Saturday, 27 February 2010

Jump Day

Up at 8 and not as nervous as I had expected, met up with Lyn, her 62 year old sister Barbara and Lasse a slightly mad Dane who were my jump mates and I couldn't ask for better ones. Because Lyn and Barbara were so chatty it didn't give me a chance to let the notion of me jumping out of a plane sink in. Three other girls joined us in the mini van to the airstrip they were also great fun and really friendly. Myself and Lasse were the last to jump because everyone else wanted photos and DVDs made, I wasn't fussed because they allow you to take your camera down and make your own video once the parachute has opened. Lasse was very excited, I was slightly more apprehensive but also buzzing.

The skydive was pure pleasure and fun, every second was enjoyable and it felt so easy and peaceful, nothing like I had expected and as it is considered the second most scenic sky dive in the world the views over the fox glacier and out to the southern alps were incredible.

After the jump everyone was on a high and me and the crew all went for burger and chips in a cafe where Lyn and Barbara chatted and the rest of us listened and laughed. After it got dark I went glow worm hunting in the forest with the 3 girls and it felt a bit like I was a murderer leading 3 girls into a pitch black forest. I didn't murder them. I could have, but I didn't because I like them and it would have put a dampener on an awesome day.

Franz Josef

Arriving in Franz Josef I was annoyed that I had signed up for Kayaking because I was spending too much money already and I had also put my name down to sky dive. Even though I was aware that I was spending too much I still followed the crowd in to the glacier hikes building and promptly parted with another $150 for a days walking on the glacier because it is considered one of the top attractions in New Zealand.

The kayaking was a short drive out of the town and the mini bus was not large enough to take us all so the guide asked who had a driving license. Of the people who had not been drinking already only me and a young girl volunteered so I made sure it was me driving. In hindsight this was probably not a great idea as I doubt I was insured but everyone over here is laid back and driving in New Zealand is easy so it was all good. Our group of 10 people had a huge lake all to ourselves as tends to be the case over here and sitting on the water looking up at the mountains as the sun went down was another pinch me moment.

I managed not to spend any more money that evening by eating peanut butter on toast for dinner and drinking tea with Roxy and Lyn until midnight. Lyn is an absolute hero of a woman, she is 58, from up north and living life to the fullest. She had done a bungy jump the week before and tomorrow morning will be jumping out of a plane in the same group as me. Lyn can talk for England and although you can't get a word in edge ways I was in stitches at every story she told. My favourite story was that when she was 40 she looked down at her sofa and said to herself 'I could be sat on a beach instead of on this', the next morning she sold the sofa and booked a week in Ibiza. When she got back all she had to sit on was one deckchair but she was happy as Larry and for this I love her. Lyn you are a legend.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Fancy dress

The group of people you leave Nelson with are stuck with you for 3 night and 4 days because two of the stops down the West coast are in the middle of nowhere with not a lot to do. Thankfully I got on really well with nearly everyone on our bus and made genuine friendships with people most of whom I will never see again.

From Westport the bus takes you to the poo pub where for the last 14 years everyone who travels with the Kiwi bus has a barbecue cooked by the 84 year old landlord and then gets in to fancy dress for a party. Our theme was what you want to be when you grow up which left a lot of scope to pretty much go as anything my personal favourite was Northern Irish Pete who was going to go as a terrorist. The journey to the poo pub stops at some impressive rock formations called pancake rocks that look a bit like stacks of pancakes. It next stops at Greymouth for some cheap shops to stock up on fancy dress supplies, most people stretching the theme to fit around what they could buy for less than $5, all part of the fun. I went as Batman using some cutting and colouring in skills that turned out reasonably well.

The barbecue was great consisting of a huge steak, delicious venison stew and a mountain of potatoes and vegetables, a much needed stomach lining for the evening's drinking. After dinner we took our jugs of beer down to the beach to watch the sunset and let our food digest then it was party time.

