Andrew's Big Gap Year

Welcome to the Entertainment Parlour

South Island Review
Slight mistake in my previous posts. It seems that I said Dunedin was in the North Island when in actual fact it is in the south. Thanks for pointing that out dad.
So it’s coming to end of our time on the South Island so I thought I would do a review on each location visited. Here is a quick reminder of everywhere visited so far
Franz Josef
Lake Tekapo

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island with a population of over 300,000. A small city compared to others, its beauty is that’s its small and compact making it easy to travel around. (was a 15/20 walk from Jailhouse but pleasant none the less). Named after an Oxford College it still has a very English University town feel to it (the winding river, neo-Gothic architecture and mass amounts of students). I would recommend anyone travelling to New Zealand to spend a few days in Christchurch as it is very good and safe base to start your trip and for exploring further afield.
Recommended Accommodation: Jailhouse Accommodation


Kaikoura is situated 180km north of Christchurch which seems like a long way but the beauty for us was that we managed to meet a few friends on our way up with the Magic Bus. Your first views of Kaikoura are breathtaking as it has a great setting between the lee of the Kaikoura Peninsula, wedged between the mountains and the ocean. A very small town which relies heavenly on tourism and trips (whale watching/dolphin swimming) are voted the best in New Zealand. Unfortunately, because these trips are in the open ocean the seas chops in bad weather and trips are often cancelled (including ours). Kaikoura is a great place to stay for a night but if you’re determined to do some of the activities mentioned I’d give yourself a few days so you don’t miss out.
Recommended Accommodation: YHA Kaikoura
On paper the town of Nelson receives more sun than any other town in New Zealand. A nice enough place in itself but the real beauty lies in the Abel Tasman Park located about an hour’s drive outside Nelson. From here you can endure 12-15km walks, boat trips and Kayaking. Within Nelson itself it’s good to check out the centre of New Zealand which is located on a hill (funnily enough) on the West side of town. From here you’ll get great views of the town and Abel Tasman on a good day.
Recommended Accommodation: YHA Nelson or Paradiso Backpackers

Not one of the most idyllic stops on the trip, Greymouth does however offer a great chance to learn the history of Greenstone carving. (If your into that sort of thing) If not then get yourself booked onto the Monteiths Brewery tour. After about an hour or so with the guide walking around the Brewery you and then invited to the bar area to try all the Monteiths brand...all seven of them. If your still feeling pretty sober then stay till the end of the tasting and you’ll get 30 minutes of free drinking. We booked the last tour of the day which was good because there wasn’t many on it so was more personal and led to more drinking.
Recommended Accommodation: Noah’s Ark Backpackers or Global Village (Avoid Neptune’s)
Franz Josef
Bigger of the two Glacier towns (Other being Fox) and more commercial Franz Josef is a good place to stop for 2-3 days. I recommend taking a full day hike as it allows you to get further up the Glacier and experience some of the cave sections which were the highlights for me. It’s good to note that when you book your Hike to ask about promotions regarding the Glacier Hot Pools as there is nothing better than jumping into a hot bath a day hiking on the freezing ice. No banks here so make sure you have plenty of cash on you when you arrive.
Recommended Accommodation: YHA Franz Josef or Montrose Backpackers (free internet)

Was really looking forward to Queenstown and even though I wasn’t let down I just felt something was missing. It feels in many ways that it is a victim of its own popularity. My advice to anyone is to take it in small doses, either as a base from which to plan trips into the surrounding countryside or as a venue for just sampling the many other activities on offer. If you don’t then you will end up spending a fortune and find it hard to get out (many backpackers come with the intention of only staying for a week or so and are still there for 6 months later). I did a bungee, skydive and rafting which were all excellent albeit expensive but if your going to do these activities then do it in Queenstown.
Recommended Accommodation: YHA Lakefront

