Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Catch Up!

Okaaaaaay...there's been a bit of slacking...but seeing as it's Boxing Day and Chris has fallen asleep in front of the cricket, I may as well recount all, or most of what we've been up to since Noosa over a month ago!?! Sorry folks, it's been a busy time, moving to Melbourne and getting settled I wasn't sure whether I could write this offline on WordPad and then copy n paste it to the blog: internet is still expensive, plus sometimes WordPad translates into complete gobbledygook when put into other programmes (bain of my life!)...

Anyhoo, where to start?! Well, from Noosa we went to Australia Zoo, which was fantastic. Just a really lovely zoo, not too big, with really natural enclosures and lots of interesting shows and info. Saw a show in the famous Crocoseum, where they bring out the big crocs and feed them, which was pretty spectacular. A very enjoyable day : ) Just such a shame that good old Steve is no longer around.
We then caught our last greyhound bus down to Brisbane, which was a much nicer city than we'd expected, but we only spent a day looking round as we were by then feeling the pinch of the pennies and still had our Uluru tour to pay for...which turned out to be another highlight, but more of that in a bit.
We then had another few days in Sydney, and used the time to visit the northern beaches, meet up with a friend from home who's living and working there, stay in an awful hostel (18 bed dorm anyone?!), and visit the Blue Mountains, which were stunning.
We then flew to Alice Springs and went with a company called Mulga's Tours on a 3 day 2 night tour of King's Canyon, The Olgas, and Uluru. We had a fantastic guide, a young guy called Greg, and a nice small group of about 24 people. On the long drive out we all had to go up to the front of the bus and introduce ourselves, regaling any funny travel stories that we had etc. in order to break the ice and get to know everyone. We also had paint pens to write our names on the windows next to our seats so you could remember everyone's names (VERY handy, especially when half the people on the tour were from Korea! None of them used their Korean names though, and as usual, they'd picked some pretty kooky Western names for "Bruce"....the mind boggles!)
So first stop was King's Canyon, which we'd never heard of or seen anything about, but it was absolutely spectacular. We did a great walk around the ridge of the canyon, then descended into the canyon to swim in a lagoon, which was much needed as it was really hot out there in the bush. However, as we had heard, the "red centre" was actually green, thanks to all the regular rainfall they'd been having every month over the past year. Where usually there is just red soil and sparse, scrubby brown grasses, we saw lush bushes, trees and wild flowers. Apparently even some of the Aboriginal elders had never seen the landscape so lush and abundant during their lifetime, so we were experiencing something very unique when we were there.
After our walk we went and collected firewood, which basically consisted of tramping off into the roadside bush and uprooting huge, dry dead trees, which was great fun! We then loaded up the trailer and went off to our campsite.
When we arrived, Greg got volunteers for the various tasks that needed to be done, and myself and a Kiwi girl said we didn't mind being in charge of what Greg had termed "handling meat"...little did we know that this was to be preparing and cooking a kangaroo tail. Hmmm...vegetarians may not wish to read on...
This really was a "unique" experience. It arrived in a plastic bag, severed from the main kangaroo (thank god!), and as Greg threw it to me in the darkness, many "interesting" ideas went through my mind as to what the HELL had just landed in my arms. It basically felt like a severed limb (which is what it IS) as it flopped about, and you could feel the bone throught the middle...seriously disturbing!!!
Greg then informed myself and Lucy (my Kiwi meat-handling companion) that we had to singe off the fur in the fire without letting the meat start to cook, then scrape off the singed fur with a knife without wrecking the skin. Right. Ok. The campfire was so hot that we fashioned ourselves some giant tongs out of tree branches, and got on with the fur removal. The tail stank enough as it was (think dead, wet dog if you will) but adding burnt fur into the equation was a joy! But we got pretty darn good at the singe/scrape/dangle-in-fire process, and prepared that thing up a treat. It was then wrapped in foil and cooked in hot coals by the side of the fire.
Turned out this WASN'T our main course, as we had feared, so we sat down to some chilli and rice (which Greg had cooked while we were all distracted by kangaroo limb encounters) and got to sample roast Kangaroo tail for pudding...which tasted like very fatty roast lamb. Apparently the hunter usually gets the tail as it's the best bit, which I suppose is because it's fatty meat on the bone, which when you're surviving out in the wild, would be the best kind of nutrition/energy food.
After all the excitement of dinner, and a few beers and marshmallows round the campfire, we all bedded down in our swags and slept under the stars, which was amazing. And our swags (along with cosy sleeping bags) were literally the most comfortable things ever: I don't think I've ever slept as well as I did in that swag! Although the fresh air, long walk, swimming, wood-collecting, trauma of kangaroo tail prep, and beer, may also have helped! The only precaution we had to take for sleeping in the wild Australian bush was to hide our shoes under our swags, as Dingoes seem to be partial to stealing them, though had a dingo gone near MY sweaty trainers, good luck to him!
The next day we went to The Olgas (which now also are called by their traditional name, but I can't currently remember it!) which are a range of round/lumpy rock formations that the Aboriginals considered to be heads. Again it was an absolutely stunning landscape to walk through and around, which we did for about 4 hours in the heat, but totally worth the effort. The views were just unbelievable, with the red rocks, the pure blue sky and the lush greens and reds of the bush. Like the Canyon, it was such a peaceful place, where you were just totally surrounded by nature: the sky in particular just seemed SO huge, without a cloud, just this beautiful intense blue- wonderful!
And then finally, off we went to see Uluru, which felt so much more in context because we'd seen the surrounding landscape and rock formations. And who knew that what Uluru is, is the tip of a much larger rock that got up-ended fell head first into the earth when there were earthquakes/shifts, so that 90% of the rock is under the earth, and Uluru is the remaining part?!!! Well, I certainly didn't know that! AND, who knew that Uluru is actually sandstone, so is naturally a sandy creamy colour, like the buildings in Edinburgh, but the iron content in the surrounding soil has stuck to it over time and has turned it red???!!! So in a way, Uluru is rusty!!! Crazy stuff : )
It was very exciting to see Uluru up close, and also quite surreal- like it always is when you finally see a famous landmark and have to pinch yourself that you're actually there! We learned a lot about it, and what it means to the Aboriginals from our guide, and walked around the base, where at points you couldn't take photos as it was a sacred area. We ate dinner at sunset, watching the rock change colour (along with about 200 other tourists!), then were up at 4.30am the next day to watch the sunrise over it, which was spectacular, and much quieter!
So all in all it was an amazing trip, and we met some really lovely people which made it even better. Plus the sun was shining the whole time : )

