Archive for October, 2007

Turbulent Taupo !! – North Island, New Zealand

October 31, 2007

Pre take off, I am really not as happy as I look

Ki Ora from New Zealand

Well we awoke and Dominique and I decided a hearty breakfast was in order. There’s a place in Rotorua called the “Fat Dog”, and to be honest if you weren’t one before you entered you will be by the time you leave. It’s the thickest slice of toast I’ve ever had, I couldn’t even finish it and that’s not like me. To work off the calories we then went for a stroll around the local park across from the hostel. This too contains steaming mud pools so it was nice to get one last look at unique Rotorua before we left.

Our smaller minibus had arrived and we had a new driver, a lady called “Nads”. Now there are two meanings to this name. One is it’s a shortened version of her name but the second is that it’s short for Gonads or even “Go Nads !”. Yes this lady has balls, on her initiation trip she did a skydive naked. On that note that’s where we are probably headed if the weather holds today. After we’d got on and driven a short while she’d called up the skydiving place to see if it was possible for any jumps to take place today. Amazingly it was. I say amazingly because countless tourists have been trying jump both before and after that day without a lot of success. Yes, New Zealand is having it’s worst October on record but when it’s sunny it’s great. As soon as she mentioned we could go I felt an immediate need to get the bus stopped so I could make an emergency toilet stop, I felt sick to my stomach and so did Carolyn. Where just had her previous night’s confidence gone ? I think she left it in Rotorua…

We did actually get a toilet stop at the Huka falls (I stayed there for a while). Huka is a rather pretty narrow canyon like falls where you could get a jet boat at the bottom. No time for that though we had a schedule to keep. We checked in to the Urban Retreat hostel in Taupo, dumped our bags and got back on the bus. Nads is a qualified sky diver which means you no longer have to tandem so she was explaining how great we’d find it. She advised first timers to go 12,000 feet rather than 15,000 as you wouldn’t notice the extra 15 seconds of free fall on your first jump. I took her advice, plus it was a lot cheaper. The 6 of us arrived at Skydive Taupo, Lauren was just a spectator which was a shame as she was going to do one the next day but the weather meant she wasn’t able to. We were led in to a DVD room to be shown an example of a jump. The only criticism I have so far of New Zealand is although yes it is cheaper to do certain activities here they do try and get you to buy everything possible and to go as high as possible. I declined the DVD and elected for the 12,000 feet option. We were then kitted out in blue boiler suits and strapped up, then we waited to meet our tandem skydive partners. Mine was Alex and I struck gold with him. I was incredibly quiet but he explained what I had to do – basically be a banana (more details later) and to enjoy it. Alex then retied my straps to his preferred way and we had some photos taken. Then it was just time to await the plane. Dominique, Andy and Adam were very relaxed. Carolyn and I were complete nervous wrecks, in fact I think it’s fair to say we were trying to have a competition as to who could be the most nervous. On the plus side the more nervous you are the higher the adrenalin so in theory the better the buzz. Anyone who knows me will know that I have always said I would never do this, come to think of it , what the hell am I doing ???????

Skydive Taupo does have 100% safety record, so I just kept thinking about that and the plane arrived. We all boarded. Andy and Dominique first as they were going higher then Carolyn, me and Adam. This meant Adam was first to go. The plane was pretty small, we all had a photo taken in the plane before we left but none of us can even remember that. The plane took off and I am just silent. Alex keeps showing me his altitude watch to show how high we are and just tells me to clear my head. At around 6000 feet you literally have to sit on their laps so you can be strapped together. I’m really relying on those straps right now. We are nearly at the required altitude when we go through more clouds and feel a lot of turbulence. Carolyn and I frown at each other, a couple of expletives may also have been exchanged.

Then it’s the moment I’ve been dreading (well apart from the rest of the build up). The plane door is opened. I grab the metal bar above me at which point Alex says I won’t be able to take that with me (please, let me, please..). Carolyn screams and Andy and Dominique are being given oxygen at the back as they are going to 15,000 feet. Adam is then moved to the entrance. He was so calm on the ground and suddenly I saw a complete look of terror go across his face. Then he was gone. In fact when they go it’s quite funny as you just dissapear downards, falling through the clouds. Carolyn screams as he goes but I’m oblivious to this as it’s now my turn. I’d asked Alex if there was any particular shoulder he’d prefer my head to be on. I did exactly as I was told. My legs were under the plane doorway, arms crossed and head on shoulder…..and then……


I wanted to scream but the rush of air is so fast that you can’t really do anything apart from feel your cheeks waving about. I stretch out my arms, arch the back and keep my legs underneath Alex (sounds like a rude novel but I can assure you it wasn’t). I have 45 seconds of freefall, initially spinning around and then when balanced just dropping like a stone. I can see the clouds and Lake Taupo underneath me. Suddenly with the air rushing in to my mouth I feel like I can’t breath. I am huffing and puffing like a pregnant woman going through a very painful set of contractions – thank goodness I didn’t get the DVD I’d have looked ridiculous. Of course he can’t see this so I’m following his thumbs up with thumbs up and hand shakes too, if only he could have seen my face. 45 seconds later he signals for me to put my arms in and he pulls the parachute. We shoot back up in to the air, this was my favourite part (after all it opened for a start). Most people enjoy the free fall but for me the unexpectedness of that did freak me out a bit.  As soon as we shot up you can now hear each other speak, Alex just shouted out “Yo, Mustang Sally, how was that?”. How did he know my real name? Actually now is the time when you can enjoy the views, and I can breathe normally, he asked if I wanted to do a few turns, of course I did. A few minutes later we are reaching the air strip for a landing, I asked if we could land on a sheep (well I am  in New Zealand), I think he thought I was being serious as he said we needed to land on the air strip. I lifted my legs and he slowed the chute right down. The landing was so soft and yes I am back on terra firma. More photos ensued. Adam had already landed and then it was time to await the others. Carolyn was full of smiles, poor girl had been paired with an instructor at the last minute so hadn’t really been told what to do. I think this may have been because she told her original allotted guy that he’d have to push her and he only gets paid if you actually jump, so I think he’d swapped to Dominique as that was a safer bet. She didn’t know about the banana so had gone out of the plane with legs and arms everywhere much to her boyfriend’s amusement. Then came Dominique and Andy. I was hard for any of us to get a word in edgeways we were all so ecstatic. I really felt like I’d had an outer body experience.  My legs are like jelly. We then had to pay, which I suppose is a result, I mean if you hadn’t have made it as least you wouldn’t have lost any money. I felt pretty sorry for Lauren as it must have been hard for her to watch us go on and on about the jump. I decided to get my photos, attached is the one of me in the plane before take off and a great landing shot – can you see the relief ? We were then taken back to the hostel in a limousine, not bad for backpackers, another plus for doing your jump in Taupo rather than elsewhere.

