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South Island Travel Diary: Day 10

January 5th, 2017

Franz Josef to Westport


Highlight: Drinking on the beach with a bonfire in Westport

Lowlight: Chickening out of swimming in Hokitika Gorge


Today we had a sleep in! I needed that desperately. I stayed up late reading – which was nice to have some chill time.

Grace and I decided to drive to Lake Matheson while the rest of the group trekked to the Franz Josef Glacier. We found this amazing cafe (where we had a sneaky breaky to share) and an awesome art gallery. I really wanted to buy on of Bridgette Hall’s geometric landscapes, but I worried it would get all squished on the way home – Note to self, check out her website!

Once everyone was back we all made sandwiches out the back of our vans to have a quick
lunch stop. Then it was on our way to the Hokitika Gorge. It took longer than I expected to arrive here, but the view along the way was awesome. It felt like after leaving Franz Josef the landscape had completely changed to open plains and rugged rivers.

We drove from the Hokitika Gorge to the pancake rocks. What a ridiculously amazing drive. You always hear about the west coast being rugged and beautiful, and we weren’t let down. The sun was out and the coast looked amazing. There were these giant rocks that the waves crashed into all along, I freaking loved it.

Once we got to the pancake rocks we had a big explore. It was just after 5:30 pm when we arrived (much later than I thought we would be). I really liked watching the surge and the blowhole. I tried to photograph these, but I don’t think I was very successful.

After leaving the pancake rocks we boosted to Westport. The main goal now was booze, food and check-in. We got booze, we got some fish and chips and we attempted to check into our accommodation. Minor hiccup here, Aiden had booked 7 people on one site rather than 3 sites for 7 people. Lucky for us it wasn’t a weekend and we were able to all squeeze together.

We all ate our takeaway dinners together on arrival, we had dirty fish and chips and I wish we had got Chinese. It looked so good! After dinner, Mike and I did a  ton of laundry. Sick of needing so many $2 coins! Ridiculous. Once this was complete we began the best night of the trip thus far.

Grace and Dan had inherited this fire on the beach from a family who was done with it. They sussed out some sitting logs and more debris to fuel the fire. We all sat around the fire drinking and discussing these road trip questions I had found, like where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I loved sitting by a fire on the beach. Court, Grace and I even ran down to dip our toes (which was much further than we thought and freezing). We all wandered back at midnight for a much-needed sleep. Tomorrow is Nelson! I am so pumped for some more drinking and relaxation. I loved tonight!

Squeals:
1. Mount Tasman
2. The Hokitika Gorge
3. The goats on the way to the Gorge

Airbnb Oakura Cabin

We just experienced our first ever Airbnb stay and I am excited to say it won’t be the last.

My partner and I decided to book a last minute trip to Taranaki for the few days between Christmas and the new year. We had wanted to drive the Forgotten World Highway and drive right around Mount Egmont. Due to the time of year, there wasn’t a lot of choice remaining when we had a look online for places available.

We did, however, get very lucky. We managed to find a little country cabin for two south of New Plymouth that overlooked farmland and the ocean.


The Place


Highlights

  • The small touches that made the place feel very homely – blankets, magazines, heaters, tea etc…
  • The host had breakfast options available for us including her own homemade muesli
  • The view! Ocean and farmland
  • It was cosy, clean and comfortable
  • The shower had great pressure and was large enough to swing a cat!
  • The property was private and secure
  • The location was perfect – just outside of the city but close enough to tourist spots
  • There was a loft with an extra bed if you wanted to have guests
  • The kitchen was very well equipped with appliances if you wanted to cook all your own meals

The Verdict 

We would absolutely stay here again. I can’t wait to book this place again in the Winter months. Mount Egmont covered in snow is something I need to experience.

We are all booked in for our next Airbnb in May in Melbourne. Stay tuned for that review!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Genres: Children's Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Fantasy

Reaction Upon Reading: I couldn’t be any more obsessed with this if I tried


“Knowledge is power, but it is a terrible power when it is hoarded and hidden.” 


Synopsis:

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule — but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her — even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.


“Death is always sudden,” Glerk said. His eyes had begun to itch. “Even when it isn’t.” 


Overall Thoughts:

I feel like no matter what kind of review I write it just isn’t going to do this book justice.

We begin the story on the day of the ‘giving’ in the Protectorate. This is where the youngest baby from the town is left in the woods, as a sacrifice to appease the Witch. This is done each year to ensure she doesn’t terrorize the town. Unbeknownst to the town people, the Witch isn’t the one they need to worry about. She takes the babies and ensures they have a better life in one of the free cities on the other side of the forest.

