A Travellerspoint blog

My Blog Has Moved!

Hello everyone,

My blog has moved to my own new website!

From now on I will be posting my blog on there.

If you wish to keep reading about my travels then follow the link below...

www.journeywithjenny.com

Thanks for reading :)

xXx

Posted by Jenpen17 20:51 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Mt Ruapehu

Weekend Skiing and Snowboarding

snow 0 °C

A few weeks ago Todd and Beki suggested that we rent a car and drive up to Mt Ruapehu for a weekend to go snowboarding, as it's something Beki has always wanted to have a go at. I have never had any desire to try skiing or snowboarding as I know I'd be absolutely terrified and ultimately rubbish at it, but Jonny said he'd quite like to go so I thought I'd be brave and give it a try.

Todd and Beki wanted to snowboard but apparently if you've never done anything before then it's best to start with skiing, as it's easier. Also our travel insurance wasn't going to cover snowboarding (indicating that it's obviously more dangerous!) so Jonny and I decided we'd try skiing. We booked everything up and the plan was to pick up the rental car at 5.30pm and then the others were going to pick me up from work, as I wouldn't be finishing until 6pm.

Unfortunately things didn't really go to plan because at 2.31pm there was a 6.5 magnitude earthquake and I was 21 storeys up with the building creaking and swaying considerably back and forth for a good several minutes! It was absolutely terrifying and everyone in the city was quite literally very shaken up! I was told to go home at around 3.30pm and walked home as quickly as I could! There were still a lot of aftershocks going on and there was a 5.8 just after I got home. I had already packed everything I needed but as I was home I was able to change out of my work clothes.

You might think that all this meant we had a head start on our 4-hour drive to the mountains but in fact everyone in Wellington was evacuating the city in a state of panic! Walking home from work the streets were flooded with people and the roads heading out of the city were gridlocked! It was like something from a zombie apocalypse movie! At around 4.30pm we decided to go and pick up the car but there were quite a few people who were there renting cars just to get out of the city! Once we had the car it took us almost an hour to get from the rental place to KFC, which would normally have been a less than 5-minute drive! By the time we had some food and set off, it was no earlier than we would originally have left!

It was a long drive but we got to the lodge just before 11pm and went straight to bed. We were up bright and early for breakfast at 7am and we fuelled ourselves up for the day ahead. By this point I was dreading getting onto the slopes and starting to think this might have been a very bad idea!

The weather was raining and horrible but we got a shuttle bus up to the Whakapapa Ski Area and the rain soon turned to snow the higher we got! We took the ski lift and went to sort out all of our rental gear. Jonny and I already had waterproof trousers and jackets so all we needed were ski boots, ski’s and poles. Someone at work had told Beki that we could rent gloves but that turned out not to be true so we all had to fork out some money to buy some because it was far too cold to go without. By the time we had all our gear (and no idea) it was 9am but our lessons weren't until 10am. We hung around for a bit and I started to get incredibly nervous.

Todd and Beki went off to have their snowboarding lesson whilst Jonny and I had our ski lesson. There were 4 other people learning with us, all of which were complete beginners like us, apart from one guy who had skied before but hadn't done it for 30 years! We walked to the top of the beginner’s area, clipped into our ski’s and tried to get used to the feel of them. The first thing we had to do was line ourselves up and then slide a little way down to our instructor who then caught us and stopped us.

Then we moved on to learning how to stop ourselves. This technique is called the pizza wedge! So you start with a small wedge, give yourself a little wiggle to start sliding down and then you're supposed to angle your heels out and spread your legs to a large pizza wedge and you'll stop. Sounds simple enough doesn't it? Well let me tell you, it bloody isn't. First of all, you have to have your knees bent, leaning forwards and although you need to push your heels and legs out, you're not supposed to put any weight on your heels or the back of your legs to do this! Everyone else had a go and did all right. Then Jonny had a go and couldn't keep the wedge shape so his legs just came apart parallel and didn't stop. The instructor made him do it two more times but he still couldn't do it. Then it was my turn and as I lost my balance I leant backwards and fell on my arse. I didn't even think about it, it's your basic human instinct to stand up straight and lean backwards in order to gain your balance but that is the exact opposite of what you're supposed to do on ski’s! I really don't like the idea of that at all! I'm supposed to just ignore all my human instincts? That's not natural!!! I tried again and by making sure I didn't lean backwards I ended up falling forwards onto my face instead. Great. We all had a few more turns but Jonny still couldn't stop at all and when I sort of managed to do it, it wasn't in a straight line, I ended up swerving wildly off to one side. The instructor said it was because I wasn't moving my feet with even pressure but I'm absolutely certain that I was, I was concentrating so hard! But he wouldn't let us look at what our legs were doing, we had to look straight ahead, which I don't think was helping.

I don't think our instructor was very good at all. He'd been skiing for 30 years but this was his first year teaching and he obviously hasn't mastered the technique in translating to beginners. I think that Jonny and I learn things in the same way so whatever he was doing was obviously not meeting our learning needs because everyone else in the group seemed to be doing fine! It was very frustrating and he was being quite patronising to us and saying that if you do a lot of sport you will find it easier because you'll understand your muscles better. He kept saying that we had to feel the muscles in our legs but he wasn't any more descriptive than that, which is why I think we didn't understand what we were supposed to be feeling. When I do exercise DVD's I can follow the moves and poses because it is clearly described where I should be feeling what, so I think he just wasn't very competent at this.

