Days 1 – 3  Totton to Christchurch via Bangkok & Sydney  -  Wednesday 7th September.

I knew it was going to be a long five weeks when the people I was chauffeuring around New Zealand all turned up with their designer bags whereas I’d brought Michaels 10 year old Umbro rucksack, which was described as looking like a French schoolboys.

We were soon at Heathrow trying to have our last pint of real beer before our 28 hour journey to the other side of the world. Ray wouldn’t sit with us because of my rucksack so sat the other side of the plane with one of his villain mates. They spent the journey to Bangkok talking about porridge, Geordie thinking about the next round of food to be served and whether his chocolate supplies would last the journey, Judy watching the films and me asleep. This proved painful in the bladder region as I had the aisle seat.

In Bangkok we had the mother of all electric storms which put our flight back, this proving entertaining to Judy as it was all her worst nightmares in one. We were soon in the air and Sydney was a rush as we had 15 mins to get from arrivals to departure. All accomplished with the help of being rescued from Security and rushed through. Don’t know what happened to Thursday as we were soon in Christchurch on Friday lunchtime. The centre is quite an eye opener with the damage, thousands have already left not to return.

We picked up our trusty Ford Falcon (which if they get rowdy in the back you can shut them up with ‘sport’ mode) & rugby tickets. 

We were soon sampling the local ale, a brew called Speight’s. As normal with anything to do with rugby added to a recipe of Dog’s & Geordie we celebrated our first night very well. The guy who ran the bar was ex All Black hooker Tane Norton, who'd toured the UK in the 70’s, hence the craic with the locals was good.

Day 4  Christchurch to Dunedin via Moeraki Boulders, England v Argentina  -  Saturday 10th September.

In the morning we hit the road to Dunedin a five hour trip south. An hour in we stopped for breakfast in Ashburton at Robbie’s Diner where a couple of strange encounters took place, firstly have our photo taken with a framed pair of Colin Meads underpants and the second seeing my two mates having lambs liver for breakfast which is on the menu round here.

We stopped off at Moeraki Boulders on the way down, some gert big round stones in the sea and a quick photo shoot and then into town. It was match day so the place was mad with streets shut, live bands and throngs of fans. We soon found the Terrace Bar which actually had an indoor terrace with massive screen. After a couple of beers we then tried to find Barry the president of Paphos Tigers. We walked so far we should have brought a dog, gave up and went to the ground for its first match. And what a place, bit strange being at a match sober but hey ho. The ground is roofed in and packed so the atmosphere fantastic. We duly tied our England flag with Tottonians emblazoned on it to a rail and found our seat in front of some gloating Kiwi’s. You all know about the match no doubt however what you don’t know is that it wasn’t the whistling and cheering that put Johnny off it was Judy shouting "GO JOHNNY!" at the top of her voice.

Back to The Terrace till the early morning chatting with a variety of Kiwis and other nations about the finer points of our fantastic sport.  Judy was in her prime of nicking other peoples clothes and hats and trying them on Geordie, Ray was talking all and sundry to death whilst me the Chauff & kitty man was constantly to the bar and back working up a hunger for  a kebab before trying to negotiate our way back to Motel 97.

Day 5  Sunday 11th September.

With heads better than expected it was off for breakfast at The Craic where we were interviewed by Talk Sport. We were trying to catch our breath by this stage so took in a few sights on foot. It was soon time for the next round of matches so we joined in with local custom of having dinner whilst watching Ireland scrape through. Geordie went off for some of his chocolate stash back at the room whilst the older three went back to The Terrace for the first big clash of Wales vs South Africa which was one of the best matches all had seen for a long time (unless you were Welsh or a Yarpee of course). What could be better washing down dinner with a few Speight’s in a bar full of rugbyites watching a real exciting game.

Day 6  Dunedin to Invercargill via Nugget Point & Serat Bay  -  Monday 12th September.

