pancake roks

2014 New Zealand

Oh Crap! Oh Crap! Oh -
Haha, That Was on Zoom...Whoops

18 December 2014 | Mri Ang

We had arrived at the Catlins in the evening as we heard that the best time to see penguins (yes, somewhere that's not the Arctic/Antarctic!) was at either dawn or dusk and since our idea of an 'early' morning was just before 13.00, well...dusk it was. So we headed down to the beach to watch them come in and desperately wished we had remembered to bring our chairs due to the ground being wet (surprise, it's a beach!). And though the car was a mere two seconds away, it was behind a ridge – which meant as soon as we were out of sight all of the penguins would waddle on in and we'd miss every single freakin' one. And so we braved the cold by talking to the ranger stationed there.

The penguins we were here to see were called Yellow-Eyed Penguins (guess why!?) and they were something rare. I don't remember exactly how rare, but enough to warrant a roped off area and a ranger on 'guard' for the night (not sure if he left at night or stayed until they went back into the sea the next morning). I might Google it when I get home, but probably not as I'll just want to collapse in bed and die. But watch this space because who knows!? Lols. It didn't happen.

Anyway, after what seemed like an hour of me just shouting, “Look a penguin!” And Rob saying, “'s a seagull. Another freakin' seagull” (in my defence they were far away and it was getting dark?) we finally actually maybe saw one? It was hard to tell because it was hopping and I'm pretty sure penguins don't hop...or climb cliffs. But these things totally did and they did it surprisingly fast for penguins – if that's really what they were.

What do you think?

Yellow eyed penguins hiding in the underbrush at Caitlins National Park, New Zealand

I know the pic's a bit blurry but it could totally be a penguin look-alike like a badger or something...Do badgers hop? What about skunks? No?

So anyway, once all of these penguin things tucked themselves away into the undergrowth and out of sight, we headed off to find a camp a bit closer to where we wanted to be tomorrow because it turns out seals and sea lions also like to disappear after and before dusk and dawn.

~ * ~

As of yet, I haven't had a resting day since the cave and though that doesn't sound like much, well, it's a lot for me, especially since we had a long hike ahead of us. Completely ignoring this fact, I decided I was well enough to do it and so marched in all my excitement to see these new wild marine animals!


I made it maybe twenty minutes before I started just dragging my feet behind me, stubbornly crawling forward. Must. See. Seaaaa-.... SEAL! THERE'S A SEAL! OMG THERE'S A REAL SEAL! Or maybe sea lion? Who knows, but THERE IT IS DEAD ON THE BEACH!

hurt sea lion due to (most likely) an attack by anotherBy the look of things, he'd gotten into a fight with some other sea creature and was now covered in flies. It wasn't until we got close enough to prod it (not that we did) that it turned its head with a mumbled growl, clearly signalling us to stay the hell away - and given that it was clearly twice the size of me and a wild animal (as well as hurt), it just happened to be an order I was okay with following. I stood there hopping between one foot and the other as I chewed on my bottom lip, wondering if we were supposed to help it in some way. Eventually, we decided we must leave him due to not knowing whether he was actually hurt or just lazy or tired, and given neither of us was comfortable with poking him enough to find out...well there weren't many other options.

And so we carried on. At this point I was very, very close to my final limit, having passed my 'should've stopped ages ago' limit well, ages ago. But alas, at this point we had also passed another person who very cheerily called out, "There's a group of eight of them not far from here!" And so we kept carrying on.

In hindsight, I think that was a minor mistake. Not because I was crawling so slowly that 'not far' took another hour. Not because it was starting to get late or close to high tide where the entire beach disappeared and we still had the walk back to accomplish. Not because once we finally did get there the sea lions were gone (they weren't), but because we somehow ended up lost in high grass (yes, I'm aware that we started out on a beach) with all means of backtracking lost to us do to a 'path blockage.'

Sealion blocking a path on the sand dunes in Caitlins National Park, New Zealand
And that's all I'm going to say about THAT.

We eventually managed to find a way back to the beach that wasn't guarded by an aggressive, giant fanged beast...just in time to watch the last bit of sand sink below the water. Another fifteen minutes and I collapsed due to these annoying as hell medical problems and so Rob ended up having to carry me back the rest of the way, through slowly rising water. But hey, at least I was pretty much out of it at this point, so I wasn't freaking out about possible sea lion monsters lurking in said water. I mean, Rob walked slow enough as it was; can you imagine what time we would've got back to the van if I was being an actual pain in the ass? lols.

The Entire Bloody Universe! In a Cave!

