Saturday, October 31, 2009


i cut across the bottom half of the island-from the east coast to the west cutting out the far south. the drive is boring-nothing much to see. lots of green and rolling hills-reminds me of home actually! its raining when i arrive into dunedin. and rains at least once for the next couple of i dont get upto too much. i sleep in and try to do mostly indoor things! i do a tour of cadbury factory-it was amazing! and i do a tour of speights brewery-a southern new zealand beer/ale. yum yum! i book onto a wildlife tour and the rain stops just in time for the tour! i see albatross, penguins, fur seals, sea lions all in their natural habitat-it was amazing. saw plenty of other birds and ducks of course i can't remember the names! over all though i find dunedin a bit of a disappointment. onto christchurch!

the birthday

the birthday crept up on me. celebrated the day on a cruise on milford sound-you really couldn't ask for more!

... wanaka and mount cook ....

my road trip continued down the coast-a most beautiful drive. i stop along the way and take in some natural beauty at the blue lakes. eventually moving slightly inland to lake wanaka. i do very little and feel a but guilty because i know that my time is limited but i guess we all need our down days. well i take that back i did do something-i played a couple of very intense games of jenga with some scottish guys! bastien, a guy that i met in nelson arrives into wanaka so we hang out. we go clay pigeon shooting (i lost) and target practice (i win!). and a giant maze at puzzle world. he takes a notion and cooks an amazing french meal-fondue de burgoyne (spelling?) and white chocolate mousse. hmmm.
the next day starts early and we drive north to mount cook. one of the walks we wanted to do is closed because of avalanche. so while we're on another route i hear an avalanche-eshk! it sounds like a prolonged roll of thunder-quite scary considering the local information centre has a tribute book to all the people that died in the mountain.
it gets cold so we head to the one and only cafe. theres a giant fire on so we sit and have lunch and hot chocolates and watch the snow-bliss!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

road trippin .... punakaiki and fox

i rent a car in nelson and start my journey down the west coast. i stop in punakaiki to see the pancake rocks. stay in a lovely hostel on the beach front. just the one night and then hit the road again. i give a lift to a very chatty english girl as far as franz josef and then i continue on to fox glacier. i quickly drop off my bags and head to lake matheson to watch the sun go down-its sooooo pretty. i head back to the hostel for an early night.
up early to do the day glacier hike on fox glacier. am a bit nervous because im warned pre hike about rock and ice falls. when the glacier comes into view its absolutely stunning. hard to believe that a thing that size can move! and move quite a bit as it turns out. we walk up the adjacent mountain to access the glacier. theres a lot of stairs. we strap on our crampons and on we go. its quite surreal. especially when we stop to eat a sandwich in the middle of a glacier! the sun was soon clouded over and the rain starts pelting down and it gets really cold. we eventually find our way off the glacier and back to solid ground. what a day and my legs are killing me-but its all very satisfying. i fall into the bed after a charming meal of instant noodles and sleep sleep sleep.
hit the road again ....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

nelson and abel tasmin pics

south island first stop nelson

shiney happy nelson. home to the official centre of new zealand. of course its at the top of a very steep hill. me and maria from germany rose to the challenge! it was a tough one-but it was worth it. lovely views from the top.
end up staying much longer in nelson than previously intended because the sun is shining and i stayed in the best hostel. it was someones house! one 4bed dorm and 2 double rooms-thats it! it felt like home. everyone was cool and there was a real fire and comfy sofa. its hard to leave. so i stay on and do a wine tour, have a lazy day and go to abel tasmin. a national park on the north/east coast. its just stunning-the pictures will speak for themselves .....

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

welly pics

wellington aka city of the cully

cully and her beau andy court meet me at the station. the overview of the week i spend in wellington is food, food, wine and lie-ins. sheer bliss! there was botanic garden, wine tour in the martinborough wine region (mostly pinot noir), hiking, dvd watching, museums, hair appointment. but the highlight was our last supper in tinakori bistro: te kairanga pinot noir 06, prawns w/ garlic, butter cream, venison w/ roast garlic, kumara, flourless choc cake w/raspberry sorbet, remi cognac. yum yum yum-thanks cully! and not forgetting the cooking of max-he was one tasty trout! (cooked in foil w/garlic, olive oil, fresh parsley) with roast potatoes and veg and of course a glass of chardonnay!
i was suitably recharged and refreshed to hit the south island.

