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Staring at the Sun

HOORAY!!! Finally, some sunny weather at last in christchurch, on my last full day as well, what a change it makes to the place!  It was not good enough to allow my Ballooning trip to take place though, I didn’t get the phone call at 3:40am so I sorted out a refund for that, but my skydive went ahead!! IT WAS AMAZING!!!  I got the DVD package as well so I can watch it over and over again!  There was hardly a cloud in the sky when I jumped and it was great to be able to see the ground as I did, the one I did before in Lake Taupo was with cloud cover so wasn’t as good, this was just perfect.  I wasn’t as scared as you’re supposed to be because I’d done one before but then anyone is generally a bit nervous chucking yourself out of a plane!  It’s just put the icing on the cake as it were of the holiday.
Tonight the Morley family are putting on a bbq for my last night, can’t wait it’s going to be really good, must get some more red wine I think!  It’s been a great help staying with Dave and shelley’s family, you need a decent base to explore and I’ve done alot of that this week.
Well, my last day tomorrow, it’s a bit sad but I’m ready to come home, back to freezing temperatures and Xmas!  I’m getting a plane from christchurch to Auckland at 5pm then the main flight back to blighty leaves at 11pm
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Rain Again

It’s raining again in Christchurch, it’s seriously interrupting my plans for a skydive and a hot air balloon ride!  Yesterdays hot air balloon ride was cancelled and has now been moved to tomorrow, I’ve got to check with them tonight and today’s 9am skydive has been moved to 1pm, fingers crossed but I’m not very hopeful!
So what have I been doing here in Christchruch, well, I spent a day and a half exploring the south east of Christchurch, i.e Redcliffs, Sumner then I moved onto the Banks Peninsula which is just how I imagined it to be, absolutely gorgeous scenery, another hidden away paradise! Yesterday I went on a long road trip to Arthur’s Pass in Central Otago, I’ve been through there before but on the train, this time at least I could stop and get some decent pictures!  The scenery is just mesmerising, sometimes it’s too much to take in, I can’t wait to get back and create some great landscape shots, maybe some of them will be good enough for wall pictures, who knows? 
I visited the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve, it’s basically an underwater river that cuts its way through limestone in the darkness, you need a torch to guide you and you have to be prepared to get we upto the waist which I did! It was a fantastic 45 minutes making my way through the underground river, quite exhilerating.  I managed to get in the cave before a few coachloads of young teenagers got in there, and whilst I was down there I could hear them behind me shouting and screaming their way through.  I also fitted in a Jet Boat Ride with the Alpine Jet Boat Co. on the Rawaikariri River, a super fast trip which was absolutely freezing cold as well, the driver did a few 360 degree turns which were really good.  Spent a late lunch at Arthur’s Pass trying to avoid the Kia birds, they’re very much like very large parrots and they’re prone to stealing food off your plate when you’re not looking, mischevious birds that they are.
Everything now depends on this blasted weather!!!
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Shand Family Blog

Check out the Shand Family Blog at http://www.xanga.com/rabbits_nest, you’ll see the picture of me rescuing the Penguin!
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Paradise Lost

Rumours about my disappearance are wrong!
I’m fine and well in Christchurch staying with some great friends in the suburb of Prebbleton, they are Dave and Shelley with their children Rebecca, Sarah and Tom, I can’t thank them enough for letting me stay with them, I have my own luxury "granny flat" with an even more luxurious bed to sleep in.  It makes a universal change to the conditions I was sleeping in last week!

Which brings me to my apparent disappearance, I was working on the Shand family homestead farm at Port Ligar between the 10th and 16th, it’s located on the very North-Western Point of the Marlborough Sounds near D’Urville Island.  I had an absolutely amazing time there, one which I will never forget, I was living and working with Tim and Raewyn Shand’s extended family of 10 children, ages ranging from 4 to 26, what a great set of people, their homestead is tucked away in a lost corner of paradise, also onsite whilst I was there were a number of other "helpers", Nanu, Anna, Erika and Blake (an american couple).