The night was a lot of fun and all seemed to end far too quickly. I did act like a bit of a nob at one point because a Dutch man called William was pissing everyone off and making a lot of people, particularly any young girls, feel uncomfortable. I'd had a few so I told him what I thought and I'm not proud of it but what I said was (in edited form) 'William you're an arse, no-one here likes you, why don't you go home'. Because he was so drunk I don't think he really understood and thankfully Les, the landlord kicked him out minutes later saying pretty much what I'd said.

Gradually numbers dwindled starting with the Scandinavians, then the Dutch, the Germans, the Canadians until there were only a few of us left mostly the English and Irish. We decanted a bottle of wine in to a plastic bottle and went back to the beach to end the night where me and Irish Ollie had a swim in the sea, a bloody silly idea for obvious reasons. We survived, mainly thanks to northerner Roxy arriving and telling us off and soon left the beach for our beds.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Day in the middle of nowhere

From Nelson the next stop on the Kiwi bus is Westport, the journey's not bad with a nice freezing cold lake to jump in but Westport is a bit of a dive.

It was the first day on the bus that I had managed to stop myself signing up to do an activity so when we arrived at the hostel I had a bit of time to kill, time I spent attempting to go for a run. As soon as I got to the beach at Westport I had to stop running because I'm not very fit and sand is hard to run on. Westport is weird and the first place I have visited in New Zealand where I wouldn't want to live. The back streets I ran down made me feel like I was going to be witness to a drive by. Most houses were in a state with rubbish dumped in the front gardens or cars rusting away or burnt out - one of which had a swastika spray painted on it.

The town was dead and the only people I saw were boy racers or oddballs talking to themselves and staring at walls. Because of the in-bred clan of Westport I turned my run/walk back to the hostel where I pretended to Shauna and Tyler that I had enjoyed myself.

Dinner of fish and chips ($4.60 - first NZ bargain) lead to a couple of drinks and when our group of Kiwi bus folk had dwindled to just me I got chatting to some locals, all of them weirdos in some way. It was a pleasant evening drinking until 3 with a cringe worthy moment rubbing noses with a Maori like an eskimo kiss. He asked me 'Whut thu fuck are yu doing? Yu just touch for a couple uf secunds. Where huve yu seen thut shit?' I told him it was what I thought I'd seen him do but in my half-cut state I probably did think eskimos and Maoris have the same greeting.

I was told that to talk like a Kiwi you replace all the vowels with 'i's but it's different depending on the Kiwi you're talking to. The only constants are that if something is good it's 'sweet as', anyone you know is 'bro' and after a statement they turn it in to a question by saying 'eh' (aye) so in my opinion New Zealand is sweet as bro eh. Westport however, is rubbish.

Monday, 15 February 2010

3/2/10 - Abel Tasman

Up at 6 for a 6:30 bus to the Abel Tasman national park for two days solid with Becky as we were the only ones who had signed up for the camping trip. I was surprised to find that when we got to Kaiteriteri we really were the only ones doing the trip but we had become quite good friends and she talks the right amount so I was happy enough.

We dropped our bags off to be taken on to our campsite. From Kaiteriteri it was a short water taxi to Te Pukatea a bay that Lonely Planet had rated as the 8th best beach in the world and I could see why, the sand was golden and we were surrounded by cliffs and rainforest and a perfect clear blue sea. We had it to ourselves which astonished me until two girls emerged from behind some trees to ask the time but it was still an incredible feeling to be somewhere so beautiful and yet so deserted.

The walk through Abel Tasman was amazing, it is one of New Zealand's 10 great walks and it has now become an ambition to try them all before I die. Dense forest, beautiful clear rivers with round boulders placed in them as if by an artist and every hour or so another perfect empty beach that I thought normal people weren't allowed to go to without paying Richard Branson a fortune.

