Volcanoes, Dolphins and a Minor Mental Breakdown

19 Feb

Had some sweet as transport today: on the back of Brett’s stunning vintage motorbike. Unbelievable how smooth and comfy it was. My last memory of being on the back of a bike was when I was about six and Dad zoomed down to the cricket field in the village. I cried.

Brett on the other hand was a lovely, safe driver. He loves his facts and told me lots about the south coast of Wellington through the helmet inter-com as we cruised around the picturesque bays.

20th Feb

Up and out the door by 7.30 with all my gear, plus a little Tupperware box with my lunch in. Ah, it’s been rather blissful these last couple of days. Being on the move constantly is exhausting and so I’ve been very lucky to stay at Julie’s IN MY OWN ROOM these last couple of nights. What luxury.

Hurrah! Veronica is on my bus (we thought we’d said goodbye for good about a week ago). We chatted for ages about anything and everything.

Driver is called Dave. He seems chirpy.

Arrived at the ginormous lake Taupo about 3pm. It’s cool, but in my opinion, not as pretty as lake Tekapo in the south. The whole scenery is a lot different here. In the south, the scenery was UNREAL with all of the breathtaking mountains and turquoise lakes. However, so far, the North is like England on steroids. So still very cool, but not quite as OH MY.

21st Feb

Alarm went off before 5 this morning. Me and my new friend Fran are going to tackle the Tongariro Crossing (a 20k hike through volcanoes, zig zagging around emerald lakes).

At 5.20 I rushed back into the room to find Fran fast asleep. Come on Fran! Bus leaves in 10 minutes!

Let’s do this. Others that had already done the crossing and had also got to know me joked that I would probably run it. At some points I wanted to go a little quicker, but I didn’t want to leave Fran – I was enjoying her company too much. She’s a fabulous human. Because I was so comfortable, I was tempted to do the add on 3 hours up Mount Doom. But then sensible Liv said no. I was wearing shorts and trainers. It was extremely steep, slippy and sharp. Others were returning with slashed legs, muddy blood trickling down to their ankles. Maybe not… Instead I did the Tongariro summit (an extra hour or so). Fran waited at the bottom to have some recovery time whilst I marched on into the sun. I’m glad I did it. The views were incredible. I picked up Fran again at the bottom and we saw the Emerald lakes. Stunning!!! I take back what I said about the North being a bit more ‘meh.’ The views were crazy. It all felt pre-historic with clouded smoke rising from the ground.

The long, steep downhill towards the lakes was really tricky, but also fun. We were sliding all over the place! I cut myself a tiny bit on my hand as I saved myself from a tumble. The last few hours were long but I still felt pretty energised. I wish I had captured Fran’s happy face when we finally reached the car park. They say the crossing should take 6-8 hours. We took 6.10 (but that’s with me doing the summit as well), so we did the normal route in 5.10. Not bad!

Sat waiting for the bus to leave, Fran realised her sports bra was on back to front. Her boobs were poking out the back hole that was accidentally in the front, and the front bit on her back was all baggy. “I thought they weren’t very supported.”

24/02

Came through Auckland yesterday and now in the beautiful Paihia (bay of Islands, at the top of the North Island).

Mental breakdown: bank card is blocked.

I have $6.

Damnit it. I have $5. Shouldn’t have bought that banana.

It was a stressful 6 hours but by that evening, it was all up and going again. Thank goodness! Had a celebratory salted caramel and cashew nut gelato.

Now to enjoy this beautiful little paradise… Cruise on a boat and come by a pod of 20 dolphins? Why not. I don’t know how else to describe it other than saying it was ‘magical.’ They all seemed so happy. They were extremely playful but also had such a peaceful manner about them. The male and female would jump side by side, perfectly in sync whilst the youngster showed off by the boat.

On the way back, I sat right at the front of the boat and stripped down to my bikini – attempting to fix my hideous tan lines.

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Earthquakes, Windy Welly and a Confident Male

16th Feb

Just sat in Christchurch botanical gardens, hoping that there isn’t another earthquake (they had a 5.7 two days ago). It’s gorgeously sunny and I’ve just been for a cheeky 9K around the picturesque park.

