A Travellerspoint blog

Westland. Home to a Sock Machine Museum and so much more...


Westland, which also includes glacier country, has a tiny population - just 32,000 - which accounts for less than 1% of NZ's total. From the reading available on the area you get a sense that Westlanders are a pretty resilient bunch.

It was beautiful weather as we drove from Franz Josef to Greymouth but it would be a very wet and wild, and somewhat cut off, place to live during winter months methinks.

A different landscape altogether

You pass endless one lane bridges across wide river beds which are almost dry this time of year


Our first stop, Hokitika, seemed to exist for one reason. To sell tourists pounamu (local greenstone, i.e. jade) and other arts and crafts - every other shop appeared to be of the gift variety. Oh, and for us to sing Hokitika you and I know...

The almost wild west streets were quiet but we had a wander around and nosed at some glass blowing and stone cutting. We were also intrigued by the existence of Hokitika's Sock Machine Museum... although not quite intrigued enough to set foot in the door. A decision I now regret. At the very least they should surely be publicising this visitor attraction as The One, The Only, The Greatest Sock Machine Museum in the World! Or maybe there are more? One to add to the random things to google list...


'Welcome to the Grey District'... said the greeting sign as we approached the area just before Greymouth, the largest town on the west coast. If I had been at the greeting sign proposal committee meeting, I would have voted for 'Welcome to the Grey Area' just for the sheer joy of it.

Probably Greymouth's biggest claim to fame is that it's the end (or the start) of the TranzAlpine railway, linking Greymouth and Christchurch on the east coast. It's one of the world's greatest railway journeys apparently. There's a lot of 'the world's greatest' around here, you may have noticed.

It's also home to Monteith's Brewery, the product of which we've already sampled and appreciated. Time for a visit then.

The tour was at 10.30am, a pretty rubbish time to visit a brewery I think you'd agree, and of course one of us had to drive afterwards. So I did what any decent girlfriend should and took the camper's keys so Ant could sup up. There were a few craft beers to try and he didn't let the hour deter his sampling ability. Good work.

We both loved the brewery itself, the tour was quite short but we wandered around the front of house bit and were pretty impressed with the space, which was like a trendy bar.

Urinals courtesy of Ant

Love this... a sense of Kiwi humour

The drive from Greymouth to Westport was incredible. We later discovered it's billed as the Great Coast Road and Lonely Planet rates it as one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world. It was absolutely stunning, and in many ways even more impressive than the Great Ocean Road we did in Aus. The road was flanked by steep dense subtropical rainforests which cover the Paparoa Ranges, and offered rugged sea views to our left. The road twisted in and around the coast with many hairpin bends. It had such a raw beauty with little sign of development.


A famed stop along the way is Punakaiki, to see the geological wonders of Pancake Rocks. Due to a complex weathering and layering process, the limestone has formed into what looks like thick pancakes piled high. We certainly hadn't seen anything of the like before. Mmmm got me craving the real deal with berries and cream...


The coast road complete, it was time to set off on the drive to Abel Tasman National Park situated on the north coast of the South Island. Until the next time...

Posted by Galavantie 14:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

In search of glacial white*s (*colour by dulux)


The drive to glacier country was pretty bleak at times. The weather had closed in (as is often the case in this part of New Zealand) and there were obvious signs just how beaten the west coast can get... windswept trees with all the branches growing away from the coast... beaches strewn with flotsum and jetsum... that sort of thing.

Haast Gates and a chance for a wee game. Can you 'Spot the Ant' in the below photo? Answers on a postcard...

Ship Creek

This pic just about sums it up... trees were odd too, like tender-stem broccoli!

There's a few options to see the glaciers in Westland National Park. You can either walk up from the car park for 30-40 minutes to get a view of the terminal face... pay for a guided walk on the dirty lower end of the glacier with loads of other tour groups... or pay twice as much for a heli-hike further up the glacier with more pristine ice and less company. It was very much a case of you get what you pay for.

As it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close to a glacier, we decided to go for the heli-hike.

There's two big draw glaciers here... Fox and Franz Josef. As we were coming up from the south, we came to Fox Glacier first.

The terminal face of Fox Glacier is easier to reach on foot than FJ, so we took the walk up to as close as we could get. Unfortunately this was still 200m away with the trail end cordoned off by rangers. It was a tad disappointing to see it from afar... we did cross one barrier to walk a well-trodden path but didn't get that much nearer due to the risks pointed out on the warning signs.

Oopsie ;)

The valley and glacier were impressive, the scale very hard to show other than the matchstick people doing a guided walk on the surface.

