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Alex's outback adventure

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Friday, 15 May 2015

Location: North Island, New Zealand

Hey Everyone,

I hope everyone is looking forward to the posts on New Zealand! I am going to keep them a bit briefer than the Australia ones.
After our 3.5 hour flight Florence and I landed in Auckland. It was around 8pm after we got through customs. We had to declare the mud on the bottom of our walking boots. They take their border safety very seriously, not just with drugs etc, but with organic material from overseas that can carry harmful bacteria, fly eggs and other things that can harm the environment.
We made our way, by taxi, to the campervan rental place to collect the van. It’s in essence the same camper we hired in Australia, just a little older and not as high spec. We got lost a few times on the way to the campsite but found our way none the less. We grabbed a few things from the supermarket, ate some food, and then got into bed. It was quite a cold sleep in the van as the temperature is far colder than Australia’s.
It was great to be on the move and travelling once more. We packed our gear up and heading into Auckland to have a look around. Truth be told, not a huge amount to see in Auckland, and we hadn’t been told by anyone to spend any time there, so we headed southward to Rotorua. On the way we stopped at a really pretty café set in a beautiful orchard with lemon trees. Had a bite to eat then continued on our way. LUCKILY Florence spotted that we had entered HOBBITON!!! This is the home of the Shire from the Lord of The Rings/ Hobbit movies/books.
Instantly we pulled over, found the nearest campsite to us and booked a trip the following day to visit the movie set of the Shire.
We were picked up in the coach and taken to the word of Hobbiton. We had a tour guide take us on a walk around the Shire, we were shown Bag End (Bilbo & Frodo Baggins’ Hobbit hole), went in a hobbit hole, and ended the tour with a drink in the ‘Green Dragon’ pub (featured in the movies) and a visit to the gift shop to spend a little bit of gold on merchandise.
After our fantastic day being hobbits we continued to Rotorua where we took a walk through a geothermal national park, had a mud bath and sulphur spa. By the end of the day, we and everything we were wearing at the time absolutely stunk of eggs (the smell of sulphur if you didn’t know)!
Rotorua was followed by a trip to the Taupo region, where you will find Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, and the largest lake I think I have ever seen. Its 196km around and beautiful. I took a good few photos so when I’m back ask me to show you them. Also we wondered whether it was salt or fresh water so I took a sip and its fresh water! So if anyone brings up lake Taupo, I will forever on say I have drunk from it!!!

Next our trip took us to the Waitomo Caves. A small town populated all year round by 41 people, with a lot of tourists stopping on their travels. The reason for us coming here was to visit the glow worm caves.
We went with a small company named ‘Spellbound’. It was a really fantastic trip. We went into a cave wearing hard hats, walked into it a bit, and then got in a little boat. The guide told us to turn our lights off. Now this was real darkness. Florence was sat right next to me; about 2 inches away and I could not see her or anything else. Over 10 minutes the night vision kicked in and there were thousands and thousands of little lights above us. It looked like a million stars in touching distance. These were the glow worms. For about half an hour we were in the boat, and then left that cave to look around another one. It was a really great trip that is very worth doing if you ever get the chance.

We drove to Whanganui after Waitomo. Not really for anything in particular as there isn’t much to do there. It just split the drive from Waitomo to Wellington. At our campsite you could literally see the Milky Way Galaxy in the sky. Thousands of stars of sparkling in the sky. A phenomenal sight. You can look at the pictures the Hubble telescope takes of the universe and be impressed, but until you have seen a galaxy with your own eyes in real time, you’ve not seen it all!
Finally we arrived in Wellington. We spent one night relaxing at the campsite (it was a bit too far out of the city centre to go in), and we watched the first Lord of The Rings movie, so we could see where we had visited!
The next day we drove into Wellington and parked at an overnight car park for campervans right on the dock so to be close to the ferry port for the crossing the next day. We took a walk around Wellington, had some of the best coffee we have ever tasted and then met up with some of Florence’s long lost family for dinner. They took us to a really cool bar to start with. It was tucked away in the heart of Wellington, and unless you knew it was there, you would never find it. The bar was followed by a lovely Italian with HUGE pizzas. It was a really great evening.
Now it was time to get on the ferry and travel to the South Island.
Post soon to follow!

