A Travellerspoint blog

The Kiwi Experience

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We joined the Kiwi Experience bus tour in Christchurch and set off straightaway for a place called Kaikoura. It was a pity the weather had taken a turn as our whale watching trip was cancelled but Maria,Richie and I did get out to do the dolphin swim. Snorkelling definitely an advantage for this as the breathing takes a little getting used to! The sailing was pretty rough, Martin lasting about ten minutes before needing a bucket! We shouldnt have laughed as 11 out of 14 of us needed them on the way back. It was not pretty! Amazing how close up we got to them but they'd be gone in a flash! Hopefully we captured some on the camera but I'm not too confident!
Headed for Picton then to catch the ferry across to Wellington. While in christchurch the hostel receptionist put us in touch with friends of hers in Wellington and they had kindly agreed to let us have their apartment for the entire weekend and the best bit - it was free! The luck of the irish eh? Accommodation that weekend was tight and expensive! Brent and Jeanette really were so welcoming. They even offered us their car to go to the supermarket! Unfortunately the game on Saturday doesnt go our way and our world cup dreams are dashed. Spent time at the team hotel that night. It was heartbraking watching the team come back to rounds of applause for a job well done.
Back onto the ferry on monday morning to catch the Kiwi Experience bus and go to Kaiteriteri which has one of the top 10 beaches in the world. No sunbathing however as it rains a lot. Took a water taxi to explore Abel Tasman national park. Even though it was a little cold it was a beautiful spot! - plenty of photo ops here! Next stop was Lake Mahinapua where the 50 odd of us had the run of the hostel and were cooked a steak dinner for $11 by 87 year old Les - a real character! Westport was next. The journey down through the Buller Gorge was fabulous. Edel and I had booked in for horse riding here - what a laugh, poor Mike getting a very tempermental horse! Joey (my horse) was pretty well behaved once I got used to the commands!
Lake Mahinapua was our next stop but not before stopping along the glorious coastline of the Tasman sea at the Truman Track and Punakaiki Pancake Rocks which are definitely worth a look. When we arrive in Mahinapua we have a fabulous steak dinner cooked for all 54 of us by an 87 year old owner who can't resist cracking a joke on seeing my irish jersey on the bus! Here we had a rubix cube-themed party, each person trying to have any many single colour outfits in one night as they could! Last person I saw wearing my yellow t-shirt was an english lad twice my size.....wont be wearing that again!
With only one night here we were off to Franz Josef in the morning, a drive that brought us through green calleys, with snow capped mountains appearing from under the clouds and rivers which were so so blue from the glacial valleys. Unfortunately our hike on the Franz Josef glacier was cancelled due to a rockfall the previous day but with some quick thinking by Edel and a few others we were headed for the Fox glacier instead. The ascent to the ice was the most difficult part of the day! The glacier has been growing and receeding so its interesting to see where the front lay in the 1800s and in the 1980s!
Took some incredible shots of Lake Matheson the next day (a short drive from FJ) - incredible for the mirror reflections provided of Mount Cook, not my photographic skills! After a stop at the Roaring Billy Falls we arrive in Wanaka where Edel does her sky dive and we take a trip to Puzzle World.
Queenstown is our last stop on the list where we spend our last 4 nights. There's endless activities here from paragliding to bungying to canyon swings to luging. All you need is time and loads of cash! We have a group night out to celebrate the end of the tour, with Fiona taking up the Fat Badgers Pizza challenge - eating a 22 inch pizza in 15 minutes......may have taken 27 but she managed to finish it!
A trip to Milford Sound is definitely recommended, one of the most beautiful places on earth! the drive itself is even worth it!
A long trip back to Christchurch to fly out to australia finished our kiwi experience.

Posted by elisasdiary 23:22 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand Part 2 - Dunedin & Christchurch

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Dunedin was our next stop, a short flight from Wellington, Maria terribly excited to be the 1st person to board the flight! Stayed in Chalet Backpackers on the top of a really steep hill! Not so much fun climbing that one! Dunedin actually holds the record for having the steepest street in the world-Baldwin street. It's a university town so there's ample pubs and restaurants around. From the moment we arrive its clear the Irish are in town! Every shop window decorated in green, the Italians must've felt quite intimidated. Run into Donald Gallager, Stephen McHugh and Steven Anderson in one of the Irish pubs, it was a mini reunion! The game was exciting and with the result going our way the place went crazy! Not ideal that our bus to Christchurch was at 730 the next morning! There was a fair few hungover heads on the bus that morning!
Arrive into Christchurch and I don't think we were prepared for the sheer devastation and feeling of desertion that we were confronted with. The hostel we found was right beside the red zone so it was like a ghost town. The buildings are either destroyed or waiting to be pulled down as the foundations are ruined from the quake. Bars and restaurants near us are just abandoned. The recovery is going to be a long process. There's a tremor of about 4 the morning we leave but we dont feel it, I can't imagine what the locals must think each time another occurs.

Posted by elisasdiary 20:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand Part 1 - North Island

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Arrive into Auckland to begin our new Zealand adventure and were greeted by rugby paraphenalia everywhere we turn! Even the visa stamp on our passport has the rwc logo on it! The country is gripped by rugby fever that's for sure! Meet friends of fionas for drinks eh 8.50$ for a drink a far cry from our 50c angkor beer in Cambodia! End up in aucklands answer to coppers, a place called Danny doolins and we feel right at home! Danxing, drinking, a Maori reading my palm, your typical night really!