The ‘Edinburgh of the South’, Dunedin is an interesting as it is boring. Looking nothing like Edinburgh it relies heavily on being a University town (University of Otago is regarded as the most prestigious in the country) with the population increasing by around 3,000 during term time. Places of interest are the Cadbury factory where you can purchase chocolate very cheap and the Speights brewery which is possibly the biggest brewery in the world. Apart from that it’s a very dull place and the only reason we stayed for 6 days was because the hostel had free wireless internet.
Recommended Accommodation: Dunedin Central Backpackers (no keys for the rooms though so bring a padlock for a locker)
Lake Tekapo
A small village which is close to a place called Fairlie, the town of Lake Tekapo occupies the southern shore of the lake of the same name. A very seasonal town with a small town centre is an idyllic spot and definitely worth spending 2-3 nights here. Throughout Tekapo there is an amble amount of Kayaks available for hire. Also check out the Church of The Good Sheppard, one of the oldest in New Zealand. Some great walks, especially the Mouth John walk which takes your right up to the observatory. Look out for the stars at night.
Recommended Accommodation: Lakefront Lodges (Magic barbeque every 2nd night)

I’ve had a great time on the North Island. The beauty of it for me is how diverse it is. Sometimes you will be driving past palm trees, then turn a corner and they’ll be snow, then beautiful big lakes then baron land. Incredible. In many ways very similar to Scotland with some of it’s terrain, the best aspect of it though it that everything has been preserved so well and you can feel that everyone takes great care in there country. As the Kiwis would say, ‘Good on ya bra’ (bro).
Will see you all on the North Island before making the short flight to Fiji.

Dunedin and so forth
It's been a while since I updated this so I'll try and get you guys as upto date as possible.

Rich and I are currently in Dunedin which is the second largest city on the North Island. Orignally founded by Scottish setteles the city is often referred to 'Edinburgh of the south' (which is waht Dunedin in Gaelic means). Been here for 4 days now and is a nie place but not somewhere I would be too thrilled about coming back too. You can see alot of the buildings are Scottish influenced and look similar but that is about all. Bit of a change from Queenstown but nice to get somewhere that doesnt eat up your money as fast at Queenstown. We will be here until Thursday when we then jump back on the magic bus and head to Lake Tekapo for 3 nights, then one more night in Christchurch before boarding my flight to Aukcland on Monday. Currrently staying at Dunedin Central Backpackers and have to say it's a bit cool little hostel.

All is well

p.s went rafting on the last da in Queenstown, was amazing. Met up with Jen (girl we lived with in Cairns) so was gret to cathc up with her).

Fiji Booked
3 weeks today and I will be in Fiji....starting to sink in that I will be there soon. Paid for all my accommodation, food and transport. The only thing remaining is alcohol and a few other small fees. Even better news is that Rich will be joining me also in Fiji. He arrives a week before I do so it gives him time to have some alone time. I will be in Auckland for a week by myself from the 18th which I’m looking forward to. Managed to get a really good deal actually, £20 a night for a booking for a week so $140 for the week. Going to be staying at Auckland International Hostel which doesn’t look too bad for 20 bucks a night.

Only got one more day left in Queenstown before heading to Dunedin. I’ve booked accommodation at Dunedin Central Backpackers for 3 nights and the reviews for that place are very promising. After that we will be having a few more stops before arriving back in Christchurch.

Decided to go rafting tomorrow afternoon if weather permits. Looking forward to it as something I’ve always wanted to do. Will be doing on the ‘world famous’ Shotover river so I’m expecting some pretty full on rapids.

No doubt you will al hear about it once I’m done.

Hope you are all well. Not long now, less than ten weeks and I will be home.

As most of you will be aware of by now, yesterday Rich and I completed a 15000 feet skydive. Not going to lie to you, was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

So after getting picked up from base we were driven to the ‘drop-zone’ about twenty minutes outside of Queenstown. Rich was surprisingly confident but as the time became nearer I was getting more and more scared.

Our names where then called and before we knew it we were getting strapped into our jump suits and were receiving ‘training’ (aka a few minutes were you got told to position your body like a banana and smile) by my jump master Kras.

