Nelson, 10th - 13th August 2010
Sorry for the radio silence for a while peeps.We've been pretty busy and wifi has been awful, but here we go ...
Word of warning this Blog is huge - Uncle Raymond, you might need to turn the forks over before you start reading this hahahaha.
We left the frozen town of Kaikoura behind and headed up the east coast to Picton and then over to Nelson. Our bus driver was doing our head in so we decided to stay in Nelson for a few nights until the next bus came so we could escape him.
One good thing that came from him being our driver though was a stop off he made so we could see some baby seals. We pulled over and went for a walk no longer than 10 minutes through some woods until we reached a waterfall. There was a river flowing all the way down and as soon as we entered the woods there were 2 baby seals playing in the river - soooo cute! :)
We carried on walking passing lots of seals playing on rocks and trying to find some sun under the trees canopy. There must have been over 100 baby seals swimming around in the pool in front of the waterfall. They were so playful and were swimming around, jumping out the water and diving back under again. There were a couple getting rather territorial over some rocks which was quite funny as they kept pushing the others in. When we started walking back there was a group of 6 seals at the side of the pathway. I crouched down so I wouldn't scare them and they all started coming over to me. One of them sat right in front of me and kept reaching his nose up to me as if he wanted to kiss me. I had learnt my lesson from nearly kissing the baby alligator, and although it was really cute there was no way I was going to get any closer to a wild animal - no matter how much he tried.
We also met our new friend Gemma on the bus and got chatting about the idiot bus driver, and as we were all thinking about doing a vineyard tour we said we'd all go together. We were then all booked into the same dorm together which was pretty handy. Selena & I went to the Supermarket to buy essentials (actually cheese, crackers & wine but that's all pretty essential if you ask me).We're also doing a noodle challenge this week to save money but I'll come to that in a bit.
We had a really good night and after eating dinner with Gemma, we all sat around eating the cheese and crackers, and we went to a chill out room to do some Blogging. There were a couple of lads in there who'd just met and they were playing their guitars together. They were absolutely awesome.One lad was from England and the other from Uruguay and there were a few instances of us all trying to explain what the other was saying with our limited Spanish and his limited English.
Very randomly there was also a guy doing circus style balancing tricks with glass balls. He was balancing them on his head, then catching them on the back of his neck, rolling them down his arms and also doing a load of moves I could only describe as illusion tricks. He had between 1 and 3 of these things going at any one time and it reminded me a lot of the different and unusual types of people I'd meet when living in Ibiza.
As we had a few days to kill in Nelson we decided to go on a full day's Winery tour. We went to 4 Winery's and a local produce liquor store.
I've never really liked wine other than White Zinfandel and as they hardly produce any Rosé in New Zealand I wasn't sure how I'd get on, but I figured after one glass it would be fine. I had a brilliant time and we were trying Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, classic & dry Grislings, Ice wine, late harvest wine and loads of others I have no hope in remembering.
It amazed me how different the taste was of the same wines but from different vineyard. Other than becoming an alcoholic and trying every single one I have no idea how you'd decide what ones you liked. It was all so unbelievably technical too. I mean how can 2 Pinot Noir's be so different? Firstly, you have the different grapes that produce the different wines. These grapes all need to be looked after and picked differently, some by machines and others by hand. Some of the grapes are smashed to release the juice but kept in the skin and then stored in containers (I think these were all reds so the colour infuses with the wine), some are pressed and the juice drained from their skins before storage. Some of the wines are kept in oak barrels, some kept in steel containers, some in steel containers and pressure pumped through oak chips, or have bags of oak chips floating around like giant tea bags. Some grapes are picked at the 'normal time' to produce normal vino, some are picked early and then frozen straight away to produce ice wine, others are left on the vines very late into the season to create late harvest wine (although this is very risky as they can all spoil). All the vineyards were different - some completely organic, some converting to it (it seems to be latest 'it' craze), one of the vineyards would put white sheeting on the ground for a set number of day throughout the growing and harvesting process to increase the ground temperature by a few degrees as it significantly changes the flavour of the wine.
