Summary of the trip: Pacific Islands and Australia

I was always going to give some awards at the end of my trip, but so they stay relevant I am going to do some as I go along. So I’m going to split my trip into thirds. The next logical third is the Pacific Islands including Easter Island, Tahiti, New Zealand and Japan (technically its an island chain at least mostly in the Pacific.) as well as Syndey Australia. I know I haven’t posted my final Tokyo post yet, that is still to come after this one.

Best site

Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand, Milford Sound was an absolutely stunning place to visit and it was well worth doing the excellent overnight cruise on the Fjord.

Best museum

A Bomb Museum, Hiroshima, Japan, though flawed as I covered in the Hiroshima post the A bomb museum was very good and covered the important facts about the first use of the nuclear bomb. All of the signs were also in English and the audio tour covered most of it and was available in 20 or so languages.

Best tour company

Oz Trails, Sydney for managing to organise and excellent and full one day tour of the Blue Mountains in Australia for a reasonable price as well.

Best city

Tokyo, Japan for its excellent public transport, great sites and it appears to have strong nightlife as well (though I didn’t experience it myself.). It is also a modern and vibrant city.

Best non-Family accommodation

Te’ora, Easter Island, this award has been practically guaranteed since Easter Island, but Te’ora was amazing and I would definitely go back for the accommodation, unfortunately Easter Island is really the sort of place you only go once, I recommend it to all levels of traveller, whether you stay in youth hostels (well it is a little expensive) or the Peninsula.

Best food for under US$25

Creviche in the blue restaurant on Easter Island, assuming you stay at the recommended accommodation this should be enough to go on, creviche on Easter Island was absolutely delicious.

Honourable Mention

Okomomiyaki, Hiroshima, although I didn’t speak English at the restaurant this was absolutely amazing, and was better than the Tokyo version which I had today (and haven’t discussed yet).

The Lee, Mohan and Tim award for the best burger

Burgers seem to be turning into a staple on this trip and in honour of my time in Chicago when I had four burgers in six days with the guys from Chicago (including two for two successive meals.

Burger Hut at Le Petit Village, Mooera for being absolutely delicious and a bargain for Tahiti.

Honourable Mention for South America

As the award started in Chicago, the USA is exempt so it goes to the BK Argento, Argentina.

Best nightlife

Queenstown, New Zealand, because I actually went out there, and unlike Sydney it had character and wasn’t full of non-descript hotel bars.

Best Activity

Shotover Jet, Queenstown for being great fun (especially the 360 degree spins), not too expensive for New Zealand and for finishing just when you wanted it to.

Honourable mention for the Americas

Mountain biking in Arequipa, Peru which was great fun on bumpy roads, and I even managed not to fall off!.

Friendliest People

The Japanese the Japanese, especially those I have stayed with have all been very friendly, even when there is a language barrier between us.

Best Transportation Company

Japan Rail, Japan, any train company which can make you forget to photograph something as cool as the Shinkansen because it “just works” so well is incredible, every train has been virtually on time in the entire country and the transportation system here in Japan is nothing short of incredible. Japanese trains are how it should work everywhere.

Best bargain

The free temples in Japan for often being as good as some of those you have to pay to enter.

Biggest rip-off

Tahiti for being totally overpriced for what it was. It was even a total rip-off in comparison to the utterly remote Easter Island, and Japan whose currency has gained 70% over the pound this year. This is really reflected in it only having 2.5 times the tourist numbers of Easter Island which is much harder to get to.

The Patrick Levy award for cinematography

When I went to South East Asia my friend Patrick (who doesn’t need much sleep) would watch films before going to sleep in the evening. Therefore I am dedicating this award to him. However even though films you watch while travelling are usually bad I’m giving this award to the genuinely most entertaining film.

The winner is Dan in Real Life for being the only romantic comedy I have ever seen that didn’t disappoint its genre by being a) funny and b) about real love.

Honourable Mention

The counterfeiters which was very interesting, but a little short for my liking.

Queenstown and Milford Sound part 2

Continued from part 1

So at 4pm on Friday after quite a few viewing stops we arrived at Milford Sound, as it was cloudy we didn’t get much of a view however. Then we got on the boat and headed into the sound itself which was seriously stunning to see. Actually the sound itself is stunning whatever the weather and you don’t need sunny weather to experience it properly. First we sailed up the fjord (actually Milford Sound is a fjord not a sound as it’s a sea-flooded glacial valley rather than a sea-flooded river valley) past a peak called Mitre mountain as it looks like a Bishops mitre. However amusingly the Maori name for it translated into English calls it the male symbol which is very amusing. The obvious solution is that the mitre is supposed to represent the male symbol as well.

Then we sailed up the fjord to near to the entrence before returning to the bay were we were going to spend the night, there is only one place that this can happen as that is the only place were the water isn’t too deep for a mooring to be placed – even then the moorings go 80m down. But this depth allows you to get really close to the waterfalls pouring down the cliff faces.

Once we moored we headed out on a smaller boat to get close to the shore which allowed us to see small penguins on the shore and swimming in the water where they were very graceful. There was also the option to go swimming instead but as the water was glacial it was extremely cold so I didn’t do that. After this we returned to the boat and had a great 3 course lamb dinner and I chatted with my shipmates before bedtime.

