Tag Archives: South Island

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!

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 ūüôā

 

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 ¬£6.42 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 ūüôā

Back to the North Island.

The ferry to the north island may have taken a few hours but as always the view from the ferry was amazing. It isn’t exactly Millford Sound, however the viewDSC_1174 is still far better than anything you would get back home and just acts as a reminder of all the amazing things here in New Zealand waiting around every corner.

While I am in Wellington I am staying with a friend of a friend,¬†Lesley and her husband Brian. They don’t know me, have never even heard of me before, yet have been nice enough to welcome me into there home and even pick me up from the ferry port and bring me back to DSC_1189their house at the other side of Wellington in Lower Hutt. Their house is amazing and built into the side of a really steep hill meaning that it is on multiple levels while also having really high ceilings which just adds to the features. The best thing by far is looking out of most of the windows and looking down the hill, through the trees and down to the ocean bay. Across the bay sits Wellington which lights up at night making it a beautiful view in the darkness. This is yet another time that I wish I had a better camera with me to really capture the beauty of DSC_1188the view that I get to see day after day.

At the moment the weather hasn’t been great so I have just ended up staying in and relaxing but tomorrow I will head out to the city for the day to do a bit more exploring and see what this little capital has to offer

Return of Sea Breezy (CB)

As it happens my path has once again aligned with CB’s and we have been reunited to take another road trip together. CB and Audrey are heading out to see some of Asia in a few days and so are driving to Wellington to see some of his family before flying out to Singapore from there. I am also in the area to get a ferry to Wellington so our timing has worked out perfectly for us to make the trip together as an unstoppable trio.

It all works out better for us as we have managed to get some accommodation together in Picton (where the Ferry leaves from) which has saved us a little money and it has saved me getting a bus from Nelson and also messing about dragging everything onto the DSC_1146ferry since I can just dive in the car with them and drive on.

While we are in Picton we have ended up wandering into an aquarium just in time for the feeding of the large fish and were somehow sweet talked into going in for a look around. It wasn’t the biggest of places but it was still pretty interesting to see what they had there. In the larger fish tank there were some pretty large grouper fish that I wouldn’t want to mess with on a dark night. Just by looking at this fish you could see its power and it was about the size of a 10 year old child. I would have referred to it as a massive Grouper, however I have seen them online before and they can grow up to the size of a small car so are officially one of the scariest things in the sea. Although they don’t usually attach humans the huge ones could easily swallow a person whole so I don’t think I would really want to find out how friendly they would be up close. In that tank there was also a large male stingray that came all the way up to the glass when it wanted to be fed as it knew exactly what was going on when it saw the crowd start to gather.

tumblr_m50a27cnBj1r83k2io3_500As well as all the fish they also had a creature called a Tuatara which is a reptile that looks similar to a lizard however it isn’t part of the lizard family. This “lizard like” creature has some different attributes such as soft skin (as opposed to most lizards tough bodies) and it also doesn’t have any ears which is one of the things that they use to age lizards by looking at their ear bones when they die. The Tuatara is a native to New Zealand are some of the oldest creatures in the world, more closely related to a Dinosaur than a modern lizard today. It seems that they managed to survive in the eco-system of New Zealand and the low predator rate helped them to not die out. the introduction of other animal into the eco-system has however killed out a large portion of the population but the Tuatara still live on many of the islands dotted around the cost of New Zealand.

I think by far the craziest fact that they mentioned about the Tuatara is about the potential age they can live up too. Due to their very low activity levels the Tuatara don’t expend much energy and so also don’t have to eat that often. This has other effects meaning that their metabolism is much slower and they whole bodies work at a slower speed. If a Tuatara is relaxed then its heart can beat as slowly as 2 beats per minute and they can breath once a minute. All of these factors lead researches to believe that a Tuatara could live to be over 250 years old without any issues. At the moment they are having to work on that as a guess since there have not been able Tuatara in captivity for that long so it isn’t possible for them to get an accurate reading. The ones that they did have were 8 yrs old and 30 years old and were still considered quite young as the adult Tuatara done start reproducing until they are in their 80’s!

Sorry for suddenly going on a tangent of reptile facts, DSC_1165but I find it really interesting that there is a creature that is from so long ago that hasn’t been wiped out by crazy nature or by man that is almost pre-historic and probably were wondering around the earth at the same time as the dinosaurs!

