A Travellerspoint blog

March 2012

Australia – Perth

Perfect weather, pristine beaches & great friends and family – No wonder we are coming back here in the end

sunny 34 °C

Even before we had booked our tickets to leave the UK, we had one important date to factor in - getting back into Perth in time for Leigh and Carley’s wedding. We also had the minor tasks of sorting out visa’s for our upcoming destinations. Plus there was the added bonus of having a pit stop after 7 months of being on the road

After a couple of days relaxing with our families and getting some last minute clothes we met in the beautiful Jobe Dobman Park right by the Swan River in Mosman Park. It was forecast to be a scorcher of a day at 38 degrees, but the shade of the trees and early sea breeze meant that it was just right. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception in Mosman´s restaurant was amazing sat right over the water. The great thing about being back in Perth for the wedding was that we got to catch up with a lot of other friends who had travelled in for the big day too. Much dancing and good times continued into the night. We had a relaxing day in the pool at Leigh’s parents place the following day to escape the high 30’s heat of the day.

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We managed to fit in a few trips down to the beach, watch the sun set from the hills, play some rounds of golf and relax a little while we were staying all over the city with different friends.

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One of the many deadly little critters that we share Perth with

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After doing our first ever surfing lessons back in Peru, i figured that i had missed out on 30 yrs of surfing potential having grown up in Perth and not ever surfed here. A couple of visits and successful sessions and I think that a surf board is now on the shopping list when we get home.

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Our friend Ramaona organised a night of indoor rock climbing too which we happily went along for. It was good to be doing some cool things to remind us of what we can do when we get back later in the year.

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We ended up being incredibly busy in our 2 and a half weeks back in town with lots of dinners and catchups that we organised. Somehow in between all of that we got our China visa’s organised and a new passport for Tanya. All in all a successful couple of weeks that gave us plenty to remind us why we will be happily calling Perth home again.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Perth has changed so much in the 6 years that we have been away, but having this little holiday taster was just what we needed to remind us that we have so many great friends and family here to help us settle back in when we resume having normal lives again in 5 months time. Glad we were back in time for the wedding, wouldn’t have missed it for the world though!

Tanya –. It really was a great place to have a holiday from our holiday. We had a great time being tourists in our hometown. I’ve happily called Cleethorpes home for the last 6 years but I am excited to be returning to Perth to live. Leigh and Carley put of a great wedding, we met lots of babies/children that have sprung up since we left and its just been great spending quality time with friends and family!

Posted by dbgomes 07:08 Archived in Australia Tagged australia round_the_world Comments (0)

Australia – Melbourne

Home of Australian Cricket, Aussie Rules Football and a lot of family.

rain 22 °C

After 7 months of travelling, we were looking forward to our time in Australia with the chance to relax a little, not pay for accommodation and catch up with plenty of family and friends.

Our first day we decided to combine spending time with family as well as getting out and seeing some of our own country. We were staying with Tanya’s sister Bel, Tanya’s mum was also on holiday in Melbourne and my Auntie Tess and her partner Sam were in town on their trip around Australia so we arranged to head out along the Great Ocean Road with them all. The weather was typical Melbourne summer weather... rainy, windy and generally crap, but it didn’t stop us from having a good few laughs and a picnic down at Lorne

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We had a big family gathering with Tanya’s mums family with 5 of the 10 siblings present and accounted for. It was another good day spent with all the family

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The following day we headed out to Ballarat, the scene of the fist gold finds to spark the Victorian gold rush and later the civil uprising of the Eureka Stockade. We had intended to look around for a while, but by the time we got a few things sorted in the morning and got out there, our train was due to leave in 30 minutes. A quick walk up the main street to get some snacks for the train and we were heading out of Ballarat as fast as we had arrived.

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I went into the city the following day to meet up with Ash, a friend that I used to work with back in Perth whilst Tanya had a girlie day out with her cousin Catherine. I hung around Federation Square and Flinders Street Station while waiting for him and then we went out for some lunch to chat and catch up on what has happened over the 8 years since we worked together.

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After a great couple of hours reminiscing and catching up Ash asked what I had planned for the afternoon. Given I hadn’t thought that far ahead, he suggested heading out to the MCG for a tour. Taking the advice I walked along the banks of the Yarra River on what was turning out to be a nice day after the morning rain.

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The MCG is an imposing stadium, even from a distance. Also the history and relevance to Australian sport make it a must visit for any sport fan. Location of the traditional Boxing Day Test in cricket, the Grand Final match for Australian Rules Football (AFL) and the 1956 Olympics, I have seen it so many times on TV! (well not the Olympics)

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I paid the $30 entrance fee which got me on a tour as well as entry to the National Sports Museum. The tour was great taking us onto the ground, through the stands, into the change rooms and up into the members long room. All really cool to see, impressive and interesting. Like with all other stadiums i have been too though, I think they always look bigger on TV than in real life. However being able to accommodate over 100,000 people it’s the biggest i’ve been into.

