Saturday, 15 March 2008

Tuesday 4th March 2008

Outdoor breakfast, muesli and a cup of cha to warm me up after a chilly night in the tent.
Naseby ride
Rode on some tracks thru ex-gold workings, lots of rutty washed out gulleys, again navigation was difficult even with a map.
Rode along a water race most of the afternoon as it meandered along between reservoirs and mine workings, continued my new favourite passtime of getting lost.
Drove to Clyde. Stayed at 'The Dam Pub' AKA Dunstan Hotel, $35, cricket on telly, massive pizza. Early night.

Monday 3rd March 2008

Goodbye Dunedin
I'd enjoyed my stay in Dunedin, the people there were really friendly and the fact it was a student city gave it a bit of extra oompah. I packed up after an early start and headed north-west, bound for a little town called Naseby, halfway between Dunedin and Queenstown. Enroute I managed to squeeze in a bike ride (only number two for the 575 due to the crappy weather).

Mount Cargill
This ride was supposed to be a technical singletrack ride through the recently built tracks of Bethunes Gulley.. However, I followed my nose, and despite it only being short and stubby it tends to get me into all sort of trouble. I cracked on up Mount Cargill Walkway (the name should have give it away really). After about an hour of hard slog on well graded but very steep and seemingly endless switchbacks I eventually summited the damned mountain as it brought me out at a large telecommunications tower. The views were pretty good, it always helps with orientation to see a place from way up high. Mount Cargill is around 650 meters above Dundedin, you can see the whole bay from here, it's pretty impressive. I met a couple of Scottish pensioners at the top (as it turns out I could have driven up here!) who informed me that on a good day you could see the snowcapped Southern Alps from here. Not today though e!. The descent down was quality, pretty gnarly at the top with the steps (I jumped off twice to my disgrace, but I would have made a mess of myself if I hadn't and it's too early on my trip for that sort of thing). About 200m from the bottom I found the Bethunes Gulley singletrack and bombed down that, then crossed the river and did some more, it was really slippy after the rain, it made the tracks virtually impenetrable to all but the luckiest riders. Twas my lucky day.
Dunedine to Naseby Packed the bike up and heded to Naseby. The scenery is fairly epic as you climb up onto a 2000ft high plateau. Ahead in the bright early evening sunshine is the snowcapped Dunstan Range, immediately to the right are the huge, pennine-shaped (ie rounded tops and less aggressive slopes). Enroute I passed through a few humourously named places, none more so than Shag Valley. I was keen for a photo opportunity but I guess someone had made off with the sign, no surprises there then. The valley flanks a river by the same name, who thinks of these things? Must have been a bloke. After a drive that Colin McRae would have been proud of I turned off the main road past Ranfurly (an Art Deco town that looked a bit dull) and skidded into Naseby, a town of 100 full time inhabitants. The sign said 'Welcome to Naseby, 2000 feet above worry level'. The Pulsar was shifted out of hyperdrive and I pootled up the High Street to Kila's (pronounced 'Keela') bike shop, based in an old Masonic Lodge building. It was open but closed. Cruised around the town (hamlet we'd call it in England), trying to find the most suitable place to stay. If in doubt, ask a local I thought, the only place open seemed to be the Cafe, and that was just closing. I pumped the lady for info on the local bike tracks, she told me to go and find Kila who was probably either out on his bike or asleep. I found the dude, he looked like he'd been having a post-cementing nap, he gave me a map of the trails and looked genuinely gutted he had to work tomorrow rather than show me his hand build trails. Not to worry, I'll find my way (yeah right!). Of Mice And Men Some deliberation (and perhaps dare I admit it a little bit of 'are you an outdoor man or what?'-type self questioning) I checked in at the Larch View Holiday Park. It was almost as quiet as the rest of the town. I paid $11.50 for my tent pitch and busily erected my one-man tent, after consulting the instructions ofcourse. This is the first time I have ever camped on my own and indeed the first time I've ever put my own tent up, usually Cleggy has done the honours whilst I've been busy either studying maps or setting fire to things. Anyway, the tent was up, the blow up matress inflated and the sleeping bag ready for action. My little tent was the only one on the whole camp site, most people had opted for basic chalet type accommodation - cheating!
Crime Free Zone
Cracked on down the hill on the 575 and ordered a slap up meal and bottle of wine at the Royal Hotel which probably would have paid for 3 cabins! Not to worry. Met a few riders taking on the Otago Rail Trail, a bike track converted from an old steam railway, it's about 150k long and a gradual gradient. If I was 30 years older I'd be having a go at that, but I'm not. Maybe do it in a oner tomorrow! After unlocking my bike (apparently there has never been a bike stolen in the towns entire history - and that doesn't surprise me as there's no one around to steal anything!), I biked up the hill and after being treated to the most glorious star strewn sky you could possibly imagine (I have never even seen half that number if stars in the sky before), launched myself into my sleeping bag. Went to sleep with a sense of self-insignificance and about half a dozen mozzies. Halfway through the night I woke up cold. This coldness continued until dawn when I got up and put a jumper on. My tent and car had frozen up, apparently this was the first frost of the Autumn, lucky me.

