travel

New Zealand… Best of the North

In the last few months we have driven up and down and round and round and zig zagged our way across the entire North Island and I think we can say that we have well and truly seen it.

As we embark on our tour of the South I figured I’d look back and make a little (or very long) list of the best of the North.

1) The Northlands. People tend to miss this as they head south out of Auckland but it really is a stunning part of the country.

(Think that proves my point!)

Paihia makes for a great base in the Bay of Islands. From here you can take the ferry over to pretty Russell, New Zealand’s first capital, and lounge on the beautiful beaches, go for a morning parasail, visit Waitangi, the site of the signing of the Waitangi Treaty, take a walk up the Opua forest lookout track or take a drive to Keri Keri where you can find New Zealand’s oldest building and then wander along the river to Rainbow Falls. Paihia is full of countless fun activities and at the weekend a couple of fun bars as well. It was here I made one of my best friends for the season when we bonded over heavy drinking in the backpackers Pipi Patch bar!

The northern most point of New Zealand is Cape Reinga. A lighthouse stands at the tip, from which you can view the place where two seas merge, and also see quite how far you are from home!

Although it’s a long journey all the way up north it’s also a fun one. The designated state highway from Cape Reinga along the top part of the west coast is Ninety mile beach, though you will need a four wheel drive for it, as my friends found out when they tried to drive down it in a dodgy Honda Odyssey and ended up getting towed off the beach by a tractor! There are also some impressive sand dunes to stop at on the way which armed with a boogie board I sandboarded down at a slightly alarming speed! Super hard work to climb up but super fun to come down.

Heading back towards Auckland we made a kind of accidental stop near Matakana for a few days, and despite it being an off plan stay I would definitely recommend a visit. This area is home to a fair amount of wineries, which we of course sampled but most importantly here you can find the best cinnamon bun I have ever tasted, at The Farmer’s Daughter!

(Seriously I still dream about this tasty bit of deliciousness)

2) Auckland is my least favourite of places, every time I wound up there I ended up getting drunk and getting sick. But if you do end up spending time there Waiheke Island is the place to be. This is the island of beaches and wineries. If you get yourself a hop on hop off bus pass you can crawl your way from one winery to the next, tasting some awesome New Zealand wines in the sunshine and then go and drunkenly flop onto a beach. My idea of a perfect day.

3) Coromandel. Everyone says to go there, and there is good reason! My god it is Pretty! And of course full of tourists. Hot Water Beach which at low tide is packed with people as everyone tries to find the best spot to dig a hole and relax in the warm water, and Cathedral Cove, a gorgeous tucked away beach, that was used for filming one of the Narnia films, are as touristy as it gets but still need to be paid a visit. My favourite part of the Coromandel though, is the drive along the coast from Thames up to the Coromandel Peninsula, it is the most beautiful drive I have so far done in New Zealand, and trust me I’ve done a lot of beautiful drives. In the afternoon sunshine with the windows down and a little bit of Oasis on the stereo, it is a dream road trip. And just make sure you arrive up there in time for sunset!

(I do love a good sunset me)

4) Coming down the east coast you reach the port city of Tauranga where the main attraction is a quick yet painful climb up Mount Maunganui. It’s worth the pain though for the stunning views and once down there’s a beauty of a beach to go for a cooling off swim!

Driving down the coast is pretty spectacular as you follow the seafront along. There’s a fair few camping spots here practically on the beach, which in good weather, would make for a pretty sweet stop off, we however just spent our night on the coast sheltering from non-stop rain under a makeshift tarpaulin shelter cooking soup and cheese toasties on our trusty camp stove!

Further down is Gisborne, which proudly proclaims itself the first place in the world to see the sun rise. Again in good weather it is a sight to be seen, we unfortunately missed out with rain, rain and more rain! In the shitty weather, Sunshine Brewery is a great place to spend the arvo, and ‘In There Like Swimwear’ is to date the best beer I’ve drunk in New Zealand. Gisborne’s other claim to fame is as the landing place of Captain Cook and there’s plenty of landmarks and statues to show you where to walk in their footsteps.

Another few hours south and you hit Napier. Perhaps my favourite spot of the North Island trip, it is the Art Deco city and I could quite happily spend hours wandering around looking at all the pretty buildings and playing Art Deco dress up in the free museum.

(Anyone else thinking Gatsby?!)

We spent a while near Napier as we were working on a farm for a few weeks and as one of the sunniest parts of New Zealand it offers up plenty of nearby beaches, harbour side bars and cycle routes along the sea front.

5) Heading in land and Rotorua is top of the list. Full of geothermal activity, the town smells like rotten eggs from all the sulphur and every so often you get a very potent whiff. I have returned to Rotorua a few times and still couldn’t get bored. The main draw of course are the thermal parks with their bubbling mud, multi coloured hot springs and dramatic geysers.

