Thursday, April 16, 2009

Last post


I am afraid that I have been unable to get sufficient time on internet due to every other tosspot wanting to use the computers in the hostels I am staying in. So I won´t be able to do any more posting until I get home.

Rest assured that I will complete the blog when I get home - if only to remind me what I did before the rest of my brain becomes sozzled with alcohol.

As the job situation is so bad back home in Ireland I was thinking of doing the following blogs as follow-ups.

Rays Job Market Travels
Rays Road Sweeping Travels
Rays Bin Hoking Travels

Hasta Luega

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bad News for blog

Things I have Lost/Broken/had stolen

Another set back in me doing the blog I'm afraid. I no longer have my powerlead for my laptop which means that I can no longer use it to do posts. I either left it in my hostel in Iquazu falls or it was taken from my bag when I came out of the bus station in Buenos Aires. I had my first run-in with thieves when I was walking from the bus station to the subway.

I was just merrily walking along when I noticed my shadow consisted of an extra person attached to my backpack. I swung round to see a guy skulk off quickly in the opposite direction. On investigation I discovered he had zipped open my daypack attachment on my larger rucksack. I was actually quite chuffed with myself for stopping a potential robbery and anyway all he would have gotten from that bag was a bottle of clothes washing liquid, several pairs of smelly socks and a headtorch.

It was only later on that I remembered I had placed my laptop power lead in there and it was now no longer there. Not sure what the thief is going to be able to with UK power lead but I hope he tries to change the wires and electrocutes himself in the process - BASTARD.

Its a bit too late to buy another lead now - especially as it will have an Argentine end so I am just going to wait until I get back home to buy a replacement.

I can still write posts on the blog but unfortunately without photos which are all on my now dead laptop.

Things I have learnt
Watch your shadow very closely when walking around with a rucksack. Always look in mirrors or shop windows when you are walking around with a rucksack. Try to have a lock or tied ends for your zips when walking around with a rucksack. Lastly ALWAYS ensure that you have used underwear at the top of your rucksack.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Skydive - Taupo, New Zealand

13th-15th Feb

Unlike Turangi Taupo is set up for adrenaline and partying with the largest lake in New Zealand thrown in as a backdrop. I booked into the tiki lodge backpackers and while doing so asked if it was possible to do a skydive tomorrow. 'No problem' she said 'Just come down tomorrow morning and we will sort you out' GULP! I went up to my room and had a lie down.

At about 5pm one of the people in my dorm turned up and intorduced himself as Paul from Scotland. He had just done the skydive and said it was the best experience ever. I told him I was going to book one the next morning but he persuaded me to go online and book one straight away - before they got booked out. I duely did that and then met him at the local Irish bar for a couple of pints and food. Well when I say a couple I mean a couple of couple of couple of pints. We got talking to a couple (not pints but people this time - although I probably was talking to my pint by the end of the night) from Scotland who had also just done the skydive.

The next morning I said goodbye to Paul who was, coincidently, heading to South America - my next port of call. He also went and bought the exact same hiking boots as me in the same shop in Christchurch on around the same time

I settled down to wait for my skydive which was not until 2pm - nearly 4 hours away. At 12 o'clock I rang the company to confirm that I would be doing the skydive (nearly chickened out) and was promptly asked if I could come earlier. Hell yes lets get this over and done with.

At 1 o'clock I was picked up by the skydiving company's shuttle (another Scot only this one did not have the same footwear as me - so it wasn't spooky). I was soon at the skydive site getting weighted. 90 KILOS! All I can say is that I was wearing a lot of clothes that day - honest! I had also to decide which option to pick for the jump 12,000 or 15,000 and whether I wanted a cameraman to jump with us. I decided to go with the full works - 15,000 plus cameraman. What the hell you only live once (not the best thing to think of at that moment).

After all the paperwork (disclaimer, next of kin etc) I was lead through to wait for my jump and wait I did. I think I spent about an hour in the hanger as jump after jump went ahead - I even had time to go online and update my facebook status:

Raymond Finn is waiting at the skydive centre so he can be thrown out of a plane at 15,000 feet - OH BUGGER!!

Finally it was my turn and I got kitted up with all the gear. I was going up with a swiss couple and an English girl who was petrified which actually made me feel alot better. Off we went to the plane - all 12 of us and there was lierally no more room on the plane for anybody else. As we flew higher the skydivers were all joking and taking footage on their camcorders. At one point my tandem partner said we were 1/3 of the way there. I nearly fainted when I looked down at the trees and Lake Taupo below us - 1/3!!! When we still had about 5,000ft to go everybody got serious and we were stapped into our tandem harness - which meant basically sitting on my instructors lap - very cosy.

