Wednesday 23 December 2009
The Magic Bus is actually quite good fun. Certainly more sociable than the camper van. Our driver Thumper on the first day (and again a week and a bit later) was good at getting everyone up and going.
Rotaroua is built on more volcanoes. More active ones this time so everything smells of sulphur and hot streams bubble up everywhere.
It kind of smells like a giant egg sandwich.
Or farts. You could describe it as smelling of farts too.
We did a little organised white water rafting while we were there which was a lot of fun.
Fortunately the overdue massive Rotaroua volcanic eruption did not occur while we were there so on to Taupo further south where Jess decided to jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane tied to some long suffering skydiving instructor.
She decided against the skydiving school's offer of sending someone else out of the plane with them to video document her terror so no pictures i'm afraid.
In Taupo we hired a car for a few days and drove up to some very good climbing near Te Awamatu an hour north.
I broke out the trad rack for the first time since the Alps for some very good Australian grade 18s and 19s.
There was also lots of very good bolted rock, notably at Waipapa and Froggat Edge. (Not the Froggat in the Peaks, England...)
If anyone's climbing on North Island NZ i'd definitely recommend a day or two's cragging round this area.
After our 3 days climbing we dropped the car back and headed south.
Wellington was nice. Good town for easing and drinking but funds are getting too low for that sort of thing...
The Te Pappa Museum in Wellington is very good and worth a visit. It also contains largest preserved giant squid at 11meters long and eyes the size of basket balls. Can anyone say "giant calamari"?
From Wellington we went north to Napier to admire the architecture.
The whole town was flattened by an earthquake in 1931 so it was all rebuilt in the Art Deco style and hasn't changed much since. It's a bit of a time capsule and very interesting if you like that sort of thing.
Then back down to Wellington today to catch the ferry to the South Island for Christmas in Nelson. More on that later...
Sunday 13 December 2009
Luckily Jess had already bought us flights for Sydney and Auckland so we migrated south for the worst of the winter.
On arrival in Sydney early on Friday 4th December we proceeded to do a few of the touristy things to pass away the jetlag. After the Opera houses and the Harbour Bridge we went to see a collection of Australias largely deadly flora and fauna at Sydney Wildlife World down on Darling Harbour.
On Saturday we proceeded to catch up with a guy I used to work with back In the early days at Google. Jason appears to be living the quiet life these days with his lovely wife Marie. Glad you've taken to Sydney life Canberra man!
Can't believe i didn't take any photos of Jason and Marie to immortalise them on the Internet...
Sunday was spent on more touristy activities: a walk down the coast from Bondi Beach. Didn't see any sharks but lots of beer and barbies. Ahh, the cliches.
Monday and Tuesday took us out of the city into the Blue Mountains. Awesome scenery and nature stuff. Managed to persuade Jess to come caving, albeit on a nice organised tour.
Wednesday was an early flight to Auckland for more gentle touristy activities: walking, eating and hoping volcanoes remain extinct...
But more on New Zealand in the next exciting installment...
Saturday 12 December 2009
We left Carcassone and headed south to Spain. First stop was Sella, a friendly limestone sports crag about 1.5 h from Alicante. We had been here before about 6 years ago and had really enjoyed it. It lived up to the memory. Lots of high quality climbs from 5 up with some really excellent 6bs. We parked the van up in the forest around the crag and just had to stumble over to the climbs each morning.
Unfortunately while we were here our poor van got a little sick. It developed a leak in the hydraulics that run the clutch and we couldn't reliably change gear so it was off to the mechanics with it. The closest garage that could do the job was in Benidorm (gasps of shocked horror!). The van went in for the operation on Monday and it was Friday before we could pick it up. We had to decamp to a hotel in Benidorm which we have to admit was not as terrible as expected. It was nice to spend a few days in a larger space and to be able to leave our stuff lying around. That said we were happy campers when it was time to reoccupy the van and get back on the rock.
Dunk's Mum and Dad were due to visit us on 4/Nov for a while and we had decided to base ourselves in Barcelona for that time so a couple of days beforehand we headed North to suss out a campsite and take in a little climbing on the way. We hit La Mussara (close to Suirana) which was littered with high class 6s. After a day's climbing we continued on to Barcelona and found a campsite in the town of El Masnou which was 15 km north of the city and right on the train line in.
We met Dunk's parents and moved them into the guest annex (tent). The first day with them we caught up with Ali B, a family friend who lives in Barcelona, and wandered all over El Masnou wondering where it was hiding all its restaurants.
The next day our paths diverged. I headed home for a few days to check out how pregnant my sister Kate had gotten, to catch up with friends and to see at least one episode of this year's Strictly Come Dancing!! Dunk and his parents pottered around Carcassone, Girona, Barcelona etc but I'll leave it to Dunk to write a few words on that cos I wasn't there!
While I was back in Ireland I had one very important mission - to book flights to the southern hemisphere. We had great fun in the campervan over the summer but after the hour went back at the end of November, the days had gotten really short and the weather was turning colder. We had decided to migrate south and do our best to avoid the winter. I managed to find us flights giving us a week in Sydney, 6 weeks in New Zealand and 2 weeks in Thailand/Laos on the way home so we would miss December and January and the worst of the Irish winter.
When I got back to Spain, Dunk had missed me so much that he lost the run of himself and asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes cos he's too cute to let him get away! So the flights were booked for the 2/Dec and all that was left to do was to drop the van home, do about 20 loads of washing and pack again. We hopped on the ferry from Santander in the north of Spain to Plymouth in the south of England. It was a 24 h crossing and the notorious Bay of Biscay was its usual self. Poor Dunk was a little green around the gills but survived the trip.
On our way to pick up the ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare, we stopped in to visit Dunk's sister, Al and her kids, Islay and Ewan, for a few days and also to pick out a lovely sparkly ring! I kicked Ewan's ass at Wii so I'm guessing he's practicing hard now for the inevitable rematch.
Back in Ireland, we stopped into visit my parents and tell them the good news and then headed on for Dublin to unpack the campervan, catch up with family and friends and get ourselves ready for the the next leg.