Saturday, 31 October 2009

Day 8: It's HALLOWEEN!

We just went for a walk down town. It's 10:30pm but most of the stores are still open, and there are people EVERYWHERE, kids and adults, dressed up for halloween. All of the pubs/clubs are having halloween themed events - it's like the whole town is having a late-night festival. It's fantastic!

So I have an addendum to my recommendation for the perfect NZ trip: Come to Queenstown in the last week of October. Totally awesome!

Day 8: Franz Josef to Queenstown

After spending a few days bordered by mountains, today we drove into them. The experience of driving through the alps today far surpassed every other New Zealand experience we've had. It went beyond using superlatives to attempt to describe how huge everything is, how pretty, how green and blue and blinding white.

For maybe two hours we drove south from Franz Josef, until we came to a town called Haast, and the start of our journey through the mountains via Haast Pass. This was serious fantasy scenery, going through so many transformations as we travelled south-east that I've lost track. It was a pretty spiritual experience, seeing this stuff up close. Makes you feel microscopic.


Haast Pass



 Scenic, much?

The trip up the gorge was spectacular in the immensity of the mountains. With us still at roughly sea level (and slowly rising), the mountains look too steep to stand, as if the surface should just crack and slide away. We thought we’d seen these mountains before, but driving into them...They're so tall that you could press your face to the window and only just see the snowy peaks. And it was all framing a massive alpine river, at times broad and flat, a thin stream through fields of white stone; at other times, narrow and roaring, crashing down rocky gorges and erupting from crevices in explosive waterfalls and violent whitewater. And the gorge river is fed by waterfalls thundering down these mountains.

We stopped wherever we could, but the roads – though well maintained – are often narrow, with sheer cliffs and dense forest bordering, and when we did find a lookout or resting place, they were usually unsigned so we’d passed by before we realised. There's not many opportunities for a U-turn :( But at some point we decided on another random stop at a place called "Blue Pools", and took a 30 minute bushwalk down to the river, where the alpine water settles into quiet, aquamarine lagoons. We’d liked to have stayed for a few hours, but it was a long trip so we moved on fairly quickly.


Taken near the "Blue Pools". Can't find the photos of
the pools themselves :(

Eventually we came out of the pass, and into the highlands, and here everything changes again. Rainforest gives way to dense pine forests in places, and rough scrub that looks a million years old (we walked through it on the way to the Blue Pools, and it was like something out of a children's fantasy pictue book). Foothills give way to lakes and rugged fields of grass and stone. And still, always, the snowy peaks surrounded us.

We passed maybe 4 different lakes, each of them vast, and each of them stunning. We stopped at a lake and took some pictures, wandering along the rocky shore. The water was freezing, but absolutely crystal clear.



Highland lake views



More highland lake views. Yes, this is real.
No photo trickery, either.



The top of the world...

After some more of the lake views, we came down out of the highlands into another gorge, and the landscape became very harsh and rugged. At times it looked similar to Australia – very dry – except of course for the gigantic fucking mountains everywhere. We drove through a place called “Roaring Meg”, a point on the gorge’s alpine river where water explodes off the mountain. People were diving in the water, and it was actually quite warm today so we were tempted to join them. The water was so richly aqua in colour it looked fake. The atmosphere at this place was great, and I could see myself - if I grew up in Queenstown - spending a lot of time here with friends.


"Roaring Meg"

And after nearly 7 hours of travel - every minute of it interesting and beautiful - we suddenly arrived at the outskirts of Queenstown.

Instead of beating around the bush, I’ll say it: Queenstown is the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life. It feels simultaneously rolling-green-countryside, lake-side-village, cosy-pine-lodges and STUNNING mountain views. The outer suburbs were like English countryside, the city itself a collection of little villages all stacked together, with forests on the foothills and sweeping mountain views, so damn BLUE. And it's all arrayed around a huge, crystalline lake.

In all seriousness, if we’d known what Queenstown would be like, we would have flown in here and spent our holiday here. Done an overnight trip to Franz Josef, and another to the Sounds (Milford and Doubtful), with day trips to Mount Cook and Lord of the Rings country – you could seriously spend a couple of weeks in this one place, travelling to the surrounding areas and back, and it’d be the most amazing holiday. I’d recommend to anyone who wants to come to New Zealand: Just come straight to Queenstown, because every kind of landscape is close enough to drive, and the city itself makes me think someone picked up a bunch of quaint little Swiss villages and dropped them in the middle of some fake, fantasy landscape. I step outside and I see to my right an enormous foothill with the Skyview restaurant on top (we’re going tomorrow night). To my left I see a sweeping green slope covered in cottages, and behind them, the alps as far as the eye can see. I’ll take photos tomorrow, right now I need to snooze because the 4.5 hour trip from Franz took us 7 hours after all of the stopping.

