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Monday, 28 February 2011

Day 307-308: Some like it hot (happy birthday Rob)

It's safe to say that after a days excursion at Tongariro we were ready for some R&R. Luckily we were just around the corner from Taupo...and Rob's birthday.

When we arrived, Taupo town was sitting pretty in the sunlight on the north-eastern bank of the largest lake in New Zealand that it shares it's name with. We parked up and wandered around the small grid of roads that make up the town centre, stumbling across some fantastic local artists and a great array of eateries.

Just outside of town we decided to follow signs to the Huka Falls – this is partly because it would no doubt be free and because, I have learnt in the last 10 months (10 months! Christ!), that Rob has something of a fascination with waterfalls. He loves them. Likes the sound especially. Even pathetic little ones that sound more like a broken toilet than a force of nature, which this one was not, but I digress...Whatever the reason – the falls that we rounded the corner and climbed up onto the viewing platform to see were absolutely amazing. About 15m wide and of the kind of clear water that I've only seen in NZ, huge amounts crashed over the falls into a white cauldron of turbulence that was so powerful it actually looked a bit like the river was boiling.

And we were to be spending the night just down stream from here, in a wonderful (magic word) FREE campsite where the current was not so strong and some Germans had made a rope swing that could deposit any willing participant into the surprisingly temperate flow with a thoroughly satisfying splash. I resisted...if tubing in Laos taught me nothing else I came away knowing that my arms are not for supporting the rest of me over bodies of water.

Night fell and the morning brought Rob's coming of age – now I never know if that expression is just for specific landmark ages or any old age – either way, the age Rob came of was 24 and we celebrated with a morning wash in the river. “That's never happened before on my birthday” Well, that's what this trip is all about.

What was to follow was a day of pure indulgence. We stopped for bowls of coffee (sooo much caffeine) and fancy drinks, lunch by the marina, we strolled around the lake as the sun was setting and made our way to the best Indian restaurant we'd found in town for a “Vegetarian Banquet for Two” - and a banquet it was!

Honestly, I was full after our starters – a plater of Samosas, Onion Bajis and Pakora that came piled up and sizzling to our outdoor table with a great spicy dip. But there was plenty more to come, and we'd asked for them 'hot' (ooh we're seasoned traveller-types aren't we?) - four dishes that were as flavoursome and delicious as they look with rice and naan on the side. We were full and the birthday boy was happy...but we had one more thing left to do in Taupo.

In fact, as we sat satisfied at the Indian Affair restaurant, we didn't even know about it, but back at the campsite we were told about the Hot Springs just upstream where underground geothermal activity gifts an incredibly hot waterfall to the otherwise cool waters. Suddenly the forgiving water we'd been washing in was less surprising. We had to see for ourselves, so in the morning we took ourselves down for a genuinely hotter-than-you-average-bath dip in the very same river. It's really very strange to see steam rising up from behind green hills and then be able to say that the river was “too hot” the closer you got to the waterfall.

Ahh Taupo, you are full of surprises, wonderful surprises...

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Day 305-306: Which way to Mount Doom?

After a week or so of mincing around a city it felt good to be on the road again – not least because the road that we were on followed the spectacular west coast of the North Island and each curve gave way to a bay of the clearest blue sea crashing against jagged cream-coloured rocks interrupted only by small towns until the sky was turning sunset pink and it was time to stop for the night.

We were shooting for the Tongariro National Park and, though we didn't know it when we found a lovely shady spot by a quiet river, we actually still had a fair way to go. This was only made clear to us when – after getting up at 7AM (normal, I know, for people like you with real jobs and real lives but not for us) – a road sign confirmed we still at 200km to the National Park and even then, we had to get to the north of the park because we'd decided today was the day to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing; a 19km-long one-way mountain track frequently voted the best walk in all of NZ.

Now the problem with arriving at the Information Centre after a longish drive and a leisurely breakfast was that the shuttle bus that drops you off at the start, fresh-faced and raring to go between 6&9AM, and picks you up, a sweating and broken mess at some unimaginable point in the afternoon was that at 11AM (our arrival time) – we'd gone and missed it.