Funnily enough I’d completely lost my appetite but I managed to eat a whole plate of bbq and drink a few wines (not too many). I’m knackered but elated – must be the adrenalin rush. I went to bed around 11pm and as promised had very strange dreams. One was my sister was pregnant again and my car had the flattest tyres in the world but I could still drive it. (I’m hoping these aren’t actual premonitions for when I get home).

Well I have to say I’d definitely do another one, well one day. My main concern is that with a skydive the instructor takes you out of the plane, with a bungy you’ve got to do it yourself….oh no there goes those butterflies again !!

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 36, Train =2, Boat = 10, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care all

Sally x

Almost there - what positioning !!


Rotten Rotorua !?!?!?! – North Island, New Zealand

October 31, 2007

Ki Ora from New Zealand

Well we spent the rest of our day getting to Rotorua. My my my what a pong !! If you suffer from a severe flatulence problem this is definitely the place for you (well that is if you can keep it silent) asno-one  would ever know the difference. The smell of rotten eggs surrounds the place (hence the title I love it here really), in fact unless you are in an enclosed space you too will reek of the stuff, I need a laundry run and quick. The place is just a complete hive of thermal activity. New Zealand is also known as “The Shaky Isles” as they sit on not one but two tectonic plates (the indo-australian and the pacific). They actually have 15,000 earthquakes every year although only (and I use that term loosely) 150 are felt by the people. They are also several volcanoes and Rotorua itself actually sits in the crater of a volcano. You can see the outer edges of the crater from the top of the museum. We checked in to the aptly named “Hot Rocks” backpackers and got a room for me , Lisa, Adam and Lauren. In backpacking terms this was pretty good as we had our own bathroom and kitchen. The place also had it’s own thermal pool – not bad as I’ve been longing for a bath. The town itself has a population of 65,000 people but gets 4 million visitors a year – equivalent to the whole population of the country, most towns seem to have similar statistics. Baggins did try and tell us that if you were to spend more than 2 weeks here you’d need an injection because it’s harmful to inhale the air (yes, of course it is – Not !!). These cheeky drivers are always telling big fibs.

That evening Lisa and I had booked to go and see a new local show called “Tribal Lights” as I was keen to get a bit of culture. Two other girls Linda and Dominique had also booked. It was supposed to be more of a contemporary style show rather than an ultra traditional one. When we turned up we were the only 4 people there – wow a whole theatre to ourselves !! I think one of the reasons we also booked it was the unlimited roast buffet.I have to say that was pretty good and there was a choice of 4 puddings, or all of them including New Zealand’s own Hoky Poky ice cream but we had to watch the show first. One thing I will say is it’s a new show and I’m sure it will get better with practice, of course then the price will probably go up. The story is of a Maori who has two wives and decides as his other two are arguing too munch he’ll get a third. This is an interactive show so as women we all had to get up on stage and tell him what sea, mountain and why we should be his wife. We then had to sing a Maori song to the tune of the Macarena. All I can say is thank god there was only the 4 of us, I wouldn’t fancy doing that to a full audience. In the end he chose the third actress – hurray (I still need to do the South Island). We got back around 10pm and made our way to what appeared to be one of the only happening bars in Rotorua “The Lava Lounge”. As I was staying on it was time to say goodbye to Baggins and the rest of the people who weren’t staying.

The next morning Lisa and I got up and found the town shuttle bus. First activity of the day was Zorbing. I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to have a go. Baggins said it wasn’t very good but you know when you’ve just always wanted to do something you need to give it a go (apparently the drivers are split 50/50 on liking and disliking it). When we got to the Zorb site we had a quick look at one zorb already on it’s way down the zig zig course, this of course goes slower than the straight down the hill route but it does last longer. We’d decided that we wanted to do one together and do something dry. Every activity in this country seems to involve water. We started to sign our lives away and then it came to a question of height. You had to be 5″2″ to do the dry zorb – I am only 5″1″. I queried the guy who worked there bearing in mind I am signing my life away at this moment and he said he wouldn’t advise me doing it as I would be able to reach the top straps with my hands. Great – thank you parents for producing a near midget. This only means one thing we have to go aqua zorbing instead. We dressed in their shorts and t-shirts, as we were unprepared I had to go commando whilst Lisa was going to use the hairdryer method (that is drying her underwear later in case some of you think this is a new waxing technique or something). We were then ferried up the hill. The aqua zorb was filled with warm water to give a warm bath temperature effect. Then I had to dive through the small hole to get in and Lisa followed. Our zorb was in position in the straight down the hill track – but what the hell, in for a penny and all that. We were told to stand up in the zorb and then he shut the door. Well, I think I managed to stay on my feet for 0.5 seconds if that and then I was literally swishing around in the water feeling like a very unsuccessful drowned hamster. I have to say we screamed with laughter all of the way down the hill. It did seem to last longer than I thought it would and eventually we did come to a stop. I’m actually really glad we did the aqua one now. Time to dry off and catch the shuttle bus back as Lisa was leaving on the bus – boo hoo !! She’s been a great chilled out pal to start the trip with.

I waved goodbye to her and then Dominique from the Tribal lights evening said she was in a dorm on her own so I suggested she have Lisa’s bed in our room. Another instant friend !! We decided to go back in to town to see what we could do for the next couple of days. We also went to the Museum which costs $11 (NZ) but you do get a tour guide for that. The museum is the site of an old bath house. Because of all the mud pools and hot water the place was often used as a medical treatment and recuperation centre and spa. Apart from some of the old baths being there they also had a lot of the old Maori artefacts. There was also a great exhibition on the Maori 28th battalion who fought in the second world war, unfortunately although they were renowned for being extremely fierce, 1 in 6 of them perished. On leaving the museum it had started to rain ( a signal of what may be to come for the rest of my trip here) so we decided to go for a curry before heading back. We met up with Lauren and Adam at the hostel and just chatted and had an early night.

The next morning we caught Tim’s thermal shuttle in to a place called Wai-O-Tapu. Wai-O-Tapu is also called a thermal wonderland and I have to say it is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. First of all we got to see some more mud pools (picture attached). I could just watch them bubbling away for ages despite the pong. Then on to Lady Knox Geyser. She’s not that huge but for tourist enjoyment they gather everyone around at 10am each morning. A guide gives you a history surrounding the area and then pours a bit of washing powder in to the geyser. After a few minutes she literally blows. The water and bubbles just shoot in to the air on demand, how they discovered that it can do that I don’t know but it was quite amusing, that is until you have to run away from the boiling water.

