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Monday, 23 April 2012

New Zealand

New Zealand










Arrived into a distinctly chilly Christchurch late at night and being the hardy backpackers we are we decided to stay in the arrivals lounge for the night. Unfortunately not a patch on Singapore and the security staff seemed to have quite a dislike for all things backpacker. Apparently we had an after shock from the recent earthquake while we were there but slept straight through.

Up bright and early we jumped on a bus into Christchurch, crazy how totally devastated it was, majority of buildings reduced to rubble and others only just standing. Picked up our home for the next 4 weeks our lovely van called Skinky (due to the giant lizard painted on the side, classy!!!). It was here ben realised that his drivers license had expired and would appear Gemma would have to do all the driving. So off we set into the countryside towards mount cook. Realised fairly quickly all New Zealanders are crazy on the road and think nothing of driving inches behind you or overtaking on blind corners. We don't actually know what Mount Cook looks like because New Zealand was in the middle of it's worst summer in 50 years!! What have we done to deserve the awful weather seemingly following us around the world! We dealt with the situation in a considerably British manner and ignored the weather and tried to keep to our summer wardrobe (having sent all the winter stuff home!). Irrelevant of the weather we witnessed some amazing scenery over the next few days, saw penguins and loads of seals and did some pretty good walking with almost enough hills to keep ben happy.
Steepest Street in the WORLD!
























Ben celebrated his unofficial birthday (after refusing to celebrate in India!) in Queenstown. We arrived late in the evening and decided to stay in the towns local DOC (very cheap camp grounds), we followed a gravel  track down through woods, snaked between mountains in the pitch black, the track went on and on with nothing but sheep in fields and no means of turning round. Eventually we reached a field and got our heads down, most amazing views in the morning though, totally worth the dodgy night drive.













Decided to stay in town for next 3 nights and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, huge climb (Ben Lomand track), luging, discovering old mount cider, White water rafting,  eating the worlds most amazing burgers and Ben being totally crazy and doing 134m bungy over a ravine (2nd highest in the world) I got the pleasure of watching.



 Were sad to leave but not nearly enough time here  in new zealand. Gradually made our way up the coast towards Franz Joseph glacier for a spot of glacier climbing, donned our crampons and we were off for a pretty hefty hike. Climbed up ice steps, down through ice tunnels and managed to get down again without any accidents or breakages . Most impressed!!!











After a full and furious 2 weeks on the south island (skinky had been protesting about the driving since day 2 with very loud squeaking very embarrassing when turning up late at doc sites), we headed to the North island, the ferry across was crazy but were guided by wild dolphins, a good oman that the boat wouldn't sink according to the locals.  Unfortunately we arrived just time to experience 140km hour winds, hugely disappointing as it meant the taringaro crossing was closed, we did our own walking for 3 day hoping for the pass to open, slightly optimistic as we sat in our van as it swayed back and forth all night.

Rather Breezey










Mount Doom!
On we went past lake Taupo, onto Routaroua maybe one of the smelliest places we've been to. Sits on one of the most thermally active parts of New Zealand so were treated to wafts of sulphur, bubbling mud pools, crystallised lakes and steaming vents. We went to an outdoor stream called kerosene creek later for swimming, right in the middle of the Forrest, slightly bizarre sitting in a hot dirty looking stream that smelt awful, only while your travelling would such a thing seem like a good idea.












 Next came one of the highlights of our trip, the bay of islands. Beautiful area with beautiful beaches and stunning scenery. Booked ourselves in to hunt down some dolphins to swim with. Was surprisingly difficult to keep up and the water (although we had been assured was pretty warm for new Zealand) was cold enough to almost give you hyperthermia. AMAZING though and worth freezing our bums off for.  Got so close and a totally unexpected experience in this part of the world. We spent the afternoon sailing round the islands on an old racing yacht called The Lion, which took part in a round the world race. Back to the sea of the next day and went on a monster kayak trip, 1st up a tributary to see a huge waterfall which our guide decided it would be beneficial to let us kayak under. So much fun as had been raining so much recently. Then managed 16km out round the islands.



Finished New Zealand with a visit to Auckland to see the Kiwi boys we met in Nepal. So much fun, sadly we left New Zealand but was made palatable as we were heading off to beachy paradise in Raratonga in the Cook Islands.

Singapore and Sydney

Singapore & Sydney



On our third attempt we managed to make it out of Singapore airport and actually spend some time in the city. We had three days in Singapore and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were still on quite a restricted budget so high end shopping was out of the question, although we did add a few things to the back pack after getting completely bored of our seriously repetitive wardrobe. For those who like their shopping you really can't go too far wrong with Singapore. 


The restaurants aren't bad either actually. We treated ourselves to a bit of western cuisine with a fairly drunken evening at Raffles followed up by way too much food at the hard rock cafe. We've decided the next time we come back to Singapore we have to stay at Raffles so I guess we won't be going back for a while! We caught the England vs Wales 6 nations match, which was being aired at around midnight, at a welsh pub called the Prince of Wales. Our friends from Borneo watched with us and the fact that one of them was Welshey made the game even more fun. The result was obviously a shame but at least it wasn't as bad as the world cup! 



We said goodbye to South-East Asia and boarded the most enormous plane headed for Sydney. We managed book in online and got seats upstairs right next to the stewardesses station. This meant we had the easiest access to the alcohol and we took full advantage! With all the extra space, free drinks and extensive movie catalogue we didn't get much sleep and therefore got off the plane feeling rather worse for wares. But we stepped out into the Sydney sunshine and set out to find our hostel. 


We were shown to our dorm room where we intended to grab a couple of hours sleep before exploring the city properly. Upon entering our room we were faced with utter destruction and squalor apparently the result of two of the noisiest teenage girls who (thankfully) were in the process of moving rooms. We were told by the staff it may take them a while to clean the room so we headed out for some breakfast. This was our first experience with Sydney prices. Oh my god! Sydney makes London look positively cheap. We did actually manage to get a bit of sleep and the beds were sooo comfortable after spending the last four months on seriously thin Asian mattresses. When we woke up the weather had changed for the worse and was now raining. Apparently it had been doing this most of the summer and this morning was somewhat of an oddity, which of course we had wasted in bed! Unfortunately the weather followed its current pattern and rained for all but one of the five days we were there. On that particular day we took full advantage and went down to Bondi with everyone else.


 
 We did go over to Manley Beach on another day, the weather wasn't exactly sunbathing conditions so the child inside was unleashed and we made the biggest sand castle possible. On the whole we really enjoyed being in Sydney even though the weather was not great. It certainly didn't dampen the celebrations of Mardi Gras which was very very cool and quite an eye opener. We didn't catch Kylie doing her set but did see Danni randomly a day before, guess one Minogue is better than none! 

So other than a few good nights out that was the end of a very expensive week and marked the start of our trip to New Zealand which we have been looking forward to for ages.