A Travellerspoint blog

Up North Down South New Zealand Style.

Choppers, Dolphins & Wino's.

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

Still clinging to the disappointment of the missed heli hike at the Franz Josef glacier a week or so before we ditched our bus pass and made our own way from Queenstown to a town called Twizel hoping that the weather would be good enough to take a helicoptor flight to the mountains surrounding Mt Cook (New Zealands tallest mountain). We arrived and checked in to the hostel and got them to call the helicoptor guys to see if we could......again we couldnt as there was just the 2 of us so we were put on standby in case someone else booked in. So we made the most of the savage day and went golfin! It was class.

Golfing New Zealand
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Sweaty and smelly we made our way back to the hostel and they rang again to check for us.....and it was ON! With a full tour bus of rich Thai folks no less! The Thai folks were late but we didnt mind too much, we managed to sly our way into the front two seats beside the pilot and off we went.

Sitting up front in the helicoptor
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It was amazing. The 1st time either of us have been in a helicoptor at all and we zipped across the farms, over the foothills and through the snowy valleys of the mountains before setting down on the snow at the top of one of the peaks. We jumped out of the 'chopper' (thats slang for helicoptor in the industry you know!) and onto the snow a couple of thousand feet up! It was Lorraines dream come true, she really really likes snow....its scary!

Up on the mountain!
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Yeah im afraid Robs not exagerating there.. I really do have an unhealthy fascination with snow im afraid to say. However i think i should be excused for getting a tad excited afterall it was a pretty amazing experience. The helicopter flight itself had us nearly peeing our pants. It was pretty fun to watch the Thai group once we landed.. They had never seen snow before & they just lost the plot in the snow.. crawling & dancing.. fair play to them cause it was really friggan cold up there.

With chopper up on the mountain
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On top of the world!
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After the excitement of the helicoptor trip we had the hostel to ourselves so watched the 2nd Lord of the Rings (we had to watch them all while goin through NZ. In Twizel we could look out the window at where they filmed the huge battle scene in the last film! We're nerds i know.) over a roast dinner ala chef Lorraine....what a day!

Lake Tekapo. We stopped here briefly on our way back to Christchurch.
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We arrived back where we'd started in Christchurch from Twizel and were determined to stay for as little as possible and keep on moving, so after only a quick and uneventful night stopover there we jumped on a bus again up the coast to a beautiful town called Kaikoura.

Kaikoura Mountains
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We decided to go for a little walk to see the local seal colony just about 30 minutes away from our hostel which actually turned out to be pretty cool. We almost walked on top of one big dude who was chilling out on the side of the road. We were able to get really close to them & got a few nice pic's as ya can see.

Sleeping seal Kaikoura
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We got up really early to go swimming with the dolphins and had a really clear day for the trip. We got fitted for our wetsuits in the offices and i looked like 'Scuby Steve'! Rob looked equally as bad! We jumped on a bus to the marina and before we knew it we were on the sea on our way to see the dolphins. It was a bit surreal because the tide was quite rough and we were both struggling with sea sickness. It took us about 25 minutes to reach the dolphins. We got the rest of our gear on - gloves, socks and headgear as the water is freezing. All of a sudden there are about 15 of us hanging off the back of the boat and when the siren sounded we all had to jump into the sea. I didnt even have time to get nervous. In i jumped alongside Rob and you are instantly struck by the freezing water. It seriously takes your breath away! You almost feel like you're having a panic attack but its just your body getting used to the baltic temperatures. You soon quickly forget about the cold because you realise you are completely surrounded by dolphins. It really was amazing how close they come to you.

Dusky Dolphin
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Its funny because in order to attract the dolphins you have to make noise, so everyone is swimming along shouting through their snorkels and if you're above the water it sounds hilarious and slightly ridiculous. Although it did make it easy for me to find Rob I just had to follow the sound of him singing Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire'! The dolphins are fast though and just as we were getting settled and used to the water the siren sounded and we all had to scramble back on the boat and move to find the dolphins again. Once you get out of the water you really feel the cold, we dived in 3 times before we called it a day. We also got to see 2 or 3 sperm whales in the distance and some ginormous albatross seagulls. It was a pretty amazing experience and we're both glad we did it.

Very cold after swimming with the dusky dolphins
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We got very comfy in Kaikoura it was just a beautiful spot to relax in and we had to force ourselves onwards to the very Northern tip of the South island to a town called Nelson. The town of Nelson itself was really nice but absolutely dead - there wasnt a sinner about and we were there on a bank holiday weekend. The main reason we'd come here was so that we could go hiking or camping in the nearby Abel Tasman national park, but being lazy as we are we slept in the first morning and were too late to do anything. So plan B came into effect - we went on a wine tasting tour!!

Most of New Zealands' wine comes from this region so there are dozens of vineyards all around. We were on a bus with an Australian mom/daughter combo, a swedish girl and a mad Irish woman from Cork. I was well outnumbered, and outclassed too. I cant even smell so half the wine tasting technique was completely lost on me! I couldnt tell the difference between the 'gone off' stuff and the proper stuff at the beginning! Now Lorraine on the other hand is a pro, an absolute connoissor of all things vino. She was without doubt the teachers pet!