Sunday 2nd March 2008

House of Rain
Today it rained and rained and rained. Tomorrow looks better. Just chilled around Dunedin in the Cafe's (Metro did me a great lamb salad). Not a lot else for it except gather information and plan my trip some more, which if you've not gathered is probably my favourite passtime. Really quiet night but did get to watch Sachin Tendulkar teach the Aussies not to bowl short in the first of three ODI finals. The Little Master notched a sublime hundred much to my enjoyment and indeed that of The Bog owner (an Irish pub that had the telly on). The owner looked like an angry version of Martin Johnson, I gave him a bodyswerve on my way in, but well timed applause for some of Sachin's shots got the nod of approval from the dude. Turns out he's a Kiwi who also enjoys watching the Oz get a humbling every now and then.

Sat 1st March 2008

Bit of a slow start, the weather was forecast to close in today. Swung on down to The Oval again to see The Sherminator (Ian Bell) and Andrew Strauss clock up hundreds to put the game beyond the hosts. The heavens opened, the players came off and the tannoy man announced that play would be abandoned. Harmy and Strauss did some warm downs together. This was my last chance to get a photo with one of the players (I didn't want to look like a saddo, but this chance might not come along again). Joy grabbed my camera and winked at Harmy, who, after his heroics in the Caribbean in 2004 (the Windies fans were scared to death of him - Grievous Bodily Harm-ison they called him), was the man for me with the most talent in the whole side. He had no problems in having his photo taken with me, he seemed a quiet, a nod and a wave was all he needed and after posing for a quick snap he was on his way. Joy called him back for a second to which he obliged, what a legend! I can't tell you how much I've been smiling ever since. Every time I had a quiet moment my thoughts were punctuated with 'yeah but I've got a photo with HARMY!. This made up for the bank escapade.
Life's An Empty Beach
Went for a drive along the Otago Peninsula, through Port Chalmers (a timber exporting port from what I can make out) until eventually reaching a natural dead end which had two completely empty sandy beaches. The surf was rising and sure enough two hardy surfers showed up and donned their wetsuits (the S. Pacific is pretty cold, some wear two wet suits. (The Rear: nowhere near as cold a Windermere in November mate!).

The House Of Pain
A very sozzled looking Kiwi at the cricket had informed us that there was a Super 14s game on tonight - that is a the best state sides from the Tri Nations (Oz,NZ, S.Africa) at Carisbrook stadium in Dunedin. Now I've heard of this stadium before, it has been the graveyard of every single national side I can ever remember visiting, with the notable exception of Martin Johnson's all conquering England touring side of 2002 who just dominated everybody. The sign above the stadium read 'Welcome to Caribrook, The House Of Pain'. Says it all! So it was The Otago Highlanders verus the Queensland (?) Waratahs (Loti Tequiri/Phil Waugh/that Aussie prop who Andrew Sheridan crushed in the World Cup, et al). Twas chucking it down by now, both teams tried to throw the ball around which was a bit dim in the circumstances. Handling errors were a plenty, the ball being like a bar of soap. The students were dancing about on the terraces across from us, they all wore bright yellow workman's helmets, it was like being at a Bob The Builder conference. Good on 'em, students have their uses and being hammered and rowdy at early evening rugby matches in the poring rain is definitely one of them! Suffice to say the Waratah's outplayed the Highlanders, it was like Culloden all over again, no Mel Gibson to the rescue this time folks. 15-12 then the final score, and the best incident? ...

