A Travellerspoint blog

Rats, Bats and Chicken Crabs

The Final Chapter

sunny 37 °C

A Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening to you all - wherever you happen to be reading my last blog entry from. I am now here in Thailand with Steve enjoying his wonderful company, the fabulous Thai food, great hospitality and stunning scenery. I am more tanned than ever before, having spent the last 6 months in SUNSHINE! Hehehehahahahahahah. Every country I have been to was having, or is still having, their Summertime so I have been a very lucky lady to have had the sun bless me...

You may well wonder what the story surrounding the title of this blog entails... Well, on one particular starry night in island number '4' of the Ko Similan's (there are 9 islands in the Ko Sim's) myself and Mr Steve had to contend with all three of these animals (only one of them gave us no bother). We opted to spend the night in a tent (having been given the choice of staying in a bungalow or a tent we decided to rough it for once) only we hadn't given much thought about what would be hovering above us, alongside us and beneath us while we slept. Whilst looking for tent number 37, we came to stand in front of a small green tent covered in what looked to be a huge mass of bird droppings. But this poo had not come from a bird, for we soon realised from looking above us that we would be now sharing our living space with mammals from the BAT KINGDOM.

Throughout the night they were alive and kicking, and so too were we. But for all the wrong reasons you see. At one point in the night I awoke to Steve throwing a water bottle at the side of our tent. "What are you doing?!" I knew it wouldn't be good news waiting for me. "There's a rat running alongside our tent!" Nooooooooooooooooooo! Not again?! Could this be the cousin of the rat from Nepal? "Please don't tell me it's inside our tent?!" No - he's running along outside our tent but he's just bashed 'imself into me because I bashed 'im first with my bottle! Oh mi. An angry rat. Next thing I know the rat's come over to my side of the tent and I can see his fat shadow running behind my head. I bash him with my bare hand (via the tent of course) but he withstands my strength and carries on running along like I've done him no wrong. My mind flashes back to the set of rubbish bins I noticed earlier on positioned rather closely to our tent. Then it makes sense to me as to why this rat is so determined not to lose this battle over ground space...Well, Mr Steve got back to sleep that night. I don't think I actually fell asleep properly until 6am. The bats flying overhead us, with all their squealing and squawking certainly didn't give a rat's a*se about my lack of sleep.

As for the chicken crabs, well at 8pm (before the rats and the bats had surfaced) we were invited to follow our Thai tour guide, who we had decided to call 'Dennis' (from looking remarkably similar to Mr Wise from the ol' Chelsea FC days) into the darkness of the forest. "You want to see 'Chicken Crab'? We show you". Apparently this Thai crab gets its name from the sound of its claws snaping together sounding like a chicken! Anyway we're following Dennis, along with the rest of the sheep brigade, into the depths of the forest - torchlight in hand (borrowed from Dennis). Mr Steve and I find ourselves right at the back of the group, having been pushed and shoved out of the way by the eager sheep crew wanting their prized photographic evidence of the Chicken Crab. From seeing the bright flashes of light and the sounds of clicks from multiple digital cameras, and of course the sound of "ooooh's" and "arrrr's" accompanying them, we realise the Chicken Crab must be in sight. What we didn't expect to see was Dennis actually grasping the poor thing in his hands, while people shoved their cameras towards it blinding it with their lights, most probably shocking it to death, all for the sake of taking some greedy photograph. Chicken Crab looked scared and so was I from looking at the behaviour of those around us.

Rewind to earlier that day. Mi oh mi. The sights we have been priviledged to witness. The reason we found ourselves in the Ko Similans in the first place was to experience a 2-day snorkelling tour. We took a fast boat from Khao Lak, which took just under 2 hours. And what did we see on the way?! DOLPHINS! They were jumping and diving next to us as the boat sped along! We stopped at one point to take photos but you couldn't tell where they'd spring up from next so didn't get a shot of them - sorry! After this unscheduled stop, we were taken to numerous islands of the Ko Similans (all given numbers like 9, 8, 7,...). Oh it's been marvellous! This was our first experience of being in the most crystal-clear waters you can imagine with giant turtles swimming around us; the brightest coloured fish dashing in and out amongst protected-coral. Yes, we swam like we were in our very own giant fish tank with so much to explore and see. We were considering going on a diving course at first and I'm glad we didn't. We were happy with our borrowed snorkels (but not so happy with the fins, which didn't fit and just got in the way!)

