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Travels

October 2018 - May 2019
Here we go!!!
  • Day70

    Day 70/72: Goodbye Van

    January 5 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We woke up in our van for the last time, and got the last of the things put away. Mended the velcro window blinds, and tried to give away a variety of things from crackers to an umbrella! It didn't take long, and soon we were on our last drive. We were mega early so stopped off for some great brunch in a quirky cafe (pulled pork eggs benedict, and a full English style thing with slow poached eggs (45 mins at 65°C apparently?!).

    We then drove to the Britz drop off, and said a sad farewell to the campvan, with vows that we were going to get one in the future. We'd done 6838km in total, and enjoyed every single one of them.

    The flight was still 3 hours away, and the airport transfer didn't take long, so we had a while to wait at the airport for the flight to Auckland. It was all very painless, and our bags went through okay, stuffed to the brim as they were! We got to Auckland and went back to the hostel we were at before. It was so strange being back there again, being in bunk beds and having people crashing around. We sat in the gloriously sunny park for a while, wondering what on earth we were going to do with over 24 hours in a city that we'd exhausted at the start of the trip! We went out for some lovely That's Amore pizza for dinner and went for an evening run in the park. It had all gone so quickly, we couldn't believe we were back already, but felt like ages since anything had happened. Time flies when you're having fun, and oh boy we had the time of out lives.
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  • Day69

    Day 69/72: packing up

    January 4 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Today was a day of packing and relaxing. We went out into Christchurch in the morning to have a look around and get something to eat so that we didn't have to cook that night. It's a very modern city, put back together after the earthquake, and everything was very clean. It was a fine city, not the best we've been to but it had a really nice river. We went and had some pasta lunch, and Tom got a haircut as no where was going to be open on Sunday in Auckland.

    That afternoon we stayed at the campervan park and packed up. It was amazing just how much stuff we'd managed to collect over the 6 weeks we'd been in New Zealand! We barely managed to get everything in, it was a proper squeeze. Tom had to throw away his old running shoes (he couldn't wear then anymore anyway) but managed to stuff the little Christmas tree in instead, a questionable choice. Our walking boots were to be worn to the airport and it'd look like we'd be wrapped up for winter with the amount of clothes we were going to wear on the plane!

    It was really sad having to pack it all up, but finally we had everything in, and celebrated with the last of the cheese and crackers, some bubbly bought earlier in the trip, and the Christmas pudding that we drowned in cold custard, fantastic!
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  • Day68

    Day 68/72: SUCH A GOOD DAY

    January 3 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    What an incredible day. Against many odds we managed to do the 2 last things on our list of wild activities. It was the grand finale for our massive travelling adventure, and we saw it out in style.

    The issue being described previously, we woke at 0145 on Thursday morning. The stars were some of the greatest we have ever seen, and after seeing some shooting stars, we set off on the 4 hour journey back down South. We were heading for Activity 1, swimming with dolphins! We didn't know the date of this activity, but on the off chance it was today, drove down. The drive was peaceful and the sun rose as we went on our way. We arrived, and after a short nap, walked to the centre to find that we had booked the activity for the following day. All hope was not lost though, and we waited in anticipation (watching a Ray swim lazily along the harbour wall) to see if anyone would cancel at this hour in the morning (0620). Then, a stroke of luck! The lady at the desk took pity on us and handed us the golden tickets (orange wristbands) of glory that let us through the arches (door) into the changing rooms! We couldn't have moved quicker and soon we were wetsuited up and ready to go.

    We got into the little boat with 8 others and headed out into the harbour in search of the dolphins. We were in search of the Hector's Dolphin, the rarest and smallest sea dolphin in the world (about 1m in length). As they're all completely wild, we were relying on the dolphins playful nature and pure curiosity of us to see them.

    This paid off though, and we saw them, their little dorsal fins breaking and then going under the surface of the water. It was brilliant to see, and after a few sightings of dolphins that weren't interested in the boat we came across a couple that were more enthusiastic. We got into the water and bobbed around in the thick wetsuits. The dolphins came up to us and swam right by us! It was very exciting but they seemed intent on breakfast so we turned to get back in the boat and try again. But then, a little figure pops out the water just in front of us and a blue penguin swims by, just starting his day of fishing!

