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 😉

 

Advertisements

Tongariro Crossing – epic (fail!)

Now I got your attention, right? 😉 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 😉

_MG_5467.CR2

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… 😉

Glow worms and Maori

On our way to the cultural stay in Mourea, we stopped at Waitomo for the famous glow worm caves. Most of the others went for the adrenaline version with abseiling and rafting and such – but if you’ve been following me for a while, you know how I feel about pitch-dark and tight places 😉 That’s why I went for the “senior” option with Spellbound, where we went into a glow worm cave on a private farm, first walking and then on a small rubber raft. After that we also got to see a limestone cave with stalactites and stalagmites, which was very interesting.

If you ever get to see glow worms, I learned this trick: If you make a loud noise (i.e. hitting the rubber raft with your flat hand), they will light up more – I forgot why though 😉 It’s an amazing experience seeing a cave full of those tiny beetles 🙂 I would like to show you some pictures… and I did bring my camera. But it had been switched on for a while in my bag and the battery was completely flat. Note to self: Always check battery the night before you go somewhere that you might want to take pictures 😉 It was pretty amusing though watching the others fiddle around with their camera settings… especially after the guide had told them to set the ISO very low 😛

After Waitomo, we headed towards Rotorua and met our guide and host for the night, Piwi. He showed us some nice waterfalls and then took us to the marae of is tribe, where we were to get dinner, learn some Maori dance and sleep in the actual marae – all 43 of us 🙂

We were welcomed by his sister and then exchanged “hongi” with everyone, the traditional greeting where you press your nose against that of your counterpart and say “Kia Ora”. That certainly led to a more relaxed atmosphere in the group and a lot of laughter 😉 After that, we girls were asked to go to the kitchen while the boys should prepare the mattresses and pillows for the night.

Dinner was a lot, very good and really tasty, I think everyone enjoyed it even more because it was cooked for us 😉 Then we got a cultural performance with songs and dancing by Piwi’s family and after that it was against the boys who had to leave. They were learning the Haka and we were learning the Poi – which meant twirling a ball on a string while performing certain movements and steps. I never thought that it could be so difficult to catch a ball on a string in one hand 😉
It was a lot of fun though and we got to perform it for the boys, then they did the Haka for us. They looked pretty fierce! (Again, there are no pics due to flat battery. I got a few from someone on the bus, but as they are not mine, I will not post them).

When we were done dancing, it was closing in on bedtime and we all got to snuggle up on our mattresses in our sleeping bags while Piwi took over the storytelling. Some gruesome stories he had there, but it was again a lot of fun 🙂
And if nobody out of 43 snores, that’s a guarantee for a good night’s sleep 😀

In the morning, we did get cereal and French toast for breakfast, again cooked by Piwi and his family, before we had to leave for Rotorua.

The Far North

So here I was, in Paihia, where my dorm was actually empty for the first night – oh the luxury! 🙂 Getting up early for the day trip to Cape Reinga the first challenge was to get out of the glass doors of the hostel building. I met a German woman already standing there and together we got the courage to push the emergency exit button – which, as it turned out, was the exact way to go 😉

The bus picked me up where it should and immediately we were told that there’d be no sandboarding today – with no reason other than “it might not be for a few months” and “you can get off now, but probably won’t get a refund”. Surprisingly, nobody got out… We had a walk in a Kauri forest in Manginangina, a stop for coffee and then went on to 90 mile beach. It’s not actually 90 miles long, but still a pretty long stretch of beach that is classified as a road with a speed limit of 100 km/h! Speeding along that in a bus was really cool 😀 We also could stretch our legs for a bit there, the water was pretty cold though!

_MG_4948.CR2

From there, our next stop was the beach in Tapotupotu Bay for our lunchbreak 🙂 More scenic lunch views should be pretty hard to find 😉

_MG_4953.CR2

Then it was back up the hill and on to the actual Cape Reinga and the lighthouse there. All day we had seen a lot of motorbikes on the roads and it seemed they all went to Cape Reinga. Maybe it is a ritual to open the season? Some even went all the way down on the bikes, not too sure if that was actually legal 😉 The walk down to the lighthouse was very nice and the weather absolutely perfect! If you look closely, you can see the collision of the Tasman Sea with the Pacific 😉

_MG_4989.CR2

After that it was more or less straight back to Paihia with a stop for Fish & Chips. I didn’t eat there, my mind had been on a nice curry for a while. And sure enough the recommendation from the hostel receptionist was so good that I had curry two days in a row 😉

On the next day, I went for a walk around the town and then to Waitangi for the Treaty Grounds. That morning, two cruise ships had arrived into Paihia and the population kind of multiplied, they even had traffic wardens 😉 Waitangi was very interesting, the place where the British made a treaty with the Maori in 1840, signifying the birth of New Zealand. Due to mistranslations (told you, we have an important job!) and misinterpretation, the Maori have been disowned their lands and to this day are still fighting for justice. It was in this context that the Queen signed a law in public for the first time and the Crown officially apologised to the Maori in 1998!

