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March 28, 2005
Amy writes:

The Beatles' Love me do wasn't successful nor my fav ditty, Ye canne shove yer granny off a bus, but humming Somewhere over the Rainbow through my snorkel worked a treat - as countless Dusky Dolphins swum underneath me entranced by the tune. It wasn't my Judy Garland singing voice, that's for sure but whatever it was - even just the exhausting effort of swimming and singing while trying not to drown, I got within inches of these strange sea mammals. I'm sure if nothing else the sight of me and another 22 human-adults all squeeking/singing/humming away and trying to swim in circles to catch the interest of passing dolphins at least gave the staff and spectators on our boat some entertainment if not the dolphins themselves.

The concept of swimming with dolphins is pretty common though I'd hardly class it as swimming 'with' them. More like trying to catch up and enjoy the experience as they swim past in their droves. We were very lucky - there must have been around 300 dolphins in the water that day but the idea you are actually communicating and being with them is a myth. These are wild dolphins. You can't touch or grab onto their fins as you see in films and it's pretty exhausting work trying to hum (as described above) while trying not to swallow too much saltwater as you do, swim in circles (to imitate their behaviour and get them to interact with you) without getting dizzy and as for taking photos - forget it!

I should have learnt by now that underwater cameras are a waste of time. Not only because of the shoddy picture quality but being able to concentrate long enough to get a decent shot. I can now unequivocially say that in this instance that was impossible. You had to keep moving or lose the dolphins/freeze in the icy waters. You couldn't aim the camera properly as the dolphins swum so close you might accidently touch one and startle it. At least Jody and I had a good laugh looking at all the random snaps I'd got. A few foggy ones of whole dolphins, plus various body parts. A stomach, head, fin, one of my blurry snorkel. At least it shows they were there. A brilliant one of the only dolphin who caught my eye and stayed long enough for me to snap it. The best photos were taken from the boat when the dolphins started showing off. Dusky Dolphins are well-known for their acrobatic prowess though no-one really knows why they like doing flips and jumps so much. A great one-off experience and hopefully the last time I will ever be seen in a wet suit.

Not done too many other big water-based activities yet except previously Tubing in Waitomo on the North Island. This consists of climbing around underground in caves wearing a wetsuit, having to wade up to your neck in freezing underground rivers then sitting on to a big, rubber inflatable tyre and floating along in the dark under a ceiling of glowing maggots. Very odd indeed.

Amy writes:

After a recent spate of adventurous activities, Jody and I found our feet again (briefly) at the strange-but-true world that is Puzzling World in Wanaka - a theme park dedicated to all aspects of puzzles and illusions (not just the 500-piece-bowl-of-fruit-with-a-bit-of-grape-missing variety). See it's website.

Strangely, most of the visitors were adults who were pulling confused faces as they fought to get out of the attraction's giant maze. In the huge labyrinth of bridges and paths, we quickly abandoned the 'advanced' challenge of finding four turrets in colour order, for simply trying to find them at all and make it out of there before lunch. Not such a bold move you're thinking, but the emergency exits were there for a reason. We didn't cheat (unlike the under-7's we saw sneaking away from their parents and under a fence) but we didn't look smug for very long.

Puzzling World also had a series of baffling illusion rooms (which included the toilets! - see picture). One in which, to my delight and for the only time it's ever going to happen, I was taller than Jody (at least on screen!). In fact, I more resembled the BFG (minus the funny ears) while Jody was hobbit-sized. The 'tilted house' was another strange place with water that appeared to flow upwards with everything at an angle. It's so strong an effect that we both felt sick and had to leave for a while, before going back to snap some evidence of this odd place.

Currently we're puzzling over the Inca Trail of Peru. Jody's very keen on walking the entire four-day hike to Machu Picchu but after the Tongariro Crossing, I'm worried about the grief all those steps will give my knees. Well, I'll either do it (and face the consequences) or take the train up and see Jody at the top.

As Jody mentioned previously, the Tongariro Crossing was bizarre and brilliant at the same time. Unfortunately for me, there is no gain without pain so the amazing views witnessed from the top of the 1800m red crater were not without their price as I hobbled around later that evening. Muscles in my hips and calves that had never made their presence known before had seized up, making me look like someone recovering from surgery. However, although the up-cliff bits were a slog (with a breather every five minutes), the moon-like landscape surpasses anything I've ever seen before.

