A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: tom_christmas

Greeting in Guildford

Unbeknown to most people, I was going to be arriving home a few days early. All that stood between myself and Guildford was around 36 hours worth of airports and planes. Fun. The journey consisted of three different flights, meaning that I was privileged enough to experience the Emirates safety briefing three times in a variety of different languages. Having already done at least ten flights in the last few months, I now consider myself a leading expert in the field of fastening seatbelts and spotting emergency exits.

The three flights did give me time to watch plenty of films and tv shows. This started well with 'Brighton Rock', a sort of gangster murder type thing, and 'Limitless', a psychological thriller. Then I began to delve into less socially acceptable viewing, watching several epsiodes of 'Glee' and then moving on to 'The Aristocats'. Sadly, this was not as good as I remembered it being - in hindsight I perhaps should have gone for Bambi, but I felt that having not slept in some time and already being emotianally delicate due to my impending return home, the tragic fate of Bambi's mother might have overwhelmed me.

After what felt like several decades worth of being stuck on planes, I arrived back onto British soil. It was raining. But I'm a fan of rain anyway. Back to the new home in Boxgrove Gardens, a lovely place to live (hope you read this Lily!) although the house seems to be just as lacking in furniture as it was when I left. It was nearly time to surprise some people. There were mixed reactions - in fact I was surprised myself by how many people just stared gormlessly at me as if I was some kind of two headed ghost. (Izzy/Ben/Anna). It was kind of strange being back at first when only a small handful of people were aware of my existence - but soon enough I was back on the map - and got some more excitable reactions the next day(well done to Tiggy and Frankie). I'm still a little confused by this whole jet lag thing - I keep forgetting about mealtimes and alternate between tiredness and awakeness (is awakeness a word?) Anyway, I'll get over it.

Well it's nice to be back and great to see you all again! But now that I can talk to people in person there's no real need for any more blogs! I hope you've enjoyed them!


Posted by tom_christmas 09:30 Archived in England Comments (0)

Trekking in Taupo

In my post skydive excitement I failed to mention a crucial stop we made on the way to Taupo at a place called Bulls - a town like no udder. Seriously though, it was unbeliev-a-bull. I'd love to take credit for these jokes but they were all over the place in Bulls. Obviously a town with a sense of humour.

The day after the skydive was also a big one - I had a 6am start in order to complete an alpine hike called the Tongariro crossing - home to the infamous 'Mount Doom'. We were greeting at 6 by an outrageously chirpy bus driver. Why did she need to be so happy and lively at that time? I wanted her to shush. However, once we reached the crossing I was ready to go, and although the climb was challenging it was definitely worth wile. The winter tour doesn't involve summiting Mount Doom but we went a fair way up the side before heading a different way. The views from this walk are definitely contenders for the best of the trip.

I ended up staying four nights in Taupo so that some of my friends would catch me up! There was also a potential opportunity to win $10,000 through a hole-in-one Lake Taupo golf challenge. Sort of involved hitting onto a plateau floating in the lake where there was a golf hole... I thought that winning this would make my remaining time in New Zealand more comfortable. I didn't win.

Soon we were heading up to Auckland, the final trip on the 'banter bus'. That night it was decided that once again I should be involved in some kind of cooking escapade. Fajitas. Unsure of what I could really contribute, I went to my default cooking contribution of grabbing random herbs and spices and adding them to things. I think I greatly enhanced the dish with my additions, although the feeling was not unanimous. It was also decided that the meal should be accompanied by the wearing of silly hats - I was spoiled for choice having already recruited my 'gangsta' cap, a free father christmas hat and a lovely crown from Hungry Jacks (Australia's Burger King). In fact, so rich was my hat supply that I ended up lending hats to others. I still don't have my crown back. :(.

Posted by tom_christmas 04:37 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Wandering in Wellington

A few years ago on a school field trip to a high ropes, I became a co-fouder of the 'pathetically scared of heights group'. Indeed, so pathetic was our fear that we only amassed three members. Fast forward to 2011, and in a moment of impulsive insanity, I sign up to do a skydive. We were flown up in a vehicle resembling a flying washing machine, and I was feeling a little uncomfortable at a height of 12 feet, so throwing myself out at 12,000 would certainly be interesting. Sitting on the edge of that plane was terrifying, no doubt about it, but never has fear turned into joy so quickly. We had been warned of sensory overload in the first 10 seconds - apparently the body can't really take in what is happening and I don't blame it - but once I had regained my senses I felt so elated. I don't know why hurtling towards the ground from such a height made me so happy, but it did! And having landed safely on the wonderfully solid ground, it felt very nice to have conquered my fear :).

