Tag Archives: New Zealand

Hockey and Helicopters

When travelling all over the world one of the times you tend to really miss friends and family are the special occasions like birthdays and Christmas. Since its July its an easy guess that its currently the latter that has left me thinking about home.

Last year my birthday in NZ was pretty pathetic to be brutally honest. Due to a combination of good friends leaving to continue their travels, people having plans and just not having that many friends in the country, my birthday essentially consisted of me sat at my desk in the office working late then getting Chinese food on the way home. Sad to say but that was about the top of the excitement factor for my 31st birthday. With that in mind I was determined not to have a repeat performance this year and, with the efforts of quite a few special people around me, that was certainly not the case this year.

Unusually for me my birthday celebrations started a few days early for me this year, on the Sunday before my actual birthday (on the Wednesday). Lisa’s parents were kind enough to invite us over for some afternoon tea and we had a mini bday celebration with some of her family and close family friends. Somehow the weather turned really nice in the afternoon even though we are currently in deepest winter, so for about 2 hours Lisa and I ran around the garden like idiots playing football with the kids while the real adults looked on shaking their heads. Fun was had by all and many a goal was scored even if some were by questionable means! Lisas Dad made an amazing apple cake and Lisa had also arranged for a custom chocolate cake from a local bakery so it was cake, cake and more cake. After dinner was boardgame time where I have to admit that I was beaten at chess by a child. A very good child mind you and we did win one each….but still, someone a third my age so maybe I am not as good as I used to think!

When the day of my actual birthday rolled around I made the decision that I didn’t want to work for the day so booked it off and instead just tried to enjoy myself for the day. The “relaxing” start to the day didn’t exactly happen though as somewhere along the way I had agreed to get up for the 6.30am boxing class at the gym followed by breakfast with Ellie. If you ever want to push yourself then a 6.30am boxing class is certainly the way to go. Pressups and skipping at that time will certainly wake you up! After milling about the house for a bit it was time to meet Lisa for walk by the beach and a nice lunch before heading home to go mountain biking.

…..and I didn’t go biking at all. Now I did have every intention to get out on my bike and hit the trails, I had ever laid out all of my biking clothes ready to go. What I wasn’t reckoning on though was our temporary cat returning and wanting to chill out with me. Over the last few weeks we have had a cat keep appearing at the house and just wandering in as we open the door. We haven’t fed it but it still seems happy enough to just come in and chill out for a while. The cat has been named Doggo since Luke wanted a dog instead of a cat and he/she seems pretty relaxed. Anyway, when I got back from lunch with a full stomach and a cat that wanted to cuddle the idea of biking in the cold seemed to take a back seat. There I laid on the sofa for the next 3 hours until I finally had to get up and get ready for the BJJ and MMA classes I had also decided to go to to round off my day of combat sports. Safe to say that I managed to get through the BJJ class ok, however I then got quite punished at the end of the MMA session with a Doghouse round where I had to go for 12 mins, taking on a new opponent every minute. It doesn’t sound that hard until after the 3rd minute when you are too gassed to move properly and these fresh faced people keep attacking you!

Once I picked myself up off the floor and had a quick shower it was time to head out for dinner with some friends to round off the evening and end a pretty awesome birthday.

…At this point the questions should be “This has got zero to do with Helicopters or Hockey” however if you are patient and keep reading we will get to that.

Unlike any other birthday that I have had this one managed to stretch its way out to a whole extra weekend of adventures, some planned, some spontaneous and some planned in secret for quite a while.

Saturday morning the was the start of the second weekend and even more birthday treats. Lisa and got up in the morning and drove out to Queenstown for the weekend to take part in the festivities of the winter festival. Arriving quite late in the afternoon we wondered about for a while before grabbing some food and the heading to the Hockey match that evening. It is the second Hockey match I’ve ever been to and Lisa’s parents bought us tickets for by bday gift which was awesome of them. Although the ice rink in QT is tiny, the fans are plenty rowdy and loud and there was quite an atmosphere going on given that it seemed like no one (including the players or refs) knew what was going on! ….maybe that was just me though. Hockey is a pretty fast paced game so its hard to tell the difference between an innocent penalty and a blatant one but I am still not sure how something didn’t get sent off for punching another guy in the face in front of the ref!

The rest of Saturday night was pretty chilled out with the rest of the fun happening on the action packed Sunday. After getting up and leaving the hotel as late as possible the original plan was to walk up to the top of the lookout hill and go for a ride on the luge before leaving to go for by bday surprise at 1pm. Arriving at the hill we thought better of the whole thing and instead got tickets to take the Gondola up and back down again which in hindsight was the best choice since we were a bit strapped for time in the end. Along with the Gondola up we also got tickets to go on the Luge at the top which I have never been on before but have always looked at every time I’ve been there. The Luge is definitely something I would do again in a heartbeat and was over far too quickly. The QT Luge is basically a 2 different tracks from the very top of the hill to the main Gondola station full of twists and turns and even the odd jump if you’re brave enough. You ride down it on little carts where you control the speed by pushing the controls forwards or pulling back and try your best not to spin out on sharp corners by going far to fast. Safe to say I failed this on my second run and ended up sideways. I was a little overzealous with my speed, trying to keep up with Lisa who had smashed me on the first run down the hill and left me for a gonner.

After the excitement of our first little mission it was time to go and finally find out what this bday surprise was going to be. It had been kept very well hidden for quite a while now and I was pretty excited, especially when Lisa told me that she had impressed herself with this one. Anyone who has ever met her will know that when it comes to gifts she has an unnatural talent to always get the right thing and find amazing things for people all the time. Not quite sure how she does it but she does just manage to get even the rarest little gifts that fit just right. When this girl gets excited then you know it is something you should be excited for too.

With instructions to drive towards Cromwell and make sure I was dressed in warm clothes we headed off on a 30 min drive. My brain was going for all of the potential things that it could be but nothing really added up with the information I had been given. I was told to wear good footwear as my feet might get wet, but when asked about the rest of me apparently that would be dry. The only thing in my mind that this could be would be snow… but we were driving away from it…

Finally an instruction, “turn right here”, and then I saw it Heliview Flights. We were going in a Helicopter!

Now obviously this makes sense when thinking of how I could get to snow from nowhere near the mountains but this was ruled out pretty quickly in my mind as I was aware that Lisa was scared of heights so never expected that to happen. She had decided to face her fear though and I couldn’t be prouder or happier as I have always wanted to go in a Helicopter so this was just a perfect birthday gift.

After having the safety briefing and waiting for the chopper to arrive we were underway in such a relaxed and smooth way. The best thing about it was that at no point was Lisa scared which made things even better. We could both look out of the window and take on the scenery while the pilot narrated away and told us what we were looking at. The bonus of the trip was that we also got an alpine landing as part of the trip and somehow got absolutely perfect weather for the whole experience. For a few weeks leading up to this the weather had been a bit hit and miss. The night before it had rained pretty hard but today the sky was clear with a few wispy clouds and the sun in the sky. The best bit though… SNOW! So much deep snow on the ground and we got time to run around and act like kids, jumping in the air and taking awesome pics of our best efforts. It eventually got a little chilly on the old hands but that was just an excuse to go back and take another drink of the provided hot chocolate that we had with us. As a bonus on top of all the other bonuses so far I also got to sit in the front on the way back and see the amazing view when you are in a completely open cockpit.

Things lined up perfectly on the trip to make for an eventful weekend and some memories that I will not quickly forget.

It is the times like this that I appreciate and cherish the most. The vivid memories of happy times and experiences that people always reach for. I am so lucky to have people around me who took the time to make my birthday a great one and thankful to all of them. Especially lucky to have a girlfriend who is so cunning and planning that she can pull off such an amazing surprise… my only issue now is that its her birthday soon! Best get planning!

Day 8: New Years Eve (Morning)

It was morning in the camping shed in Motueka and I woke up from a great sleep in an actual bed. Things are looking up. As with the last few mornings it was time to find the largest body of water possible and jump in it to get clean. In this instance though there wasn’t really any located that close to where we stayed so we had to settle for using the nice hot showers instead. On one hand that does kind of takeaway from our adventuring ways but in another way it was a hot shower before a day out in weather that looked to be crap so it was probably the best idea we’ve had so far.

Our efficiency packing up our things and leaving has gotten better and better as the trip has gone on and we were that early leaving that we managed to get to Kaiteriteri in time to beat the morning rush. To be exact, we were that early that we were the morning rush! When we arrived the sea front contained us and… well… no one. Seems that if you get up a little too early for sleepy seaside towns you have to find a way to amuse yourself for a while.

After parking up and getting a breakfast of whatever was kicking about in the car at the time we headed to one of the Kayak rental places to find out what the info was on renting one for a bit. It turned out to be a really reasonable price for a few hours and even though our original plan was to go in the afternoon when the weather was better the guy at the stall convinced us to go a little later that morning. Apparently it is better to go while it is still a bit overcast rather than in the blazing sun and the guy seemed pretty confident so we went with his suggestion and mooched away to amuse ourselves for an hour before they were ready for the quick induction and to kick us out onto the water.

When it was time we headed back to the beach side 1451510843177 (1280x813)shack to get out safety briefing and grab our equipment. With everything we seem to attempt our start is usually a bit of a joke and gets better as we go along, this was no exception. The girl giving us the briefing then asks us to help her drag the kayak down to the shore to get us in it and on our way with Craig helping her at the front and me at the back. When we got to the sea Craig just kept walking as she did. The difference with that scene though is that the instructor was bare foot and Craig was still wearing socks and trainers, seemingly oblivious to the ridiculousness of the situation he was key to.

Moving swiftly on before to many questions were asked about damp footwear, we headed out to sea in our kayak, destination split apple rock. We had been it as a place to go from the start of our adventure and even just starting the paddle out we could see why. The entire of Kaiteriteri is beautiful, picture perfect, postcard style scenery. It is the type of place that gets people jealous when you post a photo there… which is exactly what we made sure to do as often as possible! It took a little while for us to get into the swing of things and get our paddling in tune but as soon as we did we were an unstoppable force. At one point we even had a race against a French couple in another boat and smashed them. There may have been a possibility that they were not aware we were actually racing but I think that detracts from our victory so we will just skim over that for now. We paddle around the rock pools and out into the open ocean towards our destination out on the horizon.

I feel I should let you all now that we had not actually done that much research into our destination, and by much I mean any. We were aware it was a rock that looks like its a bit apple split in 2 and we were also aware it was in the ocean near where we started but other than that our information was limited. This is where the handy map we were given when we set off came in handy… sort of. The map wasn’t exactly accurate and didn’t really have a scale on it which lead to our second mistake of the day. On the map there were 6 beaches that we had to pass before we would get to our destination and by our calculations we had been at it for about 20 mins and so far only passed one beach. As we looked out at the open water we realised that we had quite a way to go ahead of us before we would get to our DSC_2250 (1280x720)destination and since this was literally the only thing we had planned to do the whole trip it was time to get a move on. With the motivation that we needed to achieve our goal and a little team work we became an unstoppable paddling force, flowing through the waves like a majestic… thing that’s majestic… you get the idea! Minutes of silence passed as we concentrated on our stroke form and power to get to the point that currently looked like a dot in the distance. How anyone that is unfit manages to get out there and back in a few hours is completely beyond it.

