Tag Archives: Car

Why Happiness Reads White… (Part I)

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As is becoming a common theme with bigclimblittleclimb, we begin with an apology.

We are both extremely sorry for going AWOL in the past few weeks and hope that it will not happen again in the not too distant future. (sad and slightly sheepish face)

All better?

While we are (quite) sorry, there are valid reasons for this. It is partly due to our recent lifestyle change; that is, from hard-working city-dwelling internet-users to wannabe free-spirited campers with no roof, no shoes, no showers and no electricity. To be perfectly honest, living under canvas for a month has been nothing but fantastic and although the first few days saw us pining for a memory foam mattress, we now feel wonderfully adept at using just the bare necessities and average a BOLT-ESQUE 5 mins 04 seconds tent erection (ahem) time.

The second, and slightly more difficult to explain, reason, is that we are a little lost for words. There is something about the South Island that is. Just. Awesome. I know it sounds as though we’re just regurgitating the worst of Kiwiana, but it really is. The places and experiences themselves are  hard to describe without releasing a volley of superlatives and meaningless descriptions about ‘majestic / towering / forbidding / enormous mountains’ and ‘sparkling / golden / pure / soft sands’ (delete adjective where appropriate). And as you all know, happiness reads white.

Hence, we’ve said nothing.

Take a peek at the photos on our facebook page, which collectively should give you many thousand words and, in order to make some sense of them, here is a brief whirlwind tour of the past few weeks…

We started off here…

 

The Abel Tasman National Park

This was a four-day freedom kayak trip around the renowned Abel Tasman coastal National Park. Contrary to popular belief, freedom kayaking is NOT the same as a Newport ‘freedom taxi ride’ (where no cash is followed by a quick dash). It just means that you start at point A and arrange to meet back there however many days you want later. In the interim, you choose a couple of campsites up and down the coastline and as long as you make it to the correct campsite on the correct night with the correct number of people / kayaks / other necessary and unnecessary equipment, then all is well. The park itself deserves its pristine reputation and despite the floods of trampers, campers and kayakers in the area, it was one of the most unspoilt areas that we have seen thus far. If you want paradise, you’ve got it here…

Note for your bucket lists: if you can, stay at Mosquito Bay. Access by water only, dramatic tidal variation, and one of the best early morning views that you can ever ask for. There’s a reason why we found a picture of this on page 4 of the LP (fame).

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The eagle… (as she is known)

 

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Morning view (Incubus?)

Mosquito Bay

Mosquito Bay

Beamers

Beamers

We saw Tom Hanks...

Pretty sure that was Tom Hanks…

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Siggy and Marina training for the next Olympics

From there, we somehow got stuck here…

Motueka and the Nelson Lakes

By stuck we mean we just couldn’t leave. Perhaps it was the hippy vibe (ex-Luminators, dontcha know) in the area; perhaps it was the free campsites that we stumbled across; perhaps it was that we wanted to spend a few more days with our soon-to-depart Norwegian and Argentinian travel buddies. Whatever it was, the whole of the Golden Bay area was without a doubt one of our favourites, and our reluctance to leave is testament to that.

Dragging ourselves kicking and screaming (note: WRITER’S HYPERBOLE) from Golden Bay, we took the Wild West route down the coast, straight into Glacial Valley. Which is as exciting as it sounds. Home to the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, as well as a ton (not literally) of other, smaller glaciers, this is the Southern Alps at its finest.

View of the Southern Alps (plus cloud) from the Tasman

View of the Southern Alps (plus cloud) from the Tasman

Same again but at dawn (YES WE GOT UP FOR THIS SHIZ)

Same again but at dawn (YES WE GOT UP FOR THIS SHIZ)

Does anyone else distinctly remember studying glaciers at GCSE / Standard Grade / O-Level (we’re not judging here) and learning a whole load of concepts and formations yet never EVER seeing one? We certainly do. Everyone always seems to be able to explain the formation of an arret or a hanging valley or an ox-bow lake but, let’s be honest, how many times have you actually seen one? Do they even exist?

Well, here’s the thing…

THEY DEFINITELY DO! We’ve SEEN them and we can CONFIRM their existence. Panic over. And to put another dusting of snow on an already very cold, couple of kilometre long tongue of ice, these glaciers are one of a kind due to their position close to the sea; during the ice age (around 15,000 to 20,000 years ago) the glaciers actually reached the sea… probably the greatest slide ever.

