Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cultural, yet smelly

Rotorua is in a part of the North Island of NZ with a hell of lot of geo-thermal activity. Near the city is a load of different geo-thermal power plants and other kind of fancy hot ground science. And there are hot spriongs all over the place. It's very common for drains in the street to start steaming and local hot pools to bubble and explode sporadically. As a result of all the sulphur and other associated crazy thermal chemicals the place smelt pretty bad pretty much all the time, either that or there was some chronic flatulence within the populace.

Me doing an inane "it smells" kind of thing.

Rotorua is also seen as the cultural capital of NZ (because there's a high proportion of Maoris here), there are lots of places for tourists to go and see a Haka show, or have a traditional hangi meal and that kind of thing. Very touristy as a result which was a shame.

A Maori marae; a meeting place, kind of like a town hall.

Art Deco in Napier

After leaving Wellington, I headed straight up the east coast to the Hawkes Bay area, a place called Napier. In 1931 Napier was hit with a seriously large earthquake which pretty much destroted everything that made up the town. It was all rebuilt in a couple of years and the majority of the new buildings were designed in the fashionable style at the time; Art Deco.
Pania on the reef.

As I was leisurely walking the waterfront I happened upon a statue of Maori legend called Pania. A maori gentlemen, called Phillip, approached me and explained who she was. It turned out that this fella (the guy, not the statue) was a guide practicing to be local history guide for the area, so he took me under his wing and spent the afternoon walking around Napier explaining to me the sights and sounds, which was nice. My own personal tour!

Some of the many Art Deco architecture. A lot of it was spoilt with shops changing the face of the ground floor. Second story was were to look.

Napier was a pleasent place, basically a mixture of Miami (cos of the colourful Art Deco buildings everywhere) crossed with an British seaside town, with a dash of Aotearoa thrown in.

Miami? No! Napier.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


The capital of New Zealand! After living in a relatively small town for so long, it was a bit of a shock arriving in Wellington. Buildings well and truly taller than 3 stories, people wandering around in suits, rush hours, Starbucks on every corner, traffic jams, you get the general picture. So I just walked around gawking at everything for the first couple of hours thinking, "Wow, isn't everything big..." with my jaw gapping, as I hadn't been in a good sized city for almost a year.

Part of the huge Wellington Harbour.

There is lots to do in Wellington. Lots of galleries and museum to peruse and ponder in. Cuba Street was a nice highlight - saw some arty types doing street theatre, buskers playing and people being bohemian, you know, little cafes and that. I got the feeling in parts that if you were not wearing a waistcoat or some fancy headgear, a beret perhaps, you were positively frowned upon, but that might have just been me or my in-head dialogue at least.

An iconic sculpture on Cuba Street. The bucket's would fill up and tip into the ones below in a haphazard fashion and if you weren't watching it sounded as if someone was vomiting loudly, the age of which depended on which size of bucket was tipping.

A cool sculpture in the air. Very clever. Some of that new science happening, I'm sure.

There's a rickety old venicular that climbs one of Wellington's many hills that was worth a visit. Some pleasant views from the top, with a lovely descent through some botanical gardens back down the political centre, where the Houses of Parliament are, erm, housed. The actual Parliament building, nicknamed the beehive, is pretty wierd looking to be honest, see below. The area also boasts one of the worlds largest wooden buildings. Nice.

The Beehive. Where PM Helen Clark lives! Or works. Whichever.

The general vibe that I got from Wellington was pretty good. Everyone seemed to be quite relaxed and nice and friendly, not normal behavior for people trotting about in their nations capital I wouldn't think. Although the weather gets a bad wrap 'cos it's windy most of the time, it's a really nice place to be, with a strong sense of identity.

The botanical gardens looked very pretty, lots of spring plants springing about being spring-like. You know, flowers and all that girly sort of nonsense.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Picturesque Picton

To get from the South Island of New Zealand to the North Island, you simply hop on a ferry at Picton and you get taken through the Marlborough Sounds across to Wellington, about a three and a half hour sailing. Picton's canny!