Byeeee x

Friday, 15 May 2015

Location: Australia

Hey Everyone

Sorry that it has been so long since my last post. I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone is even checking this page anymore!

I believe I left you last at Fraser Island. I think that from the length of the last post you may have noticed how much I loved it! If you need some inspiration for your ‘bucket list’ add Fraser Island to it. I will definitely be returning to the Island of Wonders.
So after 1770 we headed to Airlie Beach to meet up with Kat and Dave. Airlie beach was really pretty, the home of the Whitsundays. We spent a few days in Airlie Beach, the campsite was really nice.
Now it came to the time to get a move on and get up to Cairns to do the Great Barrier Reef! Cairns wasn’t anything special, however the campsite we stayed in was. It was called the ‘Big4 Cairns Coconut Resort’. It had a couple of swimming pools, a café, kitchen, minigolf, outdoor cinema, a gym and much more. Florence and I took a look around Cairns in the morning, then headed back to the campsite, bought 2 pairs of swimming goggles and played the parts of ‘Big Kids’ very well! Kat and Dave joined us the day after at the campsite and the ‘Big Kids’ role we were all playing was taken to a whole new level. Firstly we were queuing behind 5 year olds to go on the slide, playing in the waterpark that was full of little children (whose parents were looking on disapproving of us) to Florence getting on my shoulders and Kat on Dave’s shoulders in the pool and having a match to see who could push the other of the other’s shoulders. It was great fun and ended in a 2-2 draw.
It seemed that our Gladiator Battle angered the Gods, as a huge storm followed only 30 mins later. And when I say ‘storm’, I mean STOOORRRRRRMMM!!!! Huge sheets of lighting lit up the sky, rain the size of 2p coins crashed to the ground so rapidly that the whole campsite was flooded in a matter of minutes. To be honest it was quite scary, but fun at the same time. All 4 of us headed to the camp kitchen to wait it out. After a while it seemed apparent that the storm was only growing in strength. So we all played a game of rock paper scissors to decide who would be cooking dinner, unfortunately I lost, so I cooked us some pasta whilst we played cards having a really enjoyable evening.
As we awoke the next day, all evidence of the storm had been dried up by the 40c heat. This gave us ample opportunity to decide which company to explore the Great Barrier Reef. After a while of sales pitching to each other over the one each of us thought was the best choice, we settled on heading a bit further North to a town called Port Douglas, where the reef is meant to be a hundred times better than from Cairns.
In convoy the four of us made our way to Port Douglas, a truly beautiful drive. Mountains and Rainforest one side of the road, diamond ocean the other.
We arrived at the Port Douglas campsite to see another children’s waterpark, which made both me and Dave very happy! We didn’t waste much time in giving it a crack. There were 2 big (big for kids) slides that we gave a go. The first was a windy slide that both Dave and I were far too big for. There would be about 2 bends in the slide before we had even gone through the first bend, so it was a spine cracker. The second was fun, however the pool of water at the bottom (to slow you down) wasn’t quite long enough, so we ended up crashing into the base wall of the slide and was then flung a few feet onto the floor. We learnt our lesson after the 3rd or 4th time and left the play area. That evening we went into Port Douglas for some dinner and then went back to the campsite to get to sleep.
