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Koala Bear

306 Blog Entries
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Sod Off Great Big Mission Round Oz
Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
Learning To Dive Fiji Style
Tourist, Rincewind Decided, Meant "Idiot"

Shorthand link:


I live life on the edge.

Provided I'm harnessed to a safety rope and there's a team of trained professionals on hand to make sure I don't fall off.

I've Defected

Manaus, Brazil

I'm now at http://www.travelpod.com/members/koala_bear

And the south america blog is at http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/koala_bear/4/tpod.html

Come an say hi :)

permalink written by  Koala Bear on July 10, 2010 from Manaus, Brazil
from the travel blog: Tourist, Rincewind Decided, Meant "Idiot"
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Trinidad Y Jesús (Yep, That's All Spanish An Stuff)

Encarnacion, Paraguay

Trinidad and Jesús are the main reasons I came to Paraguay on account of the fact I saw a picture of Trinidad in a mate's book and what can I say. I'm a sucker for a glossy photo.
I'd also met a guy called Luca in the hotel the night before which meant I had someone to go with and he knows quite a bit of Spanish which made it easier to negociate the buses. But first stop was Hotel Tirol for some walking through trees and stuff and generally getting in touch with our hippy nature sides.
This is another reason I came to Paraguay; I just wanted to chill out for a bit before I threw myself into the madness of Brazil with my various Brazilian mates promising (or threatening?) to lead me astray with daily parties. I wanted nature and relaxation and to gently break my poor, out of shape carcass back into walking because Paraguay is relatively flat compared to the uphill monster walks I was wanting to do in other parts of the continent and the only walking I'd been doing in Auckland was from one side of K'Rd to the other to get a kebab.

After we'd checked out the grounds of Tirol and sat down for a mate it was on to Trinidad, the Jesuit ruins about 30kms from Encanación.
I loves ruins, me, but there's not much I can tell ya about them. It used to be a building til the Spanish threw the German Jesuit missionaries out of Paraguay. The building crumbled over time. Now people pay to go look at it. It's wicked. We spent quite a while here taking photos and pulling poses that'd make even the most hardened tourist weep. Security had told us that we could climb the tower but nothing else because it wasn't safe but we found some steps round the back of one of them, out of sight and climbed all over them. Once we were around the other side a guard advised us to stay away from the wall as it could fall in at any time.


Next stop was the infinately less impressive Jesús which used to be almost a building til the Jesuits were forced out then it crumbled then it was restored and people go and look at it because the admission price is included in the entry fee for Trinidad. And why not, it killed a bit of time and I'm glad we went. It's heaps smaller than Trinidad so it doesn't take long to wander round and photograph it from every angle.

Man I was buggered ay, early start plus walking and being a tourist and all kinds of energetic things. So much for all my relaxing I had planned. We headed back to Encarnación for a feed, rolled our fat bellies back through town, drank some mate with a couple of traffic cops Luca had stopped to chat to then it was back home to bed before I collapsed under the weight of my own stomach.

MATE (Mah-Teh)

Tis a herbal infusion drank from a special cup called a mate through a metal straw called a bombilla. The taste ranges from more bitter than watching ur ex hook up with your best mate to much milder and drinkable without risking permanantly wrinkling your nose with lines of disgust. Everyone in Argentina and Paraguay wanders round clutching their thermos and their mate, it's not unusual to see people sipping it on buses or in parks, behind the counter in shops, where ever they damn well please, really.

Takes some getting used to but hey, it's better than what they try and pass off as tea over here init and as an Israeli guy I met in Buenos Aires pointed out; Good mate is like good coffee. It's gross.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on May 13, 2010 from Encarnacion, Paraguay
from the travel blog: Tourist, Rincewind Decided, Meant "Idiot"
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Taking The Show On The Road

Encarnacion, Paraguay

Ah my very first bus ride in South America and shit do Argentina know how to lay on a bus ride. They have five comfort levels ranging from your basic common or garden bus right up to fully reclining seats that'd have Qantas' best first class efforts hanging their heads in shame. I opted for the midrange semi-cama (half-bed), the seats recline far enough for a decent kip and there's more leg room than I've ever seen on public transport allowing me to expand like a gas to fill every available space.
I hoppped on the bus, found my seat and settled in. I ascertained that the young lass sat next to me was called Suzanna and was from Paraguay, searched my brain for the rest of my painfully limited Spanish knowledge, decided that it'd be inappropiate to ask her when her birthday was or order steak and chips so I gave her the Blank Tourist Look, explained I was English (I'm pretty sure the Spanish for "english" and "ignorant wanker" are the same) and got aquainted with the reclining seats.

