Thursday, February 15, 2007

Last post from The Bug

Back again (again). This will have to be the last post for today, as I've got to go and get my bus in just over an hour. Fingers crossed I don't get a queue of people forming behind me this time (the two computers have been really busy this morning).

Tuesday 13th February 2007

Got a lift over to The Bug in the morning with Eric, a (very) typical Frenchman. We're talking polo-necks and Gauloises here (okay he smoked ordinary cigarettes, but I'm sure that's only because he couldn't get hold of proper Gauloises here). And he was having problems "wiz zee wimin" in his life. I didn't see a beret, but I bet he had one tucked in his rucksack. And there were lots of onions in the hostel (it was said that someone worked on an onion farm, but I bet it was just that Eric's onion necklace had broken).

Anyway, we arrived at The Bug and it was a great little place. Really clean, single beds, free (fast) internet, extremely helpful owner (from Oadby, Leics - thinks he might have gone to school with you, Lydia*) and generally lovely, friendly atmosphere. I decided to make full use of the internet and ended up spending most of the day uploading my photos. It wasn't quite as fast as I had initially thought. Still, I got it done and it was a very liberating feeling to have a clear memory card once again. It was just as shame that I had missed a sunny afternoon in the process, but, oh well, it was nice to look at the blue sky out of the window.

I dashed into town afterwards for a quick shop-up and then proceeded to make a nice hearty soup, thus reminding me of Saturdays at home (I'm trying to whittle down my food bags and have discovered a surplus of pulses, which obviously need to be used up - I can't just give them away!!!).

*ASWM, courtesy of Small World Moments Inc.

Wednesday 14th February 2007 (Valentine's Day)

Happy St. Valentine's Day, lovers. I decided that in the absence of a paramour, I would continue a love affair of a different kind and visit some more wineries...

But before that (and before lunch) I had a mooch around Nelson city centre. I really quite like it here. It doesn't have much in the way of sights, but the tree-lined streets are nice and it has a friendly buzz about it.

After lunch I borrowed one of the hostel's free bikes and headed south to the Nelson wineries, most of which are located to the south and west of the suburb of Richmond. I followed the old railway cycle track for much of the way, which was pleasant in a suburban-sprawl kind of way. Once I got beyond Richmond (20km), it was rather more interesting, as I had got out into the countryside, with kiwi and appley orchards, fields of pumpkins and the occasional vineyard.

Wine-growing is done on a much smaller scale here than in Marlborough, but there was still a good range of wines (the best ones are usually white - it just doesn't seem to be warm enough for reds other than Pinot Noir, and this summer is heading towards being a complete disaster). The usual free-tastings were on offer and most places seemed really happy to have a potential punter and someone who is genuinely interested in wine (the school holidays are over and there wasn't a soul about).

The bull**** must have been working nicely because one chap asked me if I worked in the wine trade! He was really generous with his measures (they all were), so once again I was drunk-(well, almost)-in-charge-of-a-bicycle. I didn't cycle under the influence for long though, because I got about 5km and promptly discovered a rusty nail had gone right through my rear tyre. Bummer. I had a long 15km push ahead of me...

I had been pushing for over an hour (still nearly 10km to go), when a friendly Kiwi family stopped to ask if I needed any help (they wondered why I was pushing my bike along the flat). Luckily they had a puncture repair kit and proceeded to help me fix the tyre (well, truth be told, the chap did everything for me while I chatted to his wife). I was very grateful, as otherwise it would have been a rather late return and a very late dinner (I had bought everything I needed for a curry and wasn't relishing the prospect of cooking/eating at midnight). It also allowed me to get back in time for the hostel's Sangria and Snacks evening (in celebration of Valentine's Day), which was most welcome after the exertions of the day. And then it was time for bed, as I had a 6am get-up the next day for a trip out into the Abel Tasman National Park.

