Monday, 21 December 2009

West Side Story.


So after visiting the NZ fighter pilots museum (I never realised the extent of the fighting in the Pacific that NZ was involved in) we headed out on the Haast Pass road for the West Coast. This is what Steve and I have been waiting for, for a while, getting the the Bach and relaxing for a week doing absolutley nothing except for reading books, swimming and ejoying the sun, Only it didn't quite turn out that way!

Well we headed up the coast in pretty short order really as we wanted to spend as much time as possible at the bach. We did stop off at Franz Josef and Fox Glacier although we didn't get to see much as the cloud cover was down pretty low, it was good to see some glaciers though (Hence my university nickname 'Ice Boy' for my obsession with the powers of ice). However we did see Mt Cook finally in all its majesty one evening with the falling sun lighting up it's face!

Well after leaving a rather wet and dreary Franz Josef we headed straight up the coast towards the bach stopping off in Greymouth for some supplies along the way. We went all out thinking that this was going to be it one week at an awesome beach hut, I mean we even bought steaks! I tell you thats is definately saying something seen as we have been skimping it for soo long. So stupidly after we'd purchased all this food did we decide to call the guy to see if the bach was free, guess what, it wasn't! ohh no! What were we going to do with all of this food!

We headed up the coast and stayed in the bach for one night as we figured that we might as seen as it was free til tomorrow. What an awesome place right on the beach, no electricity, no gas, no nothing, just water from the local creek, and a coal range for heating and hot water. We spent our time thinking of a contingency plan which involved driving a few hundred K's up the coast and back to Karamea.

So the next day heading off in terrible weather we reached Westport by late afternoon and decided it a wise idea to stay just for the night, at least so that we could put all of our food in the freezer. Westport itself was not worth a visit so we just spent our time reading indoors.

The next day heading up to Karamea we were finally blessed with sunshine! Its a lovely part of New Zealand, as far north up the west as you can go, we spent the next few days camping on the beach, checking out so rather cool caves in the middle of the woods and going on a trek to a backcountry hut up a lovely rainforest valley. Whilst we were up there we met three Canadian guys and invited them to the bach in a few days time if they were around.

Steve and I headed back to the bach as soon as it was available motoring it in short order only stopping for one night on the way in a beautiful gorge just outside of Charleston.

Wow we were finally here at the bach, sit down and relax. To our great surprise the Candian trio (Kerf, Kenny and Sean) actually turned up on the day that we said we'd be there! We had an awesome three days swimming, fishing, kayaking, and partying on the beach with cheap NZ wine and a huge bonfire. After a week or so of doing abosolutely nothing we headed back up the coast towards Nelson and the Able Tasman National Park.


Thursday, 10 December 2009

Ready... NO... okay tilt head back, GO! WHOAAAAAA

Hey All

I know I am super duper late at updating my blog I thought that I had done so already so didn't bother updating, now I realise that I am waayyyyy behind so I am going to keep things a little shorter and in sections as it would take me too long otherwise!

Queenstown was a pretty aw some place, really liked it, Steve and I spent 3 days here and a little more in the local area. Our first night we all went out in a big group from our room, a couple of lasses from up north somewhere, Burnley I think, two Germans and a french dude. Pretty good night although it was spent drinking devil wine which loves to give you a awful hangover and memory loss, lethal stuff steer well clear! Over the three days I did manage a hatric of the infamous 'Fergburger', well known among the travelling sects as the best burger in NZ, and as I had three I agree! The second day I had decided that it would be cool to go on a jet boat ride up one of the local canyons as Neil had highly recommended a ride in one too me. I had only just woken up really and gone to the reception to enquire and ended up getting my self booked on a trip that left in ten minutes. I'm telling you now that a ride on a jet boat certainly wakes you from a hangover in quick time. The road out there was particularly spectacular, hand dug by thousands of Chinese migrants during the gold rush. The ride itself was exhilarating, shooting along at speeds of up to 55mph in anywhere from 4 inches to 39 of water, only feet from canyon walls!

Returning somewhat refreshed from my ride I met up with Steve and Harold (the french dude) before going out for another night, a little quieter this time but none the less awesome fun letting loose in Queenstown, rather spookily I stumbled upon a chap that I spent a few days with in Australia (small world). The next day we headed out on the road that took you out to the boat ride as I thought that I just had to give it a go at driving; single lane dirt track bounded by 100ft + drops in places with no barrier scary but fun! At the end of the road there was the restored remains of a 19th century mining outpost, pretty interesting the hardly lives that these very different breed of people once lived.

After a night out in the sticks we then headed back out through the other side of Queenstown to Glenorchy where a significant chunk of Lord of the Rings was filmed, although you wouldn't know it. That's one of the cons associated with these LOTR tours and whatnot as a large part of the scenery in the films has has significant details added to them rendering the original unrecognisable. The original plan was to climb to a vantage point in a remote valley where I could lay my eyes on a glacier which I had been dying to do for some time. Unfortunately we never actually made it to said vantage point as we hugely underestimated the time that it would take us to get there and back, alas I had to save my glacial urge for another day.

Next stop Wanaka for the much anticipated sky dive! Wanaka is a beautiful place but rather quiet in the off season, so much so that the local streets appeared dead after 7pm! The bars weren't much better either, being completely empty except a few backpackers and Steve and myself. Anyhow as soon as we arrived I had booked my 15'000ft skydive, it was also at this exact point that I started to worry and at 11:30 am the next morning when I rang to confirm I truly started to 'tommy tit' myself! Steve said I went white as a sheet and was either dead silent staring into nothing or talking at warp speed! What made it worse was the fact that I have already done a couple of static line jumps a couple of years ago so I knew exactly what was coming in terms of the initial 'fall' feeling.

Well after getting kitted up I ended up sitting there waiting for a couple of hours till I was called up to jump. It was at this point that I started to sweat and all of the usual don't do it reactions started kicking in big time in my head! The flight up there was amazing, cracking views of Mt Aspiring national park, the Southern Alps and Lake Wanaka itself. it seemed an age passed until it was my turn, at this point I had already watch one punter jump out a 12'000ft before climbing a few more to 15. Right so we're at the door the guy says are you ready and strangely all of my feer just seemed to disappear. I'm not saying this to big up my ego but strangely it did. I'm not afraid to admit that I was bricking it during the flight and the bum shuffle to the door, but once my feet were dangling over the edge I just well I don't really know... "was well up for it" as one might say, totally committed myself to what was about to happen, I couldn't wait. WOOOOSHHHHHHH! WOW, amazing quite possibly one of the best things that I have ever done and that is the honest truth. I can't really describe it, you know that lost stomach feeling you get when on a roller coaster or in heavy turbulence in a plane, well that lasts for what seems like a second (in reality around 10) before you feel nothing, no falling, nothing just the wind passing your face at 140 Mph. I just wish that I could remember more, in terms of the views I saw, freeze frames in my mind really, shame I didn't have the money at the time to buy the video (it was hideously expensive though). Some weeks later I actually managed to wake myself up having a rather vivid dream of my skydive buy rather audibly shouting whoaaaaaa, awesome dream though.

Anyhow time to close this chapter and start the next!


Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Frolics in Fiordland

Hello again

Well I thought that as I am sitting here finally uploading my photo's on the internet, yes I know its been a VERY long time waiting, that I would update the blog.

Right so after Invercargill Steve and I got on the road finally to Fiordland National Park! I remember the drive along the southern scenic route clearly as it was a bloody windy day, strong enough to push the car onto the other side of the road! The first stop of our journey was to Lake Hauroko, the deepest in NZ. It was a stunning lake, deep blue in colour surrounded by thick forest for as far as the eye can see!

We thought that it would be a good idea to try our pack out with all of our gear in them as a tester for one of our multi day treks. All it really did was to let us know how hard and knackering it would be, and that was withought food in our packs! It was only a shor 1 1/2 hour walk up to bludd lookout but boy was it hard, sweating buckets all the way to the top! The views, however were amazing from the top.

Next stop was Lake Monowai camp site just 40 or so odd K's up the road, we stopped off on the way to fill up our water at a community centre and ended up playing rugby in their playing grounds for an hour or so. Lake Monowai was alright, too many midgies, sandflies or whatever you want to call them, little biting swines that leave an extremely itchy bite!

Next stop was Te Anau vie Lake Manapouri, the gateway to the Fiordlands. Passing through Te Anau we stopped off at the DOC visitor centre to see if the Multi Day Kepler Track was open, unfortunately it wasn't due to some dangerous snow conditions on some parts of the track. They did however suggest that we try another track called the Greenstone/ Caples track just a little further along the way. We thought that this would be a good idea and stopped for a night at a campsite on the way. Waking early the next morning we packed our bags in preparation for the walk and drove to the start.

Actually starting the walk was a bit of a shock as it began with a rather steep climb followed by another steeper climb through bog, heavily rooted ground and rather large boulders. The three days were alltogether rather enjoyable, hard but magnificent. We passed through ancient beech forest, wide open tussok grassland, alpine shrub, the lot. On the way we met some really nice people in the back country huts/ bovies that we stayed in.

After the three days of walking we headed north a little more towards Milford Sound and ended up sleeping in the car in a layby as there were no camp sites around. The next night we got up bloody early to get on the 08:50 am Milford Sound cruise wanting to miss all of the large crouds! It was a pretty cool boat with a good upper deck which Steve and I managed to get some prime seating on. The sound is absolutely amazing sheer rock walls up to 700m high and more, penguins, dolfins, seals, birds, avalanches, tree avalanches, hughe waterfalls, you name it its there, gobsmackingly beautiful place.

After finishing the tour we got on our way back towards Te Anau where I recouperated for the night before starting the Kepler track the next day. Te Anau itself is nothing special just a launching point really for the sounds and a lot of the local walks. Steve unfortunately could not come on the walk as his feet were shot to pieces from the other walk we did. I just had to do this particular part of the trip as it was on my list of top things to do in NZ. The walk itself started out much the same as the rest of the walks in Fiordland, through beech forest it was not until I climbed above the bush line that the beauty of this walk became apparent. The views were spectacular, right across Lake Te Anau and the mountains that make up the Southern Alps! The climb to the summit of Mt Luxmore was also pretty cool, not to high (1477m) but it did pass through some deep snow drifts. I stayed on the summit for a while just looking around and eating some rather nice cheese and crackers! On the way back down to the hut for the night I came across a German couple whom I had met only a few days before on the Greenstone Caples track which was a nice suprise. The night was spent playing cards and eating noodles! Waking early the next day I packed my things and headed down towards Luxmore cave to potter around for a bit before making my way down to the carpark to meet up with Steve.