Time to go in to the main park itself. We had around 2 hours and there are 3 tracks you can follow – just enough time. each area has a name so you start of at the Weather pool craters and then move on to the Devil’s home. It’s a deep crater with wafts of sulphur coming out and a yellow colouration down the sides, it does look a bit evil. Then time to head to rainbow and thunder crater. Thunder crater is the newest crater in the park collapsing only in 1968. It makes you wonder if the ground you are treading on is all that stable. Next “The Devil’s Ink Pots”. These are little circular pools where the water or liquid is jet black in colour – hence the name. There are four of them and they are simmering very gently in the middle. Time to move to the “Artist’s Pallette” where you get a beautiful view and several different colours are mixed together. Unfortunately I’d forgotten the camera so had to use the disposable (Dominique is sending me the pics – I hope). Next the “Opal Pool”. This is a huge flat area and they’ve built a special board walk across it so that you can walk across. After you reach the other side you come to the Primrose Terrace. These look like steps/tiers of liquid going down the hill. They change from being a white,creamy,yellow,green colour all the way through (it’s hard to explain). They are now the largest terraces in the Southern Hemisphere after the famous pink and white terraces were destroyed in the huge 1886 earthquake here (hence the reason for the bath house in Rotorua’s town). The Jean-Batten geyser was then decidedly quiet so we walked along what’s called the sacred track. The algae on the plants is bright yellow rather than a green moss you’d be used to seeing again it must be because of all the minerals in the air. You then reach a panoramic viewpoint which is pretty. Then the Bridal falls (there seem to be waterfalls with this name all over the country). The “Frying Pan Flats” are pretty spectacular. Just a huge flat lake with bubbling hots springs in a green, yellow and cream colour. “The Oyster Pool” then looks like a tiny oyster shell in the middle of all of this. How and why that part is different nobody knows. This looks even more realistic the further away from the trail you get from it. Lake Ngakora is quite a large lake with bright green waters – it’s stunning.

Time for a little bush walk until you get to the “Ant Hills”. These sulphurous mounds were formed when this particular area was drained of water in the 1950’s. Then one of my favourites “The Champagne Pool” (well with a name like that it would be). This pool is so full of minerals that the water is gold, red, orange, blue and green in different areas. There’s so much steam coming off that for a while walking past it you can’t see and of course it stinks. One girl was refusing to walk through because of the smell. On to the “Inferno Crater” a boiling black mass and then “Birds Nest Crater”. This was just warmish so starlings and swallows lay their eggs in the way so that the warm steam helps to incubate them. Amazing how nature sorts itself out. Finally many people’s favourite the “Devil’s Bath”. For some reason this is another pool that is bright yellow. It seriously looks like someone has grabbed a tin of powder paint and tipped it in. Well that’s the end of that tour it’s time to go back to town as I didn’t take photos you can see some pictures at :

Back in town it was raining once again. Dominique went back to the hostel and I decided to go and see the Kiwi Experience next to the Rainbow Springs park. I hopped on the shuttle and was there in a flash. When in New Zealand one must try and see this threatened bird. It’s been researched that unless more is done to protect them they could be extinct by 2015 so projects like this one are fantastic. There are 4 species of Kiwi’s and 2 sub species and these seem to be geographically dispersed around the country depending on the breed. This particular project has the Northern Brown Kiwi. When first discovered it took a while for scientists to decide if the Kiwi was actually a bird or a mammal. They decided on a bird but it has several mammal like features including : feathers more like fur, 2 ovaries, large ears and the same body temperature as us at 38 degrees. The female bird tends to lay 2 eggs a couple of weeks apart. The eggs are so large that it literally wipes her out for a while so the male has to incubate the eggs for 60-90 days. If a human were to deliver something similar it would be the equivalent to us delivering a 35lb baby each time (I’ve suddenly crossed my legs). The problem is with people migrating to New Zealand they brought animals such a ferrets, stoats, cats etc and these are the main Kiwi predators. A Kiwi can live for up to 30 years. We were initially led in to the incubation area of the centre. There the eggs are held, weaker eggs are held in a separate area and are monitored to make sure the chick is still living inside. The eggs are actually taken from the males in the wild. Previous success stories mean that the males are tagged and once they sit on the eggs the people from the centre lay in wait until the male leaves them to get food. They then take the eggs and because he believes there is a predator in the area he won’t return to the eggs for fear that someone may attack him, so he just leaves them. The cycle then begins again.

The next incubation area is for recently hatched chicks. I was extremely lucky a chick had hatched over night. Normally they sleep for the first 2-3 days with their beaks under their wing but this little fella was on his back wriggling around so we got a great view of the little fluffy brown ball. Next you go in to the adult area. Conditions have been created so that it is their natural night time environment. You have to be absolutely silent as although there is a wooden waist height partition there is no glass so you can lean over and see them walking around and drinking really clearly. A couple of them were scratching around in the ground looking for bugs whilst the other was drinking water. We then went back to the general area where you can read more about them and look at how successful the breeding project has been. They have hatched 490 birds so far but reading the logs on these around 40% have since died in the wild. Mainly from stoats, cats and pigs but sometimes purely from accidents. I jumped back on the bus and went to meet Dominique. The bus driver had an extremely friendly pit bull in his passenger seat this time. I’m not sure why but the majority of people here seem to have huge dogs here – oh well as long as they are friendly. I finished my left over curry (doggy bags are essential when backpacking – I’ve found a biryani goes further than other meals) and then left with Dominique to go to the Polynesian Spa.

The Polynesian spa has a family pool, totally private pools or the option we headed for which was the 7 pool complex for adults only. You have to remove all silver or it will become discoloured. Each pool has a different temperature – some are acidic and some are alkaline. We moved around from pool to pool generally getting warmer and warmer. I have to say the view in the lake side pool was the best. You look out over the lake at night at the outline of a volcanic crater with steam coming from the edges of the water, the stars are in the sky and in front of you are thousands of seagulls just sitting there like a scene from “The Birds”, if only I’d had my camera. It was cool. The down side is that although most people are nice you do get some creeps, on the plus side you just move to the next pool. We ended up in the largest pool called the Rachel pool it’s supposed to make you pretty. We tried to stay in for as long as possible to get the full benefits but to be honest we were turning in to shrivelled prunes so time to go.

After showering we looked around the little shop. This has a number of moisturisers and treatments so we were almost fully made up by the time we left (look I know it’s pikey but I’m trying to live like a real back packer – I just pity “Boots” when I get back) . At night Rotorua is a bit of a ghost town and they do say not to walk around on your own, so we skipped past the tumbleweeds and reached the hostel. The problem was the spa had made us feel so relaxed that we were torn as to whether to go out. We decided just a couple as it was our last night there, as we made our way down the stairs we bumped in to Andy who was coming to find us. He’d left Carolyn in the bar on her own and she needed a friend to play with. It seemed quite busy. Our next stop is Taupo the cheapest place in New Zealand to sky dive, Carolyn in a brave tipsy way said there was no way we could leave Taupo until we’d done a jump, I’d never intended to do one but this trip as I’ve said before was is all about firsts, so we shall see !!