Once again: Come to Queenstown. And don’t leave. We want to live here SO bad.

Be back tomorrow with photos. *sigh* *looks out window* *sigh*

Friday, 30 October 2009

Day 7: WTB Civil Engineering Degree

Does anyone know what criteria they rate hotels on? Because I'm assuming one of those criteria is "Inoperability of Shower". It's the only way to explain why every hotel we've been to so far requires a civil engineering degree in order to bathe.

If there was a reward for "Most Complicated Shower"...

Runner Up
Aachen Court, for "Just Plain Dumb". The shower head is a giant safe-like dial that can only be turned off by passing the Hot or Cold end of the dial (also known as Molten-Lava and Liquid-Nitrogen respectively). Quite entertaining, attempting to turn the shower off and simultaneously avoid being horrible disfigured.

Third Place
Apartments Paradiso for "Most Fun". A spa, and a shower, with only one tap? Turns out, there's a button you need to hold while turning on the tap to use the spa faucet. Given the tap is right beside the spa faucet, it comes with a delightful surprise blast of icy water to the face from the shower when least expected.

Second Place
Belle Vista for "Minimalism". The 'tap' is a public-restroom style lever. That has absolutely no temperature markings or helpful little guidelines to let you know roughly where you'll be comfortable, versus where you'll be snap frozen. It receives a second award for "Most Microscopic Adjustment Required To Suddenly Sear Off Your Flesh".

First Place
The first place award, however, goes to Jasmine Court for "No Visible Tap. You Figure it Out". Heath was the first to use it, and this is what I heard:
"Um... Um... Er... " *repeat for 5 minutes* "FUCK YA" *sound of shower*
It was only that I had advanced warning that I found the 'tap' at all - a levered dial located at the base of the shower-head itself. It would receive a special commendation, except that it had helpful temperature readings, so once found was quite easy to use without causing yourself grevious bodily harm.

I'm expecting the next place we stay will have a shower that to operate requires standing on one leg, flapping your arms like a chicken, whilst repeating the phrase "Eggs ate my armadillo purple" forward, backward, in ancient Sumerian, and whilst impersonating Whoopie Goldberg.

NOTE: I should explicitly state that I am being facetious, and that all of the places we've stayed have been fantastic, especially Jasmine Court. But seriously, does no one in New Zealand use regular taps any more?

Day 7: The Journey So Far


Day 7: Franz Josef to Fox Glacier & Lake Matheson

Travelled around a bit today. This morning we headed back up to the Franz Josef glacier for a closer look. No less awe inspiring the second time you see it. For today's trip we took a path up to a viewing platform, which offered uninterrupted views of the glacier and bordering mountains. If you download this image and print it out on a piece of paper 3km wide and then stare at it from a meter away, you'll get a feel for this thing.


Franz Josef glacier panorama.


From here we drove down to the Fox Glacier township, about an hour south of Franz. We'll be passing through tomorrow on the way to Queenstown, but it's a long drive so we thought we'd check out Fox today.

The glacier itself was hidden from view mostly, so I didn't snap any photos, but the rainforest walk was awesome. All of the trees are heavily moss draped, with all these little lichen growing all over them. Looks like something out of The Dark Crystal.

Then we grabbed some lunch and went down to Lake Matheson, also known as the reflection lake because so many photographers have taken photos across it, reflecting Mount Cook. In fact, everywhere we've been, that's about the only postcard you can buy. Apparently in the morning and evening the wind drops away, the clouds clear, and the lake itself becomes mirror-like. We got there right on midday though, so the opposite was true: the mountains were obscured in clouds, and the lake was choppy thanks to a strong afternoon wind, so I didn't take any photos of the lake itself, but I did take some photos in the area.

After the lake we drove back to Franz, and have been spending the afternoon resting. Not sure what we're up to tonight, and that's nice!



More flowers. I should make a calendar.
Or a magazine ad for tissues.



The river we followed to get to Lake Matheson.






