photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo

Gone traveling,
Back shortly.A Travel Journal by Scott Hargroves & Heather Noonan

The night has closed in, here in Napier. The Heavens have opened and some of the only rain we have seen this whole trip is now falling on the parched earth around Hawkes Bay.

We have just returned from a family meal at a Turkish Restaurant in Napier town where all my family had ventured to see us off. We still have two days left in New Zealand, but are leaving Napier in the morning for Auckland. The main reason for this that we have yet to go to Hobbiton in Matamata and would like to get there before leaving, which means going a day early as the drive to the airport can take a good 6 hours with a couple of stops along the way.

We haven’t done much since the last update really, other than hang out with my family and walk around the Estuary like a million times. Its really nice down there on an evening. So this is just a little update to say that we are uploading all the photos we have missed and ones from the last few days. The are uploading as we speak onto flickr and should be dragged in to the site once the are done.

Thanks for reading so far. Hopefully we will have at least one from Japan if they have the internets there these days, if not then we will see you all back in Enklant.

I will leave you with a selection of clips taken at Milford Sound. It is the epitome of New Zealand. Enjoy.

This is pretty much it from Aotearoa. See you in Tokyo.

It’s strange seeing the New Year in, hours and hours before everyone else. It’s special as well as just odd. New Year here comprised of a Huge Family BBQ before heading into Napier City for the free concert and fireworks on the beach. Most folk in Napier head here so it is more than a little bit busy. The highlight was the band playing Europe’s Final Countdown, for anyone who hasn’t seen Arrested Development this won’t mean much but for everyone who has then you know you love it (Heather: and yes, we did the Gob dance.) All in all we had a great night and the fireworks on the beach topped it off perfectly.

On New Years Day we went on holiday (While on holiday (Like Russian Stacking Dolls)) to Lake Taupo with all the Hargroves Clan. We were roughing it in a YHA (Youth Hostel) for 3 nights over the weekend and had little plans while we were actually there, but Taupo has a huge selection of things to do so you know you’re not going to be short of entertainment.

It is fairly odd share a room with your family – an experience anyway. You all should try it sometime. It will put hairs on your chest. We didn’t get much sleep at all the first night because some people thought it would be funny to have a shouting party outside the door for fun all the way through the night. Not to mention contending with the sleeping habits of 8 other people (6 of whom all snore – cotton wool in the ears works as a good deterrent, I found!)

My Aunty (who is awesome) had stayed home to look after my Mum and Dad’s Dog, and my Grandma, but had managed to slip an envelope stuffed with cash into one of our bags with a note saying we had to go on the Huka Falls Jet which is something we would have done anyway but Erica had generously paid for us on the sly. So on the first full day there we headed down to the Wiakato River and jumped on what would be totally illegal in most other countries. It seems extremely dangerous but is really really awesome. You can’t help but grin. Heather loved it so much she wanted to go on twice. Even though I have been on it before I enjoyed it more this time for some reason. It seemed to be a longer trip but was probably the same. My aged brain ain’t what it used to be. The worst bit was the spazzy face I pulled on the official photo, thinking we wouldn’t buy them. That bit me in the A-Hole when Heather laid down the smackers for them and now my stupid face is immortalized for the world to see (I did tell him beforehand, in no uncertain terms, that I’d be buying the photographs.) After the boat ride (understatement) we headed down the river to one of New Zealand’s biggest Hydroelectric dams where we watched them take an almost bone dry set of rocks, and turn them into a raging torrent of grade 6 rapids. It was impressive and really relaxing too. From there we headed back to the lake, where Thomas and Chris took a little sailing boat out whilst my Dad and Peter hired some Windsurfers. For those who may not know, my Dad used to Windsurf all the time. One of his biggest hobbies before moving to England in fact. He really hasn’t lost his touch. Once he go his balance he was away, just a little speck on the horizon. Peter was good too, it took a little bit for him to get going but soon figured it out. The rest of us just lazed at the lake side while we waited (Heather: I enjoyed a proper swim here, as it isn’t as scary as the sea!) It was super hot that day and even though we had been vigilant in the sun cream depo, me and Heather got toasted. It was the first time since being here thankfully but it really does put you out of action. The other days in Taupo where spent, either walking through forests or swimming in the lake then relaxing in the hammocks at the YHA in the evening.

We had been given the job to take Peter and Chris to the airport on the Monday because that would allow us to venture where we wanted from then on. On the way to the airport we did a miniature road trip through Rotarua and then onto Tauranga before heading north to Auckland. We had gone a day early so that would could stay over in the city centre and see a little bit of one of New Zealand’s largest cities. Auckland can be a humid sticky place at times but it does have a nice feel too it. Heather was really surprised by the city because she wasn’t expecting to like it. We intend to go back for a night before we leave for Japan because, it is really nice and my parents haven’t been since they came back here. We went for a Japanese meal while we were there to get some practice in for when we are there for real. The city has a massive amount of middle eastern residents and it shows with the amount of places you can buy sushi from. We also went to a 200 year old bar just off Queen Street. It was picturesque, but massively over priced (Heather: Nearly £4 for a shot of Jager! Thanks Peter and Chris for being gentlemanly! I owe you some cheap ones in England haha.)

After we had dropped the boys off and said our farewells me and Heather decided to head up the Coromandel Peninsula and spend a couple of days there visiting Cathedral Cove and other various white sand beaches. The drive didn’t look too far and in actual Miles it isn’t, but the roads are so winding and small it can take hours to just get anywhere. The plan was to make it all the way around the coast to the north east side of the Peninsula, to Whitianga, where we would stay the night and visit Cathedral Cove the following day.

We did make it to Whitianga, but it took hours and hours, and I tried really hard to appreciate the gorgeous road that was literally right beside the sea…however as we reached the summit of the peninsula I was in a right state of motion sickness and Scott had to go off by himself to capture the view up there whilst I steadied myself with a dry weetabix and some pretty gross water. We carried on to Whitianga and by the time we got there I was ready to get out of the car – and stay out for a very long time. As is always the case though, things don’t always happen as you’d like them too – and, though I was miffed at first we ended up reaping the benefits.