I was so embarrassed about the fact that out of 6 people I was the only one that had fallen over (more than once) and I didn't like the sensation of being on the ski’s at all and I was frustrated that I couldn't get the stopping right and nothing the instructor was doing was helping me (or Jonny) and I was starting to get very annoyed and upset. Then he said we'd practised enough so now it was time to ski all the way down to the bottom, stop, and then get on the rubber conveyor belt thing to go to the top and do it all again. When we were practising we were only moving a few feet at a time, with the instructor in front of us to catch us if it all went wrong (which so far, it had - every time) but now I had to face going down an entire hill by myself knowing that I probably wouldn't be able to stop. I moved off and almost immediately lost control and fell over. There was no one to pull me up this time so I had to unclip myself from my ski’s to stand up. In that very moment of unclipping myself I knew that I wasn't going to attach myself to those things again. I didn't want to go down the hill. I didn't want to keep falling over. Nothing about this was any fun at all - it was scary and horrible. The instructor came back for me and told me to strap my ski’s back on but I started crying and said I didn't want to do it! He started having a go at me saying that I did want to do it because I'd paid for it and 5 year olds told him they didn't want to do it, not adults. I thought this was very unkind and although I was crying and almost having a tantrum in a bit of a childish way, I don't think he stopped to realise that maybe I was acting like a child because I was absolutely terrified like one. My whole body had turned to jelly and I was having a panic attack. I said that I just wasn't finding this experience fun and he, with a lot of attitude, snapped "what's not fun about it? Well I'll just give you a minute then and come back for you".

Jonny had somehow made it to the bottom and was looking back up at me, puzzled. As he went up on the rubber thingy past me he could see I was upset but the instructor wouldn't let him get off to speak to me, he said that he would have to go to the top and then ski down to me! After a few minutes I decided that I didn't want them to come down to try and convince me to get back on the ski’s because I'd already made my mind up that I couldn't do it so I picked everything up and stomped all the way back to the rental area and gave the ski’s back. They could obviously see that I was very upset so they very kindly let me exchange my ski’s and boots for some snow shoes and a sled for free and told me to go out and try to have some fun! I went back outside still shaking like a leaf and Jonny came to find me. I told him to go back to the lesson and just enjoy himself because I'd rather just be by myself but he said he didn't want to go back by himself. Todd and Beki soon came over having just finished their lesson and were thoroughly enjoying themselves! I was dragging around this sled thing but didn't really know what to do with it and Jonny said he didn't want to sledge with me so I put it back.

Todd and Beki stayed to play around for a bit longer whilst Jonny and I went back to the lodge. I told him again and again that he should just go and enjoy himself and although I would have been completely fine by myself, I think he would have felt bad leaving me! It was a bit of a shitty situation all round really but things felt better by the evening when we had dinner and played cards with Todd and Beki.

The next day the weather was so much nicer with blue skies, sunshine and some cloud hugging the mountains. We drove around stopping to take some awesome photos and ended up driving back up to the Whakapapa Ski Area to get better photos than the ones we took the day before. The ski lift was free so we did a couple of videos going on that and then stopped off a couple more times to take even more photos! It was so much more fun than the day before! Then we decided that we'd better start heading back to Wellington in order to get the car back on time.

Overall it was a bit of a crap weekend for me as I epically failed at skiing in every way possible and sort of unintentionally ruined the experience for Jonny in the process. I am and always have been a real wimp when it comes to stuff like this but I hate being left out and I try to keep up with my friends so I always convince myself I can do it and then get extremely upset and frustrated when I realise that I just can't. On reflection I've realised that I've done this many times now: I tried to do surfing in Australia but had a panic attack as soon as I got in the water; I saw the film Whip It and thought it would be awesome to do roller derby so got some skates and then fell on my arse straight away and hurt my back so bad that I had to see an osteopath; I wanted to try yoga but the only class timetable that suited my schedule was hot yoga and even though I feel dizzy after sitting in a sauna for 10 minutes, I somehow thought I could handle doing 90 minutes of yoga in a sauna and as a result almost threw up and passed out! And now: I thought I could have a go at skiing with a proper lesson with other beginners and but I was the worst in the class and ended up having a total meltdown. I guess this all makes me sound like a rather pathetic human being but the truth is that sports and exercise are just really not my strength but there are other things in life that I'm quite good at and can be proud of. There are most certainly lots of other people who aren't good at sports and stuff either but I guess the important thing is that at least I give it a go, even though I end up humiliating myself in the process!

One thing I did notice on the ski field was that a concept called ski biking exists. It's basically just a bike frame but instead of wheels there are ski’s! I saw quite a few adults and kids riding them and they looked like super awesome fun! I did some research when we got home and it turns out that ski biking is starting to become more well known and it's easier and safer than any other snow sport and you can be at an intermediate level after just a half hour lesson! They say if you can ride a bike then you are already overqualified to snow bike! I can ride a bike, and it's an activity that actually doesn't freak me out or frighten me so maybe ski biking could be the winter sport for me...?!

Unfortunately Mt Ruapehu doesn't offer ski bike lessons or rentals though. Jonny reckons that he'd like to try snowboarding next time (even though he found the ski’s difficult and snowboarding is supposed to be harder!?) but seeing as it's nearly the end of ski season and Mt Ruapehu doesn't do the ski bikes, we thought it would be more sensible to wait until we are doing our working holiday visas in Canada before attempting some winter sports again. That way I will still have something to do so that I'm not left behind or left out and Jonny can have a lesson and then improve on his skills instead of having one lesson now and then not being able to do it again for a year and a half!