On the last day of giving the Witch becomes fond of the dark haired girl with the crescent moon birthmark. She accidentally feeds the child an abundance of moonlight causing the girl to become enmagicked. The Witch then decides to keep the girl named ‘Luna’ to ensure she is taught about magic and raised safely in the swamp alongside Glerk (the swamp monster) and Fyrian (a tiny dragon who thinks he’s massive).

The Witch knows there is something she was supposed to remember but for the life of her, she can’t seem to get there. Luna’s powers become too powerful for her understanding and she is locked in a spell that acts as a cocoon to protect herself and others.

Xan becomes weaker and the people within the Protectorate become restless and want the witch stopped once and for all.

I love the writing style of this book so much. It’s magical and lyrical and leaves a lasting impression. The ideas and characters are so original and unique that you can’t help but be in awe when you’re finished reading.

This story forces you to rethink the idea of good and evil. It teaches you that there is always hope and more importantly that there are two sides to every story. An enchanting read for all ages!



What did you think of this book?

Leave a comment below.

Rating Report
Plot
five-stars
Characters
five-stars
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
five-stars
Cover
four-stars
Overall: five-stars

South Island Travel Diary: Day 9

January 4th, 2017

Queenstown to Franz Josef


Highlight: Shotover Jet

Lowlight: Smacking my head hard on Grace’s bed, resulting in an immediate headache


Another early start today, thanks to Grace forgetting her 5:30 am alarm was still set from yesterday. I got up early, did my hair and then went back to sleep until the last minute.

We arrived at the Shotover jet and I was feeling pretty nervous. My stomach was doing flips and I was very close to chickening out. I was anxious that the lifejacket and waterproof jacket wouldn’t fit, but I shouldn’t have even worried about that.

I loved the entire experience. We did 360 spins and sharp turns (where we would get air and be very close to the rocks and trees). Our driver was cool, he was dropping lots of knowledge about what we should do and now Doubtful Sound is on my bucket list.

✅ Wanaka tree photo complete

Today’s drive is long, but it’s also seriously beautiful. I love that there are so many pull-off points for photos. I’m gutted we are on such a tight schedule today, I would have loved to stop at the blue pools and some of their other sights on the way through Haast Gorge.

We stopped in Haast for lunch and I had yet another burger! Bread is becoming my enemy on this trip. It always fills me up at the time but makes me feel fatigued afterwards. The burger was delicious though…and massive!

Leaving Haast I smacked my head really hard on the dome wood, causing an instant headache. Everything was hurting and exhaustion has officially set it, so I just had a mini-meltdown in the back and eventually just fell asleep. I wonder if there are any rooms available at this holiday park tonight, I need a bed!

I stayed back in the van while the others hiked to Fox Glacier. I wasn’t feeling up to it and was looking forward to having some alone time. I haven’t really had any this trip.

Once we got to Franz Josef we checked into the coolest holiday park. It was a rainforest retreat and surrounded by trees and cute little walkways. It was right next to all the cool stuff to do. It even had its own bar and restaurant which we went to for dinner. The food however was awful and the service was even worse!

After dinner we raced to the hot pools for a soak. It was really nice to just chill and rest my insanely sore calf muscles. We didn’t get a lot of time though because we went an hour before closing.

We came back to the vans and Grace and I were shattered. We read for a bit together before Aiden convinced us to come out for a drink…at a different pub. I am super happy he did because we went to this amazing East Asian inspired restaurant. We had lots of yummy cocktails and Courtenay and I ordered two entrees. Seriously the best dumplings I have ever had. We also had this yummy fried chicken.

We have opted for a late start tomorrow, so fingers crossed that I can sleep in.

Squeals:
1. The shotover jet
2. Lake Hawea
3. The Clutha river
4. Haast gorge
5. The dumplings! Best ever

The Crossover

Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Family, High School, Poetry, Realistic Fiction, Sport

Reaction Upon Reading: I need more poetry books like this in my life!


“Basketball Rule #1 –  In this game of life your family is the court and the ball is your heart. No matter how good you are, no matter how down you get, always leave your heart on the court.”


Synopsis:

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks … .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle-grade novel of family and brotherhood.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.


“Basketball Rule #4 – If you miss enough of life’s free throws you will pay in the end.”


Overall Thoughts: 

It is easy to see why this book won the Newberry award in 2014. I am officially planning to buy and read all of Alexander Kwame’s books. #obsessed

‘The Crossover’ tells the story of twin thirteen-year-old basketball players Jordan and Josh Bell. This is a unique book and reading experience as it is told through poetry and prose. Basketball is used as a metaphor for life and this book touches on some important adolescent life lessons. Each chapter is told through a different type of poetry and the use of white space is extremely creative.

