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'Around the South Island...'
New Zealand - MAY 2003
'...In 25 days'
Thursday 1st May 2003 Auckland

Managed to drive straight to the eye institute without getting lost - a first. Sarena was very upbeat as she had taken her eye patch off in the morning and said she could see very clearly out of her right eye. Dr Ring confirmed this as Sarena read the 20/20 line of the eye test only stumbling on one letter. This is great news, hopefully the same operation on the left eye will leave her with near perfect vision. Dr Ring was very pleased and booked us in for the next operation for tomorrow.

To treat Sarena I took her to the Zoo. We spent a good few hours watching all the animals, It took quite a while to drag Sarena out of the Monkey enclosure as she was fascinated by a mother Siamang and its two tiny babies. Auckland Zoo is a lot smaller than I had imagined but all the animals have plenty of space and seem pretty happy. On the way back to Phil and Liz's we stopped at a shopping Mall - Oh Joy! and got home to watch Lord Of The Rings on Video, before Liz arrived back from work carrying some nice juicy Kebabs for us all.

Woke up nice and early still wearing my eye patch but it had started to hurt a bit, more of a stinging sensation. I decided to take off the patch and couldn't believe how well i could see!! it was fantastic and i was bloody relieved, i just hope the other eye turns out as good.

We go to the eye place for my 9.30am appointment and showed my new eye to Dr Ring who was also really pleased so he just gave me some drops and made a date for my left eye to be cut on Friday.

Seeing as we had the whole day to kill we decided on going to the Zoo for a few hours which turned out to be really good. I have always been put off of Zoo's after going to London Zoo when i was a kid and seeing how small the pens were for the animals, i know it was a really old place but it seemed really cruel. I do prefer Wildlife parks but thought i would give this one a go, and it had really good space for the animals although it would be good to see them in the wild! We did however purchase a very small toy for Liz...... it was a rubber giraffe that after leaving in water for 72hrs grows up to 600% bigger!! now how fantastic is that, so she put it in a jug of water and left in the lounge for us all to watch.

Well after a couple of hours of that we then went to a big shopping mall in Henderson so that i could look for a b'day present for my sister who is turning 18 very soon, what a dilemma as i couldn't find a darn thing i think she would like and in our price range so decided on going home and coming up with another plan.

Liz came home about 7ish after spending the afternoon with her niece who is in the Starship hospital, she is only 3yrs old and suffering from really bad Systic Fibrosis and has been in and out of hospital her whole little life - bless her heart, her name is Violet and she is beautiful from what i have seen of her pictures that Liz has of her al around the house.

Liz picked us up a Keebab on the way home which we all munched into then we settled down to the TV for a couple of hours before i retired. I think Phil got home not long after from the football club.

Friday 2nd May 2003 Auckland

Sarena wanted to go to Auckland center to look for a present for her sister, but in the end came up with a better idea. We had a very lazy morning. It was pouring with rain so we spent the day in the house. I did quiet well on the old playstation.

Took Sarena in for , hopefully, her final operation. She was much more nervous this time and seemed to be in surgery a lot longer. But she came out not looking too stressed. We then battled the friday traffic through Auckland and back to the Rayments, picking up some food and wine on the way home.

Sarena made a great pasta dish for dinner and we all chilled around the TV for the night and watched a very strange film. I felt quiet out of it by 11 and stumbled off to bed. What a light weight!

Checked the Giraffe which does seem to have grown a little apart from one of his legs - looks very odd

Had another wonderful nights sleep but i am quite worried about having my left eye done today as this is the one that has been causing me problems and is still very dry but i suppose i have to just trust Dr Ring and what will be will be....

Well had it done and it went well apart from feeling the blade at one point so made sure they new it!! lots of anaesthetic drops please!!!!!!!!! infact the worst part of the procedure is looking into the light as i have now got a very low tolerance to the light due to the laser surgery. So even when they turned the light down as low as possible it was still like looking into the sun for me, thus making it very hard to keep my eye still and got me quite stressed. I did apologise afterwards for being a bad patient but they said i was really good. The had a patient earlier on in the day who was flinging her legs up in the air and making a right drama, made me feel better, i just forget to breathe.....

I made dinner in the evening for everyone and we just all chilled out with lots of vino and watched the Royal Teninbaums on TV - quite a strange film

Saturday 3rd May 2003 Auckland

Struggled to get out of the comfy bed, so it ended up being a bit of a rush getting to the Eye Institute for Sarena's check up.

Her left eye is still not as good as her right but she is still suffering from dry eyes so hopefully there is still some improvement to be made from the healing process. I treated Sarena to a quick fry up in town. We then headed back to Phil and Liz's as Sarena was feeling pretty tired, and I think a little disappointed.

Got back to find a new fridge had been delivered so we gave Liz a handed swapping everything over from the old one. Phil popped in and out between work and football, and Liz then disappeared to visit her ill Niece in hospital. We were left to salivate over the curry that we are treating them to this evening.

Phil drove us all to 'Oh Calcutta' a very posh indian in a very posh area of Auckland, Parnell. We got a table outside with eating from one of them big gas garden heater things. The food was fantastic, nearly as good as the company. They even had some curries that I have never heard of. It all tasted delicious. This has got to be the best curry house yet!

I drove home so made up for with a few beers back at the Rayments and watched premiership football on sky.

Got to the eye institute for 8.15am and had a very quick check up with Dr Ring, he said i still had a little bit of Astigmatism in both eyes and wanted to see me just before we leave the Country in June. I was a bit disappointed but my eyesight is just great at the mo and i still have a lot of healing to do so i'm pleased with the results, hey it's a darn sight better than it was before and at least i can wear a bike helmet without wearing misted up glasses underneath. I think this is going to be the best i get to be honest and i don't want me eyes cut any more!

Came home to find Liz up and about as the fridge got delivered at 8am (unheard of in the UK) so Toby and I helped her move the new one in and the old one out. Phil got home from work at about 11am then went straight out to play football, gosh he must be fit as he is always playing it. Liz then went to the hospital to see Violet and we stayed in the do diary and laze around the house.

We all went out for a curry in the Parnell area which seemed very very nice and where all the 'it' people hang, so of course we all fitted in just lovely. The curry was fantastic and we also got through a couple of bottles of vino which also added to the wonderful evening of frivolity and gayety.... the best curry i have had in a very long time.

It was decided, on having the coffee at home so we bundled back into the car whereupon i found Phil's hard hat on the floor so of course i put it on and there it stayed for the whole journey home, even went into the garage with it on - very comfortable!!

We had a couple more drinks before i fell into bed drunk and happy.

Oh yes and the eyes felt fine.

Sunday 4th May 2003 Waitomo Caves

Got up pretty early and started packing our stuff up straight away. Sarena was a little stressed out as her left eye is now the worse it has ever been. She reckons she must of damaged it in the night. I don't think so. She just needs to give it time to heal. Must be very frustrating though. We waved our goodbyes to Phil and Liz by 11 and headed straight down the motorway to Hamilton.

After Hamilton we drove to Waitomo Caves. Got there by 3 with a very numb bum. The weather was pretty miserable too. Luckily the local campsite had huts for just $10 more than camping, so we took one of those. We also booked ourselves up for the lost world abseil, 100 meters into one of the thousands of caves in they area, for tomorrow. Once we had settled into our hut, we paid a visit to the more touristy glowworm caves. fortunatley there was only about 15 of us at the caves and it turned out to be a really good visit. First we get to go to a part of the cave which is usually open for tourists, and then we had a very peaceful and un cramped boat ride floating below 10,000 glowworms, Its an amazing sight.

Sarena was still felling pretty low, so after the glowworms I made her go back to the campsite to cook my dinner whilst I went for a walk around a nearby reserve (Aranui scenic reserve) it was getting dusky but the walk was only 309 minutes long but well worth it.

Spent the evening reading and listening to the rain falling on the roof of the hut.

Got up quite early and had some b'fast, Toby had a cooked one made by the lovely Mrs Rayment. We then started packing up and were ready by lunch time. I was a bit stressed as my left eye was worse than ever and really very blurry so i thought i might have done something to it in the night?

We had lots of cuddles again and hit the road driving to Waitiomo caves to have a looksy around. After camping up opposite the booking office, well we didn't set the tent up but throw our stuff into a cabin we had for the night as the weather was wet and cold. The lost world abseil looked very good so we both booked up for the first run at 7am the next day but also booked up for the glow worm cave walk at 4pm that afternoon. I ran over to the shop and bought something for dinner - mmmm pasta. We met up with everyone else who were also doing the walk down at the cave entrance and started a wonderful walk through beautiful caves and then on a boat on an underground river to see the 10,000 glow worms that lived on the ceiling - absolutely wonderful !!! Toby took a picture of me in the caves, which was very naughty cause we were told NOT to take any photo's........ we ran away from everyone, i felt quite Japanese.

I was still feeling a bit pissed at my eye so i was quite pleased to get back to the cabin and start cooking tea so i could have an early night.

Monday 5th May 2003 Opunake

Didn't sleep well at all last night. So it was just as well that we had to be up and out of the campsite really early as our abseiling and caving started at 7. Sarena started packing things in the back of the car and twisted her back sending it into spasms. She could hardly walk after that so we had to cancel her trip. I was still going as there was only two of us and they would of cancelled the whole thing if I didn't go.

After a 20 minute drive we got to the start of the abseil. We got our kit on had a quick training lesson and began or 100 meter decent into the cave. Unfortunately I hadn't checked that everything was the right side of my harness! it didn't take long before the pain started rushing through my body. I started sweating, couldn't breathe and felt very sick. I didn't say anything to the guide as he had specifically asked me to check 'the family jewels' at the top. I started to descend quicker as I just wanted to get to the bottom. The Guide then stopped as I was going too fast and getting the rope too hot. He then made me hang there for 5 minutes before I could proceed. The pain was excruciating. I did eventually get to the bottom, but it took a good few minutes to get rid of the pain and get my breath back. The rest of the trip was a clamber through cave past some eels and glowworms and then a 30 meter ladder climb and more clambering to get too the surface. The abseil into the Lost World was definitely worth it. It is one of those must do things in NZ. but I my opinion it was very overpriced. I'm sure sarena would give me the sensation of crushed nuts for free! I would love to do some blackwater rafting and toobing through the tunnels, but with Sarena's eyes we will have to leave it to another day. maybe we will be passing though Waitomo on our way back up to Auckland in June.

The rest of the day was spent driving and Sarena and I getting on each others nerves. We took a very scenic route to New Plymouth, via a 60 km gravel track. The views where fantastic (as per most of NZ) and even better the further we drove the better the weather so by the time we got to New Plymouth it was glorious sunshine. We got some great views of Mt Taranaki (Egmont) as we drove through and out of the town.

In the end we ended up at a small town called Opunake where we camped up for the night and continued to get on each others nerves for the rest of the evening.

