Monday, 30 May 2011


I got the public bus from Kaikora to Nelson today, it took about 3 hours to drive. We went through Nelson on the Stray bus, it was just before Abel Tasman National Park, where I first did hang gliding. When we drove through I was very tired and it was raining and I really didn't like the look of it. But actually, now that I am here and a lot more awake, with good weather, I think its a really nice town. Its small, with the Cook Straight and Marlborough Sounds on one side and hills on the other. Its very artistic here, there used to be th wearable art fashion show before it got to big and moved to Wellington, but they have a World of Wearable Art Museum. I Walked up a hill, very tough walk (for me, I'm very unfit) to the lookout from where you can see all of Nelson, and over the sounds to Abel Tasman. Unlike Milford Sound and the other sounds in Fiordland, the Marlborough sounds are actually sounds, not fiords. I think fiords are carved out by glaciers and sounds are caused by rising sea levels, but they look the same. Anyway the top of this lookout is the very centre of New Zealand, so I've been to the very top (Cape Rienga) and the very bottom (Stewart Island) and now the very centre. Thats sort of cool I guess. I have a wwoofing place sorted out for tomorrow in the middle of now where so we'll see how that one goes! I get picked up from here.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


Well after going back to Mt. Cook then Rangitata, I finally got here to Kaikora. Its famous for its sea-life, whales, dolphins and seals. I did a fishing trip because there was a small chance of seeing all that stuff, i've seen most of it before and it was the cheapest. We started by pulling up crayfish pots. These aren't like the small things we get ah home, they are large, saltwater things like lobsters but without the claws. The first pot was empty but the other two had loads in them. We had to sort through them all as we weren't allowed to keep females, you can tell because of the spongy coral red stuff under the stomachs, the eggs. They also had to be over a certain size or they got thrown back in. After that we got out the fishing rods and caught lots of perch, a very nice fish. It was a good trip and this time we used fishing lines rather than had lines, it was all a bit high tech! on the way back we saw seals, dolphins and a penguin but no whales. I decided to stay and extra day because I like it here, and get the public bus to Nelson tomorrow, to start working on some peoples farm on Wednesday. Today I spent the day relaxing and walking out to the seal colony. There was a sign at the visitors centre saying you could swim with seals, it was cheaper then the dolphin swim and I was keen to try but no-one runs it in the off season. I suppose I could go swimming myself but I don't ancy jumping off the cliff and I have no idea how to behave around a seal, these are actually sea-lions and very big and heavy. So I will just have to be content with my walk. Its a lovely little village though, just one street and then a peninsula where all the marine life live around.

I stayed in a hostel called the Adelphi which was very old and seemed to date from about 100 years ago. When we checked we were asked how many girls and boys there were and I said me plus 3 girls who had gone dolphin swimming, but for some reason they got put in another room so I got a whole 6 bed dorm to myself!! That was nice on the first night as I had a few to many drinks and just went straight to sleep but not the second night. Because it is so old its a little creepy, and I'm reading Rebbecca by Daphne du Morier at the moment, set in about the same time period that the hotel was built. Its a bit of a ghost story so to be on my own in an old building, which sort of reminds me of the Twilight Zone hotel and read a ghost story was a bit weird last night and I began wishing for some company.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Leaving Queenstown again

Well I decided not to find a job in Queenstown, its lovely but so small and expensive. And every recruitment agency and everyone else has said there will be nothing for 2-4 weeks and I don't want to hang around wasteing money. Instead I am getting the Stray bus again but skipping out the bottom bit, jsut going to Mt. Cook then Christchurch instead of all the way around the deep south. its cheaper than flying or getting the bus. I decided as I was heading back to Mt. Cook to do the glacier explorer boat and learn alot about the movement and formation of glaciers. We saw lots of really cool iceburgs floating in the lake and got fairly close to the Tasman Glacier, the biggest in NZ. You may remember that when we at Franz Josef on the way down the west coat we could see Mt. Cook and that now I was just on the other side of the mountain range. Well it truns out the Franz Josef and Tasman glaicers are a 7 hour drive from each other, but from the Tasman glacier you just climb over the mountain and you are 5 km from Franz Josef. Crazy!!! It was very informative, but very cold. We picked up bits of iceburg and ate/ drank them. They had no taste as water is so pure and the glacier would have formed over 300 years ago before pollution. It takes 300 years for the ice at the top of the glaicer to make its way down to the river, so thats 300 year old snow and ice in the iceburgs. Only 10% of the iceburg is above water, with 90% below and if a piece falls off or melts the glacer will turn over or rise up so that 10% is above water. It was all very interesting.