Fox Glacier

Lake Matheson, a popular spot close to Fox Glacier

Back at camp

Having checked forecasts in readiness, we bided our time for doing the heli-hike. A high was coming in and the best day to book looked to be a day later than we had wanted to do it.

It was worth the wait. After some grey days, we awoke to beautiful clear skies and sunshine. A perfect day!

After getting kitted out in boots, trousers and coats, we had a 10 minute thrilling helicopter ride to the glacier where we met our guide (who turned out to be from Christchurch, Dorset... small planet eh).


The hike was excellent, our guide chipped out steps in the glacier and we squeezed through a variety of features in the ice... narrow corridors, arches and even a crevasse or two...

Shorly after this was taken I had a bit of a panic as I didn't think my stride could reach the step necessary to avoid falling into the crevasse. I froze (pardon the pun) and admit a few panicked tears were had, but I got there in the end.


A special moment was reaching a waterfall higher up the glacier and a rainbow was clearly visible at the bottom. Apparently you only get to see this on the first of the morning hikes and, of course, only with the right conditions... in another half an hour it would have disappeared.


Ha ha...


It was a truly fantastic morning, and well worth the hefty price tag (£185 each) to have a hike on and a helicopter ride over a glacier. Phenomenal things.

Westland glacier facts

  • 15,000-20,000 years ago the two glaciers would have reached the sea
  • They retreat and extend with the seasons but have generally been retreating for a while
  • Nowhere else at this latitude do glaciers come so close to the ocean - the sea is just 10km away
  • The rate of ice descent is staggering. Wreckage of a plane that crashed into Franz Josef in 1943, 3.5km from the terminal face, made it down to the bottom 6.5 years later!
  • Franz Josef usually advances about 1 metre per day, but sometimes ramps up to 5 metres per day, over 10 times faster than the glaciers in the Swiss Alps

Posted by Galavantie 19:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Throwing off our backpacker shackles in Arrowtown


We finally made it out of Manapouri, and what had been a very comfortable campsite, and headed north to Arrowtown just outside of Queenstown.

Old truck en route

Our route had to backtrack some of the roads we'd already covered, but we had no choice as there's only one way in and out of the Sounds.

Well today was a first for both of us... we picked up a hitchhiker! To be fair, it's a little different over here, you see a lot of backpackers trying their luck. I think we both felt a bit parental as he was only a young lad and looked chuffed to bits when we stopped. It was only for a few miles down the road anyway and he didn't murder us as it turns out, so it was all good.

Arrowtown is a very cute 1860s goldrush settlement, now a photogenic heritage village offering visitors plenty of shops, restaurants and pubs. It made a nice change to camp somewhere within walking distance of a 'town' centre, so we had a few drinks out for a change.


We stumbled on a great little place tucked away which was reminiscent of an old English pub, with low beams, a wood-burning fire (not on I should add!) and flagstone floor. It actually made me pine a bit for a cosy village inn back home and that feeling you get when it's cold outside and you enter a warm, inviting pub with an open fire. Can't say I've missed the British winter though... especially not the last one!

Most people pass through Arrowtown in a few hours, but we decided to stay for a couple of nights to uncover all of its treasures.

Arrowtown's main street, a row of nineteenth century miners' cottages


We wandered down the main street with its heritage buildings, took a walk aong the river and visited the Chinese Settlement - where some of the earliest Chinese immigrants set up home in extremely humble abodes (basically, huts) to join in the gold mining rush.

Life was tough for them. Despite being invited to mine here, they weren't welcomed and were subjected to significant racism from both the local population and wider press publications of the time. It was so bad in fact, that in more recent times the New Zealand government have formally apologised for their treatment.


A quote from a newspaper at the time...

'For the past week Arrowtown has been the centre of attraction for about 200 Chinese who have made the night hideous with their exploding crackers, and their disgusting presence felt in more ways than one. On Sunday night last, even Europeans, and, we believe, females at that were seen to be playing 'fan-tan' while every night for a week, the Chinese stores have been scenes of indescribable vice and repulsive practices. The opium pipe too, we hear, has been freely dispensed, even to little boys. Several people were seen under the influence of brandy and altogether the Chinese camp has been the sink of iniquity for days and nights past. It seems strange that Europeans should so far forget themselves as to mingle freely with almond eyed, leprosy tainted filthy Chinamen, but the fact is disgusting and lamentable as it may appear.'
Shocking eh.

