A Travellerspoint blog

Sydney Part 2

sunny 23 °C

The following day, Sam wanted to do some more C.V stuff, so the girls headed to the Rocks Market to see all the little stalls and find some quirky gifts. Tiff then went to Australia's V Festival with her friend Claire, so Nettie and E-J caught a boat to Mosman with the plan of going for a long walk around the area.

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However, having enjoyed the boat ride, they felt they needed some refreshments, so ended up going to a local boat club for a couple of glasses of wine instead. Nettie's friend Katie also joined them there, briefly. After a few drinks, Nettie and E-J attempted to do part of their original plan, but ended up walking only fifteen minutes up to the next ferry port and deciding to catch the next ferry back.

In the evening we decided to go for a drink in the bar of the Shangri La hotel, as we had heard that it had spectacular views of the Harbour from its wall to wall windows. On arriving, it was jam packed with people and the floor had that sticky feel to it, whereby your foot is lodged to the ground each time you try to move it.

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We managed to find an area by a window and after a drink and a giggle about the tackiness of the place, we headed back to the flat. It was quite a funny experience, but nothing to really shout home about.

Sunday, was Tiff and Nettie's final day of seeing Nettie's brother and family, so we headed over to Avalon and went to Palm beach for the day. By now, it was so sad to think that Nettie and Tiff were going.

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That evening Michael came back to Darling Harbour with us and we went out for a meal in Cockle Bay, which is at the end of the harbour.

Monday, was Tiff and Nettie's final day and it was sad to think they would be gone soon, having all got on so well and having had a jam, packed time of activities. After a final drink at the Opera House, at the same place we started our times in Australia, we said our good byes and they were off.

E-J was incredibly sad to see them go, so that night we had a quiet night in and discussed plans for the next few months of our travels.

Sams Comments: It was great having a couple of extra "travellers"for a few weeks. I don't know how I will cope without Nettie the tour guide organising my day!

E-J's Comments: I have loved spending time with Tiff and Mummy and we have all got on so well. I guess it's time to start thinking about getting a job and reflect back on the wonderful time as a lady of leisure and a holiday maker.

Posted by E-J 03:46 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Blue Mountains

sunny 21 °C

The 27th March was another Birthday for E-J. To celebrate, we all got up incredibly early to go to the Blue Mountains. As a special treat, E-J's parents had organised for us to all stay at the swish, luxury hotel, Lilianfels.

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On arriving there, although our rooms were not ready yet, we were immediately made to feel welcome and the place looked like a country, state home, with lots of plush, comfy furniture in the lobby area.

We decided that we would do a walk straight away, so headed to Echo's Point to get the incredible, postcard photo of the Blue Mountains.

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We were not disappointed and were also incredibly lucky with the weather, as it had said that it might rain, but something had been on our side and it was sunny. We started the walk going down the giant steps and this was more painful than we realised, but we were grateful to be going down them and not up, unlike some of the crazy, red faced people that we passed.

The walk was three hours in total and it took us all around the Blue Mountains and to the most spectacular look outs.

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What also was very lucky, was that not many people had decided to do the same route as us, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves, which made it all the more special.

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After the three hour walk, we were all pretty exhausted and thankfully retreated to our now, ready rooms. The rooms were fantastically huge and the hotel had very kindly left us a complementary bottle of sparkling wine for E-J's Brithday. Tiff then suprised E-J with a Brithday cake and we all sat around having cake, sparkling wine and watching E-J open her pressies. This was so much more than E-J had ever expected to receive on her Birthday and even more so when travelling. She felt utterly spoiled.

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Then, Sam and E-J sprung a surprise on Tiff, telling her that she had a massage at the hotel spa in ten minutes time as an early Birthday present. Then Sam turned to E-J and said that she had a massage too, at the spa as part of her birthday present and then finally Sam and E-J turned to Nettie and told her she also had a massage in half an hour. All the girls were incredibly shocked by this as none of them had realised that they were having one, yet had been aware of the secret of each others. It was only Sam who had, had the game plan and finally, could enjoy an hour or so of peace, away from the chattering women and watch some good, old sport on TV in his room, Bliss.