Whitianga was full to the max with holidaymakers. It didn’t seem too busy; it is a quiet, bayside town with calm air and a relaxed “let’s go Kayaking” sentiment, but there was obviously a lot of bustling behind closed door as all of the hostels, BnBs and motels were fully booked. Every single one! The YHA we wanted to stay at had no room….but the lady there told us she had a friend who owned a nice place not too far away from Whitianga, in a very tiny town (think one shop, League of Gentleman style “allooor Daaave”, one petrol pump, one beach… haha) called Kuaotunu. I felt so ill I really didn’t even want to do anything. Let alone get back in the car and drive to the middle of nowhere. AND I really needed a wee, which I only realised when we’d set off for Kuaotunu. Most of the time, I will put up and shut up, but as is my way, when I’m in a situation I really dislike I start to panic a bit and so was unleashed the Drama Queen from the depths of hell! Scott had a time of it I’m sure. Ok, that;s a bit of an exaggeration, but I did whinge – a lot. which is not what I like to do. It’s hard when you are desperately trying to not wee yourself AND stop yourself from puking all at the same time. It might be an ordinary occurrence for any binge drinkers out there, but I was mortified! And you’re probably all thinking, after clicking that link up there, what on earth was she moaning about, look at the place! But I didn’t know it was going to be like that…and 20 minutes drive felt like 2 hours haha!

So anyway, we finally got to Kuaotunu, and found Reefers, the name of the “backpackers” we had been directed to. Backpackers my arse….it was a Villa! We wandered into the house, that had no reception, or any sign of life. We crept upstairs, feeling a little anxious that we might be breaking the law, and went through a door that opened up into an entire house – that DIDN’T look like somewhere strangers would be allowed to sleep. We ran back downstairs and out of there…I fretted on a bench as to our next move, and possibly going for a wee behind a palm tree, but before I could commit such an atrocious act a lady walked up with a broad grin “awww haaaay guys, are yuooh tuooh frum tha Y-AITCH-A?”

She was the owner of reefers, and it turned out the bit we had walked into WAS her house, and the bit we were staying in was in through a door next to hers. The place had been build as to self contained areas, she kept one, and rented the other out. She led us to our bedroom – a Mezzanine above a room of timber, shells and beautiful furniture. Our bedroom had a low ceiling, and the window revealed this gorgeous view of Kuaotunu’s beach, literally a minutes walk away. You’ll see the pictures on flickr when we get them up. There was also a ceiling window right above our heads which meant we could see the stars when we were falling asleep. Paradise! It is the kind of place you’d pay hundreds of pounds a night for – not $66! Jackpot. It was amazing. So amazing we stayed for 2 nights. And SO amazing that we INSIST you stay there, if you ever decide to visit New Zealand.

Some guy had set up a little shack in his back garden, called Luke’s Kitchen, and he cooked us up two mean, lean pizzas from scratch (and made Scott actually enjoy avocado for once) then we walked the little way to the beach (but not before stopping to play on a gorgeous little tree swing) to watch the start of the sunset. We watched the last of the sunset from the comfort of our bed in the mezzanine and made plans for the next day where we would visit Hot water Beach and Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove is probably one of the most coveted sights in New Zealand, and is also probably one of the images that will crop up time and time again when New Zealand is discussed. Ok, so it only comes up on page 3 of google when you type in New Zealand, but I know what I mean. It’s special. And everybody knows it. It takes about 40 minutes to walk to it from the car park…up and down some steep hills, and over pastures and through forestry….all this in steaming heat (no wonder Reefers lady warned Scott to take lots of water)….but it’s definitely worth it. Though it was very busy (the cove is quite small, but grand) I still couldn’t help but be mesmerised by it – which is exactly what Scott said would happen. And here, I swam in the crystal blue sea easily, as the waves didn’t break, just bobbed. I was in up to my neck! We stayed there pretty much all day before we went back to Kuaotunu for a BBQ on the balcony. There was also a nice Dutch couple staying at reefers, who said that they’re having a similar cold snap in Holland like you guys in England. It was strange for us all being in such glorious sunshine when we knew everybody back home was layered up to the eyeballs and inhaling soup to stay warm. I still want there to be snow when I get back though. Sorry people!

We don’t have much time left in new Zealand at all, so our North Island holiday in a holiday came to an end the next day. Scott drove us back down to Napier – which took up the entire day nearly. That was three days ago now…we haven’t done much except relax, take walks around the estuary, the Hargroves’ got a new puppy called Benji, who we helped pick (a bundle of fluff!) and today we went fishing on the Mohaka. Scott caught a trout but it was only small so we gave it back to nature. Yvonnes is just putting the trout that Peter caught in the oven now. We’ll undoubtedly do an update before we leave for Japan, and our time in Tokyo is so limited that we might not be able to post about that until we’re back on English soil.

Until then,

cayonara guys!

An Illusion Caused By The World Spinning Round

Well it is the penultimate evening of the last decade. We haven’t done any updates in the written form for a while, mainly because we haven’t done massive amounts of exciting things to write about. Mainly spending time with my family. However we have been busy. Very much so. Everyday has had some form of adventure. Most days have involved some form of water activity, mainly swimming in the sea, at an array of different beaches. In fact on Boxing day we went to an amazing beach about 30 minutes away in a place called Waipatiki, and Heather came right into the sea, for the first time. She was really brave for someone who is very scared as the was a strong rip that day. She really enjoyed it and I think that it is the start of a very nice relationship.

The other day we all drove out to shine falls. Somewhere I have never been so was to finally get to go there. It takes about an hour to get there from my Mum and Dads and it is definitely worth the drive. Once you are there you have to trek into the bush for about 40 minutes before the path abruptly ends and opens out into the massive rock face the the water comes tumbling over. Its not the most powerful of waterfalls but the way the water breaks up and cascades down the rocks gives it a serene beauty. Shine falls is appropriately named. As you walk up to the falls you cross a stream many times over different bridges, and one of my cousins had bought and old left over lamb joint with him as he knew that if you put it into the streams you could attract some very Large Eels. Sure enough as soon at the joint hit the water out slivers three, fat and slimy Eels. It was interesting to see how they would slowly approach the bone and then snap onto it and writhe in the water to make sure it wouldn’t get away. Eels are stupid. It made me realise that all my years spent playing in fresh water streams have been shared with some disgusting creature.