Thursday 15th February 2007

It wasn't even light when I got up (the mornings are getting dark as autumn approaches), but it was warm enough in spite of the clouds. The owner of the hostel had kindly offered to drop me off at the bus stop and I was able to get the bus over to Abel Tasman without a hitch. Well, the bus broke down half-way, but the driver managed to get it going again and we arrived in Marahau to a scene of organised chaos. Well, I'm assuming it was organised. After several minutes of standing around like a lemon, I found out where I needed to go and got the water taxi I was supposed to be on (no-one was quite sure if it would get them to their anticipated destination, but it was worth a try).

The clouds had melted away by this point (9am) and it was shaping up to be a scorcher. Yippee.

It was a great little boat ride up along the coast (a small boat with a massive outboard - Dad, you'd have loved it). We even saw a little blue penguin swimming on the surface, only a few feet from the boat, which was great as I'd only seen yellow-eyed ones up until that point.

I got off at Bark's Bay and was all set to walk the 20km back to Marahau. There was a sweet old English couple on the boat, who were worried about making it back to the bus in time. I tried to reassure them that it would be absolutely fine (the estimated times they give are usually wildly over-estimated), but they were right Mary-Annes and decided that they'd like to spend the whole day worrying about it anyway (and I thought I was a worrier!!!)*.

The walk was absolutely beautiful. The sea was looking a gorgeous shade of greeny-blue under the bluest of blue skies and there were loads of golden beaches, inlets, tidal channels, etc. to add to the scenic splendour of the place. I was able to stop a couple of times to swim and it didn't feel all that cold (it might even have been approaching 20 degrees). The water was quite clean (not quite Mediterranean clear, but pretty good) and it was great to be able to dry off in an instant after getting out. Proper summer-holiday-type-stuff at last.

I was exhausted when I got back. The 20km, plus side-tracks and swims, all under the heat of the sun, had really taken it out of me. My 2L of water had been woefully inadequate, so I was dehydrated too. Still, it had been well worth it, as finally I have found somewhere in New Zealand that I would like to come back to!

*they actually made it back in time for the second-to-last bus (the one I was booked on to), as they had been so busy worrying I don't think they stopped once during the entire walk.

Friday 16th February 2007

Had a lovely long chat to Mum and Dad (the BBH phone card works out so cheap), and then spent the rest of the morning benefiting from the free internet here at The Bug. It will be a shame to leave this place as it has been easily the best hostel of my trip so far.

I'm just about to get a lift (again from the kindest hostel-owner in the business) to the bus stop, from where I'll be getting the intercity to Picton. From there I'll get the ferry to Wellington on Sunday and after a bit of time there and in Hawke's Bay, my New Zealand Odyssey will have come to an end. Hopefully I'll get the chance to update this thing again before then, but in the meantime, best wishes from Kiwiland and goodbye for now.

James xx

Marlborough and Nelson = Wine

Back again after just a short wait (phew). Let's hope I can get it finished this time...

Saturday 10th February 2007

The day of the Wine Marlborough Festival had arrived and in typically perverse manner, I had decided not to go. I didn't much fancy jostling with 10,000 in a field, listening to rubbish music (the line-up sounded awful) and having to pay $3 each time you wanted to taste a wine (on top of the $35 ticket price). What a rip-off.

Instead I decided to visit a couple of wineries which were (just about) accessible on foot from Blenheim. Someone had said they might not be open if they were represented at the festival, but I thought it was worth a shot (and it would be nice to have a bit of a walk anyway).

The first (just before lunch) was a horrible experience. The woman was a right sour-faced cow. Downright hostile in fact. I felt really uncomfortable AND I had to pay $2 for the "privilege" of tasting 3 unexceptional wines. What an awful place (I noticed she was all sweetness and light with punters in the poncy-looking restaurant attached - two-faced so-and-so!).