"This one has a bright citrus feel to it."
"Why yes Lorraine very very good!"

"Oh its got a very oaky, wooden and almost smoked taste i feel."
"Exactly Lorraine kudos to you!"

"I can taste a fresh meadow breeze of gooseberries and joy on my pallet from this delightful vintage. Tell me, it is a '99 Pinot gris is it not?"
"Bravo Lorraine, Bravo! You simply are the toast of the evening!"

Ah it was a great laugh, we went through a lot of beautiful wines and cheeses in 5 different vineyards and were nicely toasted by the end of it! All in the name of culture of course.

At one of the vineyards on our winery tour.
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Abel Tasman is one of the most famous national parks in New Zealand & we had heard great reports from our friends Toni & Breezy about it so we were really excited about our one day hike in the park. We were dropped off by boat at Anchorage Bay which is one of the many golden sandy beaches around the park.

Hiking through Abel Tasman park
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The four & half hour hike took us through dense jungle past waterfalls & numerous isolated beaches. The path we chose was quite high up & we had the most amazing views across the national park & the surrounding sea which looked a stunning emerald colour.

An Abel Tasman beach
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On our way up one of the steepest parts of the trek we happened to behind this pretty large girl who had an impressive builders bum which nearly made Rob puke ha ha.. It wasnt long before we overtook her :) We thoroughly enjoyed the walk & only wished we had enough time to camp there for a couple of days... I guess we will have to wait to our next visit.

Cooling off
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Lynmoo on Abel Tasman beach
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Posted by LynMoo 19:13 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

"We Have Shells!! We Have Shells! We're So Sorry!"

New Zealand Part Uno!

semi-overcast 16 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

We flew from Sydney to Christchurch in New Zealand on that most wonderful of days - the 9th of October when i turned 26! We had almost forgotten all about it until the check in lady said it, she politely refused my request for an upgrade to 1st class though! We have flown so much in the past few months that against all rationality, i have somehow developed a fear of flying and was very very aware of the irony of crashing on my birthday....but thankfully we made it safe and sound! The scenery on the way in was breathtaking as we flew over the snow topped mountains and then descended over the fields. We couldn't help but be reminded of home with the green fields and heaps of sheep.

Now immigration in New Zealand is similar to Oz in that because its an isolated ecosystem they are very strict on what you can and cant bring into the country with sniffer dogs roaming the airports and also quarantine areas for your bags. This had Lorraine in a panicky humour (I thank the lovely Mrs Lynders for making Lorraine watch alll those episodes of 'Banged up Abroad'!) which i found hilarious. She was dropping the bags and stumbling her words declaring over and over "WE HAVE SHELLS! WE HAVE SHELLS!", they couldn't have cared less really and we got through fine.

Two of my old college buddys Cara and Maeve were there waiting for us in arrivals to whisk us to downtown Christchurch and settle into our hostel for a half hour before goin on a little session that night in the hostel bar, they even picked me up a birthday cake!

With Cara and Maeve in Christchurch for Robs birthday
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We hung around in Christchurch for 3 nights planning the rest of our time in New Zealand. 3 nights is most definately enough time to spend there, there isnt all that much to do even if it is a decent place. Its a very English looking city in parts with punting on the canal and all! We finally managed to book our bus pass and were psyched to at last get out and see the New Zealand countryside that we'd been looking forward to since we'd booked this trip so long ago.

Christchurch cathedral and square outside our hostel
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Christchurch mainly involved a whole lot of organising & booking stuff so we were both pretty excited about leaving it & starting our trip around New Zealand for real & what better way to start it than getting the Tranzapline Train from Christchurch to Greymouth (east to west coast basically). It was on this train that we got our first real sample of New Zealands stunning landscape & we were not disappointed. 10 minutes outside the city we were instantly struck by the green & yellow countryside with lush fields & dark pine trees. Spring was definitely in full force with hundreds of lambs jumping around in the fields. Another 10 minutes outside the city we were dumbstruck by our first glimpse of the southern alps ( Misty Mountain Range for any Lord of the Rings fans). They totally dominated the skyline with their impressive snow capped peaks. Myself & Rob were extremely excited by this & spent most our 4 hour trip out on the freezing cold viewing deck taking a ridiculous amount of photos. It was really cool because at times the train would be in tunnels under the alps or else it would be trudging over a rickety old wooden bridge with a large river below. It was a great way to start our travels of New Zealand.

The Tranzalpine Train
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After the 4 hour train journey we arrived in the little town called Greymouth which is on the west coast of New Zealand. We arranged to stay here one night before being picked up by our bus (Stray Bus) the next day. We stayed in a lovely YHA Hostel which was a really lovely homely place.. apart from the smell of shell fish that a group of Koreans were cooking (you could smell it the next day ughhhh!) but apart from that we loved the hostel & we got to watch the Lord of the Rings part I on video :)
Greymouth is really just a stop over town & there is not a whole lot there just a couple of shops & cafes but we loved our little home away from home hostel

The following day we went to our pick up point to start our tour with the Stray Bus Tour company who quotes itself on 'taking you off the beaten track'.