(And eeery mesmerising rivers)

The geothermal activity in the area was a draw for many Maori tribes, as they use the hot springs for bathing, heating and cooking, and there are several Maori villages here that have become tourist attractions. We went to Whakarewarewa (try saying that five times fast, in fact try saying it at all) and although not the most popular, definitely the most authentic as a village still very much in use.

(No she’s not fishing just cooking some corn)

Rotorua is also home to a whole host of other attractions. There’s the Thursday night street market and Eat Street for food and drink and we also occupied ourselves paying a visit to the cat cafe for coffee and cuddles. There’s Rotorua lake and the green lake and the blue lake and the Redwoods is a great place to undertake our favourite of all activities and go for a wander.

If you were made of money there’s a whole heap to do here and as long as you don’t mind the smell you could quite happily fill your days in this interesting city.

6) I’m a little biased but Tongariro National Park is amazing. This is where I lived and worked for five months on the ski field and although occasionally cabin fever would set in I just couldn’t tire of it. In the winter Whakapapa Ski Field is where it’s at and I could wax lyrical about how to fill a winter in the area, but I think I’ve already done that (A Ski Season in New Zealand’s North Island…) In summertime though it’s just as good, and the best way to see the beauty is to undertake the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Not short at 19.4km long with a devil of a climb but the pretty pretty view more than makes up for the pain.

It may be a little middle of nowhere but I love this place, and the fact I was basically living in Mordor (many scenes were filmed on Mount Ruapehu) and driving past Mount Doom every day (Mount Ngaruhoe was used as Mount Doom) was my thirteen year old self’s dream come true! I unashamedly have and always will be a huge Lord of the Rings fan!

(See still loving the sunset)

7) Speaking of Lord of the Rings, any fan cannot go to New Zealand without a visit to Hobbiton! Yes it is touristy and a little expensive but it is magical, I may have even gotten a little misty eyed as the bus drove us across to the set with music from the film playing us in. It’s cute and whimsy and the whole damn reason I ever wanted to come to New Zealand!

8) On the west coast of the island sits Raglan, the Byron Bay of New Zealand. I have a soft spot for this surf town, it was the first stop of our road trip after we left the ski field and the place where I celebrated my 28th birthday with a bloody good bunch of friends. (Yes I’m that old now.) Raglan is the place to surf, if that’s what takes your fancy. Or you can, if you’re me, accept that your surfing skills have peaked at standing up once, and instead just go along, watch all the more accomplished surfers, laugh as your friend falls fully clothed into the sea and horrendously sunburn your face and arms. There are other water sports on offer as well, we took to the estuary with our kayaks and despite a little rain had a jolly good time of it so we did! On land we hired bikes and cycled our way down to the wharf where Raglan Fish does some really excellent freshly caught “fush ‘n chips”! And then ditched the bikes and drove our lazy asses to Bridal Veil Falls. Where you can dick around and take photos like this.

I don’t know if I’m looking at Raglan through rose tinted glasses because of the great company and the many laughs and the fact this is the place I lost my skinny dipping virginity. But I really do love this hippy surf town and it’s black sand beaches and it’s grungy bar where bad drunken decisions are made in dark corners!

(And another sunset)

9) Last but not least is Wellington!

I love this little city a whole lot and if I could stay and work I probably would. It’s a quirky capital with plenty of vintage shops, dreamy houses and fun bars. It was here we let our drunkenness loose, celebrated Christmas with several shots and a horrific hangover and bar crawled our way into 2019. When we did let our livers rest we wandered around leisurely exploring the city. For a capital it’s quite compact and you can easily walk your way around it. The waterfront is the obvious place to start, heading from the city centre down to Oriental Parade is a great stroll in the sunshine and the little beaches along the front are always popular. There’s also a jumping platform where the crazy people can jump into the docks and the not so crazy just chill and watch. This is the home of Te Papa and if you go to one museum in New Zealand, make it this one, completely free and full of interesting exhibitions, for me it was the first place to hit. The cable car is iconic in Wellington and a mere $5 we took a ride up to Kelburn, from here we browsed around the cable car museum (it really is an icon of the city) and then made our way back down to the city through the botanical gardens.

As well as wandering our way around we also took the car a little further afield, and let me tell you fellow Lord of the Rings fans, you will love this place! All around Wellington are places used for filming, just North in Upper Hutt is Rivendell, we practically camped on the site of the Battle of Helms Deep and of course there is the Weta Workshop where most of the props were made and where you can make friends with some lovely trolls at the entrance.

This friendly city makes a great home for a couple of weeks and an ideal last stop in the North Island. And really, watching the sun set over the city from Mount Victoria could not have been a more perfect last evening in the North.

