04.01.2010 - 11.01.2010 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...