Monday, January 7, 2008

New Zealand - Week 4

Week 4 Nov 27 - Dec 3rd = Napier to Auckland

Our 1st destination upon leaving Napier was Whakatane, purely to catch a ferry across to White Island for a day-trip on the ACTIVE VOLCANO, sadly the sea conditions were too rough so we could not do this (we DID meet our first Swedish backpackers though, a lovely young couple who spoke better english than me!). Moving on to Rotorua made up for this disappointment though - it is a geothermal area with geysers (Pic 1), mud-pools (pic 2), even the rocks are hot... the sulphur smell is very potent even 5-10km outside Rotorua! A visit to the Buried Village of Tawawera (buried by a volcanic eruption in 1878, pic 3) is great experience along with the Te Puia attraction for Maori Cultural experience (pic 4), including the imposing HAKA dance!

After an overnight stay @ Kristin's Auntie/Uncle's in Tauranga (great to utilise their pool and talk Soccer with Kris's Uncle!) we headed up the Coromdal Peninsula to Cathedral Cove
(Pic 5;
which I since learn is featured in the 2nd Narnia movie "Prince Caspian") and Hot Water Beach ....this is amazing, chemicals/minerals under surface cause the sand to get upto 60 degrees so ppl bring spades and dig holes at low tide to sit in and voila u have a hot-pool! (pic 6)
After this we decided to drive back to Auckland a day earlier and this concluded the road-trip..... I have to say Kristin had organised a brilliant schedule which enabled us to see so much of NZ's beauty in just under 4 weeks!

I stayed the next 2 weeks at Kris & her parents' house in Torbay (North Shore of Auckland), making a small trip alone upto Cape Reinga & another down to Hamilton to visit my Auntie's friends.... these form the next & final 2 blogs of my NZ Adventures!

New Zealand - Week 3

Week 3 Nov 20 - 26th = Christchurch/Kaikoura (South Island) to Napier (North Island)

Another week of early mornings and a fair amount of driving took us from Kaikoura on a beautiful coastal drive then inland through winding roads round the mountains to the North of NZ's South Island. Our next 3 days were spent in Nelson, where they get sunshine and much-appreciated heat/blue skies most of the year! Staying at a nice friendly backpackers called 'The Bug' was great, the owners (from Leicester & Canada) love VW Beatles (Pic 1) and cleanliness, plus my personal highlight of FREE INTERNET ACCESS!!!

Aside from a half-day trip to the Abel Tasman National Park, where 4 hours were spent basking in the sun on Coquelle Beach (see Pic 2 & 3), we didnt do an awful lot in Nelson except rest and prepare for our journey from South to North Island. On a side note here, I was rather amused to drive through STOKE, rather greener & quieter than its Midlands namesake (pic 4 above)!

And so we took the InterIslander Ferry from Picton, South Island, to Wellington on the North Island....twas rather exciting driving onto a huge ferry (something I haven't done for 15 years since a family holiday to France!) and to up the excitement level somewhat further I paid $10 to watch The Bourne Ultimatum (3rd that MATT DAMON!) & thus missed out on the views of the Queen Charlotte Sound & other landscape the Ferry travels through! On arrival in Wellington we were given a rather unwelcome "Welcome to the North Island" when the car behind us decided not to stop at the exit from ferry terminal to main road...... giving the rear-end of our Mitsubishi Lancer hire-car a good bump!!! This accident cut into our scheduled time in the Wellington area but we did manage a visit to the wonderful Te Papa museum, cable car ride, ice cream, train ride up the coast to Paikakariki (pic 5) and also I got to see the extent of 'DAVID-BECKHAM FEVER' (the LA Galaxy were playing an 'exhibition' match in Wellington...basically ppl pay extortionate amounts of money to watch Beckham and some average American soccer players in a meaningless game, 24 hours after Wellington played in an important A-League match!). On the Sunday we went along to the Wellington New Frontiers' Kings Church in morning and evening, had a great time & I loved the youth service, especially seeing a group of Maori guys praying together afterwards.