So we didnt really know what to expect from the bus tour. Basically we had prepaid for our south island bus ticket. You can hop on & off the bus wherever you like & they pretty much take you to see all the main sights along the way stopping for pictures etc.. We got on the bus in Greymouth & squeezed to the only two available seats down the back. Straight away there was banter between the 5 irish down the back. As we drove along we gradually got to know more & more people on the bus & to be honest we were pretty lucky cause we got a really great bunch. The bus stopped at numerous lakes etc for us to take pic's & it also stopped at a place called Hokitika which is famous for its Green Stone (Jade) - Rob even bought me a little necklace from the Jade Factory - ahhhhh how sweet :)

Lorraine at one of the many amazing stops we had in the mountains. Waterfalls and stunning scenery abound here.
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Our final stop of the day was in a place called Franz Josef which is famous for its gi-normous glacier that spreads half way down the mountain. We booked ourselves in for a Heli-Hike for the next day & we were both really excited about doing it. The Heli-Hike basically involves us getting a helicopter up to the top of the Glacier & hiking for two hours in the ice before getting the helicopter back down the mountain. The morning of the hike we were up bright & early with lunch packed the works & arrived at the heli-center only to be told that our trip was cancelled due to bad weather on the mountains. They did say however to keep an eye on the weather because if it clears up that the trip will go ahead at a later time. Myself, Rob & 3 girls (Kaley, Adrian & Utah - the crazy German) off the bus sat pretty much all day watching the mountain with constant hope that the weather would clear & we would be able to do it! And to our sheer delight the weather did actually clear up at around 3 pm so we all went back to the office to check again if it might be possible. But once again we were shot down :( This happened around 4 times during the day & i dont think anyone lost hope until it started to get dark.We spent our 2 days in Franz Josef relentlessly watching the clouds & i can honestly say we were emotionally drained from the constant disappointment. We decided to do it on Mount Cook instead the following week so no great loss :)

We had to laugh when we saw this sign! A Photo Op if ever there was one!
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After the trauma and disappointment of our 2 nights in Franz Josef we hopped on the same bus and made our way to our next stop in a small town called Makarora. The West coast of New Zealand is almost completely cut off from the rest of the island by the huge mountain range cutting through the middle of the island so the towns are all fairly small and the roads are just plain crazy! They wind down and around the mountains and back up again with drops on one side and sheer cliff face on the other. At one corner some of the crew on the bus actually saw a car sitting in the trees below the road! Anyway it was good craic on the bus as we stopped in a couple of places along the way for photos and lunch and what not. We arrived in Makarora which is pretty much just a tavern and a petrol station with cabins out the back where we stayed and then ventured to the bar. At the first mention of Karaoke everyone was predictably anxious (apart from me!) and Lorraine kept insisting she wouldn't sing, no way, she wouldn't sing at all and no one can make her.........in the end we couldn't stop her! It was a great night and we belted out some tunes!

Lynmoo and 'posse' rapping some Gangstas Paradise!
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The next day we were hungover and up early on the bus to Queenstown. Lorraine died on the bus and had no voice at all from the night before! We stopped in an absolutely stunning town called Wanaka for our lunch and a trip to Puzzle World (Optical illusions and mazes and stuff) which we just couldn't handle at all in our condition so we drank them out of tea with another ill Irish couple!

There was time for the obligatory photo though!
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Queenstown is the extreme sports capital of the world, if you want to jump off, out, or into anything, this is the place. But alas we are both poor and cowardly! A bad combination when it comes to any extreme sports which are damn pricey. The bus stopped at one of the bungy jumps on the way into town where some of the crew did the jump and we randomly bumped into my college mate Cara there. We arrived into the town which is another beautiful place set on the banks of an enormous lake and surrounded by large mountain ranges. Its just an amazing gorgeous location and we fell in love with the place spending the following 4 nights there.

Queenstown lake
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The only half extreme sport we could afford was the luge. It involved us getting a Gondola up the mountain with amazing scenic views of queenstown below after which we had to take a ski lift up to the luge track at the top. We had 7 turns going down 2 different luge tracks. It was excellent fun & pretty daunting at times (only when Rob flies by on two wheels) although you can't help racing each other - its half the fun. We did a little birthday video for Mammy Mooney while up the mountain aswell - she said Rob looked a little tubby in the video ha ha

Lorraine in the skilift up to the start of the luge track with Queenstown behind.
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Queenstown is probably the best location in New Zealand for a good night out. There are literally reams of bars & clubs to choose from & we thoroughly enjoyed sampling the towns nightlife with some of Robs college buddies. We drank cocktails out of teapots in the world bar with Cara, Aileen & Daragh which led to some pretty cheesy Robot Dancing which Aileen cant remember doing ha ha!

Lorraine at Queenstown lake
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The following night we met up with Maeve & some of her buddies in town & we ate our first Ferg Burger aswell. Ferg Burgers are famous in Queenstown & im assuming its because of their size. The burger was literally the size of my head which is pretty impressive although it was only a quarter of the size of Robs head... need i say more ha ha!

