A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

Last stop!

sunny 33 °C

After a fantastic time in Cambodia we headed to south of Thailand to enjoy some relaxation and sunshine before we head back to reality - England. Before booking the bus south me made a quick call to Quantas we delay our flight back to Heathrow by 4 days. At this point the end was in sight and desperation had set in to extend our adventure for as long as possible. The thought of going back had to be still a long way in the future.

We booked a bus and ferry link journey to Ko Tao. The bus journey was probably one of the worst we had had on out whole 6 months. This was not due to the poor road conditions like we have had in Bolivia, it was not a particularly bad bus or anything like that, but it was because we had the smallest leg room on the whole bus, a guy behind us who was hideously drunk who i thought was going to puke on me any minute and lastly the fact that we arrived at the random town ferry terminal 2 hours early. With the 2 guys in front of us reclining their seat as far as possible and with minimal room for legs anyway, I just about managed to squeeze in to the feotal position while Rob could only sit with his legs streched out to the aile! After the rather cramped overnight trip to the ferry terminal, we arrived at about 4 in the morning and had a 2 hour kip before the ferry left for Ko Tao. That 2 hour sleep on a cold wet saltly bench next to the ferry was heaven after the bus journey.
Ko Toa Port

Ko Toa Port


Ko Tao is absolutley beautifull and definatley the closest to paradise we have been during this trip. The water is so clear, the island is small, not too much tourism and the atmosphere is so relaxing. We hunted once again for the cheapest accomodation but knowing we were now getting closer to the end of our trip we found lovely small bungalow on the beach (they also had the biggest mugs of tea I have had during our travels).
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Ko Toa Bike

Ko Toa Bike


After doing very little for 5 days in Ko Tao we thought it was about time we visited another one of the islands on the east side of Thailand. The Full Moon party was a couple of days away so there was no chance we were going to get any accomodation on Ko Phangan so Ko Samui it was. We were looking forward getting our lazy bums off the beach and doing some watersports on the island for a couple of days. We hopped on the catarmaran for Ko Samui and arrived approx. 1 1/2 hours later. Within 5 minutes of 'landing' on the much larger island, we realised we had made a mistake. The island was far too over developed and there was definately too many tourists. We headed to a recommended accomodation from the lonely planet and checked in with a huge price per night. We hired a scooter to check out the island for the next two days. We managed to find a small beach cove on the east side of the island where we could swim without the crowds of the more popular beaches. On our journey back to our hut, we had a puncture. Great we thought, another added expense. Well after a quick change of inner tyre and 2 pounds down later we were back on route. The next day we headed back to Ko Tao knowing our 2 days in Ko Samui had been an expensive waste of time.

On the night of the Full moon party we headed to the largest beach in Ko Tao to have our own full moon party!! We joined the rest of the parents and kids for dinner on the beach and began to realise we had made a bit of a mistake. We began to drown our selves with sorrow and quickly downed a couple of 'buckets of joy'. The following morning the buckets of joy turned into toilet of joy!!! Fighting for the loo seat Rob and I felt the after effects of drinking and spent the day on our balcony and in the restaurant having numerous cups of tea!!
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A couple more days of swimming with fish, kyaking from bay to bay around the island, scootering around and we found our selves on a catarmaran and bus link journey back to Bangkok. This was now the end of our journey! What seemed to be a lifetime away from even starting was now ending. The journey back to Bangkok was a delight compared to our previous experiences. We booked oursleves into a nice hostel with air conditioning and white sheets for the next few nights. With only a few days left we decided to spend it shopping, drinking, eating, and also do a Thai cooking course.

We met up with our cooking teacher outside our hostel and headed for the local market closer to where the cheif lived. Now this really was away from the tourists and inamoungst the locals doing their local shops.
robs basket!

robs basket!


The excitment of seeing our family was slightly shaded by the fact that that was it, it was all over. We now have only our memories and stories to tell. This has to be the best 6 months of our lives ever!
bye bye travels

bye bye travels

Posted by robandem 14:37 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Cambodia

a quick decision of where to go and we were there!

sunny 34 °C

After flying out of Hong Kong we arrived at the brand new Bangkok international airport. All seemed very nice untill we had to que for half an hour at immigration! During our wait and my race with em to the front of the que, my 10$HK fake Diesel watch I had bought in a Hong Kong Ladies market dropped off my wrist and smashed to the floor! I suppose thats what you get for buying a cheap fake watch!

We had decided that we wanted to go to Cambodia as we had heard great things about it during our travels so as soon as we were through immigration with our backpacks on, we booked a flight with Air Asia for early the next morning. We then spent the next couple of hours in the airport trying to figure out where we were going to stay for that one evening and how to get there without being ripped off. The majority of this time was spent trying to dodge the 'where you going, where you going," Thai men wanting business. For f**k sake it was none of their bloody business! It seemed that all the Thai people we had spoke to during these couple of hours were constantly trying to con us. Non- metered taxi's were stupidly overpriced and the airport sky train to the new airport wasnt quite finished! Our newly bought, expensive and very heavy, lonely planet bible/guide book told us there was a free transfer bus to the bus station. The hostel we stayed at was perfect for the one night and was out of the tourist city centre of Bangkok. It appeared that a group of young Thai men ran the joint between them - they all looked rather camp but who were we to judge on our first night in Thailand. With excitment of seeing baked potatoes and beans on their menu we were quick to order them for our late dinner. Unfortunately the 1 overcooked green golf ball size potato and spoonfull of baked beans were not quite like what we imagined. What we had realised during our time away from the UK is that no matter what you order for dinner it will always be a surprise! We were up early the next morning and reached the airport just in time for our flight at 6.00am!

