Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Wanaka to Christchurch then Kaikoura

Decided I needed to get up to the North Island with only 3 weeks left in New Zealand, my aim was for Christchurch, 400km away but I would settle for halfway there. I took myself and my backpacks out to the road and before I had even stuck my thumb up I had my first lift out to the next junction. My next lift was with an English man, his well spoken father and his dog Millie. They dropped me near where they were playing golf and then I got a bit stuck for an hour. A French-Canadian girl joined me and her hitching technique was most impressive, arm straight out, thumb proudly aloft and a massive smile plastered across her face.

We were picked up by a kind man called Richard who fortunately for me was going nearly all the way to Christchurch, a 3 hour journey. Richard is a grandfather who is a fan of Lady Gaga, his ipod also played Irish folk music, drum n bass, Celine Dion, Genesis, Techno and a Japanese cover of the song that has the chorus 'this is my united states of whatever'. The cover went 'This is my SU-BA-RU don't touch the leather'. Richard dropped me off near his house at the junction for Chrischurch and it wasn't long before a 19 year old with a ginger mullet picked me up in his pick-up truck. The git only offered because he needed petrol and we negotiated $15 for the 100km to Christchurch. He looked nackered and I found out that was because he'd been out on the piss the night before and then went to his job as a dairy farmer at 4am and had only just finished.

The mullet dropped me off at 8pm by which time all the good hostels were closed meaning I had to check in to a Base hostel which was indeed a proper shit-hole. The bar directly beneath my room played loud music until 1am and so I only got 5 hours sleep.

Next morning on the Kiwi bus to Kaikoura again. Walked around the peninsula and then got a proper night of sleep.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Back to Wanaka and a bit of a naughty story

Wanaka is the one. I'm in love with it. I got very emotional returning here and turned in to a soppy soft shite sitting in the sunshine looking out over the lake. I walked around to the Edgewater resort with the individual hand towels in the toilet and I began to well up with happiness, not at the hand towels, at the whole area. Wanaka is without doubt my favourite town on Earth, maybe they put opium in the water here because everything just seems better. The water bluer, the sun sunnier, and the mountains, err, pointier? Just better.

Took a walk up a hill called Mount Iron and in the early evening saw 'Peed my pants' and the Scot who, coincidentally, had also come from Dunedin that day. I joined them and an Aussie called Clayton for a couple of jars and Clayton offered us all to come back to the house he was staying in and drink the insanely wealthy owner's champagne. I declined because I wanted to go for a dance and annoyingly 'Peed my pants' joined me. I soon pissed off the Yank by dancing with nicer girls and she left in a huff. Yay.

The next day I walked up the mountain that had defeated me on my previous visit to Wanaka - Roy's peak. Then I walked back down. It took 8 hours in total. To celebrate my ascent and to make the most of my last night in my favourite town I went to a bar and had several drinks and then several more.

What happened next I am not proud of. Mum, you should remember that this is an isolated incident and there were lots of mitigating circumstances - my drink was probably spiked or umm... I had heatstroke and was dizzy and not myself.

Well here's what happened anyway, as much as it pains me I think the story is worth telling.

At the end of the night of drinking I got in a taxi with a girl back to her house, twenty minutes outside Wanaka. The next thing I knew I was waking up on a sofa. I was still a bit drunk and the heatstroke was kicking in so I didn't worry myself with questions like where I was, I just walked down the corridor to find a toilet and sat down planning to take a while.

I then heard footsteps outside the toilet and a woman's voice said 'Are you okay?'
'Are you talking to me?' I replied
'Yes I'm fine'.
Who was this woman? I tried to piece together where the hell I was.

Oh shit

Oh big shitty shit shit. No no no no no no no. Shit. No. Shit.

A little bit of the previous night came back to me. I had not gone in to the girls house. I had said goodnight and tried to walk back to my hostel. I walked for hours only wearing shorts and flip flops and it was very cold.

At some point I became completely lost in residential streets that all looked the same in the dark and I had no idea which direction I was heading. Because I was so cold and lost I decided I needed shelter so I went up to a patio door and tried it. It was open and the sofa looked comfortable so I opted to get a couple of hours sleep and leave before the owners got up. Only I hadn't done that. I was now in the house of a stranger, sat on their toilet, having a crap and they were understandably going to be concerned as to who I was.


