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Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

The Final Leg

Posted by Leanne on November 12, 2005

So far, when I’ve been writing about my trip to KiwiLand, I’ve been using what I wrote while I was there, crossing out all the rubbish bits and putting in a few extra bits. What follows is exactly what I wrote about the last 4 days of the trip: 

8th November 2005

Wellington- bacon flavoured vodka.*

[*Just to explain the bacon vodka- we went to a bar in Wellington which had quite a large vodka menu, one of which was bacon flavoured vodka. It sounded horrible, but I was curiously drawn to it. The barman came over and asked me what I would like.
“Can I get two Tuis(Tui is New Zealand Lager) please and erm, I’ll try a bacon vodka.”

I looked away as I got my money out and when I turned back to the bar, I found that he had poured three shots of vodka: two chillis and a bacon.

“Erm, I asked for two Tuis, not chillis.” I explained.

“Ah sorry mate- you can have the chilli vodkas on the house.”

But I don’t want them, I thought.

I took them. We drank them. They were all disgusting.]

9th November 2005
Taupo- sunset and wine by the lake- classy. 


10th November 2005
Taupo- Auckland- Waiheke- bus was really really hot- even Smooch’s Maori mechanics couldn’t fix the air conditioning. Arrived in Waiheke late, not much to do at night. 


11th November 2005
Waiheke- Auckland- went to beach in Waiheke, drank sars.


12th November 2005
Spent a really long time wishing I was asleep in Hong Kong airport.




Stay tuned for more travels…


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There’s a Whale, There’s a Whale

Posted by Leanne on November 6, 2005

The last stop on the South Island was Kaikoura, and today (and indeed for the rest of our time in New Zealand) Smooch, a crazy Maori fellow was our driver. Kaikoura is the place you go to in order to watch whales, swim with seals or swim with dolphins. As there weren’t many seals about, I opted for whale watching. As soon as our catamaran arrived at the deep bit* of the sea, we were surrounded by hundreds of whales. By which I mean there were two whales. And when they dived down to the bottom of the sea, leaving a perfectly still patch of water in the middle of the rippling waves, there were two more, and then two more and then two more. 


Even though that doesn’t total ‘hundreds’, eight whales on a trip that averages two per trip was pretty impressive. Something else that’s pretty impressive is this panorama I took of Kaikoura. Click on it to get the full effect.


*That’s the technical term for it

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Posted by Leanne on November 5, 2005

Being in Christchurch feels very much like being in England. It’s one of the biggest towns in New Zealand and, as a result, the trademark mountains are harder to spot.
The hostel I stayed at was the New Excelsior and I chose it for two reasons:

  1. It was where my friend, Simon ‘lost’ a dalmation a year before my visit to New Zealand and I wanted to see if it was still there… Alas, it was not meant to be and Number 56 was nowhere to be found, though there were a few china dalmatians in a shop just down the road. They looked a bit big to be related to Number 56 though.
  2. I found out that it was on Lichfield Street. Considering the fact that I used to live with Simon and that he knows how excited I get when anyone even mentions the name of my birthplace (Lichfield), I was surprised that he never mentioned it before.

Spent the day walking around, watching street entertainers and trying on hats. 


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Twizzle and Goonies

Posted by Leanne on November 4, 2005

The journey from Queenstown to Christchurch was a long one and for the first time (apart from on the Milford Sound trip) we didn’t have Cam to drive us there. Our new driver was Pumba.

He started the day by driving us to Cromwell for our first pie stop. I remember that I really started to miss Cam when Pumba started to play the Crazy Frog song on the bus… we had obviously been lucky up until now. I also remember Cromwell as the town of the giant fruit because there were sculptures of giant fruit there. Or giant sculptures of fruit.

Heading over Lindi’s Pass, we were very excited to encounter our first ‘Kiwi Roadblock’ – a herd of recently sheared sheep being herded across the road. Of course, everyone bounded to the front of the bus to take a photo… which doesn’t quite explain why I don’t have a photo of it. Feel free to imagine what it looked like.

Next we stopped at Lake Pukaiki where I did manage to retain one photo of the famous Mount Cook (from a distance)


We were amused to drop someone off in a place called Twizel, which unfortunately is not pronounced twizzle, but tweye-zel.