Finally we got to our height and the doors were opened. I was the last one to go - after the English girl. I had to turn my head and smile at the inside camera as my legs dangled out of the plane at 15,000 ft!

Before I could say I DON'T WANT TO DO IT! My instructor had flung us out of the plane and we were somersaulting through the air. I can't remember anything about the first 5 seconds but eventually I realised what was happening as I peered down at the lake and mountains below us. It was a spectular view and took my breathe away. My instructor had to grab my head so I could look at the cameraman as all 3 of us fell at 200kph. I was having a ball and started to relax - I even jokingly started to swim through the air.

All too soon the parachute opened and we started drifting down. My instructor had to adjust my harness which meant that I had to drop slightly in the seat - That was pretty scary! After that we started drifting down to ground. Every now and then he would make us twirl around in the air which meant we floated down even faster. I was starting to feel slightly uncomfortable in my harness (lets just say it was crushing a couple of things) so I was quite happy when we landed with abump - my instructor made a bit of a balls of the landing and we ended up on our arse.

I was still full of adrenalin for the next 10 minutes as we went and seen our dvds before purchasing. I had to hang around for my shuttle which was the same Scot. On the way back he told me of an English pub along the front which had the best pint of Guinness in Taupo. So once I got dropped off I made my way there and had a local pint instead with my staple bangers and mash.

That night I proudly put on my free Skydive teeshirt (Well you would expect something free after handing nover nearly $500NZ!) and went back to the Irish bar. I was soon surrounded by a bus load of KIWI Experience people and ended up with another night on the tear.

The skydive was probably one of the best things I have ever done and I would certainly do it again if I got the chance.

Here's the photos - even though I've put them up already!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Black Water Rafting - Waitomo, New Zealand

13th Feb

It took me just over 2 hours to get to Waitomo from Turangi so I had over an hour to kill before my 'Black Water rafting began'. I took a quick trip to the main visitor centre of the town and ambled round their exhibtion. Interesting enough but a bit too based towards the geological side of things (I suppose it had to be - its caves after all!)

At 1pm I met up with my fellow cohorts and we started getting into our gear which consisted of the obiligatory wetsuit, helmet with headtorch, boots and, rather surprisingly shorts which you put on over the wetsuit - apparently to protect your bum.

Me in my S&M gear - now where would an S&M person stick their mouse i wonder?

After a couple of photos off we went in the bus to the actual caves. First we had to get our inner tube ring which we would be using:

Everybodies bum looks big in an inner tube!

Then we had to all practise one of the things we would be doing in the caves which consisted off a sort of sit-down conga chain:

The reason shall become apparent later on.

Finally but by no means least we had to practise our waterfall jumps. It was at this point I started to realise that this was not going to be your normal 'cave tubing' where you just gently float down a river through a cave. No, in this one you had to jump off, backwards, holding your tube off a couple of small waterfalls and to make sure we knew what to do we had to do a practise jump of a small platform they had erected.

Practise dive - not me as I was wearing a blue helmet

Not me either - I wasn't wearing blue boots!

Naturally I made a pigs ear of it by jumping out too far. Then when I surfaced from my drowning I started floating past the get out point and had to frantically grab for somebodys hand to be pulled back.

Finally it was on to the cave system. We had to climb down steep rocks to get into the caves and then clamber over more rocks in the caves before we got to our first rafting section. As I said this was no ordinary cave tubing which actually made it a lot better. Our first raft was in quite shallow water and only lasted for a bout 20 metres. Then we had to get back to our feet (not an easy thing to do from sitting in a inner tube) and continue on through more rocks.

The gang in the caves

Time for our first waterfall jump which I managed to do slightly better than my first attempt. After that we did some more rafting through water with very little headroom to the top of the cave.

Then we came to a section of cave where there appeared to be tiny LED lights above our heads. Our guides told everybody to turn our headtorches off. Up above us shone the glowworms. It was magical to see - although in this section there wasn't that many off them but we were quite close to them. One of our guides gave a talk about the worms (they are infact insect larva) before getting everyone to turn their torches back on. We were able to make out the long dangly silk threads that the worms hang below themselves in order to catch their prey.

Further on the cave system started to open out in to large caverns with glowworms twinkling at the top. It was an incredible sight. We did our second waterfall jump which was slightly more dangerous than the first one as you had to keep to one side of the cave before jumping. If you didn't you fell down a big hole in the water. You also had to make sure you didn't bang your head while doing the jump.

Finally it was time for our caperpiller conga line. We all had to line up behind one another with our legs under the arms of the person infront off us. There was a rope at the side of the cave which made getting it all organised a lot easier. Once this was done we started floating down the caves and then our guide told everybody to turn their headtorches off again.