After an early start and lots of scrambling around, we made it to the pickup point where the coach would take us to the dock. We were seeing the reef with a company called Quicksilver.
It took roughly 45mins-60mins to get the first of the three reef sites. We got our wetsuits, flippers and snorkels on, jumped in the water to find a whole world beneath us. The coral was spectacular, the fish were quite sparse, but the ones we saw were colourful and elegant. We visited 2 more reef sites which all had their own unique properties. We had an underwater camera so when I get home I will show you the pictures we took. I would recommend that if you were to visit the reef, you scuba dive. Although the colours are more pronounced from shallower waters, the big fish are deeper! I would have scuba dived but it was quite a bit more expensive for us, also we were on a travellers budget.
The reef was fantastic, but our trip north didn’t end there. Florence and I jumped in Kat and Dave’s car to drive to Cape Tribulation area, to stay in Daintree at a place called Crocodilas. This was in essence, a real life version of ‘Im a celebrity get me out of here’. We paid to stay 2 nights in a camp that was pretty much a tarp covered hut made from wood, in the middle of a rainforest. Spiders, cobwebs, Komodo Dragons, snakes and many more critters that make your stay less comfortable!
It was really fun and unique to be so at one with nature. After the first sleepless night we went on a river cruise to see crocodiles. Unfortunately we didn’t see any, so the boat driver allowed us to go on the later trip free of charge. Again we didn’t see any crocs but it was very beautiful none the less. We visited a creek (I did a rope swing into the creek), went to a beach where the rainforest literally meets the water and had a really nice time.
After this we headed back south to pick up the campervan and begin the long drive back to Brisbane to see Jon. We met up with Kat & Dave at Rainbow Beach to have a bit of a parting night out. It was really nice to spend the time with them, and they gave us stubby coolers. These are foam insulators for your beverage. Keeps your drink warm, or your drink cold but your hand warm.
Finally we arrived back in the Gold Coast. Actually we spent the last few days at a campsite there with Kat and Dave, we gave them a present of the UNO card game and a new pack of playing cards (we played cards with them almost every evening, so it was our thing), said our goodbyes which was surprisingly sad, and carried on with our individual plans.
After dropping the van off we made our way back to Jons to spend some time with him whilst we looked for our own place. It was lovely being back in a proper bed. Jon, as ever, was a great host to us and made us feel right at home. We also had Dyolf there with us which was an added bonus.
Christmas Eve and Christmas day were spent at a hotel called The Mantra Legends Hotel in Surfers Paradise. Having a nice hotel room, a restaurant and pool was really a nice treat for us. However after this was getting back to reality. We had a few job interviews lined up, needed to buy a car and find an apartment.
Luckily we both got interviews at restaurant/bar venues and both got the jobs. I started work at a place called Compadres Mexican Restaurant & Bar, whilst Florence succeeded in working at a venue called The Groove Train. We managed to buy a 2000 Hyundai Accent GLS for $800, and after the New Year got an apartment at a student accommodation style apartment block called Varsity Towers for $275 p/w.
Things seemed to be falling perfectly to plan… Or so we thought!!!

