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Marc and Nic's Message Page

Updated 03/08/08
 

Well, this is a big Kia-Ora from us for the last time…for this trip anyway! It is also our last update from the amazing NZ as we fly to LA tomorrow! The last few weeks touring the top of the North Island has brought us a little bit closer to the Maori culture and a lot closer to New Zealand’s unique & fiery land!  We hope you enjoy our last update from the Southern Hemisphere as much as we have enjoyed visiting it and we will be back in touch from the States when we hit Holly Wood!!

Rotorua!

As we rolled into the ‘Sulphur City’ the rotten-egg odour was there to greet us and quickly let us know we were in NZ’s most dynamic thermal area! Apart from the obvious attractions of the Hot springs and exploding mud pools the town centre itself is lovely and around the lake area is an attraction in itself! Rotorua City is actually built entirely in the crater of a volcano and in 1886 Mt Tarawera erupted causing untold devastation!

Hello Rotorua!
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Stood amongst the steam from the hot springs!!
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Rotorua Lake with the Helicopter just taking off!
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Maori Village!

Wow, this was a great experience and the food was delicious. First of all we were taken to see the hangi where our food was cooking. The Hangi is the original way the Maoris used to cook their food under the ground over the hot river stones.

Our food cooking in traditional style!!
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It was then onto the concert which included our own personal performance of the Hakka! It’s something we love to watch before the All Black Rugby matches but it’s even more impressive when your stood only a couple of feet in front of them! We can understand how it was used as a means of intimidation and the hairs on the backs of our necks were definitely stood to attention!  The most hilarious part of the night was when they got us all to stand up and perfect our own war faces with bulging eyes (More white the better!!) and tongue sticking out! After the performance we were all taken back to the marquee to enjoy our amazing feast of lamb and chicken dinner! Though we did overdo it a bit on the dessert portion size!

The war Canoe!!
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The amazing Hakka!
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The Love Dance!
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Rotorua Museum

This building was originally constructed as a spa retreat for the rich Europeans in 1908. The treatments that were once offered here contain such things as exposure to radium as a cure for gout and running an electrical current through baths as a treatment for ‘nervous exhaustion’! It all sounded a bit dangerous to us but being able to look back in time at the old baths they used was fascinating. We even had a wander into the basement (hence the hard hats on the photos below!) for a glimpse of the complex piping system which used to bring the hot spring waters up from the ground, this was one of the main reasons the place ended up closing down as the pipes were deteriorating so quickly due to the corrosive and mineral rich waters passing through them it was costing a fortune to maintain! It doesn’t sound like it would be too good for you anyway!!

On the way through the grounds to the Museum!
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View over Rotarua from the top of the Museum!
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Rotorua is a Volcano!!
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Down in the basement checking the pipes!
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Drive to Cape Reinga and 90 mile beach!!

After leaving Rotorua we had the long but beautiful drive up to reach the Northern tip of NZ. We did however split the journey up. We stopped at the beautiful Bay of Islands and if and when we do travel back to NZ it will be in the Summer and it will definitely include a longer stop at the Bay of Islands! There are apparently just over 150 little islands and thankfully they have all escaped development so all you have in this part of the world is one glorious beach after another!

Trying to get into position for the camera timer!!
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We don’t know if any of you watched the Billy Connolly tour of NZ but he visited the most famous toilets in New Zealand called the Kawakawa Toilets which as you will see from the photos below we also paid a visit to! Not that we make a habit of going out of our way to stop off to see some public toilets but these particular ones are great. Friedrich Hundertwasser was an architect and designed the most colour full and fantastic public toilets we have ever seen…

Kawakawa!!
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The famous public toilets of Kawakawa!!
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90 Mile Beach is beautiful as was the campsite we stayed at for the night. The difference between here and the South Island is quite apparent at this point as it really does feel more like a tropical island and the temperature is a lot more to our liking!!!

Ninety Mile Beach!!
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Breakfast with a view!!
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We finally made it to the most Northern part of the north island Cape Reinga! Due to the fact this part of NZ hasn’t always been connected to the Northern Island there are species of bird and plant life that are only in this part of NZ and it all very beautiful. Stood at the windswept Cape Reinga lighthouse you can see the line in the waters where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. What is also visible on the very tip of Cape Reinga is the 800-year-old pohutukawa tree whose roots hide the entrance to the Mythical Maori Underworld. This point is known in Maori legend as Te Rerenga-Wairua, where the sprits of the dead depart the earth.

