Favourite blogs for Syncspeed

Never had the pleasure... » The Start of Something

July 06, 2008

Solo Acoustic

So, yesterday I played my first proper solo acoustic show in Llanidloes, Mid Wales. It was interesting to say the least, as you may gather from the setlist:

For Our Dreaming / Back For The Summer / We Don’t Need To Say Goodbye / Caught By The Fuzz (Supergrass) / Shadowman / Fresh Panic / Animal / Sorted For E’s and Wizz (Pulp) / Mamma Mia (Abba)

So, as a sort of celebration, all the music I’ve put on this blog I’ve accumulated here for your listening pleasure (with a few ones I haven’t posted before):

For Our Dreaming:

We Don’t Need To Say Goodbye:

Perfect Night:

Your Regrets:

Each Question (Figure It Out):

Fresh Panic:

Let’s Make This Goodbye:

I’ve been meaning to make a page for all my demos and stuff… now that I’m out of uni, it might actually get done.

May 20, 2008

In Progress

I got a new graphics tablet for my birthday. :)
I finish exams on the 6th June. Expect things to eventually happen again then.

January 15, 2008

A Revival

I hate periods of uncreativity or any period where I feel I’m not involved with anything. I seem to have a muse that shifts between writing, artwork, music and games. If I catch the updrift at the right time, I end up with a bunch of songs, some art, a game or a bunch of blog posts.

Right now, I think the writing bug has come back, since the previous post I have written a few music reviews for the Warwick Boar and blog, but I feel I have some sort of duty to finish off my documentation of my year out. There’s still plenty to talk about, and plenty of photos to post.

In the meanwhile, despite not recording it, I’ve been doing a fair bit of art work with a borrowed graphics tablet, of which you can see some endeavours here or you can wait till I post the best bits later on this month. I also bought some acrylics and did a painting for my gran for Christmas, but as of yet no photo exists, that needs to be rectified…

I also plan on using one of the digital art pieces (it’ll probably be easy to guess which) for a little compilation of all the music I’ve accumulated in my ‘demos’ folder for the past year. Some you will have heard, some you most definitely haven’t, and all of it I can still listen to today and not cringe at. I’m calling it ‘A Winter Clean’ as I feel I need a new slate to start things off. I wrote a new song for the first time in what seems like an age today as well, hopefully in light of the fact that Afterburner have a charity gig in Robbins’ Well on the 26th and are entering the Battle of the Bands later on. It feels good to get the creative juices flowing once more.

And I say all this without even mentioning the fact that I hope to release a few games over the coming months, I’ve had all these ideas bubbling round my head I’m gonna burst if something doesn’t get done sooner nor later.

And a new website will have to be organised I guess… damn… it piles up…

Ramble over.

September 06, 2007

We Don't Need To Say Goodbye


It’s been a while.

And I’ve been alternately been either visiting people away from home or cursing the day I made my home desktop computer 3 years ago. So now I’ve got a shiny new PC and a little bit of time to start posting again before Afterburner and I go on a shiny new tour around various places and seeing more friends (I hope).

I’ve been wanting to post this song above for ages, I played a stripped down version at the Acoustic Battle of the Bands (way back in early 2006) but it probably didn’t sound as good because I wrote it the day before. I finally got around to recording it properly when my brother came back with my electric guitar, and an amp to plug it in to. Unfortunately he’s gone with his amp (but left the guitar) so I can’t really do any more full on recording, but there’s quite a few acoustic ones knocking around that I should post in the near future (yeah, right).

Maybe after the tour, maybe in the next few days while I’m not being hounded by any commitments, I plan to put up a page of recordings you can listen to or ignore at your pleasure, with lyrics and all. I did also plan to record a whole album over the summer, but this is the only song I managed to finish…so it remains to be seen how this project will fair.

More NZ posts coming up…

July 18, 2007

Fox Glacier Mints

Fox Glacier 1

12th-13th January – Maruia Springs to Fox Glacier (208 miles)

The journey from Maruia Springs was fairly straightforward. Gorgeous sun greeted us in the town of Greymouth, where we dined in a strange but trendy café-bar – it used 7” records for order numbers! We topped up on petrol, checked our bank balances and rode on through Hokitiki to Fox Glacier.

The hostel was fair enough, plenty of videos (yeh no DVD player in our little section of the complex), free tea and cheap internet. We ended up watching The Talented Mr. Ripley with a few fellow travellers (an American girl and a Scottish girl) as we both had booked the same morning trek on that big icy block less than a mile away.

The previous evening had been wet, despite all the sunshine during the day, and it didn’t bode well for the 7-hour expedition ahead. However, it was fairly clear but not quite bright as the morning came. The centre was opposite our hostel and it didn’t take long to sign up and collect our military grade leather walking boots for the day.