Hello Readers!

We signed our apartment lease for just under 4 months, and in that time there wasn’t that much to talk about.
Florence and I were working as much as we could to save up money for our New Zealand trip.
We had a few bits of bad luck with the car. The aircon wasn’t working, and then the darned thing wouldn’t start half the time. The passenger side electric window stopped working so things were not looking great in terms of luck.
I thought, with the advice of others, that the reason the car would not start was a starter motor issue. So we bought a new starter motor, and I fitted it over about 4 hours at Jons house. This wasn’t the problem. So went to the Halfords of Australia, who said it sounded like a battery issue. After buying and installing the new battery, presto, we had a working car. I bought a new window regulator from eBay, fitted that, so everything apart from the aircon was functioning.
When the apartment lease was expiring we started to try and sell the car. I managed to sell it to someone at work, who was very happy with the car.
Now it was time to leave our jobs, hop on a plane, and get over to New Zealand!


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Recent Messages

From Grandparents
Dear Alex and Florence
We have just learned about the severe weather in Brisbane. Very much hope that you have not been too affected. The shots on TV were pretty dramatic to say the least. We hope all is well with you.

Masses of love to you both.
Grandparents Rice
Response: Luckily we were at Hervey Bay and Fraser Island when the weather was bad in Brisbane. Some 400km north :) xxx
From Grandfather Bill
Great photos! Really good to see
both of you and looking so well.
Many people envying you..including Nana and me. Never got to see Australia, bit late now.
We are so happy to know you are enjoying your adventure.

Heaps of love . keep safe.
I and Nana have read your deeply touching letters. So very thoughtful of you to give us such precious words. We shall treasure them for as long as we live.
Grandfather Bill and Nana Eileen
Response: Hello there! You're welcome about the letters. I meant every word. We have just been to Fraser Island. Really interesting and beautiful. Post and photos are coming up shortly. Love to you and nana xxx
From Toby
they've taken the hobbits to isengaard
Response: legolas, what does your elf eye see? :P

what are your time zones my brother. I need to catch up with you via skype! there were Kangaroos at the campsite the last few days. just chilling outside our van. Wild ones! so cool. speak soon and hope everything is ok where you are bro x
From Mummy
Great to hear your news - that was a very bad Skype connection yesterday! Missing you terribly but happy you are having such fun and seeing a very different world. So looking forward to seeing some more photos. Hope your long journey isn't too taxing - I will be waiting to get a Skype call 😍😄😘
Response: Thanks. At most campsites they have free wifi, but its only about 50mb of data you get free. so skype only lasts about 3 mins lol. will have to skype text when at next site which will be tomorrow. xxx
From Teri
Try Doyles on the beach at Watsons Bay - best fish n chips we ever had! Nice blog - enjoy yourselves you lucky things!
Response: Thanks Teri, what state is Watsons Bay? Tomorrow we begin our journey to Brisbane from The Hunters Valley... Near here?
From Grandfather
Dear Travellers
Great briefing! I can see a travel book coming out of your adventures.
So good to be able to be in contact.
Look forward to later chapters.
Love to both.

Response: Lovely to hear from you!
There is lots more to blog about to keep checking the page. Have you found the photo part yet?
Love to you and nana xxx
From Lesley
enjoyed reading your post Alex & look forward to the next one. Your weather is certainly better than ours. !!
Response: Thanks Lesley. Yes the weather is fantastic here. from 9-8 its very hot, but early in the morning and late at night its quite cool. Which is great as we don't have a snazzy van like peters!
From peter
Hi Alex just read your blog sounds like the start of your trip is going well, I am envious the weather here is crap. stay save
Response: Thanks Pete. Will do another one soon. Yeah weather is great. We went to a Zoo yesterday, will upload some pictures of that soon. Some great animals there.
From Judy
Hi Alex and Florence.
Lovely set of photos!
It looks as though you are managing to pack a lot in to your time in Sydney.
Look forward to hearing the next instalment!
Lots of love x x x
Response: Thanks Judy. Will upload some more pictures soon.
From David
Glad you arrived safely Alex - have a great trip. It was good to see and speak to you on Skype and love the room and view. Lovely to chill out in and get over jet lag before setting off on your adventures - well done Maggie!
May the Force go with you!
Lots of love. x
Response: Thanks David. We are having a bit of a relax this morning before we have our fantastic trip to Sydney Oprah House later today. Will speak to you soon x
From Flight Organiser
Did you make it to Sydney in one go?
Response: Yes thankyou. This is Matt?
From Kev Crowley
good luck mate. Have a bonza trip.
Response: Thanks Kev. It quality at the moment :)
From Lesley
safe travels. Let the adventure begin
Response: Thanks Lesley. The pictures are going to be uploaded soon. :) x
From Maggie wilson
Hey I'm the first😄. Safe flight - I'm going to miss you terribly but hope you have the best adventure ever 😘
Response: Haha yes you are. Some pictures are uploaded now. Let me know what you think of them! x
From Ronny
good luck beautiful!!! Have a fab time!! So proud of you. And remember to Skype me as soon as you can x x x x x
Response: Hello, thankyou, but sorry do I know you?