Australia

Yes, in case you had been wondering – I did make it to Australia in one piece and with no hiccups 😉 First stop were three days in Sydney, made easy by a very conveniently located Airbnb (2 stops from the airport and 25 minutes to the city centre).

The weather was quite ok, apart from the cloud cover on the first and the big storm on the second day that was actually a small tornado in some different suburb to the parts I was in. The last day was just glorious, sunshine and no clouds, but also not too hot – perfect! First day I spent just walking around without a plan, second day was good for the hop on, hop off bus and on the third day I went on the free walking tour. That was really good and interesting, I strongly recommend it if you go to Sydney 🙂 Should have done that on the first day maybe 😉

Sydney really appealed to me, even though I can’t say what exactly it was: Being a harbour city, having such good weather, being very relaxed, all the good looking people… Didn’t see half as much as I would have wanted despite being out all the time, seems I have to come back some time for longer 😉

Unfortunately, it didn’t end so well… I’m guessing my fish and chips lunch was a bit dodgy on the last day, so I didn’t sleep very much that night. With a flight at 9 a.m, that wasn’t the best that could happen and it didn’t really get better either. So when I got to Melbourne and stepped off the plane, I felt the heat hit me like a sledgehammer! From 21 in Sydney to something like 32 in Melbourne was a pretty steep temperature climb. Feeling somewhat wobbly, I opted for a taxi to take me straight to the Airbnb instead of traveling on the bus through the city centre.

Thankfully, my hostess was making up my room already when I showed up and I could go lie down very soon. That’s how I spent my first day… 😦 The second day I was in the city early to meet up with a girl from the Stray bus, Ilse, to do the Melbourne version of the free walking tour 🙂 Sure enough we started out, but as it was the hottest day of the year (reaching up to 43 degrees!), we spoke to our guide at the half-time break and left the tour. After that, I wandered around a bit and found the free tram, so I took a ride in that and then went back “home”.

Third day I left the house later as the forecast said there’d be a drop in temperatures in the afternoon. And thankfully, that was true – 20 degrees and rain never felt so good 😉 I explored the CBD a bit more and bought some more things and then went back in the late afternoon to end the Sunday lazy 😉

My last day was sunny and in the 20s temperature-wise, I used it wisely for some last minute Christmas shopping and people watching. There are so many different types of people here, it is amazing! Ended up with not a single pic of Melbourne – but you can see Sydney on flickr 🙂

After those few days, if I compare Sydney with Melbourne, Sydney is the sophisticated, chic big sister, whereas Melbourne is the crazy, wild younger one 😉 Melbourne, when I come back to Australia, we’ll start over and I will do you more justice, promise 😉

 

Been a while, sorry – was looking for the Preciousssss ;)

Yes, I know… I spoilt you with my frequent updates and then I disappeared 😉 But rest assured, there’s no part of my journey that you will miss out on!

Right now I am sitting in my AirBnb in Wellington, trying to catch up with life and such things. My photos are being uploaded to Flickr while I write this, so feel free to have a peek in there – there were only about 300 to be edited, not all of them made it there though 😉 My Stray journey ended last Saturday with a party at the hostel in Wellington.

It has been a great trip, I enjoyed it a lot and had some of the best drivers out there I think! A few more days here, then I’ll take the ferry and train back to Charlotte’s in Christchurch and from there to Australia via Auckland. There’s less than 3 weeks left on this epic journey now, can you believe it??

Here in Wellington I haven’t really been up to much. The place I am staying at is up up on a hill and the bus takes about 30 minutes to the city centre. It also costs money, so I try go there only every second day, being lazy in my room in between 😉 Hopefully I can do my Christmas shopping here, don’t get excited back home: It’ll have to be very small and light things for you!

I did, however, do the tour of the Weta Cave (for you non-nerds: the place where a lot of the props and creatures and things for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were made) and absolutely loved it! Of course I knew that was not the only thing they worked on, but it was amazing to see how many movies they were involved in! The shuttle I had booked took me out to Miramar, the peninsula that is the centre of New Zealand film-making and dropped me right at the door of the Weta Cave. Here we got to the chance to look around (see the pics!!!) and shop a bit (yes!) before we saw a 25 minute documentary about Weta.