It took around 5 hours to get to our campsite, hidden in the trees behind Bark Bay, again a beautiful beach and not a bad spot to spend a night. Myself and Becky shared a bottle of red wine, lit a bonfire and chatted to an American who plays poker online for a living, he is possibly the first American I have got on with for longer than 6 seconds. Becky fell asleep as soon as she got in the tent, I didn't thanks to a group of Spaniards singing and playing guitar until 11 when I got up to tell them politely to shut up. The guitars stopped, the noise didn't. Eventually I began to drift off, annoyed that such a special place was tainted by a bunch of inconsiderate nobs.

Minutes after falling asleep something bigger and noisier than a rat ran in to my head. I was convinced it was inside the tent so I jolted bolt upright and inexplicably brushed my limbs in case it was clinging on to me somewhere then I switched on my torch and searched the tent. Once I'd calmed down I realised there was no chance a big animal could have got in I had just had my head against the side of the tent. I switched off the torch and laid back down. The beast was still outside, I could hear him rooting through my bag for food. In an effort to stop my bread being munched and to scare off what I was guessing was a gorilla I tried the following:
-banging the side of the tent
-shining the torch through the side of the tent
-making strange noises like a dog
-unzipping the tent to have a look at the monster before zipping it straight back up too scared to look.
Unsurprisingly none of these worked and I listened for an hour as the gorilla ate my bread and possibly all my possessions but I wasn't going out there to stop him.

The next morning I woke up to see that my bread had indeed been partly eaten through the wrapper but nothing else was soiled. I noticed a sign saying "Take your rubbish with you, we have at least two possums in the campsite", perhaps it wasn't a gorilla and maybe I should have had a look at a possum in the wild.

I let Becky do most of the packing of the tent while I supervised so that she could feel useful then we left it with our bags to be taken by water taxi to Kaiteriteri whilst we spent a day kayaking back down the Abel Tasman coast line. The kayaking was great fun but after 2 days straight with Becky we were both getting politely fed up of each other, she didn't like my steering skills in the kayak I didn't like that I was doing all the paddling but it wasn't enough of an irritation to stop the day being awesome. We saw seals and a couple of penguins swimming around, obviously lost because I thought they lived in Antarctica. The views of the coastline were as good from the sea as from on land and we were able to take them in even better when we pulled 4 kayaks together and got out a ground sheet to hold aloft as a sail for a mini regatta towards the next bay where we stopped for a swim and a sandwich.

It was a great trip and we returned to the hostel that evening with some new friends we met kayaking - Shauna, a Canadian nurse, her travelling companion Tyler who is a Pharmacist, Pete from Belfast who is travelling for a year thanks to the recession giving him the option of a career break and who is together with Shauna while they're in New Zealand and Britt a dutch girl. Roast dinner then out to a pub. One beer led to another and soon I found myself stepping around a fight that someone insisted was between a girl and a midget to enter a bar for some dancing with Ollie and Michael, two very Irish lads who tried chatting up every single girl in the club. While the Irish busied themselves being rejected, smiling and laughing all the way, I spotted Chris and Mike two Germans who had shared a dorm with me in Christchurch, and chatted with them until I could hold back the urge to dance no longer. My arms and legs broke free and Kiwis and foreigners alike looked upon me with eyes of confusion and pity but I didn't care because I was enjoying myself and continued to do so until I remembered I was very tired and stumbled back to the hostel for a great 4 hours of sleep.

2/2/10 - Nelson

Next day we were journeying from Kaikoura through Blenheim and Picton on our way to Nelson. At Picton we said goodbye to a lot of the group who were going on the ferry to the north island and a new group of miserable looking posers got on. On the bus myself, Roger, Becky and Katie from Cumbria had a good chat and later shared a room together at a hostel/pub called Ferny Lodge.