Then it was off to Melbourne, where we have now been for nearly a month. We've found a lovely houseshare with another couple, in a suburb called Brunswick, which is north of the city centre. We have trams and trains nearby to get us into the city, which takes about 20 mins/half an hour, and all the houses round here are very quaint and pretty, with ornate trellisses and rose gardens out the front. The area quite reminds us of an old American city, with all the overhead tram cables and wooden pylons. People had told us that Melbourne is quite European in its look and feel, especially compared to Sydney, but I don't think I totally agree: they both feel like a mixture of American and European, much like the Australian culture and attitudes.
The weather here is pretty baffling too: bright sunshine one moment, pissing with torrential rain the next, and then back to sunshine again, leaving you soaked and bewildered! You have to leave the house prepared for all eventualities, all tempertaures, and everything that the Aussies themselves can throw at you!
They really are a rowdy bunch these Aussies, and one does often feel like a prudish Brit who would appreciate a few good manners and some decent customer service! Our native pal Vanessa has explained that the Aussie way of being "polite" and friendly is to treat you like an old friend or part of the family, which means casually/ me this translates to treating you like crap! I've had a LOT of bad service, unhelpful "help", and a man who told me I had to pay him to accept my CV in his crumby little shop.
No luck on the job front for me so far, which is really frustrating, but Chris is doing really well with his nursing, so that's really great. It seems that Aussies aren't willing to actually give any work to someone on a working holiday visa, because they know you won't stay long, which totally negates the purpose of bothering to pay for one in the first place! Unless of course you want to live in the middle of nowhere and break your spine picking it's really just a "slave labour holiday visa" so they can get their harvests in! They even try and bribe you by saying that if you do at least 3 months of this badly paid hell, then you can stay another year here on a 2nd working holiday, no thanks!
So, as you can probably tell, the Australian experience has its ups and downs, but I guess that's why you go travelling: to find out about other places, cultures and people, and decide where you may wish to go back to one day, and where you've seen quite enough of thank you very much!

Friday, 19 November 2010

How time flies!?!