(I told you I really do love a sunset)

And there you have it in a (very big) nutshell, New Zealand’s North Island. There are of course countless other places and sights that I could ramble on about, and of course plenty of places I haven’t had the fortune to see but then we could be here all year and I’ve got a whole other island to be seeing! So I’ll be seeing ya on the other side folks xxx

travel

A backpackers Christmas…

Christmas Day was the first time I felt homesick since my first month in New Zealand, and it was definitely the first time this trip that I’d felt the urge to go home. Because, Christmas for me is really just about family.

Yes there were no presents or stockings to open, but I didn’t really need them especially not when my family had still been so generous as to send me money to my account. And yes there was no traditional Christmas dinner, but we had a pie lunch and snacks and chocolates aplenty. We spent the day as most people do lounging around, watching Christmas movies, playing games and eating junk. We had Christmas hats to wear and we listened to Christmas music. I’d still in the build up had the stress of getting presents for everyone back home, even if it was done over the internet, and I still had an advent calendar to open everyday (courtesy of my Gran being insanely organised and sending one over in September)! There was a whole lot of Christmas still around. But there is something especially lonely about a hostel Christmas, even when you’re not the only one and even when you’re with a friend.

Don’t get me wrong this was not my first rodeo, I spent a Christmas in Sydney three years ago, but then I had my sister and then boyfriend to stave off the homesickness. And at 19 I was in Canada doing a ski season but at that giddy age there was something exciting about being away from home with all your friends, cooking Christmas dinner together and having a proper white Christmas.

I guess now I appreciate my family a whole lot more. As you lose people, the ones you have become even more important, and I suppose Christmas is always that time when you think of them the most. And we really do have the best of Christmas’s, full of traditions and happiness and lots and lots of cheese. So to find myself on the other side of the world with no family (or cheese) around and a kickass hangover making everything feel worse, gave me a pretty hefty dollop of homesickness.

BUT I am on the other side of the world living out a dream, that a year ago I didn’t think I would. I am young and free and travelling the world and there are a whole lot of people not nearly so lucky so I guess I can take a Christmas away from home and a little bit of homesickness in return for that.

I suppose what I’m trying to say, after all the moaning, fellow backpackers is that it’s all just a part of the adventure. that despite the less than homely feel of the holidays spent in a hostel, there will be drinks and company aplenty if desired, and it is just one after all just one day. So we must suck up the homesickness, maybe Skype our families and eagerly anticipate the next day when Christmas will be over, the city alive again and the adventuring will continue.

travel

How to (or not to) camp your way around New Zealand…

With the season over at the ski slope and a few dollars in the bank it was time to leave the mountain behind and head off exploring New Zealand and the best way to do that? A roadie!

I successfully exploited the fact that my birthday was rolling around to convince my remaining friends in the country that they needed to accompany me to the first stop at least. And two days after the ski slopes closed on a bright, sunny spring morning with a car full to the brim of stuff and three of us somehow cramped in we set off on the longest most roundabout route to stop one; Raglan, via the forgotten highway and, of course to make it a proper road trip, Mcdonald’s for breakfast!

Top tip number one New Zealand roads are (like the weather) very variable and you will often find yourself on a gravel road as we did on our very first day. They are, however, also very stunning. And the Forgotten Highway is one of these stunners, it’s a beautiful, remote drive through rolling hills, forested gorges, mysterious tunnels and you can even get your passport stamped at the self-declared Republic of Whangamomona! It is everything I wanted New Zealand to be and that first day I really felt as though I’d stepped right into Lord of the Rings. Just brace yourself for a bit of a rough ride.

(An actual passport stamp from the Republic of Whangamomona’s passport office aka the pub)

Top tip number two springtime will still be a wee bit chilly so it may not be wise to down a load of beers go skinny dipping and jump into bed soaking wet. Our roadie (and my birthday celebrations) started true to form with a few drinks. After succeeding in putting up the tent for the first time the beer was cracked open and giddy on the high of freedom from our jobs and a new adventure we got “a little bit lairy!” And in the spirit of a new adventure I decided that it was the time to tick another item off the bucket list and take a dip in the, pardon my French, fucking freezing sea at midnight. As exhilarating and hilarious (we may have had to climb over the very tall locked gate to get back into the campsite and I am very not tall) as the experience was, once the excitement and the alcohol coat disappeared boy did we feel the cold. Just one word when you’re camping people, Layers! And lots of them.

Top tip number three get an air mattress that does not deflate. As well as dealing with the sudden shock of not being in a warm bed we also woke up to the realisation that we were sleeping on the floor, it turns out our air bed had a very well hidden hole in it. Within one night we had gone from a warm comfy bed to sleeping on the floor in the cold, and we had a whole six months of this to look forward to!

Top tip number four get used to the fact that complete cleanliness is not a thing. To be honest I always feel a little bit grubby. Camping by beaches, everything very quickly gets full of sand and even if the nights were cold to start with, the morning sun is hot especially the closer summer gets, and it gets sweaty fast (sorry gross I know). If it isn’t sunny it is raining and then, well then, everything is damp.