Milford Sound
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Milford Sound is a glacier valley which is now flooded by the sea & after hearing such good reports from everyone about it myself & Rob were quick to book our tickets to visit the area. The drive itself took about 4 hours from Queenstown which felt slighlty longer because our bus driver waffled the whole way.. on & on & on... New Zealanders just dont know when to shut the hell up! Anyway we did make some cool stops along the way stopping at the famous Mirror Lakes & The Chasm waterfall. We made our way up through the snow capped mountains through avalanche areas & also through the Homer tunnel to the beautiful coastal area of Milford Sound. We boarded a boat for our tour & spent two hours sailing around taking in all the stunning waterfalls, Dolphins & Seals.

Cruising around Milford Sound
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It was a long day of travelling (8hours on a bus) however we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Posted by LynMoo 18:53 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Australian finale in Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney.

What a hectic, crazy, non stop month down under!

semi-overcast 25 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

Another exhausting overnight bus trip and we arrived in Cairns in the early morning with the sun blazing already. It was some slog to our hostel in the heat but we finally made it, only to be told we'd have to wait 5 hours til noon to check in. So we were hanging around exhausted doing nothing for ages. We went up to the girl at reception at 5 to 12 but she wouldnt let us check in yet, so we just stood there for exactly the 5 minutes watching the girl do her nails when at 1 minute past she let us check in......we were too tired to even give out to the w***e!

So Cairns. We thought it was a bit of a strange town to be honest. Roasting hot weather with a cool promenade and lagoon on the seafront.....but thats about it! Apart from tonnes of Irish people and bars. Courtown in the sun.

In the lagoon on the waterfront in Cairns
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We spent the 1st day exploring and wandering and seeing as it was a Saturday there were loads of locals out sunning themselves as well. Thing is, the huge majority were Australian blokes by themselves oiled and greased up getting that perfect tan. We have to say this now and hope we dont offend anyone....but Ozzy blokes are the most vain self-obsessed people we've ever come across!! Even worse then me....maybe.

Cairns is a funny kind of town & there is not a whole lot to do there unless you spend a fortune. There is plenty of sun, bars & beach bod's but thats about it! The highlight of Cairns for me was meeting up with Robs old childhood friend Caz & her boyfriend Don on our final night in Cairns before flying to Melbourne. They put on the most impressive spread i have ever seen. Don is a chef & we were treated to the best god damn food we have had since we left home - well it wouldnt be hard to beat Pot Noodles :) but the food was excellent & we thoroughly enjoyed the night. Needless to say there was quite an impressive amount of alcohol drank that night & we were all feeling a little tipsy by the end.

Dinner with Caz and Don
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We had one hours sleep before we had to catch a taxi to the airport. I was pretty unwell if i remember correctly & it didnt take long for the drink to wear off & leave me sick as a dog! The hangover lingered for the entire flight to Melbourne & until we eventually got to our destination.

The trip from Cairns to Melbourne was a bit of a nightmare alright! Everything went smoothly enough and we got in on time (had to get 2 flights one to Sydney then on to Melbourne) but we were both just hanging. We caught a few minutes sleep here and there in the different departure lounges but apart from that we ended up going 40 hours without sleep!

We were staying in Melbourne with Lorraines schoolfriend Sue and her boyfriend Gary who we'd also met up with in Chiang Mai and had that lock in with - see blog chapter www.lynmoo.travellerspoint.com/4/ ! So Gary very kindly met us off the shuttle bus from the airport and brought us on a couple of different trams to their place in East St Kilda. We cannot describe just how happy we were to see a couch and somewhere to put the bags down at that stage. That and, a TV. Gary had become an expert on all things daytime TV and we spent that first day watching, in no particular order, Dr Phil, Ellen, Opera, The View, Jeremy Kyle, The Bold and the Beautiful, Neighbours and Home and Away. It was brilliant!

Pier in St Kilda
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Melbourne is a really beautiful city it has to be said & Gary very kindly gave us a walking tour around the city showing us all the most popular sights. The whole city is connected by a pretty intricate tramline network which is confusing at the best of times but the old trams look spectacular as they make their way through the city. There is a nice combination of old & new buildings with really cool narrow streets with vintage style shops & a definite Soho feel.

Melbourne Busker
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Melbourne is a really cool city full of little alleyways crammed with cafes, restaurants and bars. There are some alleys were its legal to graffiti so there are brilliant bits of street art around. The other side of that though is that there's also alot of sh*t graffiti around too!

St Kilda birds
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One of my favourite days in Melbourne was when the four of us (Sue, Gary, Rob & myself) went to St Kilda's for lunch. St Kilda's is a beautiful seaside town on the outskirts of Melbourne city. We strolled along the seafront for an hour or two before getting a tram into town & going on the beer. Well in our defense it was a Saturday & Sue had been working all week so we all needed to go out.

Her holiness Lorraine in St Kilda!
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We decided to go to Brunswich Street which is a hippie street in the center of the city. We spent most of our day drinking up a storm & making friends with random people in the bar. We had a great day/night. I must say a special thank you to Sue & Gary for being so kind to us & letting us stay on their blow up matress for a couple of days. We will be forever in your debt :)

Good times!
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After that heavy Saturday night on the town I had arranged to meet up with my Dads brother who id never met before and lived in Melbourne. Things didnt start so smoothly though! I'd rang him the day before and arranged to get a train out to him for around lunchtime, but we slept til nooon and didnt get to the station in the city centre until 2 so we were an hour late already.....before we rang him and found out the clocks had gone forward too so we were actually 2 hours late! Not a good start. But everything else went really well. My Uncle Bren and Aunt Peggy picked us up from the station in Ringwood 45 mins from the city centre and brought us to their place where they immediately fed us beer wine and food. They have a bar and a pool table in the house, enough said. We had a great time getting to know them better and were up til the very wee hours of the morning.

