A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Charlief

New Zealand, Australia and beyond

sunny 25 °C

So it's a week later and so much has changed! Last Saturday, I was tired from a long bar/restaurant shift, and living in a hostel room with three boys. Today, I had a lie in, went for a run along Rose Bay Harbour (lots of boats and you can see the Opera House from across the water), went shopping and for lunch, and have done a few hours babysitting at lunch and in the evening. So this is how it all changed...

Saturday evening, I went for dinner with Kara (who I met on the RSA course), and Alisha (a 22 year old American au pair). Alisha was going to help with a child's birthday party the following day and spoke to Lindsay, a mum, who she knew wanted to find an au pair. Sunday lunchtime, I had a phone call asking to meet me in the afternoon. I met Kara, and we went for some lunch, where I asked a millio questions.... "What do I wear?", "What do I ask?", "What do they expect?" etc. Nervous wasn't the word!

So I went wandering up the hill towards Bellevue Hill and arrived 45 minutes early! I know what you're thinking.... I'm never early anywhere! Weird! I could see a spot of grass at the bottom of five sets of steps, so decided to chill down there for a bit to calm myself. I was happily looking through my photos, and listening to my music, when I was interrupted by some 70 year old shouting at me fro the pavement! Rude! Turns out he wasn't being so rude. As he said, "You'd be best sitting on the other side of the tree in case they hit you when they're tee-ing off". Apparently I was sitting on a golf course, and this man was looking out for my head and safety. Whoops! I thanked him a lot, moved to the other side of the tree, and sat down again, safely in the knowledge I wouldn't get hit. When a golf ball whacked a nearby tree, that was enough for me to move and sit on the wooden edging surrounding the course, out of the way for once and for all.

I was greeted at the gate by a cavadoodle (cavalier king charles poodle cross) called Charlie, a four year old boy Ariel, 17 month old girl Mila (pronounced Miller), and Dean (the dad). I then met Lindsay. I'd been told they were a well off family, and that Bellevue Hill was a wealthy area. The house was lovely, and yet Lindsay says it's a bit of a mess at the moment and they are going to renovate at some point.

Long story short, I am offered the job, and started Tuesday. During the week, I work three hours in the morning looking after the girl whilst Lindsay takes Ariel to school and then do a few chores. I then do another three hours in the afternoon playing with Mila some more, and doing bits and bobs around the house. Weekends are flexible. Sometimes I will have to work til 8 on a Friday, and babysit Saturday evenings. They are flexible though. Tidying up after four people, plus myself, and doing laundry, ironing, hoovering, floors etc is a fair bit to do, but I get to also take Mila to the park, cafe or beach, play games, and run around like a big child again. In return, I have my own bedroom with TV and dining table, fridge/freezer, kettle and toaster, and bathroom with a shower. The laundry room is down here too, so I can do my laundry and use the wifi, plus the feed/water me all for free. Plus, I get a weekly salary. Not doing too badly!

Yesterday was good. Went to the park (Mila fell off the bench but Lindsay doesn't know that, and I was asked if she was my first - we both brown hair, blue eyes), and then gave her lunch. In the evening, their whole family came round for dinner. They are Jewish and South African, so every Friday is a family gathering. I helped prepare dinner then ate my food downstairs. When I took my plate back upstairs, I was then given Eton Mess, chocolate, and half a bottle of imported wine which was going spare. Good way to start the weekend! They are a very cute family, and healthy too. Dinner each night is meat of some sort, with vegetables and salad, and they both exercise like crazy.

So then we are at today. I am putting Ariel, the boy, to bed in a bit, then babysitting whilst Lindsay and Dean go out for dinner together. I always have Sundays off, so tomorrow a few of us au pairs are doing the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. It's a 6k walk along the coast heading south, and up until October, you can see whales. In the Summer, you should be able to see dolphins. They also have the 'Sculptures by the Sea' exhibition at the moment, which is a small events of sandcastle type features along the coast which you can see from the walk. So it should be a good day.

