18 April 2012

Hooker Lake [Mt Cook, New Zealand]

Mount Cook is a fairly straight shot from Queenstown, so we decided we would save the gas and hitch-hike. Thankfully getting a ride was easy, and we were cruising north in style after only after a few minutes waiting.

The journey was pretty spectacular through the Lindis Pass, but as soon as we got near Mount Cook the weather turned to crap. Our ride dropped us at the turn-off to the national park, where we managed to get another ride to the camp ground. When we got there we could not see a thing! There was thick cloud all around and the wind was blowing something crazy. So we set up camp and read for the afternoon. That night the wind was so loud that we couldn't sleep. I was sure the tent was going to rip or blow away; it was insane! So I did not have high hopes for being able to see the mountain for the two days we planned to stay.

7 April 2012

JUMP! [Queenstown pt. II, New Zealand]

After Milford we drove back to Queenstown, again to stay with Jamie and Maree. It was so handy having relatives living in Queenstown! It meant we could base ourselves there, then go off and do little side trips, but always have a comfy bed to come back to.

One short trip we did was to drive in to Skipper Canyon. The ride in is kinda scary; a narrow, winding dirt road. On one side a massive cliff face and on the other a huge drop off into the bottom of the valley. But the view is pretty stunning, and being the extremely skilled driver I am; it was not a problem. We drove past the Skippers Jebtboat again and watched it roar up and down the river. If it wasn't so expensive I would have been keen to give it a go.

4 April 2012

Blown Away [Bluff + Milford, New Zealand]

Contrary to popular belief, the southern most point of New Zealand's South Island is not Bluff, but a place called 'Slope Point', which is a deserted stretch of beach. Other than being the southern most point, it really has nothing going for it. So instead we decided to check out the imposter that is Bluff.

Unfortunately Bluff doesn't have much more going for it. It was so windy that Julia and I were almost blown off the top of the hill, but at least it was clear enough to get a decent view of Stewart Island. At the bottom of the hill we had the standard photo underneath the road sign, a bit of a wander around, then decided to move on.

29 March 2012

Southern Scenic [The Catlins, New Zealand]

"The Catlins is a major highlight of the Southern Scenic Route. Situated off the beaten track, the Catlins encompasses the area between Kaka Point and Fortrose. You will journey through rural heartland and podocarp forests, past rugged coastlines, hidden lakes and stunning waterfalls. The natural landscapes are enthralling and the wildlife is extraordinary"... so says the Official website of the Catlins. And their description is pretty spot on. The Catlins packs a real punch; a small but diverse and beautiful area of New Zealand, with some really amazing scenery.

A few of the main sights; the Cathedral Caves and the petrified forest, are only accessible at low tide. Unfortunately for us low was at 8am or something ridiculous, so by the time we got up and got moving we had missed it. But no major drama, we just decided to spend two days in the Catlins and enjoy things at a more leasurly pace. Just as well we did, though, as there is a lot to see!

20 March 2012

Up Close and Personal [Moiraki + Oamaru + Dunedin, New Zealand]

After a quick grocery stop, we jumped in Jamies truck and headed out for our week-long adventure around the Southern Scenic Route. This route runs from Queenstown to Dunedin, along the south coast of the Southern Island, passing some of the most amazing scenery in the country. We kind of did it backwards, heading first for the east coast; Oamaru, but s'all good.

The journey to the coast was fairly uninteresting, mostly driving through farm land. We passed by the Clyde Dam and Alexandra, before hitting the coast and heading for Moiraki. Moiraki is famous as there are a small collection of almost perfectly round boulders lying all over the beach, half buried in sand. Some are impressively large, others have cracked open showing a hollow center. The beach itself is really nice; wide open flat sands which stretch for miles around the bay. We had a bit of fun jumping all over the boulders, taking photos, but to be honest; it lost its appeal after about 10 minutes.

18 March 2012

Adventure Capital [Queenstown, New Zealand]

Queenstown is the adventure tourism capital of New Zealand, but it requires one thing we don't have a lot of; money. It seems literally everything in this small town bears extremely over-inflated prices. Lucky I have a super-awesome family that gives me a free bed, feeds me and even lets me borrow their vehicles to tiki-tour around in.

So we went out for a day to explore the area. First stop was Arrowtown, a small, old mining town that has been transformed with nice cafes and expensive shops. Nice, but not exactly our destination of choice.

16 March 2012

Mirror Image [Franz-Joseph and Fox Glacier, New Zealand]

Another early start, and another day on the side of the road with our thumb out. Destination: the Franz-Joseph and Fox glaciers. There is one small spot to hitch from heading south out of Hokitika, and unfortunately we were beaten there by a guy heading in the same direction. Hitching etiquette dictated that he take the first ride, which took a good 30 minutes. After he was finally out of the way we managed to get a ride within about 10. Its kinda easy when you have a nice looking Swedish girl with you!

We were picked up by a cool American guy that produces music festivals all over the world. I would best describe him as an old hippy with a bit of cash; a really interesting dude. He was heading through to the Franz Joseph Glacier himself, so was able to take us right to the start of the walking track - perfect!