It was at that point that we noticed the tour group that had left 20 mins before us in their kayaks pulling up onto a beach in a little cove back in land. Obviously the amateurs would not be able to make it all the way out like Craig and I would. Instead they had settled for stopping on a little beach by some caves and a massive sort of rock… that looked split.

“Craig…. How many rocks do you think there are out in the middle of the ocean in this exact area that look like the thing we are looking for?”
“Not sure but that cant be it as ours is miles away”
“…Are you certain because that kind of looks like a massive apple that is split in two?”
“We can check it out but I doubt it, we have miles to go yet!”

No prizes ladies and gentleman for guessing what we had stumbled across, not 25 mins from when we started. Only the exact place we were looking for. It turns out that the scale on the map is so bad that is classes the big beach that we had passed as multiple little beaches, split up where there were some rock formations. If we hadn’t spotted that tour group we would have probably ended up on some sort of missing persons list, surfacing somewhere on the north island a few weeks later!

Our next fail was bring the Kayak into shore. We were aware we needed to bring up our rudder before we hit the shallows and that we needed to power towards the beach which wasn’t an issue, the problem was that we forgot how quickly we needed to get out of the craft. And by we, I mean me. I was at the back of the kayak so when we hit the beach and slid up it all was well, for about 10 seconds. At that point the next wave came in, washed over my and soaked me. Yey for me being smart!

It was at this point, as we looked around at the other people on the secluded beach, that we realised that everyone had a picnic apart from us. Turns out the kayaks have a nice big hold in the middle where you can put things like a picnic, or your shoes, or a Frisbee…..Damn we have no Frisbee. All we did seem to have was mobile phone signal and a beautiful sight which lead to a couple of Skype calls home just to try and wind people up a bit. I think we succeeded which was at least one positive spin we could put on our failures so far, I mean apart from being in paradise of course!

Back on the kayak we realised that we had loads of time to spare so our mission now turned to trying toDSC_2252 (1280x720) get into as many of the little coves as we could and dodge all the rocks long the way. We got back to the start point with loads of time to spare so decided to try attacking the more precarious shallows to see we were as good as we though. I am sure all of you are now expecting me to say how we fell in but on the contrary, we become kayak masters! Drifting in and out of the shallow pools, moving with the waves, reversing and doing 3 point turns. We had it all. Craig and Dan were an unstoppable team. We even beat the French back to the beach too so that’s 2 wins under our belt!

It was now the part of our day that we had dreaded. Attempting to find accommodation in paradise, on New Years Eve with no prior booking. Fun times ahead…

I’ve decided to split the post here as I think I keep writing things that are far too long which is the reason I never seem to get anything published that often.

 

Another one bites the dust

20160517_222033It has gotten around to that time again when another of the Dunedin backpackers makes their move and heads off into the sunset. The time has come for Craig to finally depart and go travelling for a bit again to see a bit of what the world has to offer. As right now Craigis in Hawaii for a while living the dream, then New York then finally heading back to the UK with this chapter of New Zealand adventure over.

20160517_222029
Craigs Replacement 🙂

For a final fair-well we decided to head down to long beach and have a little fire in a cave. Even though it was freezing out it seemed like a good idea at the time so we bought a bag of kindling and drove down to the beach. After having a quick look about we lit a fire in the conveniently created fire pit and then chilled out listening to music.

As with last time we had a fire on a beach Craig wondered off to get some firewood and cam back dragging a tree, this time with added seaweed for extra flavour. We managed to actually get the fire going for quite a while and burnt most of the tree and some other bits of wood we found enough for a few hours.

20160517_222518Id like to say that we sat there and had deep conversations about the world, life and everything inbetween but instead we just sat there for a few hours and watched the fire burn again. To be honest thou that was a great way to spend the night and a decent way to see Craig off.

 

I’ll miss you buddy 🙂

 

P.s. Forgot to mention that we also had a glow in the dark Frisbee and it was AWESOME! As it turned out ht wind was far too windy to even attempt to play with it properly but it still made for some fun as it lit up the ground when you did nice low shots. At one point we did also think we had lost it too when I threw it and the wind got it and dragged it miles away into some bushes. Luckily for us finding a glow in the dark Frisbee at night tends to be an easier job than at daytime and it also happened to land exactly on a path so we got quite lucky. Cant wait to play with it again 🙂

(Craig) Allans beach

IMG_20160508_114038 (480x640)Whenever people ask me what I like about Dunedin it always comes back to the fact that there is still so much so see an explore all around the area. Every weekend I try and get out and see a new sight, maybe a beach or a walk somewhere but always somewhere new and the great thing is I still have hundreds left to do.

It has gotten to a point that we no longer even plan where we are going to go as there are just to many hikes to do. Now we just pick a direction and drive until we find something interesting.

On this occasion we hadn’t even really planed to go in the first place so it was super last minute, yet we seemed to end at yet another awesome beach, in this case Allans Beach. Before we got there we didnt even know it existed, we just picked a road and eventually ended up at a car park that then lead to the beach.

20160508_111337 (1280x960)We made our way onto the rocks at the far end of the beach and probably spent about 15 mins just watching the water flow in and out of a small inlet as the waves came in. The seaweed in the inlet became almost hypnotising as it swayed with the movement of the ocean in the light blue, clear water.

After a bit more rock climbing and a look into the crystal clear water Craig climbed up on top of a rocky outcrop and suddenly got the urge to jump. Being that he is due to go home in a few weeks and this beach shares a name with him it seemed the perfect time and place to do it.

20160508_105624 (1280x960)Stripping down to his boxers and shoes (we know how he likes to go in the sea with those!) he dove in, making a pretty awesome slowmo video. In fact he liked it so much he did it twice!

Take a look 🙂 https://goo.gl/photos/ntodZA2hN7TsfimaA

Another day another adventure.

 

Day 7: Sand Dunes

An air bed. Who would have thought that such a simple thing could bring so much pleasure to a grown man. Waking up in a tent and not feeling like a cripple is definitely the way to go and the way I will always camp in future if I have the option.

As had now become a tradition of the trip the first thing to do in the morning was to dive into the biggest body of water that we could find, which happened to be Golden Bay, right next to our camp site. With a little persuasion we managed to convince some of our new travel acquaintances to do it with us and live a little. The issue that we had today though wasn’t due to the temperature of the water, but rather the depth. The water in Golden bay was beautifully warm but that was due to the fact that it was only a few inches deep. The super shallow bay allowed the sun to warm the water really easily but didn’t do much for our plan of diving under for a wakeup. At first we thought we would just have to walk a little further out, but after about 200m we realised it wasn’t going to get muchDSC_2246 (1280x720) deeper so we all just had to dive in and lay down to get properly covered. As far as we are concerned this still counts towards our mission even if it felt more like a warm bath than a brutal wakeup.

After packing up and finally saying our goodbyes it was time to head up to the very top of the south island, our furthest point before starting our journey back down towards home of little old Dunedin. Our goal was to get to Wharariki beach at the top of the bay and chill out there for a while before making our way back down to Kaiteriteri where we wanted to go sea Kayaking.

The drive up the coast was scenic and beautiful and as always eventually lead us to a dirt track for us to drive along to get to our final destination. At the very end of the track was a packed car park and a little cafe that DSC_2244 (1280x720)seemed to be doing plenty of business on the warm summers day. Although we were apparently near the sea the carpark actually ended in a little grassy valley with signs showing that it was about a 20 min walk to get to the actual sea. We grabbed the essentials (Frisbee and water) and started making our way there over the hills. After about 10 mins we hit sand but still hadn’t yet seen the sea. Before us were huge dunes flowing as far as we could see. Luckily there was a signpost pointing us in the direction we needed to head to get to the main part of beach we were after so we followed the sign and stream of people down towards the water.

To say the sand was hot i
s an understatement. The white sand was somehow the temperature of fresh lava and made for an interesting walk. With each step the aim was to bury your feet as deep as possible to the cooler sand underneath to get away from the inferno on the surface. This actually made us move pretty quickly across the beach to get to the cooler sand at the waters edge where we could actually stand without getting 3rd degree burns.

Now was the time that I had been waiting for. The sun shining, the weather calm and a Frisbee to throw. DSC_2242 (1280x720)Life cant get much better than that. Even with maybe a hundred people on the beach, the area was so vast that there was no one anywhere near us. It wasn’t even an issue to just dump our stuff down and start wandering towards the sea throwing the Frisbee about. Craig even decided to take things a step
further and venture our into the sea for a bit of a swim to see how far he could get.

After relaxing for a while we took another wonder around the area so see what other hidden treasures the coast had to offer and managed to find a few more little enclosed bays with rocks towering around them, yet again more beautiful sights that none of my photos can do justice to. Our exploring ways were cut short again by the searing temperature of the white hot sand. Recently I was talking to Craig about this day and mentioned that this is what I was up to writing about and the first thing he said to me was “Do you remember how hot that sand was?!?”. Even 5 months on the first memory of that day is burnt feet.

After finally clearing off of the beachDSC_2247 (1280x720) and letting our feet cool off it was back to the car to continue the adventure. Earlier in the week we had been advised to visit a place called Te WaikoropupĆ« Springs… or just Pupu springs for anyone like my that has trouble pronouncing full Māori place names correctly! Pupu springs is known for its amazing water clarity, for years being the clearest water in the world until it lost its title to Blue Lake in 2011 (which also happens to be in New Zealands South Island). Due to the way the water comes up from the springs and some other science that someone better than me has probably explained elsewhere, the water ends up looking crystal clear with an average viability of 60+ meters which is just phenomenal. After a bit of driving and a few wrong turns we made it to the springs just as it started to rain but that didn’t really dampen our spirits…. see what i did there! Bad jokes aside, the water was amazing. It is hard to really describe it as everyone has seen water before or been to a swimming pool where the water is clear. All I can really say though with this is that the water seemed almost completely calm, just shimmering on the surface from the fresh springs underneath, yet unlike a swimming pool it was there were plants and features under the surface to see. There is no swimming allowed in the springs for obvious reasons, as DSC_2248 (1280x720)im sure it would get hazy pretty quickly with everyone kicking up sediment from the surface, but that being said, even with the rain the water was some of the most inviting I have ever seen. I know a few people who hat the idea of swimming in lakes or oceans just because they are scared of what is under the water and I am sure those people wouldn’t have been scared here… if they were allowed of course

After leaving the springs we were on a mission to try and get some accommodation and not really having much luck looking online. Most places seem to be fully booked up but after a bit of ringing around we managed to find a place in Motueka, not too far from where we had planned to have our next adventure in Kaiteriteri. The accommodation was on a camp site, but rather than camping we ended up in what can only be described as a shed with bunk beds. Now to most people this would have been terrible but for us this was just perfect. A bed I didn’t have to blow up and a roof we didn’t have to construct seemed like a real win. To top it off we even had plugs to charge our phones while we slept, luxury or what! We are really moving up in the world now.

Day 6: Aladdins Carpet

I awoke in my tent to the sound of a groan. It was the noise of an old man attempting to rise after a rough nights sleep on hard, cold ground. At first I thought it was Craig until I realised that the noise was emanating from my own body. Everything ached. Everything was sore. It turns out that when you are not accustom to sleeping in a tent much then going “back to basics” can be a little harder than expected. Our foam rolls (henceforth on our travels known as “Aladdins Fucking Carpet!”) were far too thin and constantly rolled up at the ends. Craigs had the added benefit of having some silver foil on it which I suppose would help if we needed to cook a chicken in an emergency but mainly did bugger all for us.

