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Sloggs' Travel Blog A journal of my travels in 2008 & beyond...

Life since Queenstown (the last two weeks of my NZ adventure)

NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 2 July 2008 | Views [1694]

Kitted up in England gear for a disappointing lose in Christchurch!

Kitted up in England gear for a disappointing lose in Christchurch!

So, Queenstown was a very exciting part of my trip this year... and since then I've been doing all the kind of things that lead me there; meeting new people, hanging out, hiking, swimming, driving, sightseeing, etc etc... but since the serious activities in Queenstown, this stuff seems a little dull! This is the reason why I haven't updated my blog for a couple of weeks. I kind of wanted to leave all the exciting stuff there for return visitors to absorb! ;-)

This entry is a catch up, without the usual ton of detail fo each and every movement (well, apart from maybe the rugby weekend!).

13th June. I woke up early, packed my bags and checked out of the hostel in Queenstown, heading out for one last big walk in the area, the Fernhill Loop which covers some ground on the mountains behind the town and goes across the saddle between two of them. It was a nice walk, with some tricky sections due to the rain the night before, and I got to meet some wild mountain goats who were not really that interested in a chat? They did however, demonstrate their ability to run up very steep slopes when I said 'hello', lol! After a tough three hour walk, I headed back to the hostel and sneaked in the side door to use their showers to clean up and change before I drove back north to Wanaka, where I had already spent a couple of quality nights hanging out with Chris. I booked in at the purple cow hostel and pretty much just chilled there for the night.

14th June. This morning I took the east coast lake walk up to a place called waterfall creek (creeks are soooo boring now!) and then spent the afternoon chilling and doing laundry. That evening I went to the pub to watch the first England test against the All Blacks, which was disappointing and left me wondering exactly what sort of performance I was going to be watching in Christchurch next weekend!

15th June. Today I drove further north to Mt Cook, the big un! I took a walk into the valley from the little town, along the Kea Point, and then ran back to the town after a break at the end. From here I drove on further north (making my way back towards Christchurch) and stopped of at Lake Tekapo to camp for the night.

16th June. From the campsite I took a walk up to the summit of Mt John this morning, which was a steep forty minute walk. I took in the views at the top, which included a huge observatory on the next peak, and then ran the whole way down, which is the first time I've run one of these hills without stopping at all... got down in fourteen minutes, and was completey fucked! I'm really enjoying the running down hills thing since I started it, and this one felt good, although I was clearly going to be sore in the calves and thighs tomorrow! Before leaving to drive for Timaru on the east coast, I checked out the popular tourist spots at the lake of the olde church on the banks and the statue of a collie overlooking the lake. Lazily I didn't read the story behind this bizarre statue, but I'm guessing it is a famous Collie? ;-)

17th June. After a lengthy, walking/running enduced lie-in, I drove a little further down the coast to see the Elephant Rocks at Danseys Pass. I read about these way back at the start of my trip, and the drive through crappy weather was worth it, as they are a pretty odd sight. The rocks are formed from age old compressed sand stone and stand in a field looking like giant sleeping animals. The visit was seriously cold though, with the winter well and truly set-in and it being a high open space. I did sit and hang around for a little while, as there was an American chap climbing on top of one of the biggest rocks here, even though they were wet and covered in VERY slippery algae. I was kind of hoping the moron would take a fall, hence hanging around. Not sure what I'd have done had he actually fallen off, apart from laugh hard of course. Some people are so stupid! Anyway, after being disappointed by the stupid person not falling, I drove north along the coast to Akaroa, which is the principle town on the Banks' Peninsular, jutting out on the east coast next to Christchurch. I got there very late, and in the dark and rain I forgot to check how much fuel I had and got a very long way out along the country roads before realising I was seriously low on the stuff! Luckily I made it into town and to the camp site by around 8pm and with just enough fumes in the tank to get me to the petrol station in the little town the next day. Phew! The pitch black winding roads were fun to drive, even in the driving rain and with the threat of breakdown hanging over me.

18th June. After breakfast I took a walk into town (20 mins from the camp site) and got some maps for local hikes from the info center. I set off on a walk which took me all the way up into the hills behind the town and back for a couple of hours, with good views over the town and bay. I had lunch in the harbour and then jumped onto a boat cruise out into the bay to spot dolphins and other wild life. The trip was a complete success, with the skipper finding several pods of Hectors dolphins who were willing to play along side the boat, and we also saw penguins swimming out there and fur seals hanging out on the rocks along the coast, plus of course the obligatory southern hemisphere treat of the huge albatross that fly around these parts.

