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Matt & Collette’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 28 Jun 2008

Location: Franz Joseph, New Zealand

MapHello again from New Zealand's cold but beautiful South Island.
Its seems like only yesterday when we last wrote from Cairns. In fact it has been a fun packed few weeks of exploring. We flew from Cairns to Melbourne and enjoyed a night with the cast from ‘Neighbours’ which included a gig by Dr Karl’s band Waiting Room. The next morning which explored Melbourne and then rented a car to head off and check out The Great Ocean Road! Great it certainly was! An hour after leaving Melbourne we were weaving along the coastal round stopping and checking out surf beaches and little towns. We took 3 days to loop all the way along the Great Ocean Road to Port Fairy and up to the Grampian Mountain Range for a quick hike and back to Melbourne – clocking up and impressive 1000km! All in time for a night coach back to Sydney and our flight to Auckland!
We decided to get a little help exploring New Zealand so we jumped on a Kiwi Experience Bus from Auckland, after picking up notes of the good places from Collette’s friends Jenny and Sarah who had just finished their tour. We slowly wiggled our way down the North Island stopping at Mercury Bay, Rotarua which had amazing lugeing but was a bit on the smelly side as all the hot springs came with an excess of sulphur! We had a great time at a traditional Maori evening concert and both enjoyed a meal cooked in the ground! Next was Waitomo where we explored old Gold Mines and did Black Water Rafting which is basically floating through underground cave systems in a rubber ring and jumping of waterfalls into big black holes! The caves were inhabited by little gloworms making for a nights sky type scene in the caves. Next was Taupo where Matt threw himself off a bridge bungy jumping while Cet watched! We took a day out here to do the Tongeriro Crossing which is rightly so rated as one of the Top 10 Day Hikes in the world, the 18km track takes you up the side of an active volcano and along the ridge of two other volcanoes and down into the valley, (for Lord of the Ring fans we climbed Mount Doom!) we did it in 6hours and both said we do it again tomorrow it was that amazing!
Next stop was a remote spot called River Valley where we hoped to go white water rafting but the rain made the water levels too high  so we enjoyed a roast dinner and a night in front of a huge log fire. Next day we headed to our last stop of the North Island, the capital of Wellington, there we checked out the Museum and had fun with all the interactive displays including earthquake simulator! There we 15 of us on the bus and we got to know the whole group but Wellington was the last stop for many of them, the next morning the remaining 6 of us jumped on the ferry to Picton on the South Island.
From Picton we headed to Nelson for the night, via a winery, and pulled the extra layers out our bags for the weather gets colder from there onwards! Next stop was Westport where Matt jumped on a high speed Jet Boat to explore the valley. After that we headed down the Pacific Coastal Highway checking out the weird and wonderful rock formations along the rugged coast. We stopped at a great little hostel where the whole bus dressed up for a party – the Theme being anything beginning with P! So Collette dressed up as Pocahontas and Matt as a Priest and we had a great night with the rest of the bus – a larger group now of about 40!

Next stop is our current location at the edge of the Southern Alps in the little town of Franz Joseph. We arrived at lunch time just in time to jump in a little plane and jump out of it at 12,000 feet. A rather speechless Cet finally admitted she had enjoyed it but probably wouldn’t do it again and of course Matt loved it! The jump gave amazing views from the Alps and the Foz Glacier all the way to the Coast. Tomorrow we both head off up the Franz Joseph Glacier, Matt climbing it vertically and Collette trekking up it for 8 hours. We’ll let you know how it goes!
Thanks to everyone for your messages, we cant believe we’re home is just over 4 weeks and are looking forward to seeing you all and tucking into a Roast Dinner! But we’re still enjoying it and haven’t even reached our last country yet!