Not to worry, the friendly DOC man told us, at this late hour we could drive to the start, walk 3.5 hours to the big attractions, turn back on ourselves and make it back before dark. A 7-hour round trip to get closer to MOUNT DOOM? Yes please! I wouldn't say I was a massive Lord of The Rings fan but yes, this is where all scenes involving Mount Doom (real name; Mount Ngauruhoe) were filmed and besides, anywhere with 'doom' in the title has got to be worth a look, right?

Right. Off we set for an hour of joyously flat walking along orange-rocked streams until we reached the bottom of the first incline and this sign (pictured) that sternly warned us to “Consider turning back” - we did not. And then it got really steep. And after a further hour of upward slopes and seemingly-endless wooden steps I, at least, most definitely did.

At just under 1600m above sea level the climb was over (so I thought) and we paused for lunch at a graciously flat rocky platform in the shadow of Mount Doom and watched as clouds clung to it's summit before being whisked away and replaced once more. It really was a magnificent sight, a breath-taking way to catch ones breath, for sure.

But we weren't just here for the doomster – we'd been promised Emerald Lakes and so on we walked. As before the way was initially flat but soon, as is usually the way with mountain ranges it seems, the upward slopes weren't far away and this time it was more like climbing a mountain-sized sand dune than a never-ending step-machine. The path was dotted with sharp rocks and increasingly frequent calls for a quick break from me. This part, I will admit, I did not enjoy.

But this story does have a happy ending; climbing up to the geothermal peak above the lakes does give the weary walker the best way to view red volcanic rock clash with beige, steaming mountains. Lakes of deep green sit calm and beautiful below you and suddenly it becomes all worthwhile (you can see them just behind our sweaty faces, below). They say there's no gain without pain, well here that's certainly true; it's a lot of pain but boy is there a lot of gain too.

And then there is the long walk home...oh it's certainly better than the uphill struggle there, I'll give it that but it is pretty dull. We arrived back at Emilio almost 6 hours after leaving him with shaking legs, achy knees and some incredible photographs.

I'd probably only recommend this walk to someone who says they 'enjoy keeping fit' – but you have to go there to find out what you limits are, and if my limit is a mountain called 'Doom', then I'm fine with that.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Day 297-304: What's not to love?

Ahh Wellington, Wellington – where should I begin? Should priority be given to the beautiful architecture? Or the fantastic shopping that effortlessly mixes every-day necessities with high street brands, quirky designers and treasure troves of vintage clothing? What about the bars and little coffee shops that spill out onto the street at every possible opportunity, battling for pavement space with endless buskers, artists, hari krishnas, beat-boxers and magicians.

No, I'll begin with the first thing that really struck me about Wellington; it's diverse. Walk around town and you will pass people from every corner of the world; Chinese, Malay, European, Indian, Polynesian, African, Japanese, even a few Latinos – and they aren't tourists, they are people who call Wellington home. Now this may sound like a strange thing to notice first-off but, with the exception of Singapore, [Warning! wild generalisation approaching] everywhere we have been on this trip has been 95% local and 5% white-skinned tourist.
Get on a train in India and everyone you'll see will be Indian, apart from a few European tourists (us), go to a market in Indonesia and pretty much everyone you'll see will be Indonesian apart from a few (mostly Dutch) tourists (again, inclusive of us). I'm not saying this is a bad thing – but there was very little mixing in these societies, the local/tourist divide was as clear as the colour of our skin. But in Wellington, everything was all mixed up, and I loved it.
Maybe when you grow up in London, where ethnic diversity is a beautiful reality, you're naturally more inclined to notice it (or the lack of it) in other places you visit. That said, I don't think that it's a coincidence that Singapore and Wellington are the only places I'd really consider living more permanently in. It just feels more right here.

Maybe too because the “windy city” did not live up to this reputation at all – we enjoyed a week of glorious sunshine with often not so much as a cloud in the sky. Which was particularly good news for Emily [below], one of my oldest and best school-friends, who arrived from Sydney on the stroke of midnight with a rucksack that had been quarantined into a huge plastic bag and without her tent pegs which had been taken from her by a less than friendly customs officer under the absurdly stringent anti-contamination laws.