In the morning I got up at 6.30am and had a shower as there were only 6 showers on the boat with 30 people on board I expected a queue – the last place I went with such a ratio was New York which had 2 showers for 30 beds but there people got up between 7am and midday so it worked better – here people all got up between 6.30am and 7am.

That day it was bright and sunny in the fjord so we got a great look at the surrounding mountains as we headed up the fjord and back out to the sea. Then we headed back up the valley to Te Ahau which was much prettier than the previous day as it was bright and sunny. It was surprising how few people stayed on the bus as most people even on the backpacker boat they all flew back which cost over £100 per person. After getting back to Te Ahau I went on another tour to see glowworms. This was a pretty cool tour and there were lots of glowworms around. The only problem was the German speaking tourists with us who were incapable of being quiet even though we were asked. I ended up telling the 60 year old tourist next to me to shutup at one point which must have been embarrassing for her. But they should have known better at their age. After getting back to my hostel I had a walk along the lakeside for a couple of hours and then on Sunday I went back to Queenstown.

Once back in Queenstown I had a delicious sandwich before getting the last seat on the 2pm shotover jet. This was a jetboat which went up and down the shotover river getting incredibly close to the rocks on either side. I thoroughly enjoyed it too. The only problem was the overpriced photo packs.

After that I headed up the gondola above Queenstown to get the view over Queenstown and to go on the life there. It was also good and after the first run I was racing lining the corners (this is where you enter the corner on the outside and pass on the far inside of the corner in the middle which let’s you go as fast as possible around the corner.) I did get a little cocky and managed to crash out on the fourth run. I didn’t get hurt though.

In the evening I had a curry and watched the last samarai at the hostel before trying to arrange insurance for a skydive which meant I went to the Internet cafe 3 times today as they are only open on UK daytime hours. Unfortunately I was unable to get insurance and the weather was awful on Monday so I skipped the skydive and went to Arrowtown which had an OK museum and used up a fair part of the day. There is little to do in Queenstown when the weather is bad – it’s one of the disadvantages of the town. I did have time to buy some souviners from a very friendly store called Aotea near Real Journeys. They are probably the friendliest souvinier shop I have ever been to. In the evening I then watched “forgetting Sarah Marshall” in which Russel Brand starred (Russel Brand is a British comedian whose main claim to fame is that he’s slept with Kate Moss et al and according to himself he has a big penis.) and also actually managed to be funny. It was an impressive feat for a man who is usually as funny as a brick wall (maybe I’m just less jealous or something though…).

On Tuesday I got up early to go to Franc Josef Glacier and headed off out of Queenstown.

Queenstown and Milford Sound part 1

The Mount Cook post has just appeared beneath this one, sorry its the WordPress iPod Touch app getting the dates wrong again.

After quite a good bus “tour” with some commentry I arrived into Queenstown on Tuesday. On Tuesday night I went ou with people from the hostel and had the novel drink of a cocktail in a teapot. As I left my camera at home I don’t have any photos of this but it was a cool novelty.

Then on Wednesday I had a bit of a lazy day and didn’t do much as I’d rushed all the way from Wellington travelling each day and I needed to stop so I just did some shopping and planning my Milford Sound overnight tour and then returned to watch movies at the hostel including the hilarious and weird Hot Fuzz talking about the “high” crime in English country villages, it is a very weird but good film. In the evening I had some delicious fish and chips with a Singaporean and Omani from my hostel which was great fun.

After that on Thursday I went river rafting which was expensive at about £60 though it was also great fun and well worth it. We didn’t get to go on the more difficult Shotover river as the rain had made it too fast to be safe and the alternative river was fairly peaceful so we got to mess around in places on the river. We also got to swim through one of the rapids which is the first time I’ve swum with my glasses on. After changing back out of my wetsuit I returned to Queenstown. In the evening I went out for more drinks with my American roomates. I was also going to go on the jetboat but I didn’t think I had time in the morning beforehand (though they actually offer a combined trip with the rafting so I could have done both and both places are next to each other.). You may notice I haven’t mentioned Bungy Jumping or Skydiving because it’s too expensive I’m too scared maybe a bit of both.

Then on Friday I headed to Milford Sound on an overnight tour. First we went along Queenstown lake to get to Milford Sound. There was the option of a steam train for part of the journey but as it was £35 for a 30 minute steam train I decided to give it a miss. We followed through more good scenery on the way to Te Anhu, as a bonus I can confirm that the coach was comfortable by dosing through parts of the ride. It’s no Via Barriloche but it isn’t bad. After that we saw the spectacular scenery of the drive down to Milford Sound and we stopped in a few places to take photos, including stopping at a place called mirror lakes which had a cool reflected signs in the water. The rest of the time I had to take photos through the glass of the bus which given that it is glossy rather than matte means it reflects light so I have lots of faint images of my camera and the bus. I do wonder whether it is possible to make matte glass as it would be genuinely useful on Apple computers coach trips. The bus ride went through spectacular scenery but this paled in comparison to Milford Sound itself. The view of the mountains from the boat was absolutely stunning and I think that may be an understatement. I’ve briefly got wireless so I’m uploading this now and will continue the story later.

Arrived in Queenstown

I’ve just made it to Queenstown and that looks to be cool so far and I’ll add details of the Mt Cook stuff (which was good but I didn’t see the mountain) when I can get on some cheap/free WiFi.