Kras, my jump master seems like a fairly decent bloke but his English isn’t great so it makes me worry me slightly more apprehensive about how legit this guy is. Rich’s jumpmaster is called Ralph, a Kiwi through and through who checks, double checks and then speaks thoroughly with Rich about the jump. As this is happening I turn around to hopefully see Kras checking our bag and wind speed etc, only to find him sitting in the sun reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. So by this point my pants are fairly creamed and before we know it I, Rich, Ralph, 2 photographers, Kras and chapter 37 of Harry Potter are making our way on t the plane.
For what seems like an eternity we final reach 1500 feet. Rich is closer to the door so he will be jumping first as Rich is slowly moving forward Kras taps my shoulder and finally gives me a little bit more advice. I then turn around to wish Rich a great jump only to realise that he is long gone and about 2000 feet below me. There’s no turning back now Andy, I think to myself and before I know it I’m hanging out of a plane. 3, 2, 1 and I are gone.

Now we were told that for the first 10 seconds you will have no idea where you are and what you are doing. Personally I had that idea from the moment I woke up this morning. The one thing I didn’t expect was how cold it was. I knew it would be but it’s like an ice cold wind hitting your face making almost numb like. After 60 seconds of freefall Kras taps my shoulders and it is at this point I can relax and stretch my hands out. That’s the last thing I want to do, I want to hold on for dear life, eventually Kras pulls the cord and our parachute comes out. When this happens it’s common for your legs to open. And mine most certainly did. Everything then becomes surreal at this point. Is complete silence and you are face to face with some spectacular views of NZ. We were lucky we got a great day for it so we could see for miles. As the ground approaches I lift my feet and let Kras land first and then thankful my feet are back on solid ground. What an amazing feeling. Don’t think I know anyone who shat themselves at 15000 straight to the ground.

The photos look like I loved every minute of it but too be honest that’s just a brave face!

Mum, I promise the only activities I will be participating from now on are, walking, knitting and cooking. Body can’t handle this anymore.

Scared Of Heights?
Saturday the 2nd October was a fairly non-productive day too be honest . With doing the bungy yesterday I thought It was time to do a bit of sightseeing. Rich and I took a walk into Queenstown today and have to admit the place is awesome. Reminds me of one of those ski-towns that you see in the movies. Is very different too what I’m used to so it’s nice to see something fresh. Don’t think I could live here as very expensive but can see why it is the most popular destination in NZ.
By the time you read this, Rich and I will just have completed a 12000 skydive. Don’t know what’s wrong with me but I just keep getting involved in these crazy activities. Rich backed out of the bungy so hopefully he’ll feel more comfortable diving out of a plane at 1500ft rather than jumping off a bridge at 43m....

Back at the hostel now, after watching Collingwood destroy St.Kilda in the AFL Grand Final replay. Not too pleased but Collingwood did play better and in the end deserved to win. Early start tomorrow as up for the skydive. Wish me luck guys, going to need it.

Love you all!

3,2,1 Bungeeeee
Was only planning on a relaxing bus journey from Franz Josef to Queenstown yesterday but somehow managed to through a bungy in-between.
So before I know it I’m standing 43m above a river on the original site of the first commercial bungy site in the world. Now there was 4 of us that booked to do it, so I was in good company. So we are all standing there waiting for the green light and some guy comes and gets me and asks me to stand on the platform furthest away from the viewpoint. When I get there, there is a girl literally downing 2 bottles of corona. She’s asking the usual questions, “Is that tied properly, it feels lose”, “Has anyone ever died” etc. I’m like fuck sake shut the hell up and jump because I’m this close to pushing you. So I’m sitting waiting for my call and the guy in-charge is giving me idle chit-chat and I surprisingly feel fine. Then I get the call to come forward and put my toes over the edge....Now In the words of Kevin Bridges, when your standing on a ledge above a river 43m above the ground, you kind of, shite yourself....I put on a brave face and the realised that there was no backing out. So after the countdown started I took a deep breath and jumped. For about 3 seconds I was in the unusual position of asking myself “What the hell I’m I doing here” and then it hits me, pure adrenalin and excitement. You can’t really explain the feeling you get from bungy, you have to o it yourself. Was an amazing feeling and if someone asked me if I’d do it again and I would have no hesitation in telling them to f**k off. Once is plenty!
Just woke up and going to take a walk around time and see what else is available. AFL Grand Final today and NRL Grand Final tomorrow, huge weekend for sport.

