Sunday, 27 January 2013

Travel Blog: Australia Day!

January 28th - Brisbane

So this weekend we got to experience the phenomenon known as Australia Day and weekend. There was lots of things planned around the city, and the stage was set for a major piss up.
Then cyclone Oswald arrived, and it was not a Happy Australia Day for Queensland.

Saturday wasn't too bad for Brisbane - continuous rain, but that wasn't stopping us from going out drinking in the city! Both of our shifts at work got cancelled, as it was too quiet, so we just met up with a few friends. It was an OK night, but nothing special - the weather really had put a lot of people off coming out. Not the Aussie dream one has in mind, especially as by this stage floods had swept through North Queensland.

Sunday it hit us bad. People were advised not to leave the house as the winds were so dangerous. But we were very bored and decided to brave it and walk to Pizza Hut. It was only around the corner and as Rik said, "we are manc! It is only a bit of rain." Haha. But it was not only a bit, and soon enough my work rang me to confirm they are closing for the next 2 days as they will probably flood. The most annoying thing about this is I lose my double pay shift on the public holiday today. And I REALLY need the money to get out of Brisbane, but it seems like the world is against us.

I am currently writing this in a blackout. The cyclone has taken out our power, thank goodness the tablet was fully charged. No hot water, no electricity, all our food ruined...
But at least we're not flooded. So many others are, and it has claimed lives.

So, Happy Australia day. I presume we're going to spend it playing cards.

Travel Blog: Australia

January 8th - Brisbane

I'm starting to feel trapped here and my brain is always off wondering where we could travel to next.

The last 2 books I have read have mentioned a town in India called Pondicherry. Now isn't that a massive coincidence? Never heard of the town before, never been interested in India and now 2 consecutive books introduce me to it.
The first was 'Backpack' by Emily Barr, which I picked up in Thailand. It sounds cliche thanks to a terrible title, about a girl travelling alone around South East Asia, but it was a surprisingly refreshing, clever murder mystery. The second you have probably guessed from the recent bkockbuster - Yann Martell's 'Life of Pi.' Reading, then watching the story was an amazing experience and has confirmed my longing for Pondicherry. The book I read before these was ALSO set mainly in India. Now, I've never planned on going to India, but it looks to me like fate is giving me a sign, and pointing to Pondicherry.

Of course, Rik doesn't want to go. But I have 10 months to persuade him.
(And my digestive system....what the hell would I eat in India?!)

Monday, 14 January 2013

Travel Blog: Australia

28/12/12 - Brisbane

So we have been in Brisbane around 3 weeks now, and things are looking up.  We both have bar jobs, luckily really close to each other in a riverside complex, with gorgeous views.  Christmas was always going to be hard, on the other side of the world, so we just got on with it - it was too hot to even feel like Christmas Day anyway. We had a nice Boxing Day trip to the cinema, to see The Hobbit - with lots of "We've been there!" whispers. And that brings us up to today...the day I've been waiting for my whole life! We finally have the funds and the time to visit the largest koala sanctuary in the world, Lone Pine.  I already seen one up close in Sydney, but here in Queensland you can cuddle them and have photographs too; all proceeds of course  go towards koala habitat conservation.

It really was a dream come true.  There were koalas absolutely everywhere, they have over 100 in residency.  We sam them sleeping, eating, yawning, scratching and even jumping from branch to branch. We also saw tiny joeys nestling into their Mothers' pouches, and various other Aussie wildlife such as kangaroos, crocs, dingoes, emus and snakes.

In the queue to cuddle one, there are 2 or more different koalas with their keepers so you don't know which one you're going to get.  When it as finally my turn, my koala wouldn't sit still so they had to  go and swap him for another one! Typical, I've loved them all my life and they can't wait to get away from me!  The new one was much more well behaved though, and even nearly kissed me at one point! Its claws were very sharp though, but the scratches were so worth it.  Then it was Rik's turn, and the same thing happened to him!  His koala was trying to climb right over him, so he ended up getting a tiny cuter one which was reserved for children to hold....I was not happy! (But of course I was, I was in koala wonderland!)

Best. Day. Ever!

