Hello there and Happy New Year to you all, the avid readers of our fascinating travel blog! Hope you are all well and muchos congratulations to Simon and Mrs soon-to be-Tooth! Lush news!
The theme for this entry is boozing UK-style with peeps from back home, with the result that, as we head into February, we are feeling just the same as we have at this time every year after the festive season and are vowing to 'dry out' and drink less. How successful we are remains to be seen!
After Christmas in Auckland and relaxing with a few creature comforts, and with South America's dysentery a mere memory, we travelled to Wellington to meet up with Tim ( me mate from work) and the lovely Abi. Had a good New Year at an Irish bar in Wellie, however Tim and I were a bit disappointed to find that kebabs in New Zealand are quite a healthy affair, and lacked the self-disgust that follows the consumption of one of their UK counterparts!
On New Year's Day, we travelled to Napier, a town famous for its art deco (an earthquake in the 1931 wiped out all the old buildings
We found this sugar on our wine tasting tour in Napier. We didn't buy it!
and the whole place was rebuilt in art deco style) and the Hawke's Bay wine region, which is right on its doorstep. We did a wine tour, tasting wine in 5 vineyards, and by about vineyard 4 were pretty much unable to distinguish one wine from the other as we were a bit too merry. We also lost all credibility with the people serving us the wine as we were helpless with laughter at a certain type of sugar (see pic below!).
We had intended to do the Tongariro crossing (a one day hike across a volcano and lava field, which were used as the setting for Mordor in Lord of the Rings) from a base in Taupo, which was our next stop, but the weather up on the mountains was too dodgy so it was cancelled. Poor Rick had signed up to do a skydive also, but that was cancelled due to high winds. We still have the chance to do the walk when we get back to the North Island though so not all is lost. Apparently it is quite a hard walk too so it gives us chance to get in shape! We did drive past
Mount Doom on the way to Wellie for the ferry crossing to the South Island. (see pic)
Arriving in the South Island, we met Adrian and Angela (our friends from the South America truck tour), who kindly let us stay in a house in Kaiteriteri which had been lent to them by one of their friends. The house (a 70’s themed delight!) was amazing; perched on top of a cliff overlooking the beach and Abel Tasman national park, with huge sun decks for sunbathing and quaffing sundowners.
We used the house as a base from which to launch our first proper walk on our own; a 3-day (30 miles!), two nights’ camping expedition through the Abel Tasman national park, which basically is the coast of the West side of the South Island. It was the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen, the track took us through jungle along the cliffs and emerged regularly to overlook beautiful deserted coves, with golden arcs of sand and sapphire sparkling sea. I have to say we were a bit crap at organising ourselves to start with; the day before we were due to set off we had no tent, camping stove
AKA Tongierio or something like that. Didn't see Sauron AKA the glorified evil lighthouse.
or food. Thankfully Adrian and Angela helped us to get organised, the high point of comedy was me checking as an afterthought that the camping stove we had bought had gas in it - cue dash to petrol station! At least we realised our error before we were en route!
We finished the walk on January 10th, and were at the house for my birthday, where we played lots of vodka-fuelled poker.
Our next stop was Collingwood, a tiny settlement further along the coast (population 400) which is the launching point for trips to Farewell Spit, a 22 kilometre reach of sand curving off the north coast of the south Island. It is the longest such stretch of sand in the world and a bird sanctuary. It was pretty good, I was a bit unmoved by the birds but there were lots of seals basking on the beach (although nothing to rival Uruguay!) and cool sand dunes.
From Collingwood, we travelled to Nelson (apparently the place my family had been due to emigrate at one point), where we met up with Kev and Emma, our friends from uni. We chilled there for a few days, then moved
on to do ANOTHER hike (yes we are getting a bit middle-aged!), this time a whopping 35 miles, in 3 days. The Queen Charlotte Track follows the coastline of the Marlborough Sounds, a huge area of glaciated valleys which the sea has filled (similar to fiords). The first day, it absolutely p***** it down. We walked for about 5 hours in it and were completely soaked. Once we pitched camp, the rain became a huge storm. Soaking wet, we took refuge in a garage on the campsite, surrounded by soaking clothes hung up to dry, and to cheer ourselves up got very, very drunk.
Luckily the weather improved on day 2 and by day 3 (a really tough 8 hour, 14 mile hike) it was gorgeous, so that we could see for miles around once we got to the high bits (and take a welcome breather!). At the end of the trek you get picked up by a speed boat to take you back to the nearest town (Picton), we had some time to spare before it arrived, so we jumped into the sea in uor undies to cool down. I now have a blister, on top of a
blister, on top of a blister. My entire right heel is, effectively, a blister. Nice! It was well worth it though and a good laugh. Big up to Kev for ensuring we took 3 litres of wine apiece on the trek or we would never have made it through night 1).
We're now in Christchurch, which was founded in the 19 century by a group of people from Christ College Oxford, who wanted to recreate England in NZ. It is a really friendly place, with a river flowing through it (where you can take a punt out, Cambridge-style). I love it here. There is much more of a sense of community than I have noticed in other towns; the council maintains a huge botanical garden where you can stroll in the evenings, there is a cool free art gallery (which we are visiting today), and an international buskers' festival on at the moment so we have been soaking up some sun and watching street theatre etc all day. LUSH! The other good news is that Rick managed to watch West Ham play Fulham live today (we had to move to a motel that cost $100 more than our last
Abel Tasman. Not bad I think you'll agree!
place for this privilege - bargain!) and they won. Yeehaa. Come on you Irons!
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