After meeting with Steve we made our way to Queenstown for a few days of party before hitting Wanaka and the west coast.

I'll talk about Queensland and Wanaka in my next blog entry.



Saturday, 31 October 2009

Crash Bang... WHALLOP

Well boy have I had a VERY interesting week and a bit since my last update, but I'll get onto that a little later.

So the Speights Brewery Tour, well it was very interesting and all together quite impressive looking over all of the old brewing equipment. Speights claim to be one of the only Breweries in the southern hemisphere using the gravity fed brewing system. It basically means that they lug all of the raw material used to make beer up to the seventh floor, put it in and hey presto on the ground floor you get beer. Our guide was a right character which helps, the tour was a little rushed though as I didn't have the chance to read all of the info plaques. The best bit of all though was the free beer at the end; we were taken into the tasting room and let loose on the six beers that they produce. I must now state that for quality control I felt obliged to 'test' all six of the beers numerous times [of note we unfortunately were not given pint glasses, only measly tasting vessels].

After the tour I met up with Steve and we got back onto the road but before we left the city we thought that it would be worthwhile seeing a couple more of Dunedin's must do sights. These included Baldwin St, the worlds steepest at an incline of 1 to 2.36 if I am correct and of course I just had to drive up it. It was soo steep that I had to put the car into low range 4WD and drive up in 2nd gear! After this we just spent the next couple of hours walking around Dunedin's and En Zeds first Botanical gardens. It was the height of the Rhododendron season which made for some rather spectacular walks. There was also a rather impressive Aviary in the centre of the park, the parrots were all out and talking! At this point we were both absolutely starving and as there was a cheap Dominoes Pizza nearby we each bought a pizza sat on the lawns in the dimming afternoon sun enjoying some food and a spot of rugga!

At this point it was getting late in the afternoon and we thought that it'd be about time that we made our way out to the Otago Peninsula for the night. The Peninsula is known for its bird and sea life which we wanted to see before we continued on. We ended up sleeping in the front seats of our car right at the end of a road to a scenic reserve. Awaking early we made our way straight down to Sandfly Bay to see some Sea Lions and boy were we lucky as there were loads of them on the beach lounging in the sun! As they were sleeping you could get up to them pretty close, 10 metre's or so I'd say! There is also a chance to see some penguins and albatross out on the peninsula but we were unlucky on both of those fronts.

The afternoon was spent cruising inland towards Waipouri Falls along a beautiful gravel road right up a beech forested valley. We were heading this way as we wanted to go on the historic Clutha Punt but unfortunately it was close due to repairs. The night was spent in a picnic site again in the back of the car only this time i got the mattress out. It was a great place to sit by the river in the sun with a line in the water hoping to catch something, which of course we didn't whilst reading my book.

The next day, the dreaded next day Steve took over the driving to give me a chance to see some of the scenery. It was brilliant I was enjoying the views across the forests and farmlands of central Otago until, WHABAM we crashed on the PENULTIMATE corner before we made tarmac! It was a sweeping flat right hander, I still remember it clearly in slow motion, as we rounded the corner the back near side hit a deep patch of gravel. The rear end came out, jab of the breaks, a bit of correction we slid to the other side snapped back to the other and rammed into a ditch! We were so close to not crashing but hey I suppose that is the case with a lot of crashes these days. Steve and I were both okay, I was suffering from a bit of whiplash, Steve did not feel any till the next day, but the car was buggered.

To our sheer luck the nicest guy came round the corner literally just after it happened, Dave a local sheep farmer. Fortunate for us he was in his 4X4 ute had a set of tow ropes and was able to pull us out of the ditch. He said that the local copper was a bit of a prat, to put it nicely, and that he did not want the guy coming out and trying to screw us over for speeding or some other misdemeanor! As such he said it would be fine for us to store our car until we figured out what to do with it in his garage, just five minutes down the road. After a cup of super sweet coffee and a long chat about our options he rather kindly gave us a lift into town, showed us around and dropped us off at the local camp site.

Cutting a long story short we were stuck in Lawrence, a small town in central Otago for a couple of days. In the end we decided that we needed to make our way back to Dunedin to buy another car. In the proceeding two days we managed to find a few hopefuls on the internet, sort out a quote from a local wreckers and speak to the local mechanics. Steve and I hitched a lift back into Dunedin with three of New Zealand's craziest girls that we have met so far! On our first day in Dunedin we managed to look at two cars and buy one all in the space of a few hours! Seen as we had a car we thought it would be good to go and view the Otago Museum as we didn't get a chance to last time. After a couple of days in Dunedin we again headed back to Lawrence to try and rid ourselves of the other car as it was a burden to us and the farmer. As it turns out the local wrecker offered us a far better price for the car than we would have been able to get in Dunedin. Eager to get back on the road we went out to Dave's house armed with a crate of beer and a huge thanks said our good buys and continued our journey south.

Driving a little slower and with more due care and attention we made our way towards Balclutha, paralleling the Clutha river before hitting the coast once more and turning south for the Catlins. On the way to the camp site we stopped off at Jacks Blowhole a huge 55m deep, 147m long, and 44m wide open cavern 200m inland from the sea. It was just amazing, when the waves come in they rush along a tunnel inland and shoot out into this cavern ( Getting dark we made our way to the camp site, set up and fell asleep pretty early as we had a big walk the next day.

Setting off early Steve and I started on a 4 1/2 hour/ 14 km walk through the most amazing temperate rainforest. It was just as I imagined the woodlands of NZ to be like, moss covered trees and boulders, fir plants carpeting the floor, lush river valleys, cable bridges across streams, just beautiful. After returning from a rewarding but knackering walk we made our way to the next camp site for the night stopping off at the Purakanui falls, before setting camp beside the sea. The next day we wanted to make it to Invercargill so another early start this time stopping off for the obligatory photos at Slope Point, NZ mainlands most souther point and likely to be the most southerly point I am ever going to frequent in my lifetime! We also visited the 200 Million yr old fossilised forest and MacLenan Falls before entering Invercargill.

Unfortunately for us all of the guest houses were fully booked which mean that steve and I spent the night in the front seats of our cars out towards Bluff. Not wanting to be caught we rose early had a walk round Bluff before checking into our hostel where I have spent the afternoon relaxing reading my book writing this and walking around the museum.

Boy that was a long one, my fingers and back are starting to ache now so I'm off to cook toad in the Hole.

Adios till next time. Jared

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Hey again this time from Dunedin.

Well we finally got the car sorted at a cost of 100 bucks each... ouch! Hey at least it is sorted now, hopefully fingers crossed we'll have no more problems with the car.

Well we ended up having to stay in ChCh for another two days to wait for the car to be sorted and to get the post so we could pick up our insurance doc's for the car. Yeah it was nice but this was the third time that we have seen the darn place now that it got a little boring.

When we did finally make it back on the road we headed south/ west-ish straight away. There is a Lord of the Rings site about 2 hours outside of ChCh that I wanted to see + there was Mt Sommers that I wanted to climb. The LOR site was absolutely amazing, It was so strange right out of the movie (Eldoras), as if we were on set. The road there was also quite amazing, gravel track in the middle of nowhere! Steve was driving so I could get a look at the views. As we were going along at around 60 K's a ford just appeared out of nothing and I tell ya hitting a dry ford at 60 K's is NOT good for the car. Think all four wheels off the ground and SMASH! luckily we have a plate under the car to protect the engine but we did manage to rip the incense plate cover off and put some huge dents in the exhaust down pipes!

The first night was spent on the shores of Lake Clearwater with the most amazing views across a huge valley. As we were so far from any street lighting the stars were pretty spectacular. As we wanted to climb Mt Sommers the next morning we rose fairly early to give us enough time to tackle the climb. Unfortunately once we got there we soon realized that the climb was a little out of our league as it took 2 days to make it too the top! Instead we did a smaller walk up to a tramping hut through some old coal mines which took us around 4 hours and of course it rained. We were absolutely soaked by the time we made it back to the car! Miserable, but fun none the less.

Next stop was Mt Cook/ Aoraki via the best fish and chips that I have had in NZ. Kerry one of the ladies that we worked with told us about this Fish and Chip joint in Geraldine that was on the way to Mt Cook. As she had told us about it we thought it'd be a shame not to stop and sample some good old fish and chips.

On the way to Mt Cook we stopped off at Lake Pukaiki, a large glacial lake formed during the last ice age in NZ. Due to glacial sediment (rock flour) in the water the lake has a brilliant blue/ turquoise colour as the sun light hits it. Its indescribable, very similar if not the same colour as Lake Banff in Canada. Mt Cook itself was rather disappointing as we couldn't actually see the thing! The whole two days that we were there all of the surrounding mountains were completely shrouded in cloud. We did do some of the smaller walks in the vicinity up to the Tasman glacier and the Hooker glacer, but again you couldn't actually see that much. bummer. The night that we did spend there though was bloody freezing, I have never been so cold on the whole of this trip, I didn't sleep much as I was that cold!

Next stop, Pioneer Park, just outside of Fairley. Really nice place in the middle of a forest. We only stayed the one night as we wanted to get on the way to Lake Ohau another 100 k's or so down the road. Next stop was Temple Basin just west of Lake Ohau, we liked it so much in this place that we ended up staying 2 and a bit days here. The campsite was free and it had a shelter with a log fire and a supply of dry fire wood. The first night there we met a young Israeli couple and spent the whoel night talking to them. The next day Steve and I thought it would be a good idea to climb the peak next to the campsite. It was an awesome climb through old beech forest and fields of heather and gorse. The climb was pretty tough as there was no defined path, up through rocky gully's using all four limbs in the howling wind, fun none the less. The view from the top was just amazing across the wide valley floor surrounded by snow peaked tops! The way down though was even better as we stumbled across a huge scree field which mean that we could effectively run down the mountain! The second night was also spent up talking to the Israelis and as they told us that they're walk was so good, Steve and I decided that it would be a shame not to do it ourselves the next day. Imagine walking through an ancient beech forest in a a steep sided valley with snow peaked tops either side. Amazing. Rather disturbingly though there was a sign at the start of the track warning of avalanche paths that crossed the track!

