Cairns

We arrived in Cairns late on Friday night and after the quickest bag collection and airport transfer ever we arrived at our backpackers called Dreamtime Traveller’s Rest. It is a great hostel in the centre of Cairns with an amazing atmosphere. It had a big area in the centre of all the rooms and kitchens where people could all chill out and they had even converted an old VW Camper into a lounge area. The staff were great too.

Cairns was warm too which was a massive bonus for us, we stepped off the plane to the classic heat you would expect on holiday. A nice change from the cold of Alice Springs.

Now as you may know the main reason we were in Cairns was for the Great Barrier Reef, so early on Saturday we headed to reception and booked a trip to the reef for the following day. We were very lucky as we got an amazing deal for a full day boat trip to the outer reef with $100 discount.

For the rest of the day we decided to explore Cairns, which was alot smaller and different than I expected. Its a lovely little town right on the sea with a lovely promenade walk all down the sea front. Something that surprised me was that the reef was very far off the coast, and the sea immediately off the coast you cant actually swim in as it is full of crocodiles and groper fish. Due to this they have created an innovative little lagoon for the locals to use on the sea front with an artificial beach which I thought was great.

The first thing we did was head to Rusty’s Market as we had heard good things and they sold every fruit and vegetable you could imagine I saw some of the biggest veg I have ever seen (keep it clean). I really wanted Chris to try a custard apple, as I had tried one in India so we bought one for him to try. As we walked into town Chris spotted a pancake house, we were both starving so we stopped off to refuel – I had Caramello pancakes and Chris has his with eggs and bacon (food features very heavily in this blog).

We wandered through the sea front markets and as we walked further along the promenade we spotted a group of Pelicans which was really cool to see. So we had been given alot of vouchers for food off our backpackers so we thought it would be rude not to use them, so after a look in the art gallery we went for lunch at the Wool Shed. We had a voucher for this place, its in Lonely Planet and Chris’ friend told us to go so I had high hopes, I had been recommended the salads by the lady on reception so thought I would give one a try. I have never been defeated by a salad before but it was amazing- Thai chicken (beansprouts, cashews, crispy noodles- the full works) my mum would have loved it. We went back to the hostel to re-pack our bags and get ready for the following day and ended up having a nap, we had a quick drink at the hostel happy hour and then went out for dinner (considerable time had past just for the record).

We got another great deal at an Irish bar called PJ O’Briens which gave us a meal and a drink for $9 (£4.50). We went for another drink at a bar called the Salt House right be the sea and I had such a good raspberry Mojito!

The next day (today) was our Great Barrier Reef tour! We set off on the boat at around 8.30am and we were given tea, coffee and scones we felt right at home. We were given wetsuits etc. I was given a small so I was well chuffed! We were snorkeling at two different parts of the reef, it took 1.30hours to get there and at the first we did about an hours snorkeling, back on board for a buffet lunch and to another part of the reef. We were sat with two English lads on the boat who were hilarious like half of the Inbetweeners.

It was so beautiful!!! The colours were unreal and there were so many amazing fish swimming around. The coral was out of this world unlike anything I have seen before. I found it so peaceful as the waves were quite rough with your head above but as soon and you put your face in to snorkel it felt so calm. I am not the best in the sea but I am a fairly confident swimmer but by the end I was enjoying it much more diving down to see fish. We saw so many different fish, starfish, sea cucumbers and lots and lots of gorgeous coral. I cant describe to you how great it really was, at one point we swam through what I can only describe as a coral valley stretching up at either side.  We took an underwater camera so I will let the photos do the talking although they really don’t express the colours like they were. I really thought 3 hours snorkeling would be too much but it really wasn’t as there was always something new or interesting to see. We unfortunately didn’t see any sharks or turtles but we have lots of snorkeling to do in Indonesia which I know has lots!

I am typing this (I still feel like I am bobbing)  as we wait for our bus to the airport for our flight to Bali – onto the next country! Australia has been alot more than I thought it would be and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lucy

 

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

We flew to Alice Springs from Sydney early morning and the 3 hour flight got us there for around 2ish. The flight was quite bumpy but I had been warned by a few people that Australia internal flights can be a bit turbulent so I tried my best to just chill and watch the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars!

Alice Springs is a little town in the centre of Australia a very long drive from anywhere. The centre of Australia is renowned for being very dry and hot, and Alice Springs actually has a river called the Todd River that runs through the centre that is nearly always dry!

