Tuesday, 14 December 2010

New Zealand - South Island

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We've done a total of 8,500 km in New Zealand!

So it's been a while since our last post, mainly because we've been in some pretty remote places, but also because we haven't actually been anywhere for more than a couple of days before we got here, to Christchurch.  We have sold our van and tomorrow we fly out to Sydney for 3 days, before heading on to Singapore.  The map above shows the route we took for the whole of the South Island - Tony did a lot of driving!  So this post is all about what we did after the Big Al and the Mofo in Queenstown when Sky joined us for a couple of weeks on the trip. 

Queenstown itself was OK, it certainly was a really pretty town but it was also very touristy, and they are really really strict about where you can camp (you can get an on-the-spot $800 fine for camping within a 10 km radius of the city!).  So we stayed at a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite just outside the city called Moke Lake Reserve.  Apparently there were fish in the lake so Tony and Sky got right on it, with the obligatory beers as well.  Little did I know that this was to become a major theme of the rest of the holiday in New Zealand...fishing, surfing and drinking beer!

Moke Lake Reserve, near Queenstown
We decided to go to Milford Sound after Queenstown, as Sky had never been either.  The weather started to get progressively worse the closer we got to it.  It was cloudy, rainy and windy.  Apparently the West Coast and Milford Sound are pretty much always wet, so the photos you see of Milford Sound looking all spectacular in the setting sun are pretty much flukes, taken on the one sunny day of the year.  This is what it says on Wikipedia "With a mean annual rainfall of 6,813 mm on 182 days a year, a high level even for the West Coast, Milford Sound is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world."

So we must have caught it on a really wet day:
What we saw of Milford Sound...
It's funny how all of the tour guides and operators and people you meet never tell you these things...this is how it could look:


So unfortunately we just took a couple of rainy photos, and then headed to our campsite at Lake Gunn for the night before heading down to the South Coast and the start of the surf trip.  We headed to a place called Monkey Island for a couple of nights which is just West of Invercargill, and then skipped Invercargill out (it wasn't that great) to head straight to Bluff.  Bluff is for some reason known as the most Southern point of the Island, even though it's not.  But we went there anyway as Tone and I got a photo at the Northern most signpost so we thought we should get one at the most Southern one too.  We also stopped off at Slope Point (the actual Southern most point) and found that we were closer to the South Pole than to the Equator!  As you can see it was pretty cold down there.  It felt a lot more like England, all overcast and grey and with the constant threat of rain. 

Bluff (not the most Southern tip of the South Island)
Slope Point - the actual most Southern Point
The guys did a lot of driving for those few days.  Mostly trying to find surf and somewhere free or cheap to stay.  We finally got to a lovely place called Curio Bay, or Porpoise Bay and they got some decent surfing in.  Porpoise Bay actually gets its' name from the Hectors Dolphins that hang around in the waters there - they are the world's smallest and rarest dolphin, and can only be found in the seas around New Zealand.  We saw quite a few on our way around the South Island, so we were either lucky or they aren't as rare as we thought...

I didn't go in here as it was a bit big for me, but Sky and Tone seemed to have fun.  I was the official photographer...

Sky surfing Porpoise Bay
Sky surfing Porpoise Bay
Tony surfing Porpoise Bay
Tony surfing Porpoise Bay
We spent a couple of days at Curio Bay as the camp was really nice and the surf seemed to be good. After that it was on to Dunedin, stopping off at Kakanui on the way so that the guys could do a little fishing  and I could get a little surf in :)  They didn't catch any fish, but they did catch a crab.  We weren't sure about eating it though...