The next day we thought it about time that we made our way to Dunedin for some much needed sleep in a bed as it had been six days of camping. We didnm't make it all the way unfortunately as we stopped off on the way in Omaru on the east coast to see some of the best Victorian buildings in NZ. As such we stayed a night in a small campsite just 50 or so K's north of Dunedin. The next day was spent pretty much on the road to Dunedin only to stop off at the Moeraki Boulders (Huge spherical boulders just placed on the beach, weird).

Dunedin itself is a really nice city, It's said to be the Scottish city of NZ and I can see why. They roll their R's here and there is even a statue of Robert Burns! Steve and I did find a pub though that sold ALES, OH MY GOD an ALE! London Pride, ESB, Fullers Porter, Old Speckled Hen, Green King IPA and Abbot Ale. It was horrifically expensive though but well worth it. The beer was way way to cold but they put them in the microwave for us to heat them to the normal 'English' standard, something they said they did for the locals. The things we'll do for a pint!

Well tomorrow is going to be spent seeing the sites that Dunedin has to offer along with the obligatory Speights Ale Tour!

Adios till next time.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Back on the road again... Nearly

Hi All

Well Steve and I have finally finished work and have hit the road again, if only for a short while, but I'll get onto that a little later.

It feels so good to be finished at work, the last two weeks really have been spent doing the more manual of the farm jobs as Robin (the boss) wanted to get us to do a few things before we left. We pretty much spent the last week picking flowers in the mornings whilst spending the afternoons either digging up the land or shifting timber about the farm. Pretty droll stuff really but hey we're getting paid so I can't complain!

Nights in Sumner/ Lyttleton have also been rather interesting over the last few weeks. The Marine (the backpackers/ pub we're staying in) recently celebrated their 10th anniversary with a huge beach party, attracting all of the locals! Steve and I thought that we'd go a little differently to the norm of beach hats and Hawaiian shirts, as such we decided to don Victorian beach attire made by us. We went to the local $2 clothes shops bought some old white boiler suits, cut the legs and arms off to make a 'one piece' and painted huge red stripes across it. We unfortunately didn't have the knotted handkerchief but people got the jist of it. When we walked into the bar it was pretty apparent that we were the only people in there in fancy dress! It wasn't too bad though as it meant that everyone wanted to talk to us, I even managed to get 3 free pints for swapping my outfit with the local police detectives wife for 20 mins! All in all it was a bloody good night.

Robin and the gang at work have also really sorted us out on our trip round the south island. Robin gave us his key to his batch (beach holiday home infamous among kiwi's) on the west coast at a place called Punakaiki to use for effectively as long as we want (so long as there are no paying guests). Kerry has sorted us out with some accommodation in Twizel and down in Invercargil in another batch. Lauvaunne has given us the contact details of her friend up in the north island to stay with and Gary has given us the details of his batch down in Haast Pass to meet him for some Whitebait fishing! Sorted!

When we finally got on the road though we didn't make it all that far! Our first day on the road was miserable with rain and snow! We were driving some awesome gravel tracks up the side of a mountain to views of well nothing really as it was snowing, cool road though. First night was spent at Akaroa, the only French settlement in NZ, prior to the Waitangi treaty (when us Brits declared NZ as a colony). Quite a quaint little town, again spoiled by the rotten weather. We spent our first two nights out at Onuku farm, with a 1000 acres and 2000 sheep its quite big! Its great though as your allowed to walk all over his land, so Steve and I spent a day just meandering all over the place lapping in the views across Akaroa Harbour. The farm itself was a little strange, too quiet and it seemed like the place that you would get a telling off for putting your feet on the coffee table.

The second place we visit was Peraki Bay, amazing (look it up on google earth/ images) place, you have to ring before hand to get permission to pass through the farmers land. Driving there was just amazing, on the way we stopped off at Opawe Pa (Maori fort) which can only be reached at low tide, to get across you have to climb this razor ridge about 20 ft high, not great in flip flops! There wasn't much there apart from a few ditches and stone works but cool none the less. Back to Peraki though, this place was just too cool. In the middle of no where, we had to go through a few paddocks full of cows and sheep to get to the beach where we set up camp. As it was so remote and there was no light pollution the stars were unbelievable, I have NEVER seen so many stars before in my life, you could even see the Milky Way clearly!

Well after spending a night there we headed over to tops towards Camp Bay. The farmer would not give us permission to camp on her land and because our post (insurance docs for the car) hadn't arrived back in Christchurch we decided to head out to Craigieburn National Park. On the way out there we stopped off at Castle Hill limestone formations. Absolutely nuts, right out of Lord Of the Rings, huge towering limestone cliffs with an amazing mountain backdrop (again look up on google). We didn't hang around for too long as we had to set up camp before it got to dark. We decided to camp at the foot of Broken River Ski area and boy what a night we had! We spent the night drinking by a huge campfire with some real characters, an Aboriginal man who had been living in the woods for 3 weeks as his car had broken down and a Rhodesian man who had been living on the road touring NZ for the last 3 years, nuts I tell ya! boy did we get some interesting stories out of those guys! A good night though.

After a lazy morning we didn't get on the road again til noon and as it was only a ten minute drive down the road we were not too fussed. We parked up at Cave Stream donned our warm gear and flashlights and headed down to the entrance of cave stream. Its a 560m long cave that goes right through the centre of a hill and if the water is not high you can walk right through it! The water was bloody freezing though as there is quite a lot of snow melt coming down from the mountains! It started off with a wade through a waste deep pool and then it was a 200m slog through an amazing cave! Through channels, up little falls, at times when the current was really strong using the rocks to pull yourself up made for an awesome time. Unfortunately we had to turn back at one point because the water was too high and strong. After we made it back out we just sat there in the sun drying out for a while before getting on the road, only we didn't get on the road as such!

The blasted car wouldn't start we had to ask three other backpackers to give us a push through the car park so we could roll the car downhill to bump start it. We finally got back on the road and thought that it were about time that we got the car seen to as we didn't want this to happen when we were in the middle of nowhere!

So here I am sitting in the hostel writing this blog up waiting for the bad news on the car. Hopefully its not too bad and we can get back on the road, I have a sinking feeling that its not going to be cheap.

Anyhow I'll let you all know how it goes next blog update.



Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Soaking up the Sun in Sumner


I guess it's about time that I sat myself down and updated this blog!

Well after heading back to ChCh Steve and I started work at the Gormack's flower farm in Redcliffs just outside of ChCh commuting everyday from Foley Towers Hostel in the centre of town. As it was becoming a pain to get up every morning and commute in we decided that it would be a good idea to head out to Sumner, a town a little closer to our work. Its technically a suburb of the city but it really has a feel of being a completely different town, full of surfers. We ended up staying in the Marine Pub and Backpackers (what more could you want from a backpackers other than being attached to a pub!), a nice little place run by Mel and Doc. Steve and I have pretty my ended up with our own private room as there is not many other guests coming through at the moment so the owners put all of the other backpackers in the other rooms, sorted!

Apart from picking flowers everyday, which is killing me I might add, we have cleared timber piles, dug ditches, trimmed hedges, done some dump runs, bunched flowers for fathers day! You could say that this job couldn't get any more polar!

Through work colleagues we have sorted ourselves out with some good contacts and gear. Robin the boss, lent Steve and I his old ski gear (hideous 80's one pieces I might add, I was going down the slopes with a huge silver bugs bunny on my back!) to go snowboarding on Mt Hutt and skiing at Porter Heights, bloody good fun! No doubt we returned with bumps and bruises! Lana's husband runs a surf school so that has sorted us out with some cheap private lessons at Taylor's Mistake beach down the road. Kerry owns a two seater kayak that Steve and I are going to borrow to go camping on Quail island just off the coast in this large bay next to Lyttleton. Weekends are going to be spent in the not too distant future camping in some of the nearby national parks. Saturday, our nights out are spent [usually] playing snooker at the local RSA (the same as the British Legion) for 40 pence an hour along with super cheap pints at about 1.70, before frequenting the local bars before heading back to our 'pub'!

Well I haven't been up to much else really just the general routine that one gets into with work only this time it's in NZ! I can't wait to Finnish work and get back on the road again, not too much longer 3 weeks!

Adios for now.


Sunday, 2 August 2009

I'm a Lumberjack and I'm okay.... oh and the beging of my New Zealand saga

Hello All from the not so sunny climbs of the Canterbury plains/ Christchurch and christ is it cold!

Well I guess I'd better tell you lot what I have been up to for the last couple of weeks in New South Wales.

After getting quite possible the worst night bus(worse than SE Asian night buses and that's saying something!) to Sydney from Byron Bay I spent the morning in a skanky Internet cafe. I arrived in Sydney at 6 but was not meeting Tom Jansen till 10 which meant that I spent a good hour freezing my arse off on a Central Station platform.

Right the bit before this was written ages ago, I know I am a tad behind on the whole updating the blog thing. I have a job now so you have to forgive me... plus I'd rather go to the pub!

SO lets continue:

Tom picked me up form Roseville station in northern Sydney before spending the afternoon running around Chatswoo/ Chatswong aka Chatswood on the family errands. It was a bit strange at first as I had never met Tom or any of his family before but after a while I felt at ease.

The drive out to Wisemans Ferry was quite stunning really, out along a ridge top looking across the Sydney basin to the Blue mountains in the distance (so named not because of the colour of the actual mountains but due to the blue haze that can be observed on some days arising from the huge number of eucalyptus trees, neat huh!).

Well Wisemans Ferry is gobsmackingly beautiful, Tom owns a plot of land right on the waters edge of the great Hawksbury river, "jazz club". I ended up staying just over a week with Tom, Amanda, Jacob, Emma and Jo and also ended up extending my time in Australia for a few days because I was having such a blast. Tom is by trade a tree lopper and I ended up becoming for a few days during my stay, fine for me as I was earning a few bob (which I quickly spent, oops). First days pay cheque 200 aussie dollars, whoooaaaa I like this job beats office work any day. It is hard work but its outdoors and manual which I prefer and its different everyday, like some days we're chipping a 2 ft diameter tree whilst on others we're pulling down a 60 ft-ter with ropes pulleys and a 4X4!