I could now hear a man's voice, I could guess what they were discussing, probably which household object would decapitate the intruder - me - the most efficiently.

How the hell do I explain this? Should I start crying? No. Try honesty. Through the door I said 'I'm so sorry, I got lost walking home last night and I was freezing cold and I needed somewhere to sleep and I'm so sorry but I tried your door and it was open. I'm really sorry'. I flushed the loo and made sure I put both seats down, well I was in enough trouble as it was. The couple whispered to each other, my guess was that it was something like 'You stand on the left with the rolling pin and when he comes out and I've kicked him in the crotch batter him over the head'.

There was nothing for it, the window was too small to climb out of so I would have to face the music. I opened the door and repeated my story. The couple were middle aged and looked shocked but thankfully weren't holding any weapons. 'Oh was the door open, I thought we locked it'
'Yes it was open and like I say I'm so sorry but I felt like I didn't have much choice. I'm sorry to confuse you and be so rude but if you could just point me in the direction of Wanaka I'll get going'
The man responded 'It's alright we've got kids your age, you seem genuine' - I suspect he thought I was 19 because 26 year olds aren't supposed to do things like this. 'Do you want a drink?' he added.
'No, thank you, if you could just point me in the direction of Wanaka I'll be getting back to my hostel'
'Give me a minute to get dressed and I'll drive you back there, which hostel are you at?'
I couldn't believe it. Instead of beating me up for entering his house uninvited this man was going to go out of his way and give me a lift to my hostel door. And he did just that. In nearly any other country in the world I would have come away with at least a black eye and possibly have been arrested but here I was treated like a friend who needed a hand, what astonishingly wonderful people.


Most people I'd spoken to about Dunedin said it's a bit rubbish and don't bother going but I was still optimistic that I would have fun wandering around a new city. Got on to the bus sat down and then it hit me. I had done something stupid and unforgivable. Herman. I'd left my stick in the hostel store room. I was distraught and even considered getting off the bus and foregoing the fare and the cost of the hostel I had booked in Dunedin. I didn't, the sane, reasonable side of me took charge and I stayed in my seat thinking up ways of reclaiming Herman on my way back to Wanaka, my onward destination from Dunedin.

In the evening I checked in to the hostel, the cheapest and worst hostel I had been in so far. Crap banana shaped mattress, no locks on doors and one toilet between 5 dorm rooms. I checked out of the hostel the next morning and started walking. I wanted to see some of the Otago peninsula, a place where you can see rare yellow-eyed penguins and a host of other birdlife. It was not walking distance but it's my preferred method of transport so I carried on regardless. The walk was pleasant at first along the water's edge until the path ended and I was left walking along the verge of a busy road looking like a plonker. I felt a bit self conscious and thought I should hitch-hike along the road but as I was already a couple of kilometres along it by then I figured it would be silly. I got used to walking on the road, stepping out of the way of cars every time the road got narrow and I remembered that I wouldn't see anyone I knew anyway so I could happily continue to be a plonker.

After an hour or so a car stopped on the other side of the road and I realised that I had been spotted by someone I knew, Claire who I had met in Queenstown. Bugger. Now I would have to act like I'm enjoying walking along the verge. Couldn't she just have carried on driving.
'Hey, it is you, how come you're walking along the side of the road? You know it's another 15km to the penguin beach? It'll take you all day'
'Oh that's okay I'm just out for a walk, be better if there was a pavement but it's a nice day so I'm happy'. As I spoke I realised that I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, I changed the subject. 'How come you're in Dunedin?'
'Oh just a couple of days break from work, borrowed the bosses car. Seriously where are you going? There's not much on this road until the end'
'Oh I'll work that out as I go and like I say it's a nice day. Anyway, better get going, enjoy your break. Bye'
'Err, okay fair enough. Bye' she said with pity in her eyes.