Not to worry though, actually the spot that Rob and I had found to camp up each night in was a glorified car park over-flow that climbed into the hill side at the tiny and incredibly scenic Scorching Bay [above] about 5km south of Wellington. So most of the ground was tarmac and not exactly peg-friendly anyway. After a few failed attempts in the dark (we would later become incredibly quick at this) we got the tent up, tied the guide ropes to Emilio and the railings and we were good to go. Like I said, it was really lucky that it didn't rain.

The morning brought the small matter of turning 25 for me and with it croissants and coffee on the beach for breakfast. A day spent perusing the shops was broken up only to eat a delicious lunch and in the evening we met up with a friend we had made in Thailand and she brought the kind of local knowledge that means $1 glasses of champagne for ladies on a Wednesday [thanks Yvonne.] Needless to say, I had an utterly awful time of it :)

Thereafter each day brought something new and exciting; least one day was lost to the seemingly impossible task of obtaining an Australian working-holiday visa for Emily but even that ended in a feast of falafel...and eventually (days later) a visa too. We spent a day shopping, a day relaxing on the beach at Scorching Bay – which did live up to it's name - and even needed two days to wander slowly through the wonderful Te Papa museum [right], which features everything from geology to gay rights and has a fabulous exhibition on photographer Brian Blake on the top floor.

Emily and I also spent a day wine-tasting in the famous Wairarapa Valley region. Martinsborough is just an hour and a half away and it must surely hold the record for the most wineries per km2 – the place is packed with them! And tasting is the name of the game. We stopped in a few, all walking distance from the small high street, enjoying crisp Chardonnays, bold Pinot Noirs and some surprisingly moreish sweet desert wines. Our favourite spot, though, was the Vynfilds winery; a huge white manor-house type of a building surrounded by vineyards where you could taste a 'flight' of wines – 5 half or quarter glasses – with tasting notes and some great bread-and-dips to wash it down with.

Wellington has been one of our longer stays on the trip and it has definitely been one of my favourites; friends, sun, good food, great wine and even champagne on a Wednesday. What's not to love?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Not Another Top 5 List; How to achieve traveller chic (for the guys)

...I've had this one drafted since Thailand when it was maybe a bit more appropriate, but better late than never eh..?

1. Get the Costa del Shoreditch look
Take 1 pair of day-glo girls shorts with a 'full moon party' logo on (many colours available) and team it with a vest bearing the logo of a SE Asian beer (Chang, Angkor, Saigon Green etc.) A thick wad of colourful wristbands on one wrist is optional but recommended and voila! You have joined the masses and now you look cool

2. Don't cut your hair
So what if you sweat so much in the Asian sun that it is actually physically uncomfortable both for you and passers-by? Un-washed, un-styled and not-quite officially “long” yet in so en look great

3. Focus on what is important
“Once you've seen one mountain” 365 was reliably informed in a pub in Sapa “you've seen them all” - that's the spirit, now whose round is it anyway?

4. Have sex in your dorm room
So you've finally managed to bed that blonde gappie from Bristol. Why wouldn't the 9 other people in your dorm want to share those magical 2 minutes with you? Please, go right ahead

5. Going loco
An excerpt of a conversation we genuinely overheard between two British backpackers in Hoi An;
lad1: “let's go out for dinner in a bit, what do you fancy?”
lad2: “I don't know...I think I might actually have Vietnamese food tonight”
lad1: “Really? Just make sure you're not sick for the big night out though, mate”
Thank you lad1; a total focus on 'the big night out' and the firm belief that any contact with local culture will harm you – textbook traveller behaviour

More not-so useful hints and tips for the travel savvy include How to survive a night bus and How to get the right day tour

Saturday, 19 February 2011

And the winner is...

[drum roll please]

The Hipster frames!

By poll-results and because they were my favourite anyway... thanks to all who voted/commented :)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Day 296: The eyes have it

Firstly thank you for joining me in this hour of need. I need to buy new glasses but I can't decide which ones to buy...