And they feed you! If you can consider it food anyway, we were handed a foil tray containing a small slab of something grey that may have once had a face and some yellow stuff that might have passed for mash potato in less stringent testing with a non-taste that was easily masked by mixing it with salt and the brown, liquidy stuff I hoped was gravy.
Ha, bitch please, check her out, three weeks in Buenos Aires and suddenly only the finiest steak will do. Pass the caviar will you, Jeeves?

It was 7am by the time we arrived in Encarnación and I was fucked. We'd had to stay awake for border security in both countries at some god awful hour in the morning (although the Paraguay side was fabulous, we just sat on the bus while a man collected our documents then handed them back after they'd been processed) and as soon as you get off the bus you're pounced on by people offering cambio (currency exchange) and taxis. I stumbled over the road from the bus terminal to Hotel Germano and checked into my own room for 40000GR (Guaranies). Cheap as chips and not them overpriced ones you get at fairs and events served to you out of a trailer in a tiny cup by an overweight woman who could do with her roots re-bleaching and wouldn't look wrong with a fag hanging out of the corner of her mouth. I already liked Paraguay.

Its not a bad deal though, the bus ride; you get somewhere to crash for the night, a feed and you get to where you're going all for AR$165 (Pesos). And of course I fucking ate the food, I'm a backpacker.

I'd eat mangled rat if you handed it to me in a sandwich and told me it was free.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on May 12, 2010 from Encarnacion, Paraguay
from the travel blog: Tourist, Rincewind Decided, Meant "Idiot"
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Buenos Aires In A Particulary Fine Tasting Nutshell

Buenos Aires, Argentina

I've been staying in Argentina's capital for three weeks on account of the fact I've been waiting for mail to arrive. I am now bored of waiting for mail to arrive so I'm outta here tomorrow but here are a few things I've been up to in Buenos Aires aside from sitting on the roof in the sunshine sipping cold beer, attempting to learn Spanish but failing miserably when the people I try and practice with just tell me to speak English because it's easier for everyone involved, missing everyone at home in Auckland and getting brutally attacked by mosquitos on steriods.

Anyway. Just a few of the shit loads of things to see and do in Buenos Aires.

El Obelisco
Large penis-like structure in the middle of 9 de Julio.

Fabulous as a landmark if you get lost; ¿Dondé está el penis-like structure grandé, por favor?

Cementario De La Recoleta
Yep, it's a cemetary in one of the posher parts of Buenos Aires and yes, its a tourist attraction on account of the fact the graves are the size of bloody houses. Seriously, they're huge. How the other half live (and...um... die) ay, I doubt I'll ever get to live in anything this fancy while I'm still breathing, never mind once I kick the no doubt rusty bucket with the hole in the bottom that hasn't been replaced because I can't afford to eat, nevermind have someone build me a bloody grave. It'll be a stick driven into the ground when I finally kark it and only that to mark where I am so they don't accidently dig me up again.

The whole place is big too which didn't bode well for me. I can get lost in a department store, I had visions of getting stuck there until dark, wandering the corridors of the cemetary, wishing I hadn't watched all those zombie movies in my early 20s. It's kinda cool though, many of the graves have beautifully carved figures of angels, some are in a state of disrepair. Some are filled with workmans rubbish whilst some are still tended to with candles and flowers.
Anyway, there's only so many photos of graves, no matter how ornate, you can take before you start feeling a bit creepy so I wandered round for 10 minutes, found Evita's sarcophagos quickly by following a tour group then headed off. A mate at the backpackers said you need at least 2 hours to "do it properly" although I'm not too sure how one would do a cemetary properly.

Probably best not to ask.

Utterly Tango'd
The only way to escape tango in Buenos Aires is to take up residence under a rock or walk round with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears but neither seem like particulary good fun and the latter will probably result in something even less pleasant than tango. It's best just to give yourself over to the tango overload and it really is everywhere. All the souveniers have a tangoing couple emblazoned across them, when you go to check out the markets at San Telmo on a Sunday or head to La Boca for the day there are people dancing then asking if you want your photo taken with them for a small fee.
Ok, so it's not that tango is unpleasant, its actually fabulous to watch but I'll be avoiding the lessons thankyouverymuch, I'll save myself that embarrassment instead of highlighting my total lack of balance and coordination whilst pressing myself uncomfortably close to a member of the male species and which one of my left feet shall I move next, señor instructor person?