Five minutes later it turned out it wasn't a nice day and the heavens opened up soaking me through. I arrived at a shop and was delighted to see a sign pointing up a walking track saying 'walking track' - finally somewhere I was supposed to be. It was a nice walk over a hill, the rain stopped then started again eventually settling for stopped. The end of the track left me on another road with no pavement and because I'd been walking for four hours it seemed sensible to head back towards town.

Along the road there was a sign pointed at an empty field saying Site of NZ's first Cheese Factory. I took a photo and wandered what the point of the sign was. A little further along the road there was a sign on a gate saying Bolder Bay closed, on closer inspection this was from November to February for penguin breeding season and as it was now March I jumped over. I followed the track and bushwhacked out to the bay where there were unfortunately no penguins but still got a good view. It was now 5pm and I was an hour from the road let alone Dunedin. At the road I knew I needed to hitch hike and luckily for me the first passing vehicle pulled over on the hill I was walking up.

The driver was a Greek/Swiss man called Alexander
'I'm not very good driver, I have only have this van for 3 days' was the first thing he said to me and then we rolled ten metres back down the hill before he found a gear that went forward. He took me all the way to Dunedin driving slowly and badly all the way almost causing 2 accidents by stopping in the middle of the road giving way to people who didn't have right of way and confusing the hell out of a poor learner driver. I was still very grateful but happy to say my thank you and goodbye. I rewarded myself for the long walk with a tour around the Speights beer factory, a pretty boring tour made worthwhile by help yourself tasting for 20 minutes at the end.

The next day I spent drifting through the city's parks, art galleries, museums and the University followed by a game of Cranium in the hostel with a German guy, a Scot girl and a yank girl. The highlight of the game was when the yank laughed so much she literally peed her pants and had to run off to her room to change. Apparently this is a common occurrence for her.

Dunedin was pretty good all in all. I had fun.

Some more days in Queenstown

27/2/10 - 2/3/10

Planned to cycle the Central Otago Rail trail, bought a tent and a sleeping bag and phoned up some companies to get a bike hired. On my way back from celebrating the Swiss paraglider passing his paraglider test I met some slightly mad but excellent people dressed as Cheetara, the Joker and Robin Hood who invited me to their spare house (!) where they keep alcohol and not much else. Cheetara's real name was Morven (or something similar), the Joker was really Darcy and Robin Hood was a lovely girl called Steph. I ended up sleeping on their sofa the next night which I thanked them for with a tasty curry.

I was due to start the cycling on the 2nd but when I got up it was pissing down and I decided my mac in a pack wouldn't quite cut it if I had 3 days cycling in that weather. Instead I walked to the shop bought a box of beer and let Morven cook breakfast whilst the rest of us hung around looking like shite doing very little all day.

Becauase I delayed there were no bikes available the next day and I had missed my opportunity. With accomodation booked in Dunedin for the 4th I chose to head there a day early and explore a city that no-one had recommended.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Milford Sound

Very little sleep meant I struggled to get up in time to catch the bus, just about made it and then slept solidly for 2 hours to Te Anau. After that I had to stay awake for a drive through mountains that even for New Zealand were spectacularly scenic. The best part of the drive was coming out of a tunnel in to the valley of a thousand waterfalls. There were only two decidedly modest waterfalls because it had not rained for days but the scale of the valley was still impressive.

At Milford sound we took a boat cruise and I generally stood on the top deck with my jaw dropped feeling like I was on another planet.

I stayed the night in Milford sound because it is a 5 hour drive and but it wasn't necessary because there is nothing to do unless you know where the secret paths are (I didn't until the next day when it was time to leave). There were only three of us from the bus who were staying, one of whom was Mike/Will who had irritated me in the past but new tolerant Glyn was nice and made the most of it - mainly by separating from him on a short walk to read a book accompanied by a short fat bird who had forgotten how to fly.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Losing my hitch-hiking virginity

With a spare day when I couldn't get on the bus to Milford sound I took it upon myself to do something I have never done before: Hitch-hiking.

New Zealand has a reputation for being the best country in the world to do it and it felt like an opportunity to meet some 'real' people rather than the English who swarmed around the bars of Queenstown. Arrowtown was my destination, an old gold mining town less than an hour away. The reason I wanted to go there was because I had read about a place called Macetown, a ghost town since the gold had run out, 15km from Arrowtown and only accessible by 4x4, walking or mountain bike.