Toby got up in the middle of the night cause he thought someone was breaking into the car but it turned out to be the rain and leaves. We got up at 6am and started packing up the car, i lifted in the big bag that carried the duvet and unfortunately twisted wrong and completely buggered my back. Toby heard me yell out and came to see what i had done now...... i couldn't move for ages and had to just stand in the same position until the muscle spasms had gone. I know there and then i wasn't going to be able to do the absail. I had to go and cancel my trip which they didn't seem too happy about -tough tits. I then sat in the car all morning whilst he went off and did the trip, i was now feeling really sorry for myself what with my eyes and now hardly being able to walk....... i am falling apart!!! mind you i haven't seen a chiropractor since leaving the UK so i have done quite well but i think i can't put it off any more.....hey at least i got the money back from the canceled trip.

Toby got back at 10.30 and we had a coffee before hitting the road not stopping until we hit Oponaki 5 hrs later, i'm sure i could write lots about the views and the wonderful scenery which of course there was, but was in such a bad mood because of my pain and Toby which were of about the same caliber..........don't know if they make tablets for getting rid of big pains. - bless im.

Found a campsite near the sea and whilst Toby set the tent up i made some concoction in the kitchen which once again Toby ate all of and more even though he said he didn't want much for dinner...... once again it was a battle to get him around Pac n save to buy some food as he thinks he can live on fresh air alone and doesn't want to spend the money on eating even though we are now eating just dry bread in the day time. Met a lovely Maori woman in the kitchen who kept us amused for an hour then we went to bed in the freezing cold.

 

Tuesday 6th May 2003 Kaikora

Got up dead on 6 and we where packed up and gone in 40 minutes. Not bad! We had to drive straight to wellington to check in for the ferry at 12. It ended up that we had an hour to spare so managed to stop of at a really nice beach town for some breakfast.

It was a clear and sunny day again, even Wellington was lacking the wind. Although it is now pretty cold even with the sun out. at least the ferry journey was very smooth.

We arrived at Picton nearly an hour than expected but the journey was very good and a lot cheaper then the main ferry operators so we can't complain. During our journey we had been in contact with Joy and Spit and found out that they have had to change there plans and are already leaving the South Island and returning to Auckland to find a place to live. So we arranged to meet them in Kaikorua, 150 km down the east coast of the South Island, for a few days before they disappear. It is a bit of a shame as I think we where all looking forward to traveling around some of the South island together, But they have some deadlines to meet and will have plenty of time to do the tourist thing later on. So I quite understand there decision. We ended up getting to Kaikora about an hour before Joy and Spit who where driving up from Christchurch. They have had a hard few days sorting out problems with their car so had a few sorrows to drown by the time they met up with us. They arrived at the camp site ladden with alcohol which we used to help the forget there problems. Spit had a bit of a cold so he also supplied some brandy which got us very pissed very quickly. Joy ended up cooking us all up some pasta and we stayed up to the early hours in the camp kitchen making a hell of a noise.

Had a very restless sleep due to the cold but it still meant we didn't want to get out of bed when the alarm went off at 6am. We were on the road by 6.40am with a slice of dry bread to keep us nourished, and drove the 4 hrs to get to Wellington and to the ferry. We did stop off at a cafe on the outskirts of town for a cooked b'fast as by now Toby was hungry which means we can eat....of course. We got to the ferry terminal at 11.45 and then waited for ages before boarding and then waited for ages when we had boarded for the ferry to set sail, which meant a later docking time. The ferry was great, it was a lot cheaper than the other ferry companies and has just opened up for a passenger service as opposed to just a cattle ferry. The coffee was free and we could just and lay down in any bunk if we felt like it. The trip was about 3hrs long so i settled down to reading and playing my game boy whilst Toby sat outside and enjoyed to sunshine and view.

We arrived in Picton at about 5ish and went straight to a shop to get some alcohol as we were meeting up with Joy and Spit later that evening in Kaikora. They were really pissed off as the new Honda they had bought has caused them nothing but problems, now they have a major problem which is going to cost a fortune so they are going to have to sell it - bummer. They have also decided to go back up to Auckland to settle rather than in the South Island so are going back up ASAP to get a job, flat and new car! and because of the car problem it also means they haven't been able to see any of the South Island other than Christchurch and Kaikora - another bummer. So after a few text messages we established that we were staying in a top 10 campsite and were going to get drunk. We got to the site first and dumped our stuff, then cracked open the vino and waited for the other two. They turned up about 40mins later and soon joined in with the drinking telling us all there woe's and how fed up they were. Joy and Spit cooked us all dinner later on and we all got very very drunk at fell into bed at some point, can't quite remember really.!!

Wednesday 7th May 2003 Kaikora

Decided to stay at the same campsite for two nights. We are also sharing a camp unit with joy and spit as with the four of us it nearly works out to be as cheap as camping. This means that we can have a very lazy and relaxed morning, Which went down very well with me considering the fuzziness in my head.

Joy cooked us some breakfast at about 10 then Sarena and I got ready to go on a whale watching trip. I cleared my head with a quick walk around Kaikora's town centre with Joy and Spit. Sarena and I then went to the old railway station now called whaleway station and checked in on our boat trip. I as felling a little bit fragile and it was pretty windy so was very conscious of returning my breakfast to the outside world. The boat was a very smart catamaran which made the choppy sea seem much calmer than it was. I did fell a little nausea but not too bad considering.

It wasn't long before we spotted our first Sperm whale, then another, then another, then another. what an amazing sight. You don't get to see much of the whale as he refills his lungs but its pretty spectacular watching them dive back down and flip their huge tails up. As an extra bonus one of the whales was accompanied by a huge pod of playful dusky dolphins, one of which decided to show off with a quick succession of back flips. We where out on the water for about 3 hours and also managed to see some beautiful albatross that skimmed there way across the waters surface with hardly a flap of there massive wings.

Met back up with Joy and Spit for a bag of fish n chips then spent the evening lazing around in our unit, keeping each other amused with jokes and taking the michael out of each other. Also learned some interesting facts about Joy and spits personal habits!!! Watched back some of the video from last night with some antics in the camp kitchen that none of us could really remember doing. Now we all now why we feel so groggy today!

Quote of the day - Joy enters room (shivering), 'God its like a bloody oven in there-NO I mean a bloody freezer out there'.

Woke up around 7am desperate for a wee, which is so annoying as the toilet block is a short walk away, always hard when it's very cold outside. We all started getting up at about 9ish and had cooked b'fast done by Joy and then the other 3 wondered into town whilst i read my book for a bit. We had booked up a whale watching boat trip at lunchtime so at 12 we wondered around to corner to the Whaleway station and waited to find out if they were still doing the trip due to the windy conditions. 30mins later it was all action stations and video watching then a quick coach drive to the boat which turned out to be a catamaran which zoomed across to the sea at a million miles an hour to find the whales. The first sighting thanks to the fancy equipment they have on board sent us all flying outside at a sqillion miles an hours all pushing and shoving to get to the best spot. We all saw the whale blowing out of his blowhole and just floating around doing his thang, the sight was amazing and i was so enthralled. The best bit was when he dived flicking his tail in the air sending everyone into a photo frenzy. When he had gone we all got back inside and went to find some more. we ended up seeing 4 whales and a huge pod of dolphins and a few wondering albatross which were massive! What a fantastic day !!!! On the way back to the cabin we stopped off at the internet cafe and i found out from my mum that my lovely shminky Clare had been trying to contact me because her brother in law had died and she is devastated. I felt dreadful and wished i could be with her.

After a dinner of fish and chips and an episode of Simpson's it was time to ring Clare now it wasn't too early in the morning for her, but i just got an answer machine so left a message and tried again an hour later getting the machine again, sorry shminky.

Spent the evening in the cabin all talking absolute shite and reading our books and being stupid. I kept thinking of Clare and what she must be going through, i will ring in the morning.

Thursday 8th May 2003 Hanmer Springs

Waved our goodbyes to Joy and Spit. At least we will get to see them again, when we get back to Auckland, hopefully they will have a house by then too ;-). We decided to head south and inland just 150 km to Hanmer Springs for a relaxing spa in the mountains. The car made a bit of a funny rattling noise on the drive to Hanmer, the curse of the Spittle's I reckon. WHich made me decided to finally get an overdue service done on it. We have been off road a bit lately so maybe something has worked loose.

It was another gorgeous day and we got to Hanmer by lunch time. Had a quick cheese sandwich, played with the camp site pig and then went of to the famous thermal pools and spent a couple of hours splashing around in various hot pools. Very relaxing and made me feel even more dosier than usual by the time we got out.

Sarena cooked up some pasta for tea and I caught the weather on the news. Looks like rain on the west coast, so maybe we should stick to the east coast for the rest of the week. Also was just about to watch Bikini Heaven but Sarena said I couldn't and had to go to bed. Spoilsport :-(

Said our goodbyes to Joy and Spit then traveled around to the next bay to see some seals who frequented the area. Unfortunately they were right out on the rocks only to be seen by binoculars or by Toby's robot eyes that he has, so we just climbed the hill and took a few photo's from the top of the magnificent view of the mountains and sea. We then drove onto Hanmer Springs which took about 2hrs as the roads were extremely windy. The little town was beautiful though and had a very alpine feel about it, a bit like Queenstown but much smaller and prettier. We set up the tent and went for a dip in the local hot springs which kept us occupied for most of the afternoon. I then tried on a few bikini's in the sale ready for Fiji!!! oh the sunshine....... we bought a bit of dinner and i went back to the campsite and cooked us some pasta. Spent the evening watching TV in the TV room until Toby wanted to watch some crappy program about women half naked, i got the hump as i was feeling particularly fat and frumpy this month so he came to bed with me instead.

 

Friday 9th May 2003 Christchurch

Another fine crisp morning. Quite layed back in leaving Hanmer springs, don't think we really wanted too, but we are going to go to Christchurch to try our luck at getting the car serviced and checked out, before we tackle some mountainous drives. As I don't fancy the brakes failing on us again. Before we left Hanmer though we took a 4wd drive track up the mountains behind the town for a fantastic view across the valley. All Sarena could say was, 'I want to live here', she even offered to bear children if she could!?!

If was a very quick and easy drive to Christchurch. And on the way in to town we found a garage that could service our car tomorrow that also had a campsite opposite - how lucky is that? the last thing I wanted to to is spend 2 days waiting around for the car. After we had checked in at the campsite we got in contact with Ben, whom we had met on the Trans-Siberian train and arranged to meet up with him and Rachael and their 7 month old son Liam. Luckily is work shift was over for the week so we spent the afternoon over at his house drinking buckets of coffee and playing with baby Liam.

Watched X-Men II in the evening which I thought was really good and enjoyed every minute of it (geek!) then we snuggled up into bed for another cold night, unfortunately it was also a very noisy night.