'On Ya Mate'

Definately when the Waratah number 8 (an 'Islander' as they big-hard tanned blokes are called around these parts) went over for a try but at the same time was scragged by the Jack Russell-like Highlander number 10. He took exception to this and after planting the ball down over the try line he then planted one on the number 10. The try was given but then the number 8 had to spend 10 minutes in the Sin Bin for cracking the whipper-snapper one around the chops. As he strode towards The Bin, a few yards infront of us, a chirpy Aussie voice from the back shouted 'On ya mate!' to the Islander. The Kiwi's were licking their wounds but Joy started laughing and informed me that the chap was commending the big lad for smacking the terrier in the face, as in 'good on ya mate'. Bearing in mind (A) how seriously the Kiwis take rugby and (B) that opposing fans are trusted enough to sit together, this made me chuckle. You gotta love the Aussies for that sort of comment. I shall be adding it to the Shandysaurus.

Dunedin, It's A Grand Wee Place So It Is By The Way
Did you know that Dunedin is Gaelic for Edinburgh? Just as Christchurch is more English than anywhere in England, Dunedin is more Scottish than Billy Connolly. The Highlanders are so-called because Dunedin was originally a Scottish settlement. Something to do with Captain Cargill ... see Wikipedia. Suffice to say that the more Scottish you claim to be the more cool and respected you are in Dunedin. There are kilt shops and Scotland flags all over the shop. I find it all quite bemusing, but I guess that's the heritage that these folks cling on to. Fair play too. Most locals I spoke to could find a McTavish or McSporran in their lineage, one young American studying law could only muster a MacDonalds receipt, the poor thing. Wee Bry sould love it here, he'd be all over it like a rash ehhhhhhhhhhhhy by the way. Drove us home, eat in curry, early night.

Friday 29th Feb 2008

It's a leap year, it's leap day and that's an excuse for silly things to happen. I Spent the majority of the morning trying to get one of my three banks to let me have access to my cash. Believe me this is not an easy task. (Strange how you can easily get access to *their* cash but not your own!). Fortunately the Kiwi's Nest staff bailed me out, lent me some money for a phone card and then a fellow lodger lent me her phonecard to chase up the banks. So here goes (skip this part if you're not ino bank ranting, read on if you are): Now bearing in mind I've told all my banks I'm going on holiday ...

Nationwide Flex Account - turns out I've spent all my funds despite the ATM telling me I have over $2000NZ available to me. I purposefully don't have an overdraft facility on this account and so if it says I've got 2k in there, then it must be mine right? Wrong! After several calls from NZ to the UK I'm told that actually I've gone overdrawn and will be charged for the priviledge. Ho hum, I put another 1k pounds in there a few days ago, that must not have materialsed thanks to the four day 'clearing' process - a phantom way of garnering the little people's money if ever there was one (the Sub Prime lending fiasco taught us al that the banks balance their books at the end of each day right and the problems started when they couldn't do this because they wouldn''t lend to each other at normal rates, so why can't they balance *our* books, we are their customers. Come on folks, let's not tolerate this slackness, four days, that's longer than a Geoff Boycott innings that is. So nothing Nationwide can do for me except advise me to keep an eye on my balance and remember how much I had in upto five days ago and do the maths converting from NZ dollars to pounds to figure ot how much (or little) was really in my account. Rubbish. Did you hear about the Tottenham player who couldn't get a work permit for the Premiership? Yeah, some Mexican by the name of Mineeda Visa. The emergency phone numbers I have for Cahoot and Barclaycard are for lost cards only, as my cards aren't lost they couldn't help me an didn't know which numbers I should ring to get my accounts unlocked (I'm assuming they two banks have put fraud-prevention stop notices on my accounts). An hour of international calls and no joy. It took a call to the NZ Visa department to get hold of the *actual* numbers to call. Man, how hard work can it be to get access to my own money?! I got so bored at one point I even phoned home!