Ant mentioned an independent cinema, Dorothy Brown's, that he'd read about which sounded fab. We plumped for August: Osage County, and both enjoyed it. Meryl Streep was pure class as ever. The cinema was wonderful... big comfortable armchairs each with a small drinks rest. There was even an interval, where one could refresh oneself with another pinot gris. How terribly decent of them. ;)

Dotty B's - how going to the movies should be...

After the film Ant treated us to a meal out to celebrate our anniversary, it made for a welcome change to put a dress on, make up and jewellery for the first time in weeks!

Just outside of Arrowtown lie the Crown Range of mountains, through which a pass crosses as NZ's highest sealed road. Views were pretty, pretty good!

Historic Cardrona Hotel along the pass

A character we met who's cycling around NZ... but none of us we were sure what the bras were meant to signify!

Beautiful Lake Hawea

From here, we were heading a bit further north and west to the Tasman Sea coast... and to glacier country!

Posted by Galavantie 14:53 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Mighty Milford Sound


So, the second of our Sounds, and we were keen to see how they compared, as Milford Sound is far more visited and renowned.

The drive to Milford was spectacular and is considered to be one of the world's greatest drives. We passed Mirror Lakes which lived up to their name and came to Homer Tunnel, a passing for traffic through the mountains. It was so dwarfed by the landscape I can only describe it like Jerry's tiny mouse hole in the skirting board! Inside it had a rough surface and wasn't smooth at all, very rustic.

Driving to Milford

There was no doubt it was busier at this Sound, with a tonne of coaches parked up and several boats leaving at the same time. However, once onboard, the other boats didn't detract from our experience and we had a great 2.5 hour cruise. Like Doubtful, Milford Sound is very often shrouded in mist or rain so we were very lucky to have such a clear day to see the tops of all the peaks.


The context of spectacularly large waterfalls were virtually lost against the high peaks and sheer rock faces. The scale of everything is hard to convey. Mitre Peak at the start is a whopping 1.7km straight up from sea level.


The steep surfaces suffer from tree avalanches. We had no idea these existed! The slopes are so sheer and with no deep soil, the trees interlock their roots so when one goes, it takes its mates down with it.

Evidence of a past tree avalanches, usually triggered by high rainfall or snow - signs of an old one to the right with new foliage regrowing, and a recent one on the left

Fur seals sunning themselves

The Chasm... a scenic stop-off on the way back where pebbles carried down the river have smoothed away the rock. Cue a giggle around a newly made up rubbishy ITV Saturday night TV show called (deep voiceover man)... The Chasm... can you jump (deep voiceover man) The Chasm. Ah, you had to be there I guess...

A kea - a native parrot

On the return drive

It was our last night at the campsite. Cookie cooked up fantastic porterhouse steaks on the bbq, accompanied this time with a debate about... unions! Politics next then?

Posted by Galavantie 13:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Adrenlin avoidance and the Sound of silence


The drive to Queenstown was windy... and windy. The gusts during the night hadn't eased and it was blowing a fair hooley.


Along the way we bought tonnes of fruit as the Otago central region is a great producer of stone-fruit; cherries, apricots, peaches and the like... yum (and post-eating I can say it is all extraordinarily yum).

Now that's what you call a stew bag

We spotted a bungy jump bridge, the world's first commercial one - A J Hackett. I was dying to see someone jump but maybe the conditions weren't right as no-one, including us, were up for the challenge. Mind you, not that suprising at £90 a pop for a single head-dipping boing.


We passed the Gibbston wine region, the most southerly recognised wine region in the world, but decided to power through this time without necking any wines.

Oh God. Queenstown was a nightmare. It was crazy busy with cars, pedestrians, packed streets... so, so touristy and stressful. It had a UK lakeland feel about it, but full of backpackers. Imagine the worst of the Lake District - which is probably Lake Windermere on a busy summer weekend - chocker full of eager kitted-up walkers and icecream munchers. Well, this was even worse... a young adrenlin-seeking trying to be too-cool-for-skool crowd and just crowds in general.

To be fair, it's in a beautiful setting with a mountain drop and gorgeous blue lake, Wakatipu, and it's more picturesque than Lake Windermere... my point being it's a similar mecca for tourists who flock en masse to use as their holiday base.

Perhaps it had been our relatively reclusive few days in more remote spots, as neither of us warmed to Queenstown and were keen to get the hell out! We utilised a supermarket and tourist info and quickly got back in the van to the quietest campsite available, 12kms out of town. Are we becoming hermits?

Despite our dislike of Queenstown, we returned the next morning to get some brief internet time and book two boat tours in the fiordlands... Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound.