Days off were spent in a tinney on the river scouting for some fish running out of petrol and floating with the current, walking through the local park and in the Pub! I had some excellent evenings there drinking beer round some rather large bonfires, at the pub bench or on the veranda with Tom Amanda and a fair few of their friends. I also managed to get a job in New Zealand through one of Toms friends Bycie.

I enjoyed my time in Wisemans Ferry so much that if I have the chance and the money I'll get a flight back there for a week or so in November!

Sydney was spent on foot pretty much walking everywhere trying to see as much of the sights as possible. Boy does it live up to expectations though, it was great to see those iconic sights such as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I quite liked Sydney and would definitely go back again. Sydney was also the location of my first Aussie Rules match visit with a couple of dutch guys (Walter and .... the name escapes me?). Aussie Rules is 'alright' but it looks like a comple screw up on the field, players everywhere scrambling for the ball, its also rather long at 2 hours plus! Enjoyable none the less. The evenings rather unsurprisingly were spent sampling the nightlife that Sydney has to offer with the two Dutch chaps that I met. Its not to bad, expensive though!

New Zealand next woohoooo! After getting up at a ridiculous hour to get to the airport I boarded a rather full plane and spent the majority of my time chatting in a aussie bloke called Mark about NZ where to go and what not, I also got the full family story from his side, the camera was out and everything!

Flying over the Southern Alps is absolutely stunning if not a tad turbulent. The wings were flapping big time, along with many of the passengers! On terms of views think of completely forested hills capped in a beautiful carpet of white standing tall over the majestic Canterbury Plains dissected by the many braided streams, stunning.

First impressions of Christchurch... bloody FREEZING! The city itself is nice enough, very green, lovely cathedral, river, squares, very British in that sense but if size defines a city Christchurch (ChCh) certainly is not! Ayslesbury esque (ONLY in size, Aylesbury is dire!) Ther first few days were spent in the best hostel I have EVER stayed in, Dorset house, an absolutely stunning place crammed with character and style with tha added bonus of super comfy beds, electric blankets and super duper powerful showers! Steve and I also bought ourselves a car here. A 1.8 Subaru Legacy all time 4WD (Hi/Lo) quite a bargain at 1600 NZ dollars. After we were all Christchurched out, visiting the museums and art galleries (amazing) and what not we ventured north.

First stop Lake Sumner about 2 hours drive north west of ChCh along some excellent gravel track roads, super fun to dive extra sensibly on, no horse play in the slightest honest! We didn't actually make it to the lake as by the time we got there it was too late to make the three hour walk up there, instead we decided to pitch our tent next to the river and have a walk up one of the smaller hills in the area for some spectacular views across the valley.

Next day we made our way toward Hanmer Springs, a hot springs site another 2 or so hours north. On the way we passed a winery advertising free tasting and of course we just had to go in it'd be criminal not to! The wine was bad though! Hanmer itself does not have too much to offer apart from the hot spring which were nice enough (30 - 41 degrees C) but nothing on par with those found in Iceland. After an afternoon of relaxing in the hot pools we continued north before stopping for the night at a free campsite just south of Lewis Pass, Now this is where the trouble begins!

We woke to the heaviest frost I have ever seen only to find that the damn car would not start, bugger what do we do now? Well we tried bumping the car but the hill was not big enough to get it going, we then thought it would be a good idea to push it into the sun as the engine must be cold, still not starting. A bit of a panic now. We then decided to flag cars down on the road as there was no cell phone signal. After three hours of this we finally found a car full of Maori's with jump leads, excellent. The jump leads didn't work, crap! Luckily he had a tow rope so we got the car going eventually, phew! (it turned out to be a dodgy distributor which we had to get replaced in ChCh).

After we got the car going we drove north to meet Chloe at Picton, stopping along the way in a small campsite on the coast just outside of town. Picton itself has nothing going for it at all, its not ugly but its just plain boring! As such when I finally met with Chloe we spent most of our time outside of Piction, either driving along some excellent coastal roads around Queen Charlotte Sound or sampling some of the fine wines that the Marlborough region has to offer! Prior to starting our wine tour we went to visit Chloe's aunt out at their vineyard, an absolutely beautiful place with superb views. She also cooked us up some excellent muffins accompanied buy a cuppa. Wineries visited in the afternoon included Huja, Bouldervines and none the less Cloudy Bay! All had some very nice wines and some nasty wines, or not to my liking.

Whilst we were up in the region Steve and I enquired about jobs but unfortunately nothing was available until the summer. I did however give a chap called Robin Gormack a call, a flower farmer based in Redcliffs just outside of ChCh and he gave us a job woo hoo!

After dropping Chloe off at the ferry terminal I headed south back towards ChCh to go and start life as a flower farmer. We arrived at Gormack's farm on a rather sunny Wednesday afternoon and pretty much started work straight away! Flower farming I must admit is not the most thrilling of jobs as it rather repetitive but it pays none the less. Days off are spent either recovering from a hangover or driving around Banks Peninsula.

That's pretty much the story so far, in days to come I hope to get onto some of the slopes at one of the local ski fields, do some walking in the hills and save save save.

Hope all is well with every one and ill update a little sooner next time.



Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Sailing the Whitsundays, Roaming Fraser, Boozing in Brisbane, Wave Bashing in Byron


Just got back from an awesome 3 days driving in a 4x4 around Fraser Island. The best fun that I have had in a long while!

Any how back to what I have been up to...

Airlie Beach: The gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. I was walking along the street one morning to go and book a tour and low and behold I saw Matty Rogers walking down the street (an old school mate) what a small world!

I ended up booking a one day tour on board the Maxi Ragamuffin, a old racing yacht. We set sail early on a freezing day without a jumper, Australia is not meant to be cold! It also sucked that that day we were setting off the weather decided not to blow a gale, one a measly breeze! Which meant that we didn't actually get the chance to do that much sailing. Yeah they did haul up the mainsail and the front one (the name escapes me?) but we had to travel for most of it under the motor! None the less it was still an awesome time to be sailing through the Whitsunday Islands. We did also go to Whitehaven Beach, often voted best in the world. The sand is like caster sugar and I am not kidding either, texture and colour!

After another night in Airlie Beach BBQ - ing we decided the next day that, as we did not have that much time left we would mission it to the Town of 1770, a mere 710 km! We did make it in time but arrived after dark, not the best thing to do as there are Roo's on the road and a roo + Car = destruction!

1770 was a nice enough town really small, some excellent views of sandbanks just off the coast and a really nice headland to walk too. Apart from that there was not much else to do, as such we drove to Hervey Bay for Fraser Island.

I ended up booking a 3 day 2 night tour of the island - self drive. Basically they rent the vehicle out for you provide you with all of the equipment that you'd require and you drive around the island with 9 other people in a huge Toyota Land Cruiser. It also turned out that I was turning 22 on the worlds largest sand Island! Not bad Aye! I was also really lucky that the group of people I ended up being with were a right laugh. There were 7 lads all around 20 - 24, all of us seemed to have the same sense of humour which was cool.

After getting up very early one morning for our brief I drove to the hire depot to get the rest of the equipment before heading to the ferry for Fraser Island. Driving on the road was very strange as the car was really front end light, and the brakes were like sponges. As soon as we were on the sand though it was a different story, this beast powered through the deep sand ruts, up some hills i did not think possible. Its also a really really strange thing when you have full right lock but you're going forwards! The views of the island were amazing, huge sand dunes, a 75 mile beach, rocky outcrops, unbelievably clear inland fresh water lakes, beautiful fresh water creeks. Man I need to upload some photos at some point! The evenings were really cold, beer blankets ensued so I [felt] was alright! STARS!, I have never seen so many stars nor the milky way in such splendour before!

When we originally got the cars, we were told that there was a set itinerary that we were to follow. Well lets just say we didn't, we ended up driving all over the island and saw loadsa places that the others didn't. Glad we didn't crash or get stuck as our insurance would have been void! oops.

My birthday was a right laugh, just a bunch of us lads having a few drinks around the camp, as I also had brought my snorkel with me we used that!

When we got back to the mainland it was one of the others guys 22nd birthdays also, so we went out for a 'all you can eat Mexican' and a few beers in one of the local pubs.

The next day Tom n Nicole drove us back to Brisbane to drop off our camper van at which point I split from travel with them to do the last bit on my own. I ended up staying in Base right in the centre of town. I spent only the one real day there walking around South Bank, visiting a few museums along the way. In the evening we all as a group went down to the backpackers bar, before heading out for some nice Italian at one of the local 'art' cafes.

After a 2 hour bus I arrived at Byron Bay at about 10 in the morning and pretty much signed up for a 4 hour surfing lesson that afternoon. It was awesome fun, we drove to Flat Rock which is a beach about 20 mins out of town, which mean that is was quiet compared to the rest. I did after many attempts manage to stand up, oh yeah, get in there! (disclaimer: for about 2 seconds!). Today I have spent the morning shopping for some warm clothes for Sydney writing this monumental blog post and walking out to Cape Byron, Australia's most Easterly (mainland) point!

Anyhow, getting the bus this evening to Sydney before getting the train in the afternoon to meet Tom and Amanda Jansen.

Ciao For now


Saturday, 11 July 2009

Damn beer is expensive!


Australia has rubbish cell signal! and the Internet is expensive here. In fact the whole darn country is expensive with the pound being so weak against the aussie dollar! Oh well I'll just have to work for longer in New Zealand.

I'm again a bit far behind on the updates so I am going to try and keep this one short.

Cairns was pretty cool, I had a really good time there met some cool people ended up going out for the evening and having an awesome time, which I did regret the next day! Tom, Nicole and I also ended up renting a van for the next two weeks to get ourselves to Brisbane! Its pretty cool, it has two double beds, a fridge, cooker, microwave, sink, the works!