Andy was playing pool but seemed to want to set us a challenge. He said if we could find a man who would buy all of us a drink he would buy us one back as well. Time to call on Priscilla (the alter ego in case you haven’t read my last Borneo story – in fact she’s been a bit quiet of late). Priscilla had 3 drinks lined up on the bar within 5 minutes (she’s good!!). Found a sucker called Justin who said he was travelling on business from Auckland and his drinks were going on expenses – I then told him our challenge and asked if he could expense ours, he agreed (so before I get the wrath of the male population, Priscilla was completely up front and honest with him). One of the locals said he was in all the time but if that’s the case he won’t be using that story too much in the future. He was a creep, so I left pretending I had to get my camera. The others didn’t get back until 3am. Oh well time to go to Taupo. I have to say 3 days in Rotorua is not long enough, I’m going to try and go back for a day on my way back as I didn’t make the cultural village or the buried village. It’s definitely a must visit when in New Zealand.

Transport count:

Plane = 12, Bus = 35, Train =2, Boat = 10, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care

Sally x

Mud Pools in Rotorua

Yeah - we zorbed !!

Wormy Waitomo – North Island, New Zealand

October 24, 2007

Glow worms in the dark

Ki Ora from New Zealand

We left at 8am after breakfast to head to Waitomo. This is the best place in New Zealand to see glow worms. Wendy had recommended them to me and I booked myself on the Spellbound tour. You’ve also got the choice to do the “Haggis Honking Holes” and “Tubing”. One involved abseiling and the other getting on a large inflatable tube in the dark. As I’d already done tubing in Laos and had a feeling that there was better abseiling in the country I thought I’d make the most of the little sparkly creatures.

About 6 of us from the bus were booked on and we were driven through the countryside to the caves. You get in to the cave and are given a torch it’s so dark but it’s amazing how your eyes soon adjust to the darkness. Glow worms live for around 60 days before they become flies, ironically the flies then get caught in the glow worms sticky mess and get eaten by them. Although if you’re a male fly you get to mate with as many female ones as possible before you meet your end. Then the female lays her eggs which  hatch in the water to once again become worms and the cycle starts again.

We were led on to a dinghy and were pulled up and down in the caves where we sat in the darkness and looked at what looked like a million bright shining stars in the dark. It was really pretty. After a while and a cup of milo we were taken to another cave where we walked through. Inside this cave was a skeleton of a Moa, a now extinct flightless bird which looks like a cross between the emu and an ostrich. It must have fallen through a hole in the top and had been there for a few hundred years. It’s believed they died out due to the Maori people eating them.

Time to congregate back together and Baggins took us to see one of the few free activities in New Zealand. The shearing of an Angora rabbit. Angorra wool is hugely expensive and they strap the little bunny up and shave him. Apparently it’s good for them to get rid of the hair. I’m not too sure about that he didn’t look too happy.

 Oh well time to get back on the bus and head to Rotorua…

Transport count :

Plane = 12, Bus = 34, Train =2, Boat = 10, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care

Sally x

Sally & Carolyn at the entrance to the caves

Hot pools of Hahei – North Island, New Zealand

October 20, 2007

It’s so hot in hereThe boys digging the hot poolKi Ki Ora from New Zealand

I woke up early this morning to catch my “STRAY” bus. I chose STRAY as I was told these guys go a little more off the beaten track and also the age group is slightly older. The other options were Magic again an older group bus less socialising (this may of course not be true) and Kiwi Explorer although it’s definitely a younger age group that tend to choose this option. You can of course opt for the normal buses or hire a car or camper van but if you’re travelling on your own this is a great option to meet people easily. As I waited I got talking to a girl called Lisa who was also on my bus. Our driver, Baggins turned up. The STRAY drivers tend to have nicknames as there have been some stalking issues in the past and they tend to get their names during their initiation tour where they are led around by a more experienced driver. Most of the bus seemed to be English and there were about 20 of us. I’ve selected the “Max” pass which covers the whole of the country and if you have time you can keep going around the country, jumping on and off as it’s valid for a year. I sat next to Lisa on the bus – woo hoo an instant friend !!

Our first stop was Mount Eden the highest point in Auckland – although this was after we’d driven down the steepest street in Auckland. The views were great but it was extremely cold so we took a couple of pictures (well I took one of Eden Park where the All Blacks play) and then headed back to the bus. Baggins is a funny looking guy think Jimmy Cranky but very funny. It was at this point that he realised he hadn’t actually brought his bags – was this how he got his name ? No apparently it was due to the fact that on his first drive he had been on a smaller bus where the luggage had to be towed in a trailer at the back. Unfortunately this hadn’t been secured properly so upon arriving at their destination they discovered an open trailer and 12 bags missing. Luckily they managed to retrieve them more or less intact.

The format for most days is a supermarket stop and a few sights along the way. We stopped in a place called Thames and picked up a few items although we were having a group bbq that evening. We arrived in Hahei in the early afternoon, a comment was made about being careful of the slow children, of course this was just the sign, it’s really a lovely peaceful place. Hahei has spectacular beaches so after we grabbed our dorm beds we all went for a stroll – well it was such a nice day. The beach at Hahei is very nice and we took a stroll along to Cathedral Cove it was incredibly pretty, and not crowded at all. I seem to be travelling here at just the right time – it’s not too busy. Whilst we’d been walking Baggins had been slaving away making an incredible feast (the best so far). I love the New Zealand sweet potato called Kumara. We all got to know each other a bit better and then at 9.30pm we headed out to undertake the main reason for coming here – the hot pools.

We picked up some spades along the way and drove for 20 minutes or so down the coast. Shoes off we walked down a pitch black beach where some people were already in pools. Due to the thermal activity in New Zealand this stretch of beach is an ideal spot for a late night soak. The boys being very chivalrous started digging (see above photo). The idea is to find an area where the water is hot but not too hot and build your own hot pool. As they were taking their time Lisa, Andy,Carolyn and I noticed a pre built hole so they, being brave, stripped to their swim wear and got straight in. I decided to take a photo and walked backwards nearly scalding myself in the process as the water next to it was boiling hot. It’s so weird how the water can be such different temperatures depending on where you dig. I stepped aside after a few yelps to take the above picture of the guys in the pools. I, like quite a few of the others just had a long paddle. I really didn’t want to get covered in sand at that time of night – boring I know but it was still a laugh. After an hour or so it was time to walk back along the now freezing beach to  the bus.

We got back to camp just after 11.30pm. No time for sleep though, I had to (yes had to) stay up for the 2am kick off for England vs Australia in the rugby world cup. Andy also stayed up. We watched some TV and then just as the game was about to start we were joined by another Englishman and New Zealander – I’m pleased to say he was also supporting England. I woke Andy up and then the game kicked off. What a result, we won 12-10 !! I was so excited I couldn’t sleep which meant I only got 1 hour before we were due to leave the next morning. If only I could find that Australian journalist who said the Northern hemisphere hadn’t turned up for the competition.