Talking of fins...on the last day of our snorkelling tour when we were being taken to yet another beautiful island, my fins were taken off me for it appeared to the staff that I had taken someone elses! It looked to me that someone had probably lost theirs and then said that the ones I was holding belonged to them! I was not impressed. Especially when Dennis said "You will have to pay if you cannot find them. 1500 Baht." No Dennis, that aint gonna happen. Luckily, I got to go back on the boat and found myself another pair that looked just like mine. Phew...don't want no Thai police coming after me, that's for sure!

A few days before this, Steve got to go on his first Elephant ride! Our Elephant was named, we think - 'Nike', and she was 28 years old - my age! We couldn't believe how she was able to manouvre herself (and us) around big rocks and shrubs to take us around the National Park here in Khao Lak. There were certainly a couple of times when we thought we would actually fall off, and we were very grateful that she got us back safely to our starting point later on. After dismounting, I gently placed my hand on her head and I kept it there a short while. It was then that I saw a tear falling from her eye. Do elephants cry out of saddness? I still can't believe what I saw happen.

Today we are taking a taxi back to Phuket Airport so we can get our flight back to Bangkok (for our flight back to UK on Tuesday!). Neither of us were that impressed with Bangkok when we arrived on 9th March. Perfect if you're into your shopping, prostitutes and lady boys though! We spent 3 nights in Majestic Grande Hotel - beautiful 5* luxury - but unfortunately our hotel was also being used like some brothel. On our second night in Bangkok we went to see some Thai Boxing - we could have been at a football game listening to the sounds of the fans! Great entertainment all round...

Well I guess that's it from me. I want to thank you all for taking this journey with me. I hope you have all enjoyed reading my stories and looking at my photos from the last 6 months! Thank you all for your comments and kind messages that you have sent me from the other side of the world. I'm looking forward to seeing you all again when I get back on British soil.

With All My Love,

Miss Nadine
xxxxxxxxx

Posted by NADZ2 21:02 Archived in Thailand Tagged events Comments (0)

Top 3 Questions - guess them

Party time in Pinas!!!

sunny 36 °C

So who thinks they know what the Top 3 questions I get asked here are? Well, wait no more for I am about to tell you what exactly I have been asked (continuously) since I arrived here in the Philippines just over one week ago:

They are:

1. Why are you travelling alone?
2. Where is your husband?
3. Are you American?

My reply goes something like this: "I'm alone because I don't like hanging out with tourists. My husband is not here. I am from England." (yes, I know that I am not married to Mr Micallef but it saves time in my response, believe me!) These questions are always asked while I'm walking towards or past people...seriously, if I stopped every time I was asked something here I'd still be in Manila.

Since I have been here I have taken 5 long-distance coaches totalling a whopping 26 hours, 10 jeepneys, 8 tricycles, 5 taxis, 1 Habu-Habu (extended seated motorbike, sorry mum), 1 mini-van, 1 boat, 1 plane, and of course had Roberto's pinsa - cousin Lawrence - drive me here and there (including my airport pick-up!) As you can probably tell, travelling here in the Pinas seems to comprise a major part of my time spent here. My favourite journeys are definitely those spent in the jeepneys though (minus the staring). Apparently they are made from US military jeeps that were left over from the World War II, except they now have the Philippino signature of graffiti-spraypaint all over its exterior and interior; chrome hood ornaments; R&B music blasted inside them; and of course the driver and his assistant shouting at you in the street as to the intended destination of the jeepney. All this commotion serves as a way to 'entice' you to get into 'their' jeepney - no one elses. Yes, the competition is fierce, which is why the price is certainly reasonable (7-12 pesos = 10 - 17 pence).

You might ask, "is all this travelling really necessary, Miss Nadine"? But you see this is the only way I can get to see as much of the 7,107 islands in 3.5 weeks. "Yes, but surely it's better you stay longer in one or two places than trying to see everything?" Yes, yes - I see your point, which is why I have decided to visit 4 islands - Cebu, Negros, Siquijor and mainland Luzon (the other, 7,103 can wait till another time).

So I spent my first week traveling in North Luzon (north of Manila) to some beautiful places such as Baguio, Sagada, Banaue...My favourite of the three was Sagada because it was the most peaceful, most clean (and cheapest), and the most fun. I got to visit some ancient (and also quite recent) hanging coffins attached to the mountain-side; the deepest and darkest cave I've ever been to; see some breathtaking rice terraces; and meet some lovely local Filipinos, who invited me back to stay with them should I ever come back here again. Result.

