternoon with her and her husband in the pub!! We were also introduced to Wellington's weather; rain, rain and more rain, something that we could cope with but Vernon (Our Campa Van - not sure why but that is the name) could not. We returned from an evening in curry house to a leaking Vernon and soaking bed.  I spent the night with a saucepan at my feet!!! Following a FIRM discussion with Vernon's owners they agreed to swap him out.

After an early start, it was still dark, we caught the ferry to the south island to begin the next leg of our adventure but Vernon last. Thanks to Grant we have a complete itinery and have not had much planning to do. Our first stop was Kaikoura to swim with dolphins and to watch whales in action, unfortunately not the 2008 Grand Slam winning team!!

In our wisdom we thought it would be a good idea to join the 6.00am tour to swim with the dolphins. We collected our wetsuits and joined our group on the boat and our search for the dolphins began. After about 40 mins a pod, of about 200 dolphin, was spotted and we were given the signal to get in the water. Trying to mimic the sound of dolphin and swim like them, to attract them, made you feel like an idiot but that was soon forgotten as they began to swim around you. To entertain them you have to look them in the eyes and swim in circles with them!! It's incredible to think that they are being entertained by you and are watching you from about 2 feet away. We continued this for about 45 mins and it was a totally breathtaking experience.

The Whale Watch was booked for the next morning, another early one, so we decided to get to bed early. But after about an hour the wind picked up and the van started to rock from side to side with the wind, so much that Suze started questioning whether we would be blown away. I was just glad we were not in a tent!!! Just as I calmed her down a siren, which sounded like an air raid warning, started to go off and Suze was ready to evacuate the van!! Apparently it was the alarm for the local fire brigade. We made it through the night ready for whale watching in the morning. Upon arrival at 7am we were informed that all trips had been cancelled due to rough seas.....Gutted.

We decided to head to Christchurch and say farewell to Vernon. It was an emotion drive but the scenery made it a bit easier. It was a simple changeover and were upgraded from 12yr old Vernon, to young spritely Veronica who has plenty of energy and life to get us up the steep mountain climbs.

After a couple of days chilling in Christchurch we drove West, across to the other side of the Island, through Arthur's Pass to Franz Josef. The scenery was even better than before and made the long drive worthwhile.

Franz Josef and its neighbouring town Fox are famous for their glaciers both in excess of 10km long. On our first day, with no clouds in the sky, so we headed to Lake Matheson which has reflective views of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. I won't bother explaining how good it was as the pictures say it all.

The following day we booked to hike on the Franz Josef Glacier. We collected our hiking equipment, including crampons and boots, and made our way to the bus. As we were about to get on Suze was asked to take a picture of some people joining our trip, at which poiunt a lonely older Thai woman pounced and having broken her camera, persuasively befriended us and we became resident photographers for the day.  Unfortunately we were held back by her, in the slow group, as she literally wouldn't let Suze go, hugging her and saying she just wanted to be with us.  As it turned out she is Govt Minister in Thailand!!!!

The hike itself was incredible and a bit surreal as we were actually walking on thick ice that was over 100 years old and had travelled 10kms in that time from the top of the mountain. In some areas the ice is blue as it is so dense. 


We have now left glacier country and arrived in Queenstown. I am set to achieve a 20 year long ambition and jump out of plane ...................

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