Travel Blog: Australia

12/12/12 - Brisbane, Australia

So today is the worst day EVER.
 We've only been here a few days, settling in etc, and mainly job hunting.  Luckily Rik has been hired in less than a week and is at his first shift at work right now.

I am not meant to be a kept woman. Sitting in the house all day waiting for Rik to come home?! No thanks. I know you're thinking I could be out doing things, but we have no money and I don't know my way around.  I don't even have a book to read.  I feel like Cameron Diaz in The Holiday when she's in a house in a strange country all alone.  As the day drags on I'm trying my hardest not to become hysterical, like Charlize Theron in The Devil's Advocate.

13/12/12 - Brisbane, Australia

Today I have made the decision that I will not be Cameron Diaz or Charlize Theron.
I am Carrie, from Sex and the City, when she moves to Paris with Alex whats-his-name.  I was all cultural, all alone.  I went to a museum, an art gallery and took a walk down the river.  I didn't, however, sit in posh cafes eating delicacies, I can't afford that.
I really need a job now. And some friends please!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Travel Blog: New Zealand

7th December - Auckland

Auckland is built on 40 volcanoes, so we fully intended to climb one whilst in the city. Mount Eden in fact, which is the tallest.  But, for the first time, the weather has turned against us. The rain poured and poured, on our only full day here. (It actually turned out to be a tornado not too far away)! So I'm afraid all we ended up doing was wandering round a free art gallery for a while and hanging around our hostel.  Even in an 8 bed dorm it was one of the nicer stays we've had! And it's dawned on me that we're leaving soon, flying back to Aus and hopefully back to the tan has almost faded completely!

But I feel like I did when I left Thailand...ready to chain myself to the nearest thing and scream I'm not going!! The kiwis are the nicest people you could ever, ever meet and I really am going to miss being called "bro" and "mate." There's also so much we haven't had chance to see and do...many people tell us the best places are Queenstown and Bay of Islands, neither of which we visited! I'm definitely coming back while we're on this side of the world.

Saying that, it's going to be soooo nice to set up base somewhere for longer than 3 days!! Unpack our backpacks, wash our clothes when we really is exciting stuff.  And we need to find jobs pronto, as we have spent FAR too much money on our 5 weeks on the road. So, as we're going to be in the same country for a while now I decided to compile some statistics:

Countries visited : 4
Air miles travelled : 13,998
Time spent on planes: 28.5
Time spent on trains: 13 (in 1 journey all at once)
Time spent on coaches: 44.5
Stop- offs, islands, towns etc: 14
Free Emirates alcohol units consumed: too many to count
Souvenirs bought: too many to count
Blog posts: 19
Photographs taken: 837
Mcdonald's consumed: 4
Hair frizz-o-meter: 4 (much better than predicted, think it's because I don't have a hairdryer)
Arguments: NONE!! (Rik needs an award)

The journey is far from over, this is just a good milestone for these facts. We still have a year's worth of adventures in Australia,  and it's a huge country so lots to see. In the upcoming posts I'll be writing about life on an Aussie working holiday visa...
Thanks for reading about my travels so far :) x

Travel Blog: New Zealand

04/12/12 - Rotorua

Rotorua is a small town known for 2 things; its geothermal wonders and its Maori heritage. There are so many geothermal parks and spas, and Maori villages and cultural experiences, that it's overwhelming trying to decide what to do if you're only there for a couple of days!
Right facing our hostel was a public park, complete with the usual children's playground, but with the additions of steaming ponds, bubbling mud pools and naturally heated spas to dip your feet in.  The other trips I mentioned at the start were so expensive that we decided to combine a few by visiting Te Puia.  This is a Maori site that happens to be a geothermal valley, complete with erupting geysers.  These natural wonders are so surreal, that unless you're a professional geologist or a whizz at physics, they're hard to get your head around! To normal people like you and I, all we need to comprehend is not to get too close to a steaming or bubbling pool, as they can reach up to 90C, and secondly the sulphur gas they emit absolutely STINKS.  But the smell is worth it, as I'm not sure how many other places in the world you can get up close to an erupting geyser that isn't dangerous. It's certainly not something you see everyday!
The geothermal wonders are not the only attraction, though. The land is still owned and managed by Maoris, who populate 35% of Rotorua. At Te Puia they teach how their ancestors utilised the land, such as cooking food in the boiling pools.  They also put on a cultural performance, including serious practices they would have followed in pre-European times.  This was one of the most memorable parts of our whole trip so far, for this very reason - they chose Rik to be chief.
The show was set up as if we, the audience, were a visiting tribe, and the home tribe (the performers) had to make sure we came in peace before they invited us in.

