BootsnAll Travel Network

Water water everywhere

Warning: This is my first PUI (Posting Under the Influence), as I’ve just spent 4 hours in an English pub watching the Super Bowl. Not really the same without the commercials, and sort of sacriligious to see ads for soccer while you are watching American football. Iit’s really bizarre, the announcers are American, but from time to time will explain the rules to the international viewers. I tried to find a place that served buffalo wings and chili, but had to settle for fish and chips. Also Happy Birthday to Lisa and Stephanie, hope you guys had a great day!

So I’m in Christchurch at the moment, the largest “Metropolis” on the South Island and New Zealand’s 2nd largest city, coming in at a whopping 320,000 people. It’s considered the most English city in the world outside of England and it’s very appropriate that I spent my first day here in a pub drinking ale. I arrived last night on the Tranz Alpine train, which departed from Greymouth on the west coast. My route around the South Island is sort of screwed up, as I’m trying to back to the north part for a wine festival on the 11th, which is smack dab in the middle of my time here. The normal way to see the south island is the arrive on the ferry in Picton, make your way down either the west or east coast, swing across the bottom to the other side and head back up. I am, however, making a small loop on the northern part, and then heading straight down again to see a few things on the southern end.

I arrived in Picton from Wellington on the Interislander ferry, which only took about 3 1/2 hours. Picton is a small community on the northern coast of the North Island, supporting the ferry and other water based industry. I had wanted to spend a day or two around there, but I was running short of time and you have to start prioritizing things. So I hopped on a bus to the town of Nelson, the main town which services the Abel Tasman National Park and surrounding area. It also has a fairly big wine growing community and plenty of outdoor and adventure activities to keep you busy for a long time. There are two main things to do in Abel Tasman, kayaking and hiking. There is a 50 km coastal walk, which is supposed to be beautiful and completely easy, one of the few where you can actually book a hostel or hotel room along the route, but it takes between 3-5 days and I didn’t have that kind of time. It was overwhelming trying to decide what activity to do, and there were not only tons of different operators but hundreds of combinations of choices, from a one day guided walk to a 5 day guided walk/kayak/boat/horse trek. I opted for the one day guided kayak trip, recommended to me by my hostel The Palace. My shuttle bus picked me up at 7:15am and we had about an hour drive to the National Park and staging area. Since I was by myself, they pair you up in a canoe with someone, which happened to be the guy sitting next to me on the bus, Stuart. Stuart is from England and we got along really well, so we were glad to be paddling together. He was doing a two day kayak trip where you camp overnight in the park and continue on the next day.

A water taxi ferried us to our starting point, and after waiting for three other people to join us who had been walking the day before, our guide Imogen got us underway. After the preliminary gearing up and quick overview of kayaking, off we went. Kayaking in a two person kayak is much easier than a one person, and Stuart and I were quickly cruising along ahead of everyone. The trip that I choice was supposed to be a more remote part of the park, so we didn’t see many other kayakers along the way. Some parts of the park can be rather “crowded” with other kayakers and you do not get a sense of remoteness and peacefulness as you might expect. The day was perfect for kayaking, it was overcast but warm so we didn’t get sunburned but weren’t cold either. We saw plenty of seals and different kinds of sea birds. After a couple of hours, we began to pull into the little lagoon for some lunch, when behind us we heard a bit of shouting and some strange noises coming from the water, not quite splashes but definitely coming from the water. We looked over and were totally excited to see three Orcas swimming right past our kayaks, about 20 meters away. We were told at the beginning of the trip that they had been spotted in the park, but since it wasn’t a normal occurence to see them, we didn’t get our hopes up. Since our cameras were safe in our dry bags, it took a bit of time to get them out. Digital cameras suck for that sort of thing, because the delay in taking a picture is too long to try and capture a big whale surfacing. I ended up with tons of pictures of the water and maybe a tip of the tail. Stuart did get some nice ones and promised to email them to me. Another kayak in our group got a short video. Apparently, the Orcas come in the park looking for sting rays to feed on, and they were so close to us and shore, it was kind of scary in a way, but unbelievably awesome. They didn’t pay any attention to us and the other water taxis and boats that came along, and soon disappeared around the bend, too fast for us to catch up. Seeing those Orcas made the trip totally worth it, and in the beginning of the trip I was starting to get disappointed we hadn’t seen any dolphins, but this was much better. Imogen was also really happy, as she was the only guide who, til that day, hadn’t seen the Orcas.

