The Gili Islands

So after not really being all that good at surfing, we headed off to the Gili Islands to do some stuff we were pretty sure we could manage (aka, sunbathing and drinking.)  The Gili Islands are tiny accidents of the tides just off the coast of Lombok – they are surrounded by really shallow coral reefs, and you have the impression that if the wind ever changes the islands will just wash away.  There are three of them within a stone’s throw of Lombok – Gili Meno (honeymoon island), Gili Trawangan (like Aussie Mallorca) and Gili Air (where single girls go to escape the other two Gilis. …sob).  Jo and I didn’t feel brave enough to try styling it out with the couple on Gili Meno so had a few days each on the other two.  Given that you can walk around either island in an hour or two, and it’s beautiful sandy beaches all the way, the Gilis are very good places to unwind.

We managed a pretty full timetable of hippie Western tourist activities while on the islands – snorkelling  (I saw a Dory!!!), sunbathing, yoga (both the normal kind and the ridiculous aerial kind), going for massages, eating BBQ fish, watching the sunsets and taking obligatory instagrammable pictures.  I’d feel bad about how gentle our stay there was but then again, it was over 30 degrees. Poor us eh.


Including even one of me looking like a prat doing upside down yoga.

Both the islands we visited are ridiculously photogenic – as well as perfect beaches, the Indonesians have definitely got the memo about cutesy Boho chic so everything is made out of repainted vintage furniture and decorated with fairy lights.

The Gilis, rocking their “yeah my stylist does Glastonbury too” look.

It’s a nice life to be honest! Definitely a few steps up from working two or three jobs at a time to avoid paying rent and living in a room with a leak.  Jo has booked us some pretty fancy places to stay…it feels really nice to have our own pool most of the time and not to be the one in charge of changing the sheets or cleaning the loo!



For the first post about a new country, this is going to be disgustingly short. Here is my step by step guide to having your first few days in Bali like Jo and I did –

  1.  Book into a proper legit surf school.
  2. Attend day one surf lesson where “guaranteed to stand up”
  3. Don’t stand up.  Just fall off the board and giggle.
  4. Return on day two where instructors have had to readjust expectations of standing.
  5. Stand up once but immediately get invalided out by spraining gimpy arm.
  6. Wait till your friend makes your injury look pathetic by getting hit in the face with own surf board and bloodily dislocating some teeth.
  7. Spend day in hospital wondering if you’re jointly the worst surf students alive.
  8. Spend last day in surf camp by the pool where you can’t hurt yourself.

And that’s it! I definitely wasn’t expecting to be good at surfing but this was particularly hilarious even from someone as athletically challenged as myself.  However, it was great to have an excuse just to lay about and rest lots.  We didn’t see heaps of Bali while at surf camp because they pretty much just shuttle you back and forth between the accommodation and the beach, but we did discover that Balinese seafood is amazing and even fancy cocktails are comparatively cheap as chips.  A bundle of us from the surf school went for dinner one night to a seafood restaurant that looked quite dingy from the front, but which opened out onto a beautiful beach where you all have dinner alfresco on the sand.  Aside from the food being incredible, my highlight of the evening came when we all sat back, stuffed, and a four piece mariachi-type band arrived to play us some Gypsy Kings while shouting things like “take it away, Ringo!!”  Who knew Indonesia would be like this?


Wanaka – finally, at last

My mum is a wonderful, hopeful person – one of my all time faves.  Earlier tonight her hopeful little face asked me if I thought I might have time to write her another blog post with some more pictures…Consequently it’s her fault that I’m on a plane at 3 am somewhere over the Indian Ocean trying to find a few hundred words to summarise the radio silence of the last few months!  As in Napier, I’ve been settled and working for a couple of months and so have had very little to report.  Suddenly it all came to a close though and here I am, flying out of New Zealand and over to Bali.


Home this time was Wanaka, a ski town I visited a couple of times over the summer  and fell in love with.  It’s apparently the second coldest place in NZ so winter makes it ski paradise – just look at all that snow!


These are the Misty Mountains again, looking a lot more familiar with the snow than they were in the summer (trust me to have picked the geeky LOTR view for daily consumption.)  I have to say, although I’ve shivered and bitched about the cold pretty constantly, Wanaka is bloody gorgeous.   The famous views include the Wanaka Tree – famous for growing in the lake rather than on the shore….


