A Travellerspoint blog

Christchurch - Hamner Springs - Westport - Hokitika

It's really cold here

sunny 11 °C

We arrived in Christchurch on Tuesday morning and were picked up by Graham who runs the hostel where we were staying for the night.

We dumped our stuff and set off into town to buy coats and gloves because it is cold here, really cold. I promptly spent $399 on a windproof jacket that will supposedly keep me warm on top of a mountain, best get climbing..... And then another $40 on some gloves seen as I have money to burn, and then we went out to dinner to celebrate!

Wednesday morning, Emma followed suit and bought some similarly expensive coats and jumpers and gloves and then we went off to pick the campervan up.

It's a nice van, silver, with 2 little gas hobs, a fridge, a microwave and a DVD player! His names Dave.

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And we were on the road. As we tootled along we did discuss the merits and the downfalls of renting a campervan in the middle of the New Zealand winter but dismissed all the bad points such as the FREEZING weather and having to run outside to the showers and toilets.

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Our first stop was Hamner Springs, aptly named as it has a thermal spring resort. We found a site, powered up and then went to the pub. We got chatting to some local builders who told us where to go and what to do and also insisted that to have the best time ever in NZ we should buy a fishing rod and do a bit of fishing.... We don't follow all the advice we are given.

That night it was really cold (I'll be saying that a lot I feel). We cooked our dinner in the van, veggie stir fry, and then settled down for the night. We left the heater on but then Emma decided that she wouldn't be able to sleep as it was too noisy, so like a fool, I said OK and we turned it off. That will be the only time that happens. We woke the next morning with blue noses and icicles hanging from the ceiling!

We spent the morning warming up at the springs which were HOT and then made our way over to Westport.

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The scenery here is absolutely stunning. Rolling mountains and deep lakes and the roads are really quiet. It's really nice just driving around, taking it all in at our own pace.

Wesport - we didn't do much here, just a stopping off point. We did buy 2 DVDs and spent the evening watching one of them. ENVY, with Ben Stiller and Jack Black - rubbish!

We then headed down to Punakaiki and stopped off to see the Pancake Rocks and then headed up a 6km dirt road, which said not suitable for campervans, so that we could go for a walk to a cave.

This is where we met Derek and Moira. Derek is English but has been in NZ for the last 40 years and they are both really into caving. Moira had just written a book on it, whilst undergoing treatment for a brain tumour. And they are both in their mid 70s!! Awesome couple! They told us where to go for our walk and when we came back we stopped off for tea and cake with Moira whilst she waited for Derek, who had gone caving.

We then headed for Hokitika. Here we spent the day (whilst it chucked it down outside) designing jade jewellery. I made a piece for my mum. Considering how creative I am it came out quite well!!

We were so cold by the end of the day that we opted to use the free spa pool at our camp ground. A great way to warm up!!

We bought another DVD (A lot like love) which we watched that night after cooking dinner in the site kitchen. It's too much of a squash to do it in the van all the time unless you are 4 foot nothing tall (Emma has no problem standing up!!) The rain continued all through the night but we were warm and toasty with the heater on!!

Next stop Franz Joseph Glacier.

Posted by J9travels 22:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Sydney again

It's getting cold

semi-overcast 19 °C

Just a quickie so all my avid readers can keep track of exactly where I have been and what I did.

After our fantastic Uluru safari we arrived back in Sydney for a week so that Emma could get her Chinese visa sorted.

It was cold in Sydney. It was cold in the backpakers hostel too. So cold that we nearly checked out and went elsewhere. I asked for the heating to be turned on but they didn't have any so they said that they would turn the air-con off instead and that might help. It did and we stayed as we really couldn't afford to leave as they didn't offer refunds and we are poor.

We spent the week meeting up with various people, friends that Emma had made whilst working there and people that we'd met on our travels who were also back in Sydney.

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It was a good week and nice to be back somewhere we knew.

Next stop Christchurch

Posted by J9travels 22:11 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Alice Springs

Uluru, the Olgas and Kings Canyon

sunny 25 °C

We flew to Alice Springs from Cairns as the 2hour flight seemed more appealing than the 3 day drive through the desert.

It was nice and warm when we arrived. We checked into the hostel, sorted our stuff for our trip the next day and then went out to get some dinner. We went back inside immediately to get our jackets cos it was sooooooooo cold. At this point we worried that the campaing safari might have been a bad choice!

We had to get up at 5.30am the next day (shock, horror!) as the bus picked us up at 6am. There were 17 of us on the tour plus our guide Keith. Most of us were Europeans apart from 3 lovely Canadian girls.