Josh and Jordan “JB” Bell are basketball superstars. Their father was also a basketball phenomenon and their mother is a junior high principal. Although the boys are twins there are a few differences. Josh is more academic, an inch taller and plays small forward. JB plays shooting guard and is less focused on being the best and more focused on getting a girlfriend. This causes a rift between the two boys and is the catalyst for the conflict and life lessons told.  We see them navigate family drama, loss, finding your own identity, jealousy, and the struggles of growing up.

You don’t need to love basketball or poetry to enjoy this book. It is a must read for all middle schoolers and adults alike. I absolutely adored this and can not recommend it enough.



What did you think of this book?

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Rating Report
Plot
four-half-stars
Characters
four-half-stars
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
five-stars
Cover
five-stars
Overall: five-stars

South Island Travel Diary: Day 8

January 3rd, 2017

Invercargill to Queenstown via Milford Sound


Highlight: The Buffet

Lowlight: The amount of driving today, so sleepy!


5:15 am and the alarm goes off, what were we thinking?! With barely any sleep and feeling quite seedy we set off for Te Anau to go on our Milford Sound tour. Gutted that the weather is so foggy and bleak on the one day we needed amazing. We have managed to miss a lot of the rain thus far, but today it caught up to us.

Grace drove this morning and Mike looked cozy as all tucked up in the back. I regret not sleeping on the drive too. We got to Te Anau found a park and got a dirty pie each for breakfast. I got steak and cheese and it was loaded with steak. We made pretty good time on the trip in, yay for no wind.

I’m so sleepy I have been sleeping on Mike’s arm during the boring bits. It’s so warm in the van/bus that it’s hard to stay awake. When we get out to explore it’s a good break from the heat. I had no idea when I booked the tour that it included a bus tour. This added more time, but I think it was worth it.

Stops along the way:

  • Egglington Valley (that they set on fire back in the day)
  • The mirror lake
  • Knobs flat
  • Waterfall
  • Falls creek (worlds wettest water)
  • Homer’s Tunnel

We left the tunnel and there was basically no visibility. We are missing what we can only assume are spectacular views. It was a pretty cool tunnel, it went downhill and we were a lot lower down out the other side. We boarded the boat and were given our pita pit. Pre-made sandwiches would usually concern me, but they were delicious! Chicken nom nom

We spent the first part of the cruise on the top deck, it was very windy and wet up there though. Mike and I went below deck (I had a sneaky kit kat and hot chocolate). We then went out to the front of the boat (which was crazy windy, but so fun) and took lots of photos. This was the least crowded part of the boat due to the weather.

I was starting to feel quit sick so I went back to sit below deck. The fur seals were so cute, it was cool how the captain was able to move the boat around seal rock. The rest of the squad (minus Mike) stood outside when the boat went right up to the waterfall. Screw that! They came back absolutely soaked.

Interesting fact: There are only 2 permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound. This changes due to weather, there can be thousands after rain. Today I reckon there were a few hundred.

Stops on the way home:

  • The Chasm
  • Homer’s tunnel
  • Lake Gunn
  • Russell Lupins (the wild flowers I love are actually weeds)

Frank the tank was our tour driver and he was hilariously grumpy! Loved his banter about other drivers. Except he never turned the microphone off and you could always hear him breathing and eating. We left Te Anau and I pretty much slept on and off the entire way to Queenstown. Once we arrived in Queenstown everyone had showers, to get ready for the skyline experience.

Once we arrived at the skyline I got super nervous at how ridiculously steep the Gondola was. I went up with Grace, Dan and Mike. Once at the top everyone went on the luge and I went on a photography mission. My new battery didn’t last very long and I didn’t get all the photos I wanted. The buffet was amazing! I have never seen so much food. There was fresh seafood, meat, salads, sushi, cold platters, cheeses, sauces, sweet treats and so much more. The venison was my

The buffet was amazing! I have never seen so much food. There was fresh seafood, meat, salads, sushi, cold platters, cheeses, sauces, sweet treats and so much more. The venison was my favourite followed closely by the lamb. I accidentally ate an anchovy, it was awful. Now I am so full and lying in bed is extremely uncomfortable. I hope I get a good night sleep because we have another early day tomorrow. Thankfully it’s the last of the big days!

When It’s Real

Genres: Contemporary, Family, Realistic Fiction, Romance

Reaction Upon Reading: Can this please happen to me?!


“There aren’t any cameras here. This isn’t for show.
This is as real and as awful and as wonderful as it gets. I’d hold her forever if she’d let me.”