I will keep you all updated on my outings and plans for Australia. The family have a holiday home they go to over Christmas, but haven't been told where it is yet. I have been invited though, so we shall see.... If it's a two week break in Hawaii, I'm there!! Anyway, nearly 7pm so must go. I'm really pleased to be hearing from you all still too :D Helps with the home-sickness. Love you all xx

Posted by Charlief 00:32 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

New Zealand, Australia and beyond


sunny 22 °C

Hi everyone,

I've spoken to most of you in the last couple days but thought I'd let everyone know that I am still alive and well. The hostel I am staying at (Bondi Backpackers) is decent. Four of us in a room and a lovely beach view. Basic but that's what hostels are.

On Wednesday, I went into the city. I opened up my bank account, got a new mobile sim card (everyone should have that number by now), and also applied for my tax file number to start work. I did get very lost though. I was looking for a shop that sells sportswear so that I can start running, and ended up down the streets with Tiffany and Co, Prada, LV etc Not exactly within my price range! Didn't manage to see the Opera House today, but I did see it from a distance when flying into Sydney airport so I don't feel too bad. The city comprises of about 5 main roads that are all interconnected with side streets - it gets very confusing!
I hopped onto the bus back to Bondi Beach, and decided to get off a stop early to do some job hunting. I started handing out my CV and then realised it was the wrong copy. I am handing out a CV saying I want to work in health care when I am here, to shops and coffee bars. Surprise surprise, no return calls. Then I have a quick interview in a bar/restaurant. The guy was Irish but lived out here a good while. He wasn't massively impressed that I hadn't done cocktails before, or coffees. Seems if you want to be a waitress or barista over here, it is more of a career than side job. No one has a regular coffee. People want skinny soy double shot mochiatos (or whatever else). Anyway, he said I could have a trial on Friday and see how it goes. Thing is, to work in anywhere that sells alcohol over here, you need to have a RSA certificate (Responsible Selling of Alcohol). So I went straight onto the internet and booked onto a course on Thursday.

So Thursday I spent on this course. Typically I get sat next to the girl whose 29 but I thought was 39, has an opinion about everything, and worst of all. from Sheffield! At lunch I got chatting to Kara. She's 26 from Scotland, over here on a working visa and doing au pair work. She says it's really good because you get free accommodation, food etc, day times and weekends off. She's going to speak to people for me, so we shall see. After the course, we swapped numbers and walked around Sydney. Instead of following the signs saying 'Harbour Bridge'. Kara assures me the Opera House is down this other road. What should have been a 15 minute walk turned into an hour. We got to have a really good chat though, and has invited me out with other people who have just come over for dinner on Saturday which is nice.

Friday comes round and I was nervous as anything about the trial. I turned up and there was another girl having her trial too. It was 1pm so really dead and nothing to do. I stood at the front door for about 45 minutes enticing customers in, and managed to get three couples in. The guy comes out, tells me he'd like me to go to their other restaurant 10 minutes away at half 4, and hopefully be able to demonstrate what I can do there better. Plus it's with the big boss lady. Great! Half four comes, and the boss Emma, and Darren (the actual license holder) are much nicer. Emma is Australia and Darren is originally from Liverpool. It then made sense about the other guy from the other bar - assistant manager (you know how they get!) Darren tells me all about the beers and gives me tasters. I liked it already! It got really busy at 7 o'clock for two and a half hours, being absolutely manic. No idea how I did. After tidying up the majority of stuff, Emma turned round and handed me vegetarian spring rolls and told me to take a break. Very nice! The last couple left about 10pm, and then she offered me a glass of wine. I couldn't refuse. We sat and chatted for a while, and then a few drunkards came in and had cocktails. Emma told me she's going to teach me how to make cocktails, and things will get easier. I guess I passed?! I gave her my number. She said they were fully staffed Sat but could probably do with extra help Sunday so will let me know. Yay!

