Oh gawd!

Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, November 21, 2009

Yes, that is the title of the latest blog...purely because it's been such a bloody long time coming that I am simply dreading writing it. I think I need to cover about 3 months worth of goings on… Whoopsie!

Anyway...we must begin.

Hello! Becca here (finally). I must admit I've been a right old lazy bones when it comes to writing one of these...now, my time has finally come!

I'm not entirely sure where Mark left off. So I shall start from somewhere else...our holiday! Yay!

After working for 6 or 7 months, we thought it was high time to get back on the road and see some of the country that we had, after all, come to see! So, with our hangovers in check and morris filled to the brim with yummy cakes and thermos' of tea (only the necessities ) we headed off for 8 days of travel down the east coast of the south island.

We started off on one of our longest drives - about 4 or 5 hours - to the sleepy city of Oamaru. Sleepy is definitely not an exaggeration here, we arrived at about 3pm on a Friday and pretty much everything was closed. We parked up in a campsite that was within the gorgeous Oamaru “city” gardens and thought we would have a wander around the famous “Victorian district”. Pretty as it was, it comprised of 2 very quiet and closed streets. We cut our losses and decided to retrieve the van to go for a spot of early evening penguin spotting. The penguins we went to see were yellow eyed penguins, which at this time of year are nesting and so spend most of their day out at sea getting as much food as possible, before returning to the nest at dusk. We arrived full of hopes and excitement and went to sit in the penguin hide on a cliff face. Here, we met a nice Scottish man who was an official penguin spotter for the local conservation agency. He told us there would be no chance of us seeing any. Bum! But then he pointed out one that was hiding in the cliff face (which, from where we were looked like a white lump). So, again, we cut our losses, celebrated seeing a penguin and took the van back to the campsite and went to bed.

Next stop on our hol were the famous Moeraki boulders  - en-route to Dunedin.  Simply put, these boulders are beautifully spherical rocks that have fallen from the cliff face during years of erosion and now sit in the sand looking rather lovely. I got very snap happy and arty here and you will see the proof when you look at the photos. Probably not as  interesting for you as it was/is for me…but that’s part of your job you see, enduring the endless amounts of photos!

A couple of hours later, when we got to Dunedin, we found that in fact it wasn’t the “Edinburgh of the south” as had been boasted to us by the guidebook and various of my English students
(who, to be frank wouldn’t know any better regardless).
Dunedin is a nice city though - and there was someone playing bagpipes, so if that’s all it takes for the city folk to think that they live in Edinburgh numero 2, then let’s not ruin their picnic. As it were.
In seriousness, I think the reason is because the majority of buildings and houses are built of grey stone, which is not the norm in New Zealand whatsoever. Most houses here are bungalows made of wood and corrugated iron - I’m not joking, and although it may sound a bit rustic, they do the trick just lovely. Central heating doesn’t really exist here either, so you either rely on wood burners or oil heaters.

When we had settled in our campsite in Dunedin, we hurried to our highlight of the day: the Speights Brewery tour! Hurrah!
Speights is beer that has been brewed in Dunedin for over 100 years, I think it has made it’s way over to the uk at some point. The locals love it, even if after their 7th or 8th you can hear them slurring the known rhyme “drink speights lose ya mates”. I don’t think they mean it, I think they just like the rhyme.

The tour was excellent, we had a lovely, funny tour guide who gave us 20 minutes free use of the pumps in the bar AND peanuts. Fabulous stuff.
To end a lovely night, we went to a Chinese restaurant, where I got the wrong dish for my starter and main (I ordered deep fried tofu for starter and got given deep fried pork that was still a little raw), had an allergic reaction to the wine - or maybe the raw pig?! - and threw up in the toilet. Hurrah! (allergic reaction is not a euphemism, I hasten to add)

The next day we were on to the Dunedin peninsula, where we were planning on camping for a night and then taking part on a boat trip to find Albatross. The Dunedin peninsula is just absolutely beautiful and I thoroughly recommend it to all. On our boat trip we spotted 3 different breeds of Albatross - the Southern Royal, the Northern Royal and another one that I can never remember! The Northern Royal had around a 3.5 metre wingspan - huge! It was just amazing - I never thought I would get to see even one of these elusive birds, so to see 3 was fantastic.

Caitlins coast was next, again, an absolutely beautiful place. Rugged, windswept and very wild. We camped every night and saw so many beautiful landscapes and a lot of wildlife. At one part we stopped at a place called curio bay where there is a petrified forest on the beach. This is where mark had his quote of the holiday: “I thought it was gonna look a bit  more scared, like, bending over or something”. This is where I explained to mark that petrified, in this case, means fossilised and not very, very frightened…

Next it was over to Stewart Island, an island on the southern most part of New Zealand. There is only one very small town here and you can’t take cars across on the ferry. Over 90% of the island is a protected national park, so you can probably imagine that it is quite a “back to nature” kind of place. We did a couple of walks here, stayed the night and then took a water taxi over to Ulva Island - an Island that is uninhabited by people and is a protected bird sanctuary. We shared the taxi with a nice old boy who was retired and in his 70’s, from England who was here visiting his daughter. We all got on pretty well, and as the only people on the island decided to spend the day together. It was a great day, we walked the whole island and saw numerous rare and protected birds - including the Weka, which are one of my favourites because they look like a cross between a chicken and a duck and are very friendly. They chattered at us quite a lot and had no problem coming right up to us and prodding us about - we came to the conclusion that this was probably why they had become rare!

We also got followed by a New Zealand robin for the majority of the time, not quite so rare, but still great to get up so close. It would fly off ahead of us, wait until we got up close and then fly on to the next branch. We came to the conclusion that it must be an only child, as when it wasn’t getting enough attention it would attempt to dive bomb us, until we mollycoddled it with our words.

After Stewart Island, it was pretty much a case of getting back to Christchurch to start work on the orchard that Mark had been working on for the past 3 or 4 months. Yes, that’s right, I was about to leave my comfy, city life and my well paid job, to live in the sticks for 3 weeks. It was a great experience and the people we worked with are lovely people - especially our housemates, who we know we’ll stay in touch with. The work itself, however, was mind numbing and my brain was most distressed after 2 days let alone 3 weeks!
I did love being outside though, it was great to get a bit of a tan and to be surrounded by such beautiful landscapes. It was also really great to live back with Mark (or the fart as I now like to call him - you may be able to work out why) after so long of us living in separate places.

It was all over pretty soon though, and now we’re both missing it and the people. Boo!

Next on our itinerary were visits from friends!
We had been looking forward  to this for a long while and so when it finally came around we were quite overexcited. My friend Maddie was to arrive first, she was here on a holiday for 2 weeks. With her, we drove up to the north of the south island and had a mini trip for 3 or 4 days. Our first stop was to Kaikoura; you may remember Mark taking me here for my birthday for swimming with seals - which got cancelled due to bad weather. Well, this time Maddie and I had booked swimming with dolphins and the weather was perfect! Mark decided not to do it, but booked a flying lesson instead! He would get to pilot a plane and help with the take off and landing. So he was pretty overexcited about that.
I have to say, swimming with dolphins was probably the highlight of my whole time here in New Zealand. It was just such an amazing experience.

The dolphins we swam with were completely wild, so it was really a case of getting on the boat and trying to find the dolphins first. Then, once we had found a pod - a huge one of about 500!! - the crew then had to monitor their behaviour to check it was safe for us to go in with them. It was, so in we got.
We had had a short training session before getting on the boat about how to interact with the dolphins when we were in the water with them. Basically, as they are completely wild and not trained or coaxed to come near us at all with food or such like, it is up to us to entertain the dolphins and keep them interested in us, so they come to check us out - rather than the other way around. We were told to sing to the dolphins through our snorkels - much to our amusement - and to also swim in circles following the dolphins as they do to you. And, if you can, to dive down with the dolphins, whilst singing. The last one is the best one to do as they communicate through sound under the water. I was really looking forward to it and had no problem with the idea of diving down with snorkel gear because of my scuba experience.

The water was bloody cold when we got in, but Maddie and I got to it, singing away and looking for the dolphins. Then suddenly they were all around us and it was fantastic! We were told that if you manage to get eye contact and swim in a circle with a dolphin, that the dolphin might stick with you the whole time. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened with me as I kept seeing the same one with a scar down it’s back and on to its tummy. I dived down with it a few times and it was just so much fun!  A truly magical experience. The only problem was, that I did so much diving and swimming in circles that I began to feel sick and in the end had to come in because I was ill! I spent the rest of the time hugging a bucket and feeling rather green. But it was just amazing while it lasted!
And, to be honest, after being in the water and singing away, it was really funny to watch everyone else out there singing through their snorkels! I’m pretty sure I heard ‘back for good’ by Take That and the circus theme!

When we got back to land it turned out that the weather hadn’t been quite so perfect for Mark, as his flying lesson had been cancelled due to low cloud. We decided it was time to move on, so we headed up to Nelson and the Abel Tasman national park. We spent the night with one of Mark’s friends, Johnny. His wife was very heavily pregnant at the time and they were kind enough to give us a place for the night, smoke us some fish and stay up late catching up. The baby has now been born -  a beautiful baby girl - so, if you’re reading this, CONGRATULATIONS!!! And thank you so much for being so kind to us!

Abel Tasman was a gorgeous place with white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. The weather was overcast which was a shame; we had planned to do some kayaking but the water was just too choppy. So, after setting up camp, we all went for a wander on the beach. Here we encountered some Oyster Catchers. By the way they were acting, it was obvious that they were nesting as they were chattering at us and guarding a hole in the sand by a big log. I hasten to add, we were no where near their nest site and had no intention of winding them up! We thought we could walk passed them if we kept our distance and be on our way. I sent Maddie first,  - being the nice friend I am - and she promptly got chased away by a very angry Oyster Catcher. We laughed and thought that maybe if we all went passed together we’d be ok. So, we all started creeping passed… and then… ATTACK!! I kid you not, we got bloody attacked by these two tiny birds who have very long and scary beaks. We ran and ran and finally they left us alone. It was bloody hilarious I tell thee! They were terrifying!! Well done Oyster Catchers. Well done.
Obviously we abandoned our walk and decided to take the long route instead!

After Abel Tasman it was back down to Christchurch to pick up another friend from home - Neil. He’s been travelling for a while as well and is currently living and working in Australia. We picked him up and then went back to Christchurch to meet up with Ric and Angela. Ric and Angela are two of my lovely friends from home who got married in October (I couldn’t be there cos I was here… boo!) But, New Zealand was their choice for their honeymoon, so it was just fantastic to get to see them for a couple of days and catch up on all the goss. Congratulations Lamacrafts!! Xxx

Right, I think it’s time for all you lot to take a break. You’ve been reading this for far too long and to be honest, it ain’t finished!
Go on, go and refill your cup, get a biccie and then come back.


Ok, final lap of the blog to go!

After we had said goodbye to Ric and Angela, off Neil, Maddie, Mark and I went in our lovely Morris for a week or so of travels around the south island.
Our first stop was Mount Cook, where a dreadful storm hit us as we camped and we slept in fear of Morris being turned over by the wind and the tent being blown away! But we survived... well done us! We didn’t really get to see much of Mount Cook, due to the weather, so off we went to Queenstown. 4 hours later we arrived, didn’t much like the look of it, so off we went again towards Milford Sound.
An old housemate of ours, Tracey, has since moved down to Lumsden - inbetween Queenstown and Milford Sound - so we decided to pay her a visit. In return for a place to stay for the night, we bought some fresh Salmon from a fishery we drove past (about 8pounds for a kilo) and cooked to pay our way! It was great to catch up with her again.

The road to Milford Sound was amazing, let alone Milford sound itself. The road ranged from sunny, grassy plains with snow capped mountains in the distance, to being in the mountain ranges and getting snowed on quite heavily! It was here that we all encountered Kea’s for the first real time. (Mark and I had seen them before a few times, but never close up and never had much interaction.) Kea’s are another one of New Zealand’s rare and protected birds. They are alpine parrots and live right up in the mountain tops. We didn’t know yet, but they are a complete pain in the arse. While we were all busying ourselves with snowball fights and miniature snowmen, the kea’s were busy ripping bits of rubber and plastic from vans. Luckily, Morris was left untouched!

Milford Sound was absolutely stunning. It is actually a fiord, not a sound - apparently the “bloody English bloke that named it was heaps wrong mate”!
We stayed the night and booked a boat tour of the fiord for 9am the next day. It included all you can eat breakfast, which we were all very excited about. The trip was beautiful, along with the scenery, we saw dolphins, seals and a couple of penguins. Amazing!
If you come to New Zealand, do it!