Cahoot -
turns out after hours of getting engaged tones that the parent bank Ab bey National can't take off the stop notice on my account. I explain to the lady that I have no money and therefore can't eat or sleep until I get sorted. She apologises but can do no more than give me a UK contact number for the account. She then apologises some more and tells me that it's only open 8am-8pm UK time, so 9pm to 9am Kiwi time - great! That would mean I'd have to go routing through bins for the next 11 hours. Rolloks to Cahoot - I'd already told them I was going abroad before I flew and for them not to switch my account off. Grrr!

Barclaycard - thank the Lord for outsourcing I say! Depsite losing my job to code monkeys in India, the Barclaycard call centre was open and the chappy on the end of the phone informed me after a quick chat with his manager that my account was unfrozen. Get in! I legged it down to the Uni cash machine and withdrew some cash immediately before anything else could happen. It was such a liberating feeling.

Musings On Materialism Although I'd only been without money for 12 hours or so the spectre of not having any at all was actually quite scary. I had to rely completely on the generosity and understanding of others. Fortunately the locals helped me out, especially Joy who was a student herself. I guess you only really find out who the good people are when you have nothing and people still take an interest/help you out. I was very grateful to those that helped me and it provided a humbling lesson to me. Money isn't everything, I already know this, but the reliance on it in modern society is massive, without it you are pretty much stuffed. Oh the pressure! I guess money is like fresh air, it's only important when you're not getting any.

The University Oval
As luck would have it my lodgings were a ten minute stroll through the UoO campus to the University Oval where England where taking on and getting beaten by a scratch NZ side at cricket in a three day warm up match. Joy and I turned up at the ground wondering if any cricket would be on, it was slightly spitting. For $10 we gained access and could see that the stands were virtually empty, maybe 100 people there. The players' transparent changing rooms are right infront of the main stand, I couldn't believe it as both teams were idling in and out of the changing rooms like it was a Sunday village game at White Coppice. Having been present on the last day at Edgbaston in 2005 to witness a memorable victory over the Aussies (yeah, remember that Nath!, Ant, try and forget it!), one of say 18,000 faces, having been to Headingley to see England with Wardy and the Leeds Massiv countless times - again just one face amongst thousands on the rowdy Western Terrace, ditto in the Caribbean at the Kensington Oval, and likewise at Lords many times, it was a surreal moment to be stood right next to Michael Vaughan (My Lord), KP, Straussy, The Sherminator et al. The Oval was a really intimate little ground, I have to admit I was like a little boy who'd just been given his first scalextric, I couldn't stop grinning. I was a little bit star struck too and couldn't get my words out. Oh to be a cocksure Aussie right now! Luckily Joy didn't know who any of the players were except for Freddie and he wasn't here. She struck up conversation with Tim Ambrose and we just chatted amicably about the tour. He hadn't been home for ages having toured in India with England A before getting his call up to the ODI/Test squad. He said India was full of sights not easy on the eye (poverty etc.) and that touring was OK if you liked hotels and cricket grounds. Not all it's cracked up to be. The players can't go out and take risks like you and I, it really is work, albeit not quite a boring office job. Tim didn't fancy warming up for the afternoon session and just chatted away to us, meanwhile KP rather moodily practised smacking Andy Flowers' warm up throws into the advertising hordings. Alistair Cooke lost the keepy-uppey challenge and had to bend over infront of the sight screens whilst the rest of the team pelted the football at his derierre , twas all good stuff. Even Captain Colly took his turn and got a couple of stingers. It was just like being back at Worden High! The cricket finished for the day with England in a healthier position, KP getting bored with the whole warm-up concept and disdainfully smacked his way from 30 to 50 in about 4 deliveries before holing out - brav(ad)o!. We walked back to The Nest and headed out into town. We ate at a Japenese seafood type place on Bath Street (note to self: avoid seaweed in future, it tastes like vinegary rotten fish), just of the main square, which is actually Octagonal and named 'The Octagon' funnily enough. I shouted the food as a little thank-you to Joy for helping me out this morning. What a star. We then headed onto The Octagon looking for some action, we skipped the ubiquitous Irish Bar and headed into 'Alibi', I had to have a double take as there leaning out of the window were Colly and Michael Vaughan My Lord with their other halves, marvelous. Two beers please! Blocking my way to the bar where a couple of big units who I mistakenly took for an ex-rugby second-rower 'Shane' and his even bigger and somehow more unkempt brother 'Lurch'. As is turns out it was Super Gus Fraser (he's sharp as a razor ...) and Derek Pringle. Happy Days! Fortunately for us cricket hasn't got a massive following in NZ, everything takes a backseat to rugby, thus the England cricket team, usually mobbed by either the English or maybe crazed sub-continent fans were able to mill around unobstructed by wallies. As for me, I was just chuffed to bits to be there. Silly really I know, but some of these players have been my hero's over the last ten years.