My plan is to to do the last bit of the Stray tour I havn't finished yet which is whale watching in Kaikora, then to find work on one of the organic farms around Blenheim, just for food and accomodation, before returning to Wellington to find a paying job. But if I work for food and accomodation at least I won't be spending money! Its the same organisation that I used to find the place on Waiheke island, but this time I have only emailed couples and familys, no single old ladies with cats!!!!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


This is possibly the most controversial blog post ever. Since I was first considering coming to New Zealand I was tild by people who had been to go to Fergburger, supposedly the best burger in the world. Its here in Queenstown and its a must for anyone, I mean anyone coming here. There are a few chains which do gourmet burgers, huge things with fancy and creative fillings. After weighing up all the options I think there are other contenders. Burgerfuel, Red Velvet, The Fat Tui and Devil Burger are other places where you can get a good burger. These aren't like Macdonalds, these thing are huge, massive, full of all sorts of fillings from beetroot to fried eggs and mango. So I'm giving each burger a score out of 5 for creativity of fixings, the burger pattie, chips and value for money. 

First up the Fergburger, the bookies favorite and supposedly the best in NZ
Creativity 4
burger 3
chips 2
value 4
I have to say I was disappointed with my first Fergburger, The beef wasn't the best, it had that iron taste that red meat can sometimes have. It was dripping, like they'd washed the lettuce and not dried it. The chips aren't very good, they are soggy and overpriced. The average Ferg costs $11-17 for the steak burger. However I went back with my friend and got a vegeburger and she got a chicken one, it was actually very good! It is right on the main road and because of its location its a favorite for drunken partiers stumbling out of the clubs at 3am, probably why its such a favorite with travelers. Overall they scored 13/20, brought down by the disappointing beef and not a great score for the favorite.

Next the Fat Tui
Creativity 3
Burger 5
Chips 5
Value 5
This is a little burger shack in just outside Abel Tasman National Park. Being small it had a very limited menu of a Beef burger, one with cheese and an egg, lamb, mussle pattie (sounds gross) or vege. However although the fixings are the same they are amazing. Tabbouleh, aoli and more salad then you can dream of went on. I had the lamb but they said the beef was good to, with onions and herbs in the pattie. The chips were very nie and there was also the option of Kumera (sweet potato) chips, as well as a choice of portion size. I have to say the Tabbouleh was a stroke of genius and it was one of the cheapest burgers there. 18/20

Creativity 5
Burger 4
Chips 4
Value 4
This one has to compete with Fergburger in Queenstown but in Invercargill it does pretty well. The menu is extensive and the home made relish is amazing. The pattie itself was good, not the best ever. In terms of value for money you have the option of regular or large burgers, so thats helpful and the regulars are huge anyway. the fries aren't fluffy enough on the inside but they are crispy. Overall better value for moeny then Ferg, better beef and you don't have to wait so long just to order. 17/20

Red Velvet
Creativity 4
Burger 3
Chips 3
Value 3
This one was actually had a large and creative menu. I had a burger with chilli mayonaise and grilled mango which was very good. the pattie was nice as well, you could tell it was home made because it was irregularly shaped and had rosemary in it but it was small, way way smaller than the bun and you had to eat half the burger to get to it. The chips were nice but they were frozen, I could see the guy cooking them and for what they charged I thought it was to much for frozen chips. Overall so much potential and it just didn't deliver

Creativity 5
Burger 4
Chips 5
Value 4
I will always remember my first burgerfuel, this was the first of the gourmet burgers I had in New Zealand. It was the Peanut Piston and had peanut sauce on it. It was amazing, I couldn't beleive it worked so well, it was like when I had the Fat Tui burger with tabbouleh on it. The chips are great, and you can get Kumara fries as well. They are huge and also come with a cardboard burger holder to keep it together. People criticise the fact that its a chain but that means the menu us much bigger and you an get it most places in the North Island. But its not like a fast food chain, they do really good food there. 18/20, tied with the Fat Tui!

So there you have it, all the places you need to go and the things you need to eat when you come here, have a Fergburger, you have to or you haven't really been a tourist here, just go for the chicken! And the Fat Tui really is a once in a lifetime experience, I'd go back if I could!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

More of Queenstown

I've had an amazing weekend here, I went out on Thursday night with a few people from the hostel and my friend who lives here. Its a bit weird but sometimes the best nights out can be with strangers. I had a lot of fun and with beer at $3 a pint you can't go wrong.

Friday afternoon my friend arrived and we had a quite night. We went to Furgburger (more about that later), then Patagonia which is a desert restaurant and it's amazing. Afterwards we went to the Minus 5 ice bar. Its a very small room where everything is made of ice, the tables, chairs, bar and the glasses. There were ice sculptures inside and it was very cool (get it, ha ha). We had to book in ahead of time, were only allowed in for half and hour and were given long thick coats and glove to wear. It looked really cool and the cocktails were really nice, but we only had time for one. After that we were given a buy one get one free drink in the Boiler Room, which was a lot warmer. There are windows between the two so you get to see the ice sculptures from in the other bar. We had a early night after that as I was tired from the night before and Victoria was tired from the journey.

On Saturday we went on a Jet Boat ride. It went around the lake the up Shotover river and is an extremely fast and maneuverable boat. We got amazing views of the Remarkables, the mountain range next to Queenstown.  The boat did a few things like donuts but it wasn't as crazy as I had expected. The worst bit was when we went under a bridge and the driver pretended he was was going to crash in the concrete pillar. It was good fun, but I'm glad it was half price otherwise I think It would have been to much. We then took the gondola up the the top of the mountain to ride the luge. Its a concrete track and you are in little go carts with no engine, you just sit in them and steer. They can go very fast and they make you do the scenic track first for practice before they let you on the advanced track. We bought 6 rides and did the scenic one twice before we felt ready for the advanced. It was so much fun! we were zooming down the hill on our little carts and it was a good laugh. We went to World bar that night and had some teapots. Its basically cocktails served in a teapot, a bit random but I think its a bit of a novelty thing. It was good fun!

