We are now back after far too long, we've been having way too much fun & too many ropey Internet connections to keep our blog up-to-date...
After NZ had got off to a flying start with dolphin/killer whale swimming, Maori hangis, black water rafting and sky diving we decided, along with out bank balance, it would be prudent if we tried some cheaper to enjoy New Zealand. A perfect place to start this was in River Valley - a picturesque lodge in the middle of nowhere at the bottom of a huge gorge. This was a really good chance to mix with the whole bus and so we got involved in a few games of volleyball - where some individuals took the game a little more seriously than others (no not Alex). Nat thought she was reliving the "pool volleyball" scene in Meet the Parents, when she left a shot to another team member only to see it drop between them... this was greeted with a glare from the rest of the team - "if Florence Nightingale over here would play a little defence!" sprang to mind!
The one downside to spending the night at the bottom of a gorge is the long walk back up to the bus, especially when we realised we were one bag down. A quick look from Nat told me who was going back down to get it so I quickly turned and headed down the hill.
On our way to Wellington we passed through a town called Bulls - which was quit comical as the locals had renamed most of their shops and services to be a play on words of the towns name. The police station was called "consta-bull", the pharmacy was "cura-bull", the hotel was "comforta-bull" etc. Hilarious! We carried onto Wellington where our only notable highlight was getting a largo Dominoes pizza for $7 (£3.50!!).
The crossing to the south island passed through the Marlborough Sounds - Natalie knew already that she was going to prefer the South island - it was "very pretty" with vineyards and crystal clear rivers. Our first night in the south was spent in Nelson where we walked to the "centre of NZ" which in fact was actually just a trig point around which all other references were made - but good marketing! The views from up there were pretty spectacular which we were glad after struggling up the steep slopes for a 'good' hour. That night we were able to go and watch the Christchurch Crusaders vs the Brumbies - the crusaders are playing their home games up in Nelson following the earthquake. I enjoyed the game from a spotting point of view Natalie seems to enjoy Dan Carter's close presence more than anything!
The financial situation was reaching a low point, in every sense of the word, so to save money for activities we went to the local supermarket and bought noodles in bulk to last us for the week - this really put Natalie in a bad mood, she thinks they must contain depressants!
We did a lot of walking around lakes and other national parks including the setting for lord of the rings - lots of thee places reminded us of home, but just on a bigger scale.
Our next hostel was famous for having the oldest owner in NZ - the 86 yard old Les. He greeted us with his famous speech which we were told has been the same for nearly 20 years but he still carries a piece of paper with him for prompts - which he had to use a couple of times. His hostel is also famous for the all you can eat BBQ where he served me the largest steak I have ever eaten, then he turned to Natalie who was next in the queue looked her up and down to size her up and then gave her a steak about a quarter of the size of mine! We spent an afternoon at lake Mahinapua close to the hostel swimming, chatting with other people from the bus and playing football. We then had to get ready for our "P Party" - where you had to dress up as something beginning with P. I went as the Phantom of the Opera and Natalie as a physio forth All Blacks. It was a really entertaining evening!
Having reached Franz Josef and booked our glacier hike we relaxed in the hottub at the hostel - belong the recovery from the night before. The hike itself was more than we had bargained for - the warm up 2.3pm walk to base of the glacier made us realise this wasn't going to be a stroll in the park! The views were incredible, the groans and noises of the ice shifting quite frightening but the experience worth all the effort. After all this exercise the last thing we needed for tea was noodles! This was the break point for Natalie who refused to eat anymore noodles after that meal and who made me buy her a chocolate bar to ease her frustration. This was also to calm her down after we heard about the "moon man" - a crazy guy who Echols he can predict earthquakes by looking at the moon. His later prediction for a magnitude 9 earthquake to hit Christchurch on precisely the day we would be there....
The next morning Natalie persuaded me we should make the very most of the 5 days before "the earthquake" so we walked around lake Matherson at 7.30 in the morning with the mist rising of the lakes glass surface which was also reflecting Mt. Cook (NZ's highest mountain).
When we finally arrived in Queenstown a few days later, we were pleasantly surprised at it's modest size. We arrived on the afternoon of St. Patrick's day which for some reason was a HUGE deal - it would have been rude not to get involve in the celebrations. We spent the afternoon exploring the town and looking fancy dress. We stumbled across the (we realise now) world famous burger bar - Ferg Burger. The burgers they served we both struggled to finish and Natalie even had trouble holding the thing! The night out involved lots of green, lots of face paint, lots of beer & lots of shots from teapots - this was a fantastic way to finish New Zealand Kiwi Experience!
We spent 22 hours in Christchurch airport - site of the moonman's predicted earthquake. Natalie started to feel nervous and even rang home! I was trying to reassure Nat that this guy was a crazy fool and trying to convince her with physics - all the time hoping that i wasn't wrong! We spent the night sleeping on the floor in our sleeping bags and woke up to no earthquake and our flight to paradise awaiting. Bula Fiji!