After going back to the hostel for lunch I had almost talked myself out of going to the 2nd winery of the day. It was further out of town and I was worried that I would get a similar reception there. I'm glad I persevered as it couldn't have been more different from the morning's experience. The lady at the Cellar Door was lovely. Very welcoming and happy for me to taste all of their wines for free. And what tasting measures. It was more like half a glass of each, and I was actually (quite unlike me, I know) forced to tip some of the remainder of each into the spittoon. I had had a huge lunch as was feeling a bit bloated. Still, the wines were rather nice

I decided to walk the long way back into town and visit another winery en route. I wish I hadn't bothered as it was much further than it appeared on the map and turned out to be closed when I got there (boo). It was also getting quite cold in the wind (a Southerly blast after yesterday's Fohn) and I felt really tired. In fact, I was totally overcome when I got back. I had to lie down in my tent and actually felt sick for a while (not the wine, surely? Maybe I had overdone the lunch or got a chill in the wind). Still, I read for a bit and had an early night, in the hope that I would be fit for the wine Odyssey which was to come...

Sunday 11th February 2007

Luckily I felt fine when I woke up. Perhaps I was just overtired... Anyway, I was glad I felt better as I had booked myself a ticket on the "Wine Down" bus tour, a new venture for this year's Wine Festival. Basically, there were a series of shuttle buses offering a hop-on hop-off services around most of the wineries for the day.

I caught the bus at 11am (no-one seemed to know quite what was going on but I found myself on a bus heading out to the vineyards at least). I had a plan of missing the first couple so that I would be ahead of the crowd. This worked a treat as in most places I was by myself and got the full attention of the people at the Cellar Door.

It was a lovely sunny day and some of the wineries had lovely settings. Most people were really friendly (my first [miserable] Marlborough tasking experience must have been a one-off). I was chatting to one of the owners who had been on a cycle tour around Devon last year and was particularly taken with Beer (even if she thought the cycle back out was a bit much!). It's another small world moment...

I visited 9 (nine!) wineries in total and didn't have to pay for a single tasting (bonus). There were some really nice wines. Cloudy Bay was a particular highlight although that might have been because I was already a little bit tipsy by that point! There were also more reds on offer than I thought there would have been. I think some of the wine-makers are getting a bit fed up with Sauvignon Blanc, so are experimenting with other varieties in an attempt to stand out from the crowd. I can't say I was overly impressed with anything other than the standard whites (SB, Reisling and Gewurtz) or the odd Pinot Noir, but it was very interesting nonetheless.

Luckily, I managed to get the last bus back to Blenheim and was back in plenty of time to get the bus over to Nelson. I even slept on the bus (a first for me) and woke up with a bit of a headache. I wonder why! First impressions of the hostel weren't all that promising (there were a lot of long-termers working on the nearby orchards and my dorm was an absolute mess), but I was only there for two nights so was sure I'd be able to put up with it for that long. I had intended to spend a couple of days relaxing on the beach (it was 100m from the hostel) before moving into the city of Nelson itself for a further three days.

I got chatting to two older Australian women (I've now got a place to stay up the coast from Sydney, if I want it) and a nice chap from America (who works for Scripps* in San Diego!), so it was a nice end to what felt like a mammoth day!

*as a captain of an oceanography vessel, so I guess Claire won't know him.

Monday 12th February 2007

It was a miserable looking day (drizzly and grey) so the American chap I had been speaking to the night before asked if I wanted to join him on a drive out to Farewell Spit and Golden Bay (he had a hire car and would be glad of the company, he said). Given that I was planning a day on the beach (the forecast had been good... but as usual they got it wrong) I jumped at the chance.

On the way out we stopped at a couple of viewpoints to look at the clouds (he is a keen Paraglider - probably friends with Craig! - and was even more disappointed about the weather than I was) and then had lunch at Mussel Inn on Golden Bay. The Mussel Chowder was good, washed down with a delicious black beer that is made on site.

As we headed west along Golden Bay it began to brighten up. The beaches on the bay were more grey than golden, but the setting was lovely with the mountains rising up on 3 sides. We then proceeded to Whararaki Beach (a lovely spot), Cape Farewell and Farewell Spit. The latter looks more impressive curling round on the map than in real life, but it is difficult so see the full extent of it from the land. Still, there were some nice spots on the way and it had a real end-of-the-road kind of feel to it.