taupo pics

taupo pics

taupo (swiss german style)

this is what i like about new zealand-its small enough to meet the same faces on the 'circuit' as it were. always helpful when they are good looking men ...
me and dominic hit pubs and do shots that are native to our respective countries.
surprisingly we're able to rent bikes the next day and head to huka falls. its a modest waterfall. nothing too exciting there so we head back to town and have lunch and sit on the grass spotting animal shapes in the clouds! dinner and a dvd wrap up the evening as its an early start for me in the morning.
5:30 to be precise. im on a fly fishing expedition. i hit taupo lake with andrew christmas; my guide for the day. taupo is, apparently, one of the best places for trout fishing in the world.
im fitted out in my waders and warm jackets and we take on the river. we get there at around 6:30 and there's already many the man flying his fish.
its a tricky business to say the least of it. but we wade around from spot to spot. im even standing in water upto my tummy at one point! very cool. we have to most conversation-ranging from food, to fishing, to relationships, business, life philosophy. and all the while taking in the sun rise and nature. i can see why so many men do it!
and finally one catches! bring on the dinner. its a tricky business reeling him in. and the business to smashing his head with a rock and then gutting him is trickier still! but i do it! am pretty pleased with myself. we wrap max up in paper and he comes with me on the bus to wellington-where he will meet his final destiny .....

rotorua pics


ahhh nothing like the sweet smell of rotten eggs filling the air to ensure a great time! i arrive and look after the food situation. seems that the first thing i do anywhere and everywhere is food. im not reading anything into this, but you work away.
spend the evening in the polynesian spa. which is, according to conde nast, one of the top 10 spas in the world. well it was night and the pools are outside. they ranged in temperature from 38degrees to 42. i sat in the pools and watched the steam escaping into the night air. looked at the moon and the stars and listened to all the birds beside the lake. i floated back to the hostel and fell into the bed. best nights sleep .... ever.
next day feeling more relaxed than recharged i have a very slow meander around two of the parks and look at (and smell) some of the hot pools and bubbling mud pools. pretty crazy, their all just in the local park like it was a normal thing. people bubbling mud pools? not normal.
i take a nap. i do love a good nap.
then head to a maori hangi. which is an evening of food and cultural stuff. all the food is cooked in the hangi; which is basically an oven in the ground. i dont know how traditional it was to be honest as im not quite sure how garlic bread featured in the historical lives of the maori. but hey who am i to judge. i did get to see a haka dance which was very cool.
i also got to see a kiwi bird! man are they cool. oh sorry, 'sweet as' ....
went to the kiwi encounter. flightless bird, native to nz etc etc .... but the most interesting thing is of course the mammy kiwi bird - she carries baby kiwi in an egg that essentially takes over 80% of her body when its fully grown and then she lays that bad boy. human equivalent would be giving birth to a 35pound baby. sweet jesus. give it for the kiwi mamma!

Monday, September 28, 2009

when people say ....

'you HAVE to see that' ... what does that mean exactly?! most of the time you do and its shit. tip : stop listening to strange people in hostels-they usually know as little as me.

bay of islands and coromadel coast

auckland continued on in its rainy way. galleries/museums etc. then headed to the bay of islands on a little mini trip. it was my one and only experience of these organised bus tours. fine, but not for me. anyway it was grand. did a little cruise around the bay of islands and had fish and chips in russell. saw the giant kauri tree. it was a big tree. what else can one say when they see a big tree?
did one last overnight in auckland and headed to thames on the coromandel coast.
got the bus to thames. stayed in a really cool hostel there-rented a bike and cycled around the town to get my bearings.
rented a car the next day to explore the coast. stumble upon a scallop festival, pay a stupid amount to get in and then have to buy scallops-everyone drinking wine and partaking in drunken behaviour. as i am my only designated driver-i stroll around for a bit and head on. checked out catherdral cove and the hot water beach, which of course had no hot water when i was there. i stop in coromandel town for a latte and carrot cake and head back. just me and my ipod on the open road. beautiful, beautiful drive back down the coast.
back at the hostel the next day i take nina the dog for walk! and hide away from the bad weather for the afternoon. next stop rotorua.

auckland, new zealand continues ...

i can do anything i set my mind to!
i do the coast to coast walk-16km and i am outwitted by the map and nearly every turn. eventually make it to the other coast and climb, defeated, onto the bus back to the hostel. anything in the world my arse. i fall into the bed. stupid fucking maps.