It was then I realised what the conga was for. Our guide could drag all of us through a section of cave in the dark while we could stare up at the glowworms above us. This cave section had much more glowworms in it and they were far above us. It was like looking at a starlit night - a really unforgettable experience.

After some more rafting down sections were I was never able to steer myself properly and even ended up backwards in some places we ended our trip. We went back to the centre for showers and some soup. I bought the photo CD as it didn't cost too much - unlike some of the trips I had been on in the South Island.

The blackwater rafter was a really wonderful experience to do and was nothing like what I expected. A slight disclaimer on the sequence of the events which I might have gotten slightly the wrong way around because its so long ago now scince I did it.

No such worries with my next experience where just consisted off two things - up then down - VERY FAST. On to Taupo for the skydive!

Some more images from the CD (not taken on our trip I hasten to add)

Featured animal: New Zealand Glowworm

Firstly IT IS AN ANIMAL. If there's one thing that annoys me its people who think that the animal kingdom stops at beasts with 4 legs or a backbone.

As was said the glowworms are not really glowworms at all but larva of the fungus gnat which set up shop in not just caves but in hollow trees and alongside riverbanks. I think glowworm is a slightly nicer term than fungus gnat! They spin sticky silk threads which they hang down below them in order to trap flying insects which are attracted to their glow. Interestingly the glow is produced by waste products which is another nice way of saying that their shit glows (something I'm pretty sure I have been able to do after a night of drinking Newcastle brown ale and an indian curry).

After they pupate they turn into the adult flying form which can no longer eat and whose sole purpose is to mate, lay eggs and die - must be some shag!

Anyway heres the wikipedia crap (pardon the pun) on them. New Zealand Glowworms

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Turangi, New Zealand

12th - 13th Feb
I had a long drive to my next stop in Turangi where I intended to do the famous Tongariro crossing (well Lloyd said it was famous!) This one day trek is rated as the best in New Zealand and takes you past the volcanoes of Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngaurahoe (which is active and which you can climb to the top of if you want).

You can also see the volcanoe Mt Ruapehu which famously erupted in 1995/6 - right in the middle of the ski season:

1995 Eruption (nicked off the web)

I actually drove past the volcanoes on the way to Turangi:

Mt Ruapehu

Mt Ngaurahoe

And as I did I heard a loud explosion and saw this below mount Mt Ngaurahoe:

I near did the proverbial in my pants thinking the bleeding volcanoe was erupting until I realised that I was near an army training camp and the explosion must be a shell going off. What sort of army explodes bombs near active volcanoes?!

I arrived at Turangi and was lucky enough to get the last dorm bed in riverstone backpackers. I asked the manager about the crossing to which he replied 'you have no chance! its going to rain heavily for the next 2 days!' I also asked him about skydiving in Taupu which he also said was highly unlikely for the next couple of days.

BLOODY NEW ZEALAND WEATHER!! Secretly I was thinking 'good I have an excuse not to do the skydiving!' That night I went to the supermarket and got some provisions and then walked round the town - when I say town its really a village with absolutely nothing in it. I had arrived too late for finding out anything else to do from the local tourist office. They did however have '24 hour touch screen facilities'. One slight problem with that - the touch screen was in the closed office!

24 hour touchscreens - for burglers!

In the hostel I met two Irish girls who were into caving (one of them works in Marble Arch Caves back home in Ireland). They had just come from Waitomo were they had spent 3 days doing all sorts of different caving trips (all for free - sort of a busmans holiday for them). They said I had to go there and do some 'black water rafting'. I had Waitomo penciled in on my itinery anyway so got more details about the best trip to do when I was there.

The next day was supposed to be my trek but instead I drove to the ski village of Whakapapa (pronounced Whack a papa?) which I was told had a good visitors centre. I was also going to try to do some walking around some of the marked tracks at the village. Instead when I got there (passing by the start point for the crossing) the heavens opened up and all I could really do was go to the visitor centre which was pretty good and had a decent display about the 1995/6 Ruapehu eruption

Start of the crossing - I am sure you csan make out the volcanoes!

Golf course just before Whakapapa village - I bet there was somebody out there playing a round of golf!

After my excursion I headed back to hostel and spent the rest of the afternoon inside watching the monsoon that was happening outside. I booked myself onto the blackwater rafting the next day as it was not dependent on rain and then settled down for a boring night of tv and blogging.

The next morning I awoke to find out that rather than the expected second day of rain the sun was splitting the trees! Typical. At 9.30 I said goodbye to the two Irish girls who were heading down to Wellington and headed for my black water rafting in Waitomo.

Heres the website for the Tongariro cross: What I DID NOT SEE