JoLt 2004 – Diary

JoLt 2004 Expedition Diary

Friday 6th August
The wake up calls rang out around the hotel and some reluctant JoLters gathered for breakfast before the flight around the world. The flight passed slowly with the help of films, super Mario, and books. The time many were dreading finally arrived, we wondered through customs at Heathrow with an array of emotions. It is very difficult to assume how everybody felt, but the culmination of emotions was clear on the faces of many. Many close friends bid each other goodbye and what has become a fantastic group had to finally part company.

Thursday 5th August
We bid goodbye to our hosts at the Marae, and were overwhelmed with their offer to return anytime we wished. The majority of today was spent either travelling or shopping, we relocated to our hotel near the airport and began planning for the next 24 hours. The group had numerous tasks to complete before the end of expedition meal, packing being the priority. All equipment must have expanded as closing bags was proving to be an art form! The schedule had allowed time for the girls to doll themselves up and for the boys to slap on some hair gel! It was difficult to recognise some JoLters as we met in the restaurant! Amazing what smart clothes and hot showers can do! The meal was an excellent way to end what has been an experience of a lifetime. All the JoLters enjoyed chatting with their new friends and preparing for the evening entertainment. It had been decided previous that a show would be a nice way to draw things to a close. Four groups of JoLters and a leaders group had practised a sketch and were ready to go! Everybody revelled in the atmosphere of frivolity, especially those taking the chance to mimic the leaders! Nick, our guide, gave a moving speech reflecting the amount of enjoyment he has had with us. By this stage many of the group were feeling the emotions built over such an inspiring month.

Wednesday 4th August
A sight alteration of plans led us towards a nice carefree day abseiling. or so we thought!! We arrived to be met by our guides for the day, they seemed very helpful and keen. Some attributes we were to rely on later! The group practised on horizontal land before venturing towards a local cliff face to try the real thing. Little did we know what lay between us and the cliff face would prove so challenging. Having trekked along cliff edges and accomplished Kea point in treacherous conditions, who would have guessed a grassy hill would be such a challenge!! However, it was continuously being greased by the falling rain. This short walk quickly turned into a scene from ‘It’s a knockout’ as people slid and slipped up the slope. Upon arrival at the summit the JoLters were to be tested again, this time their patience was tried. Due to the conditions and the nature of the group, the guides and JoLt leaders wanted to ensure everything was checked and considered. This however, does take time and standing in the wind and rain with nothing to do can be the biggest challenge to some.

All the effort finally paid off and the entire group completed at least one abseil, some were reluctant but achieved this feat with some fantastic support from other JoLters. It was truly great to witness this group supporting and helping.

The return down the greasy hill did not fail to deliver its problems. The hill had now turned from grassy to simply muddy, with no grip and wheelchairs this was to be ‘interesting’. We quickly developed some new techniques of ‘mud bum sliding’ and ‘four to a carry chair descent’. The group returned plastered in mud but also in high spirits, amazing considering the elements they had endured today. The difficulty of the day was reflected by Dorothy going slightly soft! The announcement given to tired and hungry JoLters that we were going to KFC was met with raucous cheers! This was to be our lunch (at 5pm!), dinner followed at 9pm!

Tuesday 3rd August
The sunlight gradually filled the converted shed (our accommodation), lighting it up with an orange morning glow. The cockerel croaked and the Jolters rose. With much persuasion we all got ready and were greeted with a feast of bacon, cream cheese and cereal, thanks to masterchef Nick, or maybe the cooks he ’employed’? We then boarded the coach, which in turn took us to a house to do bone carving. The keen group entered the craftsman’s lair. Surrounded by sharp implements and lumps of bone, each Jolter’s began to wonder if they were to do bone carving, or was it their bones to be carved? Much to the leaders’ horror Jolters were let loose to carve bones! After 12 boxes of pencils and rubbers, half of the group had managed to draw their designs onto their given bones. Onto the carving room and 5 minutes later we were on our last drill bit, much to the chagrin of the carving master. After that he thought wise to take control of the situation and put everyone in their place, mainly the unruly Jolter who smashed the delicate equipment in the first place! After some noisy work from the carver everybody had a bone carving of their own. All that was left to do was the sanding, the filing and the wet and dry process. This took the dull matt bone to a shiny bright finish, giving the whole bone carving the traditional look. After a wonderful buffet lunch of chips, garlic bread, pizza and a nice selection of sauces we all finished off our pieces and got back on the coach.

