April - December 2017
  • Day274

    Sydney

    January 6, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 81 °F

    The end of the big trip couldn’t have been in a better place.

    Heading up from the capital to our penultimate stop, we were superbly hosted by Uncle Jack and Cecilia in Gosford. From sightseeing to sailing the Brisbane Waters, puzzles to pelicans, we had such a wonderful time with our extended Oz family!

    And then, the final WOW experience of our trip, Sydney. When the ferry from Mosman Bay rounded the headland and we saw the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in the distance without a cloud in the sky it was a breathtaking sight.

    Getting off the ferry at Circular Quay, we located the Tourist Information and the very friendly chap at the desk basically planned our day for us. Knowing the temperature - although already baking for us - was due to go through the roof the next day, we packed all of our city sight-seeing into that day. We first walked around the Royal Botanic Gardens from the Opera House to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and continuing on to have lunch at one of the outdoor pools on the harbours edge.

    Getting far too hot we headed inside. First the Art Gallery of New South Wales, then to St Mary’s Cathedral where we saw a wedding ceremony taking place and finally onto Westfield Sydney for a little jaunt around the shops.. well it would have been rude not to!

    With the temperature cooling, we took a ferry across the harbour to Luna Park. Timed to perfection we were sat on the big wheel as the sun set over the Harbour behind us.

    The next day the temperature hit a massive 47 degrees. Arriving at our final accommodation, a five star hotel on the wharf, we made the most of the pool and the free happy hour, venturing out of the hotel only to sample the famous “Harry’s” pie van which has served the likes of Elton John, Pamela Anderson and countless other celebs.
    
Before we left Sydney we couldn’t avoid a trip to Bondi Beach. An incredibly hot and sweaty walk/bus ride later, we arrived at the world famous beach and dipped our toes in. Having seen the reports that a Great White Shark had been sighted there the day before, we had decided to leave our swimmers at the hotel.

    Our last evening we spent walking back to Mrs Macquaries chair to drink in that amazing view one last time….

    Would definitely like to see more of Sydney, though maybe next time it’ll be in winter!

    And that as they say is all folks. Thanks for reading, following and commenting, it has been a pleasure to share the journey with you all.
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  • Day268

    Canberra

    December 31, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 81 °F

    Deciding against the throngs in Sydney, we headed to the Australian Capital for our New Year's Eve.

    The drive was by far the dullest of all our trip.. Long straight roads with little to see, we soon found out why there are so many accidents on Australias road's and why people are warned about "micro-sleeps". There are I am sure more scenic routes to get from A to B but being such a huge country we thought we would head from Melbourne to Canberra as directly as possible.

    I understand that Canberra is the capital of Australia because a choice couldn't be made as to whether Sydney or Melbourne would be Australia's capital…

    and ta-dah!! Canberra was "created" to settle the score.

    We rented an Aparthotel with an amazing view over our surroundings. Right next to the main road into the city we opted for the bus to get in for the celebrations. Waiting at the bus stop we got chatting to a couple whose daughter was living and working in the Channel Islands... small world..

    Two sets of fireworks, a burger dinner and a LOT of beard compliments (for Stuart..) later it was time to head back to the balcony and a bottle of fizz. And that was it for NYE 2017… not the most exciting of times to be honest but with an offer for a job in New Zealand for Stuart for 2018 we couldn’t have been happier :)

    New Year's Day we drove the deserted streets of Canberra to do some sightseeing. Even on such a day it was surprising to be able to drive through a capital city with ease. There was literally no-one around. The sun was super hot so we headed to the National Museum of Australia. It is a fab museum in a great setting. Next to a huge lake and set in a very modern colour blocked building, there is a huge dinosaur skeleton in the expansive foyer. The part that sticks in my memory is learning of the "Stolen Generations". This was the removal of aboriginal children from their families by the Government from 1910 all the way through to the 1970’s. I found it quite upsetting, a shocking part of Australia's history I knew little about.

    Sitting down for some delicious cake at the museum cafe we found ourselves next to our bus stop friends from the night before! Unwittingly sharing my cake with a noisy myna bird, we watched the police jet-ski patrolling the lake and enjoyed the sunshine.

    Taking on Big Kev's suggestions (thanks Kev) we then drove the (still deserted) streets around the embassy buildings. Different countries buildings showing their personalities with the American embassy having approximately triple the security of any other…

    Finishing off the day with a brief trip to Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial, I would summarise that, whilst we did have an enjoyable time, two days were enough to spend in Canberra..
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  • Day254

    Christchurch under construction

    December 17, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 79 °F

    Didn’t know much about this city before we arrived, bar the terrible earthquake.

