Location: Rockhampton - Cairns, Australia
After a lot of beaches and sea winds, we decided we wanted a change of scene so we headed inland to Myella Farm Stay. After driving through the dark country roads trying to avoid hitting Kangaoroos we arrived to a lovely home cooked meal (beef of course!) and we knew it was going to be just the ticket. The dive bombing insects, frogs and 6.30am starts were a little harder to get on board with but we got used to them eventually. The days started by milking the cows which apparently I did very well at - finally after failed surfing attempts and scuba diving fear I have found my vocation in life!!! After that we'd do a couple of hours of horse riding - my horse was called Toe-Joe because it tried to bite people's toes - I can vouch for this being true, but otherwise he was fun to ride, whereas Steve's horse was a real slow starter - he was called Trigger so I guess that figures!
Other tasks on the farm included feeding the horses, herding the cows home and feeding the baby Joey - ahhh! It felt good to do some hard labour for a change although not sure who should've paid who (you know me, always trying to make some money!)
A bit of hard work did feel good but soon it was back to r&r - having booked onto a 1940's sail boat recommended by Dave & Laura.
The boat sails around the Whitsunday Islands before returning back to Airlie beach after 3 days. The first morning gave us an insight of things to come on a sail boat - morning tea with cakes, and 2 girls being physically sea sick (the cakes were not guilty). It took a day or so for everyone to get our sea legs but it was fun all the way.
We took part in some kayaking, snorkelling and some beach action before returning to some more great food. We could also do some scuba diving and since I was the only certified diver there I had a one to one dive with the instructor. I had a great time seeing a couple of sting rays, an impressive looking lion fish which can kill you in 20 minutes and best of all we chased a 7 foot reef shark.
Back to dry land and we all went out for food and drinks with our fellow ship mates discovering the joys of rum and dry ginger, our tipple of choice from then on. Our last few days was heading to Cairns and around stopping in the rainforests at Mission Beach and the up market resort town of Port Douglas.
Location: Surfers Paradise to Bundaberg, Australia
Double backing on ourselves, we carried on North to Surfer's Paradise which appears to be the 'Blackpool' of Eastern Australia but on a larger scale. We hit the water park, 'Wet 'n' Wild' but didn't stay too long in town before heading off again. We visited Australia Zoo as I was slightly obsessed by watching 'The Crocodile Hunter' while at uni. It's a decent zoo and Steve irwin is very much alive in the films, commentary and photos around the park. In fact his whole family are present and you can even buy a fitness DVD by his 10 year old daughter, Bindi, in the gift shop!! Some say that it's gone too commercial but I managed to get some rather fetching pink, 'Bindi' flip-flops so who cares!!
The posh coastal town of Noosa is a great place to do some surfing and we both managed to stand up on our first lesson. A couple of hours of surfing really is a workout and I've been suffering since - using muscles I haven't used since the days when I thought about going to the gym.
I only just about stood up on my first lesson! Steve is being nice - I spent most of the time diving headfirst into the water! Still, a shower and a nice meal in one of Noosa's posh restaurants made up for it!
After Noosa we headed up to Rainbow Beach which was a jumping off point for visiting the famous Fraser island - most backpackers do 2 or 3 nights camping amongst the Dingos and Snakes but we didn't feel that brave or have that much time so we opted for a day trip and saw the lovely clear waters of Lake Makenzie (See the photo of Steve pretending to be Peter Andre!).
Bundaberg was our next stop - time of an afternoon at the Rum Factory before a night with some baby turtles hatching and making their way to the beach for their first swim - and it just goes to show that Disney/Pixar do their research - the baby turtles really do swim the EAC or Eastern Australian Current to Sydney and they also call each other "Dude". You heard it here first!
Location: Sydney - Byron Bay, Australia
After the rain in Aukland we were hoping for some sun in OZ but the news was that it had rained in Sydney for 30 days straight and it was flodding up the coast. The locals kept insisting that they needed the rain, we insisted that we didn't!!
We didn't stay long in Syndey and could have spent longer although not in the hostel we chose (the cheapest in the whole of the city)!! The guests used to play x-box and watch crap tv while we ventured into the City, the staff were just as idle but it was cheap and gave us an excuse to eat out for a couple of nights. We did the Sydney Harbour bridge climb which has been done by many of a celebrity when they visit the city and there photos are on the visitor centre wall, mine didn't make it up unfortunately. Our favourite celebrity who kept popping up on walls of fame was the 'famous' Jono Coleman, I think he's got the 3rd most popular military based quiz show on cable tv (or something like that)!!!
Dave and Laura gave us some great tips as we were visiting some of the places they had been and one of them was to watch the fruit bats of Syndey which I made us take 2 visits as I was slightly obsessed by watching them fly over the City each night to feed.
