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Ride to Taupo, Card Games with Friends, Got Second at the Poker Tourney, Another Pretty Chill Night – Taupo, New Zealand (Day 35) (September 20, 2009)

Got up early and got my stuff together. The bus leaves Wellington at 8 AM from YHA which is a short walk from Base. The ride to Taupo is a long one. I think I spent most of the time resting and browsing the web on the smartphone. Eventually we got to Taupo and got checked in. I took a short walk around Taupo and made it back to the hostel in time for a dinner that was sponsored by the hostel. Later on we went to the Base bar, The Element, and had a few drinks while playing cards. Most of us were looking to have an easy night and it was a quiet night at the bar so we took it easy. The bar ended up hosting a poker tourney and I ended up getting second after hour or two head to head battle of attrition. After that we headed back to the hostel and got some rest.

Some pics from the ride:

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Long Day on the Road, All Blacks Game Day in Wellington, Grocery Shopping, Calm Night, Rest – Wellington, New Zealand (Day 34) (September 19, 2009)

Today was pretty laid back. I got up early, ate some breakfast, took a shower, and packed my gear. Eventually the bus came and we all piled on. Our destination was Wellington which is around a 250 km ride according to Google Maps. The journey takes some time though because you have to get a ferry to cross the Cook Strait.

Below are some pics of crossing the Cook Strait

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Even the sheep have to take a ferry in between islands

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I was sort of fretting the entire day because one of the Tri-Nations games was in Wellington that night (All Blacks vs. Australia) and I hadn’t booked accommodation. Luckily, my bus driver was able to find me a bed at Base Wellington. When we got in the city you could tell it was game day. The city was packed and everyone was out drinking and partaking in other pre-game activities. I took it easy, checked in, unpacked some gear, and made a trip to the grocery store to get some food for the evening.

At this point in the trip I was looking forward to Auckland and contemplating how to get some long-term accommodation arranged and find a job. All of my friends were now gone or in different parts of the country and the buses heading north only have a handful of people on them making it hard to find and assemble a crew.  Had a great nights sleep.

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Breakfast, Pack up, Internet time, Took Some Pictures of The Jailhouse, Booked a Ride to Kaikoura, Bummed a Ride to the Bus stop, Japanese Lunch, Library, Internet Cafe, Late Arrival, Super Quiet Night – Kaikoura, New Zealand (Day 33) (September 18, 2009)

Today Mikey and I split up in different directions. Mikey was keen on exploring Christchurch and heading south and I was keen on heading north. Think I had a standard breakfast of a banana, an orange, and some instant coffee. Afterwards, I found a bus ticket headed north to Kaikoura. Could have taken the Kiwi bus, but it was headed out the next day and I didn’t feel like burning another day in Christchurch. It’s a great city, but the road was starting to get to me. Mikey gave me a ride to the bus stop and I dropped my bags off and then headed to the library for some free internet. The library ended up closing, so I grabbed some food at a restaurant next to Base Hostel and then headed to the internet cafe next door to upload some pics to Facebook. Eventually, it was time to take the bus to Kaikoura. I was on my own again and feeling a little roughed up for some reason. We got in late and the bus driver dropped me off on the corner. I walked the rest of the way to the YHA in Kaikoura. It was late and the kitchen was closed so I think I had some bread with peanut butter and some other snacks and then hit the sack. Tomorrow I would catch another bus headed even farther north.

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Breakfast, Pack up, 3 Hour Session at Hanmer Springs, Groceries, Lunch, Drive to Christchurch, Check-in to Jailhouse Accommodation, Laundry, Chinese Takeaway, Internet Time, Relaxed Night – Christchurch, New Zealand (Day 32) (September 17, 2009)

It was a cold night, but we stayed warm inside the minivan. Mikey had a series of blankets and I had a sleeping bag. I reckon it was pretty foul, but you can’t tell after you’ve been in it so long. We got a breakfast in and packed the van. The Top 10 Holiday Park in Hanmer Springs is pretty nice. It has everything you need. After packing up we made our way to Hanmer Springs. Unfortunately, there is no alcohol allowed. Regardless, I poured a few brews into a large water bottle and we made our way inside. Hanmer Springs is pretty much a water park made out of hot tubs. There are pools of all different temperatures and sizes and people are just chilling out.

