A Travellerspoint blog

OZ - Up The East Coast

rain 25 °C
View Our Round The World Adventure on Del-Linda's travel map.

When leaving Sydney we decided to head off really early and do a full days driving since the forecast was for rain. We made it to Coffs Harbour before deciding to head inland to try to spot duck-billed platapus at a very isolated campsite called Platapus Flat. We aimed to get there for dusk but unfortunately only got to the start of the 15km long dirt track access road when it was almost dark. It was an awful track, although quite fun to drive, which went up and down some really steep hills and through a river. It wasn't until we arrived at a completely empty campsite in total darkness that we read another guide saying it is advised to be accessed by 4x4, especially if it is raining. It was just our luck that it started raining heavily that overnight but thankfully we managed to get back out the following morning, albeit a bit nervy at times.

On the platapus front, we got up at dawn to try to see these shy and elusive animals but without much luck. We did see something feeding at the surface from under the water, but whether it was a platapus bill or a fish we do not know. However, we did see a few other animals such as wallabies and an owl, plus a few leaches and a pretty large one stuck to Del's neck!

Our next stop took us back to the coast to Byron Bay. This is a really cool wee surf town with great beaches all around it. It is rediculously touristy though, but we really enjoyed it once we got away from all the crowded areas. We also met a Scottish girl who lived there but was from Prestwick and used to get taught by Linda's Dad, which was a bit random. From Byron we headed up the gold coast to Surfers Paradise to catch up with a friend we met back in Argentina. It was just a quick stopover to give him a copy of photos he lost when his camera was pinched in Peru, but he was kind enough to let us park up and sleep in his underground carpark which saved us a nights campground fees.

We didn't have enough spare time to stop in the centre of Brisbane, which was a shame as it looked a really nice city. However, we did manage a stop at the north side to go to Alma Park Zoo. There were unfortunately no crocs here, but they did have amazing red pandas, koalas and monkeys, plus kangaroos and wallabies in an enclosure that you can walk through and feed / pet them. We also managed to complete Linda's main objective and get our photo taken with a koala, which was great as it was really quiet so we got to hold the koala (called Maple) for a while.

There was lots of rain over the next few days so most of the time was spent driving and making up ground to get up to Airley Beach for our Whitsundays sailing trip. Our next night was spent at Noosa Heads, which is a very nice town with lots of money. There were many huge houses with big boats berthed in their own jetties outside and the town was full of designed shops and nice resurants. Unfortunately it poured almost the whole time we were there so we didn't even manage to take a single photo.

From here we went to Gladstone to stay the night, before going up to Yeppoon for a day and a night. It is a nice town with good beaches and it finally stopped raining so we spent the day relaxing here. We then went back inland to meet the main road again at Rockhampton, where we went to a small zoo that had all the Aussie animals - kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats, crocs, emus, etc. After Rockhampton we did another big drive up to Airley Beach, stopping overnight at a place called Mackay.

We had finally made it up here in time for our trip, although most of the last week had been spent driving in the rain. We had a couple of good stops though when the sun was out to break up this massive journey.

Posted by Del-Linda 17:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

OZ - Melbourne To Sydney

semi-overcast 22 °C
View Our Round The World Adventure on Del-Linda's travel map.

To try to get over to the east coast a bit quicker we chose to go inland instead of the scenic coastal route, which apparently saves a few days and we had just completed the Great Ocean Road which is meant to be nicer anyway. We stopped overnight at Seymour, north of Melbourne, and Goulburn, which is just north of Canberra. These were like old-fashioned American towns in the middle of nowhere so they were not really touristy and were just stop-overs for us.

We had planned to visit one of Del's mates from uni, Neil Mackay, and his Spanish girlfriend, Eva, whom had both lived over here for a couple of years now. We knew they lived just south of Sydney but we stupidly never checked just how far south. We checked when in Mossvale, not far from Sydney, and realised they were almost four hours south so we had a 2-3 hour detour to get down to theirs. It was just south of Sydney by Aussie terms and after driving in this huge country it wasn't too much of a detour.

Our new route took us down through Kangaroo Valley where we stopped at the impressive waterfalls and at Hampden bridge. It was a really nice area with hills and valleys so it was a nice change from what we have seen so far as the other roads were really boring.

We arrived at Neil and Eva's in Malua Bay (just south of Batemans Bay) on friday night, just in time to head out to the local bowling / social club for some beers and a chinese, where we also met some of their mates. They stayed in a lovely big house overlooking the bay, with a big balcony where we could see dolphins in the bay from. It was great to see their lifestyle away from city life and see how they make the most of their time outwith working hours.