My wee family reunion (from L-R myself, my Aunt Peggy, cousin Linda and Uncle Bren)
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We slept in again the next morning and Bren dropped us back to Sue and Garys in a very very tender condition for us to get packed and jump on our last overnight bus to Sydney.

Thankfully when we arrived in Sydney we'd had the foresight to book a hostel near the bus station right in the city centre so we didnt have to walk far at all for once, our bags are getting seriously heavy now! This was our second and final time now in Sydney and we just had the 2 nights to explore what parts we'd missed the first time. And thankfully it had gotten alot warmer here in the 3 weeks we'd been gone!

In Sydney Botanic Gardens
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Walking around the city on this occasion was the first time we'd gotten up close to the Opera house as we'd gone the other direction around the harbour the 1st time we were here. It really is just a stunning building, and huge as well. We went inside to chance our arm at maybe getting some cheap tickets for a show and we got lucky!

Opera house up close
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WOW SYDNEY!!!!! I absolutely loved Sydney. Everytime i caught a glimpse of the Sydney Harbour Bridge & the Opera House i would nearly lose my breath. We had the most amazing final day in Sydney spent walking around the Botanic Gardens, Anzac War Memorial, The Opera House & then shopping in the numerous malls around the city. We thoroughly enjoyed our day which was topped off by going to see a play in the Opera House that night. We were really lucky to get discounted tickets to see 'In Spitting Distance' a play about a Palestinian living in Israel which was an excellent one man show. What a way to finish our time in Australia.

A snifter of wine before the show!
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Another excellent part of Sydney was getting to meet up with my friend from home Leah who was living there at the time. It had been easily 6 months since I last saw her & it was like nothing had changed at all.. We could have been in Dublin for all we knew. It was really great to see her again & catch up :)

Lorraine and Leah
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Ah so our time in Australia had come to an end. It really had flown by once we'd gotten over the jetlag! It has been a crazy and hectic month of non-stop travelling but we loved every bit of it!

Next on to New Zealand and the next chapter.....

Opera house at night
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Posted by LynMoo 14:23 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Whales, dingos and home-made boat adventures!

A week on the East coast of Australia.

sunny 23 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

Hervey Bay was our next destination on our trip up the east coast of Australia. The Bus trip was a approx 5 hours long from Brisbane but it was a day time trip so we got great views of the countryside on our way. Hervey Bay is a pretty weird town because it doesnt really have a center to it - it reminded me more of an industrial estate. However, what the town lacked in character our hostel made up for. We stayed in the YHA Hostel which is was more like an oasis than a hostel. It had a beautiful lake with ducks roaming around the place, a swimming pool, bar, clean rooms & pretty much every possible thing you could need. We were even greeted with a glass of fresh juice & fruit cake. Because we were on a really tight timeframe we booked all our trips with the hostel that night spending roughly $400 ouchhhh!!! Starting with Whale watching on the first day followed by a 2 day trip on the infamous Fraser Island! Needless to say we were both really excited about the couple of days ahead.

The whale watching was amazing. We had just ventured out to sea 15 minutes or so just passing by Fraser island when we could see the whales blowing in the distance. Lorraine could be employed as a whale spotter as she was the first to see them in the distance every time! The captain then put the foot down and soon enough we could almost reach out and touch them they were so close to the boat. They are huge graceful animals and its really something else peering over the edge of the boat and seeing them disappear underneath then pop their heads up on the other side for a good look at us! They respond to you so we were all waving and shouting like right goons to try and keep their attention on us!

Humpback whales tail
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Whale watching is a once in a life time thing & you could clearly tell by the reactions of everyone on the boat. I mean its not every day you get to watch grown men dance around squealing like little girls... It was hilarious! Its actually a pretty intense time because your eyes are constantly planted on the surrounding sea in hope of being the first person to spot a whale. It was such a surreal feeling as we watched these 'larger than life' creatures swimming around, under & along side the boat. These are absolutely massive & for once both myself & Rob were speechless (that says alot). We came across a mother whale who was teaching her little (massive) baby calf how to jump. It was truly one of the most amazing things i have ever seen.

Whale jumping and diving
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Actually one thing that myself and Lorraine have really noticed about Oz so far is the abundance of wildlife around and how environmentally conscious the people are (well the hostel folk anyway). Just going along on the bus you see kangaroos and wallabies hopping along (its really surreal the first few times), we've already seen a massive snake and there are some big lizards around as well. All you see at home in terms of wild animals is the odd badger or fox flattened on the road!

So on day 2 we got picked up bright and early for our overnight safari trip to Fraser Island. Now for those not in the know (like we were until a day before we went!) Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world covered in thick rainforest, massive beaches and crystal clear fresh water lakes. Oh and its got loads of dingos on it too!We got a ferry across and jumped on our 4 wheel drive safari bus and took off through the jungle. It really was like a safari as we were thrown around in the seats speeding along the sand tracks - it was quality! Cant believe we weren't car sick!