We’ve got an awful bus driver on this leg of the journey: Scotty. If I ever have heaps of free-time, I’m definitely going to give him a bad review. The idea of the Kiwi Experience is if you’re staying at nearby accommodation, the drivers ought to pick you up. Last night my motel was EN ROUTE and he still said “nah mate.” So it was a 20-30 min walk for me with my big pack at stupid o’clock in the morning. And it’s not just me – the whole bus thinks he’s a miserable sod and he’s always stressed. Thing is, he’s actually quite funny. But we all hate him too much to laugh at his jokes.

***

Went around the awesome ‘Spectrum’ street art exhibition. It’s inspired by the devastating effects of the earthquake a few years ago. There were lots of childhood references, which to me, refers to the innocence in it all – so many innocent people’s lives, ruined.

It was an ace exhibition; so glad we found it (no thanks to Scotty). “Christchurch is a bit of a shit hole to be honest.”

I disagree. All the pop-up shops, bars and restaurants give the city tonnes of character, and it was all quite enchanting.

Memorable moment: I was serving up some smoked salmon and missed the plate entirely. Instead, a big helping of the oily flesh plopped onto Hannah’s pristine Ray Bans, which were resting on the table. Awkward laughs and gasps all round…

***

17th Feb

Arrived safely in Kaikura (a little beach town famous for whale watching and swimming with dolphins). I’ve decided to save a dolphin swim for the Bay of Islands, and I’m glad I did! We’ve been lucky with the weather so far but today it has been GRIM. Insane winds and pelting it down with rain.

***

18th Feb

Time to say farewell to the South Island and head up North! The three and a half hour ferry journey felt like days but I’m finally here. I’m staying with the lovely Julie and Brett again and it was great fun telling them all about my adventures so far. It was also great fun watching Brett be sick in his mouth a little bit as we watched some weird birthing documentary, and the camera focused a little too long on some gammy placenta.

***

Good lord. Now I know why they nickname Wellington, windy welly. I’ve never known gales like it! I’ve been pushed into the road several times… You open your mouth to talk and spit flies in every direction. Maybe I didn’t pick the best day to hang my washing out… When taking the pegs off, the wind swallowed my towel. It vanished in less than a second – my eyes weren’t quick enough to trace its direction. I ran upstairs to the balcony to try and get a better view of where it might have gone. Sprinting like hell; focused, frantic Liv did not see the big glass door… I now have a bruised forehead. Man, I wish I had that on film. Would get on ‘You’ve Been Framed’ EASILY.

My sore head made my Te Papa museum visit a bit of a struggle. It’s a museum of such high standards though, so I hope I can visit again one time.

In the evening I went to meet Annie, Mike and Hannah for dinner & drinkys. On the way, some guy stopped me…

He began with, “Excuse me, you were on the ferry yesterday….” (bit creepy). He then proceeded to ask, “what are you doing tonight?” No way! Chatted up on the street! Does that even happen these days!?

After some awkward small talk, I politely rejected him. I admire his confidence though. He wasn’t even a looker!

I shook my head in disbelief as I continued to walk into the centre to meet my lovely Kiwi peeps.

My jungle curry way delicious! Hannah, on the other hand has become a true traveller. Ordering no food at dinner, she instead orders an alcoholic beverage and asks the waiter for the wifi code.

It could have been a great love story

Happy valentines day! Running on very little sleep at the moment. Last night the Danish were being SO loud and SO drunk. Then whoever was on the bunk above me was snoring like a pig.

It was an emotional goodbye saying farewell to the girls as I made my way to Lake Tekapo. I’ll see Annie and Hannah again in a couple of days, but it was a sad farewell to Rachel, Jade and Sophia. Travelling is like an emotional rollercoaster. You become so close to people in such a short space of time and then before you know it, one of you hops on a bus / flight / ferry and that’s it – they’re just a memory. We’ll all keep in contact via Facebook though, and we hope to meet again as a group at some point back in England.