Bit Delayed
Stayed in Greymouth last night, a shipping town on the west coast. Wasn’t really much going on, hence why we only stayed one night but we didn’t manage a trip to the local brewery, Monteiths.
A much smaller brewery in comparison to others that I have seen but it was still very interesting and the best part of all was that we got a free tasting and a meal at the local hotel for just $25 dollars. We tried 7 different beers so it’s fair to say that Rich and I were fairly tipsy when we left. Some really good beer though and really enjoyed there Celtic Red Beer, which is a new addition and brewer similar to the traditional Scottish and Irish ales back home.
So today we arrived in Franz Josef, home of one of the world’s most famous glaciers which the town that it shares it’s name with. Rich and I are currently booked on a full day Glacier tour tomorrow and afterwards we have managed to wangle our way into the Glacier Hot Pools. They are basically hot tubs in the middle of the rainforest and it’s not uncommon to have the snowy back drop in the background with the possibility of it snowing or snowing while you are in there. Really looking forward to the trek but not going to lie, can’t wait to get into those hot pools.

Been a long day today. After getting up at 6.45am we made our day down to ‘base. Here we collected our Glacier gear which included the following:
Ice Boots
Crampons (spikes for your shoes)
Once we were all geared up and had signed our life away we then boarded our bus towards the Glacier. After about a 10 minute drive we had reached our destination and our 12k trek began.
The first part of the trek is through dense rainforest where you walk through, rivers, small caves up hills, down hills etc. Then out of nowhere you reach the end of the rainforest and you are met with the most majestic sight. At first it takes your breath away because you are not only seeing the glacier but a massive valley in which it sits in with mountains surrounding it with snow on the top and then a light fog which doesn’t allow you to really appreciate the size of the Glacier.
So after a long talk to the front of the Glacier we had a small safety briefing and started making our way up. Now Rich and I had booked the full-day hike which covers between 11-12k. The group was then split up into 3 groups. 1) Fittest people who wanted a bit of a challenge 2) People who would like to take it slower than group 2 but faster than group 3) people who wanted to stop frequently, take pictures and not go as far. Without hesitation Rich and joined Group 1. We thought that we will see what Franz has got too offer. What we weren’t told though until we started in separate groups is that the fitness needed s like going up a set of stairs, 2 steps at a time for an hour, break then again, break, then again etc. Too be honest it wasn’t that bad and it was a really good workout. We did stop on a regular basis due to heavy rain fall so our guide had to literally cut steps into the ice to make it easier for us to move. We continued to hike until we reached our high point, around 600m above sea level. Now you would think that coming down would be easier, hmmm, not so. If you begin to pick up the slightest bit of speed it’s very difficult to slow yourself down. (As 1 Brazilian guy found out).
The funniest part of the day however was when a member of the group decided to take a toilet break. Now I was always told to never piss into the wind....this guy took an eternity to decide which way the wind was blowing so once he seemed happy that he was facing the right way he started. Now obviously none of us are looking at him while he is doing this but after about 5 minutes we started to realise that the guy is no longer there. A few questions are asked so Daniel our guide gets a bit concerned and goes to see where he is. As Dan is walking towards the ‘yellow ice’ we see this small ice pick emerge from over the ridge, where this guy had started. Dan bursts out laughing and it’s soon apparent why. This guy was so concerned about the wind that he didn’t have a good enough grip and fell into a large collection of water beneath him. Soaking wet, a few words in Portuguese the man started laughing realising that everyone else was too. As we continued the trek around the water we also realised that not only had he lost his footing but he had urinated into a man-made slit in the ice which helps to stop the track getting slippy as it collects all the water coming down. Where does this slit lead too, you guessed it, the water in which he fell. Unlucky bastard!
Rich and I are about to head to the Glacier Hot Pools now, should be good after a long day on the ice. Staying one more day here then heading to Queenstown tomorrow and we will probably be there for a couple of weeks I reckon. Looks good.