The women all ran off to get into the appropriate attire and had the most wonderful massages and pampering session.

After the indulgence of the afternoon, we all got ready for supper which we had organised to have in the lobby area of the hotel. As E-J was about to borrow Tiff's dress for the evening, Sam surprised E-J with a beautiful red dress he had bought her for the evening. It was perfect and a wonderful present to end on.

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The food was delicious and the waiters made an exceptional effort to make it a special night, with a complementary glass of champagne for E-J and a sparkler in her pudding! It was a fantastic evening.

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We ended the night with another bottle of sparkling wine back in E-J and Sam's room. Though after a while, both Sam and Nettie had to leave the Boutwood sister's to it, as they couldn't quite keep up with their pace!

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The next day we all had an early swim in the indoor pool, followed by an incredible breakfast of everything you can imagine. After this, we walked around the gardens of the hotel before heading to the Wentworth Falls.

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As we were all quite stiff from the exertion of the day before, we all opted for the twenty minute walk to the first look out, which was perfect.

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Appreciating the view and after much deliberation, the women finally got into the right pose for the picture...well, almost...

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Thoroughly satisfied with all we had seen, we headed back to the City and stopped at the famous fish market on route. The fish market, is a place packed with stalls of fresh and delicious fish, ranging from absolutely everything. It does tend to pong a bit, but if you can get past that, it is a wonderful experience to wander around the place.

Having bought some fresh prawns we headed back to the flat and then Nettie, Tiff and E-J went for a walk along the harbour.

Sams Comments: A vast and beautiful part of Australia which starts to show how big this country is.

E-J's Comments: The Blue Mountains have been like the icing on top of an already very special two weeks with my family. What an amazing Birthday!

Posted by E-J 21:36 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Sydney

sunny

We arrived at Sydney airport at around 5pm and had agreed to wait there until Nettie and Tiffany, E-J's Mum and Sister, arrived a few hours later from England. We were all going to be staying in E-J's Aunt and Uncle's flat in Darling Harbour, which they had very generously let us all stay in.

We killed time exploring what the airport had to offer, which wasn't much and found a bar to have a few drinks. E-J was like an over excited puppy who just couldn't sit still, driving Sam slowly mad!

Finally, two and a half hours later and after much anticipation, Nettie and Tiffany arrived through the gates and we were all reunited with a few cheerful tears.

As the three girls chattered continually without drawing breath throughout the entire journey from the airport to the City, it suddenly dawned on Sam, this was what the next two weeks were going to be like....

Once we had reached the flat and settled ourselves, we caught a taxi and had a drink in the bar under the Opera House.

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Seeing the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House brought it home to us that we really were in Sydney and we were not disappointed by either sights, as they were simply spectatular. Also, E-J hadn't realised, was just how close they were together. Seeing both pinnacle features of Sydney lit up, on a lovely warm night really started our experience in Australia on a real high.

Exhausted from the travels, we returned back to the flat after our drink. E-J decided to surprise Nettie and Tiff with her bungy video. It went down a treat as they had no idea she had done it, until they saw her jump.

The next day we were all up early and after a pleasant swim in the downstairs outdoor pool (we're telling you, this is the life), we caught a ferry to Manly, where we met Nettie's brother who lives in Australia. Nettie's brother Michael, has lived out in Sydney for the last twelve years and lives about an hour's drive from the City in Avalon. Kathy is Michael's wife and they have four children, Jessica, Georgia, Oliver and Coco.

The ferry ride to Manly was a wonderful experience as we were able to get some fantastic pictures of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Also, it gave us an opportunity to take in the sights and see the different bays around the harbour. It really is a fantastic place.

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Once we'd met Michael, we made our way over to Avalon to see the rest of the family. It was strange for E-J to meet her four cousins that she had never met before, but after some initial shyness, they were incredibly friendly and wanted to play with us.