I’m staying in Lake Tekapo for 2 nights but have no accommodation for tomorrow night. Apparently there is NOTHING available. Oops. But hey, panicky Liv isn’t that panicky. “It’ll work out.” I tell myself.

Hurrah! It did. Someone cancelled their reservation in a nearby motel 10 minutes ago so BAM, that bed has my name all over it.

The late afternoon was spent lazing by the blue beyond blue lake.

I’ve just written a really, really long paragraph and then deleted it all because it made me sound so lame. Long story short: got talking to a beautiful man on the beach. He was hitchhiking around New Zealand. I was really enjoying his company…So much so that this panicked me and so I said goodbye. Why Liv, why.

The next day, on my little backpack trek to the motel, who am I following but beautiful man from the beach yesterday!!! I don’t believe in fate – but if I did, this would be it. I could have said hi and then we could have hitchhiked together (sod my own travel plans). We could have gone around the world together and then eventually buy a house in England, get a cute dog and live happily ever after.

Instead, I turned into a cafe to buy a coffee and a muffin before heading onto the motel. I am the worst kind of person.

***

Survived my lonely motel experience. Actually really enjoyed it! Finally had a great night’s sleep. Did a mighty solo hike up Mount John (accidentally went the extra long route) but that made it feel even better when I finally reached the summit.

Hannah, Mike & Annie have now arrived! After a chilled night in Tekapo cooking dinner together, tomorrow we will venture to Christchurch. Fingers crossed there isn’t another earthquake. 2 days ago they had a 5.7 and aftershocks are quite likely…

Unreal Scenery and the Ultimate Adrenaline Rush

Franz Josef > Wanaka > Queenstown

8/9 Feb

Done some beautiful hikes in Wanaka. One lead us to a stunning mirror lake that created the most perfect reflection. Another hike was on a day that I had so much energy it was overwhelming. Josh was convinced that I had taken a short cut, but I hadn’t, just bossed it.

Unfortunately my energy faded away after only 3 hours sleep last night due to dinosaur snoring. Ah, hostel life.

Cranky Liv’s mood picked up though with a honeycomb Magnum. Definitely recommend.

A few more restless nights sleep lead me to start missing the comforts of home. I don’t want to go as far as saying I’m homesick… But my own bed would be nice. And a decent cup of tea. And maybe a cuddle? No, it’s not that bad. Let’s toughen up. All I need to do is step outside and be blown away by the turquoise lakes and mountains so perfect, they look like a film set. My photos aren’t edited I promise. This is real life! I soon forget about my crazy craving for a Yorkshire brew. I didn’t forget about Mummy Mulligan and Papa M though – gave them a little Skype. Top tip: if your hostel doesn’t have wifi, go chill out in another hostel and use theirs. Us travellers all look the same.

As I say goodbye to the beautiful Wanaka (a tiny town with an aprรจs ski kinda feel), we make the journey to Queenstown. We had heard great things about Queenstown, so our expectations were high…

10 – 13 Feb

QT did not disappoint. It was better than I imagined. It’s a place that anyone could fall in love with. It’s insanely good if you wanna do extreme sports / hike / party & get smashed / relax & sunbathe by the lake… There’s something for everyone.

It was so good, the fact I was sharing a room with a couple of crack-heads didn’t put a downer on the experience. Instead it makes me smile and think – oh Queenstown, you crazy, crazy place. Angela & Martin stumble in at 4 in the morning, acting barely human. Angela comes in naked and then starts crying. Martin, after dancing around the room like a gorilla, eyes bulging, can’t be arsed with Angela’s sobbing and so clambers onto the top bunk and puts his headphones in, his music on full blast. When we all woke up that morning, we had to discuss – did that even happen? Yes. Yes it did.

Crack-heads aside, I had my own crazy experience bungy jumping. I had signed up to do the Nevis (biggest drop in Australasia at 134m). My stomach was doing acrobatics just thinking about it. I was SO excited and SO scared. I’d run it over in my head, trying to imagine the feeling of jumping off. My heart would start to race. I love that feeling.

***

Today’s the day. Filled up with toast n’jam. Had about 10 nervous pee trips and then was ready to sign in. I was going with the awesome Georgia and Brit – also on the Kiwi experience.

