A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand - South Island (Part One)

Spectacular Adventure

sunny 13 °C

Having taken a quick look around Picton on our arrival on the South island, although very quaint we decided to drive immediately South West to Nelson as we had a packed schedule planned for our tour of the South island and we were eager to make progress. Having arrived at our campsite in darkness, the next morning we found Nelson to be a lovely town with busy shopping streets, many arts and craft shops & cafes and a laid back atmosphere. From our guide book we had learnt that Nelson is the sunniest place in New Zealand, with over 2,500 hours of annual sunshine, so rather sceptical we arrived expecting Manchester drizzle and were pleasantly surprised by indeed, lovely sunny warm weather. After enjoying exploring Nelson we set off again in the direction of Greymouth. On route we stopped at Murchison to walk across New Zealand's longest swing bridge, which crosses a river gorge. Christchurch aftershocks were being felt across the South island that day and this was certainly in mind as we made our way across the swing bridge as quickly as we dared - stopping only for photo's to prove we'd done it!! We then completed a short nature walk on the other side of the river, which had a sign showing how high the floods had been a few years earlier - a sign which was above our heads and we were at the top of the river gorge - unbelievable to think that waters had been flowing this high when we could see how low the water was at the bottom of the valley when we were there. The remains of wrecked machinery in the surrounding area proving how much damage had been caused by the floods. After completing the loop walk we had to tackle the swing bridge once again to get back. We drove on to Greymouth and stayed at a rather bizarre campervan site that doubled as a car sales pitch at the back of a petrol station.
We did not spend much time in Greymouth, as the reason for us staying there was to have access to drive to Arthur's Pass the next morning. The road to Arthur's Pass was very steep and windy and very slow going at times. However the spectacular mountain scenery on route made it worthwhile as we travelled on a road on the edges of the national park. The Transalpine Train Railyway line runs along this route - named in the top 10 most scenic railyways in the world, albeit due to track damage further to the earthquake it was not running that day. We stopped at a couple of 'scenic lookouts' for photo's and saw for the first time 'Kea' birds, a bird that is apparently unique to the South island of New Zealand - that were very searching aggressively for food. They were on top of vehicles as soon as they pulled up and trying to find a way in through any open windows etc.
Arthur's pass was a small mountain village with a couple of restaurants and a shop. There were signs up warning of the potential damage that may have been caused to the surrounding trekking routes by the Christchurch earthquake and aftershocks. In particular avalanche warnings were very high. With this in mind we grabbed some lunch and after several photographs we headed back towards the West coast and on to our next destination - 'Hokitika'.
Hokitika was previously mined extensively for gold....until it ran out that is and it is now a small town famous for selling crafts. In particular it is famous for its Greenstone or Jade and there are opportunities to see how the stone is turned into decorative jewellery and furnishings in the craftshop workshops. We visited the Jade factory reading the amusing signs such as 'please don't feed our machine operators' and worked our way through the viewing areas and chatted to a craftsman who clearly loved his job! The Hokitika locals were very friendly and relaxed, the town was very nice and the sunny weather and beach views even better.
We drove South to Franz Josef Glacier, once again enjoying fantastic scenery on route. We found a campsite which was set in the rainforest and had character in abundance. Happy hour in the log cabin style bar was very well received by Chris and the open fire enjoyed equally so by Nic. The bar was the busiest we have seen in New Zealand and packed with young backpackers. In the bar with the youngest population we have been in so far we met an Australian 'Queensland' couple who were in there forties, also travelling New Zealand and they were a real pair of characters. Rex challenged Chris to pool and heckled anyone not from Australia in the process, particularly local Kiwi's and a Scottish bloke who was wearing a kilt, fairplay! Rex informed us that he had been 'heli-hunting' earlier in the day, apparently given a machine gun mid-air to try and shoot some game from a great height - although luckily for the wildlife he had been unsuccessful! It's hard to believe that random people can go up in a helicopter with a machine gun however he did say that it's not legal and it cost him 800 bucks! Meanwhile his partner informed Nic that she was going to do the big bungee jump in Queenstown naked - as it's free to do it naked! Chris entered a game of Killer pool in which there were 22 starters and he finished 5th just outside the prize places - one of which was a 'big swing bungee' so it was probably for the best not to have won it!
The next day we went on a walk to see the Franz Josef Glacier, passing signs marking where the glacier had been in the not so distant past and with explainations how the glacier is moving. We walked across a huge barren river bed, where the river Waiho appeared merely a trickle when we first saw the valley from distance. However, up close it was clear that the river was much bigger than a mere trickle. We crossed the river on giant boulders acting as stepping stones and followed markers to the base of the glacier passing waterfalls and boulder mountains on route. It was an awesome sight, an immense mass of ice stretching in volume from the top of the mountains all the way down to the river bed at the bottom of the valley. We were lucky as the weather had been sunny on the approach and as we reached it and after spending some time enjoying the scenery and taking photo's we started to return along the same path and the weather changed in an instant. Dark clouds rolled over the mountains and heavy rainfall gave us a good soaking as we walked back, ducking 'just in case' whenever we saw a helicopter above!

