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G'day Oz

Tuesday, 20th March 2007 |  by  |  Australia  |  2 Comments  |  Share

It’s 5:30 in the morning, its dark, we’ve been up for hours and we’re sitting in the airport waiting for the gates to open for Singapore Airlines flight SQ220.

‘Too much to see, too little time’ hasn’t really mean’t much before this trip, a week anywhere isn’t enough.

We wanted to see something at Opera House but with nothing on we went to see ‘Hot Fuzz’ at the cinema, making us a little homesick for Somerset. It seemed that we were the only people laughing at the local jokes, I had to tell the person sat next to me Somerfield really is like that! Yesterday we went to the Olympic Park for lunch and wandered about but couldn’t help feel it was a little lifeless with no sporting events on, just us tourists. The day before, for one of the first times on our trip, we split up to get the most out of the day. Becky went off to see the Koalas at the Zoo, and I went around the Gallerys and Museums.

Sydneys an amazing place everyone should visit.

I’m going off for a nap.

Seal Line 5 Litre Waterproof Bag

Sunday, 18th March 2007 |  by  |  Kit  |  No Comments  |  Share

A simple waterproof sack that we’ve used to put our important items in, keeping it dry while kayak touring and hiking. What can we say, very durable and has been submerged too many times. Invaluable. While you’re at it, have a listen to this: TV Themes here


Archos GMini 500 'Pocket Media Centre'

Sunday, 18th March 2007 |  by  |  Kit  |  No Comments  |  Share

After lots of searching, we found this MP3 player on amazon for about 150 quid, which has turned out to be invaluble and rather robust!

We left the UK with 80 gig of music, video, photos of friends and family, digital copies of our passports, tickets and important documents all cleverly encrypted away from prying eyes. It comes with a ‘USB Host lead’ which means, when our digital cameras full, we can dump the photos on the device and start taking more, all without the need of searching for a computer.

Due to the nature of how we’ve been travelling, it’s had a hard life, even getting soaked through (invest in a waterproof case) and although I’m sure the warranties now void, the metal case scratched and dented, it’s still going strong (touch wood)

Its been great, entertaining us on wet evenings and listening to music in the car when radio stations can’t be found.

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Windy Wellington

Tuesday, 6th March 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  1 Comment  |  Share

We’re here in the capital of New Zealand, which incidentally shares its name with my home town. It’s true what they say of Wellington, it’s very very windy.

We came across the Strait from the south island yesterday which left us feeling like New Zealand was almost over for us (which of course it is, we just don’t want to admit it).

We had left Queenstown a week earlier to continue south through Te Anau and Milford Sound, with its breath taking views and vast mountains.

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Through Invercargill, famously labeled ‘Arsehole of the world’ by Mick Jagger, we’ll leave it at that… skipping Bluff, the self proclaimed furthest southern point to go to Slope point, the real southern point of the south island.  From the bottom the only way was back up, journeying through The Caitlins National Park and up to Dunedin, failing to find any sign of a bra or shoe fence that hear-say had led us to believe existed.  So Dunedin, home of one of the 19 Cadburys Factorys worldwide (and well worth a tour), New Zealands oldest university and the worlds steepest street. Its also worth mentioning, just incase any of you go there with a car, that the innercity carparks close at 6:15, which could leave you, like us, stranded the other side of a large shutter from your car, tent, food, clothes… Then back to Christchurch via Mt Cook (see a life in the day of) for our rare luxury accommodation with our OWN shower! Finally whizzing up through Kaikoura, Blenheim and Picton to catch our ferry.

And here we are, in the city centre, waiting for dinner time after spending a full and hectic day in museums (Te Papa is possibly the best museum we’ve ever been in!), art galleries, on the cable car, window shopping and a cinema visit.

We’re staying in a sizable hostel in the middle of town that an elderly couple checked out of this morning due to it being a ‘Party Hostel’, it’s certainly not the loudest we’ve been in. The Kitchen’s a little grubby so we’ve been using ‘health reasons’ as an excuse to eat out every mealtime.

And the future, plenty of things we want to do but little time, definates however are walking the Tongariro crossing, snowboarding, sailing and climbing in Taupo then off to Sydney!

Maybe another post before we leave ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ otherwise, see you in Oz!