The Franz Josef is the bigger of the two, but is so over-hyped and over-stated that you’re practically vomiting information on the glacier before you’ve even seen it.

FJ Glacier.. from the pauper's viewpoint

FJ Glacier.. from the pauper’s viewpoint

A few ks down the road you come across the miniscule town of Fox which starts at a solid good and only gets better. Over the (many) years, the glacier has retreated and left a Lord of the Rings type valley; sheer rock faces on each side and an ice-grey flat bottom. Tourists can walk for around 20-minutes to reach the glacier tip, which is both hugely impressive and quite terrifying at the same time. The great tongue of ice, light blue in the centre and dirty grey on the top, is enormous. You can see the guided tour groups walking on the ice looking like miniature action men, with a guide in front hacking out a path for them to follow. At random, chunks of the ice fall off and rock debris and shards of ice tumble into the slate grey river rushing out from underneath the glacier. Funny as it sounds, it was all pretty humbling. Partly because of the size, partly because of the insane raw beauty, but mostly because of the actual danger of it all – only a couple of months ago some snap happy tourists crossed DOC barriers and ended up under the ice. Rescuers couldn’t even retrieve the bodies because it was too dangerous for them.

Fox Glacier valley walls

Fox Glacier valley walls

Valley view from the glacier end

Valley view from the glacier end

The ACTUAL glacier (Fox. Naturally)

The ACTUAL glacier (Fox. Naturally)

Fancy a swim under there anyone?

Fancy a swim under there anyone?

Outdoorsy gimps (matching trousers?)

Outdoorsy gimps / geography teacher wannabes (matching trousers?)

One thing to rival seeing the glaciers? Seeing them reflected in a lake. Formed when the glacier retreated and left an ice block in its wake, neighbouring Lake Matheson should without a doubt be in the list of ‘Top Ten Photo Ops’. Have a look for yourself…

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The view of Mounts Cook and Tasman from Lake Matheson

Reflection?

Reflection?

All glaciered out, we got back on the road and drove inland through the Haast Pass to Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenorchy*; New Zealand’s very own Jane Bennett, Lizzie Bennett and Mary Bennett, respectively. Wanaka is another place that we found near impossible to leave; a small town hemmed in by a vast lake on one side and impassable mountains on the other three. It has something of an alpine village feel to it – probably because that is what it is in winter. Tourism is big there, but it hasn’t completely taken over and there is a real familial and cutesy without being kitch atmosphere. Perhaps the highlight was watching the Super 15 rugby match in a local pub – Otago Highlanders (the home-ish team) vs. Waikato Chiefs. The rugby set Celyn into raptures; the happy hour prices and free hotdog with every drink (we need that more in the UK) worked for Imogen.

Wanaka is often compared to its neighbour, Queenstown. Both famous for their second to none scenery, busy ski season, and ‘adrenaline junkie’ appeal, Queenstown is supposed to be the lashy crazy older brother while Wanaka lingers a bit behind in a sort of almost-but-not-quite second position. To be honest, I can’t stand the way that guidebooks compare the two towns. Yes, Queenstown can be lashtastic and you can down ten shots of Bacardi whilst doing a 1,0000 m bungee jump and then frogging (it’s not as dirty as it sounds) down a river. But, that’s not all, and it means that visitors nearly always arrive with preconceptions neatly etched on their minds. We felt as though we arrived with an idea of what we were in for and I think our opinions on the place were formed before we’d even crossed the Crown Range. Which isn’t fair for any town, no matter how good or bad it might be. Cursing guidebooks aside (our Lonely Planet is now lounging in a charity shop somewhere in Christchurch… but that’s another story), Queenstown is a great place to quietly fritter away a few days (if you’re poor) or alternatively, spend a fair bit of cash and knock a couple of years off your life (if you’re rich). Either way, it has a huge range of bucket list activities (although they come at a price), a café culture that rivals gay Pareee, a lot of Brits, and some really really good drinks deals.

 

Actually, who are we kidding? We know that one massive draw in QT was our happy camping in the backyard of Miss Natalie Farmer’s former house. And Ferg Burger.

 

We’re going to have to stop here, it’s getting late and the only other person left in McDonald’s appears to have died over one of the tables.