Didn't sleep a wink as it was the coldest night we have had yet, i was dressed up like a Yeti but could still feel the cold in my bones. After b'fast we drove to Christchurch to find a garage and get the car in for a service, keeps making a funny noise so i think Joy and Spit have jinxed our car! We found a Top 10 campsite right opposite a garage that said we could drop the car in first thing in the morning which was handy. In the mean time Toby phoned Ben to see if we could meet up, he said to come around that afternoon, so we did. Spent a wonderful couple of hours catching up with Ben, Rachel and the wonderful Liam who i have to say was the most adorable and well behaved 7 month old small person i have every met. He didn't weep once and just loved to be played with or was quite happy just being left alone. Toby thought it would be a good idea to watch a movie so we had a bite to eat at the mall then watched the X men which turned out to be really very good! hey Wolverine can scratch my back any day!

Another cold night in the tent....

Saturday 10th May 2003 Akaroa

Alarm went of at 7 just as Sarena and I where starting to feel comfortable and wanting to sleep. We hadn't got much sleep as the campsite was very noisy, being on a main road and all. I stretched it out for another 45 minutes and then unloaded the car and took it to the Garage next door.

We sat and read most of the morning and by midday they hadn't even started working on the car so we decided to catch a bus into town for a couple of hours. First stop was the Asian Food court, I decided to go brave and try Sushi, something that I have never really had before. Apart from the Marks and Spencer Sushi which tastes awful. This stuff was really nice though. I actually felt refreshed after eating rather than full and stuffy. Yep I could get into this stuff. Sarena played safe and went for Thai. We then wondered around Christchurch City Centre for an hour before catching the bus back to the Camp site and the Garage.

In the end the car wasn't finished until 4, it was pretty good getting it booked in straight away on a saturday so I couldn't complain much. Bertie now had a much needed service and new front brakes which hopefully won't give up the ghost when they get hot again.

We packed everything straight in the car and took and hours drive out of the city to Akaroa, which is an old french colonial town on the Banks Peninsula just south of Christchurch. We didn't get there until dusk but already knew that we liked the look of the place.

By the time we got the tent up I was feeling very thirsty and surprisingly craved some wine. So I treated Sarena to a bottle of white and some fish n chips, I even splashed out on some vinegar. A Nice end to a rather expensive day. Thank god we finally got our house bond paid back to us today!

Didn't sleep again and spent a lot of the night reading and listening to the local traffic and a madman on his un muffled motorbike drive around the streets cutting through the campsite and waking everyone off. We then had some kind of bangers or somethings going off all over the town for ages, couldn't quite work out what was going on to be honest only that i was really tired and cold.

Toby took the car over the road to the garage for 8am whilst i tried to get some sleep, didn't work so i just got up and had a shower. After b'fast and some reading we caught the bus into town just for a looksy and had some Asian food for lunch then headed on back to the campsite to see how the car was coming along. The mechanic seemed really pleased with Bertie but still had a couple more things to do on him, so we went back and read for an hour then Toby went back and i packed up the tent. Toby came back with a smile on his face which is a good sign, cost more than i thought - $370... but at least it didn't have anything wrong with it, and now we have some new breaks which will hopefully put to rest the problem with them over heating when going down hill.

We drove onto Akaroa which is a French Colonial town on the waters edge about and hours drive from Christchurch, absolutely bloody beautiful and that was in the dark! It was dark by the time we got the tent up so couldn't be bothered trying to find some food and then cook it so i said we should just have some bran flakes for dinner. I couldn't believe it when Toby said we should go get some fish and chips and a bottle of wine, it was just not like him!!!! of course i said yes, so we hopped in Bertie and bought a bottle of white then sat outside the chippy and had the most delicious fish and chip washed down with vino, hope it will make me sleep!

Went back to the campsite and caught up with our diaries in the kitchen

Sunday 11th May 2003 Geraldine

The wine last night did its trick, Sarena got a pretty good nights sleep. We left the tent at the campsite in the morning with the hope that the sun would dry it out while we went and explored Akaroa. Akaroa is a very pretty french settlement which is now just a tourist town. Apparently it was the french attempt to colonise the south island before anyone else. Not a very good choice to start from in my opinion, as the settlement is limited on space and surrounded by high hills leaving only boats as means of access. They definitely went for the more scenic option.

After darting in and out of a few tourist shops we packed the tent up (which was still wet) and drove around the summit of the peninsula for great views of Akaroa on one side and the pacific on the other.

Spent the rest of the day driving and eventually ended up at a small town called Geraldine which is on the way inland to Mt Cook and Queenstown. The weather forecast is good for the mountain ranges so we have decided to explore Mt Cook for a day.

Well i slept quite well for a change considering the cold was enough to bite your nips off..... must have the been the wine and the hot water bottle which i am finding invaluable at the mo. We went down to have a look at the town whilst the tent dried off for the morning and had a lovely time looking at all the little shops and nicknacks, well i did Toby just stood around and looked bored as usual.... I tried some fudge which always looks really good but whenever i try it, i just don't like it, too sweet. The town was very very pretty and reminded me of a Cornish fishing village, all very quaint and not as French looking as i thought it was going to be seeing as it was built by the buggers. After a quick hot bun at the bakery we went back and packed up the rest of the tent and went for a donder back up in the Hills, i think they are mountains, but what do i know! We followed the summit looking at all the wonderful views before hitting the main road to Geraldine which is where we were going to stay for the night. I cooked up some rice for dinner, infact enough to keep us going for a few days- hey we must be losing weight by now! had a chat to a local park ranger who is living on the campsite until he finds accommodation, seemed a nice and very informative bloke.

Monday 12th May 2003 Mt Cook

It was one of the coldest nights last night. But I am getting used to it now and slept very well. We packed the damp tent up and headed off pretty early as we wanted to spend as much day light time at Mt Cook as possible.

We ended up getting their much earlier than expected and even afforded some time to hang around lake Tekapo to watch an asian wedding at the Church of the Shepard's.

We have been very lucky since being on the South Island, with another day of clear skies that made the drive to Mt Cook even more spectacular. There is a small village at the base of the mountain. We decided to spoil ourselves and not camp out as we guessed it would be very cold at night. After checking into a dorm at the YHA and grabbing some lunch we went for a small walk up the valley to Kea Point which stops at the edge of a glacier that runs down in front of Mt Cook. I was feeling very unfit on the walk up but after an hour of fresh air and a rest to watch the sun go down behind the mountains I felt 'brand new' and we both bounded back to the backpackers.

By the evening the YHA Hostel was pretty packed, Sarena knocked up some tea early - a very good move, and we spent the rest of the evening in front of the TV. It was very bizzare as everybody was finding the crap NZ adverts very funny. I think most people where from Belgium though which would explain that ;-). What planned to be a good nights sleep turned out to be the worst nights sleep I have had in ages. The backpackers was so hot and stuffy it felt so unhealthy and I spent all night gasping for air. Back to the tent again from now on.

Another freezing night and my hot water bottle just 'aint up to the job as it gets cold very quickly. Have started wearing the snood thing that my cousin bought us for Xmas last year which covers my chest, back, neck and head. I frightened poor Toby to death when he turned around and didn't see my face but what looked like a trunk, how sexy... After waiting for the tent to dry off again we headed off to Mount Cook which took a few hours drive but it was very scenic. We stopped off at Lake Tekapo again for some photo's and just happened upon a Japanese wedding at the little church, all very sweet. We found the YHA at the Mt Cook village which just consists of a school for the 10 kids, a few houses, a hotel and YHA and a few other places - that's it. The place is set on the valley floor surrounded by huge snow covered mountains which just look wonderful, it's like being in the Himalayas again. The place is very remote and all the people that stop off are proper climbers and walkers ( don't know what we are doing in the place) After finding ourselves a bed and putting on our pillow slip and bed sheet we then went for a small 2hr walk up to the edge of a glacier which was really very good. We bounded back and i did some dinner using the left over rice dish once again, should keep us going for 3 days!

The evening found us in front of the tv watching Shrek and ER and reading in front of a very warm fire, lovely. I snuggled down in my very warm bed later on only to find it was like sleeping in an oven all night and didn't sleep well at all.

Tuesday 13th May 2003 Dunedin

Got up pretty early as I just wanted to get outside for some fresh air. Sarena and I had breakfast before most people where up and we packed up and headed up to another glacier that lead from Mt Cook. I really needed to brisk walk which helped to clear my head.

The rest of the day was spent driving. First to Omarama and the south east to Omaru where we stopped of for some lunch. Sarena begged me to stop at a cheese factory as we had driven past several lately and I had refused to stop. The lady who gave us testers was very stingy though and barely gave us enough cheese to get the flavour. In the end we bought two of the strongest cheeses, which I am sure will get eaten by the end of the day. We then stopped off at a penguin colony in town. I hadn't expected to see any penguins as they are all out fishing during the day but we took a walk along the coast and I spotted one nested up in a man made penguin shelter, obviously too lazy to bother fishing, he was quite content just to sit in is hole and watch us. We had loads of time to spare so decided to get to Dunedin for the night.

We pitched the tent up in a suburb called St Kilda and headed into Dunedin city centre for a look around. I checked my emails... 41 new messages... 41 Spams. Nobody loves me :-(. We walked around a few shops and then stopped in a cafe for a nice civilised cup of coffee. It was starting to get dusk so we decided to drive out onto the Otago Peninsula to see if we could spot some rare yellow eyed penguins returning to their roosts. The drive was amazing with the firey sun setting behind us. By accident I took the longer more scenic route to the Penguins lair and when we got their it was very dark and we found out we would have to pay 30 bucks to go on a tour to see them. Forget that! we drove back to the campsite and settled in for the night.

Got up quite early and had some b'fast whilst catching up with the diary then went for a quick stroll up to the blue lakes which turned out to be just brown ponds really but the view from the top was worth the hike. We then spent the next few hours driving which was tiring but did stop off at a cheese factory so that we could try some but the woman was so tight with the old portions it was like a wafer thin....... we bought some really strong blue and some white stuff which tasted good. Toby mentioned the penguin colony just down the road so off we trogged to see if we could catch any out having a stroll around. The notice did say that they didn't come out until dusk but after a few minute stroll down the little track we did catch a glimpse of one poking his little head out his hole, didn't see any yellow eyed penguins though. It seems these little blighters are getting very rare, like most things they are getting wiped out by people one way or another...

We drove onto Dunedin to pitch out tent somewhere even though the sky was now getting a bit rainy looking and the wind was picking up. St KIlda had the campsite, so after pitching we went for another drive into the centre of town to see if i could get my camera fixed as it had given up the ghost the day before. It seems we have to send it to Auckland, i don't think so. I bought some lipsil and then we had a coffee and a quick look around the inside of a Cathedral before heading off to find another Penguin colony. The drive took ages but the little villages that we went through were wonderful, unfortunately the penguin place charged a fortune for the tour ( all for a good cause) but we didn't have the money so we drove all the way back again.