Anyway tomorrow it is time to set sail for Wellington so I really should start doing some research to find out what there is to do there to keep me amused! I suppose I should have done this earlier but plans never work out as they should.

Rolling in Nelson – BJJ Training

It has been nearly 4 weeks since the last time I was able to attend a BJJ session back in Auckland and it feels like forever seen I have been able to train properly. It seems so strange coming down from training BJJ twice a day in Thailand to twice a month in New Zealand, however it has been difficult to fit it all into a travelling schedule since I happen to miss when the sessions are on in the various places I go or they turn out to be to far from the centre of town for me to be able to reasonably get to them.

As it happens though the stars have aligned to give me a chance to head to a session at the Fight Club in Nelson with the guys from the Marcelo Lopes team. I really appreciate everyone not minding me join in as the random new guy who didn’t happen to have a Gi with him during a Gi training session but they made me feel welcome all the same. I can tell straight away that I have forgotten a lot of things from not training for a while and I think I might have to figure out a way for me to at least train some positions and movements by myself to try and keep the mental edge and know what I am doing whenever I do get to fight but I am sure I will figure it out somewhere along the way. As soon as I stop moving for a while and get my bearings I am sure that I will then be able to attend a class more often I just hope it is somewhere that has a decent amount of sessions per week that I can get my teeth into and get back to the amounts of training that I was doing before as I do feel I was making some real progress.

The session we had was working on some basic guard passes which I already knew, however there were quite a few newcomers to the class so it was really important that they get this down and get the concepts into their heads. I was paired with one of the guys who had only been going a few weeks who was roughly my size to go through everything. At first he was struggling with some of the stuff since although the coach was showing solid techniques, some things just don’t work for different body types and the pass that he was trying to do would never really work for him properly and wouldn’t help him get past me in any way. Tweaking this and showing him the way I do it seemed to help and we did get there in the end.

I know I am still a white belt and I know I still have a very long way to go before I get to a decent level, but I would certainly love to get to a point in my life where I am a decent grade and can start teaching people BJJ myself and getting more and more people into it. I am sure I will need to do much more reasearch first and train much harder and more often (as long as I can drag in a partner) but I am certainly willing to put in the time to learn what I need to move forwards. Who knows, one day it might be me with the black belt taking the class and running the drills.

Thank you again to the Nelson Marcelo Lopes BJJ team for their hospitality and I hope to see you all again some time for another round.

18,587 KM from home – Still meeting family

Before I left the UK my mum told me that her cousin Bob had moved out to New Zealand years ago and she had lost touch with him but would try and find out where he was in order for me to get in touch. She ended up getting in touch with him and found out that he was in the Richmond, about 15km outside of Nelson city centre. To be honest I had completely forgot this information in the 2 months I have been travelling and although I knew that he was about somewhere I though it was actually on the North Island so didn’t even think of remembering to check the details since I am still in the south.

In a rare chance conversation with my mum I mentioned that I was in Nelson at the min and she reminded me about cousin (or uncle, or second cousin to me, who knows!) Bob and said I should pop in and see him. Armed with the information of “He has a shop called English Bob’s near Nelson” I hired a bike from the hostel and set off on a 16km bike ride in order to try and find it in the nearby town of Richmond. As it happens the rain managed to hold its self at bay for the day and I ended up having a quite pleasant ride out to Richmond via the coastal bike path.

Finding a shop called “English Bobs” in a small town during the age ofEnglish Bob the internet is a pretty easy task and so I managed to find the place pretty easily even though they had only just moved locations the week before!

I wandered in and had a look around the shop at all the imported food and goods that they had in the shop as Bob was busy with customer when I got there. It is amazing how much food from home you miss when suddenly surrounded by all the options of things that you can have again! As soon as the customer had gone I wandered up to the counter and said “Bob Wren by any chance?”. There was a look of confusion on his face as he tried to work out who I was and how I seemed to know him. As soon as I said “I have a message for you from my mum…” it instantly clicked and he knew who I was. The threat from my mum of “I will always find you and manage to visit” has been carried out via proxy this time but I think she is still going to count it as a win.

It was nice to chill out in the shop for an hour or so and then grab a pint with Bob chat away. He used to live in Wanaka before moving to Nelson which is where I was for 2 weeks so it is always great to get a bit more information from someone who has been here and lived the life for a while to figure out what works, what does and the little tips and tricks of the trade.

