Posted in New Zealand, Travel

The heart of NZ – Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook and Wanaka

Lake Tekapo

We’ve bought ourselves a guidebook, Rob’s made a play list, there’s pretty much only one road in NZ so we shouldn’t get lost, I think we’re ready, time to start the New Zealand road trip! Our first destination is Lake Tekapo. Only about 2 and a half hours from Christchurch, with a few stops along the way to make sure Susie didn’t over do it. The views along the way were amazing, huge rolling hills kept Lake Tekapo hidden until right at the last minute, what a sight! We were camping right next to it as well. We’d opted for a campsite with showers and a kitchen for our first night, got to enjoy the luxuries whilst we can because we’ll soon be making do with an empty field a drop loo. We set up camp, got out our flash new camping chairs and took in the view. Think we’re going to like New Zealand!


We went for a walk round the Lake edge and into town, honestly you can’t get over how blue the lake is, it practically sparkles. The Church of the good Sheppard provided a nice photo op before we picked up some supplies and headed back to the tent. In Australia some nights I wouldn’t even get my sleeping bag out the car, it was just too hot, definitely don’t think I’ll be having that problem this time round though. As soon as the sun set it was FREEZING. Joggers, jumper, socks and hat was just about enough to see us through the night but boy was my nose cold when we woke up.


We set the alarms nice and early so we could watch sunrise over the lake but the clouds were so thick we didn’t even realise when it finally rose! Back to the site we needed a bowl of porridge and $2 hot shower to thaw out enough to tackle the day. After that we took on the Mount John walk, a nice 3 hour loop along the lake and then up to the observatories. This part of New Zealand has some of the darkest skies in the world so makes for a good place to stick a few observatories, unfortunately entry into one was about $200 so we’ll just have to make do with admiring them from the outside. The top of the hill did give a cracking view over the lake though.

Sunrise was much more exciting before the sun rose
Top of Mount John, bit cloudy to see stars anyway!

With the rest of the day we went for a drive, saw some more cool views and chilled out by the lake. When the sun finally came out it was a scorcher of a day, warm enough to make us want to try a dip in the lake. Now the lake water is so blue because it’s melted straight off the glaciers, which are ice, which are very cold. Even when I dipped my toe in it took my breath away, but after 5 minutes of umm-ing and aah-ing I was shown up by a 5 year old kid so decided to take the plunge. Think my dip lasted all of 2 minutes but I did it and we even jumped in off the pontoon, head under and everything!


Mount Cook

After another bitter night’s sleep it was time to say goodbye to Tekapo and head on in search of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mount Cook. The first half of the drive was painless, the second half Susie decided she wasn’t fixed after all and started coughing and spluttering, a little poking around under the bonnet seemed to do the job but it’s only day 3 of the road trip, not ideal! Our campsite for the night was a field at the bottom of the mountains run by the council, you pop some money in an envelope, put it in the box with your reg on it and you’re good to go. Basic but good, they even had flushing toilets!

The sky was one big grey cloud when we arrived and we’d been warned that some people go to visit and never even see Mount Cook but by the time we’d had some lunch the blue skies were out and the sun was shining! We took the 3 hour Hooker Valley hike across the swing bridges and through the mountains until we reached the Hooker Lake, what a view. The grey glacier lake sits right in front of Mount Cook itself. Even though Mount Cook is the tallest at 12,000ft there’s about 20 other mountains in the same range that are over 10,000ft so they’re all pretty impressive.


After our hike we were feeling hungry so we took the hour walk into town to grab supplies ( we’re very reluctant to use the car unless we absolutely have to), turns out there isn’t actually much of a town. There’s no shops, no petrol stations, no pubs, just a few hotels, a school and a youth hostel. The hostel did have it’s own version of a shop, basically some reject tins of soup and some meat in the freezer. After living the previous day on a vegetarian diet (rice and beans, we’re on a budget!) we were determined to have some meat so we picked up some suspicious looking sausages and took the risk. They made a damn tasty tea actually, we cooked them up with beans and eggy bread, what a feast!



Because we were camping in a field there were no annoying campsite lights to ruin the stars and what a sky it was! Rob finally got his star picture! He’s been trying to figure it out since we started travelling but he’s finally cracked it, that’s his evenings sorted from here on out.


It was another bitter morning, too cold to even get undressed so we chucked everything in the boot and hit the road in our pj’s. We stopped via the 600 stair climb to the Tasman glacier, New Zealand’s longest glacier. With it being the middle of a kiwi summer the Tasman lake was pretty melty and only a few blocks of ice were left, but you could see the start of the Tasman glacier in the distance where it had carved through the mountains. We took another stop at Lake Pukaki and then hit the road on to Wanaka!



About 2 and a half hours from Mount Cook is the lake side town of Wanaka, we decided to treat ourselves to a campsite with showers again and pitched up at the Lake outlet campsite for a couple of nights. Once we were clean and fed we went to explore Wanaka. We found the most amazing vineyard perched on top of the hill over looking Wanaka and better yet they did free samples. We got to learn about and taste 6 of their most famous wines. I even drank some red and didn’t find it disgusting, travelling has changed me! We took a stroll round the gardens after it, honestly you can’t get enough of the view, it was amazing!
 Wanaka is such a pretty town, it’s set right on the Lake front which was absolutely buzzing with people taking a dip, I was still traumatized from my Lake Tekapo swim so decided to give it a miss! We wandered around the town for a while before heading back to the campsite to try and top up our tans by our lake front.dsc_0240

Finally we got a night warm enough to sleep all the way through! We planned to take a hike up to the Rob Roy glacier but soon found out that the whole track there was a gravel road, after a bit of quick maths we realised that averaging 10km an hour with 30km left to go was a bit of a waste of time so we settled on climbing Roy’s peak instead, much closer to town. We were oblivious to the sign on the way up that suggested it was around 6-7 hours return trip so we set out with our one bottle of water and a biscuit each. It was a bloody tough hike too, luckily we weren’t quite as slow as the sign suggested and we made it to the peak in 2 and a half hours. Our legs were in tatters by the top, fitbit reckons we’ve climbed 450 flights of stairs, not bad for a Saturday afternoon! The views at the top were worth it though, we could see across the whole lake right to the glaciers and it looked beautiful! After staggering back down the hill that was us done for the day, we had achey legs and I had the world’s biggest blister to now look after, a hot shower (heaven) some tea and we were ready for bed. Off to Queenstown in the morning to try our hand at some down hill go kart racing!


