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New Zealand - South Island

Hi there from New Zealand. We have just left the South Island - which, I am reliably informed, has the more stunning scenery of the two islands - sadly, the drawback is the miserable weather! Think summer in Scotland - constant rain interspersed with short periods of weak sunshine.

Nonetheless, we've been quite busy - There is only one road in the Island that we didn't drive along.

When we first arrived in Christchurch from Sydney, we were immensely grateful to Mike's mate, Alex and family who gave us a bed and family life for several days. Alex even lent us his car for a couple of days (the fool!). In payment, we drank most of their vintage wine and scared the children!


Whilst we had Alex's car, we drove up into the mountains near to Christchurch, to a village called Arthur's Pass. The drive up here was truely stunning - the mountains are either covered in lupins (pretty pink/blue flowers for all you non-horticulturalists) or gorse (the yellow stuff you get in the New Forest). The roads were pretty windy and steep - but Alex's sporty car was more than man for the job!

The weather in Arthur's Pass was grim, as with everywhere else we've been since! but we did manage to do one decent walk - up Avalanche Peak. The views up here were spectacular - we were surrounded by snowy topped mountains and could see down into the village below - watching tiny little trains and cars go by - like watching a model village.

Sadly, neither of us had the inclination to climb right to the top of the Mountain (well, we used the excuse that we were wearing sandals!) but we got great views from half way up anyway.

Hot Springs

Unlike the North Island, the South doesn't have many hot springs - but we found one with a proper Japanese Baths. Some of you will have been told of the time Mike and I visited a hot spring in Japan, and Mike waltzed into the ladies baths - well thankfully that didn't happen here, the signs were in English, so Mike would have no excuses! However I managed to startle a Japanese girl into trying to conceal her modesty behind a shampoo bottle - not the most effective disguise!


We have done a few walks in New Zealand South Island, and being a narrow island, most of the walks have taken us along stunning coastlines - from the golden sands on Golden Bay in the North of the Island (no imagination when it comes to naming places!) to the rugged shores of Stewert Island in the very south. Like the UK, though, the water has just been too cold to even begin to consider swimming! (Actually we're wimps; we stayed with Alex and family over New Year, and to blow off our hangovers on New Years Day, we took the children to the beach in Christchurch - where they had no problem throwing themselves into the surf - they're made of sterner stuff down here, obviously.)

Hippy Commune

Whilst walking the Nydia track in the Marlborough Sounds (top of the South Island) we stayed in a hippy commune (OK, I exaggerate slightly - it was run by people with an alternative view of life...) For dinner we feasted on green lipped mussels and oysters which we collected from the beach and cooked on the barbecue - fantastic!

These people had set up a cheap backpackers lodge halfway along a popular walk. When we arrived, we were greeted by Emma, who took a great deal of care to introduce us to each of the five dogs, who were roaming around the grounds, by name and dietary habit, before waving her hand vaguely in the direction of a group of five people and reeling off a long list of names. (I'm still not sure which one of the assembled was called 'Bin')

They'd had a small disaster just before we arrived - their generator had 'blown up'. Actually, in an attempt to muffle the noise of their anchient generator, the brains of the operation had wrapped the whole generator (exhaust'n'all) in expanded polystyrene foam. Now, I know there are people among you who do not believe that I actually have a pukka engineering degree because of my general lack of mechanical sympathy but even I know that this is a bad idea! The resultant fire nearly burned down the whole place.

The same mechanical genius is working on getting the boiler of an old, decrepit steam engine (which he 'found') to power a spa pool. Hmmm!

Our bedroom was in the attic of a shed - the attic was reached by a log ladder precariously set into the floor. A lady called Gill was staying in the room below ours, and she discovered quite late at night that she had a mouse in the room - when it brushed against her face (ugh!!!)

Facilities were quite rudimentery, as you might expect. However I was surprised to discover that they had a shower. Sadly, this was a triumph of fantasy over practicality. The cold water for the shower was turned on in the next room to the shower, and was just a jubilee clip attached to the washing machine tap. The worst thing about the shower (apart from the shower curtain which clung in a really unpleasant way to ones damp body) was the unavoidable puddle of mud just outside the cubicle.


Like Australia, most of the 'good' wildlife here starts with a 'K' - kiwi, kea, kaka, kakapo, and if it doesn't start with a 'k', it definately has a 'k' in its name somewhere (pukeko, takahe, weka etc). Unlike Australia, the native wildlife here is made up of birds. the only native mammals are bats.

We did quite well, seeing most of the above (although we cheated on the Kiwi, going to a zoo to see one).

We also saw lots of dead possums on the road. This is apparently a good thing, because possums eat kiwis - therefore a dead possum is a happy Kiwi!. Possums, in their home country of Australia, are cute cuddly little creatures - whereas the possums which have emigrated to NZ have grown into total lard arses (they make particularly nasty roadkill!). This is because NZ birds have evolved for thousands of years without worrying about nasty mammals eating their eggs from their nests, and now the possums, rats, stoats, cats, dogs... (that were helpfully imported by man) all get far too many easy meals, breed like rabbits - and are decimating the local bird population.

Cultural Stuff

Apart from visiting every small town museum, (well - it's really rained!) my major attempt at cultural stuff was to learn how to do bone carving. I spent a day in a stinky workshop in Nelson, polishing a piece of cow bone, and am now the proud owner of - urm - a shiny piece of cow bone! This is a fine hobby in BSE-free New Zealand, but I'd be a bit more concerned about chipping away at a lump of bone back in the UK. The finished piece is actually quite impressive. (To be honest, my instructor did most of the difficult stuff!)

We also both had a go at playing the didgeridoo - but I don't think this counts as cultural unless we'd done it in Australia - which we didn't! We met a young girl whilst out walking one day, and she offered to play her didgeridoo for us (is it just me or does this sound a bit like the lyrics from a 'Men at Work' song?) The only problem was, she couldn't do it properly, because she had (and I quote) "boogers up her nose". then she disappeared over the horizon, to terrorise other innocent souls with her boogers!

I shall leave you all with that charming thought. Be warned that I've run a bit behind with these updates - so you'll probably get the rest of New Zealand in a day or so.

Anyway, happy new year!

Jane & Mike xxx