Sunday, August 31, 2003

Another Earthquake???

Happy Labour Day Weekend (I think)

Up about 8:00, went to have a shower and crappy showers. You have to press a button on a black box to get hot water for the shower, then it takes 3 minutes for any warm water to reach the shower, and you climb in, and start shampooing, then the black box times out, you're out of hot water, and have to wait 2 minutes for the black box to reset before you can press the button again. And you never do get hot water anyway. It's not even luke warm. THIS IS NOT THAILAND, GIVE US PROPER HOT WATER!! (That's what I wrote in the hostel's comments books).

Finished showering and then ate, checked out, left Westport about 9:30. Drove along the Buller Gorge. The road is very picturesque. In a couple of spots, the road reverts back to only one lane, as it careens around a sheer cliff. You have to wait for any oncoming traffic (if you can see it!) before going forth. Hawk's Crag, one of these, is a half-tunnel chiselled out of the rock cliff in 1869.

Stopped at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge and walked over from the parking lot to the bridge only to find out that you have to pay $5 to walk across it. I paid it, because on the other side of the bridge, there was a faultline that slipped 4.5 metres in a 1929 earthquake. CAlled the White Creek faultline.

As I was walking along the faultline, a vague memory inched into my mind. I had a very vague recollection of something happening last night, but couldn't quite remember. I kept thinking about it as I walked, and slowly I remembered being awakened by a low rumbling sound last night. I kept thinking about it more, and then I remembered hearing the house joints pop and crack and rattle and squeak a bit. That's about all I remembered, just barely, and then started wondering if it was maybe a dream, which is why I was having trouble remembering it. I made a mental note to check the NZ geoscience website when I hit the internet next.

Continued along the highway, stopped at Kawatiri Historic Railway Bridge and tunnel walk, about a 30 minute walk over and through an old railway bridge and tunnel that was built and then enver used!

Kept going, stopping at Bell Summit for views before hitting Nelson about 3:30. Checked into the Green Monkey hostel, then walked downtown to use internet.

Checked the geoscience website and sure enough, there was a quake last night!!! It was centred only 10km from Westport (I was in Westport!). It happened at 11:58PM last night. It was only a crappy 3.3 on the Richter Scale, though. Two earthquakes in two weeks! How lucky can I get??? Maybe with a little luck, one of the volcano's on the north island will erupt when I'm there!!!

Back to the hostel, had supper, then wrote in journal, read my Lonely Planet and Let's Go, trying to decide what to do tomorrow, decided to head up to Abel Tasman National Park area, apparently one of the most beautiful areas in NZ. Watched TV, then to bed.

Heard on the radio today that Sept. 4 is National Penis Day in NZ.

When I was walking downtown, passed a pub, the Pheasant Plucker. Reminded me of an Irish Rovers Song, Pheasant Pluckers Son. Goes something like:
I'm not a pheasant plucker
I'm a pheasant plucker's son
Sitting plucking pheasants
Until the pheasant plucker comes.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Brewery Tour and Westport Ho! (Oops, that's Westward Ho)

Up early, about 7:30, shwered, breakfast, sat around and watched TV at the hostel until about 9:00AM, then drove to Monteith's Brewery to get the phone number to book the tour. I gave them a call and left a message that I wanted to do the brewery tour at 11:30. Then went to the internet at a photo place about 9:30, the store was supposed to open then, but it wasn't open, so walked over to DP-1 Cafe, which also has internet, and used internet there, but they only have a dial-up connection, so it was slow, so only used it for half an hour, then at 10:00, walked back the photo place and they were open now, and used the internet there until about 11:15. They had an ADSL connection there, much faster.

Drove to Monteith's, and there were a group of 11 of us doing the brewery tour, the guide let us in, took our money ($10), then took us all around the brewery. Most of the brewery is automated, they only have 10 employees! Of those 10, none were working today, they only had two vats (out of 6) fermenting beer. Each vat holds either 21,000 or 23,000 litres of beer, depending on which vat it is. That's a lot of beer. The tour of the floor lasted about an hour, then we were taken to the employee bar, and were given a sample of each of their five year-round beers, and their two special brews, one being their sprinttime brew they are releasing on Sept. 1, the other being their winter brew that will be taken off the shelves soon (as winter is over!). Our guide then left us, and told us we had an open bar, so we could "sample" more of our their product. Unfortunately, I had to drive, so I couldn't partake in the open bar, but the group of 5 Brit's were enjoying it immensely!

Left Greymouth about 1:00, drove to Punakaiki, famous for it's interesting rock formations, called Pancake Rocks and a blowhole there. I missed the 12:20 high tide by about 2 hours, so didn't see the blowhole performing. Also walked to Punakaiki Cavern to try and see glowworms, but I didn't have a torch, so couldn't get very far inside the cave.

Drove a few km further, and stopped at Truman's Track, a short 15 min. jaunt to a great beach in a bay, with a waterfall crashing over the cliff onto the beach. Very nice!

Continued on to Irimahuwhero Lookout, and took some pics.

The road north from Greymouth to Westport is a great cliff-hugging, seaside road, not unlike the great Cape Breton road.

Got to Westport sometime, not sure, and checked into a hostel, can't remember the name. I'm the only transient there, the two or three others at the hostel are longer term stayers. I had the very nice dorm room to myself.

Tried calling a couple of white-water rafting outfits, but neither of them are rafting tomorrow, not enough people. Not that surprising, it is winter, and Westport is definately not a tourist town. I'll have to do it somewhere else.

Went to New World supermarket and got some hamburger and made beef enchilada's for supper, and had half of a chocolate cake for dessert. I eat more now than I did back in Moose Jaw.

Watched "Liar, Liar" on TV, then to bed.

Friday, August 29, 2003


I'm sad. When I was coming up from Queenstown, I had to pull out my "Northern and Central South Island" map, which I used when I got to the south island originally, and put away my "Southern South Island" map. I got hit with a pang of sadness at that point, because I knew that was the beginning of the end. I have no more "new" maps to break open, just old crappy maps I've used already, so the end is nearing.

Today (actually last evening), I got sad feelins because I'm leaving the mountains behind, and anyone who knows me, knows I *LOVE* the mountains. Everything here in NZ is drawing to a close, and it sucks. And I realized I've pretty much done everything I wanted to do in NZ (in fact, everything I wanted to do on the whole trip!) I have a couple of "left over" things to do on the north island, but nothing grand to look forward to.

Anyway, today I got up about 8:00, showered, had breakfast. Cold in my room last night, my watch registered only 121 degrees when I woke up.

Packed my car, checked out and called Rosemary about 9:10, and went to her place for morning tea, met Andy, looked at my glacier trip pictures on their TV, chatted, took pictures and left about 10:30.

Drove up through Hokitika, drove through the townsite, stopped at the glowworm dell, but can't see anything during the day. Continued on to Ross, an old gold-mining town that still has a gold mining operation. Went to the visitors information centre and did the Water Race Walk, a one hour walk along an old water race, used by gold miners of 140 years ago. Interesting history.

Continued on to Shantytown, got there about 2:30. Shantytown is a historic re-creation of an old goldrush town. You can even dig and pan for gold in the river for yourself (and keep any gold you get). Had lunch at the cafe in Shantytown, the most amazing nachos I have ever had. Left about 3:45.

Got to Greymouth and checked into Neptune's, a nice hostel in an old historic building (has historic designation). Missed the daily tour of Monteith's Brewing Company brewery, so I'll have to catch it tomorrow.

When I checked in, Kat (lady who owns/runs the place with her husband) told me of the Railway Hotel, which has an all you can eat BBQ with sausages and salad and bread for $3. Or get a steak also for $8. Cheap, too bad I filled my face at Shantytown!

Walked around downtown a bit, but it was flipping cold, so I went back to my car and drove to Monteith's to get tour time info for the weekends (11:30 and 2:00), then to supermarket, back to hostel. Had cereal for supper, then tried to use the internet at the hostel, but it's crap (I hate coin operated internet machines...the stupid CTRL key was disables, so when I went to copy my journal to the clipboard, it deleted it all and replaced it with a c!). I got frustrated and decided to do my journal update tomorrow morning before the brewery tour. Then I sat in the spa pool for more than an hour, it was soooo relaxing, the hot water and the cool air. I still feel like that beef and bean nacho's thing wants to come back up...not sick, but really bloated over it!

I'm not sad anymore, I realized there's more to NZ than mountains, I really enjoyed the Shantytown, and am looking forward to doing caving and want to white-water rafting, maybe in the next town.

To bed about 10:30.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Franz Josef Glacier Tour

Up about 7:00, same time as all the Magic Bus herd, they all horded the showers, so I had breakfast first. By 7:20, all the Magic Bus cows were in the kitchen, and all the showers were free, so I showered and by the time I finished showering, the hostel was virtually empty, all the Magic dudes were sitting on the bus, waiting for it to leave. I'm so glad I'm not on that tour!

Walked down to GG's (Franz Josef Glacier Guides...GG's is what Rosemary kept calling it) and got suited in their socks, boots and Goretex jacket and given a pair of Ice Talons and an ice axe. About 22 of us on the full-day trip. We got bussed to glacier and made a walk to the glacier and through a cave, then put on our crampons and hiked way up on the glacier.

It was awesome, way better than I thought. I was in the express group (the fast group), so we moved quite a bit faster than the other groups and made it farther up the glacier than the guide had ever taken a group before. All the guides carry big ice picks to chunk out stairs on the steaper sections of the ice flow. We traversed huge cracks in the ice, slid through tight ravines (if you were fat, you'd never be able to do it), went through ice caverns and tunnels. One section, we had to walk along this huge crack, but the bottom of it was filled with deep ice water. You wouldn't want to slip in, you'd freeze in an istant, and get wedged in. We had to straddle the ice water, with our ice crampons wedgegd in the ice on either side of the river, making sure each step was solid, lest we slip in. It was actually kind of scary. It was awesome!!!

About 12:30, had lunch, then continued up higher. Started to cloud over, and the guide heard on the walkie talkie that it was raining at Fox Glacier and it just started to rain in town. We got lucky, no rain for us! We went way up, near the top was this 15 foot tunnel, you had to crawl through on your hands and knees. The guide had never seen it before.

We finished about 4:00, got back to town, then back to the hostel. My feet were killing me from those boots. Watched "End of Days", had (free) soup at the hostel, then went to Cheeky Kea Cafe for supper. I couldn't be asked to cook anything for supper after the hike today.

When I got back from the glacier, the hostel lady was in my room making the bed of a guy who had checked out late. She remarked to me that I was alone in the room, and I said "Ya, until the next bus anyway." She said that that'll be tomorrow, there was no bus coming today. YAY! I got the room to myself. There was some stupid guy snoring last night, I didn't sleep that good.