The reason I wore a hat for the rest of the day Danger Danger

A good old fashioned British bus that looked like it came out of the fifties took us around the corner to the site of the glacier. It’s hard really to describe what it’s like purely in words. But if you look at some of the later photos for the dots that look like people. They really are people, and this glacier is really, really big. Even the cliffs at the sides were impressive, sheer to almost vertical, a huge chasm inbetween exactly where we were wandering up.

Dots for people More dots for people

Our guide led us over a trickling stream up the less steep side of the valley, towards one of the passageways onto the glacier. It gave us great views of the valley but it also brought the first sprinklings of rain. By the time we reached the glacier, and it was time to put our spiky shoes on (okay, they’re called crampons), a shower was in full effect.

Before the rain Fox Glacier 6

Under any circumstances this would be a strange experience but this was surreal beyond belief. Moments ago walking though some grassy forest, and then on to a great expanse of ice, every step and stair had been hacked away only a minute before by our guide. We were walking along where the even earlier guided tour had been, but even their tracks had been melted and reformed into new formations, and had to be reformed again by sharp metal forced points to make sure we had some way of continuing forwards. This mass, this creature, was continuously changing and rearranging itself, the guides often recalled how you could wake up one morning after, and the paths would have changed completely from the day before.

Fox Glacier 8

Today, our path was hard-going. Heavy raingear was on by now, and the cold was beginning to show itself. About an hour into the trek on the glacier, and we had to turn back. The rain was torrential, even our guides were losing their optimism, but it was still an amazing adventure out there. All the way back off the ice, we had to fight it, carving new steps, stomping our feet into the ground for sure footing, biting our teeth against the cold. Even off the ice, we reached the trickling stream we had merely ignored on the way over, which had now turned to a roaring river. By this time, getting wet had no meaning, nothing could be wet that wasn’t already so. We simply marched through the torrent, oblivious to any change in the current that had happened.

Fox Glacier 10 Fox Glacier 10

Apparently our ordeal was worthy of free beverages when we arrived back at the station, the weather still not letting up after all the barrage we had taken. It was all that we could do to just limp back off to the hostel, beaten by the icy fortress, and wallow in some typical self-pitying English comedy in the form of Blackadder…

July 15, 2007

Hot Springs and Sandflies

Maruia Springs 5

11th-12th January – From Kaikoura to Maruia Springs (118 miles)

After the relative high of grabbing some water time with some amazing sea mammals, I met up with Florian (who had just finished the dolphin encounter), said goodbye to Sam, and our hosts at Cray Cottage, and hit the road with a vengeance.

We had a vague idea of what we were going to do and where. We had booked a glacier hike for the morning of the 13th (we’re not superstitious folk) so we had to go cross-country to the west coast to make our appointment happen. We decided a good halfway point would be the haven of Maruia Springs. A privately owned set of spas and hot pools, where if you go for the (unadvertised) camping site, you get free access to in the evening and morning after. The weather was a little overcast still, a few spots of rain interrupted our coffee break but didn’t dampen our spirits as we found an amusing sign name to pose stupidly in front of.

Maruia Springs 1 Maruia Springs 1

As we arrived at Maruia Springs, the clouds just managed to part enough to show a bit of that bright blue sky we’d been desperately lacking. It was also enough time to put the tent up and figure out what we actually got for our money.

What we got, was quite a lot. The first area, was a series of large outdoor rock pools, naturally heated by the hot springs by the mountain but also a very unnerving murky black colour. The colour wasn’t the first thing to hit you though, it was that beautiful sulphurous smell that accompanies all things geothermal. Then the next things to hit you (or bite you) were the sandflies. Anything above water was fair game for these little minions of evil.
Eventually, we gave up with the pools, and took an invigorating massage (it literally felt like pebbles rolling down your back) from a cold waterfall nearby to clean up (it helped keep the sandflies away as well). The weather had turned again, so we moved swiftly on to the other main section of the spa, the Japanese bath house.

Japanese bath houses are different. You have to use these strange little showers before and after entering the pools, and you get this little stool to sit on, and a bowl for pouring water over you. But it was a complete haven away from the rain and sandflies. It was complete luxury to lounge in a hot pool gazing out at the mountains through a huge window listening to the pitter patter of the rain on the glass. I’m surprised I never shrivelled after staying so long in these pools, but it was beginning to get dark and we hadn’t eaten yet.

Our late meal was again a triumph for sandflies, we were reduced to eating our meal in the car, beer in the drinks holders and squishing bugs against the windows. It was a mutual consensus that we’d leg it to the bar inside the complex and stay there for as a long as was deemed reasonable (by the staff at least) before making a break back to the tent.