They all do random testing too where either whole bunches or only some grapes from a bunch are selected and this is carried out from all over the vineyard as they taste different if selected from the middle of the row or the ends, and then they are sent to the lab to work out of all the levels are correct. They have an arsenal of techniques available to change the acidity levels and what not. They also have specialist weather forecasting equipment because if it rains just before they're harvested the vines soak up the rain, which waters down the grapes, so that has to be countered after picking, but it's not as good as if they manage to calculate it correctly in the first place. Once they are given the go ahead for picking it all has to be done in an incredibly short space of time, they can't take their time and pick them over the course of a week, as the taste would be completely different. And that's all just picking the wine. Each Vineyard has their own professional Winemaker, and they have an army of other specialists they call on. I've certainly have a new found respect for the wine industry!
My favourite was ice wine which was really sweet and almost like a syrup. It's sold in a very thin bottle and cost $22 (about £11). It was a wicked day and I'd highly recommend it especially if there are a few of you, but I would actually suggest hiring a cab for an afternoon and doing it yourself as it was only $2 for each tasting in most places so would work out a lot cheaper.
I wouldn't however recommend going drinking all day, then drinking more that evening and then finding yourself a couple of hammocks to fall out of, a party bus to play in, and a couple of tipi's to climb up.
Sailing a Catamaran
Gemma had been looking into going out on a catamaran for a day and learning to sail it, so we thought we'd all have a go. As it's the middle of their winter we got a really good deal and as the Skipper (Martin) lived near where we were staying he offered to come and collect us and take us to the Catamaran free of charge which was an hour away.
We were going to be the only ones on the boat in the morning and then we would pick 4 others up at lunchtime and all sail back.
We climbed aboard (more like did a running jump whilst trying to time it perfectly to avoid the waves to keep our feet dry!) and set sail down to the Abel Tasman National Park. It was such a good morning, the weather although cold was dry and clear, the waters were a gorgeous turquoise colour and there were loads of beaches, forests and we even saw the split apple - a huge circular rock split in half just off the shore. No one knows how it got there. The most popular theory is it was spat out of a volcano during an eruption, however there aren't and never have been any volcano's near it. I'm sure someone's logged it in the same book as Stone Henge.
After a couple of hours we stopped off at a beach, Martin drew us a map in the sand and off the 3 of us went round this island whilst he sailed the boat round to meet us. I imagine it is probably a lot different in Summer, but the whole trip including this walk to the top of the island and through thick forests felt so isolated. There was absolutely no one about - it felt a bit like walking around on the set of 'Lost'.
After half an hour we made it back to the beach where the Catamaran was waiting for us. Now in order for this next part to make sense I need to explain bit of a running joke with everyone on the Magic Bus. They have a book that is called the 'Magic Bible' and it is full of info on each location, lists of activities, recommended accommodation and generally lots of pictures of everyone enjoying themselves. However, we have chosen to visit this very picturesque country in the middle of their winter, so not only does it look a lot different but a lot of the activites in the book can't be done - like surfing, canoeing, jumping off boats and swimming in the sea, that kinda thing. Now they still operate in the winter and everyone thinks they should have a winter version, so we decided to take one a picture for them on the beach - you know the ones where everyone is jumping in the air.However rather than in bikinis, we would be in jeans, trainers and long sleeved tops. Who said you can only have fun in a bikini?!
This took no less than 10 takes of us doing star jumps on the beach. You'd think it would take the pic when it beeped but it turned out we had to jump when the long beep stopped for us to be in the air when the shutter worked its magic. This must have taken 15 minutes of us jumping around like baboons and then running up to look at the pic, working out what needed to change for the next one, getting back into position and repeating it all over again. I suppose we could have just asked the Skipper to take it, but that wouldn't have been anywhere near as much fun.