A close-up of the mountains.



Heath poses again.

Day 7: Random Shots from Franz Josef Glacier (flora)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Day 7: Thank God for Heating

Woke up this morning in a toasty motel room, stepped outside and instantly lost my fingers and toes to frostbite. Obviously the further south we go, the colder it's gonna get. And right now, we're about halfway down the west coast and will be going all the way to the bottom. ACK.

We're just getting ready to head back up to the glacier. Really looking forward to it, because I could stand and look at it all day and not get used to it.

Day 6: Lake ForgottenTheName

I reimported the images from the lake. Here's a quick photo stitch:


Heath enjoys the view, but I don't because I'm too busy
photographing it.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Day 6: Glacial Springs

*Mega Sigh*

We just wandered down to the Glacial Hot Springs, about 5 minutes walk from our motel. It's open until 10:00pm and we got there about 9:30pm. It's $26 per adult but they let us in for free since it was so close to closing. It was SO nice. The pools are like standard resort wading pools, all terraced and smoothly cast, with big rock features and stuff. But there's no walls/ceiling. Means it's ridiculously fucking cold, but the water is heated. So we just spent 25 minutes quietly simmering in heated glacier water, looking out at the stars and surrounded by rainforest with soft mood lighting, and 5 minutes dancing around like maniacs trying to dry ourselves in Olympic qualifying time. I had ice in my hair from dunking my head!

Day 6: Greymouth to Punakaiki to Franz Josef

Wow. What a day.

We woke up early, had bacon and eggs (drool) and headed North to a place called Punakaiki (pronounced poo-nah-kye-key, as opposed to the way I've been asking for directions, poo-nah-kye-ee-kee). Extra sylables FTW. The trip was, surprise-surprise, pretty special. The coastal landscape is very rugged, lots of cliffs, with huge waves pounding against the rocks and filling the air with mist. It was also very cold, and the few times we jumped out of the car for photos we both hurled abuse at the air.


Early-morning beach view on the way to Punakaiki


Punakaiki is famous for the Pancake Rocks, this natural formation of cliffs, caves, and islands where the rock has a heavily layered appearance (like a stack of pancakes, incase you couldn't figure out the relationship). A really pretty and interesting view on a smaller scale than what we're becoming used to, so it was nice to chill out there for a while and take some photos. Until the tidal blow hole gave me a freezing early morning shower and drenched my camera.


Pancake Rocks




Some more Pancake Rocks


This is what the Pancake Rocks look like about
2.5 seconds before they drench the person looking


That was our cue to walk back to the car and begin to 260-odd-km (but 4.5 hour) drive to Franz Josef. We went back through Greymouth and about 20 minutes out, BAM: the coastal mountains disappeared and as far South as the horizon, and beyond, was this gigantic wall of snow-capped peaks. I just about crashed the car. The morning sun was bouncing off the snow and it seemed to glow, so insanely intense. Just miles and miles of blinding white, stretching away over the horizon and into the haze. The skies were so clear today, it was crazy. Apparently we're having amazing luck with our holiday - only one night and one day of rain so far *touch wood*.

The entire trip to Franz Josef, it was difficult to concentrate on the road. In Australia, you drive for hours between landscapes. Here, every 20 to 30 minutes everything changes. You'll be winding through rainforest and then BAM you're cruising down a long country road into farmland, bordered by the kind of mountains which "gigantic" and "enormous" and "awe inspiring" do a bad job of describing and then BAM you're on the coast and BAM you're crossing a bridge over alpine rivers, the craziest aqua colour. It was 4.5 hours of perfect photograph moments. That said, I only stopped a few times because I'm getting used to the idea of passing up photo opportunities for the sake of arriving at our destination within a month of motel check in.

Somewhere along the way (I can't remember where exactly) I just totally randomly decided to take a side road and see where it lead - something a lot easier to do now our GPS is working. Almost immediately we plunged into this tiny little dirt-tracked tunnel of forest, so narrow you could reach out the window and grab a handful of leaves, and then just as suddenly we emerged to see this:

EDIT: The photo didn't work out well. Will repost later.


We're starting to learn that New Zealanders either don't like advertising their many spectacular locations, or they're simply spoiled for choice and don't consider it anything all that great. This lake was so serene, there were a couple of other people strolling around, and some old dude out on a boat fishing, so we just sat there in the wet grass/flowers (did I mention there's wild flowers EVERYWHERE?) and stared out over this lake to the mountains. I could have just set up camp there for two weeks, kind of took my breath away. I think the photo is a bit oversaturated but I can't tell on this stupid laptop.