Posted in New Zealand, Travel

Welcome to New Zealand! – Christchurch.

After some slight issues in the airport including a major bag repack to get under 32kg (yep we’ve acquired a lot of stuff), we made the 3 hour flight to Christchurch. Time to see what New Zealand has to offer! Lucky for us, Alisha, my childhood friend, had moved to NZ when she was 10 and even though I’d only seen her once in the last 13 years we’d been in touch and she offered us her spare room and a lift from the airport, what a belter. She also offered us a free salsa lesson! Times have definitely changed since we were 10, neither of us could dance then, turns out only one of us can dance now! Alisha teaches a beginners salsa class every Wednesday so me, Rod, Alisha’s boyfriend Steve and her mum and dad, Diane and Andy all went along. My coordination is not good at the best of times but add some music, give me Rod as a partner and ask me to count to 8 without saying 4 and it was a bit of a disaster. Good fun though! We all went for a post dance pint to commemorate our first salsa experience had a good chinwag, so nice to catch up with everyone, it’s like they never left!

Diane showing us how it’s done

Both Alisha and Steve are real grownups with jobs as teachers so whilst they were out educating the young minds of New Zealand me and Rob went car shopping. We need some way of getting round the country and campervan rental fees are a bit out of our price range. We had an unsuccessful day scouring the local car dealers, note to self, never trust a car salesman. On our second day of looking we found Susie the Suzuki, great car, low mileage, enough room to sleep in the boot and the guy was flying out the country the next day so we got her for a bargain. Or so we thought. Life lesson to be learned here, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Even though it drove like a dream on the test drive come the next day it was stalling, juttering and altogether acting like a pile of crap. How convenient that they guy we bought it off had left the country and was unreachable! Never buy a car off a backpacker! Took us 4 trips to the mechanic and almost half as many dollars as the car cost us but they finally found the problem and it only took a bit of super glue to fix it, typical!

Mongo was about as impressed as us with our car fiasco

When we weren’t at the mechanics we spent our time exploring Christchurch. It’s still in a bad way from the 2011 and last year’s earthquakes. We went on a free walking tour round the city and learnt about all the damage and work to rebuild. The old cathedral had been ruined but they’ve made a pretty cool replacement out of cardboard, sturdier than you’d think as well! Parts of the city are beautiful like the botanical gardens and the park, and other parts are still pretty ruined like you’d expect after a major earthquake.

With all the last minute car selling in Australia we’d only been able to give poor Alisha 2 days notice before we rocked up in Christchurch so we couldn’t blame her for already having plans for the week, Steve had already arranged a nice romantic Valentine’s night out for them both on the Saturday but they were kind enough to let us crash it! We started our night with a punt down the river Avon through the botanical gardens and back again. Next up was a meal at the rather fancy Curators house, it overlooked the gardens and the food was top notch. After that we headed to Hagley Park to look round the Chinese lantern festival, any animal you can think of they’d turned into a paper lantern, impressive! We finished the night off with a stop at SoYo for a desert of frozen yoghurt. Good work Steve!


Sunday we all went for a drive about an hour outside of Christchurch to the seaside town of Akaroa. The weather wasn’t exactly on our side so the beautiful view over the bay that Akaroa is famous for was actually just one big grey cloud for us! Still it was a lovely town to have a walk round, we stopped for the world famous fish and chips, I even tried the fish and didn’t spit it out, must have been good! We spent a few hours looking round the town and walking the harbour and then headed home, Diane and Andy were cooking us Sunday dinner! Definitely one of the things I’ve missed most whilst travelling is a good old fashioned family Sunday dinner. We got to try our first New Zealand lamb and had all the trimmings, we even had pavlova for desert, so good! Felt right at home!

Our last day in Christchurch was spent gathering all the gear we’ll need to live out of our car for the next couple of months! Tent, airbed, pots, pans, gas cooker, we even treated ourselves to camping chairs, we’re going to be camping like royalty. We were treated to a home cooked meal by Alisha and then we had just enough time to go round and use Diane and Andy’s spa, good way to finish off the week!


Posted in Australia, Travel

The final leg! Up to Cairns and back to Brisbane

Despite the fact that everyone we met thought we were crazy for heading north at this time of the year we pushed on up the coast line. The next stop was Airlie Beach, gateway to the Whitsundays. On a scale of 1-10 the level of fun camping in monsoon season is a solid 1, setting up a wet and muddy tent in 35 degrees and solid rain isn’t up there on my top 10 Australia experiences but we persevered. The campsite itself was lovely and the only advantage of it being rainy season meant we had it almost to ourselves. We spent plenty of time in the pool, it seemed like the best place to be in the rain, at least my hair was already wet. Airlie beach is a pleasant town, we were a decent walk from the main action but it made a nice run route along the boardwalk.


When the rain hadn’t stopped by the second day we realised Whitsundays would be wasted on us, the beach with the whitest sands wouldn’t have been quite as impressive on a grey stormy day so we decided to give it a miss. Still we didn’t want to waste our trip here so me and Rob set off to see what else Airlie beach had to offer. With good rain comes good waterfalls so we checked out Conway national park’s waterfall and then visited one of the quieter beaches. It gave us some lovely views of the closer of the Whitsunday islands, bit too rainy to sunbathe but we had a nice walk and some good ice cream.