We landed in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, at around 8.30am. The cost of the visa entry was $20 each, suddenly our cheap week in the cheap country soon started off expensive. Not knowing what the exchange rate was from pounds to Reil we drew dollars from the cash machine, we later found out that most buying and selling in Cambodia is done with dollars! As soon as we left the airport we were pounced upon by people offering us taxi's, tuk tuk's, buses and bikes. But unlike at Bangkok airport they were really friendly and once you said no thanks they backed off! In the end we chose a taxi and headed into town.

We had spoken to a chap at Bangkok airport who had recomended the 'Royal Guesthouse' as somewhere good to stay. It was in town but near to the river where alot of the action was. After booking ourselves in we went for a wonder round town.
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After the modern Hong Kong it was nice to be in a dirty bussling city. Thousands of bikes all literally going in all directions filling the streets, and some how not managing to hit each other, it looked dangerous but everyone seemed to know what they were doing!
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That evening we had a few drinks looking over the Mekong River
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and had a delicious meal of Amok Fish and drank Ankong beer at 30pence a bottle...this place was great!
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The next day we had hired a 'Tuk-Tuk' for the day to go and see some of Cambodia's dark past and what the infamous Pol Pot's regime had done.
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The 'Tuk-Tuk' driver had suggested that we might want to go to a shooting range first to fire and AK47, now I never really thought about doing this but why not! So of we went weaving and dodging our way through the traffic and out to the countryside. 1 hour later, and Emily and myself covered in dust and dirt we arrived at the army outpost!

Before I could even contemplate what I was doing, and with no safety talk I had an AK47 in my hand!
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'psycho'!!!!
My heart was pounding at this point as the army guy put my ear protecters on, and instructed me to put the butt of the gun into my shoulder. Was this going to hurt?? So looking down the sights I squeezed the trigger, the recoil was not as bad as I had expected so shot off another 15 shots. Emily at the time was standing beside me but had to run for cover, as she was being hit by the empty bullet casings.

With half a clip left the army dude switched the gun onto automatic and pushed his hand against my back so I new there was to be quite a big recoil! Em tried to video this but had to run for cover! Two quick short bursts and the amo had run out!

Looking at the target I had been shooting at I hadnt done to badly with about 20 shots hitting the human outline. The whole experience just made us realise how powerful these guns are and how much damage they can cause to us! I cant imagine a child of 10 using an AK47 but as in many wars around the world they do!

Next stop were the 'Killing Fields of Choeung Ek'. We read in our guide book that the Cambodian government had privitised the site and was now run by a Japanese company! To sell the rights to such a sensitive and important national site was sick in our opinion! Anyway after we paid our admission fee we first caught site of the Giant White Memorial to the 17000 men, women and children who were executed here.
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We decided to look around the site before looking inside the Memorial. The area itself was smaller than we had imagined with about 20 craters dotted around. There were very few clues as too what had happend here, but as you walked around and looked closer you began to notice the strands of clothing coming up from the soil.
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And more disturbingly what you thought were rocks, were in fact pieces of human bone! On one tree a notice read that it was used to beat children against.
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As we walked around the place had an eiry silence to it with no one raising there voice. The memorial itself was simply made up of shelves of human skulls, divided up into variuos age groups. The fact that children's skulls were there made it even worse.
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On leaving the site we still found it very hard to comprehend what had happend here! And it now being a top tourist attraction is also slightly weird.

This was also the case with our next stop, the Tuol Sleng Museum. This was a school but was turned into a security prison named S21 under the rule of Pol Pot. It was a the largest centre of detention and torture in the country. People were taken from here to the killing fields to be executed. What was left in the class rooms were iron beds with various restraining devices on show, as we walked from each class room you began to realise the scale of the torture and suffering that went on here not too many years ago.
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The most hard hitting part of the museum were the rooms filled with images of the people who had been brought here. People of all ages and both sex's were shown, the look of terror in there eyes was awful.

After leaving the museum we stopped at the Palace which was very beautiful and ornate but to be honest I think we had quite enough sight seeing in one day, a beer was needed!

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After a good nights kip we caught a bus to Siem Reap. This was a 6 hour bus journey, but it was good to see some of the country. Arriving in Siem Reap we found a great hostel, with free breakfast! Siem Reap itself was much smaller than Phonm Penh. That evening we headed out on yet another tuk tuk to buy our tickets for Ankor Wat and millions of other temples. During our ride we visitedthe temple of Phnom Bakheng to watch the sun set! After a small climb to the top we were rewarded with great views of the area and in the distance you could see Angkor Wat.

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The mood was only slighly ruined by the hundreds of spitting and smoking chinese tourists!! That night we went into town, and had another great meal....the food here was so good!

We were up reasonably early the next day as we headed off with our tuk tuk driver to show us round the temples of Angkor. First stop was Angkor Wat which was amazing due to its sheer size!

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We spent a good hour looking around and Emily managed to see all of it, myself got slightly scared by the rather high climbs that had to be done so missed out seeeing the main temple, but the views were equally good from below!!!

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From there we stopped at many more temples but to be totally honest they all began to blend into each other, I think we were slightly templed out! But here are a few images of the best ones.

Bayon - The temple of faces
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Ta Prohm - A temple taken over by tree roots!
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One of the many shrines inside the temple

Banteay Srei - a smaller pink stoned temple - was this built for a little girl??
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Many children huhng around the temples selling all sorts, mostley postcards. After a good 10 minutes of 'why not', 'why not' we found ourselves telling the children that the man opposite said he wanted some. Cruel I know! We eneded up buying some postcards from this sweet girl.
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The next day we chilled in Siem Reap and looked around the markets, selling absolutley anything.
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'yummy'

Things started to look appealing after a while however after a beer and a reality check it was obvious that there was not much worth taking home.