Well, it appears to be November 19th...where have the last 14 days gone since I last checked in?!? I shall try my best to tell you...
So right now we're in Noosa, which is very posh, and not at ALL in keeping with the general Queensland "look", so that's a relief (ha ha)...and since the last time I tapped away at the blog we've sailed around the Whitsunday Islands, had a surf lesson in Agnes Water, and driven a 4x4 round Fraser Island, so we've certainly been busy! And all whilst trying to dodge the rain, sometimes in the most unsuccessful fashion, such as with our Whitsundays trip. When we booked it, it was gloriously hot and sunny on Magnetic Island, which is north, so we thought that we'd be okay...oh dear, how wrong we were. In fact we almost gave up on our deposit for the trip and cancelled as the weather in Airlie Beach was just dire (we got so absolutely SOAKED walking into the town that I stood and wrung out my trousers on the street...bad times) but we went in the end...and had a great time, but very much in spite of the weather! One girl was chucking up over the side about 15 minutes after we left the bloomin' harbour (?!) but it wasn't THAT bad, she just hadn't noshed down on the sea-sickness tablets like I had (thank god!). Although lunch on the second day was "interesting": every tried serving yourself from a buffet whilst on a see-saw? Well we now have a pretty good idea of how THAT goes down, and it includes some Irish girl's elbow arriving into your plate and then the entire Irish girl ending up on your lap. Fun fun fun!
So our view of the islands was often hindered by the rain and mist, and our last meal was frequently about to make a second appearance, but there was a great bunch of people on board, and the weather did give us a break when we went to the famous Whitehaven Beach, where the sand is pure white and the water is turquoise. We frolicked in the crashing waves, all dressed up in our "sexy" stinger-suits (think sea-faring body stockings) and made sand castles, so that was super good fun : )
We also licked the asses (literally that is) of some green ants, which tasted surprisingly of very tangy citrus lemon/lime, so that was nice too!
The final day of our sailing trip (3 days and 2 nights on board) the sun came out, which was a relief, and it was all put down to the fact that one of the girls had had two bananas stashed on board, which had been revealed and promptly thrown over board the night before: apparently it's bad luck to have bananas on board boats, as in the "olden times", if they were being transported by sea they would ripen and then rot everything else, which is of course a downer. But then to top it off, the gasses they produced when THEY rotted would kill everyone on board...which is a totally bad day for all involved, obviously. It's also bad luck to have women on boats, so the female owned bananas were a double whammy for our little boat trip: no WONDER it rained, eh?
After our trip we went for some wonderfully rowdy drinks with all our fellow sailors, which set us up perfectly for an overnight bus journey to Agnes Water, 10 hours away. I'll be honest with you, it wasn't the BEST night's sleep I've ever had, but it certainly beat the Boston-Montreal trip where we had to go through customs at 3am.
Agnes Water was a lovely, tiny place, and my goodness, the sun was shining! "In Australia?!" I hear you cry, "Never!" But lo, it was so, and it was good.
As here was the place to have the cheapest surf lesson in Oz ($17 for 3 hours) we joined the rabble and threw ourselves at increasingly meaty waves and various unwitting children for the morning. Chris got the hang of it rather well, and can now wade out there with something like a surfer's jaunt and have a crack at the surf without embarrassing himself too much. I on the other hand, did not get on too well, especially as our uber-bleached, leathery instructor forgot to mention that re-applying the sunscreen to the legs and arms was NOT a good idea: is the surfing equivalent of laying out a load of banana skins and running at them with wild abandon (bananas again, clearly evil), so after already being a bit crap, I became even more handicapped in the surfing stakes, and had a bit of a pout. I may try again in future, but I shall be FULLY wet-suited up (including hood and shoes methinks) and will do it where there aren't 1000 other people in the water.
Just down the road from Agnes Water is the lovely, even smaller Town of 1770 (when it was discovered/settled), population, 56. A beautiful place to get away from all the other travellers, and on our 2 hour walk back along the beach, we came across a sea turtle on the beach, which was amazing. Unfortunately the group of people who'd come across it first had scared it, so it had abandoned its quest to lay eggs up the beach. and was huffing and puffing its way back into the sea. We stopped to look at it from a discreet distance and took some pics, until the guy from the other group told us to go away because WE were scaring it...erm, I think that may have been YOU with your DOG and FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY mate, but hey, who can tell what goes through the head of a sea turtle?! (He certainly thought he did, the chump.)
We then moved on to Hervey Bay, where we were to go on our tour of Fraser Island, which is a large island completely formed out of sand, yet rainforest grows abundantly on the sand, which is an anomaly as sand doesn't have the nutrients that soil does, plus there are perched freshwater lakes, and creeks of freshwater that bubble up from the sand: a truly amazing and stunningly beautiful place. But also a very dangerous place where people (like us) had been regularly maiming and killing themselves in their 4x4's because they didn't understand the driving conditions and the nature of the land. Therefore it is now law that you have to be guided on the island, either by being driven, or by following a guide and driving yourself, which is what we did...which was AWESOME!!! Driving through soft sand, on hard wet sand, through water, along bumpy winding inland roads: happy times : )  Again we had a great group, only 9 people (instead of the 24 it can be) and the best guide: a real aussie "bloke", with the foulest mouth and even fouler jokes and totally un-"pc" opinions, but an absolute sweetheart at the same time! He cooked us awesome meals, and managed to avoid all the other tour groups so that each amazing spot we visited was practically deserted. And man, was it just one of the most beautiful places: HIGHLY recommend it!!! And woop woop it was HOT and sunny the whole time: bliss : )  The only downer: the flesh eating flies. The buggers pestered us all day, and were bloody HUGE, their trick being to stab you with a sharp nose spike, and then use little pincers on the end of that to pluck a little lump of flesh from you for their lunch: an evil "grabber hand" type action that by golly was sore! They did however go away at night, so that was a relief. You were then awoken in the morning by them trying to get at your head THROUGH the tent fabric!!!
Anyway, I have to wrap up now as it's time for din-dins, but Fraser Island was definitely the highlight of Australia so far, plus got a wicked tan out there ; ) Tomorrow we're off to Australia Zoo, even though it's apparently not what it used to be...but we don't know what it was like before, so will see for ourselves  : )
Until next time, keep away from those bananas, and be thankful that your flies are all dead for the winter! X