The original plan was to keep heading north until Cairns where we could sell the car but the further up the coast we got the more we realised there would probably be no one up there to sell it to. And to be honest we were all a bit over the camping in a hot wet tent so we made the decision to go up north for a visit and then bomb it back down south to civilisation and sunshine in Brisbane! But first we had a sky dive to attend on mission beach so we booked a hotel and headed up north. Due to the lack of sun a town with its main attraction being a beach wasn’t that exciting so we decided to head up to Cairns the day before the sky dive. It was only a couple of hours up the road and it gave us chance to see the backpacker capital of the north. We had a mooch round the local Rusty’s market and browsed the pier with the huge pool over looking the sea. There was also the slightly strange sight of thousands of bats lining the main street down to the sea, pretty weird at 12 in the afternoon. After a few hours exploring the torrential rain came back so we called it a day and headed home.


Anyway the main reason we’d gone to mission beach is because it’s supposedly one of the best places in the world to sky dive and that was my Christmas present off a very generous mum! We were up and waiting for the van at 6:30 and then after a very nervous wait of weather watching we were given the all clear at 8:15. We were harnessed up, introduced to our sky divers and loaded into a van to make the 30 minute drive to the airfield. After that everything happened very quickly, the van was parked we were loaded into the plane and up in the air all within about 2 minutes, smoothest take off of my life I might add. The plane was a tiny thing with a corrugated door that they kept sliding right up to show off the view. Just as I thought we were nearing jump level my sky diver Graham informed us all that we weren’t even half way up yet, a very scary thought! I was definitely a little bit nervous, we were told to watch the lights, when it goes red we had to put the glasses on, when it goes amber they were going to open the door and when it went green that was time to jump. I think I was just about putting my glasses on when the first girl was thrown out the door, 2 seconds later I saw Rob go flying out and before I even had time to think about it I was being hurled out the plane at 14,000ft, crazy! I honestly don’t remember that much about the free fall, just remember thinking that my bingo wings were doing an awful lot of flapping about in the wind! After about 30 seconds of freefall the parachute was out and I could finally breathe again, what an amazing experience! We then had about 5 minutes floating about the skies and admiring mission beach and the surrounding ocean. Follow that up with a textbook landing with my butt not even touching the sand and I think that’s probably 10 of the best minutes of my life. Bring on the next sky dive!


We got a free brekkie as part of the deal and then we got to relive the jump with our very own high definition video! Safe to say my jumping out a plane face is not one of my best! After that Soph and James picked up up and we were lucky enough to spot a wild cassowary running across the road! These are some of the weirdest birds I’ve ever seen, it’s like an emu cross bred with a turkey. Pretty cool to see one in the wild considering they’re only found in Australia and numbers are dying out now. We weren’t quick enough to get a picture but pulled one off google so you can see how weird they are for yourselves.


Our final north Queensland stop was in the town of Townsville. We were enjoying our new found life of luxury so we booked another motel with a nice big family room for us all to sleep in. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but Rob has the weirdest sleeping habits ever, he’ll shout weird stuff in his sleep and wander round the room making noises so poor Soph got the shock of her life when she woke up in the middle of the night and Rob was sat up eyes open unmoving. This isn’t the first time he’s scared our fellow travellers either, poor Rach and Steve pooped their pants when they heard Rob unzipping their tent door in the middle of the night, it’s only because he woke me up I managed to put him back to bed. Think I could write a whole blog post about Rob’s weird night time adventures but I’ll save that for another day, his most recent one though is he’s trying to get out of the tent to get outside because he wants to do magic, I mean why else? Anyway after a sleepless night for Soph we spent our first morning in Townsville watching the superbowl! The local rugby club was showing it and the boys managed to get us to sit through all 3 hours of it, good job there was a decent half time show to see us through!

Not the world’s biggest crowd for the super bowl

That superbowl pretty much wasted our full morning but we took advantage of the afternoon by checking out the free pool and topping up our tans. It was HOT in Townsville, but every town that’s not directly on the coast seems to have huge free swimming areas for everyone to use, all fully life guarded with shower facilities and all! Definitely an appeal to the Ozzie way of life.  Other notable things in Townsville; a real nice hill that everyone seems to run up, a nice boardwalk along the sea front and there’s some decent tennis courts that no one seems to work at before 10, free tennis yay!



From Townsville it was time to chase the sun and head back south. We were about 18 hours from Brisbane so some stops were needed, we managed to get a solid 9 hours done the first day and found ourselves back in the campsite in Rockhampton that we stayed at on the way up. We rocked up at 7 ish, built a tent, ate and then slept. We did manage to squeeze a game of table tennis in with the owner, Rod, in the morning. That resulted in me and the original ‘Rod’ getting job offers to work at the campsite or any other on the east coast, if only we’d met him sooner! We’ve got his number though so you never know! After that we loaded the tent back up and were back on the road again! Next stop, back to Bundaberg!


We’d only passed through for the rum on the way up so we’d missed out on anything else but a return trip south gave us the perfect opportunity to go check it out! Just on the coast from Bundaberg is a little spot called Mon Repos which happens to have the largest nesting colony of turtles in Australia, and lucky for us they have a conservation centre that will take you on the beach to watch the little turtles take their first swim! We got to the centre at 6:30 but seen as nobody knows when a turtle is going to show up it wasn’t until 10:30 that we were ushered onto the beach. Such an amazing experience to see the tiny turtles digging up from the sand and then making a bid for freedom towards the ocean. Sadly this year had been super hot so a lot of the turtles hadn’t made it and from about 120 eggs in the nest we were watching only 20 made it out. They’ve got a tough life ahead as well, supposedly only one in a thousand makes it to adulthood! We got to form a tunnel and shine the flashlights on the ground to help them find their way and then after a bit of a struggle they all headed out to join the East Australian current, good luck little fellas!


The weather was much better now we were further down south so we had chance to chill out and clean the tent up a bit. We also had to sort out the important bits like a service for the car so we could get it sold but we still had time to have a walk around Bargara and me and Rob can always find time for a spot of tennis! Think we’ll have to take it up full time back home!