mikey getting some r&r after summiting Mt. Fyffe

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yours truly enjoying one of the hottest tubs

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There’s only so much time you can spend chilling in a hot tub. It was low season and there wasn’t really anyone to chat up. Mikey and I left after having thoroughly enjoyed the springs. Next, we hit up a small grocery store and picked up some sandwich items and snacks for the road. We got into Christchurch in the evening. We took the long way in and had a little tour of Christchurch while trying to find the hostel. Christchurch is one of my most favorite places. It is absolutely brilliant. In hindsight I probably should have tried to find work there instead of making my way back up to Auckland. The first time I was in Christchurch I stayed at Base. This time we stayed at Jailhouse Accodomodation. The hostel is a renovated prison and is one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed. Mikey and I had a quiet night catching up on laundry, internet, and having take out Chinese food for dinner. Check out some pics of the hostel below.

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Breakfast, Summit Mt. Fyffe, Descent, Groceries, Drive to Hanmer Springs, Chicken Tiki Masala Dinner, Shower, Rest – Hanmer Springs, New Zealand (Day 31) (September 16, 2009)

Today was a good day. Having had an a night of great food, drink, and festivities, we were ready to summit Mt. Fyffe and then move on with life. We woke up, had a hearty breakfast, packed our bags, and then made the last charge to summit Mt. Fyffe.

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We encountered some snow on the trail, but most of it was easy going. The winds were pretty high, but we were in good spirits. Eventually, we made it to the peak. The view is spectacular and I carried a few cups and the rest of the bottle of Johnny Walker to the top. Mikey and I finished it off while reveling in our own glory.

on top

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Kaikoura from Mt. Fyffe

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Now it was time to head back to base camp, pick up our packs, and return to our starting point. From there we would grab some groceries and then make our way to Hanmer Springs.

base camp

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The drive to Hanmer Springs took a while. We ate sandwiches at a highway rest stop and arrived at Hanmer Springs in the night. By the time we got to camp we were knackered, but still needed to eat dinner and clean up. Mikey and I made Chicken Tiki Masala. This was my first time to be introduced to the dish and since then I have made an effort to keep it in my normal routine of dishes I make at the house. Thanks Mikey! I think Mikey and I browsed the internet and watched TV in the community room and then went to bed. Our bed just happened to be in the back of a minivan from Spaceship Campers. It’s good to have a bed while on the road. Tomorrow we would check out Hanmer Springs and then head to Christchurch.

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Check into i-SITE and get Passes for Mt. Fyffe Hut, Seal Colony, Cray Fritter Lunch, Groceries, Drive to Mt Fyffe, Hike up to Mt Fyffe Hut, Make Attempt to Summit Mt. Fyffe, Steak, Mash Potato, and Vegetable dinner, Johnny Walker, Backgammon, Checking out Stars – Mt. Fyffe Hut, New Zealand (Day 30) (September 15, 2009)

This was one of my favorite and most memorable days of New Zealand.

It started off by picking up some passes for the Mt. Fyffe Hut. The hut is maintained  by the New Zealand Department of Conservation and a pass is required to spend a night in the hut. The pass is a steal at 5 NZD a night for an adult. This hut is well maintained, has 8 bunks with mattresses, back-country bathroom facilities, and a wood fired stove for cooking and heating. There is also a rainwater collection system for drinking water and washing dishes.

Next, we went to check out the Kaikoura seal colony. Mikey had already been there, but was nice enough to go back so that I could see it too. Seals are very good at blending in with their surroundings. Unless you get a close up picture of a seal, your seal pictures are most likely going to look like rock pictures.

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On the way to the seal colony we noticed a Cray stand. Cray is crawfish in Kiwi. They were cooking up a few different things and we settled on Cray fritters. It was a good choice.