the tower

the jump

i saw it. i debated it. i ruled it out. then i reconsidered and reconsidered again. it taunted me-standing up over all the other buildings its giant building way. looking down at me. hmmm. when i got up that morning i just knew i was going to do it. went for breakfast (toasted brioche with whipped cinnamon flavour cream cheese). i didnt even want to look up at it knowning that if i really saw what i was about to do i would back out.
i found myself in the lobby looking at the touristy section, all the things that can be done in the area-interesting. procrastination is a real skill.
gave out to myself and headed down to the sign up area. put my name down-there was a space at 2pm, after lunch, one hour from now. so i wandered around had a look at all of the souvenirs and a promotional video. trying so so hard not to think about it. managed not to surprisingly enough.
i paid up my money, got suited up, went up the glass lift. not looking out the window, not looking out the window.
got all my safety checks done. hello hot safety check boy-ok i mustn't be that nervous. i was edged out to the ledge-moved along and then there i am. me and hot boy hanging out on the ledge looking down at the ground 192m below. i was fine until i saw that. sweet jesus.
so im hanging out the ledge-on my tippy toes hanging on with both hands. one, two, three. what? you just want me to let go? thats it. ehm. it's ok to be scared its natural. dont really know what else he said to me at that point. i looked behind me and saw the whole restaurant taking a pause from their lunch, holding their cameras looking at me, waiting. ok i'll count again. do you want me to push you? no fucking way. then out of no where i just let go. im dropped about 10 feet and stopped. hot boy calls my name takes my picture and then its all me.
horrible, horrible until the wind catches me and i spread out my arms and im flying! and its the most amazing feeling. incredible. and then its over. i hit the bulls eye and im done. 11 seconds and its done. ;
im smiling like a maniac. cant believe i just did that. and then : do you want to do it again for free? fuck yes!
so back up again-just not the same second time around.
i reward myself with a burger and chips and the knowledge that i can do anything that i want to do. anything. it certainly gets the blood rushing through my veins for the rest of my new zealand adventure.

auckland, new zealand

i arrive into auckland early in the am. sun shining-chilly. atm refuses to spit out the dough good start in kiwi land. eventually get to the hostel. treat my jetlegged brain to a private room. staying in the 'trendy' are of ponsonby. funny how the word 'trendy' can have such different meanings.
first strange thing i notice about auckland is the shop awnings-from all shops, cafe's etc out over the path. great in the rain but looks really tatty. no shops or names that i recognise.
couldn't resist a little lie down. nothing better than a great little lie down!
3 hours later ..... i raise myself and have a wander around the neighbourhood. find myself a little organic supermarket/wine shop. shock when the total is called out-sweet jesus. back to the dough spitter outter. on reflection i realise that one euro gives me two nz dollars-phew!
not capable of too much so its dinner and bed. exciting times.
i could go about all the other little things i did when i was in auckland but i may as well face it the most exciting thing i did was jumping off the sky tower..... it deserves a post all of its own.......

Friday, September 11, 2009

the lost day

the 20th of august does not exist! by passing over an international line the 20th does not exist for me this year-lost forever. i left LA on the 19th of august and i arrive into auckland on the 21st.

hollywood pics

hollywood, california

decided to stay in hollywood for my last night. bit of a whistle stop tour. checked out the chinese theatre, walk of fame, had a pizza at california pizza kitchen, kodak theatre; where there was a free jazz gig on, window "shopping" on rodeo drive, farmer's market; which was the highlight.
hollywood though is kind of a dump. not much going for it at all. lot of crazy people, more so than vegas. and i mean actual crazy people. just wandering around with shopping trolleys and such. very strange.
my last days in north america and then onto new zealand!

vegas and canyon pics

vegas and the grand canyon

i decided to do a tour for vegas and the grand canyon because time was tight and it worked out cheaper than doing it solo. which seemed like a great idea until it transpired that not only was i the only english speaking person on the bus i was also the only person travelling alone. well the other english speaker was the bus driver. a scots man living in california for the last 20 years. so i sat up front with the him and we talked about cholesterol levels and diets. great.
anyway we drove through the high desert, saw the worlds largest thermometer, some joshua trees and a lot of nothing. arrived at the motel in vegas at around 5. so the evening was our own to get upto whatever hi jinks we liked. but being the only english speaking person on the bus i was on my own in vegas!
settled into my room and headed out to the strip. i actually though i was going to melt. 45degrees of searing dry heat. i sped up my gait in the direction of a shopping mall with air conditioning. i stayed in there until i felt it was safe to go back outside again. which was a few hours. got some dinner and wandered around.
then headed to the bellagio. strolled around and watched the poker players for a while. i still can't follow it. i hit the slot machines-which in the bellagio even seemed classy! then headed out to watch the water show. very cool. felt like i was in ocean's eleven or something!
then headed back to my amazing motel.
5:30am start the next day to see the hoover dam and the grand canyon. impossible to describe and no photo could ever do it justice. suffice to say its the biggest thing i've ever seen. we went to the south rim. i had lunch over looking the canyon where i also saw a californian condor (biggest bird in north america) and then headed back.
hit vegas quite late-i checked out the mirage and caesers and then saw a show. was put beside this couple who didnt want to chat-but the man did saw he thought he saw me coming in with someone. i said no that i was on my own and he seemed quite put out. himself and his lady than preceded to whisper amongst themselves. why is it that women travelling by themselves make people so uneasy?
next day was back to LA. its hard to describe vegas. its one of those see it to believe it places. i think what i found the strangest was that poeple just accepted it all as normal. all the gambling, crazy amounts of food and drink. it was all so normal.