The reason for this sudden frame-upgrade is simple; at least for a short time I am not allowed to wear contact lenses (doctor's orders) and if I must wear glasses (and I must) then it's time to replace the old frames I've been wearing for the last 4 years – and I need your help deciding which frames to buy!

Full break-down of the afore-mentioned doctors orders at the end of this post – but if you're just here for the fun stuff then here are your 5 choices. Please place your vote in the Poll Box on the right > > > >

Voting will be open for 2 days and then I'll place my order and let you know which one was the winner...all votes and comments gratefully received, this is a big decision and being at least partially able to blame the blogsphere for a bad decision is important to me :)

<<< 1) Geek Chic

2) Euro Chic >>>

<<< 3) Mother-of-two Chic

4) Hipster Chic >>>

<<< 5) Free-on-the-NHS chic

Right, doctor's orders. Well, in short, my left eye had been giving

me some grief over the past week or so (itching and redness that eventually gave way to full on pain) and so in Nelson I went to an optometrist, who quickly referred me to the hospital, where I spent most of Saturday either in the waiting room or with bright lights being shone into my eye – and I'm so so glad that I did.

My left eye has what is medically known as Keratitis – small markings or infultrates on my Cornea which are relatively common in contact-lens wearers, can be tricky to totally get rid of and that, left untreated, can result in permanently blurred vision. Which is the scary bit.

Anyway, after all the necessary checks I am now in possession of Ciproflaxacin (“the strong stuff – they don't usually prescribe this”) that I'm dropping into my eye every 2 hours for 2 days and then 4 times a day hence forth until I get rid of the little buggers. I need to get my eye checked again in 5 days or so and I cannot wear contact lenses for at least 2 weeks and until I get the “all clear” from a optomotrist and even then, greatly reducing my contact lens wearing is strongly advised to stop any resurgence.

So there we are; nothing fatal but something pretty serious...and a good excuse to buy some exciting new frames.

Thanks for your votes :)

Monday, 14 February 2011

Happy Valentines Day!

Just a quick post to send a big sloppy kiss and wish you a very happy Valentines Day wherever you may be...

LOVE three six five xx

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Day 288-295: Kaikaura to Nelson in fast forward

Well this is going to be a little bit of a ­mixed bag of a post – in the long wait for Rob's video that ensued after our Sky Dives (we have them both here now, hurrah!) we got a little behind in our today I'm going to zoom from Kaikaura to Nelson in one fall swoop so we are once again operating in real time.

Kaikaura is a sweet little town. When we arrived it was being slowly swallowed by cloud rolling in from the sea that made the Seaward Kaikaura Range look like it was floating Avatar-style on a fluffy white bed (right). The pebble beach was hot underfoot and the sea was freezing.

We passed the day wandering around a school fĂȘte and then along the long Beach Road that makes up the town centre. It is a hotspot for those keen on seeing whales and albatrosses – but when trips begin at around $140 dollars, we were priced out of the market and forced to settle for antagonising seagulls instead.

There is however a very photogenic and – most importantly – free to see seal population at South Bay just outside of town. We paid those funny-looking things (left) a visit and also began a walk that follows the coast for about an hour along the cliff tops. From this vantage point the divide of grey cloud from the coast against the blue sky inland was quite magnificent. You could literally walk in and out of fog into searing daylight – it's difficult to explain but this pic (below) shows what I mean.

The following day we continued north on Highway 1 to Blenheim where we stumbled upon a local Radio Station's Summer Sundays in a park. Basically there was just a DJ and a couple of More FM flags and the perfect reason to get a picnic together and chill out in the shade for the afternoon. A perfect Sunday (below)

After a few days of relaxing we made the longer drive to Nelson, definitely one of my favourite towns in NZ. It is set on beautiful coast line with jagged rocks and sandy beaches, the town centre is compact and charming with everything you could possibly need in one place and the enlightened council there have even allotted a small area of park land as designated FREE overnight parking for camper-vans. Every town everywhere should have this – heavens knows it would make our lives a lot easier. Yes, we knew Nelson was great almost as soon as we arrived, and it would turn out that it was lucky we felt this way...

