For those who haven't been to Christchurch, I think it would be fair to say they may be surprised by just how quaint and English style the whole city is. We took full advantage of the tram in the city centre that takes tourists to some of the major attractions – I think we must have gone around the loop at least half a dozen times in the end! The Art Gallery confused me a little, I was convinced I hadn't seen it despite having stayed on that street before. However it opened in 2003 and I was last here May 2002, so that helped explain the mystery. There are some architectural delights including the old university buildings which now hold the Arts Centre with several arts and crafts shops, a theatre, a cinema and a ballet company. Close by is the Botanical Gardens and the museum. Since David and I are returning to Christchurch at the end of our time in NZ, we left our visit to the museum till then, but we strolled around the gardens, smelled the roses and climbed a couple of trees. We also saw ducklings on the river, which is punted in true Cambridge style. Instead of being able to have a go yourself though, “Edwardian” gentlemen take you for a tour complete with full outfits and plummy accents. In the Cathedral in the centre of the Square, we were treated to singing from a female choir while looking around – next time I think I would like to walk up the spire, as I remember the views being great but this time we ran out of time.

Just outside of the main city was the Antarctic Experience. Apparently Christchurch is where many of the planes bound for the frozen continent leave from, and various countries including the USA and, unsurprisingly, New Zealand base their preparatory areas here. It was an interesting place with a chance to experience an Antarctic storm – we wrapped up in borrowed jackets and entered a freezer where the temperature was -18

Double Decadence in Dunedin

Dunedin is Gaelic for Edinburgh, and is a city in the south with a rather Scottish air – not really very surprising when you consider this was a large settlement for many Scottish immigrants. It was the first city in the South Island, with a cathedral that was constructed in two parts due to money restraints. This has led to a gothic building with the altar area being in a rather more modern 70s style, I understand architectural styles change over time but it does seem somewhat of an unfortunate mismatch. There are other lovely buildings in Dunedin, including the train station with its stained glass windows. However train travel has been surpassed in New Zealand by roads, maybe a little shortsightedly in my mind, and now only a tourist train, which leads to a dead end because of the removal of track, is the only visitor to this prestigious building.

However two areas of industry that are continuing to do well in the city are the Cadburys factory and the Speights brewery, both of which offer tours and both of which we decided we couldn't miss. The Cadburys factory was busily making Easter eggs when we were there, apparently they make them between June and January each year and it takes New Zealanders the whole of a week to eat all this chocolate! We were encouraged to listen to the talks and video presentations since correct answers to questions led to prizes of chocolate. I think David did the best out of this by 'looking sweet' as our tour guide and being awarded chocolate anyway. The smell around the factory is one of the most tempting you can imagine, but we managed to resist buying too much in the shop. In fact, our surprising bargain was some waterproof trousers they had on sale for $25 and which have been much in use already! We actually found out that the local supermarket was doing a better deal on Dairy Milk than the factory shop.

After dinner we headed back in to town to the Speights Brewery, this was the only brewery to still use wooden gyles for brewing some of their craft beers. Apparently there had been one other near Portsmouth but it had been recently bought out and so the tradition went with the exchange of contracts. It was a gravity based brewery which meant all the ingredients were put in at the top of the building and the process continued as you headed downstairs. At the end of the tour, we all had chance to taste a selection of their brews, and were able to pull our own mini-pints! This wasn't something I'd ever done before and I was pretty chuffed at my efforts. While we were supping the beer, some of the brewery's adverts were played including their birthday advert in which sheep and a dog sang them happy birthday, one I could easily imagine being rather popular.

Coral Warning

After I told my sister I had been scuba diving and snorkelling in Fiji, she promptly told me to watch out for coral and make sure any scratches I had were checked out. I didn't really think too much of this despite having scraped my leg twice on coral, but figured I'd keep an eye on it. Sure enough most of it looked to be healing absolutely fine, apart from one area, Using Inadine (an iodine soaked dressing) to keep the wound clean, it surprised me how the scratch didn't improve. Soon after arrival in New Zealand, I visited a pharmacist who sent me straight to the doctors. He was originally from Dorset and had worked lots on the windsurfing champion circuit. Apparently hydrogen peroxide is the best weapon against coral poisoning, and it can be very serious. He told me that it wasn't that unusual for people not to think about it and end up in hospital because the wound ulcerates. Thankfully he told me my wound looked pretty good – the Inadine is good stuff! But still I had to be put on a course of antibiotics for 10 days, apparently a week's worth is not enough to shift the infection caused by this innocent looking animal/plant. I've finished the course and my leg looks fine now, however I thought it'd be worth warning others how mean coral can be!