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After that, our guide met us outside and took us inside the place where the magic happens. The guides all work there in different departments, so it is a real insider’s view you get! 🙂 We heard how the design process works for pretty much everything, from weapons to armour to everything someone might want in a movie or on private commission. We also got to watch a woman who was putting hair (real hair!) on a statue of a soldier, a new version of the one that is in the Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa right now. Next to her, another woman was painting the cutest things I have seen in a while: a private commission for guinea pigs in LOTR character! Guinea pig Gandalf with a long beard etc… Photography is of course forbidden on the tour, so you just have to imagine them 😉

Speaking of Te Papa: That’s the National museum here in Wellington and an absolute must-do in my opinion! On my way up to Auckland I already went there to see said Gallipoli exhibition. It follows the movements of the New Zealand soldiers in WW I in a very interactive and touching way – Weta has been involved in shaping the whole exhibition. My personal highlights were the statues! I think there are about 5 different ones, each placed in a round dark space, telling their story. They are 2.5 times as big as humans, but every single detail is so real that you think you can hear the blood drip from the wounds… If you have the chance, go see it!!!

The pictures unfortunately don’t do them any justice, silly phone camera…

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The travel episodes that are still missing will be posted one after the other, I just need to write them up 😉

Queenstown if you’re not a party person ;)

Queenstown – party and adventure capital of New Zealand, or so they say. So why on earth did I want to stay here for 4 nights? Because a) I didn’t want to stay in a hostel and b) I wanted a break from the bus. So I had a look around AirBnb one night and found a very cosy looking place a little out of town with a very good price. And getting accepted within 3 minutes after requesting my dates, I thought that was a very good sign.

It was, my hostess Sarah was keeping in touch and even made sure that I got picked up by their housemate Charlie in the car when I stepped off the bus. Looking at the map, I thought, ah, it’s not far, I can walk that. What I hadn’t thought about was the fact that Queenstown is very much built on hills (and steep ones!) around the centre. So it was very good to be driven up there, as I noticed the next days – even walking up there with only my camera and some money was quite a challenge 😉

My room featured a big bed (with electric blankets! the joy after Gunns Camp!) and a built-in closet, meaning I could unpack my whole backpack for the first time in quite a while 🙂 I also had my own shower which I enjoyed immensely!

Talking to Charlie for a while in the living room, I was soon fixed for my 3 days of activities 🙂 Very good to have a local to talk to who knows what’s good and worth it and if he has a mate that does winery tours, even better 😉

So Sunday I went to the Gondola to get a view from the hill in glorious sunshine and some late breakfast/lunch. Then I went for a bit of a wander around the centre and discovered Chocolates Patagonia – the best ice cream I have had since Buenos Aires! (Now I found out that the owners are in fact from Argentina…) Dulce de Leche and Dark Chocolate Macadamia – a portion that was almost to big for me, and you know I love my ice cream!!! 🙂 Sitting on the grass, enjoying my treat, I got a text from Sarah inviting me to join them for a BBQ later. And that’s what I did, meeting some of their friends, having a good time 🙂

Monday was the day to call about the wine tour and I got a space! Before that, I wanted to get a good base and went for breakfast in one of the cafes. They had pancakes on the menu, but when I ordered them, she asked if I didn’t rather want the special – chocolate chip pancakes with fried banana. Of course I did and I couldn’t finish it 😉

Charlie’s mate Lance was driving us out to Gibbston Valley and we got to taste in 4 different wineries 🙂 Gibbston Valley was our starting point (and also the starting point of wines in this valley, thanks to a stubborn Irishman), then it was Mt Rosa (I loved that because it was a little different and rough), Kinross (where they sell the wine for smaller wineries who don’t have their own cellar door) and Amisfield (again one of the bigger ones) 🙂 . The specialty in Marlborough is Sauvignon Blanc, but the best wines down here are the Pinot Noirs! Unfortunately they are hard to find back home and sending some over was also a little bit too pricey…

There’s at least one more winemaking area on my schedule and then they have Yarra Valley outside of Melbourne… 😉 I actually met a couple from Melbourne on the tour and they gave me a lot of tips for what to do there and in Sydney!

After the wine I needed some food, so it was Devil Burger – see first Queenstown post for the review 😉 Unfortunately, it didn’t make the walk uphill easier to have a big burger just before 😛

Tuesday finally I started late and went for the empanadas I had seen before. It wasn’t the same thing as in Buenos Aires, but I had a very nice one with blue cheese and walnuts 🙂 It didn’t really suffice though, so it was a pie from the Fergbakery – which, in comparison to the burger, is a real food gem!

After all the food it was time to board the TSS Earnslaw, a steam ship operating on Lake Wakatipu, in former times bringing supplies and even sheep to remote stations – nowadays shepherding tourists to a station and bringing them back 😉 It was very interesting to look at the engine room and of course it also meant that it was nicely warm inside 😉 It had snowed on the mountains over night and there was a strong wind blowing outside.