Neil and Eva took us out surfing for our first time, which was great fun although really hard to pick-up especially as the waves were pretty big. We both did alright though and managed to catch a couple of waves which made it worthwhile. It looks easy but it really isn't! Del and Neil went out again the following day and again enjoyed it. It is definately something you would enjoy more and more the better you get at it though. We also had a bbq and some drinks at theirs, plus we managed to find Scotland vs Brazil on TV so we all stayed up to watch that and get all patriotic again! Thanks again Neil / Eva for your hospitality and giving us a break from the campervan - it was great to catch up again and to also see what life is like over here.

From Batemans Bay we headed up to Sydney, timing it so we drove across the city after rush hour to our campsite in the north. Sydney seemed massive and took us ages to get from one side to the other even though the roads were quiet. Our campsite for the next three nights was in a national park that is full of crazy possums which kept on trying to steal our dinner as we were eating and were not scared of us in the slightest.

We had two full days in Sydney seeing all the sights, had great weather and loved the city. It is definately one of the nicest cities we have ever been to. We went to see the famous harbour bridge and opera house, which were really impressive, plus took a trip out to see Bondi Beach where we got caught in a huge thunderstorm. We also squeezed in a ferry trip over to Manly, which is still on the mainland but is best accessed by boat. It was amazing and the beach was fantastic. It is popular for commuting into Sydney by ferry but you must need a few quid to live there. We were both really impressed by Sydney and wished we had more time to spend there.

Posted by Del-Linda 20:37 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

OZ - The Great Ocean Road

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Our Round The World Adventure on Del-Linda's travel map.

We had two full days and three nights in Melbourne before picking up our campervan. We didn't have the best of starts to Australia as our room in the hostel was the worst we have seen in five months of travelling. It is the first time we have had to move room and although our next room was fine it cost us a bit to upgrade. It was our most expensive room since Rio but we knew the cost of hostels here would be high so are glad we were getting the campervan.

Melbourne is a nice city with plenty of huge parks, althouh the city was massive and far larger than we were expecting. Loads of people seemed to either run or cycle to / from work and there was a big fitness culture, which is a bit different to what you see in Glasgow. It is a nice city but there didn't appear too much that we could afford to do as we found it all really expensive.

When we picked up our van we knew we had a massive journey to get across and up to Cairns in the next 31 days. However, we decided to head in the opposite direction and start driving south-west along the Great Ocean Road. Our first stop was in a nice surfing town called Torquay. We had a big improvement with the weather as it was hot and sunny, whereas the sun didn't come out once in Melbourne. We didn't do anything here apart from enjoy the weather.

Our next stops were Anglesea where we went to the golf course to see our first kangaroos and Aireys Inlet where we visited the lighthouse that was used to film the TV show Round The Twist. We then detoured slightly off the tourist road to go wild koala spotting at Greys River. It was successful as we managed to find three of OZ's largest type of koala that are only found in Victoria. They didn't do anything though apart from sleep and occasionally look at us. Linda absolutely loved them and thinks they are the cutest animal she has seen. On the way back to the main road we encountered a massive kangaroo jumping along the dirt track road, but thankfully it jumped up the big embankment as it would have done real damage to the van if we had hit it.

The following day we drove along the south coast to see the famous Twelve Apostles, although now there are only about seven or eight left. These were still impressive though and made a great view. We also saw London Bridge, another famous rock formation along this coastal route, before arriving at Warnambool. We wouldn't go much further west from here apart from going to Tower Hill the next morning. The weather changed to rain so we didn't do anything here apart from a bit of shopping, where I randomly bumped into a guy from Invergordon.

Tower Hill is a nature reserve that lies within a huge volcanic crator. As soon as we drove in we saw emus and kangaroos, then spotted more koalas in the trees at the carpark. We did a couple of the walks but unfortunately didn't find much other wildlife apart from a stumpy-tailed lizard. When we were ready to leave we spotted a koala that had just woken so decided to watch it. It slowly climbed further and further down the tree until it reached the ground about 3-4 metres away from us. After looking at us for a moment it started hopping along a path so we followed it. It didn't seem phased by us as it came over to the tree we were near and again stopped at the bottom looking at us. It climbed up to about head height and again stopped for more photos before disappearing up the tree. After speaking to locals it is appartently rare to see them on the ground and especially so close, so it was a great and entertaining encounter.

We decided to make up some time and take the direct inland road back towards Melbourne. It was a pretty boring drive, with an overnight stop at a city called Geelong, so we have nothing to report here. We also had a day in Melbourne when we returned but only did the city tram tour to see more areas / sights that we previously missed.

Posted by Del-Linda 23:56 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

NZ - The South Island: Queenstown back to Christchurch

sunny 20 °C
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We headed North-East from Te Anau up to Queenstown for a couple of days. It is extremely touristy and expensive so we didn’t fancy hanging about there for too long. It is a really nice wee town in a very picturesque location and it is also the adrenaline capital of NZ, so the town attracts lots of tourists and adrenaline junkies. I decided I wanted to do an activity so signed up to do a bungee jump since Queenstown is the home of bungee. However, Linda couldn’t be persuaded to take part!

