Apologies for our delay in blogging, however we have been fairly busy travelling the South Island and now find ourselves in the Scottish-founded Dunedin. A home to 30,000 students, Dunedin was founded by Robert Burns' great nephew and even has a statue of Burns in the town.
But first, I must inform you of our adventures over the last four weeks. We finished up in Wellington with no luck finding a job after another week of searching so we decided it best to hit the road again on the Kiwi Experience bus.
We began the South Island tour by jumping on the ferry from Wellington to Picton. The bus driver comically announced that we would have to change our money from North Island currency to South Island currency on the ferry - an obvious jest. However my colleague Lloyd (as he is now known to everyone we meet) then proceeded to ask me, when we were on the ferry, where we change the money. Cue the hilarity!
Our first two destinations down south were Nelson and Westport, where we didn't do a lot except get a feel for the two relatively smaller towns and get to know our new bus mates. Unfortunately there was a mix-up with our ticket and the bus was full so we had to either stay at Nelson for a few nights more or take our chances on the bus and hope some people who were due to get on would not show up. Sure enough the potential no-showers did show and we had to get off in the relatively unknown little village of Punakaiki. We stayed here for two nights and went on a three and a half hour scenic walk, viewed the picturesque Pancake Rocks and Blowholes and walked along the mainly deserted beach, that our hostel looked out on. I even had time to pen an article about the place which has been sent to Backpackers News, hopefully for print in the next edition. (It has since appeared here: http://www.backpackersnews.co.nz/index.php?page=welcome-to-punakaiki)
After our peaceful few days in Punakaiki we jumped back on the next bus and were greeted with a rapturous welcome (not joking) by our new bus pals. Our new driver Lauren - who is completely crazy - had told them that we had been thrown off the last bus for being too drunk! Hence the loud welcome that greeted us. Haha.
We then headed to Lake Manhinapua and the Pu Pub, which was the destination of our bus fancy dress night. The whole bus had two hours to go and buy a costume with a theme of 'anything but clothes'. I opted to go as a Facebook profile page and Lloyd decided to wrap himself in bubble wrap - don't worry he had clothes on underneath. I made my costume out of cardboard boxes and painted it blue and white with a little help from our new friends Ninge (after he went as a ninja) and Chuckles (because she is always laughing). The Pu party is hosted by an 84-year-old guy called Les, who really should have retired by now! He sterilises the rooms after each Kiwi Experience group leaves, but cooks a huge steak meal for everyone, which was simply divine and a great change from the two minute noodles we have been eating for far too long.
After the Pu Pub we headed on to Franz Josef, where we did a glacier hike, which was truly mesmerising. We were given all the gear including hats, gloves and crampons and guided upon the impressive gargantuan glacier and into small compact crevasses. Our guide would regularly stop and hack away at the ice with his pick-axe in order to create more of a track for us. We were even treated to the sight of rare Alpine Parrots about a metre away from us, that our guide fed some bread to.
Our next stop was Wanaka (haha yes we know, very close but not quite) via the impressive Lake Matheson, or 'mirror lake' as it is known due to the perfect reflection of the mountains that can be seen in the lake. Wanaka is also home to a large lake and the holiday home of country singer Shania Twain. We explored the town and had a few in the bar, saving ourselves for the madness of Queenstown the next day.
We hadn't heard anyone say a bad word about Queenstown throughout our trip and the 'party capital of New Zealand' lives up to its name. We enjoyed a fairly heavy night out when we arrived, that included drinking cocktails out of teapots in one bar - they didn't just run out of glasses, they sell them like that. We managed to gorge on a fair few Fergburgers during the Queenstown leg of the journey. This is a unique burger to Queenstown and one of the biggest you will find anywhere! They are made with local ingredients and are very addictive.
Throughout our five night stay in Queenstown we have tried to keep costs to a minimum which has led us to enjoy ourselves each day by skimming stones on the beach with Ninge and Jo, another friend who ironically studies medicine at the University of Sheffield - where I used to attend - and knows some of my friends in the same course and year as her. What a small world we live in! Another cost cutting event found us trekking up Queenstown Hill - a two hour round trip - to see some of the best views I have ever seen, including The Remarkables, - a mountain range used in the Lord of the Rings film series as the mountains of Mordor. We also had the chance to play frisbee golf in Queenstown park - well that was the intention, but after seeing the course we just opted to play normal frisbee! The kids play park was another highlight with us guys composing an assault course in which we timed each other over.
After Queenstown we decided to jump on a cheap bus - not a part of the Kiwi Experience - and head to the 30,000-student populated town of Dunedin. So far we have visited Cadbury World, which was a fantastic experience, especially the five free chocolate bars we had along the way - I felt a bit sick by the end of it! Haha. Before Cadbury World we watched the unusual Jaffa Race. This is where 30,000 Jaffas - a ball of Cadbury's orangey chocolate with a crunchy coating - being chucked down Baldwin Street - the steepest street in the world, according the Guinness book of records - in a race. Each Jaffa is slightly larger than the normal ones that you can buy and has a number on. The winner receives 20,000 NZ Dollars! It was amazing to watch them all come down, like an orangey/red river running at full flow down the street.
We have saved money during the evenings by playing Monopoly, Scrabble and Poker, but tonight we are going on a tour of Speights Ale House that culminates with 'all you can drink beer' in 30 minutes. The tour finishes at 7.30pm, just in time to go and watch the All Blacks take on Australia in a bar.
We will be returning to Queenstown for a few days to stay with our friend Debs , who we met on the Inca trail, and then head to Christchurch before flying to Oz on July 28th.
Hopefully you are all well, heard the heat wave could be over! Unlucky! It is still cold here.
Speak to you all soon
James and Lloyd
Ps. Excuse any typos, but I have been typing on the slowest computer in New Zealand and it is struggling to keep up! James