Touring Vitu Levu

After our few days relaxing in the Yasawas, we headed back to the mainland to enjoy a luxury resort and the Feejee Experience, or the Big Green Bus.
Before our Yasawa trip, we'd booked a night to Sonisali Resort which is a rather lovely and rather posh resort – somewhat of a contrast to the places we'd been staying in. The deal was that we got a ocean side bure at less than half the usual price by booking it through the backpackers hostel we were staying at. However we'd decided to go on the Feejee Experience bus tour which only left certain days of the week – Wednesday being one of them and that of course was when we booked at Sonisali. After some faff sorting our the tickets for the Feejee Experience and a transfer the next day to meet up with the bus, we headed out to Sonisali in the rain. We were greeted with a gift of a shell necklace and a fruit juice while checking in and a golf buggy ride – well you couldn't walk in the rain could you! Our bure was beautiful with a bath and seating area, a great place to luxuriate while the weather was so damp. We decided against jumping in the pool and worked out that it was almost cheaper to have room service than to head to the restaurant, so we did. It was fabulous, definitely somewhere we'd both like to head back to one day. Unfortunately because of our transfer the next day, we couldn't have a lie in. Instead we were up at 5:45 to grab breakfast – there was a great selection of continental style breakfast but the real treat would've been the cooked breakfast that started after we left.

The driver for our transfer was actually the bus driver for the rest of our trip so at least we didn't have to worry about missing the bus, even though he turned up a little later than expected. We met the bus and the rest of the group at a resort called Mango Bay and headed up to the Namosi Highlands. Here we went on a trek which is usually 8km long, but the rain had meant the truck couldn't get us up to the start of the trail and so we had an extra 3km to walk. The trek was muddy and slippery, though the rain was refreshing to walk through. There were some steep parts and when the sun shone, it felt quite hard work. Miriam (our guide) wasn't sure if we would be able to get past one obstacle – the trail led up a shallow river which we had to walk through for about 20 minutes, and she was concerned it may have risen too much. However when we got there, it was fine – the river was of varying depths so it made it more interesting but a definite change from the mud we had been squelching through before. The trail led down to the Navua river where a longboat met us with our lunch and those who didn't want to do the walk. After lunch, we headed downstream on rubber tubes and stopped at a waterfall where we jumped into the pool. I guess this is all much more appreciated in warmer weather, I was definitely ready for a hot cup of tea after being in the water! A long boat took us back to the river and down some more interesting rapids, well they were certainly more interesting in a heavily loaded, what felt not that stable a boat! After heading towards Suva and the hostel we were staying in that night, we warmed up with showers and got ready to head out to the capital city for a meal and drinks. It was good, but after a long tiring day, David and I were certainly ready to head back earlier with the bus – we heard the girls get back at half 4…

Friday found us heading to a village where we visited the local school. It was funny to hear all the kids ask the same questions – they'd obviously been prepped well by the teachers! The digital camera was very popular with nearly every child wanting their photo taken and loving being able to see it afterwards. When we first arrived, each of us were chosen by a child to be guided around, and the little girl who chose me stuck with me the whole time, to my surprise. It made me smile when she took me to see the “really little kids” who were 4 and 5 (she was only about 7 herself) and when she asked me if I had a wife. At the end, we watched a Fijian dance performed by the boys and signed the guest book. Our next stop was at another village where we took part in the traditional Kava ceremony. There were two lads on our bus, so Tristan was our chief and David was our spokesman. This meant that while the girls only had to take part in two drinks, the boys had to keep drinking until the bowl was finished. In the meantime the girls got to take part in weaving with the local ladies, though a few of us decided to help the guys out in finishing the kava – luckily we timed it so there was only one more drink left each. Sadly we weren't able to do the Bilibili (bamboo) rafting since the river had risen too much and a little surprisingly there was no alternative activity available. This was a particular shame as we'd missed the tour around Suva because we'd been late getting back from our hike, but I guess we'd had to been at the school according to schedule, We stayed at Voli voli and took some kayaks out – the first time we've been in kayaks in Fiji! We had hoped to paddle some whitewater since there is a little over here, however the logistics weren't going to be too easy and it had been very handy to leave our kayaks at the hostel in Nadi rather than lug them around.