We were staying in a fab hostel. The room was clean and had air con and the owner was very helpfull. It was a large white coloinial style building with only a handfull of rooms. It had a courtyard where you could help yourselves to bread, jam and tea - Em was in her element!
We took time out by watching some national geographic programmes and also the must see movie about the Khmer Rouge

We had hoped to meet up with Chris and Amanda (Ems friends she met at uni) and her sister Jo. But it just seemed like we kept missing them. Em hoped that we would still meet up somewhere and at last I would be able to discuss some footy!

We had booked a bus back to Phom Penh and after getting in touch with Chris and Amanda had arranged to stay in their hostel for our final night in Cambodia. That night we all met, it was great to see people we knew and to swap stories of our travels, offcourse we did this over a few beers and a great meal!
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The next morning and with a slight hangover we flew out of Cambodia, it really had been one of the great surprises of our trip, especially for me who had been rather sceptical. We had a great time, and had seen some amazing sites, and met some really lovely Cambodian people.

Posted by robandem 00:54 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Hong Kong

Amazing diverse city

overcast 20 °C

We were both very excited about going to Hong Kong as this was going to be a completely different from the experience we have had so far.

In Brisbane we had booked 'The Now Kowloon Hostel' which was located in the heart of madness on Nathan Road in a building called Miramar Mansion. Not really sure what we were booking or where it was, it seemed ok and had ok reviews so that would be enough for us!

We landed at the airport in the foggy weather so we didn't get the best view of the collosal towers of the city or the interesting landing experience on the reclaimed land airport. I as usual picked up the leflets, collected the luggage and we quickly caught a bus to the hostel. Within minutes of getting off the bus we were hassled by people offering their hostel or guest house, selling fake watches and bags, and trying to get Rob to get a taylor made suit. As much as this was appealing we headed for the massive unattractive rundown building called Miramar Mansions. We were unsure really where to go and how to get to the hostel as it appeared there was about 6 different ones all on different floors of the building all run by different people. hmmmm. Our first hour in the hostel was intriguing. We found out from the lady cleaner that a guy was staying in the same room the night before and she was moving his stuff out the room and we must take our passports and money with us as he may come back. We were told to tell him that she had his stuff!! Great! So someone else had a set of keys to our room. We soon aired our concern to the rather unkept guy at the desk (with killer breath and the worst teeth may I add) and when doing so 3 rather large israel guys turned up wondering where there stuff was! Thankgod we met them near reception and not in the room. His key was handed back and all was sorted. Well my fear factor was now quiet high and I couldn't quite figure out what this place was. I'm sure the pictures will better describe where we were staying.

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We headed out for an evening wander and to grab some food from a cheap cafe. The next day we had to move to another room on a different floor as someone else was booked into our one for the remaining 3 nights. Not a problem, the room in fact was much better. It is amazing how so much stuff can fit into such a small place. In the bathroom you could shower, go to the toilet and clean your teeth all at the same time. Ingenious!

We spent the next 3 day sight seeing. Rob enjoyed his numerous Macdonalds breakfasts, much to my disgust considering we were in Hong Kong, but for him the thought of bacon and egg noodles for breakfast was not quite right.

The first day we headed north out of town on the super fast, clean, efficient railway to The Temple of Ten Thousand Buddas. To get to the temple we walked through a typical little village where stalls we selling all sorts of products and crafts and we then started the rather long climb up to the temple. There were hundreds of steps to the top. Rob decided to count the steps just to make sure the guide book was correct. The stairway was lined with gold buddas either side, each with a different pose, some holding beads and some holding bowls. Towards the top of the hill the smell of insence became more apparent. At the top there was a number of temple buildings and structures. The main one housed the ten thousand buddas. The buddads lined each wall of the temple some with messages stuck to the cabnet. A large budda was in the centre of the temple with all sorts of givings from the locals - bananas, money, apples, and sweets. We walked around the grounds, coughing on the thick smog of incense and watching people having lunch by the buddas. It was a great experience of our first temple.

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On our route back to the hostel we looked for somewhere to have lunch and walked down through Mong Kok and Nathan Road. Nathan Road is lined with numerous shops ranging from Gucci and Prada to the rather weird medicine shops selling dried bat and deer horns. The thousands of people and the extremely busy road meant you qued to cross the road while people tried to sell us the fake watches and bags all with the what bad become normal background noise of 'you want massage, follow me'!?

The second day we were up early and eager to get to Hong Kong island. We took a walk around the main centre and stared at many high rise buildings including the house of a thousand arse holes which is may favourite.

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This was the first true sky scrapper in Hong Kong and the round windows and sleek simple design the buidling got its name. We took the lift upto the 43rd floor of the Bank of China. Rob stayed pretty close to the lift while I gazed down through the window on the busling city. This tower was supposidly built much taller and grander than the neighbouring HSBC bank!

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From there we wandered around the Hong Kong Park. It was rather sereal sitting in a peacefull park watching the brides have the photos taken, turtles bathing on the rocks of the pond and the sound of the waterfall in the background. All this peacefullness was surrounded by the sky scrappers and thousands of city workers which seemed a million miles away. We then headed to the large avairy to see over 600 different species of birds. After a comment from me saying 'Hope they dont have bird flu' we saw a sign and was told by a park official that the park was closed due to an outbreak of bird flu!!!!! I soon ran out of the area shouting for Robbie to stop taking pictures and to hurry up.

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One of the must do's of Hong Kong is to take a ride on the double decker trams. Apparently these were shipped over from UK when they were not required anymore. Personally I think we should have kept them, they are so much fun however built for only short people (not Rob)!

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We took the tram to the near by Shui Tsui area where we left the city workers behind. We walked through the hundreds of food and medicine stalls dodging the bikes and lorries while at times feeling sick at the sight of such odd food products for sale.