I was very nervous walking along the road and nearly found several excuses to turn around before I'd even got to the junction to Arrowtown. At the junction I assumed there would be plenty of traffic. There wasn't but to those vehicles that came past I tentatively put up my thumb and did my best to look non-murderer like. It quickly dawned on me that hitch-hiking probably isn't my sport because I am an impatient git and after 15 minutes I was about ready to give up and go to the pub when a man pulled over. I don't know why he pulled over because all he said was that he couldn't give me a lift as he was turning off at the next junction but I suppose it was nice that he offered me an explanation for driving past. Other cars made apologetic gestures about their car being full or perhaps me looking a bit too murderer like. But soon a man did stop and I had my first ever ride.

My lift was a generous local man called Mike who took me all the way to Arrowtown and on the way we discussed Macetown. Mike takes his family up to Macetown a couple of times a year to camp and pan for gold in the river, he suggested it was too late to try walking up and back before dark. The best way, he said, would be to cycle up and to my amazement he said I could borrow his.

I like travelling.

Mike drove me out of his way in to town and showed me where the trail starts, about one and a half hours to Macetown then took me back to his house to get his bike and helmet. I thanked Mike several times still taken aback by his generosity then set off on another adventure.

What Mike neglected to tell me was that the ride was a very steep climb and involved 15 river crossings with water up to my waist. I loved it. Trying to ride a bike under water is not easy and after pedalling full speed in to each crossing I tended to get dismounted by a large rock in the river and then push the bike to the other side.

One and a half hours my arse, it took nearer two and a half and most of that I had to push the bike because of the ridiculously steep slopes. Getting to Macetown was worth it, a great little isolated spot full of families camping, panning for gold and enjoying the great outdoors; there were even kids orienteering! The ruins of the town were fairly ruined but two buildings had been restored to show how they were 100 years ago and I cycled around reading the information boards for half an hour.

The ride back down was much more fun and I nearly came off head first a few times when I got carried away with the speed over the rocky ground. It only took one hour to get back to Arrowtown where I bought Mike some wine and chocolates to say thank you. Shark and chips for dinner then back out to the road with a much more confident thumb in the air. I got part way out of town thanks to a middle aged woman and her daughter, unfortunately there were already 2 girls hitch-hiking in the same spot. I jokingly stood in front of them with my thumb up and then walked along to them. They didn't look amused so I apologised, walked past them and sat down hoping they wouldn't be waiting long.

They were gone after 5 minutes and 15 minutes later I got picked up by a man called Gavin. At first I dismissed Gavin as thick. I may have been right but he was also very generous and took me to his house outside town to wait for his friend to give us both a lift the rest of the way. He gave me two cans of bourbon and coke while I waited and in town I got changed and joined him to try and buy him the beers back. He was having none of it though and so I was forced to stay drinking the evening away.

I can't get over how kind the Kiwi people are, free lifts, borrow a bike and Gavin even said he would take me out sailing if I was around the next weekend. Definitely thumbs up for hitch hiking.

Better buzz than a skydive

24/2/10 - Weather crap so did very little. Bought a book, read some of the book, went on the internet, did my laundry.

I did get a message which made me glad to be a teacher though and left me buzzing for days. I'll just copy and paste the message from a year 11 student who I used to clash with in every lesson when I first taught him.

Hello sir, just to say i hope everything in life goes well for you including your travelling. i just wanted to say that the last few months in school i got to realise how much of a decent teacher you are. It might not mean much coming from a 15 year old but i have so much respect for you and thankyou for helping me through the exams staying back after school with me. You've made me realise life is not just about getting a job, it's about doing something you've always wanted to do. I have such a different take on life now... Thanks Sir! oh and if i do bump in to you, of course you can bum a tenner :)

It took 2 and a half years to get a proper thank you but it sure was worth it.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

3 day hike on the Greenstone and Caples tracks

Spent a day preparing for my hike and deliberating over whether I needed proper walking shoes or a new pair of trousers. At some stage in my travels I have managed to lose one of the legs of my zip off trousers, no idea how but it's definitely gone. I walked out to Frankton to shop in the warehouse discount shop where I bought a head torch and some comfy socks. On the way back a cyclist overtaking me said 'how ya going? Get all the honey?'. I think this was a reference to the fact that I had been picking my nose until I heard the bike coming. In the evening I said goodbye to my best friends from the trip - Pete, Shauna and Tyler, quite possibly forever.