From there we crossed more coastal mountain passes, with some views like these:


Yodel a bit. It seems appropriate.




Over and over again, the kind of views that make you want to wind down your window and scream "FOR FRODO!" at the top of your lungs. Or maybe that's just me.

When we got into Franz Josef, the view was no less awesome. The town itself is walled in with mountains, and our motel backs onto rainforest that rises up to snow-capped peak.


Step outside and look left, this is what I see...


To end the daylight hours, we went to the Franz Josef glacier. After reading some depressing stuff about global warming and the depletion of the glacier, we wandered one of the many available paths (gonna do another tomorrow) and took some photos of the glacier. Words do not describe, which as always frustrates me beyond reason that I can't adequately express the experience of looking at it. It's just... way bigger than you'd expect, way higher up, so steep and white and blue, so majestic... You just have to come here, and see it for yourself.


The Franz Josef glacier as viewed from the
SomethingOrOther Pools (I really should note
this stuff). You can only just see the glacier in
this photo, but I'm going back tomorrow to get
a photo from a closer point.


Now we're getting ready to go out to dinner and then we're off to the local hot springs. It looks heaps nice, but I'm trying not to consider what it's going to be like when we get out of the water :(

Peace xox

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Day 5: Lots of Mountains, Lots of Clouds

This is the view I was talking about in my previous post. I need to reprocess this for better colour/contrast when I'm not working on a crappy laptop, and of course this image isn't anywhere near as impressive as it looked up close, but I couldn't wait to share this one...

[Insert mournful irish violin music and someone swinging a sword in slow motion]


An hour from Greymouth on the road from Nelson.
Full Sized Panorama: CLICK ME

And now it's bed time. We have a stove in this motel room so we're getting an early night just so we can get up early to cook bacon and eggs. Craving home cooked food already...

Day 5: Nelson to Greymouth

We left Nelson this morning and made our way down through Buller Gorge to Greymouth. We were tossing up whether to head to Westport or not, but decided to skip it for this trip. Punakaiki (where the Pancake Rocks are - pretty famous apparently) is 45 minutes away. We were going to head there this afternoon for a look, but it's really cold and miserable outside. Not that we really mind; a rainy day is nice to relax.

Driving out of Nelson gave us an hour or so of very green and picturesque farmland, always with the mountainous backdrops.


Sick of mountains yet? A Norwegian couple were kind enough
to take our photo, and then freaked out when I offered to take theirs.
I think they expected me to steal the camera.

The trip today took about four and a half hours, maybe a bit longer with the stopping for photos, with a few quiet little towns nestled in the mountains, and lots and lots of single-lane bridges (very... exhilarating) inbetween serpentine roads and narrow little mountain passes. Buller Gorge was breathtaking, with regular views of the river (often whitewater) and most of the gorge road bordered by trimmed bushes, so it was like driving through a leafy tunnel. Needless to say, very pretty.

I took about 500 photos out the window of the car because there were very few places we could safely stop. It'll take a while to go through them to pick out the good ones, but here's a snap from the bridge which brought us into the gorge:


Looking roughly North (I think) from the Buller Gorge bridge
onto Upper Buller Gorge Road.

As we came out of the gorge, we were greeted with an eastern wall of mountains, mostly covered with low clouds and rain. I tried to take some photos, but they didn't turn out too well. Hopefully I can recover them when I get home, because it was quite a view, this gigantic wall of blue with clouds pouring down the slopes.

Then the rain set in and we arrived in Greymouth about 20 minutes later. We're eating in tonight because the motel has an oven in the kitchen and we're both sick of eating out. We'll probably spend the night in, too. There's not too much around Greymouth (within 30 minutes drive, at any rate). Tomorrow, after checking out Punakaiki, we're off to Franz Joseph and the glacier region - I'm pretty excited about that!

And an update on the GPS: Garmin FINALLY emailed me back... and told me to call Australian customer service. Bravo. Clap clap. They did however include a link that I couldn't find on their website with a NZ customer service branch, and I called them and within 30 seconds had a link added to my account to download NZ maps, so hopefully tomorrow we won't be navigating via badly written instructions copied off google maps. Or better, one of those tourist maps that represent roads in the same way someone waves their arm around to point roughly Northish.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Day 4: Nelson & The Center of New Zealand

Climbed... another.... hill............ *gasp* *keel over*

It was the Center of New Zealand walk, leading up a nice and wide path (no tightrope walking along cliff faces) that was way too steep. Gluttons for punishment, it seems.

