A Travellerspoint blog

Homeward Bound.

The Epic Adventures Come To An End.

overcast 14 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

Having left the beauty of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains behind us we were truly on the last leg of our 'Epic Adventures' as we set down in San Francisco for a 2 night stopover before looping back to LA for 3 days, and then finally home.

As anybody else who has travelled will know, the last few days of a trip are when you discover just how far every dollar has to stretch, how much free stuff there is to do in a city, and just how boring eating pasta every night can get!

San Francisco is an iconic city for many reasons, the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, the steep hills that evoke images of 70's cop shows! But it is the general liberal/artistic/relaxed atmosphere that you find walking around and in the cafes/bars of the city that is infectious. We walked and walked and walked the streets of San Fran for our 2 days here, and man it is exhausting going up and down those hills!

The hills of San Fran at night
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Iconic Trams by Union Square Downtown San Fran
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It is a beautiful city in many places and a city you feel you could live quite happily in. There is however an underside to it as well and we saw more homeless people here than we had in most of the other destinations we had been to so far on this trip which did surprise us. What also surprised us was our accommodation! We have stayed in jungle camps and beach huts in Asia swamped by mosquitos, in cheap hostels in downtown areas of large cities frequented by questionable clientele, but it was in a hotel in San Francisco 5 days from the end of our trip that we first experienced bed bugs! I was eaten alive. It was pretty horrible, we could practically see the sheets moving on closer inspection! Suffice to say we got the room changed and slept in our clothes the next 2 nights!

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We left San Fran for LA from the central bus station on board the famed Greyhound bus service, where we met a few 'characters', and were dropped off on Hollywood Boulevard. Already fairly tired and bag-laden, we had to try get public transport across the city back to Venice Beach where we were going to stay in the same hostel as the previous week. This proved a bit of an adventure in itself! We have since heard that the bus service in LA isn't particularly renowned for its efficiency, but with the city so large we would have to change over to different routes.

An hour or so into the next bus trip we were officially lost. It was most likely our small Irish town naivety but the area we were in looked remarkably similar to some 'gansta' rap videos! We had no idea where we were, and as all backbackers know walking around aimlessly with a map in hand and backpacks hanging off you is when you feel at your most vulnerable....you're so obviously lost! We were in fact even further away from our destination, and had to stump up for a taxi. 50 dollars later and we were back in Venice beach in one piece.

It was a calm, uneventful and poverty stricken last few days in LA. We spent the time strolling to Santa Monica again, watching the crazy antics on the Venice Boulevard and reminiscing about the times we had had over the past few months and the changes our travels had had upon us.

Back on Venice Beach
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Then without further ado it was home time, a flight back to Dublin on Lorraines birthday and the welcome sight of family and friends we hadn't seen for many months.

Looking back on it all now its hard not to be moved by the experience and how it has changed us. Travel is a strange thing really, you travel to different places and experience cultures and events that you never could have imagined before. Sure you see things on tv but they never seem 'real', not until you can touch the buildings, smell the atmosphere, hear the sounds, sense the changes and soak them in. Not until you can really feel it!

The experiences that can differ so much from what you are used to at home can seemlessly alter your views and philosophys. Suddenly things appear differently to you, your values and perspectives have changed. What you thought you wanted and the ways in which you thought you wanted to live your life are all questioned. They say that 'travel broadens the mind', and it really is true if you're willing to allow it to. If you're willing to embrace the new and the unknown, you will be the better person for it (well most of the time!).

It is an amazing experience to have the privilege to travel. Forging friendships with strangers from around the world based on that common bond that you too are willing to explore and learn and experience new things! Its a great community to be a part of, and to this day myself and Lorraine can still talk about the places we went and the people we met with a fondness that hasn't been blunted.

As of last week we were back from this trip for 4 years! Its taken that long to post this last entry. But the bug hasnt left us. There have been many other trips that are yet to be posted! The travel lust is well and truely engrained in us. We are travellers, it is a huge part of our life, and there will always be one more place we just have to go and see......

Posted by LynMoo 30.12.2012 09:59 Archived in USA Tagged me bridges people trains backpacking Comments (0)

Thanksgiving in Colorado

Americana in the Rocky Mountains.

snow 3 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

Now we couldnt possibly have come to the States without visiting our excellent friends the Breezys who we had spent months travelling in tandem with through Asia! We had agreed months previous in some back alley Asian bar that we would most definately visit on our way home, so true to our word on day 5 we left LAX and flew to Denver, Colorado.