Today we went to Arrowtown. Its a small village near Qeenstown which was settled during the gold rush. Its very quaint and touristy, with old buildings. They restored the ruins of the Chinese mining village, which was separate to the main village due to racism and prejudice. They were 'invited but un-welcome' basically by the government to stop population decline in the area. They seemed to have hard, sad lives. When the gold dried up a lot of them turned to vegetable farming, which is funny because most cheap vegetable markets over here are run by the Chinese. We went to the visitors center and got a trowel and dish and went panning for gold in the river. We saw lots of gold dust but nothing big enough to actually hold.

We're going mini-golfing tomorrow then Victoria leaves at lunchtime and the job hunt begins! Its been great to spend some time with a friend. Travelling is great but you seem to have the same conversations 'whats your name, where are you from, how long are you travelling', etc. You can meet some interesting people that way, but it was nice to have a conversation about something more substantial, and catch up with the gossip from all my friends in Wellington.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Back to Queenstown

Well I survided my night in Christchurch and got my flight early this moring. Its poilite in hostels to not turn the lights on if you leave early and be packed the night before. I laid out my clothes so all I had to do was brush my teeth, get dressed and be ready for my shuttle at 6:50. It wasn't until I had cheaked in, gone through security and was sitting at the gate that I realised why getting dressed in the dark is so dangerous. When I put my socks on this morning I had accidentally put on of them over the hem of my jeans, as they were skinny jeans. the other sock was on the inside of my jeans so when I put my trainers on I looked like an idot, with on leg tucked in and the other not. I clearly needed a coffee, I have no idea how I managed to do that! My flight was delayed due to maintanance problems by over 2 hours but I it didn't really bother me I didn't have a connecting flight or anything. The flight itself was amazing. To see the ocean, farmlands and mountains all at oncce was so cool. We flew over Mt. Cook and Lake Takepo (where I had driven past the last few days) and landed back in the mountains of Queenstown. I'm meeting a friend here on friday and when she leaves I think I'll try to find a job here, running out of money!

Monday, 16 May 2011


After leaving Mt Cook we passed through a town that has more pubs per head than anywhere in NZ, 3 pubs and 250 people living there. We stopped at Lake Takepo, a small town on a lake (obviously). There was a very tiny non-denomenatioal Christian church there, the Church of the Good Sheppard. Instead of stained glass it had a very large clear window over the alter which overlooked the lake, and as our driver said, that view was more of an image of God than any stianed glass ever, it was gorgeous. It was in McKenzie country, and area where this man called John McKennzie used to go round steeling sheep. He was the first to train his dog to respond to a whistle and could leave for 2-3 days with the dog controlling the sheep. He was cought twice and escaped prison, and on the third time the decided to exile him. He didn't speek English, only Gaelic so he couldn't defend himself in court but it seems some farmers were paying him to steal other sheep from their rivals so he wasn't as bad as he may seem.

We arrived in Rangitata fot the night, the 'we can't stay in Christchurch is we're stopping here' stop. There is a rafting company which owns a hostel there and as rafting is closed for the winter the hostle is pretty empty. It had triple bunks in the rooms!! We had a tiny room for 10 people, 3 triple bunks and a single bed, it was mental!

We left this morning and I got dropped off in Christchurch as I am flying back to Queenstown tomorrow to meet a friend. We had a walk around the city and the destruction is everywhere. Some buildings have collapesed and others have codes on them, ready for demolision. around 900 buildings are going to be demolished here but the people I've spoken to seem very positve. They are looking forward to a new, modern, well built city! I hope they get it, cos its not very nice here right now.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Mt Cook

Hi guys! I'm staying in the nicest place in Mt. Cook National park. We get en-suites and a bath!!!!! Today was just a drive from Dunedin to Mt. Cook, NZ's highest mountain. I've seen it before from the west side but we're driving up the east now. Again stunning views, the mountains here are beautiful. The village is just holiday chalets and hotels and a cafe. The weather turned pretty bad, there is a 2 hour walk we could do which we could have done and our driver was going to take us to the start , cutting the time by 20 mins, but it started to snow a bit. He said we could still do it but he wasn't going to take us, he didn't want to be responsible if the weather turned bad. So we didn't do that and I didn't to the boat trip through the glacier lake with the iceburgs as I don't have a spare $128. We went to the Sir Edmund Hilary museum (first person to climb everest and a kiwi) and watched a really cool 3d movie filmed on and around Mt Cook. It told the Maori legend of how Mt cook or Aoraki came to be. Earth Mother and Sky Father were locked in a tight embrace when there son Tane Mahuta (a giant kauri tree north of Auckland 1,400 years old which there are pictures of me hugging on facebook) grew tall and forced them apart. There three other sons decided to visit earth mother and set out in their canoe to sail to earth. The canoe hit a reef, turned over and they climbed on top, hoping to turn it back over but a cold gust of wind blew and froze them, turning them to stone. The tallest some, Aoraki or cloud piercer became mt cook and the other sons are other mountains in the Souther Alps with the canoe being the smaller part of the range.