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For now we are back in Wellington, with everyone a bit on edge because of the quakes! Back to work, but firmly on the countdown until we can start traveling again!

xxx

Posted by Jenpen17 18.08.2013 16:51 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Mount Victoria

A brilliant weekend and a walk up to the Mount Victoria look out point

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For the first time in a long time I had a Saturday off work so we decided to all hit the town for after work drinks on Friday night. I could actually experience that "Friday Feeling" that I see and envy every week! It took a little coaxing to get Jonny to come with us but Beki, Todd and I had already decided that we wanted to check out some quirky/trendy bars in the city that we hadn't been to yet.

We started off at "Alice" which is an Alice in Wonderland themed bar. There were flashing white rabbits above the entrance so of course we followed them and went down the rabbit hole! Inside there were lots of chandeliers, warped mirrors, clocks, and framed art work from the story book. It was a small and cosy place with low lighting, comfy booths and we were able to just sit and chat and actually be able to hear each other speak! Todd, Jonny and I shared a bottle of wine whilst Beki had a fancy cocktail that involved melting sherbert along the rim of the glass! She said it was very tasty. There was an extensive cocktail menu with a lot of them being named after characters from the book and there was even a Mad Hatters Tea Party where your drink would be served in a teapot!

After Alice we ventured down the road to "The Library" another bar whose theme is not hard to guess. There were book shelves everywhere and everyone was sitting on sofas and in armchairs! When we went in we were taken to a table that turned out to be the VIP area because the place was so busy! We were cut off from everyone else so the atmosphere was a little different but we had a nice little booth and a couple of bookshelves.

Next we went to the Bangalore Polo Club which had been recommended to Beki from someone at work. It's on Courtenay Place so we've walked past it many times during the day and it looked like quite a posh bar and they even had those glass cube tables with a little fire inside which are pretty cool. It turns out that in the evening this is not a sophisticated bar but infact a very average night club! Having been to two very nice quiet cosy bars we were a bit shocked to find ourselves being pushed left, right and center with terrible music blasting in our ears. We had one drink (well Todd somehow managed to score an extra free drink from a random local) and left.

We decided to go to the Cavern next even though we have been there before, but lets be honest, a Beatles themed bar is never going to be visited just once by the likes of us! Unfortunately the music wasn't up to it's usual standard so we didn't stay for long. Last time they had played lots of Beatles (obviously) and other old music from the 50's, 60's and some 70's but this time it seemed to be a lot of cheesy 80's glam rock that was seriously uncool and no Beatles...

We had ended up rather more tipsy than originally planned and, well, Todd was just plain drunk! We've made a habit of going to McDonalds after every night out but this time decided to switch to Burger King as we had a couple of vouchers to use. We sat down with our food and noticed that there was a girl on the table across from us who was alone and appeared to be sleeping with her head on the table. Todd mentioned rather loudly that she should "sort her life out" but I pointed out that she probably had a friend who was in the queue buying some food for her. I was right and a few minutes later a massive cheeseburger was put in front of her. Unfortunately she never got around to eating it because she preceded to throw up all over the floor. Jonny and Todd witnessed it but Beki and I weren't looking and had no intention of turning our heads to see! We were just about drunk enough to have the will power to block out what was happening and continue to eat our food. I did here a couple of splats on the floor though and then we saw her poor friend hovering around her not knowing whether to laugh or cry. We told her she shouldn't just be standing there, she needed to take action! Eventually the bouncers got involved and moved her away from us but the sick still hadn't been cleared up by staff by the time we left. Oh, and yes, they have bouncers in McDonalds and Burger King here in New Zealand! It's because these fast food places stay open all night and are obviously quite large establishments. It means that the "chips and kebab" culture isn't as popular over here as it is in England!

We got home by about 2am I think and woke up the next morning feeling a little groggy! We had planned the night before to go to an American Diner in the city called Drexels where they just serve breakfast food from 7am -2pm every day. I went to knock for Todd and Beki at around 10am and we decided to kick start ourselves into action and be ready to leave for Drexels by 11am and by gosh we did it. When we got to Drexels we were directed to a booth and started looking at the tempting menu. We all decided to be greedy and go for the special which included 2 eggs any way, hash browns, and then a choice of either bacon, sausage or whatever, followed by a choice between either pancakes, waffles or french toast. I had eggs sunny side up, bacon, and pancakes with real Canadian maple syrup. Ooooh it was so yummy. I did pretty well with my eggs and bacon, although I left most of my hash brown because it was a bit dry and I somehow managed to eat about half of the pancakes before almost exploding. We also had a pot of tea and I had a vanilla milkshake which was lush.

We spent the rest of the day mooching around the shops and Jonny very kindly bought me some clothes that I'll need for our next leg of travelling. We were pretty exhausted by the time we got home and I was having a bad allergy day and was suffering quite severely so had a nap for a couple of hours!