The view though... Wow. We hit the top around 5:00pm (it's 9:20pm now and still light outside WTF?) but the view was crazy. Do I sound like a cracked record yet? "Wellington OMG THE VIEW Picton OMG THE VIEW Nelson OMG THE VIEW". But it's true :(

I took a bunch of photos, obviously, but the sun was too low to get many good shots over Nelson and across the water to those mountains (the ones with the snow that Heath was pointing at below), but I did take another panorama looking inland, which I think is the way we head off tomorrow.


Nelson Panorama (Inland)
Full Sized Panorama: CLICK ME

 
Nelson Panorama (partial city panorama)
Full Sized Panorama: CLICK ME

After the mountain climb we headed out for dinner to a stonegrill restaurant (where you cook your own food on a hot slab of stone at your table). Awesome food. I couldn't wait for my steak to cook, so I hoed in while it still had moo in it. First time I've ever tried ultra-rare steak, and it was delicious! Everything was so good that I stuffed myself stupid and I'm having trouble sitting in a chair to write this.

We'll be off in the morning to Punakaiki (I think, anyway - we haven't totally made up our minds yet). Long drive, but with this scenery, I could drive 16 hours a day and not get bored.

EDIT: Did I mention that my GPS is a useless paperweight? I was told it came preloaded with New Zealand maps (the box also said this), as well as a note about a free update from their website. Well guess what: no NZ map, and no free update. I've contacted them about it once and they replied "Please send your receipt" so I replied "I'm in NEW ZEALAND I can't send you my receipt" and they haven't replied again. I don't know why they need a receipt anyway. They can check when my GPS was activated by serial number (the website tracks all of this shit) and the receipt doesn't mean crap since the unit is registered on the site, and I'm asking for the shit that's supposed to be fucking included in the first place. I wonder if Garmin will stumble upon this blog? Because right now I'm writing down directions off google maps, and wishing I'd spent the money on an atlas instead.

Day 4: Picton to Nelson

It was a shame to leave Picton this morning. Robbie and Sandra at Jasmine Court (the place we stayed at) were super friendly and helpful, and there was still heaps to see around Picton that we never got around to.

So we left Picton (reluctantly, though I think that's going to be a recurring theme on this trip) and made our way to Nelson today. It was about 115km, but took a bit over 2 hours - the roads are winding and we stopped a few times for photos. As we were coming out of Picton onto Queen Charlotte Drive, we picked up a german backpacker named Sophie. She'd been backpacking for a few years, but pleasantly, she didn't smell like it. She told us to avoid Europe because the people are pigs, and kept telling us how lovely us Australians and Kiwis are. She was also HOT, which I'm sure will cause more envy among some of my friends than the holiday.

After we dropped her off at some place (forgotten the name) we went on to a little town called Havelock, and more of the spectacular views.


Havelock as viewed from the lookout.
Full Sized Panorama: CLICK ME

The entire trip to Nelson could have taken us days. Every few minutes was a new amazing view, mostly what I imagine I'd see if Canada and England got a bottle of wine, some candle-light, then got hot and sweaty and had rolling-countryside babies. I drove past a billion photo opportunities, but the entire trip is going to be like that and all the stop-starting gets a bit tiring after a while. Suffice to say, you could drop a house pretty much anywhere and I'd happily live there forever.

 
Some cows because it just feels right.


Past Havelock we soon came to winding roads again, and instead of the Sounds we had cliffs and waterfalls and alpine-like rocky rivers.




A short stop

 And then suddenly we came out of the mountains back onto the coast, and glowing in the distance were snow capped peaks. We stopped the car to take photos. Might seem inane, but it's the first time either of us has seen snowy mountains, and it was beautiful. The photo makes it look like you can barely see the mountains, but the view was amazing.



Heath kindly pointing out the tiny little mountain

Nelson itself feels a lot like Coffs Harbor, very peaceful and relaxing. The hotel we're staying in - Apartments Paradiso - is great. Free internet and the main part of the complex is a backpacker hostel. There's a great vibe - lot's of people chilling out by the pool and drinking beer/wine. We're tempted to stay two nights it's so good, but we've covered 115km in our 40,000,000km trip (or what seems like it) and we're already 4 days in, so we'll be off in the morning.

