Saturday, January 27, 2007

crazy auckland

i have found some more crazy things to do.......

went up the sky tower in a lift, and came back down in a lift, even though there is a freefall option, suspended from a couple of wires. The views from the top were amazing, as was the glass floor, which seemed to be troubling quite a few people. No, it wasn't all glass, just some small areas.

Took a tour round the harbour on a Fullers Ferry. they point out all the interesting things like the greenpeace ship, really old buildings from 150 or so years ago, a sugar factory that was originally a brick works, built by prisoners, who also constructed the first freshwater dam to supply the town with water and consiquently were the first inhabitants to have flush toilets in the whole of New Zealand. Loads of other things - i could bore you stupid on this one..... a mini Devonport, several volcanic cones sticking up through the suburbs or out of the sea.

Climbed to the very top of Auckland harbour Bridge, with a guide and some safety ropes, wow, excellent views across the harbour and of the city, could see right through the mesh floor to the road and the harbour waters below, you wouldn't want to drop anything over the edge... apart from if its tied on to a bungy, which i did and have on a dvd.

Eating really well and very cheaply here, a big overseas population caters for all tastes, and have found several places local to the backpackers where i can get a huge meal for under $10, about pounds 3.50, usually chinese/oriental style food, real yummy, so i'm not going hungry. Gotta go, its dinner time

tongariro crossing pics

Thursday, January 25, 2007

heading north

Interislander ferry, formerly The Pride of Cherbourg, leaving Picton.

Have changed my plans and headed to the north island last week. Wellington, the capital, was a huge contrast to the south island with hugh high rise blocks, tonnes of shops and people rushing around. Stayed a couple of days and checked out the botanic gardens and Te Papa, the national museum which was rather spectacular, but unfortunately the camera is holding all the photos hostage at the moment.

Bought a new camera.

Headed north to the smallest village in the world, Erua, 4 houses and a ski lodge, just down the road from a larger village strangely called National Park ( i looked at the map for ages checking the names of all the big green spaces to find National Park, before i discovered that was actually just a village and not a forest.)

Have spent a week at the lodge with Brian, Miriam and several other guests, gardening and helping to tidy up the grounds. Thoroughly enjoyed myself creating easy care areas with the team and unloading trailer loads of bark to tidy other areas.

Free time was spent on their petrol go carts, playing paintball, watching the latest films - downloaded from the net and drinking copious quantities of beer. All of which was great fun.

Had a good days trek over the Tongariro Crossing, through a group of volcanic mountains in the centre of the island, just south of lake taupo. Climbed up and up and up, through vast areas of black lava and mounds of rocks, through the fog. It got colder and windier and wetter the higher we climbed and the visibility was down to a few metres at times. Along a windswept ridge, knowing that the views were incredible, before decending down past hot pools and steaming rocky vents issuing sulphurous gasses that stank like millions of rotten eggs. Suddenly the cloud was gone and the view opened up for the way down and we could see for miles. Bare rock became tussock grass and small white daisies, changing to low scrub, into forest with tree ferns and cordylines down further into taller trees and a torrent of a stream, the path contained by huge wooden steps that were far too big to walk down, eventually ending up in a car park where a bus collected us and returned us to the lodge.

Left yesterday, feeling revitalised and ready to travel again after a few days supposed rest. Have just arrived in Auckland and the air is hot and humid, and it really feels like summer for the first time.

Thank you all for the reminders that i am halfway through my trip, time seems to be flying past and opportunities to stay keep presenting themselves with alarming frequency. Still having a ball. BIg love to you all. SAM

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mountains and lakes

Mount Cook in the distance over lake Pukaki, and Lake tekapo at sunrise.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

going up north

Well, i left Queenstown, planning to travel straight back to Christchurch before continuing north, but the sights were so amazing that when the bus stopped at lake tekapo for a lunch break, i got my backpack off the bus and booked into a hostel for the night. The water in the lake was a really bright terquiose blue, caused by glacial sediments, and too cold to swim 8-10 degrees, so i didn't go in.

Hired a bike and went for a wonderful ride round one side of the lake and back, looking out over the water to the snow capped mountains in the distance on one side and big hills to the other. A layer of cloud spilled over the top of the hills down into the valley in the distance threatening to block out the sun, but came no further. Cycled back to the village passed a minute church, on the waters edge, that looked like it had a wedding going on, whilst outside four coach loads of japanese tourists spilled out and took photographs of everything. Kodak must make a fortune in Japan.

Chatted to some locals that evening who told me that the lake was often mirror flat in the morning as the sun rose and the reflections of the mountains exquisite. It doesn't happen every day as i found out just before 6am the following morning!!
After the early start, took a hike up a nearby hill, Mount John, to an observatory where they watch the stars through the clearest night skies in New Zealand, took photographs of japanese tourists for them and sat looking at the view with a cuppa. A hungover american chap came and sat next to me. His son had gotten married yesterday and he had driven up the hill to clear the cobwebs, the service was disrupted several times, much to the dismay of the vicar, by the tourists that i had seen, swarming into the church and wanting to photograph everyone and everything.

