A Travellerspoint blog

February 2011

A week in Fiji (AKA Paradise)

Bula!!

sunny 29 °C

I don’t even know where to start with this entry! Fiji was amazing and surprising in every way possible.. how about I start at the beginning... and finish at the end?

You know that holiday feeling that you get when you step off an aeroplane and the heat hits you like a big cuddle? On our several holidays that we’ve been on since we moved to Abu Dhabi, we’ve never had that feeling- we were always going somewhere cooler or a similar temperature. But after two weeks in New Zealand, the Sun Huggle (ooh, should this be trademarked?) hit us for the first time in years- and we didn’t mind it one little bit!

We spent a lot of our time in Fiji catching our breaths- after driving almost 10,000kms between us in just over a month- it’s something that we welcomed with open arms! Between beach walking, pool swimming, cocktail and kava (a traditional Fijan drink made from a root that tastes like muddy water, but makes your tongue tingle) drinking, sitting in local gardens watching the day go by, meeting people (Fijans are THE most friendly people we have ever met! We were invited by one person to have kava and dinner with his family, and were given a local rugby shirt by another in honour of the Fiji 7s tournament that we unfortunately missed!) and shouting BULA! to everyone we met we still managed to see and do plenty- including going for a hot mud bath, where you literally drop waist deep into the hottest, stickiest mud in the middle of a field, climb out and let it dry on you (and take some scary pictures) and then dip into naturally heated pools of water (which were so hot, it was almost unbearable) to clean off! Much fun!

The most notable thing for Mike would definitely have to be a shark dive (apparently the shark experiences in Fiji are the world’s best) and after watching over 40 of them feed from a few feet away, he even got a wee souvenir- one of them left a tooth in the feeder’s hand! Thankfully he came back in one piece, with ten fingers, ten toes, two arms and two legs- just as I’d requested!

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Posted by lesleymw 19:01 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

Our time in New Zealand is over already!

We have now driven the length of North Island

sunny 20 °C

We got the boat from Picton to Wellington, which was an experience in itself. Sailing through lots of glorious little islands was just pure bliss, add to that a lovely Irish couple who convinced us (it didn’t take long) that 11.30am is an appropriate time to have a bottle of champagne- it was a great trip!

Wellington is actually the capital of New Zealand (hands up who knew that.. nope? Me neither) which is more for geographical reasons than anything else. But nevertheless, it’s a great place to wander around, rest your head, eat good food, and it has a museum of cultural and modern art which I reckon you could spend a lifetime walking round, and still never see it all.

We decided to drive right up the centre of North Island all the way up to Tuapo which is a lovely little town that sits on a massive still lake. The lake is so big, it looks like sea, but it’s actually 1,200ft above sea level - bit confusing! There’s a big beautiful waterfall that comes from the lake, which is pretty fierce, and we were able to go to see it up close, by jetboating to the bottom of it- much fun! By complete coincidence, we were able to meet with my gorgeous cousin who I hadn’t seen since I was little, and don’t even remember.. she remembers my red welly boots though!
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Some interesting stuff: NZ it actually situated on tectonic plates and because of this, there is massive geothermal activity in the area causing bubbling mud pools, massive craters, and HOT steam coming out of the ground and drains by the road in several places- especially around Tuapo- it’s amazing to see.. but admittedly, in some places where the sulphur smell is so strong, you start to feel very sick very quickly.

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Some stuff which some may find interesting.. and I struggle, but it makes Mike giddy with excitement: We have driven right past Mount Doom which is actually an active volcano- looking very ominous as it was a dark cloudy day. We also were able to go through a place.. where orcs fought.. or something.... I’ll get mike to fill in this bit.. my Lord of the Rings knowledge stretches as far as “YOU SHALL NOT PAAASS!!” and “my precious” I’m afraid..

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Another effect of the plates are glorious caves- we were able to go stomping around, down and through a couple which were massive and millions of years old.

