Straight Outta Uxbridge

Friday, October 27, 2006

New Zealand

I'm not quite sure why New Zealand is named as such, as I haven't a clue where the original "Zealand" is. However, if it is anywhere near Wales then that should explain a lot. The scenery here is predominantly rolling hills and spectacular valleys - broken up by the occasional snow capped mountain or river rapids. Every conceivable part of the countryside is laden with sheep and, as it is the season, the fields abound with frolicking young lambs, blissfully unaware of their impending departure to the shelves of your local Tesco.

NZ is of course famed for the amount of life threatening activities that one can partake of. With creative use of a length of rubber cord, you can be shot from, swung over or otherwise jump off an number of pant-soilingly high bridges and platforms. Obviously Kerri and I were not remotely interested in any of this, and I am happy to add bungy jumping to skydiving and anchovies on my list of things I am happy to die with out trying.

That isn't to say we were complete pussies mind you. Soon after our arrival we went on a "Swim with the dolphins" trip in the Bay of Islands - "Not very extreme" you are no doubt thinking? Well northern NZ was in the grip of a mini cyclone at the time and with people puking all around me I was up on deck doing my best Captain Ahab impression. We did manage to spot 3 dolphins, but evidently they don't much like shitty weather either and so they didn't hang around long enough for us to get in the water with them - a fact that I was not too distressed about as from under my woolly hat it seemed to me to be a feat akin to jumping off a P&O ferry in the middle of the North Sea. Instead we retired to a more comfortable area where, in between trying not to be thrown off our seats, Kerri tried to convince me of her own strongly held belief that the dolphin and the cow are evolved from the same common ancestor. I'm still waiting for the evidence.

Next up on our adventures was horse riding (Christopher Reeve can tell you how dangerous that is). My boasts to Kerri about how horse riding was "easy" held true, and it would seem as though I am a natural in matters equine as before long I had graduated to stunt riding - cantering along with my hardhat over my face and only one foot in my stirrups. Unfortunately my steed soon tired of this showing-off and at one point decided to drag me through the lower branches of a particularly spikey tree - much to Kerri's amusement.

Volcanic Rotorua was our next stop - apparently the Earth's crust is at it's thinnest here and the town is full of steaming thermal pools and puddles of boiling mud. The downside is the overwhelming smell of egg that makes a picnic in the park impossible (unless you're having egg I suppose).

After whizzing down the east side and waiting in the disgrace of a city that is Wellington, we got the ferry over to the south island to continue our circuit. Almost as soon as we touched down the skies parted and glorious sunshine illuminated what we both think to be the more beautiful of the two islands. Kaikoura is dramatic, Christchurch is delightful and Dunedin is... well Dunedin is officially the furthest city from London, so that's something.

Queenstown is adventuresville again and cue aborted activity number 2. We signed up for some whitewater rafting but a sudden downpour the night before made the river too dangerous. "Bummer bro" (that's authentic Kiwi speak). Instead we drove up to Fox's Glacier (no relation) and took a half day trek across the ice. It's not every day you get to stroll across a 20,000 year old block of ice and it was awesome. Knackering but awesome. Back up to the north island (a day late after missing the ferry) and on with the wetsuits to explore an underground cave system inhabited by gloworms, and another fantastic outing that proved to be!

In general New Zealand is amazing. Beautiful scenery, friendly folk (if a little too obsessed with The Lord of the Rings) and non-stop fun if you want it. Must come back with a shedload more money...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Rest Of Australia

Oh bloody hell, I have been putting this off for a good few weeks now. It's not that we didn't have a great time along the south of Australia, it's just we're in New Zealand now and I just can't be arsed to write about it. Well here goes; a summary in 3 paragraphs:

1. The South West

Probably the most picturesque part of the entire country, the south west is known for it's giant Karri trees. Sure they're big, but they're hardly awe inspiring. We did attempt to climb one that had nothing but a spiral of metal poles drilled into it, but we bottled it when we got to about 35m (less than half way) - you'll see why when you look at the photo. We were more than a little bit wobbly when we came back down, and managed to do ourselves a mischief which rendered us unable to walk, get in or out of our van or generally move without pain for the next 3 days. The coast line is also rather nice down here and we even spotted a couple of migrating whales from the comfort of our van.

2. The Nullabor Plain

The journey from Esperance to Adelaide crosses this vast expanse and could be quite possibly the most boring driving experience possible to mankind. The advertised highlight of this 2 day trip is the longest straightest bit of road in Australia (90 miles) and the photo opportunity it presents.

Let's move on...

3. The South East

The highlight of my time here was catching up with my cousin and her family in Adelaide and meeting my long lost Uncle who lives betwen there and Melbourne. We had a terrific time with all of them and Kerri even shed a little tear as we left - bless her. Another amazing costal drive, including a visit to some rocks in the sea called the 12 apostles (which you can see Kerri enjoying) led us to Melbourne, which turned out to be our favourite city in Australia. To quote myself "It's well lit."

So there you have it. This actually came out more interesting than I thought it would. We left Melbourne after a couple of days and drove to Sydney (rather like a homecoming) and then we flew to New Zealand.

The End.