Merry Christmas and a very happy 2016!

Dearest readers,

now the walkabout has come to an end for the time being! As you are reading this, I have hopefully touched down on German soil again and am on my way to catch up with some friends before I go home to mum’s and sleep off my jetlag ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m losing a whole day on this trip, somewhere in the air – starting on Tuesday afternoon and arriving on Wednesday early morning ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thank you for reading and following my adventures so far! Thank you for your comments and for sticking around even when the internet wasn’t cooperative and I disappeared for a while ๐Ÿ™‚ There will be more, promise, but for now I will takeย a (hopefully!) well-deserved break and relax for a while, at least when it comes to the blog. On the fb page or Instagram, you might see the odd update with a pic ๐Ÿ™‚

My last host had the two most adorable dachshunds, so thanks to the internet for the picture. I couldn’t find out who to credit for it, please forgive me! If it’s your picture, I’ll gladly add the credits, just let me know!

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a great start into the new year! May you have a great time and may your wishes come true! Sometimes they just take a little longer… ย ๐Ÿ˜‰

We will catch up, in person when we have the chance, and there’s plenty more news in 2016 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Australia

Yes, in case you had been wondering – I did make it to Australia in one piece and with no hiccups ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ Should have done that on the first day maybe ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 –ย but you can see Sydney on flickr ๐Ÿ™‚

After those few days, ifย I compare Sydney with Melbourne, Sydney is the sophisticated, chicย big sister, whereas Melbourne is the crazy, wild younger one ๐Ÿ˜‰ Melbourne, when I come back to Australia, we’ll start over and I will do you more justice, promise ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Tongariro Crossing – epic (fail!)

Now I got your attention, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰ The Tongariro Crossing is one of the must-dos in New Zealand and you may remember that I wasn’t really sure if I actually wanted to do it. After a few days with the same group and also learning that all the equipment can be borrowed from the operator in National Park, I was getting all stoked up and ready for it.

You’ll also remember that the weather on the afternoon in Blue Duck was made for relaxing and soaking up the sun, yes? And that it was only about an hour from National Park? So all sounded like the next day would be perfect for the Tongariro – until Lego came back at about 7 that evening after calling the operators. The weather forecast was really bad for the next day and they wouldn’t be doing the Tongariro in those conditions…

The only positive about that was the fact that we had a lot more food than expected and also didn’t have as early the next morning… And sure enough, when we got up, it was grey and raining and really not a nice day. We made our way back to National Park in this miserable weather, but of course it was too early to check into the hostel – especially as the other group had just left a few hours before.

So we went to the cafe for a little while and then Lego took us to Whakapapa (“wha” in Maori is pronounced “fa”, I leave it to you to figure out why that is a funny name…). There we could take a walk of about 2 hours which would take us to the Taranaki Falls or Gollum’s Pool. I set off with a few others, but somehow my stomach was not very happy and it was getting harder and harder to keep going. In the end, I did make it about halfway there and then turned back… to spend the rest of the time at the iSite and not in the cafe as I had left my money on the bus ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Lego picked us up and we went to the hostel which we pretty much didn’t leave again until the next morning because the weather just got more and more miserable. They have good forecasts there it seems… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

Yes, I know… I spoilt you with my frequent updates and then I disappeared ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ My Stray journey ended lastย 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 movementsย 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

A lot of fun – and long bus rides

Leaving Mt Cook, I got on the bus with Lantern, my fave driver so far! Back in the Loveshack we went to Lake Tekapo for the famous church and then on to Geraldine and Rangitata for the Peel Forest Horsetrekking and the rafting. Guess what I chose? Exactly, the horses! Once again I was the only one, but Freya, the German girl leading the trek and me had a great time ๐Ÿ™‚ We went through forest, water, fields and more forest for about 2 hours in perfect sunshine!

When I got dropped off at the accommodation afterwards, it was the first time I saw triple dorm beds! Those were high, but thankfully no one had to actually sleep in the top bunks ๐Ÿ™‚ When the rafters came back, they got their BBQ and afterwards we could get ours too, my first steak in NZ and it was all so good – might be because we were really hungry at that point ๐Ÿ˜‰ After that, we went inside where a fire was warming us up and we had a rather drunk, but very fun game of Monopoly ๐Ÿ˜‰ It got cut short though because we were getting up really early the next day – the Rugby World Cup final was on at 5 a.m. between the All Blacks and the Wallabies (for non-rugby speakers: between New Zealand and Australia).

So we did get up just in time for the haka and the game, which was really tight for a long time, but the All Blacks did it in the end ๐Ÿ™‚ Breakfast was during the game as we were leaving right after it to make it to Christchurch in time for the pick-ups and drop-offs. The bus has never been so quiet as on that particular trip ๐Ÿ˜‰ In Christchurch we said goodbye and hello and then we were off to Kaikoura. This was the bit of my trip that was a bit unplanned – as I had done that stretch already, I could not be confirmed as a passenger and had to hope for a space on the bus. Thankfully, there were plenty!

Kaikoura was therefore a quiet one, we got fish and chips at what is to be the best place in all of NZ (it was very good!) and took these up to a viewpoint before going to the seal colony. They are just too cute and silly, in my next life I want to be a seal ๐Ÿ™‚ You get a fur, nobody calls you fat and all you have to do is look cute and move funny ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย In the evening, we just sat out on the grass, having a great time!