It was a shame I didn’t have longer to spend with Bob and his life Lesley as they are both great and made me really welcome. I have said that I will be back though in the Summer to see Nelson and the Able Tasman park in its full glory. Cant wait!

Centre of New Zealand

I may have arrived in Nelson at just about the worse time of the year but I am not going to let that stop me from enjoying myself. The great thing about the weather in New Zealand is that even the bad weather isn’t that terrible. When I woke up this morning it was overcast and raining slightly but still not really that bad. The temperature was quite warm and the rain was centre of nzrefreshing so I did what¬†needed to be done and went for a much needed run.

Nelson, among other things, happens to be the¬†location of the geographical centre of New Zealand. This is used as point to triangulate the distance of various different places in New Zealand and is commemorated with a plaque and weird sort of sculpture. I knew that this was less than 2km from where I was staying and so it seemed the perfect place to go for a run, close enough and has some purpose. What I had not looked into before committing to my run was that although the distance from the hostel wasn’t too far, the elevation to the point I needed to be at was a whole different ball statuegame. Nelson happens to be on a big chunk¬†of land, some of which was reclaimed from the sea. The town is surrounded by very large hills with dense forest and it just so happened that the point that I needed to be at was on the top of one of these hills. As I started the run I didn’t even realise it until it got to the park and saw the sign showing the trail leading up.

True to form I did try to run as much of it as possible, but anyone who knows me and my running style will know that basically means loads of massive sprints followed by a few mins of thinking that I am going to die! In the end did make it up there and was treated to a great view, even if the clouds were quite low and rolling in.

Spurred on from my success at 1428449573899hill¬†climbing my run seemed to carry on and took me into the centre of the city where I somehow managed to find yet another Chinese garden before heading to the Cathedral to do some silly sprints up and down the steps in order to finally exhaust myself. After 6 times I was completely spent and started the long trudge back to the hostel to get changed and decide what I was going to do for the rest of the day. Here is why my one good¬†fitness attribute came back to haunt me, but at least it was in a positive way. I am not¬†someone who is great at running. I will give it a good shot and really try and push myself but after a short time my breathing isn’t very good and I end up 1428450169414having to stop as I cant go on. The thing that I am good at though is recovery. After a few mins I feel completely fine and as if I could go on again and it is at this point that I found myself at while walking back to the hostel. All of a sudden I felt completely fine and with the right mix of tracks playing through my headphones I suddenly had the urge to pick up the pace again so back to running I went. Onwards this time to the sea front to get a good look at the ocean. After that I was completely spend and took a slow walk home for a shower but I least I felt like I had managed to accomplish something on a crappy day.

I will certainly have to come back to Nelson again in the future during the summer and see everything it has to offer as I know I have barley scratched the surface but been chased off by too much rain and cloud. Lets hope the weather keeps up for the rest of the adventure!

 

 

Nelson is a little damp

I have just arrived in Nelson and it seems that the weather has taken a turn for the worse. It is currently throwing it down which I’m sure will make people at home happy since I currently have 19 degrees of rain and you have 17 degrees of sun for once! On a more positive note though I have just checked into the Paradiso hostel which is more like something you would find on a Balearic¬†party island then the heart of New Zealand.

I currently sit typing this from a seat in the little chill out zone that has been build into the high ceiling space the existed above the little reception area. Climbing a ladder revels a nice sized area kitted out with nice big cushions, exactly the sort of room that I could see Padd spending his entire life in! It has plugs too so I think I will probably be spending quite a bit of time up here while the weather is crap outside.

Other things the Paradiso has to offer include a swimming pool, Cinema room inside a converted bus, Hot Tub, Sauna, Volleyball court, pool table, table tennis table and 2 massive kitchens. They also provide breakfast and evening soup at 6pm for free to go with the free WiFi connection so I think this is easily shaping up to be the best hostel so far. My room is a 4 bed shared dorm with an en-suite bathroom which is pretty awesome, especially since the beds are built into the walls meaning they are solid and don’t creek at all. I have the top bunk which is normally the bane of dorm life, however in this case it is actually a double bed up top (strange I know) so I have loads of space in a bed that doesn’t move so life is good. To be honest I would happily stay here over some of the hotels I’ve stayed in before and the best part is I am only paying ¬£15 a night!