I went home to look up flat shares and will arrange a couple of viewings. I will still be sharing a room with another person whilst out here, but sharing with 1 girl, and a bathroom between four people is much nicer than sharing with about 150 people on one floor with 3 toilets and 6 showers. Plus I'll get free wifi, laundry etc, all for less money a week.

So today is Saturday and I've messaged some people about viewing rooms. I have until Tuesday morning booked at this hostel so ahve some time to look. I have also written ads about au pair work in case this restaurant work falls through. I am off to go shopping for trainers and cheap vests for work. Kara has told me about a cheap shop in Westfield Bondi Junction which is a 20 minute walk away. Much easier than looking for running shorts in Gucci!

Still missing everyone though. Today is only 22 degrees so cold by Bondi standards for this time of year. Just seen the BBC news that says you are expecting a cold snap next week, so guess I'll be out here a little longer. Oh, and I've also spoken to Emily from back home. She is waiting to hear about some exams but we will hopefully be doing the East Coast together from 7th - 31st March, so something to look forward too. Also Jenna comes out 19th Dec and have dinner with Kara and her friends tonight. One girl called Emma is also taking a career break from being a physio so will be cool to meet more people in the area.

Bye for now xx

Posted by Charlief 19:30 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

New Zealand, Australia and beyond

semi-overcast 15 °C

Tuesday 16th
Lovely lie in this morning seeing as we get an extra day here. Most people have gone for their glacier walk so was nice and peaceful. I sorted out my computer, bag, food etc and then had a lazy breakfast rather than the usual rush. When Megan and Deborah were ready, we head off to complete the walk to the glacier without getting on it. After an hour’s walk, we were only just at the car park. We had the choice of a 20 min steep climb, 25 min or 30 min walk, or 1 hour 30 walk. So we went for the 20 minute steep climb. Still great views and not too strenuous. Lots of silly photos, and then to the hour walk back again.
We stopped off for coffee and carrot cake. Out here, the cake slices are like wedges, so we split a piece, meander around the two shops in town, then head back for another hot tub in the rain, Dinner and early to bed tonight I think. Coach leaves at half 7 tomorrow morning, and the coach four days later is fully booked. So nice early start again.

