Great Barrier Reef: Smurfs on holiday

As we all know, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the wonders of the natural world. What they don’t tell you at school, or in the travel programmes is that you can get pretty darn sea sick there.

You can’t say we weren’t prepared… we planned thoroughly. We researched which boat to go for – modern (more stable), a catamaran (more stable), and a boat that moored onto a pontoon (to allow us to get off the boat). We researched “stinger suits” – which are basically lycra suits that cover every inch of skin on the body except the face, in order to protect against jellyfish stings. The Irukandji jellyfish is found off this part of Australia, and it is extremely poisonous – a sting can hospitalise someone and even kill them. A guy we spoke to in Cairns said it is rare for someone to be stung by one, but someone was stung around 6 weeks ago and he said he didn’t know a person could scream that loud. So being a wimp, and not wanting to die, I opted for full stinger suit protection. We were prepared in every way – sun cream, stinger suits, and boat research done. So did it pay off? Continue reading

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Cairns: Can a lizard walk on a ceiling?

A wildlife fan I am not. I have healthy respect for wildlife and would never harm it – Live and let live. But also, live and let it stay away from me. So our stay in Cairns got off to a tricky start – first our bags became infested with tiny spiders, having left them in our hostel room. We checked out of said hostel pronto, and into a much nicer hotel. We did not regret that, although interestingly the hotel had the odd lizard crawling on the ceiling. I was too afraid to walk underneath it, and my boyfriend told me not to be silly and reassured me that the lizard clearly is able to walk on the ceiling. At which point, the lizard promptly fell off the ceiling and landed with a splat on the floor. The lizard had great comic timing. It was unhurt, but it did not inspire me with confidence and I avoided walking underneath lizards for the rest of the holiday. Which is probably a good life-rule too.

Over the next few days we chilled out – it was too hot and humid to do much else! We went in the swimming lagoon on the esplanade, which is free. Continue reading

Sydney : thongs and grey pyjamas

After being in New Zealand for so long I was craving a big city, and Sydney did not disappoint. I drank in the noise, the size and the wonderful busy-ness of the city! There were cheap-eateries, internet cafes, towering offices, greasy pizzas, and, the piece de resistance… a massive Woolworths! In the UK, Woolworths – well, it’s gone into administration now – but when it was still in existence it sold toys, CDs, pic-n-mix and odds and ends. In Australia it appeared to be an actual supermarket, which was fab! We did our Christmas shopping there. Which basically meant we each bought chocolate for each other 🙂

On Christmas Day we ate a three course meal at a hotel. We had to shop around to find one that wasn’t hideously expensive. After lunch we went for a stroll to Circular Quay and saw the Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House which was magnificent!

In the next few days we explored the city. Continue reading

Christchurch – Away in a manger…

With a name like Christ Church, it is perhaps fitting that we were there in the lead-up to Christmas. We visited a live nativity play which was lovely – a lady as Mary, a man as Joseph, a real baby Jesus, and lots of (real live) sheep, a donkey, and a llama. It was precious!  We found Christchurch to be serene and quiet, and we spent relaxing days watching the boating on the river, and cooing over the ducks with ducklings in tow.

There was a great deal of vibrancy and life in the main square in Christchurch, with a giant chess set, and street performers. My boyfriend was picked out of the crowd to be one of four assistants to a street performer. I felt for him at first, Continue reading

Arthur’s Pass – on the road again…

We headed back from The Glacier, back to Greymouth and along the road to Arthur’s Pass. Our cute little car chugged up the hills – my foot was flat on the floor and still we could only go at about 10 mph.  Arthur’s Pass wasn’t what I was expecting – I thought it would be a high mountain pass, but the road was actually in a valley. Slightly less impressive than I anticipated, but mainly because my expectations were high. Like Sex and the City The Movie.

Continue reading

Franz Joseph : Ice ice baby…

Franz Joseph itself reminded me of a ski-village, with lots of cute hotels, overpriced shops, and the view of snow-capped mountains all around. Despite being a magnet for tourists and backpackers, it managed to retain a peaceful air.

We made enquiries about hiking the glacier and were told that the glacier hikes had been cancelled for the last 5 days due to bad weather, so it was uncertain if the hikes would be running the following day either. We were gutted! We bought a ticket nonetheless and were told to turn up the following morning, and a decision would then be made as to whether the hikes would take place or not. We were nervous but all we could do was turn up and hope for the best.We arrived the following morning and were told that full-day hikes would not be running, but half day hikes would! We were overjoyed at our luck! However the guide explained that as the rain had flooded the river, we would only be able to access the glacier through “the bush” Continue reading

Greymouth – why so grey?

Greymouth was a bit grey, I’m sorry to report. There wasn’t a lot to it, and it was a little sad and unexciting. There was enough in the way of amenities for the passing tourist, eg. supermarket, petrol station, McDonald’s, and a few shops and restaurants. But I felt that the town lacked any real character.

The number of photos that I take is normally a sign of how exciting a place is. At the Machu Picchu I took around 250. In Greymouth I took 1. Now it would be unfair to compare Greymouth to the Machu Picchu – not many places can compete with that, not least places whose names start with “Grey…”. But I’m just saying… 😉 Continue reading

Hamner Springs : serenity itself…

Hamner Springs was a quiet unassuming village with some great little restaurants, a warm climate, and a sense of peacefulness. We had a stroll in the evening and I felt really content with the world. Which is rare. And then the next morning I remembered why…

The bank cut off our card!! One minute we were paying for petrol – No problem! Ten minutes later we tried to purchase paninis, but “Computer says No”. We found ourselves cut off from funds, on the other side of the planet, which is really not ideal! I’m sure the bank had a reason – “security” no doubt. But that’s not much help when you’re in an area of natural beauty trying to pay for paninis using your own hard-earned non-laundered money! Continue reading

Kaikoura : Whale Ahoy!

The drive to Kaikoura was the first (and only!) time I have been breathalysed. Not because I was drunk – the Police were breathalysing everyone on that road. They held something close to my mouth, which I assumed was a microphone, and they asked me to say my name. I said my name and was expecting them to explain what was going on, and then ask to breathalyse me. However apparently that was it – they must have breathalysed me when I said my name – so it was done without me knowing what was going on. I was miffed about that, but didn’t think it was worth complaining – they could have made my life a lot more difficult! So I walked away. Well, drove away, as I was sitting in a car at the time.

We went to Kaikoura for the same reason most people go to Kaikoura – for whale watching! Apparently the ocean floor drops off sharply just off the coast of Kaikoura, so the water is extremely deep relatively close to the shore.

Coastline near Kaikoura, NZWe took a boat out and I remember the guide saying that the ocean is so deep you could fit the Auckland skytower between the boat and the sea bed. Scarily deep! Continue reading

Tauranga – sea, sand and a couple of idiots.

Tauranga was a pleasant little town, and we spent a morning wandering around it. Before long we were stopped by two guys who said:-

“Do you know where the Bank is?”

We replied “No sorry mate, we’re not from round here”

“Oh right…..  Do you know where the Post Office is?”

“No sorry – we are not from this town so we don’t know where anything is, sorry!”

“Oh OK….. Do you know where the nearest post box is?”

Fearing this would go on all day, we suggested “Why don’t you try up there….?”

“Thanks!” and they left happily.

Honestly?!!

Anyway, Tauranga was pleasant and we enjoyed a salad for lunch and an ice cream. However we soon felt that we had seen all there was to see. Even though we had clearly not seen the bank or post office. Continue reading