Up and off to Invercargill today a 250km trip down the coast to the southern end of South Island. With clear heads we had a quick brekkie (no lambs liver this time). We had decided to take the Scenic Route on the NZ tourist trail. We called into the tourist information place in Balclutha where Angela suggested a route which was based upon food, which appealed to the back seat boys. Bearing in mind Christchurch was 17° today was 9° when we left and soon got down to 6°. This was soon joined by the rain falling in bucket loads. We turned off the main road to continue our adventure with only us and camper vans on the trail. We soon got to Nugget Point where a 500m walk out to the lighthouse past a group of fur seals revealed  great views of the coast.

Back in the motor, back down the 8km gravelled road to the sealed highway to Serat Bay where Angela had assured us there was a 99% chance of sea lions. We parked up with a light rain in the air. We followed a sand path out to the bay over the sand dunes and started our search along the sand. Judy & I had full wet weather gear on with the back seat boys in coats and jeans. Halfway along the beach the wind had picked up to force 7 – 8 behind us and the rain was pouring. With no wildlife in sight we decided to turn back. Yep . . . you got it . . . we hit the 1%! Turning round we realised how strong the wind was and our return journey resembled Lawrence of Arabia in a desert storm. Judy apparently thought she was going to die and at one stage sat in the sea, thankfully Geordie looked after her.

The back seat boys were soaked through to their underpants and we had half the beach blown into every crack and crevice so it was off to the bar in Owaka for a beer, lunch & reflection.  The chowder soon put a smile back on our faces & the last two-thirds of the journey were done in one, bypassing all the sights in the pissing rain with the wipers on double speed  and the choco boys in the back asleep.

Invercargill is different and very quiet, bit like the end of the world however the locals are all friendly and beer & food in the Speights Ale House hit the spot. As we whiled away the evening with a few beers by the fire, we reflected on an eventful and, at times, amusing day.

Day 7  Bluff  -  Tuesday 13th September.

Geordie was up early to plan the day. I recovered from driving in a monsoon by sleeping in till 8.00am. After brekkie the mobile phone was sorted and off to Bluff right on the tip of South Island and world famous for its oysters. After driving in the rain down to the point it was photo time in front of the global signpost. Eventually it dried up and after a  stroll round the point the weather returned so, while the others enjoyed an afternoon of  a few movies, Merlot and relaxation, I have been in blog mode. Oysters for tea, more movies and beer ready for tomorrow our catch up day complete.

Day 8  Invercargill to Te Anau  -  Wednesday 14th September

The boys were excited and up making breakfast early. I thought they were excited about the days adventure but it turned out it was the supermarket trip for more choccy for the back seat. We waved goodbye to Invercargill (not the first place to put on your visiting list if you ever come over). Today we travelled up the west coast on a scenic route all the way to Te Anau. And it lived up to its name it was beautiful and raw. We only passed 2 million sheep today but there were also herds of deer that are being bred for venison. First stop was Rotopura where you can look out over a rocky beach towards the Tasman Sea. Ray & I decided how far we could rock hop out. I was in front when we suddenly looked up to see a 3’ sea rush coming at us, even perched on top of a rock it came up to my knees. Back to the car to unpack, empty my shoes out of sea water, new shoes and on our way. Next call was Tuitapere which is the sausage capital of NZ and Judy was very keen to visit. The 99 Café had about as much atmosphere as an unheated public urinal however none of us had the bollocks to tell the female chef/waitress as I am sure she just saw us as sausage meat!

The rest of the journey lived up to its name as a scenic route, ending up at Lake Manapouri, which is 20km down the road from Te Anau, where we are stopping for 3 nights. After a walk of the town bordering the lake we called into a bar for a few beers and a spot of dinner, followed by a few more beers while taking in the dreadful Scotland v Georgia game after which it was back to the Radford and off to bed.