Wednesday 17th October
For once I’m not the last person onto the coach! Woop! The reason we started so early today becomes clear when we arrived at our first stop – Lake Matheson. The morning views of the lake are “postcard shots”. The water is perfectly flat like glass, and the two lines of trees either side are perfectly matching. In the background, a stunning mountain that reflects on the water. Not something I will forget in a hurry. We then drove to Ship Creek. It’s a beach with a watchtower from which you can see dolphins in the sea. Apart from today, it was raining, windy, and there weren’t any dolphins to be seen at all! I felt cheated! The drive to Lake Wanaka was spectacular. Driving past Lakes Wanaka and Haweha, The lakes are surrounded by snowy topped mountains, and the sunlight is reflecting across the water. Indescribable. We then arrived in Wanaka, a smallish town but still had a cinema (old style with couches, and cookies at the interval), a supermarket, mini golf and several walks. We asked at the hostel reception about the available activities in the town. “Well you can go for a walk from here, along the road, up Mount Iron and the view is amazing. It will take about 1 hour 45 each way. Alternatively, you can head along the water’s edge, take some great pictures where the tree grows out from the water, and there’s a vineyard at the end that offers free wine tasting”. Imagine which option we went for! The reception definitely gave great suggestions. We head off around the lake, taking in everything around us. The houses overlooking the lake and the mountains were just what you see in the movies…glass sliding doors opening onto a wooden decked balcony, the yellow retriever trotting at the owner’s side and sitting with an orange juice having an afternoon chat. All this for the same price as a two bed flat in Surrey. Hmmmm, tempting! Everyone out here is so polite as well. They all say “Hello” to each other, whether it’s the first and only time they’ll pass, or if they’ve been friends for years. We arrive at the vineyard and make out way to the Cellar Door. We are greeted by a young woman and a dog, and brought into a room with wide glass windows offering a spectacular view of the mountains and lake. She tells us of the family run business of organic wines, and all about the oaking, soil and wine making process. I’m not a big wine drinker, but these wines were beautiful. They were called Rippon after the family name, At this point, I noticed a photograph on the wall of an actress drinking the wine. In my head, I presume Angela Rippon and that this is her family. Thing is, I have no idea what Angela Rippon looks like so am probably just putting two and two together, and I don’t have the courage to ask in case I am completely wrong. A couple of the girls buy a few bottles, and we slowly meandered back to the hostel, all a little more ‘animated’ on the way back. Group supermarket trip and back to cook dinner. As we sat in our room, everyone slowly brought out the goodies they’d just bought. Mette shared her coconut dairy milk, Anna her peppermint chocolate, Megan her dairy milk with honeycomb, and Laura had white chocolate with raspberry pieces. Who says girls like chocolate?! I’d bought something for dessert. Pancake mix to me (being English), crepes to Laura and Megan (being French/American). Mette attempted to make the first one. Not only is the first one always rubbish, but Mette poured loads of the batter in by accident, so we were gifted with a wedge of crispy batter which had us all in stitches. So the expert Laura took over. A French girl making crepes – perfect! The stack grew and grew, and so we sat down to about 15 pancakes/crepes between 5 of us. Cue the thick spreading of nutella on them, and it all got very messy, especially once more chocolate was handed out. Tie for a change of clothes, washing the nutella off my chin and cheeks, and down to the hostel bar. There were lots of games for the chance to win respect, but sad to say most people lost their dignity in the process. Limbo, musical chairs, killer pool, and karaoke. You can imagine that in a bar of 20-30something year olds, the musical chairs was hilarious to watch the dancing, and the boys singing “You can leave your hat on” was one that could have been missed. Also, there are three different coaches in town tonight, and the bus drivers are having a good reunion. One of their stunts…to stand next to someone at the bar and see how long it takes that person to realise that the drivers trousers are round his ankles (thankfully pants still up). Watching was hilarious as the other person was completely oblivious, until lots of photos were being taken. Funny times!

Thursday 18th
This morning was a decent start at 9am, and the first stop was Puzzleworld. I didn’t go in to the 4d maze (it has to levels) so we girls sat in the waiting room which had lots of games in anyway, I tried (and failed) at two of them. Think I need to get a job again as my brain is turning to mush. The coach drive took us to Queenstown, stopping off at AJ Hackett on the way. AJ Hackett is the company that built the highest bungy jump in New Zealand at 134m. We watched a video of how the bungy came about as a sport, and the different options available, from a 43m jump, to a canyon swing, to the Nevis at 134m. The Nevis jump is from a clear platform suspended from two cables, so you can see down whilst standing on a swaying small platform when preparing for the jump. Not one for me. A few sign up for it, and Megan books her canyon swing for winning the fancy dress. We arrived in Queenstown in the afternoon, and settled in knowing we had three days to relax, wander, and find our feet again. Deborah has now left us as she has friends in Queenstown and so is staying with them. We spent the afternoon perusing around town, looking in arts and craft shops, sweet shops, and ending up in the old faithful Starbucks. This is where I realised where my money has taken a bashing. Whilst sleeping in rooms with 6-10 beds was initially comforting, it has become less so over the two weeks. People go to sleep and wake up at different times, people rustling around in the bags in the morning, going to the toilet in the night, some snorers or phones going off. This has meant I have been buying a lot more coffee that I expected, trying to wake up each morning after about five hours of interrupted sleep each night. I am looking forward to sleeping in a room by myself at some point again. After Starbucks and dinner, we went to the World Bar, which was a nice bar in town. The outside area was decked with two large fires plus wall heaters, and there were coloured hanging lights around the ceiling bars. Listening to the rain fall suddenly made me realise how surreal this whole experience has been. It is my Milford Sound trip tomorrow, which I’ve been told is the “must do” of New Zealand, and “it is like going to Egypt without seeing the pyramids”. Excited!