The next day the weather was beautiful so we decided to walk up to the Mount Victoria look out. This is something that we've been meaning to do since we got to Wellington but had just not got round to it! I thought that all the uphill walking was going to kill me but it actually wasn't too bad and we just took our time and went at quite a leisurely pace. There was a swing hanging from a large tree that overlooked the city so Todd and Jonny had a go on it, much to Beki's despair! Todd swung the wrong way and ended up in the trees which he admitted was "daft" and Beki was soon applying Vitamin E to his grazes and trying to wipe the sticky sap off his arm! We eventually made it to the look out point and enjoyed spotting all the familiar buildings. With the aid of the super zoom on Todds brilliant camera we could just about see where we live! We could also see the giant Pak'n'Save in Kilbirnie and it was easy to see the Majestic Centre in the CBD where I've been doing some temp work. It's the tallest building in Wellington and I could easily see the floor that I work on! And when I went into work the next day I realised that I could look out of the window and easily spot the tree that Jonny and Todd were swinging from on Mount Victoria! On the walk back down we decided that we would come back again when the weather was nice to find the Hobbit's Hideaway that Jonny and I visited on our Lord of the Rings tour as that is also on Mount Victoria.

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When we got back down to the streets of the city we were starting to get a little peckish and found an amazing fish and chip shop - or fush'n'chups as they say it here! We grabbed some chips and walked down Oriental Bay to sit on a bench by the sea to eat them. It almost felt like home! After that we popped to the supermarket and then when we got home Beki made a classic onion dip that the kiwi's love and we sat and had a movie night!

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It was such a fanastic weekend, I'm looking forward to having more Saturdays off soon so we can do it all again!

xXx

Posted by Jenpen17 09.08.2013 15:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Wellington Update

Living and working in Wellington

Hello, hello, hello. Yes it has been over 6 months since my last blog! And unfortunately that means that yes, we have been working our butts off for over 6 months. And it sucks compared to travelling.

So where did I last leave you? We had just got back to Wellington, I had started my new job in a spa in the CBD, Jonny was still looking for a job and we had just moved in to our own little place. And blimey, Christmas hadn't even happened yet!

Well lets start with a few photos of where we have been living...

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So that's our little room and the beautiful view from our window. These next photos are the communal area on our floor - a kitchen and a little balcony, again with beautiful views!

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It's not much but it's come to feel like home to us now! We're located right at the top of Willis Street which is very central so we can pretty much walk to anywhere in the city.

So after I'd been working for about a week, Jonny managed to get himself a job with an I.T. company that would send him out to different places around the city for contract work. He wasn't going to be starting until mid-January but at least he knew he had a job! Next up was Christmas, which was pretty rubbish really. There was an unexpected heat wave in Wellington that saw the city sweltering in over 30c heat on Christmas day. Unfortunately our little room is on the top floor and we only have one window that opens a small amount and another little window in the bathroom. This meant that our little room very soon became a little sauna and we were finding it difficult to breathe and stay conscious! Our land lady was putting on a BBQ in the courtyard that we had promised to attend. There's no shade in the courtyard whatsoever so sitting in the direct heat didn't really feel any better! We wanted to escape to a park or the beach where there might at least be some shade or a breeze but we felt bad leaving as they had bought all the food based on the numbers of people who said they would come. We thought it would be a good opportunity to meet other people in our building but there was hardly anyone there and it was really just a bunch of strange people that had nothing in common! The whole thing was pretty lame and unfortunately the food wasn't even nice... we went back to the sauna and watched some snowy Christmas films which all just seemed very wrong and we just generally felt homesick. We did get each other some presents though - I got Jonny a Bear Grylls book and a Green Lantern t-shirt and he got me a gift voucher for a massage. We also made ourselves a Christmas dinner a couple of days later when it wasn't so ridiculously hot, but other than that, Christmas sucked. So lets move on.

The spa was very quiet in the between-Christmas-and-New-Year days so my boss said I might as well have the time off to explore Wellington with Jonny as he wasn't working either. We decided to do a full day Lord of the Rings tour which was good fun. We were picked up in the morning and hopped onto the mini bus (named Biblo) and met the other people on our tour. It was a small friendly group and we all got on quite well. Our tour guide was a fully bonafide geeky LOTR fan and his knowledge of the films was almost worrying. What I thought was quite impressive is that all the LOTR tour guides for this company are genuine fans and were not really given any help by people who actually made the film - they just poured over the hours and hours of DVD extras and set off around Wellington to identify the film locations by just comparing pictures from the film to what was in front of them. And mostly, that involved trees. As all the elaborate painstaking efforts of buildling sets, taking them down again and CGI-ing stuff into the finished scene leaves no real clues or trails, the only thing that would really remain are the trees. They literally scoured woods and other locations until they could recognise the same trees from the still frame. And even that was a struggle because it turns out that in the Fellowship of the Ring when the Hobbits are hiding from the black rider under the roots of that enormous tree - it wasn't even a proper tree. Tecnically it was half a tree. That they had cut down and specially delivered into a wood full of other trees. BUT the three trees BEHIND the imported half tree are real and are still there. It just made posing under the slight ledge for a photo not look quite as impressive.