Check it out!¬†http://www.backpackernelson.co.nz/¬† …. I even forgot, It has a hammock too (another Padd life requirement). Lets just hope it stops raining enough for me to enjoy it a little.

 

Love it!

The decimation of Christchurch

I must admit that I came to Christchurch with a bias. Everyone that I had met so far told me to just not bother with it as it was a city in ruins with damaged building everywhere and temporary housing. The truth is that they were half right.

In February 2011 Christchurch was rocked by a series of seismic activity that left the once beautiful city in ruins. On the 22nd Feb, the day that it all started, there were 446 separate earthquakes followed up by another 335 on the 23rd. During the February 2011 earthquakes 185 people lost their lives and the city was reduced to ruins.

When you start to look around the city centre the destructionCAMERA is still visible nearly 4 years on from the event. Most of the city centre is either construction sites starting to build replacement buildings, empty lots filled with rubble where a building once was or half torn down buildings still showing the horror of what has occurred. Many of the historical buildings are trying to be have their features saved which has meant building massive steel structures on the fronts of buildings, reinforced with shipping containers while the backs of the buildings have since either fallen away or been ripped down. It really is horrifying to see the damage that this has caused and I cant imagine how people picked up the pieces and got on with their lives. It seems like it is still devastation but the people here still seem confident and CAMERAhave slowly been putting the pieces back together but it looks like it is going to be at least another 10 years before it starts to resemble its old self.

One of the biggest bits of controversy in the city is the plans to rebuild / repair the cathedral in the centre of the city. When looking at the front of the building it does look a completely ruined. The main tower has collapsed and the front of the building is now missing where it has dropped away since being reinforced. That being said, there has been independent reviews of the building and apparently the majority of it is still sound and could be made safe and rebuiltDSC_1105 to the strictest modern guidelines, the only issue is the cost as the insurance money wont quite cover it so they are looking for other ways to fund it without it hindering the tax payers. Hopefully this gets rebuilt as I think it is quite an iconic building giving its location in the centre square and would serve as a symbol of defiance against the tectonic destruction that caused it.

Now that I have explained why this is a depressing and lonely ghost city, let me explain why it is full of life and one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever visited.

DSC_1018Although the big buildings of the city centre may have been damaged and torn down, the main central park is fully intact and better than ever. Today I went out for a run in the park and ended up spending 2 hours out there, running about and playing on all the things in the fitness trail. I ended the run by going through the beautiful botanical gardens, weaving in and out of the various plants and bushes and only stopping to admire the truly gargantuan trees in the centre of the park. I have never seen trees as big in my life as some of the ones there. It wasn’t the high that was the impressive park but the fact that the trunk must have been over 20ft across on this giant tree. Hagley Park is one best parks I think I have been too, especially for one in a city. Not only does it have massive areas of green space for people to relax and chill out but the park has also been split into areas that have different functions and purposes. One area has football pitches, another cricket, another rugby and even a golf course in the middle. There is also a netball academy in one corner of the park that has 40 netball courts, not nets, 40 full courts! I couldn’t believe it when I saw them all. Running around that park today I saw all of the life that the city centre may be missing at the moment but I’m sure that it will get it again soon enough. The river running through the park and the city is also beautiful. At first I thought the water was dirty and cloudy until I realised that I wasn’t looking at mud “in” the water, I was looking at the mud on the bottom of the riverbed. The water was crystal clear, it just want notable until there was a leaf or plant on the bottom to see the contrast. For me the park is a massive redeeming factor for the city. It is not just good for Christchurch it is good full stop and I think I would be more comfortable to live in any city that has that much nature on the door step available every day.

The other thing that makes this city amazing in my eyes is¬†CAMERAprobably down to personal taste and opinions but for me it is the street art. I don’t know how much of this was embraced before the disaster, however Christchurch now has a love affair with street art in a way that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. Walking around there are massive pieces of work on the sides of buildings all around the city that make it come alive and pop. One moment it looks like a war zone and the next you see a piece of art 50 meters across and just have to stop to take a picture. The juxtaposition of the 2 causes you to stop for a moment and think tuning this place into a photographers paradise. I have taken CAMERAmore pictures here than anywhere else that I have visited and to me every picture is pure gold. I managed to arrive in the middle of the Spectrum art festival which is trying to bring street art to the masses. When I say street art most people instantly think of an ugly tag on a wall or a bus stop by a 12 year old who managed to get his hands on a can of spray paint in a DIY shop but the art here is nothing like that. These pieces have been put together by professionals and the size alone shows how much planning must have gone into this to make it happen. People young and old alike seem to stop in the streets and look at they pass by one of these masterpieces. The local YMCA also had an indoor exhibit that I managed to see which was also breathtaking. I have taken so many pictures that I will just let the gallery on this page speak for its self.