Friday 19th
A fine 6.30am start to the day, but I am ridiculously excited so I don’t care. Megan and I hopped onto the coach, and were pleased to see a couple of others from our extended group already there (Jasper from Holland and Ian from Liverpool). The long journey to Milford Sound is made easier by watching Kick Ass, and tales of the previous week’s activity. It turns out we are very lucky to be going on this trip today. To get to the Milford Sound, there is just one long road; The Milford Road. The single carriage way is over 200km long, and the area experiences a huge amount of rain. It rains two out of three days, and last Friday, it experienced a year’s worth of London rains in 12 hours. This resulted in a ginormous landslide, and the road had been closed until late last night. As we drove into the area, we passed the landslide rubble. We were told that they’d used extensive amounts of dynamite to blow up the granite boulders and clear the road, and there were several diggers and men still working to clear the mess. We were allowed to get out of the coach once we were through the ‘avalanche risk zone’. The sign said ‘Air temp: 5.2 C’. Fresh! Photos were taken, and Ian and I stood behind the coach exhaust for some warmth. It also felt a bit homely smelling pollution and fumes again. The air out here is so clean and light. It made me realise that the reason I struggled with feeling sick just before my skydive was because the aeroplane wasn’t pressurised and the air was so thin with a lack of oxygen. It also made sense as to why those jumping from 15000ft (an additional 3000ft) had to jump with oxygen. We came to the Milford Sound at around 1pm after a 7.30am coach pick up. Onto the catamaran, and to our hot buffet lunch. It was lovely to have fresh, healthy, hot food again. As we set off around the sound, the captain gave a running commentary. We passed our first waterfall, and it was here that I suddenly regretted being so polite. The captain steered the front of the boat right into the waterfall. Everyone ran back towards the doors to get back inside, and I politely let others go in before me. Big mistake! With wet trousers, and my coffee a big more dilute, I felt like I’d wet myself. Off we travelled a bit further, and then everyone was outside again. Three penguins sat on the rocks at the edge of the bay. It was so strange seeing big penguins in their natural environment, and they even had the yellow tufts next to their ears. The next waterfall came, and seeing as I was already soaked, I stayed out on the deck, and Megan and I took a photo of us in the spray. We then came across a small seal colony, sleeping and sunbathing on the rocks, and were able to get up close. The next drop off was at the underwater observatory/information centre. The observatory was 8m underwater, and there was a huge starfish stuck to one of the windows. Other than that, there was just a lot of murky water. Back onto the catamaran, and then to the coach. At this point, we were told we were even luckier to have done the Sound today. We passed a coach on the way in as they were taking photos. That coach had an accident afterwards, blocking the road and no one else could get to the Sound. The road had now been cleared for us to get back safely. We popped out to the World Bar again this evening, and danced the night away.