An ascent of 750m over three hours then a downhill of three and a half hours and believe me, everyone looks crippled at the end. The not-quite-there-yet final few hours are steps down through bracken and heather-covered hills that could almost be Scotland were it not for the sulphur springs on them, breathing hot steam up through the grass. You get to the bottom, think it's all over that there's a nice bus ride, spa and hostel bed waiting - but no! Still another hour through muddy forest 'til you hit the car park.

I'm not a great walker. Uphill had me puffing away while going downhill either had me slipping on volcanic ash and falling on my arse, or by the end hobbling through the bush saying for the 43rd time that this bit had to be the end. It was relentless but this was Mordor country, land of the Orcs and Mt Doom (or Mt Ngaruhoe as it's also known), and like Frodo - we live to tell the tale.

March 26, 2005
Jody writes:

See our Fox Glacier photos.
See our Milford Sound photos.

Amy and I treated ourselves to a heli-hike at the Fox Glacier - the cheaper option meant more walking and lesser scenery, so like a couple of snobs we flew to where the ice was pure.

It was the first time we'd been in a helicopter and the experience was strange at first. It felt more like being in a lift than in a plane. I've never been a bad flyer, but I'll admit that a sense of impending doom stuck with me for the journey to the top of the mountain - especially when the craft banked at mad angles. The crazy logistics of how a helicopter actually works doesn't really pass ones mind until you first take off in one. Then the realisation hits you that the only thing keeping the tin box you're in airbourne is a bunch of silly spinning blades.

At least if the engines failed in a plane the craft could glide until the pilot found a giant mattress to crash land on, but a helicopter experiencing engine failure would just drop straight out of the sky like a sparrow having a heart attack. Initial thoughts aside, the flight was fast, scenic and a real kick.

The glacier itself was as you'd imagine - a vast stretch of blue/white ice, supporting hills, caves, tunnels, streams and ponds. The area was beautiful and at points terrifying - we walked alongside deep drops onto steely-hard ice, or worse still, chasms filled with ice-cold water that plunged so deep into the glacier that it appeared bottomless.

It was a great experience and we're glad we flew to the top of the mountain, rather than climbing - we had a tough enough job keeping our balance on slight hills, so climbing would have been a nightmare.

After Fox we took the bus to the small town of Wanaka, which was also beautiful (are you noticing a theme yet?). While there we visited a kooky little place called the Paradiso Cinema - legend has it that the locals clubbed together to build a cinema but had run out of cash when it came to furnishing the place, so they were forced to fit the interior with second-hand armchairs, sofas, lazy-boys and even a Morris Minor. Amy and I opted for a knackered old sofa. The experience was like watching a film in someone's living room (with 100 other people, also slouched in loungers). The food was bloody great there too - cookies as big as yer 'ead. See a photo I took of the Paradiso cinema.

The weather was terrible when we went to Milford Sound yesterday. The place is arguably said to be the most beautiful place in New Zealand, but all we saw was fog on our two-hour boat trip. At first I thought the weather was a blessing in disguise - the rainfall had given life to a number of waterfalls that are normally dry, but no, it was too bloody foggy to see anything. You win some, you lose some - at least it wasn't raining when we were slipping about on the glacier.

We're currently in Queenstown (again, beautiful), but fly back to Auckland tomorrow for a week of panic-buying and Spanish revision before we head to South America on April 4.

Amy writes:

***Newsflash***
One half of the infamous travelling twosome, Amy and Jody, has undergone a shocking transformation in preparation for the South American leg of their journey.
Almost unrecognisable, the female half of the duo has gone from cute blonde to raven-haired in a bid to blend in with the locals for safe passage through the Peruvian Andes, Equador and Bolivia.
The advice came from a fellow female traveller just home from the continent. Amy was also keen on the move to avoid a repeat of the behaviour of local men in Malaysia who sat outside hissing and rubbing their fat bellies at passing western women.

March 21, 2005
Jody writes:

See our New Zealand photos.

If I were a god and wanted to purpose-build a seven-hour trek, with volcanoes, lakes, tarns (glacial lakes), forests and mountains at my disposal, I couldn't have done a better job than the Tongariro Crossing. We walked it the other day - it was stunning and knackering. Amy and I climbed from 1,150m above sea level to 1,886m, then descended to 700m. We passed Mt. Ngauruhoe, which was used as Mt. Doom in Lord of the Rings, but the path to it's 2,287m summit was too intimidating to climb. Instead we just stared at it for a while. And posed for photos in front of it.