Fia surfing in Kakanui
Me surfing at Kakanui
Dunedin was quite a nice city actually, it seemed to have a lot more old buildings than many of the other Kiwi cities.  You could definitely tell there was a Scottish influence there as well, and people actually said "wee" as in "a wee bit"!  The highlight for Dunedin though was the world's steepest street.  Sky had us driving around the whole of Dunedin to find it and finally we passed it, and we couldn't believe how steep it was.  I thought we were just going to look and take pictures, but obviously Sky and Tone both wanted to drive up.  Now, our van wasn't exactly what you'd call a 'space rocket' and it certainly wasn't getting any younger either....I was a little worried to say the least that the van would suddenly just cave in and we'd go hurtling back down the street into oncoming traffic.  Luckily no such thing happened.  We were actually pissing ourselves laughing going up the hill, and at the top there was a really nice view of Dunedin.  I was more worried going down hill, and at the bottom there was a group of people just laughing at us, saying we were mad!  I'd have thought this kind of thing was common occurrence, but then the sign does say no turning and no exit... 

The World's Steepest Street in Dunedin!
The van is in 1st gear and we're not sure it's going to make it up...
On our way up to Christchurch we stopped off at a couple of "points of interest" along the way. One of them was a New Zealand Fur Seal and Penguin Colony, and the next was the Moeraki Boulders. The Seal colony wasn't exactly happening, as you can see we saw one seal, and if you look at our Flickr stream you'll notice that Tone took about a hundred photos of it. We didn't see any penguins either. In any case there were pretty much always seals in the water when they guys were surfing, which freaked Tone out a bit.

New Zealand Fur Seal chilling out on a rock
The Moeraki boulders were cool. It probably would have been better to go and see them at low tide but we couldn't really be picky. We got there just after a bus load of Japanese tourists, and as Tone and Sky started to mess around on the boulders, trying to jump at the same time from one boulder to the next, they started taking loads of photos and videos of them on their phones and cameras! It was pretty funny, especially since Tone has lost so much weight that he kept having to hold on to his board shorts so that they didn't fall down half way through the jumps! They were quite slippery as well, apparently, so they were both really concentrating on not falling off them and breaking something.
Tony and Sky on the Moeraki Boulders
Jumping at the same time on the Moeraki Boulders
After the boulder jumping, we made our way to Lake Ellesmere, just outside Christchurch, where we'd stay the night before heading to the surf spots around there. We tried to stay at this one site, but were told to move on (well, it was right outside a holiday camp and a load of houses, so no surprise there!) but were recommended a reserve on Lake Ellesmere, where it was free to camp. We had been relying on Sky's sat nav, which up until then was pretty reliable (apart from a couple of "short cuts"), so we headed in the direction of what we thought was the lake. We got to a gate which had a DOC sign on it with the title "Lakeside" and so we just blindly followed him in. We were in a field, and we couldn't see the lake anywhere...after driving through the first field we started to suspect that we weren't quite in the right place, as there were sheep all around and there wasn't even a track, let alone a road! I think it took us 10 minutes of driving in a field before we realised that we were in the wrong place! Good old sat navs...

We finally got to Lake Ellesmere, but it was so infested with mosquitoes that we just ended up sitting in Sky's van all night. Luckily we'd bought a load of beers and some tequila so we thought we'd play a couple of drinking games and some cards to pass the time. Then the camera came out, and we started taking silly photos of us drinking tequila on a slow shutter. Then we suddenly got an attack of the munchies (having not had any dinner) and proceeded to cook some egg sandwiches. I've never seen someone eat so many eggs in one sitting, I think Sky ate 10 eggs and Tone ate 8 eggs. I think I only ate 3, or maybe 4...anyway, there were a hell of a lot of eggs being cooked. Probably helped keep the hangover away the next morning!

Tequila night...
So after our Tequila shenanigans we headed to Magnet Bay, just outside Christchurch, for a nights camping and a days surfing.  I couldn't get in again as it was all rocky and bigger than I was used to, but it was a really pretty spot.  We headed to Christchurch for a night and then on to Kaikoura, which is a couple of hours North for some more surfing and general lazing about.  The breaks there were pretty hardcore, all rocky and not exactly inviting for a beginner like myself.  On the first or second day we were there, we noticed some people diving in the shallows at low tide, and Sky said they were diving for Paua.  Paua are a large mollusc, and we (i.e. Sky and Tone) decided it would be a good idea to have a go as well so that we could actually say they caught something (seeing as though they'd been so unlucky fishing).  You have to be really careful to get the right size Paua, as the New Zealand fishing Association are pretty strict and you can get a hefty fine.  I think they had to be over 12.5 cm.  The Maori guys who were diving had a load of professional gear, with a proper measuring knife which doubled up as the tool to get them off the rocks, whereas Tone and Sky just had a soup spoon.  Still, they managed to get a good few and so we decided to cook them up with some yellow pepper, garlic, chili and olive oil in a pasta and it turned out really tasty!

