Dreadlocks, Hygiene and farewell to New Zealand

3rd – 9th March

After Rotorua, we headed to Lake Tekapo again. I’m with a bus who haven’t visited before, so they have signed up to do the Tongariro a Crossing and such. I bigged it up massively so I hope they enjoy it… As for me, I’m going to chill by the lake and catch some rays and catch up on my diary writing (it’s a hard life).

Tekapo is buzzing because the Iron Man is on this weekend. And we all know what that means: my future husband is lurking around somewhere.

***

After a chilled couple of days in Tekapo, we headed to River Valley. The lodge where we are staying is literally in the middle of nowhere. It takes an hour drive to the nearest house / shop / get phone reception. The people that run the lodge are a little bit… How do I put it politely… Inbred. The guys have thick dreadlocks down to their waist and they’re a little bit too friendly: trying their luck with every girl in sight. Probably thinking, finally, someone who’s not my sister.

The scenery is stunning. An emerald lake is surrounded by rolling golden hills. The weather is hot so perfect for a dip. I had great childish fun jumping off the zip wire and high rocks with the ‘lads.’

When the weather cooled down, I went on a run with the lovely Lou. We came across a beautiful dun horse. He wandered over and let me stroke him. Ah, I’m feeling very content with life right now.

During dinner, I was speaking to a rather simple boy from Essex. As lovely as he was, within 2 minutes of conversation he tells me that he tried a banana for the FIRST time in his LIFE last month. WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. Is this the new Joey Essex? He dunno why he’d never tried it before. Innit though.

I had a great last night with the Kiwi Experience. When I finally crashed into bed I was very thankful I was in a bunk-bed room, rather than the ONE bed that sleeps 32, known as ‘the orgy pit.’ Yes, that’s an actual thing. Welcome to River Valley.

***

It was a long, painful journey to Wellington with tonnes of traffic. After saying goodbye to my lovely Kiwi peeps, I trekked up the hill and then HELLO Julie and Brett! Had a great time telling them all about my North Island adventures – seeing baby dolphins, black water rafting, Maori experience and making tonnes of new, very special friends.

HURRAH for a proper shower! Feeling clean has never felt so good and never have I been more excited to get my laundry done.

***

The last few days in Wellington have really felt like home. I’ve been on runs, baked cakes, I’ve even met up with a friend from my old school! (Leah). It was so bizarre to see her her and great to compare our New Zealand adventures.

I thought I’d be super prepared and organised and get out some Australian dollars here. Mad to think I’ll be in Australia tomorrow. I finally found the recommended ‘TravelEx’ after walking up and down Lampton Quay about 900 times. When asking to purchase some Australian dollars, the man behind the counter said, “Sorry. We’re out.” I actually thought he was being funny. It seemed funny that a money shop would run out of money. He wasn’t kidding. “We’ll have more in tomorrow afternoon.” Yeah, I’ll be in Australia then, pal. No worries, I’ll get some at the airport, just may have to queue a bit.

Julie and Brett took me to an amazing Surf n’Turf restaurant for my last night. It was mouth-wateringly-good. I was so full it hurt. How on earth do I thank them for their kind generosity? Flowers / wine / a thank you card all seem a bit pathetic for how overwhelmingly kind they have been to me these past 6 weeks. They have helped make my New Zealand adventure so special and comfortable. Shout out to J & B: you’re the best!

I’m shattered but too nervous / excited to go to sleep because then it will be tomorrow: the next leg of the adventure begins. New Zealand has been everything I had hoped for and more.

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.

Rugby Sevens, The Jumping Platform and Sunburnt Eyelids

31 January – what a day.
Enclosed in the cake tin – Westpac Stadium for about 10 hours of excitement and sunburn.

NZ All Blacks won the cup final which meant it was a phenomenal atmosphere. No one likes the Australians here and so there was lots of booing and name-calling. Two Aussie old men were sat by us and took it so well. They were hilarious and despite all the bullying, they were having a brilliant day.

I realise I have forgotten an introduction. When I say ‘us,’ I am referring to being with Julie and Brett (who I am staying with this week in Wellington). Julie is my cousin, Brett is her husband. Even though Julie and I had never met before, we are getting on like a house on fire. They’re both so lovely and I feel very lucky to be staying in their beautiful home and being shown around the local area.

Even luckier to be at THE RUGBY SEVENS (sorry Dad). I got a selfie with All Blacks Sevens Captain DJ Forbes and the beautiful Liam Messam.

Unfortunately they didn’t have veggie hotdogs. The woman serving me just took the sausage out. What a joker. Luckily I found a veggie curry stand so all was well (Plus, the bread bun minus sausage was also quite tasty).

What a truly fantastic day. Now got sunburnt hands, wrists, front of neck and eyelids. It was worth it though.