We all went back to Okopako Lodge for a horse-trekking session. Then it was a social evening of scrabble, chatting, reading, etc.
Sunday 1st August

Some unenthusiastic JoLters emerged from their dome houses (tents) greeted by harsh morning air. Conversation was brief as we slowly defrosted in the gradually arriving sunshine. A quick count confirmed everybody had made it through the night! One JoLter, who will remain nameless, did manage to lock himself in the toilet 100 yards away at 6.30am in the morning! Screams of help were met and we released the trapped victim from the ‘long drop’ basic toilet! Pancakes devoured and the camp packed, we departed for a fishing/trekking extravaganza! The group precariously descended towards some beautiful beaches ensuring they didn’t venture too close towards the cliffs on our right. The first leg of the journey passed relatively uneventful as the team performed efficiently towards its goal. Upon arrival a number of the rugby enthusiasts took advantage of the conditions and enjoyed a ‘chuck around’ on the sand. Another group marched off for some sea fishing, led by their gallant leader fisherman Stu. The group then returned, led by a very confident (and slightly smirking) JoLter, with fisherman Stu dragging his heels at the back. Needless to say somebody had caught a fish and it wasn’t one of the leaders!
Saturday 31st July

It was up and at em… five o’clock this morning! The uni-mog (big truck) arrived ready and raring for the long slog up to Cape Reinga. Ninety mile beach provided some interesting play spots to scramble the dunes and put our foot down in the alternative vehicle, a minibus! Our driver then attempted a complex manoeuvre to enable a better view of the wild horses, unfortunately this didn’t come to fruition and we found ourselves stuck up to the axle! A rescue job was quickly executed and we continued up towards Te Paki quicksand stream. At this point some of the JoLters faced their greatest challenge yet! The ascent of the sand dunes without wheelchair assistance daunted many… fears were faced and some outstanding determination were demonstrated.

The JoLters had a fantastic taste of extreme dune-boarding with everybody having a go, including the fearless leaders. Once the sand was shaken from our ears and blown from noses, we were off to our Northernmost point! A sense of achievement gradually immersed the group as we stood in wonder. Two seas collided into view as the sun complimented a near perfect picture. This seemed like an ideal venue to camp… We then travelled slightly west and set up our first camp. The group were to spend their first night under canvas, some more confident than others! I will report on the success in the morning…

Friday 30th July
The morning was spent fine tuning our sailing skills. Everybody had the opportunity to climb higher up the rigging, practice with ropes, and venture onto the bow spirit (nets at the front). The group gave the Spirit of New Zealand crew a JoLt goodbye and left the Auckland harbour to head towards our resting place for tonight. The Saltwater Lodge in Paihia proved very welcolming, a good place for the group to recover and organise for the forthcoming days. The remainder of today was filled with mundane tasks… not exciting but they had to be done! We washed ourselves and our clothes, rested our sea-beaten bodies and ate fish and chips!
Thursday 29th July

Everybody got up looking refreshed after a long sleep, despite the rocking and rolling. The group joined in the ceremony of colours and prepared with Jim, the ships skipper, for a days sailing. We studied maps, checked weather reports, and planned the route. Throughout the experience every JoLter had the opportunity to heave ropes (tiring), climb the rigging (scary), steer the ship (carefully), and explore the bow spirit. We all found these experiences invigorating and at the same time educational. We have learnt about our limits, strengths, and become true sea dogs!! We anchored for another night on the waves. Evenings on a ship can become very tedious … but not for JoLters! The crew set a ‘Teddy Bear’ challenge and the various watches launched full heartedly into preparing paper planes, dressing as a teddy bear, and a teddy performance! Everyone made complete fools of themselves (leaders included), and enjoyed the time together.