We drove for about 5 hours to reach the Ayres Rock Resort (just outside the Ayres Rock National Park). We got there just before lunch so ate there, chicken burgers, not good. Emma was obviously worried that the food was going to be a bit crap but we'd seen a shop at the resort so if things turned bad, there was always Pringles and Mars Bars.

The guide checked that the rock was open to climb and then we went off to climb it or walk around it.

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It really is big!! Apparently 2 thirds of it is underground! Biggest rock in the world! Emma and I had already decided that we wouldn't climb it as the Aboriginal people regard it as sacred and so ask you not to climb it. Also, it looked very steep and very high and the rcokis quite smooth and slippery so not sure I would have been able to climb it anyway, too high and no safety harness!!!! So we did the 9km base walk which was really quite tiring as it was soooo hot. God knows how people do it in the summer when the temp can be around 45 degrees.... There were also loads of flies but luckily I had purchased a fly net to go over my head so I was happy, the others were very jealous!!! Then we met back up with everyone and watched sunset with the other 1000 tourists and had champagne, very nice!!

That night we cooked our food (pasta, salad and steak, much better, Emma was happy) and then sat around the campfire chatting and drinking goon (wine box, $15 for 4 litres, awesome!). It was really cold at night, as soon as the sun goes down the temp really drops. We slept in swags though, to experience the outdoors experience. Swags are big canvas sleeping bags with a mattress in that you put your normal sleeping bag into and then get in and sleep. It was surprisingly warm but I think the few glasses of wine that we had helped us sleep!!!

Up at 5.15am the next day to watch sunrise, another cold morning until the sun came out to warm things up. We then went off to walk the Olgas, a set of domed rocks that are also very sacred so you can only walk around a few. We did a nice walk through and took some pictures, then we went to the Cultural Centre to learn about about Aboriginal history.

In the afternoon we drove over to Kings Canyon, another fairly long drive as you have to go the long way around as there is a big Salt Lake between Uluru and Kings Canyon. We spent the night at Kings Canyon resort and this time Em and I stayed in the little tents that they have there as the swags were a bit dirty and a bit thin and there were big thick matresses in the tents. One night of outdoor sleeping was quite enough for us!

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Another early morning, 5.30am, a quick breakfast and then off to do the big walk thru Kings Canyon. It was really amazing, lovely views all around and very high, just a really spectacular place, and I'd not heard about it before I went so glad it was on the tour.

Then it was another 5 hour drive back to Alice Springs. A great trip, tiring but well worth it. We all met up in the evening for dinner and drinks and didn't get to bed until 2am, not sure how we managed that!!

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Next stop Sydney, again.

Posted by J9travels 21:20 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cairns

overcast 27 °C

A 5 hour bus journey up the coast and we were in Cairns. We had the weirdest bus driver ever who kept talking in different voices and perving over all the girls. It was like he had some sort of split personality but I suppose if you spend your days driving backpackers up and down the East coast, your bound to suffer some side affects. The ride was 5 hours too long and we were all very happy to get off the bus!! We did get to see some hurrican damage too, massive trees uprooted and flung over the roads, it all looked really ravaged.

We liked the look of Cairns from the bus, there were people about and shops and restaurants were open, which is always a good sign.

We checked into our hostel and Emma was a bit upset to notice that the All You Can Eat mexican buffet had finished, so we just had to drink beer and cook pasta.

The next day, Saturday, we went out to explore Cairns a little. Again, not a massive city, I think there's about 250,000 people living here and it survives mainly on tourism. But, it had a nice big shopping centre and there were lots of nice bars and restaurants. The weather was a bit cloudy but still tropically hot. We spent the day window shopping and wandering around.

In the evening, much to Emma's insistance of course, we had the All You Can Eat BBQ buffet at out hostel. All You Can Eat is definitely the way forward and for $8 it was a bargain!!! Emma was very pleased and this time had 2nds and 3rds!!!!

We got chatting to some local Ozzie men who told us that we should rent a car and go inland and up to Cape Tribulation - great idea! We ended up going out clubbing with them and they seemed to 'know people' as we never had to queue at the club door and we even got into the VIP area. Yep, we were cool!

The rest of the week was spent organising the rest of the trip, doing a little window shopping, buying jumpers in preparation for our trip to NZ, eating out and just dossing around really. We swapped hostels to the lovely YHA (just to get Emma away from the All You Can Eat buffet really!!).