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Land Down Under

So, after dropping our camper off in Christchurch we had a day to explore the city which was recently rocked by a 7.1 earthquake. Like slowing down to look at a car crash, we were morbidly looking out for all the damage, but 2 months on they'd pretty much tidied the place up (the main shopping area/city centre was the worst hit apparently) and anything that was "evident" just looked like roadworks. There was a section of shops that had their condemned notices up, and there was a satisfying pile of rubble for us to gawp at, but that was about it really! That evening we drank our lovely posh bottle of wine from one of the wineries we visited alongside one of the most disgusting Japanese/Korean meals we'd ever had...bit of a downer! But we did spend the night in a hostel that used to be the jailhouse, so that was pretty good: who'd have thought a prison could make such a nice hostel?! Of course all bedding/kitchenware etc was striped, a nice touch!
We then flew back to Auckland, then immediately off to Sydney, where we stayed in a great part of town called Glebe- lots of nice little coffee shops, one of "those" areas!
Visiting the main sights of Sydney we did have to slightly pinch ourselves, as it's one of those places you've seen SO many times in photos, but to actually stand in front of the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge doesn't seem real. And who knew that the Opera House is tiled? I thought it was just painted white...
Anyway, we really enjoyed Sydney as a city, and managed to stuff ourselves full of amazing food at every turn: street food markets, the Sydney Fish Market, a few beers and ice creams along the way to keep us going ; ) Is quite a pricey place, but hey, we'd just spent 5 weeks in NZ getting over that constant niggle!
After a couple of days in Syndey, we flew up to Cairns, having changed our original plan to head north up the East Coast all the way to Darwin, as it's heading into the wet season and by the time we got to the top it would be humid and constantly pissing it down: lickily some Aussies in Fiji informed us of this and we changed everything around. Also, the jellyfish are slowly but surely appearing along the coastline now, so we are trying to avoid them, obviously. With one type, if it stings you, one of the "symptoms" you may experience is to "stop breathing"...a pretty major symptom in my book!?! In true Aussie form, their attitude to questions regarding the likelihood of being stung is, "Aah, you'll be right". And I'm standing there, unconvinced that I'll "be right", especially when they then go on to say that you'll get a 'free' helicopter ride if you need to be whisked off to a hospital...excellent.
So, we've been up in Queensland for about a week now, and I think it has yet to really charm us. To arrive into Cairns from Sydney was a bit of a shocker. It's a "city" but I think it's kidding itself on that front, and some of the characters lurking about the place were straight out of some piss-take of Australian you can't go in the sea because there are crocodiles (???!!!). But we were there to go to the Great Barrier Reef, so we mostly ignored Cairns and went off on a glorious day to the reef on a lovely boat. Chris saw a sea turtle and a shark, and I sunburnt my ass. Result.
Anyway, it was a great day at sea, and we were once again quite lucky with the weather as the next day it peed down. We left that day for Mission Beach, about 2 hours drive down the coast (on the Greyhound that is, as have decided that we've done our bit with the epic driving and the even more epic purchasing of petrol!) and it rained the whole way. It then rained the whole time we were at Mission Beach (ho hum!) and into the next day...but once we arrived into Townsville and jumped on a ferry to Magnetic Island, it cheered right up and we've been sweating and batting off bugs left right and centre ever for the almost-punch up with some bloke on the bus, it's really not worth telling the story in full, but basically there are some strange people on this island (and by island, I may mean Australia!) and we had the misfortune to meet one of the oddest and most irritating one of all...what joys!
So Tuesday we'll be off on a sailing trip around the Whitsundays (sorry!) so that'll be nice ; ) Will try and keep you posted more often than not, and hopefully Queensland will prove itself to be slightly less uncouth than it has appeared so the FLIES here are driving us nuts, so if they would like to take a hike anytime, that would be much appreciated! OH, and we've had cuddles with Koalas, snakes, lizards, birds, crocs, and an echinda, so are well n truly Steve Irwin-ing it up (will be off to Australia Zoo in a bit too! hoorah!) Bye for now! x

