Tag Archives: road trip

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 Waikoropupū 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 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 pièce 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.