Whilst there I helped with weeding the vegetable garden and tidying it up generally, also helped Tim with moving a number of heavy posts around and got a fun ride on his tractor for most of one day, I did sprain my wrist though and it swelled up quite alot, but hey, all in the line of duty.  Also helped Tim rescue one of his Mussel harvesting lines in the bay which was alot of fun, one of his daughters Cat had to dive down 30m and attach a rope to the line which we eventually dragged up with the help of the winch on the boat, it took 3 of us guys on a rope with the pulley to heave it up!

Most fun of all Tim took a number of us on a fantastic 2 day trip to D’Urville Island to do some deer hunting and sea fishing, it was a blast, though mine and Nanu’s help with deer hunting was cut short with a violent onset of hayfever, damn! Never mind I got to do some hill walking in some gorgeous locations.
We camped on the beach  in tents, I slept on a foam mattress which was uncomfortable and I could only ever fall asleep for 30 mins before developing painful body aches and then having to shift position.  We did alot of sea fishing for Blue Cod and a few other types of fish which I can’t remember at the mo’, you literally put your line in and in seconds you have a bite, I wish fishing was always this easy!  Cat and Nathan, the 2 "shooters" managed to kill 3 deer eventually on the island and we collected them from one of the bay’s on D’Urville, they’d already removed the guts and the deers head when we got to them so we hoisted them onto the boat, I’ll never forget the picture of these 3 bloody carcasses swinging around on the back of the boat whilst battling through heavy waves, it was like something from a horror movie!  The fish we did catch we ate when we got back to the homestead, I fried them up in breadcrumbs and we ate them along with some fresh mussels and they tasted gorgeous, all the food I had there was always fresh and tasted great, plus during each day the children would bake cakes and biscuits as well which disappeared very quickly once everyone got back.

I could go on for hours about the experience, but those were the main points, I certainly won’t think twice about visiting the Shands again, next time I’m in New Zealand!

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End of the Road

I was glad to leave Palmerston North, I spent 30 minutues looking for an internet cafe after the YHA owner told me where it was, but I couldn’t find it, it’s very hit and miss with some computers as yo can’t always upload photos, more often not than anything.  Spent most of the day driving down towards Wellington, stopped at Masterton for a bit to eat in this place called Food or Thought, you get asked to try your luck throwing ping pong balls into pint glasses at the till, if you score then you get your coffee free, it was packed in there, I didn’t manage to score tho. 
I visited the Rimutaki Forest Park near Wellington for a short walk, it was really good very scenic, nice to get lost in a forest for an hour or two.  Had to get the car back by 4:30pm but I had a bit of trouble finding the drop-off depot, had to ring the guys a couple of times before I eventually got there, they gave me a lift to the YHA tho.  Got a text from Anya to say that she’d be travelling down from Auckland on Sunday, I don’t think I’ll see her again, I was supposed to be staying at hers Sunday night but I booked another night at the YHA.  The YHA here in Wellington is an absolute palace compared to the othes I’ve been to, it’s awesome! 
Had a look around Wellington and eventually ended up in another Irish Pub called Molly Malone’s for a couple o pints, and had some Irish Stew, it was bloody gorgeous! Also managed to finish my book, it was excellent, I’ve never been wrapped in a book like that fo ages.  Later went to see that new film called Hitman at the Embassy Cinema where I saw  Return of the King 4 years ago, if I knew that this film was based on a computer game I would have given it a miss, it told me tho in the opening credits and my heart sank, it was shite, unsurpisingly.
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Late yesterday the rain started, and it continued all through night, I had the option in the morning of making a 3hr dash to a Kayaking trip on the whanganui river for 8:30am but thought better of it! Decided to continue to the town of Whanganui itself, for the day and hang out there, had a good look round, went up this memorial tower which allowed you to look out over the town which was really good, but there was one hell of a climb up a load of steps and my legs hadn’t really recovered from Mt Taranaki.
I had a coffee and bought a new book ready to read once I finish this one, I’m really into reading now, it gets obsessive!  Had a look round the Whanganui museum before climbing aboard New Zealand’s oldest paddle steamer for a 2hour cruise up the Whanganui river, it was still pelting it down with rain and it was cold, I treated myself to a glass of Montana to warm up.  The cruise wasn’t that scenic but it was nice to while away a few hours like that, I was thankful for getting in the car at the end and whacking up the air con to super hot temperature, realised I’d left my lights on for 6 hours, luckily the engine started!
Made my way to Palmerston North for the night, a pretty uninspiring place really I think, the Hostel was full of Germans, got watching the film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with a couple of Americans, it was a good film.
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Going Round the Mountain

