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.