Seen as we’d missed out on the Great Barrier reef up north we were determined to go see it from Bundaberg so we booked on a tour to take us to Lady Musgrave island, one of the furthest south parts of the GBR. The tour had been cancelled for the last few days due to the weather but how bad can a choppy sea be eh? Turns out very bad. We were on a pretty fancy boat, with enough room for over a hundred people but we still felt every single wave! James was the only one who didn’t look white as a ghost, the rest of us were popping sea sickness pills like there was no tomorrow but mine was too little too late. I spent most of the boat journey either lying on the deck of the boat or chucking up in the loo! I’ve never known sea sickness like it, 2 of the worst hours of my life!


As soon as we moored up I felt a million times better, 2 of the worst hours of my life were then followed up with 5 of the best hours! We jumped on a glass bottom boat and sailed over to the island, we were lucky enough to see about 5 turtles and even a shark! Then once on the island we had a wander through the forest, that bit was less fun as there were hundreds of birds threatening to poop on you any minute, Sophie was lucky enough to get shit on twice! After exploring the island we were back on the boat for lunch, I was starving after losing all my breakfast! Then it was time to snorkel! That was the highlight of the day, the coral was beautiful and the fish were so colourful, we even got to swim with a turtle! Amazing! We had a couple of hours paddling around and then it was all aboard for a return journey home. This time I took my seasickness tablet at the right time and it did the world of good! It was like I was born for the sea on the way home! Me and Soph spent the whole journey home riding the waves on top deck and spotting marine life. We had missed so much on the way in! We saw turtles, dolphins, manta-rays, a shark and even sea snakes! What a way to end the road trip.


The last thing left to do on our Ozzie road trip was to sell the car. We stayed with Garry and Christine again whilst we got ourselves sorted and listed everything on gumtree. Rob even got to go out for a day of golf as Gary’s partner, I’ve seen that boy play crazy golf so I didn’t have high expectations but apparently he didn’t make too much of a fool of himself! Whilst he was busy at that me and Soph took Christine to watch 50 shades darker, she loved it! We also got to go see some rugby league Ozzie style and had a lovely day in the sun watching Melbourne storm take down the Kiwis. We weren’t having much luck with the car and by this time we were itching to get to New Zealand to start the next leg of the journey but Christine came to the rescue and found us a buyer; her own daughter! She got a great price, we got rid of the car everyone was happy! We shifted the tent, boxing gear and tennis rackets in Brisbane. Sold the car on the Tuesday, and the flights were booked to New Zealand for the next day, quick turnaround! We’ve had the most amazing time in Australia, almost 7 months all in but we’re definitely ready for a change of scenery, New Zealand come at us!



Posted in Australia

Surfs up – Bundaberg to Cape Hilsborough

After leaving Rainbow beach we passed through to the town of Bundaberg, home to Australia’s finest rum. Not much of a rum drinker myself so I let Rob and Sophie enjoy the tour whilst I went for a wander. Checked out the local park and ended up in the world’s smallest museum watching a bloke make a barrel. Turns out Rob and Soph’s tour was a bit more interesting, he had managed to become a rum expert and proceeded to tell us all about the different types for the next few hours. They also got 2 free glasses of rum each, my museum definitely didn’t offer that! But luckily I got talking to the only non-drinker to go to a rum museum who kindly offered me her drinks, belting.


Our next stop up the East coast was a little town called 1770, turns out its main selling point is that it has numbers for a town name, other than that there’s not a whole lot going on, it is right next door to a lovely little town called Agnes Waters so that’s where we spent most of our time. Our visit coincided with every Australian’s favourite public holiday ‘Australia Day’, a day where Ozzies literally cover themselves in head to toe flags to celebrate being Australian. The shops were kitted out with every sort of Australian merchandise you could imagine in the weeks leading up to this day; flags, hats, dresses, bikinis and even Australian skin suits. Honestly there’s no way you’d get away with it in England, it would be immediately branded as racist and shut done, but in Australia? They give you a day off work and tell you to get drunk and go wild! We found ourselves having a few bevvies at the campsite and then heading down to the local bowls club to enjoy the party. To be honest there wasn’t much of a party, the average age in Agnes waters is over 60 but we did find out bowls clubs have the cheapest booze in Australia and had a jolly old time playing a few rounds of bowls.


The other claim to fame of 1770 is that it has the cheapest surf lessons on the East coast, $17 for 3 hours, absolute bargain! After a lot of drinking sea water and face planting the waves I managed to  ride a wave in! Four waves in fact! To Rob’s credit he was actually quite good at the old surfing thing and picked up the basics pretty easily, unfortunately for him though he’d stabbed himself with a knife the day before (don’t ask) and once his plaster came off his surfing dreams were over. Surfing is definitely not as easy as it looks but it was so much fun and not a bad workout! We even got knock off pizza at the end of the class!


Filled with confidence from the day of surfing we decided the next day to go rogue and hire our own surf board. It was Soph’s birthday so we started the day off ignoring the tents highly flammable nature and lit up a cake and then we headed to the beach surf board in arms. Turns out we were tricked into thinking we could surf the day before with an extremely buoyant surf board but in reality those wooden things are not as easy. If I thought I drank a lot of sea water the day before it was a splash compared to the next day. After a lot of being whacked about by the waves and a few sand scratches up the body it was time to call it a day, not destined to be a surfer after all.
From 1770 we headed up the coast and on to Rockhampton, Australia’s beef capital of the world! Apparently they have more cows here than anywhere else! Soph and James have a slightly healthier budget than us so they headed out for a fancy steak whilst we hit the butchers and chucked ours on the Barbie.  Needs must. We spent the next day in Rocky running round the local gardens, driving up to Mount Archer national park and then having ice cream whilst checking out Rockhampton’s free zoo. Surprisingly nice place with a pretty botanical garden, they do love a good botanical garden over here, don’t think we’ve been to one town without one!



Our visit to Rocky clashed with both the men’s and the women’s Australian open finals, held in our ex home town of Melbourne. Luckily the camp kitchen was well equipped with a TV so me and Rod settled down with an old French couple and watched Federer take the title, good lad Feds.