Saturday 20th
Our last day as the five of us. Tomorrow we head off to Christchurch, where Megan leaves to fly back home, and the other four of us will stay until our flights on Tuesday. The weather is beautiful today, and we pop round the corner to the lake front for the market. Soaps in the shape of cupcakes, jewellery, hats, crockery, and paintings were just a few of the things available. After I’d completed a couple of rounds, I sat on the grass, people watching. It was another surreal moment, sitting on the grass in the sun, watching people shop with the lake behind them and a snowy mountain behind that. This would be a great place to live. Shops, bars, culture, hike trails, spectacular views. Megan joined me, then Mette and Anna. We seemed to have lost Laura though. After several goes round the market to find her, we were just about to head back to the hostel when Laura appeared. She took us down the side street, and I suddenly realised where we were heading. The tattoo and piercing shop. Don’t worry… not for me! Laura had spoken to me about this last night. Laura has been travelling for around ten months now, and has and a great adventure. As such, she wanted “Once upon a time…” tattooed on her foot, and wanted my advice on the pain levels, where to have it etc. So there we were, in a tattoo parlour in Queenstown. I resisted, and enjoyed watching Laura get it done. The tattoo artist explained how he’d been in Lord of the Rings, and had tattooed Orlando Bloom afterwards. It turns out lots of films have been shot in New Zealand, including Willow (a reference for you Lauren). Megan then had to leave to do her Canyon Swing, and Anna went off to hike up a mountain. Laura, Mette and I popped out for (another) coffee and ended up at a beautiful restaurant on the waterfront. The man next to us had fish and chips, but these were no ordinary fish and chips. The fish and chips were served in a deep frying basket with handle, the mushy peas on a small dish, and the ketchup and tartar sauce in small shot glasses, all positioned exquisitely on a wooden chopping board. We had a nice long chat between us girls, and it dawned on me how much I was going to miss these girls. Laura gave me some great advice on Sydney as she stayed there for seven months, such as where to stay when, how far things were apart, what sim card is best to get out there. It turns out Sydney is bigger than I thought. My hostel is in the CBD, but turns out it is on the border of the red light district, and also it is ridiculously expensive for what it is. She suggested staying at the beach from now until New Year, and potentially CBD January to March when Emily from home potentially comes out for just under a month. When we got back to the hostel, I emailed my original hostel and cancelled my booking, and have booked Bondi Backpackers instead for a week. A much better deal, with a view of the beach from my room, less people in the room, cheaper, free breakfast and free half hour of internet a day. I’ve also emailed a few hostels to see if they have ‘work for accommodation’ options available, but they’ve replied saying there aren’t any vacancies but they have job boards and there’s plenty of hospitality work available if you look properly. I’m glad it’s all sorted now, and getting insider advice has been so helpful. Laura will be in Sydney for a couple of days when I’m first there too, so hopefully we can meet for a bit between us both having things to do. Our last night together means we are going out to dinner! Yay! We went to an American style restaurant, and my pizza was amazing. Sundried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, red onion, roasted pumpkin and feta. We decided to have a girl’s night in afterwards, chatting, playing silly games, sharing photos and teaching each other our languages/accents. I was crying with laughter. We are heading to Christchurch tomorrow, which is purely a day of driving with several toilet breaks and food stops. My washing has been done and my bag packed. I then remember my laptop is only half charged as is my phone and music player but to get all the cables out is too much hassle, so I’ll just be good tomorrow i.e. sleep on the coach.

I’ve had an amazing time in New Zealand, with some great memories, photos and friends. I’ve seen so many places in so little time. Some I could have missed (the cattery smelling hostel). Others I could easily have spent more time at (River Valley, Wellington, Wanaka and Queenstown). I’m so pleased to have done this, and will never forget it. Whilst on one of the coach journeys, I started to compile a bucket list. Since being in NZ, I am pleased to say I have ticked a good few of them off:

- Travelled by myself (bucket list)
- Been to NZ (bucket list)
- Cathedral Cove – stunning
- (attempted) a hot water bath on the beach made in the sand
- Caving and tubing
- Seen glow worms
- Wet zorbing (bucket list)
- Waterfalls, including standing under one (bucket list) and behind one (bucket list)
- Volcanoes
- Glaciers
- Sky diving (bucket list)
- White water rafting (bucket list)
- Climbing huge hills
- Seen a double rainbow (bucket list)
- Saw a colossal squid
- Felt a (fake) earthquake at the museum
- Yoga
- Watched Lord of the Rings
- Fancy dress party
- Wine tasting
- Milford Sounds
- Seen penguins and seals in the wild
- Made great friends