It was great to see the guys again waiting for us at the gate after a few months without proper drinking buddies! And we were whisked off out of Denver and across the plains into the Rocky Mountains to their home town of Estes Park, and what a beautiful spot it was! Estes Park is located right at the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park and is a beautiful American town. Shadowed by the mountains and surrounded by the national park it is a stunning spot. And the elk roam free! We had to 'shoo' one out of the driveway when we pulled up to the house.

We had been warned that we may have been too early for the snows, but luckily for us two 'snow-aficionados' it started snowing the day before we arrived! We loved it here.

Rocky Mountains Stream

Rocky Mountains Stream

Actually one of Estes Parks claims to fame is its where Stephen King stayed and was inspired to write 'The Shining'! I presume because of the hotel he was in, and not the pscyhopathic demeanour of any of its inhabitants! Also Dumb and Dumber was filmed here...any of the scenes in Aspen were actually here.

So we had arrived in the Rockys, and not only that but it was Thanksgiving! Such a slice of luck for us as we happened to be in the States and with friends to experience this classic American holiday.

Lynmoo Rocky Mountains

Lynmoo Rocky Mountains

Breezy had made a contraption in their back garden that the turkey was cooking away in when we arrived teasing the taste buds for Thanksgiving dinner! Dinner was exceptional, hats off to the cooks for an almighty feed! Again it was just a great occassion for myself and Lorraine to experience the quintessential American holiday in such a stunning location. Not to mention the madness that is 'Black Thursday' the following day! Another uniquely American tradition of every man/woman for his/her self in the sales the day after....sheer violent bargain fuelled madness!

Toni & Breezy

Toni & Breezy

So we spent the following evening of Black Thursday hanging out with a few beers and then went down to the main street (with Irish coffees in our flasks) to catch the Thanksgiving Parade. The parade was excellent fun the whole town had turned out to line the snowy streets and cheer on the passing floats and bands, there was a lovely community atmosphere there and the coffees kept us nice and toasty throughout!

With the parade finished we went to the local with the guys and their lovely friends who we were introduced to that night for some drinks...and myself and Lorraine were refused and had to go back to the house to get i.d.! That hadnt happened in a long time....or since! We were flattered!

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Estes Main Street (Taffy shops everywhere!)

Toni's family previously ran a Rock Shop in the town which we visited on our way to the Park. A quaint little stone building with an open fire bustling with people. It was like walking into Aladdins cave.. Different coloured crystals, minerals & fossils glistening from every corner.

Lynmoo Bear Hug

Lynmoo Bear Hug

The Rocky Mountains are the majestic backdrop for the little town of Estes & dotted throughout the ascent up the mountain are the most luxurious log cabins I have ever seen. The setting is so stunning it feels like your looking at a film set. Myself & Rob could not wait to explore the National Park so when Toni & Breezie offered to drive us up so we were delighted. We strolled along a small mountain trail with the first snow of the season crunching under our feet.. bliss :)

The park is enormous however we did see a big herd of Elk feeding. The place really just took my breath away.

Only in Estes do you have to fight your way past a couple of Elk in order to collect your post :)

After a good hike there is nothing like a good Irish stew to warm your bones. Myself & Rob did our best at creating an infamous Irish Stew as a thank you to the Breezies.. Toni & Breezie lived to tell the tale so i guess it wasnt that bad ha.

Elk in Rocky Mountain Nat. Park

Elk in Rocky Mountain Nat. Park

On our last night in Estes Toni took us to visit friends of theirs who lived nearby as she had to show us something that they had talked about months previous whilst we had been travelling. For reasons known only to themselves, their friends had built a full size replica Mongolian yurt in their back garden! It was incredible, we stepped out of the snowy night and into the warm confines of the yurt to find an amazing space with a chimney stove in the centre. It was a great place to just chill out with a few drinks, tucked away in the heat and out of the cold of the Rocky Mountains early winter.

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Mongolian Yurt...in Colorado!

Unfortunately our holiday within the holiday was coming to an end and we were flying out early the next morning to San Francisco. We had an amazing time in the Rocky Mountains experiencing some of the facets of normal proper American life (ie not Manhattan/Beverly Hills!) and confirming with us that the American people are just really really.......nice! Just really exceptionally nice people! Apart from the Breezies of course......who are that tad bit more "special"!!

