Category Archives: Travel

Tours, tours and more bloody tours

Since leaving Rainbow beach we had a longer than expected stay at Maryborough, a picturesque city/town littered with beautiful colonial buildings and blessed with the friendliest people we have met in Australia. We stayed at a great little campsite and spent a bit of time getting to know a few Aussies staying there and generally just chilling out. At times we felt like the only tourists in town such was the enthusiasm we were greeted with in the tourist office when the old lady who worked there bounded up to us offering help and the old fella who took great delight in explaining every minute detail in the historic shop (featuring food and other products dating back to the 1870s – the owners never threw anything away!) and then offering to take us on a free tour of the city. The much vaunted street market turned out to be a handy outlet for vendors of tat to pass their products off as ‘crafts’ and sell them to unwitting locals and visitors. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Maryborough’); ?>

From there we headed up to the forgettable bundaberg where I played ‘kick ball’ with a rather strange christian evangelist who lived in a caravan and played christian rock at 7 in the morning, I won the ‘kick ball’ 3-1.

We now find ourselves in the even more forgettable Rockhampton: the city where nothing is open, not even a supermarket, on a Sunday. Our first morning in Rockhampton was a very frustrating one trying to book coaches to a couple of national parks that we wanted to visit. The problem with Queensland is that the main bus network only goes up and down the coast, it doesn’t go anywhere even remotely off the well beaten (or more accurately pummelled, hammered and beaten into submission) track that is followed by the bratpackers (copyright Viv!) who infest every beach up and down the coast with thier sun-seeking bland banality. There is generally no public transport to a lot of places of interest leaving us the only option of going on guided tours. Tours being pretty big here you’d expect tour companies to be pretty on the ball to garner your business, well you’d be wrong. Variously we’ve had hassles this morning with tour companies not taking bookings more than 4 days ahead(!), only being able to do a day trip (we wanted to stay for a couple of nights and go back on the same tour bus a couple of days later), then deciding that they could take us there on one day and back on a different day, and then deciding that we’d have to book 2 tours with them to be able to go at all (one for the day we go out and one for the day we go back), the shitty phone system that neglects to tell tell you when your money is running out, and leaving the work experience kid in charge who knew neither a) was the tour running tomorrow or b) was there space in it. After all that it’s no wonder that the well trodden track is just that, as it’s so much bloody hassle to try and doing anything off it without your own transport, ARGH! The net result was that we managed to get it all booked and it only took about 4 hours, an endless supply of coins to feed the thirsty phones, more dollars than we would have spent had there just been a coach to and from these places and not a tour (our preferred option) and an insane amount of frustration at the whole incompetance of the thing!

Right that’s it, rant over. I’m off to get a glass sauvignon blanc and relax.

Australia’s a funny place

I’ve been here almost two weeks and I still can’t decide whether I like it or not. There’s amazing and unique wildlife but the people here are simply not our kind of folk. Don’t get me wrong, on an individual basis we’ve met some really great people. We went out drinking with a really cool dutch guy we met on our trip to Frazer Island last night and we’ve had a cracking and quite evil game of Uno with a lovely German bloke. Everyone else is nice but people being nice doesn’t seem enough.

This part of the Australian coast does seem to attract lots of people that call themselves backpackers. The main difference is that they actually drag large dolly trollies and wear the kind of clothing that would be deeply impractical if you were a real traveller. A big chunck of them seem to be overpriviledged kids spending their parents money on an extended holiday that they call ‘travel’. They go to the beach every day and drink all night. They are not really interested in what is unique and beautiful about Australia. The backpackers hostel we stayed at in Noosa was just like an 18-30s club (or 18-21s more like). Bah humbug. Having the opportunity to travel is taken for granted as if it’s a right. It isn’t. We feel guilty for contributing to the greenhouse effect but at least we’re trying to learn about the places we visit. Most of the kids on the beach might as well be in Spain.

Oh dear. I think you have all just witnessed another Viv rant, get used to it my friends…..

Everything you’ve just read was written yesterday. I got into too much of a rant and couldn’t finish the post. John and a few beers soon had me sorted out.

Today I am over the moon. My sister, Jane, just sent me a picture of her with the biggest bump I could ever imagine. My niece or nephew will be here soon. It’s so exciting. I now feel I can cointinue to fill you in on what we’ve been up to since John’s last post.