We got back quite late (it was a long old drive from Nelson) and ate some of the nice nibbles that the kind Australian ladies had left behind (olives, caviar [!], feta, various other cheeses), with a bottle of wine. Got into a bit of a debate about the war in Iraq and war in general, which was a bit much after such a long day. He was rather forceful with his opinions, which became grating after a while. Oh well, it is interesting to hear (and dismiss!) viewpoints other than your own...

More people waiting to use the computer. I'm writing too much! Back later...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fast free internet in a great little hostel in Nelson

Hi there,

I'm back again, this time with an update from The Bug, a wonderful little hostel in Nelson (R.I.P.), with fast free internet and some time spent sheltering from the rain in which to write this nonsense (actually it stopped raining as soon as I had finished writing this sentence, and it is now a couple of days later, but I will leave it in there for the sake of completeness).

I have also uploaded all my photos, so, for a gander at those, go to, and And now here goes with the blog part...

Tuesday 6th February 2006

We moved up the road to a different hostel, as there were various irritating things about the previous one (such as pushy-down taps which soaked your crotch every time you washed your hands or cleaned your teeth, and a severe lack of good pans/knives in the kitchen). And the new one had a swimming pool, which was a major plus.

In light of the swimming pool (heated!) and good weather, we spent most of the day lounging around it and swimming in it, which made a nice change after the unseasonable weather and prevalence of cold water around these islands. It's lovely to be able to swim for more than 10 minutes without losing all feeling in your extremities.

A good deal of the day was also spent cooking. My goodness how we've eaten/cooked whilst we've been travelling together. I think I have put on at least half a stone. They really like their meat and cheese, those Swedes! And potatoes. I'll mention no names, but this brought to mind a certain individual not too far from home. Although, to give them their dues, they were adventurous (desperate/hungry) enough to consume anything I offered up.

Mathias finds it hard to go for more than a day without meat of some description (even eggs and dairy aren't good enough substitutes for him!) so if my cooking failed to deliver on that front, it was ham for breakfast instead. I think I'll go back to a meat-free diet for while after I say goodbye to them... Still, it has been nice to profit from the good quality (and cheap) meat that New Zealand has to offer.

It had become progressively more humid during the day and by evening there were some torrential thundery downpours.

Wednesday 7th February 2007

In the morning we set off early to walk around the Kaikoura Peninsula. It was a misty murky start and had clearly rained more overnight. There was that nice post-thunderstorm freshness in the air (without being cold, though, which made a nice change). And luckily the cloud began to burn off as soon as we started walking. It just left some beautiful strands of vapour hanging around the mountainsides. Which meant that the views were gorgeous.

And the walk continued in that vein. It was absolutely beautiful. The white limestone reminded me of the Greek Islands, but there were loads of seals on the rocks and sheep in the fields (not very Greek, that). I especially liked the southern side of the peninsula and the little village/harbour over there. All with the Kaikoura Range as a backdrop. Lovely stuff.

We walked quite briskly (the Swedes and I have that in common) and so were able to get back in time for lunch. This was followed by an afternoon around the pool (more swimming in the warm water - looking forward to more of that in Oz). The weather was again kind as it stayed sunny until about 5pm, and then it clouded over and there were more thundery showers.

Thursday 8th February 2007

Last day with the Swedes today, so enjoyed their company before heading off on my lonesome...

We spent the day in a fairly relaxed manner, wandering around town, cooking lunch (stuffed jacket potatoes - a minor triumph, against the odds) and messing around in the pool. It was a funny day weatherwise, starting off wet, clearing up around lunchtime (hot and humid) and then raining again from late afternoon onwards. Still we have been quite lucky of late and have been glad of a heated pool that you can use in all weathers (I quite nice swimming in the rain)

I ended the day with a sauna, although it was a bit too hot, even for me (the thermometer said 80 degrees - can that be right?). Too long in there and I would have come out a spit-roast.