Maruia Springs 3 Maruia Springs 4

The morning after was much brighter, and lot more pleasant, though still not without its share of those little nightmares. We had planned an early departure, but sod that, we still had free access to the bath house, and that became an almost definite requirement in preparation for the next leg of the trip, across to Greymouth, and down the west coast to the glaciers…

July 13, 2007

Seal Shots

DolphinsNSeals 9

11th January – Kaikoura Peninsula

As I said in the previous entry, I booked in a seal swim not much longer after the dolphin encounter. Florian had arrived and he was on the dolphin trip while me and Sam took part in this. It was a lot less busy, a bit more personal and ultimately just as interesting.

Instead of heading out to the sea, our motorized dingy took our small group out to the very tip of the rocky ground that makes up the Kaikoura Peninsula, which I had ambled along during the previous week, albeit a little further inland. On land, seals can be seen as pretty rough and lazy creatures, but there’s much to be said when you catch one taking a dive. First though, we had to get near them.

We disembarked the boat in all the appropriate gear and made our way to a small inlet between the rocks. In an attempt to not disturb any of these huge seals, we effectively commando crawled through shallow water towards the little islands they appeared to inhabit. It was pretty tough on the hands and knees, even with a wetsuit on, and with the tide trying to nudge you into the walls, it was a more enduring experience to the open water meeting with the dolphins.

DolphinsNSeals 12

We reached a deeper pool in amidst the rocks, and as we were looking around for some that were ready for a dip, two started fighting right ahead of us. Lots of growling and slapping later, one pushed the other into the water and it rushed off to perch on another island before we had chance to take notice. It wasn’t long though before our guide started pointing out seals that were tired of not getting any sun (it was quite overcast on that day) and decided to jump in. I ended up out of the rocky outcrop altogether watching one seal as it glided about underwater, trails of bubbles as it swept past, almost directly aiming for me at one point.

DolphinsNSeals 3

We had another underwater camera, and I managed to get one great picture again to illustrate just how huge their eyes are underwater. I’m quite sure it was another fluke, because this was taken as it just swerved away from me during another imminent head-on collision. Either way, it’s fair to say that on land, these creatures may seem little morose and uninspiring, but that isn’t their game. Underwater, it’s a completely different scene, and another fantastic one at that.

July 12, 2007

Dolphin Encounter!

DolphinsNSeals 4

9th January – Offshore Kaikoura Peninsula

5 o’clock is not a normal time to wake up, but on that day I was going to squeeze into a wetsuit and jump in to deep water to swim with dolphins. With my student loan in tow, it didn’t take long for me to start spending it, I had also booked a similar seal swimming event on the 11th, because Florian had arrived, and that meant it was time for me to go on a road trip. But that comes later, for now, it was time to get wet.

The sun was still preparing to rise when me and Emma (a Scottish girl from Perth – yes the other one – who got to Cray Cottage a few days before and had started working three jobs since then) arrived at the ‘Dolphin Encounter’ centre. There were a few other people milling around as the sun peeked out from behind the peninsula and the staff finally opened the doors. A whole troop of swimmers eventually gather to collect their second skins for the morning. Getting into a wetsuit is a tight fit because these ones are a bit thicker to give an almost lifejacket-esque quality. And for the time being, it was also warm. There was 10mm between me and the water so I was hoping it would stay like that.

After a brief about safety and expectation – they pointed out you were there to entertain THEM, not the other way around – we were carted off to separate boats. Ours happened to be the smallest and quickest, but unfortunately also the lightest, as it bounced over the swells making Em a bit queasy. There were no spectators on this boat as was usual with the larger vessels so looking like a ridiculous rubber seal wasn’t exclusive to anyone.

The boat first spotted a pod of Hector’s dolphins, they are smaller, and have a more rounded ‘Mickey Mouse’ fin shape. They are apparently quite rare for the area so we did best not to disturb them. Our target was to find the dusky dolphin, larger, and more acrobatic…

DolphinsNSeals 8

Finally our time came, hoods were donned, goggles strapped on and snorkels clasped between jaws. The klaxon on the boat signalled our time to jump ship. I was one of the first to slide in, face straight down I kicked away from the boat. It was hard work. Large flippers and buoyant wetsuits make for a good floatation aid, but damn was it difficult to manoeuvre. When the dolphins finally came after a bit of flapping around, they darted around, making a mockery of my feeble attempts to try and swim in a circle, or any attempt at trying to dive. It was fascinating how agile they were, coming but an arm’s length away and then shooting off again. All the tactics were put in place to attract them, swimming in circles, diving, singing through your snorkel (that got a few laughs from some of the spectators in the other boats) but as any intelligent species would be, the dolphins got a little bored with our antics after a while and took flight.