_MG_5024.CR2

After that, I met up with Tabea again and we took the ferry over to the little town of Russell, formerly also known as the Hellhole of the Pacific 😉 Not really hell anymore nowadays, very small and with good views over towards Paihia 🙂 A good place to end the day! And we met a cute little dachshund named (of course!) Sausage 😉

_MG_5068.CR2

The next day I was supposed to catch the Stray bus at 2 from the Maritime Building – only that it never showed up… in the end they booked me on the next Intercity bus and I got to Auckland in style, but about 2.5 hours later than expected. Just as well I only wanted to sleep and had to get up early for the bus the next day – my single room in the YMCA unfortunately reminded me of a prison cell 😉

12336286_10153864048247590_2042217739_n 12325307_10153864048492590_1271199172_n

Relax and rewind

Finally I have arrived in a place and a hostel where I feel I can relax. Even though it will be one full day again with a day trip to Cape Reinga and back – another almost 12 hours on the bus… but after that I have all of Sunday and half of Monday to myself. Yay! 🙂

Where I am? In the Bay of Islands, in Paihia to be precise and in the Haka Lodge – which has an amazing view over the bay from the lounge and kitchen and facilities that feel more like a hotel than a normal hostel. There are actual shower cubicles with glass doors and water pressure! The bedrooms have 4 dorm beds out of wood that give the feeling of berths on a ship, very cosy and from the looks of it very comfy as well 🙂

The weather looks absolutely glorious and there is a lot of things to do here (as everywhere in NZ). We’ll see what I can bring myself to do, it might be beach time and some walks or a ferry trip 🙂

It feels like it is time to think about the walkabout so far. After the first really bad experience with workaway, everything else went super smoothly and I met amazing people throughout my big Sweden trip! Old friends, new friends, a lot of new viewpoints and the feeling that I am enough as I am and that there’s no need to pretend certain things.

On the Stray bus, I struggled in the beginning to be honest. People so much younger than me, with very different ideas about their trip and the forced proximity of dorms – all of that was more difficult than I expected it and for a few days I had serious doubts if I really made the right decision. I need my alone times, more than usual now when there’s so much to take in and handle, and I felt I didn’t get enough. :/

The first hop-off in Abel Tasman actually helped a lot – being free from activities and schedules, having a day or even two to do whatever I like, that was what I wanted on this trip. And at the same time, I found myself more open towards the new people and in the following days, I met really good people again. 🙂

The Deep South was a bit of a challenge with the places we stayed at, but because the group was really fun, it wasn’t bugging me too much. Nevertheless, I was very sure I wanted to have the stop in Queenstown, away from any hostels and parties – and it did me the world of good! Again, it was down to the people I met and to the fact that I was able to do whatever I wanted. 🙂

Now I am really looking forward to the “remainder” of my time here! There will probably be some hiccups again, but I have pre-booked all my accommodation for the longer hop-offs and am quite hopeful there are some more gems like this one 🙂 With that in mind, I think I can handle nights in places that are maybe not my standard 😉

Will I do the Tongariro Crossing? A very good question that I cannot answer right now. I have 3 nights planned for the National Park so that I have another chance if the weather is not good on the first day. At the same time, it is quite a challenge and I have two issues that might win: I twisted my ankle in Abel Tasman and even though it was a while ago, it still isn’t happy with me. The other issue are my hiking shoes which are actually a bit too small – ok for smaller to mid-length walks if I can rest my feet after. But do I want to do almost 20 km in them? It’ll probably be a spontaneous decision – stay tuned 😉 In any case I now have a good sun protection hat – see FB 😛

Paradise! a.k.a Abel Tasman National Park :)

Abel Tasman must be one of the most beautiful places on this planet! Of course I was super lucky with the weather (once again) and it was sunny all the days I had here. There were clouds the night we got here, but those had vanished the next morning.

The hostel: The Barn it is called and it’s not really “just” a hostel! The dorms are rooms in some sort of cabin style around a courtyard that doubles as meeting area and laundry drying spot. No bunkbeds, single beds and feather duvets! Very nice! They also have smaller cabins with double rooms and lots of spaces for camper vans and such. A lot of showers and toilets in different places, no mobile reception, but a wifi hotspot and a huge outdoor kitchen with an equally huge fireplace. A really really good place to hop off the bus 😉

I already told you about the water taxi and the walk on the first day, which I really enjoyed. On the second day, the others left and I had the room to myself until the evening, when the next bus was due. The idea was to sleep long and take it easy. However, the German guy who does the cleaning here walked in on me at around 9 and I decided it might be a good idea to get up 😉 Put my laundry on (without detergent because I forgot to buy it and didn’t want to go back again), had a nice breakfast in the sunshine and then just chilled in one of the comfy chairs.

