Today's blog is separated by a dotted line (-------) to represent our cross over from North to South New Zealand. If you like, print it out and use scissors (or a guillotine if you're posh) to cut the page in two. Alternatively take a tea break at the half-way mark; Anzac biscuits are recommended as a dunking companion. If you are unable to find Anzacs in the UK simply rub a HobNob on a sheep for a few seconds prior to eating.
Whilst in Rotorua we visited the Agrodome, which although sounding like a wrestling arena is actually New Zealand's premier agricultural experience. Via the medium of a tractor we were guided around acres of farmland. Farms are slightly different from zoos; the animals are generally less exciting but far tastier. The highlight of our visit to Agrodome was the live sheep show. Crammed into an auditorium with hoards of Korean people - who were wearing headsets for translation and looked like an oriental version of Band Aid - we watched a farmer walk 19 breeds of sheep onto the stage ranging from attractive to unattractive. We were then treated to a shearing demonstration, which was almost as brutal as the haircut Victoria gave me in Peru.
From Rotorua to Napier we had a choice of taking the 'Thermal Explorer Highway', a direct one and half hour drive, or the 'scenic' Route 38, a road that looked like it had been scribbled on the map by a two-year old. Six hours later Gill and Pat realised they had made the wrong choice. Our sole purpose in returning to Hawke's Bay was to go on a wine tour. We heard on the grapevine (ha, brilliant!) that the Mission Estate Winery was worth a look. New Zealand has an alarming alcohol problem (as the TV would have you believe), which far outstrips its Antipodean neighbour, Australia, so we were easily welcomed in for a 9am session.
Later that day the New Zealand drinking culture also helped us cope with the fact that the four of us had to share a backpacker'S dorm room in Wellington. With no time to explore the capital - the nachos were exceptional though - we were soon boarding the largest ship in New Zealand, Kaitaki, for the crossing over the Cook Straight to the South Island. A tunnel similar to the Channel Tunnel was once planned for the crossing. However, New Zealand's sheep industry workers protested, citing that as sheep were essentially clouds with legs they couldn't endure underground travel. The animals also like watching Matt Damon films on the ferry too much.
Greymouth, where Gill and I learned how the upper-classes sauté their mushrooms, and Fox Glacier were short overnight stop-offs before we reached Wanaka, the home of Charles and Angela. Thankfully we didn't ruin any anniversary's for them, but we did interrupt them poking a fish back to life as we arrived. Charles and Anglea were lovely company especially at two in the morning as we all crawled home drunk. From Wanaka we headed to New Zealand's fun-town, Queensland.
109 metres above the Shotover Canyon, Victoria and I looked down at the sharp rocks, thundering river and impending death below. The Canyon swing involves being harnessed, worryingly, to a single nylon rope, then free falling 60 metres before being propelled into a 150kph, 200m arc. Victoria would still be up on the ledge is she hadn't been told that the Anzac factory had burned down and she decided to end it all. Amazingly brave...although going without hair-straighteners in South America was equally hardcore. I took the jump in my usual calm and composed manner and probably produced the most boring souvenir DVD ever. Gill elected to go quad biking instead and promptly fell off.
In the afternoon, Pat, Victoria and I had fun with Bob and his huge chopper; in that, we took a helicopter ride in blustery conditions above Queenstown. During our stay we were able to meet up with Phil (a chap Pat used to work with) and his girlfriend, Jo. Phil reckons that if you dug a hole through the Earth from Queenstown you'll end up coming up the other side in Sussex. I've yet to try this, but once I've completed the bulding of my Maori war canoe I'll have a crack.
And then in it all came down to Christchurch. We spent our last evening all together being served Lasagne and a shocking amount of wine by Jaqueline and her boyfriend, Andy. You must be wondering who some of these people are, I'm still not sure myself, but Pat and Victoria seem to know them all. Everyone we've seen throughout New Zealand has been lovely, although the New Zealand way suggests that even if they were complete strangers they'd still invite us in to eat their biscuits, drink their wine or at least watch their TV to catch up on the serial killer storyline on Shortland Street.
- We've all left the Land of the Long White Cloud now; Pat and Gill to go and enjoy the British winters that make you want to go into hibernation beneath the duvet, whilst Victoria and I have arrived in Melbourne, specifically to visit Ramsay Streey and put off the prospect of work for another week or so. We're living above a British pub on the city's busiest road; they do a backpackers meal for 6 Dollars every night, but Victoria doesn't like meatballs.
- Charles and Angela's fish seems to have recovered from whatever made it ill. It's still a bit touch and go though.
- Pat's bag was about 10kg heavier on her journey home. Victoria's is about 10kg lighter...I see a connection.
- The Shortland Street serial killer struck again; this time bagging a nurse called Beth. She was asking for it though, driving around in the dark with her fuel light on.