I'm not the author Alan Glynn (click here for him) but fully recommend his novels Winterland & Darkfields

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Yasawa Islands - Sunrise - Fiji

The Yasawa islands are a group of Islands to the North West of Nadi. Basically the further north and away from the main island you go the more rustic things get. So unbeknownst to us we started on one of the most northern islands.

The resort was called Sunrise and it really was rustic. The accommodation was a very drafty bure(straw hut) which Sal just didn't enjoy staying in for fear of inscets. With spiders the size of my hands I felt her pain. The showers were cold and one set didn't even have heads so it was just a slow trickle from a pipe in the roof.

Our Pad

But this was all part of the charm of the place and it was great to know you weren't in some serille touristy resort. We were actually living with and like the Fijians.

The food was interesting but the portions were tiny. Put it this way no food was left on anyone's plates by the end of a meal. If you didn't like something someone else ate it. I ate a Danish girls whole lunch one day because she felt sick. Waste not want not and all that.

But apart from this, which wasn't really a problem because we all could do with loosing a bit of weight, the welcome we got here was amazing. We were literally welcomed into their family. The Sunrise people where the most friendly of all the islanders we meet. Dutchy was the main man, who could remember everyones name where they came from which was no mean feet.

Because Sunrise is so remote and we were all part of one big (starving) family we got to know some great people most of them just starting their Fiji experience too and what happened was we ended up traveling down the islands towards the mainland together which was great craic.We'd meet people from Sunrise on the ferry and on every other island we stayed on.

About 20mins from Sunrise is the Blue Lagoon beach where the film of the same name with Brooke Shields was shot. It has to be the nicest beach we saw. Just amazing white sandy beach fringed with palms and the deepest blue water.

Apart from Blue Lagoon there wasn't much else to see or do but the Fijian lads kept us entertained with coconut tree climbing, crab racing, fishing, Fiji lesson and of course Kava drinking.

Kava is what the Fijians like to drink and by all accounts drink it every night. Its made from a plant root and is added to water in a big tea bag and hand squeezed. Its looks like muddy water and tastes pretty bad. Its doesn't get you drunk more numbs the body but a have enough of it and you'll sleep like a baby.

We were lucky enough to join the Sunrise Kava drinking ceremony one night. Which was immense, this wasn't any show put on for tourists this was just what the do at the end of the day. While the Kava was dished out they just sang, practicing the Bula (Welcome) song and other Mecka (a dance) songs. It was really cool thing to experience. Sal and Claire kept wetting themselves because its kind of rude to say no when offered Kava but the guy giving them the bowl had his big dirty green nail in it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Arrived in Fiji

We topped off a great six weeks in NZ with a fabulous dinner in the revolving resturaunt at the top of the Skytour in Auckland (Highest building in the southern hemisphere). I totally recomend doing it. The meal was really resanonable and included the entry fee to the tower. We got to see the sun set over the harbour and all the lights come on accross the city which was quite a sight. We traveled back accross the bay by ferry to get back to the camper.

We've just arrived in Fiji and first impression are great. Its cloudy and hot, we're hoping it'll be sunnier out from the mainland. We head to the islands in the morning.

Sal has just been attacked by a monster frog in the shower...happy days ahead.

Monday, September 27, 2004


We've just spent the final couple of days in Auckland before heading for Fiji. It's great to be in a proper city again. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the match. Only one pub in NZ was showing it and it was going to be too expensive and awkward to get to it. Hard luck Mayo...we were praying for you! Going for a nice meal tonight and then up early for the flight to Fiji.

We're really looking forward to the sun at this stage but a bit apprehensive about what to expect from Fiji. Possibly no electricity, phone coverage or internet for the next two weeks. Think of the film Castaway and thats what we reckon its going to be like. Will Sal survive with out a mobile and hair straightner. If not, no doubt Alan gets the blame... ;)

Bye bye camper van, we will miss you.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Paddy in Paihia

After the caves we buzzed up north to meet Paddy who Alan used to work with, picking up our Fiji tickets en route in Hamilton. We spent a night in wild camping just north of Auckland in an area equivalent to Dalky, the neighbor's weren't too happy when they woke up and found their view of the beach blocked by the Travellers. Lovely place though. Off we went and met Paddy in the Bay of Islands which is a fab place. It was great catching up Paddy and comparing stories. We'd a few beers and headed out and had the largest burgers ever. Went in search of another pub but like so many other towns everything was closed or close to it. But you can't stop the Irish when they are thirsty so we found a cute wee bar tacked on the side of a hostel and finished our night there. We felt at home when a fight between a local stag do and some other locals broke out. Unlike Dublin there were no bouncers to break it up so it was a bit of a saloon style fight. Only the English and Irish stayed on to watch, the other tourist all fled.