Although, despite the perpetual tango, La Boca is fun. Its one of the poorer areas of the city and you're advised not to visit too late in the day and stick to the tourist strips which you can't miss on account of all the colours and the restaurants, every single one having people outside to try and tempt you in for the "free tango show" while you eat or drink. And if the people of La Boca are poor then they certainly ain't gonna be eating in these places, jay-sus, me and the lass from the hostel I went with nibbled slowly on empanadas (like pies, but better) and sipped a water between us whilst watching the dancing.
Another reason to check out La Boca is the colour of the houses. It's an unashamed assault on the retinas, apparently when people settled here to work at the port they built their houses out of that corrugated steel stuff and scavved the leftover paint from the shipyard to paint them with.

I love it. It follows my beliefs when it comes to painting; never let class, style or colour coordination get in the way of a good decorating session.

Other Suburbs Worth Checking Out
San Telmo for the markets on Sunday. Buy stuff and things you don't want or need, probably with with tango related themes.

Palermo because its pretty and has a rose garden and you get to chillax and openly mock the rollerbladers when they stack it onto the concrete. Oh, and there's also a zoo there but apparently it's not a good zoo and the animal's living conditions aren't great and I've seen enough zoos to last me a lifetime so I skipped on that. Much more fun watching the ridiculous amounts of joggers and pointing and laughing at the group exercisers that aren't quite sure what they're doing as they try and follow the over zealous guy on a small, temporary stage.

Tigre because it's also pretty and you get to ride a boat up and down the river and check out the museums unless you rocked up on a day when they were all closed apart from the Museo Naval De La Nacion. But then you can kill some time crawling all over the missiles and the big guns and playing with all the moving dials on random military type things before slinking out because you just read the sign that said the room was under constant video surveillence.


Nom Nom Nom Nom
Oh my god. The steak. The steak is so fabulous its absolutely worth a mention in any blog. You'd be fucked as a vegtarian in Buenos Aires on account of the fact most of the food is made out of dead stuff and what fabulous dead stuff it is too. You order your steak (my personal favorite, bife de lomo (tenderloin) con fritas) then they bring you half a cow cooked to perfection. I like my cow still mooing; walk it round the room a couple of times, chop its horns off and wipe its arse. Perfect, melt in the mouth bovine goodness. I'm drooling on my keyboard just thinking about it and there's this really decent place around the corner on Av. De Mayo that will deliver such amazingness to your table for a mere AR$45. That's about NZ$16 or about £8.

And a worthy mention; Garrapiñada. They smell soooo bloody good, they make them there in the street. They're sugar coated nuts, usually peanuts (mani) but also almonds (almendra) and they're so damn moreish. Fortunately they're not in short supply and you don't have to walk far before your find more to replace the calories you just burnt walking from one garrapiñada stand to the next.

It's no wonder this city is making me fat.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on May 10, 2010 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: Tourist, Rincewind Decided, Meant "Idiot"
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Claire Vs Nature

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Yeah, I got all my jabs done before I left New Zealand to come to South America, I had Needles stuck in me containing vaccinations for hep A, hep B, yellow fever, tetanus, diptheria and typhoid. And you thought I resembled an expensive pin cushion before I left Auckland.
Admittedly I passed on the rabies jabs on account of the sheer cost of them, three jabs at NZ$120 each, I decided that rabies should be relatively easy to avoid as long as I don't pat the cute little monkey with the foam at its mouth or try and steal a stray dog's food because it looked nicer than my bowl of noodles. Yes, I think I should be able to survive this without contracting the always-fatal human form of rabies.

-crosses fingers-

But one thing you can't avoid are the fucking mosquitos because you don't see them until they've got their face buried in your flesh, they're like vicious little ninjas, not that they're little over here. I felt something sharp in my leg the other night, I looked down and a mozzie the size of a bear was trying to make off with a limb an I swear it was looking at me and daring me to do something about it.