And to sign off on a brilliant week, we were even treated to a spectacular sunrise on our early morning drive to the airport!

Denver Sunrise

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Posted by LynMoo 25.05.2012 00:33 Tagged me landscapes mountains lakes animals snow backpacking Comments (0)

America......"F*ck Yeah!"

The last chapter....

all seasons in one day 15 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

It was a nervous and shaky flight in the QANTAS 'tin bucket with wings' from Nadi to LA, but we touched down safely in LAX with only the slightest of soiled undergarments!

This was it, the last chapter of our journey. 2 more weeks and The Epic Adventure of Lynmoo would be coming to a close. A sad thought no doubt, so whats there to do but make the most of those 2 weeks?! Los Angeles is obviously a huge city, and not an easy one to get around but there was only one place in LA that I wanted to stay in...Venice Beach!

Venice Boardwalk

Venice Boardwalk

Ive always wanted to see the Venice boardwalk. The diverse spread of people (sane or otherwise) that hang around Venice is incredible. So many Californian and LA stereotypes....and all pretty accurate! Bodybuilders at 'muscle beach', buskers and bands hoping to be the next 'Doors", street artists and performers, the patented 80 yr olds in bikinis with boob jobs, veteran hobos with shopping trolleys, skateboarders and rollerbladers, and wayyy too many chihuahua's in handbags!

Lynmoo on Venice Beach

Lynmoo on Venice Beach

There is an amazing atmosphere during the day in Venice and we soaked it all in on our first day walking all the way to the Santa Monica pier. We just kept walking and walking along the Venice beach which is an enormous stretch of sand taking in the classic lifeguard stations and lifeguard jeeps - no Hoff or running/bouncing lifeguards in sight though unfortunately! There were just so many iconic and recognisable sites along here and we'd only covered a small stretch.

Flexin' the guns!
Muscle Beach

Muscle Beach

Office work on the beach
Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Walking down Venice Boulevard on our first day a homeless man approaches us and asks Lorraine:
"Change for a sandwich?"
Lorraine: "Oh, em, no thank you."
Hobo shouts to the world as we walk on: "Daaammmm man...I cant believe she just said 'No thank you'!"
Lorraine to me: "I wasnt going to take a sandwich off him!".
Rob: "No eh, he was asking for one, not offering one!".
Lorraine: "Oh. Shit. Yeah!"

Entrance to Venice Beach, LA

Entrance to Venice Beach, LA

We stayed in Venice and explored the beach and the streets of Santa Monica for 4 lovely relaxed and chilled out days. On our 2nd night we were sitting in the hostel watching tv when it was interrupted with a 'live car chase', which I reckon only happens in the States?? So glued to the tv we watched the helicoptors' spot light follow the car as its chased through the streets by several cop cars. Only thing was it was hard to hear the tv with the sounds of the sirens and helicoptors outside the window of our room....we ended up with 2 views of the chase cos it was right outside!

Venice Beach Garage and Mural

Venice Beach Garage and Mural

Although we didnt spend our entire first 4 days in Venice/Santa Monica, I had a surprise up my sleeve for Lorraine on day 3..........DISNEYLAND!

Ok when Rob said he had a surprise for me I figured we were having something other than pasta for dinner.. but boy was I wrong. Like a lot of people a childhood dream of mine was to go to Disneyland & I for one had no idea that LA is the the home to the original Disney Land & Rob had booked us tickets to go. To say I was excited was probably an understatement. Our luxury coach pulled up & we joined a group of 15 other BIG kids to make our way there (there were literally no children on the bus). I was so excited I was borderline emotional as we pulled into the giant carpark to begin our Disney experience.

As it was our first time in Disneyland we got big badges which meant we got special treatment for the day. We also got personalised Mickey & Mini Mouse hats! It was 2 days before Thanksgiving so the place was covered in Christmas decorations with christmas music playing in the corner of every street - there is a reason they call this place magical :) We were loving it.. I think we even skipped at one stage ha!

Main Street USA, Disneyland

Main Street USA, Disneyland

So we were in the queue to meet Mickey Mouse.. Myself & Rob right at the top of the queue with our big badges first in to meet the mouse in person.. WHEN.... A larger than life American woman tips us on the shoulder with her giant 10 year old kid;

American Lady: 'Can my kid go in first?'
Lorraine & Rob: (in unison) 'EH No!'