After breakfast we drove through what is now known as Hobbit country – yes they love Peter Jackson and “The Lord of the Rings” here. he has brought so much additional tourism to the area and where we were driving through was just one of the countless areas where the movie was filmed. As we were approaching Hamilton Baggins gave us the option of a quick tour through the town or a cup of tea with his Mum and Dad. Of course we chose the latter. How fab she’d baked some fresh scones (I think he does this quite a lot). The people here are so lovely – I know I probably say that everywhere I go but they are. On the way we also got the New Zealand rugby result – I’ve obviously mistimed my visit here but at least we don’t have to play New Zealand next. The mood is still excellent, they are such good losers.

Early afternoon we arrived at Raglan, the premier surf spot in New Zealand. 5 brave people went off for surf lessons but the guest house was so relaxed that Lisa and I decided to do a loop walk instead which only took an hour or so. One guy managed to take off his big toe nail surfing so I’m glad I just did the walk. Amazingly everyone who had a lesson stood up, this is the place to be if you want a good teacher.  They also have a flying fox at the guest house so when dark you leap on to a wire and get whizzed down it at high speed for 100m or so. Much screaming ensued it was great fun. Bearing in mind I’d had 1 hour’s sleep I was knackered so us girls settled down to a DVD and after our home made pizza dinner went to bed around 10pm. One of the great things about this tour bus is that you get to have heavily discounted meals at certain places – I have to say I’m enjoying this bus already.

Oh well time to head to Waitomo, the glow worm caves. Wendy raved about them to me so I’m looking forward to tomorrow, but definitely make time for the Hot Pools if you can………… 


Transport count :

Plane = 12, Bus = 33, Train =2, Boat = 10, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care

Sally x

Auckland “City of Sails” – North Island, New Zealand

October 13, 2007

Ki Ora from New Zealand

Well I flew in to Auckland with a slight delay. I managed to get one of the last shuttle buses into town and to be honest the travellers worst nightmare is to arrive at night and this was no different. I checked into my backpackers but the area seemed a bit dodgy. Well everything looks different in daylight. There was a bar downstairs and it sounded like all hell was breaking loose. By the time I fell asleep it was 4am, not the best start to New Zealand but I shall persevere as everyone has been absolutely raving about the country.

I decided the next day I’d just catch up on my blog and sort out my plans. After a read of the Lonely Planet I have to say I was none the wiser so took the easy option and booked a bus tour around the country which leaves on Saturday. At least I got to move rooms so I’d be able to sleep tonight. I thought New Zealand was going to be cheaper than Australia but I think the budget is going to be blown over the next few weeks there’s just so much to do here.

I got up on the Friday for a free city tour with Kiwi Explorer. They give these out free to encourage people to buy the big tour tickets. As the bus was full of 19 year olds I’m hoping the company I’d chosen to tour with was going to be a bit more mature. Not that there’s anything wrong with 19 year olds but you know what I mean!! First stop, Auckland Harbour Bridge via a very nice upmarket area called Ponsenby. There are a lot of cafes so I may need to have a look when I’m passing through on the way back. The bridge is Auckland’s traffic jam spot. The bridge had to have two lanes added which were purchased from Japan and known as the “Nippon Clip ons”, the picture below is the view over the city from the bridge. We went into the office and signed our lives away and as it was windy and for safety precautions due to ongoing works we were given hard hats and safety harnesses. We were then clipped on to the bridge and walked across. Four very brave people then did the 40 metre bungy jump off it. Yes, I am in the home of bungy. If I do one I may save it for Queenstown – although 40 metres didn’t look too bad. Despite the wind we got a great view of the harbour. Auckland is known as the “city of sails” as there are more yachts per capita than anywhere in the world. One in three people has a yacht here. The city also has the largest population in New Zealand with over a million people. Other interesting facts – population approx 4m, sheep population 40m, possum population 200m and I’ve yet to see a possum. Auckland is also in the top 5 in the world for actual size of the city – well that’s the geography lesson for today !!

Next stop over the bridge to the North Shores and Devonport. I think I’d live here – well if I had the money. It’s not cheap but I got some rather nice fish’n’chips. I have really noticed the difference in accents compared to Oz and fish’n’chips is a great one to get them to say……on to North Head and a little walk around the hill which is the head. It used to be where the army set up their cannons but to date they’ve never yet been invaded. The view was fantastic and it’s amazing how many volcanos surround Auckland, in fact how many there are in the whole of the country I’m surprised they haven’t had more eruptions. Oh well time to go back to the hostel after all it is Friday night.

I got ready and then set off to meet a son of the friend of the family John and his wife Brooke. John has been pursuing a musical career since arriving earlier this year so I was to meet them in the “Muddy Farmer” a handy 10 minutes walk from the hostel. John and his mate Steve (pictured below) just missed out on a top 40 single in the last couple of weeks which is such a shame (maybe I can drum up some publicity via the blog). I think they should keep at it as they sounded excellent. Unfortunately the pub audience wasn’t very large although at one point we were told 36 members of the New Zealand rugby league team were due to arrive. They probably saw that there weren’t many people in the pub and moved on – such a shame, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Oh well, we all had a laugh and I shall hopefully be staying with them when I pass back through. They’ve told me we must go out for a real drink – help !!

Now it’s time to out and see the country…………..

Take care all,

Sally x 

John & Steve’s band 

Transport count :

Plane = 12Auckland Harbour, Bus = 30, Train =2, Boat = 10, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Citizen Canberra !! – Australia (Australian Capital Territory)

October 4, 2007

Hi all

Wendy picked me up from the bus station and given my delicate nature I was delighted to find a shepherd’s pie waiting for me. Is there any greater comfort food ? I’m not sure what happened to the old Wendy although she does come out when given the opportunity but the woman has turned in to domestic goddess. Oh well, lucky me. Ben was busy wrestling his old half brother Brad and I even went to bed before him. Well we had an early start the next morning.

Up we got for Wendy’s big day. Today she officially becomes an Australian citizen. I considered wearing a black armband, (the traitor) but she has assured me she will only ever support England and she’s doing it to get her Aussie passport and so that she can be eligible for all the civil servant jobs they have in Canberra. Well, I may forgive her in time……..

We headed to the city centre and after dropping Wendy off went for breakfast. We came back to the centre to find the visitors seats full so found some room at the side near Wendy. A school choir got up and sung a few songs whilst we waited for the allotted start time. Then a female official got up and said what it means to be an Australian. Then another official looking man got up and did the same. Wendy then had to swear on the bible and then all candidates were called in order to collect their certificates. I think they also have to complete a test in the next month or so. After that they had to sing the national anthem…… I like the way they still have the word Commonwealth in their second verse !! Off we went  for a celebratory pie and coffee at the Helenic club. Much of the Canberra social scene revolves around social clubs, reminds me of being a child when my parents used to take me to the local resident’s association.