19th June. Today I took on the much more serious hike around the mountains behind town, which took about five hours including walking into town and back to the camp site afterwards. The views from this walk were loads better, especially from the Stoney Peak summit, which was a savage seperate 40 minute climb up a very steep hillside with no visible track most of the way up! It was proper 'tramping' through the bushes and ferns to get up there. When I got down from the peak side track I met seemingly the only other person doing that walk today, a Danish girl on holiday here for a few weeks. She was nice and we had a good chat before I said farewell and set off to storm down the mountain! That's the first Dane I've met on my trip, exciting or what! ;-)

20th June. I took a very long 'tourist route' drive out of the Banks Peninsular this morning and made my way into Christchurch where I was staying for the weekend to watch the rugby, get exceedingly drunk and then try and recover in time to do something useful with my last two days on the south island! I got checked into a private double room at a hostel near town and walked into town through the seemingly in the 'dodgy' part of town judging by the number of squatter in the boarded up houses alongside the road! I was glad I'd be walking past here at night in a seriously drunken state, they should be more scared of me than the other way around by then! ;-) I like Christchurch town, it is very laid back and has a great vibe. Today as workers sat around in the center eating their take away lunches, a good live band were playing (amplified) next to the giant chess board in front of the cathedral, where two old boys were having a batle royal! It seems that there is a live band every weekday lunch time, as the sign up near the little stage had tomorrows act listed too. Its a great touch. I walked down to the townhall to collect my match ticket and while there I spotted that the England team were staging a press conference here today! I made a mental note of the room name and sloped up the stairs to find it... Obviously when I pushed the door open to see the assembled media all sat waiting I was asked for my pass... hehe! Can't believe I forgot it!! ;-) Ah well, worth a try... I walked down to the mega pub, the holy grail, were I sat and watched some of the catch up highlights from Euro 2008 with a couple of pints. It was disappointing to watch Germany beat Portugal, I hope they don't go on to win the tournament! That evening when I left the pub I spotted Steve Borthwick near the pub, having his photo taken in front of the 'champions of the world' rugby store (which makes me laugh every time I see one!). He was with what looked like his parents and already had a trail of people after him (and he wasn't looking all that chuffed!), so I decided to turn down the chance to meet the current England captain, and left him to it...

21st June, All Blacks V England rugby fixture! I went for a stroll this morning to kill time in town by looking around the art galleries and museums before the game tonight. As I walked past the massive posh hotel behind the cathedral, right in the middle of town, I saw some of the New Zealand rugby team putting bags into a few cars right outside, so I stopped to stare along with an elderly couple of ladies, who got very excited when the All Blacks captain (and absolute rugby legend!) Richie Mckaw came out... they shouted 'morning Richie' and got a wave from him... I thought 'screw it' and brazenly walked over to say hello, it wasn't like he was being mobbed or anything, so I didn't think it would do any harm. He was more than happy to say hello, and as I shook his hand I gave him a wink and wished his team 'good luck' for the match tonight... sometimes I am too funny!! He found it quite amusing and laughed at me before I left him to it. Nice fella. I bloody knew I should have taken my camera out with me today! Rubbish. After checking out the art galleries I wandered over to the college (Christ's College) where I could here the noise of sport being played with a crowd, and sat and joined them to watch some under 19 college rugby, which was excellent! The pace of their game and the skill levels are superb, as you would really expect here in rugby mad New Zealand! I got changed into my newly aquired England kit (bloody expensive!) and went down the the holy grail to get 'watered' before walking down to the stadium with a couple of guys from Bath to see the game. By the time I'd taken my seats up in the gods, I was pretty well inebriated and wearing a very thick 'beer coat'. I was completely surrounded by Kiwis, which was brilliant as the banter was fantastic with them as the pathetic England were tamely demolished in front of us! I was quite nervous about singing the national anthem, I'd never been to an international 'away' fixture before, nor had to sing it surrounded by 'the enemy', but it went smoothly and provided me with the only bit of pride that evening! The number of people who said 'you're brave' for being there decked out in England gear and holding my flag aloft was surprising, couldn't they see how much 'brave juice' I'd been drinking from the wobble?! ;-) After the game I went back to the awesome holy grail and proceeded to get utterly utterly wasted, with success! I did let myself down tonight though regrettably. I had planned on getting messy tonight, for some weeks previous, but I did not plan on a rather pretty young kiwi thing lining me up for herself (yes, she must have been blind drunk, or just blind, or had some other terrible mind altering affliction). I was completely bladdered and talking utter bollocks by this time, but for some reason she liked me and was grinding all over me on the dance floor. Perhaps it was because I was still proudly (drunkenly) wearing my England shirt in a pub full of Kiwi's, or because of my awesome moves on the dance floor, but I definitely blew it big time with all out drunkeness! It's the most guttedI can remember being over loosing out on a situation like that, as through the drunken haze and forgotten few hours from later that night, I do remember that she really really hit the spot in the 'looks' department for me. Damn it! Stupid drunken bloke. After all these years of experience, you'd think that I would have remembered that increasing the amount of alcoholic intake the drunker I get is BAD. But noooooooo, same old trick got played and I went home alone. I don't actually know how I got back to my hostel room, but I woke up face down on my bed, fully clothed with the door key still in my hand at 9:30am! I was not in a healthy state! After going to bed properly I eventually got up at around 4pm (seriously!), rueing the balls-up last night. I also had to 'have a word with myself' for loosing a few hours completely from the night, which unfortunately included sending some utterly ridiculous (and incomprehensible) text messages to people at home, for which I apologise for once again...! I did plan on getting that drunk of course, hence the carefully selected private room, which included a full recovery night after, close to town. I won't say I'll never drink again, cos I know that I won't be able to stick to that, and the new me doesn't lie to myself! ;-) But I must begin to realise that I need to slow down as the night wears on... sheesh!