Christchurch is broken, that is easy for anyone to see, but it does have a heart that is certainly still beating and beating hard. It still has issues with earthquakes (there have been 3 since I’ve been here) but they are starting to put things back together and return the city centre to its former glory, obviously with some higher building regulations this time! That being said I think that Christchurch may be one of my favourite cities. the city centre is all flat which makes getting around nice and easy yet there are still hills off in the distance where fun can be had on a mountain bike if required. Even though there are signs of chaos everywhere the street art and parks make up for it. I know I could much rather have devastation and beautiful nature here then wall to wall buildings like it is in Auckland.

Who knows what the future holds for Christchurch but I certainly know I wont be crossing it off my list again in a hurry!

Penguins!!!

It seems I am moving on all the time at the moment but that is the way it has to be to start seeing some of this country and take in all the sites. It feels bad sometimes just sitting and wasting a day but every now and again that needs to be done to take some time to plan and live cheaply to make sure there is extra cash and time to do all of the amazing things that are available here. WiFi seems to be the most exotic thing over here with bandwidth being more precious than gold (I have 200MB to use in 3 days at the hostel. Safe to say that is gone!). Due to all the moving about I decided to sacrifice the day yesterday and spend it in the local library with an alright internet connection in order to figure out where I want to go moving forwards.

My research has brought up a few things, the first being that Christchurch seems like a pretty crappy place to go. From what I have found so far it seems like Christchurch isn’t that great and is a little abandoned since the earthquake a few years ago that tore it apart. In addition to this is looks like the accommodation is quite expensive for places that don’t look too good in a large but abandoned city. It will be interesting to see but I don’t really plan on staying there for too long before heading further up the coast to Nelson. The second thing that I found out was that Oamaru has Penguins! Loads of them! This is why I have decided to have an extra day here rather than spending more time in Christchurch.

Morning SunI got to Oamaru pretty early today as it isn’t far from Dunedin and the coach was stupidly early in the morning. The bonus of that is that I’ve had a full day in Oamaru to explore and take a look about. To be fair it is only a little town but it does have a few interesting sites. The only downside about looking around today is that since its Good Friday nothing is open yet I still managed to find a few little gems.

The first thing I randomly bumped into was the Steampunk DSC_0895HQ building.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†It isn’t something I was looking for but it is pretty easy to spot by the huge Steampunk train outside. For those of you reading this that have no clue what Steampunk is, it is often recreating industrial items as other things and making them look steam powered. The train out front had been built up to look like a train but was made from all sorts of different things originally, all welded together into a crazy sculpture. To add to this whenever someone put a $2 coin in the machine it suddenly came to life, throwing steam and flames into the air from its chimney stack.

balance oamaruFurther down the pier, along the sea wall I managed to find another rock to practice balancing on. I don’t know why it has become a thing that I keep doing but I do like the idea of learning something new and I have always liked to try and balance myself in various ways so I guess this is quite fitting. All that I need to do now is finally loose some more weight to make the task a little easier and then when I can finally get settled start practising doing hand stand.

After wandering away from the main pier I found myself at the local park which was actually quite impressive. Situated right next to the tiny beach was the park with all of its unsual toys for the kids to play on and the family BBQ area. I have to say I am really impressed by the idea of the pay-per-big bbqgo BBQ and I think more places need it. In the centre of the park was a massive BBQ that could be used by anyone for only $2 (about £1). For that price the heat would start for 30 mins and give you enough time to cook whatever you were planning without all of the extra hassle of bringing a BBQ out with you or finding a way to take it home later while it was still hot. I think there are a few big parks that would really benefit from this back in the UK, although I doubt it would ever become a thing.