Day 9  Doubtful Sound  -  Thursday 15th September

Today was a big day as we were off to the fjords. Up early to catch the bus outside our hotel and a short 20 min drive to Lake Manapouri. Here we got on a big cat and took a 55min 23knot drive across it, yes these lakes are massive. This one is 428m deep and has 38 islands in it. Once at the other side we got on a coach to go up over a pass over 600m up and into the snow zone, 400m straight down the side of the gravel track and no crash barrier, it was great. Once at the other side onto another cat and out onto the Doubtful Sound. This has 1000m granite cliffs with snow covered tops coming straight down into the water, just spectacular. Sun was shining it was great. As we approached the Tasman it started raining. Still that brought out two things, a pod of bottle nose dolphins and the waterfalls which start bringing the mountains to life within minutes. It was snowing coming back over the pass however when you get back to the lake they take you 2km underground to show you the turbine room of the hydro-electric dam, what a place. A 55 minute trip back across the lake and into the The Moose at 6pm to end a memorable day. Met up with a couple of Brits, Rodders & Nick, who we are meant to see in Dunedin along with Barry (President) & Gary (vets skipper) from Paphos but we will see. The USA beat Russia but Russia did get their first World Cup points.

Day 10  Keplar Track  -  Friday 16th September.

The boys were up early even though I hadn’t booked the water taxi till 10am, might be something to do with Geordie's snoring! We had breakfast overlooking the lake, and as Steve was there, jumped on the boat to take us across Lake Te Anau so we could walk round and back to the town.

This lake is the second largest in NZ. It is over 70km long so about from Cadnam to just this side of Dorchester. Its shore length is 537km  and is over 450m deep. It is surrounded by mountains with snow covered tops at this time of the year on two sides. Steve gave us the low down and said if it rains like it can the level of the lake can rise 2 inches per hour, given the size of the bloody thing that’s some going. When he gave us the low down he just cut the engine mid lake which cheered up Judy no end. It took us a few hours to walk back but it was great. We were on the end of the Keplar Track a 3- 4 day walk up through the mountains stopping in mountain huts which looked good but was told I would be on my own (any chance of you popping over Al & Biddy).

This afternoon we went up the Milford Sound road to Mistletoe Lake & the Mirror Lakes which as their name suggests reflects the mountains behind into them. They were so clear you could see brown trout and the ducks swimming down to feed on the bottom. Called back into a café near the motel for a late lunch where Ray has just had the biggest bit of carrot cake you have ever seen, so at least he has had one of his five a day now.  We wish we had fuelled up to go all the way but, hey-ho, back to update the blog while my little Geordie mate is snoring on the couch and Judy's reading on the balcony in the sunshine overlooking the lake.

'Right, wake up you bastards, its 5.30!' Time for a beer and the All Blacks v Japan game (well its Friday night and normally in the Compass by now). We went to the Redcliff  Café round the corner and had the best meal we have all had for ages, place run by a young Kiwi and his missus. Geordie had mutton bird, a local delicacy, while Ray & I had Stewart Island mussels, which are the 'Jacko' of the mussel world. Went to watch the rugby in The Moose and the biggest cheer of the night was for the Japanese interception try. Judy was on the Johnny Walkers Red label so we had to leave at midnight. 

Day 11  Te Anau to Dunedin  -  Saturday 17th September.

We all slept soundly, Ray on the couch as Geordie was sleeping too soundly. Have to pack up today and leave this beautiful part of NZ to head back to Dunedin for tomorrow’s game vs Georgia. Fine & sunny today so a very pleasant 320km drive back from west to east. The roads over here are empty so we made good time after filling the Falcon up with go juice. I was also allowed to play with sport mode. The Falcon ding-dings at you when you go over 100km/hr the national speed limit so the game of the day was to see how many times I could do it, when I got over 50 I stopped counting as it was getting boring. On the way we passed through a town where the farmer had painted or flagged his sheep in the participating nations emblems so an emergency stop & photo shoot was called. We arrived at Gore the country & western capital of NZ by mid-day. I would love to bring Hursty back here in one of his flowery blouses as I am sure he would be violated.