(It takes a little ingenuity to try and keep as dry as possible. And to make sure the coffee gets made!)

After our first four nights of camping topped off with 24 hours of rain, we’d had enough and convinced ourselves that economically it was better to get an air b&b during our time in Auckland and treat ourselves to some luxury. But alas when you’re on a backpacker’s budget Air b&bs are a one off luxury and despite a few days of living it up once our numbers dwindled we were back to the good old camping.

Top tip number five campsites come in all shapes and sizes. There are the more luxury holiday parks and there are the more wallet friendly DOC sites. The department of conservation campsites are cheap and varied, some have a wide range of facilities, some just have taps and drop toliets and some have nothing! But when they’re $10 a night and when you can go to sleep with views like these do you really care? Plus the lake makes for a pretty good bath in the morning and well, it’s all part of the adventure!

Top tip number six make sure your car is fully equipped. By this I mean it is probably a good idea to make sure you have a full puncture kit, some oil, water, perhaps even road side assistance. Because if by some chance you’re driving along a particularly bumpy gravel road and you get two flat tyres and then discover you have no tools to change the tyres anyway you can very quickly (or actually slowly) find your car on a tow truck and a hefty price to pay!

(My poor baby)

Top tip number seven if you don’t like the tent you can always sleep in the car. Just under one month into our travels and we were down to just the two of us and this meant we could set up the car and make it our home. It may be a little on the cosy side but as both of us are short we make it work. Bonus it saves time on setting up, all we need to do us pull up at our spot for the night, shift the bags into the front seat and settle in for the evening. Sure it may not be a fancy jucy camper but we’re on a budget. And let’s be honest the zombie repeller makes for a pretty cool home for the summer!

(Home, cat unfortunately not included)

Top tip number eight try and make a little bit of a plan. Yes it is awesome to just go where the wind takes you, to change plans and directions depending on what you fancy and who you meet but it is probably best to have rough idea of where you want to visit and what you want to do otherwise you can very easily find yourself aimlessly cruising down the coast, dodging the rain and wandering around townships spending your money on coffee and pointless purchases. And times like these will make you miss home and all its comforts and have you wondering what the hell you’re doing with your life BUT…

Top tip number nine roadies are fun! You may wind up soaked to the skin, burnt to the crisp, sweaty, dirty and with chronic back pain. You may sometimes get sick of the endless wandering, particularly when the weather is crap. You may run into troubles and you may end up in some weird ass places. But you will also end up in the most beautiful places, go on the most ridiculous adventures and have some of the best experiences of your life. Could there be a better way to see New Zealand? I don’t think so!

travel

What to do when you first move to New Zealand (besides killing your liver)…

If I’m quite honest with you I spent the first couple of weeks of my adventure, in Auckland consuming a whole lot of alcohol. So besides being able to tell you the best backpacker bar to hit up each night of the week I can’t really give you a very great guide to Auckland! What I can do though is tell you all about the actual process of getting ready to start work in New Zealand.

First things first, step off the plane and take a moment to breath. I was completely knackered, and insanely stressed from a ridiculous propeller plane ride across from Tasmania to mainland Australia in the early hours of the morning! After surviving that, my connecting flight to Auckland, the nerves of passport control (where I inexplicably was convinced they were going to tell me my visa was fake), the bus ride into the city and dragging my insane bags to the hostel I was just about ready to collapse and or cry. See Perth and Tasmania had kind of just been holidays and this, this was the big move. So I needed to gather myself for a moment, venture out into the city and get my bearings, find a McDonald’s and stuff my face with comfort food. Never, I have now discovered, underestimate the need for a breather.

I threw myself into Auckland pretty hard and fast. Night one after my McDonald’s I wound up in the hostel bar drinking beers and playing inappropriate bingo (yes this is hostel life), Day two hungover and soaked through from torrential rain I went to orientation where my travel company threw a whole heap of information at me and then gripping my piles of papers and leaflets I took myself off to see the city. Day three I desperately searched the city for a car to buy, took on the glass floor up the Sky Tower and drank all the alcohol on a pub crawl. Day four with a killer hangover I tackled early morning bank appointments and a ton of car paperwork, then again took to the alcohol and headed out to a silent disco. Day five… yeah you get the picture. I didn’t really stop or sleep which is how I found myself 10 days later horribly homesick curled up in the corner of Starbucks sobbing into my English breakfast tea! Seriously make sure you give yourself space for a breather!

On the practical side there a couple of absolute musts when you first land in the country. Number one get a bank appointment, they’ll set you up with your account, online banking, give you your card and it’ll be active within 15 minutes. It’s all pretty simple just take in copies of your documents and maybe don’t go with a horrific hangover! Once this is done you can transfer money across from your home account. Top tip guys use TransferWise, I love them, it takes a few hours for the money to transfer but they give you the best rates and you can transfer so easily via the app. You don’t have to do this of course, but it’s cheaper to pay with your NZ card of course, plus you need a few transactions on your account to get a bank statement to get your IRD number. This is number two of the musts. Again it’s all pretty easy you need your visa, passport, NZ bank statement and national insurance number and you can just apply online. It’s super quick, I had mine emailed to me within a couple of days, and once that’s through you’re all set to work yey!