It was at this point that we remembered our wild and manly claims that night before that jumping into a large body of water was going to be our new road trip ritual. Yesterday the lake water had turned out to be far more inviting that we ever could have imagined, however the large waves of the Southern Pacific seemed to leave a little more to be desired. The key thing is thought that we are both men of our word and a deal had been struck. It was time to suck it up and dive into the ocean.

Much can be said for the energy giving properties of caffeine to do a good job at waking up in a morning. Its warm, taste and slowly brings you around to have a focus for the day. Dunking yourself under the crashing waves of the sea on the other hand has an affect 20 times stronger in a fraction of a second and makes you feel alive like nothing else can. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t jump under the waves and think “Wow, I am so happy to be alive right now”, what actually happened is I jumped in, scream “HOLY FUCK CRAIG, WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING??!?” and ran back out again. Sometimes I guess we feel alive against our will too. In hindsight I am glad I did it. It isn’t something that used to be on my list of daily activities and was certainly outside of my comfort zone but that is what adventure should about. Doing the things you are not sure about doing just because you can. In the moment though I was freezing cold, regretting life decisions and well in need of the traditional wakeup coffee!

DSC01975 (1024x768)Over the course of the trip so far most of the days drives have been relativly short but quite tiring. Every day involved some driving and some adventuring but we realised that we had not really travelled that far, yet we had quite a long way to go. With this in mind we made the decision to use the day to make as much progress as we could and do a long drive up the coast and across to the Able Tasman national park all in one shot. This meant about 5 hours worth of driving for the day but would then put us into the area we wanted to be in for us to relax and chill out a bit more for the next few days. The things about New Zealand though is that just going on a big drive can be part of the adventure. Around every corner the scenery changes and we spot more and more natural wonders and amazing sights. These sights are not advertised tourist locations, but rather just little added bonuses on the trip. They are the type of things that would attract a crowd in the UK but over here they are just yet another amazing outcrop of islands or cliffs or gorge or river.

As we headed north there was one attraction that we did want to stop off at which was the Punakaki Pancake Rocks further up the west cost. The pancake rocks formed over 30 million years ago under the sea and then over time the seismic activity has lifted them out of the water for the elements to then cut away at the rocks and leave these strange and amazing pieces of natural scenery. Due to the way the tide comes up into some of the caves below there are also blow holes that water sprays up and out of at certain times of the day. Unfortunately we were not there are the right time for this, but just watching the DSC01969waves crash against the cliffs was enough to get a decent enough idea of just how powerful the water was and how crazy it would be to be caught inside one of those caves. The ocean is such a powerful beast and moments like this make you realise it and respect it for that.

As we were exiting the little loop track of the Pancake rocks we looked over and spotted a familiar face. Hundreds of miles from home and we bump into another person that we know! This time it was my flatmates friend Amy with her Son Mekalo who were on an adventure of their own up the west coast. It was such crazy timing as if our timing was off by just a minute we wouldn’t have been in the same place at the same time and would never have even noticed each other. Its so weird how that happens here, yet also quite comforting in a way. No matter where you are there always seems to be a friendly face if you really need one.

We hit the road again and headed across the country, taking our way to Takaka on the North coast around Golden Bay. Even thought the drive took hours the miles just slipped by as the scenery forever changed before us.

Eventually we hit Motueka on the coast, only a small hop over some hills from our final destination for the night. In our mind we only had about 30 mins to go as it seemed pretty close on a map but we hadnt bothered to zoom in on the map and see just how windy the road was that lead across the pass. On closer inspection the entire road was switchbacks and hairpin turns stretching for miles and slowing our progress right down. It would have been fine if we were the only ones on the road but we somehow managed to get ourselves stuck behind the slowest cars in the whole of NZ who slowly struggled to get up the steep hills. Every few mins we would say “just a little further” before taking a turn and seeing even more road stretched out in front of us.

When we finally made it to Takaka the place was packed.DSC01983 It seemed like everyone had had the same idea as us and gone there for their holidays. The streets were lined with people and cars and we knew we could possible find any accommodation there so we went into search mode to try find somewhere to find a bed for the night.

We eventually found a place at a campsite just down the road, at which point we realised that camping in New Zealand is serious business over the Christmas break. There must have been a thousand people on this massive site, most of them Kiwi families having their Christmas breaks away. Most of the tents were more like temporary encampments then the sort of thing I was used to seeing. Many of them having shelving, tables and whole kitchens set up inside of them. Outside sat the truck with bikes in the back, kayaks on top, towing a boat along for the ride. This was not an uncommon occurance and it seems to me like the Kiwi dream involves staying in a tent to afford all the toys to have fun all day. To be fair enough the place was a hive of activity with good facilities which is more than we could ask for.

We ended up getting one of the last available places that happened to be next to a British and American couple that were travelling together. They had been in a car accident the day before that had written off one of their cars and had then all piled into one car before continuing. They came around a corner to find another driver on the wrong side of the road and had to swerve into the ditch to avoid a head on collision. Luckily no one was hurt but it did make us much more aware of the dangers that could be lurking around any corner as we continue our trip.

The 6 of us chatted away all night as the sun began to set. I would love to tell you what we talked about for hours on end, however a combination of a long day, time passing and lots of ciders means that I cant really remember much.

What I can remember is that we ended up taking a wonder out onto the beach before heading to bed to sit and watch the stars. Out there with nothing much around the sky was so bright and the stars some of the most amazing I have ever seen. Yet another day of adventuring down and another amazing day spent with great people.

One last consolation was that after the fun nights sleep on Aladdins carpet I ended up going into a store and buying an air bed. BEST PURCHASE EVER! Should have done it days ago!

 

Day 5: An unexpected awakening

Waking up in a tent on the hard ground made me realise that I am not as manly as I had first thought. It is one thing to go camping but quite another to insist you don’t need anything between you and the ground apart from a sleeping bag. We had done the latter and were quickly regretting our life choices.

The morning was crisp and we awoke with the sunrise in the early hours in that way that only people camping can; Completely awake yet still a little tired. It was time to put our wakeup / washing plan into motion and start what was to become a bit of a morning tradition of jumping into the largest body of water available the moment we get up.DSC_2209 (1280x281)

Heading down to the lake filled me with excitement and a little dread. Jumping into a lake at 6am is exactly the sort of thing our adventure was all about, making awesome memories and doing things we wouldn’t do in our day to day life. On the other hand though this was a lake…at 6am! Egging each other on we made our way down the jetty until we were faces with the expanse of seemingly freezing water in front of us. We both knew that we needed to get it over and done with as soon as possible, in and out, job done. but that still doesn’t make it any easier to throw ourselves in.

Still caked in dust from quadding the night before we counted to 3 and jumped into the freezing lake ready for a shock…. but there wasn’t a shock… and it wasn’t a freezing lake. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t warm by anyone’s imagination but it certainly wasn’t even slightly as cold as we expected. Our experience with water so far in New Zealand has mainly been either the cold South Pacific Ocean around Dunedin or the Glacial lakes of central Otago so this was a happy little surprise. Such a great surprise in fact that we ended up staying in the water for about 10 more minutes, climbing out to just jump back in again. A proper manly shower that made us proud of ourselves.

After getting ourselves clean it we managed to complete DSC_2227 (1280x720)another task to makes us feel like real men. as we started to drive out of the car park we noticed that a piece of plastic on the bottom of the car was hanging down. Nothing major just a little missing clip but something we felt the need to fix none the less. Time to use the only 2 tools we could ever need, Duct tape and cable ties. People always ask me why I have these 2 things with me in one of my bags at times but they dont realise the amount of things you can fix in an emergency with these 2 little things. In this case we just needed 1 little cable tie and boom! Job done! High fives all around and then onwards.

New Zealand may be a little larger than the UK in terms of land mass, however it turns out that it is actually a really tiny place when it comes to bumping into people you know (as will become even more apparent the more I post). In this instance my friend Kim happened to be visiting her parents in Greymouth and decided to meet Craig and I in Hokitika for a day of adventure and to act as our personal guide. Out first stop (after taking pictures of the famous Hokitika driftwood sign) was to head down to the gorge around 30 mins out of time. Somehow our aimless driving with lack of signposts somehow managed to get us get us where we needed to be, a short walk from yet another amazing view that New Zealand happened to offer.

DSC_2219 (1280x720)After walking down and winding path through the trees Hokitika Gorge is quite an unexpected, eye opening sight. Never in my life have I seen water the colour as it was here, a turquoise blue that looks as if it has been edited somehow to get its unnatural colour. The reason for this amazing colour is that the river is fed from cold glacial waters that get mixed in which silt as it churns down the river causing this hidden natural beauty. Although the scenery was beautiful there did happen to be quite a few sandflys in the area and anyone who has had experience with them will tell you that they are no fun at all. I actually posted a picture from the gorge at the time and got a photo response from CB who had quite a different experience there. When he had gone the water had been mixed up with flood waters and browney grey flood water was surging past the spot where I took my photos. It almost made it look like everything had been faked since the views were so different.

Next stop on the days tour was Greymouth its self and a spot of lunch at a brewery before emergency CD shopping. We still didnt really have any music on our travels and kept going out of radio reception so this seemed like a priority. I DSC_2228 (1280x720)cant even remember how long it has been since I bought a CD and after trying to shop for one for 10 mins I remember why! It just seems to difficult to find an album that you might want to buy when there is no search function! It seemed like every CD was Christmas music or boy bands which wasn’t exactly what we wanted. We luckily ended up finding a rare Radio 1 Live Lounge CD so were pretty chuffed about that.

One of the key things about our adventure was that we were not booking any accommodation before we set off and this day was not an exception. This meant that we did end up having to scout about at the last minute to try and fine somewhere. As it happened there was a space left at a little camp site in a town called Rapahoe that we headed to, just outside of the Graymouth town centre. The site was run by an old couple and to say it was strange was a bit of an understatement. The showers in the main building were built into the lounge / kitchen area and there were lots of little strange trinkets all over the place. As it happened we managed to get the last spot on the site, the downside was that we had to pay for a powered site, yet we just had tents and nothing to plug in. That wouldst have been too bad of a bullet to bite if we didn’t return from dinner later to find more people camped out in the middle of the volleyball court!

DSC_2237 (1280x720)Our little plot for camping actually turned out to be located in an awesome place. The ground was rock solid and full of stones but the proximity to the beach was pretty amazing. By going out the back of our plot and through some bushes we were right on the beach with an amazing view of the ocean. It was a pebble beach with plenty of driftwood and as the sun started to set that night we wondered down the beach, found a nice little alcove an made ourselves a fire. At many points along this trip it seems like Craig and I actually had a little romantic time and you know what, we bloody well did! Nothing like chilling on a beach with a fire while watching the sun set.

As the temperature started to cool and the fire started to cool it was time to take ourselves of for yet another of our infamous early nights (we are such party animals!). As a bonus we had purchased ourselves some foam bed rolls to sleep on in an attempt to be comfier than our previous nights sleep. Hopefully they manage to help take the sting out of the crappy stony ground.