The 3D movie showed all this in a cartoon then went on to film show shot of mt cook from above, below, inside the glacier, skiiers, sunset, sunrise ect. That was good as the weathers pretty bad so we an hardly see it even though we are at the base. We had a great meal in the bar here, lamb and venison burger with tamarillo chutney, awesome! Off to Rangitata tomorrow, its where we go now instead of Christchurch. Not sure what there is to do there.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Catlins and Dunedin

After getting picked up at Bluff Wharf today we drove along the scenic route to Dunedin instead of on the highway. The area of the south east of the south island is called the Catlins and it was beautiful. It reminded me of the rolling English countryside but a bit bigger, and coastal. The area was populated by whalers and sealers in the mid 1800's but no the whole area which is very large had only about 1200 people living there. We stopped at a lighthouse where we were told there may be a chance to see the worlds rarest sea lions. I wasn't expecting to see any but as we stood on the cliff above we saw two on the beach. Our driver (the Hoff) told us to stay 10m away and not to stand between them and the sea so they don't feel threatened. However as we were walking along the path there was a sea lion right next to the path! It was having a nap with its head in the bush! right next to the path! Then it woke up and started scratching itself. It seemed a bit disorientated but as it was a female we didn't have to stand to far away. But as it woke up a bit more we decided to move on and leave it in peace. Our driver said he was surprised to see one so far from the water but it seemed happy where it was. We got down to the beach and saw the two we had spotted from the cliff and watched them play and fight from a distance then left. The Catlins area was nice but after the Southern Alps and Milford sound it was a bit of and anti-climax.

Then we arrived in Dunedin, the 'Edinburgh of the Southern hemisphere.' Its mostly a student town but there is some really cool architecture here. We only had an hour to walk around before a brewery tour but it seems like a nice city. I think I'll come back here, don't have time to stay longer. there are lots of churches here, the world's steepest street (41% gradient) and a statue of Robert Burns. We went to Speights brewery and sampled the beer. Our tour guides great-great grandfather was one of the co-founders of the brewery and he was very good, didn't ramble on for to long and was interesting. I do like the look of Dunedin and I think I will return one day.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Stewart Island part 3

Had my fishing trip friday morning, it got moved due to the weather. We went out with this old man who's great great grandfather came over from the Orkney islands, and there are artefacts in the museum from his family members. After a very bumpy ride to a large bay we went hand line fishing, that is no rods just 3 hooks and a weight on a string. We caught mostly blue cod and we got tonnes of it! We would cut it up and use it as bait to get more. Not sure how I feel about killing fish to get more fish, and turning them into cannibals but oh well its done now.

He cooked us fish on board the boat, it was fish heads, fillets and tails (not the bony bit in the middle) in a pan with butter, lemon, pepper and sea water. It was amazing! Fish that was so fresh it was amazing! I took some back to the hostel and froze it. Overall it was a very nice trip but the island is just so small and quite. I'm glad I went but I don't think I could have stayed there must longer.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Stewart Island part 2

There was one thing I forgot to mention about our walk yesterday which was pretty cool There is a plant over here which has very big waxy leaves but on the under side it feels almost like leather or parchment. People would actually use these as postcards when they visited Stewart or Ulva Island and the postman (charles something who lived alone on the island but had a shop) had a special postmark and stamp for them. We saw someone who had written a note on one and left it on the beach but our guide got very annoyed at that, saying the were destroying the plants.  We then came across a whole plant where someone had written their name underneath without removing the leaves and she was annoyed at that as well, called it vandalism! I can understand not wanting to remove the leaves but the thing is doing something like that almost connects you to the past in a quirky little way. Its part of the history of the islands and I don't see how a few bits of pen on a leaf left on a bush is going to do any harm. Anyway these leaves are pretty cool, I can't remember the name of the plant though.

I also got chatting to the cleaner in the hostel. She came here 10 years ago on holiday from Christchurch and has never left to (good thing to with all the quakes). She said that its good and bad that everyone knows everyone here. Bad in that their is very little privacy, everyone knows whets going on in everyone's lives. The way she put it was 'everyone knows the colour of your underpants.' But very good in that her house burnt down, her family lost absolutely everything except the clothes on their backs.  But within 2 days they had more then they ever had before. People gave them furniture, toys for the children and a place to stay. She said back in Christchurch all she would have got was 'I heard what happened, sorry' but here the whole community pulled together to support her family.

