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