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Sat, 7 Feb 2009 – An Update and a half from New Zealand

July 1, 2009

So the winds of the travelling world have taken me on a trip round New Zealand’s south island. It so happened that the other Helen who I met on the Trans-Mongolian train was turning up in Wellington just as I wanted to leave there and within minutes of meeting I had decided to postpone job stuff and we were planning the first steps of a grand tour of the south. I then received a very timely tax-rebate which has made this a super-fun trip filled with an abundance and variety of transport, scenery and thrills, topped with plenty of lazy times chilling with a book to bring some balance in!

The trip so far has included 5 ferries, 2 trains, our trusty hire car and my bicycle, oh and an 134m long stretch of thick elastic! I have enjoyed an enthralling and visually stunning 2 day mountain bike trail, scenic train journeys through vineyard areas, salt-flats, alpine ruggedness and driving along many highways whose vistas change so dramatically within such a short time you can hardly keep up with it. I have tried to keep it brief but failed miserably as we did so much in the last 3 and a bit weeks and I wanted to share with you a bit about the places.

We had decided that we wanted to be off the beaten track as Helen had been doing bus tours of the north island and was sick of effectively being babysat with the ease of them and both of us were sick of all the other travellers (yes, I know we are travellers too). It seems our desire for peace and quiet and being able to speak to each other without shouting over the loud music is something that sets us apart from a lot of the other travellers (probably showing our age).After going our separate ways briefly as I wanted to mountain bike and she wanted to swim with dolphins, we met up again on a train bound for Christchurch to pick up another train over the mountain passes to the west coast. We certainly found the out-of-the-way places landing ourselves in a very friendly small town of Reefton, previously a gold-mining place but now home to many keen fishermen including the owner of our sleepy hostel. I was surprised to find that despite the fact the place was so small the service was stunning and I even got my broken rear wheel spokes replaced in no time at all and for very little cash in a shop that quadrupled as the local fishing tackle shop, sports shop, bicycle sales and repair shop and haberdashery! We found similar renditions of this multi-use type shop in many other small places, like the pub, post office and petrol station combination!

We drove down the west-coast from there and trundled alongside deep river gorges, along winding passes, crossed over a hundred creeks (they have so many they run out of imaginative names for them) and over wide rivers towards the glacier region stopping often for photo opportunities.

There are several year-round glaciers on the west coast. We got up to some adventure there choosing to try our hands at ice-climbing on Fox glacier putting our full faith in our spiky crampons on our feet and the picks in our hands and scaling some crevices in the glacier.

Our next few days consisted of a lot less activity, oh dear, even I forgot we managed to go cycling in crazy hot Hawea but enjoyed the view from the lake whilst swimming there. After that we took a quiet cruise on Doubtful Sound in fiordland and after a rather nausea-inducing crossing of the Foveux Strait we had a relaxing overnight stay on Stewart Island off the south-coast where there is little to do unless you want to go for a hike or are into fishing. A friendly local, whose number I had been given by another friendly local on the mainland (very common this Kiwi friendliness) gave us a tour in her wee car(yes they like the expression wee here) of all of the 23km of roads on the island and the gorgeous little beaches and her husband would have taken us out on his fishing boat had we had a little more time on the island.

The scenery here on the south island is so stunning that you become picky and if the surroundings become a little less grand the finger gets more rest from the camera shutter. Still, I only picked the best and most representative of what I’ve seen the last 3 weeks and it still came to 5 albums!
Needless to say that we got up to much adventure in our final destination of Queenstown. I couldn’t resist one of the highest bungy jumps in the world, throwing oneself from a suspended platform with some glorified elastic attached to my ankles just to experience a few seconds of exhilarating free-fall. Unfortunately for my wallet and those who may be worried for my welfare, it hasn’t got it out of my system and I am trying to work out how I can get to Macau for the highest bungy in the world! I may have to settle for the 13m shorter “007 Bungy” from the Swiss Dam featured in Goldeneye at 220m high!

I am still in Queenstown exploring the mountain biking trails and spending a stupendous amount of time uploading photographs and writing. My partner in misadventure, Helen has departed back to England. I am planning to cycle tour up to Christchurch and find some work. It’s probably about time.

I hope you enjoy the scenery!

New Albums:
Picton to Kaikoura:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=217312&id=847665248&l=e8022ab9eb

Christchurch & TranzAlpine train, Reefton to Hokitika:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=217718&id=847665248&l=408a947b54

Fox Glacier, Jackson Bay, Haast Pass to Hawea:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=217726&id=847665248&l=122cb39b65

Glenorchy, Manapouri, Doubtful Sound, Catlins, Otago Peninsula:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=217740&id=847665248&l=45a3c16c00

End of Road trip – Otago and Queenstown adventure:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=217755&id=847665248&l=08cd00bb51

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