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Our tour guide, although very knowledgeable about LOTR, soon became a bit of a bore as he had this tendancy to go off on a complete tangent talking about other movies that the actors had been in and bragging about the fact that he got to go to The Hobbit premiere and aftershow party and actually touched Peter Jacksons shoulder or something and had a conversation with Frodo's body double. At one point he went so completely off topic that he ended up ranting about endangered eels and bird calls. I can't even remember why. Due to his rambling it was a very long day and the tour went on for a lot longer than advertised. We were picked up at 8.45am and didn't get dropped off until 6.30pm! The tour also involved a trip to the Weta Cave in Miramar. Miramar is a suburb of Wellington where Peter Jacksons company Weta have the movie studios and post production. The Weta Cave is a small sort of museum open to the public where they have props from the movies they've made (mostly LOTR) and a short film about how Weta started and what they do. There is also an exhibition called Window into the Workshop where you get to go into the Weta workshop and see how they make things like Gollum! Unfortunately that wasn't included on the tour and you have to buy tickets for it. Only thing is that you can't buy the tickets online or in advance so you can only buy them at the Weta Cave on the day and as it is only small groups there is no guarantee that there will be availability. As we'd have to get an expensive bus journey all the way to Miramar without the guarantee of tickets we haven't actually seen this exhibition yet but will definitely make sure that we do before we leave.

Here are a few other photos from the tour but for a full account please see the album I've done on facebook as I also put in all the still frames from the film so that the photos I took on the tour actually made sense. It took me ages. And yes it's all about recognising the same trees!

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During this time we also went to Wellington Zoo which was a fun day out as we love watching all the animals.

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We also went to the Botanical Gardens which are in the city but situated at the top of a big hill so the easiest way to get up there is by using the cable car. Unfortunately the cable car was a bit of a let down after being on the ones in San Francisco and was just as expensive. Despite this I always see a massive queue for it when a cruise ship full of tourists arrives in town. It was a beautiful sunny day and the walk around the botanical gardens went slowly downhill until we reached the rose garden where we stopped for some lunch in the cafe there and then ended up walking back into the city past the parliament buildings and past where I work.

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The locals told us that we have been here for one of Wellington's best ever Summers and we made the most of the sunshine going out and exploring the city. The waterfront is especially spectacular on a sunny day.

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The 6th February is Waitangi Day in New Zealand. This is a public holiday every year to mark the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori Chiefs in 1840. We went down to the waterfront to see the celebrations.

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We became friends with an Italian couple called Alessandra and Massimiliano (Alex and Max) who were living on the same floor as us and we started to spend some time together and even cooking for each other! They made us an epic lasagne and we made them a traditional English Sunday roast! We went to Matiu/Somes Island together on the last proper day of summer and had a great time exploring. Matiu/Somes Island is the largest Island in Wellington Harbour and has a lot of Maori history as well as European. It was used during wars and also as a quarantine for humans and animals. We caught the ferry from the waterfront and saw some great views of the city behind us as we travelled to the island. We took a little packed lunch with us too and had a picnic whilst we were there. Then we got told off for sunbathing on the picnic bench...

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We had a nice long weekend off work for Easter and went to Petone which is a little town on the opposite side of the harbour. We got the bus instead of the ferry as it was quicker and cheaper. We had a little look around, had some lunch and sat by the water for a while just chilling out. There is also a British Goods store in Petone so we went there and went a bit over the top buying lots of English sweets and stuff! Although they have Cadbury's here it tastes different so we had to buy the proper English stuff! Unfortunately I didn't think to take my camera to Petone so I don't have any pictures.

Alex and Max introduced us to some of their friends in Wellington and went out a couple of times but sadly Alex and Max were leaving at the beginning of May to go back to Italy. It was sad saying goodbye to them but hopefully we will see them again if we make a trip to Rome or they decide to come to England! As one set of friends left a week or so later another set of friends arrived. Our friends Todd and Beki from back home set off on their travels 3 weeks before we did but they are going around the world in the opposite direction to us! They started off in India and then did South East Asia and were going to go to Australia next but decided to come to New Zealand first instead so that they could be with us! Well they'd also heard from several people that New Zealand was better than Australia but I like to think it was because of us! And they were lucky to have us because not only did we manage to secure them the room right next door to us in our building but we also bought all of the stuff from Alex and Max that they no longer needed such as bedding and kitchen equipment etc to give to them! We both took a few days off work so that we could go and pick them up from the airport and help them get settled in and show them around Wellington. We arrived pretty early at the airport and ended up waiting over an hour for them as it turned out they had been stopped at security and made to unpack every single thing in their backpacks and repack it all again! Luckily there were no rubber gloves or "internal" inspections though! They bounded through the doors looking very tanned and malnourished but even though we hadn't seen them for 9 months it was like we'd never been apart! We had a great few days exploring the city and getting all the boring stuff like bank accounts and sim cards sorted out and before long both of them found jobs as well. It's so great having them here and we're having so much fun.

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A couple of weeks after Todd and Beki arrived Jonny and I went to see Tenacious D! Back in March we had heard they were touring and coming to Wellington for one night only and we managed to get tickets so had been looking forward to it for a couple of months. We were in the very back row but quite centered and the Wellington Opera House is really quite small so we weren't actually that far away from them! It was an absolutely awesome night and I can honestly say the best live perfomance I have ever seen.

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We are now over the half way point of working and we're starting to think about the next leg of travels. The only other major thing we need to do in New Zealand is go to Matamata where the set of Hobbiton is and the Green Dragon Pub which only opened recently. We have already booked our flights from Auckland to Sydney on the 3rd November and have arranged to meet my parents in Sydney and spend some time with them. After that we have a rough idea of what we want to do in Australia. We've decided not to plan ahead too much and just go with the flow and see what we feel like doing. We've touched the on the surface of some plans for South East Asia and will hopefully get a rough plan together in the coming months with the help of Todd and Beki who have already been and done it. We'll be having our jabs for Asia done tomorrow so we're making sure that we're taking care of the boring important stuff first! We're doing quite well with our savings so far and are being careful with our money but we don't want to deprive ourselves and want to make the most of this opportunity of living in Wellington, the coolest little capital in the world! Luckily we've managed to get our hands on discount vouchers for lots of places all over the city which makes enjoying days and meals out on a budget much easier!