 

Hold that thought – we’ll be back for the second instalment shortly…

 

 

 

 

 

 

*For some reason we hardly took any photos there. Weird.

Mutton or Lamb

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Contrary to popular belief, we are still alive. Reluctantly dragging ourselves away from the sparkling shores and sunny climes of Golden Bay, we’ve moved southward, following the wild west coast.

By the by the by, wild west is not just gimmicky alliteration. It seriously is WILD. Quick bit of trivia, 1% of New Zealand’s population live the West Coast of the South Island – although it makes up 9% of the total landmass.  As we said, it gets pretty rural out here.

Movements so far: Golden Bay – Hokitika – Lake Kaniere – Lake Mahinapua – Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers – Gillespie’s Beach – Wanaka.. we know this means ABSOLUTELY nothing. Well, not yet anyway. Have a look at our marvellous map to follow the path and we promise that there will be  more than a three-liner (and perhaps some photys if you’re lucky) coming very soon.

 

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Peace, peanuts, mutton pie and enormous chairs.

Twenty-Twelve: Have We Learnt Anything?

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So we’ve seen the definitive end to twenty-twelve (minus one apocalypse). And to be honest, it was pretty peachy to say the least.

Although Celyn and Imogen haven’t learnt much in the past 12 months, we’ve learnt a little. And we thought we’d share wot wot we learnt with you.

Christmas and New Yeaa and aw that

Yes, yes, the ‘German’ entry is bull.

Disclaimer: Do not be offended if you already know all these things. Many (read: all) of them are very straight-forward (a la ‘Twenty Questions’). Feel free to add some of your own if you fancy.

1. Make a checklist of things to ask when buying something big.

Like a car. Merely commenting on the colour does NOT count as a thorough check AND WILL RESULT IN MUCH CAR-RELATED WOE.

2. Choose wisely when getting something to eat.

Food envy when on a budget is low on the low point spectrum. Don’t mess it up. Choose with care. If necessary (and if your eating partner has enough patience) make a longlist, then a shortlist, then eeeny-meeny-miny-mo the final two.

3. Use sun cream.

They aren’t joking when they say there is a hole in the ozone layer and it is right above New Zealand. Sunburn is not big or clever. Neither is dead skin in the bed.

4. Play Scrabble tactically

It’s all very well and good getting a monster word on the board (yes, XYLOCARP), but that means nothing when someone whips your derriere points-wise with some dullard 3-letter word. It’s not worth it. PLAY TO WIN.

5. Keep a diary to write down names and places.

You will forget. Even if you think you wont, you will. Write them down.

(Thanks for the advice, Uncle Philip)

6. Stop stressing.

This may be a tad more pertinent to Imogen than Celyn, but still. It’s relevant. Don’t stress. It amounts to nothing except a sore stomach and wrinkles. DON’T DO IT.

7. Keep in touch with those at home.

Home peeps, you are amazing. We can safely say that the past week or so wouldn’t have been the same without you all. Worth every minute of a 2am Skype. Love.

8. Always say thank you.

No matter how small the favour, make a  point of saying thank you. Showing gratitude is underrated. (This comes from the top bloke who helped us when our car broke down – which has also helped Cel learn that people in Range Rovers aren’t all that bad).

9. Work hard.

This is also underrated. Do it.

10. Say yes to everything (within reason). 

Saying yes is GOOD. Even if you end up miles out of your comfort zone, at least you are now aware of where your comfort zone actually is. More often than not, you end up having the time of your life.

11. Find out things for yourself.

Cheers, guidebook, you’ve been great but now I think it’s time we parted ways. Much as we love you, this has become a hate-hate relationship and in fact, the exhilaration of stumbling across something fantastic, or finding out for yourself why somewhere should be avoided is a lot more exciting. Also, taking advice from people who have recently been somewhere, or have local knowledge, is much more beneficial than advice from a travel writer you’ve never met who went there a couple of years ago.

12. Embrace a different way of life.

Don’t moan. There may not be chocolate-covered hob-nobs, chip-shop sauce, or the tube here, but New Zealand life is definitely one to be lauded. It is the norm to be practical, logical, honest and forthcoming. Enjoy the differences. Go to the supermarket with no shoes on, wear an anorak when out clubbing, eat a 1kg block of ‘tasty’ cheese, and say ‘chur bru’ whenever you can. It is most definitely worth it.