The other big thing I had to sort was buying a car. This isn’t for everyone, there are plenty of bus companies that’ll take you all around New Zealand, but given that I was going to be working and living in a pretty isolated location for the winter I wanted a car for the first 6 months at least. So maybe for you it’ll be easier to just head into a travel company and buy yourself a travel pass. But if you do want to buy a car here’s the how to. Firstly I am not at all mechanical so I read every single thing I could find about what to look at when viewing a car because I’m really not so good at coping with a breakdown! Then I headed online there’s plenty of backpacker sites where people post cars and campers for sale so somewhere like backpackerboard is your best bet. I messaged a few posts and then trawled around the city checking them out until I found a cheap and pretty beat up car but one that was running well and most importantly had a valid warrant of fitness for another 6 months woohoo! Once you’ve found a car you need to do all the paperwork. It’s pretty simple but again best not to do it with a horrific hangover! Three things to do here. One; you and the person you’re buying it from need to fill out change of ownership forms. Head to a post office they have all the forms and you can hand them in and make the payments there on the spot. Two; whilst you’re at the post office get the car registered, this is essentially the road tax and crazy cheap. The forms are at the post office, pick how many months you want to register it for, pay your money and get the car registered straight away. Three; the car needs to have a valid warrant of fitness, depending on the age of the car it either needs to renewed every 6 months or every year. Luckily mine isn’t due for a while so I don’t need to worry about it for a few months (unless the car breaks down) and the magic car people helpfully send you a letter when it’s due. When it is due just take it to any garage and they’ll sort it for you pretty much like your standard MOT. And there you have it your car.

So with the paperwork out of the way and your transport around the country sorted grab your bags and get out of Auckland. It’s a great city for a day or two but it’s not New Zealand. (Plus it’ll give you a pretty wretched and constant hangover!) There’s a whole wide and beautiful country to explore so head off into it and get exploring!

travel

Tasmania in Photos…

From top to bottom: Priory Ridge Winery, Bonfire on North Cosys Beach, Sunset in the Bay of Fires, The Little Blue Lake, Pelicans at St. Helens, St. Helens Sand dunes, Wineglass Bay, Pyengana Falls, Honeymoon Bay, Roo at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

travel

Tasmania is definitely one for the bucket list…

So few people who travel to Australia make the trip across the sea to the island off the south coast that is Australia’s eighth state, even most Australians I meet admit that they’ve never visited. So unlike anywhere else in Australia, Tasmania is rural, sparsely populated and stunningly beautiful.

Unfortunately for me I arrived as the state was on the brink of the worst storm in decades and so in a country where most of its attractions are outdoors we spent a lot of time indoors watching House Rules and Home and Away. Fortunately for me though, my sister lives in the little fishing town of St Helens right by the famous Bay of Fires and bonus she has a car so when the weather finally cleared I got myself a completely unique off the beaten track tour.

Our tour started with a 3 day road trip to Hobart, the capital of Tasmania and the largest city on the island, albeit still a small city. By Australian standards it is also an old city and has some beautiful old colonial buildings, a great waterfront and some pretty kickass pubs at Salamanca which you have to stop by for a beer or maybe two. Must dos in the city include Mount Wellington which if you don’t get blown off the top gives some awesome views across the city. As well as of course the infamous MONA, an art gallery like no other you will visit. I’m not really sure how to describe this place it’s kind of one of those you have to see it to understand. But to give you a taste it features a wall full of casts of vaginas, a light room which makes you lose all sense of space, a machine that gets fed and poos twice daily and a washing up bowl with a goldfish swimming around a kitchen knife. It is truly weird but truly not to be missed. Then to recover from the strangeness of MONA, take a venture just outside of the city to Bonorong, a little wildlife sanctuary where you can remove all memories of the wall of vaginas by making friends with the loveliest bunch of roos (because do you really go to Australia if you don’t hang out with the locals?!)

We spent much of the rest of my trip touring around the North East of the country which is home to some truly spectacular scenery. As I mentioned previously my sister lived on the doorstep of the famous Bay of Fires, beautiful white beaches, blue blue seas and orange tinged rocks that glow in the sunshine (hence the name). We went to a number of the beaches in the area but my favourite visit? North Cosys where we sat on the beach as the sun went down with a bonfire and a few beers to keep us warm. If that’s not an idyllic situation I don’t know what is.

Further south along the coast is the stunning Wineglass Bay, and no there’s no wine here but again some spectacular beaches and views, if you can take on the intense climb, or rather the 40 minute gently sloping track that nearly gave me a heart attack!