As with most things, I completely regretted not doing a multi day trip, but it was too late to book another day, as I had paid for my hostel and everything. That night I decided to take it easy and see a movie with this Welsh guy in my hostel named Bryn, who was shocked that I actually guessed he was from Wales and not just the UK. (Seeing as he sounded exactly like my friend Rhys, it wasn’t too hard to pick up on.) We saw The River Queen, a New Zealand movie with Samantha Morton and Kiefer Sutherland. It was from the 1800’s, when the settlers were gaining control of the country from Maori and different Maori tribes joined with the settlers and fought other tribes. I thought it was pretty good, and really appropriate to see it in NZ, as I had just read about that very part of history in the Wellington Te Papa museum.

The next day I wasn’t as sore as I thought I would be, but in my anticipation of pain, I had booked myself on a wine tour. It was a 5 hour tour, with 5 vineyards, or wineries, as they call them here in New Zealand. The success of those types of tours always depends on the group you are with, and I luckily had a good one. An old Scottish couple who lived in Indonesia, who I couldn’t tell half the time if they were speaking English or not, two Americans visiting on business from Fort Collins, CO., a Dutch couple who was really nice, as they all seem to be, and three Japanese who couldn’t understand English that well, and kept asking the Scottish couple if they drank a lot of wine in Holland. It was pretty funny, and by the end of the trip, we didn’t seem to really care what the name of the vineyard was or what kind of wine we were actually drinking. It was all good fun, but unfortunately, I was the first to be dropped off and did not get a chance to get anyone’s contact information, so like many people I meet, I probably won’t see them again. It’s those kinds of trips that make it really hard to backpack, because there was plenty of wine and liquer and things that I could easily have bought, especially gifts for people. Sorry Dad! I took a little nap when I got back to my hostel and went out for some Thai food. By then, the kayaking ache had settled in, and I called it an early night.

Instead of leisurely taking my time down the West Coast as I had planned, I got on a 10 hour bus ride to the Franz Josef glacier. There are two glaciers that people visit, the Franz Josef and the Fox, but I chose Franz because it was closer and more popular, plus my hostel recommended a great place to stay there, called The Glow Worm Cottages. (All of these hostels, apart from the hovel in Wellington, have been part of the BBH network, which I highly recommend.) There are again numerous options for viewing the glacier, from just walking up near it, to taking a helicopter and landing on top of it. Since that was a little out of my financial league, I opted for the full day glacier walk, an 8 hour “adventure” tour where you climb in crevasses and navigate pools of icy water. Whether it was fate or not I don’t know, but two days before I had felt a cold coming on, and the night before realized I was getting yet another sinus infection, so I started taking my stash of antibiotics. I arrived at the tour company with a full blown sinus issue and raging sinus headache, and after talking to the person, changed my tour to a 3/4 day walk. I was really disappointed at first, but after the day went on, was almost glad I had.

To gear up for this trip, we had to get waterproof overtrousers, a jacket, hat, gloves, and what I like to know call The Boots of Death Part Deux. Along with these boots came crampons, or talons, as they are called here. It was a 3 km walk from the bus to the beginning of the glacier, and after about 7 steps I could feel blisters coming on in these Rent-A-Blister boots they gave me. By the time I got to the glacier, I knew I had blisters and got some tape from our guide Paul, but I knew it would be too late. The talons took some time to get used to, but Paul kept assuring us that they would hold us and we wouldn’t slip, and after a while we got more used to them. There were some really cool parts of the walk, like climbing through an ice blue crevass and crossing over little bridges. But there were also a couple of things which freaked me out a bit, and I’ve come to a conclusion about my fear of heights. I don’t think I’m so much scared of heights as I am of climbing around big boulder with no safety harness on ice with other jagged pieces of ice below me, waiting to splatter my brains out all over the place if I were to fall. So in one particular part, which no one else had a problem with apparently, we had to put our left foot on one piece of ice, step over a hole with our right, all the while standing upright as there was nothing to hold on to, around a bigger piece of ice and just sort of haul ourselves up. My brain said Hmm, my body said Uh-uh and I just stood there. I literally couldn’t move, and Paul came to pull me up.