Fraser Island is a spectacular place & as Rob said the beaches & lakes are quite stunning so we couldnt wait to get our trip underway. We were in a group of approx 22 people who were all lovely which was an extra bonus. We travelled around the island on a 4x4 bus which was excellent fun because we were thrown up from our seats on more than a few occasions. On our first day we visited a lake Birrabong which is a beautiful emerald colour freshwater lake. Everyone was really eager to jump in that was until they felt how cold the water was.. my god it was freezing. Most people did well to make it in up to their knees apart from Rob that is who belly flopped right in making quite the spectacle of himself ha ha! Legend!

Lorraine knee deep in the first lake of the day on Fraser island.
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Our next stop was the Pine Valley Jungle Walk which was really cool because it is a really dense jungle which grows on sand.. go figure... Anyway it was nice to stretch our legs & it was a good way to get to know the other people in our group, plus we got to hug a big tree!

Our favourite part of the day was without a doubt our visit to the Hammerstone Sandblow which is basically like walking across a desert of the most golden sand you have ever seen. We walked about 1km in the searing heat with sand on every horizon it was really cool. Eventually we spoted trees on the horizon & then an emerald coloured lake appeared in the distance (lake Gabby). We were delighted to see this because we were pumping sweat at this stage. We all had great craic cooling off in the freezing waters of the lake. It was a great end to the day.

At lake Gabby
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Everyone in our group agreed to meet for a social drink that night in the bar, which quickly turned into quite a session. We had a great laugh with everyone on the bus including our driver who was absolutely hammered! How he intended driving the next morning - i really dont know!

And we saw our first dingo that night too! They're alot smaller then I thought they'd be.

It was a really early start the next morning & i would be lying if i didnt say we were all feeling a little tender after the night before. However with a hearty breakfast in our tummies we were all set for another day of exploring. We drove for a good 40 minutes along the 75 mile beach before arriving at the famous Red Canyon Coloured Sands & yes you have guessed it.....the sand is all different colours. You may have noticed from my tone that it wasnt the most exciting part of our day ha ha!

Fishermen on 75 mile beach, Fraser Island.
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Anyway after a short stop there we continued our drive along the beach to the Maheno Shipwreck which was basically washed up on the shores of Fraser island years ago & still lies there today. Its actually pretty cool because it is totally rusty & weather beaten after all the years on the beach & we got some great pictures as the waves crashed up over it.

Maheno shipwreck
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It wasnt too long before we were on the road again to Indian Head which is basically a large hill with spectacular views across Fraser Island. Myself & Rob sat for about 30 minutes just soaking it all in. It really was beautiful! The colour of sea is so dazzling & its hard to think that you cant actually swim in the water because of sharks, box jellyfish, sting rays & extremely dangerous rip tides.. the place is pretty lethal when you think about it but it doesnt stop some idiots jumping in!

On top of Indian head, Fraser Island
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On the way back from Indian head we stopped at a fresh water creek called Eli creek that you can wade through, which was fun! Not much more to say about that! Then we arrived at the most famous of the lakes on Fraser Island called Lake McKenzie. Now we'd been looking forward to this because of all the beautiful photos we'd seen of it but the place was packed, like Brittas Bay on a sunny day in Dublin! So we didnt even bother getting in the water but it was quite beautiful none the less. A nice lazy way to end our stay in Fraser.

Here's a photo of our Australian mascot 'Kui the Koala' at lake McKenzie
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When we got back from Fraser Island to the hostel we had to hang around for a couple of hours before jumping on another overnight bus north to Airlie Beach. The bus was a few hours late as well so I slept under the bus shelter like a hobo while Lorraine wrote until it arrived. We've come to love and hate the overnight buses - on one hand its like a free nights accomodation! But you do be shattered when you arrive. Anyway Airlie beach is the main resort town on the mainland and services all the tourists heading to the Whitsunday Islands. We were only staying one night in our hostel before going camping on the islands, most folk tend to do some sort of cramped overnight sailing trip here but we figured we'd be that bit different and camp instead! We booked our trip with some local company and hired the gear from them as well, then they shipped us across the sea to the island we choose (there's something like 75 different islands in the Whitsundays) on what I was (and still am) convinced was a homemade boat! It was the sea equivalant of a lada, i would've preferred a dingy to that heap. But sure we got there and were dropped off on a little sheltered beach to set up camp.

Go camping - its what to do!
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Ahhhh the Whitsundays.. I really enjoyed our little camping experience.. It reminded me of staying on Achill Island with the folks :) When we arrived on the island a lovely canadian lady approached us & showed us to a secluded spot on the beach where we could camp. Myself & Rob both wanted the leadership role when it came to putting up the tent so we both had our own ideas of.. where was the best spot to camp.. what pole went where.. where the pegs should go... etc.. this went on for quite a while before we realised the sun was setting & that we should prob just stick the little thing up! We made quite the cosy little nest for ourselves i have to say. It was such fun making our dinner on a little gas cooker. We drank our beers by candle light while playing chess into the late hours of the night.. 9pm. We moved into the tent fairly sharply after hearing numerous rustles in the trees around our campsite. The two of us were totally freaked out until we got the torch out & realised it was just little wallabies jumping around our tent.. They are just like minature kangaroos but way cuter!

