The Last Post

I write this having been back in the cold, wet and windy UK for a couple of weeks. This has given me time to adjust to what is, quite frankly, a far more mundane existence. It has also given me time to reflect on my trip.

My trip has been an amazing experience and I have many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Pretty much everything I have done on the trip has been fantastic but there have been two real highlights that stand out.

The first is the 6 days I spent on the South Island of New Zealand. I loved the wonderful scenery and doing some amazing things including whale watching, a heli-hike onto Franz Josef Glacier and jet boating.

Whale watching at Kaikoura

Whale watching at Kaikoura

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Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

The second highlight was the week in India touring the “Golden Triangle” with G Adventures. I loved travelling through such a vibrant country seeing some amazing sights, experiencing the culture and eating some absolutely fabulous food.

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Jaipur

Jaipur

Palace of the Winds

Palace of the Winds

Trying to make a puri

Trying to make a puri

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

I have seen some amazing sights Including:-

Uluru

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The Taj Mahal

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Sydney Harbour

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The cricket obviously didn’t go according to plan. I watched every one of England’s losses to Australia and became increasingly resigned to the entirely predictable nature of these defeats. Disappointing as the cricket was it gave me a base to explore the great cities of Australia. I was part of the world record attendance for a test match at the MCG on Boxing Day.

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Some stats!! My trip took me away from home for 79 nights. I travelled in 5 countries – Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, India and the United Arab Emirates. I went on 17 flights and travelled with 8 different airlines. I stayed in 20 different hotels. So making all these flights certainly means I have had an impact on the environment. All the air miles equate to 4.85 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The driving I did in New Zealand, 1095 kilometres, added a further 0.26 tonnes of CO2 emissions. I am investigating what I can do to offset this.

Best airline – QANTAS. I flew with them more than any other airline. Great service delivered by “real people” not the archetypal young “trolley dolly” you find elsewhere.

Best airport – Dubai. Space age. Roomy. Waterfalls!

Worst airport – Goa International Airport. Dirty toilets and rowing cleaners. Make sure you scan your luggage first! I also had issues at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport with baggage coming off the wrong carousel and lengthy queues for biosecurity checks.

Favourite hotel – The Point, Brisbane. Great service and a room with a fantastic view. Well located for the Gabba and the free boat service into central Brisbane. I also had fantastic service and food at the Resort Terra Paraiso in Goa. Excellent towel and pillow art by housekeeping!

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

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Housekeeping art at Resort Terra Paraiso, Goa

Worst hotel – Great Southern Hotel, Sydney. Room very dated and felt claustrophobic

Favourite cricket stadium – Sydney Cricket Ground. Blends futuristic new stands with well preserved old pavilions.

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Worst cricket stadium – The WACA, Perth. Little shade and needs urgent redevelopment.

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So would I do it again??? The trip has been very much a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has cost a pretty penny and I now need to start earning again. 11 weeks away is a long time and there were times particularly around Christmas and New Year when I was really starting to miss family. Keeping in touch through instant messaging, email, FaceTime and Facebook has been invaluable. When you can talk to somebody and see them on screen the world does not seem such a big place.  I have loved experiencing the different countries and cultures and a much better climate. So yes I would definitely do a big trip again but not for as long.

Has the trip changed me??? Well I don’t feel any different. It may have given me a different perspective on a few things. The trip has definitely given me the desire to travel more and explore further some of the places I have been to.

A successful trip can only take place with help from others. I have had great support from friends and family. They seemed to think my trip was a much bigger deal than I thought myself and showed this with a great send off before I went away. I was worried about my house being left empty for an extended period of time. Thanks to Mum and Dad and my next door neighbours Kathryn and Steve for keeping an eye on it for me whilst I was away. My house remained totally intact whilst I was away but ironically suffered storm damage within a week of my return!

A big thank you to my travel agents, Round the World Experts, and in particular Nigel Wright for turning my dreams into reality.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. I have enjoyed writing it and it is something I can always look back on. The blog seems to have generated quite a lot of interest – It has had over 4300 views and over 100 comments.

Finishing the blog helps me put the trip “to bed” and allows me to focus on the next phase of my life which starts with the search to generate an income.

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

Dart River Jet Boat, Arrowtown and the Skyline Gondola

I had a hectic last day in New Zealand planned but was beginning to flag… After the early starts and long driving I really needed a lie in. But there was no chance of that as I was being picked up at 7.30 am to go on a Jet Boat trip along the Dart River.