I then went to the Archives museum and the national gallery again both really good and free admission. Later on her friend Yass came over to celebrate, well we were supposed to go out but a storm decided to rage outside so we called it an early night. This of course meant one thing, we could get up for the 5am start for the crucial England vs Tonga rugby game. So that’s what we did. We watched with a cup of tea on the sofa under the Doona (that’s Australian for duvet). I don’t care what anyone says I thought we played well, not great but well. At 7am we were going catch a few more zzzz’s but Ben woke up. Instead we pottered around and then headed to the farmer’s markets via Michael’s step father’s house. We arrived a bit late so I grabbed some rum truffles and an apple pie (the boys have a sweet tooth) and Wendy got a few bits. Then off to a cafe for lunch and as Ben fell asleep Wendy drove us to Tidbinbilla National park. We had to drive through a suburb called “Bruce” which I found highly amusing. The area both in around the park had been severely destroyed by bush fires but the vegetation starts to regenerate and grow again. Bush fire season starts 1st Oct and there have already been a couple of small ones. The intention was to go on a Platypus walk but the wetlands area was being rebuilt so we opted for a Koala one instead. The Koala’s weren’t coming out to play though so we drove around and then took Ben to the carefully constructed park. Time to go back and watch the AFL grand final.

Some how Wendy and I dragged ourselves out to a local social club. It had a nice outside bar and a band inside. We started outside and as the band were on a break went and played the pokies (slot machines). Can’t say I really knew what was going on and Wendy complained that we didn’t even get one feature whatever the hell that is ? The social clubs all have huge amounts of pokies, weirdly Australia has quite a bad gambling problem, I wonder why ? Needless to say we didn’t win anything and as the band had restarted we went to the dancefloor. Suddenly I was witnessing a scene from “Strictly come down under” – where did all these professional dance people come from ? They must have been out en masse. Oh well may as well hit the floor and as we did they announced that was their last number for the evening, never mind.

Sunday we went to a very very English pub. These are very rare. No pokies no footie screens just beer (served in pints not schooners) and pub grub. After that to Michael’s sisters and that back to watch the rugby league final. Michael is a big league fan. Go the “Bulldogs” !! It’s my last night in Canberra so we opened some sparkly and Wendy once again whisked up some lovely food. In the morning we went up the hill for breakfast and then after a tour of Michael’s new scissors it was time to head back to Sydney. It’s a bit sad as I probably won’t see her until the end of 2008, but in a way I still have a lot of exciting things to see and do before then.

I got in to Sydney and thought wow it’s hot !! Caught a taxi to Paddington and Sharon’s new place. Ooohhh she has gone up market. It’s a lovely 3 level town house in a fabulous area darling !! Although the cats aren’t too sure yet. We went for a stroll around the local area and then went to an even posher suburb called Woollahra. Then we walked along Oxford street and found a great new pizza place (again BYO, I love them). This time though I insisted I have the sofa.

I had a bit of a lie in, well I had been with a 3 year old for the last week or so and then strolled down Oxford street browsing away. I want to shop but I have to stop myself. It’s an extremely colourful area. My main mission was to go and get Sharon some more keys cut as she only had one set. I did this and got back around 3pm. Half an hour later there was a knock at the door, it was the previous tenant with yes you’ve guessed it the other spare keys, oh well I enjoyed my stroll.

I went to meet Sharon after work and we walked to Darling harbour to meet my old workmate Beccy and her new husband Ian. What a result !! I miss the wedding so don’t need to find the outfit or book the hotel, you can just turn up on the honeymoon, I can thoroughly recommend it as an alternative, after all you get their undivided attention when normally there’s 100+ guests to speak to. I wanted to go back to the Opera bar so after the champagne we said goodbye to Sharon (9pm work call, they do actually work hard here) and made our way there. We had a really lovely evening (piccie below) and I wish them all the best for their future together.

It’s now my last day and I’m determined to make the most of it. It’s also 32 degrees so I’m catching the bus to Bondi. Again I don’t realise how far the beach is from the junction but the walk was nice and I had breakfast on the front. Time for the beach and the surf is up !! It’s getting busier by the minute. After a couple of hours a man came and asked me the time. Twenty minutes later he puts his bag next to me , I’m avoiding eye contact as I thought he was a bit strange the first time. I’m not sure whether the thing on his ankle is a LiLo (Lindsay Lohan – just in case you’re not up with the celeb mags, Aussies are more obsessed than the Brits) alcohol monitoring device, something to not lose his surf board or most likely a prison curfew tag. He walked towards the sea, again very oddly. As soon as he was a safe distance away I decided it was time to go. Bye bye Bondi !!

So I’ll be back here for a visit in 2009/2010 in the West and maybe Melbourne. I didn’t eat any beloved Bugs my favourite food in the world, but it’s been great and thanks to everyone again. I feel like I’ve been living the Australian life over the past couple of weeks, time to get that backpack on and start budgeting again. Definitely glad to be out of here before the rugby on Saturday, the Australian press have been unbearable once again so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

New Zealand here I come……

Transport count :

Plane = 11, Bus = 30, Train =2, Boat = 10, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care

Sally x

Back in Sydney with Beccy and IanWendy receiving her citizenship certificate

A Whirlwind trip to Wodonga – Australia (Victoria)

October 4, 2007

Hi All

My third Australian state and first time to Victoria. Home of Melbourne but I just don’t have the time to go there on this trip. In fact when I said to Wendy that I wanted to go to Wodonga she thought I was mad as it’s really a stopping place for people on their way to Melbourne from Canberra. I have to say it is growing to be a rather large inland town but there isn’t too much there. The reason for my visit is to go and see Tom and Tracy who emigrated a year ago. Tom was in the year above me at high school and I’m very good friends with his brother and sister-in-law and really it’s nice to go and see a completely different side to the country, if only on a whirlwind visit.

I caught the bus from Canberra and due to an accident we were diverted via Wogga (I’ve always wanted to go there) and arrived at Albury slightly behind schedule. To make things more complicated Albury and Wodonga are two separate towns but are almost twinned together as they are so close either side of the Murray river. Albury is in New South Wales and Wodonga is in Victoria. I had a wander around the town, admittedly this didn’t take long and stopped in a cafe for lunch. At the end of the main street there is a huge war memorial up on the hill. I’ve noticed that Australia really have respect for their war heroes, I think we could learn a lesson from them for the people who fought in the world wars. The other thing I’ve noticed here is they have a few alcohol free zones in the main town and city centres, that could also be good for the UK. After lunch Tom picked me up and took me to their home in Wodonga. It’s a really nice place but it made me laugh as both he and his brother live in bungalows before their parents do !! 

After a warming cup of tea we headed out to take in the local sights. We went up to Hume hill to take in the views and actually Wodonga doesn’t look too small from there. Unfortunately I’d turned up on the cloudiest day in ages. Of course this is quite exciting for the locals as then they can debate whether the rain may arrive. Although the hills look green the water levels are extremely low as I found out when we went to the reservoir. It’s not too obvious in the picture below but it’s only 20-25% full. A lot of Australia is currently on a level 4 drout warning, 5 is the highest.

