Well sorry I haven't been able to write again for quite a while but I have been in a few remote places again and sometimes the internet is really hard to work or really expensive ($8 an hour at the last 2 places which is double what it is here!)
Last time I wrote I was in Wellington, and I am pleased to report that it continued to impress. Wellington reminded me ofSan Francisco but smaller and not as hilly. The population varies between 160,000 and 400,000 according to who you talk to but the city centre feels about the same size as Leeds. It's very picturesque and cosmopolitan and busy all the time. It was my favourite place so far. We went and visited the parliament building which was very innovatively built. Because it is 400m from a fault line, they have protected it against earthquakes by basically slicing it off its foundations and putting it on some bendy discs which will move it up to 30 cm in either direction in an earthquake and hopefully preserve it. And just for Mark, the decorative tiles on the floor in one of the rooms were made by a company in Stoke on Trent!
Whilst in Wellington I also visited the Te Papa Museum which was absolutely amazing. It is completely free but they could charge so much for it. I went to an exhibition about whales which was fascinating but there was so much more that I didn't get to see. Wellington was the first place I would have liked to stay longer in but it didn't fit into my schedule.
On Tuesday we travelled across the gap between the two islands to the "city" of Nelson which is slightly smaller than Aylesbury. In fact, the whole south island has only 500,000 people on it which is less than half the population of Auckland. Nelson is very pretty and on the coast. We spent Wednesday there and I had a nice day relaxing on the beach. Unfortunately I did a bit of a shoddy job of applying sun cream (there's a 5 minute burn time here) and as a result I am burnt in such improbable and painful places as the backs of my knees. A lesson learnt.
We are now travelling down the west coast of the south island on Highway 6, which is rated as one of the top ten most beautiful drives in the world by Lonely Planet. The south island is very different to the north island. This is because of the way two tectonic plates interact. In the north island one is pinned under the other, causing the volatile activity in places like Rotorua. In the south, the plates are pushing together to create the southern alps which are growing by 10mm per year (but being eroded by 7mm per year). The route we are on now is surrounded by sub-tropical rainforest. The west coast of the south island gets 7-11 metres of rain per year compared with 0.2-0.4 metres on the east coast. In fact, Franz Josef, where I am now, gets 250 days of rain per year.
After Nelson we travelled to a place called Westport which had no merits at all apart from being a stopover (and us getting an amazing apartment for 5 of us in which I had a double bed and the others all got bunks, mwah ha ha). On the way we stopped at a watersports place on the river Buller. This, when in full flood, is the second largest volume river in the world behind the Amazon, but it was nice and small when we went there. We went jetboating on this river. The boat can travel in about 10cm of water when at speed because it has no rudder hanging down. Instead it uses two jet engines with 410 horsepower each, pumping 400 litres of water per second behind the boat, each. For this reason, it is extremely speedy and nimble. Driven by a stunt driver he can make you think you're going to drive into the cliff and then swerve away at the last second. He took the boat into several jet spins as well, which seem to be the boat version of a high speed handbrake turn. We all got showered in loads of water but it was so much fun.
Last night we were at the Poo pub (Vicki will know what this is.) It's a put in the middle of nowhere where the drinks are cheap. You got to a Salvation Army shop on the way and pickup outfits (I thought of Jules and Crolla) and you do fancy dress to a theme. The theme last night was tramps and prostitutes. I will add photos of us in our outfits - we all went as tramps but a lot of the boys had a bit too much fun dressed as prostitutes. The pub is run by a guy who has been doing it every night for 15 years. He is called Les and is 82. He's a real character, pretty cool. There are photos of all the Kiwi Bus parties every year for the last 15 years. I wanted to find Vic in hers but I didn't know which day she went and had no signal. It was hilarious, a really good night.
We are now in Franz Josef, a town which feels like a ski resort in summer. It's lovely weather here and the scenery is similar to the Austrian Alps. There are about 3000 glaciers on the south island but this one is one of the biggest and most accessible. Tomorrow we are going on an 8 hour hike up into the glacier. It's supposed to look amazing and the ice is really blue. Unfortunately there is something wrong with my camera- if you look at some of my photos there is a grey spot in the top righthand corner. It seems to be on the inside of the lens. There is no camera shop here and even if there was they normally have to send away cameras so it looks like I'll have to buy a new one. In the meantime I will have to rely on friends' photos.
I will write again soon but in the meantime if anyone needs to contact me, please do so on +642102343932. This is my NZ number and doesn't cost me to receive calls.. Please can I also request that people bear in mind that my parents are getting offended by some of the stuff people are writing on my wall. Similarly, there are some things I am going to have to tell you about when I get home so I don't offend them, so sorry if this gets a bit boring. If there's anything you want to say to me that you don't want my parents to see, please facebook me.