Posted by NicChris 23:08 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - North Island (Part Two)

Unexpected

all seasons in one day 18 °C

We stopped for the night in Whatoro, Trouson Kauri Park at a campsite where we met a young German couple 'Tim and Lena' who have just finished College in Hannover and were travelling through NZ for 6 months. Via campsite kitchen conversation and after Tim requested to use our already used washing up water (the type of request you only ever receive in a campsite kitchen!) we exchanged some 'places to go' as we had each driven up opposite coasts and Tim seemed to have completed his school studies on NZ based on his extensive knowledge so we happly took a copy of his 'places to go' in South island!

On Tuesday we set off for a long drive South through Dargaville, Ruawai, Wellsworth, Warkworth, Auckland, Hamilton, Cambridge, Tirau to our target destination Rotorua. Rotorua is famous for it's geothermal activity with it sitting on the edge of some of the most concentrated and awesome volcanic areas in the world. As you get closer to Rotorua you can smell a sulphuric aroma that gave us a prelude to the geothermal sights that were to be seen in the area. We saw steaming gardens and roadside grids on the approach which during the dusk light looked pretty eerie. A third of the population of the area is Mauri, the highest percentage of any city in the country so we were also intent of learning more about the culture whilst in Rotorua. We found a campsite that was close to the town centre and that had geothermal pools that were free for residents to use. Nic took a quick look at the pools on arrival and said hello to an elderly chap who was in one of them. We were struggling to decide whether to head straight for the hot baths for a soak, but decided to take advantage of being able to walk into a town after dinner and therefore to delay our soak until the next morning. As Nic started to arrange dinner in the van, Chris went over to do some washing up in the campsite kitchen. A teacher from a local school was in the kitchen as she was preparing food for the hockey team she was supervising. Midway through Chris's washing up a lad of around 15/16 burst in to the kitchen crying and frieking out. It became clear that an old chap had drowned in the pool, further to a suspect heart attack or stroke and that the kids had got in the pool with him had at first thought that he was holding his breath. Too many people were already at the scene, including his elderly wife, a group of school kids and half the campsite - and despite the CPR efforts of the sports teachers from the school - and the Ambulance staff that followed it would appear from the arrival of police we saw later in the evening as we were walking into the town, the somber mood of other campers and 'closed' pools at the campsite the next morning that the old chap didn't make it. On a brighter note the centre of Rotorua was very nice, with very scenic lakeside views, restaurants, shops & bars. We popped into a bar with an 'open mic' night and were surprised at the quality of a couple of acts and of course horrified by one chap who did his best to ruin a couple of classics.

The next day in Rotorua we visited Te Puia based in a Geothermal Valley where we saw the Pohutu Geyser erupting upto a height of around 20 meters, mudpools bubbling away at temperatures of around 95C. The geothermal activity is amazing to see, but also a stark reminder of the power of nature - as you marvel at the geysers and mudpools you cannot help also wonder what might happen at any time. Chris was witnessing geothermal activities and remembering all that his Geography teacher Mr.Barber had taught him a long time ago. The site also encompassed the Maori Cultural Exhibition which included a traditional Mauri welcoming ceremony and entrance to a Mauri village hall and a live performance of a variety of their musical and ceremonial customs. During a visit we also got to see two Kiwi birds, very interesting looking bird/mammals! The New Zealand Arts and Crafts institute is also on site which takes a number of new students each year for full time courses and here we saw traditional Mauri weaving (Women only) and carving (Men only) taking place. Afterwards we purchased a souvenir carving and are hoping that it is going to survive it's postal journey to the UK.....