Having a fear like that is really strange, because I never know when it is going to hit me. I had been doing fine the whole time, and walking over a tiny ladder bridge over a huge drop below did not bother me. But once my brain decided that my body couldn’t maneuver around this piece of ice, I couldn’t physically do it. But the worst part comes after, as I felt I was kind of embarrassed and that I was holding people up. I also kept anticipating the next difficult thing, and while there was only one other smaller thing we had to do which kind of scared me, there was always that fear that I’d have to do something else and wouldn’t be able to. Luckily, Paul was really patient with me, and I have to give a shout out to him, because I’m sure it is frustrating for them when one person seems to be struggling, and he handled it really well. I completely forgot about my blisters and was really concentrating on my steps and placement. We began to make our way down the glacier, mostly on steps that the guides had carved out, and I was fine after that. I am really glad I was not able to do that full day one, because I truly think there would have been things I wouldn’t have been able to do.

When we got back to the base, I was really glad I had done it, but like the caving expedition, I don’t think I’d want to do it all the time. A nice guy in my group named Bhupesh from London, said he’s email me some photos since I didn’t take a lot of them. The other girls in my hostel room, Natalie, also from the UK, and Simone from Oz, came out with me that night. Since I was on antibiotics I wasn’t drinking a ton, but we had a few beers and Tom from our ice group also came along. I ended the night pretty early as I wasn’t feeling great and had an early bus back up north to Greymouth. The rest of the group was heading south to Queenstown, where I’d normally be going. After a short three hour bus ride to Greymouth, I had a nice coffee waiting for my train, as it was Sunday not much was open. I was really looking forward to the train, since I was sick of buses and this train ride was supposed to be really scenic. I don’t know if it was because I fell asleep for the first hour or what, but it wasn’t as nice as I was expecting. We stopped at the most well known part called Arthurs Pass, which is a mountainous region. We also passed through some parts of the country that were used in the Chronicles of Narnia, but overall, it was just a normal train ride. But it was still better than the bus, and I arrived in Christchurch last night around 6pm. I still wasn’t feeling all that great, so I watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the lounge and went to bed early. Lucky for me, this hostel Dorset House, had the most comfortable beds I’ve had in about a month, so I slept pretty well.

Today, February 6th, is a public holiday in New Zealand, Waitangi Day. The was the day the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the settlers and the Maori. Though very contentious still to this day, the Treaty was an important part of New Zealand’s history. Not much is open here, but somehow I found a pub and an internet cafe, which is all I really need at the moment, as I’m a little burned out from sightseeing and activities. I’ve been going at a pretty fast pace and am happy to just have a day to relax and get some things done that I haven’t had time for. I’m in the process of uploading some pictures onto my smugmug homepage, and then will try to transfer them on to here, depending on how long it takes me. Good thing this internet cafe has a pretty fast connection and takes credit cards.

Tags: , ,

One response to “Water water everywhere”

  1. Tara Thomason says:

    Hello! Dave and I are enjoying your travel blog. We look forward to living vicariously through every adventure!
    Take care and have fun.
    Tara, Dave and Taylor

  2. Liz Miller says:

    Hi Kirstin:
    Sounds like you are having an amazing time. I’m really enjoying reading about your travels. Continue to enjoy and keep writing, it’s really cool.

  3. Hi Kirstin,
    Our printer’s not working and we have to get a new one, but we finally figured out how to cut and paste your blog so it’s more visible. We’re looking forward to reading them all. What we have read so far has been very enjoyable and we’re glad you’re having a good time. Be careful, we love ‘ya.

  4. Lisa Kohnke says:

    Thanks again for calling on my birthday Kirsten! I promise to send regular email soon. Stay safe!

  5. David White says:

    Hi Kirstin:

    Your mom and dad contacted me some weeks ago and shared your website address with me. Like everyone else, I look forward to your next adventure. I’ll be seeing my mom this weekend and will share hard copies of your entries with her. Take care, have fun, and keep writing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *