Its dark, bloody dark, how depressing. When we left Auckland we had to be careful how long we stood in the sun, when we arrived back in Ireland, it was raining and surprisingly dark. This week, the forecast is for a mostly dry and cold, which will hopefully also mean that it will be brighter.

Something that interested me in New Zealand, was that in almost every large town, there was at least one BP filling station with a solar panel covered forecourt. It turns out this is an initiative by BP. Quite interesting.

Homeward bound.

Well folks here we are in Sydney airport waiting for our flight. 6 weeks has really flown by.

Yesterday morning we left Rotorua and headed up towards Auckland for our final night in New Zealand. On the way we dropped into the Skyswing, as it was friday the thirteenth, I wasn’t so sure. We went up along on the gondola and had a look. I decided to have a go anyway. I was strapped in and then the “it was working yesterday” video camera stopped working. Not a good sign. By this time a small crowd was looking on (I was the first to go). The ride itself was pretty good I must say, on this one you have to pull the release mechanism yourself. It turns out that I have a propensity to swear a lot, this was borne out by me uttering “Holy Sh1t” (it was a great view honest), before pulling the release cord and yeeha 150kph here we come.

The rest of the spin up to Auckland was pretty tame in comparison (even with Dee driving), we had a look at a 4×4 place, but even Dee said it looked lame so we continued on for a quick look around the shops before they closed for the evening.

This morning we just had a look at the marina and downtown again (in case we missed anything). Then I had a go at what is called the Skyjump at Skycity. It’s basically a restrained (to 75kph) fall/jump from 192 metres (600 ft). The worst part is walking out the glass doors (still clipped to the platform), walking out on the platform, and then looking straight down (stomach flips a few times). The landing platform looks awful, awful small. Anyways, did it, have the tee-shirt, and then Dee decided she had enough of me trying silly things like this and we headed out to the airport.

C’yall soon!

Kia Ora!

Yesterday we left Napier after watching visiting the Marine Wildlife Sanctuary. We drove on up towards Rotorua, and stopped for lunch beside Lake Taupo. Quite a nice drive, though we’re getting tired of it at this stage (2500k done so far in NZ, 1,930 in the South Island).

Our hotel here is Rotorua is right beside a geyser and some mud pools, so the smell of rotten eggs permeates everything. Just what you need! Last night we attended a Hangi (traditional meal) at the Tamaki Maori Village. These are organised tours with dinner etc. and are very well organised, though I have to say I was more than a bit sceptical about it initially. Suffice it to say, we quite enjoyed it, and even managed to murder a few bars of Danny Boy on the way back 🙂

This morning we did some more “culture”, visiting Hells Gate geothermal park (aptly named by George Bernard Shaw). We were just in time for a guided tour which was very informative. I even tried my hand at some carving afterwards. The master craftsmen need not worry.

As it was on the way back, we had a look around the buried village, NZ’s own Pompeii. Once again we were fortunate enough to co-incide with the start of a guided tour, and it made it far more interesting.

And of course the best way to end any day is with some (more) retail therapy. The flexible friend is becoming less and less flexible.

Tomorrow we’ll head off in our Waka to Auckland, and maybe fit in an adrenaline rush or two in along the way.

Kia Ora!

Note: I’m reliably informed that a Waka can apply to any form of transport that isn’t your own two legs, though its original meaning is “canoe”

South Island Adieu

This fine sunny morning we packed up once again and left Nelson, on our way to Picton and the Ferry. The ferry trip itself across the notorious Cook Straits was quite pleasant (I even managed 45 minutes kip). As we were leaving the ferry, we noticed a plaque on the ship. It turns out, it is/was/used to be the “Isle of Inisfree” and is now renamed Kaitaki.

The pictures of the “jump” are online. Have a look here and search for photos
NZQT601060143996 through to NZQT601060144017. I look sick or something I think 🙁

It is a commonly used expression that “first impressions last”, well the first impression we have of Wellington isn’t very good. It reminds me of myself, the morning after drinking too many JD’s with Junior, Roy or Kristian the night before, a sick, drab, miserable looking blob (me that is). Not very appealing I think you’ll agree. Though the Church looks nice, and we’ve not seen inside the museum yet, so they are points in its favour.

Next stop, Art-Deco city!

Franz Joseph and the West Coast

Yesterday morning we were up early to to go Heli Hiking up the glacier, alas, it was not to be. The weather called a halt to proceedings. As we were tight on time we decided to keep moving and headed up the west coast.

After a spectacular drive up the coast we stayed the night at Cape Foulwind (not smelly… Captain Cook named it), just west of westport. It was very very nice there, and we dined at the Bayhouse cafe. Absolutely fabulous food, and the nicest cheesecake that I have EVER tasted (even if it was Dee’s). After dinner we took a stroll up to the nearby Fur Seal colony/rookery to say hello, and then headed for some zzzs.

This morning we drove to Nelson, on our way to Picton and the ferry. Again a very scenic drive, and we are just having a look around the place now. Lastly, Pamela rang earlier, obviously she was drunk as it was 1am at home, thanks for the call Pam!