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After heading into a small mall selling traditional souveniers and heading up to a full on ballroom to interrupt the dancing we quickly headed back to the city centre to go up to Victoria Peak. We took the famous peak tram up to top to see the city from the highest point.
The day was quite cloudy however it still took your breath away looking at the number of sky scrappers. The tram up becomes very steep at points so the floor is angled to help the climb up. At the top we Rob just about made the number of escalator climbs to the top of the small mall where you can go outside to see the view. While Rob hugged the building sides I took the pictures from the edge. After about 10 minutes up the top and Rob looking like he was about to pass out (veritgo!) we quickly bought a pint in the bar and watched rugby to give Rob time to recooperate!

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After our rather full day of sight seeing we decided to spend the night on the town. Most bars have happy hour so we downed a quick pint and a mojito cocktail (worst we have ever had, it was made with mint flavour and tasted of mouth wash!) before heading back to get changed into fresh clothes to hit the town in the Soho district. While in Soho we took the rather long 25 escalators up through the district. It was a rather mad having such a huge run of escalators through the town.

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The next day I woke up with the worst hangover in the world to the noise of the nerby Nathan Road and the drilling by the building site opposite our room. Yuk. Not sure whether the aspirin and biscuit would stay down we went back to sleep until mid day. Unfortunately most of this day was rulled out through my feeling so for myself headache but we did manage to take a return trip on the famous Star ferry over to Hong Kong island and have a burger in an Irish bar!! (it was only 3 quid including soup and drink so do forgive us).

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As this was our last night in Hong Kong we decided to visit the Temple Street Night market and do some haggling. The market was not quite as impressive as the nearby ladies market and the sellers were not the budging on the price type so we headed to the ladies market.

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After Rob bought some fake CK pants and a fake watch, my head could not take any more from the 'you want bag missy' or 'how much you give me missy' so it was back to the hostel and a decent sleep to prepare for our flight to Bangkok and on to Cambodia.

Posted by robandem 02:53 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Australia

'Surf at last!' - Rob

sunny 28 °C

After a long trip from New Zealand to the Whitsundays via Brisbane airport (6hr wait at the airport passed by with numersous games of shithead) we finally arrived in the sweltering heat. At last the sun was out! We landed at apparently the most dangerous airport, Prosperine Airport, in Australia. Due to the lack of radar signals for the pilot to land and the short run way it was a rather interesting landing. The airport was so tiny - only 2 gates, the waiting lounge was outside in the sun, and the baggage came out on the back of a truck for you to get!
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We were then off on the bus to Airlie beach with no accomodation booked in hope of finding somewhere cheap. No such luck, all backpackers was booked up so we had to pay about AUS$100 for a self contained apartment. Oh well we compensated a little by eating in and not joining the crowds of 18yr olds in the packed bars lining the streets. Airlie beach was pretty much what I expected, many backpackers, loads bars, loads hostels, and not really our idea of paradise. We spent the next couple of days looking for a boat to charter around the whitsundays as this was Robs dream and also our reason for coming here. The weather was not on our side. We had come to the whitsundays in the Monsoon season which meant that it was hot, humid (which is nice) but very wet. Appartently the wettest season they have had for 5 years. It poured and poured. We hoped this would not affect our chances of sailing a 36foot yacht (ready and waiting for us for when the weather got better) but with winds at 25-35 knots and little visibility we were unable to go. Rob became quite saddened with it but we soon decided to change our plans and stay on one of the islands. We couldn't leave the whitsundays without at least staying on one if we couldn't go sailing. While waiting for the weather to change we hired a car to see some of the area or make the road kill tally a little higher with a Kangaroo (don't worry we couldn't find one!). We visited a nearby waterfall.
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Rob and I managed to swim under the fall but with my fear of what else was swimming with us I soon got out.
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Attacked by mosquitos and huge ants we soon headed back to the car. Everything in Aus was massive, the toads are as big as cats (ok I'm exagerating but they are huge, African toads apparently) and the ants we huge too. Thankgod we haden't yet seen any of the big spiders or I think I would have scared Rob off with my screaming. Thats one thing I have realised during our travels, I hate bugs, any form of insect that flies, crawls etc.

During our stay at the Whitsundays Rob treated us to 3 nights on Hamilton Island, one of the larger of the Whitsunday Islands. We were now used to the rain and come to terms with the lack of sailing so we headed off to an Island for some relaxation and watersports.
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We caught the 'Fantasea' catarmaran over to the Island and checked into our huge apartment overlooking some of the islands (on a clear day!). For the next 3 days we swam in the pool, took a 2 person small catarman out on the sea, walked around the island, ate, drank, and hmmmm drank a little more.
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The island was a bit mad. Golf buggies were the biggest form of transport on the island. Most of the resorts owned hundreds of the things to get around in.
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Ours didn't so we enjoyed the walk.
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There was many activities and the island was basically set up for tourist holidays - a weekly entertainment programme. sports programme, a water golf driving range, tennis courts, boat hire, watersports equipment hire and even its own small airport. On our last day we booked onto a snorkelling tour to one of the smaller islands in the north of the whitsundays. Kitted up with full body stinger suits (mine included the hat and gloves) and snorkelling gear we looked rather fetching for the fish!
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We had a good couple of hours in the water swimming with the bright coloured fish and driving down to the coral bed. It was a great morning out on the sea and rounded up our stay in the whitsundays perfectly.
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We had changed our flight to Sydney to the following morning so that we could get to the sun quicker and leave the rain behind.

We arrived in Sydney at about 11pm without anywhere to stay (as normal), and after phoning nearly every hotel in the city we eventually found a hostel with a couple of dorm beds available. Two other guys also were staying at the hostel so we shared a cab with them into town. This was going to be our first experience of sleeping in a dorm as in south america double rooms where so cheap. The taxi driver had some trouble finding the hostel, but we eventually turned down a street lined with transvestite hookers. Was this where the hostel was? Oh yes it was, which we both thought was very amusing. We checked in, and were greeted in the room by a huge bloke passed out on his bed...snoring! We dumped our stuff, as it was so stuffy in there we thought the only way would sleep was to get drunk! So we met up with the lads we shared a cab with and headed out. We woke suitably the next morning with heavy hangovers (ok I did, Rob), and left to have breakie at a cafe.

