Wednesday, 27 March 2013

New Zealand

So we've just finished the Kiwi Experience and have had the most fantastic 3 weeks, doing some incredible things and meeting some amazing people. Tara, Dani, Isla, Jake, Dan, Becca, Phil, Pete - the list goes on- we've had the best time with you all, thank you for making our trip so special. We miss you already!

Our trip got off to a rocky start in Auckland, having only been there an hour when we were evacuated out of the hostel when the fire alarm went off. Unfortunately, Eli was in the shower. Lols. From Auckland we got on the Kiwi Experience bus and drove via Hot Water Beach to Waitomo, where we did 'Black Water Rafting', which is tubing through the caves looking at the glow worms on the top. We thought this was all very romantic until we found out that the bit of the worms that makes them glow is actually their poo!

Next stop was Rotorua,where we went to a Maori culture evening, where we got to take part in Maori games, watch a concert showing off their traditional songs and fighting techniques and the infamous haka. There we got an amazing dinner, cooked in the ground in the traditional Maori way. In true Eli style, 5 courses later and we can safely say that it was $90 well spent...

Up next was Taupo, which was where Chess did her Skydive! Adamant she wouldn't do it for 8 weeks, she signed up the day before and had the most incredible experience ever. Jumped out of the plane at 15,000 feet, free fell for 65 seconds and then enjoyed a 5 minute parachute ride over Lake Taupo - not your average Tuesday morning!

Last stop on the North Island before Wellington was River Valley, where we stayed in 32 bed dorms - made for an interesting nights sleep... The next morning we decided to go on, what we thought would be, a leisurely walk but actually led to us having to abseil/fall down a muddy slope to go and look at the river, which we could see from our room anyway. While Eli and Dani were lapping up the adventure, it's fair to say Tara and Chessie were not. At all.

After a short stop over in Wellington we got the ferry to the South Island, where one of our first stops was Westport, where Eli had her first surfing lesson. Although the weather was terrible, she managed to stand up and had a great time catching some waves.

Our next stop was Lake Mahinapua, where on the way we stopped at Cape Foulwind seal colony and got to see baby seals playing around in the water which was so cute. The place we stayed here was called 'The Poo Pub'. Guess the name should have given us some warning, but when we turned up at what can only be described as a shed on the side of the road, it took us a while to realise the drivers weren't joking and this was our home for the night. That evening we had a water themed party, and we all tried our best to win the fancy dress competition but were completely outshone by a girl who came as a shower. Head, curtain, water and all...

After here we stopped at Franz Josef for 2 days, where on the first day we did a 3 hour kayak on the lake with the mountains on one side and the rainforest on the other. Though it was tiring the views were stunning and we had a really great afternoon. The next morning we took a helicopter up to the Franz Josef glacier, where we hiked up to the top and back again which was amazing, and being the geography geeks that we are found it all rather more exciting than everyone else. We spent the afternoon at the hot pools, where we stayed in the water for so long we all resembled prunes when we got out!

Next up was Lake Wanaka, stopping at Ships Creek on the way to see the dolphins, and then we went onto Wanaka where Eli did her skydive. Same height and length of freefall, but had views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea and the snowy mountains. Now that we both had a taste for adrenaline we didn't want to stop there and when we got to the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown, we made the most of what they had to offer. Eli did the Nevis Bungy (at 134m high it's the 3rd highest bungy in the world) - albeit in a pin drop manner rather than an elegant dive and spent the next few days hobbling like an old man. Chessie did the slightly less scary option of the canyon swing with Isla, where you freefall for a couple of seconds off the side of a cliff and then swing around at the bottom over the canyon. Having left home promising each other we we would do none of these things, we've now done the 3 scariest things in New Zealand! We also enjoyed the nightlife Queenstown had to offer, and of course the food - probably took one too many trips to Fergburger (where the burgers are literally the size of your face).

Last stop was Christchurch where we stayed in a converted jail. We still cant work out whether it's cool or wierd...

We've had a brilliant 3 weeks here and have left New Zealand with great new friends, amazing memories and far too many free t-shirts! Roll on Japan!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Sydney and Melbourne

So after 6 weeks, 4 flights, 10 bus and 3 boat trips we've travelled 4030km from Cairns to Melbourne and our time in Australia has come to an end. In Sydney we met up with Nat (Chess' cousin), and had a fab time in the city being tourists and taking in the sights like the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. 
We also took a tour around the Olympic Park, where we spent the whole time slaughtering everything we saw, comparing it to London 2012 (go team GB!), which was miles better. We visited the world famous Bondi Beach, which wasn't nearly as busy as everyone thinks but we still had a fun afternoon watching some incredible surfing and from here we walked to Coogee Beach taking in the coastal scenery. One evening we were lucky enough to go to a circus/burlesque show, 'La Soiree', at the opera house which was great fun - our favourite act being the 'English Gents', whose main talent was their fantasic abs. Our other favourite acts included a topless man in a bath, a topless man on a unicycle, and a topless man lifting himself up a lampost...

After Sydney we took the dreaded overnight bus to Melbourne, where we arrived in surprisingly high spirits once we saw the first rays of sunshine in 3 and half weeks! We're staying in the chilled area of St. Kilda, a small town by a beautiful harbour and we spend most of our days sunbathing on the beach. It's a hard life. We also saw some friends we met at Fraser Island (the ones who told us about the amazing chocolate shop Max Brenner), and re visited the shop for the 4th time. It was just as good as the first And second and third. We took trips into the city to explore places like the Sports Precinct, home to Melbourne Cricket Ground, Carlton Gardens and Queen Victoria Markets. Although they were nice to see, we were a little underwhelmed by what the city had to offer so didn't end up spending too much time in the actual city itself. However the highlight of Chess' time in Melbourne was the Neighbours Set Tour (for a non neighbours watcher like Eli, her excitement was brilliant to watch.) We got to visit the outside sets, and see the real Ramsay Street! The tour came with a 'star meeting' and we got to meet Libby (not Karl like Chess had hoped) which was a strange experience, just because she was so wierd.

Overall we've had a really great 6 weeks in Australia, even though the weather hasn't been great. It wasn't what we expected at all, but we've done so many amazing things in such a short time, our top experiences being the Uncle Brians Tour, Whitsundays and Fraser Island (and for Chess of course the Neighbours tour). We can't believe we're one country down and a third of the way through the trip, but are so excited to be moving on to New Zealand tomorrow!