Any how we headed north towards Cape Tribulation, the tropical rainforests of Australia and boy is it cool. The views are absolutely amazing the rainforest reaches the sea, I mean it hits the beach! The first night we just thought this looks nice lets pull over and camp for the night. We ended up having, well I did, a few beers by a large campfire on the beach. Idyllic. The next day we just continued north on the coastal road stopping off here and there to look at the view before we made it into Cape Tribulation.

After a couple of days hanging around in Cape Trib we headed back down south towards Cairns again so that I could do some diving on the reef. I ended up having to book with a larger remit which I was not too happy about as I would rather have gone on a smaller boat with fewer people, however expense and time dictated otherwise. For my first dive I decided to take guided as I was a little unsure and boy what a mistake. For one the Dive leader was rubbish, the dive sight was rubbish (it was used as a try dive site so all of the coral was damaged), there were six people in my group which meant that we had to keep coming up to 'drop people off'. The dive leader kept signalling for me not to go too deep, we were at 15m. Not impressed. Needles to say I decided to take the second dive unguided and had a whale of a time. The coral wall was amazing, the fish were amazing, the 'coral canyons' were amazing... you get the idea!

After my day on the reef Tom drove us to The Boulders at Babina. We arrived here quite late, by which time it was dark. Luckily the camp-site was free! We ended up parking next to a northern bloke who looked like he was from the Royale Family! and boy could he talk for Britain! He did give us a load of really useful information as he had spent the last 6 months in a van touring the whole of Oz. We found out that there are loads of places where you can camp for free or didly squat. The Boulders themselves were a collection of huge rocks that filled a gorge creating some brilliantly clear swim pools. We didn't spend too long here as we heard that just down the road was Josephine falls which had some even better water falls and holes to go swimming in. There was a huge natural rock slide that you could hurtle down into another large swimming hole.

After a morning messing around in the watering holes we headed south for Mission Beach only once we arrived it decided to rain. The forecast was for rain for the next two days so we only ended up staying the one night before heading south again this time for Mt Fox and Wallaman Falls (the tallest in the southern Hemisphere!). We never did make it to the top of Mt Fox as we couldn't actually find the start of the path! Bit of a shame. The drive up was absolutely amazing though, basically a single track stuck to the side of a very steep mountain! Instead we headed back towards Wallaman Falls. WOW. 268m single drop meaning that the water turns to mist before it hits the bottom. As it was quite late by the time we got there we had to camp for the night before we made the trek down there. It was a 2km dirt track switch backing down the side of the cliff. Just think of a 300m deep gourge surrounding you by 270 degrees with a hugh waterfall at one end, superb!

We decided it would be a good idea to head south towards Bowen beacuse we thought it had some prety good beaches. The drive took us the rest of the day and as we decided to stop off in Townsville we didnt get there till after dark. Lets just say that both were not that impressive. Townsville was a dump. Bowen, now thats another story. We foolishly though that souther Queensland would be like the North, i.e. you could pull over anywhere and camp. NO! We parked up on the esplanade and ended up getting moved on by the old bill or a $300 fine! As Tom and I had already had a couple of beers Nicole had to drive us to some dirt track 20Ks outta town for an absolutely freezing nights sleep!

Next port of call was the Whitsundays but I'll save that for my next update, my fingers are tired!

Ciao for now.


Thursday, 2 July 2009

I LOVE being a beach bum!

Hi All, from Cairns, Australia!

Well I am not doing too badly, glad to be back in a 'western' country for some food other than that of rice and noodles! Cereal also, milk, beer other than larger, English language everywhere! However there is one problem, major problem, beer... its bloody expensive 3.40 quid a pint whaaaaatttt! Outrage! Oh well not much I can do about it, it's not like I am going to give up consumption!

Malaysia, it's nice.

On the bus from KL to the Kuala Besut for the boat to the Perhentian Islands I met two Lybian guys (Ashraf and Keis) and two Norwegian girls (Caroline and Audhild [;)]). I spent my three days on the Island with them which was cool, the first night because of a lack of bed I slept on the floor on the Lybian guys room for free, not the most comfortable but after a few beers who cares! I pretty much spent the three days either underwater diving or on the beach sun bathing/ roasting! The diving was really good, I managed to get three dives in for a ridiculously cheap price (in comparison to the UK)! Lot's of coral and and LOADS of fish, some cool drifts and one swim-through! The beach, well there is not much to say about that one just sitting there in the sun or floating leisurely in the sea.

The evenings were spent in the local beach bar sitting around low table's drinking Tiger and talking. I have also come to realise that one needs to make a visit to Norway in the VERY near future. Lads if your reading this, any one up for going?

After the Perhentian Island I got a bus from the local mainland town to Singapore overnight. I was lucky enough to have the back row all to myself allowing me to sleep for most of the journey, a rarity!

Singapore like KL is awesome. Lovely city, has all the asian culture but is more developed than London! Neil managed to get me somewhere to crash at his friends house, which is quite possibly the nicest place I have stayed in the last 9 weeks. Their house is really nice, open plan, extremely comfortable bed, AC, TV, sofa, internet that is fast and brilliant company. I stayed with Steve his wife Adhe and their daughter Samantha. The first day was spent pretty much relaxing, recharging those batteries. In the afternoon I got the tube into town to meet tom and nicole for some shopping and dinner on Orchard Street. The second day was also spent walking around the city, Clarke Quay, the CBD, Orchard Street again. In the evening I had some lovely Indonesian food cooked by Adhe with the family and spent the evening drinking beer and watching Top Gear with Steve. The third day before my flight I went to Singapore Zoo with Adhe and Sam in the morning. The Zoo is hailed to be the best in the world as there are no real 'cages'. Surrounding each of the enclosures in a moat an electrified wire as opposed to iron bars. Monkeys seem to just own the place swinging from all of the trees all over the park. The afternoon was spent trying to uplaod some photos onto facebook before going to the airport for my flight.

The flight went okay was not the most comfortable meaning I did not sleep all that much. When we landed in Brisbane before our flight to Cairns for a short while, just so that I could freeze my nut.

Oz in nice though I really like it, a tad on the expensive side but I was expecting that. Tom, Nicole and I rented a Motorhome for the next two weeks today. We pick it up tomorrow and head north. Update of my Aussie travels to follow.

Hope all is well at home with you lucky sods as it appears that the UK is hotter than Australia at the moment... swines!

Adios Jared

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Late again!

Well Hi to all

I am a little late in updating my blog a mix of having no time to go to the Internet, poor if no internet connection and a felling of 'can't be bovered'.

Well anyhow I have been up to quite a bit over the last week or so. I have been in 3 countries since!

Laos and the 4000 islands.

Well first off let talk about Pakxe, a rubbish transit town that I was stuck in for 2 days. Its pretty much the point to stop off if you want to go trekking or get down to the Sii Pan Don (islands in the Mekong river). Trekking was pretty high on my list of things that I wanted to do but not for $165 for two days! I went to the tourist office to enquire and it was just to expensive for me to even consider doing a trek. As a compromise i decided to rent a moto from my hotel and spend the day driving around the Bolaven Plataux, the coffee growing region of Laos. It was pretty interesting beautiful country and some awesome waterfalls! I did manage to fry my arms and fall off the moto on a particularly tricky piece of road. Luckily I was going so slow that no damage was done to either myself or the moto!

After spending the day around the Bolaven Plataux I headed down south to make my way across to Sii Pan Don or the 4000 islands. This was a nice retreat for a couple of days. I pretty much spent all of my time either in a hammock reading or cycling around the small islands. I also went to go see the biggest, by volume, waterfall in Asia! It sounds impressive but its not really, just looks like any old waterfall!

It was also on these islands that I split from travelling with Tom and Nicole to become another lone traveller. They wanted to get on to Phnom Penh before I did + I fancied another day on the island of nothing!


SO afterwards I headed south to Phnom Penh for the mere sum of $23, a complete rip off but they know that you have no other options! I was cramped for most of the journey and at one point did not actually have a seat to myself. We had to change the bus 3 times!

Once in Phnom Penh the usual 'I have tuk tuk but only my place no other' men appeared everywhere. I ended up just getting in one of these with a French guy called Alban and a South Korean called Yousung. The first night was a laugh ended, of course, in a few beers in one of the cheap backpacker bars. The following day was spent seeing the Khmer Rouge sites in Phnom Penh... the Killing Fields at Cheoung Ek and Tsol Stueng Museum (S-21 prison) rather depressing places and to think that it happened only 30 years ago. They pretty much massacred any one they thought opposed their reign of power; this included small children, women and babies, sick.

Anyhow on to least depressing adventures. This day was followed by another night in the local bars before having to rise at a stupid time in the morning for a bus to Siem Reap. Off to see the temples of Angkor Wat and wat an impressive sight they were. [did you get that one, oh god cheesey humour is not good for the soul] We managed to get a free tuk tuk from the bus station to our hotel because the driver thought he was going to be taking us (the Korean guy and I) around the temples for the next two days; he however gave us a stupid price so we sought other transport with the assumption that we would not see him again, and of course we did see him again!

Angkor Wat is a pretty Impressive place but extremely expensive to see, about $57 for two days driving around all of the temples. It is however a necessity if you are coming to this part of the world. Angkor Wat is pretty impressive just for the pure fact that it is the largest religious building in the world, those Khmers certainly know how to build with elegance and style! The carvings on the rocks are just amazing seeing as they are nearly 1000 years old. For atmosphere however there are other temples which are far better just for the pure fact that there are far fewer tourists around; namely Ta Prom or more commonly known as the Tomb Rader Temple. This temple is by far the coolest out of all of the ones at Angkor Wat, its in the middle of a forest and the forest has decided to take over all of the buildings in style draping themselves over 1000 year old buildings... impressive!

Our driver for the two days was a guy called Rath, pronounced Rot! He was a legend really nice guy full of useful information. He had a pretty hard upbringing as he has no parents and spent his formative years being a monk in one of the local temples withing Phnom Penh. At the age of 18 he left the temple in search of work eventually ending up in Siem Reap driving tourists like me around. He earns very little but still wants to give someting back to the kids of Cambodia. He offers ever tourist a free tuk tuk to the local children's hospital for a concert held by this Swiss guy trying to raise money for several children's hospitals throughout Cambodia. I went to one of these and it was a thoroughly enjoyable event, made me feel good.

Bangkok part 2.