What we had realised by now is that Sydney was totally booked up, and was very expensive to stay in, even in hostels. So we gave my unkles brother, David a call, who lived in Manly a half hour ferry trip from sydney harbour, to see if he could help us. He very kindly put us up for the 6 nights while we were in Sydney even with such short notice (big thanks), apart from one night where we gave him a break and stayed in a hostel in town. We caught the ferry over to meet him, which in itself was great as it went past the Sydney Opera House and Bridge. That day David and his partner Michelle showed us round Manly, what a great place, really cool vibe, great beach with surf, lovely bars and restaurants. In the evening we all had a thai takeaway sitting next to Manly harbour, which finished the day off nicley. The next day David lent me his long board and off I went to surf on the Manly beach, the surf was ok and thanks to the board being the size of an aircraft carrier I managed to stand up!
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The great part of Manly is if you worked in Sydney your commute was a half hour ferry journey...I know which I would prefer over the London tube!!! And you get to go surfing either in the morning before work or go after, paradise! Both Emily and Myself would love to live here.

Over the six days we explored Sydney and its attractions. We walked over, not up the Sydney harbour bridge with its amazing steel structure and great views of the city.
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The Rocks area near the harbour we particular liked with great old style architecture and offcourse lots of bars. In Darling harbour we went to the Imax cinema to watch a film on the ocean in 3D, I think we looked particularly fetching in the supplied glasses, and were dissappointed to give them back when we left!

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'Should have gone to specsavers'!

One of the days we bathed at the famous Bondi beach, I rented a surf board and didn't do very well apart from perfecting the art of nearly drowning! While Emily soaked up the rays and looked on as a proud girlfriend! We had heard Bondi was lovely and the place to be but we both ended up preferring Manly, with its nicer vibe....I think we have been travelling to long! The Ice Bar in the harbour was an interesting experience, after putting on our thick jackets and sexy boots we entered into the room where everything was made of ice including the glasses.
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It was strange being cold with temperatures outside reaching 28deg C, as David said not very environmentally friendly! However we downed our cocktails, as after 20mins we were freezing, and headed downstairs with a couple we had met for some more happy hour cocktails!
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We both expected to love Sydney and we did. Its very much like London but with beaches! And nearly everything is within walking distance!

With 2 weeks left to make our way up to Brisbane we decided to rent a campervan again, so we could drive up the coast. After a few phone calls we got a really good cheap deal. David gave us a some tips on nice places to stop and gave us a lift to collect the van. After saying our goodbyes we were on the road again in a campervan, this time however the van had a built in fridge, sink, table and sofa (turned into a bed) and was a high-top! I still couldn't stand in it thought!

First stop was 'Seals Rock', we had arrived just after dark and the sea mist had arrived making the whole place feel quite eiry! So after dinner we got an early night. In the morning we woke to glorious sunshine so we hit 'Treachery Beach', and what a beach it was '.
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Sand as far as the eye could see, and amazing surf! In fact the sand was so fine that when you walked across it squeeked! The surf was huge, but with no place to rent boards we body surfed instead as well as the local population of Dolphins who seemed to be much better than us!
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Now I should mention on Ems behalf that body surfing in a bikini is not recomended as it is more than likely to be removed by the wave but not worried Em caught a wave..... After standing up and shouting at me that she lost her bikini bottoms and had to pull them up, I had to kindly tell her that she was now topless!!! Classic!

After a great day lapping up the sun and surf and Em flashing the locals we headed for forster for the evening.

Next day we drove to South west rocks, where we came across giant pelicans!
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Then up to the lighthouse for fantastic views of the coast, and offcourse we spied a nice deserted beach to lie on! However after 30mins off being battered by the wind swept sand we gave in and left and drove to Nambuca Heads for another swim! We decided that night to head inland to a small town called Bellingen which David had recomended to visit. The town itself was really nice, with a few local bars and quite a hippy feel, but unfortuantely the only campsite had closed down. A rather strange women offered to let us stay in the deserted campsite but she did slightly scare us so we left and ended up driving back to the coast and staying on Emerald beach.

We were on the road early this morning, determined make up some mileage. By lunch we had arrived a the sea side town of Yamba, this was recomeneded by the lonely planet. It was a lovely place with surprise surprise great surf and a great beach! We also came across our first jellyfish, but after reassurance from a local that it was not the deadly blue bottle we went swimming.

We had a quick swim at Ballina where Emily made good friends with a pelican, he wasn't to amused however when Em tried to do an impression of him walking!
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That night we arrived in Byron Bay.

The campsite on Byron bay was right on the beach and close to town!
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The town itself was lovely with a real hippie vibe, but the main attraction has to be the surf.
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With beaches facing in all directions at least one of them would have good waves.
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Lookout over the surf at 'The Pass'
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We ended up staying here for 5 nights as I got slightly addicted to the surf and Emily got back into swimming. We rented surf boards and even though the weather was changing between torrential rain and beautiful sunshine we hit the beach everyday! For the first time on our trip we were getting slightly tanned!!! On the final morning I was out surfing and to be truthful I was not getting anywhere, but a surfing instructer who was at the time giving a private lesson gave me some advice! He actually ended up helping me for 30mins much to the annoyance of the guy he was supposed to be teaching. Just a few tips on where to be on the board, how to get a wave easier, and how to get up smoother and quicker, made such a difference. The first wave I tried to get I got and went along the wave for the first time, it was great. I must admit I am now totally addicted and want to spend the rest of my life surfing!
Just like these chaps:
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Anyway back to reality, in the afternoon we headed up the coast towards the Glass House mountians and the Australia Zoo, home to the late Steve 'Crikey' Irwin. Enroute we drove past 'Surfers Paradise' which far from being paradise was our idea of complete hell, huge skyscrapers and loads of people, so not really worth saying much more! We arrived late at night at a campsite in the Glass House mountains near to the zoo, it was hot and sweaty and to our joy full of Mozzies!!!! So in the boiling heat we retreated to the van and ate inside, it was hot!!!
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The next day it was boiling, even at 6am in the morning! We didnt mean to get up that early but had forgotten that we had crossed into Queensland and that the time goes back an hour!