Leaving Wellington was nice, our replacement hire car was a Nissan Pulsar which had slightly more power uphill so the journey north-east to Napier was quite nice. Napier was devastated by a HUGE earthquake in 1930 so it was rebuilt in an Art-Deco style (see pic's 6 & 7), I had no idea what Art-Deco meant but have to say I fell in love with it, and Napier.... probably the ONLY place in NZ that I could picture myself living in, it even has an art-deco amphitheatre on the promenade (pic 8)!

This 3rd week was nowhere near the action-packed 1st 2 weeks, and from here on the pace of travel was much slower..... my bank balance certainly appreciated this!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New Zealand - Week 2

Week 2 Nov 14 – 20th = Te Anau to ChristChurch & Kaikoura.

Another busy week of driving sight-seeing and lack-of-sleep began with the drive south to Invercargill, home of the legendary Burt Munroe “The World’s Fastest Indian” (see the movie starring Anthony Hopkins). A stop at the Southlands Museum is well worth the FREE admission….an exhibition on flags past and present of NZ (why don’t Oz & NZ get rid of Union Jack from their flags? They’re independent countries now!), Burt Monroe exhibit and also the Tuatara…… a lizard-like creature that has survived from the Jurassic period (Pic 1 – sculpture, not allowed to photograph real ones!), extinct everywhere else in the world!

A drive to Dunedin along the southern Catlins Coastal route followed, via The Bluff (most southerly point of South Island – Pic 2 “Where shall I go?”), Niagra Falls (Pic 3), Nugget Point (Pic 4).

Dunedin is another Scottish name (Scottish for Edinburgh I believe) and is home to one of my favourite places on earth….CADBURY’S WORLD!! (Pic 5). It also has a lovely Grand Railway Station, cathedrals and steep hills – one of which led to our HOGWARTZ hostel (sadly the owners love the HP books) and another is actually the World’s Steepest Street, Baldwin Street (Pic 6) – I managed to run ¼ of the way up it, quite proud of that achievement!

om Dunedin we drove up the east coast, stopping at the Moeraki Boulders (Pic 7 – boulders formed over 4 million years along coast), inland to Mt Cook (Pic 8) with Lake Pukaki neighbouring it, beautiful mountains/snow/ice (Pic 9)to see (It was v.cloudy but God parted the clouds for 3o seconds for us to photograph top of Mt Cook!), Lake Tekapo and more. Christchurch was our destination, we’d now kind of circled the lower half of the south island so spent 3 days chilling & sightseeing - I particularly enjoyed the Antarctic Centre (Pic 10) before heading North to Kaikoura, via Hanmer Springs (2 hrs in hot spa-pools of 30-40 degrees!), for a Whale-watching Tour. This was excellent but for me seeing 2 whales surface was outdone by the journey back crossing a pod of 600 Dusky Dolphins! (Pic 11).

New Zealand - Week 1

Now I am beginning a min-series of blogs from my 7 week New Zealand adventures, NOT because of blogger pressure (ahem Teapot, mr Eb & Mrs Sheep Lover!) but because of the sleepless nights resulting from said pressure! Haha Also it makes a refreshing change to Facebook which, I must be honest, is becoming rather addictive!

So Blog 1 takes me from November 6th to 13th, from Christchurch to Te Anau on the South Island. This journey (in our Green Mitsubishi Lancer hire car with absolutely no power up hills!) took us across Arthurs Pass through Narnia/LOTR country (Pic 1) to Greymouth. Here we drove up the West Coast to Punakaiki where there are Pancake Rocks (Pic 2 - sadly Id left maple syrup, sugar and ice cream at home), the weather was beautiful so we thoroughly enjoyed the coastal drive.

From here we drove down the West Coast from Greymouth, via old Shanty Town, to the 2 World Famous Glaciers, namely the Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers (Pic 3 & 4).

This then lead us onto Haast Pass where there are many wonderful waterfalls, rivers and lakes (Pic 5 = Blue Pools) including my new favourite Lake Wanaka (Pic 6).
We drove up treachourous ‘metal roads’ (unsealed, dirt-roads) to the old mining village of Bendigo, through Cromwell and arrived in Queenstown where we stayed for 3 days. (Pic 7 = Queenstown from top of Gondola) This is THE adventure capital of New Zealand, Bungee Jumps (Pic 8), Shotover Jet (F1 Car on water), sky-dives, mini-golf, lake cruises, mountain walking in The Remarkables etc etc. I enjoyed the hot-spa in our hostel!

