Friday, 24 February 2017

The west coast

Not much has happened between Nelson and queenstown, but that is just what we wanted. Driving, taking in amazing scenery, stopping at every viewpoint, scenic falls, or town with a pokegym has been pretty wonderful.

After Nelson we spent a night at the edge of the Abel Tasman trail, and then had a nice run along it, saying good morning to all the people who were rucksacked up to the point they were clearly planning to be out there for days. Pretty coves, secluded campsites, and little streams meant our run turned into a jog and then turned into a walk to take some photos. We covered about 7 miles.

Our next stop was a long way south, between punekaiki and greymouth, one being a beautiful coastal area, with walks to the pancake rocks, and the other being a more industrial town, the highlight of which was a petrol station.

It rained pretty much constantly on the full day we were there, so we stayed in, and only ventured out to go on a local walk to a spectacular waterfall. It was pouring as we left, but dried out quite quickly.

On our way south the next day, we visited Franz Josef glacier, and hiked towards it (it has receded so far that a helicopter is the only way to get up close properly) and that evening we stayed at fox glacier. It was Valentine's Day, so we had a romantic enchilada at the local pub.

Next on the list was fox glacier itself, again, so far up the mountain now that people with helicopters are the ones making some serious money out of the place. We did another longish walk to get to the main view point, a walk which included some steep climbing for about half a mile, which also included the "no stopping" sign due to the risk of rockfalls.

The accommodation was either crazily expensive, or fully booked (or beds in dorms) so we found ourselves in Haast for the next two nights, a lovely remote town, with a pub and not much else. We ate there on the first night, and had a massive lunch at Jackson Bay, the most remote place in New Zealand (apparently) the next day.

Sunday, 12 February 2017


 The road to the north of Kaikoura is still out of action, so a 2 hour drive up the coast became a 6 hour drive inland. With a massive breakfast before we set off, and regular stops for coffee, viewpoints, waterfalls and lunch, it didn't seem that bad, although he repairs from the earthquake were still evident with lots of gravelly bits of road and low speed zones, and loads of people working to repair them. Hanmer Springs looked like a nice place to stop another time, with hot pools and flumes, but we made it to nelson by 6pmish.

My dad's best mate from school moved to New Zealand ten years ago, and although it is probably over 20 years since I have seen them, we made contact and arranged to mooch a few nights off them. They haven't changed at all, and we instantly felt properly welcomed, as they cooked us amazing veggie meals and told us what to head to in the local area.

Our first full day in Nelson involved going into town, buying me a new phone, leaving it in the shop to set itself up (which ended up taking several hours) while visited the cathedral, had lunch at a Swedish bakery (excellent cinnamon buns) walked to the centre of New Zealand (amazing views, after a proper march up he hill, made harder by being up against the deadline of an expiring car park ticket), a drive out to the beach, and a lovely walk on it, followed by playing on the swings, then driving back into town, checking up on the phone, and visiting the jewellers who made the one ring (and all the other rings) for the Lord of the Rings films, buying Lisa something precious, then getting the phone (woohoo!) and heading home.

Day two took us to rabbit island, and Mapua, for walks and beaches, and an evening out for dinner at a lovely restaurant by the marina. The cruise ship "the world" was docked, which might explain why so many of the restaurants were full.

The next day we headed north just a little to the edge of Able Tasman national park, where we discovered we had booked he wrong dates for a hotel, so some frantic airbnb searches (hurrah for having a phone again) found us a room nearby. We ate burgers as big as our heads in the Sprig and Fern (a Nelson brewery chain which I would happily enjoy more often, especially as they have Mango cider, and he best crispy potatoes I've had this side of the Forest of Dean.

With the nearest parkrun about 200 miles away, and the race we had wondered about being too far south, we had a morning run up the Able Tasman trail, a well kept coastal path, with a liberal scattering of beautiful backpackers to say good morning to. It took us a long time to cover about 8 miles, as it was quite hilly, had far too many detours to secret beaches and secluded campsites, and generally was best savoured than sprinted. A quick shower back at the house, and then it was off for our second biggest drive of the trip, down to Greymouth.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Christchurch and Kaikoura

Christchurch had a lovely vibe to it, despite half the city centre being in ruins, there seems to be a good sense of people getting on with life, and not letting a little earthquake ruin everything. From he shopping mall made out of containers, to the cardboard cathedral, they are very much open for business. We stayed out to the north of town, in an airbnb, which enabled us do do our own cooking and be more independent. We ate pasta in the evening, and more interesting things for lunch in town.

On the Friday we picked up the hire car, which is an ancient Nissan bluebird, with over 325000 miles on the clock, clock hasn't already gone round once or twice. It gave us a mild worry when in the first 20km the fuel gauge had dropped about 20%, so I worked out we would be filling it up every 100km. By the time we got to the parkrun, we realised that it just had a funny shaped fuel tank.

Pegasus parkrun was lovely, quite small, and two laps of a pretty lake. Afterwards we had a massive breakfast, to prepare us for the long journey north.

Kaikoura was amazing. Again, a lot of earthquake damage, with lots of notable buildings closed because of it. We found the nicest Indian restaurant in the world, and booked some tours.

On the first full day we went kayaking around the seal habitats (I think they were actually sea lions, but I'm not totally sure) which was amazing, getting really close to seals and seeing the occasional penguin. Is is where I managed to drop my phone in the sea, losing most of the photos we had taken so far. It was an old phone, and would have died soon anyway, but still very foolish of me.

On the second day we hopped on a boat, after putting on wetsuits and flippers, and the took us out on a pancake flat sea to find the dolphins. Once we were amongst them, half the boat jumped off the back, and we all whooped and hollered through our snorkels and  made ourselves as interesting as possible. Getting face to face with dolphins, as they eyed us up, and wondered what on earth we were doing, and noticing them appear over our heads with enough bubbles to realise they had just jumped over us, was the most wonderful experience I've ever known.

Our guides reckoned there were around 300 or more, and we did four or five sessions in the water with them, moving back to them when they swam further up the coast. After we all got out, we stayed nearby, and the dolphins carried on playing, doing jumps and generally pissing about. Quite spectacular. We are at the Indian again that night (it really was that good) and then packed up to head north, by going south the next morning.

Thursday, 2 February 2017


On our last morning in the USA we popped off to the San Francisco modern art museum, which was lovely, although we didn't think we had long to look around. Turns out we could have stayed a lot longer, as our flight to LA was delayed by (eventually) about 3 hours! We had left what we thought was a massive margin for error when we booked, but we ended up sprinting through LAX to get our flight to Fiji.

It was all fine though. We had about 10 minutes to spare, and made it to Fiji.

The 24th of January didn't exist, which amused me, so we arrived early on the morning of the 25th.
A three hour bus journey, and we were in the resort by lunchtime.

The uprising beach resort was gorgeous, sand nice and hot, sea clear and warm and hammocks with little signs warning of the risk of falling coconuts. The staff were lovely, and the restaurant excellent (and generous).

Unfortunately on my birthday I ended up succumbing to the jet lag, and pretty much sleeping from lunchtime to the next morning.

The next day we chilled in hammocks and read books and snoozed, but we made up for it on our last full day, by heading out to Venga island, via some amazing spinner dolphins and a lot of rain, to snorkel with the fishes, and sit on an island beach, and jump into the sea from the top of the boat, and pretending I wasn't 20 years older than everyone else on the trip.

Final day, and we took the bus back to the airport, and that was Fiji.