There was the option of doing the first ever bungee that is 47m high but I decided to really push the boat our and do the Nevis Bungee, which is 134m high and is one of the highest in the world. I signed up to do this first thing in the morning (I think to get it over and done with!!) and when up there to also do the Nevis Arch swing. This is the highest cliff swing which starts off with an approx 70m vertical drop. There were only five people in the first group, an American Couple, a Brazilian couple and myself. Linda just stayed at the campsite as she did not want to come to watch.

I managed to do the bungee with the worst part being just stuck on the end of the rope before being hoisted back up. I did the arc swing too which was completely different as after the initial drop you then swing out across the valley up to speeds of 150km/hour. This wasn’t as good as the bungee but still an amazing rush. I did enjoy it but now I have got it out my system I will not be doing any more! A video of the jump is saved online so if you would like to see it then here is the following web address, username and password for it:

www.ididit.co.nz
username: derekhardysmith@hotmail.com
password: roundtheworld

That was enough of Queenstown for us so we headed to a small place called Arrowtown close by. There was a settlement of Chinese immigrants who came here in the 1800’s to pan for gold. It is a pretty town and they restored some of the original homes and buildings that were part of the original Chinese village. We then pushed on to our next destination, Lake Wanaka. Again we didn’t do too much here apart from relax in this lovely town on the lake. We did manage to go to Puzzleworld which was an experience. It was full of illusions and we also managed to find our way around and out of an unique two level maze in only 50 minutes!

We were a bit pushed for time to get up the West Coast so we headed off, stopping overnight in a place called Haast. We had a few quick stops at Knights Points and Ships Creek (quick because of the sand flies which are worse than Scottish midges) before arriving at Fox Glacier. Unfortunately, it started to rain for the rest of the day but it was probably the best to happen on a day that was mostly spent driving. It was only our second day of rain throughout the whole of NZ as somehow we kept on missing it everywhere we went. Thankfully the rain kept the sandflies away as we got eaten alive at Haast.

We did the quicker hour walk up to Fox Glacier in the rain before heading to Lake Matheson, also in the same town. This is a lake where you can get a perfect reflection of the scenery behind on a good day. Unfortunately it was pouring so we didn't even go down to the lake and ended up buying a postcard of the perfect picture instead. We then went further up the coast to the Franz Josef Glacier to do another walk up to this glacier in the rain. Although both of the glaciers were impressive and the best we have seen in NZ, they did not compare to the glaciers in Patagonia. We wish we had seen the ones in NZ first.

After the glaciers we spent the rest of the day driving further up the cost to Greymouth, where Nic (Julia and Rachels flatmate) invited us to stay at his parents house for the weekend where him, the girls and their other flatmates were also staying to go to the Wild Foods Fesival in Hokitika. We felt a bit awkward about turning up as the others were still hours away from arriving, but Allie and Tony (Nic's parents) were really nice and extremely welcoming. Allie and Tony have Scottish and Irish backgrounds and they have both travelled around Scotland before so we ended up chatting away for a few hours.

The following morning all nine of us headed down to the Wild Foods Festival where Tony's rugby club were doing the security so it was arranged for us all to have tickets. There were to be up to 15,000 people there and the sun was shining so we knew it would be a good day. There were loads of various delicacies to be sampled such as huhu grubs, worms, grasshoppers, bull testicles, horse protein shots (we'll let you guess what that is) and lots of other wierd and wonderful local produce, plus obviously plenty of beer, cider and wine. We won't go into too much detail of what was tasted, but I was much more adventurous than Linda with the worst thing being the raw scorpions (without the sting) which were absolutely vile! After the festival we went to a bbq just across the road which was also really good and had a band playing. Following this we went to the beach for a bonfire before going out in town. It was a cracking day out and was a strange but great experience. Thanks to Nic, Julia and Rachel for inviting us and Allie and Tony for their hospitality and making us feel so at home.

Upon leaving Greymouth we went further up this scenic west coast to Punakaiki where we stayed the night to visit the pancake rocks and got biten by more sandflies. The coastline was stunning and the plants seemed almost tropical. We are really glad we saw parts of this coast when the sun was shining. We then headed back towards Christchurch stopping for the night at Arthur's Pass. We were hoping to do a trek here but just after we started the rain came in so we had to turn back. It was a shame to end our NZ trip with our final night stuck in the campervan. Before we flew to Auckland, we spent our final night back at Christchurch at Duncans. He kindly let us sort all of our stuff out so we would be ready to start out Australia trip. Again we enjoyed spending some time with Duncan and felt sad saying farewell at the airport. Duncan, many thanks for your hospitality and it was great to meet you. We will hopefully see you again at some point in the next few years.

