New Zealand Part 2

Apologies for the absence in update, I write this sat currently in warm Brisbane! 
From our last blog in Wanaka we ventured North to little Lake Tekapo, out in amongst the mountains was a petite little town with not much to do bar some hot pools overlooking the beautiful views. So of course, being a chilly trip in general, a toasty 38 degrees hot pool was a nice treat to warm the limbs. 

Having done a little research prior to our stop in Tekapo, we had discovered it was home to one of the darkest night skies in the world – with very little manmade light for hundreds of kilometres around. As night fell the stars began to show face, a spectacular show of face and, luckily, little moonlight to dampen our view of them. Wrapping up in as many layers as viably possible, we left our camper and headed towards the lake to escape any manmade light. With some trial & error we were able to produce some beautiful photos of the stars that just about do the unbelievable night sky justice.  As ever we’ll let the photographs do the talking, completely unedited – but give Katie the credit for taking them, the camera was firmly grasped in her hands for the majority of our short outdoor photograph cameo.

The next morning we opted for a day trip that was essentially going back on ourselves, but well worth it. The roads having cleared up in the snow department around us, we checked the road conditions online and were good to go.  Mt Cook National Park was the destination. Just an hour or so each way (from Tekapo), it was quite astounding the amount of snow in Mt Cooks little ‘base’. We ventured around for a bit, took some photos and off we went again, stopping along the way for some fresh Salmon sashimi caught locally (makes my belly rumble for more just thinking about it). The next stop was over on the East Coast, Timaru. 

Famous for it’s ‘Little Blue Penguin’ colony, everywhere online seemed to read as if it was very hard to spot them and they were very rare. We must have got lucky, as just after sunset, we headed to the coastline alongside a row of rock formations. Within moments we spotted one of these beautiful little feathery fellows hopping around the rocks, and seconds later followed another, swimming in and walking along to his little ‘home’ within the rocks. A fascinating sight and somewhat surreal to see the worlds smallest penguins in their natural habitat, also very satisfying to see them left to it – with their entire homely setting roped off to stop humans disrupting or unsettling them. 

After a night in Timaru we headed to our final destination, a few days in advance to the return of our camper and our flight back to Brisbane. Christchurch. We finished our Summer NZ trip in Christchurch, so it was quite familiar to us. Feeling adventurous we booked up a ski trip for the following day. Setting off at 7.30am we were drove 1h45 to a ski area named Porters. With just 3 of us in total in our ski lesson, come the end of the hour tutoring – we were ready to hit the intermediate slope and have some fun! Plenty of falls were had by both of us (if you don’t fall you won’t learn, as they say…or something along those lines). Having started at 10.30am we skiied onto 3.30pm, the time flying, a good time was had by both of us, and we both returned unscathed. 

Our final day wasn’t full of activities to write home about, mostly packing and cleaning up the camper! We did, however, visit the newly re-opened Quake City in the City Centre; with free admission (luckily) on the day we visited. Videos and pictures of the damage of the recent 2011 Christchurch earthquake, aswell as former earthquakes and more recent ones too. It all was very eerily real, and was all so close to home to many of the people visiting, a scary ‘fact of life’ for habitants of Christchurch. It can happen in a split-second and tear buildings down, at any time.

We loved our second trip to NZ, and were very glad we opted for a bigger camper with diesel heating! The cold, hopefully, will be a thing of the past. Atleast for the next couple of weeks, with our return to U.K. closing in on us.. eeeeek!!

Speak soon! Katie & Sam.



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New Zealand…again! 

Hello from a chilly New Zealand, for the second time this year! Feeling just a little bit upset at the fact we felt we had so much more to explore after the first trip to NZ, we have embarked on our second trip to this beautiful country. 
With our flight departing Brisbane early morning of Thursday, 7th September, we were still against the clock to pick up our campervan before the office in Queenstown shut at 4.30pm! The flight itself was good, bar a screaming child infront of us (the sound still ringing in our ears as clear as daylight). The approach to Queenstown airport was voted the best, the most beautiful infact, in the world – well so I was told on the flight itself! The plane drifted over snow layered mountains, with a beautiful view of crystal clear streams and small waterfalls to be seen also. The runway itself is pretty much engulfed in mountains (a fair distance away – obviously), wherever you looked a beautiful mountain or ice glistened hill was staring back at you. 