Adrenaline Junkie

Tuesday, 27th February 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  1 Comment  |  Share

Queenstown is the adrenaline capital of the world, with Bungys to Skydives, to Canyon swinging, to white water, you can do it all. We wanted to go rafting but due to the lack of rain in February it would have been more of a gentle float down the river.

So instead we set off to find something not quite as scary as attaching a rubber band to our feet but more thrilling than the local swimming pool (granted after swimming there, there is a good chance of getting some kind of infection). We set off from our ‘Top 10’ to go catch the Sky Gondala to the top of the mountain, to get a look down on the town.

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Up there we found ‘The Luge’… basically, you sit on a tray with handle bars and skid down the track carved into the mountain, just one little curb between your tray and the 500 metre drop into the town, who needs bungy jumps?

We bought our tickets for 3 rides each and set off on the ski lift, helmets on, to the top. First ride down we knew 3 wasn’t enough as we skidded, squealed, bounced into the air, shot through tunnels and swerved, desperately trying to get the hang of the breaks.

Once our goes were over we left the mountain unscathed, wanting more. So… the next day with our campsite neighbours in tow, we went back for more, buying the maximum 5 go ticket before even getting up there.

I didn’t leave unscathed this time, getting a little over excited on the final turns i came off head over heels ripping the skin off my wrist and knee… for photos go to the usual place.
Other places about here to note are Puzzle World in Wanaka! (cheers James) which was brilliant!

Franz Josef Ice Glacier

Sunday, 18th February 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  1 Comment  |  Share

Having little sleep that night, like a kid on christmas eve. I woke up many times asking Becky ‘Is it time to go yet?’

We made our way to the meeting point in town to get kitted up with gortex jackets, boots, hats and gloves, and crampons, and catch the bus up to the terminal of the glacier, actually although it looked like we’d been dropped off right there, it took us another hour to walk to the head, once there, we donned on our crampons and listened carefully to what our guide, Sam, had to say.

The ice glacier moves, at the terminal (where it stops) about a metre a day, even faster further up where the valley closes in. Everyday new streams and holes appear, so the guides never have a clear idea of the route for the day.

As we climbed up on the ice we started to get our footing and felt (at least i did) surprisingly stable. We spent the next few hours wandring about the natural icy maze, stopping every now and again for Sam to wander up a little gully before turning back, annoucing ‘This way guys’ and walking in the other direction. Or cutting steps into the ice for us to climb, keen for someone else to want to try so he would get a rest.

We finally, after what seemed like hours of going up and down, sat down for lunch, on our rucksacks so we didn’t get numb bums, and ate our ‘one square meal’ (if you ever see them, dont try them) before turning up twards a large crevasse and finally trying to make our way back down the way we came up, some of the steps cut into the ice already gone!

Again, as with lots of our trips, i’m not going to try to describe how amazing it was, so look at the photos!

We’re off to Wanaka now to go find a river to raft down!

My Terra Nova Ultra Quasar has its first birthday! (of use)

Saturday, 17th February 2007 |  by  |  Kit  |  No Comments  |  Share

Thats 365 (ish) nights of use! Bought in 2000. Its first birthday was spent on a beach during a kayaking tour of Abel Tasman National Park.

Its been up mountains, sat on wind blown scenery, dug in on beaches during wintry offshore winds, crammed with too many people during near death experiences (thats 5! you try it), and just had a fab time during the calm of family camp sites.

Its been sewn, patched, resealed, re-elasticized, cleaned by many immigration departments, poles broken and fixed. But other than maintenance due to excessive use (and Becky)… still going strong.

So thank you Terra Nova for sheltering us from the elements, here is to another year!

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The Southern Alps! (last known location of Beckys Washbag)

Saturday, 17th February 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  No Comments  |  Share

We drove across from the Christchurch and the East coast to the West coast through the Southern Alps, with some (OK, all of it) amazing scenery and some hairy roads we travelled to Arthurs Pass Village (Population 50, highest settlement in NZ) where we planned to stay the night, although a lovely village and a cheap little campsite we neglected to think through our accomidation. Arthurs Pass is THE route through the mountains with the rail road one side and the main highway the other, our tent, slap in the middle.