Any more to add? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime, all the best for twenty-thirteen…

How Not To Drive

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The Highway Code for use in New Zealand – Revised and abridged version.

 

 

This Highway Code is used and adhered to by all North Island road users. Please take all points into serious consideration. The writer does not assume any responsibility for actions or indeed non-actions taken by people who have read this version of the NZHC ™ and claims will be refuted for detrimental reliance on any information provided or expressed and so on and so on and so forth.

[If in doubt, see Miss N. Farmer. ]

 

 


1. Spatial awareness is not required when driving.

 
This relates to urban, suburban and miles-away-from-any-sort-of-urban driving area. Bumping, scraping, and full on crashing is perfectly acceptable when parking or indeed just driving. Likewise, overtaking on cliff edges with a slice of plastic cheese worth of space between you and the overtakee is also absolutely fine. Think of it as gaining ‘lad’ points. The more dangerous the terrain, the better.

 
2. When in doubt, pull out.

 
If you are waiting at a left- or right-hand turn for more than 5 seconds (that’s ‘one-elephant-two-elephant…’) just go. Traffic or no traffic. Don’t worry about the other cars on the road, they are there to work around you.

 

 
3. Highway can mean anything.

 
The Kiwi Highway is a self-confessed misnomer. Or, as it is known bureaucratically, an umbrella term. It is known to include: motorways, dual carriageways, single carriageways, 0.5 carriageways, passing lanes, gravel tracks, dirt tracks, mountain tracks, single-lane bridges, rickety Monty Python bridges, hobbit passing lanes, vomit-inducing bends and the Bridge of Death.

 
4. Do not give way on bridges.

 

 

When approaching a one lane bridge i.e. 94.6% of all road bridges, give way signs are purely decorative. Giving way is neither expected nor carried out, so don’t even bother. If crossing a one-lane bridge is akin to playing a Spartan game of chicken blindfolded on the M25, you’re doing well.

 
5.1 Lines on the side of the road are redundant.

 
If there is a hard shoulder, or indeed any sort of tarmac-ed surface on the roadside, use it. And by use it, we mean drive on it. The white lines are only there to help possums in the dark.

 
5.2 Lines in the middle of the road are redundant.

 
Driving on the correct side of the road is only for pansies, learners and German camper-vans.  Use up as much road space as you possibly can. This rule must be adhered to when negotiating the 179 degree turns and hairpin corners of the mountain roads.

 
6.1 Cars must conform to make and model regulations.

 

Cars must be at least 10 years old. The more battered the better.

 
6.2 Cars must conform to colour regulations

 
The following colours are acceptable: black, white, browny black, browny white, brown, blacky white, whitey brown, whitey black, any combination of the above.

 
7. Manners are not to be used on roads.

 
They only confuse. Which could lead to road accidents. So manners are a no-no. Don’t let anyone out, or say thank you, or even acknowledge other road users, and there is a compulsory minimum middle finger use of 3 times per journey.

 
8. Speed limit signs on corners are for guideline purposes only.

 

 
When you see a sign telling you to take a corner at 25 kph rather than your current speed of 100 kph, don’t feel that it is necessary to adhere to it. Think of it like a game of Mario Kart – the faster you go, the more likely you are to get one of those multi-coloured floating prize box things. Go on, you know you want to.

 

9. Indicating a sign of weakness.

 

It’s far more interesting trying to guess which way a car is going. Especially on double roundabouts. For true man points, smash all indicators.

 

10. Expect the unexpected.. of the bovine variety.

 

 

This is far more entertaining than the odd suicidal squirrel. Just make sure you brake in time.

 

 

 

Copyright 2012. From a sofa and some very cold feet in Whitianga.

Auckland – The Windy City?

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In the words of the  Love Actually nativity child-octopus, ‘we’re here’.

We’ve made it. All in one piece. No missing luggage; no missing body parts; and no errant prohibited biodegradable items in our bags (although going through customs was one of the more ridiculous experiences I’ve ever had). Despite some severe lapses in communication, we managed to find Scott and Carl’s house in Mount Eden, hidden in the depths of leafy suburbia, pretty unscathed.

First impressions?