So unbeknown to us the worst time to travel the east coast happens to be January and February, and the more north we were getting the more we were starting to understand. It probably wouldn’t be as much of a problem if our accommodation was something a bit more substantial than a tent but eh well we were determined to keep going. We packed up a wet tent in Rockhampton and drove up a wet highway till we got to Mackay. The rain absolutely hammered us but we attempted to explore, we ended up in a shopping centre freezing to death as the air con cooled our soggy selves down. That was enough of Mackay, didn’t look great anyway!

Even though we were in the eye of a storm we’d chosen this night to check out one of the more basic campsites on offer, for a $5 fee per person we could camp like real explorers! Our home for the night was in Cape Hilsborough, right on the beach front. For the bargain price of $20 we got ourselves a nice soggy patch of mud and access to the long drop toilets, lovely. The area itself was beautiful, the rain held off for a couple of hours which let us have a walk round the beach and up to Cape Hilsborough itself. We were the only people there so it was nice to have our own private beach. The weather can switch in seconds over here, but it waited till we’d set up our hob and plates up on the outside bench before unleashing more rain than I even thought possible. After that it was warming beans up in bed for a quick fix tea before saying our prayers and hoping we’d still be there in the morning. The rain didn’t stop all night, add a strobe light of lightening and thunder banging about every 2 minutes and we didn’t get much sleep. We did have a midnight wander down to the beach to watch the storm over the sea, impressive sight to behold!


Posted in Australia, Travel, Uncategorized

City lights and a sand island. Brisbane – Fraser

You can’t go to the biggest city in Queensland and camp so we’d decided we’d treat ourselves to a nice city apartment in Brisbane. It had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom with a bath!! Luxury. Sadly because we’d needed an extra day to do the Mt Warning climb we only had 2 nights in the city but we managed to get a lot done. Me and Rod had a nice stroll around the river in the afternoon and then we made the most of having a living room and got to spend the evening sat on a couch instead of a picnic bench!


We had to make the most of our limited time in Brisbane so I joined the city commuters and was up for a run at 6. Found a lovely route that hugged the river through the botanical gardens and over Eagle point pier before crossing the Story Bridge back to Kangaroo point. Rob somehow managed to blag 2 free days at the local gym so that kept him busy whilst I was out. After our early bout of exercise we went to meet our old pal Kelly who we met in Thailand. Was lovely to see her and we enjoyed a nice spot of brunch on the Kangaroo cliffs.


Literally had the worlds busiest afternoon after that, Brisbane has got a free bike system which gives you 30 minutes at a time to cruise around town. We picked up a couple of bikes and headed out to explore. We cruised down Southbank and got to see Brisbane’s city beach, it makes up for being 20 minutes away from the sea by having a man made beach overlooking the city. After that we hit the modern art museum, very quirky place. Then we headed over one of Brisbane’s many bridges and made our way through the shops in the city, looked like any other shopping street in any other city but nice enough.


After that we headed out of the centre and up into the Roma Parklands, enjoyed ourselves too much in the park and went over our 30 minute cycle allowance, cost us 2 dollars each for our tardiness! We checked out China town after that, not much to see there, a few Chinese lanterns but not a dumpling in site. We stopped for a pint in an Irish bar to refresh and then last stop was the New Farm park for a mooch round the gardens. We docked up the bikes and then jumped on the free ferry back up stream to our apartment. Enjoyed our tour of Brisbane very much, it’s got a nice city feel, better than Sydney but still not a patch on our home town Melbourne!



Soph has some family up in the Sunshine coast and they’d said we were welcome to stay so we said goodbye to Brisbane and headed up the coast to Moffat Beach. Christine and Gary were absolute legends and they happen to have an amazing house about 2 minutes from the beach which meant no more tent for another few days! Both are born and bred Wiganers so it was like home from home. They treated us to the most amazing paella at their local restaurant on the first night, I could tell we’d like it here!



Even though we’re on a permanent holiday Gary and Christine still had to work so whilst they went off to earn some dollar we all took a day trip to Australia Zoo – the Steve Irwin zoo!! Absolutely loved Stevo growing up so I was so excited to be finally going to his zoo, didn’t disappoint either! Saw the usual animals and we got to see all the Ozzie specials, lots of kangaroos as standard but also Tasmanian devils, Echidnas, Dingoes and a Cassawray which is essentially an emu sized Turkey. Obviously it wouldn’t be Steve Irwin’s zoo if it didn’t have crocs so there was plenty of them and we even got to see them take down some meat in the Croccy show in the Crocoseum.


Had a chilled out evening with Gary back at the gaff, he sharpened his darts and chalked up his pool sticks so we played a few games through the evening. We found out that Christine was in a Ukulele band that by chance was playing in Moffatt beach the next day, we couldn’t miss that so we decided we’d stay another night. Nothing too wild on the Friday night though because me and Rob had found a local park run for the Saturday. We tried to get Soph and James on board but with little success so we headed out without them and joined the runners of Golden Beach park run at 7am. Nice little out and back route along the sea front but rather hot in the muggy heat of Brisbane. We both managed to come in in under 27 minutes, Rob was 15 seconds in front but I let him win obviously.


Christine’s ukulele gig was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, we walked in to a huge room absolutely ram packed with ukulele players. Reckon there was over 150 people there with the average age being 70 (and that’s being generous) but they could belt out some tunes. We were lucky enough to go to the Australia day special which meant a lot of songs singing about how great Australians are…very big headed if you ask me. But it was a good laugh and Christine even let James join her table of Uke players for some Ozzie classics.


We made use of having a full working kitchen in the evening and made ourselves an early Sunday roast, meat was cooked on the BBQ though obviously, gotta keep it a bit Australian. The next day was time to say goodbye to Gary and Christine, belting stop over but time to keep moving up the coast, next up Noosa.