The following day we met a friend of Paddy's just by chance on a ferry to a place called Russel. We spent a great day with him in Russel, eating and more eating and we're going to meet up with him in Sydney where he's just left for.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Black Water Rafting in Waitoma Caves

This was just amazing and one of the highlights of the trip. You get totally suited up in wetsuits, minerhats and inner rubber tubes. You climb down into some caves which are pitch dark and which have an icy river running through them. So you crawl, walk, climb, swim and float through the cave system. Jumping off waterfalls and switching the headlamps off when you get to the glowworm cave which light up the ceiling of the cave like stars at night. We did this with about eight other people and the craic in the caves was great. Again this ended with a hot shower and complimentary soup and bagels (yummy). We met a couple from Wicklow too, who'll be in Sydney when we are there which was cool.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

White water rafting in Taupo

Taupo is a attractive lakeside tourist town near the Tongariro National Park which has an active volcano. We stayed here for two nights and had a amazing day rafting on the Tongariro river. We woke up and the sun was shining so we decided to do the rafting. We were both a bit aprehensive about what to expect but it turned out to be exactly what you expect. We spent two hours (12km) on the Tongariro river which is cut gorge like through Tongariro National Park with a good dose of both rapids and time to see the wildlife. The water was alpine cold so every time we got a wave of it in the face you knew about it. Soup and brown bread, provided, topped off a great day.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Smellyville (Rotorua)

We smelt Rotorua before we got there. Its the thermal capital of NZ and has lots of hot springs, bubbling mud pools and geysers every thing you'd expect for a volcanic area plus the smell of rotten eggs. The first thing we did was have a well earned spa and massage. For about 30 euro you get an hour in outdoor hotpools (36-40 degrees) then a half hour massage or a facial which Sal went for. Then back into the hotpools. It was total luxury for the price and they treat you like royalty.

As it was the weekend we hit the town expecting a lively nightlife being such a tourist town but yet again bar a couple of pubs it was very quite. We met some NZ guys in the Pig and Whistle Pub which was a good laugh.

There is so much to do around Rotorua if you can afford it, I ended up doing a Zorb, just for the sheer "you can't do it anywhere else" of it. We wanted to do a dry Zorb which is getting strapped into a huge plastic ball and rolling down a hill but they were only doing wet ones which is when they throw a couple of buckets of water into the ball with you. Normally the water is luke warm but some Swedish asked for cold water. Needless to say I had a warm one. It was a good laugh.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

East Coast of North Island

After a good night out in Wellington, we made our way northwards to a nice and chilled campsite in Palmerstown North. We didn't do much here except chill and went for a swim and a long spa. Hastings and Napier next. Not much to report except the wonderful National Aquarium in Napier which was well worth the visit.

We wild camped on the seafront of a very small city called Gisbourne, where Cook first landed on New Zealand. This was a cute wee town but like so many towns in NZ it was a virtual ghost town after dark. We went to see The Village in the local multiplex on the main st. It was run by a friendly old lady, who seemed to own half the town and kept a Doberman behind her desk (she tried to get Sal to pet it - no chance, this was scarier than the film for Sal) and listens to the police scanner for entertainment. Needless to say we were two of four people watching the film which made it all the more scary. We then had to head back to our lonesome camper beside the sea. Aaaah.

We survived and the sun came out the next day. We went for a walk on the fab beach, had a Home and Away moment and then played some tennis.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Wino's in Blenheim

We decided to leave the south island on a high note so went on a wine tour of the Blemhiem region before getting on the six o'clock ferry to Wellington.

We imagined we would see some vines and get to see the whole wine making process so imagine our horror in the first winery when we were given seven different wines to try. We knew we'd try some wine but we thought that would be at the end and not at 10 in the morning.