14 March 2012

Half a World Away [Hokitika, New Zealand]

Up early, Julia and I said goodbye to Robbie and set out to find a good spot to hitch. We didn't have to wait long before being picked up by a guy in a Merc. Which was a little strange... you get to know the type of vehicles, therefore the type of people, that pick you up. And a Mercedes is not on that list. But we weren't going to complain, so we jumped on in.

The driver was, uhhh, weird. First he started telling us about how he used to hitch-hike, and how he wanted to 'blow away' all the people who drove past and pick him up. Then he told us how you couldn't trust anyone, and that he could just pull out a knife at any time and stab me in the chest! With hand movements and all. WTF, dude? Needless to say we were pretty happy when he was only able to take us ten minutes down the road.

12 March 2012

Wired [Westport, New Zealand]

The West Coast of New Zealand is famous for its rainfall, and while we were visiting it did not disappoint. We had four days of solid rain, and had it not been for our Couch Surfing hosts I think Julia and I would have gone a little loopy! No one likes camping in the rain.

From Motueka Julia and I were picked up by a German guy in his van. He asked us to share the cost of petrol, which didn't seem unreasonable, and since it was pouring with rain, we jumped in. We took us through to the small town of Murchison, where we had a quick look around town and a lunch-stop. We saw the entire town in about five minutes!

8 March 2012

Tall Order [Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand]

Off the Cook Strait ferry into Picton, Julia and I didn't muck around; heading straight out toward Nelson. Wandering across a small park just outside the town center we got a ride without even trying! Someone saw our backpacks and guessed we might need a lift. If this continues, getting around New Zealand is going to be too easy.

Only problem was that they were only going a short distance, and soon we were out on the side of the road again. It took a while, but we managed to get through to the small town of Havelock. The weather had been bad all day, but as soon as we got into town it started p*ssing down! We tried waiting it out for an hour in a cafe, but the weather only got worse. We attempted to get a ride in the pouring rain but had no luck, no one wants a soaking wet person in their back seat. So we bit the bullet and found the local hostel. The place was pretty standard, and had decent facilities, but seemed to charge a lot. It cost $50 for the two of us. I have since learned that this is pretty average for New Zealand. I didn't expect it to be $5 a night like in Asia, but I didn't expect quite that much. Let's just say I'm glad we bought the tent.

5 March 2012

Thumbs Out & High Hopes [Rotorua + Wellington, New Zealand]

After almost a solid year of travelling across the world you might think the last thing I would want to do is pick up my backpack and hit the road again. But that is exactly what I did do; this time to discover my own country. I had told Julia how beautiful New Zealand was, now I just had to prove it.

After a wet Christmas and New Year in my home town of Gisborne, we set out for Rotorua to spend a couple of days staying with my Mum. We visited the standard attractions, starting with Wairakei Natural Thermal Valley for its bubbling mud and shooting steam. There is a thermal stream close by where you can bathe for free - a bit of a local secret, which was really cool. We also visited Taupo to check out the steam fields and Huka Falls. And I finally got my Burger Fuel fix after four years of being out of New Zealand!

21 February 2012

End of the Epic Overland Adventure - 2011 Recap

Having spent over ten months on the road, I thought I had better do a bit of a  recap. So for all of those lame-asses who haven't been reading my blog, this is your chance to catch up.

The idea was to travel from England to New Zealand without taking any flights. About 40,000 kms overland (or water). I had a very limited budget, and wanted to be as flexible as possible; basically travel with no plan. That meant no bookings, no travel agents, no stupid tour groups... Local transport, cheap hostels and Couch Surfing. I actually did a whole lot of Couch Surfing, so I really want to give a HUGE shout out to all of my hosts. You all rock! I hope I can return the favour one day.

Besides the CS hosts, I met some insanely amazing people on my journey. I don't really want to mention any names as (lets be honest) I'll probably leave someone out... but I will mention just one; Julia, my most awesome Swedish travel buddy of about five months! That even came back to New Zealand with me for a short trip around my home country.

So, what happened? I failed. I made it from London to Penang in Malaysia without flying. A total of 270 days, 44,620kms, 905 hours in transit, all overland.

Some of the highlights, lowlights, and funny stories...

4 January 2012

Scammed. Hard. [Bali, Indonesia]

Everyone has heard of Bali, and it seems most people want to go there. Paradise on earth, apparently. Well, our experience shattered a few expectations; both good and bad. While I had never expected to find amazing temples and beautiful highland villages, we found just that. But the flipside; the beaches we visited were either not all that nice or full of rubbish and way over touristed. Kuta is over touristed like no other place I have ever visited. Kinda sad.

Let's back up. In the last post Julia and I were just leaving the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. Our bus down the mountain arrived to Probolinggo by early afternoon. At the bus station the sales guy assured us that the journey from Probolinggo to the port town of Ketapang would only take four hours, but in reality it took over six. In a hot, sweaty, cramped public bus (conditions that by now are par for the course). We jumped straight on the ferry for the short hop across to Bali. It was after 8pm by the time we arrived on the island, in the small harbour town of Gilimanuk. It seemed like a deserted place with not a lot going for it. We had spent most of the day travelling with another couple that were trying to head on to Lovina the same night, and as we didn't have any firm plans we decided to join. Unfortunately the public buses only left when they were full (14 people) and being quite late no one was around. We ended up bargaining hard and getting the guy to take us for about US$4 each.
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