The other day we all drove out to a place called Maraetotara where you can jump off a massive waterfall into a deep pool below. For some reason we went on one of the cooler days we have had here and the water was really cold. We all jumped in at least once (except Heather and Chris. Heathers excuse was needing the toilet too bad to jump, Chris doesn’t have one). It is much hight than you think, as with any jump the hard part is the leap of faith, but once airborne the feeling is unbeatable. The few seconds free fall feels like a lifetime, then, the water. I hit the water in a usual pencil dive but had lost track of how deep I had travelled from the jump and soon realised I had better start to kick my way back to the surface. It is surreal that my mind was so slow and calm that I could physically hear my brain say to myself “Wow, I am pretty deep now. Better start making our way to the top” when I surface everyone said I was under for ages and were worried about me. As Tom would say though, it was “all goods”. From one awesome thing not so nice. Once out the sand flies decided today would be a good day to each the crap out of my ankles. I couldn’t kill them fast enough. It was partially my fault as I had declined Insect Repellant earlier thinking that it would just wash off after the jump. Epic fail on my own behalf. Mistake noted and will not be made again.

Yesterday we got our hair cut at my sisters house. It feels good to have short hair in the hot weather, I just wish I had it sooner so I didn’t have to carry around that mass of hair with me. Maybe we wouldn’t have spent so much on fuel on the south island if it have been chopped off earlier. After our cuts we had some lunch with my Mum then headed to the National Aquarium of New Zealand which is right here in Napier. We had been lucky enough to get some vouchers for Christmas so entry was free. I have been before a few times but it is still exciting to see Heather enjoying the visited. We saw loads of awesome things, like the huge Crocodile they have (pictures are on the way) and of course the main attraction is the Kiwis. We could only see two but I think there is maybe one more. I don’t like birds in general but the Kiwi is cute and I have to like it by default. We saw some gross sea horses and then found Nemo. They have this travelator thing that takes you through the underwater tunnels. It is a little bit disappointing when you have been to the Submarium at The Deep in Hull. When the aquarium shut we caught up with everyone who had gone Surf Cast fishing while we had our hair cut. Me and Heather had a nobel attempt but didn’t catch anything at all, they just ate the bait and left. My Uncle Lachie and Peter caught a few little fish, but nothing to write home about. They just used them as bait as they were too small to have for tea.

And finally today we drove over to Hastings, to visit Splash Planet. Me and Brad went last time we were here and had the full park too ourselves as it was super cold. However today was the opposite, super hot. The place was heaving. Most people had flocked too set up camp in the shade so space was at a premium. We spent most of the day there just going on all the water slides and other rides while trying not to fry to death from the suns pure rays. Nothing amazing happened to be honest. Not much to write when everything was good and event free.

So tomorrow is New Years eve and we are both excited too be some of the first people in the world to see in the new year. We will be having a BBQ for tea then heading into town where there is a free concert on the beach at the sound shell and fireworks to mark the new year.

See you all on there side of the Decade.

Peace.

A Thousand Itchy Bites On My Skinny Little Ankles.

Hello people =)

If you were wondering why Yesterdays blog was a little strange in the way it was written, I thought I’d explain that I’d actually written nearly all of the blog, before internet explorer decided to be weird and nearly all of it was deleted. there was no undo option either. So after a few moments of being GUTTED and realising we were going to have to spend even more in the extortionate internet cafe, I started again, salvaging what I could from the original piece but forgetting some bits and accidentally repeating myself. Sorry!

Tuesday has been a day of many activities. Well, it is Queenstown, and they do like the word ACTIVITIES. I say many, but I actually mean 2. 2 pretty awesome ones. Queenstown is a cute little town-city. I’m not sure what category it would come under but it’s surrounded 360 degrees by Mountains and is situated right alongside Lake Wakatipu. Surprisingly, I’ve only heard about 2 Kiwis whilst here. A couple of Irish, one Scottish, maybe 34 Americans and about a hundred Scousers. Strange, eh? We woke up bright and early to get ourselves on the Gondola ride (steepest in the world) up a big big hill. We’ll point out the pictures. Our aim was to get ourselves on the luge ride, in which you sit on a sheet of plastic with a bit of metal for your steering and brakes. Crazy kids. you’re supposed to try the “scenic” route first before they let you on the “advanced” fast route. To me this screamed danger, broken bones and bruises, so whilst the boys did the man thing and hundied (that’s kiwi for SUPERFASTTRACKEDIT) down the advanced route, I played the big wuss (well, I am a girl: we can not steer, or brake…) and went on the scenic route again. I did nearly crash over the edge on my first go. Scott saved me. What a hero.

After a little viewing of the landscape we headed back down in order to be on time for our pre-booked bus to Dartstables. I was pretty excited, as I’m sure the other two were, and when we were on the bus it felt very strange knowing that this was something I had planned for a long time and was actually happening right there and then. The full journey, split into two trips, took about an hour and a half. We donned wellies, a helmet and Scott and Thomas rocked it out in Ranger-gear. You’ll see the photographs. After that we were assigned our horses. There was quite a large group of us, but we were to be eventually split as some were doing the more advanced trips. The one we were doing was “The Ride of the Rings” which basically consisted of a trek around a place called “Paradise” in which Peter Jackson went to great lengths to use during the filming of The Lord Of The Rings. Sounds like the worst trek in the world to me.

Anyway, back to the Horses. Scott got a massive black Horse called Boris, who was a bit angsty and stomped a lot. He was also very afraid of getting his feet wet. Thomas had Murphy, a shorter brown one who was at the back of the pack (The Horses have their own ranking system, and all hell can break loose if one of them decides to push in, apparently.) Being at the bottom of the Horse-Aristocratic ladder, he was the one that got picked on – and it showed. The girl told me I would have Oscar, and then said that Oscar was one of their Horses used in the LOTR films. ARGH! Stroke of fate, perhaps? I’m not going to lie, I looked stupidly happy, and everybody else looked suitably miffed. Oscar was a bit of a disinterested, moody Horse, whose attitude matched his stardom, but I didn’t really care. He was a bit massive too, though not as big as Scott’s horse Boris.