Speaking of wine though, all along the East coast sits the East Coast Wine Trail, with a whole array of winery’s, we of course took the time to visit a few and sample some of the wares. My favourite? Priory Wines, a tiny sheep farm turned winery right at the northern end of the trail where they managed to make a Chardonnay so good for the first time in my life I purchased a bottle!

You can’t take a trip to Tasmania without visiting The Little Blue Lake. It is as it says on the tin, a little blue lake, but oh my gosh is it stunning! It even managed to take my mind off the fact that the love of my life Prince Harry was marrying another woman that day! And well worth the car sickness inducing journey, that is also very picturesque if you aren’t focusing all your energy on not throwing up.

My final night in the country saw us heading to Launceston so that I could catch my early morning flight across to New Zealand. Honestly it’s not a very exciting city, there is very little to do here especially on a quiet weekday evening, however it is home to a 24 hour Kmart which is very exciting! And so that was how I spent my final evening in Australia wandering around Kmart and buying anything and everything I figured I could fit in my backpack!

I could wax lyrical about all the sights and views and wonders of Tasmania for hours, and the crazy thing is I didn’t even scratch the surface! Lucky for me my sister intends to stay there a while so I’m already planning a return trip, but even if you don’t have a relative living there make sure you take the time to visit this state on your tour of Aus I promise you won’t be disappointed (unless of course you go to Launceston!)

travel

Perth is packed full of Aussie fun…

I arrived in Perth straight off my long haul flight from London extremely sleep deprived, sweaty and with no idea which way was up. I splashed out on a taxi from the airport because my brain was in no shape to figure out the logistics of taking the bus, and then defied all the rules of jet lag and immediately crawled into bed and fell asleep. I can most definitely confirm that this was the wrong decision as I then proceeded to spend the first few days with the most messed up sleep pattern, feeling ridiculously tired early evening, crazy awake in the early hours of the morning and completely unable to wake up at an acceptable time. Put simply jet lag is a bitch.

Once my muddled brain got over the extreme shock of it being light when it was supposed to be the middle of the night and I finally dragged my jet lagged ass out of bed I set out into the sunshine my pale legs out, my sunglasses firmly on, trusty yellow backpack by my side and armed with a 7eleven $1 coffee ready to explore the city. And boy is there plenty of it, so here without further ado is my list of Perth must dos…

1) Elizabeth Quay was my first port of call. It’s a great little area to wander through in the sunshine with fantastic views across the water and back at the city it has a veritable funfair of attractions; mini golf, gelato cafe, water park, carousel, take your pick there’s plenty on offer. It’s also just a great spot to simply chill at the waterfront and attempt to recover from horrendous jet lag.

2) Perth city centre offers up a decent amount of spots to chill in the sunshine including the Supreme Court Gardens, where I spent a fair few hours accompanied by a book attempting to work on my minuscule tan. If you’re wandering through the city centre be sure not to miss London Court, a street mocked up to look like an old time London street which had me wandering up and down and giggling for far longer than was normal.

3) Heirisson Island sits a little further up river from the city centre but is a great escape from the bustle of the city. The big draw though is the group of kangaroos that inhabit one side of the island. I am, as you already know an animal lover and right up there with my favourites is the kangaroo. I can’t quite explain my obsession with them but I love them and their big furry ears and their bouncing. So obviously this place was high on my list of must sees. I waited until the second day so the jet lag had decreased a little and then packed myself a picnic and made my way there. There are a whole heap of buses that run around Perth including the free cat bus, but it is actually a great walk along the riverfront from the city centre especially in the sunshine, plus you get to spot all the giant and not at all terrifying jellyfish chilling in the river. I was warned that I may not catch sight of a Roo on the island as they are exceptionally good at hiding themselves away in the midday sun, luck was on my side though and as I wandered across a clearing I spotted one hanging out in the shade and my day was made!

4) Fremantle absolutely cannot be missed. A brief 30 minute train ride from the city centre and you arrive in the seaside port of Fremantle and it is awesome. An idyllic seaside town with an edge, it’s full of stunning beaches, great cafes, historical buildings, a hippy weekend market and some epic street art. You cannot miss the Little Creatures Brewery which not only does an amazing tour and very thorough tasting but also has a restaurant and bar right in the middle of the brewery where the pints come fresh from the tanks. Cicerello’s is also high on the list for some truly epic fish and chips. Grab your food and a beer at the counter then head outside to sit on the sea front and chow down. I could wax lyrical about Fremantle for hours it truly was my favourite part of Perth and I repeatedly made my way back there for more of its goodness.

5) Beaches! Perth is surrounded by the beauties and having not seen the beach since I vomited over one at the full moon party in Thailand I was overexcited to say the least. I loved South Beach in Fremantle but Cottesloe is also one not to be missed. Being off season and mid week the beach was practically deserted when I took myself there for a lazy afternoon and it was gorgeous. I have never felt quite so lucky as I did flopped down in the sand on a beautiful, almost private, beach with a good book and a cold drink.