In the evening we drove to Taupo, another lakeside town that is very popular with New Zealander holidaymakers in the Summer. It was absolutely freezing when we got there, however we could see that it would make a great Summer resort. The next morning we drove to nearby tourist attraction 'Huka falls' and went on a walking trail which followed the river and included sights such as the lookout for the waterfalls and forest wildlife.

After spending some time window shopping in Taupo we set off in our van to 'Art Deco Napier', a small and picturesque city in Hawkes Bay (winemaking region). In 1931 a huge earthquake destroyed Napier, hence the town acts as a shrine to the 1930's Art Deco Era. Nic enjoyed visiting the dedicated Art Deco clothes shops but resisted buying anything...just!

On Friday morning we visited the Port area - fantastic views and then walked around the town centre. In the afternoon we went to a classic sheepskins tannery and enjoyed a free factory tour where we learnt how they prepare sheepskins and produce the items they sell. Our tour guide was keen to highlight that the sheepkins were a by-product of the meat industry. After our factory tour and dragging Nic out before she committed to buying anything, we headed to the local swimming baths and enjoyed hot tubs in the sun with beach views.

We woke the next morning to the terrible news headlines of a big earthquake having occurred on the South island in the Christchurch region. Originally defined as 7.4 on the richter scale, it was later reduced to 7.1 and being the largest earthquake to occur in New Zealand in the last century - it had caused a lot of damage to buildings in Christchurch and had left many familes homeless. It had occurred at 4:35am the majority of people in the area had escaped from their beds without injuries - with no deaths reported. Some buildings that had been packed with people enjoying a Friday night out few hours earlier had been destroyed, so it appears that the timing was as good as it could be. Images of roads and rails with major damage were fast circulating - and thousands were without power or water supplies. We are due to return our campervan to Christchurch in three weeks time so we will have to see what happens between now and then.
We continued with our plans for the day as the North Island had not been affected and visited two Winerys in Napier, the first was the oldest in NZ - founded in 1851. This place had to recover from a fire in 1929 and just after it was re-built it was demolished by the Napier earthquake in 1931. Thankfully it was again rebuilt and we enjoyed the ornate building and vast vinyards - very picturesque. The free wine tasting was very enjoyable, more so for Nic as Chris was driving. Later, Chris popped into a British Car Museum that has been set up by an old Kiwi chap and which contains a wide variety of makes and models and in total more than 360 cars in a huge hanger - excellent but also very bizarre as it was clearly one man's dream and the 'museum' was very 'home-made'. We then set off South in the direction of Windy Wellington, and due to taking the wrong road route by mistake we passed a place with the longest name: 'Taumata­whakatangihanga­koauau­o­tamatea­turi­pukakapiki­maunga­horo­nuku­pokai­whenua­kitanatahu' - what is that all about?!
We headed for the most central (Wellington) campsite on our map which turned out to be a motel carpark with campervan facilities. It was already late evening so after a quick turnaround we took a public bus into the centre of Wellington to see what a Saturday night round Wellington was made of! The centre was very lively and as the guide books had suggested - there were many groups of drunken revellers - some of them already suffering the affects of 'early starts', particularly on the 'Courtney Place' street. We had cooked in the van for over a week and based on our late arrival we decided to allow ourselves a treat and popped into a restaurant for dinner which was buzzing with locals enjoying a social Saturday evening and several 'happy birthday' singing tables. We followed this with a drink in very nice Irish bar in the lively Cuba Street and enjoyed the live band music before taking the last bus back.
The next morning we saw Wellington by day and due to the very windy and cloudy weather we opted for indoor attractions, starting with the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa. Amongst Mauri, Geographical and Historic displays, there were also descriptive displays of the earth quake protectors that the building had been built on. It was possible to go under the building to see these and learn how they work. We learnt that they will protect the building from some quakes, but massive quakes will still destroy it. Wellington is above a major fault line (not that you would realise this when you see the many glass fronted high rise buildings in the CBD) and with specialists forecasting that Wellington is due a big quake being communicated via local media - locals were fast panic buying 'survival kits' from supermarkets - for example, shelves with bottled water aisle was emptied as people stocked up. The weather wasn't great during our time in Wellington - however we could see that the city has great potential - compact but having everything a city needs to make it a great place including some lovely architecture.