Two diseases carried by mozzies over here are malaria, carried by the night time biting blood suckers but more common in the urban areas are the ones that carry dengue fever and prefer to savage victims in the daytime. No vaccination, nothing you can do about it. You just have to ride the intense, flu-like symptoms out until it goes away and the more times you contract it the more times you're likely to snuff it. Happy thoughts.

I don't like having blood removed from my body and I don't like flu-like symptoms. Me and the mosquitos of South America are gonna have some issues methinks.

This. Is. War.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on May 9, 2010 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: Tourist, Rincewind Decided, Meant "Idiot"
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¡Hola! Erm... No Hablo Español...?

Buenos Aires, Argentina

At the risk of sounding like a filthy hippy, even leaving a country can be a journey albeit an emotional one. Two of my closest friends, Adam and Suz along with my mrs, Ana came to the airport with me and waited around with me until it was time to clear security. It was one of the hardest goodbyes in a long time and there's never a right time to turn around and head through the Passenger Only gates, you just want to stay there that bit longer then that bit longer again, neither one wanting to make the first move and break away. Buuuuut it has to be done, I'm not quite ready for dreddlocks and the faint smell of patchouli inscense following me around.
I cleared security, trying to load my laptop back into my bag with one hand and hold my trousers up with the other while I waited for the tray with my belt to roll through, hung around trying not to sob too loudly in public until we were allowed to board, settled into my seat and proceeded to empty the contents of my saliva glands into my pillow for the ensuing 12 hours.

Aerolineas Argentinas has such a bad rap but I have no complaints ay, I was fed, the staff were fine, the aircraft remained in the air for the duration of the flight and I was in one piece when I stepped off the plane yesterday and cleared customs, looking every inch the tourist with my worldly belongings strapped to my torso and a "look at me, I'm lost and vunerable" look plastered across my face. I might as well have had "Rob Me" tattooed on my forehead. Thankfully no one did, if you look lost and confused for long enough eventually someone will either take everything you own at knife point or help you, this time it was the latter, a guy who could speak english pointed me in the right direction and I managed to get the shuttle to town then the complimentary taxi to a backpackers.

And so much for picking up Spanish while I'm here, as soon as I'm required to use the miniscule bit I learnt in Auckland the part of my brain its stored in gets scared and refuses to come out resulting in a blank stare and gaping any village idiot would be proud of. In place of words there's drooling and the most coherant noise I can managed is, "errrrrr..." Its about this point they realise I'm English and either give up or take pity and between us we work out what I want. It's not like Spain where if they don't understand, just say it louder...

Oh, and so far the most dangerous thing I've seen isn't the armed robbers tourists seem to think are lurking in every doorway but the drivers, they're all fucking mental and I'm staying right by 9 de Julio, the sod off great big seven-lane-each-way monster of a road which quite frankly scares the fuck out of me. I mean, there's crossing lights but the motorists still sweep in from the side while they're turning onto the road at speeds that don't make me entirely comfortable, blaring their horns. By the time I get to the other side I'm a nervous wreck, I'm surprised no ones had to make that phone call home to my mother yet because they found me curled up in a corner in the foetal position rocking and weeping.

Anyway, I'm here and attempting to pick up the language. By the time I leave South America I'll have a level of Spanish I can communicate easily with. Tis mah goal.

Well, that and not getting flattened by lunatics.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on April 19, 2010 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: Tourist, Rincewind Decided, Meant "Idiot"
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Ka Kite Ano

Auckland, New Zealand

When I got back to Auckland over a year ago I questioned the wisdom of laying down a foundation in a city I knew I'd have to leave. I didn't accumulate much material crap, nothing that couldn't be gotten rid of easily enough or left to the next person such as my mattress or chilli bin or fleas. I didn't have any particular sentimental attachment to my $48 DVD player or my yellow vomit bucket which doubled as a handy bedside table when I hadn't drunk too much and I wasn't even overly upset about leaving the half bottle of wine in the fridge although I did swear to sacrifice my liver on the alter of Bacchus for this wanton waste as soon as possible.
But what I couldn't help accumulating was friends; I've met some of the most awesome people in this city and laying down those kind of roots, as comfortable and fun as they are at the time, they run so deep it hurts so so much to rip them up and move on, leave without really knowing when or even if you'll be able to return. I was mainly nomadic in Australia, moving from backpackers to backpackers, city to city, town to town, rarely staying anywhere for more than a few months before the next road trip beckoned and me and my friends, old and new continued our journey. It was hard enough to say goodbye then, even after 2 or 3 months of knowing someone. It never gets any easier and you never get used to it.