6) Kings Park is the largest inner city park in the world and home to a very impressive botanical garden and the slightly terrifying DNA tower which spirals up (I hate spiral staircases) to give brilliant views across the city. Truly massive, the park is a great place to get some exercise and hike around, as well as yet another great place in this city to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

7) Toastface Grillah do the best toasties in town. Truth be told I spent a great deal of this week eating, getting reacquainted with my favourite Aussie treats as well as discovering some new ones, and this was one of my great discoveries. I freaking love cheese and these toasties come packed full with them! It’s a tiny little place hidden around a corner but it is cool with its mismatched crate seating and kickass graffiti and I definitely came back for seconds.

8) ROTTNEST ISLAND! I mean I’ve already talked about it in my previous post but seriously it’s a beautiful haven of beaches and quokkas and if you’re in Perth you simply cannot miss it!

Although not quite making it onto my top cities list, even with Fremantle tugging at my heartstrings, Perth is a fantastic city to spend a week or two, and I’m so glad I made the decision to stop here on my way to New Zealand it’s made for a damn good start to my adventure, roll on the next stop!

travel

Can we talk about quokkas…

Before I talk about Perth or any other Australian goodness let’s talk about the whole reason I started my adventure in Western Australia, the quokka!

Anybody who knows me knows that I am huge sucker for a cute animal and they really don’t come much cuter than quokkas.

(I mean just look at that face)

I first heard about these furballs of joy three years ago, in the way I ashamedly get most of my life information, through reading an article on buzzfeed and I immediately knew I needed to find these babies and smuggle one home to be my lifelong friend! A couple of years ago I got my chance and when visiting Sydney happened across a few of these friendly critters at a couple of wildlife parks around the city. And oh my god were they even cuter in real life but I could not get enough of the cuties and therefore planned my return to Australia in a way that I could go to the homeland of the friendliest creatures on earth Rottnest Island!

Fun quokka fact Rottnest was discovered by the Dutch whilst searching for Australia they thought it was full of large rats and thus named the island Rottnest (rats nest) of course these rats were really quokkas and the Dutch were fools to just turn around and leave without making friends!

Today Rottnest is just a short ferry ride from Perth and attracts ever increasing crowds of tourists everyday. Completely car and predator free this island is a haven for quokkas and it’s impossible to miss these furry fiends. Top quokka tip if you go on a Tuesday it’s half price so you can get a return ferry and bike hire for the day for $69. And so that’s what I did hopped on a ferry, rented myself a bike and took off around the island to find myself a quokka. An hour in I was starting to panic that I wouldn’t find one and then all of a sudden he just peeped out of the bushes and I was gone. They weren’t lying when they said they were the friendliest of all creatures, and they have literally no fear of humans. This little guy just wandered right on over and instantly became my best friend. Which coincidentally makes it incredibly easy to get your obligatory quokka selfie!

I really needn’t have worried about not spotting one because after that they just appeared from everywhere and it was the best day ever! I could have scooped all of them up and just carried them away with me. Of course they are still wild animals so you can’t feed them, as tempting as it is, it might make them very sick. Neither should you touch them, however when one gets his nose in between the zips of your bag and crawls inside you kind of need to pick the little fella up and haul them back out!

If you’re down for beautiful beaches, hidden sandy coves, seal colonies, whale watching, gorgeous lakes and the cutest animals Rottnest is an absolute must see. It’s now top of my places to holiday when I’m rich! If you can drop by Western Australia on your travels down under be sure to go meet the quokkas and make yourself a few new friends!

travel

How to (ineffectively) prepare for a year away…

It took me right up until the moment the plane lifted off into the air to believe that I was really jetting off to the other side of the world for a year. I was so wrapped up in getting everything moved out of my flat in time and drinking with all my friends whilst I still could, my brain didn’t really register what was going on. So in short very little preparation actually occurred. Which to be honest I think is probably the best way, it gave my brain very little opportunity to start panicking, meltdown and ultimately rethink my entire decision. Truthfully I think there is no particular way to prepare for a trip this big, everybody will have their own ways of getting ready, but let me give you a little insight into my, limited, preparations for my journeys to New Zealand.

Step one I arranged all the big ones before even telling anyone I was going, I booked my flights, sent off my visa application, applied for a job and arranged my first few nights of accommodation. At least with these done I could rest easy and not panic about arranging things last minute, also when people asked I could give them solid answers about my plans as opposed to having people look at me with an unnerving look of terror like my boss did when I told him my job hadn’t yet been confirmed. (It has since been so panic over.)