My worst day was spent on a bus from Banaue to Manila. This journey took 11 hours. Yes, 11 hours of sitting on a bus where the seat in front of you has been horizontally collapsed and the only thing to look at, other than the pitch-black darkness outside, is a violent DVD featuring some awful American action-"hero" on full-blast (and played in the presence of small children). I did get to watch another (not-so) awful film '2012' afterward this one had finished, which did its best in keeping me awake. So eventually after numerous comfort-break stops along the way, we arrive in Manila at around 5.30am. Before I even step off the bus I am surrounded by taxi drivers - all there of course to assist this stupid tourist with where she wants to go. So I pick one. This 'one' tries to charge me 800 pesos for a 5 minute journey. Bearing in mind that the Filipino Fire Chief that I'm sat next to on the bus had explicitly told me NOT to pay more than 200, I knew I was getting ripped off. I just start laughing at this ridiculous price and settle on 400. Yeah, I know it's not quite 200 but look now: it's almost daylight, I haven't slept....as long as I'm not paying 800...ya know? He then proceeds to drive like some crazed man to my hostel (where I have no reservation), making sure he ran as many red lights as he could and beeping his horn at everyone we're supposedly 'stuck' behind. I then realise that my door is locked from the inside and so 'in an emergency' I would be trapped. So I wind down the window right to the bottom so as to plan my escape route before he whizzes his head round as if to say "what the hell are you doing ruining my air-con b*tch!" I decide to keep the window wound down. Next thing you know we have arrived at 'Malate Pensionne'. The only reason I chose this hostel was because I met two kiwi ladies on the jeepney from Bontoc to Banaue who recommended I try there first...Well, it was good timing (on the taxi driver's behalf), because had I arrived there 2 minutes later, I would not be finding myself checking into the last remaining room available at 600 pesos. Another result.

The night leading up to my birthday was spent in Malate (where my hostel was) with Lawrence. Part 1 was spent eating sweets and Balot. Now let me tell you about Balot. It's a white-shelled duck's egg. And inside this egg is an (optimum age of 12 days) nearly developed duck embryo. I watched as Lawrence cracks open the top of the egg and starts drinking whatever's inside. He tells me to try it. "I don't want to! I know what it is, I can't!" You have to try everything, Miss Nadine. He's right. I take a sip from the egg. It tastes like watery gravy. I'm not sick at that point so I get a bit cocky. I pinch a bit of white stuff from the inside of the egg (trying hard not to notice what would have been the baby duck's head) and after a few chews of what I can only describe as being like (or what I would imagine to be) a bit of brain I start to feel my stomach playing games. "That's it. I'm not trying anymore Lawrence. Give me more sweets!" After that little episode, I needed a drink. Together with Lawrence, I drank a rather large amount of the strongest Filipino beer (Red Horse, and it actually tastes rather nice) in a restaurant/bar called 'Cowboy Grill'. The only hint of a cowboy in here was from our waiter who was wearing his cute little cowboy hat. Great atmosphere in here, the live bands were very entertaining and I even got a "Happy Birthday" song just for me. After we finished our buckets of beer, we "walked" in search of our nightspot. After speaking to a lovely little Filipino man called 'Abel' selling cigarettes on the street, we were directed to a club. We get there and then "that's 80 pesos please". Not sure what exactly I said to the lady on the door, but I think I told her that it was my birthday and that I wasn't going to pay until I checked out the club. Next thing ya know, I'm on the dancefloor and surrounded by a group of "he-she's" who are copying my moves and introducing themselves to Lawrence (and I). Yes, the only reason they are talking to us is to 'get close' to Lawrence. I leave him to it - poor Lawrence - and just keep dancing, dancing, dancing. At this point of the night, I had no idea that they had followed him into the toilet and were 'watching' him. No drama here, he's ok. After a couple of hours in the club, we decide to head back.

Next day, on my actual birth"day" I'm in TayTay (about one hour from Malate) at a festival street parade with Roberto & Lawrence's family (I should mention here that Roberto is a friend of Camilla's who I have never met - only Skyped with - who, if it wasn't for him, would have not been introduced and welcomed into his big family - thanks Roberto!) This street parade happens only once a year and it just so happens to fall on my birthday! Yay! Well, I get to see military bands performing, elected and prospective councilors looking their best, lots of wanna-be models, as well as witnessing the Filipinos going crazy upon seeing their home-grown and famous singers/dancers/actresses, etc. A very entertaining birthday to say the least.

