Welcome to the latest edition to my “Postcard From” feature. Remember, if you would like to take part just drop me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from anyone who has taken a trip recently!
This week, I’ve been chatting to Samuel Claxton about his travels. Sam is an aspiring musician and travel enthusiast from Guernsey, now living in East London. He enjoys bad jokes, comedy bands, and plays both guitar and violin. I should probably mention he is also my boyfriend and the very same Sam mentioned in all my stories from Morocco. Here’s a pic of him emerging from an ice tunnel! Last summer Sam spent three weeks travelling around New Zealand, and it sounds like a serious adventure…
Tell me about your travels…
We flew into Christchurch and after a couple of nights there, we started heading up the east coast to Kaikora. We then headed up around the top of the south island, collected some people who had come over on the boat from the north island, and made our way to Nelson which is in the north of the south island. We then headed down the west coast stopping at numerous places for 1 or 2 nights including Westport, Punakaiki, Greymouth and Lake Mahinapua before coming inland to get to Wanaka and then Queenstown, where we stayed for a week. We then went back to Christchurch, stopping at Lake Tekapo and Geraldine on the way, before flying up to Auckland to get a flight out to Fiji.
It sounds pretty action packed! Did you get up to a lot?
We did so many cool things! Swimming with Dolphins. Skydiving. Bungee-jumping. Skiing. Quad Biking. Glacier Walking. Frisbee Golf. Got battered. We went to a ‘P’ party – I was dressed up as a ping pong table.
Ok, I get the picture! So what was your highlight?
My highlight was the Nevis bungee jump. At 134 metres it’s the highest bungee jump in New Zealand and the second highest in the world. I think it was the highlight for me because for the 3 months I’d been away prior to being in New Zealand I was adamant I would never do it. I’d seen videos on YouTube and was aware it was 9 seconds of free-falling, which doesn’t sound much but if you actually count out 9 seconds and imagine you’re falling for that period, you start to get the idea. Most of the people I was with were going to do it and I decided that (as they were mostly girls) I should just book it, then I wouldn’t chicken out and waste my money. I don’t think the 2 hour bus journey up the mountain helped and by the time we got up there my legs were like jelly and I had to go first due to being the heaviest (I was with lots of girls!), but as soon as my legs left the platform I loved every second of it. I ended up doing it twice actually.
All that action must have left you pretty hungry. What was your culinary highlight?
Ferg Burger in Queenstown!! For most of our trip we were cooking for ourselves in hostels so it wasn’t difficult to appreciate any other food which hadn’t been massacred by myself! But this place is unbelievable, when it comes to the burger stakes (pun city!), Ferg Buger is unrivalled. I’d heard this place mentioned before our trip, so as a lover of all things between buns I knew I had to go. The queue is often out the door but after a day’s skiing there is nothing better than one of these gargantuan burgers. There are so many options and they’re all cooked to perfection, if you choose side orders as well you’re a mad man. We were in Queenstown for one week and I remember being in there at least eleven times.
Any embarrassing stories?
Throughout my week in Queenstown I had been eyeing up a burger they called ‘Big Al’. This particular burger, if I remember correctly, cost the equivalent of £16 due to the fact it was monstrously large and filled with a plethora of heart attack-inducing, artery-blocking goodies. We went out for several drinks, then my last act in Queenstown was to head to ferg burger, buy ‘Big Al’, and take her home to bed, where I laid her down on the pillow next to me and proceeded to eat her, hands-free. I got half way before passing out. I don’t think it’s too embarrassing but I did wake up with egg on my face.
So, how were the kiwis?
One of the things which will always stay with me, and made my trip so memorable, was the locals. Everyone we met had such a fantastic sense of humour and was always up for a chat or willing to help us. One guy in particular, whose name I genuinely do not know as he changed it daily, was the bus driver on the kiwi-experience. He was with us for two weeks driving us around and I think I can safely say everybody on that bus adored him. His favourite thing to do was play practical jokes. When we were in Wanaka he told us to head to the local bakery down by the lake and ask for ‘Dolphin Bread’. Apparently ‘Dolphin Bread’ was French bread with peanut butter on one side. When thrown into the lake it would attract the dolphins, who then get the peanut buttered side stuck on the roof of their mouth and provide excellent photo opportunities as they come to the surface trying to dislodge it. When we went in and asked for the ‘Dolphin Bread’ they looked at us as if we’d escaped from a padded facility nearby. There is no such thing. There aren’t even Dolphins in the lake.
All the adventure NZ has to offer is bound to get tiring – can you recommend a good place to chill out?
Cinema Paradiso. A tiny cinema situated in Wanaka on the south island. I would definitely recommend it for the experience. I’m sure a lot of people would argue ‘why waste time at the cinema whilst you’re travelling’, but this place is so different. Swing doors lead into the cinema and then you choose your seat, which could be a bean bag, a couch, an airline seat or even the Volkswagen Beatle with its roof cut off and a sofa inside. There is an interval half way through all films regardless of length, during which the owner brings round homemade cookies, homemade ice-cream, homemade pizza and locally brewed beer. It’s so much more than just a trip to the cinema.
Such a British question, but we have to know; how was the weather?
The weather was a mixed bag. For the most part it was brilliant sunshine but there were several days where it rained all day and even in the sun it could get cold. We were there during August and it would chop and change even during the day, so my advice would be layers.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone thinking about making the same trip?
My advice for anyone thinking of visiting New Zealand would be to do the Kiwi Experience. It’s a fantastic way to see as much of the country as possible and they do circuits of both the north and south islands. There are no time restrictions, so if you stop somewhere and decide you like it and want to stay on several more days, there are regular buses so you can jump on the next one once you’re ready. The drivers are all incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and are also very helpful when it comes to booking other excursions and activities like bungee jumping/sky diving/skiing etc. It’s also great for meeting likeminded people: I put New Zealand down as my favourite country I visited, largely due to the people I met on the bus.
All pictures are owned by Samuel Claxton and have been re-touched by the brilliant Sam Larner.