    We then went on and for a while just watched and looked out for dolphins, until the time came for us to get back in the water! This was brilliant, as the Dolphins came right up next to us and were swimming underneath us and everything! It was so exciting, there must have been about 8 of them! We did that for as long as it took the Dolphins to get bored of us and then got back in the boat, had some hot chocolate and headed back to shore.

    We then went off to Activity 2, whale watching! Whilst we had been swimming, we'd had our wait list slot confirmed so needed to get back to the place we'd left earlier that morning by 1315. The arrival time said 1321 so we set off and headed up north again, arriving just on time!

    The whale watching was incredible. After a brief, we got on the boat and headed out to the sea. The water depth drops suddenly to about 1100m which is where the whales like to dive. We saw ospreys and Dolphins along the way, and the spout of a sey whale which is really rare for this area! We got told different bits of info as the boat trip went on which was great, and we waited for the Sperm whale that was in the area to resurface so we could see it.

    It was amazing to see. The whale resurfaced and the boat went over to a respectable distance away so we could watch him breathe. Sperm whales spend about 5-10 minutes on the surface before diving back down, so we got to bask in it's magnificence before it took its last breath, and slowly dived, his tail coming in an arc out of the water and then dropping beneath the surface. It was brilliant to watch, such a special experience.

    We then drove all the way back down to Christchurch, powered by fish and chips. We knew the next day was just going to be one of packing up and relaxing, so it was better to do all the driving in one day. We got to the campsite at about 8 and found a nice spot in the corner of the field, and settled into our penultimate night in the campervan.
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  • Day66

    Day 66/72: New Years Day!

    January 1 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Happy New Year!

    Today was our first day of big driving! We had to get from Knobs Flat (near Milford sound) all the way to Oamaru to see the penguins! It was a 7 hour drive that took us, due to the lack of roads on the South Island, in a very round about route along the coast. However, this took us past Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world!

    We had a good drive, setting off relatively early to get away from the vast numbers of insects at Knobs Flat, and listening to great music along the way. We stopped off near Te Anau to get a coffee, and whilst there we saw some Alpacas! Turns out that you can buy food, similar to that of a family farm, to feed the Alpacas so we had a great 20 mins feeding them, and wondering how we could fit one in the van and take it with us for the rest of the trip.

    We decided, grudgingly, that the beanbags weren't safe enough to carry an Alpaca or 5, so we had to leave them behind. We carried on, the roads easy now we were out of the alps and the views were of sheep, cows and rolling hills. Beautiful!

    We came into Dunedin just after lunch, the home of Baldwin Street. Dunedin itself isn't very nice, looks a lot like downtown Leicester to be honest. But it was worth the drive for the street!
    The climb is 350m long, and averages a 1:2.83 gradient. It's really steep. You're walking up in on the balls of your feet, and have to really push to keep going. Imagine if the stairs lacked steps. It was great, and you can't quite get your head around how steep it is! We walked up to the top and watched a cyclist try and fail to get to the top, and then went back down and got on our running kit.

    It's a segment on strava and although it was probably the shortest run both of us have done, it was well worth it! It was so hard to put one foot in front of the other, and the burn was ridiculous. Anyhow, we did it and felt great after, with people watching on in awe and surprise (in our minds anyway) although there was no hope of running down!

    We got to Oamaru later on and had a sort of the van, taking out the major rubbish we wouldn't need for the next week and generally giving it a tidy. We then went to see the penguins!

    The blue penguin is the smallest species of penguin in the world, and are very rare. However, Oamaru is home to one of the largest colonies of them. The Penguins wake up just before sunrise, and travel up to 50km a day! They go in small groups ("rafts") to their chosen area for fishing, and then split up for the day to fish by themselves. They spend all day out in the sea, before heading back just after sunset in their rafts again. It's a long day for them, especially as they're only about a foot tall!