This morning was beautiful, first day that I've been here when there has been no clouds. We were supposed to go fishing but its to windy so we are going in the afternoon. I went for a walk up to observation rock which has a really nice view of Golden Bay and a few islands, including Ulva Island where I was yesterday. Then went down to the post office. Most post offices here are also Kiwibanks, a bank owned by the government and post offices and Kiwibanks are the same thing so no matter where you are there is most likely going to be a Kiwibank, even in the most remote village. However, the post office here is just a post office, there are no banks or ATMs on the island so if you want cash you have to get cash back at the supermarket. On my walk I passed the beach of Halfmoon Bay (where the wharf is and the town is centred at) Just above the beach is a lawn with a playground, giant chess set and the war memorial. Most towns have one of these and on one side it had he names of those who died in the Great War (6) and those who died in WWII (5). A total of 11 deaths in the two biggest wars ever fought, that just goes to show how small this place is!

Hopefully we'll catch some blue cod this afternoon. I can't wait, It will be the freshest fish I've ever eaten!

Stewart Island

There are 3 of us on the stray bus who have come to Stewart Island and we are here until the next bus comes on Saturday morning. Sewtard Island is the third biggest of New Zealand, after the North and South island. The population is about 400-450 permanent residents and now that it is off season there is one hotel, one hostel, one cafe, one shop, one bar (in the hotel) and one restaurant (in the hotel) open. After the hour long ferry ride across the Foveaux Strait we walked to our hostel. This is the smallest town I've ever seen. In terms of land everything is very spread out but there really isn't that much here. There is a museum, library (open 1 hour a day, 4 days a week) and the department of conservation building, as well as a school all concentrated in one area, right next to our hostel. The town in call Oban and is located on Halfmoon Bay and is the only place where people live on the island, which is about the size of Fiji. We went for a (very) short walk to explore the village then went to the museum, two rooms with both Moari and European artefacts. The Maori never really settled here, they just came seasonally for Muttonbird hunting. Whalers and sealers never really settled here either, just used it as a convenient pit-stop. It wasn't until the late 1800's that people began to settle. Now 90% of the land on Stewart Island and the surrounding little islands are part of the National Park, 5% belongs to the Maori and 2% is Oban township where people live. The English actually bought Stewart Island for £6,000 which was the most costliest purchase in the whole of NZ. Oban is centred round maybe 5 main roads and the wharf in Halfmoon Bay. Houses are spread all across the hills, there are only 28km of road on the island. There are also many walking tracks, some 10 days long around the island with camp sites along the way.

After a relaxing afternoon in the hostel we went to the pub for a drink. The locals were all wearing wellies (gumboots) jeans, waterproof jackets and had beards and longish hair. They really did fit into the stereotypy of a fisherman! One younger guy without a beard came over and talked to us for a while, trying to get us to come the the Stewart Island Singles Ball in August. His language wasn't exactly polite, he was swearing constantly but he was nice enough. He talked for ages and was very drunk, we were all laughing at him really, not with him. He said the singles ball was so big they get 2 extra policeman from the mainland to come over, it was that big of an event! I asked what he did and he seemed to have a number of odd-jobs around the island. He said when he wasn't working he was possum hunting, and told us 15-20 possums made a kilo of fur and was worth just over $100 (pretty much what the Milford Sound guide had said). If you did it for yourself you could make a bit of money as it was tax-free, the government had lifted the taxes to encourage young men to work rather than live on welfare. If you did it under contract, as in the department of conservation was paying you by the hour, there really wasn't that much money. If you try to take fur and skins or yourself then at the end of the tax year they see you had more income then you should and you end up owing the tax-man money. The pub closed at 9pm and we came back to the hostel.

Today we went on a guided walk on Ulva Island, a small island off the coast of Stewart island. It was one of the first pest free island reserves (like Somes Island from my previous post) and is home to some of the most endangered birds in New Zealand. Our guide was very informative and told us lots about the plants, birds and history of the island. It was inhabited from 1870 onwards by someone called Charles something (can't remember). He was the only one on the island but he opened up a shop and post office as he was the middle point between Stewart island and other little islands. Now there is a holiday home on there for visitors but no one lives there. The forest there is made of lots of different trees, hard and soft wood, flowering and non flowering trees and many ferns. Some of the ferns are older than the dinosaurs dating back to 350million years ago and NZ is home to 150 of the 10,000 species of fern, quite a lot for such a small land mass. New Zealand, Australia, Africa and South America all used to be part of one large super-continent called Gondwana Land. New Zealand was the first to break away about 130million years ago and was fully separate by 85mya. Snakes and Mammels started to evolve long after that but due to the oceans only birds, insects and two species of bats ever got here. 1/3 of the birds became flightless, 1/4 are nocturnal and they also became fearless due to the lack of predators. That is why the Moa (ostrich or emu like birds, some sub-species 3metres high) became extinct soon after the Maori arrived, they were big, flightless and fearless the they were an easy target. We saw Tui, parakeet, bell bird, saddleback, yellow-head, waka, oyster catchers, kaka, brown creepers, wood pigeons, blue penguins (worlds smallest penguin) and robins. The robin was very curious and followed us for a while. They are black with white chests and actually are not related to the European robins, they just got the name because the shape is the same and they act similar. We learnt which plants the Maori used and why, there is no point in me telling you now but I'll put the photos on facebook with descriptions so you can see them. Our guide was very informative and had so much knowledge, it was un believable that she could talk for four hours without notes. We were listening to the birdsongs and she could identify all the birds from the sounds they made, she could even say 'tui mimicking a bellbird.'