We’ve been to Gagaju bush camp. It’s a bit like a hippy commune in the Australian everglades. It was a brilliant escape from commercial Australia for a few days and I really can’t say enough good things about it. Most of the other people pretty much lived there and we were welcomed in as if we were just friends coming to stay over. There were some funny characters around and people from many nationalities. A british guy that lives there goes out shark fishing. He once brought a bull shark home big enough to feed 18 people. That’s pretty good as they are the reason that you can’t swim in the sea around here. A young woman was killed by a couple of them around christmas. On our second day an old scottish bloke turned up there for 2 months holiday. He was pretty drunk and liked to sing a song of his own composition about camomile lotion. Then repeat, then repeat a little less clearly, then repeatedly deteriorate. Ha ha!

The only trouble with camping in the everglades is mosquitos. I was suffering from over exposure to mozzy coils a little by the time we’d finished. We saw a good tiger snake/Cane toad fight too. There were also Owls that made scary heavy breating noises right outside the tent and laughing Kookaburras sounding like evil goblins. Certainly a unique camping experience. No flying foxes though, i’d really like to see some of those! show_random($num=4, $tags=’Gagaju’); ?>

We’ve also been on a 3 day trip to Frazer Island. It’s the biggest sand island in the world and apart from one or two rocks is made entirely of very fine yellow sand. It was a nice enough place but we were extremely lucky, our tour guide was a retired ecologist who used to work on the island. He did one trip a fortnight just as a hobby. We learned so much about the habitats and ecosystems on the island and in Australia in general. A lot of the things he was telling us I had learned at University but had never seen in the real world. It was fantastic to see it all and brought back the fascination I’d had for the subject at Uni. My mind is now whirring away with possible new careers. John has also been thinking and we’re both feeling really inspired and optimistic. We’re certainly more focussed now and will be looking to repeat that kind of experience. show_random($num=4, $tags=’FrazerIsland’); ?>

Anyway, Australia. Well, I don’t know. It’s naturally wonderful but a frustrating place to be when you get into the towns. Couldn’t live here. However, John and I had a fun evening on a very dark beach last night with Jonas the hilarious dutch guy we met. Being on the beach in the dark when you’re drunk isn’t really the best idea, we woke up to the treat of a brand new sand outer body layer. Saves money on exfoliating lotion.

Before I go I should mention that there are new photos being loaded all the time.

Love to you all

Viv/Sev xx

Made it to Aussie!

Easy Folks!

We have made it to Australia where we have now been for almost a week. We have spent a few days in Brisbane finding our feet and looking on aghast at the food prices and in reaction to that trying to live off budget cheese sandwiches and budget beans on budget toast for our time in Australia. This lasted about 2 days and we just decided we’ll have to pay the market rate for food rather than eat shit. I think the camp pie experience (looks like cat food, tastes like cat food, bears no resemblance to pie) was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Actually since we have left Brisbane the food prices seem a lot more reasonable and we stand a chance of having a half-way healthy diet on a budget. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Brisbane’); ?>

Brisbane was a pleasant place to spend a couple of days with great botanic gardens to chill out in, it’s nice to see a bit of bustle in a city again. There was even some good industrial era architecture amongst the skyscrapers of varying degrees of uglyness.

Once our feet had been found we put them to good use walking across Brisbane with heavy packs on our backs to get a bus to Lamington National Park. We had bought a tent in Brisbane and spent our first nights camping here in the rainforest. There were loads of little pademelons hopping around our campsite eating grass like rabbits, one even had a baby pademelon in its pouch – they’re very cute and not too timid. We also got mobbed by rosella and king parrots when feeding them some grain – at one point I had 5 parrots on my arms and head! The rainforest here is really lush and we went for some great walks in them seeing lots of waterfalls, some great views over the plains and lots of lizards including big black skinks, not seen any venemous snakes yet though which I’m dissapointed about, but Viv isn’t. I also got eaten by a leech on a walk, it got rather attached to me. The nights were pretty cool too as you could hear all the rainforest noises including the eerie howl of packs of dingoes. On our last morning there it pissed it down with rain and we discovered that our ultra-cheap tent ($30) was not ultra-waterproof so we got a bit soggy. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Lamington’); ?>

We arrived in Noosa yesterday and had a fun night last night playing uno with other backpackers. It very hot here and to prove it I’ve developed a highly attractive heat rash all over my body, sure that will get all beach babes flocking in preference to toned and oiled surfer dudes who are abound here.