The coach headed thought Queenstown and along the opposite side of Lake Wakatipu to the one I had travelled down the previous day. We were heading for the small village of Glenorchy. We got some amazing views towards the top of the lake.

The 3 Islands at the top of Lake Wakatipu

The 3 Islands at the top of Lake Wakatipu

Views towards the top of Lake Wakatipu

Views towards the top of Lake Wakatipu

On arrival at Glenorchy we transferred into smaller 4wd buses. Glenorchy is known as “the gateway to paradise” and the backdrops have been used in films such as The Hobbit, Lord of The Rings, Wolverine, Prince Caspian, Vertical Limit and Avatar.

After leaving Glenorchy we entered the Mount Aspiring National Park. We made a couple of stops to be able to capture on camera the beauty of the landscape.

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Before venturing onto the boat our guide took us for a walk inside a forest of red beeches. This included a chance to walk inside the hollow trunk of a living tree!

The inside of a red beech tree

The inside of a red beech tree

After the walk through the forest it was time to board the jet boat. Our driver, Royce, welcomed us aboard. The jet boat was full with 15 tourists. I sat on at the back near the 2 engines. The ride was exhilarating. We sped along the Dart River away from Lake Wakatipu. At times it seemed we were headed for rocks but Royce would then turn the boat at the last minute to thankfully miss them. He would from time to time turn the boat into a 360 degree spin.

After about 15 minutes the boat ground to a halt. It had grounded on the bottom of the river. Royce got us to stand up and rock the boat but to no avail. another boat circled round us to see if it’s wake would release us but that didn’t work either. Royce then said he needed volunteers to get off the boat to lighten the load. The river wasn’t that deep but was flowing fast. We all had life jackets on and a waterproof jacket. Being the only British member of the crew I was of course one of the first to volunteer. The coldness of the water took my breath away. I linked arms with the other 2 volunteers and Royce and before long we were on the shore. I was wearing jeans and trainers. Both were saturated with water! In total 9 of us evacuated the boat before Royce got it moving again. He moved it closer to the shore and we all got back on. This incident added to the excitement to be honest.

Passengers abandoning ship!

Passengers abandoning ship!

After taking the boat as far up the river as we could we then headed in the other direction towards the lake and after around an hours jet boat ride we were disembarking at the top of the lake. My jeans and trainers were wet through but it was a great experience. These things happen in New Zealand.

I'm on the back row - can you spot me?

I’m on the back row – can you spot me?

In the afternoon I headed for Arrowtown which was established in the New Zealand Gold Rush towards the end of the 19th century. I gave a lift up there, in my hire car, to Adam and Lori the American couple I had met on my trip to Milford Sound the previous day. Lori was keen to see the AJ Hackett bungy bridge which is on the way up there. We stopped off for around 15 minutes and saw about half a dozen people throw themselves of the bridge. it looked frightening!

This was as close as I was going to get to doing a bungy jump!

This was as close as I was going to get to doing a bungy jump!

Arrowtown is a beautifully preserved old town. In some ways it felt too perfect and that I was stepping onto a Hollywood set. A friend had recommended to me a bakery at the end of the street and their excellent strawberry muffins. I walked in an ordered one. Unfortunately they are not always on the menu and I was there on the wrong day. Having not had lunch at this point I decided to go for a sandwich… We visited the remains of the Chinese settlement in Arrowtown. Chinese labourers were encouraged to come and mine the gold but they lived in a different part of town and exoerienced discrimination.

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The shop in the Chinese settlement

The shop in the Chinese settlement

In the evening I travelled up the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown and feasted on the “eat as much as you can”  buffet dinner In the restaurant at the top. The gondola is a cable car which takes you up onto Bob’s Peak where there are panoramic views of Queenstown and the Lake from 1500 feet up.

The view from the top of the skyline gondola on Bob's Peak

The view from the top of the skyline gondola on Bob’s Peak

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So my whistlestop tour around the South Island of New Zealand was at an end. I had an amazing time and can’t wait to return.

Tomorrow I was to fly to Melbourne for Christmas and the 4th Ashes Test.

