Tag Archives: sandflies

Love letter

Dear NZ,

What can I say, you were fantastic. You provided the perfect setting for me to explore my own sense of adventure. Life will never be the same again after this trip, so thank you for being a part of it. I am more centred than ever before. And my world feels better.

Mt Maunganui was very pretty. I enjoyed that more than central Tauranga. I thought it was hilarious when you sent a horde of insects that looked like sandflies to afflict me as I climbed the mount in the blazing sun, but maybe they weren’t actually sandflies. At any rate, I don’t see any new bites so possibly it was a practical joke?

It amused me to see a local brochure bragging that a ‘leading guidebook’ says that Tauranga is about as Riviera as New Zealand gets. I know for a fact this was Lonely Planet because of course that is the guidebook I am using. What I want to know is: were the LP authors being catty? I initially thought so but Mt M is pretty good, I have to say, and it was nice to see the sea, as always. You know I’m a fan.

Crashing waves
The view from the Mount
Another view from the top
A beautiful tui who was singing as I neared the top!

So onwards to Auckland this afternoon. On the express 4-hour bus with no toilet breaks. (Contrary to popular rumours, I am not obsessed with toilets. I’m just saying.)

Before I go, I just want to say how I adore your public toilets with the flashing lights, and the ones with sliding doors (not obsessed), your roadside signs bearing public service messages such as DRINK DrIvE (it’s a visual thing, that one), the funny vowels and expressions of your people (‘sweet as’), your amazing wildlife of the sea and land, including the sometimes suprisingly loud birds and insects (but not the sandflies, even when they get into my ear so I can hear them buzz)…oh, and so much more.

You’re great.

Lots of love,

tk

And now, uh, I’d like to thank the South Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, Wanaka for being being there for me, the whole South Island for being magical and the North Island for being pretty damn cool (and hot!) too. And thanks to friends new and old, and anyone reading. I know I’m strange but you chose to read this. By the way, this blog doesn’t end here. ‘You’ll never see the end of the road while you’re travelling with me.’ (That’s from a song by Crowded House – I was quoting this at some point in my trip, and then this morning they played it in the cafe where I was sheltering from raindrops…)

Sentimental oddball, pictured in Wellington, NZ

‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ (Henry Miller)

The road to Wanaka, second time round

So we made it to Milford Sound, on a day tour by bus with a cruise on the sound at lunchtime. Fiordland is so raw, the scale of the earth brought home to me in this landscape carved by glaciers. As for Milford Sound itself, it will perhaps always for me be associated with a sense of sadness and loss (or a memory of such, one day) and with, of course, sandflies. My face was still swollen. We chatted with the crew, who sympathised with my plight. A bite to the eye of lip will often swell up frighteningly (and very unbecomingly). In my case it was just a longer plight due to allergic reaction. (But as I write I am quite recovered from this particular suffering!)

It is a beautiful place, somewhere that the mist becomes. It is serene but there is life there – seals, and a rushing waterfalls, one of which the boat approached so closely I stood in a wild shower, laughing as I filmed (hoping my camera would forgive me the dousing). (Maybe I’ll post the video sometime…)

The next day we set out from Te Anau for Wanaka. I would be staying on in Wanaka, while my travelling companion of three weeks would continue on to Christchurch, over the next couple of days, to return the van to its starting point. My plan was to spend some time in peaceful Wanaka then to carry on to Dunedin to avail myself of the wildlife dense Otago Peninsula. From there I was (and remain) uncertain as to what my next moves would be as I made my way back up north.

I love the sea but have found a different sort of beauty, one I did not immediately fully appreciate, here in the lakeland setting of Wanaka. I have done some fantastic walks around, and overlooking, Lake Wanaka and the surrounding landscape. I have gone kayaking on the lake (by morning, so peaceful, and also so amazingly energising). I have met fantastic people in my hostel (YHA Purple Cow, check it out when you’re next in town…they show a movie every night at 8pm!) from all over the world, have had glimpses into other lives…and into my own life as well.  Remove yourself to another place and you may leave the mundane but you take yourself with you. Of course, you say…well anyway. I must stop now, nearly time to gather my bags from the hostel and catch my bus to Dunedin and leave this pretty place.

Down with sandflies

Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but one thing I know is that my general mirth right now could easily fit into a sandfly’s granny’s sewing thimble without running over.

I hate to complain, really, but here goes anyway. I have been suffering from the dreaded bite of the sandfly for some time now. Unfortunately, I am very sensitive to insect bites and, even more unfortunately, in recent times I seem to have become very sensitive indeed. Witness the tedious ankle saga, sigh. During my travels I have had swollen feet several times (each taking it in turns, more or less, how very polite) and the odd bit of swelling around the wrist. Annoying but, you know, wotevah.

Last night we stopped off at a Dept of Conservation (DOC) campsite for the night, a lovely spot near a creek, along the road to Milford Sound, the plan being to rise early and continue on to Milford in the morning before the hordes of tour buses apparently take over the road. The sandflies were ganging up on us humans even more than usual but as bedtime came round I hoped for a peaceful night’s sleep, as one does.