After my boat, it was another ice cream at Patagonia and a coffee, very good choice. Thankfully, they are only around Queenstown and not all over the country – otherwise you’d have to roll me home I think 😉

Back at my room I finished up my pre-bookings for the rest of the trip, finding some quite nice-looking hostels and one which has you sleep in old train carriages 🙂 My hosts were watching tv next door and I decided to join them for a bit. I will never watch The Apprentice with the same eyes again 😉

Starting 2 months in New Zealand :)

Auckland now, next stop Christchurch and then off on my bus tour on Sunday 🙂 Used today to organise some things and finally have a print-out of my itinerary now to make notes on and think about where to maybe hop off the bus for a day or so. If I do as I planned now, I will still have about 2 weeks left to maybe go to the South Pacific 😉

My AirBnb here is absolutely beautiful, you can see a few pics on flickr! My hostess is really nice and I am thinking of booking with her again before I leave NZ in December. It’s a calm place and would be good to collect myself and my memories before Australia. She even did my laundry and left it outside my room when it was dry! Funny that I only ended up here because it’s right by Coxs Bay 😉 Which is a very nice little bay and neighbours the most expensive houses in all of New Zealand 🙂

Auckland itself is not exactly exciting, I spent about 3 hours in the city centre today and think I saw most of it 😉 Of course I’d like to take the ferry to Devonport or so, but that will have to wait for the next time I’m here.

However, it is veeeeeery hilly here and I have been doing a lot of walking yesterday and today, if this continues, I will have crazy muscly legs at the end 😛 Still I couldn’t cycle up those steep hills like the locals, that’s quite impressive! The weather is again really nice to me and my hostess said it had been quite bad until I got here. So fingers crossed my luck will continue! 🙂

A few important things for you following me: I will try to write blog posts about my adventures as usual, but probably not be able to upload high-quality pics to Flickr as I do now. Some of the accommodation on the tour don’t even have mobile reception, never mind WiFi… and even if there’s WiFi, I have my doubts that it will be enough for a whole bus of people to surf at a good speed 😉

My mobile internet will be ok for Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, so please follow either my FB page if you don’t do that already or my Instagram (which will automatically publish on said FB page 😉 ). And if you want to get hold of me, I recommend a message on Facebook 🙂

Hong Kong with Big Bus – day 2

After the first day being such a full day, there wasn’t too much left of my Big Bus package, so I could take it easy. First stop was the Harbour Tour with Star Ferry, starting just after midday. Unfortunately, there was a typhoon warning stage 3 in place so it was quite windy and the water rather choppy… But I thought those ferries have been going since 1880, if they think it’s fine, we’ll be ok 😉

And actually, once we were out in the harbour, it was way less wobbly and choppy than I thought, quite nice in fact. The sun was out, there were dramatic clouds on the horizon and the photo opportunities were plentiful 🙂 We went from the Central Pier to Kowloon Bay and then turned to stop at the Kowloon side before we returned the other way.

Star Ferry

That tour had made me hungry and I decided to try that fish and chips place I had seen before. What I had not seen was that they were in fact from New Zealand and were selling craft beers such as Früh Kölsch – really?!? The food was delicious though and so was the freshly made lemonade! Perfect to start part two of the day by hopping on the Star Ferry again and tackle Kowloon 🙂

My plan was to walk along the Avenue of Stars (the Asian Walk of Fame), get a photo of the Bruce Lee statue there and then hop on the bus for the Blue route. It worked quite well for the first part, but then it started raining… It was just about ok to have the camera out for Bruce Lee (the picture does have a few raindrops on the lens…), but then it turned into proper heavy rain. All the people hid wherever they could until it at least eased off.

Bruce Lee

I made it to the bus stop quite ok and luckily the bus arrived pretty soon. It then stayed at the stop for about half an hour to catch up the schedule, but I didn’t care, inside was much better than outside at this point 😉

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Unfortunately, the rain meant that I couldn’t really get good pictures through the windows, so it was more taking in Kowloon than catching it. I must say it felt much more Chinese than Hong Kong Island!

Kowloon

Then it was back once again on the Star Ferry and towards Central. After all this talk about shopping, I had to look at at least one mall, seeing that the Ifc one was on my way anyway, I went for a browse 🙂

People here LOVE designers and exclusive brands! Of course most of the women are slim enough to wear those clothes and probably recognise them on others – whereas I could be hit in the face by a Gucci dress and wouldn’t know 😛 So yes, it was lots of designer shops and lots of jewellery. My first time ever looking at a Tiffany’s display – with shiny and glittery keys and no price tags 😉

There was also a supermarket where you could get everything you could ask for, fresh goods as well as imported food from all over the world. German dried berries with original German labels as well as all sorts of British favourites 😉 I just stocked up for tonight and tomorrow and then wanted to go outside. Wanted – because the rain had started again, diagonally and in huge amounts 😉

So instead I took the MTR home, edited my pictures, talked to my hostess and generally took it easy 😉

One thing that is bugging me though: As I mentioned, she has a very cute dog. But it seems he never gets to go out and is alone a lot 😦 There’s a pee and poo pad in the bathroom that he uses and she cleans it up whenever she is home. And with this storm raging outside now, he was alone in the dark living room while she’s out partying. He was very scared and I tried to calm him with cuddles, not sure it worked 😦 Haven’t seen her much in those days and therefore I don’t think I should raise the issue – but I do feel sorry for him. A beagle should be out and about, sniffing and being a dog! Maybe this is custom here though?