Also famous – Roy’s Peak, the tallest of the mountains on the left hand side of town.  I put off climbing it for months, because I know how terrible I am at climbing hills without making people want to kill me to stop me moaning.  I finally grew some lady balls a couple of days before leaving and I have to say it was totally worth it and not as terrible as I’d worried it would  be -getting photos like this justifies quite a lot!


The rest of the time I spent in Wanaka was pretty much focused on trying not to freeze.  Most people go to Wanaka to ski and so fixate on snow levels etc – not yours truly.  I am a summer child.  I passed the time developing indoor hobbies, like going to the cinema to eat cookies, watching Game of Thrones wrapped in a duvet, and mulling stuff in my beloved mulling cauldron (Mulled cider is a legit –  albeit dangerous – mixer for rum.  Who knew).  Probably the only time I really enjoyed the cold weather was June 25th, which was my first ever half-Christmas party and felt appropriate to be frosty!


(GRATUITOUS FOOD PORN SHOT.  You can’t see it but I contributed some pretty tasty mulled wine to this spread.)

Right at this moment, I’ve been travelling for something like 25 hours and we are one final hour out from Bali.  I’m thrilled about not being cold for the next few weeks, but it does feel very strange that I’ve gone and left New Zealand after all this time.  It’s been a horribly emotional few days wrapping up in Wanaka and then packing up in my uncle’s house.   I think I’ve been awake too many hours to dwell on that right now, so I’m just going to hope that Bali can live up to New Zealand.

NB – this was the night before last.  Since then I have been surfing, sunbathed, eaten noodles for breakfast and drunk cocktails that look like this…


That is a basil and lime daiquiri, for the uninitiated.  And it’s fucking delicious (even if it does taste exactly how you imagine that Original Source shower gel would).  Bali is pretty good so far.


Arthur’s Pass

Aka, mine and Luisa’s Last Hurrah.  We both approached the end of our trip with the same attitude – if we don’t think about it, it isn’t real.  Two weeks felt like ages at the beginning but was over horribly quickly.  We had our last proper couple of days in a hostel near Arthur’s Pass (the highest settlement in New Zealand don’cha know, population 29 – no joke) before heading back into Christchurch for me to get a bus alone.

And we had a great time! We were lucky and got a very lovely hostel –  it was a tiny little place in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal and only 6 beds. Having been on the mad tourist trail so much over the last few months, it’s always really welcome to find somewhere a bit different. I say this – probably because they let us have unlimited wifi for the whole time we were there, so we didn’t have be to be totally cut off.  I have become a wifi slut.  They also had electric blankets, so my inner grandma stayed toasty warm the whole time.  Heaven.

Having finally thrown off our illnesses, we were ready to get back to the serious business of backpacking properly.  We hiked up a mountain for the first time without the guys, and felt incredibly proud of ourselves for doing so.  Stupidly I don’t know the name of the mountain that we climbed, so I’m just going to say it was pretty darn big and had beautiful views up and down the pass.  The sun came out for the photo op, thank goodness, and we had a wonderful vista of jagged mountains on either sie of the pass with a sparkling ribbon of river in the middle of the valley floor.


Gorgeous, innit.

In the evenings we used the aforementioned glorious connectivity to abuse my poor sister’s Netflix and watch a series of kids’ films and bad romcoms, while drinking wine and giggling.  We played cards quite a lot, especially on the top of the mountain while we had a breather.   I drank lots of early morning cuppas and read lots of books, because I tend to wake up (hours and hours) before Luisa.  Overall we didn’t really do anything special, but it was all really great!

Eventually though,  we ran out of time.  It was so hard to get on my bus without Luisa – having been working and travelling together since Christmas, I had become pretty used to having her around all the time and it was sad to bring it all to a close.  Tears may have been shed.  Thank goodness for the wonders of social media which allow us to message incessantly and continue to have whole conversations made of Bieber lyrics!   I was talking to Luisa this morning about how great the last few months have been, and we both agreed that these are the kind of experiences that make travelling worthwhile and we have been incredibly lucky to have loved the last few months so much.  I find it hard sometimes to make the descriptions of what I’ve been doing sound as wonderful as it felt, which must surely be thanks to the presence of my excellent travel buddies (or a terrible reflection on my blogging ability, who knows).  Either way I’m certain that I will always be grateful for how much I have enjoyed the people I was with for this part of the trip, because it wouldn’t have been the same with anybody else.