Whitsundays sunset
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It was while camping on the whitsundays that I realised I have quite the passion for fishing. The owner of our hostel let us borrow a crappy little fishing rod so we took it along just for a laugh! I spent quite a number of hours down at the shore with my little rod & some ham (as bait). Rob had absolutely no faith that i would catch anything but i always had hope. For two whole days I fished to my little hearts content but to no avail. It was pretty funny because i would be down at the sea fishing while Rob cooked us dinner & did all the womanly stuff ha ha! He was my catch of the day! ha ha sorry i couldnt resist! While we were waiting on our (Lada) boat to come & pick us up to take us back to Airlie beach i gave my little fishing rod one last shot ....and just as i was about to give up i felt a little nibble & sure enough i had caught my very first little fish (approx 20cm's long). It was class! Although i had a tough time trying to remove the hook! I was delighted!!

Lorraine and her little fishy.
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The weather took a bit of a turn for the worse the day we were to come back and the wind was pretty strong. Our lift came along and picked us up and we were crammed right in with a lot more people than before. There was a kayaking club or something on board so they took up loads of room with their kayaks and gear. We made a few more pick ups around the islands and then made our way out to sea heading back to the mainland. Once we hit the open ocean huge waves immediately came over the sides and front of the boat drenching the two of us and everyone else, as well as soaking all the bags etc on the ground. The boat was being tossed around and waves kept crashing and tumbling in on top of us. I couldnt tell what was happening or see anything with the water hitting me, at one stage I thought we were about to capsize. I stood up over Lorraine so I could see her properly and shouted to get down the back where it was slightly more sheltered. Thankfully the sea calmed a bit in the next minute or so and we made it back to shore an hour later. It was a hell of ride and we were both only delighted when we stepped ashore again soaked and shaken - no more boats for a good while! Well no more home made boats anyway!

Posted by LynMoo 21:58 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Landing down under and backwards flushing!

It freaks you out the first time you see it! Poo goes the other way!! THE OTHER WAY!!!

semi-overcast 12 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

So after our second long haul flight of the trip so far (where once again my tv wasnt working! What are the odds?) we safely touched down in Sydney around 6 in the morning or so.....and by Jebus was it cold! We were coming from 30 degrees heat in Asia to the beginning of the Australian spring and hadn't anticipated just how cold it would be. We were in the queue for the taxi freezing in shorts and tshirts watching everyone else strutt by in their hats and scarves.

It really was the strangest feeling arriving in Sydney. We had not given Australia a moments thought while we were in Asia. However once we arrived nothing could prepare us for the cold. It took us days to adjust to the weather - it was the first time we had stopped sweating in 3 months ha ha.. We had pitcicles - translated means icicles hanging from our Armpits...

We eventually arrived in our hostel in Newtown to find we'd booked the wrong arrival date, but at least our room was ready so we didnt have to hang around for too long. We must have spent the majority of the next 2 days in that room trying to heat up and get over the jetlag, it would take us nearly a week really before we got back on track sleepwise. But hey we had arrived in Oz, it was time to get our tourist on and check out the sights!

Lorraine and the Sydney Opera house
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After a good nights sleep we were both really excited to go exploring in central Sydney. We got the train into the city - the trains are two storeys high - i thought it was really cool (im very easily impressed obviously). As soon as we left the station we were dumbstruck by the beauty of Sydney Harbour. We had our first glimpse of the Sydney Harbour Bridge & the Opera House both of which totally dominate the skyline. It really felt surreal as we walked around with an aborigine playing the didgiredoo in the background. We spent most of our time just walking around taking it all in.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
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We visited the famous Rocks area of town which is the oldest part of Sydney & looked at all the old buildings & architecture & then we made our way to Darling Harbour which is stunning with its large Yaughts & boats paraded along the edge of the water & really magnificent views across the city. It really is a beautiful city.

In Darling harbour we popped into Sydney Wildlife World to check out some of the local animals of Oz and learned a very important lesson - pretty much everything in this country can kill you! From the most poisonous snakes and spiders in the world to crocodiles to even the cassowry (like a cross between an emu and a velocorapter!)....it's dangerous going in this place!

Darling Harbour at night
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We had spent only a measly 2 nights in our hostel trying to get back to our normal selves when we were unceremoniously booted out on the 3rd morning - despite having booked and paid for 3 nights! Lets put that all down to miscommunication with the hostel staff and our booking! Anyway we figured we might as well get going up the coast to Byron bay so we popped into town to get our bus ticket. This was when the vastness of Oz hit us for the first time. I mean Byron only looks about a centimetre up the coast on a map - we didnt reckon it'd take 12 hours to get there on a bus! So we got our first (of many) night buses in Oz that night to the surfer town of Byron bay. You could ask Lorraine what she thought of the town as we drove in, but she was whacked up on sleeping tablets and cant remember arriving!