DolphinsNSeals 11

We managed three separate occasions to meet up with the pod of Dusky dolphins, and I managed on only one occasion to grab an underwater photo worth keeping, they were that frisky. Em had been a little too queasy by the second trip off-boat, and so by the time we all returned for the final time she was not in a pleasant state. However, it was by no means over yet. There was still the aftershow dolphin party.

Our boat joined the others and we found a huge pod of dolphins on the way back up the shore. Over 200 of the magnificent creatures were swimming, jumping, diving under the boat, and generally just being amazing to watch. They seemed to be having competitions with flips and jumps simply for their own amusement, none of this was staged, there was no bait, no encouragement, it just happened there in front of us. If I can figure it out, I’ll post a video I took of them to show the action, but for now, here’s a set of shots from the spectacle (bigger versions in the Kiwi Summer gallery)...

DolphinsNSeals 7 DolphinsNSeals 6
DolphinsNSeals 2 DolphinsNSeals 10

After all that, I was pretty excited about the rest of the summer, because it definitely only the first spectacle of many…

July 09, 2007

The First Week of the Year (The Poor Week)

Kaikoura 22

1st-8th January – Kaikoura

A dodgy student loan payment schedule (i.e. with the English term dates rather than with the NZ dates) left me facing the new year with not a lot of money at all. My money would go through on the 7th, which would end up being the 8th here by the time it came to the UK. Until then, I had to make do with whatever entertainment I could get.

Me and Ellie fought through the new year’s hangover to try and catch the first sunrise of the year, but it turned out to be overcast. So instead that morning I decide to take it upon myself to acquaint myself with my mechanical companion for the coming week, the mountain bike. It was still pretty gloomy though for the first two days, so I just scouted out the distance of shops, the seal colony, the pub, the beach… etc. A reconnaissance mission if you will.

Kaikoura 19

By the third, the weather had decided to get it’s arse in gear and be gorgeously hot. It was great cycling, feeling like I’m ten years old, trying to remember if I could still cycle none-handed (how good did that feel the first time?). I made it back to the seal colony for a coastal walk and had my first encounter with one of the little buggers. One thing you should know about seals is that usually you smell ‘em before you can see ‘em. This first time however, I was completely oblivious to anything, and before I know it, this seals pops its head up beside me and burps in my face. A lesson I doubt I’ll ever forget.

Kaikoura 15

Another thing about the coastal walk was the bird population. Some more warning signs for you, if an oyster-catcher (that’s the little black one with an orange beak) starts bleating and walking away from you, you should probably follow it instead of walking away. It’s actually leading you away from its nest. If not, it will proceed to take flight and divebomb you repeatedly until you take the hint. I can tell you that these ‘hints’ were taken quite a lot on this first walk. And when a large gull starts doing it, just hide behind a rock or something, they are seriously dangerous…

Kaikoura 25 Kaikoura 27

Despite these naturally disturbing encounters, it was an extremely pleasant and diverse walk, as all the pictures show. The one above was from taking the cliff-top route back and the mountains in the background looked to be simply floating on the cloud strip (as well as being covered in snow!). A fantastic view.

The next few days I went inland, towards these mountains, in particular Mt. Fyffe. Unfortunately, I had neither money to get a lift, nor energy to cycle up to the summit walk, which would have been ideal. I did instead manage to cycle up a bloody great hill for some fantastic views of the peninsula, and enjoy a cycle (or roll) down the Roman-esque straight roads that lead back down the mountain, feeling the bigger rush from huge lorries that have to share the same tiny road as the rest of us.

Kaikoura 29

The good weather didn’t last all week, on the seventh it was back to the relative gloom for a day, and my cycle up to the lookout was a bit fruitless compared to the previous days’ efforts. However, on the 8th the heat returned, and decided to take a trek on foot over the top where I went previously on two wheels. Amusingly, Sam took this exact moment to get trapped in a field of cows, and I got several distressed mobile calls halfway down one side of the hill. By the time I had got my bike and found where Sam was, she had thrown a bike over an electric fence, been electrocuted climbing that electric fence, and ‘chased’ by angry butch lesbian cows. Apparently. She was distracted five minutes later by a rock (she’s a geologist) so I assume it can’t have been that bad…

Kaikoura 37

That afternoon I decided would be spent on the beach, giving my skin a bit of ‘sun time’ and photographing birds (in this case, the Shag) drying out (or showing off) their wings. In the morning, I had booked a dolphin swim with my imminent inflow of cash, so rest was essential…

It was at five in the morning…

July 07, 2007

New Year at Cray Cottage

The day after new years - not raining

Another quickie as I’m in Brum at the moment meeting relatives… and also Sam and Ellie funnily enough. Although I do hope Sam sees this after I get a lift off her…

30th Dec to 1st Jan – Kaikoura

The inhabitants of the cottage were interesting enough, there was a normal German girl, Jana, that was disappointed by the weather and on the waiting list for dolphin swimming. Then there was Kaura, the Japanese girl who cleaned for food and speaks sporadic parts of good English, but for the most part was completely unintelligible. Finally, there was Elizabeth, a Danish woman, eccentric in most ways, with a slightly odd passion for the colour mauve. The owners, Donald and Jakki, were actually former Leamingtonians and managed to keep the place extraordinarily clean and a proverbial home away from home.