During the day we went down to Palm Beach, which is a local beach to Michael and his family and it is also the beach where Home and Away is filmed. Tiffany, Sam and E-J took great delight in walking up to the surf shop and recognising the different areas from the filming. Although, Sam was mortified on the way back, with both sisters singing the theme tune at the top of their voices!

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After the beach, we returned to Michael's house and played around with the kids in the garden, before a lovely meal and then headed back to the flat in the City.

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The following day we all decided to do our own thing, so Sam went about looking into work stuff, E-J and Tiff went off shopping in Bondi Junction and Nettie went to see her brother again. In the evening, we went out for a lovely meal on the harbour just outside the flat, it was so special to be in such a fantastic location.

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On the Tuesday we headed into town to the QVB, which is a beautiful Victorian Building with lots of boutique shops and cafes inside.

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Sam humoured the girls as they took great delight in looking around the place. It also had a spectacular clock in the middle of it, which would play a song on the hour and the inside would light up with machnical scenery reenactments of history, which would rotate around.

Having enjoyed the ride to Manly on Saturday, we decided to spend Tuesday on the beach and Tiff's friend, Claire who lives in Sydney, joined us.

A particularly interesting observation about Sydney is the colour of it's beaches. In Manly, in the centre of Sydney, the sand is a very yellow and gold colour, yet in Palm beach, which is part of the Northern Beaches, the sand is far more reddy, giving it more of a pink colour.

After a short stint on the beach, we resorted to finding a bar and having a few drinks there. That evening, Sam and E-J met up with Dave and Liz for a quick drink and catch up. Liz use to live with E-J back in London and now lives and works in Sydney. It was lovely to see them both and they both seemed so well and happy in this more laid back lifestyle.

Wednesday, Nettie and E-J decided to do a boat ride around the harbour ending in Watson's Bay, where they sat, chattind and catching up over a cold glass of white wine. Sam and Tiff decided to explore Sydney on foot, so went to thousands of places, from the Rocks to the Military area and the Botanic Gardens and much more. In the evening a friend of Nettie's came round for drinks and then we all met Michael and Kathy in Paddington for a meal.

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On the Thursday, we collected the hire car and decided to put it to good use, by going to Bronte beach about thrity minutes away by car. It is a really beautiful, little beach and there is a walk that you can do from a beach a bit further along called Coogee, all the way to the famous Bondi beach.

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We think this is probably our favourite beach in Sydney, as it is not at all touristy and there is something really cosy and intimate about it, especially since it is not very big.

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After a few hours of sunbathing, E-J and Tiff decided to do part of the Coogee to Bondi walk along the cliffs. We got to Bondi and on first impressions, E-J didn't really think much of it. The beach itself is quite pretty, but it is so over packed with people, that there is literally only a metre between you and the next person. Also, it's as though people are on the beach because they think it's the one they should be on, rather than looking around the corner to find one a lot quieter and a lot more beautiful.

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Having stopped for a Boost juice, which is a freshly sqeezed smoothie (absolutely delicious), we made our way back and then E-J drove everyone home. That night we decided to go across the road for a cheap and cheerful wagamamas.

On Friday, Nettie went off to see Michael and the family, so Sam, E-J and Tiff amused ourselves in Sydney, wondering around Darling Harbour, The Rocks and Circular Quay.

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On Saturday we drove to Balmoral, which is another beautiful, white sandy beach.

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It has a lovely restaurant in the middle of it called Bathers. When you step into the place, it's like stepping into the 1950s. There is something very special and old fashioned about it.

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After a quick coffee we decided to do part of a walk to Chowder Bay.

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This walk was along the cliff edge and gave us the most spectacular views.

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Occassionally we would get a little freaked out when we had to pass under a massive cobweb, with a huge spider hanging from it.

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In the evening we headed into China Town and managed to have the most disgusting Chinese food.

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Also, E-J had a little tandrum at the waiter, when they didn't serve aromatic duck with pancakes. She is very embarrassed about her behaviour now.