By 2.30pm we were back in the 97 Motel Moray and decided to hand Mike the landlord of the Duke of Wellington a note from his cousin Jed who runs the Turfcutters in Boldre. Brian had been chatting to him a couple of weeks before our departure. He eventually arrived and is probably the most miserable Kiwi we have met and didn’t show us any of the southern hospitality Jed had requested. So it was back to the Octagon where Judy decided to set a fierce pace and lead us on a pub crawl round the bars. Reminiscent of Michael in Dublin, she crashed and burnt midway through the Ireland v Australia game only to recover and make the end of the match with a bit of dancing afterwards. We left the two northerners in the bar and headed home as Sunday beckoned, a good night has by all with the Paddy’s winning.   

Day 12  Baldwin Street, England v Georgia  -  Sunday 18th September.

Clear blue skies with the sun shining, a slow start with the men going round the corner for brekkie (fantastic omelettes) and giving the laundry a hammering as we have few clothes left to wear. Early kick off for us today, 6pm, so pacing ourselves is going to be tricky. We decided to walk to the ‘Worlds Steepest Street’ which was on the other side of town. A pleasant walk down past the Alhambra Union Rugby Club and through the botanical gardens (very cultural) taking about 75 minutes with Ray like a kid for the last half an hour, ‘Are we nearly there yet’ or ‘where is this fucking street?’ was probably more the truth. Baldwin Street was found and it was definitely uphill at a gradient of 1 in 2.86 and there were quite a few houses of it. We all walked up in the sunshine sweating out the last of the beers from the previous night and sat at the top admiring the view.  Back to Alhambra Union  Rugby Club which was advertising a jug of beer for $9 and Sunday lunch. It was packed with ex-pats and the food and beer was warmly received, pity about the three young Welsh lads nearly seeing their team beaten by Samoa. It was only 10 mins to the ground so we joined the mass of red and white with the Kiwis supporting the underdogs as a matter of course. Although he game only came to life in the second half the crowd kept it alive with singing, Mexican waves and chanting. We were happy with the result, we had done better than the Jocks against them, so off into town for a few more beers to watch the France Canada game. Earlier night than Saturday and a couple of young Kiwi students gave us the low down on the next days journey & Queenstown. One lasting memory of the day was the English lad with a pair of false tits on with ‘Tindall Was Here’ emblazoned across them. 

Day 13  Dunedin to Queenstown via Lawrence  -  Monday 19th September.

Off to Queenstown to get Ray into the Altitude Club so he could get into trouble before Nicky arrives. Tell you more in person so as not to incriminate but I have asked her to the wedding. On a mixed day a 280km drive. The girls from the night before told us to have brunch in Lawrence their home town so we duly obliged. In Dunedin the temp was 12°, by the time we got to Lawrence it was 5 deg with a howling wind, still a great brunch and with 180km to go the sightseeing started. First was the dam, hydro-electric power stations at Roxburgh & Clyde,  awesome sight which provide 10% of the Kiwi’s power. Next was Roaring Meg another smaller one sited in a gorge. Next was watching the Bungy Jumping from a suspension bridge over a gorge and a young lad in a kilt. The views got better and better the closer we got to Queenstown eventually arriving about 4.00pm. Unpacked we decided to see what the town had to offer. We ended up in the wharf and array of bars and restaurants and frequented the Pub in Wharf with Macs being the brew and fresh Bluff oysters available. We had got half way down the first pint when Coochy (ex Bath & England prop Gareth Chilcott) sat down beside us and chatted about the England team and rugby in general for an hour or so. After dinner it was a pub crawl back to the motel in the early hours under a starry sky. It nearly took your breath away getting between the sheets.      

Day 14  Coronet Peak  -  Tuesday 20th September.