It was a bit daunting climbing on him, and he refused to do what he was told at first, but once we got going he was ok. The trek was slow and wonderful. We went through part of the Forest area on Paradise Hill, where both scenes for Lothlorien, and Amon Hen were filmed. Megan, our guide told us lots about the filming, and also about other things that have been filmed in the area, like Wolverine and Prince Caspian. Apparently She took a group out once and they turned into an area where Hugh Jackman was stood, starkers except for a towel. He didn’t seem to know that they were going to be there….and took off quick sharp. Back to LOTR, we found out some odd facts: like Aragorn having a Lady Friend from the stables who was used as a male extra, so he would often be seen wandering around set hand in hand with what looked like a very short, ginger bearded Soldier – but who was in fact, his girlfriend. Also, due to Paradise’s recent history, the crew were told they could only use the hill if they left it exactly as they had found it. Peter Jackson brought in a group who thoroughly mapped out the area and took every flower, plant or foliage that might be in their way, then sent them all to a purpose-built greenhouse where they were kept in perfect condition until filming had wrapped. They were then brought back and put in exactly the same position they had come from. That’s a lot of lengths to go to, but apparently he had his heart set on the hill as a location and so was adamant they would do crazy things like plant transportation in order to shoot on it. Megan got a few facts wrong about the actual story, both in the film and the book, but I didn’t want to come across as the know-it-all annoying one (which we all know, I totally am) so I kept my mouth shut at those points. Plus it didn’t really matter – it was great hearing everything, even if I knew it already, and the views were stunning. We all said that being on the back of a living thing is very weird, and you’re taking everything in whilst at the same time understanding that you’re actually on Horseback. It was an amazing experience.

Tomorrow we’re up early once again for a massive drive down and around to Milford Sound. Expect more musings on the wonder, amazement and beauty of it all.

Missing you all, and it’s pretty weird that it’s only 10 days until Christmas. me and Tom have been rocking Santa Hats for the past two days (TOM: however scrooge isn’t a a huge fan of them) (HEATHER: I wouldn’t call him Scrooge. he’s just paid for Fush and Chups.) (TOM again, this blogging business is quite fun eh, laterz)

The photos have been taking forever to upload, as there are lots and they are all huge file sizes. Not all of them will be up yet, but be patient. Once we’re back in Napier we’ll make sure all of them get up so you can have a nosey if you wish =)

Speak soon! x

“Horse. Horse.”

Just a quick rundown of the past few days road tripping it, casually to the hundy (a bit of Kiwi Hoodlum speak for you)…Did scott tell you we saw a COLLOSSAL squid in Wellington? Well we did. It was a little bit big, that’s for sure. And the only one to have been caught in the world.

Anyway, after arriving in Picton and travelling through Nelson we stayed in Motueka, which is a cute little town on the North coast of the South Island. We were here to kayak, and we stayed in a gorgeous little backpacking place called Happy Apple, ran by a lovely Farmer. Me and Scott drove to Kaiteriteri, about twenty minutes away and we checked out the tide coming in on a little white sandy beach. I did a bit of shell and rock collecting for my Mum and dad…found my self some Paua shell! Hurrah 😀 We headed back there the next day, intended to sea kayak with Thomas…but alas the clouds were drawing in and we were told we could only kayak under supervision as the weather was about to turn nasty. So instead we hopped into the car and continued on towards Franz Josef, home of a huge Glacier. Along the way we stopped to cross a crazy swing bridge…terrifying but worth the 5 dollars…except for maybe a certain 15 year old jumping up and down and making the excessively long thing bounce around. Continuing on we had a look at pancak rocks…a strange feat of mother nature that is quite baffling….layers and layers of rock formed a zillion years ago (or something like that) by the sea….the sea crashes around it (the biggest waves I have ever seen) and the noise is deafening.

When we got to Franz Josef it was freezing, dark and we naively opted for the dorm room. There was only one man in there, but he’d blatantly been enjoying his own humid cess pit for a few days by now and it was quite gross in there. I fell asleep to the sound of Blade Runner in the background and we all got up and out early as the place was a bit rank. We ended up at Fox glacier, because we couldn’t find poor Josef’s. Well, with all of those mountains, who could blame us? Fox Glacier is incredible. And to think that at the point where we are stood for our pictures the glacier was also once stood, a little over 300 years ago. There was also evidence of ice breaking, previous melting and the river was fast flowing and also huge. This can mean only one thing. Global warming people. Turn off your bloody lights. Please.

Anyway, due to flooding and danger, we weren’t allowed right up to it (like in the olden days, see Scott’s first NZ blog, circa 2004) but it didn’t matter. It’s majesty was visible from afar.

We continued along our road trip down the infamous West Coast. According to the Lonely Planet Guide, this road is one of the 10 most amazing routes you could ever drive through – and they aren’t wrong. Not that I’ve been on the other 9 (and what ones are they anyway?) but seriously guys and girls….everything before your eyes is picture perfect. High Definition High Definition (HiDef squared as I call it)….it’s like a constant ride through a Ridge Racer track. Ever changing, we encountered lush forests, huge hills overshadowed by even more gargantuan mountains, dense, crystal blue lakes for miles and miles, each one bigger than the last, fields full of sheep (yes, sheep! would you believe it?) cows, horses, Deer (which ok, all sound fairly normal but amongst a backdrop of perfect Beauty take you back a few hundred, even thousands of years) there are also Hawks and Eagles flying above you wherever you go……. I don’t know. There’s no way of describing its perfection. It all felt like a dream. It may still be! I don’t know….and even though the first part of trip may have been done in rainfall…heavy rainfall…and we possibly missed a lot of what can be seen on a sunny day, the rain didn’t detract from the majesty of it all. If anything, the low lying clouds and never ending mist only further added to the insane, surreal like experience of it all.Plus, the second half was done in bright sunshine so we got a mixed bag of it all.

This really is a land untouched. You get this goosebump inducing feeling that this is what the world SHOULD look like. All of the time. If us Humans weren’t such dirty, grubbing leeches that is.

The ironic thing here is that both cameras ran out far earlier than they should have…and so the only pictures I have are in my memory. I’m sorry. We have some…but the last leg was done in cinematic silence. I will describe it to whoever wants me to when I get back. I’ll show you on the map and remember as best as I can. And I know all stories are exaggerated, all memories only a whisper of the real thing, but honestly, what I have seen can not be more of an absolute truth swathed in sheer disbelief. No matter what I tell you about it, you must magnify it 100fold in your mind and even then it can not touch a a 100th of the surreality to the place.

It really is a dream.

New Zealand: Land of a Thousand Creeks

Hey people of the world.