Wednesday 28th July
A bustling group got ready to leave Rotorua for Auckland, having packed all the necessities for the next three days into daysacks. We were leaving behind our baggage as the corridors and rooms upon the ‘Spirit of New Zealand’ were ‘slightly slim’ (to say the least!). Apprehensive JoLters boarded the tall ship that was to be crewed by us for three days (with the help of 6 expert crew). We had lunch first and listened to the introductions and all that we needed to know. Banana oilskins on and up on deck in rainy and windy weather, the spray from the waves into our faces, we started our job of pulling the ropes to let the sails down/up and moved out into the Hauraki Gulf. The weather was forgotten as all efforts were put into sailing the ship. A brave lot went up the rigging to the second boom to tie up the sails at the end of the day. The evening was spent doing a team quiz hosted by John, the first mate. Everybody settled for a good night’s sleep in the hammock/bunk beds, all trepidation gone, whilst the other watches did the night watch (JoLt was split into four watches).

Tuesday 27th July
The group was roused early by a enthusiastic verse of ‘Wake up! Wake up! Give yourselves a shake up!’. The reactions to this varied significantly! We said our goodbyes at the Marae and headed for the Geothermal Park in Rotorua. A beautiful New Zealand day was developing – sideways rain! Despite this, we pushed on to enjoy a morning exploring the park. We observed some professional carvers in action, were suitably amazed by the geyser, and thrilled by a traditional Maori concert. The elements had successfully dampened the group physically but certainly not the spirits! A quick lunch allowed us to cram in some more activities into the afternoon. The Waka (a Maori war canoe) must have spiritually affected some, as they threw their all into paddling and chanting their way across Lake Okaireka! Only 1% of New Zealanders have experienced this. We managed a quick exploration of Roturua, even some of the hardened shopaholics were beat and retreated to the nearest cafe! Our hectic day came to an end with a trip to the thermal pools for one last soak… we’re getting used to this! (getting dressed in the cold open air!)

Monday 26th July
Despite a snoring chorus led by Martin [whale like] and Livvy [feminine walrus], and a couple of sleep shouts from the troops we spent 8 hours solid sleeping. 0630 wake up and away at 0830 to the rafting back at the Tongariro River. The Tongariro River is very, very cold. Wetsuits went on and five rafts took to the seething torrent armed with outstanding guides and a few spontaneous prayers. Actually it was a grade 2 descent [maximum 6] so it wasn’t that dangerous and all the Jolters who wanted to had a go at steering and commanding the rowers during the 1 1/2 hours. Although several showed dictatorial tendencies we got down without more than the odd brush with overhanging trees and having to get out and bounce ourselves off rocks. A picnic lunch, riverside in the beautiful sunshine ensued with freezing feet thawing with the help of hotdogs. We then returned to the Marae and headed down to the local hot pool. This consisted of a tin shack and a big whole dug out around a hot water source. It provided a relaxing hour. Returned to the highlight of the day, the Hungi. A Maori feast of meats and vegetables cooked underground on red hot rocks for several hours. It tasted wonderful and was followed by some quality singing from both the Maori and Jolt camps. Our first stay in a Marae has proved very successful for the JoLters, it has certainly made a big impression upon the group.

Sunday 25th July
An exhilarating day of excitement and fear! Upon arrival at the high ropes the group stared on in disbelief. The morning was spent climbing 30/50 feet up in the air and performing tasks once up there! Many walked across the ‘rickety bridge’, played in the ‘play pen’, balanced along the high wires, and finally some took a jump of faith 50 feet in the air towards a trapeze swing! The commitment and enthusiasm of every JoLter was immense, everybody attempted something and pushed themselves to their limits. The group seemed thirsty for more thrills so it was off to the carting tracks to try their hands at cart racing, quad biking, and grass carting. A shaken group of JoLters returned for lunch! The early evening proved one of the special moments of the trip so far. As a group we experienced a welcoming ceremony into our first Marae. The group were explained the significance of this experience and nervously prepared for it. The Kaumatua (chief) led the ceremony through prayer, song, and greetings. We offered our song (Monkees – I’m a believer!) and we were accepted onto the Marae. This experience was a fantastic insight into the culture of the Maori history and traditions. We are to spend the night, as a group, on the floor of the Marae.