22nd June. The day after... ouch! I went down to town once finally awake and forced a chicken burger down my neck (it didn't want to stay down there, but I wasn't having any back-chat!). I went down to the holy grail, hoping that if I offended any staff members during the hours I 'lost', that they weren't there, and had a coke and watched some more Euro 2008 footy. The rest of the day was a lazy right-off... you know the deal. Leave me alone... ;-p

23rd June. Today I drove north to Kaikoura, I was bloody determined to see some whales!! Grrr. The weather was shit, lol, so it didn't look good! I booked on to a tour tomorrow morning, and just hoped that there would be a break in the weather to get us out there.

24th June, successful whale watching! The weather was ok this morning, and the tour was on! It turned out to be a complete success on this visit, and we got alongside two Sperm whales, one of which delighted us with a full breach, which only people sat on my side of the boat were lucky enough to see! (Full breach is when the whale jumps out of the water! Awesome!) We also chased and eventually spotted a Humpback whale, which to the surprise of the guide, showed us its tail as it dive, a rare sight according to him. A complete success! The captain took us to see some fur seals, but judging by the reaction of most on board (who'd obviously seen lots of fur seals thanks very much), and the fact that half the boat were not feeling too good, we didn't stay there long. After some lunch I drove as far back towards Christchurch as I could be bothered before dark and ended up camping in a backwards little campe site in a weird village on the coast just north of Christchurch. The people in the reception were both covered in red food colouring having been decorating a bizarre looking cake (seriously, it looked like a blood bath on first glance) and the only other guest on the site, an elderly lady, turned off her blaring R&B to sit ourside her caravan and watch me setup camp... It was the first time on my trip that I was scared for my life! I locked myself in the van and packed all my kit as best I could ready for my flight tomorrow and got a good nights sleep... luckily no one wielding any sharp edged instruments attacked the van overnight... phew! ;-)

25th June. Travel day! I drove to the rental place to drop the van off, where they did their visual inspection of the van and missed the scraped up bumper from the bovine related 'incident' which seems like so long ago now! I booked a little cheapo hire car through them to collect once I landed up in Auclkand, which  I could use for my last week in NZ to explore the north island a little bit more and then got a lift to the airport. I was early for my flight, but luckily they had a TV in the lounge which was showing a recent Moto GP from Donnington which kept me amused for a while. The flight was trouble free, and I was soon at the rental place picking up a clone of the little red sports car that Chris had been driving around in when we were touring together down in the south. The clutch travel on the thing was about 7 inches and the biting point was right at the top of the baggy clutched thing! In light of this evidence I'd have to say that Chris did a superb job in his for the two weeks considering that he hasn't driven for a very long time (and only sporadically before that). I drove south in the pouring rain and dark to Hamilton, where I could not for the life of me find the hostel I planned on staying at in town, so I settled for a motel, which was loads more expensive than I wanted to be paying, but by then I was fed up and just wanted to stop! It turned out to be extremely comfortable and came with free interent hook up which kept me up until the wee hours chatting to people back home on msn...