When we got to our backpackers ‘Alice’s Secret’ we had to chill out for a few hours as check in didn’t open until 4, so we put a film and and had a sleep. At 4 we went for check in with to find we had been upgraded to stay in an old bus! It was amazing and I was so happy as I made an earlier joke to Chris I wanted to stay there. The backpackers is a lovely small quiet backpackers which closes its gates at 7. They had a red back spider in a cage in reception which freaked me out a bit though! As you are advised not to walk around after dark, we stayed at the backpackers ordered dominos and finished our film! We were up early the next day for our Uluru trip!

The next morning we were picked up for our tour along with a few others from our backpackers at 6am, by our tour guide David. We decided to go with a company called Emu Run recommended by our friends Kaley and Rik and opted for a three day, 2 nights camping tour. As we set off for our five hour drive to Uluru I couldn’t believe how red it was on the ground but also so green, David explained that the weather had been very unusual lately as they had heavy rain a few weeks ago and it was colder than usual. We stopped off for toilet breaks along the way and stopped at the side of the road, where there had been a recent bush fire to collect some wood for that nights campfire! Everyone chipped in and we loaded the trailer up in no time. I walked in between two trees and took a spiders web to the face which freaked me out a bit, especially when I looked up and there was a big spider dangling there! Everyone found it pretty funny though!

When we had been driving for about 3 hours we saw a large rock in the distance, and David told us it was Uluru, we all believed him but he then went onto explain that it was actually what the locals call Fooluru, Mount Connor a rock that looks a bit like Uluru. Apparently many tourists have set up and watched sunset there believing it was Uluru only to be disappointed when they were later told it isn’t!

After another two hours driving we reached camp. I couldn’t believe how straight the roads were I don’t think we made one single turn along the road to get here! We all chipped in and had burgers on the BBQ getting to know each other a bit better and then it was back in the van to see the rock! We were so excited. Now I have wanted to see Uluru since I was very little ever since my mum bought me a Dorling Kindersley computer game called ‘My First Amazing World Explorer’ and you went round the world collecting stamps for your passport by identifying landmarks (a bit like what I do now really but for adults), so the point of telling you this is that I was very excited.

As we approached and this sounds silly but it strikes you how big it actually is, you know it’s going to be big but not that big. It’s so impressive and I found out in the tour it’s actually the largest single rock formation in the world and actually reaches another 6km underground.

The first thing we did was visit the rocks cultural centre, as David had to collect another few people for our tour. The centre is shaped like two intertwined snakes that represent aboriginal tale, one poisonous and one not. Inside the poisonous one is all the shops and food etc and in the other all the cultural information about the rock.
Next we had a choice of walks, we opted for the 10km base walk that goes around the base of the rock it really puts into perspective how big it actually is! The walk was amazing and the rock is huge and very red (did I mention that?) we wandered around it is awe exploring the little caves and water holes, there is a permed ant waterhole on Uluru that is very sacred as you can imagine not many are permanent in such a hot climate. The rock is streaked with ridges that were created in its formation and also bits of black from when it occasionally rains leaving trails. It really was amazing! We were all prepared with our hats and fly nets but there were no flies as it was too cold I was a bit disappointed!

As if that wasn’t good enough David then took us to the Uluru sunset car park where he set up a table with some nibbles and champagne and we watched the rock change colour into a dark red as the sun was setting and the sky was beautiful. It really was magical.

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We set up camp that night and it was freezing! We had a huge campfire and everyone huddled around it. We all made dinner which was chicken stir fry and ate by the warmth of the fire all talking. We had such a fun tour group. Now we had two options for sleeping – in a tent that is permanently at the site with mattresses or outside in a swag – for those of you who don’t know a swag is like a leather bag that is very rigid, then you put your sleeping bag inside. The brave part of me came in because we were all not just me a little nervous about dingos and bugs but I slept in a swag. As we all climbed into the swags and laid back it was amazing the stars were so beautiful and a shooting star appeared. That night was very cold though everyone in the tents were freezing too and it got as low as three degrees! The next day there were some very tired people especially as we were up at five for sunrise!

After breakfast we piled in the van and headed for sunrise. Uluru has a sister formation called Kata-Tjuta (The Olgas) which is the sister formation as the formed at the same time. Kata-Tjuta is a formation of 36 domes fairly close to Uluru. The two were formed by erosion off a mountain – the big boulders (Kata Tjuta) weren’t carried as far by the river and the small sediment (Uluru) then basically an inland sea covered the area and put the formations under a lot of pressure and they were created (put simply but effectively, I hope none of my old geography lecturers are reading). Anyway we watched the sunrise over both Uluru and Kata-Tjuta which was also beautiful but it was once again freezing – little did I know that all the layers (2 tshirts, 3 jumpers, 3 trousers and a hat) would be on for the remainder of the two days!