The Greenstone and Caples tracks form a circular walk that is usually done over 4 days and 3 nights. For some reason I decided that I could do it in 2 nights and the only way to do this is to combine the two longest sections of the track which gives an estimated time of between 10 and 14 hours. Considering I have never done any walks over one day this was not a well thought through plan. I only had trainers, my backpack is off the 80s, I had no cooking equipment and I was going alone so if anything went wrong I was up a well known creek. I did have Herman though and his relaxed attitude put me at ease.

On the first day the bus took us out of Queenstown and then 5 minutes later back in to Queenstown because the driver had forgotten to close the luggage door and at some stage a bag had fallen out. It took about 20 minutes to trace the bag to the police station and then we set off again to Glenorchy. From there myself and an American couple got a water taxi out to the start of the track. We were the only 3 starting the track that day which I thought was brilliant, a well known and popular route that once I'd run off and ditched the yanks I would have to myself like the greedy git that I am. I started off walking with the Americans and to my surprise I liked them very much. I was concerned that they had done lots of walking in New Zealand already and were planning to take 4 or 5 nights to do the walk whilst idiot novice boy was trying it in two. I was less concerned after a few minutes when it became clear that they were painfully slow. We got talking about sticks and they said they had lost two good ones when they were kayaking. I told them how sorry I was and how strange it is that I was already quite attached to my stick. The girl agreed and she had even started putting carvings in hers. Herman did not look impressed at this but I liked the idea of giving him a tattoo against his will.

It was time to walk at my own pace so I said farewell to the American couple and wished them well in their upcoming wedding (2 months away, they may not make it if they carried on walking so slowly). The track was easy going and I was blissfully alone in the river valleys and forests miles from civilisation. It took about 4 hours to get to my first nights accomodation a Department of Conservation (DOC) hut with matresses, stream water and a long drop toilet the only facilities. In New Zealand there are over 1000 of these huts on walking tracks in the middle of nowhere just for trampers (walkers) and they're usually cheap on the back country tracks - $15 for this one. There were 6 of us in the hut, 2 Israelis who did not know each other, 1 Aussie, 1 Kiwi and his Malaysian partner. It was nice not having any Brits around but I didn't talk much as I was tired so I foolishly got an hours sleep before dinner of Lembas bread, muesli bars, crisps and jelly babies. Because of the power nap I couldn't sleep come night time and unfortunately I was beneath the young Israeli who decided he needed a Tommy tank. I was tempted to say something but then remembered I was trying to be more tolerant and I was a teenager not too long ago so I put my headphones in and eventually dozed off at 3am.

Knowing my second day would be long I left at 8am, the first part of the walk was hard, all over tree roots and rocks up 1000m hill, fun at first but tiring after 3 hours of the same terrain. Once over the hill it was pretty easy going just a very lanky trek. At 6pm Herman and I made it, sweating, smelly and exhausted, to the Greenstone hut. There were 12 people there who had started half way along my days walk. They looked confused as to where I had come from and thought I was a bit daft going so far in one day especially only in trainers. I had enjoyed myself though and was glad to once again be the only Brit, except for a German called Brit but that doesn't count. I had a good chat with two more Israelis who again did not travel together. Apparently it's because they've all been conscripted in to the army that they walk up lots of hills on their own. I was last to leave the hut the next morning, feeling fresh and smelling anything but. I overtook the other 12 one by one mainly due to me not carrying as much as the others - unimportant stuff like first aid kits, cooking utensils, enough food or warm clothing. Compared to everyone else on the track who had been out for up to 6 nights I had not really been roughing it but I was still excited about hot greasy food and what Ali would call a massive shower.