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Catch up time! it APPEARS that I've not updated this since the day after we went ice-climbing...and that was about 2 weeks ago....woops! Sorry folks, will try to make up for it seeing as we've been given 2 hours and 45 mins worth of FREE internet, and have got a bit of time to kill right now...but be warned, I'm onto my second cider of the evening, so this may be a bit rambling and incomprehensible!
SO, after the climbing in Franz Josef, we drove through the pissing rain to Lake Wanaka, me sporting some pretty impressive blisters from my ice climbing boots. We were pretty sure the views on the drive were stunning, but for us it was all concealed by the tonne of water that was hitting the windscreen and misting up the whole landscape...but nevermind, it just added to the "experience"! However, when we got to Wanaka the sun was out and we were blown away by the stunning views. Pretty much all our favourite places in NZ were where there was a lake and a spectacular snowy mountain range behind it. Alpine views, you cannae beat them on a crisp sunny day : )
We "free camped" that night at the foot of the mountain range with our Spaceship-buddies (a couple we kept bumping into who were in "Icarus"). Was bloody freezing, cooking up our curry, but a few beers helped ; )
Next day we drove to Queenstown, stopping on the way to take a jet-boat ride, which is one of "the" things to do here in NZ as they invented the jet-boat. Was good fun, but to be honest, it was nothing compared to the mental speedboats we took in Fiji just to get around! And no life jackets in Fiji, adding to the thrill... Did I ever mention the church visit I went on one Sunday in Fiji? We had a local old lady on board who was getting a lift to the church too, and my god, this speed boat was crazy, crashing through the waves, flinging us all about, and there she was, cool as a cucumber in her Sunday finest, gently waving a fan and clasping her handbag...great fun!
Anyway, we rocked up to Queenstown, which was a great wee place. Went on a tour to Milford Sound for the day, where we had wild dolphins swim alongside our boat and stunning views. Again, the weather was perfect, whereas the days before the roads had been closed due to the rain: they measure it in metres there, 7 or 8m a year! The views and mountains were just unbelievable on the way to Milford: still snow-capped, so despite the dicey spring weather, I think we saw NZ at a great time of year : )
After much merriment in Queenstown, including 2 trips to the unbelievably good burger joint (Ferg god, you've NEVER had a better burger in your life, no kidding!) we drove toward Arrowtown, via the AJ Hackett Bungy...and yes, Christopher flung himself off a bridge! The train of thought had been, well Chris, I'll just drive you to it so you can have a look, and you can decide from there...but as we bumped into one of the bungy guys who happened to be from Livingston, Chris got bullied into it!!! But good on him: I could hardly even look over the viewing platform to take pics without feeling giddy! Thought he'd be totally elated by the whole thing, but think he actually traumatised himself!!! Poor lad, but hey, he got a free T-shirt out of it, so that's worth it in my book...though not enough to enduce ME to do it, no thank you!
Stayed that night in charming little Arrowtown, then it was off toward Mount Cook, where again the scenery was just immense: the water in the lake was bright turquoise like a swimming pool, with pines and the imposing Mt Cook behind, was just blown away! Sometimes you just look and look and can't really take in the beauty you're seeing...sigh...
Stayed the night at the foot of Mount Cook, cowering in our camper as the rain battered down and the wind threatened to rock poor Boba off his wheels! But we survived the wrath of the mountain, and moved on the next day to the ridiculously beautiful Lake Tekapo, where we went on a star-gazing tour up at the Mt John observatory, which was AWESOME. Looked through telescopes at Jupiter and various galaxies, and saw in unbelievable detail the craters of the moon : ) Perfect night for it, not a cloud in the sky, and no moon until the end of the tour so no light pollution from that either...
After Tekapo it was off to Christchurch, where we had to part with our dear campervan...and here I shall take a break, as my dinner has arrived and think my time may run out...back in a bit with tales of Oz and how we narrwoly missed decking some random man-child on a bus today...ooh, what a cliff-hanger, keep following people! x

Monday, 18 October 2010

Finally, a bit of good luck!

