Bal's Trip Round the World in 96 Days
Kia Ora from Aotearoa (that's hello from New Zealand in Maori - well mostly Maori). This is truly a beautiful country with some amazing scenery in fact it felt like being on a film set at times. Quite a bit of Lord of the Rings was filmed in and around Queenstown, even went to Mordor (aka the Remarkables mountain range). Rather than giving you separate postcards this one is is an all-in-one job, so here goes: Arrived in Christchurch New Zealand on the 23rd Jan. Christchurch in the South Island kinda freaked me out a bit as it was so much like England especially having come from Australia being nothing like England. Nice quiet place with a fab Indian restaurant! Headed off from there by coach to the Adrenalin capital of the world; Queenstown via Mount Cook and LakeTekapo. Naturally had to take up the gauntlet and get down to some serious adrenalin pumping activity, so my activity of choice was white water rafting. It was cool to say the least. This was such fun once we got our manoeuvers (not spelt right but who cares!) right. The water was pale blue glacial water and incredibly beautiful, nestled in amongst a huge ravine. It was quite easy going to start with until we reach the grade 5 rapids boy that was exciting. We all nearly fell out of the raft at one stage in this particular rapid whose name I cannot mention as it's a bit rude and there may be children reading. You are of course welcome to prize it out of me with a nice gin and tonic when I return!! Sadly there are not photos to put up on the site as they're currently winging their way back to the UK but there is one really good shot of all of us almost completely submerged in the rapids with only the tops of our helmets showing - that was one of the final rapids we went through and was scarry as hell but coolio. Next was Franz Josef Glacier and of course what better to do on a glacier than go for a helicopter ride up to the glacier and go for a hike on the glacier! This has to be one of the most amazing things I have EVER done. This glacier is growing and is moving at a rate of 6 metres a day, there is only one other glacier of this size that's moving at such a rate and that's in Patagonia. The glacial ice is blue and at the bottom of the glacier where it's packed over many many years it dates back to the 1930's. We got dropped off about half way up the glacier and were issued with a pick axe and crampons (spikes to attach to the bottom of your boots). After some gently walking over the glacier came the harder stuff, jumping over crevices, making our way up and down really tough inclines and exploring ice caves. The crampons were amazing, their grip meant you could walk almost normally and it was superb, almost made me feel like Superwoman! This trip utterly amazing as you will see by the photos. It was then off to Christchurch for an evening where I met the very nice Alarico who reminded me of my friend Emma's husband Giorgio minus the beard - spooky! Next was Kaikoura for some whale watching. Saw 4 beautiful sperm whales and these were about 20 metres long so about the size of the boat we were in. They really were majestic. Also got to see some dolphins and an albatros. Kaikoura was a wonderful seaside town where the people have a real connection to the life out there in the sea. After that it was off to Wellington in the North Island, didn't see much of Wellington so not a lot to say. Then it was off to Rotarua, home of geothermal activity including mud pools, hot springs not to mention a large Maori community. I have to start by saying that the place stunk of rotten eggs, in fact this was my wake up call on the first day - lovely! Went to one of the thermal springs and that was enough for me. Did however go to a Maori Hangi evening and had a wonderful time. A hangi is a meal that's cooked in a pit with stones that are heated to ridiculous temperatures and put on top of the food to cook it. The evening included a Maori show and lots of detail about their customs and beliefs, we were even treated to a Haka (see the beginning of any All Blacks rugby team game) performed by the men and a Poi dance performed by the women. I have to tell you that some of the women were much scarrier than the men! We finished the evening off with a trip into the rainforest to see the glow worms which was a fabulous finale to the evening. Off then to Auckland to stay with Simon and Mel. Had a lovely time with them, they took me round Auckland, showed me the sights, out for really nice meal (great restaurants there especially in Devonport) and even went to Piha beach which is round the corner from where the opening scenes of the Piano were filmed. Met the very lovely little Minnie too - she's such a sweetie. Simon and Mel were really really nice, treated me to some Kiwi culture (won't forget the jandals, bach, kumaru, dero, bogae and wop-wops) great company and treated me so well - thank you sooo much. And that concludes New Zealand. Off to Thailand....!