Had supper at Cheeky's with "annoying guy" and ditched the cafe early with the excuse I needed to call my cousin, which was true, so tried calling, and a lady answered the phone, and I aksed for Rosemary, and she told me I had the wrong number. I said sorry, hung up and tried again. The same lady answered, and I asked for Rosemary, and she said, rather rudely, "Look, you just called here and I told you there's no Rosemary. This is blah, blah, blah...", I interrupted her, because I knew I had the right number, and I said, bluntly, "She's in unit 16." She's like, "Oh. Umm, sorry, unfortunately, I can't help you because I just started and nobody has showed me how to transfer calls." OI! She's like, "Sorry about that, can I take a message for her?" I said no, I'll call tomorrow. She tried again, "Are you sure?", I said ya, I'll call her tomorrow, and she tries once more, "I can take a message." Finally I say ya, ok, tell Rosemary that Todd called. She then asks me if Rosemary will be cross for not transferring the call, I say probably not. She then tells me she will give the message to Rosemary and to try calling again after 9:00 or tomorrow.

I hung up, then I got out my Lonely Planet and Let's Go and tried to decide how far to drive tomorrow, couldn't decide, so decided to late fate decide.

Went back to my room and was writing in my journal, and about 8:25, there's a knock at my door, I get up and answer it, a lady asks me if there's a Todd in the room, I say that's me, and she gives me a phone message from Rosemary, she was trying to return my phone call. Not sure why she didn't call my mobile?? Oh well. Probably won't get to see her before I leave tomorrow morning.

Tried again at 9:20 to call her, same dumb lady, she tried to transfer me, but cut me off.

Read for a while, then to bed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003


Up about 8:30, showered, breakfast, then called Rosemary and made a 1:00 coffee date with her. Went down to Glacier Guides and booked a full day tour for tomorrow. Then went to DOC office for a bit, but then they kicked me out, because they were closing for lunch. Went to internet place at the cafe where I was to meet Rosemary and used internet until she got there. She showed up about 12:50, we got a coffee and a dessert and chatted, I got the story about why she quit and all that. As we sat, two others that she knew joined us, one of them then realized that there was someone else in town that was from Nova Scotia, she works at Franz Josef Glacier Guides.

About 2:15, we walked back to Glacier Guides so I could get some info about how they split the group up tomorrow, and the girl working the desk there was the other Nova Scotia girl, she was from Truro. We then walked to a short hike, but it was cut short because the hike was closed. Walked back to my car and I drove Rosemary back to her place (she lives a few miles from town), and she told me to call her after my glacier tour tomorrow.

I went back to the hostel and did laundry and watched Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring...twice. Lounged in the free spa pool for half an hour or so, then read and to bed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Franz Josef Glacier and Rosemary

Slept in, woke up about 9:45. Checkout is at 10:00, so I jumped up, put some clothes on and asked the guy working if it was ok, he said no problems, so I took my time and had a shower, then removed everything from the room so he could clean it. Then had breakfast and packed the rest of my stuff in my car and left about 11:00.

Started raining last evening, and it's still pouring today. Drove up to Fox Glacier and walked to the foot of the glacier.

Then continued on to Franz Josef Glacier, got to town about 1:00, drove around a bit, stopped at a pay phone and tried calling Rosemary, no answer, so drove out to Franz Josef Glacier and walked up the valley. Still pouring rain.

Got back to town about 3:30, walked through some of the shops, then tried calling Rosemary again, no answer, so checked into Chateau Franz hostel, $18/night.

My mobile batter was dead so I plugged it in and called my voicemail, and had a message from Rosemary that she had left last night, telling me when she works. There was no mobile reception in Haast last night anyway. She said she will be off work from 3-6 today, it was about 4:45 when I got the voice mail, so tried calling again, and finally got a hold of her. She's working at Beeches Restaurant, and she offered for me to stay at her place, but they only have one bedroom, so I'd have to sleep on the floor or the couch. I declined, as I had already booked the hostel anyway. Oh, and I had a real bed with a matress and boxspring at the hostel too, not a crappy thin mattress on a bunk.

I decided to treat myself to a steak tonight, so I'll see Rosemary at work.

At 6:00, went to internet for half an hour, then to Beeches and met Rosemary. I ordered soup as a started, then a fillet of beef steak, coke, piece of chocolate cake and tea. AFter I was all done filling my face, Rosemary came over and told me not to expect a bill, as she's taking care of it. Not sure what the total was, but the steak was $28.50 and the dessert was $9.00, so it was a big bill. I left a tip, chatted with her for a moment, she recommended Franz Josef Glacier Guides as the company to do a glacier tour with (she had worked for the other company...The Guiding Company). I was sooo full. I told her I'd call her tomorrow.

Back to hostel at 8:00, read and to bed about 11:00.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Up to Haast

Up about 8:15, showered, breakfast. Usually I'm one of the first ones up in the morning, but today I was one of the last ones. All the Brit's from the Magic bus in my room didn't go out partying last night, and got up early to go skiing.

Left about 9:30, went to supermarket for a few things, then filled up with petrol, then headed up to Wanaka via the Crown Range Road, the scenic alpine route to Wanaka. The summit is over 1000m, and there's a lot of snow up there and it's cold! Great views, though.

Got to Wanaka about 10:45, stopped at the lakefront to take a pictures of the awesome mountains, then headed to Puzzling World (, which has a huge 3-dimensional maze and optical illusion land. The maze has 1.5km of paths to follow, the sign inside, after you've been walking for a while, says that most people walk 3 to 5 km before finishing the maze. The goal is to visit each of the four towers in the four corners, then find your way to the exit. The maze has stairs and bridges too. I finished in about 45 minutes, average, by following the right hand rule!

Then went to optical illusion part, which was cool! Had a hologram room with a bunch of cool holograms. One was a hologram of a microscope, and you could look through the microscope eyepiece and see an enlarged microchip. They had a room that's built on a 15 degree angle, which throws off your balance and your concept of "up and down", with displays that look like water is flowing up hill, and stuff. Another illusion room that looks like a normal room when you view it from an outside window, but when you walk inside the room, it's all weird, one end being really tiny, the other being large. It looks normal because of the perceptive created by the sqaures and lines inside.

The best two things were the Hall of Following Faces, an incredible optical illusion. The huge room had a whole bunch of concave faces (of famous people) mounted in it, but yuor eyes are tricked into seeing them as though they are sticking out of the wall. More incredibly, as you walk around the room, all the faces turn their heads to look at you!!! It was eerie! The other great thing was the bathroom. Part of it was built like an old Roman bathhouse, then the back wall is a perspective painting showing the last half of the Roman bathhouse (with some guys sitting on the crapper). Looking at it from the centre of the room was way cool, it looked virtually real!

I then had lunch at their cafe, and left about 1:00 for Haast. The drive from Wanaka to Haast, through Mount Aspiring National Park, is one of the most incredible drives I've ever done. Huge, steep peaks, waterfalls, deep valleys. WOW!

Got to Haast about 4:30, and booked into Wilderness Backpackers, very nice place. Hardly anyone here, but Haast is not a tourist destination town at all. They do have river tours on a jetboat, one company is River Safaris, it's supposed to be real good, so I tried to book it, but they don't have anyone else for tomorrow, so it probably won't go. Also, the lady at the hostel said the weather is supposed to close in tomorrow, so he probably wouldn't do it in crappy weather anyway.

Went to the supermarket and got some chicken nuggets and had supper. 3 Edmontonians (or was it Calgarians...I forget) checked in later, and I talked to them a bit, then tried calling Rosemary, no answer. A little later played Monopoly with Chris and Jill, two-thirds of the Edmontians. After three hours, Jill and I had bankrupted Chris), and Jill and I were just swapping big money as we landed on each others properties, so we called it a tie at about 11:45. Then to bed.

Mid-day started to cloud over today. The previous two days, in Queenstown, however, were perfect! Not a cloud in the sky, beautiful blue, sunny skies.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Fly By Wire

UP about 8:30, showered and had breakfast, went to AJ Hackett and picked up my photo's, then drove out to Kawarau Suspension Bridge, and old, historic suspension bridge, and also the site of the first commercial bungy in the world. AJ Hackett setup his first bunjy jump operation off this bridge in 1988, and yes, it's still running today. It's a 43 metre jump, pales into comparison to what I did yesterday. When I got there, there were some people jumping, including an older lady (who did good!) and a Japanese girl, who, when the jump master counted down, 4....3....2....1....JUMP, she didn't jump. The spectators laughed, we could here her laugh a bit too, and she backed away. She got inched back out, and again, 4.....3.....2.....1....JUMP, and she hesitated, and I'm not sure, but I think she got a little nudge from the staff, and over she went!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahahaha! She screamed the whole way.

Back to town, had lunch at the hostel, then about 11:45, walked to the Fly By Wire office and me and 3 others went out to the Fly By Wire site, on a farmers ranch, in a valley. ( I went first, I got strapped into this plane, and given the simple instructions, and the I was flying around, attached to a swivelling wire. It was good fun, certainly not terrifying like the bungy. You have about 6 minutes of powered flight. It was a blast. I remember, I was making plane noises the whole time. "Nnnnneeeeaaarrrrrr" the whole time, as I divebombed their building every time! I had one of the other flyers video tape me with my video camera. I forgot to look at the speedometer until near the end, and I was getting almost 140kph on my down swings, but I think I was going faster than that earlier on in my flight.

Back to town about 2:00, checked out my flying pics at their office, but didn't buy them.

Back to the hostel, tried to make reservations in Wanaka, but all the hostels are full! Damn skiiers and snowboarders!

AFter that, I took the gondola up the side of the mountain in Queenstown, and WOW, some amazing views of everything from up there. I wanted to see a show called Kiwi Magic at the small cinema at the top, but they need 4 people minimum to show it, and I was the only one, so decided to do the luge instead (just like the luge I did in Rotorua). This luge SUCKS compared to Rotorua. Rotorua was way better.

Then had supper, watched TV for a while, then hit the internet.

Saturday, August 23, 2003


I know what you're all thinking...did he or didn't he?? Find out later in the journal.

Up about 9:00, showered, breakfast, walked downtown for a bit and took a few pics, then booked Fly By Wire ( for tomorrow ($145) at noon.

Walked back to hostel, had some lunch, then walked down to the AJ Hackett ( office, and checked in. They weighed me (62 kgs) and wrote "NJ3" on my right hand (Nevis Jumper, Group 3). A couple of spectators had NS3 on their hand. Then waited for the bus. There's a lot of jumper, about 14 or 15, then a couple of spectators.