Having dumped our bags we walked to a monument signalling the centre of New Zealand that coincidentally sat at the very top of a hill! After that I was ready for some time on my own so I wandered off and had a look around Nelson, a lovely place with some nice parks, gardens and a good number of cafes and bars to keep me entertained. I got back to the hostel and changed in to my smelliest t-shirt to go for a run back up to the monument, this was a terrible idea and nearly killed me but I got back to the top and appreciated the view even more than earlier in the day.

That night was really pleasant, sharing stories with Alexi Lalas, Becky and Katie and staying sober for the first time since arriving.

1/2/10 - To Kaikoura on the bus

Finished off yesterday with a walk out of town for an hour or so until I found a pub for locals and drank my first reasonably priced pint. Next door was a fish and chip shop where I had chips and a hot dog which over here means battered sausage on a stick.

On return to the hostel I learned that the Murray v Federer final of the Australian Open was on at 9 so I joined a Londoner and a Brazilian to watch Murray getting stuffed on the biggest projector screen I've ever seen outside of a cinema, then off to bed to make sure I caught the bus.

The next day was the start of my travels on The Kiwi Experience bus and I was somewhat apprehensive thinking it would be full of gap year teenagers overly excited about being out of the house but I was pleased to find that this wasn't the case. I got chatting with Adam from Edinburgh and Becky from Oxford who were both friendly and we spent the afternoon together Whale watching. We saw 2 Albatross and 4 whales although I failed to get even an average picture of any of them. Back in the gift shop I took a picture of a postcard because I had seen a whale and my rubbish photography skills shouldn't get in the way of me proving it.

That evening I had fantastic fun with my new friends from the bus: Ben, 19 overly excited about himself; Erin and Heather, posh; Roger, Alexi Lalas at 18 great person and a few others.

I bought a venison sausage and some lamb kebabs for a barbecue and a couple of drinks, soon enough the couple of beers turned in to drinking games, mostly my fault because I had bought a 3 litre box of wine that I found to be 5.8% - devastating but it meant I didn't mind sharing and a few people chipped in a couple of quid. We used the gecko rule and it was fun watching other peoples' reactions to a whole table suddenly flinging themselves at various surfaces.

When the crap wine ran out we walked down the small path to the seafront and found a pub that was still open where I met an Irish man, Bryan, who had been in my hostel in Christchurch and we drank more and flung ourselves at more surfaces. Ben was quite annoyingly young so when one of Bryan's bus mates said he would run in the sea I stitched Ben up and told him that he was our Kiwi bus captain and so had to defend our honour by downing his drink on the count of three then beating the other bus's man to run in the sea naked. Before he could think I started the countdown and he was away. Ben returned later, wet and feeling very proud of himself, I felt a bit mean so I toasted him and gave him some beer from my jug. Shortly after that most of the group left to see how many of them could fit in a phone box, I stayed and played pool because I do like a beer.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Quick overview

I'll update this properly soon but here's a quick run down of what's been going down.

1/2/10 - Kaikoura - Whale watching saw 4, photographed lots of empty sea. BBQ in the evening followed by bullying a 19 year old to run in to the sea

2/2/10 - Bus to Nelson - Saw hundreds of seals

3/2/10 - Walking Abel Tasman National Park, camping next to the beach, possum ran in to my head and ate some of my bread.

4/2/10 - Kayaked down the Abel Tasman coast before hitting the bars of Nelson and dancing the night away in shorts and flip flops

5/2/10 - Bus to Westport. There is nothing in Westport so I got drunk with some odd locals and offended a Mauri by greeting him like an eskimo.

6/2/10 - On to the Poo pub for bbq, watching the sunset at the beach and then a fancy dress party with everyone on the bus. I was Batman.

7/2/10 - Franz Josef, kayaking in the evening on a huge lake that we had to ourselves.

8/2/10 - 9.00am catch the bas to go for a skydive. BEST FEELING EVER, spent the rest of the day floating around and then drinking til early morning.