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We were going to spend a night on the mountain which meant that we were going to need some food. The grocery store was next on the list. We decided to eat right on the mountain and settled on some steaks, potatoes,  and vegetables for the evening meal. For breakfast we got some eggs and other tasty items not normally found on the trail. From the store, we headed off to the trailhead. Once there, we packed our bags and started our way up the mountain.

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The trail is an access road making it not too hard to hike, but there is a good deal of elevation change. The hut is at 3600 feet in elevation. Below is a picture of Kaikoura from somewhere along the trail.

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With some good conversation and Mikey’s good singing we made it up to the hut, dropped our bags, and attempted to summit Mt. Fyffe. After analyzing the pace Mikey and I were holding, we decided to head back to the hut and summit the peak the next day.

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If you do make it up here, make sure to bring a cook kit and some cooking utensils. Mikey saved the day by bringing a cook kit. Without that, we would have had to get very creative preparing and eating our meal.

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After doing some dishes Mikey and I got into the bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label he had purchased the night before. We also got some good games of Backgammon going before going to bed. Below is a picture of Kaikoura at night from the hut.

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Drive to Kaikoura, Hike to Top of Mt. Fyffe with Kiwi Driver(Cam), Meet up with Mikey, Sausage Dinner and Late Night Drinking Session – Kaikoura, New Zealand (Day 29) (September 14, 2009)

Today I started off on my own again. This time headed north to Kaikoura. The bus up to Kaikoura was smaller and only had a handful of people. This allowed the driver and I to take an excursion to Mt. Fyffe after dropping off the rest of the backpackers at the hostel. The driver and I summited Mt. Fyffe, hung around for a bit at the top, and then headed back down. The track is easily doable, but be sure to bring plenty of water. Bring some good hiking footwear because even during September part of the track is covered in snow.

The Summit looking towards another range

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Summit marker with driver, Cam, getting into a snack

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Some pictures of Mt. Fyffe from a distance

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On the way back to the hostel, the driver and I stopped at the grocery store and picked up some sausage, bread, barbecue sauce, and beer. When we got back to the hostel, I cooked up some grub and eventually met up with an old friend I had traveled part of the North Island with, Mikey. Mikey had hired a minivan that had been converted to a camper from spaceships.

After getting some grub and killing a few beers we walked around Kaikoura scouting for night life. Kaikoura is pretty quiet at night but there are a few bars that can be found. There is a long walkway beside the beach that stretches the length of town. We walked almost the entire distance and then returned back into town and entered an Irish pub just as it was closing. Luckily, across the street was a bottle shop. I think we picked up some beer (I know I couldn’t decide if I wanted more or not) and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. We returned to the hostel and had a drinking session.

I don’t remember what we discussed or how it ended, but I felt alright in the morning. I do remember the hostel, The Lazy Shag Backpackers, had a nice fireplace in the kitchen/lounge area, a nice kitchen, and dorms with their own bathroom.

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Recovery, Lunch with Vincent and Danny, Frisbee and Rugby with Vincent and Danny, Mark, Lucy, and Jack, Japanese dinner with Danny and Vincent, Uno Tournament in Saints and Sinners, Soul Square on a Sunday, Destroyed a Hunger Buster at McDonald’s – Christchurch, New Zealand (Day 28)

After a big night out, we were slow to rise. Danny, Vincent, and I went out to have some lunch, but I can’t remember where we ate.

Cathedral Square from the side
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Afterwards, we went to the park to throw the frisbee and rugby ball around. Eventually, we were joined by Mark, Lucy, and Jack and spent around 5 hours enjoying each others company. The weather was incredible. Families, older couples, young children, and everyone else were really enjoying the park.

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We then headed back to base and got some Japanase food at an eatery that was right around the corner. I finished my meal and then I think I finished off Vincent’s. After dinner, we had a lengthy UNO tourney in the Base bar. The picture below accurately depicts a professional UNO environment.

