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