Time to go back and after a glass of wine we headed out for dinner to the “Hog’s Breath Cafe” (no comments, please!!). We caught up and then headed back with some wine so that 1) Tom could have a drink and 2) Tracy was due home from work at 10pm. Tracy arrived and we stayed up until 2.30pm and had a good natter. I even got Tom to call the UK and although his brother wasn’t back from work we did get Deirdre, so apologies for that now. Oh the days of the drink and dial !!

I woke up to a knock on the door, it was Tracy. Time to get up and have some tea. I have to say I’ve felt better, this seems to be a repetitive theme , it’s not me it’s my friends – honest !! Tom came back from work at lunch time and dropped me back to Albury so I could catch the bus back. I had time for a pizza, I needed it.

Although it’s not the most happening place in the world, they now have a more stress free life, a straight forward commute and time to enjoy summer evenings. So while I may not be ready for that as yet I can see the appeal.

 Tracy and Tom, thanks again for hospitality. Back to Canberra once more…..  

Transport count :

Plane = 11, Bus = 28, Train =2, Boat = 10, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care

Sally x

The quarter full reservoir at Wodonga

The “Jewel” called Jervis Bay – Australia (Australia Capital Territory)

October 4, 2007

Hi all,

I headed to Sydney Central station to catch my bus to Canberra. Some how I’d managed to book the route the wrong way around, shan’t be doing that again in a hurry. Luckily they had spare seats so I had to book another ticket at full fare. Three and a bit hours later I was there. I was looking forward to seeing my best friend Wendy (well why else would someone go there twice – sorry Wendy) but instead the first thing I saw was the lovely red “N”. Yes my old company logo “Novell” was there shining like a beacon in the Canberra sky on a building just down from the bus station. As I was recovering from this terrible shocking experience… Wendy arrived. We went for a quick glass of wine and then headed back to her home in Warramanga. There waiting, was her little boy Ben and of course hubby Michael. It felt like Wendy a seasoned back packer herself understood all my immediate needs. Maybe that’s why she’s my best friend. Shelves had been cleared so I could unpack, a bath was offered – oh what bliss – a bath !! Then in traditional welcoming Aussie fashion we had a barbie although it was a little cold to eat outside. In fact although my first day in Sydney was cold the second was boiling and the third was thunderstorms – not sure what is going on on the weather front, but I do know Canberra is colder, all those jumpers I’ve been carrying can finally get an airing. A couple of their friends came over and we uncorked some fizz called “Pink” and chatted the night away. It seems a lot of my friends focus on the sparkly stuff these days.

The next day after Wendy had run a few errands for work we headed off in the car to Jervis Bay. This is also known in some areas as Jarvis Bay but I’m calling it Jervis as that’s what it said on the map. Those of you who have been following from day one may remember a couple I met in Laos called Anne and Graeme, well we were off to meet them. Jervis Bay is an Australian jewel. Geographically it’s in New South Wales but Canberra claimed it as theirs as they didn’t have a port so for post purposes it’s in ACT state (see heading). Wendy drove and Ben fell asleep not waking until we’d almost reached Fitzroy Falls. We stopped for some lunch at a cafe where the new owner hadn’t managed to write a menu and then took a look at the falls and the stunning valley behind. An hour or so later we were entering the gates of the Booderee National Park so that we could get in to Jervis Bay Village. Anne and Graeme were waiting along with their little dog Gertrude. She’s a real character. As seasoned travellers they appeared to have a full itinery arranged for us which was great. However, in order to leave the house we had to pretend that Anne was not going with us until the last minute so that Gertrude wouldn’t get upset – how sweet !!

Graeme drove us to the Botanical gardens which by now are closed. This was no issue Graeme had a key – how great is that ? We walked in and the park had been arranged as have many in Australia with different areas i.e rain forrest. We came across my first kangaroos of the trip who legged it as soon as Ben made a beeline for them. These children have no fear !! We walked down to the lake area and did a spot of bird watching although we didn’t manage to see the pair of owls that had been seen in the area of late. We then headed back for pizzas and to watch the AFL semi final. AFL is Australian football or “Footie” as they like to call it. It’s like a weird version of gaelic football but pretty easy to follow and luckily Graeme’s team won. As they’re both originally from Melbourne it’s the only sport people from Melbourne really care about.

We woke up reasonably early and headed out after breakfast. As they live in the National Park there are certain places where Gertrude isn’t allowed to go so we again had to leave her behind. We headed first for Murray’s beach. Hyams Beach nearby actually has the whitest sand in the world but I have to say this was pretty impressive. You needed your sunglasses on to avoid the glare of the sand. There was only about 3 other people on there and as it’s surrounded by park no houses to spoil the natural beauty. It’s absolutely stunning and I’m so glad we came. The sea looked so clear although maybe not warm enough for me – yet !! Ben got out his bucket and spade and had a great time.

We then walked to Governor’s Head. Graeme had recently had to put some fencing there as visitors were going straight to the edge and the rocks on the edge are in danger of falling in the sea. Lunchtime and we headed to Green Patch beach (so many beaches to choose from, so little time) and whilst Ben dug in the sand Anne put on the sausages and made use of the free bbq facilities. If that was in the UK we’d probably have to pay to use it and it wouldn’t be as clean and sparkling as this one was. You can also camp here and at this time of year you’d almost have the whole site to yourselves. During cooking we noticed a hungry looking Kookaburra in the tree. He did attempt to swoop down and steal a sausage but we were wise to that one. Tourists do tend to feed them when they shouldn’t – have you seen the size of their beaks ?

After lunch we drove to the Cresswell naval base. If there is a better posting in the navy some one should let me know. The guard agreed to let us come in providing we were only there for 10 minutes. Technically Jervis Bay villagers can go in as the post office is there. It used to be home to 600 or so Aussie troops but now only has around 300. However, the beaches are stunning and the Captain’s house is more like a colonial mansion. The place also has it’s own golf course and the most kangaroos I’ve ever seen in one place just lying on their backs and taking in the sun.

Time to go back it’s the second semi for AFL. Wendy, Ben and I popped into the village for a chocolate fix and to see if Ben wanted to go to the park. This was also inhabited by several roos. Unfortunately Anne’s team appropriately called “The Kangaroos” lost but she’d prepared the most amazing roast lamb. I’ve really been missing lamb……    

The next morning we popped down to Caves Beach. Yes, yet another stunning scene. This one however had some surf and a few brave people were already up and about. Graeme is older so now known in surfing circles as a “relic” (the cheek), younger surfers are known as “gromits”. Once again it was a beautiful day and after some more fun in the sand for Ben it was time to head back to Canberra. Wendy decided it would be nice for me to take the coastal route back (agreed) and we stopped on the way to pick up some of the freshest tasting fish and chips I’ve ever had. I’d perplexed the shop owners with my vinegar request, they had to have a good hunt around for it before they could find it. No vinegar on chips – what’s wrong with you Australians ?

