New Zealand 2016: week 1

I’m posting daily photo collages on Instagram, which I’m linking here.

It’s been a week since my mother and I landed in Christchurch, and we’ve been traveling the South Island ever since. As always my heart lifted the moment the plane set down after the long trip, especially because we got to spend a day in Singapore. (Which was great. I got to catch up with Amy and Jo as we explored the beautiful Gardens by the Bay and ate a feast of dim sum.)
Singapore - Christchurch

Christchurch was a bit of a shock. Last time I was here it was still a pretty, very English town with a busy city centre. All that’s gone now. Lots of construction sites, but what’s most unsettling is the emptiness. There’s the container mall (which I liked but which is smaller than expected), but other than that there’s hardly anyone about. So instead of hanging about, we took the gondola (which was made in Switzerland, much to our amusement) to a very scenic look-out point. The weather was gorgeous and we had great views all around.

Still, we didn’t mind that we’d only booked one night there – the next day we already took our first long bus journey, all the way to Queenstown.
Lake Tekapo

There we stayed 3 nights, which gave us one day to explore (we went up Bob’s Peak with another gondola, walked down and then visited the Kiwi Birdlife Park, where we learned a lot of interesting things about the many endangered bird species of New Zealand) and one day for an amazing trip to Doubtful Sound.
Queenstown Queenstown

Surprisingly enough I didn’t get sea sick (although the bit at the entrance to the Tasman Sea was choppy and had me white-knuckling the handrail) and so could enjoy the stunning beauty of this remote fjord (one has to drive to Lake Manapouri, cross it in a boat, then take another bus over a pass until reaching it). I’d been to Milford Sound before, but Doubtful is much bigger and wider – and unlike the 60-80 coach loads of tourists cruising there, our boat had the entire place for ourselves. We even got visited by dolphins! Another highlight was the time they turned off the engines and had everyone stand quietly outside – it was breathtaking to suddenly hear the sound of water lapping at the boat, waterfalls cascading and the song of birds in the rainforest all around…
Doubtful Sound Doubtful Sound

The next day was another long bus trip, all the way to Franz Josef, where we did a nice short hike to the foot of the glacier in what felt like the first proper summer’s day of our trip. We ended the day in the hot pools, enjoying the water and a massage. 🙂
Franz Josef

The trip up the West Coast is one of my favourite things to do in New Zealand – I think I’ve done it four or five times by now. This is only the second time I’ve interrupted it to spend the night in Punakaiki, where the hostel lies nestled into the forest, only a short walk from the beach. I knew this place would suit my mom perfectly – we’re only here for one night, but there are trees all around us, birds are singing, and the internet is fast. 🙂
(For some reason it won’t embed the nice panorama shot I did of the pancake rocks, so here’s a link.)
Punakaiki Punakaiki

Today we’re off to Nelson, and after that Wellington. As much as I’m enjoying the opportunity to show my mom this beautiful corner of the world (and she’s been a trooper, despite having big problems understanding kiwi accents), I’m very much looking forward to seeing “my” city again…

Singapore, the last

In about 24 hours I’ll be home in Switzerland after about 11 months. How weird is that?

I’ve had a lovely time here in Singapore despite my nasty cold, doing shopping and eating yummy food with Amy. Also, again I managed to be here for the Lantern Festival in the Chinese Garden – this year’s topic was (oh dear…) “Hello Kitty”. Still, it was very pretty!

Singapore Singapore Singapore Singapore Singapore


Arrived in Singapore and was met by Amy last night. Unfortunately I now have a proper cold/flu and am coughing and running a temperature, in addition to some inexplainable stomach problems. Despite this I’m enjoying spending time with Amy again and we had fun shopping in the city today. Monsoon is early this year, so currently it’s raining outside.

Singapore Singapore

Also, a photo of Nancy’s lovely parents and brother in front of their house in Claremont (suburb of Perth):

It’s official

I’ve paid the first half of my plane ticket, so I now have a schedule for leaving New Zealand. Needless to say I’m not happy about it. 🙁

But here are the dates:
June 19: last exam
visit Denise, pack and ship all my stuff
June 28: Meredith moves into my room
travel the South Island, spend a couple of days saying goodbye to Wellington
July 25: Wellington – Melbourne
travel Melbourne – Adelaide – Alice Springs – Uluru – Perth
Sept 2: Perth – Singapore
break up the long flight by visiting Amy
Sept 5: Singapore – London – Zurich

I’ll arrive in Zurich on Sept 6 at noon. It’s a Saturday, so hopefully my whole family can come and pick me up.