Bus picked us up, and we left at 12:30. It was about a 45 minute bus ride to the gorge and jump site. It sure looks high! Yikes!!! Here's what I saw when I got off the bus: There is a building here, it's the reception area, they have TV's showing jumpers jumping, toilets, various things for sale, and a payment counter. Walking through the building, you come to the valley. There's a viewing platform sticking out over the edge of the cliff. There is a series of cables strung across the big, steep valley, more than 130 metres above the valley floor. IN the valley is a small river. The jump platform and staging area is suspended in the middle of the cables, above the valley floor. The staging area is quite large capable of holding all of us jumpers and spectators and the bungy staff. A small cable car, holding six passengers at a time, whisks everyone out to the platform.

So, at the building, we get suited up in our waist harnesses, and we get taken through the building, and onto the viewing platform, all but six of the fattest. They are immediately wisked away to the jumping area, while the rest of us are giving two pieces of instruction. One: jump AWAY from the viewing platform. Two: at the top of your second or third rebound, pull a release cord, which will release the ankle bungy, and turn you upright, so you'll be sitting like you were on a swing for the ride back up to the viewing platform. He tells us number one is important (bungy rope burns can be painful), but number two is not. If you wish to be winched back up upside down, don't pull it, it's not a big deal.

As more and more "groups of six" are wisked away to the jumping platform, the first of the jumpers are already going. We got some great views from the viewing platform. I was on the last car to go out the platform.

So, we got to the platform, and everyone's all excited and scared. People being brought back up from just jumping have really wide eyes, and big grins on their face, exclaiming how amazing it was. I not experiences any anxiousness or nervousness or fright at all. I feel nothing! I knew that wouldn't last, though.

I waited, and I was maybe 10th in line, my name was called, I sat down, and buddy attached the ankle thingies to my ankles. Then I waited some more. AFter a few more minutes, I was "on deck", and got ushered to a chair right beside the "diving platform". This area is restricted to only the current jumper, the two employees, and the guy being winched back up. Another guy explains that there will be a release strap between my legs, I can pull it at the top of my second or third rebound. The third employee, the one that's unstrapping the "just done it" jumpers, slides the bungy cord over to the my guy, and he attaches it to my ankle supports, and he shows me the release strap, and stuffs it between my knees, so I know where it is. He then tells me to wave at the camera above me, then I was up, and waddling to the platform. Then it hit me! Total FRIGHT!!! At this point, "What the HELL am I doing?" goes through my mind, numerous times, as I inch out on the diving board, and I get a true look straight down!!! It's total fright at this point, ladies and gentleman, I admit, I am now VERY anxious!! I glance down, I'm sure I must have been white in the face, he tells me to smile for the camera over head, I glance up, wave at it, then he counts down, 3....2.....1.....JUMP!!! And I JUMP! Like an olympic diver, although, with much less finesse, I jump head first into this great abyss, and I scream..."AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" all the way down. It only takes seconds, then the bungy cord starts to tighten as you race at 130 km/hr at the tiny absolutely incredible speed. I bounced once, very high back up, then back down, then back up, I looked up between my legs, trying to grasp for the release, I had trouble finding it, but found it, and pulled, and I got flipped right-side up, like I was sitting on a swing, and slowly, I saw the metal winch connector come down the bungy cord and attach to a connector just above me, and slowly I inch back up.

WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was easily the most incredible BUZZ and ADRENALINE RUSH I've EVERY experienced in my ENTIRE LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That totally blew me away. I looked my fear right into the eyes, and didn't back away, I jumped, and I tell ya, I was absolutely terrified when I inched my way onto the dive platform. When I heard him say JUMP, I know I hesitated for half a second. Then I pushed that fear away, and I jumped. You cannot imagine, unless you do, the exhileration of diving head first towards the ground at such an incredible speed, seeing the ground race up at you like it did. Words cannot even describe what it's like!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It has to be experienced, the whole sensory thing overwhelms you. Unbelieveable!!!

Once back on the jump platform, the Canadian girl (from Edmonton) says to me, "ARe you going to jump again?" Then I remembered, as long as we are on the platform, we can do a second jump for only $70. I had forgot! I asked her if she was going to do it again, and she was seriously thinking about it, but hadn't actually decided yet. Then I said, Ya, I'm gonna jump again!!!! By this time, buddy had taken my ankle things off and put them on another girl, I then tell him I wanna jump again, so he takes them off of her and puts them on me again. So, I'm thinking to myself, I've done it once, there'll be no fear or anxiousness or anything this time, it'll be a breeze, because I know what it's all about and what to expect.

So, I'm sat up in the "on deck" chair almost immediatly, still totally PUMPED and adrenaline rushed from the first jump, and the guy grins at me and makes a remark that it must have been good if I'm doing it again. He attaches the bungy cord to my ankles, and once again, I inch out onto the viewing platform. Unexpectedly, I'm overcome with total anxiety again, and total fear, and as I put my toes over the edge, I said, a little too loud, "What the hell am I doing here?" The worker guys laughs and says something, I forget what, something about enjoying it or something. This was supposed to be easy the second time, no fear or anxiety or nothing! The worker counts down, 3......2......1......JUMP. And I JUMP!!! And again, I yell, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" all the way down. Fear made me yell, I know that now. I wasn't supposed to yell like my life was going to end this time, but I still did. I admit, just like the first time, when he said JUMP, I hesitated for an instance, then pushed that fear away, and jumped. And you know what??? IT WAS JUST AS INCREDIBLE THE SECOND TIME AROUND AS IT WAS THE FIRST TIME AROUND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The total exhilaration and feelings you get from this is unequalled anywhere, doing anything, I'm sure of that. It's a complete and total different experience than jumping from a plane. The ground is racing up at your face at unbelievable speeds, and a mere 10 metres from certain death, the bungy cords takes you and bounces you back up. Words cannot explain the feeling and exhilharation that you get from doing something like this.

AFter I got back up on the platform, the Canadian girl had her ankle straps back on, she was doing it again too! Her boyfriend, what's a wussy! Haha.

Anyway, she did it again, and she totally exclaimed that it was just as good the second time around as the first. Another girl, who had duct-taped her video camera to her arm (good idea!), then went, and she loved it so much, she did a second jump too.

AFter it was all over, we got back to the reception area, I was given my t-shirt and got to view my video on one of the TV's, and given my photo coupon, and paid for the second jump I did. Then we all hopped back on the bus and I got back to the hostel about 3:45, then drove out to the Shotover River, where the river goes through a gorge and took some pics, then on to the Coronet Peak ski area and took some more pics, then back to hostel. No encounters with the law this time.

Had supper, watched TV, then went to see "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" at the theatre at 9:20. Ok movie, kind of far-fetched, but different in a good way. To bed about 11:30.

More Info about \

For those too daft or busy to read the whole thing, here are the highlights:
- 7.1 on the Richter Scale, Geoscience Australia put it at 7.5
- Centred 70km west of Te Anau, at a depth of 20km. I was about 8km south of Te Anau.
- Biggest aftershock was 6.2 shake at 2:12AM (I distinctly remember this one!)
- "The quake went on for a long time ... these are the kinds of earthquakes that make the whole earth ring,"
- "We've been very lucky. An earthquake of this size near a population centre could cause a lot of damage."
- This was the largest quake in decades (!!!!)

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have actually experienced such a big earthquake. Definately once in a lifetime experience!!!! Of course, I am glad that no one was injured or killed from the quake.

Friday, August 22, 2003

After the Earthquake

Up about 8:30, after a fairly restless sleep. An exciting night!!! Showered, went and had breakfast.

Checked out of hostel, left about 9:30, went to internet in town and posted my earthquake experiences. Left Te Anau and headed to Queenstown, through Mossburn, Athol, Kingston, then Queenstown. Got to Queenstown about 2:00.

WOW!! The drive to Queenstown is awesome, and Queenstown is one of the most beautifully positioned cities I've ever seen, situated on a bend on Lake Wakatipu, and surrounded by a series of mountain ranges on all sides. It's amazing here.

Checked into Southern Laughter, a hostel with comics and humorous quips plastering the walls. A chuckle inducing hostel. My favorite quip: "I used to have a handle on life. Then it broke." I laughed out loud when I read that one. I'm in an 8-bed dorm, and I was the first one there, so went inside the room, and it doesn't smell that good. OH well, I got my pick of beds, picked a bottom bunk, and then swapped my crappy, thin mattress with a thick, comfy mattress on a top bunk.

Walked downtown and around, then booked the Nevis Highwire Bungy for tomorrow. It's 134 metres, the highest bungy jump in NZ (perhaps the world?) I bought the complete package, the jump, t-shirt, photo's, and video for $259. Steep, but if I'm gonna do it, I need the proof. There's actually a higher jump in Queenstown, from a hot-air balloon, but it's not a true "ankle" bungy jump, which is what I want. The hot-air balloon one, you're strapped via a harness around the waste, which is dumb. I jump tomorrow, supposed to meet at the AJ Hackett (he's the guy who "invented" bungy jumping).

Back to the hostel, and decided to drive, so drove out to Coronet Peak ski field. Didn't get all the way to the ski field, just part way up the mountain, and WOW, amazing views!!! There are two ski fields (Coronet Peak and The Remarkables) within 20 km drive of Queenstown, with plenty more an hour away. Queenstown is a mecca for young people, they are all over, carrying skiis and snowboards, hanging out by the side of the roads, trying to thumb their way to the ski areas.

On the way back, I was driving along the highway in a pack of 4 cars, two in front of me, and one behind me. We came around a corner, and there was a copper parked on a side road, obviously looking for speeders or whatever. We all went by him, and then he pulled out, and turned on his flashers, and started following us. The last car slowed down and pulled over to let the cop by, and the cop went around him, and I did the same to let him by me. He didn't. Instead, he pulled up behind me, so I pulled over on the shoulder, thinking to myself, "What the heck? I wasn't going any faster than anyone else!!!!" I put my window down and waited for him. He came up, looked at me, then pointed to my shoulder and said, "What is that?" I looked down, I had my shoulder strap for my seatbelt underneath my armpit, not over top of it!! I said, "Oops!", and put it over my shoulder. He then remarked, "At least you're wearing it." He said it didn't look like I was wearing it because it was under my shoulder, he couldn't see it. He then politely lectured me on wearing my seat belt "proper", and said that could be a $150 ticket, but he was going to let me off, because I was actually wearing it. Whew!!! That is the FIRST time in my life I have been pulled over my an officer of the law. Weird that it happened in New Zealand!

Continued back to the hostel, then went to McDonalds for supper, then to McCafe (McDonalds specialty coffee and dessert arm...some McDonalds even have internet cafe's!) for a mochachino and a piece of double chocolate cake.

Back to hostel, watched TV, then a movie ("End of Days", starring the next governor of California), then to bed.

AJ Hackett didn't actually invent bungy, he apparently got the idea from watching locals on some island do it off a cliff. AJ Hackett just popularized and commercialized it.

Nightmare At Barnyard Backpackers!