What happened yesterday was probably one of the most memorable and enjoyable days of my life. I had the opportunity of swimming alongside THE BIGGEST FISH IN THE WORLD...enter the non-human eating 'Whale Shark'. Oh mi goodness. It was terrifying. But soooooooooo exciting. We (me and five other tourisits) paid just 885 pesos to swim with 6-10 whale sharks between 3-8 metres in length in the waters of Donsol (South Luzon). I hired snorkelling equipment, a life jacket and big yellow flippers! Everytime our guide instructed us to get into the water, we would jump one by one, as if flying out of a plane, into the sea and swim as fast as we could to catch up with the whale shark that was floating and feeding on fish beneath us. They are built like TANKS! The biggest are 18 metres long. Can you imagine something that size swimming towards you?! At first, I wouldn't go near it; it was just too terrifying to see its spotted-white and black-body swimming just a few feet beneath. What was even more fascinating was how they just didn't seem to care about what the stupid humans were doing swimming alongside them; watching them eat with their mouths wide open as little fish met their end and bigger fish were sent out from its gills. We spent 3 hours out at sea with these mammoth creatures and it didn't take me long before I was rushing to swim by its side to be close to it. I will never forget this day.

Posted by NADZ2 03:52 Archived in Philippines Tagged transportation Comments (2)

Money, Money, Money, isn't funny...in the NZ world!

But at least it's Summer here

sunny 32 °C

Since I last blogged, my favourite days in NZ have been my glacier walk; Lord of the Rings tour; jet-boating down the Darts River; and most recently my day trip to Cape Reinga - the most northern part of the north island. The glacier walk was fantastic! I was able to do the FULL DAY tour in the end (7 hours) because that half day tour I told you about was cancelled! I decided to stay at the hostel I was already staying in for one more night (where I met three English girls who allowed me to join them in watching the Lord of The Rings 1&2) so I could start my glacier walk at 10am the following morning. After a safety briefing and changing into our ice boots/thick socks/jackets we made our way onto the coach which was to take us to the glacier 20 minutes drive away. Got there and thought "Wow" - we are going to walk on ice 150 metres deep! To get on the glacier though, we first had to climb up 750 steps (this was nothing compared to the amount of steps we had to climb on our trekin' in Nepal!) After sweating in the heat from our steady climb up these steps, we then spent around 4-5 hours on the ice, including our lunch break, while our guide hacked away with his axe, a number of paths for us to 'safely' walk on. We had crampons on our ice boots which made it easier for us to walk on the ice without slipping. We even got to go beneath the ice a few times, as there were quite a few 'holes' in the ice that we could climb down and into! I met some very nice people on that day - there was even a German girl (and a kiwi tour guide!) called Nadine ('Nadine is a very common name in Germany apparently!) I am still in contact with a Scottish couple I met on that tour, who since that day I have met again randomly about 600 km away in a place called Mt Cook...the chances ay?!

The Lord of the Rings tour was very expensive...but at least I had an "Uruk-hai" extra to myself by the name of 'Dean' (or half the day at least). Dean had the opportunity of having had 'style training' for his part as an Urukhai in LOTR and had sword training so he could be used in both the first and second LOTR. He took me to several locations that were used in filming in and around the Queenstown area and showed me the 'exact' spots were scenes were shot (and from what angle the camera was pointing, and where the director and famous actors were standing, etc, etc). Dean has since made a living taking tourists like me round. He also does a bit of modelling and acting himself now! A south african family joined us for the half day tour and we got to dress up in some replica costumes, and wear a hobbits' cloak that was actually used in filming, as well as being able to hold the weaponry!

The next day I went on the Darts River on a jet boat and paid a nice price for that experience. I met the south african family AGAIN on this tour (we tourists go to the same places it seems!) We did some 360 degree spins on the river and rode 250m up-stream, before we got out of our life jackets and were taken on a walking tour of the nearby forestry and then bus ride back. Got to see some more scenery used in the LOTR here. Lots of international adverts for beer, chocolate,etc that pretend they were shot in Switzerland, China, & America..use the backdrop of the scenery here...amazing! Our tour guide, Ron, also told us the story of the possums. Here goes:

Around 1850 the NZ government wanted to start a fur trade. So they approached the Australian government and arranged to have 50 little possums come over on the plane and settle into the forests of NZ. These 50 possums over the next 160 years had turned into 70 million! The reason why their numbers exploded is apparently due to the fact that female possums spend 95% of their lifetimes being pregnant with up to 10 baby possums a time THREE TIMES A YEAR! Now that's a lot of possums ay. Well...because the possum has no predators (unlike in Australia), their numbers keep on growing and growing and each possum eats around 4g of forestry per day! So the kiwi people take great pleasure in killing them so they can preserve their land and then use the possum fur jumpers/hats/scarves! I've also heard people calling them "squashums" and hear jokes like "Why did the possum cross the road?.... The Answer: To see his flatmate." How sad.