17 December 2014 | Mri Ang

Lifelong Vagabonds exploring the glowworms in Clifden CaveDespite my fear of the dark, I decided I really wanted to explore a cave - especially when I discovered that this particular one (Clifden Caves in Southland) had the whole universe trapped inside it. Can you imagine!? Okay, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration and a bit of a lie, but it got me excited enough to brave the suffocating twists and turns of my number one fear. Well, second now thanks to that freakin' bridge.

Anyway, we manage to find it easy enough and guess who we see at the entrance/exit? One of the hitchers we just gave a ride to! He'd managed to meet up with his friends so we didn't do much other than swap a wave. Well, that and because I was having second thoughts about this whole dark thing so wasn't really paying attention...especially since I remembered we only had one torch (ie: flashlight) and Rob called dibs... To be fair it was his and for those that don't know, I'm fairly clumsy. So though I'd much prefer having a torch of my own to use, I'm MUCH MUCH prefer not dropping it dead and then being stuck in the middle of a freakin' cave without any light.

“I would change if I were you,” Rob said as he parked the car.

I mumbled something between the bites of my fingernails, but he seemed to get the gist.

“Didn't you notice all those guys were wet?”

If I had to rank my fears in order they would be:

  1. Free death or on shop rocks or into a crocodile's mouth, etc.
  2. The dark where boogymen live.
  3. The water where water boogymen live.
  4. And now he was saying I'd have to brave the dark and the water. AT THE SAME TIME!
Fuck that. Let's get back in the car and leave!

But nope, we were here and Rob wanted to go in and so with a deep breath I changed out of my jeans and into something way more comfortable when wet. Clinging to his hand in a death grip, I followed him into the cave, hoping to hell he wouldn't find it funny to scare the crap out of me like all my other friends did. Yes, Jono and Travis I especially mean you two. -.-

Within twenty seconds I had relaxed. Why?

1. Because it looked liked this:

And 2. Because it had the ENTIRE UNIVERSE IN IT!

Well, glow worms. But HUNDREDS of them and when you turned your light off (or once Rob turned the light out because I screamed a panicked refusal), they looked like STARS! How freakin' cool is that!?

glowworms in Clifden CaveUnfortunately they don't really come out well on my camera (the photo to the right is of a glowworm's trail. That part doesn't glow. It's just like a spider's web and the worm's glowing butt is the beacon/lure), so just picture a crystal clear night sky with all those stars peering down at you and that's what it was like inside the cave. My fear just went straight out the window....well, until we got to the water that is.

Jeah, there was no way I was going in that. Nope, I'd much rather walk the hour back through the dark. On my own. Then get into that cold, cold water.

Somehow Rob didn't hear all my complaints for he just waded across without me. I might have screamed them in my head or I might have whispered it due to my sudden lack of air, but nevertheless the outcome was the same. He'd left me (cue dinosaur music).

“Hurry up! It's freakin' cold and I don't want to drop the non-waterproof torch in the water!”

His voice came from like two feet away and I could still see him so he didn't technically leave me, leave me, but he might as well have. There was a freakin' pool between us. In a cave. Uh, nope.

In all fairness, I did try. I seriously did, but all I could picture were monsters lurking beneath the surface ready to grab me under. I stuck one foot in and then jumped back out, yelling for him to come back and get me.

And bloody hell, he actually did. Which was really fortunate cuz I seriously wasn't kidding about being stubborn enough to die in there if he hadn't. Stupid phobias.

How the Heck Did I Ever Think This Would Be Fun?

16 December 2014 | Mri Ang

So you remember how I mentioned that fall in a previous post? No, not the season, the other kind of fall...jeah, that's pretty much all the information I have because I don't really remember mentioning it, but if my notes are anything to go by I supposedly did. Not that it really matters if you remember or not because I'm going to tell you all about it now anyway.

We were driving along somewhere in the south of the South Island of New Zealand when Rob spotted a bridge. Given that the road we were on went over the bridge and down the other side, it wasn't that hard to spot. The thing about this one, however, that made it stand out from all others was its near perfect 'jumping structure.' What do I mean by that?

Lifelong Vagabonds bridge swinging in New ZealandWell, you know how you ask a computer geek what's wrong with your computer and they go all geeky on you so you don't really listen despite asking them in the first place? Jeah, I kinda did that with Rob when I asked him what made a bridge have a good 'jumping structure.' It was something to do with land and width and probably no trolls, but that's just a total guess. Also I'm pretty sure he didn't use jumping structure as that doesn't sound very technical, but meh, it's probably something close to it.

What I can tell you, however, is why we wanted a bridge with good jumping structure. You see, Rob had mentioned his ability to make a bridge swing and it sounded cool because I liked swings and I wasn't afraid of heights. Besides, I used to jump off loads of stuff into water so how much different could it be?