Hanmer Springs




This is a quick one.  Hanmer Springs was a short, peaceful but very important part of the trip for me.  With all the changes happening at the moment, plus the arrival of autumn, I think I was pretty close to developing traveller blues last week (I have heard that five/six months blues are kind of a thing OK, like fifth week blues used to be at uni)  Having never been all that good at handling change or bad weather, my to do list was looking intimidating – watch everyone go home. Try to get better.  Find new place to live. Get new job and more money.  Make plans for next few months.  Ideally,  complete all of the above with grey skies and rain instead of sunshine.   Let’s not even contemplate the idea of going home and sorting the real world out.

However, Hanmer Springs was the perfect place to let the seasons turn.  It has a lovely thermal spa complex that we spent the rainiest day in, and nothing makes you grateful for the rain quite like being in a 42° sulphur pool outside.  The hostel really knew its business when it came to bad weather as well, so we could curl up on the sofa with a log fire and cuddly cat and dose ourselves with soup and tea.  I don’t think anyone will ever convince me that summer isn’t the best season, but it was a good reminder of the perks of autumn.  We also went for a walk round the forest, grabbed a drink on live-music-sunday at the pub and treated ourselves to an hour at the animal park.  If the cat at the hostel wasn’t enough, feeding alpacas and petting donkeys does a pretty good job of cheering you up.  In case you want to share the moment – that’s a photo of me trying to work out how I feel about the fact that llamas apparently have three lips.

In all, it was lovely.  We eased back into doing stuff and I successfully got a grip on myself.  I have a plan for getting myself to Wanaka and am quite looking forward to the next part of the trip.  I am ok with the fact that it will involve more jumpers (who doesn’t love knitwear anyway) and if I’m really lucky maybe I will finally have time to watch the rugby on Sunday afternoons.  And then in July I will fuck off and go enjoy summer in Asia.


This is a bit of a stretch.  I have skipped lots of places.  But Akaroa is the first new place (nearly) and also the first time I had time to catch my breath in a couple of weeks. Things are different again now – the guys left NZ earlier this week, leaving Luisa and I to our own devices and forcing me to start taking my own pictures again.  It’s a bit of a shock to the system not to have a built in men’s country choir in the back seat any more,  so we tried to think of something to do to cheer ourselves up.  This was hilarious in itself. Luisa, to me on the first morning – “we should do something we can only do without them. Like……..ummm…. talk about periods?”  (Me – “err… we used to do that anyway”)

Anyway we decided that the answer was to take a break from shooting around, and go and relax in Akaroa. Posh Christchurch residents go there for their mini breaks apparently- it’s only an hour and a half south, is on a really gorgeous peninsula, and is very proud of its French roots.  Everything is called Le Pub and Le Tourist Information and there is tricolore bunting everywhere.  We ended up in a campsite on a farm a few miles out of town, and had a lovely couple of days doing almost nothing.  The campground was lovely – views over the bay,  resident mad sheep, hammocks between the trees.  We had great intentions of doing hikes up and down the hills etc but in the end spent most of our time either in the village drinking coffee, sitting in the park playing cards, lying in the hammocks dozing or watching Harry Potter films in our sleeping bags.

Some nice pictures of/from our campsite.  The evening one is the view from the shelter the night we sat on the sofa and watched HP in our sleeping bags.  There wasn’t a wall there so we could literally see straight out over the bay!

In other news, I also had some time to think more about my plans for the future and what on earth I’m going to do when I can’t realistically be a backpacker any more.  I’ve been chewing this over for months and it usually makes me freak out and put the kettle on, but this time I think I finally, FINALLY might have a plan.  Like all my big plans, it started with a dream I had (I don’t know why this works for me, but this works for me!)  I’m still doing research on the details, so watch this space, but for the moment it just feels better to have a bit of a plan.  In the next couple of weeks I’m parting from Luisa as well (SOB) and will be heading back to Wanaka to get another job.  Once that’s done I have to make some actual budgety plans for the summer and will hopefully take more steps forward. 

