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.

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 café 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.”

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!

Premature Post

I imagined the last few days before travelling would be rather glamorous. I’d be wined & dined by my nearest & dearest. I’d be taken out to my favourite bars and restaurants and I’d have to dig out my favourite dress and the GHD straighteners in order to look acceptable in all the #goodbye #safetrip selfies that would be plastered all over my Facebook wall.

Instead I’ve been in my pajamas for 3 days straight and I think I’ve just over-dosed on Lemsip.

I wasn’t going to post anything until I had reached New Zealand. Why would you want to hear about boring old England anyway? Truth is, I couldn’t resist sharing the beautiful image of my matted hair, puffy eyes and soggy Kleenex.

Actual truth is I’m really bored.

My mind is going a million miles an hour, thinking over what will happen these next few months. A lot of it is what might go wrong — encouraged by my Mum. We call her ‘The Worrier.’ Not only does she lose sleep over the thought of me travelling to the other side of the world (alone). The thought of me spending 40 hours on a plane, infecting other people and ruining their holiday too is also keeping her up at night.

Hoping to avoid sleepless worry for my nearest & dearest was one of the reasons I started this blog. And of course, to document the time of my life.

‘You’ll have the time of your life.’

Everyone has told me that. I’m holding them to it.

Negativity and used tissues aside, I’m ever so excited. I feel very lucky to be travelling the world and can’t wait to share my experiences on here!

Watch this space…