Thursday, 26 February 2009

Milford Sound to Queenstown


We drove in the rain to Milford Sound today which took about 2 hours. There were some magnificent mountain views along the way despite the lousy weather. This isn't a town as such as it is within a National Park so we've come stocked up with food supplies. Tomorrow we'll do our cruise (seems to be the only way to see this famous fiord) and go on a few shortish walks. Going through the 50 year old and leaky Homer Tunnel to reach Milford was a bit scary.

This 'lodge' isn't bad but there are swarms of little flies everywhere and if you stand still outside for just a minute you are surrounded by the buggers. Are these the sandflies we were warned of in Te Anau? Thy seem so small to make such an irritating bite. We've just watched a young couple spend an hour trying to 'break in' to their hire car, with the said flies buzzing incessantly around their heads, as they'd locked the keys inside.

The kitchen here is a bit of a zoo, full of young backpackers as well as the older crew, cooking all sorts of weird and wonderful concoctions and leaving the most disgusting mess in the process. It was a free for all and we lost and had to claim back several of our bits of equipment while I was standing over the faulty hob trying to cook some Mexican fajitas. One pair of Europeans of indistinguishable dialogue were cooking some foul looking watery baked bean and rice dish, while another was spooning a hastily cooked sweetcorn and meat creation into freezer bags - for lunch tomorrow?? Another couple were boiling several massive lobsters, two of which were sitting in a pan next to their cooked friends, their beady black eyes rolling, awaiting their own sorry demise. We got in and out as quickly as possible and ate our dinner in the van.

Outside a strange almost meowing noise started and we looked out to find what we think was a Kea a large, fat, curious, lolloping member of the parrot family. Then we went on a short glowworm trail near the campsite and saw loads of the funny bugs stuck to the mossy walls in the forest. Ric wants to bottle some up and take them home and start a new colony in the UK. They remind me of the glow-in-the-dark star stickers I stuck on the ceiling above my bed when I was a child.


Today we did our Milford Sound cruise with one of the many companies who offer tours of the fiord (which is technically what Milford Sound is a it was created by the melting of glaciers). The weather couldn't have been better; blue skies and very little wind. The boat, one of the smallest of those at the port, took us out towards the Tasman sea passing vast waterfalls and walls of steep, craggy rock, a lot of which is now covered with flora. We also got up close to some juvenile male fur seals who didn't flinch at the gawping tourists. Seen lots of them now. I can see why tourists flock in their thousands to this particular gem of New Zealand.

Looking around at this magnificent landscape, it's hard to fully appreciate the size of the mountains, to put them in to perspective. I think the only way to really 'know' how huge they are is to try climbing them, which we wont be doing on this trip, although we did hike over a large area of rock to reach the base of the waterfall which is right next to the south end of the Homer Tunnel- that was challenging enough.

I watched The Reader last night. I love Kate Winslet and was moved by her performance but I found film dower, unconvincing and unsatisfactory, perhaps because I found the 'twist' silly and obvious - I struggled to see the point of any of it somehow.

The are a few more younger people here but the scene is very different to the one in Oz. Neither of us are being actively sociable anyway.

Off to Queenstown tomorrow - the hub of Kiwi travelers.


Having been chomped incessantly during the night we woke early today and set off for Queenstown.

Before we went too far however, we did a hike over to the secluded Marian Lake which is on the south side of the Homer Tunnel on the road which leads back to Te Anau. For most of the way there it was a tough climb over knotted tree roots and loose rocks but it was worth it the pain. The lake we eventually reached was truly beautiful - clear, still, reflecting like a mirror the mountains behind, and far enough away from roads or other signs of civilisation for it to feel peaceful. Another memorable experience, marred only by a group of noisy young Israelis who caught up with us a few minutes later and started showing off to their girlfriends by stripping off and jumping in to the lake. What a grandma I sound like.

Throughout this trip Ric has been saying that he sees squished hedgehogs on the roads but I didn't believe him until today when we spotted a live one, did a u-turn and pulled over to have a closer look. Sure enough, it was a proper Mrs. Tiddywinkle. I wonder how they came to be in New Zealand. Every day we also see at least two or three large hawk like birds with massive wing spans flying over the mountains. If only I could get some pictures up on my blog to show you! Web here is sooooo slooooow. I'm such an impatient city person.