I think our enthusiasm scared Mickey Mouse a little.

Lynmoo & Mickey Mouse

Lynmoo & Mickey Mouse

After splash mountain & numerous amusement rides later we ended our day watching the Christmas parade as fake snow billowed from the sky... only in LA eh :)

Lorraine by xmas tree in Disneyland

Lorraine by xmas tree in Disneyland

What a day :)

Posted by LynMoo 11.05.2012 07:32 Archived in USA Tagged beaches people backpacking Comments (0)

Fijian Paradise (The get jealous chapter part deux)

Adventures on 'Celebrity Love Island'.

sunny 30 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

Wow, Fiji. What can be said? Not much to be honest, it is just paradise on earth! I know im not eloquent enough to do it justice...but sure ive never been known as a quiet one so I'll try and describe it anyway.

We had been enjoying the New Zealand section of our trip so much that to be honest, we hadn't planned ahead for Fiji at all. So a few days before we left New Zealand we called into a travel agency to see if we could blag a package/transfers etc for the 2 weeks we would be in Fiji and we were in luck. So our Fiji trip was for the most part planned and arranged before we'd even left New Zealand which was very different then the rest of our trip to date. Knowing exactly where we'd be every hour and day for the next 2 weeks seemed strange, we normally dont know where we'd even be staying one night to the next but we planned on doing nothing but relaxing so it was a welcome change.

It was a short flight to the city of Nadi on the main Fijian island where we landed without any hassle at all and were transferred to the hotel where we'd be staying overnight before moving on to the outlying islands the following day. This was the first time we had stayed in a 'proper' hotel in some time, and we immediately felt the difference. We were on a package holiday for 2 weeks now, not so much travelling anymore. It was bitter-sweet!

The course of our stay would have us island hopping between the mainland at Nadi to 2 other islands for approx a week each of extreme laziness before transferring back to Nadi and flying out on the next leg of the trip. We didnt stray far at all from our hotel in Nadi in the few hours we were there so only got our first glimpse of Fijian life whilst on the bus to the ferry, again the package aspect of this trip hit in - we were tourists now and wouldnt get a chance to travel and explore amongst the towns and people....but i suppose we got over all of that as soon as we started cruising on the ferry out into the crystal sea to our first destination.....BOUNTY ISLAND!!

Bounty Beach
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The ferry from Nadi cruised out into the calm blue waters as we burnt in the blazing sunshine on the packed deck, a deck full of backpackers and families alike. The boat slowed to a stop opposite the first island, a dot of sand and palm trees in the middle of a turqoise sea. This wasnt our destination we were due to get off at the next 'stop' but it gave us a preview of what our 2 weeks were going to be like....awesome!

The boat slowed to a halt at our first destination of Bounty Island and a small boat buzzed out to meet us. We threw the bags over and clambered into what turned out to be a glass bottomed boat the size of a small rowboat with an engine strapped on the back. The driver was crazy friendly and we were joined by 2 others as we were ferried from the ferry to the island itself, all the while looking down at the beautiful array of fish swimming below us. The clarity of the water just cannot be described, we could see the sandy seafloor perfectly clear at a good depth below us.

We were welcomed to the island by the owners of the resort singing a lovely traditional Fijian song that would remain stuck in our head the whole week! It was a great welcome as we climbed off the pier and checked into our home for the week, a lovely bungalow (called a bure in Fiji) with our own private patch of beach.

The view from our hammock outside our personal 'bure'.
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There are a total of just 22 bures on the entire island, with one restaurant/main building where we would have our breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as night time entertainment and a pool - although we never bothered with that when the sea was so warm. We could walk around the entire beach-rimmed island in half an hour, and felt like we had the whole place to ourselves it was amazing.

The food was beautiful as well and the staff were great craic. We spent the nights after dinner just sitting either on the beach/in the hammock/in the bar with a few 'Fijian Golds" (the local beer) under the stars.

Reflection of the moon on the waters at Bounty Island
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And needless to say, the sunsets were incredible as well!

Lynmoo on Bounty beach blazing sunset
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Blazing Orange sunset
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There was complimentary snorkeling gear and kayaks available which we used to explore the extensive coral around the island. During high tide the sea was beautiful to swim in we just stepped out of the bure and jumped in. During low tide the sea level retreated and just about covered the coral line. The variety of fish and coral we saw was amazing and kept us entertained the whole week, we didnt go an hour without getting back into the water.