I've spent the last couple of days with a girl called 'Ciska', from Holland. We share the same values (not wanting to get wrecked like our fellow backpacker associates/adopting smiley faces to show kindness to people who we don't know rather than having faces like thunder, etc etc - I won't go there!) Anyway, it's been very refreshing to spend some time with her. So yesterday we went to a Maori village together in Ohinemutu (in Rotorua) and our guide, Sunny, spent over 2 hours with us and a (recently married) couple from CROYDON (now living in Auckland, NZ). We each had to give a short 'presentation' to him and our fellow tourist-friends about who we are/where we are from/why we are here in NZ because in Maori culture it is considered very rude not to introduce yourself when entering a marae and meeting house (the marae is the sacred courtyard in front of the meeting house; the meeting house is normally the major central building where 'meetings' as well as funerals take place). I was so engrossed in what Sunny was saying that I didn't take any photos (sorry!) but the meeting house is a very beautiful building, ornately carved, which has a carved figure (representing the ancestor from their tribe who first arrived onto the land) on the roof top. The entire building represents the local tribes' ancestor's body. We were also taken round the marae memorials, where their ancestors who had fought in the Second World War were laid to rest. This part made me cry because Sunny sung us a beautiful song that their ancestors apparently would sing before they entered combat. It made me more upset to hear that their ancestors were instructed to be on the frontline (where you were most likely to be killed) while their fellow Australian and NZ soldiers were allowed to attack from 'hidden' / less-likely-to-be-killed positions. The worst bit of all is that if their ancestors (who arrived in NZ thousands of years earlier than the first European settler) chose not to fight in the war they would not be 'accepted' as citizens in THEIR OWN COUNTRY!!!! Oh...mi...gosh.

And with all this information stowed upon us, we were told that it was up to us if we wanted to leave a donation. I must add that this is the first time in NZ that I have been somewhere that didn't cost a freakin' fortune and was the first place I had been that wholeheartedly deserved my money!

So tomorrow I am going on a "FREE" 6 hour day walk to the Tongariro National Park, which is supposed to be one of the best day walks in New Zealand (HOWEVER, "that's 55 dollars to take you to the start of the Tongariro crossing and back to your accommodation") I have to be up at 5am tomorrow morning for a bus that leaves my accommodation at 5.40am. Oh mi. Well, think of me while I'm hiking for 18.5 kilometres with steep climbs and unpredictable weather...

Posted by NADZ2 20:49 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Ice Ice Baby

Dolphins/Kayaking/Hiking/Hostels

sunny 27 °C

Right then...I've decided that I'm no longer going to drive for more than 3 hours at one time now. For the last two days now I've driven more than 4 hours each day and I'm sick of it! The roads are so long and just go on and on - and then they go all windey when you get near the mountains...the scenery is fantastic of course! It was raining, thundering and lightning yesterday while I was making my way from Westport (nothing of note there) to my current destination - FOX GLACIER. I had booked myself a place on a 6-7 hour guided day walk today to go to the Ice Glaciers but I've just found out that they've cancelled it 'due to the weather'...well its dry but cloudy now so not sure what conditions they need but anyway now I'm booked on the Half Day tour which will mean about 3 hours of walking by the glaciers.

Ok what's happened in the last few days...well I went Dolphin Watching but not the day I was supposed to. When I was in that place called 'Kaikoura' the sea was really choppy and they ended up cancelling the 12.30pm slot that I was booked to go on...guted - another cancellation! But before I knew it was cancelled I was standing in line for well over 45 minutes to get my ticket, then when I eventually got to the front, 'she' told me it was another half hour wait before we would be leaving to go on the boat. So I take my sea-sick pill, then after waiting for this half an hour to pass, I noticed that the people going Dolphin 'swimming' were getting OUT of their wet suits. So I went to speak to one of the wet suit 'helper' people and asked him what was going on. He then told me that the 12.30pm tour was cancelled! Well that was the first I knew of it! So I queued up AGAIN, waited another 20 minutes before I could get my 80 DOLLAR refund! I guess you don't need to know this but this is how you waste time! So then I asked where else in the South Island you can go 'Dolphin Watching' and the lady suggested PICTON or BAY OF ISLANDS. So I chose 'Picton' because it wasn't far from Kaikoura...