Queenstown seems like a buzzing but relaxed place with lot of bars and trendy shops alluding to the obviously much younger, party hard, thrill-seeking crowd here. Lots of nice restaurants too. The outlook over the harbour is pretty and as we drove in this evening there were some fighter jets doing a display over the lake. I can see why some travelers choose to live and work here for a while.

Now...what thrill sports are we going to do here in the home of the bungee jump. The choice seems endless- white water rafting and surfing, lugeing, cayoning, paragliding, sky-diving...and obviously bungee jumping, which in truth, appeals to neither of us.


Today while the sky was clear, we went and did a paraglide over Queenstown and it was great. No scary free falling, just a gentle glide down for about 15 minutes. The instructors really put you at ease, chatting all the way up, and down! Then we went back up the 'Gondola' cable car and did some Lugeing (like sledging but down a concrete track. That was quite enough excitement for us today and now it's started raining. We're still knackered after our hike to Lake Marian yesterday!

However, now we are thirsty for some scarier stuff...we've still got 4 weeks left to go here!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Hikes around soggy Te Anau

We've now booked our Milford Sound campsite ( and a cruise ( but have had to spend another day here in Te Anau, which is fine as it's a nice place, if bloomin' wet.

So today, feeling that we need to start getting abit more adventurous we went for another hike along the Kelper track. The rain held off until we arrived back to the start some five hours later. We are exhausted. Most of it was uphill! It wasn't the most exciting walk either as it was in fairly dense rainforest, ie. few views out across the lake. Lots of interesting ferns and mosses though.

We spent the first hour of the walk thrashing out ideas for my novel but had to stop talking when we started sweating and became too breathless! I'm thinking about the Modernists again and wondering how I could do something in their vein, especially Virginia Woolf, Proust and Joyce.

Now we're back in the van with our feet up, the fan heater whacked up to the max and our damp towels and muddy clothes in the wash. Ric has decided that doing this trip 'old people style' is fine by him after all - in other words, he wont be doing any three/four day hikes this time round. Still haven't seen any Kiwi birds...or hobbits for that matter.

I'm trying to not think about what's going to happen when I get back to London.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Lord of the Rings

Here's bit of info about Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings films locations. Seems the trilogy was shot all over the country including in Wellington:

You can even do the tours:

I'll leave that the to truly devoted.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Moeraki Boulders, Shag Point, Dunedin, Invercargill and Te Anau


So the journey south continues and today we set off for Dunedin via the fantastic Moeraki Boulders on Hampden Beach. They are incredible spherical rock formations located right on the shore. Sadly, a lot of the smaller ones have been removed by tourists over the years so only the massive ones remain. I was leaping over them like a loon and we were both doing funny poses for the camera, just like everyone else. And just like everyone else, trying to make it look as though there was no one but us there.

So that was fun. Then we drove on to Shag Point and Matakaea where there were dozens of fur seals frolicking in the water, honking, play-fighting, sun bathing on the rocks, scratching etc. They are so graceful and agile in the water and yet so awkward and blubbery on land.

We drove straight through Palmerston and some other towns some of which are almost identical in their blandness. We arrived in Dunedin (or Duned In as Ric likes to call it) this afternoon and drove round the scenic Port Chalmers stretch off the coast to the north east of the city.

The Scottish influence of Dunedin is easy to detect, as we expected. The street names, architecture, some of the shops and even the people seem very Scottish. Were too knackered to do anything strenuous or even go to Cadbury's World this afternoon so went and saw 'Marley and Me' at the cinema. It as a good Jennifer Aniston/Owen Wilson flick and often very funny but I bawled my eyes out at the end. Not an easy film for dog owners to watch! I'm still desperate for a puppy though. They are a tie and hard work at first and demanding (as my poor mum knows only to well) but so loving, rewarding, good for one's health and such wonderful companions. I wish I had my dogizzle here right now. She'd love the sea-side walks we're doing.


Thinking that we might be going a little fast on this trip we decided to hang around Dunedin for another day so went to the Botanic Gardens and then over to the Otago Peninsula up a meandering road to Lanarch Castle, the only castle in New Zealand, which is tucked away over in the Otago Peninsula -

The gardens there were very pretty and all the unusual alpine pants were fascinating. The views across the peninsula were amazing too. I could live somewhere round here quite happily I think. Some cool modern architecture - homes with enormous windows and interestingly laid out rooms etc.