Lorraine on Bounty
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And of course how could I forget about Bounty Islands' claim to fame?! It was the island where ITV filmed the original "Celebrity Love Island"! It was a terrible horrible show, but you could see from it just how much of a paradise this place is.

Lynmoo sunset at Bounty beach
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So our week of bliss on Bounty Island came to an end and we had to leave.........for another island! This is called the 'get jealous' chapter for a reason ya know! Our next stop was 4/5 islands down the line and was called Mana Island. So our ferry turned up, we said a sad farewell to our hosts who played us off from the pier, and we were on our way.

Our second destination was a tad more upmarket from the relatively basic accom we were staying in in Bounty. Mana island is much much bigger, with 2 large hills splitting the island (with spectacular views from the top) and I think possibly a landing strip for small planes. We were staying in the private resort on one side of the island, and on the other side there was a small town with some budget accom/hostels. Normally we wouldve been staying on that side, so we did feel out of place in the proper resort! The resort was huge with a spa, large fancy pool with bar, tennis courts, computer room/library, wi-fi throughout and all the mod-cons. There was a Fijian choir performing in the main bar when we arrived which made the wait for check in a lot easier! There are 152 guestrooms in this resort alone as opposed to the 22 on Bounty. It was different, but just as beautiful. And we made sure to take advantage of all the facilities available.

Mana Island Pier
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Our bure this time was much more extravagant with a cool shower that was technically outdoors and a huge bed, but it wasn't on the beach...we had to walk a whole 3 minutes for that privilage! The beach itself was stunning. Spotless clean fringed by palm trees for shade and the all important spots for hanging hammocks.

Hammock on Mana Beach
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The water on the North beach of the island was just as clear and warm and clean and perfect as the water on Bounty, if not more so. Again the snorkeling equipment was complimentary, we would swim out a good 50 meters over just plain sand sea floor before you would just hit a HUGE vertical drop of what must be a hundred feet or more as we couldnt see the bottom through the darkness. A steep cliff under the sea surrounding the island that would greet you with a current of cold water rushed up from the deep to meet you. It was here that the coral grew and the amazing species of fish swam around you (fish that always seemed to poo just as you reached them and fly off?!), the place teemed with life. On one of the days a huge Manta Ray breezed by me, I went to swim after it but stopped when I could hear Lorraines muffled underwater screams of objection!

Mana Island North Beach
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Ohhhh SAUCY! Lynmoo on Mana beach.
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At this stage of our trip I officially ran out of money! Not bad goin when you think about it I was just 20 days shy or so of coming home when I had to make 'that' call! We had to take full advantage of the breakfast and dinners we had already paid for...as lunch was extra and quite pricey, so many a bread roll was smuggled out at breakfast to do us for lunch as well!

It was another beautiful paradise and another amazing week that went by all too fast, despite not really doing much but lazing, swimming, eating and drinking!

We were picked up on our last day by the ferry and whisked back to Nadi for our flight out of Fiji. But we had 8 hours to kill, so we threw our packs into lockers and got a taxi to the nearest golf course for a game to pass the time. We finished that horribly sweaty and were forced to shower in the mosquito ridden showers that were available in the airport, which we shall just describe as an....'experience'!

Our time in Fiji had been glorious, a stunning country (from what little we saw of it) with beautiful people where we had lived like kings in paradise for a fortnight. It was with sadness that we walked to the boarding gates, and with some serious trepidation that I got on the plane! Lets just say it wasnt a new model of plane. In fact it was a rustbucket! And I was bucketing it as we took off, but off we were...to the US of A!

Posted by LynMoo 29.12.2011 06:59 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

Hiking Mount Doom with my Precious!

all seasons in one day
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

With stiff legs from our hiking in Abel Tasman we left sunny Nelson and made the trip to Wellington and the start of our adventures in the Northern Island of New Zealand. We got the Interislander ferry from Picton and thankfully the seas were nice and calm so neither of us were even seasick (which is a big surprise for me!). The ferry is enormous with 10+ decks and takes just under 4 hours to make the crossing, with a cinema and all on board the time flies in so it wasn't long before we were docking in the foggy harbour of New Zealands capital city Wellington. You can notice straight away the difference between this city and any of the others we'd been in on the South Island, its of a much bigger scale and alot busier. We arrived at rush hour and nearly got pummelled by the pedestrian traffic (not in the good way either!), we were big targets with all our stuff but thankfully managed to get a taxi in the madness and get to the hostel.