    Anyhow, they came in, about 10-20 at a time in roughly 10 minute intervals! They hopped slowly and warily up the rocks, pausing occasionally to spread the oils around their feathers to re waterproof themselves overnight. They then do a little dash, past a big seal which decided to sleep in front of the holes that they ran through. It was very cute, although Izzi got stressed when some didn't go straight through, or decided to wait behind! It was great to see them, and really interesting to hear about the species, and the ticket contributed to their conservation so all in all a lovely experience!
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  • Day65

    Day 65/72: new years eve

    December 31, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 9 °C

    We woke up in our bug ridden campsite and quickly escaped to go for a walk. The weather forecast had lied and it was a beautifully sunny day, so we drove to the Divide and hiked up a steep hill to Key Summit. It was hot and hard work, but at the top there were the most beautiful views of the lake Marion that we had walked to the day before and the entire mountain ranges.

    The walk was a steep track up the mountain, through woods and up onto the alpine climate at the top. It was absolutely beautiful, and we enjoyed stomping through the stream that ran down the track at random intersections.

    On the drive back we stopped at various points along the road, including a mirror lake, which when sunny reflects the mountains in its dark water. However, it was windy so it didn't really...

    We also pulled over by a redwood forest and went for a short walk through the trees to a huge lake which was entirely deserted, and through lupin fields.

    Our new years eve consisted of fried chicken and rice, a bottle of wine that we didn't finish, and falling asleep listening to Harry Potter before 11, to be woken by Tom at 2359 to say happy new year. Not the most exciting one ever, but a lovely new years all the same.
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  • Day64

    Day 64/72: Lake Marion and the Cascades

    December 30, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌫 13 °C

    It was still raining. We drove to our campsite for the day early, checked in and put out table and chairs and various shoes out in the space to save it for ourselves. The man who checked us in gave us a map and various recommended walks around the area, so we drove to his first recommendation: The Cascades. The most amazing waterfall through a gorge, with a coffee van at the entrance to wake us up a bit. The view was incredible, and the walk took about 15 minutes on a hanging bridge across the gorge.

    Our next stop was to see a couple of keas: the only parrot that lives at a high altitude I think. Quite incredible birds, but very intent on pulling apart camper vans or cars, or scratching people, and as they're quite big, we kept our distance.

    We then did a walk through the rainforest to Lake Marion. The walk was incredible, climbing across roots and boulders uphill to a hanging valley with a huge lake, and mist and clouds all around, then stamping and half running back down. It took about 2 and a bit hours.

    The evening was spent eating and trying to stay as far away from sand flies as possible: we both got very bitten.
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  • Day63

    Day 63/72: Milford Sound

    December 29, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    We drove out of Te Anau towards Milford Sound, a very famous Fiord in Fiordland. As we drove, we drove further and further into rain, and by the time we got to where our boat was leaving from it was solidly heavy rain. The boat was great, the captain constantly making comments about trying to sell the cappuccinos in the cafe... 'if you look to your right you will see some kayakers in the rain, a great way to see Milford Sound, except of course that they don't have the cappuccinos in the cafe on the lower deck to warm up, so buy yours now!'
    He pointed out loads of seals sat on rocks as we made our way through the sound, waterfalls crashing around us in all directions. It was wet and cold sat on the deck, but the views were absolutely beautiful. Occasionally the caption dipped the front of the nose of the boat right under the edge of a waterfall so we all got absolutely soaked. The photos will explain how beautiful it was a lot better than I probably can.

    The afternoon was dedicated to drying off, having hot showers, and listening to Stephen Fry read Harry Potter.
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  • Day62

    Day 62/72: Ben Lomond

    December 28, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    We went into town and picked up some croissants and baguettes from a famous bakery. Actually the bakery itself isn't famous but its part of a chain with a very famous burger place. The food was good anyway.

    We walked straight to the start of a small cable car which takes you to the start of a walk up Ben Lomond, passing Noel Edmunds (which Tom was very excited about). Having never watched deal or no deal the excitement was slightly lost on me, and the following 45 minutes of googling his entire life story and whether we had really seen his wife and son or not was slightly tedious.

    We started our watches and began the long walk up. The first part was hard work, but lovely paths through forests. Then we got out into the side of the mountain, and there was no shelter from the burning hot sun. The walk got steeper, and soon we we scrambling on our feet and hands up the gravelly path, with steep drops to either side. The walk up took a long time, but the views from the top were incredible! Queenstown and lake Whakitipu was on one side, and on the other a huge mountain range with snow capped peaks as far as the eye could see.