For now, we're heading out to do the Center of New Zealand climb, just before sunset. Should be nice, though seriously, WTF with all the WALKING?

Day 4: Optus FTW

After my rant about Optus earlier, I thought I should make a post thanking Robbie Bayros from Optus for fixing my phone. He somehow found my blog and then quickly fixed my international roaming problem. As if you need a reason to bail from Telstra, but if you do, how's customer service? If you stumble across this blog again Robbie, THANKYOU!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Day 3: Tirohanga Panoramas

Here's the panoramas, stitched together from around 70 photographs each. Unfortunately we hit the track at a time that put us up top at roughly midday, which doesn't make for very interesting lighting/colour. I'd love to do this near dawn or dusk, but the thought of walking up that mountain again - let alone at some unholy morning hour or right before dark - causes my kneecaps to try to detach themselves in rebellion.


Tirohanga Walkway: Southern Panorama



Tirohanga Walkway: North/North-Eastern Panorama

Day 3: Tirohanga Walkway (Picton)

We decided to do the walk up the Tirohanga Walkway today - a path up the side of a sizeable mountain, that we were told had spectacular views of Picton.

Unfortunately, the people sharing the information failed to inform us that as a couple of fatties we were probably going to have a coronary one quarter of the way up the mountain.

URGH.

The walk started a couple of blocks from where we're staying (we're right under the mountain), and wound up through the forest. The first part was crazy steep, and 10 minutes in, gasping for air and yelling abuse at each other as if it was the other one's fault, we almost turned back. Seriously unfit. But we persisted, and after a... couple... of rest stops (where we collapsed on a bench/stump/puddle and tried to sign "Please call me an evac chopper") we had pretty much given up when a couple of regulars came charging past and shamed us into continuing. They also told us we were only 5 minutes from the top, which turned out to be an EVIL FUCKING LIE that was probably meant to encourage us to continue but really just about killed us.

All complaining aside, when we did reach the top (20 minutes later) the view was mind blowing. It's another case of photos being woefully inadequate for capturing the view. We were so enamored by it all that I almost forgot to take photos, and then when I did had to take them all over again because I forgot to set the camera up properly. We'd even briefly forgotten that our hearts had exploded out of our chests about halfway up and it was sheer awe alone that kept us conscious.

The views stretched out on all sides, North and Northeast across the Sounds, and to the South to what I'm pretty sure is Hobbit country. Unfortunately, Travis, I was too tired to hunt one down for the whole throwing-into-the-fires-of-Mount-Doom thing :(

I've just stitched together a panorama of the southern view. It took about 4 hours, and I could print the final image possibly life sized, it's so damn big. I'm just trimming them down now to post, but in the mean time, here's some of the snaps from the climb.


First Rest Break



One third of the way up



Pretty views (too tired to pose)



"Fuck ya"



"Please kill me"

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Day 2: Air Raid Sirens? WTF?

So Heath and I are chilling out, me on my laptop going through photos, him lying back watching TV, when suddenly the LOUDEST air raid siren starts wailing in the distance. We both go outside, it's getting dark, and the entire Picton valley is just this echoing howl of doom. First thing I think is earthquake or tsunami or something. To be completely honest, the first thing I thought was ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, but it's getting so passe I had the good grace to look slightly embarrassed before blurting out "Don't worry, it's probably just a volcano or something". Funnily enough, I don't think it relaxed Heath in the slightest.

Luckily, the owner of the hotel figured we'd be all "WTF?!" and came out to tell us that it's the fire siren. Because the fire brigade in Picton is all volunteer, the siren needs to cover a long distance so all of the volunteers know there's a problem. Why it needs to sound like The End of The World, he was unable to explain.

Needless to say, I was quite disappointed with the lack of zombie hoards, though I am glad it wasn't earthquakes, tsunamis, or volcanoes.

Oh, and the news is telling us there's a likelihood of snow through the week. Does anyone know how to put snow chains on a car? Or where on the car they go?

Image: Wellington 180° Panorama


Wellington Panorama

Couldn't do a full 360 panorama as most of the view behind me was blocked by trees, but this photo shows Wellington's central district and the area we stayed in. The Bluebridge ferry took us out of the bay to the right, looping around behind the view and off to the south island.

