22.03.2011 - 29.03.2011 18 °C
Due to a combination of poor internet connection, being on the go and generally having no spare time this blog update is long overdue. I just arrived in Fiji today so I feel guilty blogging about my stay in a country I’m no longer in. Anyway better late than never so here’s a quick recap of the last ten days. I’ll try to keep it brief so it’s not too long!
The boat trip to the South Island was straightforward. I had been used to getting small ferries during my time on the islands in Thailand so it was a change to be on quite a large one that was very similar to the ones you would take from Ireland to Wales. There was some lovely scenery on the way (the Marlborough Sounds) but unfortunately due to rain and mist you couldn’t see a great deal. I had heard the Magic Bus would be a lot fuller on the Southern Island but this was completely untrue. At best each bus was half full (same as the North Island) but I didn’t mind as it gave you more room and made it easy for people travelling alone to talk to one another. One other interesting observation is that there are very few guys at all travelling through New Zealand – I would say 25% at best, and most of them are travelling with their girlfriends. Anyway I met a group of girls and two couples early on who were all travelling separately so I’ve pretty much been hanging with them since. In hindsight I’m very glad I chose the Magic Bus over the Kiwi Experience – if you’re 18-21 that bus is perfect for endless clubbing and drinking sessions. But when you reach your late 20s 1-2 nights out per week is good enough for me, especially when you’re on so many early starts and doing a lot of sightseeing/activities.
My first stop was Nelson and I spent two nights here. There wasn’t a great deal to do or see in Nelson itself but it allowed for easy access to Abel Tasman, one of the hikes I had pre-booked. On the way there we got to stop at a winery and try out a few local wines. We weren’t there long enough to get drunk but the obligatory purchase of a bottle soon followed after. It was consumed nicely over a game of ‘I have never’ that evening in the hostel which turned out to be quite interesting! Back to Abel Tasman – it’s one of the most highly rated walks in New Zealand and I could understand why. It’s about a 13km walk but was fairly easy I must say. Aside from a 20 minute spell uphill at the start, it’s mostly downhill from there. It felt great to do a 13km walk as I’ve had no gym access since I’ve left which is really annoying me now. That night we chilled out in the hostel and watched Point Break on DVD – classic! I enjoyed it even more having done the sky dive a few days earlier.
The following day we left for Greymouth where we spent 1 night (unlike Australia you can’t skip a lot of the stops). There is really little if anything to do here once again. The highlight was a tour of the Monteiths Brewery, a local NZ beer/cider group. The best part of course was the free tasting sessions and a free dinner which was included in the price.
Franz Josef was our third destination of the South Island. We arrived on Friday and spent 3 nights here. It was such a huge contrast to the rest of the country - it was like being at a ski destination in the Alps. I had pre-booked a full day glacier hike in advance. Unfortunately on the day we were due to do it, it lashed rain all day long. I think it stopped for about ten minutes, which was just enough time to eat our lunch! Despite being in rain gear we all felt soaking wet. Our bags were beginning to leak at one point and unfortunately my mobile phone is no longer working despite being wrapped up in two bags within my main bag! Thank god the camera was saved. It was a difficult trip – about 12km long but a lot of it is uphill hiking over ice/glaciers. They give you the proper equipment to climb and then descend but you have to be very careful not to fall. Despite all this though it was amazing to actually hike through a glacier and the scenery was still stunning. One plus point about the rain is that it had a real mystical feel to it. When we finally got home though I was only too happy to get back into normal dry clothes and have a hot chocolate to warm back up. It was a pity about the weather, but what can you do. Since September last year only three days have affected my holiday weather wise, the other two being at Surfers Paradise when I was visiting a couple of the theme parks. So overall I can live with it.
The day after our hike it lashed rain all day again. This time I didn’t mind though, it was a complete chill out day – laundry and DVDs. I managed to watch Lord of the Rings Part 2 & 3 during my stay here (unfortunately part 1 had gone missing – mental note: watch it when you get home!). It was funny watching the films after having seen New Zealand. Before you visit you can easily believe that it may be Middle Earth but afterwards it’s just so obviously New Zealand. A few of the scenes in one of the films had the Glaciers which you could see from the TV room. There goes that illusion!