Thursday 28th Feb 2008

Horses For Courses Another bright sunny day beckoned as I packed up my bags and waved goodbye to Shaggy and Christchurch. Hit the Southern Highway 1 (SH1) which runs down the east coast and pushed on as far as Waimate (pronounced Why-a-mat-Eeee, not Y-mate) to break up the journey a little bit. Fixed the bike together and headed into the hills that formed a ridge parallel to the main highway (running North to South some 10k's inland). If you looked up to the hills that run parallel to the east coast some 10k inland you could see a white horse etched into the top of the hill side. The ride is aptly named after said horse which was erected as a permanent reminder and testament to the part played by the Clysedale horses to hasten New Zealands development. Now I'm not a massive horse fan but I do know that those horses used to help pull carts of beer kegs so fair play. Thanks to the dodgy signage I accidentally headed up the walkers path instead of the MTB trail which luckily for me was super steep and semi-unridable, especially in flip-flops (feet still very sore). After no small amount of perspiration and a good deal of cursing the lack of directions I summited the peak and enjoyed the views before heading down the bikers path and onto some gradely tracks created by locals. As I cruised back into town the 575 received whoops of praise from appreciative young schoolboys. Had to chuckle.

Nissan Pulsar Breaks Land Speed Record Cruised down the East coast road towards Dunedin and possibly broke the land speed record for a Nissan Pulsar, I tipped 168kph down the single-laned SH1. I've got no idea how fast that is in mph's but it's faster than Brett Lee so I'll take it as a tonne and a bit. I reckon that's not a bad achievement in it's own right but coupled with downloading pics from my camera to my laptop I reckon it's a good effort.

Shag Point I kid you not, this is an actual place on the Otago (the state which contains Dunedin amongst many other places) peninsular. The sign flashed past forcing me to bank left sharpish and before I knew it I was heading onto a gravel track and a nature reserve. Twas dusk and as such all the tourists had packed up and gone home long ago, I had the whole reserve to myself, well, me and a load of seals and Yellow Eyed Penguins (YEPs). The seals were just chilling on the rocks that weren't getting bashed by waves, it was the penguins I wanted to see, having never seen them in the wild before. I rounded a corner, feeling somewhat like David Bellamy scurry as quitely as possible through the undergrowth and mumbling to myself 'wook at awwww ve wanderfuw cawers boys and giws'. There stood two YEPs basking in the dying embers of sunlight, I snook up on them and gave them a damn good kicking. Only joking, I got a couple of snaps of the rarest species (say that like David Bellamy) of penguin on the planet and then wondered all the way home how they managed to escape from their chocolate bar wrapper.