The first night was strange because after meeting Ellie and Sam, they took me back to their field station accommodation (fancier than mine) for Shephard’s pie (and that ain’t a euphemism). It meant I arrived back at the cottage at 11pm, in the dark, house lights off (it wasn’t a typical ‘party’ hostel), and everyone asleep. I had to climb into my bunk in pitch black trying not to wake anyone up and not having a clue where things were.

New Year’s Eve began a bit depressing, lots of rain and grey and no chance really to get out of the place and do anything except buy supplies and prepare for the night. By around 9pm though, after several glasses of donated wine from our hosts and getting my ass handed to me at Yahtzee, the rain finally let up. So me, Sam and Ellie took our chances to find a bar to lighten the gloom.

Dont they look grand

Kaikoura has around four bars of any repute, but two of them were across the road from each other, so we chose them. They were both busy, but not new year levels of ‘packedness’ so it was fairly easy to get through to drinks even as the countdown came closer. But no countdown but our own ever came. The Kiwis didn’t take a blind notice to any sort of cheer and there was no Auld Lang Syne to see us past midnight (only a minute’s playback of U2’s New Year Day, one of the pub’s was invariably Irish, as always). We had to make do with our own rendition that gave a nearby Bristolian a few chuckles.

Now Sam, being a little on the shorter side, was very tipsy by the time of the girls’ second Bailey’s and after an attempt to call Ellie’s parents (with all of us having a go at the thing called conversation), arm in arm we walked home.

Mainly to keep from falling over of course.

Dont try this at home kids


July 05, 2007

In Transit


Apologies again for the lack of photos, this will change with the next post when I’m in Kaikoura…

28th-30th December – From New Plymouth to Kaikoura (282 miles)

Jens had dropped me off in New Plymouth and I had two buses, one ferry, another bus and two more nights before I would reach Kaikoura. The hostel I was at in New Plymouth, the Sunshine Lodge (apparently ironically titled on that day) was, like many places I would encounter this summer, a strange affair. In the corner of my dorm room, in fact basically just past the end of my bed, a teenager had his whole room set out: television, stereo, Playstation, and he’d been there several months. Apparently the college he was at ran out of halls, and here he was, playing Tekken (badly) as I went to sleep.

I’d not given much notice when booking transport, and at this time of the year, it didn’t give me too many options other than to split my trip to Wellington up into two. The weather turned for the better (typical when you’re stuck inside a vehicle) as the bus drove past the looming Mount Egmont, looking rather ominous even in the bright sky. It was now that I was lamenting my camera, having it stolen in Sydney meant my only source of stealing images was my phone, and taking photos en route was therefore practically pointless.

I had to change buses in the quirky town of Bulls, where every shop on the main streets has an unbelieveably puntastic take on their dwellings name. The doctor’s office has ‘Cur-a-BULL’ on the side, the church quite amusingly ‘Forgiv-a-BULL’... and so on. I can’t say I ventured far from the bus depot, being lumbered with a huge backpack, but I was allowed to admire the local ‘graffiti’ in the last remaining hours of the sunshine as my bus… didn’t turn up.

But no fear, a replacement eventually did turn up, and I was crammed for the remaining hours in a coach, without a window to look out of (curtains were being drawn as the sun hung low), just waiting. Wellington came in the dark, and I took my lodgings in the hostel across the road from the station, whilst meeting my good friend Stephen from Southport who was working here for a while. A bit of home to catch up with in the middle of a bit of madness, I definitely needed it. I also didn’t mind the bit of a discount from the shop in the morning when I had to catch the ferry at some ungodly hour (okay, it was 9 o’clock), and again I was on the move.

The ferry trip harboured some great (and cheap) fish and chips, and although the ride itself was uneventful, it is worth to note one of the tightest ferry routes, as we travelled through the impressive Queen Charlotte Sound, again bemoaning my lack of a useful camera. Also, with perfect timing of the travelling curse, moments after stepping off the ship, the clouds gathered and spat down at me as I ran off to find a shop to shelter in. What I did find was a shop that sold tea, English tea. And I felt very English indeed, writing a letter back home, looking at the rain out of the window, drinking tea and eating a meat pasty, waiting for my bus to arrive.