Where the Tasman meets the Pacific!!
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The Pohutukawa tree on the cliff edge!!
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The Cape Reinga Lighthouse!!
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Cow on the loose on the way to the sand dunes!!
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The Giant sand dunes of 90 mile beach!!
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Snells Beach

On the route back down to Auckland we made a stop at Snells Beach. As the Wilson’s, Rimmers and Thorogood’s will well know you all visited this beach some 30 odd years ago for a bit of knees up on the beach! Well we didn’t quite have the knees up you all probably did but we definitely managed to dig for some fresh cockles which we enjoyed back at the camp! We hope the photos bring back some good memories….

The turning for Snells beach!
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Snells Beach!
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The handful of Cockles we collected and tried!!
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Auckland

So we finally made it to our final destination in NZ, Auckland! We decided to stay the first couple of nights at Takapuna Beach due to all the stories we had heard from Mum and Dad about the beach. It’s a fantastic beach and great that a city like Auckland can be so close to such a lovely beach!

Takapuna Holiday Park!!
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Takapuna beach on Daffodil Day!!
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The Rangitoto Volcano in the background!!
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The treturous ocean walk!!
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The next couple of days we spent driving around the areas where Nic’s family used to live in NZ. We have heard so many great stories and it was just fantastic to be able to put images to the stories. We hope the following photos do the houses and areas justice though were sure some of them have changed quite a bit. We also managed to have a walk around the Sugar Refinery where Dad used to work. It’s apparently quite a historic building now and the walks around the lakes and grounds are beautiful.

The Birkenhead pier with view of the City!
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The sugar refinery from the pier!!
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Nicola's Mum and Dads old house in NZ!
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Outside the sugar refinery!!
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Nic's Mum and Dads Beachhaven house!
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Beachhaven Beach with Nic on the old Swing!!
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The boat where the beer was stored!!
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Rose and Brian's old house!!
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Rita and Sids old house!!
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Okay, we will now be in touch once we get to LA! Our last few days in Auckland were spent making the most of the exchange rate and buying ourselves some much needed clothes after our limited wardrobe space for the last 11 months!!

See you in LA!!!

Loads of love Nic and Marc xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Auckland city Gardens!!
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Walk through the city!!
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Pukeko has huge ungainly feet!!
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Updated 22/08/08

WHY LIVE ON THE EDGE OF LIFE WHEN YOU CAN JUMP OFF!!!

Bungy Bungy Bungy!!!! Yep… we did the bungy at Lake Taupo. The jump is over the Waikato River and my god it is scary!! It’s the highest water jump in the world and I (Nic) very nearly didn’t do it! Stood on the edge of that platform ready to jump and I could have quite easily have turned back, if it wasn’t for the fact we did a tandem jump and once we were on the edge there was going to be no way of talking Marc out of it and being strapped together I didn’t really have much choice! To say I pooped myself was an understatement but my lord it was worth every bit of adrenalin! And I (Marc) was very surprised that I managed to talk Nic into doing the jump, wife in arm, 3-2-1 and Bungy, what a feeling!! There is nothing like the free falling, once you feel the bungy cord tighten as you reach the bottom and pull you back up you can actually start to really enjoy it, safe in the knowledge the cord actually works!!! Taupo Bungy is 47 Meters (153 feet)!

Have a look at our proof….

Please be patient with the time that it takes to load the video!!

So, going back in time before we did the bungy and just before we reached the ferry to cross to the North Island we passed a fence that was full of shoes tied to it! We had noticed a couple of these road side fences along our journey in NZ but decided to stop at this one to get some photos! Apparently they are created by passers-by who just stop and tie their old shoes to the fence as a way of saying I was here!! A bit mad if you ask us and it gets worse, another fence somewhere in the countryside of NZ there is a bra fence!! We try to have a go at everything but we think we will give this one a miss!!

Fence drapped with old shoes!!
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Some amazing views on the way to Picton!!
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Throughout our write up on NZ we have mentioned about the land slides that seem to be everywhere. Well, it was no more apparent than on the stretch of road called the Queen Charlotte Track towards Picton… Have a look at this photo to see how the road just disappears! Though you will have to agree the views were pretty amazing!

Then it was onto the ferry. The crossing was surprisingly calm considering the weather and they show free movies on board so we just settled in, ate nachos and watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! (Not our choice of flick but when it’s free you can’t really complain!)

Landslides on the Queen Charlotte Track!!
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First glimpse of our Blue Bridge ferry!!
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Saying goodbye to the South Island!!
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Enjoying a relax and a movie on the Ferry!!
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First sight of Wellington in the North Island!
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Wellington lit up behind us!!
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Wellington

The capital of NZ is ultra cool! We really loved it, and after travelling half the way across the world we actually found a real pub!! After all of those Irish Bars we finally found the WELSH DRAGON!