Sometime in the night I awoke and needing the toilet stumbled forth from the van. I noticed my left eye felt a bit odd, a bit swollen. Was that a welt I detected on my eyelid? Nothing to be done so back to bed. Later I awoke again to find the eye more swollen. The best was yet to come however, when I woke to a buzzing in my ear. Right inside my right ear. I did a bit of loud complaining, I thrashed gently, hit my ear, tipped my head from side to side, what a routine. Of course the sandfly stayed put, buzzing away. What a sensation. Inspiration struck me and I took a cup of water and poured it into the afflicted orifice. I tipped it out onto the grass and the buzzing ceased. I vaguely wondered whether I had released the insect or simply left a drowned one inside my ear, but frankly it seemed trivial when I finally got a look at my face. The skin around both eyes was swelling up nicely and I looked, and felt (ish), like I’d been punched in the face.

No, there is no photo. I must preserve my dignity!

So then, plans amended, we headed back to Te Anau in search of medical attention, which I found, and was relieved of more of my money at the health centre and pharmacy. We then found a campsite in town, Te Anau to be our new base for the next couple nights. Since then I’ve been lolling around wearing ice cubes in bags on my eyes and attempting to count my blessings.

On the upside, I took a nice photo last night. And I booked us a cruise on Milford Sound tomorrow so we can at least see this place, with its reputation of sublime beauty. Well, we came all this way and the camper van days are now truly numbered. I’ll be continuing explorations of the South Island from Wanaka perhaps and then head to Dunedin for a few days, sounds nice, and the Otago Peninsula is full of wildlife. Then it’ll be up the east coast from there. Picton, Wellington, up the North Island exploring until it’s time to re-Auckland myself and fly away.

But for now, my photo, taken at Lake Te Anau….uh no, sorry. Just looked at this internet terminal doesn’t have the actual computer bit accessible. Man! Swollen eye girl is thwarted! Man.

Anyway, ignore all this and read my previous entry on paragliding. Much cooler.

I Love NZ

Since my last post, I have made it from Kaikoura on the east coast, around to Abel Tasman National Park in the northwest. I guess I keep saying things like this, but I’ve really enjoyed the changes in the scenery, and just how very laidback it is here on the South Island.

After heading out of Kaikoura we stopped off at viewpoint overlooking a seal colony and watched lazy seals, playful young seals (in a pool we called the Kindergarten) and this fellow, gazing out to sea:

We stayed around the back of a somewhat grotty hostel that night, in Blenheim. We were in wine country now and felt it would be nice to do a wine tasting. But first! The exciting opportunity to try out the healthcare (for foreigners) when my strange ankle (if you know of that saga) acted up, swelling and turning red. We visited the hospital and I was told by the triage nurse there (a friendly Canadian) that it would be best to go to a doctor and be seen for $60 rather than $300. I agreed. At the GP, I was treated very nicely as well, and then at the chemist as well. Everyone was so… nice!  So even though I spent money on rather boring stuff it was less painful than it might have been. I’ll stop now, as it is boring.

So then we visited sustainable Grove Mill, where we tasted and learned. Bought a ‘late harvest 2006 Gewurztraminer’ (which I guess is posh, it certainly tasted delicious – we drank it a couple days later sitting in camp chairs and nibbling on crackers with brie and blue cheese, mmm). The woman at the winery told us about the Irish bar in Picton (where we were headed) that has live music on a Monday night. It was Monday afternoon. An evening plan was forming.

Picton is a lovely place. Small but with a bit of bustle at this time of year, as it is is the ferry port that connects with Wellington on the North Island. After some dinner in our campsite we walked into town, I took a few minutes to play on the local playground equipment (I can recommend the slide), then we found the Irish bar, where I can report they do a good pint of Guinness, even if it is a bit pricey. And Monday night music as promised.

Next day we did part of the Snout Walkway, our uphill climb in the rapidly increasing heat earning us a great view of Queen Charlotte Sound. We met a French guy, and he and J talked football as guys always seem to do when I go walking with them. Age old ritual or something. After lunch we bought petrol and groceries and then got on the road toward Nelson. It was a beautiful route (aren’t they always) and with Eric Clapton playing (via speakers, not live) we wound our way along, stopping to make dinner alongside a river and then later stopping at a layby next to a beach, initally for the view but then decided to stay there the night as there was a portaloo and standpipe. The beach for some reason had not only the usual things like shells but also jawbones. J and I each found one, while walking separate stretches of beach. The next morning while we munched muesli and seagull had a go on one of the jaws.

We couldn’t swim at this beach, too stoney, so the next morning we found a sandier one and had a bath. Here I am admiring the view:

Our destination for the day was Abel Tasman National Park – where we have now spent the past couple days, staying at a campsite called Old MacDonald’s Farm. It was very noisy here with that roar (is that the word) of the insects or whatever it is. I can’t explain the sound – it doens’t disturb sleep or anything but it does make you sometimes need to speak up rather A LOT to be heard.

We hired mountain bikes for the afternoon and explored with them for awhile. Visited a sculpture garden run by a local artists collective, such a creative and peaceful place.

The next day we were up early for our sea kayaking trip. We had freedom rentals but still needed to be briefed on equipment, safety and so forth but were on the water by 10ish. What can I say: it was a gorgeous day in a beautiful place.

 

Will add more photos when I can.

In the meantime, have I mentioned sandflies? Bastards.