Okay, so while Chris make the sarnies for the day, and Flickr FINALLY uploads the last of our Boston photos (only another 2000 to go then, and when it honestly takes about 4 hours to upload 30 photos you can understand our pain!) I thought I'd write a quick wee update : )

So, as some may know already from facebook, we went ice climbing yesterday on the Franz Josef glacier, which was super tough, but totally worth it. We were both staggering about in a slow, zombified daze in the evening as we were SO knackered, but a trip to the sauna and jacuzzi at our campsite definitely helped : )

The weather at the weekend was totally rubbish, so our original plan to climb on Sunday was scuppered and we had to wait until Monday to see whether we'd even get to go out then. The wind and rain on Saturday night, all of Sunday, and Sunday night was pretty crazy, so we were thinking that our run of bad luck was going to continue, and seeing as you don't rock up to a glacier too often, it would have been a real shame to have to move on without getting to see it. The run of bad luck I refer to was the day and a half long wait to see whales, only to see NONE; the jetboat trip down a stunning river, through an amazing gorge on a sun-baked day that got cancelled due to the boat breaking down; and the awseome looking knife-making that was all booked was an odd week! We have now put it down to the "Good Luck" charm carved necklace I bought last's BAD luck! I took it off on Sunday night and lo and behold, the sun comes out for the ice climbing day and we get to go...and today it's pissing with rain may sound superstitious, but I ain't putting that thing on again!!!

Anyway, it's off to Wanaka today, then Queenstown tomorrow. The weather is supposed to clear up by the end of the week, so hopefully our trip to Milford Sound on Friday will be clear. We've actually been really lucky with the weather the whole time we've been here, so can't really complain about the rain too much: it is Spring here after all. Can't believe we'll be leaving NZ next week, as are very much into the swing of the place now and really enjoying it : )  We have hundreds of STUNNING photos to make you all jealous with, so you can look forward to them appearing, but please for god's sake do NOT hold your breath ; )

Oh, and forgot to mention in previous blog, we've also been zorbing (?!) and have sampled quite vast quantites of wine in Hawkes Bay (North Island) and Marlborough (South Island), so when we get back we shall bore you with our fine tastes and knowledge! Also went on a zip wire thingy across Buller Gorge...not as scary as hoped for, but was given to us free after the JetBoat got cancelled, so was all good!

Right, I think we're ready to depart for the day: just have to tear Chris away from the live UK footie that he's found (it's Monday night for you guys, so we get footie for breakfast on Tuesday morning!)

Love to you all! Eileen x

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Land of the Long White Cloud...

Hello all!

Sorry it's taken so long to update this, even though we now finally have our own computer on board, we have discovered that New Zealand is in the dark ages when it comes to internet, and it's all still expensive, and there's no free wifi anywhere!!! Except for in the library, which is where we are now, hiding from the incredible winds in Wellington (I'm also slightly hiding from Wellington itself, as it has yet to charm me!)

SO, we've been in New Zealand for the last 2 weeks, starting off in Auckland, which we really liked. It's spring here, but luckily has been sunny for us most of the time. Just before we arrived it had been non-stop rain for 2 weeks, and the South Island had a snow storm or two, but it seems we brought the sun from Fiji with us : )  However, the weather is about to turn, just as we cross on the ferry tomorrow to the South Island, and apparently that crossing is the choppiest straight of water in the world...think I may have to consume an entire packet of sea sickness pills...

So far we've found NZ to look quite similar to home: driving on the same side through lots of rolling green hills, only difference is the odd palm tree that pops up, and the odd spectacular view that presents itself on the other side of a giant hill. We've been all the way over the top of the North Island (Cape Reinga) to see where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet (all swirly!), have seen glow worms in caves, been white water rafting down a 7 metre waterfall, and learned to ski on a volcano, from which you could see the other volcano which a certain hobbit had to chuck a ring into...all very exciting! And although there is a LOT of driving involved, the places we end up seeing make it all worth it, especially at dusk (when we always seem to finally be rolling into places) when the light over lakes and the sea is just unbelievable.

As for our "ride", well, it's nothing like the pimp-mobile we had in America, which had about 1,000 miles on the clock...this anti stud-mobile has over 307, 000 kilometres on the clock, and has probably been around NZ about 400 times, but it starts everytime and goes along just fine, and is slowly winning a sorry little place in our hearts! Am sure by the end of 5 weeks we'll be sad to see old "Boba" go...we have no idea why it's called that: another one we saw was called, "The Hoff": why couldn't we get THAT one and at least have a bit of street cred?! (It seems all drivers immediately assume we're slow because we're a campervan, but old Boba can go just fine, and does NOT appreciate the locals bullying him up the ass at every turn!!! It doesn't help that we're bright orange either...) But we've gotten the hang of living in a very confined space, and no major arguments so far (honest!): you just have to remember to get everything out of the boot or the pantry that you need BEFORE you make up the bed, otherwise it's all underneath you : /

Anyway, what more can I say? We were unsure of NZ when we first arrived, as it felt so like home that we were a bit confused as to what we were here to see (especially after Fiji!) but I think after 2 weeks we've got into the feel of the place and are looking forward to seeing the more dramatic beauty of the South Island. So we've 3 more weeks to go, and if the cost of groceries doesn't bankrupt us, we'll be heading to Oz at the end of October (Chris almost wept at the price of a bag of spinach yesterday!).