That evening, we saw another film I've been looking forward to for ages, He's Just Not That In To You, which was rife with leading actors and had possibly too many characters and story lines and a few doubtful twists in the story but it hung together and was an enjoyable comedy. I have read the book (of course) and it conveyed its basic messages well, though pandered a little to the audience's assumed desire for happy endings and not all the. Some of the women in the cinema found it laugh-out-loud hilarious. It left bitter-sweet taste in my mouth as I identified myself a little too much with one of the less, shall we say, noble characters.

Ric, I should note here, loves these cheesy movies too so don't assume I'm dragging him along just to satiate my chick flick needs. They certainly give us plenty to talk about afterwards. We keep trying to thrash out film and novel ideas but failing to get anything down on paper, yet.

Can't wait to see Milford Sound and the glaciers in a few days.


I keep bashing my head on the ruddy cupboard that hangs down a bit at the back of the van which Ric finds hysterical. Will have a perma-headache soon. The zoom function in my camera has broken too which is super annoying.

Today we journeyed further west along the coast to Balclutha, Clinton, Gore (which has a very funny brown trout statue/mascot welcoming you in to town) and then down to Curio Bay to walk around the incredible petrified forest on the beach. We could make out some of the stumps and logs of the trees which burnt down by a volcano, penetrated with silica and quickly turned to rock millions of years ago. Ric managed to find two loose-ish pieces as souvenirs but I was less successful/naughty.

Then we drove on a little further to Slope Point, the southern most tip of the South Island. It's great to be able to jump out of the van, see what there is to see and then mooch on without having to hang around while a dozen other tourists take their mug shots and fanny about. I sometimes miss my bike and wish we could do some cycling here but then I also feel sorry for the poor sods we pass peddling their way up horrendously steep hills and chugging along long seemingly endless roads on their over-loaded bikes. This van has definitely been the best way to go.

After a long day of driving we finally arrived in Invercargill which, without wishing to offend, was a pretty dull town, like many others we have driven straight through on our journey. With little to do there, we headed off in to the Catlins region the next morning, a much less traveled part of the South Island, so we're told.

Along the way we went to look at tiny Monkey Island, so called because a monkey winch was once used to haul supplies off the boats which could only get so close to the shore. Once upon a time there weren't even dust tracks let alone roads in this area.

Then we checked out the Clifden Suspension Bridge and Clifden Caves which we almost overlooked completely - but what a find! They comprise of a huge dark, twisting, rocky, wet, glow-worm populated, limestone tunnel in the hills which, alas, we were too ill-prepared (and a bit chicken) to venture further than 50 metres in to.

We passed through Riverton the oldest town in the Southern Island and famous for it's
pretty Paua shells. We then stopped off to buy a few sausages in Tuatapere, famous for it's sausages. Each town seems to have it's own collection of cute Victorian shops and houses.


We finally made it to Te Anau with its splendid lake, marking the start of our Fiordland adventure. It hasn't stopped raining since we got here which is a shame because it rather puts us off 'tramping' as they like to call it here. Realising that a pair of jeans and wind-proof jacket weren't going to shield me from the elements on these aforementioned treks I have invested in a nice pink fleecy top (I'm endeavouring to break away from my all-black habits) and waterproof trousers. Now I'm all warm and about 95% waterproof. Everywhere in town and even here at the campsite they try to flog you insect repellent to guard against the sand flies which are a real nuisance in some parts of the Fiordlands.

We went for a great rainforest walk along the moss lined Kepler Track today. The rain didn't stop but it wasn't too cold. Ric only has jeans so is rolling them up and wearing his flip-flops. We're beginning to wish we'd researched the area bit more and booked things in advance as it's pretty busy here. Now we 're trying to decide whether we can or should do one of the many three day walking tours around the famous Milford Sound. Another day here first we think.
Lots of older tourists in this town and we've yet to see the Kiwi Experience bus.

I should find out where The Lord of the Rings was filmed and add that the the list of things to see here...

Penguins, seals and other creatures

I didn't really mention the penguins we saw the other day did I?

They are fascinating little creatures (my sister adores them) and the blue colony we went to see over in Oamaru the other night (but not allowed to photograph) spend the whole day out at see only swimming ashore each evening to check on their eggs and/or nests, preen their feathers to waterproof them and to socialize. Every night at dusk they swim in 'raft' formations towards the rocky shore- safety in numbers before awkwardly waddling, flapping and jumping up to reach the dry nesting territory. The larger yellow-eyed penguins are much rarer as we discovered after waiting over an hour on Bushy Beach only to see two come in.

