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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Happy 75th Birthday Sydney Harbour Bridge

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

We’ve been in Sydney and about now for 4 days, having left the city for the sea side town of Narrabeen, we came back in today to help celebrate the bridges birthday!

Sydney is a vibrant city, full of people! We estimated that there are more people in Sydney than we saw in the entire of New Zealand! It has been quite an effort getting used to full streets, busy shops and full cafes. We escaped to the seaside for fewer people and to get used to Australian way of life from a distance.

Our first day and a half was spent sightseeing, lovely Christina from the hostel gave us a map and route, first port of call was the botanical gardens which overlook Sydney Opera House, where we took endless photos of it and the Harbour Bridge (both iconic landmarks are much bigger than photos make them look), walked round The Rocks- the first part of Australia to be colonised by 700 odd criminals and very quaint- old cobbled streets and European style old houses. Then the Aquaruim- hopefully the only time in Australia that we will come face to face with very big, scary and evil looking sharks! The Aquaruim was awesome, underwater tunnels in the seal and “ocean” areas, an enormous crocodile and vast containers of brightly coloured fish.We also visited the Australian Museum and the Museum of Comtempary Art. After the aquaruim and Museum, we (well Becky mostly) have been checking the lawns for spiders and snakes, any piece of water for jellyfish and crocodiles and we haven’t even dare go in the open sea yet! Damn Aquaruim and Museums!! Today we went on a boat from Manly (Sydneys premiere seaside town) to Circular Quay. Manly, if you can imagine it, looks very much like Torquay! Wasn’t quite what we were expecting!
We were staying in Kings Cross- very swanky during the day, THE place to have a street address, by night it turns into restaurants, strip clubs, “adult entertainment” etc. It is fair to say that this place does not sleep and is full to brimming with quirky characters. We stayed at the Blue Parrot, a bright yellow house situated on the “quieter end” (yeah right!) of Kings Cross. You could compare Kings Cross easily with Soho!
We have been trying some “Australian food”- e.g. kangeroo! We made it into spaghetti bolognase- Andy remarked it tasted very much like horse!! Think that is another story altogether…

See some photos here!

Into Mordor – There and back again

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

See the epic journey in Photos

It was a wet, foggy, miserable day in National Park, so what better than watching all three Lord of the Rings in the comfort of the National Park Hostels Lounge? If we could see outside the window we would have seen the towering presence of Mt Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom across the fields. As we watched Lord of the Rings (LOTR) we prided ourselves that we had seen a lot of this landscape in the film, from snowy topped mountains to waterfalls in forests; a lot of the scenery is classic New Zealand scenery. All I needed for our epic journey on Friday is a good looking blonde haired elf, a short ginger dwarf, an old grey haired man and a couple of very small people. Oh and not to forgot a Ranger who mysteriously is the real leader of men on earth. Excellent.

We set off first thing in the morning (7am!) to a brighter day. We started quite high up; above the low cloud level anyway! We first skirted round the infamous Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom!) looking angry and forbidding, red dust and jet black scree in a perfect cone. We trudged over marsh (fortunately with no dead things with glowing eys to lead us to our doom) then up a very very steep rock climb (Frodo and Sam surely had blisters by the end?) and to a stunning lookout over the mountain. As we looked into the West (no not elf ships!) we saw Mt Taranaki on the horizon peeping out through the clouds.

We carried on, our mission to catch the 3pm bus at the other end; through craters, volcanic rock, scree sloped mountains. We had beautiful views of “Orc country” no wonder than Peter Jackson chose this landscape for Mordor. Our highest point was “Red Crater” a stunning view of a massive red rock crater, before the journey down. This wasn’t as easy as expected, over a kilometre of rough, slippery grey scree or gravel. No wonder Boromir was so adamant that he wasn’t going anywhere near the place. After pretty much sliding down, praying that we weren’t going to break anything we got to a look out point over the Emerald Lakes.

The Emerald lakes, are, exactly how they sound, 3 bright turquiose lakes at the bottom of the mountain. They were pretty impressive at the top, looking like little puddles but closer inspection found them eeriley still….as if some monster with tentacles was biding its time before snatching small hobbit sized creatures…..hmmmm. We braved it and sat down near the edge for a well earned scroggin snack.

Off again, across a vast crater guided by white poles the Tongariro Crossing continues over Central Crater to Blue Lake. Blue Lake (an old volcanic vent) is also known as Te Wai-whakaata-o-te-Rangihiroa (Rangihiroa’s Mirror). Quite a mouthful. We were on the way down now towards Ketetahi Hut. The walk to the hut had magnificent views across to Lake Taupo (at least 100km away) and what felt like half of Middle Earth…sorry New Zealand. It might well could have been, there was no houses, settlements or any sign of human interference for as far as the eye could see, and it was a long way.

After refreshing ourselves at the Hut (but no lambas bread for us) we carried on down, through alpine scrub and further to dense rainforest with waterfalls and bubbling streams. We arrived for the bus 1 minute too late, the bus had gone, our mission seemingly failed. However there was a glipse of good fortune (Elvish magic me thinks) there was also a bus a 4.15. Phew! What an adventure!

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 : http://www.kitjunkie.org/albums/v/travelling/nz/southernalps/

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 : http://www.kitjunkie.org/albums/v/travelling/nz/blenhiem/

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! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0A7dtdc-nU

And photos from there : http://www.kitjunkie.org/albums/v/travelling/nz/christchurch/

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!