    It is very much a city in the re-making and there are cranes and diggers everywhere.

    Having dropped the campervan off, we arrived too early to check into our hotel. We decided to wander into the city, and passed a sign “electric scooters for hire”.

    I couldn’t deny stuart this pleasure as he’s been wanting to get one for as long as I can remember! Turned out to be a good way to get around and see a good chunk of the city in a few hours.

    We scooted past the cardboard cathedral, which is a temporary cathedral built following the devastating quake in 2011. Its colourful facade and calm interior looked lovely in the shiny sun.

    Then onto the chair memorial where 185 Chairs have been painted white to remember the victims of the quake.

    Scooting further into the city we stopped for a burrito at the Restar Mall, which is a collection of shipping containers housing various shops and even a bank! Scooting on we visited the famous C1 espresso coffee house. It’s home is the former post office and the ceiling is covered by pneumatic tubes which deliver food with a ding of a bell! The toilets are hidden behind a bookcase and instead of background music to accompany you, they were playing the Harry Potter audiobook read by Stephen Fry. Really cool place in an area where there is - like a lot of Christchurch - demolished buildings and colourful street art.

    Before handing back our scooters we circled round Hagley Park where people were playing cricket, croquet and sailing remote controlled boats on the lake.

    We were quite tired after travelling 3,300km around New Zealand - North and South - so a brief visit to a Thai restaurant before turning in.

    Having to check out at 10am (why is it so early everywhere here!?!) we headed to Quake City, the museum dedicated to Christchurch’s history with Earthquakes. In particular it covers the tragedy of 2011 where 185 died, 7,000 were injured and huge amounts of damage was done to buildings and infrastructure. There are video testimonials and images of the post quake destruction. There are also examples of how the city has, and continues to, rebuild itself using new technology, creativity and community spirit.

    On the walk back to the hotel we couldn’t resist a go on the Dance O Mat. $2 buys you 30 minutes of power and lights to plug in your music and dance on the dance floor under the disco ball 🕺🏻💃🏻

    You can really see all around how this city is adapting to the threat of further quakes and regenerating into a vibrant place. All in all quite a cool place but a little quiet people wise compared to others places we’ve been. whether it’s due to emigrating population or the holidays coming up I do not know..
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  • Day252

    Melbourne

    December 15, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    So.. almost 6 months later and I finally get around to trying to finalise my blog!

    Melbourne was the number one reason for heading to the other side of the globe. Christmas with the Greenfields was on the cards.

    We first met with Liz who was also over from Guernsey and together we suffered two super scorching days in the city. Graffiti-ed streets, sweaty trams, cool bars and an even cooler (thank goodness for air con) IMAX!

    After enough of the heat we headed out to the Mornington Peninsula to stay with Nat and Mike and the kids. Another few days overlapping with Liz' stay which included a beer tour, lovely lunches and even KANGAROOS!

    Once we said bye to Liz, Christmas was really on its way.

    Father Christmas turned up in Bunnings (Australian B&Q) on a Segway and outside the house in an SES rescue truck. Presents were wrapped, Carols were sung and the temperature rose. So although the day itself was not too hot, we made it to the beach on Christmas!

    After Christmas we were having such a great time that we extended our stay. But more lunches, many wiggle sing alongs and even a drive-in movie later, we finally left to head up the East coast..
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  • Day248

    Queenstown

    December 11, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 63 °F

    Known as the adventure capital of New Zealand and we tried to made the most of it!

    It is set in a completely stunning location on lake Wakatipu, wow views all round!

    Which I saw.. from above..! I’d booked my skydive for the 13th but as I couldn’t sleep just thinking about it, I called and asked to bring it forward. Luckily they had space so off we trundled on the first morning.

    There was lots of waiting. For the briefing, the bus, the group call, the kitting up. And to my horror - by this point a few hours after checking in - the whole thing goes on hold due to weather. All back on I meet Mike, the guy in charge of throwing me out of a plane and landing me safely on the ground. He is cool as a cucumber and clearly smells my fear trying to put me at ease whilst ensuring i know how to act like a banana.