Weekend Update
Headed to the Nelson Markets today which were located outside the hostel and it was good fun. Always like to see local companies’ show-off their products as they are all unique and personal. Didn’t buy anything but impressed by the warmth of the NZ people, very sociable and very interested about our time here and what we had planned.
After that Rich and I took a 3k hike up to the centre of New Zealand. Now I find this interesting and here is my reason why. This particular centre is located on top of the largest hill closest to the city centre in Nelson. Now to me, the chances of being the dead centre of NZ on the top of this hill are slim to none so I was wondering if it was maybe around this hill area and they just decided to claim it from there. Just find it hard to believe that out of how big the town is the centre is located on top of the largest hill. Anyway, who gives a shit!
Had a quiet night tonight as up at 6.45am tomorrow morning for our trip to the Tasman National Park.
Catch ya

Going to keep this short and brief.
Just completed a 12k hike through the Tasman National Park. Luckily we got great weather so I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some of the beaches are the best I’ve ever seen.
Rich and I also made 12 sandwiches the night before to make sure we had plenty of snacks to keep us going.
Good day and good exercise too. Off to Greymouth tomorrow for 1 night before heading to Franz Joseph Glacier.
Life is good.

A Few Updates
Met up with Rich this morning which was great. Feels like we haven’t been apart for the past 6 months. Took a walk around Christchurch today with him and saw some more sights and have to say that Christchurch is a lovely city. As I mentioned before it’s very similar to Adelaide but it also has a very European feel to it as well sometimes.

Heading to Kaikoura tomorrow which is around 3 hours north of C.Church. Here we can do whale watching and swim with dolphins if were up for it. Staying at the YHA there so should be good. Only booked in 1 night at the moment but may change. That’s the beauty of backpacking, there are no plans, there are no time frames, you can just do what you want when you want.

Spoke to Krystal yesterday on the phone. She wasn’t feeling too great when I left her and it turns out she has Tonsillitis. I know how she feels as I had it a few years back and it’s not nice at all. Hope you get better soon!

Nothing planned tonight, think we’ll just have a quiet catch up as getting picked up tomorrow at 7.45pm. Looking forward to our bus trip as unlike Greyhound there will be a tour guide with stories and commentary along the way.

Couldn’t be happier. Good bunch of friends, learning new things and having different experiences everyday, have a beautiful girlfriend but most importantly a great and supportive family who will always be there for me.


An interesting first day with magic.
After getting a taxi into Christchurch we were picked up outside Base Backpackers at around 7.45am. Including Rich and I there are 7 of us in total. It’s good though because we have a large bus so we can spread out and not have to worry about being cramped or anything. Our driver Greg is good fun and we’ve already been cracking a few jokes about how he is our chauffeur for the trip. (As we pulled up for lunch today Greg said “Ok guys, this is our stop for lunch” and I said “Ok Greg, make sure you’re back here at 12.30”. Got everyone laughing on the bus which was good.

After lunch we headed to Kaikoura. A small town about 2 ½ hours north of Christchurch it features some of the most breathtaking views of New Zealand.

Our hostel, the YHA Kaijoura, was located right across the water from the mountain range so we have a great view of the mountain range. Before settling into the hostel Greg took us to a seal colony which was fascinating. At first seals seems very aggressive but as we were able to get close to them we could see that they were in actual fact more curious than anything.

Rich and I decided to book our swimming g trip with the dolphins. Due to bad weather however the trip was cancelled so we didn’t get a chance to go out there. Was really gutted to be honest as would have been amazing. We were going to rebook for tomorrow but as the magic itinerary is limited sometimes we would have to wait in Kaikoura for 3 days before we could continue. So Rich and I just spent the day walking around the town, talking to a few locals and enjoying the scenery. Heading north again tomorrow to Pickton (ferry pick-up from Wellington) and then onto our stop in Nelson.

Have to say, very impressed with magic so far. Professional and friendly and they recommend accommodation and tours within the area so makes it alot easier for us. Very relaxing.
Heading off to bed now under a full moon and starts looking out over a beautiful sea and mountain range. It’s a hard life sometimes.