By the beach in Byron
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Ok so as Rob said i was pretty out of it so i dont remember much about arriving in Byron Bay (thanks again Nana for the sleeping/happy pills :) )

Byron Bay is a lovely coastal town approx 12 hours north of Sydney. It is a pretty cool place with a real surf/hippie vibe.. The town itself is quite small with low rise colourful buildings & as we walked by the houses i actually felt like we were walking on the set of Ramsay Street at one stage! Although the town is quite small it has a pretty active nightlife & it was here that we had our first real session in Australia. It involved the infamous home brew known to the Auzzies as Goon. Goon is basically a really large carton of cheap wine which is notorious for giving leathal hangovers which myself & Rob can vouch for :)

Surfer in Byron Bay
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On our first day there myself & Rob thought it was high time for me to conquer my fear & get back on the saddle so we hired bikes from the hostel & went to do a bit of exploring. We zoomed through the streets at an impressive 5 or maybe even 6 miles per hour barely blowing a strand of hair at times. However we made it to the town & back safely so i guess you can consider my fear conquerred/ish ;)

We had spent a few days relaxing in Byron when we decided to go out to a nearby town called Nimbin for a night. We'd heard alot about this town so jumped on a bus and made the hour long trip out. Our driver on the way was really cool and was telling us all about the town and countryside on the way out - basically Nimbin is a town populated by hippies and famous for its attitudes towards marijuana and its campaign to have it legalised. There was a huge festival there in the 70's called the Aquarius festival that attracted thousands of hippies, alot of whom just decided to stay and live in communes and found an alternative community!

The place is just awesome!

Nimbin main street
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The main street buildings are all decorated in colourful murals, there's a hemp museum, a hemp embassy and loads of shops selling cannabis paraphenalia - not to mention the people selling the wacky tobaccy on the streets! The atmosphere is amazing and laid back and our hostel was just as cool. We strolled in to a cloud of smoke from the friendly gang in the communal area! We soon booked ourselves in for a second night!

Peace man!
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We had to make the trip down the hill from our hostel to the village to pick up some beers for the nightly poker game that was happening in the hostel. It was dark as we were walking back up the country lanes and we had a little torch to guide the way. Lorraine was on the lookout for snakes and spiders the whole way driving me crazy!

"There's a snake! Oh no sorry its a stick. No wait, shit, there's a snake there!"
"Lorraine thats not a snake its just another stick. Will ya stop imagining things and come on. Oh wait, that stick is moving. That stick taking up the whole road is moving. Ok maybe we should just let that 6 foot long stick move out of the way before we walk on!"

A big freakin snake
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We spent 2 really cool days in and around Nimbin driving out one afternoon with the gang from the hostel to a swimming hole in the bush with a 30 foot swing. I wasn't man enough to jump off this one though! One of the lads did and nearly killed himself! Common sense prevailed for once.

Anybody see a cow??
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On our last day in Nimbin we went on a one hour tour with the same bus driver and he took us to all these alternative energy and farming places, it was pretty interesting - educational yet fun! Then he dropped us back to Byron to get our connection onwards up the East coast to Brisbane. Oh and we played a game of bowls with the locals before we left Nimbin! It was great craic. Lorraine beat me 10-9 literally on the last bowl. The ruler was out and everything it was that close! I still havent been let forget it!

Lorraine (aka the shark) playing bowls
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We spent our last evening in Byron down at the beach watching the surfers in action while some hippies played guitar behind us against their Volkswagen hippie vans as the sun set over the sea.. It definitely left a beautiful image of Byron Bay in my mind.

Byron sunset
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I was really excited about Brisbane. Rob challenged me to making up an itinerary of what to do... Most people dont really like Brisbane too much but bare in mind i had done my research. We stayed in a hostel right in the center of the city.. location wise this hostel couldnt be beaten. We initially strolled through the central business district & just walked around gazing at all the massive sky scapers - they were really impressive. We then made our way to riverside to get the city cat boat around the brisbane river.

Brisbane skyline from boat
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The views were lovely from the boat but we had to get off at some stage so following my itinerary we jumped off at South Bank which is kind of like the cultural area of the city with really pretty parklands, museums, live bands & everything. It really is a cool part of the city.

South Bank, Brisbane
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As we were feeling pretty cultural at this stage we decided to head to the national museum - & by george we loved it! There were loads of different exhibitions ranging from dinosaurs, Aborigini & national heritage. We had a great laugh checking them all out - mainly because they were interactive (i.e. for kids). I think we spent over 3 hours in there. Next door to the national museum was the Museum of Modern Art which just so happened to be our next stop. Some of the art is pretty weird & basic looking - myself & Rob could definitely give it a good shot. We spent most of our time joking around but we did see a couple of lovely pieces before we were kicked out at 5pm. It was rush hour when we left so we decided it would be quickest to walk back to the hostel.

Brisbane buildings
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It was a really nice stroll back because the sun was setting as we made our way over the Victoria Bridge directly into the main shopping district of Queen Street Mall. God i could have gone nuts shopping (if Rob had let me :( ) The shopping area is really well laid out & there are tonnes of bars & restaurants. There really is a cool buzz about the place. Unfortunately we could not stay in Brisbane longer than 2 nights but we definitely enjoyed the city & made the most of our time there.

Posted by LynMoo 17:31 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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