We got a good bit of weather and headed to Bondi Beach to chill out and get out of the hostel. Rich Harding (of CCE fame) is here for 6 months and it's a good spot he's chosen compared to Kings Cross where most backpackers (& prostitutes) end up.
Blue Mountains was our next stop - thanks Karen E for the recommendation of the 'Indian Haveli' mountain retreat - it seemed like luxury after three nights in Kings Cross! After some r&r we headed back to Sydney to catch a flight up to Brisbane. My new found fear of flying was not aided by the rough weather in Sydney that day and consequently a turbulent flight! And I always seem to be next to people who think these sorts of flights are just a great adventure! This old couple next to me proceeded to tell me that the reason why our flight was late was because they had trouble getting the planes down! Anyway, with a big bump on landing, we arrived in Brisbane, and quite honestly i'm not sure it was worth the flight. No doubt it would've been nicer in better weather but we weren't pverly impressed - however still found things to do and drank our way around the XXXX factory.
We also visited a Koala Sanctury just outside Brisbane which was a nice afternoon out - our koala for the standard 'cuddle' picture was called Dave - which just goes to show you always know a Dave, even in the Koala world.
Then off to Byron Bay - known for being an alternative, hippy and laid back place (just like me - yeah right!). Again we endured some rather grotty accomodation ( it seems the standard of hostels in Oz aren't as good as NZ - you have to pay a bit more to get aything half decent) but we had a nice relaxing time there - wandering round the hippy market where they had great food from all around the world (better than Borough Market girls - and half the price!) We also managed a morning on the beach which kept me happy for a few hours - finally we are staring to look less anaemic!
Location: North Island, New Zealand
We started the North Island in the capital - Wellington - significantly smaller than Aukland but more charming in many ways. We spent some time at the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa museum in Maori) which was interesting and passed a few hours in what was pretty dull and rainy weather then headed out in the evening - as Karen H had kindly highlighted a number of Irish Bars in her giudebook, we felt obliged to visit one! Unfortunately we got talked into seeing the comedy act on there that night - which we can only loosely describe as comedy as he was pretty shocking - his only talent was his fiddle playing! A nice meal and a few drinks later and we met some funny people who were telling us about the fact that they once deep fried a flake - can't get away from the scots reputation for deep frying no matter where we go!
We then headed to Napier which is known for being an Art Deco city - I wouldn't say it was on a par with Miami but none the less, with Art Deco Weekend on it was a bustling place to be with people dressed up in 30's clothes and doing the charlston.
After that we headed over towards Tongaririo National Park where we prepared ourselves for the following days 7 hour walk...no, not stretching and doing lunges but by watching Greys Anatomy and drinking wine!
The following day's walk, which is named as one of the best walks in NZ, was a real highlight for us (Thanks Dave and Laura and AFS for your suggestions!). Not as hard as we thought and some of the best scenery in NZ. We felt quite proud of ourselves so we celebrated the end of the day with some bubbles we'd picked up in Marlborough! Can you see a pattern forming with our wine drinking habits?
It certainly was one of the highlights of the trip and while we're not seasoned walkers we made it easily in shorts and t-shirts where most people seemed to have 5 different layers and a few fibre glass poles to help. We moved onto Waitomo (and ran out of the wine we'd picked up in Marlborough) which is famous for glow worms in it's vast cave system. Waitomo means Water Opening which is what we opted to do there, following an under ground river on a large rubber ring from one opening to another. 'Black water rafting' it's officially called which was cold and dark but really fun as we jumped down water falls whilst spotting glow worms glistening on the cave's roof.
From there, a couple of days of rest in Rotorua famous for it's thermal activities but we thought our endless but limited gags about the sulphur smell was what it's famous for. A bit of Maori culture in the local village and a volanic mud bath later meant our clothes and towels now smell of sulphur - Rotorua has indeed left a lasting impression on us!
Having not seen a beach for at least 5 days we thought it was time for some hot beach action in the Coromandel Peninsula - Unfortunatly, we got some hot beach action only at 'Hot Water Beach' which has thermal springs to dig for. This was fun but the weather was so windy that it wasn't ideal beach weather so a few beers and the cinema beckoned us once more.
The wind turned to rain as we reached Aukland on our last day in NZ. Not much to do with such weather so we headed to Sydney where we heard that the rain had been relentless in recent months. No sign of the scary Wizard (Nigel Farmer's uncle, I believe)that taunts tourists anywhere from Christchurch to Aukland but he got a mention at the Wellington Fringe Festival show that we went to.