I do like a hike.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Couple of days in Queenstown

Day 5 Queenstown
Went round the town talking to bar managers blagging some drinks deals then organised an evening of pub golf, 7 people paid me a couple of dollars for the privilege. None of them turned up but me and 5 good friends (Pete, Shauna, Tyler, Roxy and Gemma) who I didn't charge had an awesome night looking like pillocks doing a different drinking style in each bar. E.g. drink from the other side of the glass, get your partner to do the pouring, hands behind your back etc.

Day 6 Queenstown
Took Herman for a walk up Queenstown hill then fell asleep in a secluded grassy patch managing to get part of my eye sunburned so it looked like I had been punched. On the way back down a guy with a rubbish little stick jokingly said 'swap?'. Without thinking I angrily grunted back 'NO' getting a puzzled reaction from the guy and making me embarrassed that I had become so protective over an inanimate object.

Made a proper meal of Thai red curry. Reading the side of the packet on the curry paste it said for a milder flavour use half the packet. I did this and when I first tasted the dish it dawned on me that the packet is for 4 people it was stupidly hot. I spent an hour and a half attempting to eat the curry, sweating and blowing my nose before giving up only half way through the portion.

After dinner I got chatting to a Swiss paraglider, a Scot and a German but we couldn't have a conversation because in the next room was a fat, loud American in a Hawaiian shirt who shouted everything he said and wouldn't let anyone get a word in edge ways. He would say 'Here's the thing, here's the thing, here's the thing' starting at shouthing volume and gradually getting louder so that you had no choice but to listen. After a while I had had enough so I shouted back in an American accent 'Here's the thing, here's the thing, I'm American and I need to be the centre of attention so I shout so loud no-one else can have a conversation'. At this point I realised that I needed to leave before I confronted him, he didn't notice me leave and he had started another story that was bollocks something along the lines of 'If you pee when it's freezing and you don't shake it off the pee freezes all the way back up to your penis'.

It was quite lucky that I did go to bed without confrontation because the next morning I woke up and in the bed next to mine was the fat American and he was oblivious to who I was.

Lesson learned: Stop being an intolerant gobby prick.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

20/2/10 - Best zoo ever

Walked to Frankton, a small town two hours walk from Queenstown. Saw a sign saying Zoological Gardens so I followed it down a path to the gardens and they were brilliant. At first I thought it was a piss take calling it zoological gardens, I have seen more exotic animals in an average pet shop. What made the 'zoo' worth visiting was the owner of the house, a wonderful old man called Ivan.

Ivan obviously didn't get many visitors because when he saw me he assumed I was lost and pointed me back towards the walking track. I told him I'd like to look around the gardens and he said it would cost $15 then started driving away on his mobility scooter. I caught up with him and said that was fine and although he looked at me like I was simple for wanting to look at some pigeons and rabbits for $15 he began to take me on a tour. Ivan had a stroke last year and so was quite unsteady when out of his scooter but he still got in to each cage to show me the baby budgies, pigs and pheasants and told me the story of how he came to have each of them. He had worked for the SPCA and slowly collected animals that were stuck there in small cages or due to be put down. I spent a great hour with a great old man and gave him $20 for the privilege as I could see it all went to the animals.

Up a hill down a beer

Up at 8am and off for a walk around the lake then back to town to walk up the path beneath a gondola. Towards the top of the hill the path split in two so I chose the path that had some long walks and aimed for Ben Lomond (1700m) a three hour round trip. Or so I wrongly assumed, it was three hours to the top then the same path back down. The scenery and views over Lake Wakatipu (pronounced Wackaty-poo) were stunning as is pretty much everywhere in New Zealand so far.

The path was quite steep in places so I looked for a stick and found a suitable looking chap covered in mouldy bark. I peeled off the bark at the end I would be using as a handle and it revealed a lovely piece of sturdy pine. After a couple of hours of walking up hill I realised how good my stick was and I named him Herman, something I realised was probably the first mistake on the way to madness that Tom Hanks had made in Castaway.

I pretended I was Frodo Baggins and when I looked down at my trainers I saw big hairy hobbit feet instead. When there were no other walkers around I twirled Herman around and fought off the fighting Uruk-hai and orcs who were running down the hill to stop me.