Lastly, here are some photos of the last month that I stole from Chris -these are specially for you, Auntie Jacs!!

From Tongariro –

Mount Doom! (Aka Tongariro)
The climb up. There’s a small blonde blob in this that could be me, actually…
“Red Crater”
“Emerald Lake”

From Whanganui-

A general daily view from the canoes. Look how peaceful and Jurassic Parky!

From Abel Tasman National Park –

Can you see why it’s my favourite place in the world?
How about now?
This, to me, is perfect. Exhilarating and free.
We kayaked round here to look at seals.  I MEAN REALLY. Who gets to do that??

Southbound on Highway 1 to the Catlins

What I am increasingly learning about travelling is that most of the fun comes from the people you are with.  Each part of the time I’ve been here so far has been decidedly separate and has its own character.  Rebecca – the bliss of takeaway lattes every day.  Lots of nice wine.  Feeling super cultured.  Rebecca and Leon – silly adventures.  Not having the right equipment or a good idea of how long anything takes, but somehow styling it out.    Lotta – HOT TUBS.  Recovering from stress with wine/cookies/Hemsworth movies.  Finally feeling like I can hike.

These days the road trip vibe is different again.  We have somehow become the people who cruise around ugly-singing to Adele and Justin Bieber and get up to watch the sun rise with alarming frequency.  We camp quite a lot, have ridiculous conversations in bad Spanish, have now become hard-core NZ travellers who actually have done some of the Great Walks, and listen to playlists made of eclectic mixes of Disney, country music, the top 40 and indie throwbacks  (somehow it works.  Don’t ask me how.  But I’m not ashamed.)

This time round, we are working round South Island clockwise.  I have covered a lot of the ground before, but it’s been great to revisit some of the places. The adventures are probably physically harder but the extra effort pays off – kayaking to remote beaches means doing yoga in the sand in the middle of nowhere.  Getting up at dawn means penguins nearly bump into you crossing the beach to find their pals. Saving money by camping means more cash to spend on making eggs benedict for breakfast!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks really.  The first thing we did in South Island was a 4 day kayak/hike through Abel Tasman national park, which I have visited before but only for a day trip.  I think the trip we just did there will be one of my highlights of the whole country really – I adore the park anyway, and it was just magic to be camping there for a few days.  Kayaking the coast was exhilarating and gives you a whole new view on the beaches and jungle.  We swam every day and went rock climbing in our downtime – you can’t really ask for more than that!  I was knackered by the time we hiked back but honestly I felt like I could have happily carried on forever, until the sandflies finished me off.

We whizzed over to highway one after that,  via wine country (mmmm) and then headed south.  The first new place we stopped was Dunedin, which is a totally normal town perched at the bottom of the glorious Otago peninsula.  Despite doing no real planning we managed to have a brilliant day exploring the peninsula by way of a “short, moderate” hike up and down a valley (I needed a cold beer when we got to the bottom and very nearly didn’t make it back up at all!) and then drove down the coast road to an albatross colony.  The drive back, by the edge of the sea with the sun setting and loud country music playing, was just lovely.

For the last few days we’ve been following the Scenic Coastal Highway south from Dunedin, then west across the bottom of the island before nipping inland to arrive in Queenstown.  That part of the world is called the Catlins, and aside from being typically NZ beautiful, it’s also crazy good for wildlife.  In the last few days we have spotted seals, albatrosses, dolphins, penguins, and in one very memorable incident nearly trod on a massive endangered sea lion.  I don’t think it was the one who felt endangered at the time, to be honest! This will teach us me to take photos of sea lions playing in the shallows without checking to see if one is sunbathing right behind us.

Whether it’s good or not, we have now left the coast behind to revisit Queenstown and Wanaka.  The seaside in my heart is sad to move inland, but I do love Wanaka and I know it’s probably wise to be somewhere where I’m not at risk of being gored by a poor vulnerable sea lion.


The adventure begins! Part the first…

Once upon a time, there was a girl working in a bar in Napier trying to plan the rest of her travels.  Her friend and tupperware partner Luisa was leaving at the end of February, in a Nissan called Dennis.  Your girl decides to leave on board Dennis and tour South Island again and fill in all the bits that didn’t get done the first time round.  Her Canadian friend Chris, who also worked in the same bar and also ate a lot of the tupperware meals, was expecting his friend Zac for a visit for a month from home at the end of February and casually suggested that they should all go together aboard their faithful steed Dennis.  It’s genius.

