being written on the ds so apologies for poor grammar etc...
23.06.2010 - 07.07.2010
We very gradually made our way up the coast to Fox. The journey involved lots of stops including to see some blue pools,more waterfalls and a beach full of driftwood/stones. Written on these stones were messages and signatures from hundreds of travellers who have passed by the beach; someone had even left a dirty pair of knickers which wasn't so nice!! Our final stop was for a lunch of sandwiches on amazing bread meaning that we finally arrived in Fox around 4pm.
This meant that we had just enough time to go and see Lake Matheson before the sun went down. The lake is a magnificient mirror lake set with a background of some of nz's biggest mountains; it certainly was an impressive sight. We walked all the way around taking in the views in considerably less time than the 90 minutes the signs said it would take. We finished just in time too as it was beginning to get quite dark especially in the bush parts of the walk. The only other highlight of the day was experiencing yet another power cut at the hostel! Seriously starting to feel like they are following us around!!
On Thursday morning we were booked to do a half day glacier walk. Instead of getting a good night's sleep beforehand Kristian got up between 2am and 4am to watch the football - crazy nut! It meant that getting him out of the warm bed and into the freezing room at 7.30am was a serious struggle.
Eventually we managed to get ourselves sorted and booked ourselves in at Fox glacier guiding. Our host was a fellow called James and he was being assisted by a work experience student who shared the same name but looked like a hobbit with some very strange facial hair! It sort of stood at a 45° angle to his face...
Also on our tour were a Filipino couple and Australian family - we were the only ones prepared with boots and coats etc so looked like proper walking dorks. The mum of the family was unfortunately somewhat overweight so we had to do a lot of waiting around for her; her face was even bright red from the ten minute walk along the valley floor!
It took us about 45 minutes or so to walk up to the glacier. From here we were given wooden poles to aid walking and it was also time to put on our crampons. Walking on the gravel in these was certainly interesting but we both managed to get onto the ice successfully. The fox glacier moves 1m a day and for the past 6 months or so has been retreating. Its crazy to think there is this colossal volume of hard, compacted ice pushing that much forward and eating up rock on it's way. On the glacier itself you can see dark lines where a crevice has opened higher up and rocks have fallen into. As the pressure and force builds further down this crevice is closed swallowing up all the rocks inside it. At least if something gets lost in a crevice it will turn up again when the ice has melted at the face!
The walk itself was relatively easy and we were following a preformed track with steps cut into it. The steps could be quite slippy so we were thankful for the crampons! We stopped at a cave like area where in pairs we went down for a little explore. This was where we saw the bluest ice which was by far the prettiest part. I hadn't expected the glacier to look so dirty but I guess it makes sense with all the rocks falling in and those it grinds against. It was while waiting to go down again that I managed to fall over from standing still - some things don't change!! Meant that I had a really cold and wet leg for the journey down.
After this little interlude it was time to head back; it was amazing how different the glacier looked from a different angle. What a place to work where your environment is always changing and is never the same. We had a bit of time to kill when we got to the bottom and so James took us to explore a cave at the face - it was a bit like a giant mouth! We crawled inside and were now underneath the entire glacier which weighs billions of tonnes. That could have been messy...This was a great way to end our glacial expedition! We were even awarded with a certificate to confirm that we had done it; think we should have been given an extra special one since we were the only ones organised with our own gear!
All that glacier conquering made us really hungry so we snuck back into the hostel to quickly warm up the remains of the previous night's chilli and toast some pitta bread. We quickly consumed it in the car so quickly that I swear it didn't touch the sides before filling the car with some super expensive fuel so we could get back on the road. We stopped off at the Franz Josef glacier which was only 20 minutes north of the Fox Glacier and had to walk for half an hour just to get a view of it. It's shorter than the Fox glacier but more steep - we were pretty happy with the decision we had made.