So, shortly after midnight, I was sound asleep, and was awoken by a terrible shaking going on. I had no idea what was happening, and I was still quite out-of-it, trying to wake up, in the total mass confusion that was happening all around me. Chaos, the thought that the world was ending actually did enter my mind, that this was it. THE END! I remember laying up in bed, and seeing another girl in a bed close by sitting up in bed. The cabin has two space heaters that throw a LOT of light around the cabin, making everything clearly visible. You can easily read by the light of these space heaters. Everything was shaking violently, the whole cabin is creaking and squeaking. It was like someone had grabbed the cabin lifted it off the ground and was shaking it violently. In fact, at first, in my half woke state, I thought I was in a tralier, and someone on the outside was rocking it back and forth. It continues for about 8 seconds, then everything goes black. The power just went out, the shaking continues for another few seconds, then subsides to a slower, gentler rocking motion. There are 5 of us on the cabin, and no one says anything. Total silence for about 15 seconds after, everyone is in a state of shock. The cabin is still swaying back and forth, ever so slightly.

At this point, I still hadn't quite grasped what had happened (and was still happening). Finally I realized the only logical explanation. I blurted out to everyone in the cabin, "Ok, I'm not positive, but I think that was an EARTHQUAKE! AND IT WAS THE MOST EXCITING THING I'VE EVER EXPERIENCED!!!" That kind of broke the ice, and I got a few chuckles. An earthquake!!!!!!! One of the guys pulled out his torch to give a little light no the situation, and I stood up. The ground was still shaking, I could feel it. One of the things that was going through my head was that I was expecting to see a total devastation outside. Quite frankly, I expected to see a wasteland laid before my eyes when I looked outside, and I expected to not see any stars at all in the beautiflly clear night sky. Part of the devastation would wipe out all the stars. Not sure why I thought that, just the shock of it. I opened the door, and looked out. Everything was still standing as it was when I went to bed, the stars were still shining in the crisp night sky.

Well, we all started talking, and I said that that had to be at least a 5 on the Richter Scale. I have been in two earthquake simulators in NZ, that simulated a 5.something on the Richter Scale, and that was at least as violent as the simulators. The European couple got up (the ones with the torch) and remarked that they needed a smoke, and went outside for a cigarette. We're all totally wide awake now, sitting up in bed, or walking around the cabin. All the while this is happening, there are small aftershocks that gently shake the foundation, off-and-on. As they're having their smoke, a car pulls up in front of our cabin. It's the owner, he's just coming by to make sure everone is all right. We ask him in earthquakes are common here. I didn't think they were on the south island, on the north island, ya, but not down here. He said small quakes are common, but he said that was a BIG one. He figured it was 8 on the Richter Scale, but I knew it couldn't have been that big, an 8 would be the granddaddy of earthquakes.

I used the toilet and looked at my watch, it was 12:14. We all kind of talked for a while, then slowly went back to bed, no one is in any mood to try to sleep. The 3 girls in the room didn't like it too much, the other guy, well, he was pretty quiet, I got the impression that he was VERY shook up about the whole thing, even moreso than the girls. Me, on the other hand, I thought it was AMAZING! I loved it! I've always wanted to experience an earthquake!!! It was, truly, one of the most terrifying things that I have ever experienced, because I had no idea what was happening, but it was amazingly awesome at the same time.

Anyway, throughout the night, small aftershoks rocked the building, and we could feel every single one, being attuned to the idea of being in an earthquake. The power came back on at 1:24. We had rather BIG aftershock at about 2:15, that once again shook fairly violently, and everyone sat up in bed again after that on. Not nearly as violent as the original BIG one, though. The adrenaline wearing off, I think it was shortly after this, I dozed off, and fell asleep. I woke up shortly before 8:00, and kind of soaked in bed, and shortly after 8:00, another kind of large aftershock. The two girls had the TV turned on, watching the news, and the news item indicated an earthquake shook southwest NZ, from Queenstown, Te Anau (where I was) and all the way down to Invercargill. It was a 7.1 on the Richter Scale.

I showered, went up the main cabin for breakfast. They had a sign posted that the earthquake had knocked out the water in the kitchen in the main cabin, and they note also indicated it was a 7.1 on the scale.

Needless to say, everyone had a lot to talk about in the morning.


Thursday, August 21, 2003

Milford Sound...NOT

Yesterday, during and after the Doubtful Sound trip, I was wishing that I hadn't booked the Milford Sound trip, and spent that money. I don't need to see two sounds. But it was too late to do anything about it.

So, up at 6:30, showered, had breakfast and waited for my bus for Milford Sound. And I waited and waited and waited and waited, but nothing came. About 8:15, I called the company and told them, and they asked me my name, I said Courtnage (the name that was on my ticket) and she said, "Oh, we've been trying to get a hold of you all day yesterday, but the hostel didn't know who you were. The road is closed to Milford, so it's cancelled." She asked me if I'd like to rebook it, and I said I couldn't, I was leaving tomorrow, so she told me to go back to the booking centre I bought it from, and they'd refund my money. YAY!!! As for the name dilemma, the trip company only had my last name, the hostel only knew my first name, so they didn't know who "courtnage" was. So, ends up I'm not spending the money after all!

So, about 9:00, headed into Te Anau and got my $135 refund (took all the cash they had! Hahaha!), then drove to Rainbow Reach just south of the hostel, one of the entry/exit points of the Keplar Track, one of NZ's nine "Great Walks". The Keplar Track is 67km long, a 3-4 day tramp, but I just walked a short part of it, from Rainbow Reach to Moturau Hut, then continued past the hut for perhaps another 30 minutes. Then turned around and walked back. Walked for about 5 hours in total, 9:30-2:30.

The DOC has back-country huts setup all over NZ for trampers (Kiwi for hikers) to spend overnights on many of the multi-day tramps across NZ. The huts consist of bunk beds, gas stoves, kitchens, etc. It's quite a grand idea, but of course, in summer, many of the huts in the most popular tramps are booked solid. The hut I visited had no one in it, and had perhaps 50 bunk beds in total, a huge kitchen area with lots of sinks, flushing toilets, the works.

After that, drove back to Te Anau, used internet for a while, filled up with petrol for tomorrow's trip, bcak the hostel, had supper, then figured out my game plan for tomorrow, then just vegged, chatted with other folk, etc.

To bed about 10:30 (only to be awaken by a "nightmare" shortly after midnight! See my special next journal entry for details!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Doubtful Sound

Up at 7:30, still snowing!!! Not sure how much snow fell, but I'm sure it's many inches.

Showered, breakfast, waited for bus, got here about 9:45, and picked up myself and a couple from Netherlands from our hostel.

A few km south of our hostel, towards Manapouri, no snow. Just rain. Weird!

People are saying that the weather on the other side of the mountain range is usually very different than what it is on this side. Yesterday, the Doubtful Sound trips got cancelled because of snow on the way up to the pass. The Netherlander couple were on that trip.

Anyway, we took the boat across Lake Manapouri to the power underground station. Lake Manapouri is 444 metres deep, second deepest in NZ. We did a quick tour of the power station. It's cool.

Way back (1960's) when they realized the potential of Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri to create power, the made a plans build a huge power station, causing the lake levels to rise dramatically, killing lots of shore vegetation and wreaking havoc on the environment. There was a HUGE public uproar, especially considering this was going to happen inside a national park. So, they went back to the drawing board, and drew up an underground power station that could harness the electricity making power of the lakes, but would also be able to keep the lake levels to within natural levels. So, at the west warm of Lake Manapouri, water gets sucked way down underneath the mountain, turning turbines, creating electricity, and the water is ejected out to Doubtful Sound via two 10km long tunnels blasted underneath the mountain. The turbines in the power station underneath the mountain are actually below sea level. It's way cool. The water levels of the two lakes is controlled, but the levels will never go outside the natural levels of the lakes. And the people rejoiced.

After the power station, we hopped on a bus, and started our climb up the mountain, snow, cold, low clouds hanging all over. Can't see much, it's not looking good.

As soon as we went over the pass, the whole picture changed. Almost no snow anywhere, at least two degrees warmer, just a thin layer of high cloud, all the mountains clearly visible. What a difference.

We then boarded another boat in Doubtful Sound. Doubtful is beautiful green, sheer cliffs dropping into the sea, waterfalls all over, deep fjords. We saw albatross, one penguin, lots of seals. Spent a few hours travelling all around the sound. Reminded me of the glacier tour we took in Alaska.

We got back to the frigid cold and now of the leeward side (is that the correct term?), and back to the hostel about 5:30, made supper (something simple, jam and peanut butter), then called and booked a hostel in Queenstown for Friday and Saturday nights. Lots of the hostels were booked up, finally got something at Southern Laughter Hostel, the 5th hostel I tried.

Side note: While we waited for our bus this morning, the hostel phoned to get the status of the Milford Road for some people that wanted to drive it today. It was closed, the road got one metre of snow and trees were down all over the road.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003


Up about 8:00. It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring. Showered, had breakfast (bacon and eggs, real hashbrowns...yumm), then about 9:30, drove up to Te Anau intent on renting tire chains and driving up to Milford. Halfway to town, I realized I left my toque and gloves back at the hostel, so continued on to Te Anau, drove by the visitors centre to see if the Milford Road was open (it was), then drove by the garage that hires snow chains, then still had their sign out front, then drove back to the hostel to get my gloves and toque. It's pouring rain, hard. On my way back to the hostel, decided to take a coach tour up to Milford on Thursday instead, then I don't have to worry about driving on ice and snow, and can enjoy the view instead.

Drove back to town, and visited the visitor centre to get info on Milford Sound trips ,then to internet for a while (cheap internet for a small town, only $4/hour). As I used the internet, glanced outside, and it was snowing. Huge flakes coming down. Finished internet, still snowing hard. It's all melting as soon as it hits the ground, though. Went and booked Milford Sound trip with Milford Wilderness Explorer for $135 for Thursday, then drove around a while. Snowfall even heavier now, and it's not melting anymore. Parked in the DOC visitors centre parking lot and just walked around in the snow around the lake area, catching flakes in my mouth. Amazing snowfall, huge flakes, heavy and wet. It makes everything look beautiful.

Finally headed back to the hostel about 4:00, the highway was covered in a thick layer of wet slush. A Japanese tourist went in the ditch ahead of me. I stopped and tried to push him out, but couldn't. I suggested he call for a tow truck and ditched him. On the road going back up to the hostel, a guy got stuck, couldn't get up the hill, which meant another guy behind him had to stop, and so did I. We got out, and pushed the first guy up the hill, but then the 2nd car and me couldn't get up the hill anymore, having stopped and lost our momentum. They had tire chains, so they put them on and drove up, then one of them ran back down and gave me the chains and I managed to get up too.