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Our time in Auckland was spend catching up with my cousin again, taking in some sights, and preparing for the next leg of the trip. We have had an amazing time in New Zealand, and can't wait to come back one day.

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We are so lucky that we missed the devastating earthquake in Christchurch on Tuesday, it really is sobering to think that we were there just a few days ago. The country has really clubbed together- people further north are offering their homes to those who were airlifted out and everyone is doing everything they can. It’s extremely sobering, the whole country is absolutely devastated, even radio presenters who are helping people locate clean water and fuel are heard crying on air regularly. It really is a dark time for this beautiful country, we just hope they will continue to find survivors and that families can have their loved ones returned to them.

Posted by lesleymw 12:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Our first few days in New Zealand

Driving around the South Island

semi-overcast 15 °C

We’re only been in New Zealand for a few days, and already understand why so many Scots move here! It has all the best parts of Scotland (green everywhere, mountains, Scottish people (yup, everyone is either Scottish, or descendents), good bars with good drinks (we even found the “Flying Haggis” which not only serves haggis, but also Tennents! , Scottish place names (St. Andrews, Aviemore, Glenorchy to name but a few), and Lord of the Rings and Narnia scenery every corner you turn) and none of the worst (here, they actually have a summer, they see sunshine on a regular basis, blue water as apposed to silver, and a large Cadburys factory which hands out chocolate like.. well.. sweeties!)
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We spent the first day in Christchurch, wandering around and taking it all in and getting used to the cold! It’s essentially a big town or wee city, depending on how you look at it, which just added to it's charm.
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We then took a scenic drive past Lake Tekapo (wow.. I don’t know how to describe it, apart from WOW- a lot of the lakes in this area have a cloudy blue colour, caused by the surrounding glaciers) to Dunedin, which is Kiwi for Edinburgh. Here, it is so Scottish that they have a huge statue of Robert Burns in the centre, and kilt and Scottish souvenir shops dotted around the place.

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We took a drive to Queenstown which is the Adventure Capital of the World- and we can see why it definitely is! Everywhere you look, people were jumping off of things upside-down, flying above the mountains with paragliding gear.. but it’s also the most beautiful town, surrounded by mountains and water- it’s like paradise for thrill seekers! Unfortunately we weren’t able to do much of the activities on offer (they cost an arm and a leg) but we were able to take a cable car to the very top of the mountain and luge (basically a four wheeled push bike) back down!

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We also spent some time in Glacier Country which was mind-blowing. Frustratingly, we weren’t able to climb into them- it was recommended that I shouldn’t be in the cold for too long. But a silver lining was that we were able to hike right up to the foot of the glaciers, and still be close enough to watch lumps of ice bigger than us floating down the river. And to make up for it, we went into the biggest ice bar in the country, where literally everything is made of ice (seats, glasses, table, bar) for some scrummy cocktails.

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Before we knew it, it was time to get the ferry into the North Island, it really was a flying visit, but we’re already planning a trip back here!

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Posted by lesleymw 00:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Up to Brisbane, and beyond.

overcast 30 °C

Now we are at the end of our three week long Aussie road trip, in total, we have driven through 3 states up the East Coast, tallying up over 4200kms on the little hire car, have seen countless old friends.. and a few new ones, we have luckily managed to avoid flooding in Queensland (although we saw plenty of the aftermath), Cyclone Yasi, a rash of bush fires and flooding in Victoria, we have stayed in rooms over 2 pubs, walked along dozens of beaches, drank in several wineries, attended two Australia Day barbies, fed and held koalas, kangaroos, snakes and crocodiles, hmm... getting a bit carried away, here’s what we’ve been doing for the last week:

It took us a few more days to reach Brisbane, driving through more national parks, past golden beaches and breakfasting by gorgeous lakes (it’s been tough). Mike even got himself a gorgeous didgeridoo and some circular breathing lessons- I’m sure everyone would love a wee show when we’re back! Haha! We visited Byron Bay, paradise for all surfers, and stayed in a pub which was definitely the most popular place in town- with flowing beers and a good band, it was a great place to spend the night. We also went through the Gold Coast which is essentially a rash of towns where surfers can go, where schoolies can let off steam before starting a job or uni, and where kids can go to waterparks.