Friday 9th February 2007

Said goodbye to the Swedes (hopefully I'll be able to go and visit them in Sweden, or they can come and experience the delights of Sidmouth, parents willing[?!]) and got the bus up to Blenheim. The weather had cleared up again and was really warm. It was a beautiful bus ride, with the road sandwiched for the most part between the ocean and the mountains. Saw plenty of seals frolicking in the sea (there were hundreds of the blighters), various surfers enjoying the large swell (but probably not enjoying the freezing cold water) and vast fields of kelp swishing in the waves.

The mountains softened towards Blenheim, with vineyards starting to appear on the plains and the dried grass giving the unusual pointy hills a golden glow. There were also some bright pink salt lakes, which I was annoyed not to be able to get a photo of, as they looked stunning set against the gold grass and bright blue sky.

It was really warm on arrival in Blenheim (a Fohn wind, I reckon - excuse the lack of umlauts) and quite a sweaty trek to the hostel. "The Grapvine" seemed quite nice (I had a good spot for my tent in the garden). There was hardly anyone around so I was able to make lunch and do my washing in peace. I was very impressed with the presence of a grape vine, from which I was able to help myself to some lovely grapes (Gewurztraminer? They were almost spicy!), and lemon trees. More highlights of the free-food variety.

The hostel was beside the river and there was a nice walk alongside it from there into the town. It was market day (and the build-up to the Wine Marlborough Festival) so there was a nice bustle and generally pleasant atmosphere in the warm afternoon/evening sunshine.

Spent the evening chatting to various people from the hostel (most of whom are working on the vineyards), so was able to re-assure myself that even after spending a month travelling with the same people, it is always easy to meet new people in hostels...

Damn, someone else is waiting to use the computer, so I will have to leave it there for now. Hopefully I can come back later and finish this off before I need to get the bus over to Picton this afternoon. Otherwise, it may be a few days before I get back up-to-date.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Christchurch and Kaikoura

Tuesday 30th January 2007 (continued)

Well, after updating my blog and eating lunch, we left Oamaru on the bus to Christchurch. The journey was uneventful and rather dull compared to most of the other journeys so far. You could see mountains in the distance, and we crossed the odd braided river (one of which must have been about 1km wide) but otherwise it was a flat, boring ride across The Canterbury Plains.

First impressions of Christchurch were good, however. The river and gardens looked very English (nice English, that is - we're not talking Bradford here - especially in the evening sunshine) and it generally had a nice feel to it. There is also a free bus which does a loop around the centre, so it meant our walk to the hostel wasn't as far as it would otherwise have been.

The hostel also seemed promising. Located in a nice quiet part of town, close to the park and with a nice garden and terrace for sitting outside. The room had single beds (as opposed to bunks) and the kitchen was well equipped. And who should we bump into (again), but Penny and Dave! It was their last full day, so they were able to relieve themselves of their remaining food and make 3 people very happy indeed. Oh, and the "free food boxes" were also stuffed full of goodies. Bonus. Our food bags were bulging. I got the impression I was going to like it here.

It was a warm evening so we were able to sit outside to eat dinner - a first for New Zealand?

Wednesday 31st January 2007

Another sunny day. What's going on? Does the approach of February herald the start of summer? Usually by August at home it is already feeling autumnal. We were even able to eat breakfast outside in shorts and t-shirts... and that hasn't happened many times so far in New Zealand. Nice.

We spent the morning exploring the centre of town. I then booked a few future bus tickets at the i-site, as I wanted to sort out the remainder of my time in New Zealand. Tomorrow is the start of my last month and I wanted to make sure I had time to see everything I wanted to see. I was also thus able to get some extreme saver tickets, which allow you to go anywhere on the intercity network for $10. More bargains = happy James.