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A great tapestry in the stadium depicting the 150 years of the MCG

After the tour I went for a quick look in the National Sport Museum which is housed in the stadium. I got stuck in there for longer than i was expecting when i found the interactive section. Clearly designed with kids in mind, it has a bunch of sports games to play which had me kicking, shooting and throwing for a few hours. The pick of the bunch was a handball game (AFL) where you had to hit different scoring targets in 1 minute, kicking for goal with a big screen playing your shot going through goal after the trajectory and speed is registered through a tracking device, Soccer penalty shootouts and a cricket game of picking up the ball and hitting the stumps to run out a player. All games using screens, hit pads and holes it was great even for bigger kids like me.

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Not an actual game area just part of the museum here.

On the final night in Melbourne, we had a BBQ around at Tanya’s Uncle and Auntie’s place and the family which was another good night of catching up and telling stories.

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We were out to the airport in the morning and getting excited to see more friends and family in Perth.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Great to be able to have the time to see so much of the family whilst still on our big world tour. Loved going out to the MCG, where the national sports museum was quite possibly one of the best things of the entire trip :-)

Tanya – Oh how nice it feels to be at home, well almost. I haven’t seen my sister in years so it was so great to catch up and see where she lives. It was very much a family holiday and I’m so grateful to all my relllies for travelling from further to come and see us.

Posted by dbgomes 21:03 Archived in Australia Tagged australia round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand – Waitomo

The icing on the New Zealand cake (or Pavlova if you believe they invented it first)

semi-overcast 23 °C

Waitomo sits in a limestone area of the North Island which is riddled with more holes than a block of swiss cheese. The soft limestone has been eroded away by millions of years of rain seeping into some incredibly vast underground rivers allowing us to take to the tunnels armed with a head torch and tyre tube under our arm.

Leaving Christchurch, we headed up to Picton via a lunch stop in Cheviot. We also quickly stopped in to Kaikoura. We helped out the backpacking community on our way out of Kaikoura by picking up two French blokes who were looking for a ride up to Picton. New Zealand seems like it is a pretty good place to hitch hike as we saw lots of people on our way round trying to thumb a ride. They were nice blokes and we had a good chat with them on the couple of hours drive up to Picton.

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After dropping the guys off at their hostel we pulled into our campsite in the town, got some dinner on the go and relaxed. The following day the weather wasn’t the greatest so we ended up doing a bunch of research into what we needed to do for our visa´s in Asia.

The return ferry journey to Wellington wasn’t so great. The nice calm waters of the inlets were hiding the rather large swell in the Tasman, and when we got into open water, I lasted about 15 minutes before making a visit to the bathroom. I spent the rest of the journey out on the back deck feeling under the weather. If you have read any of the other blogs you will notice that travel sickness is a pretty common thing for me, but even Tanya wasn’t feeling well on this journey, so I felt a little better thanks to that. We were given a slight reprieve when we were stood at the side railing and spotted a group of dolphins coming towards the ferry in the distance. We ended up seeing about 4 or 5 different pods all come over and play around in the wake of the ferry over the journey.

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Back on the north island we put in some solid hours driving past ‘Mount Doom’ before getting into Waitomo. We booked in for our cave tubing for a 9am start the following morning.

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Out at ‘The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company’ we got suited up in our attractive wetsuits, posed for a photo or two and then drove out to the caves entrance. Being the first group of the day we were lucky to be stepping into dry wetsuits, but that didn’t help much when we did our practice jumps into the river and the freezing cold water trickled down our back.

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We descended into the earth via an innocuous gash in the ground, had some more photos and then started on our caving adventure. The water running through the labyrinth of caves has not seen the warming rays of daylight at this point so was nice and cold as we waded through it.

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Armed with our head torches, the two guides sent us through a maze of tight tunnels to try and find our way back to them before we hopped into our rings and started floating down the river. We floated under a very low hanging bit of rock by doing some tube limbo, jumped off of a waterfall and waded through some more of the caves.

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The main drawcard of the Waitomo Caves area is not actually river tubing but the glow worms that make the caves their home. We got to a long open section of the caves and floated down with our head torches switched off and the roof of the cave was amazing. It was like looking up into the night sky full of stars. In fact this is the tactic that the worms use to catch their food.

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The guides actually gave us the lowdown on the worms while we were sat admiring them. They are the larvae of a fly which lay their eggs on the roof of the caves. Over the first few hours of their existence they cannibalise other eggs and smaller larvae to get big enough to suspend a sticky thread below themselves and wait for a mosquito to come into the caves and think that the glowing lights above them are the night sky. The worms use bioluminescence to make the light from the food that they eat. Instead of expelling the waste from their food, they burn it off instead as the visible light. So actually they could be called ‘Cannibalistic Maggots with Glowing Shit’ but somehow the marketing people didn’t think that would sell quite so well as Glow Worms.