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After quickly checking out the glass house mountains we arrived at the Australia Zoo early having driven down the newly named Steve Irwin Way. It was very weird seeing these large billboards with giant images of Steve, knowing that he was no longer with us!
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The Zoo itself was huge and very commercial.
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We checked out the some of the animals in the morning and then watched the Crocodile show in the huge arena, it must have been amazing to see Steve work with the Crocs!
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The show itself was cool, but heavily aimed at kids.
There was also a memorial to steve, with people writing messages on copies of his favourite shirt. It was quite sad to see this.
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In the afternoon we headed over to Caloundra for our last evening by the Australian coast. There was no swimming as there had been sightings of the deadly blue bottle jellyfish, so we drank instead!

In the morning we drove to a very hot Brisbane, dropped of our van and booked into a very cool little B&B called Annies. We explored Brisbane a little in the evening but were not that impressed. Next morning we headed to the airport very excited at the thought of going to Hong Kong!!!!

Posted by robandem 23:14 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

New Zealand - South Island

semi-overcast 18 °C

Day 9 continued

The ferry journey did'nt seem to last long as we began to sail into the South Island and the stunning Marlborough Sounds with its lush green hills rolling down into the clear blue waters. If this was the norm for the south island then bring it on!

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Arriving at Picton we disembarked and sped west towards Havelock, home of the Giant green mussels.

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After deciding not to have mussels we stopped for lunch by the waters edge. Fried eggs it was for me, thats what we loved about the camper, everything you need is right behind you! After some recomendations we headed for Ruby bay for the night. This place was lovely, we parked up next to the water (as close as we could get, after 3 failed attempts at driving a camper up a shingle beach, yes we did get stuck!) and settled in for the night.

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After a great meal Rob couldn't resist anymore and collected driftwood to make a fire. The stars and the moon were out which topped things of nicely.

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Day 10

In the morning we drove to the Abel Tasmin National Park, with lush forest walks and secluded beaches. With no roads we jumped on a water taxi up the coast to Bark Bay, we would then be picked up further down from Anchorage and taken back to Marahau where the camper was parked.

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The walk lasted 3hrs and took in some amazing views, all though we were unlucky with the weather! One tip though, never go bear feet in walking boots! The combination of sand and moisture led to Rob having huge blisters on his feet which took months to heal!!!

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View from the walk

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Rob trying to be arty with the camera on the beach at Abel Tasman National Park

After a bite to eat we headed south but stopped at Lyell for the night. We arrived late and it was dark so quickly knocked up some pasta, however we began noticing what started as a few little flies and turned into hundeds of sand flies! We had been warned about these by other travellers, you will find no mention of them in any brochures! They are worst on the west coast but are further inland as well! What we didnt realise was that the little buggers bite! After a brief stand outside the van they got the better of us so we retreated to inside the van, and killed off the flies who dared to venture inside!

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Head tourch came in very handy for the killing process!

Day 11

In the morning our van was covered in them so we left at great speed! Our tales between our legs! Dam flies!

We headed for the famous west coast, first stop Westport to stock up on defences against the evil sandfly. Now we had heard that locals use a mix of Baby Oil and Dettol, and this apparently works a treat. So after buying the ingredients, and after one local telling us that the sandfly was in fact an endangered species and it was illegal to kill it, yeah right, we were off to the coast. But now with a lovely shine to our body and smelling of dettol! Yummy!

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Our West Coast perfume!

First stop Cape Foul Wind and our first seal colony, and no this was named after me(Rob)! We saw only a few seals but had breakie and drove south. The road was amazing, clinging to the cliffs with the rough ocean next to us, it really is as the guide books say one of the best drives in the world.

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Typical view, wild and wet.

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The longest one way bridge across a river.

Next stop was Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. We headed breifly for one of the caves and a little look around and then went to see the blowholes. They were amazing, the rocks were all layered like pancakes and with various blowholes. You just had to wait for a big wave to hit and then watch the huge rushes of water spurt into the air. Really good attraction and free!

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After Emily's attempt at cutting my hair, I decided to let it grow!

That night we camped by Lake Mahinapua, a surprisingly fly free zone! Was our new perfume working?

Day 12

The next morning we drove south again, we tried to stop for lunch on the beach but within seconds of stopping we were being savaged by flies. Now at this point we must mention Em's defence mechanism when it comes to fending off the flies. This basically involved having what looked like a fit, and hitting herself all over. Needless to say it didn’t work and so didn’t our babyoil/dettol perfume! We decided there and then to get away from the west coast that day, as we sped inland towards the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Emily walked to a good view point of the Franz Josef glacier on her own as rob's blisters were still raw so walking was out! But he was kept amused by the local parrots having cars for lunch!

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Not quite as impressive as Glacier Moreno in Patagonia.

Queenstown was our next stop, arriving rather late we headed into town for a meal of mussels and pizza! The green mussels in NZ are huge! Now they are not the prettiest foods to eat and to be honest when you have to chew on them for more than a few seconds it gets quite nasty, however they did taste amazing!

Day 13

We awoke early to check out Queenstown. First impressions were good, the place lives up to its name for the thrill capital of NZ with nearly a whole street devoted to selling you near death experiences!