There are kiwis on the island but they are nocturnal so we didn't see any. She told us the Maori legend about how the kiwi became flightless. The god of the forest was becoming concerned that insects were eating the trees and killing them so he asked one of the birds to volunteer to come down to the ground and give up a life in the air. They all said no so he asked them all individually. The tui said no, he was afraid of the dark. The pukeko said no, he didn't want to get wet. Then shining cuckoo said no, he wouldn't have a nest to lay his eggs in. But the kiwi said yes, the god asked him if he was willing to give up flight and seeing the light everyday. He said he would. The other birds were punished. The tui was give 2 white feathers on his neck as a sign of cowardice (he was called the parson bird by europeans for being black with a white collar like priests). The pukeko was made to live in the swamp so his feet would always be wet. The shining cuckoo was forced never to raise its own young and lay his eggs in other nests. 

Unfortunately their has been a rat invasion on the island and the Department of Conservation did not act quickly enough, the rats are breeding and birds like the robin will suffer. They are going to do a poison drop in the winter, as they have left it to late but their will be a lot of collateral damage. The saddleback only exists on island reserves and is extinct everywhere else. they released 37 birds 10 years ago and now have about 150. But with the poison drop about 60% will be lost, and it will take 2-3 years of poison dropping to get rid of the rats. Very sad really that it got so out of hand.

Overall it was a very good but tiring day with a lot of walking. My brain is also a little fried from all the info but I got a lot more out of Ulva island with the guide then I would have on my own.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Deep South

On Sunday I got picked up by the Stray bus again at 6:45, after waiting in the rain for 1/2 an hour (apparently the bus was broken) and did the long drive back to Milford Sound again (the logistics of doing the overnight cruise with the stray bus just didn't work, I would have had to spend 3 days in Milford where there is the visitors centre, cafe and staff housing). My driver this time is Captain Planet, so far I've had Tia, Tutu, Salty and Gollum. They all have crazy nicknames, most acquired on their training trips where the only night they are allowed to drink is Queenstown. Milford is actually only about 20km from Queenstown as the crow flies but a 300km drive as there are mountains in the way. They are debating putting in a gondola to connect the two but I don't know, I think it would become to touristy and lose a bit of magic, part of it is the seclusion. I sat in the cafe while everyone did the short scenic cruise. All the water in Milford comes from a pipe at the top off a small waterfall near the harbour (including the water used on the overnight cruise) and is passed through a small hydroelectric generator first. There are no power lines and no pipes at all. I think there may be phone lines but I'm not sure, and they have Internet but again I don't know how they have it.

Then we went to Gunn's Camp for the night. It was a farm run by the Gunn family in the middle of nowhere about 1/3 of the way along the Milford Road. There is the reception/museum about the area, it is the start of a few walks and that is about it. Electricity comes from a small generator which is switched off at 10pm so if you need light after that, too bad! Our cabins were small and heated by an old fashioned wood burning stove. The Kitchen/dining room/ common room is actually quite nice but there is no fridge!!! No internet either, no phone even at reception, no credit or debit card machine, cash only, and no cell phone signal. We all chipped in and our driver did a food shop back in Te Aneu, the nearest town. It sits at the other end of the Milford road, 93 km away. We made sausages and mash. But the sausages were 'pork flavour' and 'beef flavour.' They were both a mix of lamb, pork and beef with a load of other crap that I would rather not know about. I should have said I was a vegetarian!

We then drove back to Te Anau this morning and on to Invercagill. It is the southernmost city in New Zealand and the only city in the county of Southland. The southern most point is Bluff, one of the most important ports in NZ as it is easy to get to from South America but the main city is here, about 20km up the road. Let me paint you a picture of Invercagill. It has a population of 52,000. University is free here, and costs money everywhere else. The mayor is a pothead. Today (Monday, a school day) I saw teenagers with mullets throwing darts at a wooden bench on the sidewalk. My driver's sister actually went to Invercagill uni because it was free so she wouldn't need a student loan, and transferred after a year because there is just nothing to do here. She decided to pay money, rather than stay here for another three years. Free University is the only way to get people to move here, and as much as people hate students they do stimulate the economy. There are also lots of bogans here, can't remember if I've mentioned bogans before but they are like the equivalent of trailer trash in the US or chavs in the UK. The NZ version have mullets and are fairly harmless if you leave them alone. I also learned some new slang. In England and Australia a tinnie is a can of beer, over here its a joint, so must remember not to ask for one of them!