We stopped of at pak n save for some chicken to go with the last of the rice dish i had made a couple of days ago then went back to the campsite and i made dinner whilst Toby ran around the kitchen trying to get a little birdy out of the room.

Wednesday 14th May 2003 Invercargill

Amazingly the tent was dry in the morning. Must of been the strong winds, so at least we didn't have to wait for it to dry off. Didn't seem too cold either.

We where back on the road by 9:30 and heading for Invercargill. We took the scenic route along the coast and through the Catlins, which is basically a big forest. Sarena drove like a demon on a mission so we didn't really stop on the way. To be honest we are both a little fed up from moving on everyday and spending most of our days driving. It has been my aim to get to Queenstown for Sarena's Birthday though, so we can relax a little after that.

It even started to rain on the drive and the wind added an extra chill. We ended up finding a dirty old deserted campsite but managed to bargain the owner down on the price of a cabin, so at least we will have a bed for the night out of the rain.

We had a quick drive around the non to impressive Invercargill and then headed down to Bluff which is the southern most tip of Mainland New Zealand. (Stewart Island lies 32km south of Bluff). Took a few photos at the obligatory distance sign post. and headed back into Invercargill for a beer and a massive pile of Potato wedges. Not a lot else in Invercargill really, so we spent the night in our musky old cabin and fell asleep to the sound of mice scurrying above and below us. At least it was warm!

After a b'fast if bran flakes we packed up the tent and started driving to Invercargill, i did the driving for the day as i hadn't done a lot lately. But it seems i drove like a demented donkey, according to Toby, didn't mean to i was just really tired and wanted to get there.

Must admit the weather is making the whole travel thing quite hard for me, i don't like the cold and it's such an effort to do anything, because you have to get dressed to the nines just to go the loo etc. Anyway we arrived at about 1ish and booked into a rundown old campsite and because of the weather etc Toby got us a little room - bless him, mind you the place stank of mildew and was very dodgy so i think he might have regretted it a little. We then went into town to find a cash converter for Toby's speakers that he bought along - they didn't offer much so we declined. Toby then drove us the Bluff at the very bottom of NZ which was all very nice and very windy and cold, took a few photo's then went to a pub in town for some wedges and a pint. Spent the evening eating our lovely cheese and reading in the warm - bliss

Thursday 15th May 2003 Te Anau

Got ready in record time, which must have something to do with the fact that we didn't have to pack a tent up and the campsite we where staying at had an air of depression about it. First stop was Pack N Save. I had a ploy not to do any shopping today so I gave Sarena a budget whilst I disappeared off into town to find her a birthday card.

By 11 we where back on the road and taking the scenic southern route to Fiordland on the south west tip of the south island. As soon as we left Invercargill the sky cleared up and we had beautifully clear weather has we headed into the mountains of the Fjords. After 2 hours we arrived at Te Anau, which is another very picturesque tourist town on the edge of a crystal clear lake, of the same name. We bargained our way into a very smart campsite, did some washing and then went for a walk along the lake edge and into town. Sarena begged me for a coffee so we popped our heads into the nearest bar and ended up drinking beer and playing pool, all part of her devious plan I expect.

We met up with a really nice couple at the campsite who have also been traveling for nearly 2 years so had a bit of a natter with them whilst I cooked some Burgers on the BBQ.

It is pretty cold here and apparently is about -2 at night. I went for a bit of a jog into town before going to bed and phoned Robyn and Declan in Brisbane to sort out forwarding some post for us and then jogged back and felt pretty warm and toastie, Sarena was already layered up and shivering under the duvet but I hardly feel the cold compared to her.

Had a very strange night listening to all the mice/rats running all over the roof, which then had me worried that they were in the room and chewing all the computer cables. The bed was like sleeping on a big bag of flour, it had NO springs in it at all and was of a concaved shape. When you laid on your back the sides of the mattress were higher than your were.... So what with sleeping on a bag of flour, rats and nightmares which had me thinking i was surrounded by ghosts and that the last person that probably slept in that room, died in that bed. All rounded up to another shite nights sleep. i was very pleased to see the dawn to be honest and get out of the room. I think Toby felt the same way as he basically got dressed and was in the car quicker that you could say 'what a shithole' so i bundled in with him and we scooted out of Invercargill like lightning leaving the place far behind us. Or so i thought........ Toby had a plan for me to do some shopping in Pak n save and get 2 days worth of shopping for $50 - easy whilst he went off and bought my b'day card. I have to say the Red Cross would have been proud of me, i bought loads of things with a few cents to spare, and enough to keep us going for quite a few days! We drove for about 2hr onto Te Anau and to a lovely top 10 campsite which Toby got a discount from, for staying 2 nights. We pitched the tent and did some long over due washing then went for a lovely walk along the Te Anau lakeside, very stunning and very cold. I said it would be a good idea to have a coffee but ended up to have a beer,wine and a game of pool which ended up being 5 games of pool, as the balls kept coming back out which meant we didn't have to pay - bonus. Toby thrashed my arse but i didn't care as for some reason the 2 glasses of vino went straight to my head and i felt as giddy as a school girl. The evening was spent with me cooking dinner which didn't go so well and then sitting in the TV room chating to some fellow travelers before hitting the sack in the freezing cold.

Friday 16th May 2003 Te Aanu

Well I must admit my feet where pretty cold by the morning and I even crawled into my sleeping bag just to warm them up a little. The frost had bitten pretty hard in the night and had made it to the inside of the tent. But it was another day of clear blue skies and the sun did a good job of warming us up. We had a very laid back breakfast and spent the morning chatting to our traveling friends again, we never did get their names, but advised them to drive straight through Invercargill.

By 11 we started a leisurely drive to Milford Sounds. This 120km dead end has to be one of the most scenic routes we have done so far in NZ, I swear we could see little hobitsies and wizards running around us as we drove through snow capped mountain passes, vast flat plains, crystal clear mirrored lakes and granite bored tunnels. There where a few places to stop on the way and take some walks down some side tracks but our timing was a little out and we always ended up joining the back of a huge coach party of s bloody tourists - thank god I'm not one!

I had pre booked us on a cruise around Milford Sounds (actually a fjord (if you know what the difference is!!!)) at 3 so had enough time to make up some cheese and pickle sandwiches and fight off the hoards of sandflies that swarmed about us. As we waited some low clouds came meandering up the sound but they just added to the drama of it all. The scenery was breathtaking and I imaginedthat this was what the 3 gorges on the river yangtze would of looked like if we could of actually seen them on our 'interesting' cruise in the heart of China. The water was somewhat cleaner this time round with penguins swimming (not that I saw one) and Seals jumping out of the water around the boat chasing shoals of fish. Don't quite think the water of the Yangtze river would sustain much life at all!

It was just getting dusk as we finished the boat ride, so Sarena drove us back to the camp site and cooked up another invention. we then hibernated in the Kitchen for a few hours before braving the frost and the shelter of our faithful old tent.

Woke up to frost on the duvet which would account for me freezing my buns off yet again all night. Toby seems to sleep like a baby but if i wear any more clothes at night i don't think i could fit in my sleeping bag, what's a girl to do? After a long hot shower in the unisex showers/toilet block with heated floor...... we had a relaxed b'fast chatting to the couple we had met the previous night. Toby had booked us on a boat trip around the Milford Sounds/Fjord in the afternoon so we left a few hours earlier to stop off at some of the scenic spots on the way to the Fjords. I have to say the scenery was the best i have ever seen or will probably get to see, ever! The only drawback was the amount of coach sightseeers that were stopping at the same places and they were mostly Japanese. We had to go through a massive manmade tunnel built into a huge granite mountain - very impressive. And saw a big fat Kea which is a huge parrot that lives in the snowy areas of NZ, there are signs everywhere that says not to feed them as it will kill them, so i was not surprised to see someone had thrown some food down for him - people make me mad!!!!! Arrived at the Sounds around lunchtime so after the homemade obligatory cheese and pickle sarny made in the back of the car we sat and read for a while before making our way to the boat. At 2.50 we boarded and made our way to the top, ours was the smallest boat of the dock but definitely the more personable. The skipper then took us for a stunning 2hr journey through the Fjord and back again whilst all the while we were sat on the top, mouths agog at how stunning, beautiful, untouched, breathtaking etc etc etc the whole vista looked.

The Cliffs just soared out of the cleat aqua marine water all around us with water falls and fur seals, lush greenery and snow covered mountains in the background. I could go on and on so if you ever get the time and dosh this place is a must, just to see how the world used to look like before the big bad people got their grubby hands on it. After our outing we had a quick walk to a waterfall then back to Bertie and I drove home. I made dinner, another strange concoction then i did my diary and went to bed.

 

Saturday 17th May 2003 Queenstown

Happy Birthday Sarena! I had cunningly hid a birthday card and a present from joy and spit in the tent. This took Sarena about 30 seconds to find. We then chowed down on some breakie packed the tent up and headed to Queenstown. It was about a 2 hours drive so we got there at about midday, Set the tent back up again and I organised the afternoons entertainment for Sarena's Birthday.

I had arranged Sarena and I to do the 'Fly-By-Wire' ride. SO we got picked up from the town centre and taken out into the mountains around Queenstown. Eventually we came across a steep valley with a load of cables strung from one cliff face to the other. At the center of the cables was what could accurately be described as a plank of wood with a big fan stuck on the back. This contraption hung down from the centre of the overhead cables on its own much smaller cable. Our guide went into great detail about how strong the overhead cables where and that there was 4 of them as a safety measure, but in my mind I thought the crucial wire would be the single one that is actually attached to the plane thingy. Anyway, I put the Birthday girl on the spot so she had to go first. They strapped her onto the plank started the propeller at the back and hoisted her, backwards, up the side of the mountain. When she had reached the top and was basically facing straight down into the valley it was her job to release the hoist and rev the propeller at full throttle. She didn't hesitate and flew down the side of the valley and then back up the other side. From here she turned the handlebars to redirect the propellers and started a 10 minute flight around the valley. Cool. I wanna go next!... So I did. It was great fun, not stomach wrenching stuff, more like a big swing that you could steer. Sarena tried to get another free go as it was her Birthday but to no avail.

After the 'Fly-By-Wire' we warmed ourselves up at the campsite and then got dressed up (well Sarena did, I just put on some different clothes) and hit the town for the night. It was always going to be a late one as I was determined to stay up to watch the F.A Cup final when Southampton will thrash Arsenal. This started at 2 am so we took it easy to start with. We both fancied eating some trash so we went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. I had never been to one but it was exactly how I imagined. The food was good though and very filling. I even had a Budweiser which I hadn't had for 2 years or more. After dinner we visited a few bars, Most where packed with backpackers and no room to move, But in the end we made it to Chico's with half an hour left of there happy hour. That ended up getting packed too but we found a spot and hung out there until 1 am. There was only one bar staying open for the footy. I had expected it to be packed with all the English in Queenstown, but it wasn't. SO we got a good seat right in front of a massive screen. And where joined by a mad saints fan from Botley who got the atmosphere going by being abusive to all the Arsenal fans, and singing all the anti Portsmouth songs for good measure.