I’m sure I have missed things out too, and the number of times I have been in pain from the intensity of laughing is too high to count. This trip has cost me a fair amount, not just financially but also missing family, friends, Christmas at home etc, but you can see from the list above that I have achieved so much already. I’m looking forward to Sydney, working along the beachfront somewhere, making more new friends and not having to pack/unpack every single day. I’m sure the 30something degree heat will make life a bit easier to bare too. I have my accommodation sorted, bank account opened with money in there waiting to be spent, and a lot of insider information too. I need to sort out my Tax File Number, pick up my bank card, sort out Medicare, and get a local sim card for my phone. From then on, it’s job hunting! Once I have a job, I can then go shopping again! Oh how I have missed shopping! Onwards and upwards (followed by Fiji and South East Asia).

Posted by Charlief 21:53 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

New Zealand, Australia and beyond

sunny 17 °C

Sunday 14th
Westport to Lake Mahinapua
We have woken up to a really sunny day today. Blue skies and barely a cloud in the sky our first stop is the walk that should have happened yesterday. What an amazing walk. An hour along a cliff edge with the snow capped Southern Alps to our left and the seal colonies and beaches to our right. Absolutely stunning views and awesome photos. Last town for a few days so we have to stock up on food and fancy dress costumes for our 'P' party tonight. I've decided to go as a painter as I already have a top that looks like paint splashes, so I bought a set of coveralls and some paint brushes to put in my hair and around my neck on a ribbon. We rocked up at the night's hostel, and I must say we have stayed in better. The rooms themselves are alright, three bunk beds, but the sheers vary between scalding and frosty and the whole place smells of a cattery. At least we had dinner cooked for us. Steak/quiche, vegetables, corn on the con, bread roll, pasta and green coleslaw (a cold mix of broccoli, spinach, cabbage and carrot mush). Yum!
Just before dinner, some of us went down to the beach a couple minutes away. Sand (ish), blue sea and sun on your face. Finally! Then for the party!
I was rather impressed with the effort some people went through. A police station (cardboard box with windows cut out, 26 drawings stuck into the window gaps, and police cars stuck around the bottom), popcorn (popcorn boxes stuck all over her body and sandwich bags of popcorn attached) and a poof (pink boxers, grey waistcoat, pink hot and tinsel boa). Another one of my favorites was the plant- two plant pots around the legs stuffed with mud and flowers. Only the barlady wasn't too impressed following him round with a dustpan and brush as the mud kept falling out. Our bus driver Ben was also in attendance. He wore his driving shoes. They are like my finger socks but made of wetsuit material. He also wore fishnet tights, a yellow and green zip up dress, and a black wig. This is on a 50odd year old man with hairy legs, tattoos and strong masculine side. 1 I'm not sure how you wear tights with finger shoes and 2 I'm not sure if he was going as Pretty Woman or a prostitute. Same thing i guess. Either way it was very disturbing, especially when he stood next to the fire, dress raised slightly and him claiming "I don't know how you girls don't get cold". We do get cold!! And try doing it in heels as well!! First prize is a canyon swing second prize is free video and photos if you Bundy, and thrd is a pub crawl voucher for Queenstown.
My cold is getting the better of me still, so another early night for me.
Unfortunately being in the middle if nowhere meant bare,y any reception, let alone any wifi to pay for, so no skyping this weekend. O will aim to Skype my Tuesday morning so England Monday night. Fingers crossed it works alright. I've also managed to spend all my activity money so far so free walks and sight seeing for me from now on. Thankfully there are a lot of walks down here on the South Island.