After a long and boring bus ride from Siem Reap to Bangkok I ended up sharing a room for the night with an English guy called Shaun and an Italian/ German/ Swedish guy and what a night we had. We thought it would be a good idea to bar crawly Kho Sanh Road. Great ideal at the time I really enjoyed it as it was a random event but boy did I ever regret it the next day! I had to be up at 6 to get the bus to the airport in time for my flight to Kuala Lumpur, I felt haggard.

Kuala Lumpur and my weird arse flight.

So there I was sitting quite happily reading my book waiting for the plane when this German guy sits next to me and starts talking, for ever. I found out that he worked for Interpol in Thailand, had visited most of the worlds war zones, supposedly set up the governmental aid scheme for Tsunami victims in 2004 and wait has the best idea in the world. He thinks that building a load of towers throughout America and the world dedicated to charity is going to work. He also informed me that he had an invitation to meet Barak Obama, Valadimir Putin, the Jap Prime Minister among others to explain his idea. Weird. He also insisted that I wear a surgical mask on the plane because of the influenza scare. Interesting.

Well Kuala Lumpur is an Awesome City. I have spent the day today just walking around all of the sights. Seeing some of the old colonial British buildings and of course the Petronas towers. The towers are amazing they completely dominate the skyline both at day and night! I also went up to the sky bridge to look at the sights all around this was an amazing experience and also a really scary one! It was scary because the bridge is at the height of the bungee jump that I want to do in NZ, whoooaaaa it is high! I think I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it!

Well anyhow I have been jabbering on for far too long now, off to the Perhentian islands tonight on a bus then Singapore.

Adios till next time.


Friday, 12 June 2009

I am now a Mahoot... well kinda

Howdy from Vientiane the capital of Laos

Reading the news over the last few days it looks as if labor got a kicking, who'd though that was going to happen!

Anyhow traveling is more interesting than politics!

So Luang Prabang... a really nice place to sit and do..... well nothing really but walk around and see the sights. The town itself has something like 750 + Monks and 52+ temples in the centre! Everywhere you look there is a bunch of novice monks walking around in their orange robes with a whole bunch of books. The temples are amazing, there was one in particular at the very end of the peninsula that was decorated in high images made entirely of colored mirrored glass, it was great to just sit here and read whilst watching the sun set with the monks in evening chant in the background. The food was pretty good too, lots of quaint little art cafe's which were half art gallery half restaurant. There was also a pretty good night market where you could pick up almost anything at a bargain price. A couple of the evenings we ended up going to the local book shop to watch a film for free before going for a couple of drinks in the bar next door.

Luang Prabang was also where we booked our elephant trekking from! It sure did cost a few squiddlies but it was worth it! The first day we got a bus out to where the elephant village was, about 15 k's from the town out in the countryside. We arrived and pretty much got straight onto an elephant. Of course there was the obligatory welcome, do's and don't etc but they were all common sense. I was lucky enough to be on an elephant by myself so the mahoot said I could sit 'up front' on the neck! Not as easy to sit there as you might think. Its right on top of the animals shoulders so you end up having to lean on the head to save from falling! We were out for about 40 minutes before coming back to the camp where they taught us to drive the elephants, i.e. pai = go, how = stop, sai = left, khawp = right, seung = bend your leg so that i can step on it while you push me up, map = lay down, wai wai = speed up!

To get on the elephants is strange, you have to grab a hold of its right ear shout seung, step on its leg and haul your ass up there using its ear!

The afternoon was spent in the river. I'd though it's be a good idea to swim across to the other side of the river as the current was 'not that strong'... boy how wrong was I. I made it about half way across when I started thinking oh boy I'm not going to be able to make it to the sand bank, I then thought it would be a good idea to swim harder against the current, only to knacker myself out! Fully fledged panic now as I could not touch the bottom and I was being swept further down stream and did not fancy a long walk back. On the other side was when I started thinking how on earth am I going to make it across. I ended up walking 100 odd yards up stream to give me plenty of time and angle to swim across! Nice water though. After this, we headed back to the elephants and walked them into the jungle where they sleep before heading for dinner.

The next morning was by far the best bit, we walked out to the jungle where we dropped the elephants off at about 6 in the morning to go back to the river to wash them! The elephants just piled right in to the middle of the river before completely submerging themselves and me! They seemed to really like the water and would angle their head for you so that you could scrub and splash water over them. There was no where near enough time to do this but still it was fun.

That same afternoon we got the bus to Vang Vieng the travelers must go to point of Laos. Its basically a town of bars bars and more bars selling cheap food and booze. It is also the location of the famed tubing in Laos. They give you a tractor inner tube bus you 4 klicks up river drop you in and you float leisurely back via some more bars of course! As it was obligatory we thought it'd be a shame not to do this! We only spent one night here as we wanted to make our way down south via Vientiane.

Vientiane, not great as we already knew, got here last night and am leaving tonight for Pakse. Its your typical SE Asian capital, lots of people (to Laos standards) and loads of smog everywhere that its almost choking. We only cam here to get our Cambodian visas.

Any how next update will be from Pakse, off there to go trekking in the Bolaven Plateau (Coffee central for Laos) and to sit and not do much in Xe Phan Don (4000 islands, a bunch of river eytes), then Cambodia.

Adios for now


Sunday, 7 June 2009

Bong's, Busses and Border crossings!

Hi all, this time I am writing from Louang Prabang, Laos a beautiful country!

The last few days, well week of my travels have certainly been interesting.

My last day in Sapa before heading for the border was a really good one, muddy and wet yes, but good. Rather spookily in the room next to me was Audrey, a French Canadian girl whom I briefly spoke to all the way back in Hoi An! It seems that in Vietnam once you have met some one you'll keep seeing them time and time again. Well anyhow it turned out that Audrey had managed to find a local guide called Chi to show us round some of the local villages. I had spent the day before asking around to see If any of the locals could show me around but it seemed that there were only tour companies who charge ridiculous prices. Speaking to Chi it was also apparent that the hotels etc keep 75% of the price, FOR WHAT! ringing up a local guide for you using their phone... scam.

Well any ways we set off towards the other side of the town away from all of the other tourists to a couple of villages before getting a moto back up the mountain to Sapa. It was really nice as it seemed that we were getting off the 'beaten track' and seeing some of the villages that other tourist don't go to. The morning started off a little dreary from the the low clouds that seemed to haunt Sapa during our stay, but soon enough we had dropped down low enough to evade them and boy what a sight. There were rice paddies everywhere on some pretty unbelievable slopes too! Well Chi led us right through the middle of them, walking along the paddy walls getting covered in the clayey mud, wet too. It was really good traveling with Chi as she had some much knowledge of the surrounding plants, she got me to scrub the plant in my palms which turned them indigo blue for 4 days! She also pointed out to us all of the hemp (which stank), tea and herbal remedy plants that they use for all their minor ailments. At the end of the trek we went to the local village where Chi cooked us up a lovely vegetable noodle soup before heading back up the mountain.

After getting a well needed shower we headed out to the local food stalls for some dinner and on the way we happened to pass quite possibly the coolest bar in Sapa. Artista Cafe owned by guy called Lhung, pronounced Hung with a low U and a G with your tongue held at the back of your throat. Anyhow Lhung brought us out a whole load of permanent markers for us to draw all over the stools and tables, cool huh! After a few beers and a chat with Lhung about his cafe, life and family etcetera he brought out what appeared to be a huge bamboo bong. I'd seen these all over Hanoi before but had never asked what they were, whackey backey or just plain old tobacco. As it turns out is tobacco, not just any plain old tobacco Black Hmong tobacco from the hill tribes around Sapa. You can guess where this is going, Lhung offered it to us to try and as I was the nearest to him I tried first; the guinea pig! MISTAKE! So Lhung lights the bong gets it going and passes the pipe over for me to try, well here goes I took a big old puff and WHOOOOAAAAAA I thought I was going to pass out, the biggest head rush! It was ridiculously strong tobacco I ended up coughing an spluttering all over the place belching smoke much to the amusement of everyone in the bar! Safe to say the next person took a much smaller puff!

Now here is for the really interesting part of my travels and this bit relates to the title of this post. We had heard from loads of travelers that the northern Vietnam/ Laos border crossing was the worst, and yes it was. At least it was an unforgettable experience!

The next day we wait for the bus, 1/2 hour late and already pretty packed with people! We thought that as the bus was full we were the last to be picked up, wrong, the driver managed to find space for 4 more people to get in! Okay so we start out and 10 minutes later we stop, whats going on, oh the drivers must be changing... no they decided it would be a good idea to light up a bong like the one i spoke of earlier and take a few chugs. It turns out that every 40 minutes the drivers decided to swap and smoke the whole time during the 10 hour slaughter to Dien Bien. On the way to Dien Bien we had to wait at two road blocks for landslides and a burst tyre! Although it was cramped and yes it was long this part of Vietnam is the most remote and has some of the best scenery which made it worthwhile. So we get to DBP stay the night and get up for the 05:30 bus the next morning to the Laos border. This border is in the middle of nowhere not a village in sight for miles just two grand border gates sitting atop adjacent mountains, pretty cool. We pass through with relative ease, a rarity, and make our way towards Muong Kiew. This took about 8 hours but no landslides this time just beautiful scenery. Rather disturbingly there is deforestation everywhere, slash and burn style, speaking to some people it appears that the Chinese have a hand here getting at all the timber out before anyone else!

Mong Kua, a nice riverside town of dainty little shacks. Well anyhow the bus drops us off right at the river edge and we have to get a small boat over to the other side before carrying on to the next stop.. Udomxai... a dump. Im glad that we only had one night here before getting a bus to Nong Kiew and a longtail boat to Muong Ngoi. The boat up the Nam On river to Muong Ngoi was interesting as its the rainy season out here the rivers are high and quite turbulent :S! Well Muong Ngoi is a nice little village, our shack was pretty cool looking over the river and mountains from the hammock. I spent the first day here just sitting in the hammock reading, bliss. The second day we trek up one of the local paths to a cave with a Israeli girl called Sharet. Luckily I bought my dive torch with me so that we could illuminate the whole darn cave! We went right inside so that when I turned the torch off it was pitch black, thinking now we would have been totally screwed if I'd ran out of power! A little further down the path we come across a few rice paddies and a small collection of villages, it raining pretty hard at this point so we decide to head back to the village for another afternoon in the hammock asleep.