Noosa was only an hour up the road from Moffat Beach, but we were reluctant to leave the comfort of a house and head back to the tent so we didn’t leave until late. We stopped off to have a walk around Mooloolaba on the way and then pitched up in Noosa before tea time. We were only giving ourselves one night there so we could make it a bit further up the coast before bank holiday weekend, but we tried to make the most of our time there. We went for an evening stroll along the river and then played a spot of table tennis against a French couple on the campsite.


In the morning me and Rob put the running shoes on and went to explore, there was a river that split the main section of Noosa apart from the Sandy national park, a stretch of coast which only 4 wheel drives could negotiate but we hopped on the ferry as the only 2 foot passengers they’d had all week and crossed over to check it out. Only cost us a dollar return. We went for a run through the national park, spotted a few kangaroos and got stopped by an old bloke in a jeep who couldn’t quite understand why we were on foot on this side of the river, he was determined to give us a lift to somewhere but we explained the concept of running and he let us get on our way. We skirted through someone’s back garden by accident but eventually found the beach, it stretches for about 100km right up to Rainbow beach which was our next stop on the road trip but sadly for us our RAV4 wasn’t quite as 4 wheel drive as we thought so we were going to have to hit the road and take a 3 hour detour there. We ran along the beach for a while, joined back up to the road and saw more dead frogs than I thought possible and then headed back to the campsite with our return ferry tickets ready.


Before we left Noosa we went for a mooch to the more popular part of the national park, no ferry required we parked up and went to explore. Jophie had a bathe in the rockpools and me and Rod went for a wander round the coastal path. We managed to spot a school of dolphins just off the rock and then found a huge monitor lizard in the bush, somewhere in all the excitement Rob managed to lose his very expensive Ray Ban glasses, this is in the same week that he lost his camera tripod and my sunglasses, and he wanders why he can’t have nice things. Anyway after a brisk walk back through the rainforest we loaded in and hit the road again.


Our next destination was Rainbow beach, the gateway to Fraser Island, we’d chosen there over the more popular Hervey Bay to avoid the crowds whilst Australia day was approaching. We’d definitely found the quieter of the two spots, think we were the only people on the whole campsite, kitchen to ourselves though, belting. The town itself was pretty quiet as well, we went on a walk to see the Carlo Sandblow, essentially a lot of sand cutting its way through a forest, impressive sight but pretty much the only thing to see in Rainbow beach.


The reason we were in Rainbow beach was so we could hop over and check out Fraser Island. It’s the largest sand island in the world, made of 98% sand and 2% rock, and it is pretty big, the beach stretches for over 100km. Only 4WD are allowed on the island and seen as Trav the Toyota sometimes struggled going over big speed bumps we thought it was best to leave him behind and let a professional take us round. Our ride was a big pimped up school bus, it fitted about 30 people on it but it was kitted out like a monster truck. It had no issues whizzing over the sand at 100k an hour and it made light work of the dirt tracks across the island. The tour was actually really good, our tour guide knew his stuff and we got free muffins and buffet lunch! In the morning we took a trip up to Lake Mackenzie, literally one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, a fresh water lake on top of the island filled entirely with rain water, and so warm, just like taking a bath.


We saw a few more of Fraser Islands highlights after lunch but ended up spontaneously taking a plane ride over the island as well. I’ve never been good at making decisions under pressure so when two pilots jumped on the bus and told us we only had one chance to go on a flight over the island and it was the cheapest scenic flight on the east coast how could we say no. Apparently one of only 2 places in the world where you can take off and land on a beach (the other happened to be in Scotland, who knew). Pretty special experience, the four of us squeezed into our own tiny plane and took off for a tour over the island, sadly for me I didn’t realise that the headphones I were wearing were broken, they were meant to be providing us with interesting commentary from the pilot, so I have no idea what we learnt but Rob assures me it was lots. The only thing I managed to hear through the whole ride was Sophie’s scream when the pilot let us feel what free falling felt like, it doesn’t feel nice believe it or not, and my dinner almost came right up with it. Back on land we cruised round the island a bit more, had a few more stop offs and then headed back to the ferry, saw our very first wild dingo on the way back too which topped off the day nicely.

Fraser island done, time to head up north for Straya day!

Posted in Australia, Travel

Port Stephens to Mount Warning – the road trip continues

Had a busy couple of weeks since leaving the big blue mountains, changed state now and everything! We’ve squeezed a lot of places in since then, we’re now heading up the coast in Queensland but first stop after the mountains was Port Stephens.

Only had time for a couple of days at Port Stephens but it was a nice stop off. The campsite was nice, set right on the river and complete with pool, table tennis table and volley ball net. Me and Rob managed to make friends with an old Russian couple parked near by, they insisted we came over and had a tour of their campervan, it didn’t take long! They came to the river for a paddle with us and told us their life history too, new best mates for life!



We spent our one day in Port Stephen visiting the brewery (Rob’s idea) and sampling the local beers, then off for a few hours at the beach followed by a walk along the sand dunes. Nice enough town but not much going on, think the best bit was the crazy Russian couple.


We decided to make up a bit of ground the next day and get up to Byron Bay, a solid 8 hour drive meant an early start for us. We were out on the road for 7:30 and heading north. Had  a few stops on the way up, the only notable one was fish and chips at Coffs harbour, other than that it was just lots of driving and lots of road. Managed to get to Byron before 5 though and get the tent pitched up, nice campsite right on the beach, the only problem with that is within 5 mintues sand gets everywhere! We’re still finding it in our suitcases a week later!


Byron is an interesting place, a funky town right on the beach, very hip though, probably a bit too cool for us, people don’t even wear shoes round here and I didn’t see a single person wearing a helmet riding a bike, madness. Soph and James are more fond of a lie in than us so first morning we left them sleeping and headed out for a run to the lighthouse. Bloody hilly! It was a lovely route though, wrapped around the headlands and gave us chance to pick up some surf tips off the early morning crowd. Spent the rest of the day getting burnt on our own private beach and then finished off the evening with a few drinks at the site.

