Friday, 19 February 2010

The end?

When i last posted i was in Phuket, with only about a week left. The last couple of days went by, the day before i left Donnarie was finally leaving so i walked with her to the bus station with some food. Hopefully I'm going to do some editing work for her in the future, if i get round to getting a copy of final cut pro that isn't going to cost me a house. One thing I had decided on while traveling was that, as much as I enjoy video editing, i don't think i want to do it as a career, as it wouldn't be fun to do anymore. So I've made a few contacts who have some footage/will have, and will let me play with it and put it together. Anyways, me and donnarie had this really nice seafood/coconut soup and rice, but didn't really have any way of eating it. Once we got to the place that she had booked a ticket, they brought out a table, plates and cutlery, so we were eating beside this road. A little bit surreal.

The next day i was flying to Penang from Phuket, so after packing up my stuff and saying goodbye, i walked towards the bus station. About a minute after i left, i was walking along the pavement when a bunch of people were coming the other way, so i stepped onto the road to walk. After several months in Asia i was quite happy that i had managed to avoid falling over/walking into things, because there is plenty of opportunity to do just this. Well, somehow, i didn't see the little hole in the road that i managed to put my foot in, and so stumbled, and fell over onto my knee, with the weight of my backpack coming down on me as well. I'm sure it looked pretty funny, but i was on the ground going 'ow.' A lot. It was hilarious. So a bunch of locals crowded around to help me. One woman was keen to drag me off to the hospital, but that wasn't i was so keen on, them giving me a big bill just to say it's fine. So i couldn't stand on it straight away. Another woman started rubbing tiger balm on my knee, which helped. If you don't know what tiger balm is, it's basically unicorn tears. It cures all ailments it seems. Mythical. I managed to stand up, but it was hurting a fair bit. I felt a bit better because another local had shown me a huge scar on his leg from where he had fallen over, so i felt a bit less stupid. But not much.

I was half tempted to walk back to the hostel, because i definitely needed to ice it and rest it. Only problem was, i had a flight to catch, and it was important i started wandering down in the direction of Singapore. So i tried to walked it off, walked to the bus station. Got on the bus. Ahhhh, sitting down. Then of course, 'oh, actually we're gonna take this other bus to the airport', so i limp off and switch buses. About an hour to the airport. Huge queues just to get into the place, as every bag has to be scanned before you go in for some bizarre reason. Somehow i managed to spot a sneaky opportunity to jump ahead a bit. Well, i wasn't in England, the usual queuing rules don't apply :D. Even despite my sneaky-ness, it was still pretty painful to stand on. Get inside, eventually check in. I was flying with firefly, who are a subsidiary of Malaysia airways. For some reason, after my fall, i was thinking, maybe it was a sign! Maybe I'm not supposed to be on this plane! Haha. Well, when i saw the plane, i was a little more worried. It's the smallest plane i've been on, it had proper propellers and everything! There were only two seats either side of the aisle. But yeah, surprisingly, i didn't die, and this blog isn't being written by a ghost, although i think that would be an interesting twist.

So into Penang airport. Apparantly there was a free bus into Georgetown which was about half an hour away. I met three English girls but they didn't seem to have any idea where they were going. So they followed me hoping to find this free bus. It seemed nobody knew anything about it, so the girls went off to change some money, then i managed to find the one guy who did know about the free bus, and there was one leaving right then, so i jumped on and off i went. Had to get off at komplex komtar, then walk about 15 minutes to the place i was staying. I'd booked my hostels in Penang and kl because everything was a lot busier with Chinese new year coming around, and it made life a whole lot easier. Anyway, the place i booked, i walked up to it, and it looked incredibly regal and posh from the outside, so i was thinking, have i got the right place? Penang is cool because the east India trading company rocked up to it one day and said 'right, this is our island'. It's a small island just off the west coast of Malaysia. So a lot of the building have a definite colonial/british feel to them. And when all this was happening, people came from all around because there was lots of opportunities for work etc, so all these cultures came together and mixed. Penang is without a doubt the greatest place for food that i went to.

It has the usual Chinatown and little India, but there's another culture, particularly focused around the food, called 'baba nonya'. It's the mixture of Chinese and Malay culture, and it meant they had some of the craziest, amazing food. Lots of street vendors making tasty, spicy, sweet, salty awesomeness. Mmmmmmm. I ate so much food while i was in Penang. Incredible. Highlight would be the most amazing satay sauce i've ever had. I walked into a bit of a grimy looking place, out it came, just so tasty. Mmm.

What else did i do in Penang? Well, i went to the museum, which was pretty interesting, mostly focused around the east india trading company taking over the island. There was a lighthouse on the seafront (suprisingly) which i climbed up. Incredible views for miles around (again, shocking. Who'd think to put a lighthouse where it could be seen from everywhere?) There was a big mall, the place where i had got off the bus originally. It's just insane walking around these places. One moment you are walking down some tiny little street, with quaint/old school architecture, bustling street markets, great smells wafting around, it all feels very real. And then you can go into some huge 7 story mall, a proper cathedral of consumption, with hundreds of people buzzing around, and it feels like this place is more capitalist than we are. Crazy world.

I also met a Canadian guy who had been on an Outward Bound course, but he'd gone to the west coast one, so it wasn't as surreal as it could have been. Following Penang i bussed down to Kuala Lumpur, which took about 5 hours. Conmfiest coach seats ever. Oh wow. Didn't really want to get off. Partially because i was intimidated by the big crazyness of the city, or at least i was at first. Anyway, we got dropped off somewhere, so i set off in search of the nearest MRT or monorail station, as my accomodation was right next to a monorail stop. Well, i wandered past the bus station, found a MRT station, had to go back to KL Sentral so i could hop off and jump on the monorail. So back to KL Sentral, stopped for a KFC. This was one of these days where i spent a rather long time walking around with my 14kg backpack on in the hot, sweaty heat. And so my entire back, and so therefore my tshirt, was covered in sweat. Fun times. But luckily the back was just solidly covered in sweat. So it sorta looked like the back of my tshirt was a much darker shade of the front. Genius.

So i wandered over to the Monorail, and rode the monorail, and got off the monorail. Amazing fun. Got off at bukit bintang. Apparantly my place was right opposite the stop. So i went down the stairs, and the area felt quite times square/piccadilly circus. I was thinking, no way can my hostel be here?! But it was. Next door to a mcdonalds. Up two flights of stairs. On the first floor was a massage place. I walked in there originally, they looked like this happened quite a lot. But i got into the hostel, nice place. Have a much needed shower. I figured it would be wise to go and buy a bus ticket for when i go to Singapore, seeing as it's chinese new year in a few days, so it'll probably be pretty busy. So i ask where the bus station is, same place i got dropped off at pretty much. The guy at the hostel tells me it's just a 15 minute walk away. Curses. I wandered around and rode two different transit systems to get to the place, when i could have just walked for 15 minutes. My way was way more fun though. Terrifying locals with my intense sweatyness. Mmmm.

Had a bit of a wander in the evening. There was a really awesome drum circle going on in the middle of Bukit Bintang. They knew what they were doing. A few people wandered into the middle and started dancing, one of them was actually doing the 'disco dancing' you see at the beginning of Borat. It was great. But yeah, that was good fun. Back at the hostel, the guy in the bunk beneath mine was this older american guy, who had the hilarious habit of narrating everything he did. Funny for about 30 seconds, not so much after that.

Next day i wandered. Oh boy did i wander. Twas the day before chinese new year, so there was plenty going on in keeping with that. I was wandering around chinatown, found a market area, the usual crap but in a different place. Handbags, watches, sunglasses etc. Then up a sidestreet I stumbled upon a dragon show. Awesome stuff. Basically this long rectangular base with about 15 poles sticking up, different heights, with a small bit of space to stand on. Then the dragon, with one person on another's shoulders inside, did all these crazy moves, jumping around from platform to platform. That was good stuff. I remember being a bit of a let down at lunchtime, i saw a nando's and thought why the hell not. Oh it was good. After this i wandered over to merdeka square where they declared independance in the 1950's. It's pretty much just a big field, and a giant flagpole, and a fountain. It's a nice city just to wander around. Cool sights and smells, great transit system. For dinner i went to a massive food court in the bottom of a mall, but it was a good food court, lots of good regional food. It was pretty entertaining at the entrance of the mall, there's just a big huge fountain, with a whole load of kids just standing around in groups, trying to look cool. Made me chuckle.

Met a few people in the evening in the hostel, including a guy who was on the same flight from singapore to london as me on monday. He was flying from KL to Singapore, so we decided we were racing each other to see who would get to Singappore airport first. My money was on him. Midnight rolled around and we got some fireworks for the start of chinese new year. Year of the tiger! Grrr. It was cool wondering past some shops, they would have the usual torso's with clothes on, but they'd have the head of a tiger. I'm wandering if they do the same for the year of the rat. Not so much.

The next day was cool. I wandered over to the petronas towers, which were once the tallest skyscraper in the world (of course there is two of them). You can get up crazy early to go get a ticket for the skybridge, but i didn't have a great desire to do this as i've seen a fair few cities from up high before. But anyway, it was great to wander around them. The first few levels is just another huge mall. Kuala Lumpur loves them. Looking at clothes and stuff, they were as expensive or more so most of the time. Pah.