Full sized panorama here: CLICK ME

Day 2: Wellington > Picton

Update time!

So we got up at 5:00am local time this morning for the ferry, only it turns out we were only 5 minutes by taxi to the dock so we ended up sitting outside the ferry terminal waiting for an hour for someone to show up. It was barely daylight and of course, cold (heard that enough for it to be unecessary to keep repeating it?).

The ferry trip was beautiful, out through the bay and then through Marlborough Sounds to Picton.


Leaving the bay



Looking back at Wellington


The headland again


After a cooked breakfast, we both sat down to chill out for a while (inside, out of the wind) and I managed to fall asleep for an hour and apparently missed some pretty stunning mountain views coming into the Sounds, but I did manage to get some shots of the Sounds themselves, which you'd think were tropical environs given the number of people out on the water. And the view.



Marlborough Sounds #1

 
Marlborough Sounds #2



Coming into Picton

And after arriving in Picton, we picked up the car and found Fiona's brother's hotel (Jasmine Court, really nice!) then went for a drive to a place called Karaka Point, with a short walk down to the waterline. I'll go through those photos later - now I'm going to have a well earned snooze. All this sitting on my ass is tiring me out! Heath is already asleep. Hard life we have...

Day 2: Leaving the North Island via Bluebridge Ferry #1


 Decided to quickly post one of my photos before we head off to explore Picton. Will write a proper update tonight, and post some more photos. This image is of the southern tip of the north island as we passed out of the bay. Truely spectacular, as we were surrounded by mountains like this on most sides. It was hard not just stare slackjawed, everything here is so ridiculously scenic, and it's hard to capture the scale of this landscape with an image.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Day 1: Can someone tell me the time?

Updated with Photos

Got the ferry to Picton early tomorrow, so gotta get an early night.

By early tomorrow I mean my body-clock's 2:00am. By early night, I mean my body-clock's 6:00pm. URGH.

Spent the day with Nikki though, that was really awesome! She took us for a tour of Wellington, around the peninsulas and to the lookouts. So crazy pretty. We went for lunch at this awesome little cafe overlooking the bay, and had the best (and most expensive) milkshakes I've ever had. They had chocolate bars blended up in them and everything! I could feel my arteries clogging as I drank it.


At the cafe looking over the bay.




Enjoying some sun.


Then we went up to *mumblemumblecan'trememberthename* on the top of a hill overlooking the whole bay, three hundred and sixty degrees of awesome. Well, 300 degrees of awesome and 60 degrees of non-english-speaking couples making out. Which I guess still equates to awesome.

I took about 200 photos from the lookout, but I still can't get my laptop online so there's gonna be a huge backlog of snapshots to post as soon as I find a wireless access point.


Looking out over the eastern end
of Wellington.


It's a Wellington tradition to honk
your horn when driving through this tunnel
(it's very noisy).


From there we went to a chocolate shop that sells chocolates with names like "MegaLime UltraChilli HyperPrime Dark", which allows them to charge a billion dollars a kilogram for what is essentially a seizure of the tongue. I bought 5 small chocolates with some very fake looking plastic money (I think the ATM's are having me on) and ate one before deciding the remainder would be great souvenirs to bring home and inflict upon - I mean gift unto - friends.

And finally we drove up to the cable-car lookout, which offered equally stunning views but without the non-english-speaking-tourists-making-out, so wasn't quite as good.


Cable-car Lookout.




The cable-car travels from the city center to the lookout.
We didn't ride it this time, but we will on the way back.


I should mention that Nikki made the day awesome, despite the harrowing experience of driving around Wellington. A good analogy might be running, blindfolded, on stilts, across a one inch cable upon which 3 other people are simultaneously running in the opposite direction swinging baseball bats. Actually, that was a dumb analogy, as you'd have a higher chance of survival on the cable.

From there I got a bit jetlaggy and went back to the hotel to lie down for a while, but then Heath and I decided we needed to go grab dinner so we could get an early night, and ended up back at the internet cafe, partially because I wanted to sit down for 5 minutes, but mostly because his artichokes are ready to farm and that is significantly more important that an international vacation.

*Glares*

Day 1: So Cold... So, So Cold...

ARGH! IT'S COLD!