Having got to our Maui pick-up point in time, we swiftly got the keys and drifted off to our campsite, one very central in Queenstown. Fergberger was our first stop after a brisk, and very cold, walk down to town. A world famous burger restaurant with queues formed throughout the day and into the night; they certainly are warranted, yum yum. We also had some mulled cider to warm us up, it did the job and was very tasty to kick!

After powering on our heaters, wrapping up in a few layers, we were ready for bed.. yet still awoke cold in the night! Our first night dropped as low as -3, a stark contrast to the warm evenings of Brisbane we were so acclimatised to. 

Our second day in Queenstown, our first full day, we arose nice and early to try and catch some nice weather (as per the forecast) and it worked just the treat! Breakfast finished we walked a minute down the road to the Queenstown Skyline Gondola. A short few minute, very steep, trip up the mountain faces to be greeted by some beautiful views of Queenstown and it’s beauty. We also treated ourselves to the Luge for some light adrenaline filled fun – as you can see in the pictures. Katies scintillating self decided it would be fun to barge/lightly push a speeding overtaking Sam on a corner. The result was a stopped Luge for Sam, having to push it onto the track again, and a laughing fast-dissappearing Katie. Hmph.

Saturday we headed to Wanaka, after a change of plans due to road closures, our desire was to head to Te Anu and stay the night ready for a morning trip to Milford Sounds, but the snow and road conditions said otherwise. So we opted to head North to Wanaka, a lovely town based just next to a lake, namely Lake Wanaka of course. We have explored Wanaka and took many a photos.

Today there was not so much to write home about, road closures and snow chains being advisable on some roads we needed had us opting to stay in Wanaka one more night. Tomorrow we will re-assess the situation and hopefully a road to either Mt. Cook or Lake Tekapo will be a viable option. Fingers crossed the weather Gods are on our side. Oh, we did visit ‘Puzzling World’ today, somewhat shamingly – it was as expected, pretty.. average! A maze and a few optical illusions, with one cool ‘room’ that was slanted – which if anything other than a fun gimmick, was slightly unfavourable on the senses and not ideal for those short of balance!

We will update soon.

P.S. Did I mention it is quite cold over here!? Thanks for reading as ever, enjoy the pictures and speak soon! Sam & Katie. x

Uluru 

We arrived in Uluru early Friday afternoon. Two flights and around a nine hour journey door to door, we set off early in the morning to catch our first domestic flight to Sydney, with our latter flight going from Sydney to Ayers Rock (Uluru being it’s original aboriginal name). Flying over the outback for most of the 3+ hours of the second flight, it really is unbelievably vast and desolate. Arriving in Uluru, it is a very small airport, with 3 airlines operating with in it, Virgin (of whom we used), Jetstar & Qantas. All of the staff working at the airport work for all 3 airlines – not just the one! 
After we checked in at our hotel, namely Sails in the Desert, we meandered off on a 5minute walk to check out the town centre. Pretty much a small sun-shielded area consisting of about a dozen shops/restaurants. Excitedly we then marched off to the ‘Uluru lookout’ to catch the sunset on our first evening, it really does ‘wow’ you in beauty. It’s not often you’d want to spend an hour or two sat watching a big rock, but in Uluru – you do. The changes in colour are quite spectacular (these occur due to the oxidisation of the minerals within the rock which give it it’s red colour, or something along those lines!). The colour of the sky every morning and every night are almost predictably beautiful, and the colour of the sky during the day (at least for us!) is a perfect uncovered sky blue – picture perfect.


Early Saturday morning after a well deserved rest, albeit not such a long rest – with our alarms shocking us awake at 4am! A sunrise tour in the national park was the agenda for the day. A very chilly morning, for what transcended into a blissfully warm 33 degrees as the day wore on. After watching the sunset (and the beautiful change in colours of Uluru – with the shadows of Kata Tjuta in the background), we hopped back on the coach and headed to Kata Tjuta (attached the photos to help you understand which is which). Upon arrival at Kata Tjuta we went for a walk between two of the very, very tall rock-faces within it. A one hour return walk, a fantastic way to stretch the legs and fully wake us up after such an early rise.