Saturday 24th July
A thoroughly wrapped up group of JoLters emerged, from the dark night, for breakfast. We didn’t allow the standards of celebration to slip as we launched into a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ Needless to say, Abi was suitably impressed as she began her special day. The scene was set … sun rising over ‘Mount Doom’ (from Lord of the Rings), refreshed JoLters ready and raring, 32 tickets into the New Zealand snow fields. Many JoLters faced their fears to overcome doubts and enjoyed an excellent day in the sun soaked snow. The impact of this day was immense upon the group, some successful and excited JoLters gathered to discuss the many stories of success from the adventure. The final ‘Happy Birthday’ of the trip was sung, New Zealand succeeded in beating South Africa (just), and we have truly experienced a fantastic day!!

Friday 23rd July
Yet another Birthday!! We welcomed Sarah into breakfast to an upbeat chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’. Presents and best wishes were given and we set of for another day. The story for today was coach, coach, and more coach! Thankfully the pass was clear of snow, we had been threatened with an alternative route due to a severe dumping of the white stuff, the snow. We travelled for six hours up the centre of the North Island entertaining ourselves along the way. Upon arrival in Turangi we went straight out to explore the thermal pools. The expressions of sheer bliss upon the JoLters’ faces, as they slide into the hot, inviting water, demonstrated the fatigue and aches within the group. Some relaxed and recharged JoLters returned ready for the big snow day tomorrow.

Thursday 22nd July
We were all woken this morning at seven o’clock, seemed to be a luxury compared to our very early wake up calls as of late. We were welcomed by a lovely hotel breakfast, not that there is anything wrong with the breakfasts prepared most mornings by Nick! We then left the hotel and travelled a short distance to some Crocodile bikes, this was great fun. We had an hour of mad pedalling around the dock side. There were a few near misses and we all had a great time! Wellington certainly lived up to its nick name of windy Wellington, the wind was freezing! After we all walked to Te Papa. We all had a chance to explore the earthquake room and history of New Zealand, how it was formed etc. At lunch time we all travelled into the centre of town and visited a food hall where we had the choice of a wide range of food then had the opportunity to shop! We were due to attend the High Comission at five o’clock so after shopping there was a rush to get ready, many of us were grateful for the chance to dress up and scrub up! We were welcomed by the High Commissioner and his wife at their official residence. The house was very grand and we were spoilt all night with nibbles and drinks (not alcoholic though!). Part way through the evening the High Commissioner and all the other guests had the pleasure of experiencing our version of ‘I’m a believer’ including sign language! I think they appreciated it! The evening was very enjoyable as we all had the chance to talk to a range of other people including journalists, students and lawyers. We then returned to the hotel. Not everyone managed to fill up on nibbles at the High Commissioner’s, so pizzas were ordered and we all squashed into two bedrooms for a munching session!

Wednesday, 21st July
Back on the train to continue our journey to Picton to catch the ferry to the North Island. It was a beautiful sunny day again although there was deep frost on the ground.

Snow-capped mountains gave way to acres of vineyards as we approached Picton and the huge ferry which would take us through Marlborough Sounds and across the notoriously rough Cook Strait to North Island. Luck was with us again, the Cook Strait was beautifully calm and we glided across it to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington.

Great joy as the group realised that we were to have the luxury of a hotel, rather than a backpacker’s hostel, for our two night’s stay in Wellington.

After a massive dinner at the hotel (this is only the third meal we have not had to prepare ourselves), we practised the song we were to sing for the High Commission tomorrow and whose chorus we are signing (in British Sign Language). We have also started to plan the show that we are putting on for ourselves on our last night in New Zealand.
Tuesday, 20th July

Our second early start. Up at 4.15am for our first train journey. The group performed some excellent team skills to get everybody on the train on time. Stunning views (snow-capped mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other) made the three-hour journey pass quickly. We alighted at Kaikoura and walked to the ‘Lazy Shag’, the backpacker’s hostel where we were staying.