The New Zealanders are certainly very protective of their rarer animals and unless you pay to join a guided tour it's hard to see them for yourself close up. We've been lucky enough to see a lot of fur seals however on the rocks around Bushy Beach, Shag Point and Matakaea on route to Dunedin.

On the flip-side of this, they regard possums, rabbits and all other wild European 'imports' as a pest and one sees scores of dead animals on the roads here. These could be anything from weasels to possums to ferrel cats to rabbits (and Ric swears he saw a squished hedgehog today), all of which were originally brought over here by humans, as once upon a time only birds and bats lived on this land with a few whales, dolphins and of course penguins in the seas around.

I'm uploading the pics on to Picasa as I type this. I've gone photo-crazy again.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Hello New Zealand

12 Feb 09
After seven months we bid farewell to Sydney and arrived to a cold, wet and grey Christchurch, New Zealand. It's the largest city in the South Island but still tiny by our reckoning. Felt a bit like a small northern town back home in the UK which is sort of what I was expecting. It was too wet to go punting on the River Avon or visit the Botanic Gardens and besides, having just picked up our Jucy Cruiza camper van we were keen to hit the road.

A little about the van: it's not big but we can stand up in it and has all we need to cook with, space to store our bags and traveling literature (almost the first thing we did was buy a giant road atlas and Rough Guide as we're tired of the Lonely Planet's writing style which makes everything sound good even if it's rubbish), a safe, and crucially, a large foldaway bed so we can sleep fairly comfortably, although Ric got a bad back on the second night and we needed a heater as it's so frigging cold in the early hours and there's a gap in the door where my head rests. It's pretty easy and relatively cheap (NZ$30 ish per night) to pitch up at campsites, plug in to the mains and use the communal facilities they provide. Nothing is fancy but that suits us fine. For now. Navigating this country is also a doddle. I'm glad we didn't cycle now I have seen the hills and long long roads in to the wilderness.

So off we drove westerly from Christchurch to the small waterside town of Akaroa. There are sheep everywhere you look and a very arid and yellow landscape there with an impressive abundance of rolling hills and sometimes mountains. It's strange to drive in a country so sparsely populated. One hardly passes any cars and most of those are fellow camper vans and
giant motor homes! Since the Akaroa wss shut by the time we got there at 5pm (we got up horribly late on Friday) we headed to Lyttelton, a port town across the water, where we stayed a night. There's definitely an older more serious kind of traveler in New Zealand. And lots of scary looking, hairy Germans dressed head to foot in tight fitting spandex or thermals with socks and sandals and hiking sticks. Quite a few famillies too and many of them Kiwis (haven't spotted any of the Kiwi birds yet - there are 6 varieties apparently and all rare).

Day three, on through Lincoln (so small and yet it even has a university), Rakaia River and
Gorge, then to Lake Tekapo as recommended by my sister who was here only last week. The sun finally came out for us just as we arrive at the beautiful and vast Lake Tekapo. I've never seen anything quite like it what with its bright blue water and mountainous backdrop. This country has a bit of Wales, Scotland, the tropics and Switzerland all rolled in to one. The people are very friendly too, though Ric doesn't think the girls are as hot as the Aussies.

We ate our Valentine's Day (also our 2nd anniversary) dinner in an almost deserted Chinese restaurant in Tekapo town. Ric gave me the most gorgeous gift of an opal necklace which perfectly matches the ones my dad gave me for Christmas. I don't feel worthy of his kindness, love or patience. I'm buying him a fishing rod, when we can find a good shop.

This morning we got up much earlier than the previous two (ie. 9am as opposed to 11.30) and went for a swim in the local 'hot springs' just down the road from the campsite (not geothermal ones as we'd hoped but heated and chlorinated spring water - so essentially a swimming pool - good enough for me!). Then we went for a hike up Mount John and the Observatory and saw our first snow capped mountains. We're certinly meeting our daily exercise quota. My thighs kill in the mornngs.

Continuing through the MacKenzie region we drove north-westerly to the Mount Cook Region (where Kiwi hero Sir Edmund Hillary once climbed and this tiny town is clearly devoted to him), past the enormous Lake Pukaki.

More huge and quite ominous looking mountains loomed over us as we approached - these ones partially obscured by dark cloud, fog and snow. There are glaciers here too. We did another hike which involved walking a narrow swaying planked bridge to get across a gorge - not for the faint hearted. It's amazing how mountains affect the weather in a place and also not surprising to lern that many climbers have lost their way and their lives in these parts.