The sun had set on another epic day with many more to come.

 

Just your Average Sunday Hike

I am aware that writing about a current even when I still haven’t written about 4 months ago may seem 20160403_111659 (1280x960)a bit odd but it sometimes just seems a bit simpler to get it done quickly and keep my brain moving on to the next thing. It is with that in mind that I give you a micro story, complete with pictures, of the little hike that we went for on Sunday.

When it comes to a story there isn’t really much to tell to be quite honest. Craig, Kate and I decided to go for a random drive and figure somewhere out to go for a walk and that is pretty much all that happened! We started driving down the peninsula and kept looking for signs to the many walking tracks that are around the area and 20160403_112517 (1280x960)eventually found a little track leading down to a beach in the distance. The weather want too great but we were in adventure mode so didn’t really care as we headed down the hill.

One of the best things about being in Dunedin is the views. When you are living your day to day life you can almost forget about them until they suddenly sneak up on you and catch you off guard. This place is only 15 mins drive from my house and I never even knew it existed until we went for the random drive. Heading down the hill the dark clouds started to roll in but 20160403_112416 (1280x960)we were undeterred with our waterproof jackets and iron will. It wasn’t until we had been walking downhill for about 15 mins that it dawned on us that also meant a long uphill walk back to the car!

A little bit further on the rain started. Luckily it wasn’t too windy and we were all pretty warm from the walk. As we wonder and chatted away we were treated to the most standard of sights in New Zealand, a young Kiwi boy running up the hill in the rain wearing just a thin 20160403_113532 (1280x957)T-shirt and shorts… Barefoot! The track was full of gravel and stones but it just didn’t seem to bother him at all as he powered his way up the hill, making us look like wimps with our jackets and comfy shoes.

By the time we had got down to the water the rain was really coming down and it turns out that after a year of use my waterproof jacket wasn’t very waterproof any more. Not only that but my trainers and hat also started to leak which is never really a fun time. We only stayed on the beach long enough to take a few pictures and then start our way back up. It was at the start of our assent that Craig pointed to a weird tree and commented “How bad must the wind be out here to do that to the trees?”. These trees look like that had been through some harsh times growing up, that’s for sure!

Anyway after a trudging back up the hill we were back in the car, home, warm and showered before lunch. The perfect little Sunday morning adventure.

 

Day 4: Quad Adventure

I awoke from my slumber on the 4th day of our trip to the sound of Merle sneaking her way out of the room at about 7am. She wasn’t very loud, I just happened to be awake already given the hayfever induced coma I had slipped into early the evening before. Merle was on her way to do a skydive over the Frans Joseph Glacier but unfortunately returned about half an hour later as all the flights had been cancelled for the morning. The thing that I have not quite got over yet is how changeable the weather DSC_2182 (1280x720)can be here in New Zealand. One moment it can be sunny, the next cloudy with rain. In fact many of these different weather patterns can even happen in the same day! As it happened, on this day heavy fog and cloud had moved in during the early hours of the morning and was so thick that you couldn’t even see the mountains that were clearly visible out of our window the night before. Since this seems to be a bit of a common occurrence here they just moved her dive to the afternoon and rescheduled. The bonus of this was that it gave us all some time together in the morning to do something together so the general consensus was to do the 1 hour hike to the terminal face of the glacier.

The hike to the glacier turned out to be more of a “casual walk” than a hike but I suppose it was at the right level for us given what we did the day before. Yesterdays hike was a constant climb the entire way, mainly on single track and over tree roots. DSC_2186 (1280x720)Today it was almost completely flat ith a few rocks to get over. The reason for this was that the whole area was situated in the river delta and the flowing river had carved its way through the valley over the millennia to leave an arid landscape crushed rock, big and small, with the occasional driftwood tree looking like a little twig in the epic landscape.

At first we were a little disappointed that there was not a real hike to sink our teeth into but soon we all quickly agreed that a casual stroll was probably all we could muster anyway. The only issue with going on the free version of the glacier hike is knowing that you cant got anywhere near as close as the people that are paying for the guided tours. With the “turn up and go for a walk” version that we were doing the hike eventually ended about 500m from the actual face of the ice so nowhere near to really see it as well as we would have liked but that is all we could manage. Along the way there were large chunks of ice that had been brought down from the glacier and just sat by the side of the trail for DSC_2164 (1280x720)people to take pictures with but that is about as close as we got. Although it is a bit gutting it also makes total sense from a safety perspective. We may have been conscientious hikers but there were plenty of other people there that day that didn’t have a clue or even the right footwear to have gotten anywhere near actual ice and would probably have died if let loose near the top. A bit of a PR nightmare that I am sure the NZ tourist board want to avoid. Still, we managed to get some decent pics and Frankie came through for us all by being the one that snuck along a bag of ciders for the gang. It may have only been one little can each, but it was cold and well earned on a warm day and that is all you can ask for from a summer cider.

After our uneventful decent Merle headed off to do her skydive while the rest of us grabbed some lunch in a local cafe. We had only just finished eating by the time she was back. At first we thought it must have been cancelled again but it turns out that they are just stupidly efficient when it comes to throwing people out of aircraft in New Zealand. Within 40 mins she had DSC_2168 (1280x720)been briefed, gone up, jumped and been brought back to town. Job done! It wasn’t just the planes that were that efficient either, the helicopters had their timing down to an art while landing in town. In the town centre there are around 6 or 7 helipads, however at any given time there must be about 15 helicopters in the air at once. All these choppers are taking turns in taking the tourists on the various different flights on offer around the mountains, some even stopping and landing for the clients to get out and stand on the ice for a while. This means that there is a constant juggling act going on with choppers landing, refueling and taking on passengers in almost a constant cycle. Often they have their passengers swapped and are back up again with the space of a few minutes, not even bothering to power down their engines. It is quite a sight to see how precise the whole show is and to them imagine that they do this constantly, nearly every day of the year!

DSC_2195 (1280x720)
No Bikes. No Drones.

After lunch it was time for us all to start parting our ways. Craig and I had booked to go on a Quad tour but the others needed to start making way across to the other side of the island so were hitting the road a bit earlier than us. It was emotional saying goodbye as even though we intended on seeing each other again over the next few days there was a possibility we wouldn’t bump into each other and then all the cool kids were leaving the country leaving Craig and I left. The hardest thing about travelling so much that people never seem to mention is leaving the friends that you have met along the way. Yes travel helps you make new friends and experience things you never dreamed of but it is also sometimes crushing when you have to say goodbye to those amazing friends you have just made because your lives are going in different directions. I am happy to say that I have kept in contact with a lot of people I have
traveled with and met along the way and would certainly love to see them again, the only issue is that the world is a big place and when everyone returns home it suddenly becomes much harder to keep in touch. Yes we have the internet and Facebook which really helps but it is not substitute to sitting on a hill, talking crap and watching the sun go down with a like minded friend.

After our heartfelt goodbyes the dynamic duo headed off to the riverbed for our quading adventure. I hadn’t been on a quad bike in years so was really looking forwards to it, especially at the discounted rate that Craig managed to find online. At first we had to mess about proving our competency driving in circles and around a little track before we could head out into the wilderness but as soon as we did it was loads of fun. Smashing through puddles and muddy ditches it amazing and so much fun. It is certainly something I want to do more often, maybe even getting my own one day if I ever figure out where I could go to ride it. The view of the mountains as we got further away from town was amazing and the guides were really great, telling us a bit about the area when we had a little rest half way. They were both locals who had grown up in the area so knew it like the back of their hand. The most shocking thing for us though was that they used to have to commute 2 hours each way to get to school each day which completely blows my mind. Out in back country NZ there isn’t really that many people so it makes sense that they would have to go away to school, but doing that journey on a bus every day just seems like a bit of a nightmare. This is the cost of paradise though I guess.DSC_2205 (1280x720)

 

By the time we had finished our mini ATV adventure we were covered in dust from the rocky riverbed. It was all over our clothes, on our skin and (for Craig anyway) in our hair too. The worst part about this though was that we had nowhere to go that we could even get washed off. Our next spot for someone to stay was still a few hours away so we brushed off what we could, jumped into the car and headed on our way.

While we had been travelling about we had heard about all of the Department of Conservation camp grounds that there are all over NZ and so we decided to check one of them out. These camp grounds are owned by the government and are a bit more of a free for all than strictly organised plots, however if DSC_2197 (1280x720)everyone plays fair then it works out really well. The cost per night is $6 each (around £3) and you just fill in a little tag, put your money into a secure box and pop the tag on your tent. Simple as that. For that cost you end up with a basic camp site with toilets, an area to wash dishes and somewhere to get drinking water. It isn’t anything spectacular but it is all well maintained and in our case it was also next to a beautiful lake that was also a stones throw away from the ocean. It was time to make use of the BBQ’s that we had brought with us so we busted them out and and had ourselves some nice BBQ beef burgers while the sun slowly went down. The more I blog about this road trip the more it is going to sound like “Dan and Craig’s romantic getaway”, and yes we have been told a couple of times that it sounds like were a couple (especially after our evening walks on the beach!). Bellies full we went back to our tent, still dirty and covered in dust like the manly men we were with a plan to also wash the way manly men do, by jumping into a lake first things in the morning. With our simplistic plan drawn out it was time to hit the hay and get a good nights sleep and see what the next day has to bring.

Day 2: Xmas in the Sun (Part 1)

Waking up on Christmas morning away from home for the first time in my life didn’t actually feel as awkward as you might have thought. As you get older Christmas starts to loose a little of its shine and growing up takes some of the childish excitement out of the day. Many reasons, including my Grandma passing away on Christmas day, have made me not the biggest fan of the holiday. I enjoy seeing family and watching everyone open their gifts but for me the worst part for the last few years has been those first few hours of the day when I wake up early as always yet there is no one about. Partners spending time with their parents, house mates returning home for a while and me alone in the house with nothing really to do. I don’t say this to try and get sympathy from anyone at all as I don’t wallow around the house and cry or anything, to me it is just another morning except I can’t do anything as the country has shut down.

For the last few years I have always tried to take the edge of this by doing a big challenge on Christmas day that is just for me. A few years ago I challenged myself to complete at 10km trail run on Christmas day by myself around some fields and rivers near where I used to live. Last year I upped my game to “20k Xmas day”, this time taking an easier option and opting to complete the distance as a 15km bike ride and only a smaller 5km run. The point of it was though that it took my mind away from the mundane and let me do something I wanted to do just for me. No one else really new or cared what I was up to on those early Christmas mornings and that’s the way I liked it. To be honest if I had told most people they would have looked at my like I was a fool for even thinking such a thing but this was the way I liked it. The best bit was that last year on my ride at 8am I was heading down a steep hill by the lakeside and as I looked out onto the water I spotted another adventurer after my own heart. Out on the water was a woman on a stand-up paddle board wearing a wetsuit and a Santa hat. We spotted each other and waved and I knew that I had made the right choice in the way I was spending my Christmas morning.

I don’t know why I have just rambled on so much and none of it is really relevant to the story of my road trip but I think it at least sets the scene and gives a little bit of understanding about what makes me tick early in the morning on days when most people want to be in bed. Anyway back to what actually happened this year on Christmas day.