Arsenal where clearly the better side, and Saints deserved to be beaten by more goals, but 1-0 to Arsenal was meant that the Saints put up a good fight. Its the first Saints game I have seen for a long time, they seem to have a pretty good team now so I hope it won't be another 27 years before they get to another Cup Final.

Got back to the tent by 5 to get a call from JP who is on Richies Stag Do. So I had a quick chat with Richie... Nice One Richie, all the best mate... and fell straight asleep. Sarena obviously couldn't get any sleep so by 7 am she got quite uptight and said she has had enough.. Looks like there will be a bit less camping from now on.

 

It's only me blinkin bifday!!!!!!!

Yep it's that time again and now i'm 31 and way on my way to hittling the big 40....... wasn't as depressed as hitting 30 though so i was feeling a little more in the party mood.

Toby hid a b'day card and pressy from him and Joy and Spit in his clothes bag, got a lovely card from Toby with some very lovely words - big softy. Joy and spit got me some girly bits and pieces which i was looking forward to donning for our night out in Queenstown. We had a quick b'fast then packed up the tent and drove to another Joy and Spit had posted there Top 10 campsite card to the postie in Queenstown which gives us 10% discount each time we camp which was great of them, so after collecting that we found a site and pitched the tent. Now i have to admit i was hoping to be in a room for the night of my b'day, i was desperately cold and very tired and really wanted a bath so was a bit pissed off at being in the tent again, and it was the coldest place yet.

Toby saw my face and explained we were going to be out all night watching the footy as Southampton were in the FA cup final against Arsenal so didn't want to pay for a room, but had booked us a room in a lovely hotel for tomorrow night - joy of joy of joy. He said he had booked up something for the afternoon as a surprise so i was really excited until i found out what we would be doing when i walked into the shop and saw a demo video of what i would be doing in the next hour.......

Flybywire is a when you lay on your stomach on a long thing..... i don't know what it's called! and they strap you in then get hauled up the side of a mountain on a big cable that that is attached to the plane thing. You have a motor on the back and you can steer, also a panic button if you want to cut the engine. So i go on first being the brave on and get pulled up to the to of the mountain side so i'm facing straight down when he tells me to release and start the engine. All very well said and done but when you are up there you feel like you are in the clouds, very high. But i didn't give myself time to think about it and let myself drop, it wasn't stomach clenching as i first feared and after the first few minutes i really got into it and had great fun whizzing around the valley going back and forth like a pendulum.

Toby went next and he did really well and managed to do a couple of tricks that they said we should try. When we got back to the site we sat around watching TV for a few hours then i went and got changed, it would have been nice to get dressed up but - a) i don't have dressy clothes and, b) it was toooooo cold

So i opted for jeans and t-shirt and a big warm coat and a quick wipe of lip gloss and i was ready. We went to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner and i had a huge salad with lots of Vodka on the side, did indulge in a puddy but felt very ill afterwards. We then went onto a couple of bars and drank quite a lot thanks to the happy hour but didn't seem to get into it all like everyone else seemed to be. Maybe that is the sign of me getting older? Anyway we wondered off to Triple MMM at about 1am to get a spot for the footy not that we had to worry a lot, didn't seem to be many Brits watching it for some reason. I then sat there until 5am listening to plonkers behind me pissed and shouting at the referee swearing and screaming, basically being complete hoons They soon shut up when it was oblivious Southampton were getting licked so when the final score of 1-0 finished the game the hoons walked away very quietly and didn't say boo to a goose. Got into the tent just before 6am and it was really very very very cold. Toby fell asleep straight away whilst I just layed awake getting more and more frustrated and fed up with camping in the cold. i did throw a bit of an eppy for a few minutes and said i have had enough.

 

Sunday 18th May 2003 Queenstown

Sarena didn't sleep at all, and I was up at about 7. so we packed the tent up and went for a big fried breakfast to warm ourselves up. I wasn't actually feeling tired at all, but straight after breakfast we went to check into a surprise hotel and relax for the rest of the day. It was a surprise for Sarena, but after her desperatation yesterday about camping in the cold I had told just to hang on for one more night as I knew we wouldn't be sleeping much last night. It was also a surprise for me as I had clicked on the first deal on the Internet so didn't really know what the hotel would be like...

...It was fantastic. A real alpine feel to it. The rooms where massive, but even the super King size bed made them feel smaller. There was also a Gym, Spa, Pool and Sauna. Needless to say we spent the rest of the day in luxury and recovering from the night before. We even got a $25 voucher for the restaurant. What a bargain. Sarena was very happy.

Spent the evening laid out on the massive bed watching TV. We got a takeaway for tea. I had a Kebab and Sarena had Thai. Sarena made a few phone calls to thank people for Birthday gifts and I think we where both fast asleep by 10.

I went for a shower at 8 then we packed up the tent and went for a ginormous b'fast did some emails we then went and checked into the hotel hoping our room would be ready for us.

The hotel was bloody beautiful !! we got given a $25 voucher for food or drink which was great and our room was bloody wonderful, very luxurious and the bestist bit was the big white fluffy dressing gowns that i couldn't wait to get into. We spent the afternoon in the hot spa and sauna and a quick jaunt in the pool before spending a lovely evening eating takeaway/ wine and watching TV in bed. Oh did forget to mention the bed was a super kingsize so we both had enough room to do star jumps laid down without touching, a nice change to being trussed up in a sleeping bag whilst wearing 5 layers of clothing.

I phoned up Marian and Clive to thank them as they had paid for the Flybywire which was very lovely of them, also phoned Pat and Jack as they had given us some money, also very kind. Phoned mum and told her about waking up with frost on our faces and she thinks Toby is up to his old tricks of trying to kill me off again - well i have written my will now!

Monday 19th May 2003 Wanaka

Had a great nights sleep, and an even better breakfast. A massive buffet of cooked and continental breakfast was laid out for us in the Restaurant. Obviously we ate as much as we possibly could. Neither of us thought to bring our bags to breakfast so we only got away with pinching a small pot of marmalade. bugger!

Only had a short drive to Wanaka which is just north of Queenstown. So we got there by 11 and checked into a cabin for the night. No more cold tent nights for us! We then spent the rest of the day at 'Puzzling World'.

'Puzzling World' is basically a museum for clever puzzles and optical illusions. It has been really well done. The cafe is just full of puzzle games which kept us amused for ages even before we went for a look around the rest of the place. In the Museum there is a hall full of really cool holograms. then a room full of famous faces that actually moved and followed you round the room. Then their was a room that looked completely normal but at one end you where massive but just by walking to the other side of the room you became tiny. The last set of rooms basically had everything set at wrong angles. It was very disorientating and made me feel nauseous straight away. Water and Pool balls seemed to run up hill.

Outside was a 3D maze very similar to the one we did in Rotorua with Joy and Spit (although this is the original). We both struggled to get to the first tower but soon made it around the rest of the maze. Sarena was feeling quite low in the afternoon and we spent the evening in the warmth of our cabin reading and doing our diaries.

Didn't want to get out of the lovely bed but found some inner strength to put me in the shower and down to the restaurant for B'fast. I had the cooked option, fatal, as it was a buffet which meant going up for more and looking like a complete pig, we did stick out a bit though in our travel clothes as opposed to the rest of the residents. Probably think we haven't eaten for weeks and are stocking up for the winter......even the waitress turned a blind eye even when i started pocketing some marmalade, wish i had bought my bag down as i would have had the pastries as well.

We drove onto Wanaka and much to my delight booked into a cabin for the night. Puzzle world was up the road and i had been looking forward to going there for ages so we dumped our stuff and went to check it out. What a brilliant place!! it had loads of tables with oodles of different brainteasers and puzzles, a massive maze and a hall of Illusions. It was all fantastic - right up my alley. The weirdest part was this big room that you walked in that was on a slope but had all these things inside that looked like they were falling or sliding upwards, made you feel very dizzy but very clever.

Spent quite a while afterwards playing with some more puzzles on the tables before going back to the cabin. I made dinner using up some of the food we bought in Invercargill - yep it was still going then had an early night.

Tuesday 20th May 2003 Franz Joseph Glacier

Funnily enough we get packed up an hour quicker now we don't have to worry about a tent. We were soon on our way to the Glaciers on the west coast... or so we thought.... After half an hours scenic drive around the lake and into the mountains we realised that that road was going nowhere. We actually ended up at the bottom of the Treble Cone ski field, completely the wrong way but it was well worth the drive.

The weather was pretty rotten by the time we got to Franz Josef. Rain is pretty much par for the course on the west coast, but it seems that it will be good at the weekend, So I am thinking that maybe we should return here later and take a hike up the glaciers when the clouds have lifted. We checked into a very nice cabin at the holiday park for the night. and had a mosey around the town.

We had been told that the Helihike is well worth it (helicopter drops you off at the top of the glacier) but is very expensive so we will have to think about whether we should do it or not over the next few days.

Had a lovely warm and cozy night, thank the lord. Packed up all the stuff then hit the road, thinking we were going the right way until we hit a dead end and realised we were going the wrong way....... after turning around and driving the right way for about 2hrs we got to Franz Joseph which turned out to be a lovely if not touristy little town. I phoned up a friend of Rita's and Stuarts as they had a holiday cottage, which turned out to be too expensive for us so we booked into a Top 10 and got a cabin for the night, thank goodness, we finally gave up with the camping milarky as it was just too cold.

The cabin was lovely and even had a fridge and a TV which was a bonus. We chucked all our gear in then went down town to check out the prices of the Helihike. Unfortunately the weather was just too crap for the helihike so after a coffee and a quick chat we decided on coming back on Saturday when the weather was supposed to be better and do it then. So i popped into the local shop and got a few bits for dinner then went back and spent the evening in our cabin watching TV.

Franz Joseph by the way is a huge Glacier, as is Fox Glacier just up the road the 2 of them are the huge frozen ice rivers flowing down from the mountain which move a few inches each year

 

 

Wednesday 21st May 2003 Greymouth

I think we have formulated a plan that will get us back to the Glaciers for the weekend. We both agreed to fork out on the Helihike, what the hell you only get one chance at these things!