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The place itself is also really nice, with a great vibe and lots of bars and restaurants, and all located on a really picturesque lake. Now being both slightly chicken we didn’t go for the bungy jump or sky dive but instead booked ourselves onto the Shotover Jet Boat.

Now this was no ordinary boat trip, these boats carry up to 14 passengers, at very high speeds down very narrow canyons, in waters sometimes only centimetres deep. I (Rob) was very excited, and we even managed to get front row seats……wicked! It lasted about 30mins and how we missed some of the rocks, who knows!

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Even better were the 360º flips and the feeling you were going to go flying out of the boat!

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The whole experience was great and there was only one way to round of the day, and that was to get pissed! So we did, and after a few games of pool and many drinks we finished it off with not your usual kebab, but a nice deer burger…..yummy!

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Emily won!

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Day 14

Naturally we woke with a lovely hangover, but that soon was forgotten as we jumped in the van to our next destination, Milford Sound. This was quite a long drive but we stopped in a place called Te Anau, before we hit the last 3 hr leg to the Sounds which was supposed to be stunning and also to fill up with petrol as there was nothing from there onwards! For the following morning we booked ourselves onto a kayak trip on the sounds.

We stopped for lunch at McKay Creek which was lovely and only a few sand flies showed up! From there to the Sounds was an incredible drive through vast lakes and mountains along some very twisting roads. The best bit has to be the Homer Tunnel, which is 1.2km long, has no internal lighting and a very steep gradient down towards Milford. Emily was driving when we entered the tunnel and was doing well until she started shouting ‘I don’t like it’, this did nothing to help Rob relax with Ems driving!

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It was quite dark in the tunnel!

Anyway we made it and in no time we had arrived at our destination. The weather was perfect, and the sounds looked magical. However we had heard the sounds are best seen soon after a heavy rain shower due to the many waterfalls which suddenly appear and poor into the water creating an incredible atmosphere. So for the first time we went to sleep praying for rain!

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Oh and I nearly forgot we were in the birth place of the sandfly so naturally they were everywhere……Em loved it!!!!

Day 15

We were picked up at 6am and taken down to the water for quick safety chat and then kitted out in a wetsuit and paddle, and off course a 2 person Kayak!

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There was not a cloud in the sky, so it looked like our prayers for rain had gone unheard! But the water was incredibly still so we got the next best weather.

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Before entering our kayak Emily and I were warned that these double kayaks had been called the ‘Divorce Kayaks’, which we laughed at! But soon realised why as there was some disagreement with my steering and Em’s paddling, which we resolved by splashing each other in the face!

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Rob not impressed when i got him wet! woops

The kayaking lasted about four hours in which time we paddled next to seals, stopped for some hot brew in the middle of the sound, and paddled up to the massive waterfall.

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It really was a magical morning and was only slightly ruined by the 100 light aircraft take-offs and landings that happen everyday from the sounds airport.

One thing we forgot to mention was that we passed the supposed birth place of the Sand fly, now we know Milford Sounds is a national treasure but really we feel they should nuke the whole area! That’s how much we now hated the little buggers!

That afternoon we drove back to Queenstown and stayed the night. Watched a great live band in a pub and where Emily tried her best to sing along to every track, not a window in sight had its glass intact!

Day 16

We had decided to now head towards the east coast, and not drive through the middle (this was a mistake). Our first port of call on the coast was a place called Shag Point!

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We had lunch there and were attacked by seaguls, we also saw some seals and a couple of penguins.

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We now realised that there was very little along this part of the coast and we should have gone through the centre.

Next stop were the Moeraki Boulders, some very weird round shaped rocks which were slowly being uncovered as the land was eroded. It was amazing just how perfectly round they were, as you can see Emily was very excited by them!

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That night we stayed in Temuka and tried to work out where we going next.

Day 17

After a tip from my dad we drove slightly inland to Rakaia Gorge, where we had a quick dip in the freezing cold ice blue water.

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Then off to Waikuku Beach in Woodend, which we had been tipped by another couple that we could free camp there and the beach was amazing. Unfortuantely when we arrived the 'No Camping' signs were everywhere and it had begun to rain to not really beach weather!

Kaikoura was next up the coast, a place famous for its sea life and in particular, Dolphins! Just before we got there we camped overnight at Goose Bay, it was a perfect spot right on the sea and we had been told that if were up 6ish we would see the dolphins swim by!

Day 18

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The view in the morning waiting to see dolphins

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Em was up at 6, but didn't see a thing! Ah well we had heard that you could go an organised tour and swim the dolphins so we stopped at Kaikoura and tried to book ourselves onto a trip. Our hearts sank when we were told it was booked out for at least a week! But not to beaten we put our names down on the cancellation waiting list just in case!

Not sure what to do next we headed up to Marlborough sounds and camped at Portage for free! That night the weather turned and in our haste to jump into the camper we wedged to rocks in between our boot lid and the body....with alot of hammering we got them loose with only a slight modification to the body work!

Day 19

With the forcast not looking good we drove to Blenheim, a town well known for its wineries. We arrived at what we thought was perfect timing, there was a wine festival on with live music...cool. But after alot of running around we realised that all the tickets were sold out, doh!

So we went to the cinema instead and watched 'Blood Diamond' which turned out to be a great film! After which we had a spa in the campsite we were staying in cooked a yummy meal.

Day 20

Up early and on the road again to Hanmer Springs, a place set in the hills with surprisingly, natural springs to revitalise in! We arrived just after mid day and decided to do some mountain biking in the afternoon through the surrounding forests, we rented some wicked bikes with all round suspension and disk breaks!

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However during our bike ride we received a phone call from the Dolphin Centre saying that there was a space on the 6am slot to swim with the dolphins tomorrow! So not wanting to miss this great opportunity we sped back to Kaikoura on the same day we had left! That night we camped in town close to the Dolphin Centre for our very early start. We both went to sleep very excited at the thought of meeting 'flipper'.