Trip to Milford Sound on the BBQ bus

A must for visiting this part of the world is a trip to Milford Sound. I had pre booked today’s trip before setting off from the UK. It was marketed as a journey down to Milford sound with a barbecue meal en route and a boat trip on arrival at Milford sound. Most of the tours down to Milford Sound from Queenstown are in full size coaches. The BBQ bus is a more intimate experience. It’s a nine seater minibus and the business is run by driver and tour guide Nick. Apart from me and Nick there were 5 others travelling that day. A young American couple, Adam and Lori, and a group of 3 from Brazil. Adam and Lori were holidaying in New Zealand over the Christmas period. Their home in the states is Atlanta but they are both living and working in Melbourne for the next couple of years. I didn’t get to know the Brazilian threesome. Their English wasn’t great. The male member of the group had a little card with the word “SEXY” written on it which he produced at each photo opportunity…

I sat up front with Nick. He is a kiwi, originally from Dunedin, and has been doing tours from Queenstown to Milford Sound for over 10 years. He used to have a much more sizeable business with 2 bigger buses and employed staff. He has decided this year to scale back the business to give himself a better work/life balance and reduced stress. I could totally sympathise with him given my own recent work situation. I got on really well with Nick. He likes his cricket and rugby and was so incredibly keen to give an excellent customer service all through the day. He was knowledgeable about all aspects of our trip and suggested ideas for other things we may wish to consider through the remainder of our time in Queensrown.

We travelled along the side of Lake Wakatipu in the shadow of The Remarkables mountain range. After the town of Kingston at the end of the lake we moved into farming country with deer, sheep and cattle stations all around. Nick pointed out a tree/shrub called a Bog Pine which was only found in this part of New Zealand and Siberia. As the land masses of New Zealand and Siberia were never connected how did that happen? The likely explanation is due to bird migration.

We stopped at Te Anau for a coffee break and to allow Nick to hitch up a trailer for the BBQ. I walked down to the lake with my coffee and took a few snaps. It was a clear day but at 9am in the morning it was chilly down by that lake. There was a statue of a bird, the Takahe, which had been thought to be extinct but was then rediscovered in the wild and is now protected.

The Takahe statue

The Takahe statue

Lake Te Anau

Lake Te Anau

We got back on the road and were soon entering the Fiordland National Park. The scenery stepped up a level. Mirror Lakes was particularly memorable with the mountains almost perfectly captured in the crystal clear lake water.

Mirror Lakes

Mirror Lakes

We stopped at Cascade Creek and whilst Nick cooked lunch we went for a walk through a forest to Lake Gunn. It was really tranquil.

Lake Gunn

Lake Gunn

Lunch was excellent. Really tasty with plentiful quantities. I think I had 3rd helps… we lunched by the creek with the surroundings covered with lupins.

Lupins at cascade creek

Lupins at cascade creek

After lunch we got back on the road and made further stops. At one of these I tasted the crystal clear water running in a creek. We then reached Homer tunnel which bores through a gargantuan piece of mountain rock and without which the road would not get to Milford Sound. The tunnel took 19 years to complete and opened in 1954.

Magnificent views between Cascade Creek and the Homer tunnel

Magnificent views between Cascade Creek and the Homer tunnel

The entrance to the Homer tunnel

The entrance to the Homer tunnel

After going through the tunnel we made a further stop at a spectacular waterfall known as “The Chasm”

The Chasm

The Chasm

On arrival at the Milford Sound harbour we boarded a big shiny boat. There weren’t that many tourists on it so there was plenty of space and opportunities to get plenty of photos. Milford Sound was discovered by a Welshman, John Grono, in 1812, and he originally named it Milford Haven after his home town in Wales. The name was changed to Milford Sound. Nick informed us that actually it is not a Sound but a Fjord but I guess it’s probably too late to change the name to Milford Fjord?

The Milford Monarch

The Milford Monarch

As the boat set off I stood at the bow on the top deck. It was exhilarating! The spectacular cliffs on both sides and waterfalls cascading and the feeling of being somewhere quite special. Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound the eighth wonder of the world and I can see why.

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After travelling along the fjord for around half an hour we were out at sea. On the way back we stopped at the Stirling Falls and got wet with spray. The boat also stopped by a rock on which fur seals were sleeping in the sun. We had been blessed with amazing weather on the boat trip and I felt very privileged to have visited such an amazing place.

Out at sea

Out at sea

Sleeping fur seals

Sleeping fur seals

Stirling falls

Stirling falls

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After getting back to the Harbour we were faced with a 4 hour road journey back to Queenstown. There were alternatives by helicopter and plane but I decided that would be too extravagant and would blow my travel budget!

So we retraced our route through this magnificent country. I enjoyed chatting with Nick on the way back.