In the morning, after a noisy night, and little sleep and a catastrophic tent faliure (we’d like to thank Terra Nova for making tents that just won’t die. our tent was as good as new by the next night), we went off the the DOC office to find out about local walks. I wanted to do Avalanche Pass, a crazy walk, a steep 1 kilometre rise over 4 hours, but with a lot of low cloud (low cloud? or high mountains?) and bags under our eyes, we decided against it, settling for a nice 3 hour hike through the valley and then another drive down to the West Coast
Photos Here :

Blenhiem to Christchurch

Saturday, 17th February 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  No Comments  |  Share

Blenhiem and the Marlborough region are home to many of New Zealand’s prize winning wines, so we couldn’t pass without stopping and finding somewhere to try a few. The Marlborough wine festival is kind of an up market version of Newt Beer Fest in Somerset. The girls (and some of the men) get dressed up, hats and all and spend the day listening to the live bands, and more importantly, tasting and eating the local produce. We tried many, many wines and I absolutely have a better idea of what I like!
As with all day time drinking, we gave up, tired, some of us more drunk than others (Becky) and went back to our hostel for a nap and dinner, with no energy to cook, we went out for Fish and Chips!
Photos :

Our next stop was Hanmer for its Hot Springs. It was a drizzly day so we were quite excited to sit in bath hot water for a few hours! Hamner is a little alpine village, so it was a effort getting the car up those steep alpine roads! There were 9 ‘rock pools’ 36-37 C water, 3 sulpher pools (40 C!!) and a few mineral pools. It was lovely sitting in the waters while it was cold outside!

As we felt refreshed we decided to keep driving the 180km to Christchurch. A really nice drive; cutting through mountains, past stoney rivers and smal villages. We arrived in Christchurch early enough to get to the i site and tried but failed to get somewhere to stay in the city, so we went to our fall back- Top 10! They had a ‘lodge’ avaliable (a considerable step up from camping) so we took it up for 3 nights (over Valentines) and it was dark and raining!

The following day we did the sightseeing thing. We saw the Catherdral, went on the tram tour, tried to see kiwis (but 4pm is kiwi bedtime) so we couldn’t. On Valentines day we went to the International Antarctic Centre, home off little blue penguins. We messed around in the snow room, got chilled to -18, went on a snow mobile (huggland vehicle), saw blue penguins, saw Scotts Base (in Antarctica), and read many amazing displays and saw many awesome photos – Andy wants to go there as well now! Later we went to the cinema and watched Music and Lyrics, watch the 80’s spoof classic here! It’s brilliant!

And photos from there :

Kayaking the Abel Tasman

Monday, 12th February 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  1 Comment  |  Share

We sat down on the beach of Kaiteriteri bright and early raring to get in the water but first we had to go through our safety briefing with Nick, one of the Kaiteriteri Kayaking guides.

We were setting off for 3 days paddling with their kayaks, fully loaded up with tents, sleeping kit, food for the duration, everything we needed, hardly surprisingly they wanted to make sure their kit got back to them and didn’t float off to sea (with us). We went through capsize routines, watching the weather, landing the kayaks on the beach, and which bits of the kayaks would keep our clothes the driest.

Once in the water and ready to go we slowly paddled away from the shore leaving the guide behind. Becky and Zoe in their double kayak and me, apparently being the more competent in a single. Our first stop was appletree bay to try our first beach landing. (which went great)

Kayaking through the Abel Tasman National Park was absolutely fantastic, amazing pointy hills, little green islands full of wildlife, seals, dolphins, white sandy beaches, secluded campsites only accessible from the sea, three days absoluetly isn’t enough, I could have kept going and going, sadly the kayaks were hired and had to go back.

Our two nights accomadation were provided by DOC, the guys in charge of all the parks in New Zealand. Our first night in my tent, a little cramped with the 3 of us but we stayed dry, our second night in a hut at Bark Bay, which was also on a walking path, with luxurious bunk beds, and even a cold outdoor shower! a couple 4 year olds to keep us entertained (or maybe us entertaining them). Our food was of the dehydrated variety, with soups, pastas (and dehydrated ice cream for Becky) on the menu.