Today began as a day of research (seeing as I work for a research group. The first question was, do first-time skydivers remember their descent? The consensus is not much of it, and definitely not the first 10 seconds (and if they say that they do, they are lying!).

In an endeavour to figure this out, I headed out this morning while Dee was asleep and jumped out of an airplane at 15,000 feet (16,000asl). I can confirm that I have little or no recollection of the first 10 seconds. Though I do remember thinking “what a view”, just before we exited the aircraft and rapidly approached terminal velocity. I’ll hopefully get a link to some of the pictures emailed to me in the next few days.

We checked out of the hotel and headed towards Franz Joseph glacier. Heading out the road towards Lake Hawea, we passed A. J. Hacketts Kawaru Bridge bungy. It would have been rude to pass without calling in. As it would be an ideal opportunity to search for an answer to another question. Which is more difficult? Anyways, we stopped and I jumped. Ground rush is just amazing. Follow this link and type in the codes AJHK601064002544/5/6 (ending in 4, 5 or 6) for documentary proof of research in action.

Which is more difficult? I’m still not sure, I think I’ll have to try both again, this time with a higher bungy 🙂

Doubtful Sound

Pardon the pun, but we had our doubts about this as it wasn’t a very good day, a lot of rain, but we perservered.

Firstly a two hour drive from Queenstown to Pearl Harbour, then a 50 minute ferry crossing, followed by a one hour bus ride over what is claimed to be the most expensive gravel road in the country (approx $2 per centimetre). Finally we get on the (spanking new, launched 5th November 2005) cruise boat.

It was cold, it was wet, but it was unbelievable. The only words I can come up with in an attempt to describe it are mystical, magical, awe inspiring (make your own up here)! On the way back from the exit of the sound, we motored into one of the arms, and with the co-operation of everyone on board, the engines were cut and we had a minutes silence, amazing.

Needless to say we took loads of pictures of waterfalls, rock faces etc etc… I doubt that they will do it justice.

As we are now out of range of ‘land based’ APRS Internet gateways, I am now employing the services of the International Space Station for tracking purposes. Depending on how old the packet is (average speed is about 70k per hour here), we are somewhere near here


They are having slightly inclement weather here at the moment, its about 15 Degrees Centigrade, and showery. A bit chilly compared to what we have experienced the last few weeks.

Yesterday morning, after a brief conference, we decided on trying to make Queenstown in one go from Christchurch. We headed south on the “1” turned West, headed through Geraldine, and on to Lake Tekapo where we stopped for lunch. The surprise of coming over the top of a hill and seeing the turquoise blue of Lake Pukaki appear in front was quite something. Absolutely fabulous! Unfortunately there was quite a lot of cloud cover, so we still haven’t seen Mt. Cook. It is easy to see why Peter Jackson chose to shoot “Lord of the Rings” here, far more picturesque than Australia.

Anyway, 7 Hours and 485kms later we arrived at the Millennium Hotel Christchurch (nice place) and it was milling rain.

This morning looked more promising so we headed down the town and signed up for a ‘tour’ with Kawarau Jet. Quite a bit different to an evening on ‘An Seabhac mara’, faster, more splashing, dodging all sorts of things like trees, sandbanks, bridges etc. Oh yes and the odd 360 and a scream now and again. Search for Pictures KJET61410393 & KJET61410395 on the Kjet website. We took a gondola up to a point 400m over Queenstown for lunch, very nice.

Unfortunately it rained this afternoon, so we had to console ourselves with (more) retail therapy.

Tomorrow we head for Fjiordland and the Doubtful Sound, looking forward to it (should help restore Dee’s nerves)!

New Zealand here we come

Our time in Australia is rapidly coming to its conclusion. It was most enjoyable. Things I liked about Australia (in no particular order), the climate, the food, the people, and the mostly relaxed attitude to life. Things I didn’t like about Australia, the climate (I’m sorry, but I’m just not made to deal with 40+ degree heat even with the sea in close proximity), cockroaches, mozzies, sharks, stingers, spiders & snakes(the lethal ones), other than that, it’s a cracking place.

Last night it was quite amazing to watch the weather change completely as the “southerly” hit. The temperature dropped from 40+ to about 20+ degrees in a matter of 2-3 hours. Quite amazing. It cooled enough so the decision was made to have a ‘barbie'(yippie!).

Thanks to the Gibbons family, who made us feel most welcome and many thanks to our hosts for the last week, David and Nuala. Where we were able to re-charge the batteries and relax.

We’re sitting at departure gate 25, where Samsung have kindly provided free Internet Kiosks (Aer Rianta take note). It’s time now to return to my book for another few hours reading. It is looking doubtful if I’ll get it finished before getting home.

Ciao for now.

New Years at the Beach

We gave up in the end and headed for the Beach, there’s a thermometer on the way down and it was reading 46 Degrees Celcius as we walked past, on the way back, just before 19:00 it was reading 44 Degrees. Hot, hot, hot. Its expected to cool down to about 19 Degrees tonight with a “southerly” on the way.

Next stop, Christchurch, New Zealand (tomorrow evening) where its a chilly 14 Degrees.