And that was last week I think.  We have all made contributions to the trip dynamic – Chris, who has the most pep out of anyone ever, has planned a full on activity holiday including long mountainous hikes and wilderness canoe journeys that initially seemed daunting but has turned out to be ace.  Zac, resident He-Man, taught Luisa and I how to canoe in a forwards facing direction most of the time.  Luisa brought a memory stick of Disney films, a terrific car playlist, the actual car itself and some truly wonderful German mannerisms that we all really love.  I made an online, shared, colour coded google calendar for the trip with notes and downloadable confirmation documents.  Go figure.

We started by tackling the 20km Tongariro Crossing, which is the hike up through the (active) volcano range that was used as Mount Doom in LOTR.  It’s been on my geek radar for a while but I was a bit intimidated by it.  Chris planned it in as a warm up for all our other activities.

And it didn’t kill me! It’s quite the climb up into the mountains (I think you cover 1100m up in the first 2 km or something insane) but then you’re hiking over a completely alien moon landscape with no green stuff, big craters from boulders thrown out when one of the volcanoes erupts, smoking sulphur lakes and clouds floating past BELOW you.  It’s a lot more beautiful than it sounds as well – the rocks are primarily grey, but the sulphur lakes are somehow very vivid shades of green and blue (and thus are named “Emerald Lake” and “Blue Lake” etc, in a stroke of creative genius),  and a lot of the craters are lined with red dust (“Red Crater”).  I’d usually upload some pictures to illustrate at this point,  but have outsourced photo taking to the others and the Internet hasn’t been good enough to get hold of them yet.  I’d also probably have described it as sweaty but worth it, but since you’re so far up it’s actually quite chilly.

We managed to score a great hostel nearby for afterwards, which is primarily a ski lodge so was almost deserted at this time of year.  We successfully made time for using the hot tub, doing lawn yoga, playing Bananagrams and other such wholesome activity, so we were feeling pretty rested by the time we loaded up the canoes for the Whanganui journey a day later.  The Whanganui river comes down off the mountains in the volcano range, and flows slow and brown southwards through a national park of thick jungly forest.  We took a few days to canoe 90 km down the river soaking up the Jurassic Park vibe and camping on the shores each night.  Having never canoed before it was a bit of a steep learning curve for Luisa and me, although being outdoorsy Canadians the guys were super competent.  However, we didn’t get pitched out at all and even though we definitely took a couple of stretches of rapids sideways by accident (and once going unashamedly backwards), we had a great time.  We spent a lot of time singing the travelling song from Brother Bear, making maaa-ing noises at goats on the banks, looking at the incredible variety of birds and having floating picnics.  I can’t really express how peaceful it was paddling along every day and getting to watch the sun rise over a mountain in the mornings.

Since then we’ve spent a day mooching around in Wellington, topping up my caffeine levels primarily,  and are now poised at the top of South Island about to set off again! Next stop, a four day kayak/hike thing. Wonderful.

Napier, for ages

After a long hiatus, this is the first of a couple of posts I’ve been trying to finish to catch up with myself.  I had been telling myself that it really hadn’t been that long since the last update …nope, it has been months.  Oops.  In a nutshell,  here is what I’ve been doing in Napier –


Life in the hostel and the job in the bar both really suited me, and it was very easy to get very comfortable.  I adored the hostel I lived in and the people that I lived with.  You know you’ve fallen on your feet domestically when you have shared tupperwares of your week’s meals in the fridge and there’s usually some baking going on! The pace of life was just lovely – everyone had a job and was trying to save money, but still had enough time and cash to pop to the cinema or over to the water park or in to the pub or up the mountain for a sundown picnic or out to the vineyards or down to the beach for ice cream.