We have an Australian mobile phone that we can recieve calls on without us having to sign away our first-born child (just to clarify – there’s not one on the way!) to a mobile phone company just for the priviledge of receiving a call. It is 0061 (0)4-31381877 and don’t forget that we’re 10 hours ahead of UK time, be great to hear from any of you!

Right, I’m off to wow the girls with my spotty back.

J-Hob

The last word on New Zealand

Here are our observations:

Good

Birdlife
Although there are many introduced British birds such as sparrows, blackbirds and finches; the birds in NZ are very different. They are extremenly tame.

  • Sparrows were everywhere and wouldn’t think twice about flying into a building and seeing what’s in the Kitchen.
  • The Gannets we saw were adorable. They were so sociable and greeted each other with great ethusiasm after fishing trips. We also liked the way they pretty much turned into a dart before their vertical fishing dives.
  • New Zealand Robins look very much like British ones but are a little bigger and don’t have the red breast. They are very interested in humans. They will come right up to your feet and just look at you. If you talk to them they tilt their head as if listening.
  • Fantails look a little like long tailed tits. They follow you around the forest and swoop for the flies you attract. Extremely cute and good pest control.
  • There are Myna birds hanging about on the roads everywhere north of Taupo. They are a little causual when you approach. Tests the brakes out
  • Pukekos are tops! They look like Moorhens a little but enjoy trying to steal any leftovers. The other great thing about them is that they hang about in family groups. There will be several adults taking it in turns to look after all of the chicks and then look for food. If one of them finds food they run back to tell the rest and then they’re all off. I’ve never seen this kind of cooperative behaviour in birds before. It was great fun to watch.
  • The Red billed gulls were very amusing. They had tantrums like you’ve never seen. Extremely funny.
  • Keas are the Alpine Parrots we wrote about. They are very cheeky. They chewed off our wiper blades and ripped a big hole in Mark and Martin’s tent on two occasions. Despite all the vandalism you can’t help but love them.

Beer – Quality Real ale. Speights old dark and many of the Montieths brews.

Friendly People – The Kiwis are a nice lot. They are not as status obsessed as Brits can be and so there were a lot of ancient caravans around.

Not quite so good

Bad or non existant signposting – Lonely planet maps are a bit useless to so it was a difficult combination.

Liberal and often inappropriate use of the word historic. It seems that anything more than a few years old was dubbed ‘historic’. Hardly!

Roads – Some of them were just loose gravel and very skiddy. Believe it or not there seems to be even more road works than in the UK. Half finished roads that are covered in gravel seem to be a speciality.

News – Complete lack of serious news reporting. All focused on the local and human interest angles.

Just interesting

Kiwi obsession with corrugated iron. It makes roofs, sculptures and even entire buildings. All nicely painted and sitting proudly. Odd.

Overall we’ve loved the place. The scenery is fantastic and there’s a lot to do, particularly if you’re an outdoors type. The towns tended not to have as much life as we’re used to so I don’t think it’s a place we could settle (Comment specifically aimed at parents.)

We’ll catch you again when we get to Aus

Viv & John xx

The silver bullet is sold!

Well hello again and a special hello to Random Stranger!

This is Viv again and not John i’m afraid. I’ve got a little less to do on the internet. As you can see from above we’ve sold the silver bullet. It is not a very good time of year to sell so we’ve been extremely lucky. We did sell it for 15% less than we bought it but compared to everyone else we did very well indeed. Another british couple sold theirs for about a quater of the price they bought it for and some had had mechanical problems and haven’t managed to sell at all. The backpackers car market recommend buyers to get mechanical checks, legal checks and test drives. These three British Uni mates just gave us a bundle of cash in exchange for the keys. Easy and all done in one day. I must admit that we did expect the van sales to be a little seasonal but not this bad. The main thing is that compared to hiring one we have saved an absolute fortune. We reckon at least a grand or two.

A special mention to the owners of the backpackers car market. They are exploitational arseholes and couldn’t give a shit about any of the backpackers that use them.

We were very sorry to see the Silver Bullet go. The new owners have promised to look after it and are going to keep the name. I hope that it does as well for them as it did for us.

Anyway, now with all of that sorted we’re off to Australia tomorrow! New territory and really exciting. We plan to spend a couple of months there before heading in Keith’s direction up to Japan!

bye for now

VivSev & J-ohn xx

They appear on the north island again!

Hello to everyone!