More jumping, climbing, floating and gazing followed as we wound our way through the tunnels 60m below the forest floor above. After about 90minutes underground we popped out of the caves into daylight again. A warm shower back at the headquarters followed but hot tomato soup and bagels were just as good as the trip itself.

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After warming back up we went back out to the location of the caves, as there was a nice little walk around the forest where we could look into a few more of the caves where the roof had collapsed over time. It was a nice little walk and I especially liked playing around on the Tarzan vines.

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We hit the road again and spent our final New Zealand night in another good camper park on the outskirts of Auckland ready to drop the camper van off first thing in the morning. It was with a touch of sadness that we gave back the keys to our home for the last 3 weeks. She wasn’t flash, but the old girl had served us well (clocking up a mere 3400km) and made New Zealand even more enjoyable to see.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – The caving was well worth the entrance fee, it was a really awesome experience floating down the river in complete darkness when we turned the headlights off. It was like looking up at the night sky. New Zealand as a whole has been amazing, will certainly be back in a few years to get to some of the places that we couldn’t fit in over the last 3 weeks.

Tanya – The caving was a fun way to end our tour of New Zealand. We covered alot of ground but managed to take in so much scenery with plenty of activities. There are too many highlights to remember, we have had such a great time.

Posted by dbgomes 18:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand – South Coast Loop

semi-overcast 23 °C

Over an ambitious few days we planned to cover some serious kilometres to loop along the south coast and back up to Christchurch. This would take us through million year old forests, windswept cliffs, penguins, seals, dinosaur eggs and to a shaken city. That sounds more varied than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, so we were looking forward to it all.

We hit the south coast around Waihoaka and the wind was seriously blowing. The high sided camper van was getting a good working over by the winds and a quick stop at the cliffs to get some pictures nearly blew us off our feet.

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We drove a bit further to the southern most point of the South Island at Slope Point and then Waipapa point. The farmlands around this area had some great real estate to farm on, but the shape of the trees gave away the harshness of the wind down here

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Next stop was at the petrified forest at Curio Bay. So this basically is where a subtropical forest was continually flooded back a little while ago... 130 million years to be precise!!! The floods carried ash from the active volcano and that ash buried the tree stumps turning wood to stone! This was really interesting to see and apparently one of the most extensive fossilised forests in the world. We timed it perfectly at low tide and from the lookout, it was plain to see straight away.

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Notice the logs running from bottom right to top left

I was expecting not to be able to get close to the petrified forest, but you can walk all around on the rocks checking them out from close up. We found it fascinating with the long tree logs and tree stumps all over the place. These may just look like photos of rocks, but hopefully it’s easy to see the wood from the trees... or rocks.

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While we were walking around the rough seas and local penguins gave us more things to look at than just the rocks. After our penguin encounters in Antarctica, we figured we should add a few more species to our viewing list. These were the rather shy yellow headed penguins, although spending your existence on a human filled island being clubbed and hunted might make you that way inclined unlike the ones we found in Antarctica which didn’t give a toss about us being there.

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We made our way further around the Catlins Coast calling in at the Purakaunui Waterfalls and Jacks Blowhole. The blowhole was the most impressive of the two as we walked further than we were expecting past some great cliff edges and stumbled across it 200 meters inland from the cliffs. Measuring 55m deep, 144m long and 68m wide it was a sizable gash in the land.

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Don’t be a sheep, make your own path!!

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We stayed at little coastal town campsite and headed off first thing in the morning to Nugget Point for some more spectacular coastal scenery. Thankfully named after gold nuggets rather than what I was thinking, it was pretty impressive looking down from the lighthouse to a bunch of seals swimming off the nuggets and playing in little rock pools.

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This seal dived under water just as i got the camera out

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We put a few hours of driving in and reached the bigger city of Dunedin. We drove through the city stopping for some shopping and fuel and noticed the Victorian and Edwardian architecture that it’s known for. We headed back out of the city along the bay and the Otago Peninsula.

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Looking back at Dunedin

Heading a little bit further north we stopped at Shag Point, not for the obvious, but for a look at the seals that call this place home. There was lots of sleeping going on, a bit of fighting, but very little shagging! Take a good long hard look at yourself seals!!!

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We stopped in at probably our best camping location of the whole trip just a little bit further north than Shag Point. What didn’t look like much from the roadside was a long camping area right on the beach. We didn’t have any other campervans nearby and felt happy for our decision to go with a camper van in order to spend nights in locations like this!

