Follow Amanda & Rob around the world for a year. From 30 September 2005!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Counting Sheep......

Right. Accusations have been thrown our way on more than one occasion since we jacked in our jobs that we are lazy layabouts who are just on a one year holiday to avoid having to go to work. This is of course true, however, over the past couple of weeks we have been working. We have been living and working on the Davaar farm near Te Anau, with the lovely Macdonald family. This farm has a fair number of cows (I didn't count them) and 8,000 sheep and over the course of our time there we got acquainted with quite a few of them. We were herding them up and down the road, into pens, out of pens, all over the place. We got the nack of it after a while, on more than one occasion they decided that they wanted to go the other way down the road, and we had to be rescued by one of Jimmy's 8 sheepdogs. These dogs were amazing - far more talented at herding than we could ever be. And whilst I would be running around a field frantically trying to catch a stupid sheep, they would just come along and do it in seconds. I never got the hang of picking up sheep either. Got a few bruises to show from my numerous attempts though.

We herded sheep for shearing, vaccinations (they went on to a little conveyer belt trapping them on each side with their legs dangling underneath in order to stop them running away - very amusing sight to see 3,000 of them going on that), and the best task was sorting the lambs with pooey bottoms from the ones without pooey bottoms. Clearly some lambs are more careful in their toilet habits than others. Oh and we cleared up a lot of pooey wool in the woolshed too. I fear we may still smell of sheep poo when we get back to England.

In non-sheep related activities, we stacked a whole mountain of wood, cleaned windows, did a spot of gardening and killed weeds with one of those backpacks attached to a spraygun. For the duration of this job, I sang the Ghostbusters theme tune. We even had our own beaten-up old ute to drive around in.

So lots of hard work, including a 6am start one day (shock, horror) but we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and were treated to lovely home-grown cooking every day and a great little house to stay in. Also went to a school BBQ, some local horse races, and had a day on their boat on Lake Te Anau where I proved to be a top-class biscuit rider. It was great to get away from being a tourist for a few days. So thanks again to Jimmy, Fiona, Kate, Anna and Ben for making us feel so welcome.

We are now in rainy Dunedin where we are celebrating Amanda's birthday with a trip to the Cadbury chocolate factory this afternoon. Amanda will attempt to eat her own weight in chocolate or something like that I would think.

Just posted a load more photos on flickr, so take a look when you have a moment.

Amanbaaaaa Hares and Little Bo Speake

Thursday, February 02, 2006

NZ - after Zorbing

So we have been on the road for over four months now and in NZ for over 5 weeks. So an update is in order of all the recent fun and games, I feel.

After the Northlands we headed to the Coromandel Peninsula, a beautiful stretch of coastline. We bought a body board and went splashing around in the waves. Amanda got caught out by a big old wave and nearly drowned but was back in the sea half an hour later. Brave soldier. Hot Water Beach was fun - digging a hole in the sand by a hot spring and enjoying the hot water in the sunshine.

Walked up and down an extinct volcano which was very hard work, rewarded by a dip in a soda water spa at the end. This was meant to soothe our aching muscles, however, we both could hardly walk the next day.

Then it was down to the Tongariro National Park for 'the best day walk in New Zealand'. And it was very good. Up at 5.30am and we started off in the freezing cold at 6.30am. The first couple of hours were in the shadow of a volcano so it was a welcome relief when we finally got in the sunshine again. We skirted round the bottom of a volcano (Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings apparently) and then walked over a massive crater, which was very like walking on the moon (I have experience of lunar walking of course). Look out for my arty pictures on flickr. Then it was on to unnaturally blue crater lakes and through some magnificent countryside, and we were done by 2pm. Very nice indeed.

We met up with Amanda's parents in Taupo and had the luxury of a proper wide bed for a few days. We had a lovely time, and I think they did too. One day myself and Amanda jumped out of a plane. We were relieved to look round and find we each had a man with a parachute attached to us after we had done so. It was 12,000 feet, so 45 seconds freefall of our faces wobbling around uncontrollably and lots of screaming, before floating down over Lake Taupo and landing quite smoothly - Amanda gracefully on her feet, me on my arse. Quite an experience. The next day it was more adrenaline packed adventure with a whitewater rafting trip, this time with Richard and Julie. We paddled down a beautiful river and got quite wet along the way.
Then it was back to Taupo and out for dinner for the biggest challenge yet, as I embarked on the consumption of a 750g steak. Needless to say, I rose to the challenge, even managing to squeeze in Spotted Dick and custard afterwards. Well, Julie did say that I looked like I had lost weight, so I decided to do something about it. Therefore it has also been necessary to increase pie consumption by 50% in recent days - the Thai Red Chicken Curry Pie today was exquisite.

Then it was down to Napier where we took in a Twenty20cricket match in a glorious sunny day. Good game, although Amanda missed most of the action as she was reading the paper. She did say that she liked the music they played whenever a four was scored. So that is the main thing I guess.

We met my Mum and Dad in Napier, wandering around the town on the first day and tastings at a couple of wineries on the second day. Their camper rather put our rustbucket to shame (one of our tyres fell to pieces on the way to Taupo, but apart from that she's still in good health), but I still think our van has more 'character' than these modern new-fangled things. Out for a cracking Thai meal before saying goodbye and going back to normality.

Down to Wellington, which we liked, and over the Cook Strait to South Island. Great, and thankfully smooth, crossing. There was a maritime festival in Picton, which was pleasant. My highlight would have to be the middle-aged couple dancing to a blues band. There was plenty of finger pointing in the air involved in her dancing style - particularly at the end of a song when she would freeze in a certain pose. It was priceless to watch.

Then onwards to Blenheim (more wine tasting), Nelson (more again) and to Abel Tasman which was stunning. Did a cruise and day walk along a beautiful stretch of coastline, stopping briefly to see some seals. Scenery was very similar to the Cook Islands but the water, unfortunately, much colder.

Then we headed down the West Coast stopping to cross NZ's longest swingbridge high above a river. It was very wobbly too. Mother, you would have loved it. Then some more stunning coastline before ending up today in grey Greymouth.

Have just come back from a trip clambering through caves, floating on inner tubes in caves looking at gloworms and generally getting quite wet and muddy. The spa, beer and muffin at the end were tremendous too.

So where from now. Onwards and downwards to Queenstown before we stop for 8 days to work on a sheep farm. They have a sit-on lawnmower so I intend to drive around on that all week. Then to Milford Sound and round up to Christchurch.

NZ is definitely a beautiful place and the people have been very kind and friendly to us. One small annoyance is that they do seem to have a problem in the correct use of apostrophe's which really gets to be quite annoying. Even worse than the greengrocers back at home. I blame the school's over here not learning the kid's proper.

We fly out of NZ on March 6th now (original plan before we left was Feb 1st so we are little behind schedule) then straight to Tasmania for a few days. Got tickets for the Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens in Melbourne on March 16th, so keep an eye out for us there.