The next day we explored Byron a bit, lots of quirky shops and quirky people. But mainly we stuck to the shade after hitting the sun a bit too hard the day before. Soph and James went for a drive in the evening whilst me and Rod checked out one of the bars for a bevvie and then hit the tennis court up afterwards for an evening game. I’ve got my own racquet now, Serena watch out. The last night in Byron we seemed to be in the eye of the biggest storm I’ve ever seen, so much for Ozzie summer. The thunder was deafening and the lightening lit up the tent, had a very wet tent to pack up in the morning but onwards and upwards.


After leaving Byron we headed inland to a little spot called Nimbin, if we thought Byron was hippie, Nimbin was a whole new world. Big on the green stuff out here, the little town was decorated with hemp signs and colourful buildings. We had a little wander round, checked out the Nimbin hemp museum and stopped for brunch. Probably a good spot to stop and ‘find yourself’ but after an hour we were done and hit the road.


Next stop was Mount Warning, James had heard about it from a friend, apparently if you hike to the top early doors you’ll be the first people in Australia to see sunrise, so we thought it was worth checking out. We’d only planned to stay one night but the rain carried on from the night before so we had to postpone the climb a day. With not much else around Mount Warning but the mountain we headed to the Gold Coast to make the most of our unexpected free day. Luckily the sun was shining on the gold coast so we had a cracker of a day. We checked out the world famous surfers paradise, had a stroll along the sands and stopped for a pie in Mermaid beach.


Also worth checking out was the Lamington national park, we nipped in on the way back to Mt Warning. Had a nice stroll through the forest and got to see the Natural Bridge – a waterfall carved out a whole in a rock, cue Rob and James taking 100 pictures with their fancy cameras.


We’d managed to tire ourselves out enough to be in bed for 9pm. To get to the top of the mountain before sunrise we had to get up at 2:30, very odd having a bowl of cereal at that time but we did it and were off up the mountain at 3:30. It was a tough hike up to the top, it ain’t easy trying to navigate through the pitch black with a 4 dollar head torch and because of the rainfall the night before it was a wet trudge to the top. The views on the way were worth it though, half way to the top we’d climbed above the clouds and the stars were out in force. Took us about 2 hours to get to the top, the last 800m was a sheer rock face that we had to climb using a chain, pretty difficult in the dark! We reached the summit just in time for a huge cloud to block any sign of the sun, fortunately as it started to rise the clouds got a shift on and we got a cracking sunrise show. Worth the early start! We were back down the mountain and packed up for 7, very productive!



Posted in Australia

Road trip begins – beaches mountains and more mountains

Time to do some proper Australian exploring now, our home for the next couple of months is a swanky 2 bedroom tent and we’ll be cruising round in Trav the Toyata. We’re feeling confident after smashing the camping in Uluru, East coast should be a doddle. This time we’re going to be more prepared too, James even has two guide books!! Despite our best intentions though we’d still only got as far as planning the first stop before we hit the road, but who needs to plan when you’ve got google and a four hour drive. First port of call was a quick detour to kmart to pick up the last minute essentials, a sleeping bag and pillows for Soph and James, a football, a tennis racket and a malteaser bunny for me and Rod. Let the road trip begin.


Booked a campsite enroute, first stop Jervis Bay, apparently the home of the whitest sand in the world. We’d sort of underestimated how busy everywhere would be the week after Christmas (the middle of Ozzie summer holidays) so we’d only booked the one night, arrived to find out the site was fully booked for the rest of the week so we’d had to leave by 10 and then it started raining, not the best start. Once the rain had settled Soph and James got their first experience of Ozzie tent building, possibly Soph’s first ever tent building experience, don’t think she’s made for the outdoors. Still she embraced it and we popped the tent up in no time, inflated our airbeds and laid out the sleeping bags, job done. We hadn’t left ourselves much time before sun down but we managed to get a few games of tennis in and a BBQ banquet before we called it a day.


The birds in Australia are worse than any cockerel you can imagine, wild parrots start screaming from about 5 onwards and then the sun comes up and all sleep is over. After breakfast and more tennis we found another camp site about 10 minutes away so we squashed everything back in the car and relocated at the Quiet creek campsite. Definitely a bit more down the basics in this campsite, there were no marked out plots, just gaps in the forest floor where you could squeeze in car and tent. After that was all sorted it was down to the bay to find out what all the fuss was about, Hyams beach for the day, and yep the sand is pretty white, wear your sunglasses white in fact. Had a pretty chilled out day lounging on the beach, playing Frisbee and dipping our toes in the water when we were brave enough, we might be in Australia but the sea is colder than a winter dip on Blackpool beach. Not quite as bad when it’s 30 degrees on land though.


Enjoyed an evening stroll around the campsite in the evening, spotted some wild kangaroos and mooched round by the Lake. An early night needed so we can head down South in the morning in search of Australia’s tallest mountain.


Next on the itinerary we were driving down the Australia’s Snowy mountains, located on the border with Victoria it was quite a drive. Opted for the nice coastal route and stopped off for lunch in Bateman’s Bay then headed inland for the mountains! I’d called ahead to try and book a site on the way down to Jindabyne but the guy on the phone had assured me that we could just turn up no worries, anyways turns out it was actually a devout Christian resort I’d tried to book with a strict alcohol ban so we took one look and carried on driving. Managed to get the last spot in another campsite down the road, we would have to move pitch to the other side of the site for the second day but it was better than nothing. This site was beautiful as well, our pitch was right on the front of Lake Jindabyne surrounded by mountains, perfect. All the campsites in Oz are so well equipped, this one was no different with free wifi, a big camp kitchen with hobs and toasters and plenty of hot showers, makes this camping business easy as. We left Jophie (James + Sophie) to knock up a chilli whilst we went for a run round the lake, such a nice setting for an evening run, it makes me never want to run round Wigan again.