Synopsis:

Meet Oakley Ford – teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface, he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances, she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? Is it not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?


“You told me not to settle. You said to find my passion, but I don’t know what that is. I only know what I don’t want.”


Overall Thoughts:

Eeeek! Wouldn’t this be amazing if it could actually happen? You’re the girl next door just minding your own business and you get asked to be the pretend girlfriend for the Hollywood ‘It’ boy. Next thing you know it has gone from pretending for the fans to actual love. Books like this just make my heart happy.

I really enjoy a light easy contemporary read and this is just that. It is nothing memorable but I still enjoyed it none the less. I managed to read the whole thing in one sitting…which is saying something because I am easily distracted.

Vaughn and Oakley are the perfect couple to ship. They have polar opposite lives but manage to find some middle ground in their values. Vaughn works her butt off to support her family as a result of losing her parents. She is obsessed with her family and is motivated to do better for them. Oakley, on the other hand, has an extremely strained relationship with both of his parents, who he felt used and took advantage of his success and fame. He has got a hardened exterior and puts up a big facade hiding who he actually is.

Vaughn takes the money Oakley is offering to pay her to be his girlfriend because she knows she will never get another opportunity like this to support her family. Oakley wasn’t prepared however to have a pretend girlfriend who wasn’t in complete and utter awe of his fame. She is sassy, rude and doesn’t stand for any of his bullshit, regularly calling him out for being an idiot. This makes for some hilarious banter!

Normally I would hate a book that has any of semblance of a love triangle, but it doesn’t feel like that because Vaughn’s boyfriend (at the start of the book) is a complete and utter douchebag. Honestly, I wanted to pull him out of the book by his hair and slap him silly! After writing this I will be deleting his character from memory permanently.

This is same author who wrote ‘Paper Princess’ which is so hard to fathom because while that book is dark and r-rated, this book is light and fluffy. I loved the writing style switching perspectives and thought the characters were very likable and complex.



What did you think of this book?

Leave a comment below.

Rating Report
Plot
four-stars
Characters
four-half-stars
Writing
four-half-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
four-stars
Overall: four-stars

South Island Treasures

These are some of my favourite lesser known/less commercialized places that you should visit when exploring the South Island of New Zealand.


Clay Cliff Lane

You can drive past this on the state highway and not even notice it. It isn’t until you get up close that you discover the sheer beauty and size of these clay cliffs.

To get there you will be driving on a gravel road so be prepared for that! We went in the middle of summer and only saw 4 other people on the track. It is an easy walk and you can climb right up and around the cliffs.

The Ahuriri river runs right next to the cliffs and the whole place is a photographers dreams! There’s also a hot pools about 12 minutes up the road.


The Lost Gypsy Gallery

If this is the only thing you do down south, then I can promise that you will be happy!

This place blew my mind. It is basically one massive interactive art installation. The inner child of one man and his friends who have spent years creating art that just makes you smile.

You can view the inside of the bus for free. Which gives you a small indication of what is to come. For $5 you won’t be disappointed! I don’t want to give too much away because it really is a treat once you enter the property.

While you are there, treat yourself to hot chocolate because they are delicious.


Hokitika Gorge

People tend to opt for the Blue Pools because it is so famous. This is the other end of that river.

It is less crowded, easy to access, a beautiful drive and photography heaven.

There are a lot of mosquitos here during summer so be sure to bring some bug repellent and something to swim in!


Glenorchy

Queenstown is a tourist hotspot, but if you continue driving around the lake and past Queenstown you are going to experience one of the best drives in the country!

While there be sure to check out the infamous red shed, walk the blue lagoon loop track, stay at Mrs. Wolly’s campground and just explore!

I will definitely be going back here sometime soon.


Wharariki Beach

If you visit this spot you will be able to say you have visited the top of the South Island.

The view is breathtaking and there was no one around as we explored the different lookout points.

If you drive further along you can even ride horses along the beach.


Nugget Point Lighthouse

Driving the Catlins is an absolute must!

Nugget Point Lighthouse is just one of the stops along the way. You park up and walk along the track – which at certain times of the year, you might be lucky enough to see some seals and penguins.

Then you can walk all around the Lighthouse and feel the power of a southerly wind.


Milford Sound

Milford sound is extremely commercialized. Yes, it is worth doing, but be prepared that it is very very rare to get a clear day.

What people don’t realize is how much there is to stop and see when driving to Milford.

If you see lots of cars pulled over, then pull over too. You won’t be disappointed!

*A Queenstown local told us that Doubtful Sound is the better one to do. It’s bigger but just less commercial. Let me know if you have done both and what your opinion is.