1. It’s cold. Like serious cold. It’s the tail end of winter, which means we frequently flip from Narnia to the Saraha in a matter of minutes. When we arrived to grey skies and a spattering of rain, we did have a mild panic attack as we thought that perhaps we had flown to Kuala Lumpur and then mistakenly flown right back to Heathrow.

Dear God.

No, it’s not that bad. According to the New Zealanders, this week has been particularly blustery, and it’s colder than it usually is for October. Funny. Is this faintly reminiscent of the great British epithet ‘No, I promise you. It’s NEVER normally as cold / wet / unpleasant as this!’?

Whatever.

We are, however, thanking our lucky stars (YES, James Taylor) that we are wholly familiar with the concept, ‘changeable’.  Auckland may be on a slightly different equivalent latitude, but the weather is JUST AS ANNOYING. 20-minute torrential showers, freak gusts of wind, and bursts of sunlight hot enough to make a dermatologist hyperventilate.

Och well, nae boths. It’s layering and anoraks all round. Besides, word on the street is that you can still ski in the south. Worth a shot.

2. The culture, demographic and general facon de vie is… peculiar?

I know we are but 2 days into our ‘extravaganza’, and furthermore we have been told that Auckland is not a representation of ‘the real New Zealand’, but having caught possibly the least direct airport bus to the city centre, I can’t hep but notice how much the this country seems like a fully-functioning yet unfamiliar amalgamation of British, American and Pan-Asian culture.

They drive on the left. British. They have pictures of the queen on their coins (yet, for some reason, they don’t accept pounds. We tried). British. The nicest and most reasonably priced food is either sushi or Subway. Asian? American? You are just as likely to hear Malaysian or Cantonese in the city centre as you are English.

It’s quite fun actually. The infrastructure is most definitely influenced by the US. Not only are the roads wide and well-signposted, Auckland is also made up of mile after mile of suburban bliss – detached, coloured bungalow homes with steps up to the porch, letter boxes on the road and numbers going up to the zillions. Mix this with a whirlwind taste of Europe in the French souvenir shops and ‘Father Ted’ and ‘Danny Dolan’ pubs that are on every street corner. In fact, it is probably easier to find a European pint here than any sort of native fare. For example, ironically, our first NZ pint was in a Belgian bar, complete with Leffe on tap, pictures of Brigitte Bardot (pretty sure she’s French), and Hommes / Femmes on the toilet doors. Food wise, the best munch is most definitely Asian. Well, I guess we are in spitting distance (.. OK, things are a bit more ‘spread out’ in the southern hemisphere). Regardless, we have thoroughly thrown ourselves into the sushi market. (You can even get proper sushi packed lunches!) Nyom.

So how do we describe Auckland in a nutshell? With McDonalds, KFC and Subway restaurants, an enormous Deloitte building, and The National Bank with a rearing stallion as a logo (remind you of anything…?) it seems as though New Zealand (gross generalisation, what I mean is Auckland), rather than being merely tickled with the fingers of globalisation, it seems to be thoroughly characterised by it. This almost sedimentary identity has created something familiar yet exotic, a kind of welcoming mix that the New Zealanders have well and truly made their own.

3. Everyone here is so damn nice.

From the woman in the bar who looked after our bags and gave us our first pint to the boy on the street who saw me gawking at a sweet-dispensing-bus-stop-sign (I know, WTF??!) and gave me his card so that I could see it in action, we have yet to meet a bad tempered New Zealander. Long may it continue (although I don’t think we’ll have much of a problem!)

4. There are loads of volcanoes.

Two volcanoes in 2 days; Mount Eden and Mount Victoria. Good for the thighs. Pretty worried about imminent death by lava. Nuff said.

5. Jet-lag does exist.

We reckon we’re immune to it. However, we are finding it hard to explain why Celyn-who-never-goes-to-bed-earlier-than-1am fell asleep again at 9pm, and I’ve got up at 6am for the past 2 days. Must be something in the water.

Great times. So these are our impressions (probably misguided) so far. They may change, for better or for worse. We’ll let you know. Also, one last thing. Very exciting indeed…we did our first grown-up activity this morning.

NO. It’s NOT rude.

WE BOUGHT A CAR!

Possibly one of the most nerve-wracking experiences we’ve ever had, but the main thing is, it’s red and called Rosie.

Mazin’.