On Monday we took the 3 hour ferry from Wellington, saying goodbye for now to the North Island and hello to the South Island at Picton.

Posted by NicChris 03:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - North Island (Part One)

Awesome Scenery

sunny 16 °C

New Zealand - North Island Part One

We arrived in Auckland through low cloud and to 'Manchester like' weather. Further to stringent immigration and customs checks we escaped from the airport and headed to the camper van depot. We got a 'Wanderer' backpacker van - which is much bigger than the campervan we had in Australia and provides us with some space to live in as we travel. Although it was already evening by the time we left Auckland with the van we decided to head North to make some immediate progress - as we will see Auckland city centre at the end of our New Zealand trip. The driving was much more intense than in Australia - as the majority of roads we encountered in the North of the North Island were having very steep gradients and extremely windy which meant much concentration was required especially as the van is much bigger.

We arrived in the small town of Ruakaka at just gone 11pm and having only seen signs of life in one of the two pubs we passed (Friday night!!), we found a campsite that looked well closed for the evening. As we were about to park and sleep in the car park outside it, the owners came out and let us in to the site - explaining grumpily that campers should be on site by 7pm in NZ.
We started to set-up the van for the night and only experienced one problem - we could not get the electricity to work to power the heater, fridge, microwave etc. After several checks we gave up and went to bed, having decided to check the electrics in the morning with the help of some daylight. Although it's Winter here in NZ it was not too cold at night (in the North of the North Island anyway) and with double duvets we managed to sleep soundly. Next day Chris got the campsite manager to check his electrics and it confirmed that our van's electrics were faulty. The site management were fantastic in helping us contact our campervan assistance and several hours (and an auto electrician visit) later the problem was identified (dodgy wire connection) and fixed and we were able to continue with our travel plans.

Further to the electrical delays earlier in the day we continued to travel North, stopping for supplies on route - as we had learnt that we were heading into more and more remote parts of North NZ. Once again we found ourselves driving some of the most 'scenic' roads in darkness. The steep and windy nature of the roads result in it taking much longer to travel what look like small distances in KM. We arrived in a place called Oakura and found the campsite that was listed on the map... only to find it closed down with no campers on site.
Not sure whether to re-trace our tracks (as there were no more campsites showing on the map) or to continue we decided to continue. We came to another campsite only to find that it had closed down and was 'for sale'. We continued into more and more remote territory and then spotted a sign by the road that said 'backpackers'. We pulled in to a pitch dark lane and arrived at a farm building containing trail motorbikes being prepared in a garage by a couple of bikers. They turned out to be father and son, and the father was the farmer who runs the farm. It turned out that the farm contained dairy farming, horse riding stables, a large farmhouse and buildings containing a backpacker hostel and games rooms.

The farmer was called Mike and was really friendly. He directed us to a parking area for our van and then took us to the farmhouse kitchen and backpacker lounge area and introduced us to his wife, 6 kids!, farm workers (travellers working on the farm in return for free board) and other guests (trail bike enthusiasts and travellers). Even the dogs and cat were friendly in this place. His wife showed us around and the place was much bigger than we had first assumed, with guests enjoying table tennis in one of the games rooms and others enjoying dinner and red wine in the kitchen - including a French chap who'd arrived a week earlier and was working on the farm.
Mike turned out to be a great bloke, loved a chat and went out of his way to accomodate us. He explained that he was planning to focus on improving his camper van facilities as the number of backpackers has reduced and vans are passing but not stopping and was intent on finding out what we needed as customers to make this happen, hence the many questions we received. The scenic rural views we awoke to in bright sunshine the next morning were spectacular and this was the cheapest campsite price we experienced in North Island by some margin.