After this i took the MRT back down to Chinatown, wandered around for a bit, then took the monorail towards the KL towers. Apparently the views were much better than from the petronas towers. It's perched on a hill, so i walked up a windy road to get to the entrance. Cue more sweatyness. Get inside. Annoyed. Lonely planet said it was 20 ringitt two years ago. I have 40 ringitt left, and wouldn't mind eating tonight. Now, you can pick option a, which includes going up the viewpoint, a pony ride, some jungle thing, and some other rubbish. Or option b, which includes going up to the viewpoint, and a whole load of other rubbish i don't want to do. Both options cost 38 ringitt. Annoying. I just want to go up! I ask, how much just to go up? It will still be 38 ringitt. I just want to go up and have a look! I don't want to ride a sodding pony! Why would i come to a big tower and think, hmmm, you know what? This is great and everything, but it would be better if i could ride a pony. Screw you KL tower. Screw you and your sodding ponies.

So yeah, i chose to eat instead. Always a good call. It was my last night of travels, but i didn't really have any money to go and blow on ponies and beer, which is a bit pricy in malaysia. Well, i have more money, but i would have had to get it out from a bank, which would of charge me, etc. And plus i had a 24+ journey ahead of me the next day. So i watched the road with a couple of English guys. And some other crappy stuff. But it was all good. I went to sleep, dreaming of throwing ponies off the KL tower. I might pay 38 ringitt for that.

Up at 7am. Quick breakfast. Walk to bus station without falling over (go me!). 8.45am bus to Singapore. Hop off and do customs stuff at exit and entry. Into Singapore at about 2pm. Find the MRT. Ride for about half an hour, hop off and switch trains to get to Changi airport. Now, my adoring fans will remember i slept in Changi airport about 5 weeks ago. Pretty rubbish night. I flew into terminal 1, so that's where i slept. And there was nothing out the front, no food places or anything. Well, the train took me in to terminal 2, and this was where everything had been hiding. Have burger king, take 'skytrain' (trying to make a monorail sound more cool than it already is) to terminal 1. There about 3pm. Flight isn't till 11.30pm. Crap.

Why did i come over to terminal 1? Skytrain it back over to terminal 2. Coffee coffee coffee. Wander. Back to terminal 1. Sit down and just people watch for about 1 1/2 hours. Funny stuff. Of course, ipod was lost several weeks ago, and book was a bit heavy. So i watched. Haha. Lost a marble or two. Went and saw if i could check in ridiculously early, turns out i could. So then i had about 4 hours to kill on the other side. Changi airport is fun though. Got to know it quite well. Felt a little like Tom Hanks in the Terminal. There's a bar upstairs somewhere with a pool, that was cool. TV area. Free internet. Bought a copy of Q magazine. Yeeaaahhh. Went to the gate and sat down. Bumped into the guy i mentioned earlier, who'se name is also Dave. I think i won the race, although in reality, i was the biggest loser, as i'd spent 10 hours in an airport. Get on the plane. Airbus 380. YES. Much better than the boeing 740. I really hate flying now. Used to love it, but this trip well and truely sucked the fun out of it. BUT, i was in the middle, with an aisle seat, with an empty one next to me. YES.

Shockingly, i didn't want to see any of the movies. Watched flight of the concordes etc, listened to some music, slept for about 30 minutes. And 14 hours later, boom. 5.30am. London. Drizzle. Grey. Um.

The end

I feel like there are a few tracks that completely remind me of awesome times on the trip. So here goes.

Faithless - We come one: Me and Hamish and our horrific attempt at dj'ing at the Irish bar in Phuket. This was one of the songs i remember massacring.

I am giant - City Limits - Crusing round in Kiwi Dave's car in Christchurch, this song seemed to be on the radio all the time, but twas awesome. Whether we were driving over to the mini golf place, or driving over to the mini golf place (it was closed the first time), good times were had.

Flight of the Concordes - Albi the racist dragon - Somehow Dave hadn't heard this song, so when i burst out with it at the ballroom overhang on an overnighter, it became a bit of anthem. And of course, once Dave knew the lyrics, we wouldn't shut up. Sorry Laura. Dave even drew a special picture.!/photo.php?pid=2904455&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=243024743101&aid=-1&id=514099893

Mogwai - Auto Rock - Very strang this. Just got into Mogwai before i left, and then i find myself in Number 9 guesthouse in Phnom Penh, watching an amazing sunset over the lake, having a beer with splash and some sporadic Italian's, and it came on. Half of me was shocked it wasn't another Akon song, and half of me was shocked that i was hearing a slightly obscure song by a slightly obscure band in Phnom Penh.

Akon - Beautiful - I hate that this is here. Hate hate hate. Most of the time, as a rule, if a place was playing an Akon song, like a restaurant, i wouldn't go in as a matter of principle. But one of the few blurry memories of an insane night on Patong beach with a crew of randomers is this song. I feel dirty. Bleurgh.

And so, perhaps, one day this blog will be resurrected. Who knows how soon. But yeah, that's it. Laters taters.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Little bit more of Indonesia...and a lot more of Phuket

Last time i wrote, i was in Lovina, going snorkeling the next day. And so i did! Wasn't really too sure what to expect, i just kinda got talked into it, figuring it would be something to do as there wasn't a whole lot going on in Lovina. So i got picked up early in the morning from my place, jumped in a minibus as we picked up 9 other people. A bunch of swedish people, two swiss girls and a couple of aussies. We got flippers and snorkels then drove for about an hour to a little harbour, where we jumped onto a boat and travelled for about 20 minutes to the tiny little island we were heading to. It's near gilimanuk if you just happen to be looking at a map of indonesia right now.....So we parked the boat and jumped in, and straight away I was thinking 'wow...all this coral reef.....crazy looking fish swimming around....'and then i stuck my head up out of the water and one of the swiss girls was going 'magnifique!!' or however you spell it, so i swam across with the other swiss girl and there was this sudden huge drop-off, where the coral just stops and descends into nothingness....and all the big crazy fish were just down in the darkness...looking slightly evil. And so we swam along this ledge, amongst hundreds and hundreds of fish, huge shoals that you'd swim straight through....crazy colours....crazy was just....crazy.

So after about an hour and a half of just going wow, we swam to the beach and had some lunch. Then dived back in again. It was just completely insane. It makes me want to do my PADI though and learn to dive, so i can go and check out the deep places, without the slight drawback of drowning....

So then i spent about another 4 nights in Lovina...and looking back at it, i can't really think of anything else all that exciting that happened! I just relaxed, had some great food, swimming, met a few people here and there....but nothing all that exciting really. I was just enjoying my $6 a night watch tower!

So next up i went to Ubud, which is in the middle of Bali. It's a bit like Chiang Mai, kinda artsy and cultural, but i had some really amazing food there. There was a monkey sanctuary there, so of course i wandered over to see that. Tha t was really fun, it had been raining for a couple of hours before i went, and there was this concrete channel that ran through part of it, talking water away. Well, the monkeys were having a fun time running and jumping in and out of that, and playfighting. It's just funny as walking round watching monkeys being monkeys...i want a pet monkey now....that would be pretty sweet :D

Good old lonely planet said there were some good walking trails around on the outskirts, but it wasn't exactly obvious where they started or finished. So i wandered off to try and find one. So i'm pretty sure i was on the right road, and it said the trail started somewhere on the right hand side. So i'm walking along, pretty much to the middle of nowhere it seems, and i reach a river, which means i've gone too far. So i turn back and start following every little trail that leads off to the right hand side. So, i end up at someone's house, then at a spa, then i'm just wandering through a paddy field, figuring the trail has been made by the people that work in them. And eventually the trail stops. Plus the guys working in the fields were looking kinda pissed off. So i walked back pretty quick, and gave up.

After Ubud i went to Padangbai, thinking that i was going to go across to the Gili Islands, which are just off of Lombok. I tried to book transport to the gili islands from Ubud, but apparantly it was too choppy, so i decided to just got to Padangbai and hope the weather situation improves. Everyone i asked in Padangbai either didn't want to take me to the Gili's because it was too choppy, or they wanted to charge me a bucketload to get there. So i spent three nights in Padangbai, it had an ok beach but it mostly seemed to be a place for old europeans to come on holiday. So not all that exciting.....

So i was getting a bit fustrated with Indonesia. After the awesomeness of the previous 4 months, it was all a bit slow. There weren't really all that many backpackers around, and there wasn't really anything that i was desperate to go and do. I sorta wanted to go see Borobodour on Java, but that would mean flying out of Jakarta, which would mean going to Jakarta, which was something i really wasn't keen on. Like most of this trip, nothing was really all that researched before i came, but i wasn't really enjoying my time in Indo. And i still had about 3 weeks decided to go do something else. I fancied going back to Phuket in Thailand, and so booked a flight first to Kuala Lumpur and then up to Phuket. And so then, the next day, off i went. The beauty of Cheap flights, and always space available.

The next day i toddled off to Kata beach on the bus, it was a whole lot busier than it was back in October, as it's now high season, and now the sea is just like a big bathtub, as opposed to crazy waves and bodyboarding that happened in October. So i was sat on the beach and a thai girl who was on the bus wondered over and sat next to me. Turns out she had just finished her third year of med school and was taking a holiday but didn't really know too much about the south as she is from the north east. So we sat around and went for a swim, she asked me if i wanted to come with her to Krabi and Ko Phi Phi, she was going to be staying at her brothers place in Krabi then probably just day tripping to Ko Phi Phi. I was up for it but then we realised that there was no way to contact each other once we got off the bus as she had no access to internet where she was staying. But it was all good because i ended up staying longer in Phuket town and having a bit of a crazy time..

