Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trees, boulders, storms and an earthquake!!

Sunday 20th February

After the white water rafters had returned from their morning efforts (I didn’t do it, because it was really expensive and I have done white water rafting loads of times for free.) we had a late start and didn’t take the tents down till 11am. It didn’t help Becky however as she managed to somehow knock herself in the face with a tent pole, leaving her with a fat lip and bloody gums. We then didn’t leave the lodge until midday. The first stop of the day was only 10 minutes down the road. It was a little car park where we could have a spot of lunch and a short stroll into the forest where there is 'The Big Tree'. This is a 1000year old tree with a circumference of over 9 metres. We all took photos and some of the girls hugged the tree and tried to make a chain around it.

Back at the car park we all had a few sandwiches and a cup of tea before hitting the road again. The next stop being a lovely little town with a church right next to the lake. It is probably the most romantic church you could see and is very popular for wedding services. There is also a monument and statue to the NZ collie dog, which amused us. Back on the road we stopped 35km short of tonight’s camp site and I started off on my first cycle ride within a group of 8 people. The ride was flat at first, but with a strong headwind it was liking riding uphill! I did try a short cut down a gravel path, but it turned out to be a bad idea as the gravel was too bumpy to ride on.

Back on the road however, the wind had died down a little and after riding past a salmon farm, where there were some lazy fishermen, sitting in their cars with rods out of the passenger windows, there was a great downhill bit, where we got up a load of speed. At the bottom, we ended up right next to the lake and the last 8 or 9km was spent riding alongside the lake until we reached the camp site for the night. It was a fantastic place, where we pitched out tents within a few feet of the waters edge, but before we did that we had a dip in the milky water. It was really cold but a great way to get rid of the sweat from the bike ride. After putting the tents up and a big spaghetti bolognese for dinner, we all sat by the water and watched as the sun went down, At one point there was a spot of rain and two big rainbows appeared, so the cameras were all getting worn out! It was a beautiful light show as the sun reflected off the clouds and a few of us took the opportunity to get some jump shots taken with the horizon in the background. I tried something new – a running jump shot and it turned out great -the photo will be on here somewhere!

The rest of the night was just spent sitting by the water, throwing stones at a pile of rocks and generally mellowing out. It was a great night and everyone agreed that it is so much better than staying in a boring, noisy dirty hostel. Even though the toilet was a long drop with lots of files and a stink that you cant describe!

We all went to bed about 11pm and I sat there for a while with my tent flap open and as the moon beamed through the clouds it was almost daylight as I fell asleep.

I slept well and was up in time to see another light show as the sun rose behind the trees and lit up the mountain tops over the far side of the lake. It was a lovely morning and after a bit of breakfast and tidying up we all piled aboard the bus again to head towards Mount Cook.

When we arrived it was still cloudy, but warm. I stayed as I was in my trainers, shorts and a t-shirt, but carried water, food and my waterproof jacket in my back pack. Some of the group started to put on thermals, long john’s and woolly hats plus 2 or 3 layers of t shirts and fleeces. I don’t want to sound all knowledgeable, but they really don’t need to wear all that!! As we set off it didn’t take long for a lot of people to stop and start to remove their unnecessary layers. It was an hour and a half roughly to the top of the walk and after a couple of bridges and some pretty rough ground,we reached it pretty easily and were rewarded by a view of the end of the glacier and 2 icebergs floating in the fresh water lake. Yet another spectacular view to add to the list of spectacular views that I have seen with the different groups I have travelled with over the last 5 months. It was really windy at the top of the walk and so after taking pictures I huddled against a rock for a while eating a sandwich and watching everyone else make their way back down,. Then after a rest I put on my back pack and started to run back down. I passed most people quite easily and reached the memorial at the bottom of the pass in just about 40minutes. We all sat around and got changed back into bus travelling gear and then it was off once again, this time towards the east coast and another (hopefully) special camp-site!

During today’s bus journey we stopped at a café for lunch and then in the afternoon we had an hour in the town of Oamaru. This is by far the dullest town anyone on the bus can remember visiting. The only thing of note to speak about was the steam punk art, which consists basically of a motorbike that looks like it has been made out of a tractor and a few other installations that were OK to look at but didn’t really do anything to improve the town. We spent the hour walking down the main street in search of a new fleece after I lost mine yesterday, but there was nothing decent to buy so after getting a bottle of wine to drink over dinner tonight we got back onto the bus and drove into the rain towards tonight’s camping stop.

As we arrived at the camp site, it was still raining, but it eased off as we put up our tents a few feet from the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Dinner was spaghetti carbonara and with the cold weather and rain coming and going it went down well. However, things changed after dinner as the wind started to increase. It got stronger and stronger and after a while it started to cause some concern. A few people moved their tents, some took them down entirely and Andy even decided to sleep in the luggage compartment of the bus. I grabbed a few more pegs and doubled up on our guy ropes and the corners of the tent. It was going to be a long night, but I was really having fun as some people panicked about the weather. A few of them even jumped into the trailer from where the tents and sleeping equipment are kept, to keep out of the rain!

After finishing my wine and watching a bot of a movie in the bus with the gang, I got into my bed and went to sleep. I woke up just after 1am needing the toilet and so put on my waterproof jacket and shoes and went outside. The wind was stronger than before and there were a few tents where the guy ropes had slipped or pegs had been pulled out, so I spent a while going around the camp site, knocking in pegs and generally tidying up. After a while I stood on the cliff top, watching the ocean. It was a fantastic night and just the kind of thing I wouldn’t choose to do, but when it happens it makes you feel alive!!

After moving Rich over from my pit and getting back into be3d, I slept the rest of the night. Breakfast was cereal in the rain, but the wind had died down a lot, so taking the tents down was pretty easy. Everyone mucked in and we packed up and left the camp pretty quickly. We are stopping in half an hour or so for a coffee and a bacon buttie, so everyone who looks like shit at the moment, will be happy to be dry, warm and full of hot food!

When we stopped I was a bit frustrated as my camera phone wont start up – it must be a bit damp. Luckily we were at a café where the only thing to take a picture of is the Moeraki boulders. These are a set of round boulders on a beach. To be honest we were all a bit underwhelmed as we walked along the beach towards what is essentially a set of 12 or 13 rocks, about 3-4 feet high in the surf. We expected to see some spectacular set of massive rocks that blow you away so were a bit disappointed. I took my non working camera phone into the toilets at the café and warmed it up under the hand drier. IT WORKED!! It started to work as I drank my warming pot of tea, so the day is getting better.

The next stop is Dunedin, where there is a brewery trip to go on – could be interesting!

It turned out to be a good afternoon as Me, Waheed, Rich, Becky, Heather, Todd, Merryl, Cyril and a couple of others spent an hour listening to a good presentation about the history of beer and brewing and also of Speights brewery itself. The jokes were lame, but the lady giving the presentation knew as much and didn’t take herself too seriously. Then at the end of the tour we were allowed to help ourselves to a few small drinks behind the bar in the brewery itself. We all enjoyed tasting the different ales and the new cider that they produce before we made our way back to the bus. We had been informed by the tour guide that there had been an earthquake in Christchurch, where we were a couple of days ago and that there had been some fatalities. This trip gets even worse with natural disasters – floods everywhere, 2 volcanoes and now an earthquake – I just hope that no one I know is close.

We are now watching the news on TV3 as we are getting stuff watched and equipment charged - The death toll is so far 65fatalities. I really hope to god that the friends we have made that left us in Christchurch 2 days ago are ok.....

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