On the Sunday we continued our journey along the coast roads of Whangaruru Harbour and Taupiri Bay to the Bay of Islands, stopping in 'Russell' a scenic coastal town where we visited a Museum and learned about the history of Mauri-European contact in the area and saw the oldest wooden church in NZ. We then took a 10 minute car ferry over to Paihia and stayed at a campsite right next to Haruru Falls. Harura waterfalls were surrounded by conservation areas and trecking paths so we enjoyed a walk before dusk and a quite evening as we had the whole campsite to ourselves, with it being the end of Winter/start of Spring in NZ it is out of holiday season for most.

The next day we drove to nearby Keri Keri, a pretty town and explored the centre, primarily taking advantage of their supermarket to stock the campervan up with supplies.
We hit the road again around midday and pulled over on the main street in a small town called Kaikohe an hour or so later for lunch. Kaikohe didn't look a very nice place - the shops were run down and the locals were as chavvy as we had seen so far in NZ. As we sat down for lunch in the back of our van a couple of local scallies approached our van yielding golf clubs raised behind their shoulders with menace, before one said to the other - "oh no they're in it" and both lowered their clubs and disappeared down a side street. Needless to say, we moved on from here rather quickly!
Our afternoon driving brought us to Hokianga Harbour where we stopped and viewed spectacular coastal scenery including sand hills/Arai-te-uru rr, before continuing our drive through Waima forest, Parataiko Range and the Waipoua Forest where we stopped and took a short walk to see the Giant Kauri Trees that are over 1000 years old and the biggest of them all 'Tane Mahuta' - a beast of a tree that was so big it was difficult to photograph - and is known to the local people as 'Lord of the Forest'.

Posted by NicChris 16:38 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Sydney

Sensational

sunny 19 °C

We arrived in Sydney on a warm sunny Winter morning and after dumping our bags in the hostel we headed out, walking along the coast and side of the botanic gardens to the 'main attraction'. As we rounded a corner we could see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge dominate the skyline in front of us. After stopping for photo's and several views of Australia's most photgraphed landmarks we headed over to 'The Rocks' area of the city and `wandered through the weekend market before stopping to relax and enjoy a couple of beers at Sydney's oldest pub - the Fortune of War (1828), a very original bar with much character.
On Sunday we explored more of the City before taking a bus to Bondi beach and walked the coastline looking at the high numbers of surfers that were enjoying the waves.
Monday morning we were up early and off to Sydney Fish market which had many types of fresh fish, some so fresh that they were still moving! Next on our agenda was Darling Harbour where we walked through the modern developments and ascended an old light house next to the Maritime Museum. In the afternoon we popped into the Art Gallery which had some Aboriginal exhibits before we walked through the Botanic Gardens and saw huge numbers of Flying foxes sleeping, suspended from tree branches.
On Tuesday we took a ferry to Manly and feeling energetic we embarked on a 10KM scenic walk which was superb. A mixture of coastline, rocky steep trails, bushland and high lookout points, we again saw dolphins swimming in a bay. On returning to Sydney we stopped for a beer at a rooftop bar above a pub and enjoyed great views of Sydney at dusk as Flying Foxes flew over as darkness descended - a very spooky sight!
On Wednesday we walked over the Sydney Harbour bridge (footpath - not the climb which was unfortunately out of our budget), grabbed some lunch in Kirribilli, then headed to the Bohemian Glebe area and walked through shops and cafes, before stopping for a hot chocolate and photographs with local star 'Clive' the Bulldog.
Thursday and our last day in Sydney we took a wander around Paddy's market near Darling Harbour - a large indoor market selling allsorts - before taking a bus to Balmain, which was similar to Glebe in having many cafes, restaurants and boutiques but somehow it felt more upmarket and less 'alternative'. Sydney is a fabulous city, we really enjoyed our time here!

Posted by NicChris 19:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Brisbane

Brilliant Brisbane

sunny 21 °C

We returned our 'Space Ship' campervan - our home and transport for the previous 3 weeks and then took a bus into the heart of Brisbane city. After wandering around the central business district and seeing some of Brisbane's most famous landmarks, we jumped aboard a Citycat river cruise boat which gave us great views of the city.
Having picked up a free Brisbane evening newspaper I was surprised to read an article relating to a burglary in Altrincham, UK where Chris's house is. 3 motorbikes had been stolen and as the thieves were not wearing helmets Greater Manchester Police force had apparently been told they could not pursue the offenders / stolen motorbikes based on health and safety grounds and had instead let them ride off with them. Aussie's are clearly having a good laugh at the UK's ridiculous policies and rightly so!