I also did get the job in the bar and was working full time there on top of the morning housekeeping for the hostel in exchange for my rent – I was pretty much always on the go but it was nice to be able to pocket all my wages, so felt very worth it.  I also bloody loved the job, which was a blessing in itself.  I can now competently change a keg (only had one beer shower when I got it wrong one time….), blag my way through half a dozen budget cocktails and pour a kind of decent Guinness.  The pub was a lovely place to work as well – very lovely pub quiz, very lovely bands twice a week, very lovely staff discount on food and very very lovely people.  The second to last week I was there was ‘Art Deco week’, which is Napier’s annual festival and general excuse to get out the braces and sequins and get really drunk.  Apparently there are also other things going on but since we all worked about 55 hours in 4 days (plus the damn housekeeping on my part!!) I really only saw the get-very-drunk part.  We all had to dress up for work – theoretically I was a 1930s lady, but in practice I think a waistcoat and flat cap just make me look like an extra from Oliver.  I jazzed it up with red lipstick after that but only managed to upgrade the look to 90s music video extra.

One day I turned around and it had been 2 months, and I was leaving in a week and a half.   This was a pretty devastating realisation, although it was definitely time to move on.  There were a few of us leaving at around the same time, so we all kicked it up a gear and finally fitted in all the touristy things we’d been meaning to do for ages.  The highlights of the last couple of weeks were definitely watching sunset on the top of Te Mata peak with a picnic – you get a view over the whole of Hawke’s Bay from there, and feels like you can see every star in the sky.  The other one was finally, finally getting taken to Ocean Beach, which is the place to go to swim (currents too strong in Napier itself).  I had been dying to go but all my best efforts always fell through.  The one afternoon I finally spent there was just magic, mostly because of how much I love swimming and jumping into giant waves.  I totally tired myself out whooping and hollering like a kid while swimming around, and then fell asleep in the sand. Perfection.

And that is a pretty representative summary of life in Napier for the last couple of months.  It’s hard to leave somewhere with wonderful people and golden sunshine every day, but there’s still a lot left to do and I’m looking forward to feeling like a traveller again.



So I’m finally going to use my tablet for something other than binge watching Jessica Jones and get on with the Napier update.  I was a bit slow to start this one because it’s the first post since I settled down in one place, and there’s a lot less ‘doing’ to report.  That said, I was thinking about it this morning and realised that I only have good things to say about Napier and how I’m doing.  Which is impressive given that firstly I’m prone to worrying and secondly was also elbow-deep cleaning a toilet at the time.

Napier is home to Part Two of the expedition. I’ll probably stay here for another couple of months I think, while I try and repair the damage done to my bank balance by the “might as well” school of travel budgeting.  The facts of day to day life in Napier are these – I live in a ten bed dorm and do two hours housekeeping in the hostel every morning to pay for my keep.  I work a few more hours in reception in the evenings to earn a bit of pocket money.  This weekend I’ve been interviewing for bar work so hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be working as some kind of hybrid cleaner/receptionist/waitress chameleon.  I’m still mostly vegetarian as can’t afford meat, but eat a lot more cake than previously as lots of the other girls have a real sweet tooth and are great at baking!  Napier is the the Art Deco capital of NZ after it all got knocked down by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt to look modern (they are OBSESSED with the earthquake, by the way, and have an eleven day Art Deco festival every summer to commemorate it.)  The weather is beautiful almost every day and the sunshine seems more golden here than anywhere else.  My uncle and family came for a visit last weekend so I spent two days playing tourist at the cider place and water park.  My hostel is stone’s throw from the beach so I can pop to the beach every day, and stroll down to the market to by fruit and veg on Sundays.  There’s a balcony out front that overlooks the high street and the beach,  which is my new favourite spot for a cuppa and some people watching.  There’s not a lot else in Napier, so it’s not too hard to save money as long as I can resist buying wine all the time.

Irritatingly, being settled and having a routine seems to really suit me, so although it’s boring to say so, staying in one place is quite appealing.  I finally feel like I’m not  carrying a load of residual stress around with me.  I remember how to enjoy everything, up to and including cleaning toilets after breakfast (I’m not joking, yesterday I fixed a broken toilet with my BARE HANDS and felt like a fucking superhero.  This morning I looked at it fondly, like a proud toilet-mama.)  I havent had a nightmare in weeks, which is such a huge relief and a lot less embarrassing in the dorm context.  I don’t know how long it’ll be before I need something more challenging to do, but for the moment I get a great deal of satisfaction from inventing ingenious solutions for dusting high places (rag tied to a broken fishing rod, people!) and just pottering around in the sunshine.  If I do need something harder, I’ll let the boys finish trying to teach me Canasta.