So we climb out under this bridge easy peasy despite not being attached to anything (ie: if we fell, we'd hit the river and probably drown as it was shallow with big rocks). Rob sets up his stuff, clips in, jumps off, and now it's my turn. As I stand over the edge, I briefly contemplate why I'd want to jump off a perfectly sound bridge, don't bother answering, jump off, and then heavens above, then I know my answer.

I wouldn't. I so freakin' wouldn't.

It is nothing like jumping off a diving board and into water or even off some bleachers (for those non-Americans: stadium seats that slide into a stack) and onto the hard floor. Time seems to slow this way and if you want a good, terrifying rush then this is the sport for you (if you know what you're doing). You don't even need a big drop. I am now afraid of falling and I only swung maybe ten feet! I've jumped into pools from higher than that no problem, but after that...well, I clipped in and jumped again after two minutes of persuasion, but after that I then needed help walking the bridge I had very easily crossed on my own an hour before. I actually sat down on it and refused to move for a good five seconds. Bloody terrifying and not in a good way.

Jeah, you definitely won't catch me doing anything like that ever again. Sheesh. Too scary. Thrilling, but scary.

Tourists Unwelcome. No Exceptions.

16 December 2014 | Mri Ang

Due to Wanaka and Queenstown being a world renowned paragliding site, Rob was pretty syked to visit them. He had yet to fly at all in New Zealand because of high winds and van building, so one evening as soon as he felt the wind start to calm he grabbed his paraglider and took off...right in the middle of cooking tea. Meh, at least he let me know he was leaving instead of letting it burn with me blissfully unaware – not that I would have been for long.

You see, despite us being right outside of Wanaka, paragliding was still a 'magical' thing of entertainment and thus, many different groups of tourists started pulling over and pointing at the sky (ie: Rob).

Lifelong Vagabonds paragliding into a very tight car park← This by the way, is the hill he launched from and yes, that there where those two vans are is the landing. Now picture that with say three more vans pulling up to watch him and that 'landing' gets very, very small even for a skilled pilot like Rob.

Regardless, he still somehow managed it and not on top of any of the vans no less – or rather, he wasn't on one when I turned around to the sound of applause. No joke; they applauded. And if you think that's something you should hear them root for your launch...

~ * ~

The next morning, after a long chat with our neighbours (they thought I was weird for not wearing 'warm' clothes or shoes and then complaining my feet were cold despite me fixing that by sitting on them) we wondered on down to Wanaka. With about thirty more kilometres left to go we came across the first 'no camping in whole area' sign...and then another...and another...and another. Now normally, we just ignore these signs as 'camping' clearly means via tent and not via car, but these signs covered that with crossed out pictures of pop-top campers.

After about the seventh sign we made it into Wanaka, only to have our faces shoved with even more signs saying no camping, no overnight parking, etc. etc. There was even a 'no campervans' (not just camping campervans, but none whatsoever) sign for the supermarket's carpark... I can get having a ban on camping in a really touristy area where it creates a problem, but their animosity to travellers as a whole was just ridiculous considering how much money tourism brings in. We even met some campers who had stayed at the free camping for self-contained vehicles (toilet, sink, and waste water bin) nearby and they told us about an elderly couple who got fined the night before ($200 a person!) because the caravan they RENTED had an expired self-contained sticker... It was one of those proper campervans too that definitely had all the freakin' requirements, but the rangers here are just dicks by the sounds of it.

Nevertheless, Rob wanted to fly the famous site here and so we decided to hang around. We managed to find a free spot to camp. It was a fair bit out of town, but we hadn't any hassle overnight so we figured we'd just stay here for awhile until it became flyable...until we met the local paragliders. Maybe they had a bad day, maybe not, but they weren't very nice when we met them and so we decided to head to Queenstown for better luck.

Wanaka lake
Aerial view of Queenstown due to paragliding

No such luck though. If anything, the flying site there was even worse. Everyone had raved about it and all it was was a fly down (you couldn't really go anywhere due to restricted air space) and once you landed you had to pay $5 a person! For a two second flight! And then they hassled us because we were flying an old wing! There wasn't anything wrong with it, but they wouldn't even let us finish packing up before being complete dicks. And so after three days of stressful sleeping (we were camped somewhere very slope-y and almost within sight of the main road which meant the eyesight of any passing ranger), we decided to leave...after accepting a random wedding invitation somewhere out in the mountains called Glenorchy.

Rob's dad knew the guy twenty years ago or something (he's a fellow pilot and we were going to ask about the area and possible jobs), but he didn't even remember inviting us; lols. So after that lovely evening, we drove out of these overrated, not very friendly tourist hotspots and headed south, accompanied by two separate hitchhikers we picked up. Nothing of interest really happened during this time other than us stopping at an information board that had this elk and well...

Lifelong Vagabonds rocking it on a moose statue

2014 New Zealand travel blog