A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: STimewell

Holiday from my Holiday - Part 2

A Side Trip to New Zealand

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Matamata was really just a place to sleep. Although, our caravan park had some really pleasant hot springs that Anita and I took advantage of at 7:00am in the morning. Very peaceful. After packing up, we drove out to HOBBITON! Yes we toured the leftover Hobbiton film set. It was oh so cute. I'm sure it would have been more meaningful to someone who had actually seen all of the Lord of the Rings movies, but I still enjoyed it. Trevor, Mark and Anita were all very joyous. It was also an interesting tour as at that moment they were building and renovating the set for the upcoming movie "The Hobbit" so we got to see two brand new hobbit holes.

Following Hobbiton we drove out to the East Coast and stopped in Whakatane (pronounced Fakatane). January 6 was the big day for our active marine volcano tour. PeeJay Tours took us and a handful of other eager tourists on a 2.5 hour boat ride out to White Island. It was a little rough going and Trevor and I both yaked - as did many passengers. White Island was a geothermal delight. We saw a decaying sulphur mine, bubbling mud pools, boiling streams, steaming hills, a green boiling lake and an acidic gas vent. Apparently the air there is so acidic the guides have to buy new backpacks nearly monthly. We also had to wear gas masks and candies to mask the dryness and sulphur taste, and were told that if the steam started blowing at us that we were to put on our masks, turn our backs to it and cover up our cameras. After the tour, some of us went swimming before having lunch on the boat. We then returned to Whakatane and sped off to Rotorua.

January 7 was geothermal excitement day. We drove down halfway to Taupo to visit Orakei Korako which is a geothermal park accessible by a small ferry across a river. We spent several hours wandering around taking in all the geothermal glory. The only feature that did not indulge us was the Diamond Geyser. We saw the eruption of the horizontal Sapphire Geyser, checked out various bubbling mud pools, a wall of white silica terraces called the Golden Fleece, gazed over large areas of colourful algae growing in the hot water that trickles over the land towards the river. There was also a small cave with beautiful azure blue coloured water that apparently can clean your jewellery. Unfortunately several large rocks came loose from the cave entrance and seriously injured some tourists so they had closed the cave off. We really enjoyed visiting this park as it was much less crowded than the other busier geothermal parks of Rotorua. After Orakei Korako we headed back up to Rotorua to drop Mark off at the bus station. Unfortunately for the remaining three of us, it set our forward travel back by an hour and a half and we were unable to find accommodation that night. We slept in the car at a rest stop.

Bright and early the morning of January 8 we (well, at least me) were woken by two rooseters in a nearby tree cockadoodle-dooing their hearts out. We could have killed them. It was so bright and early that it was not even bright when they began. It did, however, get us on the road a little earlier although we had to stop again down the road to take a nap. Eventually we arrived in Martinborough where we picked up some maps and information about the Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve. The reserve is close to the south coast of the North Island. Once we found our way there, we hiked the trail up to see the Pinnacles - also featured in Lort of the Rings. They were quite stunning. Huge slender piles of hard-packed stones that looked like chimneys. We continued the trail to a lookout where we could see the pinnacles on one side and the ocean on the other. It was quite spectacular. The most interesting find of the day, however, goes to all of the fossilized shells we saw in the middle of honey-coloured boulders. Fantastic!

From the park, we drove back up through Martinborough and on to Wellington where we spent one very cold and windy night before our ferry trip from the North Island to the South Island.

Posted by STimewell 15:53 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Sydney's Highlights continued

From New Years to saying goodbye

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So to continue on from "Made it down to Sydney" here are some more highlights taking place from New Years through to leaving the city.