I am currently sat in a tiny little place called Motueka on the South Island of New Zealand on day 2 of a 10 day journey through unthinkably beautiful scenery. There is no WiFi out here so I am currently on a 30 minute machine were I thought I would do a little update so I don’t keep you all hanging.

Basically, the last week has been spent with my Mum and Dad and other relatives. Mainly catching up and doing the family thing. We have done a few awesome things between now and then. We visited Ocean Beach which is somewhere I have never been but am really glad that I have had the chance to go to with Heather. The beach is miles of white sand and large crashing waves. We had a little go on the boogey board then dried off in the sun. The other things that we go upto included dog walking at 6.00am over Bluff Hill, more swimming in but at the Hot Spas on Marine Parade, Eating yummy food at Wild Rose with my Mum and riding on the Bullet with my Dad (Heather didn’t, because she promised not to do anything dangerous).

Yesterday we set off on our South Island adventure so we could return before Christmas. Thomas came along with us as his Chritmas present from my Mum and Dad. So far he seems to really be enjoying it. We all are to be honest.

Last night we stayed in wellington at the YHA, which is a huge hostel. Was actually pretty decent for the cost. Was pretty noisy and Thomas seems to have sleep tourettes so that kept us all awake. After a restless night we caught the Interislander over to Picton. It takes ages and the sea was particualary rough so we all were glad once we hit the land again.

From Picton we drove to Nelson where we went to see the Jeweler who designed and made all the Lord of the Rings rings. We got to see the very first one, which isn’t for sale. Heather got her fix and we carried on to Motueka where we will be staying over tonight before we do a bit of sea kayaking. Very excited as Kiateriteri where you do it is incredibly beautiful.

Only short this time guys. Sorry. Running out of internet time.

Will update in a few days. Hopefully with pictures but maybe not until the we get back to Napier.

Love and Peace.

Gone traveling, Back shortly for real.

Treemedous

Well she might not have been miming but there were definite moments where her mouth wasn’t moving in time. Who cares though. It’s freakin’ Aretha Franklin.

Let’s rewind a little shall we. Yesterday was our last full day of our first stop here in New York. We had pretty much ticked every box we wanted to do, barring the ice skating. So we had woken up early with the plan to do this in Central Park, instead of the Rockefeller Centre, as Wednesday is the day of the Tree Light switch on and Skating was closed for that reason.

So we headed out for the day, after eating some crazy Dunkin Donut croissant that had sausage and egg inside. Surprisingly nice when you wake up starving. We decided to walk to Central Park because its much more fun doing it this way and as Heather mentioned in the last entry, we have been really enjoying it. Glastonbury has proven useful for being able to walk ridiculous distances in one day. With the motto of trying to see as much as possible we decided to walk up a few different avenues (ones we hadn’t already walked up) to get to central park. It’s about a 20 minute brisk walk from where we are staying but on the way we were side tracked by F.A.O Schwarz which is a large toy store that is famous for the Big Piano from the classic Hanks movie, yeah you guessed it, Big. Having found memories of this film we had to have a look in. As you will see in the photos, that place sold 90% teddy bears and about 10% real toys. On a whole it was a bit lifeless but the Big Piano was awesome (Heather: I disagree….I found Spot the Dog, Elmer the Elephant AND the entire range of Where The Wild Things Are wild things. It was worth it just for them…) We couldn’t take any photos of the Piano because it was overrun buy kids who couldn’t string any kind of musical sequence together. I wanted to unleash Heather on the unsuspecting crowd, so she could reenact the scene but (being overrun with REAL kids) it didn’t happen.

Some of the shops in New York seem to have the temperature cranked up to the max. It can make it unbearable in some, especially when you are quad layered already with big hats and scarves. We made our exit from F.A.O Schwarz when the heat was just too much and wandered over the road to central park, passing all the Horse and Carriage tours. Im sure it would be pretty romantic to take a ride around and through the park, but all the horses seemed to be a little over worked and worse for wear, so we gave them a miss. One funny thing about them though was the carriage that was white and red and was adorned with the Liverpool FC badge. It would seem that a theme here in New York is that they love english football. Mainly Manchester United and Liverpool.

After wandering into the park and meandering through the carved out paths we finally bumped into the ice rink. This one is much bigger than the Rockefeller one but still highly extortionate. Working out at just under $50 for the two of us. We finally got the balls to stump up the cash when they said that it was only open for another 15 minutes before the resurfacing. This helped up make up our mind and give it a miss. As magical as ice skating in New York at Christmas would be, we just couldn’t justify the extreme costs involved. So instead we climbed the biggest rock in sight and sat there while the machine resurfaced the ice. It was nice. The weather was a bit milder as well because of the overcast sky, so sitting there and soaking in the atmosphere was pleasant.

We decided to nip into the Apple store (which is on the corner of the park) to check emails, double check our flight details, see what the best transport out of the city would be and to kill a bit of time before when went to the Rockefeller for the light switch on. Just down the road from Apple Store on 5th is a huge Disney Store which Heather had eyed up earlier in the week, so we went in to kill some more time. Heather was in her element for over 3 floors of Disney magic. (I’m regretting not buying both Max, from F.A.O, and Gonzo from the Disney store =( ) When we had done too much looking, we headed out back towards Rockefeller.

I (heather) have a habit of consistently feeling the need to arrive far earlier to things than necessary. I guess I just don’t like missing out on whatever might be happening. The trouble is, is that sometimes you arrive early and the waiting around becomes a problem, because of rain, and Angry Americans. Now, the people of New York have generally been indifferent. It hasn’t bothered us. Everybody has their own life to be getting on with an a bit of indifference and impoliteness is to be expected in such a big city where everybody is going somewhere and everybody has something to be getting on with. However, what proved a bit irritating for the first time all week, was the fact that, despite having made the choice to stand with 99’999 other people in order to wait, and watch the Christmas Tree lighting, a lot of people surrounding us seemed to be come abject with anger and annoyance at the fact that there were 99’999 other people daring to have the same idea…and God Forbid, stand next to them.