Here in Auckland I developed friendships from when I arrived back in March that have continued right through my time here until now. I've made new friends along the way, different circles, some who inter-mingle with eachother, some who don't. When you're away from home its these people who become your family, they pick you up when you're down and look after you when you have nowhere else to go. Everyone from the people you spend day in and day out with to the people you catch up with maybe once a month, they all play a part to make your life all the more richer and you can only hope that you can give them the same support and time that they give you, that you affect them in a positive way and you touched their lives like they've touched yours and not in a flithy way your mother wouldn't approve of. You wonder if they quite realise exactly how much they mean to you, indeed, do you even realise yourself until it comes down to that final day when you pack your bags, tie up the loose ends and say good bye to the people that have been your life for more than 12 months?

I've been looking forward to this trip since I made the final decision to head to South America, bought my tickets and started thinking about what I wanted to see. I've bored the hell out of everyone banging on about Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Island, staring at a map of the continent blu-tacked to my wall. It's going to be an amazing trip but this isn't a holiday where I go for a few months then return to NZ. My visa is up, I have to leave and head back to Europe so I can earn the money to come back, I have no time frame nor can I realistically provide one. Its bitter sweet. Sweet because I'll be back doing what I love the most, travelling and not caring, having no responsilities, living day to day, making real a dream I've had for a while to visit this stunning place I've only read about before or seen on TV. Sweet because so many changes happened around the same time thanks to the new moon and the equinox that this was, essentially, the perfect time to leave. But bitter because I know I'll miss everyone here, I'm leaving behind a network of trust and support to jump out of my cosy little comfort zone and back into the unknown. And I'm leaving behind Ana.

I'm all for stepping out of the comfort zone, in fact I think it's important to do it as much as possible, do the things that make you a little scared or nervous but at the same time make you feel exhilarated and free. You have to push the boundaries to live a little, I love it, I fucking love it so much, it makes me feel alive! I can't wait to land in a country where I have a pathetic grasp of the language. I did take Spanish lessons but I have to get people to repeat themselves in english, I'll be stuffed when they start rattling off in a language where its impossible to distinguish where one word ends and the next one starts. I usually favour the "blank stare" technique when faced with such situations but I'm determind to pick this language up. I can't wait to not know where I'm going to be from week to week, I can't wait to meet other travellers, hear their stories and see their photos, to wander round a town for hours trying to work out where the hell I am and decipher signs and directions given by locals to find where I need to be.

But shit, I'll miss my life here in Auckland. I'm leaving my friends, my relationship with Ana which, by the way, is a fucking awesome relationship. I'm going to miss her SO much. I can't put it into words.
I'm even going to miss my job. Who misses work?! I'm not well suited to work, I'm definately more of a good for nothing backpacker layabout but I'll miss it. Apart from karaoke nights. My ear drums still haven't forgiven me for accepting those shifts.
But at the end of the day life goes on, it has to. Change is constant and neccessary, if it wasn't for change I'd never have met any of these people that I'll miss so much, I'd never have left the UK, shit I'd still be living in Stockport making lampshades for a living. As one era comes to an end a new and fabulous era opens and not just for me, for the people I'm leaving behind. I know Ana will miss me as much as I'll miss her (and that's prolly the first time I've been able to say that in this blog, usually I've done something or other to piss them off by now), there's was nothing wrong with our relationship, it was amazing, it was merely immigration circumstances that mean we can't be together. But as painful as it is for both of us we both have new opportunities we need to take full advantage of. I have South America then who knows? She has her new job and her new mates that came along at just the right time. It doesn't mean we'll love each other any less and we'll still miss each other like mad.

But like I say. Life does indeed go on. Time to move on.

Time for a new era.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on April 18, 2010 from Auckland, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
tagged Bollocks

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Came, Saw, Went Up Some Hills And Stuff

Auckland, New Zealand

So there were two things left in Auckland for me to do which I'd had ample opportunity to do in the last year but hadn't because of weather or an inability to get out of bed before midday. One was Rangitoto Island which you can see from a lot of Auckland and the other was the Sky Tower, an integeral part of my navigational system. Lost? Head towards the tower.