Absolutely clear blue skies but on with the heating in the apartment. The mountains were crystal clear and it was off up to Coronet Peak for a fantastic days skiing in 17° and not a cloud in the sky. Had to scrape the frost off the Falcon first though. We have all caught the sun and after a bit of a relax sat on the terrace overlooking the lake in the sunshine it’s off to town for dinner and a couple of liveners to watch Italy vs Russia. 

  

Day 15  Coronet Peak  -  Wednesday 21st September.

The weather was better than yesterday so it was back off to the slopes for the boys and a girls day for Judy looking round the vast array of shops in Queenstown. We were soon at the slopes and having got used to their check in system out on the snow. It must have been touching 20° as we just had jacket & t shirts on. We decided to try, what looked like, a gentle slope round the edge of the piste area to warm up on, big mistake! It was just about OK for the board but total crap for the skiers and it wasn't long before Geordie came a cropper. Down for coffee break where Geordie decided to stick to the runs we'd done yesterday but Ray decided to cross to the other side & join me caning the slopes. You may know Ray has had a bad back recently but now he's back leading his normal life & being looked after properly he isn’t even taking any tablets. I have never seen him ski like it and he had the best day skiing he has had for ages, he is still grinning now the next morning. This of course has nothing to do with my two large ass plants shifting quite a few ton of snow on each occasion. Still at least I didn’t split the crutch out on my ski trousers where some fat northern twat had put on a few pounds.

Ray’s back is obviously better because I am making sure it is constantly lubricated and he comes out every night just like to old days before he had a bad back & a ring on his finger. After celebrating a good day, Geordie getting his skiing back together, we had a beer up the mountain then a catnap back in the apartment before off to town for a few to watch the Japan v Tonga game. We visited a few new bars and ended up in one called the Lone Star with pitchers of beer. Quite surreal watching what was quite an entertaining match to country & western music. Into the Buffalo Club where if we’d taken a ginger we’d have had half price beer and off for a Fergburger which had been recommended by Mikey the previous night, bloody lovely.

Ray & Judy went next door to the Fergburger pastry shop where upon return to the apartment Judy did her best to demolish all three selections much to Ray’s dismay. 

We all slept very well last night and have fully recharged the batteries for the next onslaught. 

Day 16  Glenorchy  -  Thursday 22nd September.

Unbelievable, we all sleep in till 9.00am. We had a chat with a barman from Shropshire who recommended going up to Glenorchy where Lord of the Rings, X men and a few other movies were filmed. The drive up beside Lake Wakatipu was spectacular the road running directly beside the lake all the way. Glenorchy itself was at the top of the lake and it is from here a lot of the walking trails set off from. We did do a 1½ hour walk round the lagoon which was great but I was yearning for Biddy & Al again as some of the 3 & 4 day trails looked amazing. Lunch in Glenorchy where they certainly like to feed you up and back to Queenstown so Ray & Geordie could do some shopping, yes you are reading this correctly, so Judy & I took a stroll round the lake and through the gardens where they play Frisbee golf on an 18 hole course. Having our first beer sat outside a small bar at 5.00pm was great. Met up with Ray & Geordie at 5.30pm, where all they had managed to buy was more Maltesers and M & M’s, and off for another pub crawl round town ending up in the Pig & Whistle till the early hours after watching South Africa thrash Namibia. The barmaid from Germany called Laura kept the boys entertained with the best arse wiggle ever whilst walking round the bar clearing glasses.  There is a real steep hill to get back up to the apartment and I was being sworn at for not catching a taxi. Still no trouble sleeping for me & Geordie but according to the other two the new arrivals next door partied all night then straight out on the slopes.

Day 17  Queenstown to Dunedin via Shotover River  -  Friday 23rd September.