    “Change of plan” says Mike whilst we fly above the mountains, “looks like we’re going from 12,000 feet”. I had booked 9,000 feet... But with little choice I watch as the others start falling out. It is like they are whisked away from the plane and that is EXACTLY how it feels! Even now I’m finding it hard to recall and explain it.. The wind hits so hard you can’t breathe, you are falling through the air and then you are suspended by the parachute, twisting and turning until you land. It is brief and terrifying and amazing and NUTS!

    Definitely glad I got through the fear to do it but not sure I’ll be rushing to do it again 😳

    As I hadn’t had any lunch we visited the famous “Fergburger” that everyone who had been to Queenstown had recommended and wasn’t it worth the queue, delicious burgers washed down with a couple of - much needed - beers.

    The next day we headed out to Shotover River to ride on the jet boat. It does 360 turns and travels up to 90kmph.. more adrenaline but a lot more manageable for my poor heart!

    After visiting the “Fergbakery” and picking up a pie for lunch, we headed up on the gondola and a further chair lift up to the Luge track. It’s basically a downhill kart track with an incredible view over Queenstown and the Lake.

    Then back down to groundlevel and a round of frisbee golf.. which we were pretty bad at but had a laugh anyway. And to finish off our Ferg-feast, we visited “Mrs Ferg” for an icecream, much needed with the sun shining ☀️
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  • Day247

    Finally to Milford Sound

    December 10, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 82 °F

    We didn’t think we would make it here due to time restrictions. However having hot footed it down the West Coast and a cancelled excursion (more below) we managed to get there.. although it felt at times that someone didn’t want us to!

    I twisted Stuart’s arm to take the scenic (long) route from Westport to Greymouth, and I was so glad that I did! Windy roads snaked around the wild and wonderful coastline. Cloudless sky soon turned to a moody lord of the rings backdrop. We could see the rain sheeting towards us.

    When we arrived at the campsite near Franz Josef, where we intended to do a Heli-hike to see the glacier, we couldn’t see the kitchen let alone the mountains.

    The next morning brought no improvement so heli-hike cancelled we saw a window of opportunity to reach Milford Sound.

    Stopping at Bruce’s Bay for a coffee and photo-opp a man approached and told us of a mudslide down the road. The cheery coffee girl said it was a usual occurrence and should be cleared in no time.

    3 muslides and a 4 hour wait later - spent having lunch at a salmon farm (only cafe en route) with 2 nice ladies from New York (they had no choice as they were the only seats free) - we were on our way.

    Getting late we stopped at a Department of Conservation campsite next to the beautiful Lake Wanaka, despite Stuart’s protests. It had no facilities and no phone signal. “It’s cheap” I said.. “there’s no phone signal” he said.. “it’ll be fun” I said.. “there’s no phone signal” he said.. “it’ll be an adventure” I said.. “there’s no phone signal” he said..
    Roll on the next morning and the van won’t start “there’s no phone signal” he said..

    Cue a 45 minute walk to get phone signal, a ride hitched from a kind Austrian Ski instructor and an hours wait for the AA.

    All pumped up on the ‘adventure’, Stuart said “screw it, We’re going to Milford Sound!” And off we drove as fast - not very - as the van could carry us. The drive was
    Incredible! Valleys filled with wild flowers, lakes, creeks, snow covered mountains and more waterfalls than you could shake a stick at!

    Arriving at Milford Sound into more pouring rain, we camped for the night before going on a boat tour. Best boat tour ever! We saw seals, visited a floating underwater observatory, got soaked under a waterfall and even got a free picnic!

    Then we drove back up not stopping, as we dared not.. just in case!
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  • Day243

    To the South Island

    December 6, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 72 °F

    Hereby missing out most of the week we spent in the North Island.. On to the South!

    You see I figure if I don’t catch up before I leave New Zealand, I may never get round to this at all, never mind actually remember what we did!

    We got the InterIslander ferry to Picton from Wellington. We could have spent much more time in the North Island as it really shouldn’t be underestimated, especially the beaches (Papamoa - had a lovely swim there), the lakes (huge glittering Taupo) and even a waterfall (near Mount Ruapeho).

    When the boat heads to Picton it navigates through the Marlborough Sound “an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys at the north end of the South Island of New Zealand” thanks Wikipedia! It looks amazing, dramatic and not quite entirely unlike Norway.