"Row, row, row your boat."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Nelson, haha!

I arrived in Nelson at night and was the final person of three to exit the coach and the only person without accomodation. How prepared. Luckily I was greeted by three different people wearing sandwich boards offering cheap beds. After picking the cheapest, yet most scary looking hostel, I settled in and planned the following day. Nelson is known for making some crazy art, a lot of it wearable, so a few galleries were calling. It also boasts to to have the spot that is the EXACT GEOGRAPHICAL CENTRE OF NEW ZEALAND! Wow, I know. I couldn't wait!

The exact geoegraphical centre of New Zealand, conveniently located on top of a hill over-looking Nelson. At the very top. Not at all slighty off centre or anything. The luck! I don't know whether this pointer was there before they figured out where the centre was and this is coincidence or whether it it was bulit afterwards. Scholars maintain that it's origins are lost in the depths of time.

View from the hostel .

Although it rained pretty much the whole time I was there, I quite liked Nelson. Some cool arcitecture here and there and some fancy paintings. I even saw in one gallery a painting of bridge in Jesmond Dene back in Newcastle. Madness!


The next day I was heading North again, following the coastline up past Greymouth to a place called Punakaiki. Punakaiki is only a diddy place, but one worthy of note due to the peculiar rock formations along it's coastline known as Pancake Rocks. A load of layered rocks with some serious blow-holes through them - kapoow!

Pancake Rocks. The clues in the name. Boffins, eggheads and brainiacs tell us that the rocks are limestone and are created in this strange layered way through a process called stylobedding. Indeed.

I was upset to find that the local cafe didn't serve pancakes. Now there's a unique business opportunity with a niche market if I ever saw one.

WHO? Franz Josef, that's who!

The West Coast of New Zealand can pretty much be summed up, weather-wise, with one word; wet. Or maybe two; soaking wet. After a pretty relaxed and enjoyable 8 hour coach ride from QT, I arrived in Franz Josef, one of the two glacier "towns" on the west coast. The following day the plan was to hike up the glacier with a little help. After donning all the appropriate water-proof gear, crampons and the like we set off.

The Franz Josef Glacier. Quite hard to grasp the scale of the thing, but it was on the ginormous side of things, believe me.

The glacier is pretty rare as it is one of the only glaciers in the world to come down to rainforest and pretty much sea level. At the top the glacier gets between 12 and 15 metres of rain fall a year, that's about 3 times as much as the Amazon rainforest, but keeps it roughly on par with Manchester.

In parts the hike was a tight squeeze, passing through gulleys and crevasses. The guide would carve out steps as he went with a big pick-axe.

Most of the ice was dirty on the surface, but it was when you went deeper into caves that you saw the really blue stuff.

Although the rain didn't really let up much all day, we still managed to have a great time. Hiking with the crampons got easier as the day wore on and some of the ice formations we passed were quite special. An enjoyable experience!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Keeping "in touch"

After almost a year it was finally time for me to leave Queenstown. During the previous couple of weeks, Jon, Freya and Jim had all left to pastures new and it was about time I got away too. With a head full of fresh travel ideas and hopefully a bank account to match them, the door beckoned.

So, after handing in my 2 weeks notice to the wonderful Intouch (go there for quality products at low low prices) and saying a final farewell to my top notch colleagues and surrogate family, I packed my bags for the west coast. No more "da Milfor Soun" for me!

I was very sad to leave my home away from home, especially having to say goodbye to all of the crackin' friends I had met and made. Sadly me and Em parted ways as well; she intends to stay put for the time being at least until Christmas. Career, schmeer is what I say! She wanted to join me, but didn't think she could take any more of my awesomeness without suffer severe medical side-effects. It's going to be strange being on the road without my trusty sidekick nonetheless, she will be greatly missed.

The TSS Earnslaw; Queenstown's iconic steamboat.