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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A couple of nights in Dunedin proved to me that you can find English weather wherever you go. In spite of being 11000 miles from home, it still managed to feel like we were going to watch England in any town in the UK thanks to the continual rain that showered the city on Saturday, which did little to lift the mood following a fairly huge night out on Friday night that left me feeling like if anyone even showed me a beer I might fall over. Put simply, starting a night out with an informative 90 minute brewery tour, complete with 30mins of a completely free bar is a great way to ensure you hit the pubs already half cut.


 The whole Friday night was not aided by the continuous flow of free Canadian Club whiskey from a load of blokes dressed as Mounties who seemed to put up only minor resistance to our attempts to get multiple cans of their beverage out of them. I wouldn’t mind; but the damn stuff just tasted like slightly weak ginger ale and merely acted as a gateway to a night of slightly more solid spirits. Remember kids, if a man in a Mountie uniform offers to introduce you to the cool, refreshing taste of Canadian Club and Ginger Ale, you say no and run away. Far far away.

As for the rugby, finally getting to a World Cup game was a feat in and of itself as it started to feel like we’d just flown to the other side of the world to watch it at a slightly more convenient time on TV. But sure enough we made it to the Otago Stadium and actually saw a fairly impressive performance out of the boys and I took enough blurry photos to secure my place as a front runner for Sports Photographer of the year.

Leaving my Dunedin friends behind we moved onward to Nelson on the Monday, where the sun actually shines and there’s plentiful scenery. Our first night here saw us drink in a converted church full of local ales, warm fires and the Sky Sports commentary team of Stuart Barnes and Miles Harrison. Marv, unfortunately, couldn’t be persuaded to give Stuart a flying hug and we moved on to badly play some pool and indulge in ACTUAL Skittles Vodka. I can neither confirm nor deny that it’s better than a skittle bomb as we insisted the bar lady mix all 5 flavours together to produce something that looks like you can clean an engine with it.
After fighting through the haze of that this morning I decided that a trip to climb the hill that leads to the centre of New Zealand might be best to get yet more stunning scenery shots. The one thing I seem to have in abundance right now is scenery shots. Damn this beautiful country.

And now for some Italy vs USA action. USA! USA! USA! 

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Queenstown

Everything that Christchurch was (depressed, wet, at sea level), Queenstown is not. The self-styled Winter/Extreme Sports capital of New Zealand is a vibrant and buzzing party town in the mountains, with more bars per head than any other town in the country.

The drive in to Queenstown, using the excellent Intercity coach service complete with ongoing narration from our driver, took us past the stunning Lake Tekapo which featured one of the most breathtaking views I’d ever seen. So I made it my facebook profile photo; because that’s what we do in the 21st Century it seems.

Queenstown itself was able to offer up its own spectacular views, with the town on the edge of New Zealand’s longest lake and providing the backdrop of the South Alps mountain range. It’s not the worst sight in the world to wake up to.

The nightlife in Queenstown reminds me of a student town, on steroids and crack. The sheer volume of bars means you’re never short of somewhere to go, although there did seem to be a lack of places to go to listen to decent rock music, and organised bar crawls seem to be a money making endeavour across the town. The Wednesday night Ice Bar Crawl was actually very good value, providing entry to the $32 Ice Bar with 5 other pubs, a lot of free shots and all for only $35 a head.

Of course the hangover that resulted from a night of partying and ski shots (an actual full-length ski with holes in for shot glasses) made the White Water Rafting the next day even more challenging. Still, nothing like taking a massive couple of blasts of ice-cold water in the face to wake you up, and taking a dive off the side of the raft to float downstream was incredibly refreshing. Just a shame that at the end I felt like I was walking around with to goldfish bowls strapped to my feet where the water had got in to my wetsuit shoes.

Whilst dossing about we ventured to the top of the cable car route on the mountain overlooking the town. Sufficed to say it offered even more spectacular views and the opportunity to go land-luging. A word of advice for anyone contemplating land-luging; if you don’t shave off enough speed after a Vettel-like inside pass on your mate then you may end up beached on a hairpin shortly afterwards.

Also, I'd be no blogger if I didn't mention the awesomeness of Fergburger, the finest burger I've ever had and allegedly the best in the world. The simple Fergburger is good enough, but the sheer wealth of options available are staggering. My second trip to the Ferg resulted in a Chief Wiggum; pork belly, wholegrain mustard and a load of  salad. 

So onward to Dunedin, where I’ve already endured a night of far too much alcohol, and England! 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Christchurch (posted from Queenstown)

After 36 hours of travel we land in Christchurch. Unfortunately our luggage does not. It turns out that a 1 hour turn around is considered plenty of time to navigate 2 security checks and an entire terminal, but not enough for our bags to be moved from one plane to another. Thankfully I post this with the bags returned 24 hours later, which is good as the replacement Stag brand underwear I bought was starting to develop its own life forms.

Our hostel by the beach is basic, but with a good atmosphere and some friendly folk. However New Brighton appears to close at 10pm on weeknights, including all local bars, which pretty much everyone has noticed. It makes having massive nights out a little difficult  to do, although our first night was aided by a 48 hour stretch without having slept outside of a plane. There's nothing like the crazy buzz of 4 pints and utter sleep deprivation.

Christchurch itself is, or rather was, no doubt a lovely town with old style architecture mixed in with newer buildings but the damage from the February earthquake was more widespread than I'd ever suspected, the entire city centre turned in to a red-zone with no access and the majority of buildings within a square mile condemned to destruction. A walk around revealed the extent of the carnage and it's a crying shame that one of my first photos is of this.

However areas do still flourish and the interesting-if-pricey "Antarctic Discovery Center" by the airport passed an afternoon of -18 degree weather simulators, 4-D films on the Antarctic and a ride in a Haagland ATV (google it...I'll wait here while you do...cool aren't they?)



All in all, not a bad start. Now to Queenstown to begin the partying.