We made our way to Greymouth, which was basically two hours driving in the clouds. Greymouth was pretty grey but did have a good feel about it. The best bit is that this is the home town of 'Montieths' which just happens to be my favourite Kiwi Beer, and wadda you know, you can do a tour of the brewery for just 10 bucks. Sounds a perfect way to spend a few hours. We booked ourselves on the 2pm tour. I was expecting us to be the only ones, but there ended up being about 15 of us. The tour was a typical brewery experience, nobody asks any questions, that way go get to the bar quicker for some tasters. It is still worth taking the walk around the huge vats as the smell of the hops and yeast really make you thirsty for a cool beer. We got to the bar and the group suddenly became more animated as we tried small samples of each type of Montieths beer. Then the moment came. Our Tour guide gave us 10 minutes of free bar time, so we all grabbed some pint glasses and piled in behind the bar to pour ourselves our favourites. By this time everyone was getting very chirpy and it wasn't long before we started chatting to some other brits (infact I think nearly everyone was from the UK, very strange ;-)) Well the 10 minutes seemed to go very quickly and 5 of us arranged to carry on the session at a nearby bar.

We ended up at a locals bar at the Richmond Hotel and got some very strange looks as we entered the un marked door. This was probably helped by Sarena waving her arms furiously at all the locals through the window. It ended up that the locals where all fishermen and where actually very friendly and very pissed. First we had 'Gay' Bill that came up to us and did some magic tricks, Then Nathe gave us his brand new shirt to sign as he thought we where S-Club 7 (I guess these West Coasters can't count too well!). Finally Ross joined us with a couple of extra jugs of Montieths and They started telling us some of the day to day antics that these West Coast fishermen get up to when on shore leave. I probably shouldn't go into to much detail here, needless to say some stories involved calves, one eyed drug councilors and a 72 year lady with no teeth. We then got invited to the woodshed out back for a quick smoke from here on things got a bit more surreal for me especially when the fisherman all started doing impressions of there favourite coronation street characters. It was only 8:30 and we where all thoroughly pissed. One of our friends, Steve, from Watford dissapared back to his girlfriend who was probably expecting him back from the brewery at 3 whilst we went hunting for food with Lisa and Seth. We found a chippie, had a nosh up and headed home to crash out. A thouroughly good evening.

Well after another lovely nights sleep we packed up and drove to Greymouth and booked into a cabin on a Top 10 campsite then went into town and to a tour of the Montieths Brewery. The tour commenced and 2pm and went on for about an hour and a half, we were shown everything and told all about it. Can't believe they only had 10 people running the whole shabang which was impressive as the bear is fantastic. We then got given a taster of 6 beers from the bar at the end which was really interesting, the best bit was the free 10 minutes we were given behind the bar to help yourself!!!!!!!! how fantastic was that. So as you can guess everyone went a little mad and poured a squillion pints for themselves. Toby and I started chatting to 3 other people of the same age and ended up getting on really well so when the tour was over we all went down the local pub for a few more. We ended up in a pub on the sea front which, as it turned out was a local pub. With us, we had, Seth and Lisa who are a couple and a fab bloke called Steve who reminded me of Harry Enfield for some reason.

Anyway it turned out to be a fantastic evening, we even got the local fishermen to sit with us and tell us some of there terrible stories ( sex was involved) We had a local drunk show us a few drinking tricks which involved two glasses of water and a 5cence piece. We had another bloke who thought we were S-Club Seven!! and took the shirt off his back and got us to sign the darn thing, of course we wrote some ridiculous crap on it and did admit to not being the famous band ( i thought that there were only 5 of us gave it away) anyway....... we all made friends and had a fab time, ended up staying for quite a few hours and had spliff outside with the locals, Toby got caught by the landlady!! A lovely fisherman called Ross ended up buying the last couple of jugs of beer which tipped us over the edge.......It was then Steve had to go back to the backpackers to meet up with his girlfriend and we all decided to go get some food. We then spent ages walking around town trying to find a chippy, we did find one in the end by chance and sat down to the best tasting fish and chips i have had in ages. We then all went back to our sleeping establishments and slept like babies.

Thursday 22nd May 2003 Christchurch

Woke with my head as clear as a bell, bloody good stuff that Montieths. Got showered and shaved and jumped in the car for a 'longer than usual' drive via Lewis pass and all the way back to Christchurch on the east coast. This route meant that we got to cross the alps a few more times which always results in stunning scenery, We can also get new tyres for Berties who is really starting to shudder with his old ones, We can also watch the Matrix Reloaded in a decent cinema, and finally we hope to spend some more time with Ben, Rachael and Liam.

On the drive over Ben texted us and said that we couldn't refuse his offer of dinner and a place to stay for the night. He was actually working on late shift until midnight so poor Rachael was left to cook and entertain us. Before we stopped of at there house though, we booked Bertie in for his new tyres in the morning and watched the Matrix. It started off very cheesy, and I was all ready to write it off when the story line started to develop and by the end I was really enjoying it. It did leave me a little confused so will probably have to spend a few days thinking about the plot a bit more.

Rachael seemed really pleased to see us when we arrived at her house, She had already started cooking and was chopping up a mountain of beef. 8 month old Liam kept me and Sarena amused whilst Rachael cooked. I even got the job of bottle feeding him. It all went very well. I even got a burp out of him half way. Then as he neared the bottom of his bottle of milk there was a funny rumbling from his underneath, which moved to his tummy and then, just like in the exorcist, vomit splayed everywhere, although most of it managed to land on me.

Stayed up and watched tV for the rest of the evening in a nice clean pair of jeans, and then crashed asleep before ben even got home from work.

Best nights sleep i have had in ages!!

Couldn't move so well in the morning for some reason...... but after a shower we hit the road and i got a big fat chicken pie for b'fast, we then drove for about 4 hrs to get to Christchurch. Ben and Rachel got in touch and said we could stay with them for the night which was kind, unfortunately Ben was working for the evening. So when we got to Christchurch we went into a garage to get the tires and brakes sorted out as they were still smelling when hot, got it booked in for first thing in the morning, they said it could be the disks and a motor thingy which is a worry. We then went and watched the Matrix 2 which was really cool but can't see where all the special effects money went too? it was very very good but..........

Anyway got my pick a mix which is all that matters... then i booked in for a long over due haircut for the morning and went to pak n save to pick up a few bits for the next couple of days. We then drove over to Rachel's house place and made ourselves at home. She had prepared a wonderful beef curry for us and did us a fantastic dinner of curry and vegetables with rice and homemade bread. We even had a pudding which was also delicious ( she made her own merrange) gosh not like me at all! we then entertained Liam for a couple of hours, Toby fed him with a bottle and he looked very very sweet until L threw up all over him which was very funny! had to take lots of photo's of that one. Spent the rest of the evening watching American Idol which we have been a bit addicted to over the last few weeks.....how sad.

We had a wonderful evening with Liam and Rachel, she cooked us a wonderful meal and it was just very relaxed.

 

Friday 23rd May 2003 Franz Josef Glacier

Didn't seem to sleep too well on the airbed's, but Ben managed to sneak by when he got home from work. We left the house pretty early in the morning to take the car down to the garage for some new tyres. Sarena also got her hair trimmed so I sat and read in the shopping mall. very exciting! The car was done by 10 so we popped back to Ben and Rachel house for a quick coffee and said our thanks and goodbyes.

Ben showed us the way out of town and towards Arthur's pass and we headed back out to the West Coast. I was told that it had snowed at Arthur's Pass in the night so I was looking forward to getting up into the mountains. Unfortunately the new snow was on the mountain tops a little higher than the road. The pass was also in clouds so we didn't get many scenic views although what we could see was pretty spectacular. On the drive I phoned ahead and booked a cabin for the night at Franz Josef and also the Helihike tour for tomorrow morning.

We ended up getting back to Franz Josef at about 5 to find Lisa and Seth there. We had first met them a couple of days ago on the Brewery trip so it was great to meet up with them again. Spent most of the evening chatting with them. Its been great meeting a few new people over the last few days as Sarena and I are starting to get on each others nerves a bit.

Watched a travel show about Mexico in the evening. Got me very excited about going there.

Got up really early and got to the garage for 8am, dropped the car off then went and sat in a coffee bar in a Mall for the next hour and a half. At 9.30am i went for my hair appointment which was all very professional, ended up having 3 people just to do my hair, one to wash, one to cut and one to blow dry. All the way through the process i was told of all the new products and what i should be using etc then at the end of my haircut i was presented with a book with the information about the products i had on my hair and they had written a little report about how they cut it and what they used......... all very posh, i only wanted a trim.

I then met up with Toby and we went to the internet place to catch up with people then went back to the car. Turned out that the brakes were perfectly alright and we didn't need a motor thingy which they thought we might need, so just had the new tyres and realignment. The garage blokey who handed back the keys was really impressed with Bertie and said we had a great car, now that is good news seeing as we need to sell him very soon. Got back to Rachel and Bens for lunch time so we sat down for a cuppa and found ourselves scoffing some homemade savory muffins which had just come out of the oven - Rachel is a bloody genius. We said our goodbyes and hit the road at 12.30pm and didn't arrive at Franz Joseph till 5.15 so it was a bit of a slog. Arthur's Pass was beautiful but all the scenery is wonderful around these parts.

Unpacked our stuff in the cabin and bumped into Lisa and Seth from the Brewery tour so spent the rest of the evening sat with them in the TV lounge having a chat and generally chilling out.

Saturday 24th May 2003 Franz Josef Glacier

Our Helihike trip didn't start until 11 so we had a lazy breakfast and then drove into town to meet up with Lisa and Seth who where enjoying a great big fry-up. Said our goodbyes as they where heading onto Wanaka and then we got kitted up for our Helihilke up the Glacier.

The weather wasn't as good as the forecast had made out so the Helihike guide said that we would be able to get the helicopter onto the glacier but will not be able to pick us up later on. That was fine with me as I thought we where going to walk out anyway, it also meant that we got a load of money back too :-)

Sarena was very excited about the Helicopter ride. She had been wanting to go on one for ages. It didn't actually go on for very long but the views as we flew along the mountain side and up the glacier was well worth it. We probably landed about 2/3rds of the way up the glacier just where it starts to even out a bit. There was 20 of us so we got split into 2 groups and started our 4 hour walk down to the bottom. I didn't think it would take more than an hour to get down, but the ice is very misleading. as we headed down the flatter part of the glacier we came to a very steep section and had to zig zag back and forth the glacier in between some very tight crevasses. If they hadn't of been made out of Ice I think a lot of people would have got stuck. The spikes on our feet (Talons) made it very easy to walk on the Ice. Well easy for most of us, one guy had great trouble and kept falling over. He also insisted in using his ice pick to pull him along even the easiest sections. He was swinging it everywhere and clambering along when the rest of us where just walking as normal. Something just wasn't right with him. Although I think he was from the Kiwi Experience bus, which may explain it ;-)

Squeezing through the ice was amazing, the tall walls of bright blue ice made you feel very small. The thought that these walls are moving about 1 metre down the hill a day is not something you think about when you are sandwiched between them.