Picton Boats

Maybe New Zealand suddenly realised it wasn’t fooling anyone, but either way, I left the shop and walked straight into sunshine. The palm trees made a fitting backdrop to the light as you can see above. It also made me want to take in an ice cream as I watched kids floating boats in the pond by the miniature railway (wait, am I still in New Zealand again?). This part of New Zealand definitely was wanting to be more English, as the rain caught up again, and this time I took shelter in the information centre, my bus was almost here.

I say bus, because that’s what I assumed. What arrived was what seemed like an old school minibus with a trailer. And it definitely didn’t seem like it should be taking on the winding windy coastal roads as the waves crashed up in the turbulent weather. I didn’t whether it’d be better if I closed my eyes or not. I chose to keep them open, mainly because the sea is so fascinating to watch, but also so I could see the grandiose mountain ranges on the land side. A three hour long drive can go so fast when you’ve already waited two days, so I was out on the pavement of the town of Kaikoura before I knew it.

Kaikoura Nights

Kaikoura is a small coastal town, where you’ve got marine-rich sealife on one side, and a huge mountain range just behind you. It’s a surreal sight indeed to see an Orca whale pull up for air in front of a mountain range (at least, I was told it was an Orca). A walk for about five minutes brought me out of the relative hustle and bustle (haha) of the centre and down the deceptively long seafront to my home for the next two weeks, Cray Cottage. Of course I didn’t get there before meeting Sam and Ellie, who were going to be my New Year’s compadré’s.

Which was good fun, as you shall see…

July 03, 2007

A Sidetrack

Inbetween Kawhai and Raglan

The above is the only photo I have of these two days, so forgive if me if this gets too wordy. It’s a shame really because I know we got some great pictures at sunset, but I just don’t know where they are.

27th-28th December – West Coast of North Island

We spent the night overlooking an estuary somewhere between Kawhai and Raglan on the west coast of the North Island. Our whole day we’d been battered by rain leaving not a lot to be seen of the sights, apart from an invigorated waterfall (one of a hundred called the ‘Bridal Veil’) and the blustery coastline. In fact, when we found this spot, we simply had to return to the car, and sit it out, as our attempt to enjoy a few beers with the ‘grey’ view was cut very short.

The last few hours of day actually brought some sunlight, so we did manage to gobble down our Salami Tikka Pasta™ in front of the sunset without distraction. It was around that time when the tide went out, and suddenly the whole bay in front of us was seen to be really shallow. It reached out over a hundred metres and was full of oysters and mussels. A little exploration revealed little else though, and the sun finally disappeared and the clouds cleared to reveal the southern hemisphere topsy-turvy night sky. Slightly tipsy tents were set up in the dark, although with surprisingly the least amount of hassle. A swift goodnight and I was out like a light, only to be awoken at 4a.m. to the sound of a vengeful shower and a strong breeze that battered the doorway.

Thankfully, the morning was much brighter, and less damp, the bluster drying out our tents better than we could hope for. With our breakfast arrived some Mauri locals, two ladies gathering shellfish, whilst two small kids sat bored by the car. They soon had something to watch though. Packing our stuff was easy enough, but trying to get the car back up the makeshift driveway was another thing altogether. The rain had turned the slope into a Herculean task (okay maybe not, but it felt like it) as even with a push, we couldn’t make over the final lip to the road above. The car limped back down the hill, defeated by the rain damage of the day before.

So, with typical Anglo-German teamwork (okay maybe it wasn’t typical) we did the only thing we could: build the road. Formulated from surrounding branches and gravel from the roadside, we lined our slide and either side forming a natural gripping surface for our tyres to glide up. Also, with the car being front-wheel drive, we offloaded everything out of the boot, and then prayed to the god of lucky breaks.

We braced ourselves behind the car and ran as it took a rush at the task. It stuttered once, but never stopped and we were home free and dry, and also a little bit mud-splattered.

The road to Kaikoura was at hand…

July 01, 2007

A Kiwi Christmas (Part 2)

Christmas 3

25-26th December – Half Moon Bay, Auckland

So, what better place to rejoin the adventures as Christmas Day?
There was still a meal to be made and plenty of things to be sorted, so the morning was a panic of hoovering and cleaning before the Coopers extended family came along (both Dennis’ and Beverley’s brothers plus family). All minus Jens’ friend Vaughn, both unfortunately and amusingly, as it turns out I’d meet almost his entire family before himself.

Thankfully, the turkey had properly defrosted overnight, so I just had to fiddle with its innards and clear it out for all the stuffing before cooking it. After packing it all properly, I realised I had nothing to close the ‘backend’ up, and nothing to tie the legs together. A quick bolt around the house revealed no suitable string of any use, so I resorted to two office paper clips as a kind of brace, which apparently work a treat (that’s Kiwi engineering ingenuity for you). I shuffled it into the oven, and joined the others in making the place a worthy spot for a feast.