On Sunday, we all returned to Avalon again and spent the day with Micheal and his family. We did the same as before, spending some time down at Palm Beach and then returning to the house for a few drinks and being entertained by all the children's many talents, before heading back into the City.

On Monday, Nettie headed over to Manly to spend time with Michael and his two year old Coco, Tiff went to see her friend Claire and Sam and E-J spent some time together. It was so strange after being just the two of us for so long to suddenly be surrounded by E-J's family. We decided to head to Manly and go to the beach. After a walk up and down it, discussing our plans about travel and work, we went to meet Nettie and Michael in a bar by the water front and Tiff ended up meeting us there too.

The next day, Sam wanted to work on his C.V and continue looking for a job, so E-J, Tiff and Nettie took the car off and went for a walk around Rose Bay, Watson's Bay and Double Bay.

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It was so lovely to have the opportunity to see so much with the advantage of having a hire car.

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On the Wednesday, Nettie and E-J headed to The Botanic Gardens during the Morning, while Sam and Tiff did some shopping.

The Botanic Gardens are amazing as they are right on the water's edge, but at the same time, behind them you can see the massive, City skyscrapers.

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The gardens are absolutely huge and so lush and green, with various types of trees and vegetation, along with ponds, pathways, rose gardens and sculptures throughout them.

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There is also a certain section in the middle, which has about three trees just filled with masive fruit bats hanging from the branches. Theses bats are so big and although they are suppose to be nocturnal, they make one hell of a racket throughout the day. It is almost creepy as you walk under them, with the fear that they might just drop onto you or by some freck chance, attack you!

After a morning of different chores, we headed to Bronte for a few hours to enjoy our favourite beach. In the evening, we drove to Balmoral and had a lovely meal with Michael at Bathers, the sweet little 1950s place, right on the beach.

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Sam's comments: With E-J's mum proving to be a great tour guide, my start to life in Sydney has been very enjoyable.

E-J's comments: The last two weeks have been fantastic and I feel as though I have been on holiday rather than backpacking, as we have crammed so much into the time with no expense spared! We have been utterly spoiled by the fantastic flat my aunt and uncle have let us stay in.

Posted by E-J 17:05 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Akaroa and Christchurch

semi-overcast 21 °C

By 6pm we were almost in Akaroa, however we decided to stay in another campsite about 20 minutes away in Okains Bay, which we had read good things about.

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This campsite was situated in a 5km wood right on the bay. It also had a few basic facilities, including a shower which gave you hot water for four minutes for 2 dollars.

When we got there, we found the place to be pretty much empty, so settled in for the night, in a cosy little spot which just looked out onto the bay.

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With the wind blowing straight in from the bay, we sat in the communal kitchen with a wholesome meal and a few drinks (well, actually quite a lot for E-J)! After a few glasses and feeling tired, this became a concern to Sam, as E-J ensured that anyone who was in the kitchen new of E-J, or the women who talked "like Princess Diana", as one Lady put it! However the German couple eating there at the same time, were not quite so enthralled by E-J's conversation. From Sam's point of view, E-J wasn't really making any sense and the German's couldn't understand a word she was sluring! By the time Sam finally managed to drag E-J away from any further embarrassment it was pitch black outside and we had real trouble finding where we parked the van. Somehow, we managed to take a wrong turn and found ourselves fighting our way through foliage and branches, until we finally came upon the van, by luck. Despite insisting that she was wide awake and didn't want to go to sleep, as soon as E-J's head hit the pillow she was out like a light and snoring!

The next day, with E-J feeling a little worse for wear, we headed to Akaroa. As the French believed they owned this area of New Zealand, it has a slight, quaint French feel to it, with the streets and shops written in French. This makes it feel like a place slightly removed from anywhere else in New Zealand.