Breathe. Breathe. I handed over my pass, then did the medical questionnaire: all ok. The final thing before getting on the bus was hopping on the scales…

“I’m really sorry but you’re not heavy enough.”

“Ha. You’re kidding right?”

“No. I’m really sorry.”

“Are you joking?” I had to ask again. I couldn’t believe it. My whole chest sank and felt deflated. I was gutted. All the build up – for nothing. Then my thoughts changed. Shit! The $250 is non refundable! Luckily, I got it back. And although I couldn’t do the Nevis, I could do the bridge bungy or the ledge freestyle bungy. I was drawn to the freestyle one because it has the highest jump off point – a mighty 400m! It’s a real shame about Nevis, but I guess I can’t regret not doing it because unfortunately, the weight restrictions are beyond my control.

***

LET’S GO. Got some free stuff too because my Nevis disappointment face worked a charm (free Gondola trip, free photos and free spectator trip for Nevis). Because of the whole Chinese New Year malarkey, the gondola queue was MASSIVE. Disaster! I wasn’t going to make it in time. However, I explained the situation to one of the security people, tried to look adorable and got escorted to front of queue. From what started out as a very disappointing day, things were going ever so well! Let’s hope death / paralysis by bungy doesn’t put a dampener on this sunny Thursday.

As soon as I arrived at the ledge I was pumped. Fear vanished and I just wanted to jump. I couldn’t wait to feel the rush. Because it was freestyle, I decided to sprint off and dive. THREE, TWO, ONE, BUNGY!

What a feeling. When you release your feet from the edge, it feels like everything goes in slow motion. Your stomach rises, and as you fall, nothing else matters. Your body is in shock but you feel invincible. It uses up more emotions than sky-diving. Don’t get me wrong, tandem sky-diving is great, but in my opinion, it’s not scary, just epic good fun. With a bungy it’s all you – it’s all in your head. YOU have to jump. Therefore the feeling afterwards of accomplishment is much higher.

Anyone who is thinking about doing a bungy… Do it.

Seriously do it.

Quote from Queenstown (from Annie): “I’m scared that when I go back home, I’ll never be this happy again.”

Possums, Glaciers and a Little Knob

6th Feb

Now got an ace group of pals and feeling oh so content with life. We’re at a real party hostel tonight. It’s New Zealand’s birthday today and we’re going to a Kiwi-themed fancy dress party. I’m either gonna go as an All Blacks player or a possum. Do possums have visible ears? I hope so. That would be cute.

Me and the girls are in a room with a 40 something year old. She has a heart of gold but my god, she needs an off switch. STOP. TALKING.

For party gossip, please see handwritten diary. Sorry.

***

7th Feb

Inhaled the free breakfast this morning.

Arrived in the beautiful Franz Josef about 1.30pm. It has a bit of a Mammoth Lakes feel about it (see California diary, 2015). Snow-capped mountains surrounding a tiny little mountain village, which luckily, in our case, was gloriously sunny. How idyllic.

I’ve put my name down to do the glacier hike tomorrow. It’s very expensive ($319) but a once in a lifetime opportunity. My whole feel for this trip is even if I want to do something a little bit – do it. Come back to England without any regrets.

The woman that checked us in at the hostel was the most irritating lump of a human that you can imagine. “I hear you had a big night last night?… Lots of wine?” (She then holds up a glass of wine). “Do you all remember what wine is?” She then got all stressy when we were trying to pay – telling us off, telling us she can’t multitask and that she can’t process things quickly… (What NOT to say in a job interview).

There’s a great hike here, but it’s a long one and we don’t have time today. It’s 6-8 hours and called something Knob (not actually ‘something’ I just can’t remember the name). So instead we decided to do the ‘little’ knob hike. Ha, brilliant.

***

8th Feb

Glacier hike day! Felt like such a boss being in the front seat of the helicopter with all the head gear on. The views were truly spectacular and the take off and landing was so smooth, you felt like you were in a little bubble, floating over the mountain tops. Skies were gloriously blue so got some fab photos. It was fun wearing the mountain boots with spikes and going through the narrow gaps in the ice. I was in my element and felt like such a little explorer.