Anyway, back a few days, and after a 12 hour coach journey we arrived in Kaikoura feeling a little hungry. Apparently it was 25 minutes walk into town, but there was some invitingly cheap pasta for sale at the hostel... I wouldn't say I exactly cooked for myself but I certainly helped a bit as my remaining Kiwi friends put together a pretty decent meal. And I certainly contributed significantly to the eating of it. Which is the most important part really. Then we settled down to watch some Mr Bean. A nice change after an exhausting 4 nights in Queenstown.

The next day we headed off early (again) so that we could catch a ferry to Wellington. Only 5 of our original bus group left! Kicked off our first night in the capital in style, taking full advantage of 'cheap Tuesdays' with an evening of Dominos pizza and cinema. Classic. The excitement continued to the following day with a visit to a local museum - a surprisingly good one. There was lots of science/history fact stuff around, but nicely complemented by more interactive displays to keep the children entertained. Naturally the latter took up most of my time. I slightly injured my knee on an activity where you had to jump on a mat with maximum impact to measure yourself against an earthquake - despite the injury I was proud that my score of '8' had outdone the people I was with - until a group of primary school girls came along and one matched my score. Unbelievable. Myself and Ceri (a survivor from the original bus) entered a colouring competition at the museum and I have to say, I think I'd be a worthy winner. Those kids just don't know how to keep inside the lines.

We are now in Taupo, home to a lake so large that you can fit Singapore in it. I had intended to take in the monstrous size of this lake while skydiving but I can't say I noticed much scenery wise. You get distracted by the whole falling through the sky thing. Never mind.

Posted by tom_christmas 16:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Quizzing in Queenstown

I don't know about you, but when I go to bed at around 3am, I don't really want to be woken up at 4 by a loud fire alarm. When it's about two degrees outside. Hey, these things happen. And seeing the range of pyjamas on display within the hostel is always interesting. Last week we arrived in Queenstown, reportedly the adventure and party capital of New Zealand. The first night in Queenstown is reportedly a 'big one' for Kiwi Experience passengers, a message that Rob took very much took to heart, doing a bungy jump and demolishing 7 pints before dinner.

On the way to Queenstown we stopped at 'Puzzling World', something which I had already earmarked as a potential high point of the trip. I must say, I was certainly very puzzled at times! There was a snooker ball that definitely rolled uphill, faces that followed me everywhere, and a room that made me look really tall. Finally, we attempted to conquer a maze that apparently takes the average person one hour and around four kilometres of walking to complete. Impeded by the impending departure of our bus we only made it to three of the four corners before bailing out of the emergency exit. A crushing blow to my pride.

A definite strength of the Kiwi Experience tour is the opportunity to meet so many people. And the others on our bus were a lovely bunch! Even though I've only been with them a short time I feel like I've made some good friends! I know that I'm going to bond with people when we start singing Disney songs on the bus. Unfortunately, people leave Queenstown at different times, and I have had to leave many of these people behind :(. Including Rob! He has chosen to extend his trip by a few weeks and so is dragging out his stay in New Zealand a little longer! Rob, it's been a pleasure and I'm sure you'll have a great time on the rest of your trip!


Posted by tom_christmas 05:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Freezing in Franz Joseph

Since our interesting first night in Christchurch we've had plenty of activities to keep us occupied and fairly exhausted! Highlights include the fancy dress party at the 'Poo Pub' by Lake Mahinapua, where the theme was 'bad taste'. I opted for bad taste in fashion so as to cause minimal offence, bringing together a calamitously clashing combo of red t-shirt, multi-coloured turqouise/pink shirt and Rob's elephant trousers from Thailand. Lovely. We also went paintballing - where I managed to shoot a man who is in the airforce. This slightly glamourises an afternoon in which I made minimal contributions to the team and spent most of time being shot. But so what. I shot a guy from the airforce. We also hiked up the spectacular Franz Joseph glacier. That made for an amazing day. Ice isn't even slippery in the boots and 'crampons' they give you. Still cold though. Fortunately I have invested in a second jumper, and we learned a nice 'penguin dance' to keep us warm.

With all of the activities taking their toll on the wallet, it is fortunate that New Zealand is less expensive than Australia. Although Rob is still seemingly a little confused when it comes to budgeting, missing several meals due to being 'too poor' put still managing to find the money for at least 5 pints a night... Being on a bus of people of similar age tends to put going out on the agenda most nights - although I've largely stuck to tap water with the occassional ice cold cider thrown in! It's nice meeting all these other people though they seem to be a really fun group!

I'd also like to give a shout out to New Zealand's scenery. Comfortably the most spectacular I've seen. And just consistent everywhere we go. The camera is being loaded up with new pictures! As yet we've seen limited Lord of the Rings places - but I'm definitely hoping to see the likes of Hobbiton and Mordor at some point!

The last week has also seen the unexpected return of the beard that patchily covered some of my chin back in the Vietnam days... This is not out of choice, but I only own an electric razor and it won't charge anyway in Australasia which has left me rather stuck.

Posted by tom_christmas 08:08 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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