Felt really refreshed this morning, though I woke up early again at 05:30, eventually got out of bed at 6am and spent a while talking to a guy who’s actually living at the hostel and working as a car mechanic in the town.  Left at about 7:45 to goto Mt Taranaki, I didn’t have any breakfast only a cup of coffee not the best preapration for a long walk but I did have water.  The sight of the volcano and it’s sheer size is still was still a bit unnerving, it’s massive and it’s taking time getting used to it dominating the landscape, there’s loadsa rtacks around the volcano, I walked quite a few of them jumping from one to the other to form a loop ending back at the visitor centre, I was bit knackered, it felt really good though.
Went to another part of the volcano, Dawson’s Fall, I was seriously getting tired now, I must have been up about 1000 steps by the end of the walk, so I set out on a drive right around the mountain calling at a few places along the way.  Cooked myself a huge pan of chilli went I got back to the hostel, feel totally stuffed now, spending the evening reading my this book I bought "In the Woods", I’m really obsessed with it now, it’s fantastic.
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Road Trip

Had a good night last night, met up with Anya and had fish and chips in an Irish pub near the marina in Auckland, we had a long chat, and agreed we’d meet up again Sunday when I’m in Wellington.  Anya is going off in a different direction to  me after all so I’ll have to book a hire car.
I actually felt refreshed when I got up this morning for the first time in ages, it must be the last of the jet lag wearing off at last, I booked a car and 2 nights at New lymouth and set off.  It was quite a boring day overall, and I learnt to only follow the red and brown roads on my map, all others are generally gravel tracks with hairpin bends every 10 metres not for the faint hearted and as soon as you start following one it’s difficult to get off it back onto a normal road!  Anyway to cut a long story short I took an extra 2.5 hours to get to New Plymouth, it’s a nice place with the overbearing Mount Taranaki Volcano in the background, I’ve never seen anything like that before, I’ll be doing some walking on it tomorrow.  Had a really shite Seafood meal in a Celtic Bar but a nice pint of Kilkennys, hopefully tomorrow will be better!
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Excitement Overload

Wow, today was even more amazing than yesterday, if I keep this up I’m going to be burnt out by the weekend!! I didn’t manage to get that much sleep last night about 4/5 hours, probably because I was thinking alot about jumping off tall buildings, but hey I got to the Sky Tower early and hooray! I managed to do it!! It was absolutely fantastic and I’m really proud of myself for doing it, the feeling of jumping off a safe platform 630ft is just nerve-wrecking but once you’re in freefall you really get to enjoy it loads.  And to top it all off when I got to the bottom I was asked if I wanted to do it again for free! I jumped at the chance (excuse the pun).  This time round they just let me go for it as the first time they stop you 10 metres down for photos, but it was just as amazing second time, a bit easier to jump off as well that time.
I had to give my body a couple of hours rest before the bungy jump at 2:30pm so I made what’s going to be one of many visits to Subway, I really miss going there the buns are gorgeous, not sure why I don’t use the one back in Grimsby?  Anyway I met up with a load of other people at the jump site on the Auckland Brudge and out of everybody I was called up first, just my luck but to be honest I really wanted to get it out of the way as quickly as possible!  There was a bit of preparation, and countdown and then some hesitation but I went for it and threw myself off, the feeling of blood rushing to my head was strange and then the elastic kicked in, I didn’t quite make the water, but then I didn’t fancy getting soaked anyway, so after 3 bounces they then started pulling me back up.
I’m really buzzing about today, I’ve even dvd’s and photos from doing them so I can relive the agony and ecstacy over and over again.  I’m meeting up with another friend Anya tonight, as hopefully I’ll be travelling down to Wellington with her during the week, the plans are still up in the air at the moment though, bye for now!
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