I think the next blog I do will be just as we're leaving Wellington at the end of October, so until then the blog will be quiet again!

xXx

Posted by Jenpen17 06.07.2013 16:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand South Island

Are you ready for this? We have: Kaiteriteri, Westport, Mahinapua, Franz Josef, Wanaka, Queenstown, Christchurch, Kaikoura and back to Wellington!

Kaiteriteri

It was a very early start in the morning in order to get onto the 8am ferry to the south island. The crossing was 3 ½ hours so we found some reclining seats and slept for the first half of it! Then we got some food and went to the top deck to check out the views of the Marlborough Sounds. When we got on to the bus on the other side we now had a new driver called Bruce! He is very much like Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords so obviously that means he is completely awesome! It was quite a long drive down to our first stop on the South Island – Kaiteriteri. When we got there we bumped into a few people who were on our bus in the North Island which was nice. We chilled out for a while but I wasn’t feeling very well so went to bed quite early.

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Westport

Luckily I slept really well so felt much better the next day. The bus wasn’t leaving until around lunchtime so we just chilled out down by the beach. We got back on the bus and drove to our next stop which was Westport. It was a small town and there was not a lot to do but we were staying in a really nice cosy hostel that felt very homey! There was a big lounge with sofas and bean bags and a massive video collection (yes, video!) which included more than one copy of Titanic! We had dinner and showers and then a big group of us settled down in the lounge and watched the Sixth Sense which was fun! “I see dead people…” a classic.

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Mahinapua

The next morning we checked out and we drove to Cape Foulwind where we did a nice little cliff top walk and saw a seal colony. The next rest stop was the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. There was also a café and we were hungry so decided to get some food before checking out the rocks but unfortunately they took so long to bring the food out that we didn’t have time to see them and had to get back onto the bus! We stopped again in a small town called Greymouth where we stocked up on some things at the supermarket and also went in search of a fancy dress costume! We were heading to Mahinapua where we were going to be spending the night at the infamous “Poo Pub” where the bus always does a fancy dress night. Our theme was “role models” which is a bit difficult really, especially when you don’t have much money to spend and don’t want to buy anything that you will either have to throw away or carry around in your backpack afterwards! Jonny and I decided to save our money and did manage to come up with some last minute costumes from what we already had in our bags! We arrived at the Poo Pub and the owner Les came to give us a little talk about how things run at his place. Les is in his eighties and doesn’t open up his pub to the public, he is exclusively only open for the Kiwi Experience bus! He is one of the most politically incorrect people you’ll ever meet and he looks like a wizard. We liked him instantly. Our dorms were in little outdoor cabins and it was very cold but there were some toasty heaters in there that warmed up the rooms quite nicely. Les cooked a massive load of steaks and we all had a yummy dinner and then we started getting our costumes ready. As Jonny owns quite a few items of Bear Grylls clothing he simply put them on and rubbed dirt on his face to be Bear Grylls and I put on my Hogwarts t-shirt, drew a scar on my forehead, borrowed some ‘geek’ glasses from someone and found a twig outside to be a wand so I was Harry Potter! It was a pretty poor effort in comparison to what some other people had done! There were three girls who dressed up as Granny’s, they got some granny-ish clothes from a charity shop and even put flour in their hair to make it white! There were some great costumes but also some not-so-great costumes so we didn’t feel too bad! We had to be up early the next day to head to Franz Josef but this didn’t stop most people from drinking a large amount of alcohol! I had one drink and didn’t go to bed very late and Jonny followed soon after but everyone else must have been kicked out of the pub at the same time later on and they were all running around outside screaming and shouting and banging doors! One of the Irish lads walked into our room, turned the lights on, saw three sleeping people but decided to try and persuade us to go down to the beach anyway! We later learned that he did this to every single room! We were only in a four bed dorm but one of the girls was missing until dawn when she crept in with another one of the Irish lads, but thankfully they didn’t get it on in our room! The next morning was pretty brutal as you can imagine! Jonny had turned our heater off half way through the night so the room was extremely cold – the cold must have made my muscles tense because I woke up with a tension headache so had to take my tablets that make me all drowsy. Almost everyone else was quite severely hungover! Somehow everyone managed to get up and roll onto the bus and we headed to Franz Josef.