But we didn't know then what we know now and so after a day we continued to the northernmost tip of the South Island for some spectacular views and some challenging walking. The plan was to spend a day in Golden Bay and then do a long walk in the Abel Tasman Nation Park on our way back to Nelson. We found a great place to stay with some lovely Dutch folk just past Collingwood and in the morning made our way to “must see” Wharariki Beach which lies down a dirt track, through green fields with grazing sheep and over gloriously white dunes – and it really is a must see.

We dropped our bags on a stray tree branch and went for a paddle, the tide was coming in so we decided against one of the walks but did not, crucially, decide to move our bags before a particularly big wave swept in swirling our flip flops and belongings up the beach. Why am I telling you this? Flip flops get wet all the time. Yes, but cameras don't – and shouldn't, but Rob's one did. And back at the van it made only a scary clunky noise and the lens didn't open. For the first time in 290 days threesixfive would be without images.

And that is why we decided to return immediately to Nelson – to buy a replacement. Why put ourselves through a days gruelling walking around Abel Tasman if we couldn't even show you guys what it was like. Spirits were low. And, it seemed, the cost of this error would be high.

That said, the following morning after a bit of fiddling and vigorous blowing out of grains of sand the camera actually took a photo and started to show signs of recovery. It is early days yet but the prognosis is looking good. This did mean that we had some extra days in Nelson and, though we possessed a working camera, we'd missed out the Abel Tasman National Park – but all's well that ends well and the extra days turned out to be so necessary for me. But more on that next time...

Friday, 11 February 2011

Day 287: One day in Hanmer Springs

If there is more than one thing to do Hanmer Springs, 365 does not know about it. I don't even want to know about it if I'm honest...because the one and only thing that we did do in 'the Han (yup, pretty sure no-one else is calling it that) was more than enough for one tiny town.

That thing, as the name would suggest, is Spring-based. But we're not talking some pathetic little trickle of a spring somewhere in the distance that was once of some historical importance blah blah blah oh no! We're talking full-on outdoor water-park type complex with a spa, flumes, pools for children, pool for adults, pools where the kind of people that bring goggles to an outdoor pool could swim lengths, naturally heated sulphur pools, natural water pools for those not so keen on the smell of eggs, pools that were really jacuzzis, pools surrounded by sculpted rocks and greenery...I could go on; and all inside lovely grounds with benches and deckchairs and no silly rules that stopped people like us bringing in breakfast (pictured) and lunch and setting up camp for the day.

Basically, we were in holiday-making heaven...and all for a mere 18NZD (not even a tenner)

So all we did in Hanmer Springs – and this is an itinerary that I would recommend to anyone – is go to Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools until they close at 9PM and then get chips from The Log Cabin over the road. No-one could accuse this day of being action-filled but my was it wonderful.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Day 285-286: A window of sunshine at Arthur's Pass

Dear readers, looking over some of my last posts I have noticed a worrying increase in the inclusion of comments about the weather from yours truly. I would like to extend my sincerest apologies to all those who came to this humble url to find exciting, informative, dare I say even amusing travel blog and have been bombarded with a boring running commentary regarding rainfall in NZ. I promise that I will try to keep my inner Michael Fish under wraps hence forth.

With this caveat in mind let me begin where I left off...ah yes, winding up the west coast to Nelson. Well, yes, now this is going to be tricky because we have in fact diverted from that cause of action because of the know...there was too was we... Alright; here it is – it was raining so bloody much on the West Coast and the forecast was for more of the same so we nipped directly Eastwards from Greymouth (lovely town...awfully apt name) to make the most of a small window of sunshine we'd spotted on the horizon at Arthur's Pass.

By the time we arrived we had time for a beautiful late-afternoon walk to the Devil's Punchbowl Waterfall (a thoroughly drenching experience) and an early dinner with a spectacular backdrop of pinks and blues as the sun set over mountains.

We were up early again for another blustery walk as the shadow of the mountain on one side of the valley crept slowly down the mountain opposite. We were back at base camp and enjoying breakfast by the time the winds really picked up (160km/hr at the peaks) and we were driving east again by the time the storm that was tearing apart the West coast crept over the Southern Alps and things got really wet.