We didn't stay long and got back on the road towards out next couch surfing destination. It was only 100km north of Franz Josef so it only took us an hour or so to get there. We drove straight past the little gravel road that led to the house so had to reverse. The first house we passed was huge and set back well off the gravel road in the middle of farm land. We foolishly hadn't written down the name of the farm, only the number which becomes rather redundant on a road with barely any houses! We had a peek in the postboxes (as you do) before deciding to carry on a bit further. Up the road there was a lodge so we popped in there to ask for help; the guy told us that they were the only two houses on the whole road meaning it was indeed the one we had driven past... He also told us how to get down onto the beach which only meant one thing - exploring time! We foolishly chose a fence which we couldn't open and therefore had to climb over it...always fun especially when it is moving about everywhere. Once over and through the fences we struggled to find a pathway which led to the beach; just as we were about to give up though we spotted a gap in the bush. What a fantastic sight! The beach was completely deserted and practically untouched and to boot the sun was just starting to set. We stood and admired the view in complete awe of the beauty of nature. Once our eyes were full of sunset we felt we ought to make our way to meet our hosts.
They were a family of four: Annie, Ted, Katie and Jess and their house was beautiful. Our "couch" was actually a whole room complete with double bed, lounge area, kitchen and ensuite bathroom. We felt like we had landed in a palace! They cooked a lovely dinner for us which involved beef from one of their cows! Maybe the best beef ever!! After dinner it was time for a pampering session and 9 year old Jess took great delight in painting Kristian's nails pink and blue! He looked dashing. Jess is such a character and full of so much personality for such a mini person. They also taught us how to play fast scrabble which is a fabulous little game for which you only need the scrabble letters - I imagine it could get quite addictive!
We slept great which was to be expected in our palatial surroundings and after a bit of a lie in/pure laziness we realised how beautiful a day it was and that we were wasting it. If only Winter was like this in the UK! It was when we left the house that we met the family's pet "lamb" - it is actually a fully grown sheep which thinks that it is a dog. Ted was telling us how he had been rounding up the cows with the dogs and the sheep was running around chasing them too, the only thing it can't do is bark but I'm sure in time it will learn to! Very funny indeed.
We took the short drive into Hokitika and visited one of the many Jade shops/factories before taking a trip to the Gorge. I saw none of the scenery on this drive as her head was buried firmly in a book Annie had lent to me about couch surfing which I was determined to finish before leaving them. Once at the gorge, we ventured over the flimsy swing bridge and over the rocks. It was once here that I decided I needed the toilet so ran back to the car park; Kristian was determined that we would explore on the rocks together so waited there expectantly. Once I returned we did indeed have a little explore but we were both being eaten alive by sand flies so it didn't last long!
From the gorge we headed for the Kaniere Lake. This time our exploring took us to Dorothy Falls where I managed to fall into the creek when crossing on the stones not just once but twice! This was the end of my exploring as my feet were so wet and cold they felt like they might fall off :-(!
We stopped further round the lake for a bite of lunch and then found some swings to play on. This returned us to childlike euphoria before we felt sick with dizziness. It was at this point we decided it a good idea to return to the house for another evening with the family.
We were sad to be leaving Annie and her beautiful home but it was time to adventure to new pastures. It was the day when we would visit Arthur's Pass which so many people had raved to us about. Unfortunately this meant it had a great deal to live up to!! It was a reasonably short drive inland where we crossed a rather impressive viaduct. There was also a special funnel bridge thing which channeled any debris from land falls - at least this way the road would stay open. When we arrived it was necessary to pile on the layers again as we had traveled from a beautiful sunny day with no wind to somewhere with a fresh layer of snow on the ground. Fortunately though the sun was still shining. It wasn't as pretty a place as we had been expecting but then again Mount Cook's beauty was still in recent memory...
After a bit of debate about whether or not we would stay the night we booked into the YHA. Feeling free of our bags it was time for a little walk along one of the many trails around the village. It would appear that the people we had been speaking to must all have been avid walkers which would make the place paradise! We decided to do the hour walk to the Devil's basin to see yet another waterfall. Personally I think that New Zealand should be rechristened to be called "New Falls". No matter where we seem to be or driving to there is at least one waterfall! Anyway this walk was a steep incline of many steps (we all know how much I love steps!) and we played the word association game on the way up. This was probably one of the highlights of the walk; unfortunately because we have seen so many waterfalls this one rated somewhere around average. Plus hills and steps never really make for the most enjoyable experience. Feeling somewhat deflated we decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon nice and warm in the hostel, gazing outside at the cold mountains through the window with a mug of hot chocolate in hand. Lovely jubbly.