We’ve been up to all sorts since the last post so i’ll try to only include the details you may be interested in reading about. Hmm

We’re back in Taupo now and will spend the night with Ros and Tony again. It’s a really nice unexpected visit. We’re also meeting John’s cousin Ian for lunch tomorrow. Well, the reason that we’re back up here is that there wasn’t much of a car selling market down on the South Island so we’re headed to Auckland to put the Silver Bullet up for sale on Saturday. Once we sell it we’ll be off to Australia. We’re really looking forward to trying out a new country as we’ve given NZ a very thorough inspection.

So what has happened since last time? John did another bungee jump today making me so nervous that I was forced to purchase and consume beer. He has a lot to answer for!

We kayaked the Milford sound just over a week ago. It was beautiful and certainly the least touristy way to see the sounds. Hard work though. When we sat in our double Kayak the guy that dropped us off laughed and said ‘They call em divorce boats you know!’ As most of you know, a divorce is fairly high on my wish list so I wasn’t scared of that! However, there was something in it. Only one person can steer and so the other only gets to row until their arms drop off. Unhelpfully it is impossible for the steering person to hear when the other one tells them they’re going the wrong way or would like to see something. Fun fun fun. It was really, although being the non steering person I was guilty of the occasional paddy. He he!

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We stayed in the most excellent campsite! Full of pretty sorry looking morris minors and monty python toilets. You’ll have to wait to see the pictures! It also had an ancient games room full of very amusing devices including a table football with a practically square ball. We really enjoyed it there!

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We’ve been looking at penguins too although not in Dunedin where you might expect. The commercialisation of bird colonies in Duneden made me want to puke. Had a nice satisfying rant about that one. We appeared a little further up the coast and went to see some tall yellow eyed penguins (one of the rarest in the world). They’re my personal favourites, very handsome chaps. That was the first time I’ve seen a penguin in the wild. EXCITING! John prefered the blue penguins (smallest in the world at 30cm tall). There were loads of these all running out of the sea with their breasts gleaming like little fish (I know fish don’t have breasts, well none i’ve seen!). They congregated on a concrete ramp before going across the road in groups of neighbours. John says it reminds him of people leaving a pub. Maybe he was just fantasising about beer again!

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Anyway! Please wish us luck with finding new owners for the prestigous Silver Bullet.

Take care

The Jiv (Just for Mary) xx

Sky diving!

Just been sky diving – WOW!! What an awesome experience! 🙂 It was absolutely fantastic, I was pretty nervous on the 25 minute flight up to 9000ft but surprisingly chilled out when my legs were dangling over the side of the plane getting ready to plummet towards the Earth. It was an amazing rush during the 30 second freefall and the views of the surrounding mountainous scenery from up there was just spectacular. Then the parachute opened and we glided gently to earth for about 5 minutes watching the dots on the ground slowly turn into recognisable objects and taking in the fabulous scenery all around, I even got to control the parachute for a bit which was cool.

I must give a big shout out to the sky diving company that I went with as they’ve only been going a month and are a small scale operation with a much more personal service than the other large ‘conveyor belt’ operators in the area. All the guys there were dead friendly and made the whole experience incredibly enjoyable. If you’re thinking of going skydiving in Queenstown then be sure to book with Big Daddy. If you’re just thinking of going sky diving anywhere then just go ahead and do it – it’s a proper good rush!

As Viv has already mentioned I would like to thank my Ufi colleagues for the leaving present of that amazing adrenaline rush – cheers Ufiites!

Other than that I would like to second Viv on the sandflies – they are little bastards and extremely persistent bastards at that. Their name is also misleading – they don’t limit themselves to sand, you find them in forests, by rivers, on roads, in towns, halfway up mountains. Pretty much everywhere on the south island it seems.

And lastly thanks to George and Paul for the blog links!

Right, that’s all for now. Pip pip!

J-Hob

P.S. There’s about 100 new photos up on both our flickr sites – check them out!

Now for the other bits

Ay up!

Got a bit of time to kill before I go white water rafting so thought I’d add to John’s post. He’s gone off to do a sky dive. He’s using his leaving money from Ufi to do it, so thanks guys! What a nutter though, I’m really nervous for him. Can’t wait until he’s back safe and sound.

