Sweet as bro

Trip Start May 27, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Danny and Jacquis, the car, various nice cabins, Noelines, Andres
What I did
Rugby, sightseeing and socialising :)

Flag of New Zealand  , Wellington,
Saturday, October 8, 2011

I know I mentioned this before and probably will again to your face, in person, many times, but the scenery in New Zealand is breathtaking... like, you literally forget to breathe when you are looking at the mountains. I think its all manufactured by the crafty Kiwis to bring in the tourists and the movie industry. They're not as innocent as they look.

So we had 3 weeks to circumnavigate the South Island, and looking at a map we thought it wouldn't be too difficult. What we didn't bank on was the unsealed tracks and random sheep avoidance. I don't like to think how much petrol we consumed, but it has probably paid off the clean up bill BP have from the US.

We stopped off in Nelson and went along to the Russia / Italy game. I love Russian fans they have a lot of spirit (vodka). There were guys dressed in full Russian army uniform complete with furry hats and Kalashnikovs (ok, not Kalashnikovs). The Italians won comfortably but the Russians celebrated anyway! God bless them.

We decided next to do some actual sightseeing and went to visit the glaciers (Fox and Franz Joseph) - on the west coast. They were beautiful but cold. (glaciers - cold?!). There are many beautiful pictures below.

After that we headed to Queenstown. Queenstown is what you would expect of a mecca for snowboarders and the like. Cool, young and adventurous - yes, its just like me and Trevor, except the first three. It was a great fun little place and general atmosphere may of explained why Trevor and I decided to do a bungy jump. I blame gin, and my friends Sarah and Karen. It was the Kawarau bridge jump - the first in the world - the birth place of bungy jumping nutters. So not the highest in NZ (our VERY brave friend Sarah did that one) but it still made you think very hard about the concept of jumping off a bridge prior to jumping off the bridge.

I went first as there was NO WAY I was waiting around when I got to the jump. There aren't really words to describe the feeling of standing on the edge with your legs tied together, looking down at a river 150ft below knowing you have to jump, just you. The instructor kept saying "don't look down, look at the horizon" I think I did that. Trevor on the other hand was resolutely staring down.... like a man condemned. Please watch the videos, but don't turn them up too loud, my screaming may burst your ear drums.

What made us both laugh (afterwards) is that if you look at a cross section of the bungy rope it really is lots of elastic bands tied together, probably hugely technical elastic bands and that, but elastic bands nonetheless. I will never be able to look at an elastic band again without getting a mild panic attack.

After all those shenanigans we headed west to Milford Sound, which has been called the most beautiful place on earth. You have to go through incredible alpine scenery to get there, the kind of scenery that made Trevor stop the car every 5 minutes to take photos of another impossibly beautiful vista. We stayed the night at the Milford Lodge before heading out into the Sound / Fiord to go kayaking. Hands down the most beautiful place I've seen.  High-sided mountains, snow, rainforests, waterfalls, shiny clear lakes, and us - in brightly coloured waterproofs and latex kayak skirts. Beautiful.

The only downside to the place, indeed the South Island, is the sand-flies. At least mosquitoes are a bit choosy... they tend to go for a exposed ankle or a dainty shin for dinner. Sand-flies really don't care - fingers, ears, knees, lips - whatever they can find that is exposed they'll happily chow down on. I hate sand-flies, if I was a superhero they would be my nemesis.

The next day we headed back east along the bottom of the South Island, and dropped in on a small pub in the middle of nowhere to watch the South Africa v Samoa game. Whilst sat there eating our very tasty cod and chips some local farmers approached us and started asking questions about the trip.

Farmer 1: "So yer goin all around the world eh - having a look around?"

Us: "Yeap"

Farmer 2: "I don't like travelling"

Farmer 1 to Farmer 2: "You've only been to Aussie mate, and that was once - not really travelling the world is it now?!"

They chatted to us all night and before we left tried to give us the meat platter they'd won in the raffle and offer us beds for the night. Truly awesome farmer dudes.

Instead we stopped off at a nice free (and legal) campsite next to the sea and woke up with a beautiful sea view out of our car window.

That day we drove to Dunedin, via the Lost Gypsy Gallery in Papatowai. This place is absolutely brilliant. Its a gallery full of mechanical gizmos and gadgets made from bits of discarded junk, scrap metal, old bottles, shells and all sorts of other bits of recycled materials. There are a few photos of our favourite 'inventions'.

Next Ireland game was in Dunedin - playing the Italians - good fun and another comfortable win for Ireland. Again after the game the town was awash with green shirts, spilling out onto the streets in makeshift gazebos. We'll miss the Ireland fans, they are AWESOME.

After Dunedin we stopped off with friends of a friend in Hinds near Ashburton and stayed with a lovely Kiwi family. Noeline and her husband Mike plus their two children Caleb and Mikaela, they very kindly fed us and told us about life in New Zealand. Mikaela even gave us her bedroom for the night and shared with her younger brother. I know how incredibly kind this is as I have younger brothers and would of been reluctant to share with them as a teenager!

Next we stayed in Christchurch with our generous new amigo Andre, whom we met in Argentina and rivals me in pure karaoke talent :). We only experienced one tremor whilst we stayed in Christchurch - they have several a month, some severe. It was only a little glass rattling one, but enough to silence us. We actually tried to go into the centre during the day but its all still cordoned off like a scene from a zombie movie. Its very sad to see as from what I read in the Lonely Planet it was a fun and vibrant city and one I wished we'd seen.

Our final visit to the South was Kaikora where we got up close & personal  to a big group of honking seals.... they really didn't give a monkeys uncle about all the tourists and posed accordingly.

So, once back in Wellington we had the fateful Ireland v Wales game. We were staying with our friends Danny and Jacqui again and had great craic getting dressed up for the game... Trevor with shamrocks all over his face and me wearing the Ireland flag as a dress, not the wisest move as I tripped over it spectacularly later. Wellington was buzzing with 70,000 fans who had come to watch the 2 quarter finals. Ireland unfortunately lost and it was devastating... we were in a slight state of mourning for a few days. Trevor was walking around in a sad little haze.

We consoled ourselves with a trip to the Te Papa museum to see the Webb Ellis Cup on display there (its tiny) and try the Haka on a fancy Xbox Kinect type interactive room. We were completely rubbish, especially my 'scary haka face', It wouldn't scare my cat and he's scared of everything. We also stopped off in the Weta Workshop where they make the models for the Lord of the Rings and other Peter Jackson movies - in my geeky element!

The final stop in the land of the hobbits was Auckland for the big semi final match between New Zealand and Australia, the kiwis were pretty passionate about winning this one against their old rivals from across the ditch. We met up again with Sarah, Ian, Andre and Andre's amusing mate Mark for an afternoon sesh. And my god was there an amazing atmosphere at the Fanzone. I was pretty sure if NZ had lost there would be an official day of mourning, but they beat the Aussies very easily, of course!

I must admit we felt ever so nostalgic about leaving NZ, its very similar to the UK, albeit friendlier, more mountainous and much much rainier.  It might occasionally feel '10 years behind' but it really charmed us.


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