Xmas HatWaking up in a dorm room is something that I am used to now. I crept out of bed, got dressed and headed out towards lake Wanaka, all while trying not to wake any of my room-mates. With my first mission successful it was time to call home and rub it in that I live in the future and was spending the day in the sun and having a BBQ while everyone at home froze and pigged out on Turkey. My calls home were well received with most people still awake and having a cheeky Christmas Eve drink. I even managed to catch my brother out with some of my cousins so got to have a chat to all of them and take part in the merriment. Many positive comments were made about my newly shaved head that I was still getting to grips with myself so they were all appreciated.

DSC_2111 (1280x720)After a hearty English breakfast cooked up by the tag team of Craig and Dan we got our gear together for our Christmas morning hike. This year I had managed to rope in willing recruits to my usual days stupidity, however out here it seemed like the right thing to do anyway. While on the calls home I had already seen dozens of people walking, running or biking about, enjoying their Christmas morning in the best of ways. The attitude over here is a much more active one with everyone taking the idea of “lets get a head start on this Christmas fat I’m going to put on!” and so everyone is active. Our challenge for the day was to climb up Mount Iron to sit there and take in the view. We grabbed our stuff and headed out for the short walk to the hill. From afar it doesn’t look too big but as you get closer it does start to look like a much bigger challenge than people who were drinking tequila shots a few hours before really needed to be engaging in. It is by no means a mountain as the name might suggest but is a steep hill that takes about 30 mins to walk to the top. As we started to ascend we all had a mix of regret and relief. Regret that we had decided to hike up the hill that morning but relief that we hadn’t decided that we should take on the 6 hour round trip of Roy’s peak!

DSC_2112 (1280x720)Thirty agonising minutes later we sat at the top and looked out over the town below. The view made us quickly forget about our aches, pains and hangovers as we stared out over the lake below softly lapping against the snow capped mountains in the distance. Just when everyone thought the moment could get any better Craig and I surprised Merle with our piÚce de résistance, 3 bottles of chilled fruit cider that I had hauled up the hill in my backpack. With bottles in hand we sat there in silence, drinking our drinks and taking in the amazing view of our surroundings. Sometimes nothing needs to be said between friends enjoying a moment and this was one of those times.

..Initially I was going to write all about Christmas day in a single post, however it seems like it might be a better idea to split things up a bit and save some for later. I know my writing can end up rather long winded and drawn out at times but you know what, I don’t care. It’s not my profession and I’m not paid to get it perfect (hence not spell checking enough or proofreading ever!). I write to have a record to look back on for the friends who shared the time with me and those who wished they could, so hopefully everyone just appreciates that for what it is.

I hope everyone has a magical Christmas such as that in their lives. Simple yet spectacular.

Day 1: Christmas Eve

Yes, I am aware that this is a month late. No, I dont care because whoever wants to read it will read it anyway. Enjoy 🙂


 

 

Wow. That is all I can start this post with. When we were planning this road trip and thinking about what we could get up to we knew it was going to be something pretty special but that didn’t really prepare me for the amazing trip we have ended up on and the awesome things that I have seen on this trip.

I know all of these posts have been a long time in the making, however I got straight back from the trip and got busy with life again and so it got put on the back burner. I am now on a whole new adventure having not yet published the one before so now is the time for me to get caught up and say what I wanted to say. Even if no one reads any of this I still need to get it all down as these are my memories and times to look back on that I otherwise might not remember to the best of my ability. If I was a smarter writer then I would have written a bit each day and chipped away at it but then again I am not a smart writer (or a smart man at times) so instead I have left it and am now trying to do it all at once.

To at least make a start on it I am currently sat in a bar in Kaiteriteri at near the Abel Tasman national park, drinking a cider and looking out at the ocean. Craig is taking a dip in the sea while I use this rare time that I have brainpower and no hay-fever (YEY!) to at least get something down on “paper”.

I suppose the best place to start is the beginning. At this point it is hard to even remember when that was. It has only been a week since we left home yet it seems like forever since I was last in Dunedin. The run up to Christmas was a pretty hectic one with lots of little extra jobs that needed attention at work, always with the worst possible timing. Luckily (or rather unluckily depending how you look at it) I was still in the area and able to deal with lots of the customer issues that happened. Craig had to work all the way up to Christmas Eve so even if I had wanted to run away sooner I would have just had to come back for him anyway so there wasn’t much point. Another friend, Merle, who I met in Thailand back in April has also come to New Zealand and didn’t have any plans so was joining us on our Christmas adventure, just for a little while but at least for a few days. She came and stayed with me the weekend before Christmas but then left to have a mini adventure in Queenstown and Milford Sound before we picked her up to get to Wanaka for Christmas.

DSC_2100 (1280x720)As soon as I got the message that Craig had finished work I hopped in the car, picked him up and day one of our Christmas adventure began. For once in our life we were actually prepared and Craig had all his stuff ready to throw in the car and start our long drive to Wanaka via Queenstown. To be perfectly honest the first part of the drive was a little underwhelming. We had finally broken free from work and were on our road trip… but it just didn’t feel like anything special yet. This was the same road we had driven down multiple times before and scenery we had already seen. Added to that was the fact that the radio stopped working and we didn’t have any CD’s. I probably should have mentioned before now that we were not actually in my usual car. My boss had let us take one of the other vehicles, a 4WD Mitsubishi Outlander, to go on our road trip. This made it much easier to fit everything into the back and proved later to be really useful when on the gravel tracks that New Zealand often calls “roads” so thanks for that Kevin if you’re reading this!

Anyway, back to the adventure… About 2 hours into the drive we did start getting excited as it was at that point that we knew we were actually on our mission and not going home any time soon. To detour to Queenstown on our trip instead of going straight to Wanaka added about an hour to journey and Merle had said she was happy to get their herself but it was also kind of an excuse for us to go there and take in the view for a moment. An added bonus to this little impromptu trip was seeing another old friend from Thailand, the infamous Red.

I met Red in Pai, the same place I met Merle, yet somehow they had

The one and only Red.

never met each other. Normally that wouldn’t seem like a big thing but anyone that has been to Pai knows that it is a pretty small place. I still cant get my head around them not knowing each other even though it seems like most of my time there I saw them all constantly. It was really good to see Red anyway even if we only had enough time to take a photo for posterity before continuing our mission for Christmas in Wanaka. Knowing Red like I do I expect that will have been one of his last memories before the rest of his Christmas turned into a blur of drinking and partying. The phrase “party like a rock star” was coined after this man.

Wanaka was just how I remembered it except a hell of a lot warmer. Having spent 2 months there on and off over the last year it is a town I have a special place in my heart for as I know many other travellers do. Getting back there didn’t feel new or daunting, it just felt right which is all I could ever ask for, especially at Christmas.

Step one after checking into our hostel was to go and find CB. He knew that I would be coming but I was pretty sure he would be at work so what better way to say hi than to go and get dinner and grab a beer, all while he worked. As predicted he was there propping up the bar when I arrived and his face lit up as only a happy CB can. It was awesome to see him after so long, even if we could only chat briefly while IMG-20151225-WA0001 (1280x960)he served other customers around him. Craig and I grabbed food alone as Merle was still back at the hostel getting ready, which seemed to take an age. After a while we eventually got a message from her that her and another girl had set off to us but found a band playing at another bar and so wanted us all to go there.

After a little persuasion we all headed to the local Irish bar to watch a cover band play and see many people get increasingly drunk as the night went on. In New Zealand all pubs have to close at midnight on Christmas Eve so there was a strict cut-off time as to when everyone had to go home. We all played it right down to the wire, drinking and enjoying the merriment before wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and heading back to our hostel to sleep, the start of my first every Christmas away from home.

 

End of an era! Chapter 2 begins

When you start with a title like that you really do have to go big or go home. If not then it would just seem that I turned into the type of writer to put big headlines just to pull in the readers (Buzzfeed anyone?).

This is actually one of the harder posts that I have ever written, not because I have somehow lost the use of my fingers or am trying to type it on a phone, but because of the thinking and decisions that have lead me to this point.

OK so I will stop being over dramatic now and get to the point (although I do reserve the right to be dramatic later). I am not going to stop writing or disappear off the face of the earth… but I am going to cut my hair. We are not talking about a trim or a casual shorten. We are talking completely shaved off. Like shaved shaved. Like “with a razor”, super smooth, gone forever type of shaved.

It is a decision that I have not taken lightly and has actually been a few years in the making but I have now gotten to a point where it is annoying me so much that I just cant deal with it anymore.

“Thought you were leaving out the drama” is what I am sure most of you are thinking right about now as you read this, however that isn’t me being dramatic for a change. It is something that has been upsetting me and getting me down and something I need to take action on. With a little bit of back story I am sure it will all makes a bit more sense so please bare with me as I am sure this is all coming out in the wrong order but I just need to get it all down.

The Back Story

So about 2 years ago some of my hair started falling out. This was not a bit of middle aged thinning on my crown or something, it was waking up one morning to notice a coin sized piece of hair just missing overnight. That was a bit of a shock and at the time I put it down to stress at work and various other factors in my life that could be causing it and just tried to ignore it. By tying my hair back in a certain way it wasn’t noticable and so I just got on with things and tried not to think about it. Over time, rather than getting better things got worse. More hair started to fall out in the same area and eventually I dragged myself in to see the doctor to see if they could do anything about it. A few blood tests later and I got my fun diagnosis that didn’t exactly make things better but at least let me know why things were going a bit pear shaped.

The blood tests showed that I have something called Hypothyroidism, also known as an under-active thyroid gland, which was causing me the problems with my hair and also explained some other little things that I didnt associate at the time as issues. Now is time to break it down to the technical talk:

What is Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland isn’t producing enough of the hormones needed to run the body correctly. The main purpose of the Thyroid gland is to control the bodies metabolism so with this screwed a whole lot of things tend to go out of whack!

What are the Symptoms

Some of the symptoms are noticeable whereas other only come into light when you are aware of them. For example my hair falling out was caused by my bodies autoimmune response to not knowing what to do about the broken thyroid. Essentially my body decided to kill off the hair as an alien invader rather than just be chill about it.

Other things include tiredness (which I always was but just thought this was life) and weight gain caused by the fact that my body doesn’t burn off as much as it should. In the olden days this would maybe have been a good thing as I could have survived for ages with low food supplies, but in todays day and age this just means that I ended up putting on loads of weight that was really hard to shift.

What is the cure

The “cure” is to take a little tablet each day that contains the relevant hormones that is supposed to do its job and level things out. The fact of the matter is though that this doesn’t really sort everything out and most of the symptoms have stayed the same. Who knows, maybe without the meds things would have gotten worse but for now they don’t seem to be giving me any improvements.

What has this got to do with you shaving your head?!

Over the last few months things with my hair has got worse again with some growing back but other parts going and to be honest it is just pissing me off now. I want to get back into Juijitsu over here but I havnt yet gotten around to it. Part of the reason has been time but another factor is that I dont want to roll about on the floor with my hair tied back when it will just come out of the hair bobble and then be obvious that it looks stupid and there is hair missing. That thinking has lead me to wear hats all the time (which I dont mine) however it has now gotten to a point where I am very consious that I always NEED a hat rather than just wanting to wear one which is a state I dont like being in.