In the evening we made our way to the 'West End' area of the City and to a typical Queenslander house, the home of Lorraine - a friend of Nicola's friend and ex colleague Glenda. Lorraine had very kindly invited us to stay with her whilst we were in Brisbane and even more kindly had cooked us dinner. Lorraine has travelled extensively and we spent a very enjoyable evening trading China & Japan stories. Lorraine's house is stunning, maintained with it's tradition in mind and furnished with many of her travelling souvenirs.
The next day we visited the Brisbane Museum which had excellent exhibits relating to Australian explorers Burke and Wills and Aboriginal history and culture. After a couple of hours in the museum we walked over Victoria bridge to the botanical gardens and wandered around the trails through bamboo gardens down to the Mangrove Boardwalk on the riverside. We then made our way to the Fortitude Valley area of the city where local music acts play live in bars each night (Noel Gallagher had apparently graced one) to check out the local music scene. The bars were offering 'steak & chips' for $5 which was pulling in many diners in the hour before the music gigs were to commence. To put the food price into perspective, a beer was around $8......
We made our way back over to Lorraine's house later in the evening and sat down to relax and watch TV - the first time in 7 weeks we have been able to do so. Australian TV seems to be full of the same trash as the UK, with 'property auction', followed by 'Farmer wants a wife', followed by 'embarrasing bodies'. Midway through watching TV, a large spider decided to join us and move at pace around the lounge, up and across the walls. The word 'arachnophobia' was defined with Chris in mind and therefore Nic took up the challenge of capturing the beast. Lorraine returned from her evening out to a trapped spider in her house and two (one very) frieked out guests. Lorraine informed us that the spider was a Huntsman type and although very big (and fast) it was not poisonous - even though they can bite humans 'if provoked'!
As we calmed down from our eight legged visitation, the TV by this stage had moved onto 'embarrasing bodies' which just so happened to be based in Newcastle, UK and focused on overweight men's problems performing in the bedroom with graphic images to ensure clear explanation. This provided an interesting topic of conversation for us all to have on the second night of knowing each other - although it did distract from the spiders!
Thankfully our bed had a mosquito net which was implemented to help protect us from any wildlife and allow sleep that night!

Thurs night we went for a barbecue with Lorraine at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane, by the riverside watching boats pass by and the rock climbers who were energetically climbing the floodlit cliff face (a result of extensive quarrying years ago) as we relaxed and enjoyed our barbecue food and wine.
On Friday we walked around the South Bank area of Brisbane which has been developed on the former World Expo site and includes a Cultural Centre, a large 'eye' Wheel, an artificial beach and bathing area next to the river and many bars and restaurants. On Friday evening Lorraine drove us to Mount Cout-tha for a spectacular view of Brisbane city at dusk, then for a drink and live music in a converted power house in the trendy 'New Farm' area of the city and then back to the West End where Lorraine lives and to her favourite Greek restaurant which was excellent and despite it being Winter we ate outside - albeit with the support of a heater. Lorraine shared all of her local knowledge on Brisbane with us and ensured that we had a fantastic time in Brisbane - seeing and experiencing places that we would not have found on our own, Thank you very much Lorraine for inviting us to stay with you and being such a wonderful host.

Posted by NicChris 20:08 Archived in Australia Tagged lodging Comments (0)

Surfers Paradise

'Paradise' is mis-leading!

sunny 23 °C

On route back up to Surfer's Paradise we stopped briefly in Mullumbimby, Tweed Heads and Coolangatta and visited the Captain Cook Memorial near to Danger point - which is a good name for the sheer cliff face and rocky bay with waves smashing in around the cove.