After returning to the hostel for lunch (and the now obligatory free-food-check or FFC), we went to the Art Gallery. It was nice to have a cultural afternoon for a change. We got free tickets for the Giacometti exhibition, so it was big feet and skinny bodies ahoy. There were some nice pieces but it was rather a small selection and I would have felt a bit cheated if I'd paid the usual $14 entry. The rest of the gallery also seemed a bit second rate compared to the building itself. I guess New Zealand's general lack of culture also extends to their galleries. Still, they are able to write "art criticism" (aka bull****) with the best of them. Some of the modern conceptual stuff had the most unbelievably poncy commentaries. Complete tosh, mostly.

Another al fresco dinner completed a good day... and I've been sleeping really well lately (I finally seem to be getting used to staying in shared rooms... although, of course, it helps not having someone tossing and turning in a bed 2 feet above your head).

Thursday 1st February 2007

So, I'm now into the fifth calendar month of my travels. At some point during early Feb I'll reach the halfway point of my travels and then it'll be homeward bound... (sort of - albeit in a hopping-back-to-Australia-first kind-of-way).

It's hotter than ever today. My first sweaty breakfast since Australia and a languid morning stroll into town to use the internet, book tickets for an excursion to Akaroa tomorrow, buy a Frisbee ($2 in the "It's a $2" shop for an afternoon in the park) and do some food shopping at Pak 'n' Save. It's the biggest Pak 'n' Save of the trip so far (much excitement) and much the best selection of wines I've seen since my last visit to Waitrose. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. There wasn't anything much from outside of Australia or New Zealand, but at least Oz wines were represented by more than just Hardys, Banrock Station and Jacobs Creek. It sure beat most of the provincial supermarkets. I got a nice looking bottle of Australian Shiraz and a couple of Pinot Noirs for around the $10 mark, one of which was from Central Otago (these usually command a $20/$30+ price tag). Christchurch is proving to be bargain city. Maybe that's why I like it so much (that and the weather!).

Lunch on the hostel's fine terrace (we were actually forced into the shade) was followed by an afternoon excursion to the park. On the way out we bumped into the hostel's gardener. She was lamenting how no-one picked any of the veg she'd been growing in the garden, so we got chatting and said how we'd been looking at the rhubarb the day before and wondering if we could get away with pinching a bit under the cover of darkness (we had assumed that it was the owners private patch). She said we were welcome to take anything we fancied, so our eyes lit up at the prospect of fresh broccoli, runner beans, cabbage, lettuce and rhubarb. Great stuff.

It was lovely to lounge in the park for the afternoon, playing a bit of Frisbee and generally enjoying the warm sunshine. It reminded me of the occasional hot days we get in England. You know it is fleeting so you really make the most of it (and the parkland surroundings were so English it was like being transported back home).

Made a nice rhubarb crumble in the evening (it was huge!) and got several compliments about my kitchen skills (thanks Mum!). One girl asked if I was a professional chef as she always saw me cooking nice stuff. I guess most people just don't make the effort when they are travelling (I couldn't believe it when the gardener said we were the first people to take an interest in the veg patch for over a year). It was a really balmy evening - perfect for sitting outside - and it made the wine taste even better than usual.

Friday 2nd February 2007

It was an early start to catch the bus for our day-trip to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. Typically, it was fine when we work up (06:45), but had clouded in by the time we got on the bus. It was also freezing cold - such a huge contrast from the night before (I later read that it is quite common to have a cold southerly blast immediately after a hot northwester).

The drive over to Akaroa was nice, although the dull weather (and mist hanging around the hills) meant that the views weren't as good as they should have been. The Banks Peninsula is an amazing place - the way it juts up from (and contrasts to) the Canterbury Plains means that it seems more remote and otherworldly than it actually is.

prides itself on it's French heritage. Although in practice this means little more than French Street Names, touristy shops (with French names) and smelly toilets (I hope this isn't bringing back bad memories for anyone, Mum). Still, it is a nice little place and if you block out the American tourists, it makes for a pleasant day trip.

We went for a ramble behind the town in the morning and discovered an apple tree for scrumping - much to my delight. We also found a plum tree, but the fact that it was in someone's garden (and we could hear voices) meant that our plunderings were limited.