After this we did the Valley of the Winds walk at Kata-Tjuta it was around 7.4km and quite challenging at times. It was also windy (clue is in the name). It was well worth it and we were rewarded with the most amazing views as we did a very steep climb to the main viewing point and David was waiting at the top with Cake (winner).

We headed back to camp and all chipped in (again) to make a build your own Burritio lunch and it was back on the very warm bus for the 5 hour drive to Kings Canyon for our camp! We were all very appreciative of this bus ride as it was warm and we all caught up on sleep from the very cold night before. None of us were looking forward to that night but it turned out to be amazing. The previous nights camp was on a busy campsite but this one was really out in the bush! We saw a few Dingos on the way out and that made the majority of us opt to sleep inside (partly for warmth partly so we weren’t  eaten). We set up a huge campfire and had some warm showers which were amazing. David cooked that night whilst we all talked and drank wine around the fire, the food was so good we had sausage, steak, salad, potatoes and my two favourites kangaroo marinated in soy and garlic and some Dukan bread that was cooked in the embers of the fire. We also roasted marshmallows!

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We had a much warmer night inside although a few brave people including Chris slept outside! The next day we were up early again for sunrise for after breakfast we were off to Kings Canyon, which was spectacular. The walk to the top was tough and it was 500 steps at 6am which woke everyone up, but we got to the top just as sun was rising and it was so amazing. We walked the entire rim of the Canyon and David gave us a talk on native plants and aboriginal uses for them (even the trees want to kill you, if you get a splinter from a certain type it makes your whole arm numb). We got into a section of the Canyon called The Garden of Eden which was full of plants and another lovely permanent waterhole, where we had perfectly timed biscuits and cereal bars! We finished the walk and I have to say that Kings Canyon took my breath away (mentally and physically from all the steps) – I still can’t decide which was my favourite of the three formations though!

After this it was time to set off back, with a few quick stops one for build your own sandwich we had another five hours back to Alice Springs. I have to say we were all very glad to be back after an amazing but very cold trip. I loved it though even if it did give me a head cold! So last night I got warm in bed and went to sleep very early!

Next up is Cairns! I hope it’s warmer there.

Lucy

Sydney

Our time in Sydney has been absolutely amazing it is such a beautiful city and we both fell very in love with it! On the day we left Napier we flew to Auckland at 7am and arrived at 8am, the next flight through to Sydney was at 9am. To say we had a dash was an understatement I have one piece of advice if you have an hour transfer be prepared to run! We then flew to Sydney arriving around midday jumping on our airport shuttle and arriving at our backpackers right in the city centre – Siesta Inn. It was great for what we needed vey central, clean and quiet (grandma). It was based over 5 floors and each floor had a bathroom and kitchen.

We got changed and freshened up and then headed down to Circular Quay where the famous Opera House and Bridge view is and it is spectacular. I cannot describe how beautiful it was, we wandered round for a few hours just looking at all the lovely little restaurants and cafes (Sydney has so many chocolate cafes I was in heaven!). We then settled on Opera Kitchen right next to the harbour bridge and just had a few drinks and some burgers waiting for it to go dark. At night the place looks completely different again, I always think cities look so beautiful at night and this certainly didn’t disappoint! After another wander around we went back for an early sleep, I have also failed to mention that for two out of four of our days in Sydney it rained constantly, but that didn’t bother us!

The next day it was still raining so we wrote a list of rainy day activities in the back of the Lonely P and set off to our first stop. Now as backpackers we are always trying to save a bit of money and usually have breakfast at the backpackers, but the day before I saw something I couldn’t resist- a Guylian (my favourite ever chocolate) cafe! We had breakfast here and I had a macchiato which was just melted chocolate with coffee over the top! A great start to the day!

Next on the agenda was a tour of the Opera House, we got kitted up with our headphones and had an hour tour of the inside of the building. I must say it is a beautiful building, so much time and work went into it. It’s so much bigger than it looks too, we got told that 1 million tiles were made in Sweden for the roof and imported over and the power supply to the Opera house could power a village of 25,000 people! We were taken to some amazing views and got to sit in some of the opera theatres. One thing we found quite sad is that the architect (Jorn Utzon) who designed the building never got to see it finished due to disputes with the engineers! Chris kept shouting as he forgot he had his headphones on, so I think we may have spoiled the ambiance somewhat but we had fun.