I stayed in Picton that night in a lovely welcoming hostel that fed us Chocolate Pudding and ice cream (FOR FREE) in the evening! Result. Met a nice Scottish girl who gave me her details so when I'm down in Queenstown (where she now lives), I'll have at least one friend to hang out with! Had to get up early the next morning to drive about 5 minutes to the harbour in Picton to set sail for the dolphin tour. I was one of three people who were only on the boat to 'watch' dolphins - everyone else (maybe 20 people?!) was there to swim with them (the only reason I didn't get to swim with them was because I didn't book it a month beforehand - that gives you a taste of how popular it is!) So we're on the boat at 8.30am and its cloudy, we're on our way to find dolphins that we can swim with. Only the tour guide tells us that we can't swim with 'Hector's' Dolphins because they are endangered. So what dolphins do we see 40 minutes later? Three Hector's Dolphins! They were really cute and small, and putting on a bit of a show for us, splashing around and racing eachother, going under the boat and things. Everyone is videoing them and very impressed with this display but disappointed of course that they can't go into the water with them. We stay here watching them for about half an hour then we make our way again to find some other breed of dolphins.

FOUR HOURS LATER we find ONE DOLPHIN (a bottle nosed dolphin) who 'they' call WOODY. 'Woody' is a single female who prefers her own company. So one tourist is asked by the instructor to get into the water and test to see her reaction to human company. This female tourist gets in the water all suited up and the dolphin doesn't seem to mind much and isn't straying too far away from her. Next, ALL the dolphin swimmer tourists rush to get into the water and 'Woody' is no where to be seen! HILARIOUS! Me and the two other tourists are still on deck, warm and dry!

Next day I drive to a place called 'Nelson' - an impressive winery region but I'm not interested in wine so I save myself around a hundred and fifty dollar bills. Instead, I decide to eat an Indian meal with another traveller called John; buy an adapter; and go to the cinema by myself to see 'Avatar' in 3D. First the Indian meal - very tasty, but there isn't any Peshwari naan on the menu! John is from Denver, USA and we talk American Politics, the depressing US/British media, Avatar, British teeth, travelling in New Zealand,...John is about 38 I reckon, he wouldn't tell me his age though. He told me that he is a Dentist back in Denver - then I looked at his teeth. Of course as you would predict they were a brilliant white colour, as most Americans seem to have, but they were too straight and perfect to be real. He has come to NZ to find out whether he wants to live and work here as a dentist (he has since found out he has been granted a licence to work as a dentist in NZ and is very happy!) By the way, the plug adapter I bought allows me to charge my mobile phone for the first time since I came here. 'Avatar' the film was amazing - felt almost stunned when I came out the cinema because it was such an incredible story - really glad I braved going alone to the cinema to watch it. Before the film started there were a couple of 'double bookings' going on in the seats around me - quite entertaining to watch how the kiwis negotiated with eachother who should be sitting where!

I spent two nights in Nelson - the most time I've spent in any of the towns I've been driving to so far. It has FREE INTERNET and FREE LAUNDRYI Considering most of these hostels ask for $2 for 20 mins internet and $5 laundry (washer/dryer) this is a VERY GOOD DEAL I must say. The name of this hostel was the 'CUSTOM HOUSE'. For those of you who don't know, 'Custom House' is one of the wards in Newham (London) where I work and is the reason for why I chose this particular hostel. The furniture and bed linen at this hostel could have been from a upmarket hotel so it was nice to pay backpacker prices to stay somewhere so comfortable. The guy that ran the hostel, called Marcus, said that sometimes these travellers don't pay when they leave. He told me that when this happens, he grabs these 'idiot's and threatens to beat them up until they hand over the money because 'there's no point calling the police as they are too far away!' Hmmm...