Back at the hostel, the couple working the hostel, and the owners kids and the dog and some of the guests were having a blast in the snow, riding down the hill on dinner trays. The dog was going crazy in the snow. They made a big 7' snowman. Inside, they had the fireplaces going. It's just like Christmas! Lady at the hostel said they rarely get snow like this down here. The owner said he hasn't seen a snowfall like this in more than 5 years.

Everyone just hung back at the hostel this evening.

One couple got back about 6:30 from a drive to Milford Sound, they said it was nice up there, no snow, just some rain all day.

Played cards, tried to solve an almost impossible jigsaw puzzle, then to bed about 11:00.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Real Mountains!

Went to Pizza Hut last night for supper and had an amazing "The Works" buffet...all you can eat pizza, pasta, salad and dessert. I filled my face with pizza, then when I thought I couldn't eat any more, had two full bowls of brownie with ice cream on top and chocolate sauce and mini-chocolate chips and marshmellows. I thought I was going to be sick, I ate so much. AFter that, watched TV for the rest of the evening.

Up about 8:00, showered, breakfast, and left about 9:30. Took highway SH99 through Riverton, stoped for a little bit there for pictures (nice oceanside town), then Orepuki, stopped at Monkey Island, then the Orepuki Beach, also calld Gemstone Beach because it has low-grade gemstones washed up on it a lot of the time. I couldn't really tell the gemstones from regular stones. Then stopped at a big suspension bridge built in 1902. Then stopped at McKracken's Rest, just a rest stop with some amazing views of mountains and ocean. Then on to Manapouri, and checked into the Barnyard Backpackers, halfway between Manapouri and Te Anau. Got there about 2:30.

Drove back down to Manapouri and booked a Doubtful sound trip for Wednesday, as they were all booked up for tomorrow. The lady said Wednesday would probably be better anyway, because the forecast is for rain tomorrow. Doubtful Sound was named by Captain Cook, after he observed that it was "doubtful" that there would be sufficient wind to blow his ship back out to sea. So, he didn't sail into the sound.

Drove up to Te Anau, nice town situated along Lake Te Anau, surrounded by mountains.

Back to hostel, made supper (spaghetti), then read for the rest of the evening, and to bed about 11:00.

It was a beautiful day today, sun was shining all day, and very warm.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

More Catlins

Up about 8:00. I was the first one up in the house. Showered, breakfast, packed and took off. Last night was the most comfortable bed I've slept in. When I climbed in last night, he even has electric blankets under the sheets, and mine was turned on high, so my bed was very toasty warm when I went to bed. I turned it off for the night, though, as there were about 5 blankets and duvets on the bed as well. Rained all night last night.

Drove to Florence Lookout to see views of Tautuku Beach (supposed to be one of the nicest beaches in the Catlins), then stopped at Cathedral Caves, but the gate was closed. Cathedral Caves are only accessible at low tide, and low tide was at 12:04pm today, and they open the gates about two hours before low tide. I got there about 9:45. There was also a sign there indicating that it was closed yesterday, perhaps it will be closed today, because of the huge waves. So, I continued on, less than 1km down the road was McLean Falls. The turnoff takes you through a bunch of sheep fields, with sheep running rampant all over the road. Parked the car, then about a 15 minute walk to the falls. WOW!! Spectacular falls, made even more spectaular because of all the rain, it was GUSHING! AFter that, about 10:45, drove back to Cathedral Caves, the gate still close, and they didn't change they info board, still had yesterday on it. I assumed they aren't open today. So, continued on.

Turned off the main road and took the Catlin Scenic Roadway (or something like that) through Waikawa and drove to Curio Bay to see the 180-million year old petrified forest visible in and on the rocky coast of the bay. The huge waves crashing up on the rocky plane where the remains were was much more spectacular than the dumb forest.

Then on to Slope Point, the southernmost tip of the south island. I just took a picture from the roadway, I couldn't be asked to walk the 20 minute track through the wind and rain to the actual point.

Then on to Waipapa Point, the site of the worst maritime disaster in New Zealands history, in 1881. I think the information board said more than 100 people were killed when I ship went ashore. There were some sea lions on the beach further down, so I walked towards them. I was totally downwind of them, and as I got closer, their noses went up, and they started moving away. There were three of them, and as I got closer, one of them took off into the ocean, so I left them alone.

Continued on to Invercargill, a flat, rectangular city (pop. 53,000), with nothing for tourists except simplicity. It's nice to not have to negotatiate twisty, windy roads and streets going up and down and around hills (Dunedin was really bad for could never tell if something was coming up and over a hill, when you were trying to make a turn). Checked into Tuatara Lodge, right downtown, $20/night. Nice hostel. This hostel did NOT get a thumbs up from Let's Go, I passed over that hostel in favour of a more non-home style hostel for tonight.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Catlins and Ferocious Sea Lions!

Up about 8:00, showered, and breakfast, packed my car and about 9:30, headed south along the Southern Scenic Route, through Brighton, which then connects back up with SH1 a little later. Some amazing beaches with huge crashing waves coming in on them.

Left SH1 again at Balclutha. Stopped in Balclutha to get money from a bank machine, because there's no bank machines until Invercargill. Also called Hilltop Backpackers, in Papatowai to reserve a dorm. He didn't have any dorm beds left, so he said he's put my e in a double for $25. I said sure.

My first stop was Kaka Point, and got out to see if I could see any seals or sea lions, but nothing. Continued on to Nugget Point, and visited the worlds most southerly lighthouse and could see some seals or sea lions hanging out far below the lighthouse.

Then on to Tunnel Hill, a short walk to, and through, an abondoned railway tunnel, about 250m long. The sign recommended a torch (flashlight), but I didn't have one (well, I did, but no batteries), so I had to walk it in the dark. It was dark in the middle! Then continued on to Cannibal Bay, and couldn't find any sea lions yet, so then on to Surat Bay, which is where 40ish of NZ 100 mainland sea lions stay for the winter. The rest chill out on Antarctica. The beach at Surat Bay is only accessible at low-tide. I didn't know exactly when low-tide was, nor did I really know where the path was, so I wandered through a huge grassy field, with tall grass all, and some shrubs. There were lots of "paths" all through the grassy field, along with huge terds everywhere. Presumably the sea lions hang out in the grassy field, and they drag themselves around, and lie around and make these "paths". The sign at the entrance warned that there were sea lions in the area, and to STAY AWAY from them. (As an aside, the signs associated with seal colonies just say to keep about 5 metres away from seals.) So, I wandered for about 20 or 30 minutes through the grassy field, slowly making my way to the ocean/beach at the opposite end of the grassy field. Finally made it, and climbed over the ridge down on to the beach, and could see no sea lions either way. Started walking one way along the beach, and couldn't see any (even peered through my binoculars to see far away). On the walk back, I could tell the tide was coming in. My original footprints I had left earlier were now starting to get covered up with ocean water. I walked back and around the bend on the beach to see if that's where they were hanging out. Sure enough, there they were, lounging on the beach. As I was video-taping them, the tide (helped with a HUGE wave) washed right up on the beach, right up to the cliff I needed to get back up to get to the grassy plain. It totally freaked me out, I certainly didn't want to be stranded here on the beach area with a bunch of sea lions!! My adrenaline is going, so I RAN back to a low spot on the cliff, got myself back onto the grassy plain. The huge swell had even poured water onto the grassy plain at this spot. I jumped over the big puddles, and ran up over a knoll, then I stopped suddenly..... My heart skipped a beat, I'm sure. Right before me, no more than 5 feet, a HUGE sea lion, laying in the grass. I quickly fumbled for my video camera, and made a bunch of noise, and that's when the sea lion moved. He lifted his head, looked at me square in the eyes for about 10 seconds (I'm totally frozen stiff!), then puts his head back down, totally ignoring me! The scaries part is, one thing you are NOT supposed to do with sea lions (and seals) is get between them and the ocean, because you are blocking off their escape, and that's when they'll have a go at you. I was right in his escape path, squarely between him and the ocean. I silently stood there and took a little video of him, then quietly walked WAY around him and worked my way back, through the grassy field (keeping an eye out for any more lions), and back to the car. Quite an exciting and scary experience!

I then continued on to Jack's Blowhole (no jokes), a huge inland hole (also called a slurp) that's connected to the sea via caves. With blowholes, water can come rushing through the cave system to the back wall of the hole, and create huge spray's of water coming up out of the blowhole (kind of like a whale's blow hole). On the way to the parking lot, there was a sign saying the track to the blowhole was closed due to lambing, but I drove to the parking lot anyway, and when I parked and got out of my car, a farmer came out of his house, and I asked him if I could see the blowhole. He was very nice, and said sure, and told me how to get there. I had to walk through his sheep field to get there, and he suggested I walk to the edge of his pasture and check out the water rushing through the channel between the mainland and a close island. He told me that there's a big storm brewing out at sea, and there's 130km/hour winds out there, creating huge swells and waves that are crashing into the cliffs. So, I trekked through the sheep field, making sure not to step in something smelly, and the sheep are all very timid, won't let me get close to them at all. A lot of baby sheep (what are they called?...lambs?) too, but all very shy. The blowhole was cool, but there were no huge sprays coming up out of the hole, unforuntately. Then walked to take a look at the channel, and there were some huge waves crashing around in the channel, it was pretty spectacular.

Still not done seeing things, I then went to Purakanui Falls, a very nice cascading waterfall.

After the waterfall, continued on to Papatowai and went to the hostel. It's located about 1km from the highway, on a grassy (sheep-field) hill, in a newish country farmhouse. It's very nice, although the kitchen isn't designed to have 5 people in there at once trying to cook supper. :-) Oh well, the two bathrooms are HUGE and have heat lamps, and one of the bathrooms even has a tub. First hostel I've seen that had a tub for having a soak! When I got there, the guy told me he's put me in a twin room with another guy (that's two single beds) and he only charged me $20.

Had supper, watched rugby, All Black's vs. the Wallabies (Aussie team), competing for the Bledisloe Cup. All Black's won. One of the guys in staying here has a bad cold, he's sneezing and coughing all over everything. I hope I don't get it!! To bed about 11:00.

Mostly rain today, with the sun poking out a few times for a few moments.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Taieri Gorge Railway

Up about 7:45, showered, breakfast (hmm, does it seem like I start my morning off the same way EVERY single day?), then drove to Baldwin Street, getting lost on the way and having to drive for 20km on the "DO NOT STOP"highway before getting an opportunity to turn around. Baldwin Street is in the Guiness book of records for being the steepest street in the world, it is 1 to 2.34 or something like that at it's steppest. I walked up (puffing the whole way), then back down, then drove up and down. I didn't think my poor car was going to make it up!!!

Back to the hostel, had lunch, then walked downtown and took a few pictures of Dunedin. Nice morning, mostly sunny. About noon, went to the train station and got on the train for the trip. The train left at 12:30, the trip was pretty nice, across old bridges high over valleys and gorges and rivers, through tunnels (one being almost 500m long). The trip I took in Alaska was better, though. Got to Pukerangi about 2:45, reaching an elevation of 250m above sea lever. The trip back down was a fair bit faster, because we weren't stopping or slowing down for photo opportunities. Got back about 4:00. When we got back, it was raining in Dunedin.