After indulging in a good old fry up, we enquired with a tourist office about swimming with dolphins. This place is particularly renowned for swimming with dolphins as they have the rarest of all dolphins here, called the hector dolphins. These are also the smallest dolphins in the world and can only be found in New Zealand. They are an endangered species, so it was a real privilege to get the opportunity to swim with them. To our luck we found that there was space throughout the day, so booked ourselves on a 4pm tour with the hope that the weather would improve as it was rather overcast in the morning.

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The rest of the day we spent killing time, wandering around the town (which took all of 10 minutes), surfing the net at "Le internet", in the hope that someone might have finally sent us some e-mails or put some comments on the blog! We spent the rest of the day chilling out by the bay and reading our books. It was simply blissful and by the time it was 4pm the sky had brightened and the sun was shinning.

As we got into our groups and into our wetsuits, we were relieved to find ourselves in a friendly group of seven. As we set off in our boat out of the bay, we were all told a bit of history about the dolphins and the usual safety procedures about the boat. Ten minutes later, we spotted two dolphins swimming past us and as we slowed down they started to make their way back to us to investigate. This was our chance to get into the water, which was absolutely freezing! The first challenge, was to get in without making much of a splash as we had been told that splashing to dolphins is an aggressive act and is threatening to them. The second challenge, was to not scream from the sheer agony of the freezing cold and the final challenge was to try and move in the water, as all we seemed to do was bob around from the air trapped in our wet suits.

As we acclimatized to the water, the dolphins would swim near to us and then disappear again. We were instructed to attract them by singing into the snorkels under water (as apparently they liked that noise) and to tap stones together (which were given to us before we got in). We're still not absolutely sure whether the guide was being truthful when she said this, or maybe she was just having a laugh at making us all look ridiculous. Needless to say E-J got incredibly carried away with her dolphin impressions, Sam on the other hand kept making a noise similar to a seal with a sore throat! The rest of the group just couldn't understood why...

As we continued to wait in the water, several other dolphins would swim towards us and under us, checking us out. We had bought an underwater camera, but it was impossible to get a picture of the dolphins as they swam so fast past us and the water was also very murky. A couple of times a dolphin would swim right up to the back of a person, but as soon as they tried to turn around, it has gone. Sam was the only lucky one to have a dolphin actually play with him. This was when the dolphin circled Sam and he circled around with it. It was incredible to see.

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We were only allowed in the water for a maximum of forty minutes, so after the final flock of dolphins left us, we all got back in the boat shivering and very greatful to be given a cup of hot chocolate.

When we got back to Akaroa, the tour had taken a total of two hours and by now it was 6pm. All the stores were closed and with no food in our van, we resorted to eating in one of the restaurants in Akaroa. It was a beautiful evening and we sat outside by the dock, discussing what an experience the day had been.

That evening we returned to the same campsite as the night before and went to bed, without bumping into the Germans! The next day was a day of nothing, so we decided to spend the morning on the beach at our campsite (which actually turned out to be a lot colder than we had anticipated) and spent the afternoon in Akaroa.

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It was really lovely just to wander around the quiet little place and have nothing to do. We have been so spoiled over the last few months, with constant activities, that sometimes you just need a day of nothing.

The following day Sam's friend Charlie met us in Akaroa. Very kindly, Charlie would be having us to stay in Christchurch during our last two nights in New Zealand. First, we went to Hicks Bay where we went surfing. Charlie had very kindly brought three surf boards down so that we all got a chance.

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Having only really body boarded before, in wasn't long before E-J had, had enough of being thrown around in the sea. Also her rather lively imagination, managed to persuade her that if she stayed in the water any longer, she just might be the first shark attack to happen there. Sam on the other hand, took to surfing like a duck to water and even managed to stand up on his second go.

After a short session in the surf, we set off for Christchurch. Leaving it a bit late, we raced there to get the van back in time. Having just made it back and dropping the van off successfully we where kindly collected by Charlie and taken back tp his house where his housemate, Emily had very kindly offered to cook us supper for the night. With a few drinks enjoyed at the local pub we slept very well!