I think the worry about the hair added to the stress  which may have been also making it fall out so all in all what a great  cycle to be in!

It is with all that in mind that I decided that I need to just bite the bullet and cut it all off. It has taken a lot of thinking and made me quite nervous as I have had long hair for a long time and due to the way it is currently growing, once I do cut it there is not really any going back so its taken a while to psyche myself up to it. It is also annoying as once my head is shaved for the first few weeks my head is going to be a different colour to my face before it gets any sun on it. Yet another reason I have put it off until a time I can be away for work for a while and just let it sort its self out and come to terms with it myself without added work pressure.

I have been known by friends and family as Afrodan, Afro or Fro for the majority of my life now. My hair has, in one sense, been something that defined me which then also made it really hard for me to make such a drastic change. After I cut it all off I will literally have the opposite to an Afro so how can I continue to go by that name? This is the dilemma that I have had because the change is a permenant one and kind of changes who the person is that I define myself as. I know it can seem stupid to most but when you are known as the guy with the afro and you rock up with a skinhead it kind of seems a bit weird!

I talked to Padd a few days ago about my dilemma and the internal struggle and this is what he had to say:

This reminds me of the Ironman 3 subtext. How can he be Ironman without the suit?
How can Afrodan be Afrodan without the hairdo?

The thing is, the suit wasn’t Ironman, Tony Stark was. Just like the hair isn’t Afrodan, Daniel Rollins is.
So long as there is a Daniel Rollins, there will be an Afrodan.

I guess that sums it up really. I am still me and always will be no matter what happens. So with that I have now booked in to get my hair cut off on Monday morning at 10.30am.

When I started writing this post it was titled “Afrodan is no more”. I know that seems a little over the top but it was how I was feeling. After the chat with Padd though it changed to “End of an era. Chapter 2 begins.” as it is now.

Everything will work out ok in the end. If its not ok its not the end!

Beach Boxing

As winter starts drawing in and the days become shorter everyone’s first thoughts are to stay home, get warm by the fire and have a nice cup of hot chocolate to take the edge off. Well, everyone in the Norther hemisphere that is. Here on the bottom of the world December is officially the first month of summer and that means sun and shorts time!

Ok, I am not going to rub it in too much (actually at the moment it is pissing it down and looks awful) but it is pretty amazing to finish work and be able to shoot to the beach.IMG_20151202_194200

On Wednesday at about 4.50pm I got a text message from Craig saying exactly what I had on my mine. A single word that said it all….

“Beach?”. My reply was swift and simple “Yes!”. After finishing work and getting we made the long 5 min journey down to the local beach to bath in the 28 degree heat for the little time that we could. Just recently I have been showing Craig how to throw a punch so it seemed like the perfect place to try out some more of out boxing skills. And so with boxing gloves and pIMG_20151202_194107ads in hand we made our way to the edge of the
ocean and proceeded to hit things like anyone thinking they were awesome would.
It is always the little things that get you in life and this was certainly something that put a smile on my face. Looking forwards to getting this summer thing into full swing!

 
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Enjoying the little things

The thing about routine is that it is difficult to build a healthy, positive one that you want to have but exceedingly easy to fall into one that you don’t want. 12111996_10153374815218445_5434535153229419933_nNot that my current routine is terrible, just lately it had managed to lean all the way towards work with the evenings
involving staying home to get out of the rain. This last week though seems to be the start of a change in the air and hopefully a sign of things to come.

After weeks of the temperature attempting to slowly creep up,
on Tuesday it somehow managed to take a hop, skip and a jump, leaping up to 28 degrees in beautiful blazing sun. This was not to be taken lightly and after a few quick phone calls a group of up grabbed our
shorts after work and headed down to the beach. It is really easy to forget how close the beach is and how beautiful it is there since12107006_10153375723103445_4212041729634917246_n it is right on your door step every day, but hopefully we will start to appreciate it more with the new weather. For about an hour we played on
the beach, throwing a ball about until eventually the sun set, the temperature
cooled and we were forced to head home. What we did manage to do though before it was quite home time was capture a few beautiful pictures which I hope you will all enjoy.

Fingers crossed that this is the shape of things to come in the next few months 🙂

 

What a difference a day makes…

In New Zealand the weather can change drastically day to day, nowhere more so than in Dunedin. Yesterday the weather was pretty dull but I still ended up heading to some little local view points to try and get some photos. The idea was that maybe I would get some stormy sights but who knows, maybe they would look pretty cool. As it turned out that was not the case… not even close!

The when we got to the top of Signal Hill overlooking the bay visibility was down to just a few meters. There wasn’t much point taking any pictures as it was just mist and fog,
however I am glad I took some anyway to use as a comparison for today. Today has been glorious,

a perfect summers day at the very start of spring. It may have only been 16 degrees but there was only one tiny cloud in the sky (looking quite pitiful may I add!) and the sun was blazing so it was pretty perfect to be honest with you. Take a look at the pictures below to highlight just how different 24 hours in Dunedin can really be.

 

I think all those pictures just go to show how different this place can be an that even if you have a crappy day all you need to do is wait 24 hours and try again!

Bonus Pics: Here are some more pics of my little outing for anyone interested.

 

 

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Lackadaisical posting

I think I need to apologise for my resent posts, or more accurately, my lack of recent posts. It seems as if I haven’t written anything in quite a while and that is because I haven’t! The post I published last was actually written a few weeks ago and I have been so busy that I’ve not been able to publish it when I wanted to.

Busy… but busy with what? Well that is the question that I really need to start asking myself as for all the time I seem to have been busy and not had time I don’t seem to have really gotten anything else done. It isn’t even as if I have just spent my time sat watching TV or movies as I really haven’t, the time just seems to have slipped away somehow. It is as if I put it down somewhere and forgot what that somewhere was and now I sit here typing this, trying to recall what I have done over the last few weeks and the answer is “not much”.

With the new job there has been a lot for me to do at work lately and by the time that is all done on an evening and I’ve eaten dinner etc. then it seems like it is time to reset and carry on again, a cycle I very much need to break!

Over the last few weeks I have at least started to get some new things in place to start having as much fun as possible and actually plan out some of my free time. Since I get weekends off (as long as things don’t go terribly wrong!) then I need to start thinking about what I want to be doing and what I really enjoy, otherwise what is the point in my little adventure if I am not having fun!

The first thing on the agenda for the man who now has a job, house and (company) car is to get back to the gym and try and sort out my fitness. This has culminated with a membership to Les Mills and me purchasing a quite expensive sports watch in an attempt to make it force me to make use of it. To be honest I am actually happy with the watch I got (the Fitbit Surge if anyone was wondering) as it tracks things like my steps per day, calories burnt, stairs climbed and heart rate and updates it all to my app account so I can keep track of things. I know that a lot of people think that it is a load of nonsense but to me having figures I can work against and try and improve on is really important and I need it to keep me moving in the right direction. Another week of the general fitness stuff and then I am going to start looking at getting to some of the classes that they do and then also getting myself back to Jiu Jitsu as I have missed training quite a lot in the last few months.

It seems like I say this a lot but this really is the edge and I need to start making moves to either back away from it or take a leap. Either way, standing here and looking isn’t doing anyone any good!

Tunnel Beach

Staying in the city centre of Dunedin it is easy to forget that we are only a few minutes from the coast and some amazing views around us. On my new 3 min commute to the office I head down a massive hill and  have an amazing view of the peninsula and bay in front of me. DSC01574 (1280x949)As with all of New Zealand views like that seem to just creep up on you out of no where to leave you breathless. One moment you are just driving along minding your own business and the next BOOM! Epic view.

People living in Dunedin also tend to forget that they have all
of this on their door step and never seem to go and view
some of the places right on their door step. A few weeks ago we went to Tunnel 2015-08-09_1439115633Beach for a walk and to take some
pictures and had a pretty sweet day. A few weeks before we went down during the night to try and take some pictures of the southern lights but fail to see any. Luckily though we did happen to get a moment of clear sky which is where I took the photo of the Milkyway a few weeks ago. When we went there it was during the middle of a mini snow storm and all that we could hear was the sounds of huge waves crashing against the cliffs below. The noise was so intense that we didn’t even venture anywhere near the sea, staying near the top to watch the monstrous waves pummel against the sandstone cliff face.

 

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When we visited again the the whole place was completely different and seemed to be so calm. The wind wasn’t blowing and the waves were a shadow of there former selves, now not even big enough for someone to be surf on them. This time we could also make our way down to the beach and finally see the reason Tunnel Beach got its name. When we first went I thought that it was due to the massive archway cut in the cliff face that looked a bit like a loop or a tunnel, however this theory didn’t really explain the beach part. It wasn’t until we visited again and I was able to get all the way down that I understood where the name came from. In the 1870 James Cargill excavated a tunnel down to the DSC01582 (1280x956)beach below the cliffs so that his family could bath down in the sea without having to go to the more popular tourist spot of St. Clair. The tunnel leads down through the sandstone and comes out onto the beach below in the middle of a beautiful cove with a nice sand beach. I had no idea that this was even there as the week before it wouldn’t have even been possible for us to get anywhere near where the beach or the tunnel.

We stayed at Tunnel Beach for about an hour before heading out for a longer drive out towards port Chalmers where we found a nice little spot to stop for a while and practice skipping stones (which is always an awesome adult activity) as the sun started to go down.

DSC01635 (1280x960)I was lucky enough to get some good photos so at least I am making use of my camera again. Living in one place and having more of a fixed routine has meant that I have not been exploring as much in the week and so haven’t used the camera in a while which does suck. I want to get back into taking pictures more so just need to force myself to get out there and start snapping away, but hopefully this is at least a good start.

 

 

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I have an address again!

After many long months of travelling the world and sleeping in some questionable places, shared with many other people, I finally have a place to unpack my things and call home.

Last weekend I went flat / room hunting with the goal of getting somewhere found by the end of the weekend or at least having some of the information to make404182975 a decision. As it happened though things seemed to take much less time than I expected and by about 2pm on Saturday I had found an amazing place with 2 amazing flat mates and was really pleased with myself.

When it comes to certain things I often have a habit of looking from afar in great detail to a point where I convince myself that I have made the right choice before even seeing the thing in person. In this case at least it was justified!

When I first saw the flat listed on TradeMe (New Zealand’s equivalent to eBay) I thought to myself “This place looks awesome” and even said to my friend Linda that I thought that would be the place I wanted 404208615to go. It was the first place I visited on Saturday morning and I have to say I was truly impressed. Normally the pictures of a place make it look amazing and then when you get there it just isn’t as good but in this case the pics were perfectly accurate and it really does look as good as it does in the pics. In an attempt to not just pick the fist place I saw I then went and took a look at a few more places and the more I looked at, the more I knew that the first house was the one I should do go for.
It is now my first weekend in the new place and I 404208615have to say I 100% made the right choice as the house is great and the 2 girls I live with are amazing. They are both into the outdoors and fitness type stuff so just what I need to get back on track and start getting super healthy again which is always a bonus 🙂

Time to get settled in and get back to doing all the fun things in life I love!

Night Rider

Having a job may severely interfere with my free time, however it also has its bonuses such as the ability to afford food and have a roof over my head. Another little bonus though came last week when I went out mountain biking with one of the directors after work on Wednesday night. Kilian happened to have a spare bike that I could borrow and wanted a trail riding buddy so I jumped at the chance.