9th March
Aaaanyways, the first one I made it to was Rangitoto ("Bloody Skies" in Maori), a now dormant volcano which was formed about 700 years ago. It must have looked fucking amazing to the Maoris living on Motutapu Island, next to it. Amazing and completely terrifying, it was formed by a series of explosions over 200 years as magma forced its way through the sea bed and met the cold water, making it the youngest of Auckland's ridiculous amounts of volcanos. For now anyway, nothing to say some part of Auckland isn't going to explode again at some point in the future...

So me and Ana dragged ourselves out of bed and headed to the ferry terminal to catch the 9:15am boat to the volcano carrying sandwiches and bottles of water, everything we'd need providing we didn't miss the ferry home and get stranded on the island overnight. Nothing to worry about then. Nothing at all.
We jumped off the ferry and began the tramp to the summit. Summit. As in upwards. A hot, sweaty walk up a hill. How very romantic.

Its a nice enough walk but nothing much to tell apart from the lava caves, formed by lava (go figure) which then cools, solidifies on the outside then the centre drains out. I recommend you bring a torch or someone smaller than you to send in first, just in case. There's not much to worry about apart from spiders though which is scary enough for me, I fucking hate the eight legged demons so that made it Ana's job to scout while I gave her encouraging words such as, "You're doing great, baby!" and, "Don't fall over or anything, I ain't carrying you back!"
Never let it be said that I don't know how to treat a girl.
There's only one thing scarier than a cave that could contain spiders and that's a volcano that DOES contain a large quantity of kids on a school trip. Once we were at the top we hung back a bit and ate some food while the hoards of children did what children do best and irritated the hell outta me.
The view was worth the wait though, once they'd cleared off we chilled out and enjoyed the fact that we weren't in the city.

We made it back down with heaps of time to spare then it was back to the mainland to replace all those lost calories with beer and to tick Rangitoto off my NZ list.

9th April
Its hard to imagine the Auckland skyline without the Sky Tower. I have so many photos of it, I've been fascinated by it since I moved here, I've done the Sky Walk and the Sky Jump but I hadn't been up it just to hang out.

Up. Again. But at least this time there was a lift to transport you upwards to 192 metres so you could see exactly what Auckland would look like without the Tower assuming you were really really tall or could fly.

The whole entire tower itself is, like, 328 metres tall or something which makes it the tallest structure in NZ. Pretty easy to be considered tall in NZ though, its not a country of skyscrapers or anything. If I'd been good and ate my greens as a kid I'd prolly be a comparatively tall structure an all and in all honesty I reckon the big pointy spike thing on top is a bit of a cheat. It's like, we've built this tower an its really fucking tall but how do we make it even taller when all we have is all this metal stuff that resembles a spike?
Anyway. Ticked off the list. That's that.

New Zealand? Been there, done that.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on April 9, 2010 from Auckland, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
tagged LovinIt

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Back To Rotovegas

Rotorua, New Zealand

Monday 4th April
On account of the fact saying goodbye is a bitch me and Ana decided to take our minds off it by heading to Rotorua to play in the white water because its pretty hard to concentrate on anything else when you're sliding over the edge of a 7 metre waterfall in a 4 metre raft. Nothing like near-drowning as a distraction so we jumped on the bus at some ridiculous hour on Easter Monday morning

Last time I was in Rotorua I'd done the gondolas, sky swing and 5 luge rides for $60 and they were still offering that deal. The only times Ana had been to Rotorua were for athletics, she could tell you where the track was but didn't have a clue about anything else so we walked from the backpackers thro the park to the gondolas, checking out the geothermal stuff and things on the way. Couldn't tell ya how long this walk would normally take, we dawdled our way there on account of Ana's reluctance to be dragged 50 metres into the air followed by being sent plummeting at 150kph towards the ground on a giant swing. Amateurs. Sheesh.

Here's the thing with the sky swing; it doesnt matter if you've done it before, it doesn't make it any less terrifying as you watch the ground get further and further away, especially when you get to the top and are informed that no one else has any intention of pulling the rip cord.


I didn't have any intention either but someone had to do it, at some point at least one of us was gonna have to change our knickers for a pair with less skid marks and that's nigh on impossible when suspended 50 metres the ground.
Its not that hard once you resign yourself to it and yep, it was a repeat of last time with girly screaming I didn't know I was capable of all the way to the bottom followed by shakey legs and realising you're still holding onto the rip cord like it was going to save your life. SO much fun!

