Monday, 5 April 2010

New Zealand...

Has been absolutely incredible. Everything about our time here has been absolutely fabulous. In 3 and a half weeks we've managed to tour both the North and South Islands seeing kiwi's, whales, glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, seals, dolphins not forgetting the albatross. It has been brilliant.

Having left Gill in Wellington, we headed on the Ferry across the Cook strait to Picton where we picked up our bus (the Magic Bus!) and carried on to Nelson. There, we walked to the "centre of New Zealand" and got a good view out over the city, and played around with the new camera. Nelson was a lovely littleish city, and we stayed a couple of nights. We wandered along the river which was very idyllic, and the water was freezing cold. From Nelson we headed to Greymouth, stopping a couple of times to see a seal colony (myself and one other girl bravin the pouring rain to grab a photo) and at the pancake rocks, some strange layered rock formations.

That night, we headed to the Montieth's brewery, where we saw how the beer was made which wasn't very interesting, and then got to try the 7 different beers and new cider. It was great, and once we'd tried them all, we were allowed to pull our own beer form the taps. I should say beers, we had half an hour to go wild and we did! The tour included dinner in town where we met some locals and had some great food, before heading back tp Noah's Ark Hostel where we were in the giraffe room. Most odd.

It was then on to Franz Josef, where we'd decided to do a glacier hike. It certainy blew the hangover away as we put on our crampons and climbed up the glacier, seeing crevasses, caves and wild and wacky ice formations. It was like being on the moon, and we slipped and slid our way through a blue ice cave. We were the last people on the ice which was great as it was empty as we made our way back down, and as the mist descended as the sun went down, it really looked rather mysterious! We spent about four hours on the ice which was enough to knacker us out completely and we were asleep by 10pm!

Next morning we were off to Queenstown. We'd heard of people getting "stuck" there, because the night life is great so we were looking forward to a good night out. On the way we travelled through the Southern Alps, going round lakes and over mountains and seeing some of the most amazing scenery we've seen so far. Once into Queenstown, we went for a wander and then tried a legendary Fergburger for dinner. Sara the the classic Ferg with Cheese, while I went for the Big Al which was and American's dream. 2x half pound burgers, 2x cheese, 2 x eggs, and enough salad to feed a family. By the end of it I could feel my lungs filling up with meat. Brilliant! So brilliant in fact we exclusively ate there for the two days, having onion rings and chips for brunch the next day, and a different burger for dinner, the Little Lamby and the Cockadoodle Oink. Yes really. We also headed up on the cable car, Sara laughing at my fear of heights all the way, to get a great view a Queenstown and the Remarkables range of mountains, and also to have a go on the luge. Downhill go-karting at it's finest. Sara went so slowly I though she was going to stop. We also got some great photos of the surroundings from the top of the mountain, and managed to make ourselves look mental with the ridiculous luge helmets on.

Then we were on to Dunedin where we accomplished little other than trying some of New Zealand's finest cheap sparkling wine over an early dinner, and falling asleep. We arrived into the town quite late and got a few pictures of some of it's "Scottish" style architecture - all the road names are the same as in Edinburgh.

From Dunedin it was on to Lake Takepo, an incredible blue lake with a tiny little church on its shores. The view form the church window is amazing! We hired a Kayak and paddled about for a an hour or so, seeing geothermal bubbles coming up from the bottom, and chasing the odd duck.

Form Takepo it was on to Christchurch where we went round the botanic gardens and the cathedral and enjoyed a lovely day in what is a lovely city! We stopped to listen to some german students in the cathedral square playing a healthy dose of britpop, though left as they butchered Wonderwall!

Kaikoura was next on the agenda, where we decided to go whale watching rather than dolphin swimming, the two big attractions. Within 30 minutes of leaving the land behind we were within 15 metres of a sperm whale expelling the carbon dioxide before diving back down Although difficult to see much (only 10% is visible) we watched it for a while before getting the classic shot of it diving down. We then watched the wandering albatrosses which we circling and landing near the boat. They were absolutely mind blowing. Skimming across the water with a 3 metre wingspan they were just incredible birds and to be so near to them was amazing. Then up popped the whale again and we watched him for another twenty minutes before Sara got him diving down on video, here. It was then onto a fur seal colony. There were some very cute little ones as well as some big lazy sunbathing ones, one of which waved at us. At least that's what we told ourselves. I have to mention the smell as well, the combination of seal and seagull poo was gross, and the seagulls had done their best to colour the large brown rock white. Sara nearly threw up.

From Kaikoura we headed back to Picton, stopping at another fur seal colony and seeing some seals that had hopped right up the bank. A seal in a bush is an odd sight! From Picton is was back to Welly on the ferry where we once again met up with Gill and her boyfriend Callum for cheap drinks and free food in the bar next door! She may be coming to the UK next year so hpefully we can return the favour and give her somewhere to stay for a while!

From Welly it was on to Napier where we went to the Aquarium to see the shark feeding. A scuba diver fed them whilst others snorkellyed with the sharks - we saw one snorkeller panic and jump out as one of the bigger sharks came near him. Hilarious for us, not so for him! We also saw a kiwi in the aquariums nocturnal kiwi enclosure. They're much bigger than we tough, about the size of a chicken, and their feathers look completley different from other birds. It was very difficult to get a good photo in the dark, but we got one which shows the odd beak and feathers ok. We then went around Napier which ws flattened by an earthquake in the 1930's, and rebuilt in a completely art-deco style which was quite cool to see.

From Napier we went on to Mount Manganui, where we met with a friend from home Sam who we know through Sara's chum Coral. We saw her at work for a chat and then went to the rugby before meeting up again afterwards for a bottle of wine! The rugby was great, we saw the Chiefs (local) play the Higlanders (from Dunedin) and the Chiefs won! The locals have cowbells to ring at the games for some reason! Back with Sam, we had a gossip about home and living in New Zealand - she's been away ages!

We're now back in Auckland having finished on the Magic Bus yesterday. We also popped to see anoter of our Asia kiwi chums Lisa who now lives and works here, and have been catching up with uploading photos and plannin a bit for Chile and South America in general. We fly tomorrow at 4pm and arrive at 12pm the same day travelling back in time 4 hours which will be most odd! We hope the last chunk of our trip has been as good as the last month here and in Fiji!

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