Hitched back to Christchurch on an empty coach, the driver was from Birmingham, he had the strangest of accents you can imagine. He dropped me right in the centre of town, just where i needed to be. Back to the hostel that i first stayed in, its like coming home in a wierd kind of way.

Am off to the north island, hopefully to do some more work and stay in one place for a week or so, and am looking forward to that.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

ben lomond

Still couldn't be sure that i wanted to do the huge nevis bungy, so went for a walk up the hill behind the hostel yesterday. it was a bit more of a walk than i had planned, the challenging 4hour slog to the top of ben lomond and the panoramic views made it well worth while.

It felt like much more of an achievement than leaping off a cable car attached to a rubber band, i am quite glad that the opportunity to get the jump for a discounted rate has now expired.

My legs are killing me today, and the thought of being adventurous is not appealing today. Mebbe it was the copious amounts of alcohol last night that have remdered me less than enthusiastic. I think a chilled day at the Last Resort backpackers, the most enjoyable hostel i have stayed in yet, is in order.

how long is a piece or string (well elastic actually)?

i guess it depends on how heavy you are really, but from the bridge, just long enough when fully stretched for me to dip my hands in the water, before bouncing back up so far i thought i was going to hit the bridge again.

it was the most incredible thing to do, exhilarating beyond belief, so much so that i went and did another one in the afternoon, that was quite a different experience and much more enjoyable, with a harness round my waist rather than my feet, could take a running jump and somersault out of the launch site before plunging towards the trees and rocks below, wow.

there is another much higher option from a cable car down into a ravine with an 8 second freefall that feels rather tempting at this moment in time, will sleep on it and see how i feel in the morning......

Thursday, January 04, 2007

and the Snowy bits

Wanaka to Milford Sound

in a very small plane.

The thought of a 14 hour round trip by coach to see milford sound did not sound all that appealing once the option of travelling in a very small aeroplane was discovered!!!

I sat next to the pilot in a 4 seater cessna with Jenny and Stuart Miller in the rear two seats just to confuse the tour operator, who was sure there had been a mistake with our surnames.

Flew over Wanaka and Shania Twains controversial new pad in the hills, the Dart valley, Mount Aspiring, the Avalanche Glacier and many more huge mountains, glacial features and hardly any other tiny buildings or signs of life on our 45 minute flight to Milford Sound.

What can i say..............................just look at the pictures, i am still blown away by the vastness and beauty of it all

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Inland to Wanaka

Have come travelled inland, through fields of cows and sheep, along the coast and then inland, rising up through hills following a wide valley with large swirling river, passed huge hydro electric dams and huge mountains. The fields now have llamas and deer and the views into the distance are of snowcapped mountains over vineyards and miles and miles of fruit trees. The cherries are ready and the apricots plums and nectarines will start to follow soon. The sun is shining and it feels like a new adventure over again.

Have taken up the offer of accomodation with Nikki, a friend of my previous hosts, who has a home on in the lakeside town of Wanaka., An excellent base for a huge variety of outdoor persuits and close to the ski fields for the winter. It looks awesome and i've hardly started to explore yet.

have to see if i can get my camera fixed - the screen is cracked and no longer shows the pictures i am taking, buy sunscreen and a pair of shades at last......

Moeraki Boulders

Dunedin wildlife

Otago peninsula Dunedin
Killer Whale or Orca
Royal albatross

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

have travelled south to Dunedin and have been here for 4 days now. It's 2 Jan 2007.
Hitched out from town to an albatross colony on the end of the peninsula here along a great coastal road. Watched the huge birds soaring overhead in the strong winds, next to the seagulls they were massive, though didnt go and see them sitting on their nests coz the whole place was packed with bus loads of visitors, thankfully as i'd have missed a small pod of Orka/killer whales passing close to the shore over the cliffs. Amazing to see them through the clear water and occasionally surfacing for air. Shame the seals were so quick out of the water else they'd have been snapped up for lunch. More seals on the penguin beach. Didn't wait for penguins at dusk as i might have got stranded without transport.

The Moeraki boulders were up the coast, got a lift from an Ozzie guy, Neil, who is working here. Huge stone spheres that are being washed out of the soft cliffs and sit on the beach being washed by the sea, wait for the photos....and a huge walk along a neverending beach until we'd had enough and then all the way back again.

new Years Eve in town was great, although on a much smaller scale than large towns in the UK. Cool bands on stage in the centre of the town and all the bars absolutely packed, great atmosphere and everyone really friendly.

Did the Speights, local brewery, tour on New Years Day just to make sure that i'd had enough to drink to celebrate the arrival of 2007. Fascinating tour with a free sampling of all their brews at then end which went down reall well after a day checking out the sights of the town, followed by a very chilled evening.

Happy New Year to you all.