After Moung Ngoi we got the boat/ bus to Louang Prabang but I'll save this town for my next blog with the elephant trekking tomorrow!

Adios Jared

Monday, 1 June 2009

Dead Unkle Ho, the night train and a wet wet Sapa!


This time from a rather wet Sapa, it seems to just rain here meaning that you can't see a damn thing!

Any how on our last day in Hanoi we though it would be a good idea to go and see good old Uncle Ho in his huge mausoleum! It was certainly interesting. We some how managed to enter the site via the tour/ pre booked appointments point. Before you even enter the site you have to hand your bag into security and walk through a metal detector! Any how we were in the line waiting to go through the detector and I got talking to a S Korean spacial needs teacher who was on a tour. They were all very nice and asked to have their photo's taken with us! Well as we walked through the detector towards the que, some 400m long, a guard gestured to us to return to the rear at which point the Korean spoke out and said that we were part of their tour group! This meant that we managed to get right to the front of the line, much to the disgust of the rest of the tourists in the line!

Telling the truth its not all that impressive [a sin to the Vietnamese] you get chaperoned through rather quickly just getting a short glance at Ho Chi Minh. The way it is set up with the lighting you would have no idea that the person was real, it looks like a wax figure at Madame Tussuad's. I can still say that I have seen Ho Chi Minh in the flesh!

After seeing Ho we went to another pagoda in Hanoi and then pretty much sat about for the rest of the day waiting for our train. The train is quite possibly the best way to travel long distances, so comfortable that I actually managed to get a full nights sleep!

Sapa, what a disappointment, not because of the town just for the pure fact that its constantly cloud shrouded! I can't see anything and these are meant to be the best mountain views in the whole of Vietnam! We ended up renting moto's and driving up the the highest pass in the country 1920m but just ended up getting totally soaked and not seeing anything. I did have tea in a shack with two hmong girls. Today I think we're going to walk down the valley and see if we can go to some of the villages.



Friday, 29 May 2009

A HUGE update as I am so far behind!

Hello All

Its been a while since I last updated so I am going to have to keep this one short otherwise I'd be writing an essay! I did try to update a few times in the past but the computer crashed so I lost all that I wrote!

Dalat to Hoi An via Nah Trang:

The bus from Dalat to Nah Trang was absolutely amazing right through the Central Highlands, the views were just like the Alps less the snow, plus a whole load of trees completelty covering the mountains. The road is IDEAL for a nice fast car or a motorbike, very new and wide sweeping corners!

After arriving in Nah Trang about midday we went straight to Sinh Cafe to book our tickets that night to Hoi An. After that Gilles and I decided to rent a moto and explore the local area. Unfortunately we ended up with a complete hump of junk... a Chinese moto. The gears did not work too well when changing and the steering was to be desired! Anyhow we ended up driving about 40 klicks to Bo Ho water falls, much nicer than those at Dalat, not as touristy a good little trek up through the river valley. They were also ideal for swimming in, although there was an absolutely massive spider on the rocks next to the water!

THe night bus to Nah Trang was alright, not the best seats in the world and they were not exactely designed for westiners, none the less they were more comfortable than a sitting bus. [think semi reclined seats like smaller beds]

Next up Hoi An - an altogether beautiful city. Its a world heritage sight meaning that all of the old buildings have to be retained in their current state and any rennovations have to be done to the exact standards of the old. Though walking around for the day was very nice we did fry as it was the hottest day so far! For the afternoon we decided to rent cycles and head to the beach. That evening was Gilles birthday so we headed out to a nice restaurant and he ended up treating all of us to a meal and some Vietnamese wine [not as bad as you would think, like a french red]

The next day we rented cycles once more and took a ferry to Cat Kim island (an eyte really in the middle of the river. The island was quite nice, no tourists but bloody hot again! It seems to be an island wholly dedicated to the production of reed mats, which was interesting. This time it was Tom's birthday so again we headed out to a nice restaurant and had a few beers, although this time we had to pay!

That evening we also decided to rent moto's as we though it would be a good idea to head out to some ruins called My Son before our afternoon bus to Hue. We got up at 4:45 and left at about 5:15, so so early! It was only meant to take us about an hour to get there but we took a wrong turning and ended up going the long way round taking more like 1:45 mins! What was really cool was that we were the first tourists up there apart from a smattering of the local artists getting up early to paint. The ruins were quite an amazing sight, to think that there were built nearly 1000 years ago!

Hue - Dong Hoi - Hanoi

That afternoon we took the bus to Hue and I soon realised why the company we went with was the cheapest in town, not the best ride a little hot and sticky as the AC was not too effective!

We only ended up staying one day in Hue as there is only one real sight and that is the old Citadel. We ended up walking around it for about 4 hours! Very interesting, asian architecture is quite amazing, how on earth did they build what they did when they did!

The next afternoon we got our first train in Vietnam to Dong Hoi! Very interesting; we decided to go for the hard seats as it was the cheapest and its how all the locals travel. When you see documentaries like Michale Palin in India, just think about those trains and you have the perfect picture in your head! I had one guy sleeping on the floor under the seat by my legs!

Dong Hoi was okay not the nicest town but not the worst. We were only using it really as a gateway to Vinh Moc tunnels and Phong Nha cave (oldest in Asia, and some brits recently unearthed another larger cave which might be the largest in the world!). The first day we spent going to the beach and trying to sort out a taxi to both the cave and the tunnels, however whenever we asked someone they said it was only possible to see one of the sights and that if you wanted to see both you'd have to spend two days (which we could not do). I rather regrettably had to chose between the tunnels and the cave. I went for the cave as it was another world heritage sight.

That evening we ended up in the street bar across from the hotel and ended up having a whail of time! Gilles, Tom and I ended up drink far too much with some local lads who paid for it all. They even drove us on their motos for a late night Pho Bo (beef soup). Excellent evening that I'll never forget. One of the lads was also a taxi driver who took us to the caves the next day for a good price.

The cave I must admit was very impressive, I have never seen anything so big in my life it look about 20 minutes in a boat just to reach the back of the cave! Again I cant really describe it, just massive full of features, look it up on the internet Phong Nha Cave.

After finishing at the cave we headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags and head to the bus pickup point before we headed to Hanoi. It was at this point that it became very apparent that it was easy enought o see both the caves and the tunnels if you got up early enough, so i am a bit gutted that i did not see the tunnels, it just means that I am going to have to come back to Vietnam again to see them!

On that point this is one of my pet hates about Vietnam, everyone seems to be onyl interested in helping you our if there is the thought of some money at the end of it!

Nearly done!

The night bus to Hanoi was really lucky as it was mostly empty so we ended up getting two beds each across the back of the bus making for a good nights sleep!
best night bus so far, not full so ended up having two beds on the back.

and finally:

Hanoi and Halong Bay

We arrived in Hanoi at about 5:30 in the morning and headed straight for the hotel which seemed to get good reviews, it was not even open yet! we had to get the night guard to let us in.

We pretty much dropped our bags off had showers gave our washing in and headed out to the city to walk around. Hanoi is a really nice city, lots of character to it, loads of old French colonial buildings about. We also spent this day sorting out our Laos visas and trying to find a company to visit Halong Bay with, which in itself took half of the day up! In the end we went with our hotel which was a good idea.

Our first evening in Hanoi we went to some the of most infamous bars in town. Bia Hoi Ha Noi! A local brew produced daily shipped to the local bars and sold for a measly sum of 30p per glass! Makes for a good evening!

The next morning we got up pretty early and headed to Halong Bay....AMAZING! We got there had lunch on the boat whilst we headed out to the bay of some 1969 limestone karst islands. Its one of the most beaultiful places that I have evere seen. Unfortunately it is one, if not the biggest tourist attraction in Vietnam, but still worth the crowds to go an sail around. In the afternoon we stopped off next to a floating village donned some life vests and were let loose in some kayaks to paddle around the bay for 40 minutes or so. This was really cool going right up to sheer cliffs into semi submerged caves and through floating villages! The evening we anchored up and started jumping off the boat for a bit of a swim. Today we sailed back to Halong City to get the bus back to Hanoi and here I am 1519 words later siging off to go to sleep.

Boy that was a marathon essay. Hopefully I'll not have too much of these!

Tomorrow were going to see Ho Chi Minh in the morning and then take a night bus to Sapa.

Adios will update once in Laos I suspect in about 3days time.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Mui Ne and Dalat on the Moto!

Morning All

Just a very quick update from Dalat before I get my bus to Nah Trang, its 6:50 in the morning at the moment.

One thing that you realise about Vietnam is that everyone gets up very early. At 5:00 am this morning there was some loud music playing in the street outside our window!

My Breakfast has just arrived; I'll update this once I am finished!

Finished breakfast now!

I don’t think that I am going to have time to update this one properly, I'll have to wait until later today when I am in Nah Trang or tomorrow when I arrive in Hoi An.

Finally I am getting the chance to update this bit properly, this time from Hoi An; a lovely city.

Our first day at Mui Ne we rented two moto's between the four of us for 90'000 dong each ($5 per moto!). That evening Giles and I drove the motos to the 'Red' dunes to watch the sun set, it was nice but these particular sand dunes are too commercialized as they are just out of town and were full of Vietnamese tourists.

The next day we got up at about 4:45 to go and watch the sun rise which was nice as there were not too many people at the dunes at this time in the morning. One of the best things about getting up at this time is that is nice and cool! After watching the sun rise we made our way to the white dunes (30km away + much better). I really like renting moto's as you can just stop at any point and take a photo, have a coffee at a local bar or anything!

The white sand dunes are quite something, as you walked in to the middle of them there was nothing to say that I was not in the middle of a desert! At this point it was about 10 in the morning and it was already getting unbearably hot. So we decided to make our way back to Mue Ne to walk up the 'Fairy Stream', which was alright but a little dirty. This kid decided to follow us and then tried to ask for money as a guide. Guide for what! There is only one way to walk in a river! I suppose that, that is one of my main gripes about Viet Nam; it seems that everyone including the children are out to make some money out of you in some way or another.

Anyhow after seeing all of the sites in the morning we headed back to our hotels for a little siesta to get out of the midday sun. The late afternoon was spent in the sea and sleeping on the beach.