First things first though was repairing the bike before we got started. The spare bike wasnt exactly the newest in the world but it had wheels and pedals so it is all you really need to get by. There are plenty of bike shops in Dunedin to get some work done but there is also a little community shop called the crooked spoke which is pretty awesome. Most nights there are volunteers working in there, helping people fix bikes and sort out issues all for a little donation of time, money or parts. It really is a great initiative and means you can grab a cheap bike if you need to all while giving back to the community. It is community projects like this that I really admire as it always means that even the less fortunate or the people who just don’t want to spend a fortune on bikes can get out riding and enjoying themselves and meet people with a shared passion.

It is a good job we had this service too as the “little bit of TLC” that Kilian had suggested turned out to be 40 mins of hard work to realign the back brake and fit some new pads as in its present state the brake was either locked onto the wheel all the time or then not even touching it at all! The guy who runs it was luckily a nice guy and helped us out, even though we turned up as he was closing up so I am quite thankful for that.

With our freshly repaired bike in tow we then headed to the local trails to have a ride. Our little disaster wasn’t through just then though as it turned out that Kilian had forgotten to charge his light and it was showing its power as low. It was still really bright but the issue with that type of light is that it doesn’t start to fade, it is either full power on or turned off completely, no middle ground with those LEDs unfortunately.

With our limited light we decided to just to one lap of the route but I have to say I still had an amazing time doing it. I have used lights on my bike before but back home it was always for just riding on the streets in the dark, not for off road trails riding so this was a whole new experience. The first thing that I noticed early on is that mounting the light on your handlebars isn’t great. In fact is isn’t very good at all. The light I had was bright but this is the only place you could attach it, whereas Kilians was on his helmet. His light then pointed wherever he looked and let him see around the corners as he came up to them. My light on the other hand ended up swinging around to look at the floor a couple of times, but the other times it was pretty decent. The only times I had a real problem was on switch backs when I had to make tight corners as I couldn’t see anything until my bars turned around the corner which was often far later than I would have liked.

Other than the minor visual issues the ride was a success! I really enjoyed riding at night and flying through the woods in the dark. In a way it gave you more confidence as you couldn’t see the perils all around you so you just had to focus on what you could see and keep on riding. A couple of times though I did manage to see some of the scenery and hear the rushing river next to us and that just made it all the more cooler. The trails are really well maintained and even have reflectors on some of the trees specifically so that people can ride at night and have advanced warning of where they are going. Apparently the area is really good for its MTB trails so I am looking forwards to seeing what else it has to offer.

Little moments like this are the reason that I am here and the reason I am working and doing what I can to stay. I just need to start to make sure that I get a routine and get more of these moments I love and less wasting time watching TV and being boring.

Cant wait for the next ride 😀

As a bonus here is a little vid i found of the woods 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF4dFYNEVdk

 

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Afrodan becomes Adultdan again

After months of travelling around the world being a professional bum, the time has now come for me to get a job and re-enter the workforce. Yesterday I got a last minute call from a recruitment company to say that they had an interview for me today at a local design agency. The information about the job role was pretty vague to say the least so I turned up there not knowing that the job was for the technical side of the company rather then the design agency but that didnt stop me from hopefully making a decent impression.

I am pretty sure I did make a good impression as the interview lasted nearly 3 hours and also involved grabbing lunch with one of the directors as we chatted about stuff, which can never be a bad sign. About an hour after the interview I got a call from the recruitment agent saying that they had heard back from the company and they wanted me to come back and start work the next morning. Today I headed into the office for my first day walking straight into a wall of challenges and being put onsite with a customer on my first day. Nothing like a trial by fire to sort the men from the boys!

It has been a hectic 24 hours and I am now quite mentally tired, however I am also over the moon that I have got a job sorted out and now start to look at all the other things I need to sort out around here like getting a room somewhere and then spending some money to see what else New Zealand has to offer.

Daniel and the Chocolate factory

Recently there has been a lack of updates to my blog and that has been for a good reason. The reason being that I haven’t really done anything at all the last few days. All I have done is spend time in the hostel in Dunedin, chilling out, drawing and watching far too many movies.

hot chocolateThe hostel here is pretty comfy atmosphere that I suppose could even be considered too comfy at times. The massive sofa’s, warm fire and friendly company tend to make sitting down and not doing  anything come quite naturally. I would say that I have probably watched more movies in the last 2 weeks than I have for the rest of the year put together. The lazy mood has probably been exasperated by the fact that it has been pretty cold here the last few days, snowing a few times which can make it a bit bleak. Today though we actually managed to get out for the day and do a little

Dunedin is home to New Zealands Cadburys chocolate factory that produces chocolate for the whole of New Zealand, Australia and most of the souther hemisphere. A few of the people from the hostel DSC01567decided to head there today since it is only about 5 mins walk from the hostel so we headed over and took to tour. To be honest there wasn’t an amazing amount of stuff to see at the factory as most of the things happens inside big machines or with robotic arms but it was certainly something to do for an hour or so. The one cool thing that we did see was that inside one of the silos they have a huge chocolate fountain, 5 stories high! When inside we got to watch it dump 1 ton of chocolate straight down, splashing its way through multiple gates on its way to the bottom. It is a shame I couldn’t get any pictures of it but unfortunately they have a policy of no cameras or other devices inside the factory so not a chance to get any.

In the afternoon we decided to head out of the DSC01557hostel for once in our lives and go across to the Otago Peninsula to take in some of the sights of the sea and the view of the beautiful countryside around us. It is easy to forget how beautiful the countryside around Dunedin can be when you spend so long in the centre of the town without any transport apart from your feet. Within 15 mins drive we were out of the centre and had an amazing view of the bay all the way until we hit the sea. I only managed to get some pics when we stopped but the whole time the view was amazing.

I think I probably need to start writing articles more often, even if they are boring and don’t contain much to at least keep up with the flow of things so I don’t end up with mish-mashed information, throwing things together. For not though that is all you are going to get, with a chunk of random images thrown into the mix from exploring some graffiti around Dunedin to Craig randomly playing the guitar in the hostel. Hopefully even without too much context they are still not too bad pics!

 

New friends and fire alarms

I may have only been in Dunedin a couple of days but already I have met some really nice people in the hostel I am staying in. On my first day here I got chatting to a couple of the people who have been staying here a while and it turns out that quite a few people have a lot in common. For some reason it seems that loads of the guys here are in the IT industry and we have all sort of done the same jobs before. There was a moment where I thought we were going to be applying for the same jobs and I was going to have met my nemesis, however after a bit more chatting we realised that we actually do slightly different things and although we had been speaking to the same recruiters it was regarding different jobs. Disaster averted!

hostel lounge
hostel lounge

That night our new mini crew headed for drinks at one of the guys houses before finding our way back into town to drink the night away (well 2 drinks as I’m on a budget!). Even though we weren’t really drinking much the conversation was flowing and everyone was having a good time which is why we didn’t end up getting back to the hostel until 4.30am and even then everyone still sat around chatting. At 5 I finally headed to bed, leaving everyone else to carry on the conversation without me as tiredness had kicked in in a major way.

Lack of sleep more than consumption of alcohol left everyone ina bit of a sleepy state the next day. No one felt really rough but by the same token no one did anything all day. Myself and another British guy called Craig decided that what we needed to make us feel better was a proper Sunday dinner. After travelling for so long there are sometimes times when you need a bit of a home comfort and so we headed out into the world to find a pub for a proper Sunday pub roast. We were all out of luck at the English bar as that was closed but the good old Irish had opened a pub just across the road and sorted us out properly. The meal was perfect, even if we hadn’t been starving and craving it so it is safe to say that it certainly hit the spot! Later that day as we were sitting in the hostel kitchen one of the girls that works here came in to tell us that the pub we went to had had a fire in the early afternoon. She didn’t know any more details about it but it certainly made us happy that we had gone earlier as we would have been devastated!

central-backpackers-dunedin (1)That wasn’t the only instance of fire we had in the last 24 hours either. This morning after getting back from a run (in the blistering cold I might add!) I decided to cook myself some scrambled eggs. Nice, cheap, straight to the point. As my toast has just finished cooking and my eggs are nearly done the fire alarm goes off. Guilt sets in massively! “GOD DAMMIT I have just set off the fire alarm…. but wait… how”. There was no smoke and not even the slightest hint of a fire. My toast was already done and barely even toasted, never mind burnt so what was going on. One of the guys left the kitchen to go and find out what was going on while Craig and I carried on having breakfast. After a couple of mins I said “You do think he would have come back and got us if there was actually a fire…”. After a couple more mins we decided we better investigate as we didn’t want to become a headline of “2 British boys die in hostel drinking tea because they ignored the fire alarm!”. It turns out that there was not a fire, only a couple of people being arseholes. Someone in one of the private rooms had decided that they wanted to smoke in their room instead of going outside and then managed to set off the smoke alarm. Instead of being an adult about it and owning up, central-backpackers-dunedinthey instead decided to try and destroy the alarm so that it would stop going off. The thing is though that it isn’t just one little sensor like you would have in a house, it is a full integrated system going off all the way through the hostel. This then meant that the system knew the sensor had been damage (potentially in the fire we didn’t have) and so the alarm just kept on going off with no way to stop it. They guests then decided to do a runner, leaving all their things behind as we all had to go and wait outside as per the fire policy. Safe to say that no one was really happy, especially the owner who now needs to get the system fixed too and I had to wait for my eggs. They were damn good eggs though so well worth the wait!

Good riddance to inconsiderate people!

On the Move

I love Wanaka, I really do. Even when you seem to sink into a little routine and seemingly day to day normality you walk around a corner and WOW! Look at that view! Even today on my walk back from the shop I crossed the road and half way across just had to stop and stare at the sight at the end of the street. The 2 rows of seemingly normal shops coming to an end giving way to trees and snow capped mountains. The sun shining on the peaks and the view is just breathtaking, the only issue that is now it has come to a (hopefully temporary) end.

As amazing as Wanaka is, it is a terrible place to find a job and after 3 weeks being here I still haven’t found anything in the area at all. The issue is that Wanaka and Queenstown are the 2 biggest ski resort areas in New Zealand with people coming from all over the road to be here and stay for the winter season. Wanaka therefore has loads of people all in holiday mode and not many jobs to support the ones that need to make money. Since the majority of the population here are either on holiday or just hear for a season then there are not many jobs about and the ones that are around tend to be in the hospitality industries, working in bars or hotels etc. Having spent the last 11 years working in IT I seem to fall a bit flat when it comes to this as a have zero experience which has made finding a job in Wanaka near impossible. Whenever a job in a bar comes up 50 people have already applied and have experience to hit the ground running so it looks like maybe Wanaka isn’t going to be the place for me.DSC01502

It isn’t all doom and gloom though as things are looking up a little. To get around the issue of not having somewhere to work properly I rented some office space at a local collaborative work centre to get some stuff done and it worked out really well for it. It ended up costing less than I was paying for coffee each day and had 24/7 access and unlimited internet so exactly what you need when looking for a job. From there I have managed to apply for a boatload of jobs in Dunedin and Christchurch and even used the meeting rooms onsite to speak have some Skype interviews with some recruitment agencies so it cant be all that bad.