1 Feb
Had a dip in the not-quite-scream-cold-but-deep-breathe-in-cold-sea today. Then it was time to make our way over to the jumping platform into the harbour. I had seen some people doing it the other day, which made me want a little adrenaline rush too. One woman was fannying around up there for over 30 minutes, then eventually turned away and walked down. How frustrating for the crowds. I had no sympathy for her whatsoever. She was just being a drama queen and giving girls a bad name. ‘Right. On Monday I’m doing it’ I told Julie.

So, here is Monday. Time to do the deed.

I was surprisingly nervous when walking over. Good nervous though – I like feeling like that. There was a little crowd of about 30 at the bottom. I stripped down to my swimming costume, Julie had the video camera at the ready. Let’s go.

‘More steps than I remember’ I thought to myself.

I told Julie over coffee that the trick is not to look down.

My bad – I looked down.

Then something happened to me that had never happened before. I froze. My whole body suddenly said no. I turned around and looked over a further three times, trying to step off and then freezing. My brain was swearing at myself like a mad man. Nothing frustrates me more than a wimp and that’s exactly what you’re being, a ******* wimp. Just jump off you little ****, it’s not going to kill you.

I shouted to the crowd ‘will you gimme a count-down?’ FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE! And I was off. Easy peasy. Loads of fun.

Climbing up the ladder out of the water I thought – who on earth was that? It certainly wasn’t let’s sky dive and barely feel a thing Liv. Is this what ‘adulthood’ does to you?

I’m going to do it again, I told Julie. That was so embarrassing. Giving myself a pep talk on the way up the stairs, this time was much more straight forward. Woohoo!

What a fun day for a Monday.

And so it begins

I have started my travelling adventure. I don’t know long long for, but it has indeed begun! There were no tears when saying goodbye to Mum and Dad before security at Manchester airport, but my whole body felt awkward saying goodbye and walking away. It felt wrong. My legs suddenly felt all weak and shaky.

Plane was an hour late. I’m sat in the departure lounge, munching on snacks. I want to write exactly how I feel in a coherent way but I’m struggling. There are too many thoughts merged into one…

– what the heck am I doing
– goodness I’m excited
– I hope mum and dad aren’t killing each on the M25 #BackseatDriver
– that Chloe perfume I sprayed in duty free smells lovely
– I hope I sit next to someone good looking on the plane and they think ‘wow! she smells great.’
– ew we’re all gonna be smelling gross after 40 hours of travelling though
– am I going to get lonely?
– what if I literally make no friends
– I hope mum and dad are alright
– and Syd (world’s greatest dog)
– this flapjack is tasty
– oh god what if my backpack doesn’t make it to Auckland
– oh god… The rape alarm
– what if the rape alarm that mum got me goes off and they destroy my bag cos they think it’s a bomb
– I hope there’s not an actual bomb
– change thoughts, change thoughts!
– I wonder what the weather will be like
– oh shit I don’t think I packed my retainers…

***

It’s Thursday 6am. I’ve been travelling non-stop since Tuesday afternoon. I can’t be bothered to work out how many hours that is, but it’s a long time.
On the plane about an hour ago, I told the 70-something-year-old lady that I’m sat next to, that I could see land. She got excited. “Where!? Where!?”
I then rubbed my sleepy eyes and had to apologise for my mistake. It wasn’t land at all. It was the wing. We were both in stitches laughing.
I’m yet to ask her name but we’ve spent a few hours talking (I’ve got my own little bet going on in my mind because she looks like a Pat). She’s from Liverpool, she has an 11 year old border collie cross called Brandy. She used to live in NZ when she was younger, then she married a New Zealander, the love if her life. Sadly, he passed away 7 years ago. This will be the first time she has been out there since.

I think she’s glad I’m sitting next to her. I repeat to her the things the air-hosts say like, “milk or sugar?” And I softly nudge her if she’s asleep and the food comes around. It took me a few minutes at breakfast. I thought she’d died. She hadn’t.

***

I’m finally in the departure gate at Auckland, waiting for my flight to Wellington. Goodness, Auckland was a bit of a nightmare. I imagined it would be small and quiet but it was rammed! My heart raced itself silly as I waited for my bag to show. Must have been the last one on the conveyer belt. Such a classic.

Let out a big depressed sigh as I found out Pat’s name was Lynn.

NZ is quite strict on what you can bring in. You have to declare food, medications, have you been on a farm in the last 30 days? Etc.
Any misleading / incorrect information could result in a fine between $400 – $100,000. ‘Jeepers!’ As Joe would say (see California diary, 2015).

After asking directions for domestic flights, a bit of panic set in… There were so many people! It was a long way to go and I didn’t have a great deal of time. Taking pity on my cute, lost face, the lady in official uniform whispered, “follow me.” She lead me to the front of the ginormous queue. Amazing!

X-Ray, bomb-check-scan, declaration and then checking in and bag drop. It was all this DIY check in malarkey like at the Tesco Express nowadays. It was confusing and I’m convinced my bag won’t be there to meet me in Wellington.

***

All is good. Backpack and Liv are in Wellington.

And so it begins!