So the next day i was sat outside in the garden for a bit, reading the chronicles of narnia (yeah i'm cool) and then met hamish, from brisbane and donnery from the states somewhere. Watched some movies in the evenings. Then the next day me and hamish set off to try and find this mythical irish bar. We weren't entirely sure where it was so we were wondering around for a fair old while, we ended up asking a bunch of people but none of them had a clue what 'irish' or 'bar' was, so we attempted to act out being 'irish', which was a bit harder than acting out 'bar'. So then we walked into a ford dealership and tried to get directions. One girl came running out and drew a pretty descriptive map, and then also told us about a place called timber hut, which sounds like a really crappy version of pizza hut, but gave us her number for no apparant reason. So we'd been wondering around in the hot sun for a fair old while, and finally we saw it. Success.

We origninally went there because we wanted to watch the tennis, which we can do at the hostel but we just wanted a change of venue, so we got in there....and watched the tennis. And then.....we ended up staying the whole night. It was some guys birthday, there were a bunch of people who lived/worked in phuket town as english teachers etc....well at some point me and hamish ended up on the dj decks. That was entertaining. Of course, at the time we thought we were amazing, but we went back the next day for a few more beers, and found out how rubbish we thought we were. But it was all good fun!

The next few days was just spent not doing a whole lot really. One day i went to patong beach with hamish and pascal, and in the evenings we would just sit outside, drink beer, eat food and meet whoever turned up. There wasn't a whole lot going on in Phuket town, so at one point we decided we should head down to patong beach and stay at the backpackers there. It's where the majority of holidaymakers go, so there's hundreds of bars/clubs etc. So me, hamish, two norweigen guys called eirik and stefan who had been travelling together and two swiss guys called marco and pascal who hadn't been travelling together, headed down. We sorta had some issues with the booking, so three of us had dorm beds and the other three had to sleep in the common area. Although ultimately, when we came back from our first night out at 6am, the sleeping issues wern't really such a massive problem!

So after we arrived, we went down to the beach for a bit. There was this awesome inflatable assault course type thing in the sea, so we went in that. It had inflatable climbing walls, and this one thing called the moonwalker, which was inflatable trampoline platforms with this long inflatable round tube between the two, and the task was to run across without falling off, as it would spin as you ran on it. Well, i went at it for a fair old while, drank a whole lot of salt water and occasionally wiped out just short of the platform, but didn't make it all the way across once. Curses.

In the evening we had some drinks before we went out, then just had a bit of a crazy time really! And then again the next night. But at this point, me and hamish had been drinking every night for about 8 or 9 days, and we'd just been eating crappy food and lying around watching movies during the day, trying to feel better. So the next night i just chilled out at the hostel, and then left the next day.

I was planning on getting a bus, first to hat yai on the border of thailand/malaysia, then down to butterworth and hop on a ferry to penang, but i came back to phuket backpackers, and i'm still here. Whoops. It's just so easy to spend time here. Great food everywhere, so laid back. However, i have booked a flight to penang for wednesday, then i'll go to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days, and then i fly home from singapore a week today! Arg!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Last couple of days in Oz and beginning of indonesia

So my last few days in Australia were really good. On the thursday we drove inland to Baural, which is famous because it is where the legend, Don Bradman, first started playing cricket. If you don't know who he is, well, you probably won't be so interested! But there was a really good museum there about him and the evolution of cricket, so that was good stuff. In the evening we went to the italian place we went to the night that i arrived, i had some tasty pasta.

The next day we drove inland to the blue mountains, the reason they are blue is because of the millions of gum trees giving off eucalyptus, which makes everything look blue! So that was cool, we did a couple of smallish walks, saw a couple of waterfalls. In the evening we were back in Sydney, and went to Doyles for fish and chips (the place is famous worldwide...apparently, but i'd never heard of it!). So after we ate that we sat on the top deck with some beers and watched the sun set over Sydney, looked very beautiful!

The next day, i was flying, but not until the evening. So we drove over to bronte beach and walked across to Bondi, where i went for a quick swim, just so i could say that i had! We wandered back, i packed up my stuff and we headed off to the airport. Said my goodbye's to Gaye and Phil, i remember Gaye saying 'look after yourself.....but you've been to Cambodia so i'm sure you'll be fine!' Made me chuckle. Now, i was wearing a tshirt that had stuff written on it in Thai, and i swear i have never felt more like a terrorist than i did with that tshirt on. Everybody kept giving me shifty looks. At least my big ginger beard was gone so i didn't look quite so crazy.

Anyways, when checking in, (first i was flying with qantas from sydney to singapore, then the next day from singapore to bali with air asia, not a logical route, but apparantly it was cheaper) the woman told me that they wouldn't let me get an indonesian visa unless i have proof that im leaving the country....and i said, 'yeah, i'm flying home from singapore on the date shown on this document. But she said that wouldn't be enough. Well, she checked me in and decided to let someone else have to deal with it in Singapore. The flight was fine, landed at about midnight singapore time. Picked up my bag, out through customs.....aaaand sat down on some seats. My next flight wasn't til 10, no point going to a hotel, so i tried to get some sleep in the airport. Not the easiest thing to do in the world. The seats weren't all that comfy, so i gave the floor a go. Plus the place was brightly lit, and then there was a cluster of singaporian girls wandering around staring at me and this other guy. There were a few of us sleeping in the airport. Well, i got about 20 minutes sleep, but that's all i could manage. Not something i'd really recommend!

Once the air asia ticket office opened at 6am, i wandered across and asked about this visa problem. The guy said yeah yeah you have to book a flight. The only problem is, i didn't know when or where i would be leaving indonesia, or where i would want to go to. The indo visa would expire in 30 days, and then 7 days later i'd fly out of singapore, but i didn't want to spend the whole time in singapore. Arg. So i booked a flight from jakarta to Kuala Lumpur on the 10th of feb. Only once i got my indo visa several hours later i bali airport, it said i had to be out of the country by the 9th. Arg. And they get really fiddly about people overstaying. Arg. And once i took my flight to bali and got my visa, they didn't even ask if i had any onward plans. Arg. That's not cool.

So anyways, i landed, took a taxi to Kuta. Originally i wasn't too sure where i was going to go from the airport, and i hadn't really heard too many good things about Kuta from talking to other people that had been there, but i was mucho tired, and it was the closet place to the airport. I wandered up and down poppies gang 1 and 2 trying to find a place to stay, in the end i had a choice between a pretty groggy room for 80,000 ($8) or a much nicer place with a pool but 125,000 + 10% which is something they seem to sneak onto everything. Anyway, i ended up going to the nicer place. So worth it. But as for Kuta itself....well...i didn't think i would like it....and i didn't. It was pretty much as everyone had desctribed it to me. Lots of australians, pretty much all wearing bintang beer vests, wandering around drunkenly.

Essentially it's a place for aussie holiday makers, so you'd get families, couples, groups of guys or girls. But i really didn't see what the place had going for it. If you didn't surf, the beach was out of the question, go for a swim and you'll probably get sucked out by the i was there one morning and high tide had washed up a whole load of dead fish, as well as lots of other get hassled like you're back walking down kao san road, except you don't really expect that when you are walking down a beach. The streets are all narrow and really overcrowded. Well, as you can see, i wasn't such a fan! But i wasn't expecting to be, so it was ok. I stayed for 2 nights before i got a bus to Lovina. I say bus, it was a minibus.....which seemed to double as a mobile swimming pool. It was raining hard when we left and the water came flying in from everywhere, through the ceiling fan, through the sides, but luckily i found it all rather entertaining.

So we picked up and dropped off people on the way, until about 4 hours later we made it to Lovina. The journey itself was cool because i had the chance to see what Bali really looked like, away from Kuta, and it looked amazing. It was mountainous, dense greenery, which reminded me a lot of the road to Pai in Thailand. After the usual attempts by the driver to get us to stay where he wanted us to, i found the place i wanted to stay, called the angsoka. The only problem i'd been having is that the prices lonely planet would say something is would be sometimes nearly 50% less than they are now. So i got to Angsoka, they showed me the list of accommodation, everything was 110,000 or more....except.....except....for a 'rice barn'. Sign me up!!!

Well, i was shown it, and for 60,000 i really wasn't expecting much. But it was awesome! It was this perched little barn, which only really had space for the bed in it, and a little balcony bit attached with a chair and table. It was like a watch tower, and for some reason, i was really rather happy with it. So i dumped my stuff, and went for a swim in the pool. The pool was great, big, and had one of those sunken bars attached to it. Anyways, just after jumping in i got talking to a dutch girl who'se name i'm not even going to attempt to spell, but it's quite dutch, and then shortly after met her friend Fiona who was from Bristol. They'd pretty much done most of SE asia, and were both pretty close to the end of their journeys. Anyway, i asked them about Lovina, and they said it was pretty much a ghost town, even though they only arrived yesterday, they went out to eat and there didn't seem to be anybody else around! So i travelled in a mobile swimming pool for a ghost town? Yes.

Either way, we had some food then agreed to meet up later to go out for dinner. Which we did. We went back to a place where they ate at last night. Had some good food. Then we got chatting with an older aussie guy called Cameron who works with the coastguard over there, stoping drug trafficking and illegal immigrants coming across the ocean. And we were also talking with these two local guys, one of which owned the place we were eating in, and had a friend who ran the dolphin tours that the girls had signed up to do the next morning, so i signed up too.