Dunedin Cracked on into Dunedin, tis quite a descent on the SH1 to this South Easterly city. Spent a good half hour looking for somewhere to stay, providence, my only companion, seemed to be deserting me, however the Kiwi's Nest pulled me out of a hole and fixed me up with a very clean and comfortable single room for $40. Result. Strolled into town to a noodle bar and dominated the $7 beef and spring onion meal This place bas a bring your own beer (BYOB) affair so I nipped next door and grabbed a bottle of local red and quaffed it with my noodles. Hit Robbie Burns' pub next door which had a great little three-piece jazz band on, I think the combined age of the outfit was touching half a millenium but they sounded great. Hooked up with a couple or three locals and proceeded to explore Dunedin, unbeknown to me it was 'Orinetation Week' at the University of Otago (UoO), Freshers Week to the English, and we all know what that means, lots of drunken Tom Foolery. Luckily for me I ran out of cash and none of the ATMs would give me anymore so I de-thonged and skipped back to The Nest in my barefeet.

Wed 27th Feb

Wed 27th Feb 2008
All The Gear, No Idea Spent the morning fighting with technology, that is getting my Eeepc to talk to my camera and upload pics to the web. Picked up my new bike from BikeHQ and the ever helpful Dave set it up and sorted me with a whole new set of accessories which is a crime really as I've already got pumps, helmets, tool, puncture kits and helmets in triplicate back in England. There are African's out there who don't even have two tyre levers to rub together and here I am with yet another set of biking kit.

Foot In Hell Both heels still unbearably sore, cratered, and nowhere near ready to be clamped into walking boots of any kind, thank goodness for my thongs (Antipodean speak for flip-flops).

Port Hills Ride, South of Christchurch
After the heat of the day had passed (the sun here feels really strong and damaging, especially to a direct descended of Viking Warrior and first kind of all England Erik The Bloodaxe like myself. Or is that direct descendant of Jasper Carrot?! The sun index in the news paper was reading 11, Spinal Tap came to mind! Drove a few K's south to Dyer Pass Drive and parked up in a layby, reassembled the 575 and then proceeded to look confused enough for a fellow biker to offer to guide me to the start of the offroad section. The single track was excellent and views from Castle Rock/Summit Point over Christchurch and inland to the Southern Alps were magnificent. A 180 degree shift eastwards saw breathtaking views over the eastern coastline out to the South Pacific. At this point I knew I'd made the right decision in switching activities from hiking to biking. Repeat after me: I am a mountain biker, I am a mountain biker (ad nauseum).

Kiwi Bikers I have to say that based on my first outing, Kiwi bikers are the friendliest most helpful cyclist I have ever met. Without fail they pause and ask if you're alright/lost. Perhaps this is because they appreciate that New Zealand needs someone (A) to map the country properly and (B) to mark the recognized MTB routes better, believe me there's a lot of guesswork, and because the hills are steep it's pretty painful if you take a wrong turn so being a newbie to the area you end up taking the highest path which often results in missing out the best tracks down as I'm pretty sure I did as I descended through the excellent Victoria Park tracks.

Maps Man
Drove home via a fish and chip shop from a fishing port known as Lyttleton. Ate a type of fish I've never heard of, it tasted good though, but sadly they had never heard of mushy peas. Note to all budding Kiwi entrepreneurs: (1) set up an Ordinance Survey firm and map the place properly and you'll become a millionaire overnight and (2) introduce mushy peas and you'll become richer than Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and every man that ever rode a camel. I'm serious.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Tue 26th Feb - Christchurch