Posted by Del-Linda 18:42 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

NZ - The South Island: Christchurch to Milford Sound

sunny 20 °C
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On arriving at Christchurch, from an extremely empty aeroplane, we were met by Duncan, Linda’s Grandpa’s cousin who very kindly invited us to stay with him for our couple of days here. He drove us through some areas affected by the huge earthquake, which occurred a few days before, on our way to his house which thankfully hadn’t been affected. We saw some buildings that had completely collapsed but most of the damage we saw was to the roads and lots of evidence of liquefaction. The city was badly affected especially the centre of town which was all cordoned off. It was a strange experience feeling the aftershocks especially when they woke us at night.

As we were not able to explore Christchurch Duncan took us on a day trip around Bank Peninsula where we visited a small French settlers town called Akaroa. We went to a few other nice scenic stops and had a good day out. We enjoyed our time we spent with Duncan learning more about Linda’s family tree and he helped us greatly with the planning of our South Island trip. He looked after us extremely well and we were surprised by the unbelievable amount of energy he has for being in his eighties.

The next morning we ventured into town to pick up our campervan but we had to wait a few hours as the company had to relocate office twice due to surrounding unsafe buildings. We eventually got our van, a Roger Rabbit design this time in a larger and better van than the North Island. We set off southwest and inland towards Lake Tekapo. Although it was very picturesque there was not too much for us to do so we only climbed Mount John for views over the surrounding area and visited the Church of the Good Shepard, which is a famous and extremely photographed wee church on the edge of the lake.

We then headed for Mount Cook but fortunately missed the turnoff and ended up in a town called Twizel as the weather up there was meant to be awful. It was nice in Twizel though so we stayed there and did a long trek there. We met a couple of fishermen at the campsite who were on holiday salmon fishing. They had caught four massive salmon that day but were so sick of eating it for the past few weeks that they gave us two large pieces to have for breakfast the next morning. It was delicious!! We made it to Mount Cook the following morning and although the sun was now out it was ridiculously windy. We did the quick walk up to the Tasmin Glacier that was impressive but nothing compared to the glaciers in Patagonia. We then did the 3.5-hour walk up the Hooker Valley to a stunning view, at the side of a lake, of Mount Cook (NZ’s tallest mountain) towering over a glacier. It was our most impressive sight of New Zealand so far.

It was a pretty long day as we decided to drive another four hours down to the coast and south from there. We stopped at Oamaru to try to see the little blue penguins but we were hours too early for that so we headed further down the coast to Moeraki to see the rare yellow-eyed penguins, which can only be found in this part of the world. Unfortunately we arrived a few hours too late to see them all come ashore, but we did manage to spot a few of them along with other types of penguins, seals and sea-lions. It as great seeing penguins in the wild again.

We also visited the Moeraki boulders before leaving for Dunedin. These were large spherical boulders (up to two metres diameter) on the beach that are millions of years old. They were very unusual and were definitely worth the visit. When going down this coast the majority of the street names were Scottish names and places, as this area has a big Scottish influence with many of these towns being founded by Scots. The city of Dunedin is known as the Edinburgh of the South and is actually Gaelic for Edinburgh – can the Gaelic speakers reading this please let us know if this is true. The street names are the same names as in Edinburgh and they have a statue of Robbie Burns in the main square. It also has a huge student population where many share huge big houses, which isn’t quite the student flats in Glasgow.

We met two Kiwi girls, Julia and Rachel, on several occasions back in South America. We kept in touch and came to see them in Dunedin where they study. They invited us round for a wee party in their huge flat where seven of them live, before we all went out that night. It was good fun and took us back to our student days which seem a while ago now! The girls and one of their flatmates, Nic, invited us up to the Wild Foods festival the following weekend close to Nic’s hometown called Greymouth. We were planning to be close to Greymouth then anyway so it seemed to tie in perfectly. We also did the tour of the Cadburys factory in Dunedin where we learnt how chocolate is made and got to sample and buy a good selection too.

We then worked our way across towards the west coast to Te Anau which was our base to do a day trip down to Milford Sound. We ended up finding our best campsite yet so stayed a night either side of the Milford trip. The two-hour drive down to Milford was amazing scenery and some great roads to drive. We chose to do a three hours nature cruise up and down the fjord as we had been recommended this. The scenery was amazing and the sizes of the cliffs were spectacular. Some seemed almost vertical and the water depths beside some were huge, around 200 to 300 metres deep. It had been our favourite place in NZ, although we were disappointed with the lack of nature seen on this cruise until about ten minutes before returning to the harbour. A pod of bottlenose dolphins decided to come over and play at the front of the boat, swimming and jumping at the bow as we spend through the water. It was a great ending that we didn’t expect to see at all (quick video below).

Posted by Del-Linda 18:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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