There were quite a few moments along the walk that turned my legs to jelly with near vertical drops to the side of a tiny path but I persevered and was rewarded at the top by a cloudless 360 degree view over the lake and town to the west and the southern alps and remarkables mountain ranges to the east. At the top there were 4 people and I chatted to a lovely Australian couple. The woman complemented my stick and I thanked her. Herman looked smug. On the way back down when the path was wide enough I broke in to a run and it took half as long as going up. At the top of the gondola hill I stopped for a drink and was joined again by the Australian couple .
'Are you going to keep your stick?' the woman asked.
'I might do' I lied, I'd already told Herman we'd go on another adventure tomorrow.
'You should it's a good stick, you looked like Frodo baggins running don the hill with your hood up on your jacket'. Both Herman and I looked pleased.

Back in the town and through the hostel lobby I felt a little self conscious carrying a stick but I was high on my days achievement and ready for a celebratory beverage. In my dorm room a well spoken young lad named Will said with a sense of awe 'Did you find that stick?' Before I could answer another lad said 'What the fuck else did he do, grow it?'
'No it's just you can buy sticks like that they cost loads'
If Herman had a head it was getting a bit too big now so I brought him back down to earth 'Yeah I found it, there's hundreds like him lying in the forest quite easy really'. Everyone agreed that Herman was a good stick and I nearly got carried away stopping short of introducing him as Herman.

In the evening I went on a crap pub crawl that I left after a few crap free drinks and went in search of people I recognised and found Shauna, Pete and Tyler in World bar where they serve cocktails in teapots. I also got chatting to the German girl I had been round puzzling world with and ended up sat outside by the lake looking at the stars.
'It's incredible how many stars we can see' I said.
'I want to be up there' she replied
'What do you mean, you want to be an astronaut?'
'I want to be dead'
'Oh thanks, am I that bad company' I blurted out before the magnitude of what she'd just said had hit me. Thankfully she ignored my horrible comment and continued 'It would be so peaceful and perfect'. We chatted for a little longer and she explained that she suffered from depression which I found hard to comprehend especially in a place as beautiful as New Zealand but from the little I do understand it is an illness and it doesn't matter what anyone says or does it is only the sufferer who knows what it feels like. We chatted for a while longer until it got too cold to be outside in shorts and we said our goodnights.

It sounds strange but I was glad to know a bit more about the German girl as opposed to the generic where are you from and how long are you travelling for conversations that have made up the majority of my interactions while travelling. I hope she recovers but I guess I'll never know.

Puzzling World

Leaving Wanaka made me sad because I loved the place but I'd forgotten to change my bus booking so I left and made a promise with myself to go back to Wanaka before leaving the south island. Close by Wanaka the bus stopped at Puzzling World, which was heaven on a stick for geeks like me. The start of the attraction is a maze with 4 corners to find that I went round with a German girl who had studied English and was much better at it than I am. We found all 4 corners of the maze but after 45 minutes had to cheat to get out.

After the maze there are 4 illusion rooms which were so much fun. The first is a collection of 3-D holographic pictures that I kept trying to touch because they looked real. The second room is built on an angle so that the room looks like it is flat and this made everybody giggle and a middle aged woman fall over. Water appeared to flow up hill and pool balls rolled up the table. The third room was an optical illusion making people on one side of the room look tiny and the people on the other side looked like giants. When you exit the room you watch a time delayed video of the room and see yourself being the wrong size which made me and the dutch girl laugh.

It was nice in the evening to see people I recognised and so we had a few games of pool and my first Fergburger. It was a damn good burger.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


A quiet day enjoying a walk round the lake and not drinking was followed by fishing day. I Bought a box of wine in the morning and sat by Lake Wanaka all day with Pete and Shauna who had arrived the previous day. We failed to even see a fish and I am convinced that the fishing shop is only there as a joke to trick tourists because I'm positive the lake has no fish in it. I managed to lose three lures due to my poor knot tying ability and nearly lost a fourth by casting in to a buoy. I had to swim out to it whilst reeling in the rod which is impossible, it must have looked like I was drowning swimming for a bit then reeling and sinking. Pete managed to snap his rod and Shauna took half an hour of getting the line tangled before she could even make her first cast but we all had a great day and were glad we'd tried some fishing even if we failed miserably.