Though it would have been great to stay longer and do some more challenging walks and see some really incredible sights the *eh-hem* you know that thing wasn't on our side this time. Still, I think we made the most of our short time in stunning Arthur's Pass.

Now it is onwards and north-eastwards to sunnier climbs and, since it is now somehow February already, the final leg if you will of our South Island adventure.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Day 283-284: “And I'm freeeee, free-falling”

The day spent bumming around the hostel in Fox Glacier had worked; now the sun was out and we were ready to see the glacier itself. Conveniently it's only 5km out of town and easily accessible by road so we drove along and did a few of the short walks that showcase the ever-retreating Fox Glacier itself from a few different angles.

For obvious safety reasons, you can't just go up to a glacier and have a look around and so marked paths keep everyone but the guided tour groups quite far away. It was still spectacular though – and to see the valleys and river beds that it had carved through solid rock in the glory days of the last ice age was pretty impressive too.

Onwards we drove to a bigger and (arguably) better glacier just up the road at Franz Josef; the town is certainly more lively and it holds the prestigious (?) title of the worlds 2nd best site for sky diving. I never know if being certified 2nd best at something is actually a this case it's second place to sky diving at Mount Everest, and anything that's second to Earth's highest peak can't be too shoddy I guess. But I digress; Rob had been talking-up sky diving at Franz Josef for the best part of this trip and – at least for the first two minutes of our time in the sky dive shop – I was still convinced that because I'd sky dived in Australia before, I wouldn't need to this time.

It didn't last and here, after a mornings will-we-won't-we with the clouds and the wind speed we made it up in the tiny plane and jumped out at 16,000 feet...

Rob's video has been miraculously saved from the depths of the interweb, so here it is in all its extremely-nervous-but-trying-to-stay-cool glory:

Kat's fear and flapping cheeks are available for viewing here:

And it was absolutely amazing! The views in the plane going up were worth it alone – we could see see Mount Cook and Mount Tasman (2 highest peaks in NZ) poke out over the clouds, and the Franz Josef Glacier with it's network of cement-coloured rivers reaching to the sea. It was magnificent. It was breath-taking at 4,00 feet and then we just kept. on. rising, until it was eventually time to swing our legs over the edge of a flying aircraft and go for it.

Nothing can really describe the exact feeling of falling at terminal velocity – a cool 200km/hr – but I think the look on our faces before, during and after sort of capture it...

Luck has really been on our side throughout this trip; it seems that we always somehow manage to time stuff like this to perfection and as we watched our vidoes back and dark clouds rolled in we knew we'd had the best jump of the day and one of the best experiences of this whole crazy year.

And maybe – just maybe – for the faint of heart, this'll be the last time we insist on showing you footage of Team 365 falling from massive heights :)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Shiney New Things

Everybody loves shiney new things and threesixfive is no different - so we've added a couple of new links on the toolbar above. Yup - just up there^^ between this post and the ridiculous list of countries we visit on this trip.

We've got an easy link to our Regular Features and the all-new 365-Favs, a kind of 'best-of' and hopefully a good way to catch up on anything you may have missed

Thanks for reading folks - let me know what you think...

kat x

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

281-282: Beautiful West Coast / Bastard sand flies

In 1990 the whole of the South West of New Zealand's South Island was recognised as a World Heritage Site, putting it in an elite with the likes of the Pyramids in Egypt and the Grand Canyon in the US. I'm not sure if it is the biggest World Heritage site (feel free to google and report back) but it has to be up there, surely. I mean – it's huge. We have already visited parts of it at Mount Cook and Milford Sounds but now we were joining the highway that winds all the way up to Nelson.

Out first port of call was the pretty little town of Haast; we started the day with a Whitebait Pattie for Rob (local speciality) and a visit to another very well done Visitor Centre. It seemed we had landed, all quite deliberately of course, at a great place for some walks on a day when the sun was shining – which is actually pretty rare in these parts.