Sunday morning had us driving back towards the coast after our little adventure inland, this time for Greymouth. New Zealand is a strange place on a Sunday; everything tends to be closed and the towns are like ghost towns. We are yet to fathom where exactly everyone goes.
We book into Global Village which has a rating of 93% in the BBH guide and is therefore really nice. The owners are obviously into Africa as there is African memorabilia everywhere. To boot the hostel have free bikes for us to use which we take advantage of (its not like there will be much else to do) in order to bike down to the sea. It is an easy cycle and a welcomed bit of exercise for us both! he seagulls are really funny where we cycle too as they are all lined up in a row along the wall; unfortunately I soon scared them away with my elephant feet. We then cycle into town and in the spur of the moment decide to go and see the final Shrek film. This gives us half an hour in order to hunt down some food which isn't the easiest feat and as to be expected we pay over the odds for a sandwich. When we return to the cinema we consider if this was a good decision after all it is a family movie and it is Sunday afternoon. There were children everywhere all high on red coloured fizzy drinks! Fortunately the film was enchanting enough to keep them quiet and satisfied throughout...!! Once the film was over we decided it was perhaps time for something a little more and so headed to a pub to while away the remainder of the afternoon.
Monday morning has us travelling up the coast to Punakaiki. We were there in no time at all which was somewhat frustrating for us as we had a lot of time to kill. We stopped at the Pancake rocks which were a bit of a disappointment. Not the most exciting thing we have ever seen although it may have been had the sea been rough. Instead the sea was extraordinarily calm so there weren't even any action from the blowholes :-(. We pondered about and got a bit silly in order to make the walk a tad more entertaining. Among other things this involved Kristian doing press ups on the walkway bars and hanging off the rocks. I was only slightly tempted to stand on his fingers and watch him fall into the sea.
Once we had faffed our way around this main attraction and visited the gift shop we soon discovered that this was all Punakaiki had to offer. Therefore we took the decision to drive to Westport. This was a highly unexciting place where everyone looked cheap, nasty and as if they may rob you! Needless to say we didn't really get out of the car. Instead we drove up to Cape Foulwind (yes that really is it's name) for our picnic lunch of ham, cheese and crisp sandwiches which we'd had everyday for about a week. After a brief visit to another seal colony (New Zealand almost has as many of those as it does waterfalls) we drove back to Punakaiki for a play on the beach.
Once we had decided it was substantially late enough in the day we headed for our next couch surfing adventure. This time we were staying with a single guy called Mike who was in his forties. Considering how Punakaiki is in the middle of nowhere and it is the nearest hub to Mike's home at 10km away you can imagine how remote we were! I think it would be fair to say he effectively lives in the wilderness. Nevertheless it was relatively easy to find regardless of his rather confusing directions which told us to drive to a bridge then turn back on ourselves to go back the way we had come!
Mike's home was somewhat in contrast to that of our previous hosts with it esentially being just one room. The view, however, was no less spectacular! Micheal's bed is in the corner of the room and we were going to be sleeping on the leather L shaped sofa which turned out to be fairly comfy! Through an archway was the kitchen and a bathroom which was kept closed by a fork - genius! The strangest thing for the two of us though was the fact he had the same paintings on the wall that White Stuff use in their shops; it really is a small world.
Once he had finished on the phone he took us out for a stroll on the beach. It was getting down onto the beach which was the hard part as a couple of time we had to hold onto some leaves, slide and just hope for the best. Needless to say this meand that I slid too far and landed on the bum of my freshly washed jeans!
Micheal was at first quite difficult to hold a conversation with as often he was very slow at processing what we were saying especially if the conversation veered off in a different direction. We'd later learn a history of his life and hear how he had been a bit of a feature on the party scene in Christchurch for a number of years. This meant, as to be expected, that he had taken and tried many drugs and his exploits involved a four year addiction to methampetamine. With this information it all suddenly clicke3d! I cooked a tuna pasta bake for the three of us and while it was cooking two od Mike's old friends turned up. Their past drug abuse was also apparent with one of them rather resembling Keith Richards!! We had seen a photo of him earlier in the evening from the 80s where he had suspicious looking stains around the crotch of his trousers. Fortunately he'd cleaned himself up a little bit in the intervening years.