Hunting for Paua

The Paua out of it's shell - some of it sliced really finely
Paua and pepper pasta!!
They were pretty weird looking, and also a little bit tough and chewy.  But all in all it made for a satisfying dish!

Some of the surf spots around Kaikoura are world class, especially Mangamaunu, which is rated the same as Raglan in the NZ Surf Guide.  It's a right hand point break which you can ride for up to 300m on one wave!  Tone and Sky both had waves that they caught and rode all the way to the beach.  Unfortunately you then have to get out and walk all the way round to get back in again...but they said it was worth the effort.  

Tony surfing Mangamanau
Tony surfing Mangamaunu
Most of the beaches are rocky as well, and another place they surfed was called 'Meatworks'.  Apparently it gets its name from the days that surfers didn't have boots and cut there feet up on the rocks trying to get out there.  Tony didn't just cut his feet on those rocks, I think the Paua diving and some other fishing related escapades previously cut his feet up, but they certainly weren't made any better by surfing Meatworks:

Tony's feet - ravaged by rocks, paua and surfing
We spent about 3 days in Kaikoura.  It was a really nice little fishing/surf town and people were friendly.  We had to head back to Christchurch, however, in order to start getting our van for sale.  Sky also left us to start heading back to Wanaka at this point.  It was sad saying bye but the 2 weeks had been really good fun.  

We spent most of our time in Christchurch whilst we were selling our van in Sumner and Taylor's Mistake.  Sumner is a cute little seaside town, and Taylor's Mistake is a beach just over the hill from it.  For about a week every day we would get up, go and have a cold shower at the toilets in Taylor's Mistake (or not if it was really cold and windy) then go to Sumner to make breakfast and wait for the calls about the van (we had no reception over the hill).  Occasionally we would head into Christchurch, and Tone would do a bit of surfing.  We also managed to get the local DVD rental place in Sumner to rent us some DVDs, so we watched the entire second season of Dexter, and season 3 and 4 of The Wire.

It was quite stressful selling the van - we turned down a couple of offers as we thought they were too low and we wanted to get more money for it.  We thought we had loads of time but as our last weekend started creeping closer and closer we started to panic.  In the end we sold it just last Saturday to 3 guys, and thankfully for not too much less than we wanted.  Panic over!  It was such a weight lifted off our shoulders, and we could now go and chill out and relax in Christchurch. We treated ourselves to an Indian that night at a little restaurant in Sumner called 'Indian Sumner', it was really good, and I have to say better than any Indian i've had in the UK.
A civilised cup of tea in Christchurch
The Tram
Playing chess in Cathedral Square in Christchurch
Christchurch is quite a nice city, we're staying in a really friendly hostel called Around the World, where the lady bumped us up to a double room for our first night for no apparent reason other than she liked us!  We went to see the Ron Mueck exhibition, which was amazing.  I had seen one of his sculptures before, ages ago in the Tate Liverpool, but this exhibition featured a load more.  
Feeling some lips at the Ron Mueck exhibition
"Mask 2" by Ron Mueck
"A girl" by Ron Mueck

We fly to Sydney tomorrow, where we'll be for 3 nights, and then we fly to Singapore on the 18th December.  We still haven't figured out where we'll be for Christmas and New Year, but i'm hoping a nice beach somewhere. New Zealand has been really, really good fun, and it's a shame we have to leave it now - I think we both would have liked to spend more time here and do some of the things we missed out on.  Plus the Kiwis are just so friendly, you can't help feeling at home here!  

Fia and Tone xxx

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