The nicest part of Lake Wakatipu is the other side, away from Queenstown, where the road south hugs the lake... amazing lunch stop

The onward drive to Manapouri - the gateway to Doubtful Sound - was very scenic and our end stop was fantastic! A virtually empty campsite with shiny new facilities and immaculate grassy pitches. Time to crack open the beer! We loved it so much we ended up returning the following two nights.


We had a long leisurely afternoon in the sunshine which extended into the evening... where we debated religion whilst polishing off some red wine, cheese and crackers... (have I mentioned we're basically eating our way around the world?).


Doubtful Sound
I love how it got its name. Captain Cook first sailed past in his ship, Endeavour, in 1770. As he skirted past the entrance to the Sound, he was doubtful that there was sufficient wind to sail the ship in and back out again. So he didn't.

Fast forward 240 odd years and the Sound isn't a cheap excursion by any means (as Lonely Planet advises 'if you have the time and the money, it's an essential experience'). We decided it was worth forking out as we were really keen to see this part of NZ.

Doubtful Sound is also much less trafficked than Milford Sound, so although we were doing both, we also wanted a quieter, less touristy experience. It is also considerably bigger than Milford Sound - three times longer and a sea surface area 10 times larger.

You have to take a boat across Lake Manapouri and a coach trip over a mountain pass before you even reach the Sound. It probably isn't, but it felt like one of the remotest places I've ever been to. The whole region is a World Heritage Area and considered unique for its cool temperate rainforests.

We set off at 8am so the early morning fog was still lingering and gave the setting a brooding moodiness. Fiordland gets up to 10 metres of rain per year (and you thought Stockport was rainy...!). So although it was a bit misty and quite nippy, we were lucky to have the conditions we did.


We nosed out into the Tasman Sea which provided quite a swell, we had to spend a bit of time inside it was that cold!


But, as the day progressed, the mist lifted and clung to the tops of the mountains. The fiord was so beautiful, I can barely describe. It felt like a lost world, a place of wilderness where man hasn't left his mark on the land (ok, apart from the launch jetty). It was incredibly serene and calm, and simply spectacular.


We were very fortunate to get glimpses of little blue penguins swimming out over the water, and even luckier to see the Fiordland crested penguin... one of the rarest penguins in the world.

Not the greatest shot as they were difficult to capture, but you can still make out their golden crest

There was a really special moment when the guide asked everyone on board to be still and silent, and they also turned off the boat engine. We were virtually enclosed by the steep surrounds and suddenly all you could hear was birdsong. It was just like the land that time forgot and it was easy to feel so insignificant in such a landscape.

Posted by Galavantie 14:46 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Rivers shallow, mountains high... an amazing start to NZ


After stocking up the camper with provisions we were ready for road trip... what was it Cookie....?

...ah that's it - number 4 ;)

So, we have a campervan for a little over three weeks to explore the South Island, doing a large loop from Christchurch to Christchurch. The route was largely unplanned at this point, other than deciding to head into the middle towards Mount Cook (well, we couldn't not go there!).

We'd set off late afternoon and the skies were rather grey, but as we approached the Lake Tekapo area, we had great vistas lit by dramatic beams of light from the low hanging clouds. It was starting to look mighty and impressive!


Our first full day in New Zealand's vast plains was Valentine's Day. Aside from the obvious, my thoughts were also with my dear friend Becky who was getting married today (well technically whilst we would be sleeping that night... but you know what I mean), and Wil from 'the gang' back in Bournemouth who was celebrating his Big 40. Hopefully a wonderful day for Becky and Steve, and a drunken night for Wil!

The skies had cleared to a glorious day and we walked up to the summit of Mt John and back along Lake Tekapo. We were rewarded with amazing views of snow topped peaks and 360 degree panoramas.

Extraordinary views of the Mackenzie Basin

Golden tussocks

The summit made for a brilliant lunch stop

Mt John is also home to a key observatory for star-gazing and a whole lot of spacey-stuff (I'm no Professor Briiiiian Cox), as the area has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve. Sadly it was too cloudy that night to do our own gawping skyward.


The Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo

We moved on to a nearby campsite by Lake McGregor, a wonderfully quiet spot right by the lake and cheap as no electric power or showers. It was a warm evening so we drank wine whilst watching others swim in the lake... Ant was tempted to go in, but got too settled in his camping chair methinks.


The overnight temperature plummeted and whilst our bodies kept warm we had pretty cold faces... not so comfortable breathing in the cool air!

Our home for the next 3 weeks!

Lake Pukaki

Just wow


Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest peak at 3,754m. It received its European name in 1851 in honour of Captain James Cook.