***

Still loving Franz and wanted to run in the beautiful scenery. “Eugh, how do you have the effort to run?” they groan. For me, it is an effort NOT to run. I was merrily cruising along, then out of nowhere, without warning, 8 wolf dogs sprung out of the bushes, barking viciously and jumping up at me. “This is the end.” I thought. What good is a rape alarm in this situation!? Frozen like a statue for what felt like at least 20 long seconds, 3 women then appeared through the hedges too. “Don’t jump up at the lady!” One of them called. “Don’t worry sweetie, they’re real friendly.” Sure, those fangs look harmless. But I live to tell the tale and come away scratch-free. All is well.

***

Now hyperventilating with excitement and fear. Just signed up to do the Nevis bungy jump.

To be continued…

Horses, hippies and a homeless man

5th Feb

Sorry dorm-mates. Woke up at 6.45 for a run around the picturesque Kaiteriteri. I think I was pretty quiet though as I was so conscious of disturbing people. SO conscious that I slept in my running shorts and sports bra so I could just get up and go. However, I guess I didn’t think it through so well… I had slept in my retainers so still needed to rummage around in my toiletries bag to take those cool kids out.

Ran up some mountain on the road. About 20 mins in, the first car went passed and I realised I was in the middle of freakin’ no where. Even though I had my emergency alarm with me – who would hear me? Swiftly turned around and ran back at a quicker pace (due to fear and the fact it was now downhill). I wish I could run in the wilderness by myself for hours on end… But unfortunately, the fact that there are some horrid people in the world and the fact that no one knows where I have gone… It’s probably not the best idea. Life is just too precious. (Be proud Mum and Dad, be proud).

Had a nice shower after my run – but you know who didn’t? The guy I was sitting next to on the bus to Westport. Apparently I ordered several mouthfuls of B.O. with my lunch. Not OK.

There were stunning views on the road – surrounded by rainforest and the mighty Lake Buller. Population is pretty tiny here and has the whole hill-billy, inbred vibe. That aside, the west coast is remote and beautiful. What a perfect place to horse trek though…

Me & Annie were the only advanced riders, the other 4 were beginners. This meant it was all a very slow place except at the end when us two got to have a good gallop. Man, that felt good. My trusty steed was Leroy – a handsome chestnut gelding about 15.2. He was a grumpy old sod with tonnes of character. He looked a right misery guts when we arrived and I whispered to Annie, I bet he’s mine. Classic.

Most of the ride was through water which was fun. Other bits included open fields surrounded by mountains, or narrow paths within rainforest foliage – the greenest of greens, dotted with fluorescent red flowers and the piercing sound of bugs.

Fun time over – I’m in a dorm with a couple of crazies. They’re known on the bus as ‘the hippy girls.’ They are nice girls and they mean no harm but they sing a lot, laugh a lot and walk around the room naked. Are you ready for a genuine quote?

(American accent): “so I was in Fiji 3 weeks ago and I met the love of my life so I thought what the heck. I married him.”

Crazy hippy girl number 1 was in Fiji for 2 weeks and married a native Fijian.

Even though she now has another half, she still passionately kisses her best girlfriend on a regular base. Meanwhile… I’m there, sat on my bed, eating my muesli bar and trying to watch an episode of BBC’s War & Peace that I downloaded on my iPad, thinking: what even is this. Please, for the love of God, put some clothes on.

Things get stranger the next day when I to for a run. Conveniently, there was an athletics track opposite the hostel. As I did my laps I was followed by a little homeless man, who had his life in a plastic bag. As I changed from clockwise to anti clockwise, so did he. Lovely. Bearing in mind I did 45 min session, he did a fair few laps of that track…

Peace out Westport, you’ve been interesting.

The Kiwi Experience: First Impressions

Goodbye comfort of my own room. Hello to the unknown.

This little blog entry is describing my first impressions of ‘The Kiwi Experience’ – a hop on / hop off bus service with fellow travellers. For the true nitty, gritty kiwi experience, you’ll have to ask to read my handwritten diary. I’m afraid, with this being public n’all, I’ve had to keep things decent.