Voli voli has a dive centre where you can do a Introduction to Scuba dive for 75 Fijian dollars. Now Scuba diving is something I didn't think I'd ever get to do because of my diabetes – the current recommendation (I believe) is that you should have 12months of no hypos before you go diving and as anyone who has contact with the condition probably knows, this is pretty much nigh on impossible. The problem with Scuba diving for diabetics is that a hypo underwater is a problem, since you may not be able to rise back to the surface straight away to eat, and symptoms may be very different underwater. When I've researched this before, common sense is recommended, as in making sure blood sugars aren't low before dives, and eating snacks before to ensure a hypo won't happen. Scuba diving is something David has done before and wanted to do again, and is something that I really wanted to try, so we asked at the dive centre whether they would be happy to take me diving. They said they wouldn't take anyone who has been newly diagnosed, which isn't a problem for me since I was diagnosed 15 years ago! The introductory dive goes down to 12m and lasts about half an hour, and so they said they would take me. Tristan and Bianca, who were also on the Feejee experience, decided they wanted to try and so the next day we headed down to the beach. In the shallows, we practised clearing our mask if it filled up with water and replacing our regulator if it got knocked out. For some reason the clearing of the mask ability alluded me for a while but I eventually sussed it! The time came for us to head out to the reef, but because there was only one instructor, the four of us couldn't all go down together, so the other two went first. I think with hindsight, this wasn't such a good thing for me since the sea was somewhat choppy and I was feeling pretty rough as our boat rolled with the waves. However our time came to dive, my sugars had been checked and glucose eaten, and it was reassuringly non-choppy as we headed down! Scuba diving is a very strange experience at first, especially as you become very aware of your breathing and the bubbles created as you breath out. The underwater world is particularly stunning and I was struck by how the only time I'd experienced anything close to this before was at an Imax cinema! We saw lots and lots of fish, there was a school of silver fish who were swimming nearly on their sides close to the coral, plus bright colourful fish, I love seeing the big bright fish surrounded by miniature clones. We headed down to swim through coral archways, at which point I kept very close to our instructor! It was amazing, but very tiring with so much to take in. I'd love to do another dive to take in whats around me more and be more relaxed about the equipment I'm using. I don't know if I'll get the chance but it was incredible to experience something I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to.

The Feejee Experience took us to an Indo-Fijian town where we had lunch, and then to some mud and hot pools before returning to Nadi. We're staying at a place that was recommended to us but had a visitor this morning. As I was dozing, I could hear something coming from one of David's bags. He went outside to empty it and found a mouse nibbling at our bread for lunch! That, I guess, will teach us for not sealing up the bag…

We have two days here before flying to New Zealand which we're both so very excited about. Fiji's a lovely place that has grown on me, but New Zealand is somewhere I've been looking forward to heading back to since I was there five years ago. David hasn't been before so I'm looking forward to showing him some of the places that I visited and loved before. It seems so far that the people we've met who are doing their world tour that way round, all have many wonderful memories and things to say about Kiwi Land.After our few days relaxing in the Yasawas and headed back to the mainland.

Seattle and saying goodbye to Macy

Our (brief) explorations of Seattle, lots of animals and a farewell to a faithful friend.

The plan was to head to Seattle to sell Macy and on Tuesday evening, the Ebay auction for her ended. She didn't sell for that much money but she has gone to a new home where we hope she'll be happy. It was somewhat strange to see her being driven off, and a little sad as she has been the closest we've had to a home for the last few months. It also brings home the fact that we'll be leaving North America very soon. I'm hoping that she'll be known as Macy still!

In the meantime, we've been making the most of our time in Seattle and the handy downtown location of our hotel – its the Moore Hotel and definitely recommended for being friendly and pretty good value, plus they didn't bat an eyelid when we brought in our kayaks to leave in their left luggage area.

We've wandered around the Pike Place Market, which is the oldest farmers market in the USA, and is filled with fresh produce, fragrant flowers, colourful arts and crafts, and fish. Close by is the first coffee shop opened by Starbucks, but by no means is it the only one in the city! Seattle has an interesting history in terms of its structure, and was wiped out by a fire in the late 19th century. This gave rise to a two tiered city, due to the sidewalks and shops being developed at one level by private owners, and the roads being built at another by the city. As bizarre as it sounds, it means there is an underground system that we took a tour down to see parts of which was pretty entertaining, though certainly odd to be stood under a skylight that people were walking above!

One of the best deals we found was the CityPass which gave us entrance to 5 attractions for $39 (about

National Parks in Washington

Our last few days in the beautiful National Parks of the North Cascades and the Olympic Peninsular.