After leaving the lovely Marcus in Nelson, I made my way to Marahau to visit the Abel Tasman region to do a bit of kayaking and hiking. After getting there about an hour early, I spoke with one of the kayaking instructors and got into that conversation I told you as to 'why I am travelling on my own'. I found out that one of the staff there was from Tibet, had started a charity in the UK and was very interested in my story about teaching the Buddhist monks...I told him the truth of course! After getting our safety briefing as to what to do if the kayak capsizes, and how to use the paddles and peddles (yes, this kayak had peddles for steering left and right!), we made our way into the Pacific Ocean, which was very calm and inviting. My rowing partner, Nielson, was from Sweden and didn't really speak to me so I just made small-talk with him anyway. I was the peddle master doing the steering for us and he was in the front using the paddles to keep our momentum going. We swapped at half time though because I am kind. It was actually quite hard work doing using the paddling and my arms started aching so I was glad I only agreed to a Half Day Kayak! After we finished the kayaking, we sat on the beach and ate our sandwiches and chocolate cake, drank our tea and then got into a water taxi to take us to the hiking place. THAT was a lot of fun. This 'water taxi' was like being in a jet boat - we were crashing into the waves so hard and we were screaming at times because it was such a shock as to how fast we were going. After getting dropped off for our hike, I walked with a lovely kiwi family (a mum, her daughter and the fiance, and the son-in-law) who looked after me and took my photo when I asked. It was only a 2 hour walk but we were walking FAST - the mum does 'tramping' (as they call it) all the time so we kept to her pace...

Then when we got dropped off back at the Kayaking centre - who did I see there?! 'JOHN'! I saw him loading his car in the same car park I was parked in and he was actually parked NEXT to my car! We said our hellos and then agreed to meet for dinner (a few hours drive away) in a place called Takaka. He wanted to go camping but I was not up for that, so I stayed in a hostel called KIWIANA. Very pretty place, but no free chocolate pudding here! I drove John to the place he recommended called The Mussel Inn and he ate mussels and I ate steak! It was raining and windy and the only tables available were bloody outside! So we ate and left.

Next day we went cycling for about 4 hours and did a bit of walking on rocks. We walked on these huge rock surfaces the wrong way for about half an hour before John realised there was probably a trail in the woodland area we should probably be following. He went off to find this trail while I attempted to walk without falling over. Stacked it twice in the end, and took some photos of myself using the self-timer feature on my camera (this comes in handy for me here in NZ!) The Rawhiti caves that we visited were shockingly impressive - I've never seen caves like these before...we walked uphill for about 50 minutes to reach them but the view was worth it. The entrance was grand to say the least. It just went on and on, down into the depths of the earth - not many people seemed to be going in there; it was quite dark and the ground was wet so you had to be careful when climbing down into the cave. Took some photos here which I've posted on my blog already - don't think the pictures do it justice though. Then, after cavewalking we had some lunch at Penguin Cafe and shared a Meat Feast Pizza because the prices were ridiculously expensive (forget the Nepal prices now!)

From there, John went his own way and I, mine. I spent the rest of the day visiting the PuPu Springs, which were beautiful (might try and upload a video of this for you) and then drove to Collingwood, which was about 45 minutes away to the northern end of the south island. Here I stayed in another nice hostel called SOMERSET HOUSE (the bloke who owns it is from Somerset, in England). My hayfever got really bad when I got there - then I realised why...enter the ginger cat and the dog. Next day, I did a 2 hour walk crossing farmland to find miles of white sand beach. When I got onto the beach, I thought I was the only one on it for miles. I saw this mass of water circling into a pool on the sea-edge and then I saw two people walking towards me in the distance. I think this pool of water was due to quick sand beneath it! And I also think that had I attempted to start paddling into this potential death pit, then these two people walking my way would have had to save me!

Then all these families started coming onto the beach so I went the opposite way towards the hills! I climbed a few hills, fell over some more times and watched the cows looking at me as I passed them saying 'hello' to them and their sheep crew. I was knackered by the time I reached the car and decided I would have some lunch at the Naked Possum Cafe a few miles away. Had a gorgeous raspberry, honey, banana and ice-cream smoothie and a chicken and salad hot crusted roll...yyyummmmmm.

So in the next few days I should reach a place called Queenstown, which is where all the extreme sports you could think of are; where all the tourists go to and where that girl that I met from Scotland lives that I told you about. I 'might' try SkyDiving - just waiting for confirmation from Dr Wooley as to whether its worth doing...a few years ago Wooley told me to avoid 'extreme' sports like bungee jumping due to the pressure it would put on the back of my eyes could damage them. Do you think Sky Diving would do the same? I hope not...