Anyway, just thought i’d mention another couple of things. We’ve been staying at free or low cost Department of Conservation camp sites. They’re in some pretty dramatic locations and never have lights so you get amazing views of the stars. The great thing about the silver bullet is that you can just stay in bed and see them through the sky lights. Ace! Another interesting thing about these sites is you end up getting ready in the morning at tremendous speed before you get bitten to death by evil sandflies. John seems to enjoy killing them more than I expected. It’s almost as if he’s dissapointed after he’s got the last one out of the van. Very funny though.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Mark and Martin took us caving last week. It was basicly an underground walk wading through a stream. It got up to my waist (or John’s ankles ;)) in places but it was so cool inside. The cave was really smooth and some amazing shapes. (Don’t worry mum and dad, this was a signposted walk and we checked the height of the water before we went in. Just in case you thought we’d been off into some random flooded death trap.) Anyway, think I could really get into caving. Look forward to doing more!

John mentioned all of the walks we’ve been on. We’re certainly much fitter. The walk to Avalance peak was really difficult. It was so steep on the way down that I fell over and ended up dangling from a metal post that I grabbed. I got my balance again and jumped down safely. Unfortunatly the post that saved me made a bit of a mess of my right hand so I ended up in the first aid when we got down. It’s healing really well though so i’m pleased. I have now learned to walk a little more slowly down hill. That walk was half scramble and half climb though! Really glad we did it, the views were amazing and we had a real sense of achievement afterwards.

Anyway, that’s enough from me for now. We hope to catch up with John’s aunt tomorrow as she’s in the area.

Sees ya all later and take care

Viv/Sev xx

P.S. John will not be going near a computer for the next day or so as we’re watching a delayed Man Utd v Liverpool match tomorrow afternoon. John/Dad no texts of the score this time please. 😉

Back in Sheffield!

Been a while since our last post so we’ve a fair bit to update you all on, I think we were heading to Akaroa on the Banks Penninsula when I last posted… well the drive was spectacular, Akaroa quaint but limited in attractions and the rest of penninsula that we saw beautiful if a little samey. To be fair to the place we were limited by the weather on the second day – high winds and very chilly doesn’t make pleasant conditions for doing a lot so we did a lot of moping in the campervan. Even the wildlife didn’t like the weather as the usually abundant birds were nowhere to be seen, the following day (that we left Banks penninsula) when the weather had perked up the birds were once again everywhere so it’s not just us that hides away when the elements turn. show_random($num=2, $tags=’akaroa’); ?>

We picked up Mark and Martin, friends of mine from Sheffield who we bumped into (literally!) in Auckland when I had no idea they were even in NZ, from Christchurch and headed out to Arthur’s Pass in the centre of the south island. We stopped off on the way in Sheffield for a famous pie, I must say it’s changed quite a lot. I know I’ve only been away for a 7 weeks but I don’t recall Sheffield being backed with snow capped mountains or being especially famous for pies, but there you go I guess time must distort memories… show_random($num=1, $tags=’famous pies’); ?>

Arthur’s pass was utterly spectacular and the drive up there was awesome; winding slowly upwards between huge mountains and along flat plains surrounded on all sides by huge and sometimes snow-capped peaks. For me, it is the most beautiful spot that we have yet visited in NZ: there’s plenty of photos up on flickr sites but none really do justice to the place.

It was in Arthur’s pass that Viv and I hiked the toughest walk that either of us had ever done to the summit of Avalanche peak, 1km ascent to 1800m, no flat bits and lots of scrambling up rocks, but the views from the top in the company of Kea parrots (yes parrots, on a mountain – more about them later) were so worth it. Apparently there’s some nutters who’s idea of a good time is to RUN up there! show_random($num=4, $tags=’arthurspass’); ?>

Back at the campsite we were often amused by the ‘cheeky’ Kea’s antics in trying to pinch food and then lolloping away about 10 metres before trying again when your back is turned. On our second night camping there Mark was less amused when a Kea pecked through the side of their tent while they were asleep (!) and had a good munch on one of his books. The following night they got short shrift when coming anywhere close to our campsite, but they didn’t let this bother them – why not just wander round the back of the tent where we can’t see them and while we’re all distracted with playing cards in our campervan and peck another even bigger hole in the tent and have good feast on whatever food is inside! In this case the birds’ benificiary was Mark, kindly donating tomatos, cheese, crackers and bread to them. I’m not sure what they had against Martin’s food. I had thought that we had escaped Kea damage until I next had to drive through rain to find that a windscreen wiper had been pecked through! Despite their predilection for vandalism we still found them to be a very adorable bird, partly just for their bare faced cheekyness! It says in our lonely planet that all Kea’s seem born with a gene that makes them cheeky – they’re not wrong! show_random($num=4, $tags=’kea’); ?>