Summary of the last fortnight

Thursday, 8th February 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  No Comments  |  Share

Taupo:

Photos : http://www.kitjunkie.org/albums/v/travelling/nz/taupo/

Went sailing on Lake Taupo (but no breeze at all!), visited the CRATERS OF THE MOON! – a highly thermal area near Taupo- boiling steam, bubbling mud, pink and green earth. Huka Prawn- the most hilarious fun you can have with 15cm Malaysian Prawns, Huka falls, watching bungy jumpers fall over rivers and come up drenched, the nicest Top 10 park yet (I will go on a jumping pillow!)    

Rotorua:

Photos : http://www.kitjunkie.org/albums/v/travelling/nz/rotorua/

Smelt the sulpher smelling air, went to the Rotorua musuem (which could be mistaken for the Woolacombe Bay hotel!) saw the iconic bowl players on the green, saw bubbling mud pools everywhere.

Gisbourne:

Beautiful city on the East coast, streets lined with Palm trees. wished we could have stayed longer.

Napier:

Photos : http://www.kitjunkie.org/albums/v/travelling/nz/napier/

Art Deco city of the World- nearly every building has art deco esque designs, there is even an art deco weekend coming up where cinemas show 1920 films, have balls and drive around in old cars. There is “Bertie” the Art deco man who walks around Napier in full kit (unfortunately we only heard this and didn’t see him). Road out to Hastings was lined with beaches on one side and winerys on the other.

Wellington:

Lovely scenery driving from Napier to Wellington, mountains flanking the road, Upper Hutt road was interesting. Cor blimey it’s windy here in Wellington! Only had a brief wander around Wellington as we arrived late and left early. Saw huge amounts of public art all over the city, men chainsawing concrete in parks to create more sculptures. Apparently there is a life size cave troll and winged Nazgul hanging over a building somewhere. But no pizza shops! Want to visit the impressive museum and watch Lord Of The Rings again! (There is a cinema here that will always show it) Haven’t seen any of the film sets yet either- there are a few around Wellington including Rivendell. We went across the Cooks Strait on the ferry in the morning, beautiful views across to Wellington the “Garden City”.

Picton:

The entry point to the South Island. Went through the Marlbrough sounds which were stuning, all huge mountains, turquiose sea and sandy white beaches. Drove up the Queen Charlotte Drive (the car only just managed this feat!) which gave spectacular views over the sea and sounds.

Nelson:

Photos : http://www.kitjunkie.org/albums/v/travelling/nz/nelsonlakes/

A very nice little city, on the seafront. Is home to the “One ring” which I couldn’t find….grrr. Swam in the Tasman sea off the coast of Nelson, found a gorgeous beach called Cable Bay, had takeaways! Bought a new camera- both of ours are now dead! Went for a long 2 day walk around the Nelson National Park, stayed in a backcountry hut. (got blisters….and lost my sunglasses!) Met up with Zoe.

Abel Tasman National Park:

Photos : http://www.kitjunkie.org/albums/v/travelling/nz/abeltasman/

Andy should be writing a more detailed account of this, but for the moment, Zoe, Andy and myself kayaked for 3 days in the beautiful National Park- all sandy beaches, tiny coves, seals, warm water, compost toilets, blue penguins, sacadas (bloody noisy and very ugly beetles) wood pigeons, impossibly tight kayak skirts, massive amounts of kayaks on otherwie empty beaches, water taxis making waves, 4 year old children making us laugh, pumping water, nappy rash and boil in the bag food.

Huka Prawn!

Saturday, 27th January 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  1 Comment  |  Share

On our last day in Taupo (it was raining- HARD!) we went to Huka Prawn Farm- sounds rubbish but it was one of the most hilarious things we’ve done so far! They have made a simple prawn farm into a huge place, eveything has a prawn embellished on it or a cast iron prawn or you can buy prawn t shirts etc everywhere! Shawn the Prawn (a giant pink prawn) guides you round. We went on a guided tour of the facililties, fed baby prawns which was very funny (they felt like tiny spiders crawling over your arms!) then we could go fishing for the larger prawns (they were Mayalsian Prawns- around 15cm long! The clever thing about this farm is that their neighbour the thermal water power station wasted heat heats up the water just enough for the prawns to live.).

We collected our bamboo fishing lines and off we went with ice buckets in case we caught some. In only a few minutes I had caught my first massive prawn, unfortunately I was so excited that I threw it across the gravel (missing the ice bucket completely) and he sat there for quite a while. We tried to pick him up, but as he was still very much alive he keep jumping and twitching- very tricky to get hold of! After much hilarious laughter (15 mins!) Andy braved it and after a few attempts got the blooming thing into the bucket- it didn’t die straight away either- but jumped out of the bucket in Andys’ face. V funny! In the end I was becoming a bit of a natural at catching the whoppers (caught 4 altogether!) Andy didn’t catch anything, said his equipment was rubbish.

We stayed in Rotorua that night as because we could take the prawns that we caught away with us we tried to cook them. However neither of us have ever cooked prawns before and we felt so guilty that these poor creatures were alive only a few hours previously and now they were bubbling away in a pan of water! Andy attempted to eat one, but as we didn’t know where to start (pulling legs, tentacles, heads off??) we decided to give up!

Thank you Becky (Ed’s Becky) because as soon as I saw the leaflet for Huka Prawn I remembered you had been and enjoyed it so that was the entire reason we went!