As aforementioned regarding the 33 degree day, this led to a decision of sun and rest around the pool at the hotel – well opted for rest with a big day ahead of us the next day.

The next morning, Sunday morning, we had arranged for a bike ride around the base of Uluru, setting off at around 9-10am, shortly after breakfast, we hopped in a bus and were drove promptly to the base of Uluru within the National Park. We were given a 3 hour frame to go around with our bikes. Taking around 2 hours, stopping for photos (of course!!), we had some time at the end to get a bit closer and check out some of the mini caves and some of the art on the walls – some of which would be up to 35,000 years old! Quite astounding and the place as a whole has a really spiritual feel about it, hard to transcript into words.


Sunday evening, after a shower and a bite to eat, we got picked up to head to the Camel Farm. After being paired with our camels, me and Katie had a lovely female camel named Jill, we went for a 45min trek through the red sands to head to the Field of Light. Being greeted with a glass of bubbly and we were first there so promptly grabbed ourself a bench at the front. We had a fantastic view of Uluru from this spot and were waiting for the sun to fully set for the Field of Light to come to life. An artist, named Bruce Munro, last year set it upon himself to create this phenomenon named ‘Field of Light’. The British Artist installed it last year with a lot of time to hand, volunteers helping out, and patience. 50,000 stems of light and hundreds of kilometres of fibre optic to allow the changes in colour every 6 seconds. After the sun was almost fully set we followed the guide down to the field itself and got to explore around it, an opportunity for some fantastic photos. We will let the pictures themselves do the talking to express the beauty of the art piece and it’s beautiful natural backdrop.



 A quick fun fact for you all which surprised us – the Outback of Australia is home to approximately 1 million wild camels – starting from just a couple they had brought over from the Middle-East. Also, apparently they can pee for up to 10 minutes – our tour guide on the Camel Ride had surprisingly told us, whether she was just running out of things to say and wanted to see if we’d believe anything, or whether she knew her stuff, who knows!? We’ll time one next time we see one..

We’ll finish on this note. If you ever get the chance to visit Uluru, take our word for it and do. It’s like nothing else you will have seen. It is very expensive, granted, but you can see why when you are there, it’s unique and very, very picturesque.

Melbourne 

From Lorne, our next port of call was the 12 Apostles. Taking a different route than the Great Ocean Road. A route that took us the winding roads of a forest, very unique – so unique we passed only 1 car in a period of an hour or so! The only ‘touristy’ thing to visit within this area was some Californian Redwood trees planted back in the 1930’s, awingly large and very beautiful. We were the only ones there so had some fun with the camera before retreating to the warmth haven that be our rental car. The twelve apostles were pretty much as it says on the tin, so to speak, twelve large spread-out apostles in the sea – and a hell of a lot of tourists there to gaze over them. Rightfully so, however, as they are beautiful and very unique. A cool breeze in the air, the sun blazing out over them but a moody cloudy backset further out to sea. A cool picture setting! After being tourists and exercising our picture taking fingers to the extreme, back to the GRO we go! 



A nightcap at Port Campbell after checking into our surprisingly modern and comfortable ‘cabin’. A good nights sleep and it was already time to head back to the busy hustle of Melbourne. 

A few hours later, three or so to be more precise, we arrived in Melbourne. Handed the keys to our car back and off we popped to find our apartment for the next 2 nights. It was very central, which was nice, but we still clocked many thousand a step exploring Melbourne!

Our first attraction was the old Melbourne Gaol aka the jail. A very cool self-tour with lots to read about and plenty of death masks (aaah!) kicking about, eery! 3 tiers and plenty of open jail cells, which were each absolutely tiny, all open to explore. You can easily paint your own picture of how life as a prisoner must have been, far from a luxurious life, to say the absolute least. 


Aswell as the jail we ventured down Hosier Lane, a very cool graffiti filled lane. Some outstanding pieces of art plastered onto the wall, including one mans transcript asking his girlfriend to marry him…. (she said yes, of which he also graffitied!). We also went to the Melbourne casino – ‘Crown’. The largest casino of this side of the hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world! One other place we went to was called Artvo, a very interesting ‘hands-on’ 3D art gallery – we will let the pictures do the talking as to what that means.