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Franz Josef

On the way we stopped at a café to get some breakfast. Some people had fry ups to cure the hangover whilst others pushed around a small bit of toast looking nauseous! I had a coffee to perk me up a bit and started to feel much better. There was also a dog there so I enjoyed petting it for a while. When we got to Franz Josef Bruce had arranged for us to do our Glacier hike that afternoon to catch the good weather. We went and got kitted out in all the gear we needed. I had on two pairs of trousers, two pairs of socks, a vest, a t-shirt, a jumper, a scarf, a raincoat, a hat and some heavy hiking boots. I also had a massive pair of gloves stuffed into my pockets and a bag carrying cramp-ons and 5 chocolate bars! I started to get a bit nervous as this all seemed a lot more hardcore than I’d been expecting! We flew in a helicopter to the Franz Josef Glacier and then got out and attached the cramp-ons to our hiking boots so that we could get a grip on the ice. Wearing so many layers and such heavy boots made it difficult to move around let alone start hiking up a glacier! There was obviously no natural path, our guide just had to hack into the ice to create some stairs every now and then or make the path wider! It wasn’t long before I became terrified of falling over or something so I passed my camera to Jonny so he could take the photos (he had left his camera on the bus) and I just concentrated on staying alive! We also had to squeeze our way through some very small and tight crevasses which made me slightly claustrophobic but I was ok. The views were amazing and it was a once in a lifetime experience but as I was pretty much shitting myself the whole time and it was probably an hour longer than it needed to be (we were on the ice for 3-4 hours) I’m not sure if I really enjoyed it that much and I know I wouldn’t really want to do it again! I’m glad I did it though and we got some cool photos. That evening we were exhausted so a few of us went to the hostel bar to get some dinner and a drink.
The next day we didn’t have to get back on the bus, we had a free day in Franz Josef. I was enjoying a lie-in when someone from housekeeping came into our dorm and said that I was supposed to have checked out. Seeing as Jonny and I were together, had checked in together and I had paid for two nights for both of us on my credit card it seemed pretty obvious that they had made a mistake but they insisted that I get dressed and go down to reception to sort things out. So you can imagine how annoyed I was after getting up and getting ready and going to reception that all the girl there had to do was pick up a piece of paper on the desk and look at it to clearly see that they had made a mistake… urgh! We sorted out some bits and bobs on the internet and then went downstairs. We could smell bacon cooking and got food envy so we walked into the tiny town and went to the supermarket to buy some bacon for lunch. We also saw a little bakery where it was “doughnut day” so we ended up buying some amazing doughnuts too! We made bacon rolls for lunch which were lush and then just chilled out in the afternoon. When a couple of the other girls got back from horse riding we all went to the hot pools. We had free entry with the wrist bands we had got from doing the glacier hike. There were three outdoor rainforest pools all different temperatures. We went in the coolest one first and then moved up to the next warmest and then the hottest. The hottest one was a bit too hot, it was like getting into a really hot bath but obviously the water doesn’t start to cool down, it just stays hot! It made me a bit dizzy and very thirsty so I went back down a notch! It was fun and relaxing being in the pools and chatting to everyone. That evening we went out for a drink with a few of the others but didn’t stay out long.

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Wanaka

On the bus again, we stopped at a café for some breakfast where Jonny yawned and flung out his arm to stretch but hit a waitress and sent a jug of milk flying! It was so embarrassing… We walked to the lookout point of Lake Matherson but unfortunately the weather wasn’t very good so we couldn’t see the reflection of Mount Cook in the lake. We had a couple more stops along the way as there was a lot of driving so we stopped at another café for lunch. Once again there was another dog there so of course I had to sit and pet it for a while! When we finally got to Wanaka Bruce drove us around the small town and showed us the lake and then we checked in at the hostel. I had a little nap and when I woke up we had some dinner. I wasn’t feeling very well so I just chilled out in the evening and watched a film on the laptop whilst a few of the others went down to the bar. The next morning before leaving Wanaka we went to Puzzling World which was really fun! It’s full of optical illusions that really mess with your head – there’s even an entire room so screwy that it made us really dizzy and disorientated! The whole room is at an angle but all the objects in it are at a different angle making things seem obscure and out of place! There was also a massive maze outside but we gave up on that pretty quickly, I was still feeling dizzy!

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Queenstown

We got back on the bus and made a quick photo stop at the half way point between the equator and the south pole. Before getting to the town we stopped at the world’s first commercial bungy site where we all got off and arranged any adrenalin activities we were booking during out stay in Queenstown. Jonny and I had decided to do the Nevis Swing tandem which is where we sit side-by-side in harnesses, get dropped 70m free fall over a canyon but instead of coming down and bouncing up like a bungy you swing in an arc across the canyon! We thought about doing a bungy as well but decided to just stick with the swing! We asked if they had time for us to do it that afternoon and they did but it meant that we’d have to stay there instead of going into town, checking in at the hostel and then going back. So Bruce sorted it all out and put our backpacks in the luggage room at the hostel for us to collect and check in later on. Two other girls on our bus did the same as us so we all waited together! We got picked up in another bus and dropped off at the Nevis site. The Nevis Bungy is the third biggest in the world but some people were saying that the swing was actually scarier! I didn’t really understand because I think doing a bungy would be terrifying but I didn’t find the swing very scary, it was so exciting! We walked across the bridge to the little suspended room where the swing is. When we arrived there was another couple in the harness and we waited to watch them swing. Looking at the wires and stuff I imagined the arc in my head but then when they were dropped they fell sooooo much further than I thought! You had to literally lean over the railings to see how far they were falling! This gave me an adrenalin kick and I started getting really excited but Jonny started getting really nervous! We saw a couple of guys go (one upside down!) and then it was our turn. We got strapped up in our harnesses and then walked to the edge of the platform. The guy told us to sit into our harnesses and swing our legs off the edge which I did but Jonny kept one foot on the platform because he was shitting himself! We waved at the various cameras for the photos and video, me grinning and hyper, Jonny clenching his jaw and looking terrified! The guy asked us if we wanted a countdown to the drop or a surprise and when Jonny was whimpering and said “I don’t give a shit!” they guy just dropped us and the moment we were released my stomach jumped into my throat! We free fell 70m which was amazing and then very smoothly swung over the canyon. We swung around for a while and then they reeled us back up. Jonny was much more excited about it once it was over! We went back and saw the photos and watched the video and decided we might as well get both even though they were overpriced (they always are!).
We got dropped off at the hostel and the major disadvantage of checking in after everyone else meant that we both ended up with top bunks. I hate top bunk so I wasn’t very happy because I was going to have to put up with it for 2 nights! I was also the only girl in the room which sucks! We dumped our bags and went out for some food. Then we had showers and got ready for a night out. We went to meet Bruce at a bar and were the first ones there so we chatted to him for a while which was cool. When the others started to arrive the night got going and we had a really good night out. I got a little bit drunk and had a great time dancing away to a live band!
We slept in the next morning and went out around lunchtime to get some food and wander around in the sunshine. Although the sun was out it was very windy so actually felt a bit chilly! We went back to the hostel and hung out in the common area for a while chatting with everyone. We went out for some food again in the evening and then although we had to be up early for the bus the next day, some of the others still staying in Queenstown convinced us to go out for a couple of drinks. It was really sad because we had to say goodbye to quite a lot of great friends we had made. There were some people that we knew we would be able to catch up with again in Wellington.