Not even my loud proclamation of “where’s the christmas cheer, everybody?” drew the faintest smile. It was rather disheartening. Especially considering the “warmth, excitement and love” of the event that NBC tried so readily to emit to the millions of people watching on TV. We also discovered the harsh reality that the best things happen to the worst of people. A woman next to us, apparently visiting from Virginia, insisted on shouting at every single person in the vicinity. Making loud, obnoxious comments about standing by her, “No you CAN’T go that way” “WHAT do you think you are doing?” “MOVE back!” “What are THEY doing?” “Why are THEY there?” “I’d just like you to move your umbrella MAM,” despite the fact that my umbrella was keeping her dry…

I really wanted to tell her that “I’d just like you to stop smoking in my face, MAM, I’d just like you to chill out and have a little bit of happiness and respect, MAM, but I have the manners and understanding not to, as we are in a crowd of thousands, and these things are to be expected, MAM.”

Well, that lady, and her Husband were subsequently given two VIP tickets by a Guard, to move from where they were stood and go to the VIP area.

I don’t know how it happened, but my heart died a little inside at the injustice of it all. Torrential downpour and mean ladies aside, and though there were a few hesitating moments of “shall we leave? is it worth it?” we DID stay and we DID revel in the momentary glory of a 76ft tall, 10 tonne Christmas tree being lit up by 5 miles worth of multicoloured lights. It was brilliant. And, when else in our lifetimes would we have had that opportunity?

Ignoring the headaches and achey legs, we went home thoroughly content (though I desperately needed a wee) and our last night was complete (though not before a Chipotle Mexican Grill Burrito – the biggest you’ll have ever seen).

Well, New York has kept us well, and beckons us to come back. We’re just closing this post up as we are getting the bus in twenty minutes and soon we’ll be Dr Who-ing it across the globe. That is, time-travelling. It is Thursday afternoon, and in 20 hours we’ll be landing where it is saturday.

Crazy times.

It’s been pretty wonderful,

Thank you, New York.

Biggest Christmas Tree Ever + New York = Aretha Franklin Miming

Empire State Of Mind

We’ve split this blog into two posts… we figured that a mega long blog might bore some of you and splitting it into two would be easier on the eye.

So yesterday was interesting. We became true tourists. The day began at 6am, as it has been for our whole trip. I don’t think you get jet lag when you travel to New York (Heather: I disagree!). All that happens is you wake up at a stupid time and only last until about 8 or 9pm before having to hit the sack (that is jet lag isn’t it?). It’s okay though, because waking up so early give us the chance to write full in depth blogs and add all the pictures too. (Pictures are being uploaded now so…click on the link at the top of the page for the new ones!)

We got ready, after a very New York breakfast of Blueberry muffins, OJ and ricemilk, and headed out with the goal of visiting the Statue of Liberty. The weather was glorious, brilliant sunshine and at the same time the coldest it has been so far. We both adore days like this. As long as the sun is shining it doesn’t matter what the temperature is.
We headed to Grand central with the aim of getting the subway downtown, but realised that to get to the line we needed, we could just walk to Times Square.

It’s weird… New York is so walkable. In London, you often miss out on everything because walking leaves you lost and confused. There, you travel on the Tube, and your brain becomes accustomed to your location according to the Underground, not what’s on street level. Here, it’s easy to just walk to your destination and even if it takes you half an hour it doesn’t matter at all because you have many sights to behold, lights to admire and people to look at. So we avoided an unnecessary short trip on the underground and walked to Times Square before taking the necessary subway trip to downtown Manhattan. We emerged at Chamber’s Street station, with the intention of walking to The Statue of Liberty from there. We passed Ground Zero, another intention. There is nothing I could write about in this blog to describe it, nor do I want to. All I will say is that despite the overwhelming feeling of loss, there matched a very strong, very powerful sense of duty and perseverance from everybody in the area.

Moving on, we were getting hungry (again!) and our only cheap option in the moment appeared to be Burger King… which, at 2 Whoppers for $4 (that’s right, $2 each!), has proved to be our most tasty and financially helpful meal. We had a look around Battery Park (there was a man selling Obama condoms. Yep, you read that right. Obama Condoms. No, sorry, I didn’t buy any of you one) before walking to the dock and ferry.
For only $12 I think what you get is pretty spectacular. You board the boat and choose your seat (we went for the top: best views, best breeze, best sunshine) and off you go into the bay. It was pretty awe-inspiring watching the skyline emerge as we sped away (as you’ll see from some of my photographs) and even more magical as Lady Liberty herself emerged from the horizon. I know I keep saying it, but New York really does have a permanent film-like quality to it. Everything you see and hear could easily be transplanted to all and any of those films you have seen based here. We did a little walk around of the Statue, and though she is much smaller than you might imagine, she is still HUMONGOUS and such a feat of craftsmanship, even if she is only made out of a few sheets of coin thick copper.

We wanted to go to Ellis Island (where THIS used to happen), but the day was getting on (we’ve enjoyed so much just being able to wander around with relaxed aims, that everything takes about twice as long as I suppose it’s meant to…but…who cares?) and Scott really, really wanted me to get up the Empire State building and view the world from its very grand, very high throne. I’ll get to see Ellis Island another time. There is no way I’m not coming back to this city again.

We boarded the ferry, which stopped at Ellis first, and remained on the boat until we docked at Manhattan. From there we took our second (and last for the remainder of our trip) subway ride back uptown, emerging at Penn Station. From there we did some more wandering… Scott had a rough idea of where we should be heading so we just walked and looked, and talked, and looked some more. We found Macy’s! Which is actually just by the Empire State….we didn’t go in, that’s for later on today, but it was a good discovery all the same.

Into the Empire State building we went. I had half a mind to do a Buddy and run crazed around the revolving doors. The other half of mind said No. It is true though, the lights on the lifts really DO look like a christmas tree.

Up we went…and up, and up, and up up up….ears popped!…then up some more. They’re quite clever in there…all of the windows in the waiting areas were frosted, so you couldn’t be amazed by the sights before you we’re supposed to be. Finally, after security checks, pretty map purchases and a few queues, we were unleashed onto the 86th balconies of the Empire State Building.

WOW.

The sun was setting. For optimum photo-ops, we probably arrived about half an hour too late but it didn’t matter. There was a clear, huge Moon; the sun had left a tangerine glow low on the West side and the millions of rooms contained within all of the concrete were lighting up until, eventually and suddenly, there was an (almost) astronomical feel as far as my eyes could see. I was overwhelmed. And quiet. You can see the pictures I took. It was so silent up there, despite the crowd. Everybody appeared as in awe as I and nobody knew what to do with themselves, except to take photographs: as though capturing the sight was worth far more than the moment. But only because it was a moment that nobody wanted to forget.