We paddled around the coast for the three days getting more and more excited by the day. We kayaked about with seals swimming underneath us, we splashed through the wake of the speeding water taxis, navigated our way through reefs. Our last day we landed on the beach (landing involves paddling as fast as you can at the shore, and as you slide up the sand, jumping out before the waves try to drag you back), dragged our kayaks up, got all our kit out and did a spot of sun bathing before our taxi arrived.

Words just don’t do the three days justice, so look at these photos!

Waitomo Caves

Wednesday, 17th January 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  No Comments  |  Share

We left Hamilton, the largest inland city in New Zealand to continue down the north island to the Waitomo Caves, the home of Glow worms. We drove a few hours to a little campsite near the caves and specifically ‘Rap, Raft and Rock’ where we’d booked to do a 6 hour session.

I woke up quite excited raring to get down into the caves, we arrived at the office to meet simon, our guide for the day and took a short minibus trip to another hut, where he kitted us up in wetsuits, lovely purple trousers, and our miners helmets. Then another minibus trip to the cave entrance where the fun began (if getting kitted up wasn’t fun enough).

After a little safety talk and some instruction (quite rare for New Zealand) we walked down to the rappel point and lowered ourselves into the dark, a 28 meter drop into eel infested, freezing water. We were a group of 6 so one after another we waited for our turn. Once all of us were down and Simon had followed, we got out of our climbing harnesses and with our lights switched off, started to paddle through the water into the darkness of the cave system. As it got darker we started to pick out the glowing worms above us until we came out to a chasm absolutely covered in them, looking up was like looking at the stars. Simon created a huge bang on the water, as well as scaring us to death, the worms thought it was feeding time and started to glow brighter. He told us about the worms and how they weren’t worms at all but maggots, they glow because they cant go to the toilet so they burn their ‘waste’.

We walked further up to find the caves getting narrower and narrower until we were on our bellys scrambling through the mud, fantastic (or awesome) fun! at one point we came out at an underground lake and some of us jumped in the freezing water for a quick swim to clean off, absolutely pointless as we had to go back the way we came, through the mud.

Once back to one of the joining systems, we grabbed rubber rings, once again switched off our lights and with the aidf of simon floated down a pitch black river, the glow worms showing us the way, maybe simon too. At the end Simon told us to get off our rings to climb out of the caves, he didn’t mention however that were I was, was still 8 feet deep and surprisingly to me and Becky we went straight under, more freezing water. When we surfaced everyone else was standing looking at us and Simon chucking to himself.

Lastly (5 hours after we started), it was time to get out to daylight and dry land, this involved getting our harnessed back on and a further 28 meter rock climb out, with wellys! not a pair of scarpa boots in sight….

Have a look at the photos here

Sweet as Bro

Friday, 12th January 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  2 Comments  |  Share

We were told if we spent more than 2 days in Auckland and you’ll be bored… But no, this is our 5th day, we still haven’t eaten at the harbour, climbed one of the many volcanoes or been to the park. But until we’re back to fly out we’re calling it a day here. We’ve been up the sky tower twice, shopped, shopped, shopped, watched Casino Royale, attempted to buy a car but decided against it, walked, walked and walked, had a Dominoes Pizza (2 large pizzas cost $16, about 5 quid), had a subway (again a subway here is about 2 quid), Bex got a hair cut, travelled on the Link bus ‘the long way around’. Maybe we didn’t get bored because this is the first time we’ve been able to do some of this stuff for a few months, who’d have thought we’d get excited about Starbucks.

We’ve loved Auckland, its a really clean, friendly, spread out city where the road signs are polite and the pedestrian crossings sound and look like computer games, where the little green man actually walks when its time to go, then gives you a count down until the lights will change. The buses have screens just like in Total Recall, which show the news, weather, trivia (New Zealands favourite flavour is Chocolate, closely followed by Banana) and a map that shows you where you are, where the next stop is, and what your likely to see when you get off.

We’re staying in Auckland Central Backpackers, the biggest hostel we’ve been in with 10 floors of rooms the biggest kitchen you’ve ever seen! More of a hotel than hostel (but with hostel prices).
If you haven’t already, you can see some photos of Auckland here

So midday we’re off to get our Hire Car (a lovely nissan sunny) and drive north to Whangarei, a 3 hour drive, where we’ll be walking about the treetops and playing in the waterfall