New Zealand Sea Reflection
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Wellington is a really young, lively & highly cultured city.. There must be a theatre on nearly every street corner followed closely by an abundance of boho bars & restaurants. On our first day in Wellington we went to the 'must see' Museum called Te Papa & strolled around all the exhibits. You could be forgiven for loosing track of time in this place because the museum is enormous. A couple of hours later & i think we both had our fill of history & dinosaur exhibits but i would definitely recommend a visit.

Halloween night in Wellington was pretty strange.. We saw more than our fair share of middle aged women walking around in dominatrix/pvc outfits.. eeeekkkkk its not an image i wish to recollect ;) However when we did make it to bed that night & just got settled we were abruptly woken by the fire alarm in the hostel. We lay there for 5 minutes waiting for it to be turned off.. afterall it is always a false alarm.. after a couple of minutes later i looked out our door & there were people making their way downstairs. We got dressed & calmly walked to the exits. Everyone was really chilled out & walking out pretty slowly - that was until a middle aged couple stormed through the emergency exit fully dressed with all their luggage. At this stage everyone felt a little uneasy & picked up the pace. There were hundreds of people piled out onto the streets dressed in pyjamas.. boxers.. vampire outfits.. It was as we had guessed a false alarm... but we enjoyed the drama.

Turns out the fire alarm was set off by someone touching one of the sensors on the ceiling of the rooms that had a big sign on it saying "Do Not Touch"! You wouldn't even know there was a sensor there to touch if they didn't put a sign on it!! Fools.

Driving by a daunting looking Tongariro volcanoe on the way to Taupo.
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Right so next stop in the North Island was to Lake Taupo about half way up the country were we'd planned to hike over the Tongariro Pass, an 18.5 km trek through a trio of volcanoes used as Mount Doom for the Lord of the Rings films. We checked into our hostel which turned out was a bit of a kip, we got stuck right above the nightclub so had to listen to screaming packs of English girls the whole night, got no sleep and ended up missing our bus the next day for our planned hike over Tongariro. But the day was savage so we went on a crazy golf day. First we started smacking some balls out into the lake trying to get a hole in one on a floating green! Not too much success there so we hit the local crazy golf, then we ended up catching the bug and goin for a full game on the local course - it was golf madness!

Goin for a hole in one on Lake Taupo
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Sunset over Lake Taupo
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So the following day, despite yet another night sleeping to the vibrations of all the latest rap tunes coming up through the floor all night we got up and ready at 5 in the morning and jumped on a bus to the start of the Tongariro crossing. Unlike the fine weather the previous day there was a heavy fog and we couldnt even see the mountain, it was really eerie with the visability only about a hundred metres or so. We loved the strange weather it made the atmosphere for the climb very unique.

Snow plain with the peak of Tongariro in distance
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Now we should warn everybody here, we took alot of photos over the day on that mountain so brace yourselves!

The first stretch of the hike took us across a boardwalk that hovered over the marshes below us for a kilometre or so as we made our way to the base of the mountain. The fog was really thick so we could only see 50 metres ahead. The boardwalk continued to emerge from the mist adding to the suspense of what the first section of the hike would be like....the dreaded devils staircase!

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The devils staircase is where the climbing really starts and is one of the steepest sections too where a mixture of concrete and wooden staircases helped us scramble over the scree and sharply up the mountain. We still couldnt see much higher then and after every set of steps we hoped we were getting closer to the easier parts, but alas more steps continued looming out of the clouds above us. It was about half way up when we first started getting some glimpses of snow in patches promising some more interesting conditions higher up! it took a good 40 minutes to get past this section where we took a well deserved rest.

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The next section of the climb is from the south crater to the red crater. The south crater was a long flat stretch where the snow got fairly heavy, it was up over our ankles and we still couldnt see where we were to go. We blindly followed the odd marker poles that appeared from the mist to guide us to the start of the ascent up to the red crater. This was the most dangerous part of the climb with steep drops to our left and the scree slipping from under our feet. The mist was still so thick we couldnt even see how far a drop it was.....we just knew it was far! And then we'd made it to the top! Well kind of, there was an option to climb to the next peak but it was sealed off due to the weather....so we had gotten as far as they'd let us!