Ninyo

Hong Kong – getting here and around

After 3 full days in Hong Kong I got a very good impression of this city I think. For not arriving with any plan and being slightly worried on the way here, it worked out pretty ok!

Getting in, I followed the instructions of my airbnb host, which were get the Airport Express to Central and then a taxi to my house. Airport Express no problem, finding a taxi also no problem – showing the driver the full address in English? Empty look… :O Thankfully, she had foreseen that and also sent me the Chinese version. That worked and he took me there.

It’s an apartment on the 45th floor of a huge new block, only that due to Chinese superstition about numbers, some floors don’t exist. There’s for example no 44 because the number 4 is deemed unlucky… So actually it’s something like the 37th floor – but that’s still higher than I’ve ever lived (call me ground floor girl 😉 ).

Got here just in time to meet my host before she was going out, as the next day was a public holiday with National Day. Also met her beagle who was all over me straight away – dogs really like me it seems 😉 After getting into my room and unpacking, pretty soon it was lights out and bed.

11 hours sleep later I was ready to tackle the city. Took the MTR (metro) to Central and just got out, without a plan of what to do or where to go. Following my feet I finally ended up at the Peak Tram Lower Terminus and decided I might as well queue and go up there to get some nice pics. Said queue took about an hour waiting on both sides of the street, but when I came there the next day it was much longer…

The Peak Tram has been around since 1888, taking passengers up and down the Peak. You get some pretty nice views while going up if seated on the right side (I wasn’t) and by a window. Especially the optical illusion of the skyscrapers being tilted to impossible angles is quite fun 🙂 At the top you arrive in the recently renovated Peak Tower and work your way by escalator through various floors of shops and restaurants before coming to the Sky Terrace 428. The access can be included in the ticket and gives you a 360 degree view from the highest point as well as an audio guide.

The weather could have been better, but I did get some nice pictures of the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island as well as on Kowloon. Most of the restaurants in the Tower were either way too expensive or too full, so I walked out to the Plaza and decided to explore the shopping mall on the other side. Main attraction there: Pacman! Now imagine walking around with the Pacman melody all over the place… you’re welcome 😉

pacman! pacman's friend

The mall also had a terrace with nice views, but of course lower down than the Tower and some places were obstructed by ongoing building works. That was the first of many times that I saw a specialty: bamboo scaffolding! It seems to be very effective and can be found even on the biggest skyscrapers! Of course it’s also very ecological and I think it is reused as many times as possible. For us Europeans it does look strange though… 😉

After another half hour of queuing, it was time to go down again and explore the city a bit more on foot. As it turned out, I was quite close to Admiralty where the lady at the airport from the tourist board had told me to go that night for the National Day fireworks. It was still early afternoon, but I thought I should check out the area to decide if I wanted to go there later.

Tamar Park

Tamar Park it was, full of people having picnics already, with a path that led along the water towards Central and the Piers and I followed that to take the metro back “home”. It started raining a little bit then and as I had talked to a guy from the Big Bus Tour Company earlier that day, I decided to pop into their office and see if I could buy a tour. The girl there recommended the 48 hour deluxe tour and (as that’s over now) it was the right choice! 🙂

The package contained 48 hours of hopping on and off the Big Bus routes, 3 of them in total. Red goes around Hong Kong Island, Green to Stanley and Aberdeen and the Blue one is for Kowloon. There’s also 4 tickets for the Star Ferry, a Harbour Tour on said Star Ferry, a Night Tour of Kowloon that ends in time to watch the Symphony of Lights and Music from that side (in theory), admission to the Maritime Museum, a ticket for either the Peak Tram or the Sky 100 and a Sampan ride in Aberdeen. At HK$550 it is rather pricey, but then again I managed to fill my days with it and didn’t have to spend any extra money 🙂

When I got back out to Tamar Park after a short stop to shower and change, I found a very nice spot not right at the waterfront, but still close enough to get a good angle at the fireworks. There was no pushing or too many people, it was very relaxed and I really enjoyed it 🙂 Most impressive: how well the police handled all the people leaving at the same time and how clean the park was! Asian people seem to have better discipline than Germans it seems… 😉

National Day fireworks

My tour experiences will follow in a second post 😉