Sadly Surfer's Paradise is no longer what it once was. It's now best described as Australia's version of Benidorm! High rise holiday accomodation blocks dominate the skyline and bars & clubs dominate the 'centre'. The area has 'meter maids' which were introduced by a major several decades ago, who would look for cars with number plates from other regions of Australia and put money in the meter for them. The town wanted to penalise locals for parking but not put off the tourists. The meter maids are dressed like they are entering a Miss Universe competition - which was amusing when they were sat scoffing a 'Hungry Jacks' (Burger King), wearing gold bikini's, yellow sashes...looking more like they were entering a 'Miss.Blackpool' contest!
The beach is still very nice (if you look out to sea and not inland) and despite the spolit/over commercialisation of the centre, to be fair the streets were immaculately clean and the local council is spending on improvements in the area. It's just a long way from our favourite places that we've visited so far.....

Posted by NicChris 19:58 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Byron Bay

Hippie Heaven

sunny 24 °C

Another lovely beach with a never ending surfable coastline. The town is very laid back with many new age hippies (and in particular the older locals who had clearly stayed much longer than their intended weekend away back in the 1960's). If you don't have a classic VW Beetle with a surf board on the roof then you're just not in the Byron Bay club.

We enjoyed live music at a converted railyway station pub - with the band looking like they had been together for many a decade... The locals were up dancing in front of the stage - some of them clearly on another planet, whilst we enjoyed a few beers 'people watching'.

Nic enroled for a surf lesson on the Saturday afternoon with a very laid-back Aussie fella who had been running his surf business for over 16 years and was keen to share his stories although thankfully saving the shark ones until after the surf lesson. Nic managed to stand a couple of times and keep up for 40+ meters so the free surf lesson the next day was out the picture. Nic was keen to keep surfing but was quickly persuaded to head back inland when her instructor mentioned that as dusk approached, the BullSharks (nocturnal) would be waking up and looking for their next feed!

On Sunday morning we cooked ourselves a 'full english breakfast' at the campsite kitchen before walking it off on our coastal walk to Cape Byron and the most easterly part of Austrailia. This included a climb to the Light house via 'Captain Cook's lookout', for great views of Byron Bay - with six Dolphins clearly visible in the bay below.

Posted by NicChris 19:50 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lennox Head

Laid back!

sunny

After a great day out at the zoo we drove South and through the concrete jungle of Surfers Paradise. We managed again to get the last place at a campsite alongside the beach. The next morning Chris spotted a BIG spider sat in it's equally huge web outside the campite bathrooms - it certainly ensured there were no queues in the toilets!
We drove further South to 'Lennox Head' - a smaller and quieter alternative to it's noisy neighbour 'Byron Bay'. After a BBQ lunch we enjoyed a long walk in the sun down '7 mile beach'.

Posted by NicChris 01:10 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Maroochydore, Caloundra and Beerwah (Austrialia Zoo)

Croc's Rule!!

overcast 20 °C

After a night of heavy rain and this looking to continue into the next day - we drove to Maroochydore and Caloundra - and stopped to watch surfers enjoying the high waves that the bad weather was causing. We stayed at a free roadside campsite close to Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo. We arrived at the zoo for the opening and had a fantastic day at a very interactive zoo - which included us feeding elephants & kangaroo's and having the obligatory tourist photograph with Nic holding a smelly Koala. The zoo is very much focused on the long term protection of the species that it has and is keen for Steve Irwin's mission to be fulfilled in his memory. The Tigers being played with by their keepers was amazing to witness as they leapt into a heated pool chasing toys - as was the 'keeper chasing crocodile' which seemed to get far too close for comfort! You could not walk around the snake area without thinking of Steve and his crazy antics 'look at this little fella'!

Posted by NicChris 01:08 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Noosa

Didsbury with Palm Trees!

sunny 22 °C

We drove down the coast to Noosa which we can best describe as 'Didsbury in the sun & on the beach'. Very hip and the coolest town/area we have visited so far in Australia.We enjoyed a fantastic coastal walk in the sunny weather, encountering wild Koala's - doing what they do best and sleeping up trees. We also saw whales in the sea and a fantastic beach from a sheer rock face. We attempted to cook outside that evening but the wind picked up - an early warning that a storm was blowing in and the weather was about to change

Posted by NicChris 01:07 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Rainbow Beach

Beach Beach Beach!!!

sunny 23 °C

Rainbow beach, is a very small coastal hamlet. We managed to get the last place in the car park/camp site of a local hostel before heading into the 'centre' which didn't have much going on for a Saturday night - indeed the hostels were the liveliest bars. The next morning we walked along the wide and long beach, popular with surf dudes and which was open to 4 wheel drive vehicles accessing Fraser Island and other beaches.