So we followed the coast up, stopping at picturesque trails, bays, river mouths, forests and even a “swamp” where the high levels of Iron in the rocks had rusted and turned the water the colour of ale; we haven't fiddled with the settings on these really is that colour.

It was all going rather well until it came to settling down for the night and the lovely lake-side spot we'd found turned out to be swarming, and by swarming I mean literally infested, with sand flies. It was turning into a beautiful sunny evening but there we were with trousers tucked into socks, long sleeves, scarfs, constant re-application of repellent and we were still twitching and having to wave our arms around like crazy folk to try and defend ourselves. It was awful; I'm not sure if I got my moan on about them in the Milford Sounds post (just checked...I didn't) but if we thought they were bad then (and we did) this was something else.We set up a mosquito net over Emilio's door but it was soon coated in little black bodies, baying for our blood – and when they do bite, they do draw blood. Not the best night's sleep ever.

When we got up in the morning and let about 100 new hungry mosquitoes and twice as many sand flies into poor Emilio, it was time to leave. We were tired, bitten and it was raining with no sign of stopping. We drove to Fox Glacier and checked into a hostel where we enjoyed such luxuries as hot showers, a kettle (AKA constant source of tea for me), comfortable sofas, electricity and the real luxury of a sauna. It was R&R o'clock and as the continued to pour outside we knew it was the right decision.

Only a few pics for this one...and they are here

Day 278-280: Moving on isn't the same as getting moved on

When we arrived in Wanaka it was shrouded in a rain cloud so thick that you could barely see the shore of Lake Wanaka, let alone the mountains that usually form a beautiful backdrop on the far side of it [below - the next day, as it should be] The streets were soaking and our spirits were low – but luckily there was Cinema Paradiso.

This beautiful one-screen independent cinema is just the thing for a rainy day. Much like Notting Hill's Electric Cinema, seating is made up of comfy sofas and armchairs. There is one exception; perching at a jaunty angle in the corner is ¾ of an old Morris Minor that you can watch from- but only if you're that guy whose lingered conspicuously by the counter that becomes the front of the queue and made a dash across the room followed by a winning smile to your mate whose hung back to collect and carry in your pizza and beers. Oh. Yes – they have a menu too, and a wine list and they bake cookies so that in the half time break (yes, they have one of those for each viewing too) you can stock up on movie snacks again. It's absolute genius.

By the time we emerged from The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (fantastic, if a little lacking in the depth and detail that make Laarson's book so incredible) the rain had ceased and a few shy rays of setting sunlight were shining on this lovely little town. We ate and after much driving back-and-forth we slept.

And then it happened.

It was always going to happen, but this is when it did. It was 3:49AM and there was a firm knock on our window and a friendly-but-firm torch-wielding DOC officer in a hi-vis vest informed us that we were camping in a “no camping” site (reference here to the “no camping” signs we'd parked besides) and that the police we behind him and if we were caught in said “no camping” zone we'd be charged somewhere in the region of 500NZD each. We apologised for the mistake and he generously pointed us in the direction of the nearest DOC site, about 10km away, and on we drove. We had been moved on.

Well, we weren't about to pay $7 each for a nights' sleep that began at 4:30AM [many DOC sites are operated by leaving fees in designated envelopes that contain receipts that must be displayed in windscreens for “early morning” checks by site rangers] so two hours later after very little sleep we moved on again...voluntarily this time...back to the lake front where we snoozed undisturbed until 10ish. A terrible night's sleep all in all but at least we hadn't paid for it.

Perhaps going to a attraction that specialises in puzzles was not the wisest idea after very little sleep but the sun was out and we were keen to see the famous Puzzling World. It boasts an outdoor labyrinth [right] – which is really fun until you are widely lost and then it's deeply frustrating – and rooms of holograms and illusions that mess with even the most alert of minds [above]. Tables in the cafe have puzzles on them that you can try and try at before giving up and moving onto the next one. It's great fun.

Apart from this we spent most of our time in Wanaka next to the Lake; when the sun is shining it is the perfect holiday town...but after a day or two of beautiful sunshine and catch-up midday snoozes the dark clouds rolled in and it was time for us, again, to move on.