Lets face it, there's no dignified way to get on a luge no matter how much practice you've had, you'll always resemble a crippled foal trying to learn to walk assuming foals were less cute and wore pink helmets. And normally I don't like to talk competition (usually because I lost) but I kicked Ana's arse in every race down the hill though there was one point where I was waiting at the bottom for a good few minutes wondering what possessed me to bring my accident prone girlfriend to a place where I'd previously lost a small portion of my skin. Just as I was about to walk back up the track to find her with visions of mangled luge and the staff finding the pink helmet hanging from a tree three days later she came trundling around the corner complaining of bad brakes so she had to take it really easy.

With the images of roadkill gone I continued my winners gloating and finished all the tracks without adding to my fine collection of scars.

Tuesday 5th April
The life of a backpacker can be pretty hectic at times, if you're not scaring the fuck out of yourself on a giant swing you're dragging yourself out of bed at god awful hours to be picked up and taken to the next place where you'll be scaring the fuck out of yourself. In this case, white water rafting. Bring it the fuck on!

Ana was shitting herself and I don't think her mother will ever forgive me for taking her here but what the hell, the rafting I did in Queenstown was cool but I'd heard this one, the Kaituna river, was the best in the country with the biggest commercially raftable waterfall. The aforementioned 7 metre beast. Hehehe, I couldn't wait.
To add to the trauma we were advised that Kai meant food and Tuna meant eel in Maori, the river thus named for the abundance of eels which made it an awesome food source (if, indeed, you can bring yourself to put eel in your mouth) and it was in fact eel mating season which left Ana worrying about exactly what your legs looked like in a tight, black wetsuit while you were in the water.

Potential drowning and eel rape aside, it was fucking amazing. The four other girls in the raft were dragon boat rowers so their timing was perfect which left us free to concentrate on staying alive. There are three waterfalls, the first two are big enough to whet your appetite but not big enough worry about tipping. Then comes the one we'd all been waiting for. They do give you the chance to get off the raft and walk round but where's the fun in that?
We got into position and watched the first raft go over the edge. They were gone for ages, they'd tipped at the bottom, apparently this happens about one in 6 times but they righted themselves and then it was our turn. A few good paddles from the Asian girls and scared attempts at paddling from us then it was hold on and get down and over we went, totally vertical until we hit the bottom of the falls, went under and emerged upright. Purely because we're awesome of course.

We were bussed back to base where we got an hours break then no sooner had we got the feeling back into our fingers it was time for white water sledging. People who have read this before will know that me an our kid did river boarding in Queenstown. Sledging is easier, instead of having a body board with a bit of cord that you have to cling to whilst maintaining a pose that your left arm will never forgive you for, you have two good hand holds and a plastic thing much more suited to going over rapids. The basic rules are "hold the hell on" and "turn your head." Turn you head when going over the rapids in case the sledge jolts up to meet your head when you hit the water. Teeth are impossible to find in moving water.
And no, you're not sent over the waterfalls. That'd be pushing the adrenalin levels even for me, I like to live life on the edge but only when I'm harnessed to a safety rope and there's a team of trained professionals on hand to make sure I don't die.

And what better way to finish off a day in Rotorua than with a huge all you can eat feed at Valentines where I ate til I had to be rolled to the Polynesian Spa. We spent the evening cooking ourselves in hot water til we headed back to the backpackers for another early night.

See Ana, beware of dating people that much older than you. Some of us just can't take the pace.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on April 7, 2010 from Rotorua, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
tagged LovinIt

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New Year, New Decade, New Start

Auckland, New Zealand

Despite the fact I worked New Years Eve I still managed to have a wicked night though I probably shouldn't have acepted EVERY shot offered to me or at least stopped when my basic motor functions began to deteriorate and the ability to swallow left me.

It was a fun night though with Family Bar's fashionably late countdown (trust the homos, late for everything as they finish straightening their hair and touching up their make up) and I managed to escape early and stumble to Ponsonby with my mate Suz to watch the Sunrise on the new decade.

Most of 2009 sucked like a $2 whore but I know 2010 is going to be awesome. As the sun rose over my adopted city I made just one new years resolution; To do whatever I damn well please.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 2, 2010 from Auckland, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
tagged Bollocks

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