Christmas 4

And what a feast it was (as you can see above). A prawn salad starter prepared by Word on the table was that my turkey was the best of the two we had, but I won’t push for any accolades. Needless to say, it was all gorgeous, and Dennis brought out some millennium primed champagne to sweeten the occasion a little more. Even Jens’ and Jonas’ Stolen went down well, regardless of what his expression in this photo might be telling you. I think it’s probably because this is the ‘before’ shot, and when everyone actually liked it, a much more satisfied Jens appeared.

Christmas 6Christmas 7

After that, drinks in the lounge accompanied the obligatory present opening ceremony. We weren’t expecting the crate of Beck’s, but it went down very nicely all the same. And as quickly as all the other days seem to have gone, together with a full belly, and everyone primed for sleep, the Kiwi Christmas was over. It was my first Christmas away from my own family and friends, but still one that felt like home, so I’d like to thank the Coopers especially for making it so memorable.

It’s probably a testament to the day’s enjoyment that it took us the whole of the next day to get over it, and finally get our arses in gear to begin the next leg of the trek, where I’d finally get down towards the South Island (after parting company with Jens, Jonas and the Coopers) ready for the new year…

June 27, 2007

Goodbye NZ!

So, over 365 days have passed since buggering off to the land of the long white cloud, and a very enjoyable selection of days it has been. I’ll miss the people, the places (although not so much the city), the occasionally helpful exchange rate, the university (believe it or not) and the friends I’ve built up from around the world that I hope to meet up with again (or have already promised to) in the not too distant future.

I don’t know if it was because I was leaving, or because I had drank too much the night before, or even maybe because I skipped breakfast to hand in my year long project, but on the morning of leaving I felt a bit funny. Just the shuttle ride to the airport felt a bit weird, there was a good chance a lot of the people I’d said goodbye to over the past week I wouldn’t see for a long time or even ever. And then when I get to the airport I find out that the place had just been evacuated because of a fire alarm or something didn’t help matters…

Luckily though, we were let in soon after and I managed to scoff down a pint of Speight’s and a BK chicken burger to satisfy two of my empty feelings while waiting for my plane to arrive. I don’t think it really sunk in until I reached London, where my plane arrived late, I missed the connecting flight and had to wait 45 minutes in a line to get a new one that was even later still. I was effectively in limbo between realities, I mean, I’d spent over 30 hours in airplanes or airports by this time, and was feeling pretty washed out. I’d had some sleep on the long haul flight, but conked out as the plane taxied out of Heathrow, although I think the pint of bitter I had at what was apparently 10 o’clock in the morning (the girl at Costa Coffee did look at me funny) had something to do with it as well. And soon I was at Manchester, and driving home with my parents, and the world hadn’t seemed to change a bit. A new ASDA had sprung up in the middle of town, and number plates looked a bit different, but it was surprisingly easy to get back to realising the year was over.

And so yes, starting on July the first (as a promise to Jens and Matt), I’m planning every other day to complete my recollections over the Kiwi summer and the second semester as a way of really getting over it, and looking forward to the next time we’ll inevitably meet. And anyone who has ever been to New Zealand will probably tell you they intend to go back someday.

So… someday…

June 15, 2007

Hello Neglected Blog

I could say I’ve been a very busy person, and it’d be half right.

I’m now one exam down out of two, but still one huge assignment short of not getting a grade, which is why I’ve not been so talkative of late. And there’s so many things to talk about…

  • I haven’t even got past Christmas yet on my huge summer touring updates, needless to say, when I get back, expect a flurry of pictures and stories… there’s lots.
  • All my forays into the NZ music scene, the glorious Crow Bar (almost as good as the one in London Em!), the numerous CD purchases, the bands, the gigs…
  • My birthday! My my, what fun we had, me and my wenches. Thank god I don’t feel 22 (it feels even weird just typing it out), and apparently bouncers still seem to think I’m 15, so that’s all a relief.
  • I’ve also entered a few game designing competitions, of which the results will be posted shortly. You might even get to play something…
  • And a few days ago, for Ellie’s birthday, we went to see the ballet! (Swan Lake to be exact) and I may be getting soft in my old age, but it was actually pretty good!
  • And I’ve only got marginally more than a week left! How shocking is that!
  • And what am I going to do as a farewell you reckon?
    • Jump off a bridge?
    • Jump out of a plane?
    • Go on a seven-hour caving epic?
    • Go on a citywide pub crawl to get hilariously drunk before my flight home?

... I have no idea what I’m going to do, but it will use up the remaining of my New Zealand dollars. The next post will possibly be a fond farewell to the land of the long white cloud, and it’ll be a big one, I promise.