The landlord was originally from North Wales and said that he does not get too meet many fellow countrymen from the North. This seemed as good a reason as any to celebrate, and that we did!!

Thank you WELSH DRAGON and Iechud Da!!

Like a red rag to a bull, off to the Welsh Pub!!!!
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There is a god!!
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The Welsh throne!!
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It was great to meet some fellow Welshies!!
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Lock-in at the WELSH DRAGON!!
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Because of its small size (third largest city in NZ, even though it’s the capital!) its dead compact, walkable and really scenic. We managed to get to the Sunday Fruit Market, we seen some fruits we have never heard of before. It was so cheap it was practically all sold out by midday! Travelling in the North Island means we have seen and travelled on the first motorway since Australia! This just proves how laid back and traffic free the roads are down in the South! Everyone in the South told us we would see a change in the pace of life when we get to the North Island but to be honest apart from one motorway there really isn’t much change in the pace so far, it’s still laid back all the way!!

Wellington Sunday market!!
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View of Wellington from the Mt Victoria lookout!!
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Feeding some wild Chickens on our way North!
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After Welly it was on the road up to Lake Taupo! The road was amazing as we dropped right past the volcanic mountain of Mt Ngauruhoe. It was lucky because the Desert Road was closed the day before due to snow… This is again where a lot of Lord of The Rings was filmed…you will see the evidence of the snow from the clicks below…

The start of the route to Lake Taupo
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The snow gets thicker as we hit Desert Road!!!
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Mt Ngauruhoe Volcano on route!!
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Mt Ngauruhoe!!
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Before getting to Taupo we stopped off at the Tokaanu Hot Water Springs exactly what you need before and after a bunge!!

Enjoying at Tokaanu Hot Water Springs!!
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The walk around the Thermal Pools!!
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Taupo and the Lake are beautiful and you even get a chance of winning a couple of grand getting a hole-in-one one the lake. Needless to say the 2000 notes never ended up in our pocket!

Lake Taupo!!
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Hole in one challenge on Lake Taupo!!
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We took a walk around Lake Taupo!!
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So it’s onwards and upwards for us and Rotorua is next on our list, we’ve heard there’s more Bungy’s up that way… yeah right!! There will also be some pictures of the Bungy for the next update..

Before we go, we forgot to put the fishing trip that we did in Queenstown on the last update. Maybe it was because we caught nothing but it was still a good day out and one to tick off the list!!

Leaving Queenstown for a days fishing!!
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It's a patience game!!!
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Never mind, we just enjoyed the scenery!!
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Back in touch soon,

Loads of Love Nic and Marc xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Updated 17/08/08
 

Hi Everyone!

So, we are now on route to catch a 3 hour ferry from Picton in the South Island to Wellington in the North. We have been pretty busy down here in the South; trying to do as much as possible given the conditions Mother Nature has been throwing at us over the last couple of weeks! Incidentally, the Maoris name for NZ translates as the Land of the Long White Cloud, more like Land of the Long Dark cloud at the moment as it has not stopped bloody raining! When people told us NZ was a bit like Wales we didn’t expect the biggest similarity to be the weather, though you will see from some of the snaps we were lucky enough to get a couple of day’s sunshine at least and as long as the clouds haven’t been too low we have still been able to see the most amazing views…!

Okay this is a bit of a lengthy one but here goes….

The Fiordlands!

We travelled to the Fiords after leaving the Catlins and it has got to be said the place is beautiful! A huge part of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was filmed in the Fiordlands National Park and as we were walking through the forest with the peaks of the Southern Alps reflecting on the glistening lakes it was hard not to feel like one of the extras just arriving in Middle Earth! We based ourselves at Te Anau which sits on the second largest lake in NZ. The lake was gouged out by a huge glacier during the Ice Age and its deepest point is a massive 417m! We’re learning that this camping lark in NZ is going to be a lot cheaper than Australia as everyone just finds a spot by a lake or in the woods and sets up camp for the night, (well, when we say everyone, what we mean are the Backpackers!) so this is exactly what we did. We had our own piece of paradise for a couple of nights that cost 0 dollars! Oh and by the way, if anyone is wondering, there are toilets dotted all around the lakes and forests so we picked our site just by one of these very toilets!

Start of the Kepler Track!!
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On the Kepler Track suspension bridge!
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Walk up to the Lake!!
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The information board on the Wetlands!!
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Looking over the glacier made lake!
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View from the walking track!
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Amazing views along the road!
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Campsite for the night!!
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Glow-Worm Caves!

The Journey to the caves is that beautiful we’d have paid money just for that and we were lucky to get a clear day so the views were fantastic.