We also detoured to Bateman’s Bay where I picked up a kilo of prawns and a dozen oysters for dinner. We stopped at Michael’s brother’s house on the way so that Ben could wrestle his cousins. He’s a growing boy and definitely is a potentially rugby player although that could be league not union. We then picked Michael up from the social club where the Rugby league semi finals had been playing and headed back. After our seafood supper I stayed up to watch a couple of real rugby games – that is “Union”. All the games are on at ridiculous times here, I’m doing my best to follow.

The next day I extended my ticket – well the food is just sooo good and I wanted to stay on for Wendy’s citizenship ceremony. I then headed to the National Museum of Australia which is really worth a visit. Some how I was still there 4 hours later. I walked back around the lake to the city and met Wendy. We picked up Ben and then went shopping. Home cooked food again – fab. This time I chose pork chops and we made dinner together. I declined the after dinner walk and watched some more rugby.

Wendy doesn’t work Tues or Wed so the following day I took Ben to the park whilst Wendy ran some errands. This boy has no fear. The higher the better on the swings !! Wendy arrived and we went to Floriade (Canberra’s equivalent to the Chelsea Flower Show). Surprise, surprise yet another event that is free to get in to. It was a gorgeous day and Ben immediately wanted a go on the tea cups ride. I’ve noticed they really do cater for children at all events, it must be so much easier to keep them occupied than in the UK. We then watched a bit of a busker’s juggling show, but Ben wasn’t impressed. Can’t say I blame him. The act could have been done in 15 minutes rather than the dragged out 40, so we took him of to the learning and activity centre. Time for a spot of lunch in the sun and then gnome watching. Well it is a garden show !! Schools had been invited to decorate them and there was every style you could think of. I never knew Dame Edna was so popular here.

We went home and I introduced Ben to some of the games I get my nieces and nephews to play and he made me get on the trampoline – thanks Ben. Then we played carpet hopscotch, although he needs to work on his hopping. As I’ve been missing Asian food we went for Vietnamese and in another great Aussie tradition it was BYO. Michael took Ben home to bed and so Wendy and I walked back, well after a good natter. The temperature sure does drop here at night, it was freezing!!

Oh well that’s Jervis Bay and a bit of Canberra time to go to Wodonga and do some more catching up.  My sincere thanks again to Anne and Graeme for being such great hosts it was a fabulous weekend and I think Wendy will be back……

Transport count :

Plane = 11, Bus = 27, Train =2, Boat = 10, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care

Sally x

Surfers at Caves beach - Jervis BayWendy, Ben, Anne and Graham in the Botanical Gardens at Booderee National Park

Spring time in Sydney – Australia (New South Wales)

October 4, 2007

Hi all

Well got through the incredibly efficient Singapore airport and boarded my flight. Someone ordained that is was okay to only give us 2 hours sleep before we got served our breakfast and then we circled for an hour before landing. Apparently they’re not supposed to let you land before 6am so don’t know who worked out the landing time anyway. My friend Sharon was waiting at the airport which was so sweet as she’d loaned her car to her friend’s mother so had caught a taxi. I haven’t seen her in 8 years as I didn’t realise until just before my trip that she’d left Melbourne years ago. We used to play hockey together in Hong Kong and were part of the glorious, undefeated and I’ll admit rather clicky Valley “C” team.  We grabbed a taxi and then after I dropped off my bag grabbed a coffee before she had to leave for work. I caught up on some sleep before catching a bus in to town. Sharon lives (or now lived) in Rozelle in an old workers cottage with Henry and Tony the cats and had a 15 minute commute to work. It’s a lovely Victorian suburb and it makes you wonder what we all do with such long commutes in the UK.

I travelled over the Anzac bridge and got off the bus when I saw water. It then hit me that every other time I’ve been to Sydney I’ve been with people who know their way around and I had absolutely no idea where I was. I managed to stumble on to Darling Harbour and as the freezing morning weather had turned sunny I went and grabbed a bite to eat al fresco. Although I was warned not to leave my food unsupervised or the seagulls would grab it. I’d gone in to the tourist information centre to grab some local reading literature when a couple sitting opposite me asked if I was on holiday. I guess my literature had given them a clue. They turned out to be from New Zealand and have invited me to stay when I’m there. Those Kiwi’s are so friendly.

Sharon met me after work and as she’d had a pretty stressful day (not including the early start) we had a drink before heading to the Opera bar. Despite being in a touristy area it was frequented by a few city types on the right I had a view of the Opera House and to my left the Sydney Harbour bridge – now I felt like I was really in Sydney. (That’s us with an invisible picture of the Opera House below.) After a couple of bottles of incredibly good wine and some fabulous fish (I am going to be regaining some weight, thank goodness I’m only here for a couple of weeks) the years just melted away. Sharon even phoned a mutual friend in Hong Kong who may come and meet me in Argentina. We then headed back to her local “The Welcome Hotel” in Rozelle for one last night cap – all bars and pubs are called hotels here. We bumped into her friend Barry White – think the real one in negative and then headed back. The naughty girl had given me her bed and took the sofa, I had a feeling she may regret that decision in the morning. The cats didn’t seem that impressed either, let’s just say they are a little wary of strangers.

I got a good lie in and have to say was not feeling that perky but managed to go for a walk in to Rozelle and the adjacent suburb Balmain. I popped in to the Balmain Bakehouse for lunch and there staring back at me was my hangover cure , yes the good old Aussie meat pie. Delicious and hit the spot. I then walked down to the ferry and sat in a park that I realised I’d been in on my last visit 4 years before. Like I said I have no clue when it comes to Sydney. I sat in the sunshine and admired the view that is Sydney harbour. I walked back and Sharon was already home and not feeling her best – surprise surprise. We popped around her friends to collect some crates as she’s moving this weekend and then it was time to put the glads rags on I had another night ahead of me.

This time I was meeting my friends Noel and Richard in Darlinghurst for dinner (picture below). Again it’s been 8 years since I’ve seen Noel. We were supposed to meet up 4 years ago but he’d got so drunk after the rugby world cup final that he lost his phone. The rugby result may be a different story this time around unfortunately. I have to say an evening of sublime food followed and 4 starters, 3 mains and 4 puddings later we were finished. I’m feeling the calories. It was a hilarious evening and after one more for the road we said our goodbyes. He says I haven’t changed at all – which is I’ll admit a little bit of a worry !!

Oh well time to leave Sydney…..but I shall be back in a week or so, can’t wait. I like it better every time I get here.

Transport count :

Plane = 11, Bus = 26, Train =2, Boat = 10, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8

Take care

Sally x

Sally & Sharon with the harbour bridge in the background