We had to vacate the apartment so it was up and pack early. We are saving our adventure trips for when Nicki joins us however couldn’t leave Queenstown without doing something so it was up to the Shotover River to do some jet boating. What a brilliant experience apart form I did need ear plugs as I had Judy one side and an Australian the other testing their vocal chords to the max. Nick our driver had been doing it for 5 years and missed the rocks by inches whilst careering along at 40 – 50 mph. That woke us up for the journey back to Dunedin. As we had done the sightseeing on the way down we came straight back across and were soon in Lawrence for a late lunch and back in the Dunedin Holiday Park by the beach for 4.30pm. A quick unpack and a taxi up to town to meet Barry & Gary plus wives Kailash & Lyndsey from Paphos Tigers. A few beers with them and get settled for the Australia v USA match, the biggest cheer coming when the USA got their single try of course. Also in the bar were two sisters from Norwich who we had met a few times before.  Directly after the match a live band started up so it was dancing and singing till the early hours plus Judy & her  two new friends trying to take over the instruments at the half time break, nothing new here then.

A kebab & taxi back to base, which is near the old Carisbrooke stadium which apparently is due to be demolished. Top night out but why before an England game again?    

Day 18  The Otago Peninsula & Larnach Castle, England v Romania  -  Saturday 24th September

All getting up feeling  the effects of the night before a plan was needed to keep us off the sauce till match time. We had been told by last night's taxi driver that the peninsula was one of NZ’s best kept secrets. He suggested going along the top road with the views and coming back along the low road. It was stunning with the road winding its way along and up & down with steep drops either side. Trying to negotiate the Falcon round this assault course was entertaining after the night before however achieved brilliantly of course.

At the end, Harrington Point, there was a 70mph wind and the temperature had dropped to 7°. We saw the Spotted Shags nesting on ledges on the cliffs and about twenty fur seals on the rocks below. We ventured into the Royal Albatross visitor centre but the thought of a 45 minute guided tour did not appeal in our state so into the café for a bit of nosh. Whilst sat there the Albatrosses decided to put on a show for us which fulfilled our needs. Blinking impressive of course as they have a 3m wingspan.

The low road back was much easier as it sticks right by the sea all the way, should' ve done the journey the other way round. We went up to Larnach Castle which although not a true castle was impressive with views to die for. The tour of the house was highlighted with the exhibition in the ladies dressing room where a beaver muff was on display for sliding your hands into to warm them (see photo below). We finished the tour giggling like four naughty school kids, a quick breeze round the garden with even more impressive views and back to base for a change and off to Alhambra Rugby Club for a roast dinner and a few more beers with Barry & Gary.

 

 

It had started raining and was bloody freezing but only 10 mins brisk walk to the ground, Geordie & Ray managed to get the flag in place and we took our seats up level with the dead ball line. This stadium is fantastic so a good view of the match which England dominated for 80 minutes.

Back to Alhambra Rugby Club for the New Zealand match, which we watched backwards as the only room was behind the large projector screen. The place was packed  and the Kiwi’s a bit tentative as they were playing their Achilles heel. Still, although the frogs started well, piss poor tackling ended with the Blacks winning fairly easily but looking beatable. After that it was back into town where it absolutely heaving so, after fighting the masses to get a pint, we decided on a 'Velvet' burger then picked up some cheese & bikkies to enjoy with a nice cup of tea back at the holiday park.

Day 19  Sunday 25th September

I am sat here writing this with Geordie & Ray still getting their beauty sleep at 11am. That’s what they told me however I know that Geordie wants to get the most out of Ray in his last couple of nights before Nicky arrives tomorrow. We have missed the train up to the Middlemarsh Sevens so as the site is now devoid of any camper vans a good day to catch up on the washing, etc so there is plenty of ironing for Nicky to do when she arrives. We have noticed there are three games on today ending of course with Argentina Scotland at 8.30pm.

After Geordie explaining how he loves refreshing his hands in Rosemary’s bush in the morning (just ask him) we need to discuss tactics of how to handle the day. Top of the list is a spot of decent grub with proper vegetables.