Our Catamaran to the Caves!!
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Yep, it was cold on the boat!!
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This 200m cave system is only accessible by boat and those who have problems with Claustrophobia or are a bit scared of the dark should maybe give it a miss!  It gets quite daunting down there as the noise from the thunderous waterfalls and whirlpools are deafening. Anyway, you have to walk half the way pretty much on your knees as it’s so narrow! Once you get to the point where the water is too high you get into a boat and go the rest of the way to see the Glow-Worms in complete silence (apparently any noise and the little blighters turn themselves off!), which, are quite remarkable considering the pretty lights are actually the larvae of the fungus gnats!! As you can imagine this is all done in complete darkness, the kind of darkness where you can’t even see your own hand even when it’s a few centimeters in-front of your eyes, needless to say with the height of Marc he came out with a few bumps and bruises! The Glow Worms actually use their light to attract insects. The insects think they are flying from the water up to a starry night sky when in fact they are flying to their death which happens to be a bit of a sticky end!

Glow worms cave information table!
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Going into the darkness!!
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Milford Sound & Gunns Camp!

The drive up to Milford is a pretty tricky one to say the least. Firstly, before setting out in the morning, you have to check to see if the road is open due things like land slides, snow falls or avalanche Warnings! Even though we had travelled through buckets of rain in the Catlins once we got to the Fiords it had all dried up so the road conditions were perfectly safe… thankfully! The Road to Milford winds all the way through the mountains and includes numerous points to stop off and enjoy the views, there are also notices so you can read the stories of how the land was formed due the small matter of the Ice Age and the Pacific and Australasian tectonic plates pushing up the land to form the Mountains. It’s amazing how many photos of mountains you can take on one drive!

About 1 hour before we reached Milford Sound we set up camp for the night at a campsite called Gunns Camp. This place is full of the old stories of how the first settlers in this area made a living and is actually the last surviving working camp which was lived in by the guys who built the roads back in the 1930’s. It’s a pretty remote part of the World up here and you definitely get that feeling of being hundreds of miles from anywhere, a bit like the feeling we got in the Jungles of Cambodia, though at least we have sealed roads here!! It even had a wood-fired stove to heat the water for our showers! Oh, and the one thing we keep meaning to mention, the couple of clear nights we have had, we have been amazed by the amount of stars…! It is unreal and if there was a way we could capture the picture of the night sky out here to show you guys we would! We even got to see a shooting star the other night!

At the last surviving workers camp!!
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Standing in one of the original Huts!
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Stood in the amazing Gunns museum!
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NZ stopped all US nuclear testing in NZ's waters!!
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How to get marc up for work in the morning!!
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Gunns camp office and museum!!
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Access to the Humbold Falls!!
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The amazing triple drop Humboldt Falls!!
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The massive bolders moved down by the iceage!!
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The great sing at Gunns Camp!
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The next morning we set off for the last bit of our drive to Milford and the road got prettier! At one point you have to drive through the Homer Tunnel which is pretty much a hole right through the mountains. It was first constructed in 1935 though wasn’t finished until 1953, they have only just put electric through the tunnel, so you can imagine it’s not quite as civilized as our Mersey or Conway Tunnels at home but a lot more fun to drive through! You emerge from the Tunnel into the Cleddau (sounds welsh!) Canyon and what a view! You will see one of the photos below is of a Kia, which is the only alpine Parrot in the world and they are hilarious. As soon as you stop your car they come hoping over to introduce themselves and see if you have any treats for them. It’s funny to see people get out of the car to get a closer look at them only to be surprised by how close the parrots come and they end up getting chased back into their cars!

The road to Milford Sound!!
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The approach to the Homer Tunnel!!
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The cheeky little Kea by tunnel after some food!!
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The darkness of the homer tunnel approaches!!
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The darkness of the Homer tunnel!!
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The Winding Road down from the tunnel to Milford!
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The cruise around the Milford Sound glided over the calm waters between the sheer cliffs and was complete with Seals and Dolphins though it has to be said it was bloody cold on top deck! This is apparently one of NZ’s biggest attractions and you can see just why, even with the 6 meters of rain it gets every year it just adds to the numerous waterfalls cascading from the rocks everywhere.