  • Sydney's New Years eve fireworks show is incredible. We watched it from Mrs Macquaries Chair at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Seeing them shoot off the top of the bridge was spine-tingling!
  • The Blue Mountains. Beautiful...and blue! I have also recently found out there are carnivorous plants around - sundews! They're tiny so one must look closely in damp patches.
  • A tour inside the Sydney Opera House. It is very beautiful inside (and out, of course). I didn't expect it to be as reasonable as it is to see performances there. That is a nice treat.
  • Climbed the Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. If you don't like heights or don't want to spend a lot of money on the Bridge Climb, going up the pylon is a great alternative. The views must be nearly the same AND you don't have to worry about being blown to/falling to your death! Bonus!
  • The Spit Bridge to Manly walk. It was a long walk, but very pleasant for being in the city. We saw lots of lizards sunning themselves, and lots of eucalyptus trees and some tea trees. There were even Aboriginal rock carvings and a lighthouse.
  • Cockatoo Island. It was and wasn't a highlight. It was used as a prison for a while, and then used as a shipbuilding yard. It has had land added to it and land cut out of its cliffs. In the good old days cockatoos used to love it and lived there in abundance. Then white man showed up and started building. I didn't see a single cockatoo. It was a highlight because the whole island is like a big museum. You can walk almost wherever you want. If a door to a building is open, you go in. If it's locked, you jiggle the handle to make sure, then peer in through a nearby windown. Very eerie.
  • Australia Day - January 26 - what a party. Strangely, it seemed that the majority of people out taking in the events were tourists and immigrants. I suppose that real Australians celebrate Australia Day in front of the barbie. I did get to see a great cultural performance in the Royal Botanic Gardens. There was dancing and singing and stories of creation from the local Cadigal people who used to live on the land. The rainbow serpent dance was a highlight.
  • The record-breaking heat wave. 7 days over 31 °C in Sydney. On February 5, the city got up to 41 °C. So that means where we live it probably got up to about 43 °C plus some humidity thrown in for good measure. It was a sweaty, sweaty day. I swear I have never been that disgusting in my life.
  • Royal National Park. We only explored the North East corner of this park, but were amazed by its beauty. The walk we did took us from Cronulla on a vintage ferry to Bundeena then along the beach into the park for a short loop walk. Great day!

That brings us up to speed. Tomorrow Trevor and I move out of our room in Raquelle's duplex in Lilyfield. We are lucky enough to stay one more night with Trevor's friends Ash and Serena who have been nothing but wonderful to us. February 12 Trevor will pick up his mother and uncle from the Sydney airport. We will spend a few days in Sydney doing the Zoo and the Blue Mountains again before heading off to explore the vast country with them.

Our next adventure starts soon! Sayonara Sydney...well, until we come back to fly home.

Posted by STimewell 15:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Made it down to Syndey

But I'm unemployed now

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Bright and early on Tuesday, October 5, 2010, Trevor and I stumbled off the overnight bus from Byron Bay into the overwhelming Sydney Central Station. Luckily we hadn't booked any accommodation or even taken a peak at a map of Sydney so we had no idea where to go.

Eventually we found a tourist information office and got ourselves a bed at a backpackers close by. Most of October 5 was spent wandering around the CBD checking the place out. A couple of days later we got in touch with Trevor's old roommate, Anita, who generously offered for us to sleep on the floor in her living room for a while - until we could find ourselves a place to stay and a job.

To be honest, I haven't kept up with my journal and we have now been in Sydney for over 4 months so Sydney has really been a bit of a blur. Unfortunatley, I haven't worked much either, which makes all those days sitting at home (trying not to spend money) feel like the same day. I signed up with a couple of recruitment agencies and things were good at first, but Christmas really ruined me and it never picked up in time afterwards. The best job they got me was about 3 weeks doing data entry for the marketing team in the Events Management Department of Sydney's Town Hall. I dread how hard I'm going to have to work when I get back to Vancouver to make up for all the money I've spent on rent and food and the occasional souvenir.

As Sydney has been a calendar blur, I'll just tell you about the highlights (highlights in my opinion, of course).

For several weeks, we lived in Crows Nest in North Sydney. It's a cute neighbourhood and only an hour walk to the CBD including crossing the Harbour Bridge.

  • Trevor and I moved into a duplex in Lilyfield in Leichhardt. Also only one hour walk to the CBD either over the Anzac Bridge, or along the waterfront.
  • Lightning storms are awesome!
  • Newtown - This is a neighbourhood similar to Vancouver's Commercial Drive, except there are less small grocers in Newtown and more New Age and small-time designer clothing stores.
  • The most pompous Westfield mall opened up in the CBD. Only the first two levels are worth looking at unless you can afford Miu Miu and Versace etc.
  • I was briefly a member of a gym for the first time in my life and found out that I love Pilates and wish I could have a personal trainer.
  • Only tourists celebrate halloween.
  • Met two of the loveliest people ever - Trevor's friend Ash and his girlfriend Serena. We spent many Saturdays at their place gorging ourselves and playing the latest video games or looking at each others' travel photos.
  • Checked out Darling Harbour's Christmas event Santafest. I can't tell you how strange it was to be present for a hot weather Christmas!!! People in miniskirts and Santa hats...Checked out a Jetski fireworks show where they lit the "brightest Christmas tree in the Southern Hemisphere."
  • Found out that Fish Market is a lot more authentic than Vancouver's Granville Island Market.
  • Did a three hour self-guided walking tour of "The Rocks" which is where Sydney began. The Rocks also hold markets every weekend. It also has night markets on Friday nights in Summer. Of course I had to check those out. After many internal arguments, I finally decided which pair of earrings to buy: Grevillea Ivanhoe leaves coated in Silver. http://www.australianplants.com/plants.aspx?id=1243
  • I took Trevour out to Ajisen Ramen a Japanese noodle restaurant for his birthday. We had the Couples Set Menu and our noodles came in heart shaped bowls. It was great!
  • We did the Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk. On the way we passed many small beaches, interesting plants, a cemetary, Aboriginal rock carvings and beachfront outdoor swimming pools.
  • Checked out Manly Beach. The ferry ride to/from Manly is wonderful and it's a much quieter alternative to Bondi. However, shockingly, I'm pretty sure I like Bondi better. Don't tell anyone, though.
  • Christmas Day 2010 was spent at Bondi Beach frolicking in the powerful surf and burning in the hot sun. Also, our roommate was kind enough to make us all blueberry pancakes in the morning - how delicious!