And so now it is time that I look at making a move. Nothing more is going to happen with a job in Wanaka so I need to suck it up and move on. I have a much better chance of getting a job in Dunedin or Christchurch and in both cases they also have really decent pay too which would give me the money to get out and see some of the country on the weekends too so I cant really complain about that.

Tomorrow I catch a coach to Dunedin where I will be based from for about another week and the I think I will head up to Christchuch and make it up from there. Not sure what my plan is or where I will end up living but I am sure that the adventure will be worth while.

Goodbye Wanaka
Goodbye Wanaka

On the hunt

I have been in New Zealand for over a week and a half now and I am on the hunt for a job! Travelling around the world has proven to be lots of fun, but the issue I have is that apparently money doesn’t grow on trees and the figures that my bank account now show as a balance look a little unhealthy to say the least. I haven’t quite gotten to the stage where I need to get a little dog and find myself a quite spot to sit on the street with a cup and funny sign… but we’re not too far off.

Wanaka is a beautiful town to live in, however the issue with Wanaka is that it isn’t cheap and for all the people here it doesn’t have many jobs. Wanaka is kind of a holiday resort due to its amazing surroundings so there are a lot of people here who are tourists and just on the move through the place rather than stopping. This means that most of the jobs here are hospitality based in bars or restaurants and at the moment seem to be very rare. Most bars are getting 10 CV’s handed in a day from various people travelling or passing through wanting to stay here during the winter season to ski and snowboard as much as possible which means that my little application will fall by the wayside. Even if there are any open jobs I don’t currently have the experience doing them when there are plenty of other people who do so I am a bit out of look on that front. The only positive that I do have is that I have a pretty impressive CV for when it comes to other jobs that an 18 year old that only ever worked in a bar wont have a chance at. Only issue is that there are not any of those jobs going at the moment and the ones that are about have a while before the closing date so I cant even yet see if I get an interview never mind a job.

It is kind of annoying when you know that you are a hard working and can adapt to any job going but I suppose plenty of people have problems like this all the time so I shouldn’t really complain. After all I am still living in a beautiful place and that it something I almost started to forget. In my self loathing state I somehow forgot to look out of the window at the amazing things that were around me. With this in mind I have thrown myself back into gear and hopefully made some changes that will have positive repercussions down the line.

Yesterday I kicked off the fitness plan by running (or trying to run) up Mount Iron that is just behind CB’s house. A few days ago me and CB tried it and got about half way before we started to think better of it. It wasnt that it was too big, it was that as soon as we stepped out of the car we realised our mistake and that we were in no state to be doing it. A few days before we had done sprint intervals and our legs were still jelly from over training our out of shape bodies, so climbing a massive hill didn’t seem appealing. Yesterday though I was feeling fresh and went for it, getting to the top in 32 mins which was a lot quicker than I expected. To top it off I managed to get back down it in 20 mins, absolutely flying down like a crazy person. I think it is going to be my new little route that I will do every few days to try and keep building my fitness up and getting to where I need to be. Today I didn’t quite think it was time to take it on again but I still went out in the freezing cold and did some skipping for 20 mins to just keep into the flow. To top if off I am going to a local martial arts gym tonight for a Juijitsu session so hopefully that doesn’t kill me.

At least the view from Mount Iron is amazing!
At least the view from Mount Iron is amazing!

To keep the positive vibe I have also hired myself some office space in the town centre so that I have a place to do my work and research from. That may seem like a bit of a weird thing to do but at the moment I have been spending hours in coffee shops paying way too much for vanilla latte’s all day. It works out that the office space is costing me ÂŁ6.42 per day and I get 24/7 access so doesn’t seem too bad. I will probably save that much just from what I was spending on coffee so it all makes sense. With a dedicated office space I also now have a desk and fast internet to work on while being surrounded by other creative people in from the local area working on their own projects. It makes it a great place to work and just this afternoon alone I have got through more job applications than I would have in a couple of days sat in comfy surroundings.

Hopefully this is the shape of things to do and if I can convince someone to give me a job shortly then everything will hopefully start taking the path it should 🙂

Round 2: New Zealand Adventure

It seems like only yesterday that I snuck back to the UK to surprise everyone but it is now time to head back on my travels and leave the UK again. It was great to see loads of friends while I was back but also a shame that I didn’t get to see everyone that I wanted. It didn’t really help that I returned home smack bang in the middle of what is to me, Hayfever central! Struggling to breath and wheezing all of the time is not exactly what I would call an attractive quality and certainly didn’t help when it was time to socialise or go anywhere. Next time I am back I will be sure to avoid June like the plague as I am completely allergic to June in the UK. Its not for me so I’m not going to do it any more.

On Monday night I started my epic set of flights back to the New Zealand to bring me back here in the heart of winter (which seemed a good idea at the time!). Safe to say I knew mentally that it was going to be cold, however DSC_1690 (1280x720)physically my body was not quite prepared for the chills when I first landed in Queenstown. Dont worry though (mother) I am now wrapped up warm in my new winter clothes and with the sun shining on your face it isn’t actually that bad, a cool -2 today but feels comfortable.

The flights back to NZ were straight forwards enough on paper but proved to be slightly more problematic than usual which isn’t too much fun when you have only just done the same trip a few weeks before. It all started with issues in getting to Manchester Airport in the UK before I even managed to leave. My dad was able to give me a lift to the Airport which was great, however we had to leave at about 5pm in order to get there in time for the flight which put us bang in line for rush hour traffic. At first it wasnt too bad with us managing to get past the roadworks on the blocked up St. Georges Bridge to carry on our merry little way towards the M62… this is where it all started going a little wrong. There had been a “police incident” on the M62 westbound (the way we were going) causing the motorway to be completely closed for at least 2 hours. Luckily we had the radio on as we were setting off and heard the announcement before we got too stuck in the inevitable traffic jam and managed to divert across snakes pass and take the back way into Manchester. The trip took longer than expected but I still managed to get to the Airport in time so that was the first panic averted.

When I was booking all of my flights my travel agent said that she was able to get me some really good transfer times which on paper seemed great. In reality though it wasn’t quite as fun. When I arrived at Dubai Airport I found that I had about 1 hour until my next flight. “What is your issue then?” I hear you all mumble to yourselves while reading my first world complaints. Well the issue is that I was not flying from the same terminal as I have done on all my other flights or that I had just landed at. Instead I had to transfer to terminal C. Now for anyone who has not been to Dubai Airport please note: It is massive! Like super massive. Each terminal is huge in its own right, then there are all the gates that come with them. When I checked the board I was correct in thinking I had about 50 mins to get to my gate, but the question was…. “where is my gate?!”. After a 15 min walk and a 5 min shuttle train ride I made it to terminal C to discover that I was on gate number 53, another 10+ mins walk away. Now I know how to do maths and I know this amount of time is much less than the 50 mins that I had but remember these are airport times. Your flight time is not your boarding time as boarding closes 20 mins before takeoff meaning I started to panic and then rushed my way there, making it in time but feeling flustered. Down the ramp to the plane I went… only it wasn’t a plane… It was a bus. A big bus mind, but not quite big enough to take me the 8000km that I still needed to go. It turns out that for terminal C they have all the gates but the planes get parked in what seems like a massive, well, plane park. Scores of jets all stuck together like they have been abandoned there, yet all ready to go at a moments notice. The bus ride here took us about another 20 mins as we got stuck behind traffic (slow moving baggage car) and then it seemed for a while that the driver had misplaced our plane the same way you would do at a big shopping mall car park. Eventually we found it and manage to board it and finally I was able to relax… until I woke up.

On the plane from Dubai to Sydney I managed to fall asleep for a while, only waking up for the announcement that we were now coming in to land… In Bangkok! I have been to Thailand before. I enjoyed my time in Thailand… but i did not book a ticket to Thailand. *Insert Panic* At first I was worried that I had gotten on the wrong plane but realistically in this day and age with security checks and the like who could possibly do that. It would have to have been a monumental mistake on my part and the airlines so I calmed down a little and stayed quiet as I didn’t really want to be “that guy that got on the wrong plane” anyway. It turns out that I was on the correct plane, however there was a stop off in Bangkok that for some reason was not mentioned anywhere on any of my tickets. This then lead to what can only be described as bureaucratic airport fuckery as I then had to leave the plane, walk through the airport, queue for a while, go through security, walk back through the airport, go through more security, have my bag checked, go through boarding pass check and then sit in the gate room next to the plane I just got off for 20 mins before getting back onto the same plane…. In the same seat. I understand that they need everyone off to make sure someone does stow away or something and they also need to clean it for the new passengers that will be getting on, but why couldnt they have just looked at my boarding pass then and stuck me in the room to the side? How was a secretly going to get some sort of smuggled item onto the plane? Surely if I was an international criminal I would just have left my criminal stuff on the plane I was about to get back onto! Madness. Anyway onto the plane I got and the trip continued.

australia-v-europe (340x379)Not many people seem to understand how vast Australia is. For most of us it is at the other side of the world and we know it is big but since it doesn’t have anything near it on the map for reference we don’t really understand. Australia is bigger than Europe and takes hours to fly across. This meant that we were flying across Australia as the sun started to rise and got a beautiful view of the red sky stretching across the horizon to the East of us. This was the first time I have landed in Sydney in the day and I must say that our decent into Sydney was quite impressive, even though the weather was pretty poor at the time. It is possible to see many of the famous landmarks such as the harbour bridge and opera house as you come in to land which I suppose saves on getting a helicopter ride over the city. Unfortunately I didn’t have a window seat so couldn’t really get any photos so hopefully my memories last me for a while yet.

Sydney Airport transfer times were similar to all the others meaning I had to rush to get where I needed to be and didn’t have time to wonder around at all or get something to eat. Normally this would be a good thing but after you have been on the move for about 30 hours with minimal air plane food sometimes you just want to grab something to fill you up. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be on this little trip so I had to make do with what was available while dreaming of food on arrival in New Zealand. For some reason the flight from Sydney to Queenstown was actually pretty cold. Normally the flight has a little chill from the air conditioning but is still suitable for T-shirt and shorts. This one needed me to reach for my hoodie and zip on the bottom of my trousers to my shorts (because I am a prepared traveller now a days) just for me to keep warm.

DSC_1694 (1280x720)Arriving in Queenstown was when I got my first blast of the weather that was to come. In QT there are no big gates or fancy loading bridges, just a set of steps and a quick walk across the runway, the icy blast of air hitting you as you step out of the door of the plane. Safe to say I wrapped up tight and rushed into the terminal. Passport control wasn’t too bad even if they did want to ask me plenty of questions about why I was back and how I had managed to travel for 4 months without working (and I don’t think “because I’m awesome” was what they wanted to hear). After that was all done with luck was back on my side sending the daily bus from the Airport to Wanaka to the stop 10 mins after I got their so I could head straight across to Wanaka without having to mess about in QT for the night first. Just over an hour later I was sitting in Speights Bar in Wanaka, sipping a cup of coffee in the warmth and feeling happy with myself for my little life achievement.

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As I am sure none of you want to know, Wanaka is still beautiful and looks even better now with a nice dusting of snow on top of the mountains. Now is when the real works starts as I look for a job, then somewhere to live and possibly some transport as well.

As they say though one step at a time 🙂