We then drove on south to Twizel, a very quaint town built in 1968 as a greenfields project to service the Upper Waitaki Hydroelectricity Scheme. it was intended to be removed once the project had been completed but in 1983 its residents successfully fought to save the town where it now caters for a lot of the Mt Cook visitors. I wonder what sort of money you can make running a camp site? All you need is some space and a couple of make shift kitchens and some toilet and shower facilities. Easy money.
The area boasts one of the world's cleanest, driest and darkest skies, and has long drawn astronomers to Twizel and the surrounding area.

We're swapping music but R' not as tolerant of my 'vagina indie rubbish' as I am of his '70s soft rock. We both enjoy Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles and the Kings of Leon as well as the odd smattering of Bright Eyes and Bob Dylan.

Now further south in Oamaru which we reached via several dams and power stations which Ric insisted we pull over to photograph. I can't say I'm blown away by these.

Oamaru is the nicest city we've been to so far and the camp site is next to a gorgeous public park. I am keeping up my daily running. There s some interesting, older architecture here and a great cheese factory where Ric tasted and stocked up on some Whitestone cheeses.

We then went off to see the local blue penguins later that night. No cameras allowed unfortunately. Seems to be getting colder the further south we go and we keep bumping in to the same tourists. Got stuck in a ditch when some idiot parked too close to us so we were in the mud waiting an hour for them to come back and reverse!

We're getting the hang of this camping malarkey, though I can see we'll be sick off it by the end of this 6 weeks. Hope we aren't going to fast. But then that's us - never like to be bored for one minute.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

driver's little helper

I hope I don't find I suffer from this -


Packed up and ready to go!

Here we are at Charlotte's flat after a frantic few days of farewells, packing, sorting out our ridiculous piles of belongings, binning, cleaning and finally shipping and now we're all set to fly to Christchurch tomorrow morning where our New Zealand adventure begins. Pack and Send were great- really efficient and helpful.

Am I ready then? Well, errr, I'm excited to be moving on even if I don't feel ready to leave Sydney and I was sad to leave our poky flat. It has felt like home. I can't wait to see friends and family back in London though and at the moment just feel very grateful that we've not been caught up in the awful fires in Victoria. The tragic and heart wrenching stories just keep on coming.

The terrified Koala who drank from a fireman's water bottle grabbed the nation's attention particularly today -

As for me, 42 days in a camper van will be hardship enough. This Jucy 2 Cruiza will be our home as of tomorrow! -

It should be an interesting and indeed life-changing experience. I hope we don't get bored or drive each other insane! Can't wait to see the glaciers, lakes and spectacular landscapes I've heard so much about.

It was very sad to say goodbye to Dad and Cate last night and I regret not spending more time Mittagong while I was out here. But then I'm glad I came at all and did some good work and got to know Sydney so well. I would definitely come back...will have to see how I feel about London in April.

Argh! Can hardly believe we're off tomorrow! I'm a traveler again!

Got to be really strong and not lets the demons bog me down.

Web access is likely to be limited on this trip, so I'll make the most of it - perhaps start reading some books again and write a novel! I'll be starting with The Kite Runner and maybe a Richard Branson biog. Always inquisitive about other people's routes to success, Ric's very partial to his books.

Until the next time...farewell Sydney!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Last days in Sydney

Moving home has long been cited as one of the most stressful things we do in our lives, on a par with divorce and bereavement, or for me, breaking up with a fella.

For as long as I can remember, packing up and leaving a home has always proved an especially unhappy drama for me, even if I’m pleased to be starting new chapter somewhere else, and in this case, escaping cockroaches.

As soon as I know I'm never to return to a place my OCD gears in to full swing. Right now I'm not worrying about the paperwork, getting our bond money back, the space in my suitcase, living in a campervan for 42 nights or being homeless in London. I'm fretting about the irrational things. How things are packed in their boxes, removed from shelves, binned, cleaned. It’s hard to explain what it's all about or exactly what the thoughts entail. I mainly worry that the things I do could hurt other people. It's bonkers but it feels so real. Oh that these demons would vanish.

I will pack and leave this flat and nothing bad will happen, and I know that. I haven't even got that much to send away.

I had a lovely (if frantic) final day at work - a great send-off with a card, bubbly and going away present which I managed to use today (it's a generous Myer voucher) with Dad, Cate and Ric in tow! They're in town to say farewell and for some grueling hospital tests. I was pleased to be able to show off my newly set opal earrings. I think my dad is thrilled with them.