SealionOamaru is famed for its Yellow eyed and Blue eyed penguins who live and nest along the shore by the harbour. During the day you get get onto this main sea wall as the gates are open and so I took a wonder down. About half way down I heard a noise and looked down to see a massive Sealion sat a few meters below be on another step. It seems to rear up for a moment before making its way to another comfier spot on the rocks below where it now seemed camouflaged to all of the other tourists passing by. During the night though it was not possible to get down there are the gates are locked forcing everyone wanting to see penguins through the sanctuary and¬†to pay for the show. I didn’t make it down there in time today but still went for a walk anyway to get some air and see what was about and I am glad I did because I still did manage to see a couple of sealion 2penguins. As I got the to car park I noticed that there was something moving at the bottom of one of the trees in the closed off area that I had been walking in just a few hours earlier. As I sat still and waited I was treated to the site of a little penguin wandering about and relaxing as it pleased, getting settled in for the evening. I watched it for a while before it disappeared into the undergrowth before stating to make my way back to the hostel. A few minutes down the road I noticed a group of people had stopped and were being quite around another tree. It turned out that another penguin had decided to make its nest in a tree right next to the main path, no where near any of the others and in full view of many curious tourists. For some reasons this little guy didn’t seem to mind and just sat there for a while not moving before relaxing and starting to groom himself.

All in all not a bad little day of wandering about. Maybe tomorrow I will find something new or go and visit the penguins properly this time.

view

 

I Climbed a Mountain!

Since CB and Audrey had booked a few days off work for me coming to visit we decided to do as much as possible while they were off to try and see all of the sites. Even though we only got back to Wanaka at about 10.30pm yesterday we were still all up bring an early to meet up with some of their friends and take on the local mountain knows as Roy’s Peak. This mountain is 1258m high and is a round trip of about 15km which doesn’t sounds like crazy high numbers until you get up there and actually start walking it. I think we were only about 10 mins into the walk before most of us were feeling damaged and starting to regret the fact that we had decided to take on a 6 hour hike. CB still had damaged ribs from the mountain bike accident that he had a few days before and we struggling from the start but like a true boyo kept on powering through. Magic Mike and Cindy were off like shot and leading the way all the way up like hiking wasn’t even a think. The higher we got the better the views started to get and the more appreciation you had for the climb. After around 2 hours of tiring work the idea started to set in that this was going take us a long time and that there would be plenty more pain before we actually to the summit and back down again but still we powered through.

About 2 thirds of the way up any moral that we motivatorstill had was completely shattered with the arrival (and quick departure) of Mr Motivator. The guy in question was an old man in his mid sixties who said Hi to us as he jogged passed us and onwards into the distance. At this point Myself, Chris and Audrey were taking one step at a time and hadn’t seen the others in the group for at least 45 mins so getting overtaken by a guy old enough to be our granddad was a truly shattering blow that left us regretting some of our life choices and overall fitness levels. Even with this big hit to moral we still powered on, forever telling ourselves that we only had 30 mins left while knowing full well it would take us at least 4 more hours to get to the peak and back down again.

The higher we got the cooler the temperature started to become. About 1km from the stop the the sun decided to dip behind a big grey cloud and that was the signal that it was I’m to put the hoodies back on and carry on climbing. Luckily the effort of the climb was enough to keep you warm and so we kept plodding on towards our goal, already able to see our comrades at the summit. On the final push myself and CB had an idea born out of laziness and stubbornness. There was a track that lead straight up the last bit of the mountain of a very precarious and steep track that was more of a climb than a walk. We decided to go this way as a “short cut” to avoid having to walk around and hopefully cut a projected 10 mins off of the final part of our assent. It was tough going and as soon as we started we realised that we had made a poor life choice but had come too far to admit our mistake. We powered on up that stupid DSC_0722climb safe in the knowledge that we would at least beat Audrey who had opted for the safer and longer route of the path that looped around the top. Tired and damaged we pushed out way over the final mound to have motivation shattered yet again when we looked forwards and saw that Audrey was in front of us on the trail. Our way may have been “shorter” however that really didn’t help when we kept having to rest all the way up.

When we finally reached the top there was celebration all around, probably because the other guys had already been there for half an hour and it was freezing. When we first started the walk the top of the mountain was actually10994159_10153397526884505_3726316241310127174_n hidden away in a cloud and we couldn’t even see it. Although this has started to clear now the temperature had really dropped to a point that it had even started to snow. It was only a few random flakes every now and again but not the sort of thing you want to hang around for when you know you have a 3 hour decent ahead of you.