Next day we left for Franz Josef, to walk on the Franz Josef Glacier. I got a bit wussy and scared after I was asked if I was scared of heights and when I responded yes, the girl behind the desk didn’t really know what to say and bumbled something about sticking close to the guide. Nice one, poo for brains!
Turns out, it doesn’t make one bit of difference if you’re scared of heights or not, because it’s not scary. Simple as that. You walk for 2 kms to the glacier, climb up the steps cut into the ice, walk around on the glacier for a couple of hours and the climb back down the steps. The steepest the steps got were about the same as (for those in the know) the climb up to my bedroom at my mama’s house. But they were few and far between. Anyway, not to belittle the actual experience, as it was fantastic! And so, so beautiful. There are lots of pictures to show of all our travels, but unfortunately they just don’t seem to do the glacier justice. The different shades of blue within it were just beautiful.
Because the whole trip lasted about 4 hours, we brought sandwiches up with us and had lunch sitting on top of the glacier. Low and behold, who appeared, but a couple of cheeky Keas. They followed us around and eyed our food greedily, before spying that one unlucky man had left his bag unattended while taking photos. Off they went, picking apart his bag and throwing away what wasn’t deemed good enough. Poor man! Obviously we couldn’t help because we were busy eating (and were all secretly scared of them) - but, some other good Samaritan did, so all was right with the world.

After the Glacier we drove straight to Greymouth for another brewery tour. This time of  Monteiths. Much of a muchness, free beer AND cider at the end (to my delight) We all got a little tiddled and had a great night!

The next day we were driving back to Christchurch and cut through the Alps on a road called Arthur’s Pass. Here, we camped for a night - our last night camping as a foursome. We didn’t do much except relax and read, we were all pretty tired from the night before and I in particular had been a bit of a sicky piggy that morning. Maddie and Neil had gone to pitch the tent and me and Mark were left in the van. I decided I needed to eat something, so sat outside to cut up an onion for some pasta. So, there we all were, all happy and relaxed, comfortable in our chores and having a lovely time.

But then, along came a Kea. Bloody Keas!!

Now, luckily, we had all just read a sign at the campsite that said that Keas are scared of water, and so if we wanted to “educate” them in to leaving our campsite we should just squirt water at them.
The Kea stood on the top of our van and started picking at it. I wasn’t having any of this, so I went over to it, flapping my arms and shouting etc, but it wouldn’t leave! It started following my every move and almost copying what I did (they have the same intelligence as a chimpanzee / 3 year old - so this is very plausible!) and so I started calling Mark to help me - he knew exactly what was going on as he was IN the van, and the door was open.  But did he come to help? No! Did he come to my rescue when, as I retreated from the van, back to the table to save my chopped onion, the Kea followed and tried to snatch the onion from me - even with me waving a knife around at it? No! Was he my knight in shining armour when I started shouting “MARK! GET THE WATER! GET THE WATER!!!!!”
Nope! He just stayed, lying on the bed in the van, “reading“!!
Eventually I managed to grab the water and threw it toward the Kea, sure enough it flew off and left us alone. When I asked my dear, lovely boyfriend why he didn’t help me, he responded with “well, I didn’t want to get hurt, you seemed to be dealing with it quite well.”
Yes Mark, flapping around with a knife and an onion while squealing “get the damn water!”, is definitely dealing with it! How I love that man!

After that moment, I had a bit of a vendetta against the Keas at that campsite, every time one came near us I chased them with my water while shouting “back off you bastards!”
They learnt soon enough. Bastards.

And then, as if in a whirlwind, we were back in Christchurch, saying goodbye to Maddie and then to Neil and then to our good friends we have made there. It was a sad day.

And now, here we are in Blenheim. Right on the north of the South Island. We managed to work 4 days of a vineyard job before quitting. It was horrible and our boss was a completely unorganised plonker, who has swindled so many people that we are left wondering if we’ll get paid… but that’s another story!

Soon, we are off to the North Island and then to Melbourne for Christmas to spend with my lovely big brother and his beautiful wifey. We are both really looking forward to it!

And that’s the end of this blog. If you got through it all, well done! It was a big one! And if you gave up half way through and skipped to the end, then shame on you… but I don’t blame you..!

Lots and lots of love to you all. We miss you all so much and can’t wait to see you again next year.


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Hannah Bae on

AMAZING entry! I read the whole thing (while procrastinating on work!) and enjoyed it immensely. And I knew exactly what you were talking about when you climbed the glacier, because I've BEEN to your mummy's house in Scotland and stayed in your room! NZ sounds amazing. I want to see it!

Catticus on

Hahahahahah Mark - petrified = very very scared forest :D hehe :P

Becca - what beeeeooootiful photos and tales of derring do! Glad you had so much fun! And damn those keas..... chuffing pigeons.....


brabzzz on

Looks like you guys are having fun! :-)

Karen on

Fab pics. Shame you don't get Kias here - I could chase Mark with one like he used to chase me with crab legs! Keep having fun my lovelies


barkmecca on

did i really used to do that?i'm gutted i can't remember!

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