The start of the Milford Sound Cruise!
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The views get better and better!
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The Sun even came out at one stage!!
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The Seals having a relax!
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More amazing views of the fiords!
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Queenstown

This is like a village straight out of Switzerland and a lot different to anywhere else in NZ as it has been set up solely for the Tourist Market. Again it’s beautiful, and the views are out of this world, though it was a little bit to touristy for us. It is definitely a place we would come back to for a couple of week’s holiday where we have the dosh to spend on a posh log cabin! We managed to scare ourselves to death on a Gondola to the top of Queenstown and then again on the Luge (like a Tabogan) that they have up there!  Let’s just say Nic went around the whole track with the breaks firmly on so not to go too fast and Marc went around with the breaks off and finished the race a good 5 minutes ahead!!

The view from the Skyline Gondola!!
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Windy weather over the top of Queenstown!!
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Dressed ready for the Luge!!
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The ride up even higher to the Luge!!
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The snowboarding and skiing comp!!
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The Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier’s

Well, this place ended up being a bit of a damp squib! It was fantastic to see the Glaciers but that is all we ended up doing unfortunately as the weather took a turn for the worst so it ended up being too dangerous to go up for the trek on the glacier. Here are the photos we managed to take…

View of the Fox Glacier from the road side!!
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Feeding the ducks at lake Franz Joseph!!
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Westport

We used Westport really as a refueling stop! We have been cooking food on a little camping stove up to this point and grabbing fast food here and there so it was nice to have a huge Lamb roast in one of the pubs and we finally got to catch up on the Beijing Olympics. After being in Beijing only a few months ago and seeing how much work still needed to be done we have been dying to see how the madness of Beijing would cope with it all, and by all accounts they have done a sterling job so far! As always in NZ it was great to meet some locals and again they were all so friendly!

Rainy Hokitika on the way to Westport!!
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Sharing the bridge with the trains and traffic!!
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Enjoying a Beer, Lamb roast and the Olympics!!
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The road on the way cut into the cliffside!!
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Buller Gorge Swing Bridge!!

This is home to the longest Swing Bridge in New Zealand which goes over the Buller River. It was actually more daunting walking over the swing bridge than it was coming back on the zip-line. Though to hear Nic scream at the end you wouldn’t have thought so!!

Crossing the longest swing bridge!!
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Bullers swing bridge in the background!!
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The Zip line back over the Gorge!
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Strapped in ready for the ride down!!
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On our way down!!!
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Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve

We discovered early on that New Zealand has a vast amount of Department of Conservation camping grounds (DOC sites) throughout the South Island and the North. We picked up a free brochure from the Tourist info centre showing each one of these sites in there prospecting county.  This has been a real god send as they are really, really cheap! They vary from free up to $10 dollars a person, the more facilities the more the cost etc.

We decided to really push the boat out and spend the full $10 dollars per person (Which is about 3 pound 70). Now, for this we have ended up with an Outdoor Facilities centre all to our selves with Hot showers, Free washing machine and dryer, kitchen, and, the best bit is a shed full of logs for the open (Now roaring!!) fire place. Needless to say you get quite a lot for your money!!

We decided to stop for 2 nights as we were well ahead of schedule and there was a 4 hour tramping trek to the “K Trek lookout” that we wanted to tackle. The trek was fantastic, first of all taking us on a steep incline into the Alpine forest through all the ferns and streams to the lookout. As we picked a clear sunny day the view from the lookout was stunning. We then took a gradual descend on the other side of the mountain to a couple of waterfalls and then back to camp. Here is the evidence…

Buying some apples from outside a locals house!
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Settling for the night in the outdoor centre!
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Preparing the logs...one way to keep warm!!
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At the top of the K Trek Lookout!!
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Trees fallen from the storm the previous week!!
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Back to the Outdoor Centre for some tea!!
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Busy in the kitchen!!
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Marc happy that he has got the fire going!!
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The Outdoor Centre!!
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Okay, so we will be back in touch when we get to, what we hope, is a warmer North Island!!

Keep in touch!

Loads of love, Nic and Marc xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Updated 09/08/08
 

Kia Ora!!

Hiya Guys… Well we’re starting to wonder what we would have done had we not of taken the “Winter Package” with the Camper Hire Company!! We didn’t get much with the “Winter Package” just two duvets, a hot water bottle and a thermos but my God it’s been a life saver in the near arctic conditions!! (Maybe a slight exaggeration but it has been cold in the morning, around -1!) Once we’re up and dressed it’s absolutely fine, it’s just the bit in-between getting out of bed and getting dressed which is the killer…!

Were a bit ahead of schedule at the mo, due to the bad weather (The North Island is getting it worse with flooding and a couple of Tornadoes here and there!) and a few road closures so we have not lingered in some of the towns we might have stayed in. For instance when we got to the Peninsular just off Dunedin one of the roads was closed due to flooding so we took the second and only other road which uses the higher grounds of the Peninsular, once we got to the top we couldn’t see a thing due to the low clouds!! Anyway, good job we got down when we did as about 30 minutes later we were cruising along the motorway and we heard on the radio that the higher road was now closed due to a landslide and more flooding… Yikes, we don’t know if the bad weather is following us or if were following it!