In the afternoon, the weather was perfect for a search of the oceans for sperm whales although the swell was bad and many JoLters felt quite sea sick. Light aircraft and a couple of boats using listening devicdes tried to pinpoint the position of the giant whales as they came up for air. Although we made a mad dash over the swelling ocean towards the pinpointed positions of the whales on several occasions we were only able to catch three sperm whales as they dived to the bottom of the ocean. We caught sight of their massive tails but very little else as they disappeared into the ocean.

Monday, 19th July
Today was a day of sports and games.

We went to QEII sports complex, a huge place where we were split into 3 groups and covered various activities. The ball games provided some fierce competition while the swimming gave many JoLters the opportunity to attack many leaders.

Exploring the multisensory room was a great laugh, amazing what technology can achieve today.

The group can now claim to have met some international rugby players! The Wheel Blacks demonstrated some incredible skills and the JoLters showed them some of their tricks! The JoLters seemed to enjoy the full contact nature of wheelchair rugby, two wheelchairs clashing together from 20m causes a bone shuddering thud!! At one stage it seemed more like banger racing than rugby! JoLters v’s Wheel Blacks ticked into extra time with a ‘last try winner’ situation, needless to say the JoLters scored the last try!!

Sunday, 18th July
A good old fashioned JoLt long slog! Up nice and early and on the road. We broke the journey up with a small excursion on the way… spherical boulders on Moeraki beach, which provided us with lots of entertainment and interest.

Lunch was organised on the side of a road near a train station in Timaru, a far cry from the usual relaxing lunches!

It was back to the bus for the remainder of the journey. The highlight of this journey was watching the ‘Big Dorothy’ evictions! The JoLters have decided to evict a leader every other day. The JoLters vote for a leader to be nominated and the leaders are expected to persuade the group why they should stay! Needless to say, Stuart wowed the crowds with his music, Martin simply pleaded, and Alan was unanimously voted out!

Its back to Christchurch for the night and looking forward to tomorrow’s ‘Wheel Blacks’

Saturday, 17th July
We woke up to a frosty morning. Drove to Dunedin taking four and a half hours. Time was spent reading, chatting, and watching vertical limits on the video. The significance of today was us reaching our most southern point of the expedition. For the rugby enthusiasts … we passed the ‘House of Pain’ in Dunedin. The ground recently hosted the world champions, England.

The group have spent their first week together. The leaders are particularly pleased with the way the group are achieving and overcoming many difficulties. To celebrate our first week we enjoyed an afternoon of limball and wheel chair racing in the Dunedin sunshine.

Anxious times tested many as we tried to cook the supper with cookers that refused to heat anything! The rugby theme continued, to the delight of many JoLters, as we settled down to watch New Zealand beat the Wallabies!! Meanwhile a splinter party enjoyed some pool under the hostel.

Friday, 16th July
A 4.30am start today and the walk to breakfast was under starry skies. Nick, our logistics expert, showed us the Southern Cross (stars) which could only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere. It is Sarah Lou’s birthday today and she walked into the dining room to ‘Happy Birthday!’

We boarded the coach for 6.30am and made our way to Lake Manapouri. It was still dark. As we journeyed dawn broke and it was magical to see pink mountains at sunrise. Once we arrived at Lake Manapouri, we got on a boat to take us to the other side of the lake by then the weather was dismal and we could hardly see anything for fog. We disembarked and boarded a bus which then took us through Wilton Pass. By then thankfully the weather had cleared and sun was shining through. The driver gave us an interesting talk as he drove us through. As we reached the other side we got on a catamaran to sail through Doubtful Sound.

Although today was a relaxing day cruising, there was excitement as wild dolphins were spotted swimming alongside, in front and under the catamaran. It was difficult to capture on camera as they were so quick! The scenery all around us was one of beauty. The cruise was smooth until we got to the edge of Tasman Sea where it became pretty choppy. We turned back and saw penquins swimming along one side of the catamaran. Later we saw playful seals leaping out of the lake, which roused up whoops of delight from the group! Its safe to say that the entire group feel Doubtful Sounds is a very magical part of the world.

We went back the same way as we came – catamaran, bus, boat, coach and went on to Te Anau Backpackers Hostel. After cooking our supper and washing up, Sarah Lou cut her birthday cake.