Amazing.

“New York Cheesecake: It tastes like cheese.”

It Is Christmas

As Brad asked… we do have free wie-fies – that is, free wi-fi in the apartment, which means that when we blog, we can blog easily and often. Though we only posted on Monday, it was actually very early morning when we did which meant that we had a full day of adventures to get through, and then another today so this blog will be two days worth of our New York stories.

So, on Monday it rained. And rained. And rained some more. But hey, as Jodi pointed out, we’re English, and rain doesn’t bother us. Actually, that’s not quite right. I’m English… Scott’s a New Zealander so he has to try a little harder than me to like (or tolerate) endless rain. We weren’t going to let a bit of water ruin our day so we suited, booted and umbrella’d ourselves up.

We didn’t have much of a set plan except that there were a few places we wanted to check out. We headed to 5th avenue, and scouted out Rockefeller Centre. You know what this is….if you don’t…think Kevin Mcallister and the moment when his Mum finally finds her Lost Boy in Home Alone 2. The big dazzling tree was there… but it wasn’t dazzling. Being an area full of network and cable channels it wasn’t too surprising to see a crazy amount of “setting up” happening… we put 2 and 2 together and realised that they were organising the light switch on, which coincidentally is happening at 8.55pm EST this evening. The ice rink (as made famous, at least to anybody cool, in Home Alone 2) I felt was surprisingly small and less spectacular than the photographs make out. We’ve decided to root out the Central Park ice rink as that is much bigger and we figured we need more space to fall over. Gracefully, of course. The lights/tree switch on is pretty exciting… plus, Shakira is going to be there and we want to check out those “small and humbles” for real.

After our little foray in a classic Home Alone spot and a bite to eat at Pret (Yeah, we go millions of miles across the ocean, and eat in a place we have back in England, weird huh?) we ventured around the block to Nintendo world as a small business excursion in which Heather could research the cutting edge in ‘Nintendology’ – a phrase I have just coined. It’s pretty nice inside actually and we got to have a quick go on all the Wiis to burn off any excess burger juice we may or may not have consumed thus far.

Carrying on up 5th Avenue towards my own personal New York Mecca: the glass Apple Store, we happened to pass something a little odd. Two homeless people in a very heated turf war debate. The overall gist of the story is that one guy felt that the ‘new woman’ had stolen his area. The woman just resorted to name calling while the guy kept repeatedly saying “call the police”, referring to a time the woman had, in fact, called the police on the original guy. I don’t really know about Homeless Politics but I do believe that you shouldn’t just walk into someones home and steal money, so I am with the guy on this one. It is surprising what you can pick up on whilst waiting to cross the street.

5th Ave is pretty insane, it’s full of extremely expensive shops that look awesome this time of year, but also not too inviting for people who are visiting on a budget. However, what did look inviting was the sterile glass cube housing the huge glowing Apple logo. The Apple store itself is actually underground, and the glass cube is merely the entrance. As we entered, the guy at the door used a nifty little machine that bagged our wet umbrellas so we didn’t drop water everywhere. We all know that adding water to the electronics isn’t much of a good idea. The store is huge, and packed full of people. There is talk of this place being one of the most profitable shops in the world, and you can easily believe this with the amount of people in there buying.

On our way out of the store I noticed another familiar site… the hotel good old Kevin stays in during his New York trip: The Ding Dong Dang Plaza Hotel. There is no wonder that they chose this as his location. This place is insane. Huge doesn’t come close and grand can’t touch it. Basically Huge and Grand. Credit Card? Yoooou got it.

By this time we were wet and cold but still had plenty of spirit left in us. We noticed that we had stumbled into the theatre district. That’s Broadway, which is right next to Times Square. I got a little bit excited when I saw the huge sign for Wicked…so Scott agreed to check out the price. The Price! Deary me…well…we went looking at other shows, and other prices…and the prices grew exponentially…so that idea got scrapped. Plus…who wants to watch anything in New York that hasn’t got Gene or Frank as its star?

I was getting hungry…to be honest, I’m still feeling the messed up body clock so although Scott was full from lunch my body was expecting tea, and by the English clock we were about 4 hours late. I naively suggested the Hard Rock cafe, only because we’ve been to London’s, and Manchester’s and enjoyed both. Though it was supposed to be an “experience” we felt rushed, and Scott’s burger….well, let’s just say he should have gone to specsav…I mean MacDonald’s. Mistake duly noted.

So, Monday was a day of wandering and wondering…though it was raining we remained outside for pretty much the whole time. It was interesting, and everything was so huge and fantastical that we drank it all in and didn’t care about our sore legs or wet feet.

As we trekked home, back along 44th Street something strange happened. In virtually the same place as Jude was stood, a doorman was sending someone out of the door and rudely saying that this isn’t where you think it is. I was taken back by this, as so far all doormen have been exceptionally nice. As the doorman returned to the door, and the dejected man turned around towards us, Heather realised that the man was in actual fact Larry David. I didn’t actually see his face as I was busy trying to work out what was going on. 44th is obviously the place to be to fill up your autograph book, that’s for sure. The day was now complete and, content, we carried on home (and with a bag full of Reeses minature cups in Heather’s bag) ready for sleep and excitement for Tuesday.

Homeless Turf Wars, Wet Feet, and Home Alone hotspots…

Hello people/persons/you that are/is reading!

you’ll have to bare with me, as my eyes are blurry, my muscles are achey and the room isn’t quite keeping still at the moment. No, I’m not drunk! I’m suffering a bit of jet lag and combined with the New York induced giddyness and delirium it’s all a bit odd. I’d like to say we are keeping this post short, but it is our first post since leaving and, naturally, a lot has happened in the past 24 hours.

So…where to start? We set our alarms for 5.00am English time and thanks to our very own Handy Andy, made it to Manchester on time and ready to roll. Some of you may be aware of my slight problem with flying….in Scott’s case, acutely aware (his ears are thankfully in tact this time!) In preparation for potential meltdown I had stuffed my luggage with distractions – namely chocolate, Flight of the Conchords and Calvin and Hobbes. Sillyness is obviously the route to a calm Heather. New York is the furthest I have ever flown and all preconceptions about flying (you’ve been on a Ryannair/Jet 2/Easyjet plane?) went out the window thanks to British Airways. On our seats when we boarded we found a blanket…each!… and a little pack consisting of socks, an eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste and headphones. Score. I didn’t wear the socks, but I’ve kept them anyway – you can never have too many. There was a little tv for everybody, and, I had no need of the FOTC because the in flight entertainment featured the Friends Episode.