So we had some more beers with these guys, and ended up wandering up the road to a bar/live music place that was pretty lively. The girls seemed really suprised by how many people were about! Anyway, plenty more beers, then not remembering too much and waking up in my watch tower. At 6 o'clock. From a knock on my door. Oh yeah, dolphin tour. Oops. I'm sure i had set my alarm but luckily jannaka (ok i gave spelling it a go) came and knocked on my door. So i ran down to reception where we were supposed to be getting picked up, at 6am. And waited. And waited. But no one came. Arg. A guy that worked at the hotel said it might be because it was too choppy. Who knows. So back to bed. But then up again, for 9.30, to go and meet the grandson of the last raja of Bali.

I think it was while we were in the restaurant last night that Cameron had told us that he used to be married to someone who used to be married to some kind of supreme being, someone who had been chosen as an enlightened one, and had been related to the last raja of Bali, but then he died, but somehow he ended up meeting this other guy who is the grandson of the last raja of bali, and goes to visit him in his palace every year or so. And he told us that he was going along the next day, and we were welcome to come. So we did.

Cameron picked us us in his rental car at 9.30 and we drove about 25 minutes down the road to singaraja, and eventually found the place/palace. We wandered in, and met the guy, and his wife. And then we sat down and had coffee and some sweet balinese snacks. Such as sticky rice that we had to unpeel from a banana leaf, and then top with coconut and a sweet sauce. And also some crazy fruits, one called a mangostin, i think. It was all a bit odd really, but pretty cool. The guy gave us a tour around, and then eventually it was time to go. We drove back to Lovina, the girls checked out and got some food, then they and Cameron left for Sanur! Shortly after this point i ended up booking a snorkelling day for the next day, then just didn't do a whole lot for the rest of the day!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Nearly finished in Oz :/

So, going back before christmas, one night we went out with one of phil's old friends. We ended up going to this french bistro place, i had snails for the first time. They were actually pretty good!

For christmas we were staying with friends of phil's called kate and charlie, who live in newcastle which is about two hours north of sydney. They also have two kids called hamish and alexander who were 12 and 9 and proved to be prett entertaining. We went up there on the 23rd because they were having a big party in the evening. So we got to their house, which was really nice, and had a pool but it was empty because they were renovating it. Curses. Before the party, kate had told me that there wasn't really going to be anyone my age, apart someone's daughter. So halfway through the night kate wanders over to me with this girl in tow, and says 'dave, this is jackie, she's your age, ok bye!' Well that was amusing. She was pretty cool, had been to Bali so I picked her brains about that, she's planning some big road trip across the states with a friend as a well. So some time later she leaves with her parents, and so then it's just me with a bunch of drunk middle aged people. Fun times! Crashed at about half 3.

Next day myself, phil, jeremy and the two kids went down to the beach. We took the dog for a walk and went for a swim. Phil always calls me 'boy', and so suddenly everybody was too, even the kids. Although they would say 'boy, do you like being called boy?' In the evening we went out for dinner, which was pretty good. Soon enough twas past midnight, and phil accidently got out jeremy's 30 year old port. But it tasted good :D

Christmas morning, the kids got up early and opened their presents. I can hear hamish playing his electric guitar badly. Excellent. We get up and have some breakfast, and then open our presents. I had some stuff that was sent over from home which was cool, one thing i got was this hilarious tshirt with a picture of some of my family on saying 'we're with you down under!' Cheesy as, but very sweet.

As well as us lot who were already there, a whole bunch more people were coming for xmas dinner, there was 24 of us in total. And just as we sat down on the veranda to eat, the rain came, and didn't really go away for about 2 days. Felt just like home! But it was a great christmas day. Most of the people who came were expats, as are kate and charlie so that's not that much of a suprise really!

Boxing day, i can't really remember too much of. Not that i was drunk, i just can't remember! Remember taking the kids and the dog for a walk. Hamish and alexander were big fans of me, mostly because i was one of the few people who didn't tell them off! They were a bit spoilt and got away with quite a lot, but so do most kids. I remember when we went for a walk, i was walking the dog, while alex was on his longboard and hamish was on this other wiggly board thing. Anyways, i was just on the road and a car was coming, so i jumped off and accidently bumped into hamish who was flying past on the pavement on his board, and sent him flying onto the grass. Whoops. He was fine though!

On the 27th we went to Nelson bay which is about an hour away further north, to see steve and oonagh. We went to a pub for a while, then came back to their place, as they have a bar in their basement. Awesome. That was a good day. The next day we came back to Newcastle, and went to see sherlock holmes in the evening which i was pretty happy about. I love the stories but was worried that they were going to ruin it, but it was pretty good! Next day we came back to Sydney. A couple of friends of phils fron england had flown in on boxing day and were staying at his place, so we came back and met them, and then went out for dinner. Can't think of much else that happened between then and new years. We were originally planning to just have i at phils place, as you can see the bridge from his place. But a couple of days before he went to see his friends new house which cost something crazy like 8 million dollars, and mostly its that expensive because of the view. It looks straight out over the harbour. Awesome. So we went round around 8ish. They have fireworks at 9pm for kids, which were awesome enough by themselves! Then from 11pm there would be a few random ones just to build up the tension, thn 12pm hits. Boom. Lots of boom. Fireworks are set off on the water as well as n the bridge. They were pretty epic. Went on for about 15 minutes altogether.

Some time later we went for a walk on the beach down below, and then eventually started walking back home. It was fun walking home, with people walking past and wishing you happy new year, as well as seeing all the people trying to get a taxi, which is pretty much impossible to do. I overheard one girl on the phone to a friend who said ' oh my god i hate everything right now'. I laughed. She didn't look amused. I offered her a piggy back service. She looked even less happy. I laughed some more. It was a good time :D

Next couple of days we didn't do too much, on the 3rd we went the scg to watch the cricket, aus vs pakistan! In the morning we went to the gym first (which is part of the cricket ground. We had some breakfast, and it started drizzling. So they called off the start. The food area filled up, and we ended up sharing with an old aussie guy, an old kiwi guy and his grandson. So we had some fun talking about cricket and rugby, mostly just phil and the older guys remeniscing about stuff before my time! Eventually the rain stopped and play started at 2pm. We were in the members section, which meant wearing long trousers and a collared shirt. But it was pretty cool because we had the two dressing rooms and balconies behind us! Anyway, the cricket was awesome, australia decided to bat for some criminal reason and ended up all out for 130. I did find myself cheering a bit too loudly when the aussies were getting out, especially as i was pretty much surrounded by aussies :D

I went again the next day, but by myself as phil had a rugby reunion. His gym membership meant we could get in for free which was pretty sweet. It was a pretty dull day though compared to the day before as pakistan batted pretty slowly. And of course, now that its several days later, even though the aussies were 200 behind after the first innings, they still managed to win. Bastards! Well, the day after the 2nd day i slept in as i'd been getting up early a fair bit, and going to the gym quite often too. So i just read and sat in the sun.

The next day, which was yesterday, i went to Wollongong to go and see Fi! I got up early and walked to sydney central station, bought a ticket ($13 for a return, two hours each way, that would cost bucket loads in england!). The journey was pretty scenic, then i hopped off at north wollongong and saw fi. She's a friend from the second time i went to canada when she was working as an instructor, but originally she had been a gap student like me, the year before i was there! So i was there for a year and heard about her loads, and it was cool that i got to meet her when i went back for the 2nd time! We had a pretty chilled day, lying on the beach, fish and chips and then had dinner at her place. It was really awesome to catch up with her, and hopefully it won't be too long til i see her again. She's keen to come over to the uk on a work visa at some point, particularly as her co gap student was a scot, and they are still close friends. It's been really good being able to catch up with old friends while on my travels, and hopefully one day they'll come through my neck of the woods when they are over!

I came back in the evening and there was a party going on, the couple that were staying at phils place as well were leaving the next day, the guy called nick used to play rugby over here at one point back in the 70's. So phil invited over a bunch of guys from those days, but by the time i came back they were well on their way to drunkville.

And so now i'm up to date. Yaaay. We're off the blue mountains tomorrow which should be good, then i fly on sunday to singapore, where i'll be sleeping in the airport (yay) and catching an early flight to bali! I've started reading up on indonesia to figure out what i'll do, and i think i'll start in kuta, which sounds pretty crazy, then head up to lovina, which sounds a bit more laid back. Then wonder westwards towards yogyartka, to see borobodur etc. And then beyond that i don't really know yet! Should be fun. I think it's going to be more of a challenge (once out of bali) to get around etc then the other places in asia i've been too, bt i'm looking forward to the challenge! And not even slightly jealous of the snow. :D

Sunday, 20 December 2009

More Sydney - Catching up

The day after I arrived we had breakfast and went and did this coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee beaches. That was pretty cool, the beaches look pretty nice, there were a few smaller beaches here and there in between Bondi and Coogee.

Well, I think the best thing to do about my last two weeks is to summarise what I’ve done. I’m not really ‘travelling’ at the moment; it’s a bit strange being in one place for so long. I’ve got access to the gym up the road at the football/cricket ground (Sydney cricket ground, where I’ll be going to watch some cricket after new years). So that’s nice. Phil and Gaye are both pretty into going, so I’ll tag along occasionally, work out for about half an hour then get bored and lie by the pool/in the spa. Phil’s house was up for auction, he had a reserve on it that didn’t get met, but the auction was pretty fun as it happens in the house. He’s already bought a new place and wants to get close to the same amount that he paid for that.