It was shortly after a lunch stop (I had a pie) in Tekapo* that the bus broke down. That was why, on a glorious day, we spent two hours sat in a stationary bus and watched The Goonies whilst ignoring the sunshine outside.

In Geraldine, I ate an ice cream instead of a pie.

It was a relief to finally get off the bus at the end of a very long day when we finally arrived in Christchurch.

*I must have been taking the scenery for granted by this point. I don’t have any photos of the lake in Tekapo, but I can ensure you that it was very picturesque

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Milford Sound – Sort Of!

Posted by Leanne on November 4, 2005

We met at the bus stop at 7am. Needless to say, noone was very impressed that the bus driver was 10 minutes late. When he did turn up, he started driving us, in the bus, before he told us that actually, he wasn’t our driver- that was his flatmate Justin and we weren’t on our way to Milford Sound as we had originally thought, we were on our way to their place to pick up Justin who had forgotten to set his alarm clock the previous night.

In spite of this little hiccup, it wasn’t long before we were driving away from Queenstown under a big black cloud. At our breakfast stop in Te Anau (nice town- lakes; mountains- you know the drill), the clouds seemed to drop lower (or maybe we were just higher) and the perpetual drizzle persisted.

As we drove into the Fiordland National Park, down one of the ‘world’s finest’ roads, it became apparent that the rain wasn’t going to go away, and the mists drooped still lower over the mountain tops to impair the (apparently fabulous) views, pretty much screwing up any chance of a decent photograph.


Justin (bless ‘im) did his best to enthuse us about our barely visible surroundings by pretending that it really was the best time to be there, when you can’t see much because the rain creates hundreds of skinny towering waterfalls which wind their way down from the clouds (and probably the mountain tops as well). According to Justin, we were lucky to be there that day. On a day when you had any sort of visibility, you probably wouldn’t have any waterfalls.

I’m sure a ferry ride on Milford Sound is a wonderful experience, but on that day, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a bit of a waste of time. Everything was shrouded in mist. Admittedly there were a lot of waterfalls that wouldn’t have been there without the rain, but I had been in New Zealand for almost three weeks now and I was starting to become a bit blase about towering mountains and waterfalls. In my head, you could see them anywhere!


It was at Milford Sound that I learned what it is they forget to tell you in the guidebooks: Its very very wet. In fact it is the wettest place in the world, sometimes getting as much rainfall in one day as the UK gets in 6 months.
As we were leaving the ferry terminal, I glanced at a postcard of an unfamiliar place. It looked nice, so I checked out the name of the place.

“Oh that’s what Milford Sound looks like.” I said, to no one inparticular.

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Jet Boats

Posted by Leanne on November 3, 2005

As a traveller in New Zealand, you hear a lot about Queenstown because Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world.

On arriving there, I discovered that, not only is it full of fun and adventure, but it’s also one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. As you come to expect from any New Zealand town worth visiting, it is a town set around a stunning lake, surrounded by imposing rugged mountains which, when I arrived the previous day were bathed in sunshine under a cloudless sky.

Unfortunately, for my jet boating excursion, the sky wasn’t quite so cloudless and there was a threat of drizzle in the atmosphere.

On arrival at the meeting place, I did feel a little bit like I was on an OAP trip- I was the youngest person there and I got the impression that the jet boat is a ride for people who like to think they are adventurous, but would never dare to jump off bridges or out of planes.

Still, as we whizzed down the Shotover River canyons, narrowly dodging rocks and spinning across the shallow water, I felt glad that I was there, in spite of the seemingly harmless drizzle, which felt like darts hitting my face as we sped down the canyon at 50mph.

You can pretend the picture below is of the jet boating location*. 


*alternatively you can look at the pictures on the shotover jet website, because this is really a picture of the Kawarau Gorge where I jumped off a bridge. My camera wasn’t allowed on the boat trip- i didn’t want it to get hurt.

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Posted by Leanne on November 2, 2005

After a stop at Wanaka’s Puzzling World we hit the meandering road to Queenstown where the scenery swiftly changed from rainforest covered mountains to much more rugged terrain and the impending bungy jump loomed closer.