We were lucky that the conditions were good - if you're unfortunate enough to have rain, mist, wind and snow to deal with, you'll probably have a terrible time, as Emily said she did in this message.

I may have enjoyed the walk a little too much. If when I return to the UK I grow a beard, clad myself in Gore-tex and start looking to join a weekend rambling club, someone please stop me.

A few days after Tongariro, we crossed to New Zealand's South island and ended up in Kaikoura. While Amy swam with dolphins, I decided to join a team of whale watchers in Kaikoura. Chasing along the ocean to find the whales before rival tour companies scared them off was fun, but the whales we found were young and therefore pretty small and unimpressive.

Perhaps I shouldn't have relied on Moby Dick to teach me everything I know about whales, but I expected the beasts to rise up from the water, wink at me with one giant eye while spirting a ten-storey high fountain of water from it's blowhole. It would then dive, waggling it's tail for a good minute, while I rummaged around for my camera before it disappeared. What I actually saw was three adolescent whales poking a lilo-sized hump out of the water before they sank without a trace.

The 50-strong gang of dolphins that followed us around and the plethora of seals and sea birds spotted along the way made up for it though. And the old ladies being sea-sick was also quite amusing.

In Christchurch we celebrated St Patrick's Day with far too much Guinness and went shopping for some hideous traveller's clothes. Amy and I are now the proud owners of two micro-fleeces. If you've never come across one before, I can tell you that they're very warm, weigh next to nothing and are so uncool that they make dungarees seem like a good idea. We had to do it - we've run out of bag space for warm clothes.

Yesterday we caught the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth, which was another four-and-a-half hours of stunning scenery. We stood out on an outside viewing platform taking in the views, until the train charged through a tunnel and we were blasted with soot. The train ran on coal until it was converted to diesel in the 60s and we were coated in the aftermath of the spent fuel, which made us look like a pair of grubby chimney sweeps.

Today we're seeing the Fox glacier the posh way - we're catching a helicopter to the top, then milling round on the ice and browsing down at the peasants who only shelled out for a hike around the bottom.

March 19, 2005
Amy writes:

See all of our Australia photos

I know it's not good to backtrack but this is the first time I've properly been on a computer in over a month. So odd, almost forgotten how to tpye...

Just wanted to pop in my highlights (and lowlights) of Oz - before we close that chapter forever.

Kangaroo Island - A wee island off the coast of Adelaide, south Australia that's just teaming with wildlife. It turned the two of us into David-Bellamy-type animal enthusiasts for our two day stay as we spent every waking moment scouring the bush for native creatures. We were lucky to capture a rare glimpse of the elusive Echidna (so cute!), and one of only two egg-laying mammals in the world. We were also thrilled by a walk on the beach at Seal Bay where we were able to observe wild Australian sea lions only a few metres away. They didn't seem to be bothered about groups of tourists wandering nearby as they slept on the sand. And the cute pups chased seagulls for our amusement.

Uluru (Ayers Rocks to you and me) - was Bluergh! Spent the three-day trip googly-eyed as I couldn't sleep due to freak cold weather and grit in my eye (don't ask!). Let's just say after two nights of lying awake with numb icy fingers and toes, I was pretty grumpy. Think I was so concerned with staying awake, the rock didn't impress me as much as it might have.

Sydney - Just beautiful! My cousin Jenny got married which was a fantasic day then Jody and I dragged my grandmother around for the rest of the week sightseeing. The harbour/opera house I think were Jody's highlights. Good pics all round. Mine was the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb - a 3-hour walk right to the top of the bridge wearing this highly unattractive grey jumpsuit. You aren't even allowed to take tissue up with you, let alone a camera. This is because traffic and people using the bridge below probably wouldn't appreciate it if I were to accidentally drop something on their car/head.

New Zealand is such a different place and there's so much more to write but so little time, in fact no time right now. Ah, the story of my life. C'est la vie!

March 09, 2005
Jody writes:

See our Hobbiton pictures.

The Lord of the Rings score boomed through our bus stereo as we headed to Hobbiton. Brochures featuring authentic replicas of swords, armour and the One Ring (now mass-produced in a variety of styles to suit all occasions) from the films was passed round the bus. We'd booked a tour to the set Peter Jackson used as the location for the Hobbit's village in The Fellowship of the Ring. Neither Amy or I are big LOTR devotees, but we knew it would make her dad, Malcolm, damn jealous.