So, for the first half an hour – undoubtedly the worst part of any flight for me – I was in a smile-trance fuelled by the excitement of all of the distractions. Hurrah for British Airways! I’m sorry if some of you have already been on a long-haul flight and know all of this already… but you know, it’s all part of the experience!

The rest of the flight can be read like this: nice food, turbulence, nap, drink, film, turbulence, nap, drink, reading, nap, sandwich, music, LAND! We saw some big ass American houses on the way in – just like the movies say they are.

It was glorious. There were no clouds, the sun was high, and bright – we were ready for an adventure. Getting out of the airport was lengthy… but finally got to the security officer, MJ. He was cool, and signed my passport for me as it was my first stamp. Scott was unfortunately left with a scary Security lady who gave him the third, fourth and fifth degree. We all know Scott is the most suspicious looking person around, isn’t he? I had a mini mind panic, when I played out the scenario of explaining the Lush bathbombs in my suitcase. It’s just a Santa shaped toiletry, Sir! After that we passed some Customs Officers, who flounced the well signed statements of “We will offer all US visitors dignified respect, politeness and courtesy” and instead met everybody with rude grunts and demands.

Well, we weren’t going to let them ruin our day. We didn’t even let the con artist bus ticket vendor ruin our day. Or the taxi driver who took a 3 dollar tip instead of 50cents. Oh no. We’re in NEW YORK! Who cares? The bus was rickety, packed and hot. My earmuffs didn’t even get a look in. We passed the Bronx, where the houses were adorned in all manner of Christmas decorations, which was great to see. It took about an hour and a half, because the bus was also picking up travelers from other terminals before heading to Manhattan. The journey was quiet, and we got to see a lot of the surrounding city. Row upon row of Apartment blocks, factory buildings, warehouses, car lots, cemeteries… the cemeteries were quite insane. They were like a sea of stone, that went so far off into the distance that we couldn’t see where it ended, and went so far along side us that we were watching them pass by for up to ten minutes. The first cemetery was smaller than the second we, and the only readable plot was a grand mausoleum with the name Ginsberg along the top. It belongs to this Man. I’d like to go and pay my respects, but we don’t have much time here and it’s too far out now.

If anything, seeing such extensive graveyards was a very humbling (if a little harrowing) way to enter this city.

The bus dropped us off outside Grand Central Station and though we knew our apartment should be close, we thought we’d hail a yellow cab, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you get here. We’d had an email from the lovely Andrea, who is the owner of the Apartment we are staying in and she told us to collect her keys from the doorman. The Apartment is about 2 minutes away from the UN buildings and is a beautiful, old (very tall!) place. There’s a definite 20s feel. The actual apartment is stunning – you’ll get to see pictures if my camera finally starts to behave…

After about an hour of recovering ourselves from the epic journey, we decided to head out for a walk. It was about 6pm (or 11pm scott and heather bodyclock time) and we wanted to see how far Times Square was from here…so we got ourselves ready and I stupidly covered myself from head to toe in gloves, scarf, earmuffs, extra socks and a big coat. I thought new York was supposed to be freezing? In the lift down, we had our first encounter with a nice New Yorker… he said “come on guys, it’s not that cold!” with a big smile on his face and I explained why I thought it would be. Him being friendly and funny was offset by his Manchester United Jacket though… (thought you’d like that bit Matty. There is somebody in the building with a WiFi name of ‘LiverpoolFC’ so it seems we have struck up on an English football loving set of people here!

The nice man was right – it was mild and too warm to be wearing what I was wearing. Mistake noted!

Scott’s going to take over, as I feel I’m being too detailed and boring. Sorry guys!

Hello people of the world, Scott here. I can sum up our day fairly easily. Went on free tour. That’s it. ‘Nuff said. No only joking. The night was young still and us being over dressed for the mild winter New York is having right now wasn’t going to slow us down. We power walked for some reason (probably excitement) toward Times Square. I had buffed up on my navigational skills before leaving the house but Heather was greatly lacking in faith and thought I had her completely lost until the over bearing light of Times Square shone down on her like some form of god rays. We had arrived. It was interesting to see the energy it injected into us both. We were tired but it didn’t matter, we had some magic to consume.

Heather sniffed out the HUGE Toys ‘R’ Us and eagerly rushed into what can only described as a Mecca for kids on a pilgrimage to the promised land (of toys). Three floors and a massive indoor Ferris Wheel later and we had seen enough. It would be insane to work in somewhere like that, but all the staff seemed really happy to be there. (Heather here….I always thought working in the biggest GS in Europe was crazy at christmas time….you guys haven’t seen anything yet, until you see Toys R Us NYC style!)

We carried on up town and somehow ended up at MnM World. This place has “only in America” written all over it. I thought I would treat heather to a pick and mix bag that we will happily be crunching on for a few days. (Heather again… PEANUT BUTTER MnMs!!!!!!!!! The Hershey store was right next door but by this point I was getting dizzy and feeling some delayed motion sickness from the flying… and all of those dazzling crazy lights… so we’ll go to that another day)

We were getting hungry and the adrenaline was running low so we decided to grab a bite to eat while on the way home. We settled on a slice of pizza each and a massively freaky bottle of water (see pictures when they come) (It looked like the Holy Grail.) While walking back to the apartment we were happily admiring all the very expensive hotels when we both noticed someone dressed much better than any American man we had seen (Note: Sweat Pants, Fanny pack and a Micky Mouse T-Shirt is not cool America). After looking up (to see the Man whose shoes we were both admiring) and realising that it was in fact Jude Law we both turned to each other and laughed. It’s true, the British are generally much slicker than we give ourselves credit for. His wealth and fame might also have something to do with it…

So Day 2 is about to commence. We have had enough sleep (we hope) and we woke up at just gone 7am NYC time. After a bath/shower (and good use of the Santa bathbomb) we are now clean and ready for the world. Speak to you soon!

Unearthly Hours, Conmen, Hey Jude & An Early Night.