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We eventually grew tired of UNO and decided to go out. Not much was open, but we headed to Soul Square. This is an area full of bars and restaurants. The place was dead, but we found an Irish pub with live music and a crazy dancing girl accompanied by two crazy dancing guys. I was not feeling the bottle after the night before, but the rest of the crew downed a few before we left to get some McDonalds on our way home. I tackled the Mac Attack the day before. Today I set out to tackle the Hunger Buster.

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Tomorrow, I would have to leave Mark, Vincent, Jack, and Lucy to head north to Kaikoura. After enjoying such great company through so many great days, I would be on my own again.

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Breakfast with Danny and Vincent, Walk in Botanical Gardens, Grocery Shopping, Explored Christchurch, Big Night Out – Christchurch, New Zealand (Day 27)

Today started out with Vincent, Danny, and I scouting out some food. We ended up settling on Subway for breakfast. After that we split up and I ended up  taking a stroll around Christchurch. During the journey, I visited the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. The gardens are very pleasant and have a good variety of plants to check out and are a good place to do people watching. Christchurch has a main square called Cathedral Square in the center of the city. This is a great place to chill and on the weekends street performers and food vendors can be found in the square. The most identifying feature of the square is the cathedral that sits in the corner of it.

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After visiting the gardens and walking around other parts of Christchurch, I visited a few bike shops, a computer store to buy CD’s to back up pictures, and a Pak’n Save to pick up some fruit, juice, and other items. I think I then grabbed some more food and visited an internet cafe to upload some pictures to Facebook. Eventually, we all ended up back at the hostel. I think we started out at the hostel bar playing some Uno and chatting before then going out to a bar called Shooters. The place started off dead, but was quickly filled with college kids. At Shooters the drinks are expensive, the music is decent, and the crowd is sort of rowdy, but in general this place is just whacky. The bouncers are retarded and eventually half our party got kicked out. Lucy got kicked out for falling asleep on the bar, Vincent got kicked out for supposedly dancing with a prostitute, and I got kicked out for looking too tired. I think we got bounced because we were backpackers and they didn’t want to have anything to do with us. Three out of our party of six got kicked out and soon the rest of our group would follow. We then ended up in an Irish pub with some live music which promptly shut down.

After making a disjointed journey through town we ended up McDonald’s. Here we proceeded to have a late night feed. At that time McDonald’s was running a combo called the Mac Attack. This bad boy is 2 Big Mac’s, fries, and a drink for around 10 NZD. It was exactly what I needed and I promptly destroyed it before we ended up heading back to the hostel and crashing.

Lucy enjoying a drink while a Mac Attack waits to be destroyed

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Long Day on Bus to Christchurch, Stops for Lunch and Lookouts, Indian Food with Vincent, Quiet Night at Saints and Sinners Bar – Christchurch, New Zealand (Day 26)

Even though we took it relatively easy the last night in Queenstown, the morning after still felt like we had a big night. Maybe it was because we had a big night, maybe it was because three weeks on the road was really starting to take its toll. The bus out of Queenstown had about 15 people on it. By the level of activity on the bus you would think no one was on it. Most everyone ends up destroyed mentally, physically, and financially after their adventures in that blessed place. The good news was that not long into our journey we stopped in a junction town called Cromwell. If you end up here make sure to check out the bakery. They make mean meat pies and sandwiches.

It was a long day on the bus and eventually we stopped at Lake Tekapo to eat lunch. Vincent and I spent the stop throwing the rugby ball around and enjoying the weather and the scenery. We also visited The Church of the Good Shepherd. This would be a magnificent place for an intimate wedding.

Finally, we got in to Christchurch, checked in, took a shower, and met up with our new roommates. We also caught up with Mark who had left Queenstown the day before and had already made some friends. Around dinner time Vincent and I went out exploring and settled for a mall food court. Then we headed back to the hostel bar, Saints and Sinners, and ended up having a mad session of UNO. The trip seemed to be morphing from intense madness to a more mellow vibe.

Lake Tekapo

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Church of the Good Shepherd

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