Ferry to Stewart Island tomorrow, NZ's smallest island. Hopefully I'll spot a Kiwi bird in the wild!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Milford Sound Overnight Cruise

Wow, I had and incredible night last night. I went to Milford Sound, a must see in New Zealand. It is actually not a sound but a Fiord, or a series of very sharp steep ridges carved out of the rock by glaciers melting. Geographically it is slightly north-west of Queenstown and not to far, but due to the terrain in Fiordland, the National park on the whole of the south west, there is only one way to drive there. That is drive south to Te Anau nearly 200km then drive on the Milford Road 94km. The Milford Road took nearly 30 years to construct, it started during the deppression in 1935 but due to the weather and WWII it wasn't opened till 1954. The hardest bit was the tunnel through one of the mountains which is 1.5km long and took 9 years to carve out. The drive was, again, on winding mountain roads but these are different to the Southern Alps. They are much steeper and greener, with birds insects and possums the only things which can manage the terrain. We stopped at a mirror lake and an interesting place called the Chasm, as formation in the rock that even Salvador Dali wouldn't have thought of. Again, there are pictures but my camera does not do it justice. The worst time to drive there is in Winter ans spring, Avalanche season. Now there is a very sophisticated avalanche warning system so the road can be closed if it has to, and sometimes they will drop bombs from helicopters to cause the avalanches, of snow, rock and trees. This means they can control the timing and clean up quicker.

After a long drive we finally reached the boat terminal and had our first glimpse of Milford Sound. It was amazing, the shadows were everywhere accentuating the jaggedness of the cliffs. The water was clear and the colours were amazing. We were shown to our rooms after a safely briefing and banana nut muffins. I paid for a 4 bed dorm but actually got my own room, on the ground (or I guess water level) with an outside facing door, rather than an indoor cabin. I also had my own bathroom. We then went outside for the cruise. It was a little windy and raining but as we went through the fiord it got better and better. The Peaks were amazing and it was just the best scenery I've seen since I've been here. We sailed right out to the Tasman Sea and at that point it got very choppy and windy, it wasn't easy to stand and I was regretting not having my hair tied back. It was also starting to get dark and was already very cold. On the way back I gave up with the photos as My camera just wasn't good enough and sat back and enjoyed the ride, especially after entering the Fiord again when it got a little calmer. From the Sea it looks like just a little bay or cove, and that is exactly what Captain Cook thought it was when he first came to New Zealand. What a shame, he would have thought he'd died and gone to heaven.

As it was getting dark I was just about to go inside and make myself a hot drink, when some dolphins were spotted. This has to be the highlight of the night, imagine about 10-12 dolphins surrounding the boat and playing, jumping and diving in the water. Swimming in the wake makes it easier for them, so they take the opportunity when the can for an easy ride. I got some videos of them, they were incredible! I'll have to figure out how to put those of facebook.

After all that excitement it was nearly dinner time. We moored for the night in Harrison's Cove, a sheltered little bit that wasn't to windy. We had assigned seats so I didn't have to worry about who to sit with, as I was on my own. We had a choice of thai pumpkin soup or mushroom (I went for pumpkin, mushrooms are gross) then a buffet dinner. We had a salad bar, roast beef, lamb, venison stew, roast veg, roast potatoes, beans, carrots, brussels sprouts, mussels, pasta for the vegetarians and for some reason special fried rice. It was unlimited food so as you can imagine everyone ate more then their fill. Then came dessert! Chocolate cake, boysenberry cheesecake, apple shortcake, coffee ice cream, fruit salad, dried fruit and nuts, and the highlight: a cheeseboard. Cheese is very expensive over here, I hardly buy it but I love a nice big cheeseboard. They had 5 cheeses, normally in a restaurant you would pay loads of money just for 2, and we got 5!!!!! I love desserts, and I did try a bit of the cheesecake but it was mostly all about the cheese for me. The only criticism was that the brie was to mild, but the rest of the meal, everything was amazing. Not the sort of food a typical backpacker gets to eat.

After dinner we had a slide show of photos from the sound from the past right through to today. The first European here was a man called Donald Sutherland. He was a gold prospector from Queenstown and went west looking for more when the gold started to dry up. However, when he arrived he decided never to leave. After about 12 years he got a bit lonely so he got on a boat and went to Dunedin, and found himself a wife, Elizabeth and brought her back. They opened up a guest house and got people to come and stay. Back then the only way to get to Milford was by boat, or by the Milford Track. Its a 54km, 4 day walk you can still do today, either by camping and carrying everything with you, or paying for a guide, cabins and cooked food, as well as someone to carry your luggage. The postman would come to Milford once a week with post, newspapers and wages. He went a different route, having to climb a mountain and then lower himself down the other side by a knotted rope. Its the ridge where the tunnel now goes through, very scary way to get to work.

After the slide show we played a few board games and had a early night. The captain woke us up for breakfast at 7, where we had a full cooked breakfast, pancakes, cereal and fruit. We then had the choice of kayaking or going out in the tender craft boat. I went out in the boat (got callouses last time I kayaked, and it was cold) and we had the nature guide with us again. We saw starfish, jellyfish, sea urchins, and tiny mussels the size of fingernails which the birds and starfish love to eat. We were also told about how every few years the trees produce lots of sees, which leads to more insects and more small animals, including mice. They swim across the Fiord and get eaten by the trout in the water. We didn't believe the guide so he pulled out a picture take from a newspaper shown a trout a fisherman caught with 12 dead mice in its stomach, 12!!!! They were still nearly whole and he got them when he was cleaning and gutting it! Gross!!! On the way back we saw a seal playing in the water, he was so funny, that was another highlight.