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It was another interesting geological stop in the morning at Moeraki Boulders which looked like massive dinosaur eggs the way that some of them were cracked open. These developed from minerals forming around small pebbles on the sea floor millions of years ago. This whole country has been like one big geology field trip with all these things we have seen!

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We stopped at Oamaru where we were hoping to add the Blue Penguin to our list of penguins that we have seen. Unfortunately they spend the day out at sea, and only really get seen at dusk returning to their beach shelter. I did manage to snap this one photo of two which were remarkably still for a long time. Check, im ticking it off the penguin list!

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We did get some more close encounters with seals here in Oamaru so it wasn’t a complete loss!

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Christchurch beckoned and geez, it’s amazing what a massive earthquake does to a city. Driving through the suburbs we didn’t see anything to suggest that there had been 2 major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. But once you get to the city centre, it was like a ghost town. Hardly anyone around except the demolition workers and building repairers in the fenced off ‘No Go Zone’ that was once the city centre. We heard a lot of radio discussions on about the delays in the rebuilding process and a lot of people suggesting the city centre be built on more stable ground to the west. The people of Christchurch lost a lot on those days including 185 lives! Hopefully it can recover back to vibrant city.

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Then

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Now

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Daniel – Ancient tectonic movements have been responsible for a lot of the amazing things we have seen in this country but seeing Christchurch reminds you how terrifying and devastating it is to live through one of these movements!

Tanya – We were able to finally slow the pace a bit for this leg of the trip realising we had an extra day or two up our sleeves. It was nice just to meander along the roads and pull over to see anything that looked like it might be of some interest. I’m not sure if the sea container shops and cafes in Christchurch are temporary or not, they are a really clever idea – I think they should stay.

Posted by dbgomes 02:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand – Milford Sound

Listening to the sound of silence

rain 17 °C

After the slight letdown of the Glacier Country a few days back, I was thinking that maybe this might turn out the same. After all, we have already visited the Norwegian Fjords that lend their name to these southern waterways. Setting off from Queenstown, we spent the night at a free campsite in Te Anau before heading up the only sealed road into the Fjords. The rain that welcomed us in the morning also made us think twice about our intention of walking a few hours of the Milford Track.

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The last views of Queenstown

After clearing the farmlands on the way from Te Anau which were covered in New Zealand’s 4 legged best friends that go Baahhhh, we got into the forest covered mountains of Fjordland. As we crossed ‘The Divide’ we dropped down into the valleys and realised that our apprehensions were completely blown away. Somehow this was different, a bit more rugged and jagged peaks than Norway. And the heavy torrential rain that was falling had turned every bare bit of mountain face into cascading waterfalls!

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After climbing back up to the Homer Tunnel, we passed through solid mountain and popped back out on the other side to a massive valley teeming with water. There were more waterfalls here than a certain TLC song from the 90’s!

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We stopped in at ´The Chasm’ for a quick look at an impressive waterfall which shows the power that a little water and rock can do!

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We finally pulled into Milford Sound which was equally shrouded in thick cloud that was spewing out plenty of rain. Although we think it was just as spectacular in these conditions as a blue sky day. The towering Mitre Peak and Mount Phillips with their skirts of cloud looked like imposing, rugged, timeless mounds of solid earth hiding all their secrets just out of sight of us puny human beings. Even though the carpark was full, there weren’t any people on the waterside by us and the sound of complete silence except for the patter of rain on the calm water topped off the whole scene!

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Our initial plan was to do a few hours of the Milford track just to get a taste of the walk and be amongst the serene landscape, however there is only so long that walking in rain that hard is fun for before you get over it. Plan B was to hop on one of the boats that cruises along the fjord, but after checking out the prices and comparing that to what we would be able to see on a day like today, we thought that we were awestruck enough by the beauty of this place from what we had already seen.

Instead we got into our home on wheels, cracked out all the condiments that our fridge had to offer, opened the books and spent a few hours snacking, reading and looking out at the silence of Milford Sound.

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What Milford Sound looks like on a clear day thanks to Google pictures

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Dubbed ‘The Cracker Completo’ by myself combining everything on offer from the fridge!

We headed out of the national park back through all the cascading waterfalls aiming to get as close to the south coast as we could for the night pulling into a campervan park in the small town of Tuatapere.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Had the weather been forecast a lot better we could have spent a few days walking the track and enjoying this place even more, but the little taster we got has been enough to make us try and time some fine weather next time we come back when ever that is.

Tanya – There aren’t many people who get to see Milford Sound on a sunny day, but our chances would have been far better if we´d opted for the 4 day trek. With the little time we had, one day was still enough to appreciate the beauty of this place. Driving through the mountains and surrounded by waterfalls we were simply dwarfed by the greatness of this place!

Posted by dbgomes 01:52 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world Comments (0)

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