It all made for a very interesting and funny evening as well as one which was completely unique to us in our adventures so far.
It was raining when we woke up on Tuesday morning which made the landscape seem even more dramatic. The waves too were somewhat wilder than they had been the day before so it took us a while to will ourselves away from the place. We eventually managed it once Kristian had fed the Wakea - if you hold the bread at waist height it jumps up to get it. These are funny little bired which don't really have wings so its quite amausing to watch. It was to be a day of travelling first up the coast then through land to another coast and then up some more! With a very steep and windy mountain which took forever to go over in the middle. The only break in the journey was when Kristian woke me up to "face some fears"/ This obviously meant walking accross the longest swing bridge in NZ - fun!! Once over the bridge there was a strange 15 minute loop walk with some random abandoned vehicles! It had been a long drive and a long day so once we got to the hostel we shut ourselves away in our room and chilled out.
The lethargic feeling carried over into the next day but eventually we were on the move in time for an explore around Golden Bay. First we drove just outside Takaka to see the clearest freshwater spring spring in the World. It really was remarkably clear and would have looked like a freshly run bath if it wasn't for the dark stuff lining the base. There was also some rather cool luminous green plants under the water but we've no idea what they were exactly. After this we drove on a bit further before stopping at a beach which firstly had us completely in awe because of the sky/clouds and their reflections in the sea. Once we were on the breeach we discovered hundreds and hundreds if the prettiest shells which had us searching and collecting for far too long. By the time we eventually dragged each other away I had a while glass full of shells! Not that I would be able to keep them :-(.
We hurried on up the coast so that we would reach Whakitiri (?) beach with enough daylight still. Once we parked up there was a short walk through some field which brought us face to face with some sheep! At one point it loked like Kristian and one of the sheep were have a staring contest - needless to say the sheep won! Haha. We were impressed as soon as we caught our first glimpse of the beach. There were impressive sand dunes and caves as well as ahuge expanse of beach. Off came the shoes and we were off running down a sand dune! This took us onto the breach p[roperly and we first walked over to explore a cave. As usual, I wasn't paying attention and so walked straight into the wall of the cave hitting my head in doing so,. Such a fool! Kristian adventured up onto the rocks as he like to do but I chose to stay on steadier ground before I cause myself anymore damage.
With the cave fully explored we walked along the beach where we bumped into an annoying German girl who wouldn't leave us alone and was obsessed that we should go with her to see the seals. As uf we hadn't seen enough sealas already! We meandered along to them but didn't loiter which fortunately shook her off! Instead we paddled in the freezing water, entered more caves and clamboured over rocks to see how far we could go. Just as we finished adventuring the sun was starting to set which was possibly the best sunset yet! The sun was reflection i the water which was sitting on the sand so very cool indeed. We figured we ought to journey back before the sun went down but we were definately very sad to be leaving this wonderful beach.
Thursday had us on the move again and back over the most wiggly and steep mountain imaginable. This time we were heading towards Nelson where we stopped off to break up the jounrey a bit. Fro here we booked our ferry for the next morning before wandering around the town. It was in Nelson that we eventually bought one pair of sunglasses and a funky splitted for the ipods. a successful shopping venture on the whole! After refuelling at Starbucks we jumped back in the car and headed for Picton. Here we staed at the Tombstone Backpackers (Rest In Peace) which was literally a stones throw from where we needed to catch the ferry. This was a really cool hostel - even the enterance door was shaped like a coffin! The lady was lovely and she gave us a lush double room for the price of a dorn which was just heavenly. Definately up there with New Zealand's best hostels!
Having checked in and eaten we spent the remainder of the evening playing pool and darts! Pool was certainly interesting as the table was on a slant making life even harder for me since I am already rubbish! Somehow managed to win a couple of rounds of darts though :-).
Friday was yet another travelling day. It started early as we had to be at the ferry terminal by 7am. Long!! We watched a couple of really rubbish movies on the ferry which at least helped to while away some time. When we finally got to Wellington we were relieved to retrieve our passports from the Indian High Commission complete with INdian Visas :-) success! Then we got on the road toward Rotorua which was a long haul. The only diversion to journey was a short stop in Bull where they put Bull in the name of everything eg toilets were Relieva-bulls! Once we finally arrived at Rotorua we booked into the YHA and set off to find the Nando's for dinner! Yum! With our tummies sufficiently full we were still feeling tense from all the driving and so paid a visit once again to the Polynesian Spa....!!