Location: Milford Sound - Marlborough, New Zealand
After leaving Queenstown. which was a restbite from the constant travelling we moved onto Milford Sound. It's out on a limb a bit, but the journey there was spectacular and the sights are well worth the trip. I'm glad we didn't camp those nights becasue the bugs are both deafening and right little bastards because they love to bite you!! From there we hit Wanaka, Queenstown's younger brother, so much so the bars close at 10pm, a shock to us seasoned UK drinkers. After a nervous trek on a large animal, namely Prickles we had a few drinks a our first proper sit down meal at a restaurant, which gave us a taste of eating and drinking out - Not good for us on a budget, but if spending time with Dave and Laura has taught us anything, budgets are made to be blown!! After some what we thought were highlights of the trip so far, these were to be superseeded by a few more in the next couple of days, the first being a trek onto Fox Glacier. It's basically like walking on a huge slab of ice but the size of it and sheer diverse landscape made it a great day out.
Fox Glacier was also a good night out as we got some humour from meeting some sheep shearers! They told us they like scottish sheep the best - take from that what you will.
Next stop was Abel Tasman - great weather and beaches, which sounds more like my cup of tea. We had one of the best days ever with the seals - which I was pretty scared about beforehand, in fact I was having nightmares about seals attacking me and our guide for the day did nothing to put my mind at rest when she started taking about Sting Rays and Steve Irwin! Anyway, as the photo's show we were fine and were really excited that we got a 2 for 1 deal seeing Dolphins as they weren't part of the deal! However, everytime we got into the water they swam away - so those happy people you see at Sands resort swimming with dolphins is not realistic - the Dolphins are really robots.
After that we went on to our last stop of the South Island - Marlboroough - the wine region. We had a lovely place to stay - although a backpacker place it was more like staying with your granny - they made sure we had everything before we left for the day, had enough sun cream on and we had to take our shoes off before going inside!
The wine tasting was fun, although as neither of us are connossiers we were a little intimidated by it all but I actually found myself talking wine talk - I could taste vanilla at one point. I don't know, maybe I got carried away, or maybe I forgot to spit...
And so to the North...A ferry at 8am on Valentines Day...how romantic!
Location: Christchurch - Queenstown, New Zealand
Our first stop in NZ was Christchurch, which is notable in its absence of photos. Not much to see there but it was good to relax for a couple of days (relax - how rubbish does that sound after we spent 5 days on a beach in Fiji!) and get some admin done - bought a tent, which meant were were actually planning on camping - I think I hoped it wouldn't happen! We met up with Steve's friend Dave and girlfried Laura in Kaikoura and stared as we meant to go on by heading to the nearest pub to plan our next week or so together. We stared with some Whalewatching which Kaikoura is famous for. We had an early morning start to see whales at 6.30am! I never thought I was the type to get seasick but I felt pretty ropey so after we'd seen one whale I pretty much just wanted to get back on dry land!
Then we started making our way down towards Queenstown - stopping for two nights as we made our way there. One place we stayed in was Lake Tekapo - the place in the photo with such gorgeous blue waters - something to do with rock particles as Laura told us in her 'fact for the day'! It's difficult knowing how to pronounce these Maori places so we all took a leaf out of Dave's book and called it Lake Take-a-poo. How mature we all are. We eventually reached Queenstown in the pouring rain, and at that time the rolling hills and mountains felt more like my home country of Scotland - with the temperature not much better! So when we got there instead of throwing ourselves into every extreme activity possible (as that's what Queenstown is known for). We went to watch Sweeny Tod! However thankfully the downpour was shortlived - Steve will tell you all about Queenstown.
Due to my dodgy shoulder and Lyndsay's inability to stand up without breaking a bone, we opted to for the less extreme sports. Camping was extreme enough for us with rain, gales and strange sounding animals near the tent ensuring we don't get a great nights sleep. The weather during the day has been glorious so we apart from the cinema trip it was all outdoors from then on. We took the gondola up the mountain (or hill) at Queenstown where they have a Luge track up there, the girls took it leisurely but Dave and I raced. Unfortunatly, I blamed my oversized legs for my 2-1 loss and I nearly lost it on the corners a few times but we survived to take the only way down from the mountain (apart from the gondola,...and walking,.... or cycling!!) - Paragliding, of course!! Although, the running jump off the cliff was slightly unnerving to think about it, the action itself was leisurly and calm. Later that day we went downhill mountain biking, Dave opting for the crazy track and the rest of us took the gentle track down because of reasons mentioned above. A jet boat ride and a pretty tough hike later we ran out of relatively safe activities. The jet boat ride even attracted the attention of Hugh Jackman (filming 'Wolverine') so if it's good enough for him then we couldn't miss out. Off the Milford Sound next where there's lots of water so we're ditching the tent for 2 nights in favour of some bunk beds, we're living the high life really!!