However for the very first part, I have decided to pretty much copy word for word my diary entry. Purely because I’ve just read it back and had a little chuckle to myself about how panicky I got. Here goes… (Note: at this moment in time I assumed that lots of others would be ‘hopping on’ for the first time too. Little did I know that this bus had been together for the past 3 weeks, and friendship groups were already pretty solid).

“4th February, 2016

Had an early start this morning and set my alarm just before 6. I’ve just got on the ferry, leaving the North Island behind… I’m a little confused. I think I’m supposed to meet Josh (the bus driver) in the foyer. WHICH FOYER!? Ferry was $55 one way. I think that’s right? My head is a little all over the place. And walking around these multiple ‘foyers’ I always feel like I have left something behind. Where’s Mum with all the “have you got your passport? Have you got your toothpaste? Do you want to take some homemade banana loaf with you?”

On the short bus journey to the ferry I sat next to a beautiful boy from Denmark. His friends are all very easy on the eye too. Ah, we the English really don’t have great genes in comparison, do we? What with our pasty skin, unfortunate teeth and often, poor dress sense…

Seriously where the hell is Josh? And should I go over and just start chatting to people!? God it’s like being the new kid at school.

***

Never found Josh, but sorted out my itinerary with him on the bus instead – all good.

After a bit of a rocky start, things are starting to feel a little bit better now. Socially, this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Everyone already has groups of friends and initially, that was very overwhelming. I spent hours on the bus, alone with my thoughts, panicking. I know the views and activities will be ace but what if I’ve spent so much money, only to have a really, lonely, anxious time?

Let’s add some more anxiety into the anxious pot: When I had just got on the bus after picking up my luggage from the ferry, I saw another girl with the exact same backpack as me (purple 60+20 vango). It’s fine, mine has a gold lock on it, I thought. As I looked closer, so did hers! Shit. What if it wasn’t even mine I have loaded on board? To make things better, two further it girls hopped on the bus with the exact same luggage too. That’s 4 of us! Jesus Christ. Currently feeling SO anxious and SO mainstream. If there are 4 on this bus, think how many others there will have been on the ferry. No idea whether I picked up mine or not and I can’t even check now because there are like 100 bags on top of it. Maybe I’ll run off quickly and try… Too late. We’re moving. Fab.

Stopped off at a cafรฉ and loo stop and plucked up the courage to say hello to two girls. Thank goodness, they’re lovely. Laura and Emma. 21 & 27, been travelling for about 3 months, already done Australia.

Back on bus, breathing deeply and trying not to think about potential backpack disaster.

When we finally arrived at the hostel in Kaiteriteri about 5pm, I plucked up the courage to say something to my twin rucksack gal number 1. We both have the right ones! YAY! She’s great (Annie). 22 and travelling with her boyfriend, Mike. We were chatting away, have loads in common and decided to get a dorm together; happy days. I got on very well with the other girl in the room as well – Veronica. She blogs too: check it out! (Link to be inserted here when I find wifi strong enough to do so).

With my new found confidence for sparking up conversation, I went for a walk along the cute, golden, tropical beach (rated 67th in the world – fun fact from Josh). He’s full of facts! Ok, back to my beach walk. A gorgeous blonde girl was doing a work out on he beach. I admire that. I love working out, but would be too conscious of people staring at me thinking, ‘what the hell is that skinny bitch doing.’

Anyway, I told her what she was doing looked like fun and I was looking for a running buddy. She was super keen – yay!

Not so much my cup of tea was some pretty boy from Switzerland. My leg caught the sun a TINY bit yesterday… barely noticeable. But pretty-boy-can’t-speak-English-without-stupid-accent-boy thought it was appropriate to stroke my leg and say, “oh, very red.” Thanks pal. Might I add that we weren’t even having a conversation… I just walked passed him. HA, I’m a few days over-due shaving the old legs so they were pretty prickly. Jokes on him.

Chilled in the bar in the evening and learnt / forgot loads of new names. Ah, what an exhausting day. Goodnight Kaiteriteri.”