Sarena spent most of her time talking to a guy called Mike while I spent my time in a world of my own. We got to the bottom by 4 and went straight down the bar with Mike while he waited for his wife, Liz, who was in the other (slower) group.

After a shower and some food we went to the local pub to watch the end of the Super 12 Rugby final. It was the only pub in town showing it and they where also doing a backpacker special on some beers so it was very packed. We watched the last 20 minutes of the game standing in the toilet doorway. After the Blues (Auckland) had thrashed the Crusaders (Christchurch) the pub emptied which gave us enough elbow room to finish our beer before heading off back to the cabin.

 

Had lovely lie-in then got ourselves up to the cafe to have a quick coffee with Lisa and Seth then said our goodbyes. We then went to the meeting point and joined up with the rest of the gang who were doing the Helihike. We were unfortunately 10mins late as we had misheard the meeting time so it was all a bit of a rush to get all the gear on and get back outside. We were given boots and raincoat and a bag to go around your waist to carry your spikes for walking on the ice. It was all a bit of a palarva as they gave us a bit of talk about the weather situation and how we were going to walk all the way down instead of getting the chopper. Toby and I thought we were walking back anyway so we didn't think anything of it, but they now gave the group a choice of bailing out because of the added 2hr walk or carry on. Some people just didn't want to do the whole thing so left leaving the rest of us who were now told we could take our own bags so it was a mad dash back into the changing rooms to collect our stuff. It carried on like this for a while but eventually we all made our way to the helicopter pad and were split into groups of 5. By the time i got into the thing i was so excited cause i had always wanted to fly in a copter, would love to fly one! The flight took us up over the mountains and gave us a fantastic view of the glacier, we landed just below the basin then waited for the last group to land. We were then told to split into groups, one hard and one easy, i went straight over to the hard one and it was a bit of a struggle to get any other people into our group. Most of the people stayed in the easy walk one, but we did end up with about 9 in ours. So after the safety briefing and we had donned our spikes onto our boots we started off across the glacier. It was a bloody amazing walk and i really recommend everyone to do it.

We ended up in some really deep and very narrow crevasses which took a lot of effort to do and you really couldn't be a very large person as you wouldn't fit. The ice was fantastic and it was such a strange experience walking through these huge ice tunnels and ravines, blue ice soaring up either side of you and then crossing these massive holes and splits that dropped for up to 30 metres down......

You certainly couldn't do it without the spikes on your feet but you didn't need the ice picks they give you, more for a balance thing really. The whole walk took about 4hrs, and we were all quite knackered by the time we got down the bottom only to find out we had another 2k walk to get to the bus. We did meet a great bloke called Mike who left his wife in the other group and he was just great, must have been in his 50's but very fit and chatted all the way so when we got to the bus we arranged to have a beer.

When we did get back we had to get all our gear off and collect our certificates they give you, bonus was we also got $180 back because we didn't get the chopper back - more beer money! Mike and us two nearly ran to the bar and it was with a very well earned 'Cheers' we downed our first cold brew. By the time Liz (his wife) turned up we had gone through a few more, they had to get going though as they had dinner arrangements, so we said our goodbyes and we went back to the campsite.

After dinner of pasta we decided to pop down the local for one as the Super 12 rugby was on so we thought we should pop our heads in. The bar was heaving and we had to fight to get a pint then fight just to get a standing spot. Didn't stay long and went back to watch 'Taken' which went on the hours before collapsing into bed.

Sunday 25th May 2003 Westport

A 3 hour drive today. We headed north and back up to Greymouth From there we carried on along the most scenic part of the west coast to Westport. Home of Christchurch Ben's dad! Ben has been very good and told us that we had to stay at his dads house for a few days, So we got into Westport by 1. Sarena and I where really getting on each others nerves and by the time we had parked up by the beach I was ready to jump out and run off screaming across the sand... I did jump out but only to use the phone to try and contact Ben's dad, Warren, or Ben. In the end Ben directed us to his Dads house where we found him mowing the lawn.

Warren and his wife Kathryn greated us very warmly and sat us down with a cup of tea and some biscuits. I always feel pretty uncomfortable turning up to stay at a strangers house, and Sarena was pretty upset which seemed to make it harder for us to be cheerful and socialable. Warren came up with a good distraction though, and offered to take us for a drive to his home town up in the mountains. Sarena declined the offer, so the 3 of us jumped in his truck and we headed up to Denniston. Warren is the son of a coalminer and Denniston was the biggest coal mining town in NZ from about 1860 to 1950. It was amazing to see how they used to get the coal down the mountain side and if Warren hadn't been giving me a detailed account of the old town, I would never have realised how much was there that has now totally disappeared.

Kathryn cooked dinner for us all and we really got settled in and I felt a lot more comfortable after a few wines and some food in me. Sarena still wasn't quite herself and went off to bed pretty early while I stayed up and watched a documentary on the Inca's - very interesting.

Got up early and had a quick b'fast before getting on the road to Westport and to stay with Ben's dad. It took hours to get there, we did stop off to have a quick look at some pancake rocks and the magnificent views of the coastline. The west coast of the South island is definitely the most picturesque of the whole of NZ in my opinion, just completely wild and un tampered with. It has wild thick jungle which sweeps down onto the beaches and you could really imagine that you have stepped back millions of years - just wondrous. We stopped off in the town to park up and get some directions from Ben, it was also a good excuse for
Toby to get out of the car and leave me alone for 10mins as we just were not getting on and accomplished to upset each other which meant turning up at Kathryn's and Warrens house with a bit of friction. We arrived at about 3pm and were given a cup of tea and some cake whilst we got aquatinted. The house was wonderful and very modern, lots of light and large windows. They suggested to go out for a drive and they could show us around some of the area but i really couldn't face being in a car for a while so stayed back and did some of my diary and read. Kathryn made us a wonderful dinner, accompanied with some vino made me relax a little as i was feeling a little low and upset.

I went to bed at about 8.30 after a lovely hot bath and left the others to watch TV, they must think i'm a right miserable bitch........

Monday 26th May 2003 Karamea

Warren had suggested that we should spend a day exploring the are around Karamea which is basically the last town on the West Coast. Surprisingly the weather is still looking good so we drove another hour north to Karamea and the end of the road. From this point there are a few walking tracks, We don't intend to do any but may do a day walk tomorrow. Instead we found a very cheap campsite (might even be free if the Warden doesn't turn up) which is basically the back corner of the local schools sport fields. And drove into the mountains to take a look at some caves that Warren and Kathryn had recommended. The caves are in a national park but are completely open for the public. They are not very big but are still pretty spooky when using tiny maglites to try and find your way. The caves are famous for a rare species of spider, The weren't too rare in these caves though, they where bloody everywhere. Sarena even spotted a Cave weta (grasshopper type thing) running along the floor.

It was actually getting a bit dark by the time we had finished walking around the caves, so we headed back to the campsite to be confronted by some nasty looking black clouds. Needless to say it started pouring down. Looks like we are in for a very wet night. When it rains on the west coast, it really rains.

Warren and Kathryn had gone to work by the time we had arisen so we had some b'fast and packed the car up and headed for the town centre. They have a jewelry shop so we popped in and dropped the key off saying thanks and would see them Tuesday evening.

We then drove onto Karamea at the end of the West Coast as Warren had told us of some great caves. The town seemed very small but very sweet and we found ourselves a campsite which was situated at the end of a school play field. Not a sole around but it had a kitchen and toilets which you just leave some money in a honesty box for water etc so we hitched up the tent and tried to find someone to pay. Seems there isn't anyone, so we might be getting a free night. We then drove for ages down a gravel track deep into the forest and parked up for the caves. They were really very good and i have never been able to go into caves like this before without paying so it was great to wonder around with a little torch and investigate. The caves housed big spiders and weta's, saw lots of spiders but only a one tiny Weta. I took lots of photo's of the surrounding area as it was just spectacular and then made our way back to the car.

Started raining on the way back to the campsite which isn't a good sign..... I cooked up another stupendous dinner in the kitchen whilst Toby did some of his diary ;and then we read and went to bed in the pouring rain.

Tuesday 27th May 2003 Westport

Yep, it rained all night. Thankfully the clouds broke in the morning so we left the tent and went off for a walk along the start of the Heaphy track. It was a great walk to a deserted beach, Scotts Beach. We soon found out why it was deserted though... bloody sand flies. The nasty little buggers where on us straight away. So we just stayed in time to take a few photos and then walked back to the car park.

By Midday we got back to the tent, packed it up , and headed back to Westport to spend another night with Warren and Kathryn. We stopped at a strange looking cafe called Drifters, with even stranger people inside. All must of been locals who spent their time counting lolly's (sweets). One old boy kept nicking them, but his bright blue tongue was all the evidence the rest of the group needed to ban him from counting any more lolly's. I ordered some Wedges and Sarena got some soup. Then a slightly large lady sat next to us, turned her back on us and lifted her right buttock of her seat and let an almighty fart right in our faces. Luckily I had finished eating, but this put sarena right off her Carrot cake, so she had to warp it up and finish it off in the car.

Just west of Westport, is a seal colony so we went for a quick walk around the rocks to watch the seals before turning up at Warren and Kathryn's for a shower. Spent a very pleasant evening chatting away and Kathryn cooked up another great dinner.

Lovely morning so we left the tent to dry off and went off for a walk along some of the Heaphy track which was absolutely beautiful. We ended up on the beach which didn't have a sole on it and we soon found out why when a whole squadron of sand fly's came and attacked us from all angles. It didn't take us long to get back on the track back to Bertie.

We then went back and packed up our tent and drove onto Westport to spend the night with Kathryn and Warren. On the way back we stopped off for some lunch at some very weird place called drifters, we had just sat down to wait for our lunch when the local cat walking past us with a freshly caught mouse in his mouth...... i thought this just added to the already funny goings on. But the one that just got me laughing was when an older lady lifted up her arse and ripped off a goodin right in front of us.

Had a great evening with some more fab food from Kathryn, only bad part was realising i had lost my green stone bangle that was given to me from Beau and Clare as a bridesmaids pressy - absolutely gutted.

Wednesday 28th May 2003 Matureka

Didn't get up too early, but we where out of the house by 10. and headed upstream of the Buller river and east across to the Nelson region of the South Island. Ended up being just a day of driving.

We ended up at a campsite in Matureka, which is just south of the Abel Tasman National Park. We then went to Marahu to organise the rental of a Kayak for a couple of days. Kayaking the Abel Tasman is one of the must DO's of New Zealand and after seeing some of the Photo's I was pretty keyed up about it.

Headed back to Matureka top get some food supplies for the next two days and then hung out at the pretty non-eventful campsite.

Had a bit of a lazy morning but after handing back the door key down to Kathryn at the Jewelers we drove onto Matureka.