We soon got into the swing of things and by the third or fourth winery we were experts at picking out oaked wines. We got dropped back to the ferry at four and by six we were starting to get hangovers. Great craic and because it is off peak we were the only people on the tour so we got some "extra" attention and judging by our hangovers we got extra wine too.

Friday, September 10, 2004

New Abode

We are officially part of the traveling community now. We picked up the camper van on Tuesday from Christchurch and have made steady progress northwards, we are now in Wellington.

The campervan is everything we expected of it. Its absolutely amazing how much they squeeze into it. Of course Lord and Lady muck have splashed out on a "Deluxe" four berth version when most couples make do with a smaller two berth. So we could be back at Christmas at the rate we are spending our money.

Of course the campervan doesn't come with a TV and when we asked the rep about hiring one, her jaw nearly hit the floor and said most people come to NZ for the sites. But it gets dark at six so what sites can you see then. Anyway we popped in to a pawn shop in C'church and picked up a portable for 25 euro, no doubt stolen or something.

We spent the first two nights in the campervan in camp sites which was cool, literally but last night we decided to "wild camp" which is when you camp at the side of the road. Most "wild camping" happens out in the wilderness but not us, Wellington city centre did the job. We woke up to fantastic views of the bay and rush hour traffic rushing by it was great.

wild camping city style

Monday, September 06, 2004

Glacier Walking

Had a great day on the glacier, 8hr almost constantly hiking but it was worth it for the unearthly experience. We even saw a small avalanche which was had the erriest thunder like sound. There is always one of the group who falls into a glacial puddle (2ft deep of icy water) and that was poor Sal but the thought of a hot shower and a pint beside a roaring fire kept her going. We had that pint later and last orders was at 10pm, can you believe it and that was Saturday night.

In Christchurch at the moment, we're picking up the long awaited Campervan in the morning...can't wait...

Friday, September 03, 2004

West Coast - Rainforests and Glaciers

We eventually left the Queenstown region and crossed the Alps into the West Coast and what a difference a mountain range makes! Its about a couple of degrees hotter which is heavenly after the cold and wet of our last day in Queenstown plus we've being traveling trough the most amazing rainforest covered valleys. Which is yet another country NZ now looks like. So far NZ looks like Canada, Ireland, and now Brazil!! (Mind you we haven't being to Brazil or Canada so its just what our we think they might look like)

Stayed in Haast last night,in a very nice hostel(Wilderness Backpackers, very clean and friendly if a bit unhomely).We went for a walk on what must be a ten mile long deserted beach watched the sun set over the Tasman Sea, which mightn't sound much but we haven't seen the sun set since we got here, there has always been a mountain in the way.

In Franz Josef tonight (Glow Worm Hostel,absolutely brilliant,very cosy,free soup and spa.) An eight hour round glacier climb in the morning!!! Hope we'll survive. We'd a hot spa tonight soften up those muscles before the climb ;-)


TV is such a novelty for us at the moment. There was no TV in the first hostel which we stayed in for the first week. So when it absolutely poured down all day on Wednesday we sat down to some good auld telly, and good auld telly it really is. Between reruns of Corrie and The Bold and the Beautiful NZ TV makes pretty poor viewing but we lapped it up like the TV addicts we are but I had to laugh when I caught Sal watching Maori News in Maori.It wasn't as if she was just watching it for a split second while flicking she watched it for a good ten or fifteen minutes before I pointed out to her what she was watching. Bliss ...

We stayed in the Southern Laughter Hostel, which has a great atmosphere, free soup & spa and is very central.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Wash Out in Milford Sound

We left the what was becoming a very comfortable base in Queenstown to go and see Milford Sound which is a huge Forjd, think Carlingford Lough on a massive scale. We left a very sunny Queenstown but by the time we reached Milford, 4 hrs later, it was absolutely pissing it down. When in rains in this part of the world it seems to RAIN, average rainfall in Milford is 5.5 meters per annum. Anyway we couldn't see a thing so we just sat in the car park and ate our packed lunch like a couple of OAP's.

Milford Sound in the rain

So we headed back to the nearest town Te Anua, 2hrs down the road, and spent the night in a woeful hostel. When we got up this morning the road was blocked by a rock slip so no Milford Sound for us. We are now back in civilisation in Queenstown. I think its dawning on us how remote NZ can be.

Best of luck to all the Teachers tomorrow, just think its nearly the weekend!