Now as I said I was wishing I had my dad's camera which is a pretty good one. Well the weather was nice this morning and With the sun coming up and the shadows slowly creeping down the ridges I think even my dad's camera would have been useless. You would need some sort of HD billion mm lens with all sorts of fancy stuff to actually capture the real beauty of the place. The best pictures have been take by helicopter.

We then had another cruise before returning to the harbour, and then had another 300km drive back to Queenstown. It was amazing, a trip I will never forget. EVERYONE should come here at some stage in their live, EVERYONE!!!!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


I am finally, finally in Queenstown. Its the adventure capital of NZ and its beautiful. Its at the southern end of the Southern Alps and is basically a tourist town. It was settled during the goldrush and has thrived, like no other town, due to the ski resorts and then later on other tourist attractions. On the drive in we passed two waterfalls, Roaring Meg and Gentle Annie, named after two prostitutes who worked down here during the gold rush. Property is also very expensive down here, its not like the rest of the West Coast. Most people who live here are either very wealthy and own holiday homes or work in tourism. In fact I have met very few kiwis down here.

It was the first place in the world to have a commercial bungy jump, which opened back in 1988. A.J. Hackett and Henry van Asch are the owners and founders of the Bungy company. They were inspired after seeing tribes living in Vanuatu, the Pacific island. They would tie vines to their ankles and jump off tall towers. After a few crazy jumps including one from a ski gondola and an illegal jump from under the Eiffel Tower, they eventually tested and developed the bungy cords we have today. There is no way on earth I am going to do a bungy. I know its safer than sky diving as there is no landing, therefore no possibility of getting hurt, but they say it is much scarier. You have to jump yourself, which I don't think I could do, and you see the ground rushing towards you, whereas in a skydive it is so far away. One of the guys on the bus did it. He said had he hesitated one more second he wouldn't have done it, and its the most terrifying thing he's ever done. The worst bit was when it all finished and he was being winched up, there was a click and he fell about 5 feet before it carried on. He said that at that click he genuinely thought he was going to die! Nope, no way!

Queenstown really is the adventure capital of the world. You go sky diving, hand gliding, paragliding, theres a zip-wire down the hill, a luge, jet boating, rafting, river surfing, rock climbing, skiing and loads of other crazy stuff. There is also a canyon swing, where you jump off a ledge and swing into a canyon, also run by A.J. Hackett. It think what happens in New Zealand is that the population is so small, and there is so much awesome landscape that people just go and do crazy things, I mean if you want to stay in New Zealand it is mostly farming and tourism. If you want to be a scientist or computer geek you have to go to Australia, so for those left here there is not a lot, just the land. That's why people started jumping off bridges and out of helicopters onto deer. Even big corporate companies are just small branches of even bigger global (or at least Australian) companies. So I guess if you have the choice of jumping out of planes for a living or being a farmer, well, some people go the crazy route. And all this crazy stuff that you can do here, its actually safer than driving, I mean you are more likely to die in a car crash then a plane crash. It just feels more dangerous because its more unusual. Even more crazy is that the bar we went to for dinner last night, it had a skate park in it. As in an actual place for skate borders to go. In a bar. That describes New Zealand for you!

I went hand gliding again today. This one was different as there was no plane to tow us up, we had to run and jump off the mountain, that was the only part I was scared about. Its not a very fast run though. The hardest part was then putting my feet on the metal bar so I could lie flat. This time I was also hanging next to the pilot, instead of on top of him so it was easier to talk and I got a better view. I got to fly as well this time, that was pretty cool. The view was amazing, being up above the trees and seeing the lake in the distance. There were also patches of cloud below us which added a bit of interest. Its been like that the last few days, patches of fog and low clouds, it looks like the misty mountains from The Hobbit! I did get scared when we came in to land and he did a steep dive without telling me, but other than that it was so much fun! I also want to do the luge and the zip-wire thing, but I'm saving that till the end of the month when my friend comes down and I come back here with her.

Sunday, 1 May 2011


More driving along to West Coast this morning to Makarora. Those who did the glacier hiking yesterday enjoyed it. They said they got to climb down crevasses and through ice tunnels. The roads on the West Coast are narrow and winding and whenever we cross a river the bridges are just one lane, no traffic lights, you just have to be careful and make sure that no one is coming the other way. We even came across a one lane bridge which we had to share with trains as well. It was a bit scary because in order to look down the bridge to see if cars were on the other side you had to pull onto the train tracks, and if another car comes you have to sit on the tracks. There was another place where a train crossed over a round about, not a road near the roundabout, but actually over the middle of it, its mad! There are sand flies everywhere as well. They are little black flies which bite like mosquitoes and they are everywhere on the west coast, so annoying!

We have arrived in a small town called Makarora. There is a building which is the hotel receptionl small food shop, gift shop, bar, restaurant, petrol station, booking office for river tours and helicopter rides and internet cafe. Other than that there are our cabins, a few farms and a school. That is all.We have one night here before heading to Queenstown tomorrow, I'm soooooooo excited. There is also karaoke in the multi-functional building and that is all there is to do here, just drink!