Weather wise, Melbourne wasn’t too kind to us, plenty of rain so we took a drenching once or twice but this wasn’t to dampen (no pun intended) our trip.

Thanks for reading and speak soon. P.s. Uluru is our next stop for those inclined to know!

Katie & Sam x

Great Ocean Road 

Evening from chilly Melbourne!
After finding ourselves inundatedly adapted to the warmth Queensland gives us, stepping off the plane in Melbourne, Victoria, was a real shock to the system. A short 2 hour or so domestic flight at 7am this morning from Brisbane, the domestic flying over here is a doddle! Like getting on a bus!  It was 6 degrees and light drizzle at 9am when we stepped off the plane, one day, just last week, Brisbane offered us a toasty 32 degrees – of which we welcomed with both arms, by treating ourselves to a day down at the ‘City Beach’.

Activites and sight seeing of note since our last update have been aplenty. Montville was a lovely day out, situated in the Sunshine Coast hinterlands, a lovely quant town with plenty of funky local shops and things to see! Our objective of the day was to see Kondalilla Falls, in Kondalilla National Park – of which we did do! The falls unfortunately were more of a trickle (Winter is their dry season in QLD!) but it was an amazing descent of a circa 4km and a similar distance back up, with steps aplenty.. tiring even thinking about it! We did spot the biggest spider of our travels along our walk, words wouldn’t paint the picture of just how big (s)he was but ginormous would aptly describe one of his legs, atleast!


On Thursday we attended ‘Peoples day’ at EKKA, which is essentially Aussie slang for Exhibition. Officially known as Royal Queensland Show, it’s a huge day for Queenslanders – everyone getting a day off to attend if they wish. Crowds were bulstered as you would expect, but it was certainly worth a visit! Plenty of food, drink, rides, and a big show to end the day, which had monster trucks, motorcross, horses, sheepherding et plenty more. It finished with a big bang, with two sets of sky lighting fireworks.


We visited Eat Street, for the second time, on Saturday. We’re still full up from our dessert – ‘Donut Fries’.. not for the faint hearted. Sugar, sugar sauce, topped with sugar and a dash more of.. sugar. 


As for today, filled pretty much with getting the rental car, and journeying the 2h30 down to Lorne – with plenty of stops on the way for sightseeing. We saw a wild koala (a rather careless one – he was a local to Lorne, and cares not for traffic or people taking pictures as he has lodged himself in a tree in central Lorne!). 


Currently we are in our Bed & Breakfast in Lorne, a smallish town along the Great Ocean Road. Nice enough, and it supplies beautiful views of the ocean (obviously..). Next stop, tomorrow, is Port Douglas which is 2 hours further along, but plenty to do along the way!! We have 4 days total in Melbourne, and we are jam packing it with things to do! We are missing the heat (ha ha) but sure we’ll get plenty more in our final 5 weeks of this beautiful country and final 6 weeks of this wonderful trip. We’ll find some days to top up the tans before we are wedged into the midst of a brisk English winter. Brrrr. 



Speak soon, Katie & Sam.

X

Swings & Roundabouts 

Mimi freshly sold, we are back to the old mode of transport known as walking, I believe. Having booked a cheap (well it still wasn’t that cheap, all considering.. read on) hotel, well motel, we went straight to check in. It was far from anything fancy, but we didn’t need it to be – just a place to lay our nightcaps and move on in the morn’. 

Well, come 2AM when we are both asleep, we were awoken to some noise around our door. The door had been opened from the outside by someone and the only thing stopping said person/people entering was a key chain slider that luckily stayed in. Approaching the door and confronting them, they had fast ran off. Let’s just say we didn’t get the best nights sleep after that.. dodgy door for sure and as soon as we awoke we approached management, who took it seriously but seemed far from shocked. 

Anyway, into our hire car, that we soon adopted because the walking malarky was getting tiresome, we head north. Destination Cape Tribulation. A fair 3h30 drive, again to perhaps not the nicest of places to say.. a cabin with a bed and no more (a bed that we had to strip ourselves upon checkout). We paid a juicy $120 or so a night for this luxurious resort. Basically, this time of the year anything Cairns or further North gets very, very busy – and the prices head vastly up; whatever is available, sells.