In Brisbane we were staying with the lovely April, another ex colleague from Abu Dhabi, and we had an excellent time catching up and laughing about old times, admittedly- not much else was done, but we don’t care. After a few days we took a lengthy drive up to Yeppoon (on the Capricorn Coast, the irony of driving up the Sunshine Coast in the pissing rain was not lost on us) to see Mike’s old friend Sid who he hasn’t seen for 8 years. In Yeppoon we went to the highest point in the area, visited a crocodile farm, and spent an afternoon feeding kangaroos! But the best part was, of course, seeing Sid.

When we got back down to Brisbane we stayed with Andy, Jenny, and little Lottie who we know from Aberdeen, through Mike’s work. We were able to spend some time with them and have a good catch up, and even catch the first glimpse of Lottie’s Tinkerbell birthday party before heading off to the airport.

We can’t believe it’s time for us to leave, we’ve had an amazing time here, and have enjoyed being able to catch up with so many people.

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Posted by lesleymw 13:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Making our way from Melbourne to Sydney, and further North

And spending a few days in Sydney

sunny 35 °C

So now our Aussie adventure has started, we are now driving up the east coast towards Queensland. Driving along the coast is absolutely beautiful, with white beaches and hair raising cliffs on one side and trees, hills and national parks on the other. (Of course, as luck would have it, within an hour of driving -for the first time on the left side since before moving to Abu Dhabi- I have almost had a bump with a kangaroo- one of the most scary and surreal experiences yet!) Driving up the highway, we’ve been passing through little old towns that don’t seem to have changed much in the past century, harbours with stunning views and an excellent excuse to dip our feet in cold water, and historic sites which are full of aboriginal artefacts and monuments.

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We stopped over in Sydney for 2 days and.... wow! It’s a gorgeous modern city filled with parks and lots of things to see (outdoor cinema by the harbour, stand up comedy at midnight, light shows in the Chinese gardens to name but a few) but the real beauty of the place is the little old buildings lining the streets, most of which are over 100 years old. Sometimes you would have been forgiven for thinking you were in Edinburgh instead of half way across the world!

We spend most of our time in Sydney walking through the massive gardens, by the waterfront (the view of the opera house never gets boring) and having a relaxing time- which again, is very easy to do when you’re in Sydney. We also took the mandatory visit to one of the most famous beaches in the world- Bondi Beach- it’s hard to believe that snow white sand, 3ft waves and crystal clear water is just quarter of an hour from Sydney Harbour- another remarkable thing about the city!

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Yesterday we hit the road again and continued heading north, but not before taking a 4 hour detour to the Blue Mountains, and it was worth every minute. Being from Scotland we weren’t expecting to be blown away by some Aussie mountains- we are full of them ourselves after all. But the minute we got to the top, both of our jaws dropped to the floor and we stood corrected. There was peaks, rock formations and thick trees as far as the eye can see, and all blanketed with a thick blue haze (hence the name) which rises from the numerous eucalyptus trees, the whole area, including a few little towns have this haze and the refreshing smell that goes with it, the whole experience is truly amazing.

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We continued our drive into the evening past Newcastle, via the Blue Tongue brewery, to stay in a sleepy little town in the Central Coast. I have to say, something that’s remarkable when driving here at night that I’ve never seen before, is the vast number of stars. We used to joke in Abu Dhabi, where the sandy haze is thicker than any cloud, that “the star” was out at night. Here, driving in the middle of nowhere, you can barely see the dark sky for stars, it’s literally a blanket. We’d probably be tempted to sleep outside under them, if I wasn’t so petrified of snakes and dingos!

Posted by lesleymw 16:58 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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