May 02, 2007


I managed to see a 20 minute set from Ardal O’Hanlon, as well as 7 other brilliant NZ/Aus/UK acts over 2 hours for less than the price of a pint (NZ$5 = <£2). Also, top it off with the fact that it was a pretty small venue and we were one table away from the stage to make it a brilliant investment overall. And by the fact that when I caught a glimpse of the night’s proceedings and told Sam, Ellie, Jenn and Matt who was on, they only responded when I said ‘Dougal’. And then the first line he mentions when he comes on is ‘If anyone calls me Dougal, I’ll kill them’...

Colour me well chuffed and very amused.

Almost as amused as the Teesiders who managed to get Bill Bailey for free, but I ain’t complainin’ after tonight.

I was planning to see maybe Dylan Moran in Auckland (there’s a comedy festival just starting of which this was the warm up for) but apparently it’s $55 a pop. Hmm.

April 24, 2007

Violence of the Lambs

Writing about web page http://www.blacksheep-themovie.com/

Black Sheep

Tonight I went to see a New Zealand film. It was about killer sheep.
So why am I going to urge you all to see it (Black Sheep) when it comes out in June in the UK?

Because if you’re a fan of the old Peter Jackson films, Braindead or Bad Taste, you’ll love this one too. It’s full of gore, full of Kiwi humour, full of sheep (whatever floats your boat), completely stupid and utterly hilarious from beginning to end. It’s kinda New Zealand’s answer to Shaun of the Dead only replace the zombies with sheep and remove the more obvious film homages. It doesn’t try too hard at a plot (genetic experiments on sheep – tick), the acting isn’t crap and it doesn’t mess around for too long so it’s perfect if you just want no-nonsense entertainment. So yeh, watch out for it in the future.

Next up is probably Hot Fuzz. So we’ll see how that matches up…

April 17, 2007

Long Time No See

Spot the castaways

Sooo… hello there.

I’m back from a tasty Easter break jaunt to Great Barrier island (again), which you might recognise from the BBC Castaway show. Yes, we did visit the site, and the beach where they are filming is the exact same beach me, Alex, Florian and Jens spent a night around a campfire, getting merrily tipsy.

Apart from gatecrashing reality TV sets, we also did a little bit of painting, with the aim of trying to make the trip as pretentious as possible (phrase of the trip – “Let’s Get Decadent!”). It almost worked, there was enough wine to make sure of that, but there was also enough power from the solar panels of our rented bach to let us watch the whole fourth series of Scrubs.

Being English, the weather has to be mentioned. It was, as you can see, very nice for some of the time, but we also ran into a few thunderstorms that culminated in some scary noises as Friday the 13th came around. Turned out it was just the parasol crashing into the roof of the house…

All in all, an Easter well spent. Roll on next monday for the next student loan. I’ll also post my masterpiece once I get a good piccy of it.

March 25, 2007

Mssing In Action

Shadow Camera

Date: 24/3/2007
Location: Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

So my three posts a week went straight out of the window. I do have a good reason, having spent a night and a day on a mountain, hiking over the middle of an active volcanic area in glorious weather. It was an adventure at short notice, and it turned out to be a very brilliant idea. Again, I have to document it better sometime in the future, sometime soon…

First though, I have a lot of work to catch up on, having left on Friday afternoon and arriving back only hours ago…

March 20, 2007

Last Christmas Pt.1

Jim Beam not picturedDecorated by moi

23rd-26th December – Half Moon Bay, Auckland

Baking Stolen So we returned to Auckland on the 23rd, rather tired but rather excited, we had Christmas in two days! We helped the Coopers tidy up and decorate the house (as you can see above) in preparation for the big meal. They had invited us to have a Christmas meal with them, with the idea that we could bring something along to the table. Dennis had heard of a German seasonal cake-bread called Stolen, and promptly assumed Jens and Jonas would be assumed to be up for the task. They were, reluctantly at first, but soon warming to the idea, recipes were sought after on the internet and from calls back home to elderly relatives. A Stolen is usually made at least a month before Christmas, but we had a day. Being of the non-German origin, I had the traditional task of cooking a turkey, something I’d never done before either, but you just bung it in the oven, right?

Baking and mixing the Stolen turned out to be scarily easy, almost to the point of thinking they’d done something wrong in the process. So we spent the rest of the day hoovering and generally worrying about things. When evening approached, we decided to take a dip in the outdoor jacuzzi and enjoy a few drinks towards our little excursion, and our preparation for the day to come. Even Dennis and Beverley came around to share Cointreau and Grand Marnier to see us through to Christmas Day.

So, here I was 2am on Christmas morning, in an outdoor jacuzzi, on the other side of the world, at the start of summer, drinking Cointreau with a pair of Germans and a Kiwi family… madness.

The day before we had a bit of fun with a jacuzzi photo shoot. Although next time I think I’m going to need some lovely looking girls to accompany me in the water, any volunteers?

(insert girls here)