Since our last update the road South from Methven took us to a place called Timaru which is an important Port City for the surrounding farming region. Things didn’t get started here in this City until 1839 when the Weller brothers of Sydney set up a whaling Station. The City soon grew up around this now banned industry. Due to this being a coastal City it’s pretty much closed to tourists in the Winter but we did stop off for a walk around the Benvenue Cliffs where there is an old shipwreck. Along this walk we were able to see the Volcanic Rock that the land has built upon over time. It’s visible around the coasts of NZ due to the land erosion and we were lucky enough to spot Sea Lions playing in the water, however, we got a bit carried away trying to catch one on camera and filled the memory with little black spots sticking out of the Ocean… needless to say we didn’t get a good enough photo to put on here!

The start of the Coastal walk!
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Evidence of the Volcanic Rock!
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Fierce South Pacific Ocean
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At the end of the Trail!
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About one hour North of Dunedin there is a spot on the beach called ‘Moeraki’ where there are ancient boulders called Te Kaihinaki. These spherical creations were formed millions of years ago around lime crystals within the mudstone. With the erosion of land they have slowly fallen away from the cliffs and are pretty amazing to see. You will see from one of the photos below there are still more hidden in the shoreline…

First view of the boulders from the lookout!
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The Moeraki Boulders history!
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Nic sat on the historical boulders!
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One of the boulders split open!
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Boulders appearing from the Shoreline!
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Dunedin (Celtic for Edinburgh)

The name probably says it all really! This City was founded by the Scots and they recon 40% of the population today has Scottish blood lines. It is also home to the first University in New Zealand so there is a huge population of young students. Apart from the non-stop rain we experienced in Dunedin it is a fantastic City with a couple of amazing Museums and some of the buildings are straight from an historic British town.

The impressive Dunedin Train Station!
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Dunedin Cathederal
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The first Museum we went to was the Settlers Museum which explains the stories behind the Maoris of this area and how the first British Settlers came and took over most of the land. It’s fascinating and eve includes a section that has been designed into the living quarters of one of the first ever ships to bring over the Scots. Incidentally, it used to take them around 70 days to travel from the UK to NZ on a ship in those days and having been in there for 15 minutes we couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for that amount of time, especially with diseases such as smallpox going around, the only good thing about the length of time it took was that the disease had normally killed off the infected before the ship arrived which meant the disease was never introduced to NZ! The Voyagers were also given a list of things they were permitted to carry onboard and it pretty much amounted to being enough clothes for the duration and that was it! Imagine in those days moving to another country on the other side of the world, one that you knew pretty much nothing about and all you have with you to set up home is some basic clothing and shoes!! Especially when you arrive and find out your going to have to build your own houses or should we say shacks from raw materials!

Reconstruction of the original ships!!
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Dresses from the times gone by!!
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A room full of portraits of the first settlers!
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An authentic Mouri Shelter!
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Luxury Caravan from the Fifties!
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Camping old style!
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The second museum we visited was the fantastic Otago Museum which told us pretty much all we need to know about the South Island, including the wildlife that can be found in the area. The most striking to us was the Albatross Bird with a wing span of 3 meters! Had the rain subsided for a couple of days to open the peninsular road we could have seen one for ourselves, however, we have included a photo below of how big these big birds get! There was an hilarious story about Shrek the Sheep who had managed to hide out at high altitude which prevented him from being sheered for years, he ended up not being able to walk in the end due to how much wool he was carrying and was eventually found, he is now a minor celebrity in these parts… check out the photo of him below! The museum also delved into the huge history of the Maoris and how they first came over from the Polynesian Islands, history of which they are still finding buried around NZ today. 

Nic stood next to the now extinct Moa bird!
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Shreks coat!! Most wool shaven from a sheep!
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Maori War Canoe!
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The massive Albatross!!
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Of course a tour of a City isn’t complete unless some of the Bars and Pubs have been tried and tested! Here are a few photos of us in the Irish Pub “The Bog” and going into what is apparently the Smallest Bar in the Universe! Well, what else can you do with the rain situation…!

There must be an Irish bar in every city!!
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The smallest bar in teh Universe!!
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Steepest street in the World

We discovered that Dunedin held the status in the Gunniess Book of World Records for having the Steepest Street in the World, so naturally we went to check it out.