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Just on schedule the weather started to clear as we sat and had our lunch enthralled by the magnificent views over the surrounding countryside and the steaming emerald lakes below us.

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The ascent had taken us 3 hours and we had another 3 hours ahead of us to get back down again on the other side. On the climb down we passed through 3 totally different types of terrain. From the heavy snow and icy lakes at the top to the grassy tussock plains on the middle of the mountain and finally a thick jungle like forest at the base! As we passed the craters of the volcano and made our way to the start of the descent we crossed over steaming streams of the thermal springs that flow down the mountain. A thick steam was even spewing off the boulders we passed!

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I found the climb down to be harder then the climb up (especially after my knee popped), and we were both thrilled when we finally reached the car park on the far end and collapsed on the grass to wait for our bus to take us to bed.....we were gonna feel this climb for a few days but it was without doubt one of if not the best things we did in New Zealand - if not the whole trip.

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Tongariro was awesome, no doubt about it...but man where we tired the next day! We really didnt fancy another night in Taupo so at the last minute as usual we stiffly packed our bags and legged it for the bus laden down with bags. It was a relatively short jaunt then to our second last stop in NZ, the town of Rotorua.

Rotorua is most famously known for its geothermal activity and its surrounded by active geysers and bubbling mud pools...and the whole place smells of eggs! I famously (or not so famously?) have little to no sense of smell, so I was kind of enjoying the enveloping sulphur aroma of the town as it got my senses back working again the smell is so strong! It is a very strange cool sort of town as the steam gushes in clouds up from the middle of the main street, out of sewer drains, up out of the path in front of you! Alot of the town is heated/powered by the thermal activity which we found really interesting. We stayed in an excellent hostel, next door to a patch of land where a house 'used' to be before a geyser erupted there out of the blue! Around the corner there was a park the centrepiece of which was a large geyser that we took a stroll over on the bridges that criss-crossed it and the whole place was unlike any where we'd ever been before.

But - apart from the randomness of the steaming roads and buildings there wasnt anything else that interesting here that we took advantage of. It is a real centre for the Maori culture and there are plenty of shows and museums about we were just seriously low on funds at this stage! We spent the first day mostly trying to recover from the hike the previous day, and browsing through the hundreds of souvenir shops in Rotorua picking up bits for the peeps at home, we were only 4 weeks away from our triumphant return after all! But probably the highlight of our short stay here was watching the US election results with all the other backpackers in the hostel...YES WE CAN!

Our final destination in New Zealand was Auckland "The city of sails". We arrived in style on the Intercity bus as normal and trudged up some monster hills to get to our hostel. We both loved Auckland, we spent the first day as normal exploring and taking in the main sights in the city centre walking the backstreets and finding some excellent cafes and book stores that we browsed for hours. We walked to the harbour and took in the stunning sight of the hundreds of yachts, and back to the Sky Tower that dominates the Auckland skyline. It is a great city with a great buzz about it and we enjoyed being back in a "big smoke"!

Auckland Sky Tower
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Conveniently enough Lorraines friend Leah just 'happened' to be in Auckland, same as she had just happened to be in Sydney as well when we met her there?! So we met her for a pleasant evenings tipple and some tomfoolery as well!

But the swansong of our New Zealand adventure was not to be by a Maori fire, or jumping off a bridge, or hiking to the top of a stunning mountain, but a west end musical! We strolled by the Civic theatre during our wanderings and chanced to see if any tickets were left for the Phantom of the Opera that was playing that night, and luckily there were some good cheap last minute seats left. So we rushed to the hostel to change and made it back in time for the show, it was brilliant and something that both myself and Lorraine had been wanting to see for a long time.

Pre-show drinks
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So not the most traditional of endings to our time in New Zealand, but a brilliant night all the same. It was off to sun, sand and tropical paradise in Fiji the next day but we both knew that our time in New Zealand was going to leave an ever lasting impression on both of us. It is one of the most breathtaking places we have ever had the privilege to see, the people are incredible and the craic is mighty as well. There is such a variety of landscapes from snow capped mountains to tropical forests and beaches. It is a place that can only be experienced really, and we are going to ensure that we do return to experience it all again and more as soon as we possibly can.

And so should YOU!

Whoever you might be. Mom and Dad probably. Hi Mom!

Posted by LynMoo 13.12.2010 07:44 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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