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!
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