Day 21

5.30am the alarm went off, but it didn't matter we were up and raring to go!

Arrived at the Dolphn centre at 6, and were given a quick briefing on safety. Then were suited up in thick wetsuits and given snorkels and fins. It was only a 5min bus journey to the harbour and our waiting speed boats that would take us out to sea and the Dolphins. That day there was very strong winds which had meant the sea was very rough, this compiled with an overcast sky meant that the captain was not to confident in seeing the Dolphins! We crossed everything and hoped we would! The journey out was rough, and a few people were going slightly green, Em and I were loving it though.

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Half and hour in we hadn't seen anything and we were beginnig to loose hope, but then we saw one, then two and within minutes there were dolphins literally everywhere. At least 500 of the Bottle Nose Dolphins were in sight!

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The boat manouvered around to get in front ot the swimming dolphins and then we were instructed to slowly put on our masks and fins and enter the water.

It was incredible they were everywhere, and so close to you. A couple of times you would get hit by a fin, but you were told not to reach out and touch them! I was so excited I forgot to breath and had to come up for air! Em and I swam along with our snorkels on and marvelled at these great creatures who wanted to play with us, they did this by circling you and you trying to keep up with them, which offcourse we couldnt! One way of getting them to come to you was to sing through your snorkel, we found that Old Lang Syne worked very well!

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We had three swims with the dolphins, and tried to get some photos using an underwater camera but unfortuantely it was too dark for the camera.

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Look very closley and you will see a dolphin very close, nose and eye on right side!

We boarded the boat and headed back to the mainland knowing we had one of the best experiences or our lives, to swim with dolphins in there natural environment was incredible!

This experience could only be topped of nicley with a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, which we had back at the dolphin centre...yummy!

In the afternoon we drove to Christchurch and stayed with my cousin Charlie and his wife Irma and two great kids, Tamara and Zane (thanks again for having us to stay xx).

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Emily's new man - Zane!

The day was only slightly ruined by a massive rock flying up and cracking our windscreen on route to Christchurch. Em was driving at the time and was covered in glass but managed to keep the van on the road. We didn't take the no excess option when we rented the van so we had a lovely bill of 200pounds!!!

Day 22

Next day with the windscreen temporary fixed we drove to the Banks peninsula and the french village of Akaora. After a quite a few days on the road we decided a day of drinking was needed, and Akaora was perfect. Loads of nice beachfront bars for Em and I to drink at!

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In the evening we eventually got to use the bbq I had bought up in Auckland, and cooked a lovely rack of marinaded lamb, followed by some marshmellows. Em thought it would be good idea to melt a few at a time but ended up with marshmellow soup...yuk!

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I then put hot wax on the fire and smoked out half the campsite, clever rob!

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Em also in her drunk state tried to nurse the broken camper back to life!

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Windscreen taped up! woops!

Day 22

We spent the day in Christchurch, and had a lovely Valentines lunch (Rob had remembered). That evening we stayed at my cousins and had a lovely bbq at Irma's sisters.

It was great playing with the kids and Emily impressed Tamara with her old trampoline routine! She was really good! Emily spent some time teaching Tamara the routine (keep practicing Tamara!).

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Day 23

Our last day in New Zealand, we spent the morning in Christchurch. Em got her hair cut and for the first time in nearly 4 months her hair was straight! We both agreed that he buff looked better though, and it returned the following day! In the afternoon we said goodbye to the camper and Charlie lent us some bikes and we headed for the hills overlooking Christchurch for some great views of the city.

Our flight left at 5am in the morning and Charlie very kindly gave us a lift to the airport. It was great to catch up with my cousin and the family and we were sad to say good bye to New Zealand!

Off to Aus now, and hopefully some sun!

Campervan Statistics

1. 0-60mph = 10mins (go faster red stripe reduced this by 5mins)

2. Smell rating (0-10) = 10, mainly off milk smell thanks to previous traveller no doubt!

3. Comfort Rating (0-10) = -2
3.1 Rob slept with feet on fridge and Ems feet were under the cooker
3.2 Only fetal position possible in passenger front seat
3.3 Slightly damp!

4. Sound System = What sound system!
4.1 Ems singing did not help
4.2 Aerial was used as a pointer at other cars on the road, manual function only.
4.3 Background farting!

5. Camouflage rating = High
5.1 Bottom half of camper in green
5.2 Front covered in dead flies

6. Road Kill Scores

Em = 1 Bird, 1 Stone + Windscreen
Rob = 4 Birds, near miss dog, and 2 butterfdlies (rare species)

7. "Cool" factor = Bloody High
- two tone body and go faster red stripe made the beast the coolest box on 4 wheels.

8. Originality = like no other on the road

9. Inferiority rating = off the scale, we were dwarfed by other campers

10. Kitchen = 2 hobs and grill, what more do you need!
Fridge (warm), this meant high milk costs but made good cheese!

11. Off road capability (0-10) = 8
- not good on shingle beach (we got stuck twice trying to get the best spot fot the night)

12. Damage

Rob driving - LOW
Em driving - HIGH
- Overall, windscreen smashed, rocks jammed in boot, and damage to the front when we tried to get the van airborn!

13. Satisfaction
- After the initial shock and change of vehicle we grew to love him and it was a sad goodbye.

Couple of pics of the camper and its setup! Now dont be jealous!

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Ous is the massive one in the middle!

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We had our own bar too! Thats a vodka too many I think!

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The cupboard over the bed!

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What the camper was turned into during the driving (the fridge on top of the bed!)

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Not sure what this sign on the camper meant but it looked cool!

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We had to have a travel companion - a New Zealand Kiwi

Posted by robandem 18:34 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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