After the tour in a break from the rain showers we had a little wander round the botanic gardens and then across to the Contemporary Art Gallery at the other side of the harbour. We never pretend to be art experts but we enjoy wandering around looking at the ‘interesting’ pieces – my favourite a battered umbrella robot. Just down the road from the museum is an area called ‘The Rocks’ where the convicts first settled when they were brought to Australia, this area is very interesting and some brilliant stories to be told. We grabbed some street food (me some Gyoza and Chris Okonomiyaki ) and then the plan was to do the lonely planet rocks walking tour which started us off at the rocks museum and then on around interesting features. One of the most impressive was a tunnel cut through the rock by the convicts called the Argyle cut, it was done completely with pick axes. Another cool point on the walk was the YHA building which actually had an archeological dig underneath! After our tour we had a drink at the famous Australian hotel before setting off for the next destination (it really was a tiring action packed day).

So if you are still with me we then went to Darling Harbour, a gorgeous harbour down from Circular Quay lined with cool bars, apartments, attractions it’s a really lively area. We had a cocktail in the Hard Rock Cafe (or Rock Hard as Chris once called it by mistake and it’s stuck ever since). After this a jaunt to china town for some more dumpling street food. It was still torrential with rain at this point so, we decided to call it a day when I stood in a puddle up to my ankles (it soaked right through). This was by far our busiest day and by the time we got back my whole little toe was a blister! Who cares though we were in Sydney!

Sooo, on our second proper day in Sydney the weather had brightened up (woohooo). Those of you who know me and Chris know we love a sightseeing open top bus ride, so we bought a ticket which gave your access to the Sydney Explorer and Bondi Explorer! We spend the morning on the Sydney explorer which took 90 minutes round the city. We had already seen quite a lot of it the day before but it was nice to have the commentary and learn some history. Although the weather was fine we were freezing when we got off so went for a little lunch by the Harbour Bridge. Next stop was Bondi beach! There isn’t much to say about Bondi apart from the fact that it is a gorgeous city beach, golden sand, turquoise water and amazing surf (apparently). It was boiling by this point so we did the cliff top walk which was beautiful and then headed back to the bus. I was later to find out that my Great Grandad actually lived in Bondi Beach for a few years so it’s cool to say I have been there 🙂

On the bus back to the city there were some beautiful views from the hills above Bondi across the city. That night we ended up in Rock Hard Cafe again for a meal which was lovely and it had an amazing atmosphere!

Day 3, which was yesterday was the big bridge climb day! We had changed our booking from Friday to Sunday due to the weather and we are so glad we did it was such a sunny day! So as we got to the BridgeClimb Sydney, we had a wander around the museum and then went to meet our group. A lot more time goes into the preparation for the bridge climb than I thought actually. We were taken into a room had to sign a form and breathalised (must say we were a bit nervous as we had a few cocktails the night before)- all clear though thank goodness. We then got our overalls that were like giant onesies. We were then harnessed up, Chris pulled his way too tight, nearly suffocated and had to have the guide slacken it off for him (who happened to be a woman, I think he did it on purpose haha). You weren’t allowed anything on the bridge apart from sunglasses which you had to clip on a string, then if you wanted hankies, hats or fleeces you had to use theirs which were all designed to clip on the suit so nothing flew away.

We then had to have a practice climb, the whole bridge works on a system where you clip yourself onto a wire and it just followed you as you walk, Chris volunteered me to go first which was kind of him. We donned our headsets and off we went. We started by walking along the bottom of the bridge which was quite high up and then we came to these huge set of ladders and if you looked up you couldn’t see the top of the ladder, and we were climbing up in between the traffic it was so cool. We stopped along the way for pictures and then started to climb the arch to the top, it wasn’t as strenuous as I though it would be but very high up. You could see right down to the 8 lanes of traffic, 2 train lines, cycle lane and pedestrian lane. It’s quite funny to think that such a huge bridge was built when there were only 12 cars registered in Sydney! At the top the view was breathtaking and if I remember rightly we were 134m above sea level. Chris loved it he was in his element as a structural engineer and was a bit of a geek answering all the questions ‘does anybody know what these are?’ ‘RIVETS’. The bridge is massive though and to give some perspective it takes 33,000 litres of paint per year and there were 6million rivets used in construction (apparently there are quite a lot at the bottom of the harbour too). The whole experience was perfect.