Tuesday 26th Feb 2008

Feeling a little on the delicate side I enquired about staying at the very
comfortable Dorset House again. Negative Ghostrider - so I packed my bags and
stumbled to 'Shalom', one of the few places to have a single room available.
Stumbled `through the door to be met by a Kiwi version of Shaggy Doo who
responded to every comment, question or suggestion with the phrase 'Sweet As',
pronounced 'Schweeeed Ays'. My room was pretty basic but they had wifi which
was a bit of a result.
The Salad Challenge
Bowled into town needing to pick up my rental car and buy a mountain bike.
Didn't feel on top form, wandered about the city centre looking for somewhere to
lie in the sun, found it at Victoria Square. Attempted to eat a beef salad, 90
minutes later I gave it up as a bad job and headed off in search of a bike shop
or two.
Falling in Love When You Least Expect It
Still not quite feeling 'Sweet As' and conscious of my not being with-it enough
to buy an icecream nevermind a decent bike. The last time I felt like this
in a major shopping area I came home with a suit I didn't need. Spaced out and
hot under the t-shirt (yes, an unfashionable 'special material' one), I had an
encounter that has changed my life, or at least my trip. It all started in
BikeHQ, Christchurch, where a keen rider Dave introduced me to her. I now
believe in love at first sight, well, sort of. They (who?) say that you're most
likely to meet your future pardner in the supermarket, well in my case a little
lady strolled rather unexpectedly into my life when I wasn't looking. I had
managed to stumble upon a great bike at a bargain price, a Yeti 575 for $3750NZ,
that' about 1500 quid, the same bike in the UK would cost at least double that.
Beat that Lawro! Cool, so I spec'd out the bike and Dave agreed to build it up
for me for the morning an cut me a deal on accessories, or 'sharpen it up a bit' (get me a discount)
as he described it. They didn't have a white or black frame in
a medium size so I went for a red, not my first choice but size does matter.

You Can With A Nissan
Picked up a Nissan Pulsar from Roadtrip Rentals for $850NZ for 40-odd days, not
a bad price all things considering, shout out to Jezza for finding me this
bargain. The motor is an automatic which makes it like a go cart. It's done
220k kilometers but feels alright. Aircon, will fit a bike in etc. It's got an
overdrive button which will undoubtedly remain permanently in the 'on' position,
I mean, why would you *ever* go anywhere more slowly than you need to?
Cooking on Gas
After last night's over exuberance food was defo on the menu for The
Shandyman this evening. I even considered driving but that would have been
ridiculous. Good job I didn't as I selected a rather fine bottle of vin rouge
to go with my muscles starter (huge local ones) and then a sumptuous (say it
like Stuart Hall) Lamb Thingy. [See pic]. You can tell this country takes it's lamb
seriously because just like steak in England, they ask you how you want it
cooking and insist on it being not more cooked than medium rare. My table for
one was filled with reading material and the obligatory nineteen different maps
and moutain bike guides as I planned my itinery around the South Island based on
the best area to ride in which I reckon are around Queenstown then up the West
Coast and Nelson, someone suggested Naseby too. Strolled home
contented and very well fed.

Mon 25th Feb, Crossing the Cook Strait

Mon 25th Feb 2008, Ferry Windy
Early start today, a 6am-er, Wayne and Debbie kindly picked me up at seven and ferried me down to the erm ferry at Picton. This is the first ferry I've been
on that has (A) multiple decks and (B) a check-in baggage facility, looks serious
The 10-story, 180 metre craft pulled out of a tranquil Wellington harbour and
headed out towards the Cook Strait (so called cos Jimmy Cook the ledge from
Whitby spotted it from a lookout point on the South Island. There was a bit of
cloud in the air but the sun began to shiiiiiine through as waved goodbye to
Wellers, my base for a few days. As we cruised past the airport, past Red Rocks
and out into the open sea the wind began to pick up at Karori Rip where the two
tides meet, it's notoriously rough here even on calm days, which today
definately was. A hardy bunch of passengers were out on the sun deck with
and like me were giddly photographing every inch of coastline still visible.
The journey takes about 3.5 hours but as soon as you leave the North Island the
South Island mountains are clearly visible. The wind became exceptionally
strong, the strongest I've ever experienced as white crested waves sped across the sea. I clung onto to the top deck safety rail and faced off the wind for a good half an hour as one after the other my fellow passengers succumbed to the stinging
'stiff breeze'. It was great for clearing out the cobwebs, not so great for the
old chap who got blown right off his feet. It was amazing how the wind got up
so forcefully given that either end of the journey was a calm as calm can be.
Eventually I took shelter inside the boat until the looming S. Island mountains
came clear into view and we curved around the near side of Perano Head and
through Whenkeul (Whenke = Octopus) Bay. We cruised through the near empty shipping lanes of Tory Channel and the beautiful vista of Queen Charlotte Sound (QCS) opened up infront of us. A 'Sound' by the way is an estury formed by water cutting thru the underlying rock and at here the rocks are towering mountains that flank the river, they plunge aggressively from the sky to the bottom of the sea, imagine Scottish Loch's that open out into the sea. QCS gradually revealed
itself to us with lots of interesting looking tree-lined inlets providing
tantalising insights into what might lay ahead on my journey though the South
Island. The cruise up QCS is worth the fare ($60NZ) alone - on a good day
at any rate. I couldn't help but think how hardcore the first group of Western
sailors must have been to float their wooden vessel up these imposing natural
alleyways not knowing what was lurking around every corner. Maximum repsect.
We finally cruised into Picton as the sun bathed the little town which lies deep
in the Sound. I spent most of the journey dashing from one side of the boat to
the other to get the best photies, I hope they turn out alright!