More Sydney Hightlights to come...

Posted by STimewell 15:47 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Holiday from my Holiday

A Side Trip to New Zealand

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Trevor and I decided to take a side trip to New Zealand with Trevor's friend Mark who was visiting us in Sydney. We also invited Trevor's old roommate Anita.

Anita and I flew out of Sydney earlier in the day on January 3, and Trevor and Mark joined us near midnight the same night.

Bright and early the next day we went off to pick up our rental car and got out on the road - not before stopping at "Countdown" (read Woolworths) to get some brekky. So our first day, January 4, we drove from Auckland to the Waitomo Caves where we promptly joined our Waitomo Cave Tour at 1:30pm. We were walked through the beautiful cave looking at ribbon formations, stalactites, stalagmites and glowworms all the way to the underground river where we were filed into a small motorless boat. The boat took us in the dark underneath hundreds of thousands of beautiful glowworms until we eventually popped out of the cave and dumped on the side of the river. The next tour took us to Ruakuri Cave where we decended a stunning spiral walkway to the cave entrance. This manmade walkway wad created to keep the temperature and humidity level appropriate in the cave as there were no naturally large openings. It also included a water feature with two purposes - to aid the humidity and to splash on onesself before and after the cave visit. We were told this is because spirits of the Maori ancestors are in the cave and cleansing onesself with water before coming back to the surface keeps the spirits inside the cave so that they don't come up and wreak havoc among the living.

When the tours were all done we went to nearby Curly's for lunch/dinner. It was typical greasy pub food. I had nachos with beans and chili. Of course it was not quite what I had expected, but I ate it anyway.

From there we drove back towards Ruakuri Cave where we did a bit of tramping. When we tried to leave the park we came into some car trouble. There was a horrible screeching as we tried to drive away. Not knowing what it was, Anita called the car company and the suggestion of the assistant amused us...he told us to drive backwards then stop abruptly. Of course Trevor wanted to do this. Unfortunately it didn't work, but we drove away anywas in case the guy was right about it being a stone lodged in a tight spot. To our surprise, a little further down the road (while travelling at about 110km/h) we all heard a ting-ping-ping as the stone was dislogged and was flung out from under the car. Hooray!

And off we went to Matamata.

Posted by STimewell 17:09 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Paronella Park

Not old, but awesome

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I'm finding it difficult to find the time and the extra $6/hr to make entries. In consequence, a lot has happened lately that I should write about.

For our route information, please check my route map. Today I am in Byron Bay at the Greyhound Station waiting a 9:05pm overnight bus to Sydney.

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September 17, 2010

After leaving Cairns for the second time, we visited the "Cathedral Fig" and "Curtain Fig" trees. These trees are ancient fig trees. As the names suggest, Cathedral Fig tree is a fig tree so big it looks like a cathedral. The canopy would cover the area of two Olympic sized swimming pools. Curtain Fig, I believe, is a strangler fig, which means it begins by growing on a branch of a host tree, then overtakes the host and suffocates it, eventually killing it. Curtain Fig had taken three other trees and one had fallen so that the roots of the fig hang down in a diagonal looking much like a curtain. Our stop for the night was at Paronella Park. This is a castle built completely by hand out of concrete by a Spanish man. There is a lot I could say about the park and not much time. It was a lovely place to visit. We did a night waling tour of the castle's gardens and while waiting at the meeting spot, Trevor was reading some posters attached to the souvenir shop. I nearly had a fit as I noticed a snake coming down out of the gutter right above his head. In as calm a voice as possible I coaxed him away from the building then told him to look back. He was annoyed that I didn't snap a picture of it before calling him away. So I made him go back, but the snake was already halfway under the eaves.

The next morning, we did another walking tour of the park with more history on the family. It was really a beautiful place. A castle, a cottage, the first hydro power in Queensland, eels, fish, turtles, kauri pines, bats...Awesome!

More to come.

Posted by STimewell 00:04 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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