26th June. Bored yet? Seriously, if you're still reading this, you either need a more exciting day job, or an actual life! ;-p Thanks for reading though... I love you. x Today I drove down the west coast of the north island to New Plymouth which is in the Taranaki region, dominated by the huge Taranaki Mountain, which resembles Mt Fuji in Japan, which I actually saw when I did the Tongariro crossing it was such a clear day. Today was not a clear day though, far from it! It rained, hard, all day long. I found a great little hostel here, near to town though, which had some great owners who I happily killed some time chatting too before taking a walk in the rain into town to check it out and go to the info center for details of the walks on the mountain. I spent the rest of the day chillaxing at the hostel.

27th June. I drove to the foot of Mt Taranaki today, into a town called Egmont, from where I could not actually see the mountain, at all! The wind was blowing hard and the rain coming on strong. No walks for me today, at least not on these slopes! (not even with my new found prowess!) I went into town and went to a large gym/swimming pool place I'd spotted on the map and did a gym session, my first for a loooooong time, including lifting some weights, which I used to do A LOT! It felt great, and I really enjoyed it, including a swim and spa/steam room session afterwards, prompting a little bit of reminiscing in my head about my old regular gym days (sad). I actually had wobbly arms driving back to the hostel, brill! :-D That evening I sat and watched the Bourne trilogy in the comfy lounge at the hostel in front of an open log fire and chatted with a couple of Italians, which was hard going what with their broken English and my non-existant Italian!

28th June. I was going back to Taupo today, where I have already been but liked it so much that I planned on going back. I drove along the 'forgotten highway' for a few hours, which is a brilliant winding and twisting road cutting through some odd landscapes across the country. I stopped off at the township of Whangamomona, which is an independant republic after the locals had dispute with the local councils! It is a weird little town, with pretty much just a handful of houses, a hotel and a post office. Thats it. When I got to Taupo I checked into the YHA hostel, which is extremely disappointing and highlights a problem with the Lonely Planet guides as they really paint a different picture of this place! It was very uncomfortable and far too small for the number of people there. I went into to town (in the perpetual downpour) and watched the Kung Fu Panda which is very amusing indeed (cheers Rob for the recommendation, yarrrrrr!). The rest of the day was spent killing time... getting bored now and REALLY looking forward to Fiji and the tribewanted.com experience!

29th June. I switched to a single room for tonight after another shit nights sleep and spent the day killing time (still raining hard!) by reading up online about the Vorovoro island and what to expect/what to take. This just served to make me more excited about going there... doh!
#30th June. No rain! Woohoo! I took the opportunity to hike, and drove out of town to tackle Mt Tauhara, which was bittersweet. It was touted as a good two hour climb, but took only one to get to the top, even with the VERY wet mud and root paths up there after the glorious recent weather. This was good, cos my fitness is better, but it meant I had more of the day left afterwards to kill! I met a nice couple from Chichester at the summit, having their lunch, and we chatted travel (old news now huh! ;-)), before I headed off down the mountain in front of them at pace. It was a good climb, and was to be my last in New Zealand... This afternoon I went shopping and got a bit carried away buying gifts for the Vorovoro island, including biodegradable multi-use soaps, anti septic wipes and plasters, some games for tribe members to play, a rugger ball (and pump for that and their footy ball) and some scrap books and crayons for the kids at the school on the island. Hopefully this stuff will be ok!

1st July! This morning I packaged up all my wet weather and winter gear (which I had to buy for New Zealand) and maps and books that I no longer need to cart around with me, and sent them home. Even with the added cost of sending this stuff home, I've got some decent wet weather gear for home, which I don't have there, and it was much cheaper to buy out here anyway. I drove to Hamilton and checked into a cheaper motel than last time for a comfy last night here before I fly to Fiji tomorrow.

2nd July. Bye bye New Zealand. It's been awesome! Sweet as! Su-fluppin-perb! I'll never forget my visit, and WILL be back. But for now, I'm excited to be off to my next new country... Fiji! I dropped off the hire car, got a lift to the airport, checked in my bag and sat to relax and wait for the flight...

Pics from the last two weeks in NZ are over on Facebook. I've added some into existing folders too, but they should appear as new additions if you have an account.

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Me with the kids at Cawaro Village School during the Vitika Trek

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