The next morning we got the bus to Dalat, which was the worst one that I have been on so far! We were in a minibus designed for the Vietnamese, 5 people across the back... we did NOT fit. The road was diabolical full of holes!

Dalat was a nice enough city, not the best but still good. One of the best things about it was that it was high up in the mountains which meant that the weather was nice and cool. You could sleep in a room without a fan and for the first time I had top use a blanket!

Again we rented a moto in Dalat so that we could head out to Lang Biang Mountain to trek up to a peak of 2169m. The views from the top over the central highlands were really good, could see for miles! The climb up was a pain though, really steep in places necessitating the use of all four limbs. The afternoon we headed back to Dalat before heading out to Dantala Falls, quite impressive but a little touristy. We got stuck there as I experienced my first proper monsoonal downpour. I have NEVER seen so much rain, got absolutely soaked!

The next morning we headed for Hoi An via Nah Trang!

bye for now.


Saturday, 16 May 2009

Can Tho Night, Saigon, Mui Ne

Hello All Again,

Update from Mui Ne now, which is a nice beach location really hot, nice sand, nice beach sand dunes.

The last night of Can Tho was absolutely amazing! I went out with this French guy called Giles, who we have been traveling with for the last few days (I suspect we'll be traveling together for the next few weeks). We went to Bar 79 in Saigon, tiny joint off some side street, sat down had a few beers then these two old Vietnamese Guys came and sat down next to us, so we got talking for a while which was really cool. Some of the people out here are so friendly especially if you go to the bars that are not for the tourists and for the locals. After sitting with these two Vietnamese guys for a couple of hours Giles and I started to get up and leave, after to old boys had left, a whole table of 20 something’s invited us to sit down with them and eat. They also bought us a beer and decided it would be the perfect occasion to buy a bottle of rice wine and feed us copious amounts. Not the best this I must admit before getting a bus at 8 am the next morning!

Saigon was our next port of call, a pretty cool city, unbelievably busy! We stayed right in the centre of town in the main backpacker area. I did all of the touristy things that there are to do, visited the independence palace (where the southern Viet Govt was run from and is still occasionally used today), went to the rich district, very nice. I also went to the US war crimes museum, which quite possibly the best museum that I have been to in a very long time. I found it fascinating, horrifying, deeply moving and extremely educational all at the same time. It’s just interesting to get the view from the other side. Unfortunately I do not have photos of Saigon and the damn battery ran out on both my camera and my phone!

The first night in Saigon we went to meet on of toms friends in a really nice bar, bloody expensive though! The second we decided to opt for one of the local cheap bars. It seems that there are so many more travelers out here that I have met in Kampot, Ha Tien, Can Tho, Saigon and now Mui Ne!

Arrived in Mui Ne this afternoon, straight to the beach and in the sea for a good couple of hours. Rented a moto this afternoon and drove to some massive sand dunes just outside of the town to watch dusk. We're all getting up at 4:45 tomorrow to watch the sun rise over at the dunes, and on that note I had better be getting to bed to get some much needed rest.



Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Can Tho and the Floating Markets

Hello all from Can Tho this time,

Boy was the bus from Ha Tien to Can Tho an interesting one! The drivers over here are nuts, they overtake on blind bends, with cars coming the other way playing chicken and talegate like you would not belive. It took about five hours to get here and it was not exactly comfortable, no AC just four 40!

Can Tho itself is a nice enough city of about 1 million people they all seem friendly enough, plus its a hell of a lot cleaner than anywhere else that we have been.

Oh before I get onto Can Tho I forgot to let you lot know about Hon Chong. When we got to Ha Tien we managed to find a travel agent that had only been open for a day or two so we managed to get some good deals out of them. Between the three of us we had a chauffeur in a nice new 4x4 drive us around for the day to all of the local attractions for the measly sum of 10 - 11 dollars! We drove to some of the local pagodas inside karst caves, the local beach, and what they call the little Ha Long Bay of the south [not at all], it was all very nice but a little crowded though as it is currently the Vietnamese holiday high season! You would not believe how many people were in the caves, all of them stopping before Bhudda and praying!

After we returned from Hon Chong we got the bus at 04:45 to Can Tho...

I have already mentioned my first impressions of the city, so on to what I actually got up to. THe first day we pretty much walked around soaking it all in, down to the local market to get some fruit (which is amazing over here!) across to the river to some other markets. We also booked a river tour with our hostel for about $11 for a 8 hour cruise through all of the floating markets in the area, + the back water canals and rice paper factory. While walkig along the street we met this French Guy who asked for directions and about boat tours. In the end we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around with him. He also came on the boat tour with us today, which was really cool. It started with a slow meander down the Mekong, or one of its delta tributaries, to watch the sunset. After we frequented one floating market, ate some pineapple, and some fruits that I have never had before nor do I know the name of them, none the less they were lush. Rice factory next, rather interesting place, i never new they made noodles that way (photos will eventually follow). We then went to another market followed by a visit to a restaurant to have some coconut, jack fruit and a massage! Our guide that showed us around for the day was a complete nutter, he started a food fight in the middle of the market between some of the boats. We were all throwing food peel at each other in the end!

Any how I am going to have to cut this one short as I am quite hungry, and I need to start uploading some photos, which takes ages!

Adios for now.


Sunday, 10 May 2009

Vietnam At Last: The Mekong Delta!!

Hello All

This time from the Ha Tien in the Mekong Delta.

I've only been here for three hours and already Vietnam seems to be a pretty cool place!

I guess I'd better update you lot on my travels over the last few days.

After staying the night in Kampot we went on a tour of Bokor National Park with Keyman Tours. It involved a 6-7 hour jungle trek to the top on the mountain where there was an old abandoned French colonial settlement for the right and famous, and a trek back down the next day (but we managed to get a lift in the back of a lorry for 1 USD!!). It was quite possibly the wettest thing that I have ever done, I could not believe that I was able to sweat that much, every single piece of clothing that I was wearing was soaked through. Think about climing Snowdonia in thick rainforest and 30 degrees C heat! Not an easy task. It was a bit of a man challenge though to keep up with the local park rangers [which i did managed to do]. Tom and Nicole managed to see a Monkey, and the ranger apparently with them pointed out to a bear! All I saw was a snake and some huge ass spiders.

Once at the top of the hill it was really cool and misty, the whole top seemed to be shrouded in cloud for the whole day and for most of the evening too. The mountain is pretty much a plateau which the French built a village for the rich and diplomats in order to get out of the heat. All of the building are in poor order, except for the old hospital which they now use as a base for the NP and a guest house for trekkers. Words can't really describe what I saw, you'll have to wait for me to upload some photos. Think of a big hotel/ casino built in the 1920's by the french which is now empty, just a shell. There were school buildings, a post office, another hotel, some houses, government buildings and a church really quite surreal!

The next day we managed to persuade one of the workers up on the hill to give us a lift back down to the entrance of the park for a dollar, saving us a 32 km hike, not too bad aye!

The same afternoon we got a tuk tuk to Kep and then a boat to Koh Tonsey (Rabbit Island). The boat journey there and back was really interesting to say the least. We were in a pissy little fishing boat in 1-2m swell, i swore that we were going to capsize a couple of times! It was good to get to the Island just to sit in your stereotypical beach hut made from bamboo and bannana leaf in a hamock watching the world go by. I pretty much managed to read 90% of my book in one day!

I just have to add this bit, I've just had some old Vietnamese guy leaning over my shoulder for the last five minutes completely besotted with what I was typing! He was talking to be but I didn't really understand what he was saying.

Any how time to sign off and get some dinner!

Plan for the next few days is:

Ha Tien --> Hon Chong tomorrow
Hon Chong --> Can Tho

I dont know the rest yet!

Anyhow Adios!


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Bokor National Park + Kampot

Hello again

Now I'll give you all a longer update.

After leaving Bangkok we got a bus from the eastern bus station to the border for 2.60 quid, a five hour bus journey, bloody cheap! This was our first border crossing, an interesting one, from which I learnt alot! You soon realize that being in a country such as Cambodia no one will do anything for free! This guy just grabbed my passport and started filling in the forms for me to hand into the officials, i thought he worked for the border team, no the cheeky bugger wanted me to pay him for filling out my forms! Basically we told them to piss off and just walked to our taxi and drove off. The taxi is another story, taxi's everywhere over hear take you to a hotel of their choice where they get commission for dropping you off. In the end you just have to say no and walk off! We didn't stay in Koh Kong for long as we arrived by night and it did not seem to be that good of a place. After that we got a bus to Sihanouk Ville for 9 bucks.

Sihanouk Ville was even worse, the place was a complete dump. The beach was filth and the area just seemed to be full of bars for the tourists, of which there seem to be hardly any in this country! The beach was full of rubbish and effluent from the bars seems to be pumped straight out onto the beach/ sea! We had to go here though to get our Vietnamese Visas as this is meant to be the best place to get them. The visa is quite expensive at $40 but it took 20 minutes to process!

After Sihanouk Ville we got a share taxi from just outside the local market to Kampot, a much nicer town, for around $6. Kampot seem to be a nice place, a little run down if I'm honest but full of really old French colonial buildings. Yesterday afternoon we chartered a boat to take us up to Techou rapids, about a 1 1/2 hour boat. There were some amazing views across the valley, loads of riverside fishing villages, your stereotypical stilt houses with reed roofs! The rapids were a bit of a disappointment as we found out only once we were up there that the government have decided to build a dam up river just around the corner effectively slowing the flow so much that the rapids seemed to be just a trickle of water!

This afternoon we got a tuk tuk to a buhddist temple that was built in the middle of a cave. The local village kids took us round the caves and deep into them crawling through some rather small gaps to get back out, only by torch light for about 12p, they were happy though!

Tomorrow were trekking through the jungle with a a local guide to Bokor National Park which is meant to be really nice, it takes two days and you sleep up there in the old rangers station!

After this I think that we're off to Kep and Koh Tonsay Island then we head for the Vietnamese border at Hat Chien (only opened recently to johnny foreigners) through the Mekong Delta to Saigon.

I'll hopefully be able to update once I am in Vietnam.

Adios for now.

Hope all is going well at home.