Ah the land of the illusive kiwi, both the fruit and the bird, which actually look fairly similar if you snap the bird’s head and limbs off (sorry I’m tired). My month has come to end and I’ve seen heaps, been on more buses then any human should have to endure in a lifetime and spent loads of time forgetting which country I’m in – in my defence it looks a lot like the UK and Canada too.
I entered not having a clue that the sneaky New Zealanders have decided to mix the English language up a bit and swap all the vowels round. I’s become E’s or U’s and U’s become E’s etc etc. So it’s ‘Fush and Chups’, six becomes sex and ‘c’mon sit on my dick’ is an invite you may want to take up. Everything in New Zealand is ‘sweet as’ and we’re all ‘bros’. The locals are super relaxed and laid back but that’s probably because they get rid of any stress and angst via a ridiculously high adrenaline hobby of some variety.
You have to try a Kiwi Berry if you come here! It’s a mini kiwi with soft green skin you can eat. It’s just overtaken Mangosteen as my favourite fruit.
So where have I been, what have I been up to.
Wanaka: I did not spend long enough here! It a bloody gorgeous little town on a lake. I took about 500 photos in 30 minutes because I’d never seen anything as absolutely perfect, like a scene from a book. Even the dogs are so tranquil they don’t walk they enjoy a bit of SUP (Stand Up Paddle) instead. Here I also experienced my first ‘Hokey Pokey’ flavoured ice-cream, it’s a delicious caramel type flavour, and a local delicacy so it had to be done.
Queenstown: Oh man I love this place. I didn’t want to leave. The Canyon Swing was a weird kind of baptism or an initiation to Queenstown, which left me euphoric for the rest of my stay. The town and bars have a very apres ski feel, which is hardly surprising as in the winter month’s it turns into a very popular ski and snowboard destination. You can do any outdoor activity you could possibly imagine here. The only let down is Fergburger – everyone says you have to get a burger at this joint and you can always expect to queue out of the door. Yes they’re huge but big is not necessarily beautiful boys and girls, someone forgot to add the flavour.
Abel Tasman: Umm yeah it’s an alright really big national park. The 5 hour trek didn’t particularly inspire me, but glimpses of the sea and it’s ridiculously unnatural blues were pretty special. The hang gliding was was cool though, I actually felt like a bird. I got dragged up by a micro-light and when it released us we spun and looped our way down – sweet as! I also stayed on a boat hostel here which I loved, they have to come and pick you up in a dingy.
Central Otago: This region is remote, great if you prefer sheep to people. I did a 40k leg of the Railway cycle route, around the mountains and the countryside is incredible. Oh wow I nearly forgot, there’s a Curling rink here! As a sport I’ve always thought curling was a bit questionable and had semi-joked that I’d probably make it into Team GB’s curling team if I gave it a shot. Turns out I was absolutely right. After a couple of aherm practise goes where my power and aim were a bit out, I mastered it and launched the victory shot. It’s actually hilarious, kind of like ice lawn bowls. Sweeping is hysterical and is the only part of the game which you can potentially get a sweat on.
Doubtful Sound: Disappointing. Not a lot going on here and if you’ve ever been on a walk amongst green plants then you’ve done all that this place has to offer. Too harsh? Maybe. I also went kayaking… it was pretty and I saw penguins! These penguins have big yellow eye-brows like insane evil geniuses and they make weird noises when you kayak too close to them. It was a little surreal spotting penguins amongst the lush green islands in Fjordland.
Christchurch: I spent the night in Jail here, well a hostel called The Jailhouse which was once a prison. We slept in cells and for authenticity they made sure the cells were as claustrophobic and the beds as uncomfortable as intended for their original inhabitants. It was no Mal Maison Oxford! Christchurch is the closest I’ve got to Reading on my travels and it depressed the hell out of me. Christchurch has a pretty good excuse for having an air of misery about it though as they lost 185 people in the 2011 earthquake and much of the city is yet to be rebuilt. There’s a crumbled cathedral and many buildings are just shells. It’s not somewhere I could ever consider living as even inanimate objects release a sense of sadness and mourning. Out of the devastation though pop-up shops and businesses have sprouted… perhaps temporary perhaps for keeps, who knows. There’s also some pretty cool street art and graffiti artists appear to have carte blanche on this city’s remaining walls. An art installation on the side of a main road nearly had me in tears, with 185 chairs all painted white in remembrance of the earthquake victims. You’re invited to pick a chair to sit on, one that speaks to you personally. The empty chair is such a poignant symbol of loss.
Kaikoura: This place is all about dolphins and seals, if you love them then you’re onto a winner. If you don’t then keep on moving. A quiet town with not a lot going on but the giant seal slugs with whiskers, that are apparently vicious and are in charge round here.
Raglan: I’ve spent my last 5 days here, regrouping my thoughts and getting over the epic bus journeys. People seem to love it and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s full of travellers that have stayed too long (a little like Byron Bay) and have forgotten how to smile. The locals are outraged about plans to add art installations onto the grass patches in the middle of the highstreet ‘where’s the bloody money coming from’, ‘what’s the point’. However, the surf is amazing! If you love to surf then it’s worth a trip as the sea is uncrowded and the waves consistently good.
That’s me done, I fly this evening and I’m off to chase the sun. New Zealand’s cool climate has stolen my bronzed glow and given my winter coat more use than was ever intended.