Walked around downtown for a bit, then back to the hostel to drop off my camera's, then went back downtown to McDonalds for supper, browsed some more, used internet for a bit, then back to the hostel.

Watched "The Beach", never seen it before, pretty bizarre movie. Kind of a backpackers version of "Lord of the Flies". I'll have to check out that beach when I go back to Thailand. Chatted with some persons in the dining room area, then to bed about 11:00.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Change of Plans (kinda)

Up about 7:30, showered and breakfast, had bacon and eggs, and real hashbrowns! Kitchen was pretty smokey when I was done. Packed my car, then checked out of the hostel and walked around downtown Oamaru taking pics. Amazing, historic downtown, with beautiful old limestone buildings. Walked by a bakery and bought some muffins and a chocolate/caramel square.

Left about 10:30, headed south on SH1, and stopped a few kilometres north of Moeraki to see the Moeraki Boulders, large, very curious, almost spherical boulders on the beach, formed out of bits of animal or plant matter in the mudstone, later to be revealed by erosion of the of the mudstone by the ocean. Quite neat.

Then drove to the Moeraki town and went to Kaitiki Point and saw seals and found two penguins in their den rigth beside the walking path and got a decent picture of them in their hole.

Continued on to Dunedin and got there sometime, not sure when, stopped at the Countdown parking lot and walked around a bit to find my bearings. The city centre is organized around an octagon (the centre street is shaped like an octagon, is the name of the street: Octagon). The streets radiate out from and around the octagon. Figured out how to get to where I wanted to go (Elm Lodge), and drove there and checked in. Cheapest hostel I've been at, $15.00/night. They got thumbs up from Let's Go, but shouldn't have. It's not a particularly nice place, just average.

Walked downtown to the old train station and booked a seat on the Taieri Gorge Railway, supposedly one of the world's greatest railway journeys. $56 return trip from Dunedin to Pukerangi, 58km away. I go tomorrow at 12:30.

Walked to Cadbury World, and did the 3:00 tour of Cadbury's chocolate factory for $14 and got lots of chocolate to boot! If I was smart, I would have lagged behind the group and snatched up even more chocolate bars. Haha, it was intersting, anyway. They are busy making hollow chocolate eggs for next Easter. They make the hollow eggs 24/7 from June to end of January to supply enough eggs for the Easter 2004 season. WOWSERS!! Tour ended about 4:00, and we were ushered into the Cadbury store, where we could buy Cadbury "things" and chocolate at reduced prices than store prices. I should have stacked up on chocolate bars. I did buy a Cadbury soft cooler, great for keeping my refrigerated goods while I'm on the road.

Then went to Dick Smith Electronics (the big electronics chain in NZ, and Australia too) and bought some headphones for myself.

Then went to subway for supper, then back to hostel and watched TV. WAtched, for the first time ever, a guy going for $1,000,000 on the Aussie version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". He took the $500,000 because he wasn't sure of the final question, although he had an idea. After he got his cheque, he locked in his "guessed" answer, and he was right, he could have had $1,000,000. The host was sure trying to get him to go for it, though.

I was going to head over to Queenstown and do some more life-defying stunts, but realized how close to the bottom of NZ I am, so I'm going to head around the south coast, the area known as the Catlins and then to Invercargill instead. It's supposed to be beautiful, NZ best kept secret, and a very remote area.

Beautiful day, sun shining all day, but the wind was frickin' cold.'

Wednesday, August 13, 2003


Up about 8:45, showered, breakfast and checked out, and headed for Oamaru. I read in Lonely Planet that the road south of Christchuch is boring, so decided to head inland and take the "Scenic Highway", SH72, which meets up with SH1 near Temuka. Got to SH72, headed south, turned off at Mt. Hutt ski area to check it out, but you need chains to get up to the mountain. They had chain hire at the base, but I wasn't about to hire chains just to drive up to see it then turn back around again.

So, I continued south, turned off further down to Peel Forest and checked out "Big Tree"; a big tree, 1000 years old and more than 8m in circumference.

Stopped a couple of other places to take snapshots. The scenic drive isn't particularly scenic.

Got to Oamaru about 4:00, checked into Empire Hotel Backpackers (thumbs up from Let's Go). Oamaru is cool, the whole old downtown is all done in white Limestone, all the old buildings look wonderously amazing!!! It's very impressive! Beautiful. The hostel is right downtown, in an old restored hotel. It's still being worked on.

Drove out to where the rare yellow-eyed penguin comes ashore. The come ashore about two hours before dusk. They are shy, and won't come ashore if there are people around, so viewing them is restricted from high above the cliff above the beach. I was able to get some good video, though, not much for still pictures (too far away). There's not a lot of them, only saw about 5 or 6 some ashore. They are quite large, these penguins are about 70cm tall.

Headed back to Woolworth and bought some groceries, back to the hostel and made supper (beef sausages), then about 6:15, headed to the Blue Penguin Colony. These penguins come ashore the hour following dusk. These penguins are small (the smallest of all penguin species) only about 25cm tall. It's $10 to see them come ashore and go to their homes. Interesting, but not worth $10. And you can't take any pictures either. You are quite close to them, they don't mind human's around at all. The viewing platform is, perhaps less than ten feet from part of the area where they den. While I was there, more than 60 came ashore. Back to the hostel about 7:15, decided what to do tomorrow, and used internet and watched TV.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

My car SUCKS!

Ok, my car sucks! The radio only goes up to 90.0Mhz on the FM tuner! Most of the friggin radio stations are above 90 on the dial! Ugh!!

Up about 8:45, showered, breakfast. The hostel has freshly baked bread in the kitchen every morning!

About 10:00, called Bargain to see if they had tire chains for my vehicle, as I may need them for the mountains. The company doesn't offer tire chains on their vehicles, so I'll just have to wing it.

Then I drove downtown and walked around the Cathedral Square area, where the Christchurch Cathedral is, a huge, gothic cathedral built in 1865. Quite amazing. Walked around the area for a couple of hours, and found a New Zealand Natural store, an ice cream store! I didn't want ice cream right then, but decided I'd come back later in the day. Went to Burger King for lunch, then drove to Sumner (resort town a few km from Christchurch), nice town. Then drove Summit Road, giving great views of clouds and a few glimpses of surrounding area. Then to Lyttleton, the port of Christchurch. I went to see the Lyttleton Timeball Station, but it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. My luck.

Back to downtown Christchurch, went to the internet for a while, then about 4:45, went to New Zealand Natural, and it was CLOSED. Ack!! Every store in Christchurch is open except this one! And it was open earlier today!

Back to hostel and made supper, then watched TV and figured out game plan for tomorrow, then to bed.

Spring is coming...all the trees and bushes and flowering plants are all flowering, creating an explosion of colours; purples, yellows, reds, whites, and pinks, very beautiful.

Heard the new Nickelback song, Someday, on the one radio station I can get on my crappy radio.

Monday, August 11, 2003

South to Kaikoura (and beyond). Alter Ego!

Up about 8:45, showered, breakfast (free breakfasts at this hostel!), then packed. It's crappy weather, so I'll come back later when I head back up the north island.

Left about 10:00, headed south to Kaikoura. Got there about noonish. Small town on the coast that's popular because they have lots of dolphins, whales, sharks and seals near, so there's lots of various wildlife tours. I wanna swim with dolphins, but the weather is really crappy, very windy and cloudy and cold and rainy, so I'll come back here when I head back up to the noth island and do my dolphin swimming. So, I continued on to Christchurch. Kaikoura has an awesome mountain range towering over it on one side, with amazing views of snow covered peaks.

Got to Christchurch about 3:30, checked into The Old Country House, thumbs up from Let's Go.

Drove downtown, used internet for a while, back to hostel, made supper, then went in search of an ice cream place, but found nothing, so back to the hostel and went to the corner store and bought an ice cream treat, then back to the hostel and watched the Aussie versino of "Who Wants To Be Millionaire", the Entertainer Edition. They had Dame Edna as one of the guests, he/she was hilarious. Of course, the celebs were doing it for charity, and Dame Edna missed a question for $8000 or something like that, and dropped back to $1000 for her charity. He/She felt so bad that she announced at the end of the show that she would make up the amount out of her own pocket.

As we were watching TV, a British guy and I were chatting, he asked me where I was from, Canada I said, he asked me where, I said Saskatchewan, expecting the typical "Huh?" response. But didn't get it. He met a guy in Australia from Saskatoon, so know of Saskatchewan. He also had another story about Saskatchewan. While living in Australia, he was living with some Canadian's, and he was always getting razzed by the Canadian's because he was British, so one of his flatmates gave him a Canadian alter ego: he was Todd from Moose Jaw. My eyes nearly popped out of my head. I looked at him, thinking he was taking the piss out of me (British phrase meaning screwing with me), and I looked at him, thinking I must have met this guy before and he knew who I was, and was joking around with me, because he knew I didn't recognize him. But no, I'm sure I hadn't met him before. Finally I said to him, "You'll never believe this. My name is Todd, and I'm from Moose Jaw!" And I told him I could prove it with my drivers license. He nearly fell off of his chair, then started laughing hysterically! He's like, "You can't be serious???", I showed him my drivers license, and he couldn't believe it. He says to me he has to take a picture of my ID, his friend that gave him the alter ego will NEVER believe this. Talk about coincidence, eh?

After Millionaire, watched Picket Fences, then to bed about midnight.

- Weird traffic rules. One very strange traffic rule I'm not used to yet, remembering that over here I drive on the left hand side of the road. If I am going to make a left hand turn , I have to give way to someone making a right-hand turn from the oncoming lane, and crossing traffic. So, if I'm making a right-hand turn (and crossing oncoming traffic to do it), and someone is making a left-hand turn into the same street, they give way to me. Strange!
- There's lots of hostel work available. It's not paid work, you get free accomodations and laundry and stuff, but lots of hostels looking for work.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

To the South Island!

Up about 8:00, showered, breakfast, packed everything into the car and left the hostel about 9:15, drove to Lower Hutt (suburb of Wellington) to find a supermarket, since I never did see one in downtown Wellington. Lower Hutt is about a 10 minute drive along the motorway. Sure enough, a Countdown store rears it's head, so I pull in and top up (everything seemed to run out at once). Then headed back to Strait Shipping (the name of their ferry service is BlueBridge) and found their "ferry terminal" (presently housed in a temporary building while a new ferry terminal is constructed), got there about 10:30, checked in, and had 1.5 hours to kill, so walked downtown, used internet at Visitor's Centre for a short while, then walked back to ferry terminal and waited.