On our way up to Canada, we didn't have time to visit some of the National Parks in Washington, so we headed back to the North Cascades, where we took a walk up Thunder Knob (as described in one of David's blogs), and then to the Olumpic Peninsular. We'd been recommended to take a ferry and were lucky enough to see a sealion through the mists.

The Olympic Peninsular is a particularly special National Park, since it consists of three different environments – mountain, temperate rainforest and beach. We headed up the Hurricane Ridge where we saw the sun set while we cooked our tea. A young stag wandered down the path and stopped to smell the flowers – something we should all take heed of – then carried on along seemingly without a care in the world. Our first walk took us along from Rialto Beach to Hole-in-the-Rock. The views were amazing across the sea, and we got to see the tide pools with lots of colourful star fish. There was lots of drift wood along the beach, and a small stream that we had to jump over to cross. The smell of the sea and the sounds of the waves crashing are always striking about the beach and with the peace and quiet of the area, there was no exception here.

We headed to the Hoh rainforest, where we took a Park Ranger led walk that was simply excellent – the ranger was so entertaining and yet we learned so much about the way the forest works and the links in the ecosystems here, I was quite in awe. This should definitely be the way people learn about the environment! It was so inspiring, we made the decision to head out to the Wilderness overnight, which we'd been toying with for a while.

The Olympic Peninsular contains more wilderness than any other national park in the lower 48 states, and so this seemed the perfect place to go enjoy that. We went to get our backcountry permits and were recommended a 20mile route that sounded incredible, which climbed quite a height, but where there was a high chance we may get to see our elusive bear.

Our start the next day was a little delayed due to Macy needing fuel and the road atlas being a little vague, but we eventually got off on our walk through the forest. The gradient soon increased and the path got rougher, however this was easy compared to what was coming! Along the way we saw snakes basking in the sunshine, crossed over a river and then headed up a tougher incline. As the day pressed on, exhaustion threatened to take over – this was the toughest walk I've done before! We nearly stopped at the campsite before the one we'd planned, but pressed on to Heart Lake and were rewarded with some simply stunning views. Heart Lake is named because that is exactly what th elake looks like. After dinner and cleaning teeth, we made sure all the smelly things we had with us were placed in dry bags which we then attached to the bear wires to ensure we didn't have any unwelcome visitors during the night! Education to the treatment of bears is a key issue over here – trying to make sure the bears don't get used to humans and food being related, helps prevent bears causing problems in their search for their food and having to be shot – a fed bear is a dead bear, as they say over here. However as we headed back to the tent, we saw Roosevelt Elk running across the hill.

It was incredibly windy overnight, and our delaminating Thermarests didn't help ensure a good night's sleep, but it was all good in the end. With porridge for breakfast, we broke camp and set out on to what was another climb leading to a ridge with awesome views, but not before seeing a chipmunk at the campsite. Some of the highlights included the view of Olympus Moutain, which seemd to sprong up on us, and clearly showed two of the glaciers. The ridge led to a surprisingly tough peak (we were at around 5000ft now) which we had our lunch nearby. The walk continued downwards from here, with many beautiful alpine flowers and views to take your breath away. I kept my eyes open in the hope to see a bear but we figured they must have headed down to the rivers to feed on the returning salmon, before hibernation. Then at one point, I smelled an animally scent (or so I thought) and was turning to mention this to David, when I realised the big black thing sat on the path a little way ahead was our elusive bear. He obviously heard us as he stopped picking the berries and ran off. We later heard a woman from Seattle describe the Washington bears as “polite” which did seem to be pretty accurate!

The walk took us past lakes and more stunning scenery, and was still tough as we headed down – we met several people who were doing the walk in one day – one couple certainly put us to shame with their age and fitness! However we also met others who were doing it over 4/5 days which seemed a lovely way to make the most of it.

The trek ended by a waterfall and impressive canyon, with a curious chipmunk sat on the bridge. It had been very tiring but completely amazing – if anyone is in the area, I'd definitely recommend heading out the the beautiful wilderness and appreciating the fact it has been protected. The feeling of achievement was comparable to little, it has been one of the highlights of my trip so far. Definitely something we'll be planning more of!

Photos will be up soon, for those who can't just step out there and appreciate it right now!

Fun in Whistler

In a bit of a role reversal, I (Sharon) decided to paddle the Green while David acted as shuttle bunny. The Green is a lovely short section of grade 2 which builds up nicely to grade 3. The great advantage of this being a rafting run, is that it is relatively tree free! Unfortunately we still haven't seen any bears in BC despte everyone else seeming to have seen several.