    In Picton we didn’t do much except for having our first fish and chips.. which were wildly eclipsed by the ones we had the following night at Mapua. We drove past vineyard after vineyard to get to said Mapua but didn’t stop as the argument as to who would be the “designated driver” could have ended our marriage 😆

    Arriving in Mapua we were a little underwhelmed by the campsite. A bit quiet as it’s still just before their peak season. We toyed with a wine and cycling tour but as I’m a bit of a lightweight and stuart can’t read a map it may not have ended well so settled for a mini tasting in a local bar.

    Aware of our limited time we decided to leave the next day and head quite a bit further south.
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  • Day242

    Kuala Lumpur part 2

    December 5, 2017 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 79 °F

    Arriving at the plush lobby of the Shangri-la Hotel in KL, they were happy to check us in even though it could have been no later than 9am. From start to finish it has been a fabulous experience. The hotel is gorgeous, the staff are very accommodating and no-one has made us feel any less than 5* even though we definitely look more 2*!! Hence it was not really an issue to spend the whole first day here. Relaxing, eating and swimming in the pool with the view of the KL tower. Our room had a view over the sky scrapers opposite that is quite impressive at night.

    The breakfast choice was just incredible. I have never seen so many options. The proximity of China and India was clear with extensive Chinese and Indian choices for the breakfast buffet. The Malaysian/Chinese Nyonya curry was a favourite of mine. There were samosas, Chinese tarts, salmon, all types of eggs, pastries, pizza, salads, pasta and even icecream and TWO chocolate fountains. No surprise then that we didn't eat lunch once whilst we were here!

    Twice we visited the nearby Jalan Alor. It is a street filled with food stalls and restaurants for Malay, Chinese and Thai cuisine amongst others. We had some great street food and tried to ensure we tried some Malaysian dishes. A favourite being Mee Goreng - a noodle dish. The place was packed with locals and tourists alike so we were glad to find a seat. The place was packed, noisy and smelly - both good with the variety of food being cooked fresh and bad with the smell of the Durian fruit.. a local fruit that smells so awful in its natural form that it is banned from most places - including our hotel!

    As some of you will be aware, it was my 35th birthday whilst we were staying at the hotel. Admittedly I had read that the hotel may do something similar - good old trip advisor - so I was desperately hoping that I too would be the recipient of a treat. And once again the hotel did not disappoint a chocolate - my favourite! - birthday cake was brought to the room. It was delicious and I was delighted!
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  • Day240

    Hobbiton

    December 3, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 73 °F

    Again missing chunks (apologies!) before I run out of data, I move swiftly on to our journey to Middle Earth!

    We met on a bright sunny day with my uncle Peter and his friend Andy. They had been before but we gatecrashed this, their second trip, and what a day to do it. I’ve never seen greener countryside. The place is immaculately kept and the tour was great.

    Finishing off with a feast fit for a hobbit we ate as much as we could before leaving to make our way to Rotorua.

    The only way I can describe it is IT SMELLS.
    So being that I was with three chaps I really thought how rude that one of them was farting away in the company of the nice couple who we were staying with that night. It was only after a while that I connected the smells and remembered that we were in a place famed for its thermal pools..
    Which do stink!

    On advice from the couple we sacked off the suspiciously timed well known geyser (which goes off at 10.15 on the dot each morning ..) and visited the, free,
    park across the road instead. Misty pools and boiling mud, it was quite otherwordly too!

    We then headed to Amaze.me, a circular hedge maze which stuart and Andy quickly beat me to the middle of! Once we had played the supersized games on offer and I had also lost at checkers we went our separate ways.

    Good weather, company and fun!
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  • Day237

    Hahei

    November 30, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 64 °F

    So.. for those of you who have been waiting with baited breath and thinking “where are they!?!”.. well we are not in Hahei! But we were.. a couple of weeks ago.

    Briefly I have learnt here in New Zealand that the WiFi and phone signal are naff but otherwise the place is blooming gorgeous!

    I must I’m afraid miss chunks out but I’ll start with Hahei, which is an immaculate sandy beach on the Coromandel Peninsula.

    We drove almost directly here from Auckland, where our overnight stay was fun catching up with and meeting some new Auckland based friends. The drive was windy and incredibly scenic.

    On arrival we kayaked with Brad - our instructor/barista - and some other couples around to Cathedral Cove. It’s a bay where there is a stunning natural arch. Where we stopped for cappuccinos and cookies.

    The sun was shining, the sea was fresh and my arms felt like they were going to fall off. We learnt about the marine reserve and the first discoverers to NZ and revelled in the stunning scenery.

    Tired out we managed the nearest campsite which was beachside and from our camper we could hear the sea as we fell asleep.
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