The next day we travelled to Rotorua along with a bus load of Irish fans, we meet john and kate ann who have travelled up from wanganui for the game, Edels workmate Clare and Karens friend Richie so there's a good gang. Sunday is game day and everyone dons their green white and gold. The stadium is a sea of green, the game is sold out following irelands win over the aussies, a first for the pool games in the world cup so far. An easy win over the russians, nevertheless we enjoyed every minute. Bumped into Shame Violet here randomly, its a very small world! Great celebrations in the Irish bar afterwards where we run into more people from home. Edel and Clare blag their way into a closed bar to see the team, get photos with Sean o brien! They also get to meet Cian Healy and Fergus McFadden later that night! Visit the geothermal springs the next day and despite the smell they're well worth a visit!

Taupo is next on our list- a picturesque town south of rotorua. The views are amazing something that we really appreciate on day 2 here when Fiona and I take to the skies to do a skydive! What an experience! Both really nervous but excited, its not everyday you jump out of a plane @ 15000ft! Our dive partners kit us out and help to put us at ease.......sort of! After a few interviews and photos were hip up up and away with a plane load of lads from Ireland and Wales-even they can't hide their nerves! Fiona and I are supposed to jump @12000 but are surprised to learn were all getting out @ 15! The view as we climb is spectacular. Were out the door before we know it free falling at high speed for over a minute, screaming doesn't last long as you're hit by cold air if your mouth is open! A few taps on the shoulder to say parachute is going up and it feels like we're sitting in mid-air admiring the scenery of lake taupo below and the snow capped mountains. An awesome experience in perfect weather conditions but hard to describe the falling feeling!

Wanganui: a stop to visit john and Kate Ann who moved here in June. A small quiet town but very beautiful. Visit the national park with stunning views into the valley below and also lake Victoria reserve before catching up over dinner and some lemon lime and bitters in the Rutland Lodge in the town.

Bus to Wellington next to rejoin the others to travel to dunedin on the south island. Here we check out the famous red cable car which brings us to the botanical gardens which boast stunning views over the harbour at sunset. There's a great buzz in the city with the games on for the weekend. Narrowly miss out on meeting some of the All Blacks at a training session near our hostel due to the lengthy queue that's formed and their tight schedule. The TePapa museum is well worth a visit too. It's known for being a one stop crash course in new Zealand history, art and culture. They have lots of exhibitions and the best part is most of its free! We have to save somewhere! The only place we've managed that so far is cooking our own meals which has been great! You do tire of eating out for all your meals- it was possible in Asia as it was so cheap but not so here where a main meal could set you back $20 at least! Couldn't be doing that three times a day!

Posted by elisasdiary 03:51 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Bangkok

sunny 25 °C

Arrived into Bangkok on All Ireland Final day and with a Kerry lass in the fold first things first - find an irish pub actually showing the game! It was more difficult that it sounds! (something to do with the satellite signal they get here) but low and behold with half an hour to go there was about 10 of us in a taxi headed for Silom about 30 minutes from the famous Khao San road where we had set up camp. Met a good gang of irish people here but the drink was far too expensive so we headed back shortly after the final whistle. I don't think Maria could've taken much more from the dubs in the pub!
Khao San Road wasn't as hectic as I expected but an experience nonetheless. We didn't stray far from Khao San Road in the days we spent in Bangkok as it seems to be where everything backpackerish happens. We did try the food at the street stalls and we weren't disappointed! Pad thai was yum! and cheap! 30bht! Helped when our baht was running out or it needed to be spent on other important things............shopping! We must've spent 2 days in the MBK a huge shopping centre a taxi ride away from us. It has 7 floors so we were all in heaven, picking up everything from clothes to electronics to makeup. Everything is so cheap here that it would be terrible not to avail of a bargain or two!
Met up with Niamh and Matt (Edels flatmates) who had just flown in and wanted the low down on whats good and whats not in south east asia so it was nice to catch up with them also. Matt was wild impressed with the buckets they serve in the pubs so he had to sample one or two!
For anyone paying Bangkok a visit, there's a nice street parallel to khao san road with a lot of chilled places to eat and drink away from the noise of Khao San.....well relaxing for the most part until a rat ran across Fiona's feet! The screams were probably heard in Vietnam!

Posted by elisasdiary 21:06 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Siem Reap

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Arrived into what has to be said a very wet Siem.reap. our worldly wise travelling heads thought our tuk tuk driver was having us on when he said the hostel we wanted was inaccessible with the floods but we wanted to see for ourselves as we'd heard so many stories of scams involving drivers and guesthouses. He soon proved honest as how little tuk tuk took us.throuh the flood and out again. A trip to the post office strangely enough ended up with a trip to the floating forest and the village of kampong phluk- it happens a lot here that you ask to go somewhere and you're sold another trip aswell. The village itself is built on stilts on the tonle SAP lake, the ride by private boat a bit steeply priced and probably a nightmare for a prone to seq sickness Karen but an interesting expedition nonetheless!
Spent a day wandering around the magnificent temples of angkor thom, ta prohm bayon and the jewel in the crown angkor wat, the largest religious structure in the world. Each is well preserved either by nature or man. One of the temples is locked in place by massive tree roots, and if removed the place would probably crumble! We only took a tour guide for angkor wat and it was definitely worth the $2!
The Nightlife is a lot livelier here with the majority of bars and restaurants lining the aptly named pub street. We got to see the Irish beat the aussies in the world cup, free congratulatory drinks from the Scottish bar owner, the celebrations went on into the early morning, each of us even more excited about being in the crowds for the next game vs Russia!

Posted by elisasdiary 20:36 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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