Japan soundtrack

As I'm trying to find my footing here again, I've played around with something: Before I left, I created a 'good stuff' playlist – just random songs (74 of them) I enjoyed, some new, some old.

I actually didn't listen to as much music on this trip as I normally do, mainly because in Japan as a rule there's always a certain level of background noise, but a number of the songs did come to mean quite a lot to me, and I'll probably always connect them to this journey from now on. I thought I'd share this 'ultimate' playlist with you, including some words why I chose these songs. Hope you like it!

Japan 2005 – a travel soundtrack
1. Kaze Wo Atsumete – Happy End (From 'Lost in Translation', a movie that describes my experiences quite well.)
2. 99 Luftballons – Nena (German 80s hit song – first song I ever sang in a karaoke box!)
3. You're Beautiful – James Blunt (My current goosebump song.)
4. The Blood of Cu Chulainn – Jeff & Michael Danna (From the 'Boondock Saints' soundtrack, a song that never fails to make my mind travel.)
5. One Line – P.J. Harvey (Very intense – it has come to be my ultimate 'Professionals' song and I would kill for a fanvid using it…)
6. Und wenn ein Lied – Söhne Mannheims (Not normally my music, this song reminds me of and traveling with her.)
7. Under the Milky Way Tonight – The Church (This was my New Zealand song, even before I knew that The Church are a kiwi band.)
8. Die Katze – Annett Louisan (One of the songs I sang to myself when I was walking in the mountains, although the voice of the singer takes a bit of getting used to.)
9. Jerk It Out – Caesar's Palace (The iPod song – I might have danced to it out in a field, when no one was watching. *g*)
10. I schänke dir mis Härz – ZüriWest (I felt the need for music in my own language sometimes, and this is an all-time favorite.)
11. The Blower's Daughter – Damien Rice (Another goosebump song, for some reason I keep forgetting how beautiful it is.)
12. When Doves Cry – Ginuwine (After Baz Luhrman's 'Romeo & Juliet' I just adored this song – for this trip, I dug it out again.)
13. Sitting Waiting Wishing – Jack Johnson (Jack Johnson makes excellent travel music – and this song reminds me of the hours I spent waiting for connecting trains… *g*)
14. Your Song – Keane (I think shared this cover just before I left and I kept listening to it on repeat.)
15. Good Life – Leslie Mills (Discovered this song a couple of years ago through a website that used the phrase 'raspberry sun' – I just love the lyrics, they're so me.)
16. W. Nuss vo Bümpliz – Patent Ochsner (Another Swiss German song that's been a favorite of mine for years.)
17. Ice Cream – Sarah McLachlan (Heard this song on 'Felicity' one time, loved that it mentioned chocolate – and it led me to discover Sarah McLachlan.)
18. Universe – Savage Garden (Will always remind me of a certain special morning in Southampton when I was 17 – one of the few songs that I find truly sexy.)
19. A Sorta Fairytale – Tori Amos (Probably my favorite Tori song.)
20. Almost Human – Voltaire (A chance discovery, this just speaks to me.)
21. Heimweh – Plüsch (This song is called 'homesick', and I listened to it whenever I missed home or felt lost in this strange country – it always cheered me up, strangely enough.)

Singapore airport

So now I'm on my way home and Japan is really behind me. Had a lovely day yesterday, though – karaoke in those little karaoke 'boxes' really is a lot of fun, and the National Museum was very interesting, too. I even managed to fit all the books and souvenirs I'd bought into my suitcase, yay! *g*

The first leg of the flight was uneventful, except that once more I had special requests – in this case that I wanted to cancel my special request: The nut-free/vegetarian meal they served me last time wats so flavorless that I decided to just risk it and eat the regular meal. There's always a choice of two meals, after all, so I shouldn't have a problem avoiding peanuts…

Now I'll hang around the airport for five hours or so. They have a lot of stuff here for passengers in transit, some of them even free – I might check out the movie theatre and grab a bite to eat, as luckily I kept 10 Singapore dollars. And my mobile is working again, how exciting! 😉

Well, enough for now, maybe I'll get bored later. If not, my next post will be from my laptop at home…

ETA: Ha, I found a TV where an episode of my beloved Gilmore Girls was showing – and fifth season, too! 😀

Last day

Today is my last day in Japan – tomorrow will be spent traveling, and Monday morning I'll arrive in Switzerland. Because my plane will arrive early no train from Basel gets to the airport in time, so I'll have to make my own way home, sadly enough… But enough of this, as I'll have six hours in Singapore tomorrow evening, part of which I'll probably spent online. (Also, I mastered the apostrophe on this keyboard, yay!)