So that's all for now I guess: we have about 2000 photos to show you all, but we STILL can't get them to load onto Flickr, which is just ridiculous. Think the internet just isn't as good anywhere as in Britain, so appreciate what you've got over there folks, cos the rest of the world has no idea what they're doing! We are making every effort at every opportunity to get them up for you to see...

Lots of love, Eileen & Chris

P.S. Have killed one Possum so far (that's a good thing here!) but Chris has bought himself a possum pelt which he has named Nathaniel. He is rather taken with it, so if anything is going to come between us in this relationship, it may very well be Nathaniel...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


Sorry to rub your noses in it folks, but all I can say about Fiji is that it's absolute paradise!!!

As we pulled up to our island resort in the boat,we couldn't believe our eyes: a tropical paradise for only 14 pounds per night, with a welcome band serenading us to the shore...we immediately decided to book an extra night here at the Octopus resort, and a total of 9 days in Fiji instead of the 6 we had planned...heaven!

There's 3 meals a day, lots of activities if you want to do more than loll about on the beach, and lots of lovely people...the tan is coming along nicely and the Fijiian massage this morning was amazing...

Sorry about that! Will have to sign off now as time is up, back to the sun lounger to read my book ; ) Lots of love to you all from the future (we'renow 12 hours ahead of you, it gets a little confusuing!!!) xEx

Friday, 10 September 2010

Celebrity Spotting!

WELL, clearly the most exciting part of the trip so far (not really of course, but y'know...) was slagging off David Beckham's pimped up Land Rover while it was sitting at the lights we were crossing near the supermarket in Santa Monica (LA)...of course we didn't realise it was him and his kids as we (well, CHRIS) slagged off the pimped up wheels etc, but it sure was a hoot when it dawned on us! Chris was like, "how come such a young guy trying to look so cool in his stupid car has got a bunch of kids in car seats in the back?", and then, as I looked into the eyes of young Romeo in the front seat, it dawned on me, and replied, "because he's David Beckham?" AAAAaaaargh! But by that point we'd fully crossed over and all the windows on the other side were up and were blacked that's our L.A celebrity sighting, and we weren't even mooching about near the Hollywood sign (where of COURSE all the celebs just loiter), so that was exciting!

We're off to ride the big rollercoasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain tomorrow, so let's see whether Christopher can keep his breakfast down ; )

Apparently not much internet in Fiji (or it's expensive and we'd need need to sell the only kidney that's left over from Vegas) so cheerio for now, and will let you know how we get on in tropical paradise when i can...ho hum, what a hard life! xxx

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Internet! At LAST!!!

RIGHT!!! So we've just arrived into Santa Barbara on the West Coast of California, and have finally figured out that there's usually free internet access in the public libraries...and this one is a real treat: an hour of free internet and no homeless people...San Francisco's library was a real "treat", and only 15 minutes allowed, so the poor blog had to be neglected once again : (
I now have 20 minutes left to quickly bash out what we've been up to, which is a LOT seeing as the last time I wrote anything we were still in Canada: oh how we regret not bringing the netbook...a lesson we have learned the hard way!!! In Las Vegas we practically had to sell a kidney for 10 minutes of internet, in which time one can get NOTHING done except have a small breakdown : /
So we flew to Vegas, which was a very hot (104 degrees) and surreal, then picked up our swanky Dodge and have been driving through Nevada/California ever since. There have been many crazy winding roads through spectacular landscapes (forests, mountains, deserts) so I am now fully trained up for my Rally driving career! The driving here is pretty easy, but Chris's spectacular call to pay the money for a Sat Nav has definitely saved us (and I'm sure, our relationship!!!) But the Americans drive like absolute nutters, so I have adopted the mantra of If you can't beat'em...let them bloomin well PASS!!! But anyway, there's not enough time right here to go into all the odd things we've noticed about America and its inhabitants, but they are basically crazy, nuff said ; )
We're all good though, having fun, seeing lots of cool stuff : ) Photos will hopefully be up soon, but it has proven a total nightmare to get them online, especially as there are loads of 'em.
Randomly we are being plagued by bouts of fog and sea mist!?! The CN tower in Toronto was a no go due to fog, the Golden Gate Bridge was totally covered in fog the day we cycled across it, yet had been totally there the day before (!?) and now we have just driven down the famous Highway 1 to admire the stunning coastline, only to have it all shrouded in the dreaded sea mists....are we cursed or something????!!! ho hum...the dreary weather is pretty similar to summer back home, so we're slightly unimpressed!!! Especially as the tan I've finally managed to acquire now looks rather like a bad orange fake tan in this grey light!!!!
Anyway, the time is ticking down so I'll load this all up, and then go and see to Chris, who seems to be having some kind of nervous breakdown on the other computer: as usual there are obscenities leaving his mouth in the presence of children...
Cheerio!!! Will hopefully update y'all again soon!!! Lots of love xEx

Friday, 20 August 2010

From Boston to Montreal...

