365 photos [551 - 557]

A quick reversion to daily photos to document my Christmas break around the South Island with my friend Sophie. Weekly photos to return in the new year.

Christchurch → Queenstown

I admit being slightly nervous about the 480km hitchhike from Christchurch to Queenstown, my first in New Zealand, but I really needn't have because the ride was smoother than a babies bottom (not to mention far less prone to ejecting high volumes of dark green paste). Here were are standing outside car number two in stunning Lake Tekapo. It would later transpire that I was idiotic enough to leave my phone on the back seat of this car, a phone I was reunited with five days later with the kind help of drivers Michael and Cassie and the Wanaka Police Department. Thanks guys.


I've heard Queenstown described at the Whistler of the southern hemisphere and I can see the likeness. I actually knew people in Canada that migrated here annually to chase the ski seasons. An awesome town.


Sophie atop Queenstown Hill. Reminders like this about the impending birth of our Lord always came as a surprise. You'd be surprised how closely you associate Christmas with horrible weather.


Swooping around the landscape with only a few metal bars, a Dorito-shaped bedsheet and a very experienced man named Matthew keeping me from plummeting into the forest below. Really really great fun.


I could write an essay about this moment, unquestionably the scariest of my life, but I'll spare you the tedium. What's most interesting about falling 134 metres headfirst towards jagged rocks is that, until a generation or two ago, it would have resulted in certain death. Over thousands of years of human evolution, no one has got away with falling from this height. The resulting cocktail of drugs your brain is tricked into releasing at this moment is beyond words. Everyone needs to do a bungee jump, seriously.

Queenstown → Wanaka

Big fan of pontoons.


"Puzzling World" was described as "the top tourist attraction on the South Island" by the guy at the hostel front desk, a dramatic overstatement which led me to strongly suspect he had shares in Puzzling World. It was quite an interesting place though, and a good opportunity to take puzzling photos like the above.

Merry Christpocalypse

This blog is taking a short break over Christmas while its author does some travelling around the South Island. It might return in 2013, depending on whether or not the world ends on December 21. It's been a wonderful year, and a wonderful life. In either case, I will see you in the next. Merry Christmas!

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Clay pigeon shooting was a feature of the amazing Christmas weekend in Hanmer Springs - a small resort town two hours north of Christchurch - paid for by my wonderful employer. I'd never held a real gun before (nor had any real desire to) but it was heaps of fun and I did surprisingly well, causing five pigeon fatalities out of a possible ten. At one point a stray dog emerged from behind a shrub and started running towards me. This caught everyone off-guard and the guys in blue had to lure him to safety before I was allowed to start shooting again. I thought about it later and realised it was exactly like Duck Hunt.

John Lewis Christmas Advert

If you live in England and you own a television, it's very likely you've seen the new John Lewis Christmas Advert. Failing that, it's very likely you've heard the music from the new John Lewis Christmas Advert because it's currently number one in the singles charts. Failing that, it's probably time to emerge from the rock you've been sheltering underneath for the last month.

Charlie Brooker once said of Christmas adverts that "Anyone who cries at this creepy bullshit is literally sobbing IQ points out of their body" and while Charlie Brooker tends to be right about everything, I will concede that this year's John Lewis Christmas Advert isn't bad. Then again I would say that, wouldn't I, because this year I saw the John Lewis Christmas Advert six months before everyone else. They were filming it in Auckland when I was living there. You want proof? I got proof:

From the advert.

From my camera. They repeated this snowball fight about twenty times, cleaning the actors and actresses between takes.

From the advert.

From my camera. I didn't realise the snowman was supposed to be the focal point until I saw the actual advert. He just looked like a prop behind a bin. I did touch him though and can confirm he was made of real snow.

A few more:

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Beginning the three hour descent from the top of Avalanche Peak during a camping trip to Arthur's Pass with my housemates. It was probably the most challenging and rewarding tramp (silly kiwi slang for "hike") I've ever undertaken. A stunningly beautiful place.

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Friday was American Thanksgiving, an occasion ignored by everyone in New Zealand except the company I work for. We celebrated with an amazing roast dinner followed by beer and bottle rockets in the park. A prize was given to the bottle rocket capable of transporting a hacky sack the furthest distance using only water and air as propulsion. There were some great entries and Paul ended up winning with an impressive score of 140 metres. My own entry - a man wearing a pink fluro suit (based on this) - experienced some complications during the launch procedure and managed only 20 metres. There's a video I made here.

"Thanks John"

Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla spent the last month or so touring Asia as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The tour included visits to a number of former colonies, the royal equivalent of popping into your old house to see how the new tenants are settling in. They concluded the tour with a week in New Zealand, moving down the country and finishing up in lovely Christchurch. As luck would have it, their visit coincided with Show Day (a public holiday in Canterbury, the region of New Zealand I live in) which meant I was free to chase them around. The following sequence of photos, some taken by me and others by my accomplice Cristian, document our hunt.

We arrived at the corner of Montreal and Victoria streets 30 minutes before the royals were due to make an appearance. A small herd of old people and journalists had beaten us to the good seats.

It wouldn't be Christchurch if something wasn't blatantly broken.

Mayor Bob Parker arrived and started making aggressive hand gestures. I don't think he recognised me from the library opening.

After a longer-than-expected wait, the motorcade finally arrived and spilled royals all over the tarmac, much to the delight of the expectant crowd.

The prince was due to plant a time capsule inside the clock tower, which was originally built to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of his great-great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Among the articles to be included in the capsule was a copy of the letter of condolence sent by the Queen to the people of Christchurch on the first anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake.

More threatening gestures from Mayor Bob.

"What is that man doing, darling?"

Mayor Bob and Prince Charles exchange a private joke about breasts.

When the capsule business was over, the couple made their way towards the crowd to mingle and kiss babies.

This is surely the closest I will ever get to a (future) monarch.

Hi Camilla.

I'm not sure what everyone seems to have against this woman. Up close she was very charming and made a nice comment about the woman standing next to me's brooch.

Proof that I was actually this close to the Duchess of Cornwall and not just using some fancy pants telephoto lens. God I need a haircut.

Camilla drifted off and the prime minister appeared out of nowhere to take her place. He was heading straight towards us. A new wave of excitement surged through me and I instructed Cristian to get a photo.

Just as Cristian was about to take the photo, John stood directly beside me and said "Smile!". Cristian fumbled under the pressure but eventually took the photo. I shook the prime minister's hand and said "thanks John". He replied "anytime buddy" and walked off.

Cristian got jealous and asked me to take a similar photo of him posing with the PM but against all the odds, a wizard got in the way.

Someone wasn't happy about all the attention the royals were receiving.

Before long, the baby kissing quota had been met and the royals were bundled back into their vehicles for their next appointment.

Instead of following the royal motorcade across the city, Cristian and I headed to the Canterbury A&P Show. The Show is basically a massive, three-day version of the Suffolk show, showcasing New Zealand's agricultural backbone. We arrived in time for the Shetland pony racing.

Soon it was time to present the award for "Supreme Animal in Show". The ten or so finalists from each category were lined up, a Noah's Ark situation that would surely have ended in bloodshed if the humans hadn't been there to peacekeep.

The two cows (best dairy cow, best beef cow) dwarfed their rivals.

Guess who showed up to present the award?

And the prize goes to...

...the massive cow!

Well done cow.

You're a good cow, aren't you?

There there, cow.

A quick check was made to confirm the prince had larger ears than the winner, and the ceremony was over.

And so concluded a surreal and wonderful day.

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His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales interacts with New Zealand's best dairy cow. Context to follow...