Having to give lengthly handovers and be shadowed by two different people within two days (the first girl only lasted a day) was exhausting and difficult. I didn't enjoy handing over my responsibilities, and saying goodbye is always hard. Will I ever find a job where I am valued so highly again? Or perhaps they forget about me in a week?

Ric and I are finally making the most of the beaches here and have been to Bondi and Bronte consecutively this weekend.

The water in the sea is biting cold but you quickly adjust to it and it's fabulous after baking on the hot sand or in a bus on the way there. With temperatures in the high 30s, the crowds were out in their masses. There are more aggressive waves, seaweed (and strangely enough, families) at Bronte. I feel old, pale and fat at Bondi. I'm going to miss these glorious blue skies.

The sea was as crowded as the beaches and swimmers piled on top of each other as the waves crashed down on them. After just half an hour of being bashed about, submerged and dragged along the sea floor it was hard to stay in the water, though I was lured three times. My neck didn't thank me later. Oh, and we got burnt. Fried in fact.

After a blazing hot weekend, it’s grey and drizzly today; which was perfect for shopping and then staying in to pack. I’m trying to do it without thinking. Still got to use up a Kookai voucher tomorrow though which is annoying as all their clothes are for sticks and/or party girls.

We’re using a company called PackSend who will pick the boxes up from the flat adns ship them off to a depot in London.

I've been following the awful news about the bush fires raging through Victoria and NSW. Those poor, poor people. More than 110 dead now. What with the floods sweeping through Queensland, you can never forget overlook that fact that this is a country of extremes.

More on my dad’s visit later. I’ve got the new series of Underbelly to get stuck in to.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Magic Hands

I wont mention the Sydney heat in this blog since I know it's rather cold in London right now - he he.

I've just discovered that as a result of dallying for so long about whether or not to go, I've missed out on my Glastonbury ticket this year. I'm a bit sad to miss the mud, music and merriness that Ric will be enjoying with our friends but could do with saving the money and my liver will thank me, not that one needs to be intoxicated to enjoy these things :)

For those of you stranded at home by the thick snow in London here's something to while away the hours. My friend E has just directing me to this cute site: WikiHow - another way to come across things you never thought you cared about or needed to know but which are actually rather fascinating.

as if we didn’t have enough social networking stimulation, Ric’s discovered the wonderfully giddying, ephemeral, spangled world of Twitter, a micro-blogging site, and is twittering away with the best of it's addicts, including Stephen Fry. It really does exemplify the speed of communication we have become accustomed to, the nature of these virtual faceless friendships we now forge with total strangers, and the bathos of human life. Go on, try it if you dare: Twitter

Here in the house of shingles and neck aches, Ric has almost totally recovered and has
been busy building new Flash games and downloading all the latest film releases while I've been working as many hours as possible to save up for the the next leg of our trip.

When I told my boss about my neck injury, he very kindly phoned up the family physiotherapist in Bondi and sent me off to her the following day. I resisted at first, adopting my typically prudent ‘I’ll see how things are in a few days’ attitude, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer and I’m so grateful for it – boy is she good. Not only did she quickly identify and get to work on the source of the joint injury in my neck but proceeded to tell me all about the ‘knots’ I had in my shoulders and back muttering how old and hard they were, the knots that is, not my body.

With her firm, experienced hands and upbeat, almost motherly tones, it seemed as if she was revealing to me a whole new intricate and interesting world I had never been particularly interested in or aware of; that of my own body! These new shapes, new names for places on my back I couldn’t see without looking in a mirror, new sensations, pains, movements.

There is also something deliciously indulgent about being a fugitive from the office for a few hours to go and lie face-down down on a bed, close your eyes and let the hands of a stranger perform their magic your body. She twisted and pulled, kneaded, pressed, yanked, gave me ultra sound, rubbed minty oil in to my skin and finally, the best part, gave me a brief but deep massage. Bliss. I could get used to a regular physio ‘check-up’. Thanks Mr. C.

Only one week of work left now and in just ten days we'll be in our camper van driving around The Lord of the Rings country. I doesn't seem real. It feels like an age ago that I was wearing my skanky shorts, crocs, $3 bikinis and living out of a stuffed sweaty back pack. I've decided to devise a really good 'capsule wardrobe' this time as I really haven't got much space now and I never wore half the clothes I took to Asia anyway. That's the plan at least.

Above are some pictures of our leaving party at the flat on Saturday. It was also Helen's (29 going on 16) birthday too so it was a double celebration and worthy of a cake. More about that next time...