Monday 15th
Lake Mahinapua to Franz Joseph
We have to leave the hostel by 9.30am sharp. Whilst les, the hostel owner, is funny, he is also 87 and is very straight talking. My day starts with the usual porridge with dried fruit, bag packed and onto the coach. Most people at the back are feeling a little worse fir wear today, and so it's A quieter journey. The bus driver asks the standard "did anyone get lucky last night?" as well as a few more crud questions, then plays the obligatory first track of the day, always something equally crude. That's the level of humour on the coach each day. So off we set to the actual lake. I must be getting used to seeing great things as this morning, the lake entertains me for about three minutes and then I'm back on the coach. Next stop is the 'museum'. New Zealand used to make money from deer farming, possums (to eat and their fur) and timber. So this museum is all about those days before their main income came from tourism. The guy who runs the place, Pete, is a little strange. He seems very stern. Where people have written letters into him after seeing him being 'callous' on tv, he has written what could be described as disproportionate replies. The information centre contains signs including 'vegetarian is another name for a poor poor hunter' and the possum fur cushions still have their whiskers in them. Safe to say I didn't spend too long in there.
W then head off to Franz Joseph where we are now, and staying today and tomorrow. Franz Joseph is the home to glaciers and alpine terrain. Mst people are doing a heli-ride onto the glacier with three hour walk or kayaking around the lake. Having already seen glaciers in Iceland, I'm sticking to free stuff over the next couple of days. We have spent the afternoon in an outdoor hot pool, and I'm hopefully going for a wander around town tomorrow or potentially a walk to 'subalpine terrain' with some others. More prizes to be won later, so fingers crossed.

Posted by Charlief 20:19 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand, Australia and beyond

rain 12 °C

Friday 12th
Nice early start this morning – 6.30am! That’s not a holiday! Coach picked us up at 7.15am (yet again I was the last one on) and off to the ferry port. Our driver Bods explained to us yesterday how this ferry used to travel the English Channel, and that is has good free laundry facilities. So up we rock with our bags and dirty laundry, except when someone asks where the laundry room is, we are met by a confused staff member. Apparently we have been “misinformed”. Suddenly we don’t like Bods anymore >;(
Three hours later, heading from Wellington on the east of the north island, to Picton on the west part of the south island, via the Cook Strait, we made it. Coach ride to Kaiteriteri with a stunning yellow beach. On this coach ride, the new bus driver Ben shouts “Is there a Charlotte on this coach?”. My gut reaction is “What have I done?”. I cautiously reply, and get asked to come to the front of the coach..eeeeek! Turns out Bods has left a really long answerphone message with Ben saying how guilty he feels at me taking laundry onto the ferry and he didn’t realise we had believed him (even though I told him earlier in the week how gullible I am). As an apology, he has offered to buy me a glass of wine via the new driver Ben. He’s now in the good books again 
It’s overcast today so we just play in the playground instead of on the beach – swings, slides and merry-go-rounds. Fresh laundry, and early night to bed (8pm). Weird, I know. Combination of exhaustion and a cold, plus I’m getting old at 26 :p

Saturday 13th
Another overcast day. Apparently that’s what the west coast is famous for, as well as the Irish settlers?! Today’s walk has been called off as they are expecting a lot of rain today and so have closed the roads. So the hostel we are staying at tonight have offered us free yoga! Yay! So the south island offers a lot of walks with stunning scenery including glaciers, mountains and lakes. We are having dinner cooked for us tomorrow night by Les (87 year old hostel owner who apparently swears like a trooper) and the bus drive Ben. There’s also the option of bungy jumping in Queenstown – the Nevis Jump is 134m and the highest in the country with 6 seconds of freefalling. For some reason, bungy jumoing has never been at the top of my list, and at £120 (same as skydive), it’s a fair bit so doubt I’ll do it. Currently watching series of Flight of the Conchords on the coach, which is hilarious. I’ve been missing everyone in general, and missing everyone even more today, I will try and skype over the weekend as long as the hostels we stay at have wifi available to purchase. I might have to get a new sim card too as texts are expensive. I will let you know if that happens though as my number will change. Ta ra for now.

Posted by Charlief 19:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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