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We followed this with a kangaroo, emu and crocodile pizza (kangaroo and emu are yum but crocodile is a bit chewy). We then spent our last afternoon looking around the Hyde Park Barracks museum, a museum about where the convicts used to live and be brought when they first came to Australia. It was a perfect last day.

Finally if any of my Opus friends are reading this for the first time, my blogs aren’t usually this long, I just had a lot to write about! I can probably say Sydney is one of my favourite cities I have ever visited.

Anyway I wrote this at the airport after a big coffee and bowl of muesli, as we were waiting for our flight to Alice Springs for our Uluru trip! I actually post this blog whilst we are in Alice Springs, eating dominos watching ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ on wait for it….VHS.

Lucy

The Northerners arrive in NZ (via Melbourne)

Hello 🙂

So I know this post is very late considering we have been in New Zealand for 3 months (ish) now but I came here with the intention of starting a travel blog, and after following a good friend from uni blogging around South America (thanks Amiee) it has given me a kick to get this blog started.

On the 2nd of July we set off to the airport after some emotional goodbyes (lets not go there) with a very long journey ahead of us. We flew with Ethiad via Abu Dhabi, Perth and the Melbourne!! We were staying in Melbourne for 4 nights with our lovely friends who we hadn’t seen for nearly 4 years – Kaley and Rik. It was the best feeling to arrive in Melbourne finally after what felt like a never-ending journey to be greeted by your best friends!

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We had an amazing time in Melbourne, Kaley and Rik went all out to show us Melbourne and all the tourist attractions nearby and it was great to chill and catch up after being apart for so long. We sat up until late on the night we arrived drinking port and curdled Baileys like old times- nothing changes.

So our first day consisted of a lazy morning recovering from jet lag eating an Aussie fry up including kangaroo sausages (yum) and getting to know Jeff the lizard. Ryan and Jess (Kaleys brother and his girlfriend) were staying for the weekend so when we decided to venture out we obviously took a boys car and a girls car to look for wild kangaroos on a nearby golf course. I’m sorry to say that predictably the girls got lost and took a long time to get there but we did see wild kangaroos. One took a dislike to Raz and squared up to him, so we made a quick exit went to McDonalds and then visited the set of Neighbours! The night soon escalated into lots of drinks and a game of ‘fire ball swingball’ which I wont elaborate upon.

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On our second day we went into Melbourne City Centre and it was amazing!! Its such a cool city it didn’t feel too big and had a really modern artistic feel – I loved the different artwork and sculptures. We started off by visiting the casino and we had a lovely lunch outside under some patio heaters I had a risotto and a glass of Sav (obviously). We then went to the Eureka sky deck which gives you a 360 of the whole city, and finally we went to Hosier Lane and the famous Flinders station, Hosier Lane is a street full of graffiti its really great as it apparently changes everyday with different art. We had a brill day and finished it off with a chilled night at the house!

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Day Three – Kaley took us to a place where you could feed wild cockatoos, you paid for a bag of seeds and they flew down and jumped all over you whilst they ate the seeds, being the chicken I am I managed to pose for one photo and then passed them back to Chris. The next stop was a viewing point in the Dandenong Ranges where you could see a great view of Melbourne CBD it was interesting to see how flat the land around it was and then just  a cluster of tall buildings where Melbourne appeared! We then went to pick Rik up and went to Philip Island to see the Penguins, it was an amazing experience seeing all the little Penguins coming out of the sea to get to their nests- sadly I couldn’t take any pictures as the flash scared them. On our final night together it would be rude not to get very drunk, light a fire and talk late into the night – so we did 😀

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On our last day we visited the Botanical Gardens where Kaley works it was really cool to see where she had been working in Australia and it was a really interesting place to visit. The final mission before we went to the airport was to go to the Moonlit Sanctuary and get the classic Australia tourist picture of us feeding kangaroo and cuddling a Koala.

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After a quick takeaway pizza it was time for the airport to continue our journey to New Zealand. It was strange leaving Kaley and Rik, I think that’s when it hit us that we were moving to New Zealand as all our energy and excitement had been focused on seeing them when we were left on our own we got a little nervous.

The flight went by in no time and we arrived in Auckland at about 5am, but it wasn’t over – we still had to get to Napier. We arrived at our motel in Napier at about 5pm and after 4 flights, 3 buses and a taxi to get there we just had a curry, drank some wine and slept. We were finally in New Zealand- our home for a year!

Lucy 🙂