After getting back to Queenstown at 8pm I had a walk down into the town and watched the sun setting over the harbour. A perfect end to a spectacular day.

Sunset over Queenstown

Sunset over Queenstown

Franz Josef to Queenstown Road Trip

I had another long drive ahead down to Queenstown. Around 400km but I was told that it was doable in around 5 hours. I set off at around 9.30am. It was chucking down so this would spoil the scenic views I was looking forward to on the journey. Despite the bad weather the driving conditions were not bad. There was little surface water on the roads and little traffic.

At Fox Glacier I passed a sign that said “Haast Pass closed”. I had a feeling that may be en route but decided to carry on regardless. I passed through forests and drove over numerous rivers, creeks and culverts. I must have been travelling close to the ocean as suddenly I had the Tasman Sea on my right at Bruce Bay. I made a brief stop at Lake Paringa and felt sorry for those camping by the lake. I stopped again at Ship Creek which is named after a boat that was wrecked near Melbourne and then drifted over the Tasman Sea to this point on the coast.

A rather wet Lake Paringa

A rather wet Lake Paringa

Ship Creek

Ship Creek

At around 12pm I arrived near Haast and saw a sign for a beach. It was still raining really hard at this point. The path leading to the beach was narrow and I had to walk through areas that were overgrown with grass and ferns. By the time I reached the beach my jeans were saturated! The beach was totally deserted but it was worth getting wet as you got a really good appreciation of the rugged beauty of the coast around this point.

Haast beach

Haast beach

I carried on and a couple of kilometres further on my worst fears were realised. A sign said “Haast Pass closed – update 3pm”. I headed off to the visitor information for more details as to why the road was closed. There have been problems on the Haast Pass since September when there was a major landslip which closed the road at Diana falls. In a smaller landslip on the Haast Pass, also in September, a Canadian couple touring in a camper van were swept to their deaths. So it’s a dangerous place… At the tourist information I was told that because of the high rainfall over the previous 24 hours there was concern about a boulder above the road where the original big landslip had occurred. They were optimistic that the 3pm update would be positive. The only alternative route to Queenstown from here was a 13 hour drive back the route I had come through Franz Josef and then Christchurch. I decided to stay put and wait for updates…

The delay gave me an opportunity to change into dry trousers! what a relief!

I went to a cafe in Haast and ordered a whitebait pattie. I had seen these advertised earlier on the journey and whitebait is a delicacy in these parts. What I got was a slice of toast with a pancake on top. There was no discernible taste of fish. My one and only experience of a whitebait pattie was a bitter disappointment…

My whitebait pattie

My whitebait pattie

i headed back to the tourist information to kill some time whilst I was waiting for the update. I learnt that Haast is named after the geologist Julius Haast who first publicised the benefits of a mountain pass in the area. I also discovered that I was entering a world heritage site with some of the best examples of continuous mountain to see landscapes in the world. At 2.25 I received good news. The pass had reopened. Yay!!

I set off straightaway. I was keen to make up some time. After around half an hour whilst the road was climbing I ground to a complete standstill as there was a queue of traffic as far as I could see. At the tourist information they had mentioned delays. They weren’t wrong! It turned out that at the site of the Diana Falls lanslide they were being very cautious and just letting traffic through one at a time.

The Diana pass roadworks

The Diana pass roadworks

The delay added another half an hour at least onto my journey.

By this point the rain had stopped and after the hold up there was the start of blue skies. It was turning into a lovely afternoon. I began to stop regularly as the scenery became more and more beautifull. Meadows with views of snow capped mountains. The stunning Lake Wanaka and then immediately after a stop there the equally if not more magnificent Lake Hawea. I stopped fleetingly at the town at Wanaka at the head of the lake and vowed to go back there one day.

Stunning views

Stunning views

Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

View from the town of Wanaka

View from the town of Wanaka

By now I was reaching the end of the journey. I only had 100km left to travel. The landscape changed. In the Gibbston valley I passed vineyards and cherry orchards in the valley bottoms with mountains in the background. what a climate to be able to grow grapes in. I stopped at a lookout over a stretch of river called Roaring Meg.