We shuffled the tent to the new site in the morning and then loaded up the water and sarnies ready to conquer the largest mountain in Oz, Mount Kosziosko. Part of the Snowy mountains, the area is a hotspot for skiing in Winter but middle of January the snow is gone and it’s giving 30. The route to the top of the Mountain was a 15 mile, 7 hour round trip with a stop at Blue Lake 3 miles in. My only beef with Australia is the amount of flies here, seriously its an issue. You can’t walk 2 metres without a swarm of flies buzzing round your head and lucky for us it was horse fly season too which means these buggers bite. Took the enjoyment out of the walk a little bit seen as you couldn’t stop still long enough to take a picture without being bitten, but it was still amazing and the views were well worth it. Can’t beat a good walk in the country, me and Rod had raced ahead a little and started our picnic up at the Blue Lake when Soph and James caught up, they didn’t look like they’d had as much fun as us… Apparently Sophie’s Duke of Edinburgh hadn’t prepared her as well as she thought it would so they set off back down the hill to hide from the flies in the car. The blue lake was beautiful but we couldn’t stay long, got a mountain to climb.


We carried on climbing for another hour and were rewarded with spectacular views over the Victoria mountain range, this must be the summit we thought, but nah. We were given a reality check by some fellow walkers who told us we were at the top of a mountain, but not the right one, Mount Kosziosko was still another 8km across the mountain ranges. The hills were less steep from here though so we mixed up the walking with a bit of running so the flies couldn’t catch us. The higher we got the more snow we saw, enough to build a small snow man at one point, not cold enough to put a jumper on though. After another hour or so we hit the path for the summit, belting. 20 minutes up and we’d made it! For about 20 seconds I was the highest person in Australia. Got talking to bloke from Cambodia who surprised everyone on the mountain with an impromptu speech on sharing the love and working together as one world, deep stuff. After we’d been inspired we took off on a run down the mountain, 9km to go and all down hill, back at the car park within an hour, boom. 15 miles hiked in 4 and a half hours, job done. Finished off the evening with a dip in the Lake and then an early bed time, hiking takes it out of you.


Canberra is the next stop on the list, the capital of Oz! Left the mountains behind and headed north, we expected it to get busier as we approached the capital but nope, Canberra has to be one of the quietest places around. Perfect city driving conditions though, not a traffic jam in site. Despite it being Saturday afternoon and us parking in the Canberra central shopping centre there was hardly another soul around, seriously weird. Apparently Canberra is a weekday city, people come in to work and then leave for greener pastures at the weekend. The city was made specifically to be the capital because no one could agree whether Sydney or Melbourne should get the title, it’s conveniently located in the middle of the two cities to avoid arguments but only manages a population of 400,000, less than 10% the population of Sydney. Definitely not what I was expecting. We took a walk through the suburbs and up to the war memorial. Think whoever designed Canberra took inspiration from Washington because it’s got a very DC feel to it despite it being a lot smaller and a lot less impressive. The war memorial was quite impressive though, a huge museum dedicated to Australia’s efforts in the wars, dragged into them all just for being mates with England. We spent a couple of hours in the museum before walking down Australia’s answer to the mall, the Anzac parade.


Would you look at that, just like Washington, there’s capital hill in the distance with some water surrounding it, how very original. The gardens were nice to have a walk round but there really wasn’t all that much else to do. We jumped back in the car and enjoyed a traffic free drive right round the centre of Canberra, I’m sure Canberra is lovely really but 5 hours was all we needed, been there done that, next.


We stopped about an hour outside Canberra for the night, a quaint little town called Goulburn, we’d passed through it with Steve and Rach on the way to Sydney, famous for the worlds largest concrete sheep but obviously seeing this once is just not enough for us! Interesting place is Goulburn, looks like it got stuck in the 70’s, the sort of place where everyone knows everything. Heads turned when we walked in to the hotel to check in, it also appeared to be the local watering hole and the locals were fascinated with us. Me and Soph got a few wolf whistles, how flattering, probably because we’re the only people in Goulburn who still had all our own teeth though. We’d made good time from Canberra so me and Rod went for a run to explore. Found out just how hilly Goulburn was but we also discovered the war memorial look out which had some pretty top views of the town and the surrounds.


We took a little walk around the town in the evening, actually Goulburn is classed as a city but in Australia that just means more than 20 people live there. We found a retro diner for tea, complete with old fashioned leather seating booths. Definitely felt like we’d gone back in time but the food was top notch. For once we didn’t have a tent to pack up in the morning but we had planned to meet the Sydney crew in the blue mountains at 9 so it was another early night for us.


Feels like ages since we’d seen the others but in reality it had only been 6 days, been a busy 6 days though! Not that I didn’t have any faith in our old housemates but punctuality has never been their strong suit but they pulled through and were on a train for 7:30, must be a Christmas miracle! We met them in the mountains just after 10, ditched the car and got exploring. Literally as soon as you leave the main town the road drops away into a huge valley filled with a forest. We spent the day walking down into the valley in search of the waterfalls, managed to find a few streams but no swimming holes. Views were fab though and company was good, the steps to get back out the valley were less fun though. Probably the last time we’ll see the gang before we head home so we had our final emotional farewell and bid them goodbye.


We’d planned ahead this time and booked two nights in the same camp site, no packing the tent up for us in the morning, hooray. With nothing planned for the morning we got to go to bed without setting any alarms! Someone must have forgot to tell the birds we were planning a lie in though because they were screaming above the tent yet again at 6am. We planned a slightly more chilled walk today to let the legs recover but our small walk ended up being longer and harder than we’d all planned. Gave us chance to see some cool Ozzie wildlife up close though, like bad ass spiders and huge water lizard/ dragons. Typical for us, the one day we’d finally got round to washing our clothes and pegging out turned out to be the one day the blue mountains had a surprise thunder storm. The rain started at 3 and ruined any afternoon plans we had, it didn’t finish until we were packing up a rather soggy tent the next morning. Blue mountains done, we stopped for a quick one last photo opportunity at Lincolns rock and then we hit the road again. Got a week or so moving up the coast now before we head into Queensland.