9/2/10 - Feeling awful I went for an 8 hour hike throught the Franz Josef Glacier, beautiful but stuck with several annoying nobs all day.

10/2/10 -Had to get the bus out of Franz Josef or spend another 3 nights there so I did and moved on to Wanaka, beautiful town next to a lake.

11/2/10 - Walked about 20 miles nearly got up a mountain but ran out of water so turned around then had a great fun night out watching a reggae band and being bought drinks by a local criminal.

12/2/10 - Did a bit of walking around the lake. Two friends from the Kiwi bus then arrived and we spent the evening dancing and drinking.

13/2/10 - Day sat fishing by the side of the lake, didn't see a single fish. Possibly this was all a local joke to get tourists looking like idiots. Still had fun and drunk some wine before an early night.

14/2/10 - Bus to Queenstown via puzzling world which I loved. Night out dancing and catching up with lots of friends who had moved on down the coast earlier in the week.

15/2/10 - Walked 25 miles up to an incredible 360 degree panoramic view 1700m high. Pretended I was Frodo and made friends with a stick.

I do like a travel

Monday, 1 February 2010

A-League = Amateur league

31/1/10 - Pint of Pilsner, listening to a band playing covers in the sunshine

Last night I went to the ami stadium in Christchurch for Wellington Phoenix vs Adelaide United. Wellington are New Zealand's only professional club and they play in the Australian league. The ami stadium has been recently expanded to a capacity of 45,000 ready for the 2011 rugby world cup, there were nearly 20,000 watching the Phoenix with me and around 1,000 of those actually understood what was going on. Twice before the game I overheard people saying 'is it 45 minutes a half?', bloody egg chasers.

A-Leaugue football is shit. Very shit. In a pub before kick off an English man got served before the man next to me who then turned to me and said with anger "fucking pommies getting in the way of us drinking" I nodded and kept quiet for a minute but had to order my drinks with him still next to me. "Piynt of beeya pleeaayse" I said. It didn't sound Australian it sounded retarded.

I moved away to a friendlier looking group of Kiwis to ask them what I should expect from the game and they admitted the standard would be about League 1 in England. It was closer to conference football with Wellington winning 1-0 thanks to a terrible goal followed some woeful goal mouth defending.

I sat next to a man who didn't like football but had come because his daughter plays, after 40 minutes he asked me "Is it 45 each way?"

Wellington play 2 home games outside Wellington each year, one in Christchurch and one somewhere else (I wasn't paying attention when I was told) and apparently the Wellington fans quite like the days out so maybe the Premier League's idea of a fixture in Hong Kong or America isn't that ridiculous. 31 game seasons though, stupid. Fact.

The only saving grace for A-League football is that you can take beers in to the stands and the bar is open throughout the game. I bought 6 bottles because every one else queueing seemed to be doing the same. Feeling on my way to a happy level of drunkenness I ran from the stadium back to the hostel, picked up my bottle of wine and headed to the lounge.

(Note to Mum: Skip this paragraph)
There were a few people who had the same idea as me and after a while we moved to the kitchen to play some drinking games. I learned a new Ring of Fire rule called 'Gecko' which allows the 'Gecko master' to pick any time to run at a wall or surface and stick to it, the last person to follow suit drinks. The drinking was fun and I chatted to people about things to do when I get to Asia but once I got in to town I was a mess and I have little recollection of the night except for being taken in to a strip club by two lads I had been drinking with only to get thrown out 5 minutes later for falling asleep at the bar!

I cocked up this morning. Missed my bus to Kaikoura, by a mere 4 hours. I bought an alarm clock today so hopefully it shouldn't happen again.

Although it was a bit of a wasted day if I hadn't missed the bus I wouldn't have got a t-shirt printed with 'I do like a t-shirt' on the front and I wouldn't have seen Mario, queen of the circus - a juggler at the World Buskers Festival who did his act dressed as Freddie Mercury, to the music of Queen!