Cape Trib was pretty, very relaxing with long beautiful beaches with rainforest running alongside it. Some very nice walks to be had, but not much to do in terms of fun. Also, no WiFi; weird sensation and far from ideal when you have hotels and flights to sort! 

Upon lobbing our bed linen in a bed at reception prior to checkout (a day early, the place wasn’t nice and the kitchen was not in a clean state).. we head South back to Cairns! Stopping twice, not including picture breaks, once at Mossman Gorge and once in Port Douglas.

Both very different but both very nice in their own ways. Port Douglas a beautiful location, with a lovely cute shopping strip, very busy – probably as it was 28 degrees today, during winter! Mossman Gorge was also very busy, 10 bucks each to get a return bus to and from the ‘start’ of the walks.. some beautiful views of the gorge were to be had, and a walk across a suspension bridge with 25 other people on it at the same time, an experience to say the least! Well worth a visit, but as with a lot on the East Coast, it can get busy. Not a huge deal to do for parts of the voyage, but some hidden gems along the way. 3 weeks in total on the road, we now sit in a Hilton Suite to bath, relax and recharge the withered batteries of ours.. well earnt, we say. Oh, and for dinner, upon agreement of doing so a while back, we treated ourselves to a market fresh seafood platter for two! Just on the Cairns Esplanade, the picture will show you just how good it was – tasting just as good as it looks. Swings and roundabouts for sure, or roundabouts then swings should I say!?

Let our pictures do the talking, for now! Tomorrow we head back to Brisbane, the quick and much preferred Aussie method of an aeroplane. Katie & Sam. x

Mimi 

As of our last update we have done a lot! It’s been pretty non stop. Heading down the old Bruce Highway (literally, the old one – before they built the more modern, and wide, one) we went to Paronella Park. An amazing old Park built by a Spanish man in the 19th century. It was #1 on the things to do in Queensland list – and rightfully so. The staff were lovely and the history in this park was crazy, very glad we visited. This was our last night stop before what we had planned to be the ‘final destination’ of our road trip. So back on the road and it was Cairns via Babinda.
Babinda being famous for Babinda Boulders, but it has a very sweet, quant town on the way through. We had a great pie there in the bakery – a league above any other we’ve had in ‘Straya to date.

Palm Cove was our next stop, not through choice as such – with all of Cairns’ holiday parks being sold out for that night, we opted to venture a little further North; we’re glad we did. Palm Cove was lovely and we were that close to the beach we could hear the sea from our campspot! Two nights we had here, and plenty of cleaning of Mimi and washing our clothes was to be done. 

Thursday we went to Kuranda. Heading up the vast greenery of the mountains via SkyRail. We spent the day at Kuranda, plenty of markets and things to keep us busy. Late afternoon we headed to a rail station, anticipating one of the coolest rail rides ever! Built over 100 years ago, through crazy mountainous terrain, without the machinery we have now; it was quite insane to imagine the sheer manpower and hours required for every metre of the hour and a half ride. 

On Friday we went to the one, the only, Great Barrier Reef! We opted for Seastar, an intimate cruise holding just 36 people – an early 7.30am start for a long day out on the reef but start to finish it was amazing! On the way out we saw a pod humpback whales! Unbelievable to see with your bare eyes as it’s hard to understand just how big they are without doing so! Arriving at the first part of the reef after an hour of cruising along the surprisingly smooth seas, we suited up and hit the water! Snorkeling was the chosen act and spotting as many fish and sea creatures as possible was the aim of the game! After the first part we headed to a different reef, of which was a little deeper but a little more diverse in its habitants! We spotted a turtle and many a many fish (obviously).. oh and some  reef sharks, which are just the kittens of the ocean. The best tour we have been on thus far, not just down to the fortune of spotting whales but the sheer kindness and comfortable nature of the amicable crew/staff. They made the day.

Today was a sad day – we sold Mimi. Our sole form of transport and our home for the past few weeks. We passed her onto a lovely couple from Birmingham, England – we’re sure they will treat her well! Sob sob. Onto new adventures, Mimi-less adventures! We still have plenty planned though, and plenty that we don’t need her for – but this blog update is dedicated to our trusty old friend, she done us proud!

Thanks for reading as ever guys, for now! Katie & Sam.

X

Paronella Park



Kauranda



Babinda Boulders


Great Barrier Reef