One drive we did was to a place named ‘Paradise’ (Pic 9) but to me the scenary didn’t quite fit the name!

The week ended at Te Anau, via the Famous ‘Kingston Flyer’ steam train (Pic 10 - weird-shaped tender), where of course you drive to Milford Sound (Pic’s 11 & 12) for a lovely entertaining cruise round ‘the sound’ out to Tasman Sea and back. I particularly enjoyed driving back through the Homer Tunnel (yes Homer Simpson built it! Lol).

The weather wasn’t amazing, cloudy/wet from Glacier’s until Queenstown when it cleared up to allow me to burn my neck then jump 43m into a river!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Queensland Adventures

Well now, I have under 2 weeks remaining of my 1st stint in Queensland before heading over to New Zealand. And yes Im now bowing to pressure from friends back home to turn away from Facebook for a while and do a blog! This will hopefully cover my week-long tour of the east coast of Qld from Brisbane up to Cairns and the wedding I flew back for at crazy-o'clock the following saturday!

To start with here's the pool in the backyard of the house I've been living in with Dan & Chris Webb

A brand-spanking new Queensland Rail train.... Virgin trains HERE IS THE FUTURE!!

ANZAC Square in Brisbane, I've consumed many lunches here!
So I completed my 'oz experience' tour with the final leg from Brisbane up to Cairns, passing through some nice and some average places, day 1 went through Noosa and Rainbow Beach (I wasnt impressed by either, glad I wasn't stopping), ended at Hervey Bay which was described by our driver as "the place old people come to die in", day 2 we passed through Bundaberg ('Bundy'), here's the town hall which I think deserves to be glorified in photographic form! Day 2 the cheesey music continued on the bus, Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" was a hit singalong as was Aqua's "Barbie Girl" since we had 2 danish girls onboard! This day ended 35 km in 'woop-woop', aboriginal for 'the middle of nowhere' on a cattle farm - we were well-fed, surrounded by flies, learnt to lasooe, crack a whip (im AWESOME at this!), ride mechanical bull (26s 4 me), goat-rodeo, dodgy drinking games then left the next day headed, via an afternoon game of lawn-bowls...... to Airlie Beach......... not a nice place unless you're young and wanna drink/party alot or have money to sail to/arounf the WhitSundays! So I stayed one night, this photo is of the lagoon there which, by day, is quite nice Day 4 I met 3 cool people, Brian, Karlyn and Sam, we became a close group for a few days as we stayed on Magnetic Island, near Townsville (which is a lovely town... with Great Dividing Range nearby), - fotos below (anyone else agree the girl on far left looks like Mena Suvari from 'American Beauty'?) We then headed on the 5th and final tour day to Cairns together, via a cool Croc-Farm run by the orignal Mick Dundee (they moulded the movie character round this guy)..... got to hold a baby croc with jaws taped shut, it kinda went mad when I also had snake round my neck! Cairns began with partying and drinking rather alot of the free alcohol the bus driver bought us (all harmless fun but some viewers may not be amused). Needless to say I spent the next day recovering/sleeping. I'd been comfronted by temptation but did not succomb! My camera broke but my lovely parents agred to fund a replacement since I was going to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef next day....... such a beautiful part of the world as the following photos will prove: Over the course of this 1 week I made a dozen or so new friends, some of whom Id hope to see again back in UK, or Canada......... you may know I used to have a thing for Canada being my favourite country until I discovered the great places and girls of Australia, well I met a gorgeous Canadian lady named Tara (pronounced Te-ra) and found it hard not to be attracted to her, don't think she's a christian which kinda goes against the understanding Id come to that dating a woman whose life is lived for God is the right way for me to go. Since being back in Brisbane she's moved down but havent really seen her and realised that this isnt the right time in my life to have anything more than friendships..... God has someone for me but in his time not mine! Anyway my last night in Cairns I got about 3 hours sleep between partying again and waking ridiculously early for a 6am flight back to Brisbane so I could attend a wedding of 2 friends from VACC Church I go to here.... a beautiful wedding....the groomsman Nick even sprang a suprise by singing Snow Patrol's 'Chasing Cars' after he and Suzie were married! SO cool and as usual all the guys and girls looked great!