Little place of 4,700 inhabitants, I sat under a palm tree on the seafront and
basked in the sunshine for an hour until my bus to Christchurch arrived. End

Picton to Kaikora

I spent the first half of the bus journey being excited by the new scenery and
landscape that was unfolding as we made progress along the coastal road that
cris-crosses the east coast railway line. I then spent the scond half of the
journey calulating exactly how long it might take to get to Kiakora as I'd
a litre of milk in Picton and was now crossing legs harder than a bride at an
arranged wedding, error!


is a groovy looking little town that sits on the coast. We had a 30
minute (much appreciated) break, I had a nosy around and could see the
attraction to the place, the beach provides access to swimming with dolphins and
sperm whale spotting whilst the mountains enable trampers adequate opportunities
to stretch their legs. [Picture shows Kiakora beach]

Kiakora to Christchurch
was a less traumatic affair for me as the bus driver
rather helpfully pointed out places of interest and indeed seals basking in the
sunshine on the rocks which I would have completely missed if left to my own
unobservant devices. We passed through the flat wine-growing region of the
Canterbury Plains. They get the least amount of rainfail on both islands here,
it's a little like Cambridgeshire and East Anglia in England. The main reasons
for the lack of rainfall here are the complicated weather patterns and the fact
that this region lies in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps on the Western
side of the island, the clouds get stuck on the mountains here and dump their
contents on the western side of the country, a bit like the way Lancashire gets
all the rain that Yorkshire deserves but for the dastardly Pennines!
The bus was hot but not overcrowded, we cruised into Christchurch centre some
5.5hrs after the start of the journey. I quickly got my bearings and trudged
off to my single (much coveted and about twice as expensive as a normal 'dorm'
room) at my pre-booked lodgings Dorset House which is right opposite the main
park in the city, nice.

Beaut of an evening deserved to be celebrated as such so what better than to hit
the top Belgian Beer bar in the town. Walking through town generates a surreal
de ja vous feeling for an Englishman. Christchurch is more English than any
English city I've been to. There are red brick buildings, stone clock towers,
street names named after old English cities eg. York, Chester, Gloucester and so
on. There's an Oxford and a Cambridge Terrace (the swankiest area naturally)
which flank the river Avon. There's people jogging and cycling in the park,
fish and chip shops, botanical gardens and the list goes on. So, back to the
matter in hand, a nice bottle of Chimay Blue, followed by a Red then a Yellow
ensured that I adhered to the Eating is Cheating motto, The Rear would have been
proud. Moved on to a microbrew ale at Dux De Lux then met a couple of German
girls whose names I cannot remember and followed the bars as they sequentially closed, all except for a music bar, ended up playing pool then headed home on the beer scooter having definatly done my bit for the NZ brewing industry.