venice beach pics

venice beach, california

i reboarded the coastal starlight and made my way to LA. the scenery down the coast was just amazing and the tracks run parallel to route 101 for a while!
i arrived at the hostel pretty late and it was a complete dump. i was landed in a mixed dorm with 16 beds and i was the only girl. why are boys so smelly? answers on a postcard please.
the next day wasn't so bad. went to the beach and worked on my tan for a while-had a general wander around and met up with a fellow ex-chartbusters employee for drinks! we got very drunk and talked about broken hearts. its important to put the world to rights especially after a few vodkas.
venice beach was, overall, a bit rough around the edges. the main street away from the beach is nice but the beach front itself was kind of grotty and bursting at the seams with tourists.
saw muscle beach-just a pile of old homeless dudes lifting metal. but walked the pier which was nice-lots of people fishing.
highlight of venice for me was a great cafe called lemonade. sooooooo tasty. amazing salads really interesting mix of stuff, fresh lemonade and cakes. so good in two and a half days i went there twice!

napa and sonoma valley

too much to go into. the drinking, i mean, tasting started at 10 in the am and continued until about 6 in the pm. 6 wineries in all. as you can imagine a lot of grape varietals were covered. suffice to say it was a great day. need i say more?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

book 6

the pornographer's poem by michael turner

san francisco part 2 pics

san francisco part 2

well after returning after yosemite-priority number was shower. no strike that priority number one was breakfast. dim sum was calling us.
once fed, watered and cleaned it was time to reattack san francisco.
golden gate bridge: fogged in. hmm.
ok fine. chocolate then. got a ice cream sundae in ghirardellis.
fisherman's warf-check. although tooooo overcroweded and too much of a touristy magnet for me.
and that was kind of it. i didnt really do the beat tourist things either.
oh lara-what was the name of the tres trendy neighbourhood you sent me to?!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

yosemite pictures

yosemite national park

well to say that my green tortoise tour was a bit crazy is putting it mildly. we travelled, ate and slept on the bus-literally!
it was a regular bus until 'the miracle' was enacted-which involved moving seats and cushions turning the entire bus into a series of beds. strange but true. and of course there was more than one crazy person on the bus which had 32 people on it. having a good nights sleep was only a fond memory but luckily the good food made up for it! so what did i do:
hung out with 2 crazy london chicks: anne and lyndsey, hiked nevada falls, scooted around the park on vintage bicycles, swam in the devil's punch bowl (cold just isnt fitting enough), saw the giant sequoias and swam at sunset in considerably warmer water!
was a great crazy laugh! see the pictures to believe!

san francisco part 1 pics

san francisco part 1

arrive into san francisco early enough in the morning and pretty tired. stayed on broadway beside all of the strip joints which was fantastic.

i started off with a general wander around. found a gallery opening offering free wine. the exhibition was curated by danielle steel (yes that danielle steel!). title of the exhibition was WORD, all of the works involved text in some way. it was pretty good. .

having the 2 free glasses of wine i was out for more. on my way back to the hostel i walked through the italian area. low and behold i stumbled upon snazzy italian deli doing a wine tasting. in i went! this is how it went down:
1- fog dog chardonnay 2006 (sonoma valley)
2- fog dog pinot noir 2006 (sonoma valley)
3- joseph phelps cab. sauv. 2005 92% cab., 6% petiti verdo, 2% merlot (napa valley)
4- insignia cab. sauv. 2005 92% cab., 7% petit verdo, 1% merlot (napa valley)
5- insignia cab. sauv. 2006 95% cab., 5% petit verdo (napa valley).
phew! its all new to me!

the next day, hung over, i proceeded to sfmoma. say 2 amazing exhibitions: richard avedon and ansel adams/georgia o'keefe. amazing.

spent some time hanging out in dolores park (very trendy) chomping on my bi-rite creamery ice creamery and people watching. saw a really well groomed pretty girl having a good nose picking session. pretty entertaining!

had a wander to grace catherdral and stayed on for their evensong service-all male choir plus organ, pretty stunning stuff. and had a did their meditative labyrinth, which was a really cool experience. basically it just means you walk around this flat maze. but your thoughts go quiet and your breathing evens and everything seems slower. it was really cool.

i wont lie-my legs were killing me i was determined not to be beaten by the hills but i fear they had the last laugh.

the coastal starlight

22 hours winding my way down the coast on amtrak-from seattle into san francisco: the coastal starlight.
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