After that, I walked down to the aqua taxi place and booked a tour again, different direction this time. Changing into my bikini and hiking shoes, packing my towel and some stuff, I set off into the Park again to hang out on the beach. Wasn’t too sure which one, but had missed one the day before and wanted to check it out. And what a nice beach it was! Well worth the walk through the forest downhill 🙂

Friday was my next boat ride and walk day, this time they dropped me off at Torrent Bay and I was supposed to walk to Bark Bay from there via the Falls River swing bridge 🙂 Another beautiful day, the walk was fantastic and the swing bridge quite something – a bit more wobbly than I thought and it showed in the pictures too 😉

Then there was a sign for a beach that I had seen from above and I decided to go there. The sign had a hiking symbol on it… So it was quite a climb down and back up, but I did it, even if it was on hands and knees sometimes 😉 After all of this it was only about one kilometre to the Bay where I was to be picked up – some two hours later. Suddenly my right ankle did its weird thing again and I was on hands and one knee – painful this time. I hobbled down to the beach and decided not to move until the aqua taxi came 😉

That worked quite ok, but a nap did not – there were too many of those tiny little sandflies trying to eat me alive. They are not dangerous, just a little annoying and will give you lots of red dots that itch. Nevertheless, I survived that (a little sunburnt maybe from not moving too much) and really enjoyed the fast boat ride home 😀

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong – and still it will work out ;)

Today was my travel day from Auckland to Christchurch, which sounded pretty simple and easy. Get up early to finish packing, catch the bus into the city centre and the Airbus from there, board a plane, land and call Charlotte to be picked up – simples!

The first part worked out ok, but then… First of all, one hiccup from yesterday: I bought a Vodafone SIM card from the tourist office to be able to a) surf when I’m on the bus and b) call Charlotte today. After putting it in my phone, I realised pretty soon that the surf speed was reeeeaaaallllly slow. All my phone told me that 3G didn’t work (even though it had done that fine with the Swedish SIM before). The friendly nerd in the nearest Vodafone store knew the problem and changed a few settings somewhere I’d never seen before and ta-daah! It was fast 🙂

So today I got to the airport alright and after a rather lengthy search for my confirmation number from Air New Zealand, was able to use the automatic check-in – because I did not see a counter where a person could have done that with my name. One boarding pass and bag tag later, my backpack went onto the belt and I to the gate. An hour before the scheduled boarding time. So far, so good.

Then I received a text message telling me we had 25 minutes delay. A second text message a little later said it was only 20 minutes. When we were finally done boarding, it was more like 35 minutes… 😉

The flight itself was quite nice until we started our descent into Christchurch and had to go through the clouds. It got really bumpy, I even held on to the seat in front of me at some point – and the 10 Unaccompanied Minors (for those not speaking airliner: children travelling without parents in the care of the airline) in the back were screaming and screeching. We did touch down very smoothly though 🙂

Upon restarting my phone, I saw I had gotten a voicemail while we were on the way, so I called the number the text told me to call – only to hear: You do not have enough credit to do so. Ermm? So instead, I tried calling the number I had from Charlotte – as she was the only person on this planet to even know said number and we were 35 minutes late, it was quite obvious it must have been her. What did I hear then? The number you are trying to call is invalid or not available.

At this point, I started to doubt my abilities to use a phone… 😉 Found my backpack on the belt and then double-checked the number Charlotte had emailed me – it was the same I was trying to call, so I tried again, in different variations: country code and no 0, then just a 0, nothing helped. I had to listen to the voicemail, maybe she had given a different number there.

Thankfully, there was a Vodafone counter in the arrivals hall and the friendly guy there explained that I would have to top up before I could listen to my voicemail – but the top up would have to be 20$. Did I have a choice? No, so he did it for me and I went to a quiet corner to finally listen to my message. Could I? You guessed it: NO! Because first I needed to set up said voicemail with a password and greeting and whatnot. Cancelling in the middle of it btw doesn’t work – it makes you do it all over again until it says you are finished…

Many many curses and minutes later I finally heard Charlotte’s voice, asking me to ring her when I landed – on the number I had tried before. Another trip to the counter with the friendly guy who then explained to me that I had to add an area code in front of my number. Grrr! That did the trick and we finally arranged to meet in the pickup area of the airport about 10 minutes later.

Said pickup area is not signposted… and if you come out the wrong door, it will also not be visible for you. Another friendly guy then pointed me in the right direction and I positioned myself there – at this point realising that I had no idea what car I was looking for (should’ve asked…) or if I would recognise Charlotte at all. We met for a very lovely dinner at her house one evening when I was last in NZ about 8 years ago…

Long story short: It worked fine, I recognised her immediately and we spent a very enjoyable rest of the day together. The next two days are already planned and I might even come back here in December after finishing my tour. Could do full circle – come to Christchurch, fly to Auckland from here to stay with my other nice hostess and then fly on. We’ll see!

Those of you who were with me back then or have met Charlotte on other occasions (Britta!): She says hi to all of you and has promised to pose for some pictures 😉

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by Vodafone 😛