For those who haven't been to Whistler, its like a theme park where pretty much any outdoor activity can be done it seems. We tried the luge yesterday which was lots of fun, though I took the corners a bit slower after nearly falling off. It takes a bit of getting used to the artificalness of the place, but I like the fact its a huge outdoors playground.

Birthday Adventures

What I (Sharon) got up to on my birthday. The campsite we stayed at in Jasper was in the middle of the forest and we arrived to see a Caribou wandering around rather happily – a Caribou is a kinda big horned deer. I woke up the next morning to happy birthdays from the others and cards to open from home – thanks to all those who sent them out, it was lovely to know people were thinking of me even though I'm miles away! I quite fancied the idea of horse riding, so David kindly booked this up while I had a fab hot shower and returned to pancakes for breakfast.

The horse riding started at 1:30 so we headed into town before hand. Jasper is quite a pretty but touristy town, it is one of the nicest we've seen in Canada so far. We got to the stables and pointed to our horse for the next hour or so. Mine was called Jackpine and was a lovely gray, while David had a skewbald called Cloudy. It was Western style riding, where you have the reins in one hand, rather than the more uptight English style where you have to hold the reins in a particular way, that I've done before. I really enjoyed the difference, it felt much more relaxed and was much more suited to the sort of easy going trek we were doing. The ride took us past three lakes and plenty of beautiful mountains. We didn't see any animals, bar one small furry brown thing running past the trees, but the scenery was stunning and it was great to see it in a different way to usual. David's horse had a sense of humour and decided to scratch his belly on a small fir tree, leaving David a little distance behind – he soon caught up though. Although it felt like we were out for quite a while, the trek soon came to an end.

Returning to Jasper, we met up with the others, who had been hiking or biking, and headed to a brewpub for steak. Since the desserts didn't take our fancy, we bought ice-cream and went up to a lake that was supposed to be good for spotting moose and beavers. We didn't see either, but we did have gorgeous views with our Ben and Jerry's. The others surprised me by bringing out chocolate cake with musical candles and singing happy birthday, it was a wonderful moment in an awesome setting. Afterwards we headed to another lake to see animals, and were rewarded with sights of lots of jumping silver fish, an inquisitive red squirrel who David thought was more ginger really, and mink who showed us their home burrows.

At the campsite, we had some beers around the campfire – a great way to have spent my birthday.

The next day, we were headed to the put in for a river section only to find out paddling was banned since that section was under a conservation scheme for some sort of birds. However, we chose to have breakfast here since we were surrounded by the most curious stripy squirrels, that were so tame that they would come right up to you if you were still enough. They were obviously after food, which we didn't give them, but they were fantastic as they placed their tiny paws on your hand and you could feel how soft their little furry bellies were. I didn't want to leave, but restrained myself from inviting one into Macy. There's photos of these encounters, which we'll add to the gallery some point soon.

Macy's Healthy!

After a delayed pick up from the CAA (Canadian Automobile Association), Macy was dropped off at a closed garage. The next morning, we went to find out what the problem was and was told that she may not be seen that day but to call in at noon. After a little whimpering and some hints as to what may be the problem, the mechanic came out and diagnosed the problem as a likely timing belt issue. At noon, we returned to pick up boats and find out if they had the spare parts. Turned out they had a cancellation and Macy was nearly fixed, so David and I decided to wait around. Soon she was being driven out of the garage – a very good sign since the engine hadn't been turning over before! She's all happy as are we, now we're all reunited – hopefully we'll be able to go paddling again soon…

Animals and an ill Macy

We went to the British Columbia wildlife park to get our cute animal fix, but I think David and I had been spoilt with the refuge we went to in Oregon. It was very much more of a zoo than a refuge as we were led to believe, and a lot of the animals looked like they would much rather be somewhere else. In fact, our favourite sight was the cheeky chipmunks who were running around freely stealing food! There were two grizzly bears, who felt like their spirits had been broken – nothing like the awesome magnificence of the one at Oregon, who you felt honoured to be able to see but very glad there was an electric fence in the way! There was a cute badger, but I think she would have prefered more space and far less concrete in her area. The raccoons were cool, one seemed to be pawing at an area that looked shallower – I wonder if they were planning to make a break for it…

The drive to Golden in the rain was interesting, apparently the others saw a black bear run across in front of them, but we got to see the stunning lightening storm. The plan today was to run the Kicking Horse river, however Macy's got a bit homesick. I think the little bit of sunshine we've had after all the rain has made her miss California, and so we're waiting for our faithful friends, the AAA. We will update you….