The flight in was pretty spectacular. It seems that the entire city of Wellington was built for the purpose of providing the maximum visual impressiveness on the flight in. The inbound path takes you right across the bay, so you get an amazing panorama of the city from surprisingly close. The Brisbane equivalent would be something like a landing strip at Southbank, except this is WAY nicer.

Unfortunately I couldn't take a photo as it was the bags-under-the-seat-or-we're-all-gonna-die part of the trip.

Also, incase the point wasn't made, it's FUCKING COLD.

Oh, and it's the zombie apocalypse. Thanks for that, Shelby.

Seriously, on the flight in I thought the city looked a bit weird, and then I realised there was NO traffic. I didn't spot a single car as we were landing. When we left the airport, the taxi driver told us that everyone bails out of Wellington on the weekend. He wasn't exaggerating.

We got to the hotel (which is in the middle of the city) and I decided to go for a wander to a service station about 10 minutes walk away, partially because I wanted some munchies, but mostly because I had a sadistic desire to get frostbite in my extremities.

All the way down to the servo and back, I saw two taxis and a police car. CREEPY. SHIT. It's like those scenes of dead London in "28 Days Later". Except with lots of pretty lights and no horrifying dead people swarming out of alleys. I did walk past an alley a little fast though. You never know.

Today I woke up to find my mobile isn't connecting to any NZ networks. THANKYOU OPTUS. Then we walked for two hours, jet lagged (seriously, I didn't expect only 4 hours time difference to fuck me up this bad) to find an internet cafe. Only we picked New Zealand's Labour Day long weekend to travel, so fuck all is open. It's not all bad, because this city is seriously beautiful, and obviously, we eventually found an internet cafe.

Then I spent about 20 minutes browsing the optus website trying to find ANYTHING to help with the mobile. But all they have is "Dial this number and HAPPY FUCKING MAGIC TIMES YOUR MOBILE JUST WORKS ANYWHERE". RAAAAGE.

So we're supposed to be meeting Nikki for lunch, only I can't get in touch with her...

Timing FTW. She just messaged Heath on Facebook (he's sitting beside me making half-jokes about how he should play WoW, waiting for me to say "*SIGH* FINE JUST PLAY IT"). Gotta go! Photos later...

xox

Friday, 23 October 2009

Out the door...

Ticket... Check.

Passport... Check.

Luggage... Check.

Anxiety Attack... Check.

ALL SYSTEMS, GO!

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

ARGH! Nerves... First time overseas and I'm freaking out. Got the bags (mostly) packed, and now I'm trying to organise the ridiculous collection of techno-geekishness that I can't bring myself to leave behind.

The camera is an obvious one - I've heard that New Zealand is all like... scenic and shit. What kind of art snob would I be if I didn't intend to fully document every slight variation in the landscape to enforce on friends and family when I get home? Practice your "Oh, that's so interesting, I'm so glad you're making me sit here for three hours as we look through thirty thousand photos that are all essentially of the same thing and are about as entertaining as an orbital sander to the face" expressions. You're going to need them.

The laptop is a logical follow on. I need to be able to post my pictures online the INSTANT I take them, because I know you'll all be hanging on my every update. There's nothing better than sitting at work and looking at pictures of someone else's holiday. Of course there's the blogging, too. "Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few". I assume my prose will be riveting, like some dramatic, adventurous serial masterpiece. Did I mention WoW is installed on the laptop? No? Well it isn't. *cough*

Then there's the DS/PSP. For the technically challenged, that's the handheld video games. I can explain that as in-flight entertainment, what with the flight taking FOREVER, how the hell else would I stay entertained for two and a half hours? Besides, what else does one do on an international vacation when it gets dark and you're stuck in a cosy hotel room wondering what all the fuss is about? SHOOT FUCKING ZOMBIES, THAT'S WHAT - BOOYA!

The mobile phone is obvious (Oh sh- need to switch that to international roaming, brb)...

...so yeah, the mobile phone. Just incase anyone feels the urgent need to call me up and ask how awesome everything is.

My iPod. That's for the music and the gaming on the plane and the passing time and the driving with the music and the stuff. You know.

The hardest thing is fitting in all the chargers and cables and accessories for everything. I'm like some jet-setting IT technician. How... adventurous. *cough again*

Now I have to head over to the shops and see if I can find a carry-on bag that will conveniently store half a tonne of completely unecessary shit. Leave it all at home? HA! 'Sif.... ZOMBIES! BOOYA!