Posted by NicChris 01:04 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Hervey Bay

Whale Watching Wonderland

sunny 22 °C

Drove from Rockhampton to Hervey Bay and stayed at the local YHA campsite. Really funky place which had a cheap bar & 'very happy hour.' We cycled down Hervey Bay esplanade enjoying the beach views in the warm Winter sunshine. With a $20 first prize Nic didn't take long to enter the Wii ten pin bowling competition where she started well with a couple of strikes before finishing last!

On the Saturday morning we went on a Humpback whale watching boat trip - along the side of Frazer Island. We had heard that it was the optimum time of year to see the whales migrate to warmer waters along the East Coast of Australia - and we weren't disappointed - seeing the first pod of whales early into the trip. We cruised from pod to pod in search of the most active whales and couldn't believe how close we got to the whales and how many we saw - the guide on the boat provided much information about the whales and the crew knew exactly where to position the boat to get the best views. Unfortunately the batteries of our cameras ran out before the closest encounters - however this did allow us to fully enjoy the spectacular viewing. On the return trip to Hervey Bay we had the added bonus of passing Dolphins - fantastic!

Posted by NicChris 01:01 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Rockhampton

"Rocky!"

sunny 26 °C

We drove to Rockhampton and got into a campsite which was literally at the side of a river with a warning sign stating that croc's live on and around the banks! The site we were designated just so happened to be right on the banks (we did hear a few rustlings in the undergrowth but didn't see any snappers). In the local pub we were told that a couple of local nutta's had recently tried to swim between the two river bridges and that the croc's had enjoyed their swim more than they did... as the croc's got them and they have never been seem since although he also told us that the Brits were doing well in the cricket)!
One hidden danger of campsites is that the old fella's all seem to like talking to Chris and simply going to the local tap can be a time consuming task with old chaps wanting to talk about travelling, England, Australia, wildlife, camper vans etc. Rockhampton centre was a fairly dull, mundane place and we quickly got out of there after one night.

Posted by NicChris 04:30 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Yepoon

Amazing Beach

sunny 26 °C

We decided to stop in Yepoon on the way to Rockhampton. We stopped in another caravan park dominated with 'grey nomads' as the locals call them. The retired population of South Australia travel up North for better weather during the Australian Winter and hence the caravan parks are packed with OAPs.
The camp site was right next to the beach and we woke to a bright sunny morning and took a walk down the wide sandy beach. Yepoon was very scenic and we enjoyed our stay here.

Posted by NicChris 04:29 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays

Lively Launchpad to Idealic Islands

sunny 27 °C

After our nocturnal brush with the local authorities the night before, on arriving in Airlie Beach we decided to find a campsite to park the van and sleep. Having checked in we spent a pleasant couple of days around the Lagoon, sunbathing and swimming for the first time on our travels.

On the third day we went on a trip to the Whitsunday Islands - with 'Ocean Rafting' which was fantastic! These speed boats were originally designed and used as life boats and were a very fast and exhilarating way to get to and around the Whitsunday riding the crest of the waves and at times taking off a little and landing heavily back on to the water. On our arrival at a cove of Hook Island we snorkeled and saw many colourful small fish. Next we moved to another cove - only 5 minutes sail away and the crew informed us that 'Albert' lived in this cove. Albert turned out to be a huge fish - as a big as an adult human and sure enough within a minute of arriving Albert was swimming beneath the boat. We snorkeled with Albert and saw many of his siblings and mates, Nemos and many bigger fish than the first cove.
Next the boat stopped on an island and we went on a short 'bush walk' to a summit with fantastic views of the island, coves and water (the 4th most photograghed sight in OZ). After many photo's we returned to the boat and on the way we saw a Komodo Dragon in front of us on the path. Much rather see that than a monster spider or snake!

Posted by NicChris 04:27 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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