An interestingly named Gibbston valley vineyard

An interestingly named Gibbston valley vineyard

Roaring Meg

Roaring Meg

I got to my hotel in Queenstown at 7.30. A total journey lasting 10 hours. What a day and what incredible scenery. This has got to be by far the most beautiful landscape I have ever had the privilege of visiting

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Helihike at Franz Josef Glacier

I had one full day at Franz Josef Glacier and had pre-booked a walk on the glacier. I checked at the place where the walks went from that they had my booking details on their system. They did but unfortunately I was the only person wanting to do the walk and it would be uneconomic for them to do the guided walk just for me. So unless someone else booked to do the walk that day it wouldn’t be going ahead… I was left with the prospect of spending a day at an amazing place without actually stepping foot on the glacier.

I was staying at the Terrace Motel and I turned to the proprietor for advice. He was really helpful and within a few minutes I was booked on a heli-hike and got a refund on the walk. I have to admit there was a bit of a cost differential but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity not to be missed….

The heli-hike consisted of a helicopter flight up and onto the glacier followed by a hike on it for a couple of hours. The helicopter took off and within no time we had landed on a flattish area on the glacier. The flight up was exciting, perhaps a bit too much for me as on a couple of occasions it seemed to me as if the helicopter was on a collision course with the mountain!

We were provided with walking boots, crampons and water proofs. The glacier was impressive – with caves, crevices and streams running though it. It is also gradually moving down the mountain. Although you couldn’t actually feel it move glaciers are always moving, a bit like a very slow river. In the New Zealand summer the speed of movement is 15 times faster than in the winter. Due to global warming the glacier is gradually getting smaller. The new ice formed from fresh snow is not enough to fully replace the melting ice. By the end of the century the glacier could disappear. So get here whilst you can.

I was joined on the heli-hike by Rob and Sam from Andover, Hampshire and a young Austrian couple Steve and Bettina. Our kiwi guide was called Sam.

It was a fun 2 hours with the best bits being sliding through caves. It was my first experience of crampons and was impressed with how good they are at keeping you on your feet. Towards the end of the 2 hours we returned to the chopper landing site. The weather was starting to close in. The cloud was getting lower. We needed the helicopter to land soon or we may be stranded.

In a glacier cave

In a glacier cave

In a crevice!

In a crevice!

Feeling the ice cold water

Feeling the ice cold water

As we waited there was a very loud rumbling noise from beneath us. It felt as if the glacier was about to collapse from under us. Even our guide seemed worried. Thankfully the rumbling stopped and the helicopter soon appeared and it’s weight didn’t cause any problems. But it was a REALLY worrying few minutes.

The chopper returns

The chopper returns

Back in the Franz Josef town – I needed a beer! I went to lunch with Rob, Sally, Steve and Bettina. This is the second helicopter flight I have done in this trip and both times the people I have been with have gone for drinks and a meal afterwards. Is this just a coincidence or are helicopter flights a really good bonding experience??

Later in the day I visited the Kiwi Centre in Franz Josef. There are a number of sub species of the Kiwi and one or two of these are declining in numbers. This is because of a number of predators that have been introduced by Europeans, most notably the stoat, that kill the kiwi chicks. At the Kiwi Centre in Franz Josef they collect kiwi eggs and then hatch then and rear the young. After they are old enough they release them into the wild at an age where they can withstand the stoat attacks. At the Kiwi centre the sub species they are protecting is the Rowi. I saw three of them but unfortunately no photos for the blog as they do not allow them…. Taking photos could impact the kiwi shortly before they are released back into the wild.

So all in all a really good day after a tricky start…

Christchurch to Franz Josef Glacier Road Trip

I checked out of my hotel at Christchurch Airport and set off on a long journey. The map estimated the 395km distance from Christchurch to Franz Josef would take over 6 hours to complete. This meant that I was not able to see Christchurch at all as there simply wasn’t time. Next time perhaps?

It was raining in Christchurch and as I was heading over to the west of New Zealand through a mountain pass I was envisaging hairpin bends and poor vision. As it turned out the driving was relatively straightforward although the weather meant the views were not as spectacular as I was expecting. I stopped at Arthur’s Pass for lunch and checked out the visitor centre which gave the history on the area and in particular the building of the railway tunnel which transformed travel from the east of the South Island to the west.

Soon after Arthur’s Pass I passed a sign for a viewpoint. I pulled in. There were 2 green parrots in the parking area. I saw a sign saying “Don’t feed the Kea”. They are the world’s only alpine parrot and although once widespread through New Zealand are now protected. They are drawn to places where people may be as they have sussed out that easy food supplies should be available. I was snapping photos of the views when I noticed that one of the Kea’s had jumped on top of my car and didn’t seem to want to move. It started pecking around the top of the car near the side windows. I tried to get it to move but it wouldn’t. By this stage the Kea had attracted a few other people who were laughing and taking photos of it. Needing to get back on the road I decided to drive off thinking the Kea would just fly off if the car started moving. Well it didn’t happen that way….The bird slid down my front windscreen before taking a few steps on the bonnet before eventually flying away. I read later that Kea’s like pecking the rubber around car windows and have been known to shred car fittings. A lucky escape!