 We were told by one of the locals that each year during the Dunedin Festival they have the ‘Baldwin Street Gutbuster’ where locals race to the top and back down. They also have a ‘Jaffa sweets race’ which is where the contender puts there name on an individual Jaffa sweet and then race them down the steep street!! All very exciting!!  

We unfortunately were not at Dunedin at the right time of year to give the locals a run for their money, so we opted for a casual walk up to the top and back down again to experience how steep the street actually was. Luckily they had installed steps!!

The steepest street in the World!!
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Struggling to get up the steepest street!!
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The facts about Baldwin Street!!
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The Catlin's & Jacks Blow Hole

With the worst of the Rain now hopefully behind us we head even further South to the Catlins! Now this place is like Wales but to the most extreme! We decided to do a walk to see Jacks Blow Hole! What it didn’t tell us in the guide book was we were going to end up being practically up to our knees in mud and being attacked by a very vicious little bird! (After Australia and now here Birds aren’t our favorite friends at the moment!) To be fair this bird seemed to be trying to protect what was probably eggs in its nest!

Access to the track for Jacks blow hole!
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View back on the way to Jacks blow hole!
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The bird that decided to chase Nic!
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Jacks Blow Hole!!
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The Muddy path on the way back!!
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Next stop was Curio Bay, now this place is nuts! You have to get there within four hours either side of low tide and you get to see a 160-million-year-old fossil forest left over from the Jurassic period.  This is apparently one of the Worlds oldest such sites and it is fascination to see all of the fossils. On the way there though we had to overcome the obstacle of a few hundred sheep being moved to another field by the local farmer! The farmers mate told us if we liked the look of one to put one in the back of the van for the BBQ later…!

The congestion in NZ just aint the same as the UK!
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The fossil forest from the Jurassic period!
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As close as were probably going to get to the South Pole!! (Well for this trip at least!)

That night after seeing Jacks Blow Hole and Curio Bay we travelled to the Most Southerly part of the South Island and slept in the middle of nowhere, it has definitely got to be the quietest place we have ever set up camp! Were not too sure if we were supposed to be there over night but the local farmer didn’t come knocking so we assume nobody minded. The following morning we got up early and walked to the lighthouse that sits upon the last bit of main land you are going to get until you hit the South Pole, in fact as you will see from the photos below we were at that point closer to the South Pole than we were to the Equator.

The most Southern point of New Zealand!!
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Before we started off on this journey back in November we had planned to travel even more southerly to Stewart Island, though what with the weather conditions it would take a braver couple than us to travel on the water at the minute!!

Our ascent up to the North has now brought us to the Fiords and we are glad to report the weather has picked up no end, still cold mind, but the rain has stopped which helps with the landslides! ;-))

The Fiords Rock and they have got to be the most beautiful place we have been to so far, the views of the snow capped mountains are awe inspiring! We’re going into some caves later today to see the Glow Worms and for a cruise in a couple of days on the Milford Sound so we will be back on with some updates and photos shortly after that.

We hope you are all enjoying your summer… keep in touch with your stories!

 Loads of Love Nic & Marc xxxxxxx

p.s We tried our first bit of New Zealand Lamb today and it was delicious, with gravy and onions on a roll!! Mmmm Northern Boys Love Gravy!!!

Purakaunui Falls!!
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Updated 30/07/08

Kia Ora!

How’s it going over in Sunny Britain, probably a lot hotter than we are here in Snowy NZ! Well, we arrived into Christchurch 5 days ago now and it’s not stopped either snowing or raining! It hasn’t dampened our sprits though as we have taken to the slopes for a spot of Skiing and just a little Après Skiing!! To be honest though it’s a good job we are down on the South Island as they have just had one of the worst storms in the North Island including Tornadoes that took a couple of roofs off!! As you can imagine not the best place to be in a campervan…

Christchurch!

On arriving at Christchurch Airport our first thing that struck us was how lovely and friendly the staff were! We caught the shuttle bus into town and the road in was just like being on a road back in Blighty, completely different to Aus with all the houses and even the trees looking exactly as they do at home! The centre of Christchurch looks more English than some of the Cities in England look!

Christchurch Cathedral
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Our first two nights were spent in Jail!

Nope don’t panic this one has been closed as a real prison for around 10 years now; we were here only to sleep for 2 nights in the now Jail House Hostel! This was our accommodation in Christchurch until we picked up our campervan. It was once the old jail house in Christchurch which was built in 1874. When opened the building catered for the needs of both sentence and remand prisoners.  Over the years the building has been used as a Jail, women’s prison and military camp. It’s probably now one of the best hostels we have stayed in, with the bed definitely being the comfiest (this may be due to the fact we have just spent 4 weeks in a campervan!) and a huge well kitted out kitchen! Check it out….