There are loads of LOTR tours now in New Zealand but this is the only one where sets are still standing. On all the others you just have to trust the guides when they say, "See that mountain up there? That's Mount Doom, that is."

We were surprised at how good the tour was. There was only one diehard LOTR fan who must have taken 300 pictures (admittedly, we probably took 100), but sadly no one came dressed as Gandalf. I thought about it, but I didn't have space in my weekly budget to shell out for a cloak and white beard.

The site was huge. The crew had gone to great effort to remove every trace of New Zealand - dressing up native trees with extra branches and leaves to make them look like English oak. We posed for photos in front of tens of Hobbit houses that upon review, all look pretty much the same. We also hugged The Party Tree. And stepped in lots of sheep poo.

After the tour we fed some sheep that the farmer keeps as pets. These lucky lambs live a life of luxury and will never end up in the supermarket. Two dippy girls accompanied us on the tour and realising that the pet sheep had names, asked whether the other 1,200 sheep the farmer owns have names too. They're probably referred to as 'meat,' I thought.

Amy was bitten on her EYELID by a mosquito the other day (ouch!). Noticing her bulging eyelid, our Hobbiton guide offered some advice on bringing down the swelling. Apparently it's an old Maori remedy to rub a gold ring (the One Ring, perhaps?) on swollen eyes to cool them. Hokum maybe, but it was a much more pleasant solution than the other Maori advice offered by a passing woman the other day. "Rub urine into your eye," she said. Though I offered to help out however I could, Amy's sticking to antibiotics.

I'm really enjoying New Zealand. The place is beautiful - it's all hills and livestock. Yesterday Amy and I went to Hell's Gate - a geothermic national park with a spa tacked to the side of it. We wandered around bubbling mud pools and breathed in the sulphuric waters (which blow-out eggy steam) and later went for a mud bath and spa - both heated by steam piped from the Earth's crust. It was beyond relaxing - we felt utterly knackered for the rest of the day and I had to have a nap in the afternoon. I was thinking of having a beer at lunchtime too, but that would have probably finished me off and forced me into a coma.

We leave Rotorua today and start making our way towards Wellington and then the South island. We've got a seven-hour hike through Tongariro National Park to look forward to before we reach our destination on Sunday.

March 06, 2005
Jody writes:

When we waved goodbye to Australia we thought that we'd also be waving goodbye to warm weather, but it's been really warm for us on New Zealand's North island as we stalk around in the jeans we just bought. I would revert back to summer clothes, but my pack is so full that I can't fit all my cold weather stuff in at once. I was so happy to find a hoodie in the sale in Sydney that I bought it without thinking how much bloody space it would take in my backpack. Balancing pack-load and finding inventive places in the bedroom to dry laundry are two of the less glamorous tasks when travelling.

We arrived in Auckland on Wednesday, staying with Amy's relatives, Lily, Cliff and Eugene, for a couple of days. They were extremely kind and kept us well fed and entertained. Lily is an 80-year-old (or there abouts) soap star and occasionally appears in Shortland Street (it used to be on daytime ITV in the UK, but was axed) and a few other things. She cares for her step father, Eugene, who celebrates his 100th birthday this year. He was a top bloke and brilliant painter until he quit a couple of years back. He still manages to get around and although he doesn't say much, giggles through his beard watching slapstick comedy on TV.

We're currently on a bus tour of NZ's North island with a company called Stray. The tour ground to a halt today when the bus broke down and the whole group of 25 people were stranded at a farm. Luckily, the bus company knew the owners, who plied us with beer, took us strawberry picking and fed us apples until the bus was fixed, some three hours later. They kept dropping jokes about how quickly our group could clear their orchard if we helped them do an afternoon's apple picking, though I felt it was more of hint than a joke. We didn't oblige.

Anyway, I'm feeding coins into a hungry slot to keep this computer running so I'll leave it at that. Internet cafes are few and far between which explains why it's been so long since we posted anything. We'll get some more pictures up one day too. Hope you're all well.

For older entries, see the archives at the top right-hand side of this page.
Jody and Amy have finished their 10 month adventure around the world, that began Nov 2, 2004, and ended Sep 2, 2005. They're back home in London now, doing normal things, like going to work and drinking tap water. You can see a map of what was their planned route, but we didn't quite follow it.
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