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Christchurch

The next morning we were up early and on the bus to head to Christchurch. A couple of our friends were on our bus so we sat with them but soon regretted that when we realised how hung over they were – they’d gone out last night! One was actually sick in a bag on the bus which wasn’t pleasant! We had a different driver, this time it was a woman called Lauren but she was really really annoying and talked too much without even really saying anything of interest! Luckily though she had a selection of DVD’s and let us pick a few movies to watch on the bus TV throughout the long journey to Christchurch. We watched the Inbetweeners movie and American Pie the Reunion and then a few episodes of series 3 of the Inbetweeners. A lot of the hostels in Christchurch were damaged in the earthquake but as all the uni students had gone home for summer we were able to stay in twin rooms on a campus for the price of hostel dorms! We checked in and then a couple of the girls and I decided to catch the bus into the city to check it out. We didn’t realise how late it was though or how long the bus journey would be so by the time we got there all the shops had closed! It was a real ghost town, we couldn’t even find any open restaurants so after admitting defeat we got back on the bus! When we got back Jonny came with us and we walked down the road to a Chinese restaurant to get some dinner.

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Kaikoura

The next morning we were pleasantly surprised to see that Nancy Boy was going to be our bus driver again! We got on the bus and headed out of Christchurch and on to a little coastal town called Kaikoura. We arrived around lunchtime and checked into the hostel. We decided to get a double room and lucked out with having an ensuite too! We walked into the town with some of the others to look around but after a short while me and one of the other girls started sneezing and sniffing and felt like our faces were going to explode – we are both hayfever sufferers so there was obviously some sort of pollen in the air! It was really bad and I was starting to feel terrible so when we got back to the hostel we just shut ourselves in our room and ended up watching Return of the King! We came down for some dinner but then retreated once more and watched some Michael McIntyre in fits of laughter.

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Back to Wellington

The next morning we got back on the bus and drove for a little bit before stopping at a seal colony to see the seals. We stopped at a café for breakfast and then drove to Picton to catch the ferry back to Wellington. One of our friends had been staying and working in the hostel there the whole time we had been travelling around the South Island. Luckily we had a bit of time to kill before catching the ferry so she came to meet us and say hi. She dragged us over to see the hostel and we chatted for a while but then had to head off to catch the ferry. When we got to Wellington we were staying at the YHA again whilst most of the others were staying at Base. We all dumped our bags and then met at the Indian take-away and got some food. I shared a curry with one of the other girls but it was a bit too spicy for me!! Then we went back to the hostel and chilled out for a while before meeting up again later for a drink. We went to the bar at Base but it was pretty crap and there was a scary guy running around in a Borat thong and a pirate hat so we left and went to a bar on Cuba St with a live band. We had a couple of drinks and a little dance to the band and then a few of us called it a night.

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That concludes our time of travelling for now! I’m sorry that it has taken so long to write this blog but we’ve been incredibly busy since getting back to Wellington! I had a job interview and got the job so started work a few days ago. Jonny is still looking but most of the IT work comes around in January but he’s sure to get something then, the recruitment companies he has signed up to are confident he can get a good job. We decided to move in to our own place as it’s much cheaper than staying in a hostel and although we originally had wanted to wait until we both had jobs, our lease is very flexible so if worst comes to worst we only have to give three weeks’ notice to move out, but I doubt it would come to that! We moved in yesterday and had to go out and get all sorts of bits and bobs for our place and we’re starting to settle in now. We have a room with a double bed, chest of drawers, wardrobe, TV, table and chairs, kitchenette (sink, cupboards, fridge, microwave, toaster), computer desk, and an ensuite bathroom with a toilet, shower and sink. There is a communal kitchen with an oven etc and a laundry room on each floor. Our land lady puts on a barbeque in the courtyard for Christmas so we’ll probably be going to that and getting to know our neighbours!

So I’m afraid that my blog will be going quiet whilst we are living and working in Wellington. I hope you have all enjoyed reading about my travels but we all know that working just isn’t as interesting! I might do a little update every few months or so but at the moment the plan is to start travelling again in November 2013!

xXx

Posted by Jenpen17 15.12.2012 17:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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