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.