    The scramble back down was less than fun, and took longer than the walk up. We were so hot, and had nearly finished all the water in our bags when the cable car came back into view, and we sat there with 2 random other people, who had probably had a nice coffee at the cafe and enjoyed the view, instead of climbing up a mountain, feeling very bad about how sweaty we must have smelt.

    When we got back to the car we drove to stock up on food, then out into the countryside to Te Anau Lake, our next campsite and the base of our trip to Milford Sound.
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  • Day61

    Day 61/72: Mountain Biking!

    December 27, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Today we wanted to hire mountain bikes and explore the surrounding area. Mountain biking is huge in Queenstown, they're everywhere, and we wanted to see what the fuss was about. Tom went for a run first thing and then we both did a circuit on a sports field near the campsite, watching paragliders soar overhead. It really is a very adventurous place to be.

    Feeling very refreshed, we went into town to the Fergbaker bakery, which is the best and only real bakery we've found in the whole of New Zealand so far. Bread seems to be really awful from most bakeries over here for some reason compared to the UK, but ah well this place was the best we've found. We got some supplies for the day and then headed to the mountain bike hire shop. We chatted to the guy and decided to hire them in the early afternoon, so spent the morning chilling in the town, searching for a top that Izzi wanted and drinking coffee next to the lake.

    We picked up the mountain bikes and headed off on our chosen route. It was great fun cycling again and for the first 8km or so it was either road, or what would be "steep cliff path only for walkers" in the UK, which made for tricky cycling! The next bit up to the top of a good downhill section was all switchback turns up a hill, and Izzi had a strop halfway up when she realised she'd bitten off more than she could chew, and vowed as she pushed her bike up the hill to do more cycling in Guernsey (this was in retrospect, at the time she vowed never to get on a bike again and was much more unreasonable).

    We then went down the track which popped us out just opposite a bike park. We spent the next few hours here, on the hills on the edge of the lake, riding the tracks through the forest and generally wearing ourselves out at the steepness of the tracks and how rutted they were. We rode back later that evening feeling exhausted but pleased with the days efforts, it was a great place to ride.

    That evening we got changed and headed out into town to go for our first evening meal out in quite a long time. We found a steak restaurant which had great reviews so decided to go there. We ordered 2 very reasonable steaks (some of them were veeeery pricey) but when the waitress arrived and gave us the food, something seemed wrong. She had said the correct meals as she put the plates down, but Izzi had received a HUGE fillet (like really huge) that somewhat differed to the rump that we thought she'd be getting, and that the waitress had said, and Tom received something that nether of us knew straight away but thought was a sirloin. Not wanting to question the waitresses judgement, we tucked in happily. It was a fantastic meal! We only realised at the end of the meal, that the table next to us seemed to have much smaller steaks, that looked suspiciously like what we should have had as they had ordered the same things as us. We were worried that the bill would be sky high but luckily it was just as we'd ordered and we left feeling pleased yet confused, wondering if someone had received our meal instead of their own...
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  • Day60

    Day 60/72: Boxing Day Bungee

    December 26, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We woke up early and drove back to Queenstown, and passed Queenstown heading out towards Kawarea Bridge: the home of bungee jumping. This is where the first ever bungee jump was created, off a bridge 43m above a stunning blue river. The wait for the bungee jump was good fun, chatting to people and watching Tom jump first (I've never seen him look that scared...). You are attached by a harness to a loop, and when it's your time next they strap your feet together with a towel, thick pieces of velcro, and attach you to a huge elastic cord hanging off the edge (by both your feet and the harness around your waist).

    I was slightly nervous but okay until stepping out on the platform, and that's when I completely freaked out. It looks insanely high from up there, so when the guy was getting me to look at cameras and wave at things, I was busy freaking out and backing out of the jump. He took me back inside to calm down, and I was absolutely certain that I was not going to bungee jump that day. Once I had calmed down, however, I had another go, this time forgetting the cameras and just falling straight off the edge. Much much better. The rush is great, and we both finished it wanting to have another go. Once you're done jumping they let you down into a raft a couple of guys are in down on the river and untie you there.

    We watched a few more people do it, and a few more people back out, and then headed back to Queenstown. We spent the afternoon playing frisbee golf (safe to say neither of us are getting any better), and watched a part of a film.
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