Step two with the big things pre-arranged I then kind of stopped planning. I still had a couple of arrangements to make such as confirming my job and arranging my long term accommodation but bar that I didn’t want to get too set into a plan, because guess what they tend to change, especially when travelling! So I know I’m dropping by Australia on the way, first Perth and then Tasmania, and I know I’m heading out to New Zealand to work a ski season in Mount Ruapehu but after that who knows. The ski season ends in October and I have a year long visa a whole country to explore, a passport crying for some stamps and an awful long way back home. I have a rough plan of what I want to do and where I want to go but I don’t want to set it in stone because that’s half the fun of travelling making things up as you go along and this is going to be an adventure.

Step three took the most time and stress of all… packing! I both simultaneously hate it and love it. Weirdly I really enjoy making detailed packing lists (I have a bit of a list fetish) and I love gradually purchasing items to take on my travels, but I hate cramming everything into a bag and I hate hate hate having to decide what to leave behind because there just isn’t room. Here’s the problem I’ve been backpacking before, spent a few months at a time trekking around various different continents, but I’ve ever been away for such a length of time. The other problem? I needed to pack for all seasons, I’m going to be enjoying some Australian sunshine first and hopefully later on some New Zealand sunshine but I am also going to be spending a few months in the snow, which means packing for all seasons and my god ski gear is bulky! So with my old backpack on the verge of falling to pieces I purchased a new one and set out to cram it full with all my shit, and let me assure you it is very much crammed full. I wouldn’t like to say I’ve over packed but I have most definitely over packed! It’s probably going to turn out that I will not wear any of these items at all I’ll probably end up living in the same one or two outfits and I have a sneaking suspicion that a fair amount of stuff is going to get thrown out along the way but you know always better to be prepared! Seriously though, if you have a couple of tops, some underwear, your toothbrush, bank card and passport you’re probably golden. Ok well maybe you need a couple of other bits but remember other countries have shops as well and I can absolutely guarantee you will find a h&m in any country you go to! I promise I’ll let you know successful/unsuccessful my packing has been at the end of my trip, I have a feeling it’ll err on the unsuccessful side, but who knows you might get some (what not to do) packing tips from me!

And the final step? Get excited! In between all the shopping, panicking, packing, farewell drinks and tears (trust me there were a few of those) there were these odd time out moments where I just sat and appreciated what I was about to experience. The only real preparation advice I can give you is to make sure you enjoy those giddy excited moments because trust me there is nothing quite like the fizzy, slightly nauseous, anticipation you get before embarking on an adventure!

travel

I bought a one way ticket to New Zealand…

Following on from a statement in an earlier post that I make rash decisions, this may be the biggest of them all.

I am moving by myself to the other side of the world with just a backpack (albeit a pretty large and pretty full one) with no return ticket and no real date of return. What crazy thought making process went through my head to get me into this position? Honestly I’m not so sure. A couple of months ago I was sat wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. My sister had just flown back out to Australia and I remained in London mindlessly working in a restaurant, living in a house share with one of the most annoying house mates of all time with a pretty non-existent love life. I knew that I needed a change, I was restless, my feet were itching for an adventure and I had a big old bucket list to be ticking off. If I’m going to be working in hospitality and attempting to write on the side then I can do that anywhere in the world I reasoned, so why not try something new. I love London and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll wind my way back but I’d gotten a little tired, everything felt a little stale. Perhaps it is my quarter life crisis. I looked around and saw my school friends settling down and having families or achieving their crazy dreams and I am nowhere close to where I thought I’d be ten years ago. And yes I know this is not necessarily a bad thing I don’t think I even want to be where my 16 year old self dreamed me all those years ago. But what I did need was a big kick up the ass to stop myself floundering around and wasting my life away on drunken tequila fuelled nights and Netflix binges in bed.

So after muddling through a few options my mind jumped to New Zealand, I’d always planned to return to New Zealand and spend more time there, I was planning to go visit my sister in Australia this year so that tied in, and after working a ski season in Canada on my gap year between high school and university I’d always vowed to work another one once finishing uni. And so with shockingly little research it was decided I was taking another gap year and moving my ass to New Zealand to freeze myself working on the ski slopes.

Fast forward a couple of months and I have my work visa, flights are booked, initial accommodation arranged, job interviews set up, I finished my final shift at work and moved all of my crap out of my London flat. I am flying out in a few days time and truth be told I’m little freaked out.

All my friends have repeatedly told me I’m crazy and I have serious guts but I’m not so sure I do. This is the biggest gamble I’ve ever taken. Maybe I’ll be lonely, miss my friends, miss my family, maybe I’ll hate New Zealand and the people I meet there, maybe I’ll break a leg my first day on the slopes, maybe I’ll be broke and miserable and on a plane home in a matter of months. Maybe some awful thing will happen and I’ll never make it home, believe me my mind has run through every possible terrible scenario, BUT, here’s the big one… maybe I’ll have the best goddamn time of my life! Who knows what will happen over the course of the next year, I just know that I will always regret the journeys I didn’t take far far more than the ones I did. So wish me luck and stay tuned for tales of my new adventure!