Hello again!

We are now in Montreal, where internet in our hostel is free (hoorah!) so despite my self induced jet-lag (why again was it that we chose to get a 7 hour overnight bus from Boston? To save on a night's accommodation? More like to "save" a night's sleep...ho hum) Anyway, Boston was very hot and very educational! We particularly enjoyed the part where a tour guide got really enthusiastic at us (just us, she accosted us, she was mental) about how "we" beat the British good n proper in the war of independence (anyone else know it all took place in and around Boston?)...we then informed her that we were in fact the enemy, and she thought that was just hilarious. To be fair, so did we, but after 15 minutes of her over-sharing at us about her life, her job, her dog, we decided it was time to escape "loopy Lauren" and carry on exploring...and that we did : ) Went to Harvard, which was exciting, learned to navigate the metro system, got trampled a few times by Red Sox fans flooding out of Fenway Park stadium, which was right by our hostel, so we went on a tour of that, which was really interesting too. We still have no idea how baseball works, but they sure are keen on it and all the history kind of made us wish that we were as well...
Anyway, Boston was like an old pal by the time we departed, but now we're onto a new city and a new hostel (oh, what joy...) I kid you not, swing a cat in our new room (which would be tricky), and you're guaranteed to hit a Frenchman. A room for 6 people, and it's me, and 5 guys: four French and one Chris! Sacre Bleu! Hope none of them snore...As for where the hostel itself is, swing a cat and you're guaranteed to hit a sex shop...excellent. But it's actually a fine area, and another interesting city: a bit randomly put together at first glance, but we went on an epic bus tour and really took it all in. An AMAZING church on a hill, some cool apartments where every room in every house is a cube, and they're all piled on top of each other (Chris said I had to include that bit, was obviously his favourite bit in between snoozes, of which he tried to fend off many!) and a fantastic little street full of great little galleries (my favourite bit!)
So tomorrow we will explore further- off to the Olympic Stadium, which looks pretty spectacular...I now REALLY must sleep, as have had about 3 hours of rubbish sleep in 48 hours, and believe me, it ain't a pretty sight! Just as we finally got comfortable on that bloody coach we and our luggage were unceremoniously hauled out to be checked at the Canadian Border. Chris declared the sandwiches in his bag and I lied that I had a job ; )
Until the next time folks! xEx

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Greetings from Boston!

So, we've arrived! First leg of our epic journey was a little unsettling when at Heathrow we were sent to the "Flight Management" section because the flight was over-booked and we had no seats...but all was rosy when we were upgraded out of economy- woop woop! So it was big comfy seats, lots of leg room (including a footstool, my personal favourite bit!), individual screens with loads of movies, music and games, and copious amounts of food to keep us happy on the 7 hour flight : )  Not sure we can ever fly economy again, we've been spoiled on the first journey!
Getting to our hostel was a bit of a palava, as I suppose it always is when you rock up to a new place and take public transport. But we figured out their metro system, walked waaaaay further than we needed to...then discovered they'd totally messed up our booking for the second time (long story) so we spent the night just us in a ramshackle room, but have got ourselves a free night out of it, so not all bad. Slightly apprehensive about actually doing the sharing thing the next 2 nights, think earplugs might be needed...
Anyway, all is well, just about to head out to explore Boston in the daylight (of which there seems to be copious amounts- did anyone else know the sky is meant to be blue???!!!!)
Lots of love to all!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Just one more sleep...!

So, here's the first of (hopefully!) many updates on our Travel Blog, charting the progress and adventures of our round the world trip : ) We'll be posting all our photos onto our Flickr account, the link to which is  which was kindly created for us by the lovely Cat!
Only one more sleep until we head off to Boston, USA. Still doesn't seem like we're really going, or that we'll be gone as long as a year, but hey ho, I'm sure we'll get used to it! Chris has packed his neat wee bag already: my stuff is still looking at me from on TOP of the bag, but hasn't quite made it INTO the bag times.
Well, I guess that'll be all for now, I'll sign off from sunny (ish) Balham, and rejoin once we're in sunny Boston...we will miss you all very much, but will be keeping in touch! Love Oggy x