Ferry left about 12:50 (ahead of schedule!). The ship is not a "normal" ferry boat. It's HUGE, has 4 vehicle decks, and they have a small cafe area and a small dining room, and they have "quiet rooms", rooms with beds, so you can shut the door and take a nap. They are doing a $1 million dollar refit of the vessel, tearing out a whole bunch of the sleeping quarters (that were in use in France) and making a big dining area, holding as many of 500 passengers. It could be a complete different ship when I return in a few weeks.

Got to Picton about 4:15, drove around town looking for The Villa Backpackers (I had made a reservation earlier in the day), and checked in. Nice place. REcommended by Let's Go, and also another couple heard good things about it when I was in Wellington, and they recommended it also. The hostel has free breakfasts in the morning, and has free apple crumb with ice cream in the evenings, and a hot tub. I was in a big 4-bed dorm room all by myself.

Watched ending of "Full Monty" in the TV room (last hour or so), made supper, ate it, then went out back and sat around the wooden fireplace with a couple of others, then about 6:30, put my trunks on and relaxed in the hot tub for half an hour, then went to the TV room and watched part of "The Piano", then at 7:30, they brought the freshly baked apple crumb to the kitchen, and everyone queued for hot apple crumb and ice cream. Homemade. It was to die for!!

After that, walked around Picton in the dark. Nice town, not much happening on a Sunday evening, though. Although, there's probably not much happening any night of the week, unless maybe there's an All Blacks game on in the pub or something.

Back to the hostel, sat out back around the wood fireplace, and read for a while, then chatted with a guy who works at the hostel. It was his last day working there, after 1.5 years. He was German, and is not sure where he's gonna go next. Then talked with a German girl (lots of Germans at this hostel), then when it got too cold out, moved inside to the TV room and watched the last half of "The Last of the Mohicans", then to bed.

I really like this hostel!

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Around Wellington

Up about 8:45, showered, breakfast, then drove to Island Bay (not an island, a suburb of Wellington) and did the Red Rocks Coastal Walk, a 2-hour return walk along the coastline to Sinclair Head, where a colony of fur seals was out lounging in the sun. They are quite accustomed to people, and you can get quite close to them. I was about 10 feet away snapping pictures of one fatty. You could also see the snow capped peaks of the south island.

Got back to the hostel about 1:00, then started walking downtown to the cable car that goes up to the top of a big hill in Wellington. Along the way, stopped at internet for a bit, then spent some time on Cuba Street, a pedestrian-only street with shops and shops and shops. One of the buskers was all decked out in his Scottish garb, kilt and all, playing his bagpipes for money. Got to the cable car, it's $3.60 for a return trip. AT the top is the cable car museum, Carter Observatory and the Botanic Garden. I headed for the Carter Observatory for my yearly lesson in astronomy (I know how to find south by the stars now), spent more than an hour there, then walked around the gardens for a little bit, but it was getting late in the day, so headed back down in the cable car, and back to the hostel. Of course, I passed Mrs. Higgins somewhere along the way today and bought more cookies.

Got back to the hostel, had supper, read for a while (finished book 2 of the trilogy), then decided to go to a movie. Left about 8:00, walked to Reading Cinemas, a 10-screen, brand new multiplex, and saw "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle". Very corny, but I liked it.

BTW, "Jackass: The Movie" just came out in NZ. We saw that on pirate DVD in SE Asia months ago. When did it come out in Canada??? Can someone answer me? It seems like NZ has to wait to get movies (exception being Lord of the Rings).

After the movie, Courtenay Place (where the theatre is) was hopping, tons of people. I walked around for a bit, then back to the hostel and to bed.

Friday, August 08, 2003


Up about 8:00 or so, sowered, breakfast (bacon and eggs, toast), then grabbed umbrella (it was raining this morning), and walked downtown, stopped at the visitors centre and grabbed some maps on the walking trails in town, and stopped into a few bookstores. Things were looking bleak, but I finally found book 3 of the trilogy I'm reading. Dymocks only had one copy left, so I grabbed it! As I was walking around, bought some cookies from Mrs. Higgins Oven Fresh Cookies (Kiwi's love their baked goods...), 5 for $5, then walked back to the hostel about 11:30. By this time, it stopped raining.

Called Strait Shipping to book the ferry from Wellington to Picton for Sunday. $150.00; $110 for the car, $40 for me. Cheaper than the regular ferry service. Strait started their passenger ferry service only in Dec., 2002.

Shortly after noon, walked to internet for 1.5 or 2 hours, then back to the hostel. Dropped off journal, picked up camera and walked back downtown and visited Te Papa, the National Museum. It's free and it's amazing. It encompasses a science and nature centre, culture, and artsy-fartsy stuff on 5 huge levels. Of course, the best part was the science and nature floor, all about NZ's environment (volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.), flora and fauna. Very impressive. Stayed there longer than I anticipated, until about 5:45, then walked back to the hostel and made supper (grilled cheese sandwiches).

Opened up "The Battle of Evernight", the book I bought, and guess what? My copy has actually been signed by the author, Cecilia Dart-Thornton.

As I was walking around today, the city employees were planting flowers in the flower beds. Summer's here!!!

About 6:45, went for a walk downtown, lots happening at night, especially on Courtenay Place and Cuba Street. Lots of bars, lounges, coffee shops, people mulling all over the place, buskers. One group was preaching about Jesus and Christianity to everyone. I listened for a minute or two, then walked away, and was standing at a traffic light, and a girl comes up to me and says, "Hi. I just noticed you were listening to us. I was just wondering if you would like one of these." and handed be a Jesus flyer. I'm like, "Uhhh, ya, ok, thanks.", stuffed it my pocket and walked away quicklike. Haha. Another group had, what they called a circus, with fire shows (with poi's, firesticks and devil sticks" while another guy beat on the bottom of an upside down plastic garbage bin.

Back to the hostel about 9:45, read and to bed about 10:30. So tired, and my feet were killing me from walking around all day.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

I Saw a Kiwi!!!

Up about 8:30, showered, breakfast, packed everything into the car, checked out and headed south on SH2 for Wellington. Before I left, I called Bargain Car Rentals to see if they happen to have a car available in Picton for me, then I wouldn't have to take the car across on the ferry. They didn't have any in Picton. Oh well. She gave me the name of a ferry company that's cheaper than the regular ferry service between the islands. I can ship the car for $110, which can be quite a bit cheaper.

Left about 10:00, drove and stopped at Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre about 12:45. $8 to get in, they have aviaries and reserves for some of the rarest and endangered birds in NZ, and have breeding programs in place. Also have some reptiles and have some eels in the stream that runs through the park. Walked through the reserve, saw some rare birds, but couldn't find other rare birds in amongst the think trees and bush in the large cages. Then went to see the daily eel feeding at 1:30, then went through Kiwi House, where they have two kiwi birds in a time-slipped habitat. Kiwi's are flightless, nocturnal birds, so they alter light conditions in the building to make their night our day, so we can see them out feeding. WOW!!! I always thought kiwi were little birds, they're not, they're HUGE! They're big, bigger than a large housecat! I was totally shocked, because Lonely Planet says they are small as well. Anyway, the kiwi is NZ national bird and is endangered. It has declined by about 90% in the last 70 years or something like that, mainly through introduced mammals that hunt them (NZ has no native mammals!), and the kiwi has no defences against them at all. AFter walking through the reserve, had lunch at the cafe at the centre, and left about 2:00.

Continued south (south west, actually), and saw a sign for Waiohine Gorge, so decided to check it out. It's a DOC recreational area above a deep gorge with a river (Waiohine River?) running through it. Spent perhaps an hour getting there and back.

SH2 follows a spectacular mountain range the whole way down from Napier, so to my right I had a great mountain view the whole way. About an hour from Wellington, the highway crosses the mountain range, culminating at Rimutaka Summit, at an elevation of 555 metres, and awesome views on both sides.

Got to Wellington about 5:00, right during rush hour. Crazy! Pulled off a downtown side street, parked, and got my bearings and decided to stay at World Wide Backpackers. Spent what seemed like hours trying to navigate 1-way streets, traffic jams, and finally made it the hostel, but now couldn't find a place to park. Drove around for another 10 hours, trying to find a place to park, finally finding something 10 minutes walk away. Got to the hostel, and it was full.....

I decided then that I didn't want to deal with Wellington traffic, and to stay at a place called Moana Lodge, about 20 minutes north of Wellington, in Plimmerton. Let's Go gave it a thumbs up, and the kiwi chick at the hostel in Napier highly recommended it too. I called them, and they were full, but the guy said I could sleep on the couch in the common room if I wanted, for the night. I wasn't about to drive 20 minutes to sleep on a couch. I then called Maple Lodge, in a residential area, about 10 minutes walk from downtown, and they had room, so spent another 10 hours navigating my way through rush hour, 1-way streets, forced turns (when I don't want to turn!) and finally made it. They have off street parking as well, which is good. Got settled in, had supper (jam and peanut butter sandwiches), then read. To bed about 11:15, I was the last one up, and had to turn off all the lights.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003


Got up about 8:00, breakfast, showered, packed my car. When I looked out the window this morning, I didn't see what I liked, which is why I decided to leave today (I kind of planned to stay one more day). It's cloudy, rainy, foggy, drizzly and cool day.

Checked out and drove out to Aratiatia rapids to see the dam open up at 10:00 and flood the river bed/rapids. Kinda neat.

Then drove to Craters of the Moon, free (run by the DOC) geothermal area, filled with craters, fumaroles, hissing steam vents and the like. Cool!! Spent about 45 minutes here, but couldn't see the steam for the fog!!

Then to Huka Falls. WOW! I had seen Huka Falls from below the falls (when I took the HukaJet), but not from above. The Waikoto River is forced through a canyon a fraction of the size of the river. The result: an incredible tour de force, a torrent of rushing white water along a long gorge, before emptying over a waterfall into a great pool. Apparently the falls eject enough water to fill two olympic size swimming pools every second.

About noon, drove on SH5, headed for Napier. 5km out of Taupo, blue skies. Figures. Looking back, I could see the low cloud layer hovering over the Taupo area. The first 40 km of the drive is really boring, flat, clear-cut loggin, and cattle and sheep grazing. Then entered into a very cooll mountain range, with some peaks to the south covered in snow. Stopped at a lookout for a cool waterfall.

Got to Napier about 2:30 or 3:00, blue skies, sunshine. Napier is the art-deco city of NZ, with the buildings looking like artwork in an art museum. It also has a Mediterranean-type climate, witnessed by the green grass and blooming flower gardens and green, green grass.

Checked into Archie's Bunker (Let's Go recommended), he gave me a twin room instead of dorm for the dorm price, because it's so slow right now. The hostel is almost empty.