Here is where the fun begins. As much difficulty as myself (with my crappy knee) and CB (with his cracked ribs) had had getting up the mountain, it turns out that going back down again was a whole different ball game. due to the way my right knee bends it means that I always keep landing really heavily on my left leg which makes descending anything seriously un-fun, especially when it is seriously steep and uneven. CB was also quick to discover that the shock from taking a step would vibrate through his body and cause him to feel like he was having a mini heart attack as the rib pain shot across his chest. Not really a good thing when you know exactly how far it is to get back down again and know there is nothing that you can do apart form man up and deal DSC_0708with it without complaining too much. Our decent was a slow one full of pain but as the hours went by we slowly got lower and lower and closer to our target. The depressing part was that it seemed that no matter hos long you were walking for or how far you had done down the car never seemed to get any closer as if someone was moving it a little further away each time you turned your back on it.
After we finally got down it was time for a well needed IMG_20150317_115038Coffee¬†so we headed over to a little coffee shop called Kai overlooking the lake to grab some drinks and have a well needed sit down. CB and Audrey were still in the process of moving to a new place and still needed to grab the last of their stuff that night before we finally went for something to eat. While chatting Mike mentioned Frisbee golf and somehow my desire to play with a Frisbee overruled the pain I was feeling from the hike and I agreed to go along and play a few holes with him. It is such a simple concept and so easy to set up a course that I don’t know why we don’t have them back home in all of the big parks. All that you need is a start point and then a little cage to catch the disc and then you can play. I know I certainly would play it all the time if there was actually somewhere to play it near to home but it seems you have to travel really far to find anything simple and free like that back at home.

disc golf couseSomehow after disc golf Mike convinced me that I needed to join him to play volleyball with a group of people who meet up all the time to play. I thought that there would just be a couple of people using a makeshift net and just having a laugh and when we turned up I was right. There was just me, Mike and 3 other people there on time so it seemed like all was lost for a while. All of a sudden though people seemed to come out of the woodwork and soon we had over 20 people on multiple teams playing away on a court that they put up with a proper net and boundaries marked out properly with spray chalk. The music was playing and the drinks were flowing while a group of people I have never even met seamlessly accepted me into their little group and we just played away all day. It seems like that is the mentality over hear though, everyone is friendly and chilled out and you probably have to be a real dick to make any enemies. Unfortunately all of the fun was cut short when CB called me to let me know we needed to get ready for dinner. With all of the fun of the day it had slipped my mind that I had not really eaten all day as my body had kind of gone past the hunger.

We ended up going out for a pub dinner with a few othervolley ball people and having some good conversation and with good company before heading home for an early(ish) night. even though it was St. Patrick’s day and the local Irish bar was in full swing I don’t think any of us could have handled it was we all seem to be broken people.

My plans for New Zealand have now come to an end as I didn’t really plan that much to do here and was going to make it up as I go along. It is now time for me to do some of that making up business and get an idea of what I am going to do. I have no clue but I am kind of looking forwards to it all.

The future is certainly going to be interesting.

Milford Sound = Beautiful!

After coming down from the hill side and the fabulous view of Queenstown it was only a few minutes before I got a call from CB to say that they had arrived and trying to figure out where we were going to meet each other. A little confusion was had since the instructions of “Meet me by the guitar playing guy at the beach” seems really simple when the beach is only 200m long, however becomes much more complicated when you realise that there are about 4 people playing guitar along the beach front, some busking some practising but all confusing us!

It was really great to see CB again and it weirdly feels as CBif no time has passed at all. I think that is how you can know that you have a true friendship with someone. If you can meet up with them on the other side of the world, trusting all your plans to a few random messages on Facebook and then meet up after a few years of barely talking yet feel completely comfortable then you know you are onto a good thing.