All too soon, we filed from the bus to the soundtrack of Star Wars Imperial March, out into the open air. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as we watched a man fail 5 times to jump from the top of the Kawarau Bridge whilst sunbeams danced on the surface of the sparkling turquoise water below him. As someone who doubted her ability to launch herself from the top of a bridge, I wasn’t sure that it was all comforting to watch someone else failing to do so, despite cheers of encouragement from the onlooking crowd. Still, I paid my money, zipped up my pockets and presented myself to the bungy crew.

Once I was on top of the bridge, there was no turning back. All of the non-jumpers (wimps) from our bus were standing on the viewing platform, watching and giving encouragement. Personally, I wasn’t all that encouraged to discover that the ‘harness’ consists of a towel wrapped around your legs, secured with a few straps.

Safe in the knowledge that I now had a towel strapped around my legs, I stood up and shuffled onto the edge of the platform, taking extreme care not to look down. I heard the man to my right start the countdown: 5…. 4…. 3…. 2…. 1…. 


It was a few seconds before I realised I had dived spectacularly off the edge of the bridge and that I was falling through the air. I had expected to feel a lurch in my stomach as I fell, but that didn’t happen. Everything around me seemed still and quiet until I hit the water, then the cheers from the crowd came back into focus and I realised I had only bloody gone and done it!

I bounced around upside down for a bit before being hauled onto a waiting raft and taken back onto dry land.

The whole experience couldn’t have lasted more than 2 minutes from start to finish, but the lasting impression it left me with was perfectly suited to the jubilant Indiana Jones theme tune which Cam played to accompany our walk back onto the bus.

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Posted by Leanne on November 1, 2005

After a Halloween party the previous night- everybody just wanted to use the bus time to sleep. Cam, on the other hand had different ideas and wanted us to get out of the bus about a million times to take a picture of another beautiful lake, or in some cases, the same lake from a different angle. It was almost as if I was starting to take the stunning scenery for granted!

The first lake was Lake Matheson, or the Mirror lake as it is more commonly known. On a clear calm day, the reflection in this lake is almost like looking in a mirror. I don’t quite know why we decided to ruin it by skimming stones over the still surface to break up the reflections… maybe we were still drunk.


The last lake of the day was Lake Wanaka, shortly after which we were allowed to get off the bus and relax in the town of Wanaka which was unsurprisingly set around an amazing lake and surrounded by mountains.

If I were you, I’d click on the picture below to get a real idea of what it looked like.


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Not Quite Dancing on Ice

Posted by Leanne on October 31, 2005

When staying in Franz Josef, there’s no better way to spend a day than hiking up a glacier.

After getting kitted out with ice talons and waterproofs, we started the day with a brief introduction, informing us of what glaciers are made of (ice), before embarking on an exhausting climb up a huge staircase carved in the side of the glacier.

Throughout the course of the day, we slipped through tight crevasses, commando crawled through frozen tunnels and traversed great walls of ice.


Apart from the climb of death at the beginning of the day, the trickiest part was coming back down. In spite of feeling quite important that there was a man with a pick cutting steps in the glacier for us as we descended, there was a nagging feeling that, if I fell, I might die.

Obviously I didn’t die and I lived to see the great Fox(es) Glacier (mint) on our way to Wanaka the next day…

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The Bushman’s Centre

Posted by Leanne on October 30, 2005

On the way to Franz Joseph, we stopped at the Bushman’s Centre– a strange place with a strange smell and a unique roadkill menu.

Pete, the old dude who runs the place is an old man with old fashioned views. As he welcomed us to the centre, he pointed out the roadkill menu (“you kill ’em, we grill ’em”), emphasising the infamous possum pie as a vegetarian option- because possums are pests and they deserve to die, besides which they’re vegetarian too. His words, not mine.

As part of the Bushman’s centre experience, we watched a short film, showing some crazy Kiwis of the past risking their lives to jump out of helicopters on to the bucking deer below, the purpose of which was to capture live deer for farming.

Just to round off the visit, Pete made one of our crew feed a live boar some toast. All in a day’s work for the Kiwi Experience.

dscf3989 crew…

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