Sunday, 18 July 2004
We have had some problems with getting access to the server – so we will be playing catchup!

Thursday, 15th July
We woke to a more typical New Zealand day… wet sunshine! The first priority of the day was to welcome Matt to breakfast as a 21 year old! Cards and singing proceeded followed by breakfast.

The group remained in high spirits and were looking forward to the day’s activities. The seven 4wd Land Rovers arrived and it was off to explore the various film settings for ‘Lord of the Rings’ around Queenstown. The guides proved very helpful showing us Skippers Canyon, Arrowtown, and out towards Glenorchy. Bumped and shaken JoLters returned for lunch before facing their fears of what lay ahead…

The afternoon was one of exhilaration and excitement – Jet boating up and down Shotover Canyon! The 360 degrees spins, splashing and skimming past rocks proved very popular with the thrill-seeking JoLters, especially considering many of the apprehensive faces before the trip. The final mission was to explore Queenstown by foot and wheel in a rapidly cooling climate! To top off a truly remarkable day we dined in Pizza Hut to celebrate Matt’s coming of age. The cake was delivered, pizza eaten and some worn out expeditioners returned for some much needed rest…tomorrow it’s a 4.30am start!!

Wednesday, 14th July
The majority of JolTers were up bright and early, long before the times given! Everybody is really getting into the JoLt routine. There was a change of plan because we wanted to grab the good weather, so we had the helicoper ride first.

The helicopter ride was taken from Glentanner Park to a snow base up in the mountains (we could not land on Tasman Glacier because the wind was too strong). We went up in three lots and had a view of Mount Cook from a different angle. It was beautiful and untouched until we landed on it! Whilst up on the base we all got out for a good snowball fight! Some came back drenched! Once everybody was ready, after making our own lunches,we all boarded the coach for a drive to Hermitage Hotel which was where we got off the coach for our trek to Kea Point.

This was a very challenging trek for most if not all of us – getting the whole group up to Kea Point over pretty rough terrain – of rocks and ice. The trek took us 3 long hours there and back. Everybody overcame the problems presented and achieved a significant challenge. Some guided others and others helped with those in wheelchairs. When we arrived at a point the weather changed dramatically – suddenly there was howling gales and the temperature dropped too. We stood huddled together on an iced ‘ledge’ against the wind until it passed. We all made it to Kea Point and had great views of the rugged mountainside and the river down below. The trek back was made cautiously due to the slope downwards and ice.

Shattered and hungry JolTers trudged back to the coach for the drive to Queenstown where we were to stay for the next two nights. We all sat down for our first proper meal together and ate a hearty 3-course meal. For those who were not used to the cold, in the previous YHA, they were thankful for the warmer rooms and showers.

Tuesday, 13th July
After a good night’s sleep we were woken up at 7am and had breakfast at 8am. The coach had to be loaded and everybody on board by 9am. The group had done really well, helping each other JoLt style.

We then had a 2 hours drive through Mackenzie Country towards Peel Forest. The drive there was along a flat road with beautiful views of snow-capped mountains. Some of us enjoyed a sing-song in the coach with Stuart strumming along on his guitar. We got out of the coach and went for our first forest trek. It took 1 1/2 hours. The group struggled to know how to help and establish relationships on our first trek, these problems had to be overcome. After the trek we headed back to the coach for our picnic lunch.

Back into the coach and off on another 2 hours drive to Mount Cook National Park. There were some spectacular views upon one of the clearest days our guide had ever seen. We stopped at Lake Pukaki for some photos and to stretch our legs. We arrived at our destination – YHA Mount Cook just before dark. There was time for a sauna before supper for those who wished. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing around the hostel and some of us were in the common room sitting on comfortable seats in front of a log fire.
Greetings from New Zealand!!

Arrived safe, well, happy, and excited!! Today we have experienced the Antarctic museum including a five minute synthesised Antarctic storm and a ‘JoLting’ ride in a Haggalund snowmobile!! Off to Mount Cook tomorrow to experience some real snow!

Monday, 24 May 2004
The expedition proper starts on 10th July this year, and lasts a month. We will be placing fresh entries here once we get going.

Please feel free to look around the site to find out more.

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