New Zealand….

So, I didn’t watch LOTR, I didn’t hurl myself off a bungee jump or ski-dive. I did however see whales in the wild, snowboard, hike a glacier, sandboard, and meet at least half a dozen nice people. There’d have been more, but as Rach would say, I kind of lost my personality here and was on a bit of an odd one.  Except in Queenstown & Franz Josef where good times were had. Strangely, I’m glad I came in Winter, it suits it, and is hard to imagine in any other season.

I didn’t hate it, per say.  I just didn’t really didn’t love it either, for lots of reasons. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Uruguay. Close, but not quite. Besides, you can’t love everywhere can you, otherwise where would be special.

So in a nutshell:

Loving:

1) Nice visuals. Ok, I have to hand it to NZ, spectacular visuals. Pretty luscious scenery 24 hours a day.

2) RTD’s (Ready to drinks) Like pre-mixed whisky and coke in little cans. Like Marks and Sparks have started doing with Pina Coladas at xmas. I just like the abbreviation.

3) Customer service. Apart from my friends in customs at Auckland International, nothing is too much trouble. Especially the nice lady at InterIslander who hooked me up with a free ferry ride. Blag of the century.

Not loving so much:

1)What has to be in the most irritating inflection of any language. The Kiwi tendency to add ‘Aye’ to the end of every sentence. Every.Single.Sentense. “I’m good aye.” It’s NOT a question!

2) Intercity bus drivers building up their parts. Some of them missed their callings as voiceover artists bless them. Although running commentaries for 8+ hours is a little OTT. (Think monotone…) “This is lake Wanaka. This is the sky. These are some stones, not sure why they are here.” STFU then! I’m trying to read my book!

3) Showers that only run for 5 seconds at a time unless you keep the little button pressed down. Freezing. And just plain stingy.

4) Talking of stingy. NZ’s internet prices. If the whole of South America can give it away for free, so can you.

5) NZ’s nanny state, an obsession with health and safety, and slightly backwards identikit cities. Call me crazy for actually craving crowds, smog, and civilisation, but when the former three come at the price of any sense of place or multiculturalism, that’s no good thing.

Where I stayed: Friendz Hostel Auckland, Crank Backpackers Rotorua, The Lazy Shag Kaikoura, Canturbury House Christchurch, Base Queenstown, Rainforest Retreat Franz Josef, Accents on the Park Nelson, Nomads Wellington, Saltwater Backpackers Paihia, Peppertree Lodge Paihia.

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Bay of Islands & Cape Reinga, North Island, New Zealand

The final few days in this whistle-stop tour.  Paihia is the jumping off point to the Bay of Islands. In a word; underwhelming. Ha Long Bay it is not. You can also do day trips to the 90 Mile Beach, where you drive the highway parallel to the waves, and sandboard on boogie boards in the dunes.

On the very Northernest tip of North Island, is Cape Reigna. Perched on the very edge of New Zealand, is a spot marked with a lighthouse where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. According to Maori legend, it’s here – where the blue/gray waves collide – where lost souls last leave the earth. For me it finely teeters between being beautifully peaceful, and tragically desolate.  I think it’s the lighthouse. They are so sad and lonely! I take lots of sad-looking pics. In sepia just to be extra poetic. Ha, you know what I mean, you’ve done it too. I think I was in a bit of a meloncholy mood!

 

Wellington, North Island, New Zealand

So technically I passed through Nelson and Picton to get here, but since the highlight of both of those places put together was some hostal with heated floors, I won’t bore you senseless with a blog post.

So Wellington (drum role….) is an actually fully fledged city! It’s more than 2 streets and everything. Just as well, for the capital. Before you get too excited, as I did, there is one major downside; the wind chill factor. Cold is one thing, cold ice wind is just too annoying for words.

I don’t think I mentioned but I’ve been sporting a pigeon like limp on my right ankle for 2 weeks now. Not a good look. So I figure the best place for me is somewhere I can shuffle along at a snail’s pace and not look odd; Wellington’s famous Te Papa Tongarewa Museum. (Translates as treasure box.) It’s the first thing everyone mentions when you say Wellington.

You can spend all day there apparently. Even with my slow motion walking I managed 2 hours. It’s not that good. It does however have some cool interactive installations. There was some giant Minority Report style wall of screens where you can mash up  animation, archive footage and your own video. Some media savvy 5 year olds were all over it. My fave though was the ‘design your own squid’ game. (The museum is home to the world’s largest preserved colossal squid. Odd I know. It looked a bit like an alien.) Anyway, you name your own squid (P-Squiddy) colour him in, and then ‘set him free’ by emailing him to yourself. Yes cynics, I am aware this is a canny mailing list ploy, but hello – an email update from a squid! I can’t wait to hear what he’s been up to. I hope he’s in touch soon.