The evening was a quiet one and Shauna and Pete left after a few. I stayed on and talked to a group of people one of whom was a Dutch guy with a great Dutch accent. He talked about his recent visit to Bangkok and some shows he saw with great enthusiasm saying 'There are three pushies all firing ping pong ballsh and then they get a banana and put it in one pushy and the other girlsh eat it' He spoke with a moronic grin on his face and even though he was a moron he was an entertaining and happy moron so I had a few more beers before I was reminded that I was nackered by falling asleep at the bar.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Time for a walk

Up early and off around Lake Wanaka, I stopped at a beautiful lakeside resort that had a cafe and toilets with individual hand towels for the posh folk who could afford to stay there. I had a coffee then walked up to a track that said Roy's Peak. I hadn't planned to do a big hike but the track kept going so I followed it. The peak is 1600m high and I didn't know what that meant until after an hour of walking up I was told that I was around a third of the way there. I had already used my small bottle of water but luckily the man had spare and refilled my bottle from his bladder (squishy water bag. He didn't wee in my bottle). I walked for another hour in the sweltering heat with a towel wrapped around my head to keep the sun off and once I'd finished my water I decided it was time to admit defeat and turn around. I sat down and took in one hell of a view whilst eating some lembas bread (crackers dipped in peanut butter) then made my way down to the bottom and back round the lake to the cafe to rehydrate and clean myself in the swanky toilets.

Subway for dinner then a relaxing evening pint sat by the lake. I daydreamed that I might find an excuse to talk to the pretty girl sat on her own at another table as I flicked through my photos deleting pictures of views that all looked great but mostly looked like the same picture. Then, because I'm travelling and the sun is shining, the girl sat on her own came over and asked to join me. She was great fun, her name is Kayla and she's from Canada and because we were chatting away I forgot I was planning to do my laundry and we ended up going to 5 different bars, finishing at a Reggae gig being bought drinks by a former drug dealer. This was fine until the scary man pulled out a wad of notes and asked Kayla how much for a night with her! He was harmless and didn't push it so we stayed and danced and had a wicked random night with the entire Dreadlocked population of New Zealand.

Hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier then to Wanaka

I didn't enjoy the hike. Seeing the glacier and walking through ice caves and through crevasses was amazing, spending 8 hours with a group of 19 year olds with ADHD was not, I felt like I was at work. Every single second of the hike they were using their ice axes to smash bits of the ice and coat me in icy debris, I told them off a couple of times which made me feel even more irritated and more like I was in teacher mode.

After being irritated I needed a couple of drinks and the only people around that I recognised were a bit boring and one guy called Mike/Will (he answered to both) really got on my nerves by expressing his opinions as facts one of my favourites was 'if you actually want a beer then you ARE an alcoholic'. Tosser. I did want a beer and whether I'm alcoholic or not it wasn't going to be this guy that diagnosed me.

The next morning I was due to leave Franz Josef for Wanaka. I overslept by an hour and so went to reception to enquire about public buses assuming the Kiwi bus had left. Thankfully the driver had also overslept and the bus was sat waiting for me to get on. These happy coincidences seem to happen a lot to travellers.

I fell asleep on the bus and woke up a couple of hours later on an empty bus at a petrol station. The bus was locked and I was briefly concerned until I saw the driver who put two fingers up at me. I think she was telling me she'd be two minutes. Two minutes later she got back on and took us back to where the rest of the bus had been dropped and I had a $12 dollar sandwich that was worth $2.

Arriving in Wanaka I instantly fell in love with the place, it is beautiful and just the right size to have things to do without being crowded. I was booked in for 4 nights and when I went for a short walk around the lake I already wanted to stay longer.

I was surprised and pleased to find that in my dorm room were the three girls I sky dived with and didn't murder in the glow worm forest. I was even more pleased when I joined them at dinner and they offered me their left over vegetables and rice to bolster my dinner of peanut butter on toast with a peanut butter sandwich for pudding. Thank you girls.