That night we headed to a town called Te Anau that was on the way to Milford sound to try and break the drive up a bit. CB and Audrey had both been working all day and it was already 4pm by the time we had met up so didn’t seem wise to start driving down all the winding quiet roads in the dead of night. We stayed in a nice little motel and wandered into town for some food. Te Anau is only a small town on the shore of a DSC_0683 (1024x768)beautiful lake (seems to be the standard practice for New Zealand!) and although it was a bit cloudy it was still a beautiful site. The one thing that I really cant get over here isn’t the views of the lakes or mountains or epic landscapes, it is the sky at night. The landscape was something that I knew was going to be amazing. It has features that we don’t have at home and there are pictures of it all the time that you can take a look at so that you can know what to expect when you get here. The sky and the stars though are a completely different ballgame. There are not many photos going about of the sky and stars since they are a bit trickier to get right but I really do wish that I could get a picture to show you all what an amazing site I am seeing every night. When the sun has set and the night falls the stars truly come out to play and almost instantly the sky is alive with the brightest stars I have ever seen. There is so little light pollution here that I can even start to make out the clouds of different galaxies far off into the distance of space. The nights sky also silhouettes the mountains to make it all the more impressive. I may have to get some warm clothes (since I am a little lacking in them at the moment) and go and sit out one night under the stars for a few hours taking it all in. Astronomy in the UK is useless as even if the night is clear it is so hard to see anything with all the light from nearby towns and cities. Here there is none of that and even in the centre of town you can still get an amazing view of the heavens above. Seriously impressive!

The next morning we had a super early start in DSC_0661 (1024x576)order to drive the 2 hours to get to Milford Sound in time for our ferry trip. Audrey had arranged everything for us so I am so grateful for that as all I have had to do is turn up and pay my share and all of the transport and activities were planned and sorted beforehand. As we set off the weather wasn’t to great and it looked like we may have had a miserable day ahead of us. Taking a leaf out of the Scott Rollins playbook we put on shorts anyway because as everyone knows, if you wear shorts with conviction then the sun will come! The shorts totally came threw for us too. Within about an hour of driving towards Milford the clouds started to part and and the sun slowly started to get its act in order and do its job to our surprise and pleasure. It seemed like at every turn the view improved over and over again until the mountains opened up to reveal the Sound in all its glory.

CAMERAThe views at Milford Sound were amazing and I will not even begin to try and describe how great they were. Instead I will let all of he photos in the attached gallery speak for themselves and hopefully not make you all too jealous! The cruise that we were booked on was with one of the smaller cruise companies on a much smaller boat than some of the others that were docked in the harbour. I think was actually got a much better deal though as there were only 30 people on our cruise and meant that we were able to actually have a good chat to the 2 person crew about the area and what brought them there. Our skipper also took the boat really close to the rocks at some points to see some seals and then a waterfall, getting so close at one point that the whole front end of the boat was soaked in water from the baby waterfall hundreds of feet above. At least he did warn us before he did this to give people a little chance to run for cover before it all got a little damp!

sealsThe wind in the bay was quite intense and apparently can get really bad at certain times due to the way that the wind sweeps into the bay along the mountains. It was quite strange as a some moments the wind seemed to stop completely and be calm as we were moving along as the same speed in the same direction then it would switch and become so strong that it was hard to even stand. I was so impressed with the view and scenery of the Sound and the Sound. The little town only had 220 people in the summer living there are 70 in the winter and has to be completely self sustained as in extreme weather (that happens often in the winter) The only road in and out can often be closed, effectively trapping everyone there with only an airstrip to let them leave in case of an emergency. It seems like they have a really close community of workers there all the time as it is the sort of place where everyone needs to be there for each other as if they are not then it really wouldn’t be the type of place you would want to live. It really was a beautiful place to be and somewhere I could certainly see myself going to again.

Along with the big stuff Audrey had also planned CAMERAout little things to stop and see on the way back from Milford so that we could take in as much as possible on our little trip. Another thing that amazes me about New Zealand is that it seems that around every corner there is something else to see. The type of things that in the UK we would travel for a few hours specifically to see that one feature are just scattered at the side of the road as if they are the discarded attractions that didn’t quite make the cut. We stopped at a river with a beautiful natural rock formation caused by the glacier that had boyssome through and carved the valley and then at a beautiful waterfall in a picturesque little ravine. It seems like every moment here is a photo opportunity and other reason that people will be filled with hate online. As CB quoted though “There’s nothing wrong with Mondays, It’s your job that sucks!” which made perfect sense. It was a Monday morning and instead of being stuck in an office doing things we didn’t want to do we were out in the world having adventures and seeing amazing things. I think it was officially the best Monday ever!