It was nice countryside and there were occasional views across the inlet. It was also freezing cold and when we sat down for our picnic lunch it began to rain (an icy rain, that I could swear had sleety bits in it*). We scoffed as much as we could and then beat a hasty retreat to a cafe to warm ourselves up. It was just as we went in that the sun came out, so we were able to transfer ourselves to the sunny terrace and hang ourselves out to dry.

From then on it was a lovely afternoon. Akaroa looked beautiful in the sunshine - the water was blue (rather than the grey of the morning) and we even spotted dolphins playing offshore. We were lucky to have the sun we did because it was raining by the time we got back into Christchurch and, judging by the puddles the following morning, continued to do so for much of the night.

*this is probably an exaggeration, brought on by the first stages of hypothermia, but it was damn cold and if we had stayed there much longer I wouldn't have been able to feel my legs below the knee.

Saturday 3rd February 2007

It was a cool start (breakfast indoors today), accompanied (as so often in New Zealand) by Solid Gold FM (a radio station which only plays music from the 60s and 70s - it's nostalgia galore here [inventing a past they don't really have]). It strikes me, whilst listening to Suspicious Minds, how much Elvis and Cher sound alike. Odd.

After this fascinating discovery I decided to have a wander around the botanic gardens. Emelie and Mathias wanted to go clothes shopping, so it was nice to have a bit of time to myself. The gardens were lovely (again, very English - herbaceous borders, rose gardens, a hot house, cactus display, etc.) and it began to warm up as lunchtime approached.

After meeting up for lunch back at the hostel, we decided to head back to the park for another afternoon of Frisbee and lounging in the sun. It wasn't as hot as before (cool breeze) but it was just right for running around like an idiot after the Frisbee.

Sunday 4th February 2007

I had another look around the botanical gardens in the morning (this time with E and M), taking in the bits that I hadn't seen on Saturday. Similar weather (fluffy white clouds in a mainly blue sky with a cool breeze)... giving me the impression that Christchurch is a nice sunny city, with lovely gardens and a generally pleasant atmosphere. It will be a shame to leave (especially the free food bins and the hostel's veggie patch), but leave we had to.

The bus left in the afternoon (after a leisurely lunch and a final harvest to take with us!). It was a scenic ride up to Kaikoura, especially the last 20 minutes or so, where the road hugs the coast. After the plains around Christchurch, the mountains rose up impressively and the sky had cleared to set them off nicely in the evening sunshine.

On arrival (still in the evening sunshine) Kaikoura seemed like a nice little town, although the hostel wasn't particularly great (this was probably in contrast to Dorset House in Christchurch, which was particularly good, but we decided to move to another one for our last 3 days anyway - one which even boasts a swimming pool, so we're hoping that the sunny weather continues).

Monday 5th February 2007

Sunny again and the hostel seemed better this morning (must have been overtired yesterday!). Spent most of the morning sitting/lying on the pebbly beach (could have been Branscombe, but for the black stones and the lack of a stricken cargo vessel offshore). Nice to be by the sea again. Had a paddle (still freezing) and threw stones into the water (my arm still aches from Frisbee!). Kaikoura is certainly a nice place to be when the sun is shining.

Had a long lunch (enjoying the uncrowded kitchen - there were so many people the night before) and then came here to upload my photos (absolutely useless - so slow) and update my blog (more success with that one, although Gmail won't allow me to be logged into different picasa and blogger accounts simultaneously). There's actually free internet at the hostel (the reason we decided to stay there), but you can't use USB and it is so slow it would almost be quicker to use Royal Mail.

So there we go, I'm now back at the hostel to use the snail internet to upload this (I hope it works okay). Just had a nice beef stew (sat outside in the sun, which was nice - well, until it went down and got a bit too chilly) and will shortly be going to bed (it's been sunny today and I've got that tired "fresh air" glow which should hopefully lead to a good night's sleep.

Hooray - I'm back up-to-date again (and only a short delay this time). Maybe I can keep on top of it now that I am getting back closer to civilisation. Or maybe not. We shall see...

Best wishes,
James xx