In my last post I was talking about going to Nikko, wasn't I? That was really lovely, and we even had time to drive over to a very impressive waterfall in the mountains. Back in Tokyo in the evening, I quickly checked into the other youth hostel and was then taken to the Katayama family's home, where a wonderful feast was waiting for us three travellers. It was incredible, with an amazing number of dishes, one better than the other – and they had even baked a cake for me, which said 'Welcome Eva!' I did feel a bit self-conscious, though, because apparently my chattiness is quite unusual for Japanese standards, as Mr. Katayama pointed out to me – several times… 😉

But anyway, I don't think anyone's ever done anything like this for me before and can't thank the Katayamas enough for their hospitality.

Yesterday I met up with Mie again (who might be reading this!*waves*) and we went all over Tokyo looking at shops and stores. You wouldn't believe some of the things you can buy here! (Amy – we went to a Chinese place for lunch, because they had chive dumplings like the one we ate in Bugis that day…) Among lots of glitter, impractical winter clothing and fake fur, I found a beautiful skirt (which I'm wearing right now) and some other bits and pieces, including several goodies from 'Snoopy World', where I felt right at home, of course. *g* I wasn't succesful in my quest for a nice pair of boots, but that's okay – I just have to accept that my taste isn't the fashion right now… In any case, I had a lovely time with Mie and ended the day on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, looking out over Tokyo by night.

Today I'm meeting Nozomi and her friend Yoko (who I already met at the dinner on Thursday) and we'll go to one of the karaoke places. Definitely looking forward to that, as Sabine hooked me on this Japanese pastime back in Kumamoto… *g* I then plan on getting a last taste of Japanese culture by going to the National Museum, which is supposed to be really good.

Well, I didn't mean to go on like this, but it just happened, as it does… Guess I'll talk to you guys soon – take care of yourselves! *hugs*


Slowly but surely it is getting to the point where I have to count the hours I have left to spend in Japan… On Tuesday, after traveling all day, I was picked up by two friendly young ladies, Nozomi and Mie (who is half-Swiss French) at Tokyo station, who brought me safely to my hostel and spoke excellent English, much to my relief!

Wednesday I then spent sightseeing – gardens, shrines, the impressive financial district and the Imperial Palace (from the outside, at least). Yesterday Nozomis father (sorry, cant find the apostrophe on this keyboard) drove Mie and me to Nikko, where we saw some impressive temples situated in beautiful big forests.

Okay, time is up – more tomorrow!

Sapporo again

Had a lovely relaxing time in Sounkyo (although the weather didn't always cooperate and the famous gorge was partly closed due to rockslides) and the farming village of Bibaushi, where I rambled over the fields and stayed up late (until almost 11pm! *g*) chatting with a nice bloke from Amsterdam.

Only back here in familiar Sapporo for one night, as tomorrow it'll be ten hours on three different trains to get down to Tokyo, for the last part of my trip. In one week I'll be back home! But right now I'm still enjoying myself in Hokkaido – and tonight I'll be sleeping in one of those (in)famous capsule hotels! I'm curious to see how it is and hope I won't get claustrophobic. The hotel also happens to be a spa, but since I have a tattoo (how shocking!) I'm actually not allowed to use it. A girl at the tourist information (where of course I am typing this entry) explained to me that this rule goes back to members of the Japanese mafia having tattoos. I guess I'll just dash in later tonight for a quick dip (since I'm still not tired of the pleasures of Japanese baths) and hope I won't get in trouble… *

It's only 6.15 now but already pitch dark. I don't think I'll ever get used to this. I'll be heading in the direction of the hotel now (situated in the 'red-light' district of Sapporo), grabbing something to eat and provisions for tomorrow on the way. I'll be talking to you again from Tokyo, I'm sure.