From Kaikoura it was off to Picton for the ferry – only 4 of us and Lantern were actually taking it, the others were just starting their South Island trip. It was a very sunny, but also extremely windy day – the ferry moved A LOT! So much that the horizon line was no longer visible in the window at times… I got through it quite well though, though I hope it will be a bit calmer on the way back in December ๐Ÿ˜‰

After the ferry it was off to the hostel and goodbye to the others, only Tabea, a German girl, and me were staying in the same hostel and for 3 nights – the others were off the next morning. We got into an all German-speaking 6-bed-dorm and got to relax a bit, very useful to have Domino’s pizza and the supermarket just around the corner ๐Ÿ™‚

One day we took the cable car up the hill and walked back down through the Botanic Gardens, then around the city and finally back to the hostel – 13 km that day! The day after Tabea wanted to do Te Papa – which needs at least one full day because there is so much to see in that museum. I stayed in the hostel, catching up with my pictures (which aren’t up on flickr yet due to bad internet) and relaxing.

We met up for coffee at Te Papa in the afternoon and I wanted to make a start on it at least, so I went to see the special exhibition about the Anzac (Australia and New Zealand) troops at Gallipoli. Having just seen the TV series Anzac girls on Netflix while I was in Queenstown, I had a vague idea about the events. But the exhibition really made everything come to life, using huge statues of people to make them tell their personal story and a lot of interactive material. It said that Weta Workshop had been involved in making this and it was visible everywhere – the details on the statues were incredible, the wounded soldier was so realistic that I expected the blood to drop from his knee wound… It was a very good example of what war means and why we should never let it happen again! Lest we forget!

Today, we spent about 10 hours in the bus, going all the way from Wellington to Auckland. At least we stopped at National Park and saw the snow-capped Mt Doom ๐Ÿ˜‰ My hostel is on the steepest street in all of Auckland (I thought the driver was joking…) and of course I came the wrong way, so I did walk UP said street, with all my luggage. Had to take some breaks and was quite short of breath once I reached reception, but at least I got a nice room – and by the looks of it I’m alone in it for tonight ๐Ÿ™‚ A female 2-bed-dorm for the same price that the 6-bed somewhere else would have been – happy me ๐Ÿ™‚ Tomorrow we set off early to go to the Bay of Islands – beaches!!!!

Rainforest land

Leaving Abel Tasman in beautiful sunshine, it didn’t take long for the weather to change for the worse… We were headed towards the West coast of the South Island, the first stop being Westport and after that 2 nights in Franz Josef near the glacier.

As most of this is covered by rainforest, the rain wasn’t really a surprise. But we had hoped it would stop at some point at least ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย In Westport it didn’t, which is why we mainly holed up in the tv room and next to the fireplace. There would have been a nice coastal walk with a lighthouse, but it didn’t happen in the pouring rain…

The next morning we headed towards Franz Josef, stopping first in Punakaiki for the Pancake Rocks – still with a little drizzle, but the sun came out a little later ๐Ÿ™‚ We spent a nice hour or two in the cafe there before our driver took us to Greymouth for some shopping and free time. We visited Warehouse and Countdown to stock up and then had a small lunch in a coffeehouse with free Wifi ๐Ÿ˜‰

After Greymouth, we went through a lot of weather again – sun, rain, sun, rain… Even when we arrived in Franz Josef, this persisted. While the others were in the office to sort out their glacier visits, we who stayed in the bus had rain, a rainbow and then sunshine. Check-in took a little while, but we got a nice 4-dorm and settled in. After dinner we had some drinks in the bar belonging to the hostel ๐Ÿ™‚

The next day most of the others had activities booked, heli hikes and skydives, but I wanted a lie-in and a calm day. Didn’t really want to spend so much money just to see the glacier (I don’t do cold!), rather have my eye on a 1940s style flight in Wanaka. Think Snoopy in his aviator outfit – that’ll be me hopefully ๐Ÿ˜‰

Instead of crazy stuff, I went to the local hot pools and booked a massage there ๐Ÿ™‚ As that was not for another two hours, I decided to get some nice breakfast instead of my routine muesli and yoghurt. Nice it was, pancakes with fruit and good coffee ๐Ÿ™‚

The massage was absolutely great, she did a good job and I no longer feel like my shoulders are up by my ears ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ll see how long it lasts, but it might be something to do when I have longer stops in other places!

After the massage, I had a 90 minutes pass to use the hot pools as well. Those were outdoors, under big sail-like roofs that allowed a nice view of the flora and fauna and the mountains around. Three pools, 36, 38 and 40 degrees warm and beautifully designed – I was in heaven and made good use of my time ๐Ÿ™‚

Now I’m trying to organise the next bits of my travels, staying longer in Mount Cook and what was Edoras in LOTR for starters ๐Ÿ™‚ Made a rough plan for the rest of the trip and it seems I will have a full week in Wellington after it. Any accommodation ideas there or in Rotoruaย would beย much appreciated! ๐Ÿ™‚

The trip to the South Pacific has been cancelled due to New Zealand offering so much – but it’ll wait and I get there another time ๐Ÿ˜‰ Due to the weather, the number of pictures I took so far is minimal and also not really worth showing… sorry about that!

Starting 2 months in New Zealand :)

Auckland now, next stop Christchurch and then off on my bus tour on Sunday ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ Which is a very nice little bay and neighbours the most expensive houses in all of New Zealand ๐Ÿ™‚

Auckland itself is not exactly exciting, I spent about 3 hours in the city centre today and think I saw most of it ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ˜› 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

Myย mobile internet will be ok for Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, so please follow either my FB pageย if you don’t do that already or my Instagram (which will automatically publish on said FB page ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). And if you want to get hold of me, I recommend a message on Facebook ๐Ÿ™‚