The following day, Charlie took it upon himself to entertain us. We spent the morning wandering around the shops near to his place. We stopped in a couple of surf shops and a what can only be described as a revolting second hand place, which Sam seemed to love....

The afternoon was spent surfing with Charlie and his housemate Emily, who were both fantastic surfers and made us look pretty pathetic. Sam managed to stand up a couple of times, but E-J felt as though the sea had literally slapped her in the face, from the amount of times she managed to fly over her surf board in an attempt to catch a wave. After drinking a gallon of water, E-J was the first to call it a day and after a while the others joined her too.

That evening, Charlie and Emily, joined us for a meal in the centre of Christchurch, which was lovely. After that we went to a trendy little bar in town, before heading home.

The next day, Charlie was off to work at 8am and after saying good bye and thanking him for his enormous generosity during our stay, we headed off too. We managed to work out the bus system to the centre of Christchurch, had a quick bite to eat and then caught another bus to the airport. At this stage, Sam found E-J impossible to handle, with the amount of excitment building up inside her. E-J was completely over the top about the fact that in a few hours she would see her Mummy and sister in Sydney.

The flight was only three hours and very pleasant and before we knew it we had left New Zealand and were on our way to Australia.

Sam's comments: Swimming with dolphins was not the life changing experiance people say it is meant to be, but the surfing might be! A big thank you to Charlie, a great friend.

E-J's comments: I really enjoyed the last campsite we stayed in. It was so lovely to wake up in the morning and hear the sea. Swimming with dolphins was also an incredible experience, although I wished they had wanted to play with me! Charlie was lovely and just so generous with all he did and gave to Sam and me. Staying with Charlie made it a really special end to the trip in New Zealand. Bring on OZ!

Posted by E-J 17:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Mount Cook

sunny 22 °C

After an action packed last couple of days, we were ready to see some more of New Zealand so headed towards Mount Cook.

Having only left Queenstown at 7pm, we didn't reach the campsite until 10pm. On arriving in the pitch black, we found it to be a deserted area by a swamp like pond. With the area reminding us of a typical backdrop to a horror movie, we headed back up the road to one of those dreadful commercial campsites. When we reached it the owner informed us that they had already closed for the night. Sam, with his usual lucky charm, managed to persuade her to let us stay.

The next morning we were up early, showered and ready to start the day. It was a very freezing morning and we gave full credit with much admiration to the man sleeping in the tent next to us, with his form of transport, a bike lying on the ground next to him.

Disappointed to miss the local sheep shearing show due to our early start, we decided to drive on and make a day of our time at Mount Cook.

The windy roads on the way to Mount Cook had the most stunning views as we followed a crystal clear, blue lake all the way there.

When we reached the town nearby, we enquired about which walk to do and decided on a pleasant three hour walk. Sam, not wanting to read sign posts, insisted that his particular route was the correct route and after ten minutes of walking in a round circle, we realised that we were going in a completely wrong direction. Somehow, we had managed to join a twenty minute walk to one of the many look out points of Mount Cook. Sam suggested that it would be better to keep to this route and that he actually didn't quite fancy the thought of the three hour walk anymore!

The view was incredible and we both stood there for a while, taking in Mount Cook's monsterous size and the whiteness of its snowy peak.

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We spotted a few ambitious walkers hiking up another mountain to the side of Mount Cook and thanked ourselves for not thinking we should have done anything as strenuous or stupid as that! Before we left this area, we stopped in the local cafe and reflected on all we had seen so far.

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Lunch was enjoyed taking in the peace and quiet of the serene, beautiful lake, before a load of Japanese tourists all fighting for the best photo arrived. With this, we jumped back into the Camper and hit the road for the long drive to Akaroa. Although we spent over five hours on the road, it was a lovely drive surrounded by beautiful scenery.

Sam's comments: A lovely place and I felt so lucky to catch it on a beautiful day.

E-J's comments: Mount Cook and the scenery around it is simply breathtaking. I just wish we could have had a bit of a longer trek around it, but Sam is always in control when it come to directions....

Posted by E-J 17:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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