Had a great night’s sleep in Kaikoura last night. Bed was very comfortable.

Got picked up by Greg at 8.30am and headed north to Pickton. On the way Greg surprised us and took us to a waterfall. This was no ordinary waterfall however.

During this time of year, baby seals make their way up stream to the waterfall to keep warm and too play. Once we had come through the bush I was taken aback by this huge waterfall and big lagoon full of baby seals in it. There must have been around 30 or so, jumping, playing, eating etc, totally at peace with the fact that we were there. Was unbelievable.
After that we did a bit of driving up the coast and had lunch at a restaurant with fantastic views over the ocean. After another short drive we arrived in Marlborough country. Yeahya!!!!! I asked Greg if we could stop of at one of the vineyards and he kindly agreed. After a few snaps, the owner of the vineyard came out and we were talking about wine, Hotel Du Vin etc so he offered me a quick tasting. (Ofcourse I said yes!). So I went and got the rest of the guys and for $2 each we were able to try 4 wines. Now, I love Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs but my god, if you ever get the chance to try it in New Zealand, it will blow your mind away. Was beautiful. So I decided to buy a bottle of S.Blanc and guess how much it cost me? $10 for a bottle! Made me laugh when I thought of all the (sometimes) pretentious people at the hotel that pay ridiculous amounts for wine and here I am trying it in its home environment for round about £5. Too easy!

Just checked into YHA Nelson. Got myself a YHA Card so should be cheaper for me to stay in hostels now.

Rich and I are heading to the Nelson markets tomorrow and then finding a pub to watch the AFL Grand Final between Collingwood and St.Kilda. Going to be huge! Booked a trip around Able Tasman National Park for Sunday. This park is stated as 1 of the top 30 things to do in the whole of NZ, according to my Rough Guide book. Should be great.
After that we then head to Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier for some more adventures.

Dream Dorm
I thought this would be a good opportunity foe me to write about my time in Australia.

Can’t believe that I was almost a year ago I arrived in Sydney and met Brain, Kym and Rich for the first time. Sometimes it feels like years and years ago but then it sometimes feels like yesterday we were all sitting around the table getting told about our Working Holiday Visa conditions and requirements.

When Brian and Rich were last together on the Whitsundays I remember I asked the boys if they could pick their ‘Dream Dorm’ who would be in it and give the reasons why. I think by the time we got around to me we were all pretty wasted so I thought I would tell you guys mine.
So the conditions are this:

10 bed dorm

Have to have spent quality time with that person (not just because she is fit)

Have valid reasons, e.g. Kym because she gets drunk easily and tells me how much she loves me.

Ok so after thinking hard here is my ‘Dream Dorm’:

Brian Denmark USA My closest friend out here and couldn’t imagine him not being there.

Kym Hill UK As I said she makes everyone feel great and is great company and fun

Rich Howell UK I just look at Rich and laugh, genuinely one of the nicest guys I’ve met

Krystal Young AUS For obvious reasons but someone I would never get fed up being with

Steffas McCourt UK For her random outbursts and sexual conquest stories...priceless

Lisa Wernigg SA Didn’t get to know her until the end of Fraser Island but great company

Mow Jwad UK One of the funniest/wittiest guys I’ve ever met, only smiling

Sarah Goosen SA First crush in Australia, likes to party hard but looks after me when I’m drunk

Leah Blezard CAN Felt like I had a little sister when I was with her and would do anything to make sure she was alright.

Drew/Nicole Gillet USA Technically 2 but couldn’t not have them here. Made out Whitsunday trip that much more enjoyable with their games and banter. Lovely couple.

So there you have it, my top ten people from my last year in Australia.
So about an hour outside Christchurch now. Currently writing this post in the air as no in-flight entertainment so I thought I’d be true to my word about updates.

In a funny sort of way I’m lowing making my home now....kind of...well maybe not but feels like it as I’m going to be on the move as opposed to being settled like I was in Adelaide for the past 6 months.

Looking forward to seeing Rich tomorrow, can’t wait to get into the old routine.


Log in

No account? Create an account