A Travellerspoint blog

January 2011

New Zealand South Island

We arrived on the South island where we plan to spend 3 of our 5 weeks in New Zealand. We got off to a good start with a walking tour of Christchurch to check out the earthquake damage and find a spot to celebrate the arrival of 2011. The earthquake damage ranged from total to subtle. The venue for the evening would be the Irish bar on Cathedral square. The square itself playing host to an open air celebration with fireworks once we got bored, or kicked out, of the pub.

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Several Guinness later and a round of Auld Lang Syne and it’s 2011 – Happy New Year.

We hired a car for our time in New Zealand and the roads are a joy to drive. Only three complaints – the roads through the mountains are quite windy and my driving makes Niamh sick. Second is the lack of radio stations (if you exclude the AM stations playing Christian rock.) The final complaint is the number of campervans which might be more numerous than the sheep.

If a person sat down to design a country to serve as the world’s geography field trip then New Zealand would be it. Glacial valleys, river valleys, volcano craters, tourism, hydro-electric power are just some of the GCSE curriculum available here. Thanks to Niamh’s coaching I am now bandying around terms such as terminal moraine with the best of them.

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Our tour has taken in mountains (which I wanted to climb but sensibly wasn’t allowed to,) glaciers (which I was allowed to climb on,) valleys and hills. We have driven, kayaked, walked, ice walked and power jet boated.

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We’ve seen penguins, seals, sea lions, harris hawks and dolphins – all in their natural environments. We’ve yet to see a Kiwi though.

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Some of the sites have just been amazing, Milford Sound, Mount Cook and the Speights Brewery being a few that particularly stand out. Even the places you drive through, to get to whichever extraordinary destination you are heading to, would be a destination in its own right back home.

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Other than the wildlife and landscapes we have also managed to catch up with a couple more friends. Saul and his lovely girlfriend, from university days and James and Gayle from Cayman days. Both ended up in too much consumption and a painful drive the following day.

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Next we head to the North Island where we hope to find volcanic activity and radio reception.

Posted by steve1000 20:09 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Sydney & Blue Mountains

We’ve fallen behind on this blogging milarky once again. Unfortunately the lack of free internet, or perhaps more accurately the outrageous expense of internet is as much a feature of New Zealand as Australia. Still it’s catch up time so I have to cast my mind back one month to Christmas in Sydney.

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(I have posted a bunch more photos on the photo site for your perusal.)

After Christmas we checked out of the Sheraton, the hostels this close to New Year were charging amounts which could only be considered theft so we had booked a 3 day tour of the Blue Mountains that came with accommodation. The weather was pretty bad and we spent most of the first day being told what we might see if it weren’t so misty.

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After a day of disappointing views and freezing (well 12c) temperatures we gratefully arrived at our hostel to discover that we have been allocated a dorm room. My first taste of the real backpacking experience. The YHA in the Blue Mountains had that faint hint of sweat that one would imagine accompanies the malodorous backpacker. As it turned out our dorm also had the lingering aroma so things were not onto a good start.

I spent a good period of my life at boarding school sharing a dorm with 20 other teenage boys so I wasn’t too fazed and got a fairly good night sleep. Niamh wasn’t so lucky. She was woken twice in the night. First by a gentleman requesting that she get out of the bed as he was planning to sleep there. Niamh dealt with this in an expert manner, essentially a spot of growling followed by a spot of ignoring the new guest. The second disturbance was more distressing - Handy Andy in the top bunk causing the entire bed to shake along with his nocturnal entertainment.

We tried being backpackers, we really did, but the smell and the other disturbances were just too much. We jumped on the bus back to Sydney and checked into the Hilton for a long, well earned shower.

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Before we left Australia we had a chance to catch up with another friend from Cayman, Lloyd. Having just flown back from South Africa he cast off the jetlag and treated us to dinner, drinks and the view from the roof patio at his apartment. If you squint a bit you can just make out the harbour bridge.

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Next morning it’s off to New Zealand.

Posted by steve1000 19:32 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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