Posted by NADZ2 14:28 Archived in New Zealand Tagged events Comments (2)

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM NEW ZEALAND

PHAT10 / sleepervan / hostels

sunny 25 °C

Mi oh mi! I have just returned from having the best 3 nights partying in the middle of nowhere in a place called INANGURHOA (spelt wrong but pronounced this way) - this was indeed the location for the PHAT10 Drum&Bass/DubStep/HipHop/Reggae rave.. Got there on 30th Dec about 4pm after driving for a good 4 hours (after stopping for a toilet break) in my beautifully clean automatic van (minus a cd player or even tape deck). It was so much fun driving, just listening to the radio, I realised how much I've missed being behind the wheel after all this time! The journey there was a bit scary because there were STRONG WINDS to the point where, a couple of times, I honestly believed the van was going to blow over into the woods. I was THE SLOWEST driver on the roads for sure and everyone was over-taking me but I didn't care, I wanted to get there in one piece. The scenery there was amazing - large snow-capped mountains, and rolling green hills, could be seen throughout most of my journey there...then came the rain. I drove for about an hour in the pouring rain, after the wind had left me...

When I eventually got to the gates to the festival I was told my vehicle was going to be searched. Which they did. After a 'negative result' I continued on, and asked one of the stewards where the stage was. "Up the hill - about 5 mins walk from here, love". Fine. Took me about 1 min then to find a decent spot AWAY from the main stage (so I could get 'some' sleep at least!). When I got out, I realised I had parked about 20 metres from the toilets/sinks - result! Then I looked into the distance and could see mountains and greenery. From hearing the solid heavy baselines pumping out from the stage behind the camp area, I knew I was going to have some seriously good partying times!

So after freshening up, I walked up the hill to one of the stages there. I sampled my first taste of the music from going to the smallest of the two stages, which was intended for up and coming DJ's & MC's. I was VERY IMPRESSED with the music and I got to learn the name of this 'phat' sound. Welcome to "DubStep" - a slower version of Drum&Bass but MORE DEEP and DARK BASELINES! Camilla YOU WOULD HAVE LOVED IT! Only thing was it started to rain and I had no coat. So I started dancing (ON MY OWN!) After about 30mins, the rain got so bad that people started to leave the mud-soaked floor (there was no cover at this festival!) and retire to the drinks area. I decided to get my coat instead.

The first friend I made was from Malaysia (called Kal) and asked me why I was 'by myself'. This question is always a favourite with the locals! So I told him briefly about my adventures and he told me his story. He was a international student from Malaysia, studying in Christchurch, but having now having finished his studies has decided to stay in NZ. He found it absolutely hilarious that I had never heard of this famous UK DubStep DJ, who had performed the night before, and that was MASSIVE in New Zealand. I said that I am 'new' to this music- IS THAT OK?! It was quite amusing when one of the MC's shouted out over the mike "Is anyone from England?" s i l e n c e. "Is anyone from Tokyo?" again silence. It appeared to me that everyone was either kiwi or aussie! I was representing ENGLAND!!!!

Guess what?! Over the 4 days that I was there I drank a total of......2 cans of beer. 1.5 litres of water every day as well. Must have been one of the few people there not on acid, coke or weed though. I am very impressed with myself that I was able to dance all night and then until 6am of the morning of New Years Day. Next night though I had an early one and went to bed at 1.30am.

Made some other friends through Kal - a DJ/MC/Events promoter named Barry (and his girlfriend Kat) who was also part of the Phat10 line up. He gave me the low-down of the DubStep scene in New Zealand (and London, England!) and has already invited me to some parties in February and to see his music store in Auckland - he also told me that his granddad is from Wye in Kent! I ended up giving them all a lift back to Christchurch on 2nd Jan, and was glad of the company - at least the van would be weighed down coming back to survive the winds again!

Well today is 3rd Jan and I'm in a place called Kaikora after having driven 2.5 hours from Christchurch - I've booked myself a place on a Dolphin Watching tour on a boat tomorrow afternoon. Oh and I had a flat tyre this morning! A nice fireman just happened to see me pull out of the drive to the hostel that I stayed in last night and saw that two of my tyres were flat! I literally had just been given the hire car 10 minutes earlier from another rental firm - not impressed. I called them straightaway to tell them and they came within half an hour to replace the dodgy tire and drive me to the garage to get all the tyres pumped up.

By the way, on the plane over here I got to see Michael Jackson's "This Is It" - really impressive footage ay! I still can't believe he has gone.... Took 9.5 hours from Singapore to get to NZ! Way too long a journey. Also Immigration wouldn't let me in the country initially because I hadn't booked an onward flight from New Zealand! Had to use their internet to book me a flight to Philippines on Wed 10 Feb! Gotta go now as the internet is about to throw me off!

lots of love to you all

Nadz xxx

Posted by NADZ2 00:07 Archived in New Zealand Tagged events Comments (4)

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