Once inside, they sang some welcoming songs, before the chief had to conduct the 'official' welcome.  This traditional Maori welcome is a firm handshake, followed by touching noses twice.  So Rik had to go up on stage, face 5 very nearly naked, very intimidating men, and touch noses wih them.  It was SO hard not to laugh, but we were warned beforehand that we mustn't as it is very disrespectful.  I filmed the whole thing anyway so get in contact if you would like to see this very manly interchange!!
The rest of the performance was brilliant, especially the world famous haka war dance.  The girls were really talented singers and the men were so invested in their words and actions.  If anyone goes to New Zealand and doesn't experience any Maori culture, then they haven't seen the real New Zealand. The main greeting to say hello is Kia Ora (bro) and that is the ancient Maori language.  And their tribal symbols are sold everywhere, as pendants carved out of bone or jade - which they call Pounamu and used to think was more valuable than gold - that made me smile!

There's so much to do in Rotorua we simply couldn't fit it all in.  Zorbing was invented here, so we went to do a bit of that. Well, Rik did, I didn't as 
1. it was mega expensive and 
2. I'm a big whimp. 
It looked like fun though! We also visited the Hobbiton movie set tour, which is on a farm about an hour away.  It was so beautiful, and we went at the right time as they had built extra holes for The Hobbit, and you now get a free drink in The Green Dragon Inn.  It was disappointing to learn though that there is nothing behind the hobbit holes! It's just mud and grass, as they only build the exterior.  The detail in the whole place is amazing though, down to hobbit clothes on washing lines and real vegetable patches, extra large versions to make everthing and everyone else appear smaller.
So we crammed a lot in, but I wouldn't have it any other way on this speedy tour of NZ.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Travl Blog: New Zealand

29th November - Wellington, NZ

Lonely Planet voted it the world's 'coolest little capital' last year, and within minutes it is easy to see why.  With more vintage shops than Brick Lane, more quirky little cafes and bars than Manchester's Northern Quarter, it basically shits all over European cool spots.  Creativity oozes our of every street corner, with countless art galleries and open studio spaces everywhere.  And it's so pretty too - surrounded by tree topped hills with cute wooden houses perched on top, and a sea view never far away, it is metropolitan- meets- rural bliss.  There is a mountain in the middle of the city which we climbed, called Mount Victoria, which rewards you with fantastic 360 degree views of the whole city.

We arrived in Wellington the day after The Hobbit worldwide premiere, and the buzz could still be felt all around.  In fact, you could say everyone had gone Middle Earth mad.  Every business had jumped on the opportunity, painting the outside of their shops as hobbit holes or using clever tag lines such as "You shall not pass this deal!"  As a huge LOTR fan, I embraced all this and thought it made Wellington even more amazing.  So of course we had to do a movie tour.  Firstly we visited the Weta Cave museum, where all the special and digital effects for the films are created.  It was fascinating to find out how Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor had started up the Weta Workshop from literally nothing.  Now they have took on the digital effects for global Hollywood blockbusters such as LOTR, Planet of the Apes and Avatar, hence Wellington begin given the nickname 'Wellywood.'  The following day, we did a movie set tour to see some of the filming locations situated in the countryside around Wellington.  Highlights included Helms Deep and Minis Tirith, (which were actually built on top of one another) Aragorn washed ashore, and Rivendell.  The sets have been destroyed but it was still interesting to see where they were, and our guide knew so much inside information from the cast and crew. Another highlight was getting to dress up as an elf, right next to the very tree Orlando Bloom posed in front of for his promotional photographs!