We did hire a car for a couple of days. A bright yellow Hyundai Getz! We drove up to Port Douglas and had a look around there and then on up to Cape Tribulation, through lots of lovely luscious rain forest. It was a really nice drive and it was nice to get behind a wheel and not be sat in a bus. Good practice for when we hire a campervan in NZ too. We got to the end of the road at Cape Trib (you can only go so far in a normal car, after a certain point the road turns to gravel and you need a 4 wheel drive). We decided that Cape Trib was a bit too jungly for us so drove back to the more respectable Port Douglas and stayed at the YHA.

Next day our plan was to have a massage and facial seen as we weren't doing any white water rafting or sky diving. Unfortunately we realised that we are poor travellers and so had to abandon this idea, and it had seemed such a nice idea over our 2nd bottle of wine the evening before!

Instead, we drove inland to some towns that were not really towns, but just streets with a couple of buildings on them. We stopped off at Coffee Works and did a tasting tour of the little factory there. Not great for me seen as I don't drink coffee but the promise of the chocolate shop at the end sold it!!

We then drove around some more and saw some waterfalls. It was all very nice apart from the fact that it chucked it down, ALL DAY!

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We got back into Cairns that evening and dropped the car off and then got absolutely soaked walking back to the hostel. Queensland is meant to get 300 days of sunshine a year, we obviously visited during the 65 days of cloud and rain because we hardly saw the sun at all!

We liked Cairns though, we met some nice people and everyone was very friendly but it's very much geared towards diving and other water sports, which we don't do (yet, maybe in Hawaii, where hopefully it will be warmer!). We met a nice Irish man who did say that the diving tour he went on was amazing, much better than snorkelling but at the moment, snorkelling is enough for me. Especially here where there's so many things in the water that can kill you, even swimming in the ocean is a dangerous sport and you have to be properly kitted out for it.

Anyway, next stop Alice Springs for an Uluru camping adventure, gulp!

My rucksack now weighs 18kg. It was 11kg when I left England in January and I still have more stuff to fit in it that I left in Sydney. Pesky shopping gene.

Posted by J9travels 22:54 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Magnetic Island

Lots of cloud

overcast 28 °C

We arrived in Townsville at lunch time and headed straight for the ferry to Magnetic Island.

We'd booked to stay at Base Backpacker hostel which was right on the beach in Nelly Bay. It was a nice place, very open planned as usually it is sunny all the time. Unfortunately, for the whole week we were there it was cloudy...

So, to be truthful, we didn't do much. Our first day we hired bikes and decided to head over to Horse Shoe Bay on the other side of the island. We were chatting to the guy and he said the island was only small and we could easily get round on a bike. Annoyingly, he forgot to mention that between Nelly Bay and Horse Shoe Bay there is a rather large mountain....

Now, we wanted to do a bit of exercise but to climb this big bloody hill on a bike you'd have to have the fitness of Lance Armstrong, and we cleary don't. We tried riding our bikes for the first 10 metres but then as soon as the gradient turned from 10% to 80% (well it felt like 80%!) we had to get off and push. And it was really hot too so we were really sweaty - you get the picture! It was so bad that at one point Emma stopped and said she couldn't go any further. I was a bit ahead and so lied and said that the summit was just around the corner and then it was all downhill. She was slightly miffed when it wasn't!

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It was torture but we did it and the ride downhill to Horse Shoe Bay was nice! Unfortunately there wasn't much to do on this side of the island either so we had lunch and headed back. Another climb and then a nice free ride down. Pushing the bikes up took over an hour, riding down took about 6 minutes...

The bike hire bloke thought it was very funny that we had cycled all the way there and back but he was impressed too and we were pretty pleased with ourselves too. Sometimes it's just the small things which make you happy!!

The rest of the week was pretty uneventful. We met up with Sian and Fiona from our sailing trip, we did a lot of walking, we read, we ate a LOT. The cafe at the hostel was really good and did $10 meals. The lasagne was Emma's favourite, she had it 3 times (not in one day, although I'm sure she would if I'd have let her, ha ha ha!!!).

We went to the docs for Emma's 3rd injection and he had a look at my bed bug bites. He said it was the worst he'd ever seen and wished that he'd had a camera to take a picture and put it in some medical journal!!! He gave me some steroid cream and a sympathetic smile and then washed his hands thouroughly!

We had a trip into Townsville (on the mainland) and immediately wished we hadn't. It's like a town that time forgot. There's hardly anyone about and there's not much to do unless you get there before 12pm because after that time, everything closes.
Emma made me sit in a cafe and eat cake to pass the time - the things I do for her. We got the early ferry back to Magnetic Island and had Lasagne to make ourselves feel better.

Next stop Cairns.

Posted by J9travels 23:22 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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