We realised that we hadn't actually done anything cultural since being in New Zealand and so decided we should probably go and see Te Puia. This is a place run by a Maori tribe where we could learn alal about Maori history and culture as well as seeing the World's (I think) biggest Geyser. Seeing it erupt was really quite impressive as were the mud pools in comparison with the one's in the park. We also went to see a 45 minute cultural show where they were in full traditional dress. The show included a welcome ceremony and a variety of songs/dances including a haka. Was pretty cool to watch it all up close - those eyes and tongues really are quite intimidating!
Having had our fill of culture we were on the road up towards Whitianga. This was yet another 3-4 hour drive so we were feeling fairly sick of the car by this stage! We more or less drove straight there but we stopped at Hot Water Beach which is about half an hour south. We were lucky to reach there when it was low tide which meat we could go onto the beach and experience the hot water under the sand. We didn't have a shovel or spade but Kristian optimistically picked up a piece of wood to dig with. Fortunately when we got there there was a pre dug hole we could use so we didn't look like complete fools! The beach was really busy with quite an array of people and different temperature pools. We sat with our feet in our pool obviously observing everyone for quite a while. Opposite us were a really funny couple who were throwing buckets of water over each other! The whole experience at the beach was rather mesmerising and fascinating. Once our feet looked like prunes we decided it was probably time we left to find a bed for the night.
Overnight the weather changed somewhat dramatically. A storm was forecast with heavy rains and strong winds so we crossed our fingers and hoped our little car would survive. It took a few hours to reach Mangawhai Heads but we were fortunate enough not to encounter much of the bad weather. This set in as the day went on; the wind howled around the house, shaking the trees and the rain poured! Definately a stay inside sort of Sunday. Jeannette was throwing a dinner party for some friends so we enjoyed some super yummy food! Although Kristian tried an oyster and I'm not sure he'll be having any more of those anytime soon!
The storm had passed through by lunchtime, not that it mattered for us as we had no plans. Instead we had a proper sorting out day of everything we had been putting off! Kristian took on the massive task of cleaning the car and I caught up with the scrapbook. We decided to cook dinner for the three of us to thank Jen for her hospitality and as we couldn't track down a chicken burritos were on the menu! Yes all we can cook is chilli!! Haha.
Our last full day in New Zealand was a ridiculously lazy one. So lazy in fact that we didn't even get dressed until 4pm! Think that it was well deserved and required though. Once we had finally got dressed and it was actually a nice day we felt we ought to go and see the beach. We enjoyed a pleasant stroll along it and were impressed by the numerous people surfing - they must have been freezing! Kristian almost got soaked by a wave when standing on a rock and also decided to jump off some rocks and scrabble up the other side before the waves came in. Fortunately he made it otherwise he'd have been rather cold indeed! When we had finished messing around on the beach we had to return to the lodge to pack. The car was going to be sorely missed as now everything had to be in our bags :-(? Thankfully Jeanette provided us with a break from packing in order to eat an amazing steak dinner!
As we had chosen to stay in Mangawhai this meant we had a super early start to get to Auckland - we were in the car before 7am! Quite a contrast to the day before. We didn't encounter too much traffic but we did struggle to find the car rental place. By the time we did find it it was dead on 9am - perfect timing! The guy at the counter gave us some not so good news though - we had a speeding ticket! Ironically it had been issued within the same 24 hours as our parking ticket in Dunedin. What really was ridiculous though was that the fine cost $8- and the company charged a $60 administration fee to process it. Cheeky buggers. This was the only way we could find out about a fine and the only way we could pay it so our hands were tied - sneaky sneaky!!
There was a shuttle bus to the airport though which was helpful and once there we realised we were hungry hungry people! McDonalds breakfast it was! Seems to be becoming an airport tradition. Leaving New Zealand was much smoother and easier than it had been leaving Fiji and we were on the plane to Sydney before we knew it!
Spologies for typos and spelling errors. This has been finished with a MASSIVE hangover!! :-( Serves me right I know but my body can't hack it anymore I'm getting old :-(xxx