Our final stop on the South Island was Queenstown. On the way we stopped off at a few nice stops for some scenery shots. Before we arrived into Queenstown one of my Canadian mates Cari was able to do a bungi jump enroute – I was more than happy to just watch rather than take part. My heart was pounding just watching her jump off the bridge. It confirmed nicely that I have no need to do it anytime soon. But never say never. Queenstown a lovely village/very small city with gorgeous mountain scenery in the backdrop. There are three things any traveler must do when visiting this place – try a Ferg Burger, do an extreme sport and go clubbing. It would have been rude not to do all three so I was happy to oblige. The Ferg Burger was first up – I’m not a big burger fan at all. In fact, I’ve never even tried a Big Mac. But I must say this was by far the best burger I’ve ever had and everyone else says the same thing as well. You must go to this place when visiting New Zealand.
The next day I booked myself on a River Surfing trip. Essentially it’s a mixture of whitewater rafting and surfing. You don’t stand up and surf as such but you do go down rapids ranging up to a grade 4. They also teach you how to surf one of them too – it was hard but I think I managed to get an actual surf in for a whole five seconds. Go me! I absolutely loved this. It was completely different to anything I’ve done before and far more fun than whitewater rafting I must say. I would highly recommend it.
That night a gang of us went on a pub crawl – 6 bars, 6 free shots and lots of discounted drinks. The picture below was taken at the start of the night and says it all really. It seems I was too drunk to even take any photographs from that point onwards which is a first for me.
The following morning I was up at 8am with a serious hangover and off on a flight back to Auckland. I only had two nights in Queenstown, a real shame but I ran out of time. I would advise on spending at least three to four nights here. My last day in Auckland was spent having dinner with Emma and then the cinema with another mate of mine. I saw Limitless, not bad! One massive highlight on the flight from Queenstown to Auckland with Air New Zealand was the 'safety briefing' video shown featuring Richard Simmons. It was without a doubt one of the funniest and campest things I have ever seen. The look on the other passengers faces when this was shown was pricesless, especially the Indians onboard. Link here:
My three weeks in New Zealand completely flew by, more so than any other country I’ve been in over the past six months. It contrasts really nicely with Australia and South East Asia. There may not be a lot of history here but it’s visually the best country I’ve visited. There are tons of outdoor activities/sports to enjoy and the people are just wonderful. It’s highly underrated back home I think – Australia gets all the attention but hopefully that will change in the future as they compliment one another very nicely.
Today was yet another early start for my flight to Fiji. The flight was smooth and only 3 hours. It was a bit like what I imagine Hawaii to be when I arrived in the airport – lots of large men in flowery t-shirts with flowers in their hair singing and playing very stereotypical Polynesian music. Despite the cliché I did enjoy it. It’s coming into winter here now and to be honest, thank god. It’s roasting! I’m sweating like crazy here and I’m just typing away on the keyboard. The mosquitoes are back too so it’s going to be constant spraying over the next twelve nights. And I'll have to be on my guard again Asian style - when I tried to go into the internet cafe a guy outside insisted on shaking my hand introducing himself and asking me lots of questions. Stupidly I was honest and said I had just arrived. He then insisted on giving me his card. I told him to bring it into the cafe but no, I had to walk around to some dodgy shop where I was introduced to another guy and told to take off my shoes and sit on a mat while he explained everything I wanted to know about Fiji and would help book me 'cheap deals'. I had to lie and say I was late for a skype chat with my mum in order to get away! From now on I'll just tell them all I've been here ages, best policy I think.
I’m staying in Nadi for a couple of nights and tomorrow I need to figure out what islands I’m going to visit. It should be a fun two weeks here with plenty of swimming, snorkeling, some scuba diving and relaxing. Tough old life!