Predator free island & a small bit of New Zealand explorers history
We stopped at an island which has been made 'predator free'.Hundreds of years ago New Zealand was covered in dense forest and the first Explorers reported that they were unable to sleep at night due to the amount of bird's singing, and the bird song in the morning was meant to be almost deafening. At that time New Zealand had no land mammals excepts for some rare bats and all other animals were either birds or sea creatures. Unfortunately, the explorers that came to New Zealand brought pairs of animals with them and released them into the wild. This had a catastrophic effect on New Zealand's bird population as they had simply not use to rats, dogs, possums, pigs, snakes and the likes hunting them. These new predators killed and ate the birds, their eggs and their food and because of this (and New Zealand's icon 'the Kiwi' being on the verge of extinction), there was a lot of support for creating a predator free island. Locals, government agencies & wildlife organisations have cleared a whole island of all predators, so that it's only inhabitants are birds and insects. They've seen an explosion in the numbers of birds and species that were on the verge of extinction are making a come back. :) It also means that we can now hear something similar to what the Maoris and the first explorers would have heard hundreds of years ago.
We stopped just off of this island, cut the engines and sat there quietly listening to 'the bird song'. It was so loud, I've never heard anything like it! It was an assortment of hundreds maybe even thousands of small tweets, loud squarks, individual songs and even a bone chilling gargling sound every now and again. No wonder the first explorers couldn't sleep, nothing would have got rid of that other than an AK47or an ipod. Hahaha.
What did surprise me though was that none of them were flying. Maybe that's what happens when there are no predators - they can relax a bit more?
On the way back I captained the catamaran for half hour and brought it into harbour. I learnt loads even in that very short space of time.Red and port on the left side, green and starboard on the right side (i just grouped it into the smaller words on one side, and the larger ones on the other side). There's probably a more technical way but I think in pictures and it works for me.
I thought I'd start putting a little randomness section in my Blog as there is so much stuff that goes on that I want to be able to remember when I'm back. These bits may or may not make much sense to everyone, but I'll try and explain them as best I can.
I don't know if anyone remembers a random pic I took ages ago of a 'Sauce policy' displayed in a McDonalds in Hollywood. It stated 1 sauce with 6 pieces, 2 sauces with 10 and 3 sauces with 20 pieces. Well this absolutely cracked me up. It appeared that not only had the sheer volume of requests for ketchup become so prolific, but the punters were also being rather demanding with the volume of sauces they were requesting that someone had not only thought there should be a policy regarding specified sauce requirements, but they actually got it printed and displayed in McDonalds! Honestly - shame on all the ketchup lovers out there!!! Well we had quite a debate on the sauce policy, I mean how comes you get 2 sauces for 10 pieces, but only 3 sauces for 20 pieces?! By the original calculation you're going to get piece 15 and have no sauce left. It's not like they were offering dipping guidelines to support the new sauce policy! It just didn't add up. Anyway, this has become bit of a running joke now, and whenever a sauce is offered we have to take it regardless of whether we want it or not.
Even in the AMI stadium where we saw the All Blacks game, their sauce policy was 1 sauce per person. Blimin' ridiculous - what if you brought 5 hot items? Only a small smidgin of sauce for some. So there we all were shouting at each other across the counters to ask each other if they wanted our sauces and donating sauces to other poor customers who were in desperate need of exceeding the sauce limit. I would like to point out here, it is not me who has lost the plot, but the sauce policy enforcers! Pmsl.
We occasionally set ourselves a weekly challenge, but whether we stick to it or not varies. We've had the 'must eat 5 pieces of fruit or drink a smoothie' (lasted 2 days), 'must do 200 sit ups a day' challenge (lasted 4 days), then it was no moaning about the freezing cold weather (we only lasted about 30 minutes and that's only cos we were still indoors). Actually it was so cold that we quite often sit on the coach and even indoors in our coats, hats & scarves and the other day Selena bravely took her coat off whilst standing directly in front of the fire and I nearly died laughing as it was 5pm, we'd both got dressed in the dark that morning and she gone all day wearing her top inside out and neither of us had noticed!! Maybe you had to be there, but we were laughing so much we were crying. :)
This week we've decided to see if we can live like proper students and only eat pot noodles or packet pasta for dinner each night. We've also sorted it so that everywhere we stay we get free breakkie. However, breakfast in hostels is always the same and with dinner being the same each night I wonder what ways we're going to be able to spice this challenge up? I think alcohol may need to be re-introduced. :)
Sorry for any parts where I started babbling - that's what happens when I leave it to long. Once I start you can't shut me up!