The Kea

The Kea

My hire car under attack!

My hire car under attack!

Further on the landscape flattened out, it started to brighten up, and I reached a small town called Kumara. I pulled up and decided to have a wander around. There were a number of big signs erected which detailed the history of the place. An old guy came over and pointed to the sign I should read which had the history of his family. Kumara is an old gold mining town which was established in the 1870’s during the New Zealand gold rush. It once had a population of over 4000, a hospital and 50 pubs. Its population now is only around 300 and many are direct descendants of the original people who moved there looking for gold. The old guy I met, Mr Payn, is descended from one of these families. He told me about getting dragged out of the only pub that survives in the town, The Royal Theatre Hotel, by his mother many years ago when he was drinking under age.

Mr Payn, a descendant of one of the original Kumara gold mining families

Mr Payn, a descendant of one of the original Kumara gold mining families

The only surviving pub in kumara

The only surviving pub in kumara

Soon after Kumara I reached the west coast and I stopped at the coastal town of Hokitika where I stopped for a coffee. It is a pretty little place although the grey sand on the beach wasn’t particularly inviting. I decided to let the chance to visit the Sock Museum to pass me by…

A Hokitika street

A Hokitika street

Hokitika town clock

Hokitika town clock

One of Hokitika's top attractions?

One of Hokitika’s top attractions?

I needed to move on so I resolved to get to Franz Josef without any more stops. This was easier said than done. The road down to Franz Josef contained absolutely stunning scenery of lakes, forests and views of the glacier as I got close to my destination. I decided there and then that I needed more time than a week to do New Zealand anything like justice and resolved to return one day to spend more time here.

Lake between Hokitika and Franz Josef

Lake between Hokitika and Franz Josef

Distant view of Franz Josef glacier

Distant view of Franz Josef glacier

I arrived in the small town of Franz Josef Glacer at around 6 and checked into my motel. I had an evening meal out in the sunshine with a spectacular view of the glacier whilst enjoying a couple of different beers from the Monteith brewery. A perfect end to a memorable day.

View of the glacier from where I had dinner

View of the glacier from where I had dinner

Whale Watching at Kaikoura

So I managed to escape watching the Aussies bowl England out on day 5 in Perth and reclaim the Ashes.

I flew east to Christchurch in New Zealand. This necessitated two flights each lasting just over 3 hours and a time zone change. New Zealand is 5 hours ahead of Perth. I arrived in my airport hotel in Christchurch just after midnight and crashed out.

The following day I picked up a hire car and headed off to go whale watching. It was a 2 and a half hour drive north east to Kaikoura. NZ is a great place to drive in with good quiet roads and stunning scenery. Close to Christchurch I passed through vineyards which form part of the Waipara wine region. The vista then changed and included vast open farmland with mountains in the distance in every direction.

Close to kaikoura I hit the coastline which was stunning and drove along it for around 10 miles.

Coastline near Kaikoura

Coastline near Kaikoura

I reached the whale watching station in plenty of time and checked in for my tour. There was a seasickness warning for my sailing. Remembering a recent experience when Mackerel fishing off Lyme Regis, I sought out a remedy…

Kaikoura is one of the best places to view whales in the world. This is due to the depth of the water very close to the coastline. It plunges to the depth of 3 Auckland skytowers – the highest building in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition there is a plentiful supply of sea life, particularly squid, for the whales to feed on.

After setting off in the boat, we were alongside a whale in around 15 minutes. It was a male sperm whale and was on the surface for around 10 minutes before diving to the depths. I got a great shot of the tail fin as it dived.

Whale no.1

Whale no.1

First whale diving

First whale diving

We headed off to find another whale and found one further out at sea. This one, another male sperm whale, was very subdued – apparently sleeping on the surface. We watched it for around half an hour before heading back to shore. We also saw fur seals, an albatross and Westland petrels.

The second whale

The second whale

The second whale apparently sleeping

The second whale apparently sleeping

All in all an amazing and unforgettable experience to get so close to these amazing creatures.