Walked around town, the beach is not very nice, it's black stones and pebbles. The ocean looked like quite a great spot for surfing, though. The town itself is very clean and nice, very pedestrian friendly.

After walking around, drove to Countdown and bought some chicken and made chicken tortilla's for supper. Yum!!!

Watched TV and chatted with a Kiwi chick staying at the hostel, and did some laundry. To bed about 10:30.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003


After the internet last night, went back to the hostel and watched the last part of "Fast & the Furious", and then "Trainspotting" (weird, funny movie), then watched TV, the news, followed by "The Office" (very funny British comedy...seen it in Sydney as well). The hostel has a resident "fat cat" (he's HUGE), and very friendly, he slept on my lap during the movie.

Got up about 8:45, slept great, had breakfast, showered, then went and booked a seat on the HukaJet, a jetboat ride on the Raikoto River. $62 with YHA discount. Before going out to the boat ride, walked to Spa Thermal Park. They have a naturally occuring hot water stream that flows into the Waikoto River, and you can soak in it (free). They were a few people in it when I walked there. It was 1.5 hours walk both ways, and I was complete devoid of enery and so hungry (despite having breakfast), I thought I was going to die of lack of energy right there on the trail, I could hardly walk, so when I finally got back to the hostel, I drove to a restaurant and had an expensive breakfast of bacon and eggs, hashbrowns, toast and tea. Then took off to the HukaJet about 12:30.

My boatride was at 1:00, and it's perhaps 10km out of town, so got to the place in plenty of time, paid for my trip, then made my way down to the dock abotu 1:00, got suited up in splash jackets and lifejackets, and hopped in the boat. 10 other people in the boat, plus the driver. These boats are amazing!!! They are powered by a 502 cubic inch 8.2 litre Chevrolet V8 engine, running on LPG (jet fuel). They thrust 380 litres of water per second. And the most amazing thing. They draw only 4 inches (!) of water!!! And they were designed to do 360 degree turns on a dime! They can travel at 80km/hour. So, we travelled downstream to Aratiatia Dam, then up to Huka Falls, all the while racing along the shoreline in only 6 inches of water, it was incredible to see the bottom of the river only inches under the surface. Very exhilerating ride, especially the 360's. The ride only lasted about half an hour, though.

After the HukaJet, went to the Volcanic Activity Centre ($6), which was quite interesting. All about volcanic, thermal, and earthquake activity in NZ, and the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

After the Volcanic Activity Centre, drove through the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station, one of two power stations that NZ has that generates power from natural steam.

After that, drove down to the Rapids Jet. They jetboat the section of river below the Aratiatia dam. I didn't do it (not yet), but a group was just going out when I got there. They lady who works there told me I could drive a few km downstream and see them go through rapids, which I did. As I was climbing back up the river bank, I noticed some steam rising up from just around the bend in the river, so went over, looked over the cliff, and sure enough, steam rising from the river bank. I climbed back down and walked over to that area, the ground is all warm, and there's hot water seeping out of the shore, amongst the rocks, at the rivers edge. The very edge of the river is warm/hot, but stick your hand in the river just 6 inches further out, and it's cold. Way cool.

Left there about 4:00, and headed back to town, stopped at Woolworth's for groceries and guess what I found. Miracle Whip! Real Kraft Miracle Whip!!! I was so happy. I decided to have sliced meat on buns (with Miracle Whip, of course).

Had supper, then not much in the evening. One of the guys in my room did the Tongariro Crossing, considered the best day hike in all of NZ. I would have liked to do it, but in winter, you need crampons and stuff, which I didn't have. He had pictures on his Sony Viao (tiny notebook, for those not in the know), they looked quite spectacular. He had a great day too, today was sunny all day.

Monday, August 04, 2003

To Taupo

Up at 7:30, showered, breakfast, checked out and headed south to Wai-O-Tapu, a geothermal "wonderland" got the thumbs up from Lets Go, and the Funky Green Voyager workers (Chris and Catherine) said it's the best of all the geothermal areas around.

Left about 8:45, as I wanted to get down there for the eruption of the Lady Knox geyser at 10:15. (How can nature be so precise? Find out later below!)

Got to Wai-O-Tapu about 9:15, walked around for a while, then went to the geyser (5-minute drive from the main area). On schedule, the geyser erupted at 10:15, spouting, perhaps 8-10 metres high at it's peak, then continuing at various heights for more than 15 minutes (that's when I left), apparently it could go on for an hour. Why is it so precise? Well, nature isn't, to get the geyser to perform, the park staff drop 1kg of soap into the geyser hole at 10:15 to coax it to spew. It's natural cycle is anywhere between 24-48 hours.

Went back to the main area, and walked around the rest of the park. This place is amazing. Boiling mud pits, boiling hot springs, an incredible silicate terrace, very colourful rock and water formations (from the various minerals in the soil and steam and water, as it comes up from below), pools and craters. WOW!!! It's very impressive, I'm glad I went.

Left Wai-O-Tapu about 11:45 and continued south towards Taupo, stopped at Aratiatia Falls along the way. The falls are only "active" when the power station opens its gates to release water, 3 times daily in winter. When I arrived, the doors were already open, so missed the "great rush", but did see the rapids in action.

Continued on to Taupo, got to town about 12:30, and went to Action DownUnder YHA, quite a nice hostel, and thumbs up from Lets Go.

I had a super nice morning, no clouds, the sun was shining brightly, about noon, clouds started rolling in little bit of rain, off and on clouds rest of the day, and, with the clouds, the temperature dropped a little too.

From Taupo, south, you can see the three big peaks on the North Island (2000+ metres). All three are volcano's, all still active (and could blow at any moment). The peaks are all covered in snow as well. NZ's biggest ski resort is on these mountains.

Had lunch, then walked downtown and around. I'm looking for a book, book 3 of a trilogy I'm reading. The book was easily available at every bookstore in Sydney and Auckland, but I can't find it in Rotorua or Taupo! They all have the first two books, but not the third. Ugh!

Back to the hostel, on the way back, found some boxes in a shopping cart in the parking lot of Pak'N'Save, so grabbed a couple (to carry my food).

Back at the hostel, drove to Taupo Bungy, and watched a hysterical, screaming (of fright) girl jump off the bungy ledge over the Waikato River. It's a 43m (I think) bungee jump. She was screaming while standing on the ledge, and she continued screaming for the duration of the jump, until she finally stopped bouncing, then she stopped screaming. Quite the lungs she had. But I have to give her credit for facing her fears and doing it!!!

Then I drove to Gravity Hill, essentially a grass and dirt hill where you mountainboard (snowboarding on wheels).

Drove around some more, then back to the hostel and had supper, then went to and internet.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

I Like Traffic Circles!!

Up about 8:45, still feeling kind of crappy from the water up the nose. I was in the middle of a dream when I awoke:
I was at my parents, and was going to use their van to go somewhere, and so I was sleeping/resting in the back seat of the van, and I got up, and my mom was driving along a highway in some hills and valleys, and I asked her a question, and she turned around to answer me, just as we were coming to a sharp corner, leading into a big valley. I yelled at my mom to watch the road, but it was too late, we went flying off the road, into the valley. A perfect arc, our trajectory was, as we flew. Time seemed to go in slow motion as we descended. We hit ground on all four wheels, and bounced high up, came down again, and bounced back up one more time, over a ridge, where we started rolling, and I yelled at my mom to "brake, stop us!". We came to a stop, and I was totally pumped that we had survived, I started yelling, "Yes, we made it! Alright, way to go, Mom, nice driving!". I jumped out of the van and started jumping up and down in excitement, then I noticed a bunch of little people (1-1.5 feet tall), all around, staring at us, moving closer. They looked very ominous. I jumped back into the van and told mom to back out of here, but now my Ford Explorer was rigth behind us, and we couldn't move. The leader of the little people said, "Why so fast? You can't leave now!", and I jumped back out of the van and asked the little leader what they wanted. The leader indicated they wanted two pizzas, right now, and they'd let us go. I remembered I had a cold, old, stale pizza I had left in my Explorer about a month ago, so I told them if they gave me a few minutes, I could get their pizzas. They obliged, so I turned my parents van into a little go-cart, so I could maneouver it out, and now we were in an alleyway in a city, so I drove the go-cart out of the alleyway, with my mom walking behind me. I thought about just ditching the little people and taking off, but I thought to myself, "No, the little people are smart, they will send a watcher out to watch us to make sure we don't ditch", so I drove up the street and around the corner, and there was a pizza place there, so I ordered a pizza, then went back to the alley to get the other pizza out of my Explorer and give it to them, but they had already raided my Explorer and got the pizza, and were chowing down on it. They exclaimed how excellent and tasty the old, stale pizza was, how much they liked it, I remarked that the other pizza would be here shortly, I raced back out of the alley to the pizza joint, and my dad and my grandme and grandpa were standing in the pizza joint, and I said Hi to each of them as I passed, then noticed that the pizza guy wasn't around, and as I inquired about where the pizza guy was, I woke up!

So, I had breakfast, bacon and egg McMuffin, then went to internet for a while, back to hostel, hung out trying to decide what to do. Saw Kaituna Cascades pick up four people from our hostel for rafting, so decided to go to the river and watch (and take pics) of them going over the falls. I read for a while, then went to Dick Smith Electronics and bought a blank MiniDV tape, then headed out to the falls. Just as I was walking to the first waterfall, I heard the whistle blow, and I ran, but *JUST* missed them, they had just finished. The owner/photographer was there, packing up his camera, I said Hi, he recognized me from yesterday, and we walked to the big (7m) waterfall together, and I got good video of them coming over the falls, then walked to the last simple rapids and took a little more video.

After that, back to town, went shopping at the $2 Store (everything is $2) bought elastics, 2 decks of cards and some headphones. Back to hostel, went to internet for a couple of hours to upload new pics to my website.

Decided to BBQ for supper, so went to Countdown and bought even more groveries; hamburger, buns, ketchup and milk and BBQ'd up two of my famous (at least to me) big-ass burgers. It was SOOOO good! Yum!!!

Packed everything (leaving tomorrow for Taupo).

At about 7:30, eight of us went to some Irish pub for quiz night. We finished 3rd out of three teams.

About 10:00, me and the Danish sisters headed back to hostel. Wrote in my journal, and to bed about 11:00.

Story: When I was in Fiji, and I got mugged, I lost my journal and a bunch of postcards I had just bought. Being the good boy I am, I bought some more, along with stamps for them all, and mailed two of them from the Fiji airport, my intent to mail the rest of them when I got the addresses. So, today, I decided I should maybe get on that, so I dug them out, filled out the addresses, when it hit me. I can't mail them, they all have Fiji stamps on them, and I'm in NZ now!! Am I ever dumb! I made a remark to another fellow at the hostel (Canadian guy), and he said he's going to Fiji in a couple of days, and offered to mail them for me, when he got there!!!! So there we go!!