Ended up at a really grubby campsite in a really grubby cabin, so we chucked all our stuff in and headed off to Marahu to find out all about sea kayaking around the Abel Tasman and how much it will cost. After having a little chat with the very helpful lady who worked there we booked up for a 2day 1night trip out. When we got back to the cabin i did the food for the next couple of days and organised all the stuff we needed to take whilst Toby layed on the bed saying he found organising too stressful......

 

Thursday 29th May 2003 Abel Tasman

We where up and out of the campsite by 8 and arrived at the Kayak rental shop to be supplied with Coffee and Ginger cake. We needed it though as it was pretty bloody cold. There where a couple of others also renting Kayaks, but not surprisingly we had twice as much gear to load into the Kayaks as anyone else.

By 10:30 we where out in the sea and heading north up the coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park. It was just bay after bay of sandy beaches and rocky reefs, the water was crystal clear and very calm and sheltered from the westerly wind. If the sun was out I'm sure we would have seen all sorts of amazing things in the water. It is not uncommon to see Rays, Dolphins and Orca whales in the region. After about 30 minutes of paddling I had to stop for a snickers break, but after that we made it to a beach by about 1 for some lunch. - Sandwiches that Sarena had prepared the night before. What would I do without her?

It then took us about another hour before we got to Bark Bay. It was coming up to low tide when we got there so the lagoon behind the campsite was dry. and we had to jump out of the Kayak a little way from the campsite. It was impossible to drag it up the beach loaded, so after emptying all our stuff and setting up the tent in the really smart campsite we could just about drag the kayak above the high tide mark. There was even a fire place with spare logs and flush toilets at this campsite. Unfortunately we where the only lonely campers there. The other side of the lagoon though is a hut where two scottish guys, Jamie and Stuart, who where also Kayaking stayed so at least we had some people to talk too. They where both pretty funny and had intended to fish for there dinner. But I think they just ended up with a small ration of crackers and cheese. Sarena and I sat around our campfire for the rest of the evening, but not even that could stave off the cold much after 8 so we where soon wrapped up in the tent for the night.

Got up really early and packed up everything then got to the Kayak rental place for 8am where we were given some coffee and cake. We then spent the next couple of hours getting all our wetsuits and shoes and packing up the kayak with tent and clothes and alcohol. We were given a briefing and safety talk then taken out to the water and left to go our ways. The other couple that were doing it were a couple of Scottish guys who were bloody funny so we kept drifting into each other for most of the morning then ended up having lunch on one of the beaches together. The whole day was just fantastic, the scenery is wonderful and reminds me of a tropical paradise if it weren't for the cold wind blowing down my neck. Toby kept stopping all the time saying he was tired whilst i kept on paddling till our last stop of the day at Bark bay, an hours paddling from our lunch stop.

It was yet another beautiful beach just like all the other golden sanded deserted bays that we finally came to drag our kayak upon. We quickly set up camp and got the fire going only to be joined by the Scottish guys who were staying in the lovely cabin behind the campsite. I made us some dinner which unfortunately wasn't very hot so it wasn't very appetising..... Toby went off for a stroll to find the guys who had now gone out fishing for there dinner and were still out when it got dark so i had to go and find them with the torch.

We spent the rest of the evening with me getting more and more pissed on a very small bottle of vodka and Toby drinking just one of his cans of beer. Seemed to do the trick though as i slept like a baby all night in some kind of coma whilst toby fought off Possums and phenomena.

 

Friday 30th May 2003 Abel Tasman

Didn't get much sleep at all, Sarena slept very well after polishing off a bottle of vodka the night before. I was just too cold.

We where back in the Kayak by 10 and headed into the marine reserve part of the park. Our first destination was to paddle out to Tonga Island which is a seal colony, Most of the seals where sleeping high up in the rocks and didn't seem too bothered about us, but as we headed around the northern point of the island we found a small cove which we had too masterfully navigate our way through a shallow reef to get too. It was well worth it. Behind the reef was a tranquil pool where all the seal pups where playing. They loved the sight of us in our Kayak and came straight over to see if we wanted to play with them. There was about 10,000 of them and I think they are about 6 months old as they are being weaned, You could clearly see that the adults had had enough of them and weren't bothered at all that we had infiltrated their playground. They swam around the Kayak and came to up to sniff our arms. When the Kayak came close to some rocks they would clamber on and try to get on the kayak. One of them even fetched a stick that we threw out. We sat and watched them for ages, I was a bit annoyed that the video had stopped working, it was complaining about too much moisture! but we did manage to get loads of photos of them. The tide was going out pretty quickly so eventually we had to leave to avoid getting stuck in the pool.

After the seal pups we carried on a little further north to Shag Harbour, this ended up being a canyon that leads deep into the cliffs, again we had to navigate ourselves around pointy rocks just below the surface but we ended up in the most tranquil of places, where some slightly older, and more timid, seal pups where playing and fishing. we pulled up onto a sand bank and got out to stretch our legs and backs and grab some sandwiches. This place was magical, as we hadn't seen a sole all day it felt as though we had just discovered this place which added to the feel of it. Amazing. I didn't want to leave but again we risked getting stuck with low tide.

By 1:30 we had made our way to Onetuhui beach where we had arranged for a water taxi to pick us up at 3. I boiled some a water for a milo and spent the next hour exploring the rocks and avoiding the bastard sand flys. A taxi went past us dead on 3 so I ran into the water to wave him down but he just sped of. I ended up standing in the water for another half an hour as the sand flys didn't seem to bother me here. I was already to think we had been deserted and set the tent up on the beach when another taxi appeared. The skipper helped drag the Kayak onto the back of the boat and we jumped in. CRACK! I caught my little toe on the edge of the boat. Couldn't really feel much though as my feet where numb from standing in the sea for so long.

The Taxi took us back to our starting point and then drove straight onto the back of a tractor and trailer which in turn drove us down the road to the Kayak rental shop. Quite a strange sight with everyone still sitting in the boat. We had a shower, Spa and coffee and began to warm up. By this time my little toe was starting to turn black with bruising and really throbbing. It wasn't bent out of shape though so nothing too much to worry about.

Finally we drove north to Takaka where I had booked us a camp cabin at a town called Pohara and promised Sarena some wedges. We went to a cafe that had been recommended to us, Wholemeal Cafe, but they where doing a special 'Indian Night' so we had to plump with two curries instead (a shame). The cafe was very weird and was packed with New age hippie type people, and some even weirder, it was very Bohemian. After the curry Sarena still wanted Wedges so we found some of those then went to the campsite to do some much needed laundry and sleeping. What a great day, my toe is a little sore though.

Toby told me how he had to fight to get the cereal packet from a wild possum who had dragged it down to the campfire - i didn't hear a bloody thing!

We packed up nice and early, me with a slight headache and no b'fast as i couldn't face the thought of having a possums big fat hairy feet in my sultana bran so i had a Muelsli bar instead. We paddled out to Tonga Island which is a Seal colony so it was great to see all the big fat seals who didn't seem bothered by us at all. But the bestist bit was when we headed round the corner into a sheltered cove which acted like a nursery for the pups. We gently paddled in amongst them and were just blown away with the little blighters! they were so funny and we were surrounded by about 15 pups who just wanted to play with us, they were coming up and sniffing your arms and laying on your paddles, one even tried to get on the front of the kayak with Toby. They were jumping and leaping up is was so tempting just to stroke one which of course we didn't but after sitting there for ages we carried on paddling to Shag bay which can only be accessed on a high tide and it was bloody awesome. You couldn't really see the entrance unless you hugged the coastline and it was pretty tricky getting into it as we had to paddle up a small ravine between some rocks only for it to open out into a lost lagoon type of place with baby seals leaping around everywhere. The tide was going out pretty fast so we beached the kayak on a little bit of sand and had our sarnies then had to walk the boat round to some deeper water saying farewell to the seals, one of which followed us back out to the open sea.

We paddled our way back to Onetuhui beach where we were going to be picked up by the water taxi, we were a couple of hours early so had a stroll around the rocks for a while before sitting on the beach and realised that the place was once again full of sandflys. We had both been bitten to death already and didn't was anymore so kept running around in the water and going to investigate one of the inland natural pools that was at the back of the campsite near the beach. We emptied everything out of the boat and waited for our 3pm taxi which didn't arrive till 3.30 so we were starting to worry a little. The journey back was great and i didn't realise how far we had paddled out in such a short time. Toby hurt his little toe getting into the water taxi and by the looks of it, had broken the bugger! mind you he had such fat toes you couldn't really tell.

The boat was hauled into shore on a trailer on the back of a tractor which then took us back to the Kayak office. We unloaded all our gear and were told we could use the hot pool, which of course we did and it was bloody wonderful!! Had to get out though and pack up Bertie then hit the road for an hours journey onto Takaka. We stopped off for some dinner as we were both starving and ended up in a strange sort of restaurant that had been advised to us. Lucky for us it was Indian night so we ordered out curry's and found a table only to find that we were surrounded by lots of very strange people, felt like i had time warped into another dimension.

All the people were really friendly and all very new age travely/arty folks, we even had a little band playing with the fiddle and pipes whish were getting people up dancing with dreadlocks and barefeet - quite cool really.

I still fancied some wedges even after a very nice curry so i went and got some takeaway ones and then drove on, to find the campsite. I crashed out as i was feeling really tired whist Toby limped around and did some laundry.

 

Saturday 31st May 2003 Richmond

Coming to the end of our little jaunt around the south island now. After breakfast we headed right to the top of the island and took a walk around Farewell Spit. It is actually about 27km long (I think) so we didn't walk much of it, just got to the first big sand dunes really before feeling quite tired. My toe was hurting a fair bit to so we headed back to the car park and grabbed a cheese toasty from the Cafe. Then drove all they way south back through Takaka and Materuka to Richmond, which is just outside of Nelson.

Richmond doesn't seem to have anything of interest so we just checked our emails, did our diary and arranged our journey back up to Auckland over the next few days.

Toby woke up and showed me his toe which had now gone black so i think he must have broken it - first travel injury! We packed up and headed up to 'Farewell Spit' which is a also a huge bird sanctuary so i took my binoculars with me like a proper spotter. We went for a hike along the beautiful spit taking in all the wildlife and great scenery, even saw some new birds i hadn't seen before. We then went back to the cafe and had the tastiest toasted sarny i have ever had and the scrummiest piece of cake ever to pass my lips - sorry mum this surpassed your carrot cake. We then drove all the way back through Materuka onto Richmond and onto another campsite and cabin. Went into town quickly and checked our emails - need to know if my sister has passed her driving test!!!!

I made a ginormous dinner using up all the vegatables i had in our box and then did some of the diary. Toby changed the ferry date for Monday as we had done the South island quicker than anticipated. Just sat and read for the evening and Toby nursed his big toe whilst i tried not to scratch my sandfly bites.

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