After an enjoyable few days in Arthurs pass we all headed off in the silver bullet through miserable driving rain down steep roads that made the silver bullet’s brakes smoke and to the very grey Greymouth. There’s little of interest in Greymouth other than the brewery of our favourite NZ tipple – Monteiths. We felt duty bound to pay the brewery a visit and even more duty bound to sample thier range of excellent beers – a most enjoyable experience! After this we parted company with Mark & Martin having had a genuinely great few days in their company. show_random($num=4, $tags=’monteiths’); ?>

Next stop we went to look at some ice. But not just any ice! This ice came in the form of bloody massive glaciers snaking their way down mountains. It was bizarre being able to walk right up to the terminal face of Franz Josef and Fox glaciers and see this huge mound of ice right in the middle of summer. We decided that Fox would beat Franz Josef in glacial fight to the death. Franz is the more popular local favourite boasting a wide terminal face while Fox is the less fancied up-start from down the road and claiming a greater length and being more unstable in character – big up the Foxy! show_random($num=4, $tags=’glacier’); ?>

Today we find ourselves in Queenstown and tomorrow I will be leaping out of plane from 9000 feet and Viv will be floating (hopefully!) down river rapids – an adrenaline packed day for the both us!

Lastly thanks everyone for the birthday greeting and e-mails. I will get round to responding to all of you (promise), just not getting that much internet time at the moment.

Peace out,

J-Hob & Sev

The untitled post

Easy everyone, hope you are all well after the Christmas break with renewed enthusiasm for work!

Thought I’d give you all a quick update on what we’ve been up to recently, which isn’t an awful lot, but here goes:

We passed through Kaikoura and saw lots of seals which was pretty exciting – they were just basking on the rocks barely lifting their heads as we walked past within a few metres of them. Some were playing in the sea too, the one that had just come out of the sea and were still wet looked like Josh the Dog! show_random($num=4, $tags=’josh’); ?>

There were some pretty cool limestone formations in the rocks too that looked like a landscape from star wars. Kaikoura itself is pretty shit though, at first we quite liked its seaside town charms but the more time we were there the less we liked it – it’s very geared towards tourists and is largely soulless. It’s also staffed by the vacuous elite of New Zealand – nowhere else have we seen so many shop staff with so few brain cells to rub together: wrong fish and chips order after twice explaining the order which wasn’t even hard – 1 fish and 2 chips, a ‘work-experience Kelly’ (for those that have seen monkey dust) receptionist at the Department of Conservation and seemingly blind staff at a cafe. The Kaikoura coast is pleasant, the town isn’t. show_random($num=4, $tags=’kaikoura’); ?>

After Kaikoura we chilled out for a day or so at Mt Thomas forest park and did pretty much nothing all day other than laze around and read which was great to recharge our batteries.

We are currently in Christchurch which we both like a lot – it’s certainly the best New Zealand city that we have been to, the place actually has a bit of life to it AND some architecture that could reasonably be claimed as being historic (‘Historic’ Russell, take note). There’s some really nice green spaces too and the streets have a very spacious air to them. It was my birthday yesterday and for the night we treated ourselves to an en-suite hotel room – such opulent luxury! My birthday itself was great, a lot of thanks to Viv for making it so! It started off pretty damp as it was pissing it down with rain seemingly incessantly but I was cheered by the little presents that Viv gave me – a book about oil and a very nice t-shirt that I had my eye on, thanks Viv! We visited the Christchurch art gallery, set in an impressive modern glass building, in the morning and saw an exhibition of stunning landscape photography from Ansel Adams and a suberb exhibition of Korean art made from everyday objects called ‘Alchemy of Daily Life’ – well worth checking it out if you get the chance.

We treated ourselves to lunch and dinner out, both of which were supreme, as well as a number of beers throughout the day. It even stopped raining and the sun came out for the afternoon which was an unexpected treat too in this country of incessant rain and schizophrenic weather. In the evening we actually talked to some locals at a bar playing dub – the first evidence we have seen that Kiwis actually like going out for a drink! Anyway – thanks to Viv for a really special day, it was great! Thanks everyone else for birthday e-mails/e-cards/cards and texts – nice to know you all still remember me, if only just!

We met up with Mark and Martin for a coffee/beer this morning and will be heading to Akaroa later today and then back to Christchurch on Sunday to pick M&M up to travel together a little down south.

All for now, ta ra!

John & Viv