After the auction, we decided to go out for lunch; we went to this Japanese place just down the road which was fantastic. Great food, and you’re sitting at one big table so we got talking to lots of other people too. The guy sat next to me flew a glider over the Berlin wall to escape, and Phil was saying he’d seen a documentary about it, so that was pretty cool! Anyway, we drank a fair bit, and next door was a wine place that was having champagne tastings, so we went and got more than our fair share of that stuff. Everything is a bit fuzzy after that but I remember waking up at 9pm on the couch by myself, Gaye and Phil had already given up and gone to bed by then. It was a heavy one.

During the week before the auction there was a visit on the house so we went to a pub down the road called the royal, which apparently my dad and uncle pretty much lived in when they were over for the ashes in 99. We had a fantastic meal there, I had seafood pasta which was amazing, and then we ended up having cheeses and more wine, and ended up getting back and crashing.

The area Phil lives in fancies itself as a bit of a trendy place. Those who know oxford, think Jericho. But it’s good fun. On the Friday after I arrived I walked down to darling harbour and met up with splash, who I met in Cambodia. He’s in Sydney working as a diving instructor now, so we had plenty of beers in a few places. Then I was on my way back but decided to sit down on these steps in darling harbour with lots of other people, and I ended up talking to this Swiss girl for a couple of hours. Now, I can’t remember her name, or even what we really talked about, but that was cool. So I wandered back to Paddington in a slightly tipsy state and crashed once I got back.

Last night Phil was away in Melbourne on business so me and Gaye decided to go out for some food. We went to the royal first for a beer and to figure out where we were going to eat, but on the way I we walked past this guy who was wearing the pads they put on drinks to keep them cool on his arms, and was pretending to be a wrestler. Anyway, we sat near to his friends and on his way back in he wandered over to us and sat with us for a while. He was completely smashed, Irish, and just pretty entertaining really. He’d been in Oz for 4 years, wasn’t really sure what the time was and kept on talking about the most random things. But that was good fun. Me and Gaye ended up eating at the place we went on my first night, but had some pasta instead of pizza. Again, the food was amazing. We were choosing some wine and I noticed one of them was from the Marlborough region in New Zealand, which I passed through. I met a lot of people who had been working in the vineyards in that region, and so found it quite funny that I was drinking the wine that these friends may have helped to make.

See now this journal just seems to be turning into me talking about food and drink! I haven’t really done all that much touristy stuff yet. We’ve been on quite a few walks, and seen some pretty awesome views around Sydney. But on sunny days, I think ‘oh it’s too nice to go the aquarium or the contempory art place or whatever, I’ll just sit on the top deck and read. And then on the rare occasion that it’s cloudy or a bit grey, I think, ‘oh it’s a bit grey, I might just stay in and watch a movie or catch up on this etc. I’m still planning on going to Wollongong to see a friend from Outward Bound Canada, but that’ll probs happen after New Year. And I might see Splash again. Plus I’m going to see the test match at the SCG after the New Year. And see more of the sights. All by the time I leave, which is January the 10th. So it might be a bit of a squeeze, but it’s been nice to be in one place for a decent amount of time, and not to be doing something every day.

This’ll be the last entry for a while, what with Christmas etc. We’re going up to Newcastle which is north of Sydney, and staying there with good friends of Phil’s. Christmas day – Pool, sun, BBQ, beers. Yes sir.

Monday, 14 December 2009

From Collingwood to Sydney

I'm getting really bad with this, i just keep putting it off and then i'm left with so much to catch up. But i know its worth doing because otherwise i'll forget half the stuff that has happened! So now im going back about two weeks, which is about when i arrived in Collingwood.

The place itself is pretty odd. Unique might be a better word. Back in the day, there was a gold rush in the area so the place was heaving, and had something like 30 pubs. Plans were drawn up in England to build it up into the capital city of New Zealand. But then the gold ran out, and everybody buggered off. Nowadays i has a population of about 300, and it really is the end of the road. There's nowhere to go but back the way you came. Anyway, i got to the hostel, and they were still cleaning so i went down to the beach. Had a little wander. There's an inlet that runs beside the town, and it fills up with the high tide. After i went back to the hostel, had some lunch and came back down, the tide had gone out. The inlet was empty and the tide had gone out an insane distance. It was all really flat so it all goes so easily. I had a wander down 'main street' which was basically a few shops, a pub and the place where they organise the farewell spit eco tours. This was the main reason i had come to collingwood. There's this big spit of sand at the top of the south island which is 6km long, has a lighthouse on and a whole load of wildlife. I was thinking of doing the tour the next day, but was planning on taking the cheaper option, and borrowing a bike from the guesthouse, getting a lift up there and then cycling back (it's a fair old ways). The hostel had kayaks that we could use, but we had to wait for the inlet to fill up again, and when it did at about 5pm i went off for a paddle with two german girls and an older canadian guy. They'd done the farewell spit tour that day, and said it was worth doing. Anyway, we had a bit of a paddle. The canadian guy was about 50+, and just really pissed me off. On our way down there he said he wanted to run over some safety things, because he's done lots of kayaking before. The thing is, it was an inlet, pretty flat. We were wearing life jackets, it was just ridiculous! He was also running over how you should paddle, and saying things like 'its best to go in a straight line because that's quicker'. Well done you. But beyond that, it was pretty good fun. We paddled a fair ways, and turned round, drifting back with the wind. I talked to the german girls, it was one of their birthdays that day, and her friend told me she had made some kind of secret dessert for her friend.

So there was only myself, the three i've just mentioned, and an older english guy who had just finished the heaphy track staying in the hostel as guests. There were 3 japanese girls who were working as the cleaners, and the english guy who owned the place. The evening was good, we all sat around the table eating the suprise dessert and talking.

The next day, every guest except for me left. This wouldn't have been such a bad thing, if it hadn't rained all day. So there was absolutley nothing i could do! It was just heavy rain, all day. So i sat around and read the book i was reading at the time, catch 22 (which as awesome). Ate a bit, the fat cat kept wanting to sit on me bu i think i was allergic to it. It was the laziest cat in the world. It just lay sprawled out on a beanbag all day.

So yeah, that really was all that happened that day. A couple of other people arrived, but beyond that, nothing! I'd already booked my bus ticket back to nelson for the next day, and the weather was still crappy so it was a wise idea to escape! The bus picked me up, there was only one person on it at the time, this japanese girl with dreads. She was awesome. She'd been doing some woofing around the area, as well as helping a guy out at his yoga place. She had been living in the area for about 4 months but had decided it was time for a change so was heading for the north island. We had to change buses 3 times, but we just chatted away. She jumped off at nelson airport, and i got the driver to drop me back at the bug backpackers. I got in and saw anthony, the owner, and was checking in. Went to grab my wallet, realised it wasn't in my pocket. Oh crap. Figured i'd left it on the bus. Anthony called them up and turned out i had. I would of been pretty damn screwed without at. So jumped on a bike and went to pick it up.

It was odd going back to the hostel, as when i'd left i knew most people, and knew most people's faces, at least. So the only people i knew when i got back was mark, rudi had had to move out to another hostel, and everybody else had moved on. The atmosphere of the place was still the same though. Two of marks friends he met in the north island were there, and they were awesome. A girl called molly who had been working at oxfam on the north island had just arrived, there was a new cleaner who was canadian. Etc. More great people. We sat round playing cards in the evening, which was a load of fun. I didn't really have plans for the next day, except maybe go back to the beach if the weather was good.

Well, it wasn't. It rained pretty much all day. But unlike collingwod, there were people around! Ha. So we sat around playing games most of the day. In the evening we rounded up more people and played a few big games of mafia, which is an awesome game i hadn't played since being at OBC. That was a lot of fun. Had a few beers too, pretty late night.

6 days before i had booked a train journey from picton back to christchurch, as laura had said it was a really awesome journey. I got it for $29 to, which is cheaper than the bus! So i got the bus to picton which took a couple of hours, had some food, jumped on the train. It was a 5 hour journey, with something ridiculous like 40 tunnels and 50 bridges. It carves its way along the coastline, through the mountains. Around the kaikora peninsula there are a whole bunch of seals just chilling on a beach as we whizz past. There was a viewing cabin at the back, which was basically open air. Lots of fun. Very windy. Good stuff.

I got in about 6pm and got picked up by dave and laura, we went shopping and had an awesome dinner. Dave had found a job, but it involved getting up at 4.30am to go to work though. After he finished work the next day we were going to go mountain biking. We went to pick up some good bikes from one of his friends, and were back late enough for laura to come too. So we drove the place, off we went. It was so much fun. Really great trails, winding through trees, ups and downs. Banked corners. So we did that and by the time we finished the loop, the sun was pretty much setting. In the evening laura went to bed fairly early because she was tired, but me and dave sat up, working our way through a fair few rum and cokes + black russians. Dave had chucked a bunch of music onto my ipod, including some kiwi reggae, so we listened to that, talked about the usual rubbish. Twas a good night.

In the morning they took me out to breakfast, to a place called the honey pot. It was amazing. I had salmon with eggs benedict on english muffins. Ohhhhhh. It was so good. After this we went to another great mountain bike place about 15 minutes away from the airport. This one was more twisty turny than the other, still a lot of fun as you'd see how fast you can get away with going into a banked turn bend. Probably not the best idea when i was supposed to flying in a few hours. Oh well! After this we went straight to the airport, checked in, they hung around for a bit, eventually i went through after deciding not to buy some rum in duty free.

The flight to sydney was short and sweet. Immigration was all good, i got picked up by phil and gaye, and got taken back to phil's place. It's in an area called paddington, which is just down the road from the cbd central business district) and harbour bridge. In fact, i can see i tout of the window as i type this! That's pretty sweet. Anyway, the firt night we went out to a pizza place just down the road, which was great. A few beverages in a pub that my dad used to live in when he was over here in 99. Phil is currently trying to sell his house, he's just moving 10 minutes away, but over here they often have auctions for houses. The auction is a week from this saturday. I'm staying in the basement, where he used to have tennants, but now there's just a bed and a few bugs. It's perfect though, it can only be accessed from outside and i've got my own key for it. So i can come and go from there as i please. I only really use it for sleeping as there's nothing else down there, but it's good stuff!

Still about 9 days behind, but that's all i have the energy for at the moment!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

At dave's house, trying to catch up!

So….not too sure where I left off. I think….I was heading to Picton? That sounds about right. So from Christchurch it was a 5 hour bus journey, heading north along the coast. We stopped in Kaikoura for a break, then headed on up. I had called the day before to reserve a dorm bed and a pick up from the bus station. So we got in at 9ish, it was a bit drizzly and dark, and the pick up wasn’t there yet. I met this welsh guy called George who was staying in the same place and waiting for the pick up too. The place we were staying at was called Tombstone backpackers, now things were a bit different to Asia in terms of choosing places to stay. Pretty much all the hostels are part of BBH, which is like YHA, and they produce these big leaflet books with every hostel in, along with a % of how good it is, as voted by BBH members, along with a paragraph of text about each place written by the people that own it. So I chose the tombstone place because it had 92%, and I wanted to know why it was called tombstone backpackers!

Well, it turned out it was next door to the graveyard. But it was a theme they ran with, the front door was in the shape of a coffin door, which I thought was pretty cool. There were other little bits and pieces too. Anyways, when we got picked up, the woman told us that the dorm rooms were full, so they had upgraded us. George ended up in a share room, and she showed me to my room, which I had for one night only, but at a dorm room price. I had a double bed, with en-suite, and a balcony overlooking Picton and the harbour. AWESOME. Oh I was a happy bunny! I was planning on milling about a bit in the common areas but I was sleepy, I had my own shower, a double bed, so I had a shower, got into bed and read for a bit, and then went to sleep! I had to be out by 10am the next morning so I shifted my stuff into my dorm room, but still rather happy after an awesome night sleep!

The morning was still drizzly, so I asked what was good to do on a rainy day. She was trying to push me towards doing a wine tour, but I wasn’t looking to spend a whole lot of money over these 2 weeks or so. Free stuff is good stuff. But somehow I ended up at an aquarium, which wasn’t all that good, although it did have seahorses, and baby seahorses, which was cool. I then wandered around the harbour; Picton is where the ferries from Wellington come in. There were a couple of walks marked on the map, so I wandered over and did them, the weather got better, and the walks gave awesome views over the harbour and the surrounding coastline. I bumped into George on the way up the walk, the only person I saw in when heading in that direction, but on the way back I must have passed 30 people, I guess they all rushed out because the sun had come out.

In Picton, they also have the world’s 9th oldest ship. Bit random. I mean, if it was in the top 3, that’s cool. Top 5 maybe. But 9th? It made me chuckle. There was always so much of that, wherever I went, if there was something that was in some kind of top 10, this was always a big deal. But like, insignificant stuff. Like the 7th oldest curtain. Well that’s just a made up one, but you get the point. So I had a peek at that without going in the museum, because after going to the aquarium I didn’t want to drop more money. In the evening I didn’t do all that much, talked to George a bit but everybody seemed to be keeping themselves to themselves or closed off. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but once I got to Nelson I realized that there was a bit of an odd atmosphere there. I think it was because there was too much to do there, so no-one just sat and talked to each other.

They had a TV room, games room, quiet room for reading, internet room. So yeah, it was ok, but not the best. To be fair you don’t need any more time in Picton than one day, so 2 nights at a hostel at the most, so people will always be coming and going. So after Picton I got a bus to Nelson, about 2 hours away heading westwards along the north coast of the south island. I got picked up by the place I was staying at, called the bug backpackers, and ended up staying there for 8 nights. It was such a great place. Firstly, Nelson itself was really good. Awesome beach with the mountains of Abel Tasman national park on the horizon to the west, a whole load of good walks and bike tracks, very cycle friendly city (the hostel had free bikes), there was the centre of New Zealand point, which was cool, the town itself was really nice, relatively big but not too crazy, it had this cool gothic church, I just really liked the place. Plus they get the most amount of sunshine hours in New Zealand, and it was sunny and warm pretty much every day I was there.

As well as this, the hostel was awesome. I met a whole lot of really great people, and we’d just sit round in the evening, drinking some beers, maybe playing some games. So there was Mark, who was working as a cleaner at the hostel for free accommodation for three weeks, he started just before I arrived. Rudi, this German guy who was working at a place where they make signs, and absolutely loving it because his boss treats him so well, and so different to how bosses treat you in Germany. There was also a German couple who’s names I can’t remember, an English girl who was in my dorm who was applying for work in a whole bunch of places, another English girl that came a couple of days in, who was on the Kiwi Experience bus but had chosen to go to a different hostel to the one they had taken her to. Think of the Kiwi E bus as the tuk tuk drivers, taking you places where they’ll get a commission. And a whole load more people who came and went during those 8 nights. One night I went to see the imaginarium of doctor Parnassus with mark and an Austrian girl who was a friend of his who he’d met originally in the north island. That was an awesome film. On a Sunday me Rudi and an Italian guy who had worked with Rudi somewhere, maybe on the vineyards, went into to town to see the market, but I t wasn’t happening (because it was a bit rainy) so we had some food, watched the highlights of N.Z beating England in the rugby. Just lots of good times.

It would be really cool in the evenings because quite a few of the people have been working and traveling around New Zealand, and so we’d hear stories of how bad it is working in the vineyards (screws up your back pretty good) or unloading frozen fish from boats in the harbour. But if anything, it makes me want to do it now. Maybe not straight away, but at some point. I’d love to come back and find some work in Nelson, I really liked that place. There was a great atmosphere in the hostel, they had two computers which you could use for the internet, but beyond that there was none of the other frills, so everybody just got to know each other, and invariably ended up staying much longer than planned. Plus there were hammocks, and so it was pretty easy just to spend a couple of hours just reading/snoozing. Plus the owners were awesome, Anthony is from Leicester, early 30’s, and just helps to contribute to the chilled-out-ness of the place. I loved it, it was one of those perfect moments in time, with the right people, at the right place etc. Although on my last night this German girl arrived. At first she was a bit loud, and we were like yeah…ok. She’d just come out of school (not uni) and had been doing some work on a dairy farm for a bit on the north island. But she just had too much energy. She constantly wanted someone to go get a guitar and play it. She wanted everyone to move inside because it was dark, but most people were smokers, and we were pretty happy sat outside. So yeah, it seemed like I had picked the right time to leave. She was a bit crazy.

I’d booked a day in Abel Tasman national park, which is further west from Nelson, which is ridiculously beautiful, with golden beaches and amazing views, loads of wildlife. It’s one of the famous walks, and takes 3-5 days to walk all the way through, but I was only doing half a day walking and half a day kayaking. I got transported first from Nelson to Motueka, and then changed buses to get to Marahau, which is the last place before Abel Tasman national park. After a bit of confusion from the people organizing the thing, they realized I was doing the walk part first, so a guy showed me a map, told me he’d be at watering cove at 12pm, and it’ll probs be about 12 by the time I walk there. Sweet, so as a join the trail, it tells me that its 13km away, about a 3 ½ hours walk, and I found this out at 9.10am. So I was a bit confused because the guy had told me I could take my time and that it wasn’t that far. So I went off at a decent enough pace. It was a nice walk, with some amazing looking beaches, and the way the rocks had been eroded, as usual, just looks crazy. While walking along the trail, I spotted a black rabbit just chilling out. I grabbed some snaps from far away, thinking it was just going to run off when I got close, but I got right up next to it and it didn’t seem to mind! It was another really sunny day, but most of the walk was covered by the vegetation, so it was a nice walk. And as I made my way along I realized that 3 ½ hours would be a pretty slow pace, and made it to watering cove a bit after 12. Sweet.

So there were a fair few kayaks there, and I wondered over to the guy who I was meeting. More people turned up via water taxi, and the people who had kayaked to this beach started their walk back to Marahau. So it turned out I was the only one who had walked to this beach for the kayak back, everyone else had cheated and taken the water taxi :D Before we started I got talking to two guys from Dudley (I could tell where they were from pretty sharpish!) who had just been in south America for 6 months, one of them had been trying to write his journal entirely in rhyme, but gave up quite often and just wrote it normally! They seemed like they’d spent a wee bit too much time together, they seemed to have gone a bit crazy! Plus the fact they had bought a station wagon which they were sleeping in, so they hadn’t really met anybody for a while. They seemed pretty excited about having other people around! So we had a bit of a safety brief/how stuff works from the guy, they were all two person sea kayaks and I managed to get the Dutch guy I was sharing a boat with to take the front, because then I could sit in the back and control the rudder with the peddles. Fun stuff :D

We had a pretty casual paddle along the coast, the wind was behind us which was nice. We stopped after a while on a beach and me and the 2 English guys were chatting to the kayak guy. He’d studied outdoor ed like the majority of people at outward bound Canada had, and of course he knew all about outward bound so that was cool. But he was just pouring sand on his feet, and we were telling him what a sweet job he has, how at that point he was being paid to pour sand on his feet! Because of the tail wind we tried to do some sailing, so we pulled out a tarp, rafted up, hitched the tarp to the bottom of the front of the kayaks on the left and right, and then connected it to the two paddles at the back which were raised, and tried to catch the breeze, but it died on us straight away! We just held it up anyway as the current was taking us where we wanted to go, so we had a nice little cruise for a bit, and a chat. We made it back to Marahau, back to the start sight. Had some cookies and waited for the bus. I was going back to Motueka for the night, and possibly staying for another if there was good stuff to do there! So I arrived in Motueka, met an English guy in my dorm who told me there was a bit of a day walk I could do, but beyond that not much. The hostel wasn’t all that great, but they did have the departed on DVD so we ended up watching that.

The next morning I was trying to decide whether to leave or not (while in bed) but I was pretty tired from the day before so decided to stay put for one more night. It rained all day. Boo. But I got stuff organized for the next day, a bus to Collingwood and accommodation. Yeah, it rained all day. I watched a couple of movies, caught up on my journal a bit, read a bit. There was an English girl who had a job in motueka and was staying in the hostel and I wondered how she kept herself entertained, because there really wasn’t anything going on!

Next morning I got on the bus to Collingwood, which is west again, in an area called Golden Bay. It’s a pretty remote and cut off area, with only one road in and out. It’s another famous area as you can start another one of the famous walks, the heaphy track, for nearby. At one point Collingwood was going to be the capital of New Zealand, this was during the gold rush era when Collingwood was thriving. But at some point, the gold dried up, people left, and now it has a population of a few hundred! I was staying at a place called Somerset house, which was the only backpackers in Collingwood! I arrived while they were still cleaning the dorm room so I went out for a wander.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Adventures on the west coast of the south island, N.Z

* Apologies for any spelling mistakes, i've just gurgled all this down and haven't got the energy to check it!

So here we go again. Starting from the 7th, the day after the night at scotts beach. Woke up, had breakfast and packed up our stuff. Walk back to the car. We drive to oparara arches. From the car park it was just a short twenty minute walk to the arches. Pretty cool stuff, a huge 200ft tall arch, really wide, nature does some pretty cool stuff sometimes. We had lunch when we got back to the car park, then drove to another place nearby where we parked the car, then had about 1 1/4 hour walk to see some caves. The first one wasn't so great because it wasn't really accesible, but the second was was awesome, because it was called tunnel cave, and we could climb right through to the other side! One slight problem that we had was that we only had two headlamps, so two people could see where they were going well, while the other one had to contend with a bit of darkness! It was pretty rugged/cramped/fun inside as we climbed our way through, and at various points we would stop, turn off our headlamps and see gloworms on the walls, like little tiny stars! I was carrying my day pack through it on my back, it came out the other end a completly different colour, we got pretty dirty in there. It was a pretty rugged walk back to the main trail, and then bck to the car.

We decided to camp at the place we left the car the previous night, as it was a really nice site. Had some dinner, Dave destroyed me playing cards. Next day we drove towards westport, which was about 90km away. Stopped in a cafe and had some coffee. Then we drove about 15km outside of Westport, to cape foulwind, and di the hour walk along the coast to where a bunch of seals were hanging out/sunbathing. It's called Cape foulwind because Captain Cook had some bad times coming past this coast back in the day. Bless his little cotton socks. There's another place that Abel Tasman called murderer's bay after some men on his ship got killed after their first meeeting with the Maori, but they changed the name to something much nicer as murderers bay diesn't sound that much of nice place! So after the seals we drove back into Westport, had some fish and chips. Yummers. Really not a whole lot happening in Westport! We drive south along the coast to Punkaiki, the site of the pancake rocks. Basically, its a whole load of rocks that look like pancakes, because of the way they've been eroded, but scientists aren't really all that sure how it happened. There's some crazy waves bashing around, with a couple of blow holes that water comes shooting out of in a fine mist wen a big wave comes in. Pretty cool stuff.

After this we drove nearby to the start of the ballroom overhang track. It was a bit rainy, but we had an awesome dinner (mmm, spagetti) and jumped into the tent. Now, the book we had said that the walk to the ballroom overhang would take 4 hours, but the signs at the site said it would take two. But we planned to stay there overnight anyway, so we set off. To begin with it was an up and down bush trail, but then we had to follow the fox river and do a few river crossings. They wern't do bad, as the water was not moving quickly, the river was relatively shallow, but it was glacial water so it was freezing! The cool thing is that we can drink it straight form the river, without having to do anything to it. That's really cool. So after about two hours we made it to the ballroom overhang. It's this huge cliff overhang, about as long and wide as a football pitch. The cliff had been eroded away by the river hundreds of years ago. It was a really awesome sight. So below the overhang was a nice big area above the river. Because we were there pretty early, we walked along the rocks beside the river and picked up driftwood for a fire, and then sat beside the river and played cards for a bit. Then went back up to the overhang, got the fire going, played some more cards, had mac n cheese for dinner. Goooood stuff!

So the next day we walked out, but we decided to follow the river all the way back to the car park, instead of taking the bush trail. The water got a bit deep in some places where we were doing crossings, but it was all good. There were a lot more cars in the car park when w got back, with lots of people fishing for whitebait. We packed up the car, set off......nope. No we didn't. The car wouldn't start. Oh crumbs. The lights on the dashboard would come on, but the car wouldn't start. So we didn't think the problem was with the battery, but we found a guy with jumper cables and gave it a go....nope. We tried a rolling start. Nope. We asked the guy if we could use his phone to call the AA. He said there is no reception in this place. Erp. He told us there were a few houses over the bridge and up the hill, and they'd probably have a landline, so we wandered up there, but nobody was home. Erp. So we waled back to the car park, thinking that we'd talk to the doc (department of conservation) guy when he came back to his car. He was about to leave when we got back. Dave jumped in and he drove him to a friends house nearby where he called the AA, then drove him back. A tow truck turned up some time later, but the car on, drove us back to Westport. Told us his garage was very busy, the problem was probably the starter motor, and so it might not get fixed for a while. Crumbs. We stayed in a hostel, had a curry and thought about what we were going to do.

The next morning we trundled over to the car in the garage, to get our breakfast stuff out, it was grey and drizzly....and one of the mechanics wondered over and told us it was fixed! Turns out the problem was that daves car is fuel injected, and he drove a short journey across the car park the day before, which meant that the fuel that had been injected hadn't been used, so it was flooded, and wouldn't start when we came back. Apparantly it's something to do with dave's car being a nissan from 1993. Ha. So, feeling very relieved, we set off again! Headed south along the coast, while driving through Greymouth we saw a sign for a brewery tour, and figured why not! It was a Monteiths brewery, which is a well known brewery here, and they are staring to try and enter the market in England. Anyway, we caught up with a tour that was already going on, the coolest thing was seeing a 13,000 litre vat full of beer. Awesome. And then of course came the tastings in the bar. They have six different types of beers, and a cider. All incredibly tasty. They are just a small craft brewery so put a lot of care into the beers they make. The cider was amazing, there was a 'summer beer' which had a slight taste of ginger beer. It was alll gooood. So we came out feeling a little merry, so had some lunch before we set off again! We find a campsite quite close to the fran josef glacier, which we checked out the next day!

So yeah, Franzy Josef glacier! IT was pretty awesome. Huge glacier thats hanging out between two mountains. First we walked to a raised viewing point, then walked across the valley up close to it. Huge, awesome. It started to rain on the walk back to the car. We drove further down the coast to a place where we were hoping to kayak in a lagoon, but the guy told us it was too windy. But the weather had brightened up, so we did a 1 1/2 return walk up to an awesome view point where we could see for miles in all directions. That was cool. After this we headed inland, towards Arthurs pass, looking for somewhere to camp near the start of our next overnight trip. We found a small road used by a farmer that we sneakily camped on. More good times. In the morning before we left, we had to sort out our wet shoes. The last river we had been in had didymo, which is this bad thing in rivers which makes it unsafe to drink in some places. We needed to clean our boots so that we wouldn't bring didymo into this other river we were going into. One of the ways to clean the boots is to boil hot water and dunk them in. So we were sat by the side of the road, wearing our gear ready for a day of river crossings (looking quite trampy) and looking like we were making a tasty boot broth. Good stuff. We drove to the start point, packed up and set off at about 1130ish. We made it to the hot springs at 5.45. Long walk! First through some gorse, with some small river crossings, along a 4 by 4 track which was in the valley with huge snow capped mountains on either side, then through bush for a fair old while, around a lake, up and down a steep hill, and then we were on the Okarito river. This river was moving fast, with a fair bit of whitewater in places. So we made our way along the river, doing various crossins when we ran out of land to walk on on one side. Again, the water was glacial (freezing) and one crossing came up above our waists. That was a bit of a shock! A few times we had to link up and ford across, which makes it a bit safer/easier.

And so eventually we made it to the hot springs. There's an island beside the river, with a small flow on the other side. There were nice boiling hot pools, which you could adjust the temperature by removing a rock and letting in some of the cold water that was running by. It was a really nice campsite on the island, someone had gone to the trouble of bringing in this big painting all the way, and had hung it up on a tree! So we set up the tent, got some some beers chilling, and jumped in the hot pools. We didn't get out much after that. We had two dinners, read our books, drank some beer. Good stuff. Eventually we jumped out and jumped into the tent. The next morning was cold and grey. And i really wasn't looking forward to more freezing river crossings on the way back! I resisted the temptation to jump in a hot pool before we left, knowing the change in temperature wouldn't be much fun!

The route back we followed the river until it took us to the 4 by 4 track. Amazing views again. The walk back to the car felt quicker than the walk there! Back in the car, drove further inland, stopped at the beginning of a track where we knew there was a hut nearby. We were feeling a fair bit tired! There was a kea in the car park, which was wondering around being nosy. As we left it was on the roof of a rental car chewing on a roof rack! The hut was only 10 minutes away, and we were the only ones there. Had a nice dinner, read a bit more. I got onto a bunk in my sleeping bag, not really planning on going to sleep but it happened anyway! The next day we were planning on doing cave stream, but it was raining so we wern't sure how safe/if we might get trapped by rising water levels so we asked at the DOC office and they said it wasn't safe. Boo. So we headed back to Christchurch! The souther alps break up the bad weather, so the east coast is usually sunny and the west is rainy. As soon as we were through the mountains it was really hot and sunny! We stopped at daves favourite pie shop in a small village on the way back, and had two pies. Awesome. And we found out that New Zealand had qualified forthe football world cup! Coolbeans. All i've talked about really is the stuff that we did. Of course half the fun is just other stuff that happens. Me and dave did a fair bit of reminiscing about our days at Outward Bound Canada, we were constantly singing flight of the conchorde songs, and tenacious D songs too. Just having good times!

Back to Christchurch, unloaded the car, sorted some stuff out. We drove past the place where they filmed the battle scene in the first Narnia film, so we had a craving to watch that. We went and got some takeaway curry, sat down to watch it and found out that Laura had managed to download a version dubbed in Hindi! So we watched Lord of the rings instead. Very fitting :D

Laura started her summer job the next day, so me and dave did a bit of cleaning, tried to go play some crazy gold but the place was closed on Mondays. I sorted out my plans for the next day, heading North along the coast to Picton, and staying at a plac called 'Tombstone backpackers. Coolio. In the evening we watched some whose line is it anyway, and a bit of my hero. Good stuff.

And so from there i spent two nights in picton, eight nights in nelson, two in Motueka and one night in Collingwood, with one more to come. I'll be writing about these when i get the energy, it's a been a pretty mammoth entry!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

In Nelson, NZ (The beginning of the N.Z leg)

I'm going to miss out the last few days in Asia for now, i'll probably write it up at some point as it was a fun time, but now i've been in New Zealand for more than two weeks and i feel like writing about that for a while! Most of the stuff happened a fair while ago now, so things may be a bit jumbled, and i might forget some stuff, but i will do my best!

So, after a 9 hour flight to Sydney, and a 3 hour flight to Christchurch, i got off the plane, with grey skies and a cold wind. Damn. I thought it was supposed to be summertime! Dave picked me up from the airport. To explain, i'm not talking in the 3rd person. This is kiwi dave, who did the same job as me in Canada. He's at uni in Christchurch, and his last exam was the next day. We went back to his house, I re-met his girlfriend (Laura), who i had only met briefly in Canada four years earlier just before i left to come home! She's Canadian, but decided to follow Dave back to New Zealand and study at Christchurch as well! I had a quick powernap, we had some food, caught up etc. The next day i cycled into Christchurch uni with dave and used the internet in the library while he did his last exam. The campus reminded me a lot of Keele, it was very green.

Once dave had finished we had a jug of Tui beer (yay for jugs) at a bar on campus with a few of his friends, while finding out where people were congregating to celebrate the end of exams. We found out and wondered over to someone's house, stopping to buy some beer on the way. Then we sat in someone's garden with all the sofas etc outside and the sun came out! Woop. Half the people there were celebrating mucho hard, resulting in someone intentionally putting his foot throught a glass coffee table (which he had to do twice as the first time didn't work). So then there was glass everywhere, with another of the drunk guys not seeming to notice it as he walked around barefoot. A girl decided to start throwing everything out of the kitchen window in the backyard, which was a bit surreal, seeing kettle's etc coming flying out! But there were the other half of people who didn't go quite so crazy, so i sat talking to them.

Some time later we cycled home, had some food, Laura had her last exam the next day. So on the next day, me and Dave went on a bunch of errands, getting stuff ready for the trip. We were going down the West coast of the south island, going tramping (which is what they call walking, which is a bit weird.....but we did look like tramps most of the time...). So we were buying food etc. Before this we drove up to summit road, which was a a road on the hills above Christchurch, and gave awesome views down on the city below, and on the other side of the hills in Lyttleton, with the harbour. After we had bought all the stuff we needed, Dave took me to the Wonderbar. He had mentioned it the day before, and refused to even attempt to explain it, saying that i simply had to see it for myself. It was in Lyttleton, so we went in a tunnel through the hills. Once we were in Lyttleton, we tried to go to the Wonderbar, but it wasn't open yet as it was 4.30pm. Boo. So we got a coffee. My mum had told me the one thing i had to do in N.Z was to have a flat while coffee. So this was the first one i had. It was so damn good! I can't say i've had anything like it in England. So good. So we sat on a bench drinking coffee, then it was time for the wonderbar!

So, this place is difficult to explain, it's the kind of place you need to see yourself really. But anyways....we have to walk up a bunch of ramps down the back of a building to get in, and there's a sign saying 'nice people only.' Inside we go. So apparently it was built by some crazy german guy a while ago, which i guess could explain the oddness of it. So, fish bowls hanging above the bar with gas masks in them, dolls heads stuck onto lampshades, crazy german signs, male mannequin torso's hanging randomly, a sort of secret door to get into the toilet, which you have to pull on an iron to get into. A back room where occasionally they have some crazy shows, and apparantly the german guy was a bit of a swinger. So yeah, pretty crazy place. It's owned by someone else now, me and dave had some beer, played some pool. It's got a pretty awesome balcony looking out over Lyttleton harbour which was cool.

In the evening a couple of Laura's friends came over before we went to go watch the guy fawkes fireworks. Funnily enough both her friends were from England, one guy from Swindon. Ha. We drove back up to Summit road and met more of laura's friends up there, and climbed onto the rocks to have an awesome view of the fireworks in the city below. There was a display on Brighton Beach, which we could see, but not hear! We were above the fireworks, so it was a bit odd looking down on them but pretty cool!

After this we made our way back to Dave's house and got ready for the trip. I guess I haven't talked about this yet. We were planning on driving across to the west coast of the south island, through the southern alps, and starting as far north as we could, around Karamea, then working our way down south. Dave had been looking at a bunch of walks and stuff we could do up and down the west coast, as well as checking out franz josef glacier, the pancake rocks and whatever else we happen to discover along the way. We were planning on camping for the majority of the trip, and maybe spending the odd night in a hostel. So me, Dave and Laura packed up most of our stuff ready to leave the next day.

Eventually we packed up the car and set off. We were taking Lewis' pass through the mountains, which was awesome. Just completely crazy scenery, huge mountains dropping into valleys, snow on the peaks, rivers winding their way around. More crazy mountain roads like on the road to Pai! Although much of the road didn't have a rail by the side of it, so if you go over, there's no stopping, and it's normally a hell of a long way down! I think it works as an effective way to keep the average national IQ of N.Z at a pretty high level. We stopped somewhere along the road for a coffee (mmm, more flat white) and a pie. This was my first N.Z pie. Pies were something that Dave talked about often while we were in Canada, he seemed to be suffering from withdrawl symptoms! They really really like their pies here. Like, really really. So the first pie i had was steak and cheese, and it was gooood. We set off on the road again, stopped sometime later for a late lunch, sandwhiches that we made. We were joined by a Weka, the first time I had seen one, but definitely not the last! If you've seen my pictures on facebook then you've probably seen a picture of it. He was basically wondering round seeing if he could get any food from us. Laura was giving him a little bit but Dave kept saying 'your not supposed to feed the Weka's!! They are wild animals! Many of the other Weka's we saw on the West coast (many of which hung around touristy areas) were obviously very used to getting food from tourists, and were pretty friendly.

We made it to Karamea, which is a small town. We drove along the coast and found the start point of the heaphy track. We were only walking one hour to a beach called 'scott's beach', so we packed up the stuff we needed from the car (including pillows, a rare luxury :D) and walked to the site. It was a nice grassy site just up from the beach, and we were the only people there. Unfortunately we had managed to forget the stove fuel, so we couldn't cook on the stove. We were having sausages so we decided to have a fire on the beach instead, so we collected up driftwood from the beach, made a fire, cooked our sausages on sticks (with plently of sausage puns...such as 'oh no my sausage is deformed/burnt etc). We had them with rolls, drank some beer, sounds of the ocean, good stuff :D