Trying to keep warm in the Hostel!!
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The view from the Cell!!
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One of the Cells in its original state!
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The Jail House main hall!
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Mug Shot!!
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Skiing..

Methven

After a couple of days to explore Christchurch it was time to pick up our mean machine…! It’s a Toyota Grand Hiyas and definitely a few levels above good old Hippie back in Aus! It’s an automatic so easy to drive & its really comfy inside as well, of course what with the weather we have 110 duvets to keep us warm!! Only kidding, it’s actually just the two duvets and it works a treat, were actually warmer in this van with it minus 3 outside than we were in Hippie where it was around 15 degrees warmer outside!

We headed onto Methven which was about 90 minutes drive from Christchurch. It is based right amongst the local farmland of the Canterbury Plains and the drive is fantastic with amazing views of the Sothern Alps most of the way! Methven is the village at the base of the mountain where we were going to try and learn to ski! It’s the main gateway to the slopes and where the majority of people stay before hitting Mt Hutt. It’s great and still run by all the friendly locals which we got to know quite a bit down at the 2 pubs. The pubs here are as you can expect in a skiing village, packed full of skiers with a huge roaring fire in the middle. We were lucky with our timing as it happened to be the All Blacks v’s Australia rugby match that night so the pub was full of supporters from both the All Blacks and the Ausie sides so you can imagine the atmosphere was great! (Incidentally NZ lost, though the replay is on Saturday night so we will be back out and supporting the kiwis!)

Views of the Southern Alps on the way!!
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We got stopped to have a quick look!!
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Mt Hutt!

Mt Hutt is part of the Southern Alps of Aotearoa, and Mt Hutt is located high within the Alps. We booked onto a learners package which included our ski’s, boots and poles, had hired the clothes from one of the local shops and off we went up the Alps. You can actually drive yourself, but as they had just only opened the road that day after a big dump of snow we thought we would take the easy option and jump on the shuttle that takes you up. It was an early start at 7.45 but well worth it. The driver had to stop half way up to put on the snow chains so we jumped out to make the most of the views…..

Trying on the ski gear for size!!
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Marc with teh Mean Machine!
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On the shuttle bus up Mt Hutt!!
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On the way up Mt Hutt!!
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Nic stood over the Canterbury Plains!!
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The bus stops to put the chains on!!
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View from the other side of the Bus!
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It’s a bit bizarre to think we were surfing on a very hot Australian beach last week and now here we are learning to ski in the Alps of NZ with it blasting with Snow at around minus 4 degrees!

What a fantastic day it was. We started by picking up our skis, poles and boots from the hire shop up on Mt Hutt and then joining our group ready for our first lesson of the day.

The lesson took place on the slope called the ‘magic carpet’ this being reference to the travelator that took the novice skiers up to the top of the beginners slope. We really did start with the basics from how to put the skis on to general balance techniques. We then moved up a few meters on the slope to practice our ‘wedge’, a technique used to stop, which is always a good start!!

This all seemed very straight forward and the two of us seemed to take to it. Problem was some others in the group should have stayed at home as balancing on skies was not for them. Still very amusing to see the fear in the faces of people as the instructor gave them a pushed off, then told them to stop as they franticly tried to use their wedge but kept going!!

We went through some other simple techniques and then broke for lunch. We quickly had something to eat and decided that we should have a quick go from the top of the slope before the lesson started again.  So we jumped onto the ‘Magic Carpet’ and took the gradual climb to the top. Once at the top we descended slowly and reached the bottom unscathed. We had a few more goes before joining our lesson at 1pm.

The second session was really good as we were going from the top of the small slope each time and the instructor was showing us how to turn and also looking at each of our technique and suggesting ways to make the whole thing more natural. Half way into the second lesson it started to snow. Being so high up we could; at times, see right across the Canterbury Plains and with these perfectly formed snow flakes falling onto our ski clothes it really set the scene.

We finished the lesson with a couple of hours to ourselves on the slopes..

Trying on the Skis for size!!
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Marc with the Magic Carpet in the background!
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Nic with the lifts to the bigger slopes behind her
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In the midle of the lesson!
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Spot Nic on the magic carpet!
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Kea - The only Alpine Parrot in the World!!
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Nic on the Magic Carpegt before it snowed!
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Nic on the Magic Carpet during the snow!
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Nicola practicing her skiing!!
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So, were now back on the road heading down to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsular. We will be back in touch once we have had a few days down there. Keep your fingers crossed for us that that the Rain stops!!!

Loads of love and hugs, Nic and Marc xxx

The only things in life you regret are the things you don't do!