Franz Josef, South Island, New Zealand

Another tiny two street town on the west coast. Just as well really, at least I didn’t really miss much holed-up in bed with flu. That’s right Andrew Craske, the kind of flu us mere mortals get more than once a year. :)  I had a total duvet day; finished my book, watched movies, ate rice pudding. Then summoned enough energy to climb into a hot tub. I secretly loved it all.

After 24 hours I manned up. Well, drugged up, on a cocktail of Lemsiptamol, to clamber Franz Josef Ice Glacier. We got crampons (spiky bits for your walking boots.) And no, of course not, they were rented. As was the bum bag. We had 4 hours of squeezing though ice caves, underground air pockets, and tunnels so tiny you only have millimeters of space around you to maneuver. Plus the glacier is never static – shifting about like a plate tectonic, as the Kaisers would say. Not to worry though, people rarely go the way of 127 hours, as with ice you can always chisel (or lick?) your way out. That’s a relief then.

I then spent a civilised first half of my evening being a geek, at Whanaka Mountain Film Festival. I saw some great 7 min shorts, especially Chimaera: Sound of Winter and The Whole Nine Yards.  Both featuring some stunning slow-mo’s of extreme off-piste skiers. Plus lots of badly integrated product placement by North Face, but good for them I guess for sailing the good ship Ad Funded. I’m gonna stop before I lapse further into bullshit bingo. But not before telling you that later that night I had a fully blown convo with Ed about SEO at about 2am. We are fun people to have around, no? Things took a turn for the slightly less civilised when I sacked off the films at the interval, to catch the second half of the Rugby. All Black’s v’s Fiji. No I don’t care either, but everyone was in the pub and I got the FOMO – Fear of missing out.

Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

Queenstown is where it’s at. A cute little ski village, it’s hard to imagine it at any other time of year. Following a huge dump of snow last week, the hostels are overflowing with boarders. It’s like a giant colourful Quicksilver advert. I don’t see anyone without a beanie hat and Oakley shades the entire 3 days I’m here, day or night.

My motley crew of QT friends are worth mentioning, purely for a couple of utterly ridiculous first names. I meet Callam on the bus. (This first one is normal; I’m just warming you up.) He’s 18, bless his cotton socks, Scottish, and used to be a ballet dancer. Jaws literally dropped when he busted out the pirouettes on a dancefloor Sunday night. He’s definitely the only gay the village. Then we have Ed and Storme. Yes, you read that right. Not like off of X Men – that would be cool. Pronounced ‘Stormy.’ Surname ‘England.’ ‘Stormy England.’ I kid thee not. She’s a rah as well (a nice one) and it’s really that on her birth certificate apparently. We then befriend a bunch of Kiwi guys, here from Wellington on a lads holiday for the snow. There’s ‘Ross’ – as in Geller, as in Friends. Absolute doppelganger. Jokes. Then we have Ligar (half Lion/half tiger.) I took this to be some reference to his male prowess, but apparently it’s a Neopolian Dynamite thing (hate that film). We have Alex and Nick too, but in comparison they seem dull. Names not people.  Anyway, we spend our three days here doing the following:

1)      Snowboarding at The Remarkables – To be filed under: never again! Me and snowboarding, we’re done. Cocky shit I that I am, I kind of thought that one day in the Cairngorms and sandboarding in Whacachina practically makes me semi pro. However twice does not a snowboarder make. I spent most of the afternoon on my arse, almost fracturing my wrists, and tumbling out of the chair lifts in front of very capable 3 year olds. Plus, Ed and Storme are only pro-bloody-skiers, so in the spirit of peer pressure I decide to join them on the Blue runs. The green area is where I should have been = beginner. I can’t walk today, and TBH it hurts even typing.

 2)      The Skyline Luge- Firstly, love the word LUGE. Can’t stop saying it. Second, love the activity – luge, i.e. careering down a slarlum path in a go-cart. Made better still at the top of a mountain reachable by gondola, and in the snow, which make it feel like a bob sleigh. Cue lots of ‘Jamaican bob sleigh team’ jokes al la classic 90’s Cool Runnings. After this tomfoolery, Nick and I got slightly competitive, and decided to challenge ourselves with some anything goes/wacky races – i.e. pushing/shoving/snowball throwing. We got some odd looks from some well behaved 5 year olds.

3)      Last but not least we dined at Queenstown’s famous Furgburger. A burger joint open till 5am, with a mile cue out of the door at any given time. GIANT burgers complete with pun names. I had the veggie, Osama bun Laden. I’m here all week.

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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