Our first views of Mount Cook

Our Department of Conservation (DOC) campsite had a stunning location, nestled at the base of the snowy mountains. As we arrived mid-morning we were able to bag a great spot.

We did the Hooker Valley Track, which took us 4 hours with lunch and plenty of stops to admire the views. The mountain air felt super clean and the walk was really beautiful with alpine flora lining the route.

Alpine memorial to climbers who've lost their lives in this area. We met a guy who'd just spotted the name of a friend on one of the plaques. He knew of his death but didn't know it was here, he looked pretty choked poor guy.


We had cracking views of Mt Cook and could even make out the faint blues of the ice at the base of hanging glaciers high up on the mountainside. There was clear evidence of past glacial activity with moraine ridges gorged along the rock. We also encountered some high suspended bridges en route, one a little high for my comfort...

I'm starting to think it's impossible to take a bad snap in New Zealand!

It was a hot day with little shade, kind of weird walking in glacier country through mountain valleys and sweating buckets at the same time!

Mount Cook National Park is not only home to New Zealand's highest mountain, but also its largest glaciers. There are 19 peaks over 3,000m high and glaciers cover 40% of the park. We were hoping for a glimpse of a really pure white one, but Hooker Glacier on view at the end of the trail was actually quite dirty and covered in a layer of rock/shale.

Hooker glacier can be seen at the far end of the lake

Back at camp, we cooled down and chilled out, opening the back doors to the camper to enjoy an uninterrupted view of mountains from our bed whilst we read. Very peaceful and idyllic.


However this idyll didn't last as, during the night, the wind whipped up from the mountains and we were quite buffeted at times. It kept us awake in the early hours but it was also cosy to snuggle up warm with the wind whistling around us!

This area has been a great taster for NZ's majestic (and it truly is) scenery. After just a few days on the road there's a few early observations we've made...

  • Cripes, there's a LOT of dead rabbits on road! Rabbits seem to be NZ's biggest road kill as 'roos probably are to Australia.
  • The weather is very changeable - a hot summer's day one day, the next like autumn... windy, cool and drizzly. The night temperature is also very variable, we can sit out one evening and not the next.
  • Kiwi's seem like a very friendly bunch and are happy to help, there's definitely a feel of the cliche that this is England 50 years ago. The availability of free wifi certainly is... ha ha...
  • The roads are still quiet but it feels busier than much of our road trips in Oz. I guess it's because it's a much smaller place so the number of tourists have a bigger impact - and every third vehicle is a campervan! British and German tourists seem to account for the majority.
  • The clouds are different here... some we've never seen the like of in the UK... almost 'mothership' like... UFO shaped.


  • It's slightly cheaper than Oz, but not much... wine and beer, however, is noticeably less expensive... yippeee!
  • Cadbury's chocolate doesn't taste as good in New Zealand (nor in Australia for that matter). Bummer.

Onward south to discover more New Zealand delights!

Posted by Galavantie 01:31 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Chch: A CBD in tatters but surprises around every corner

semi-overcast 16 °C

It was only a short three hour hop from Melbourne to Christchurch, but we may as well have flown from the UK, the impact the travelling had on us...

We took off close to midnight but it was too short a flight to sleep. Clocks also went forward two hours so the local time was 5am on arrival. We weren't able to drop our bags at our motel until 8am, so we slumped in an airport cafe chain-drinking tea and making use of free wifi to kill a few hours.

We caught a bus to the city centre and had a short walk through the CBD to our accommodation. Oh my life. We just weren't prepared for the sights around us. It was 8.20am on a Monday morning... grey, cloudy and pretty cold. Where was everyone? This was New Zealand's second city (and largest on the South Island) yet the streets were nigh on empty. What about the commuters?

There were big voids where buildings once stood, boarded up and broken windows on some that were left standing, a half collapsed Cathedral, supported buildings and incomplete construction.

We were aware of the earthquakes which had hit the city in 2011/2012, but perhaps naively we hadn't appreciated how much the CBD had suffered and three years on, just how much work was yet to be done to rebuild the city. Since the initial large earthquake in Sep 2011, they've had over 2,000 aftershocks. Staggering eh.

It was very dismal and as Ant aptly described, pretty much post-apocalyptic.


The immediate environment quickly impacted our frame of mind and mood. We were, of course, also really tired having been awake for 24 hours... plus we had the prospect of a further four hour wait until we could check in to our room. All we wanted to do was sleep, but bags dropped we dejectedly walked back into the city... both separately thinking what the hell were we going to do for the next few hours, never mind for three full days, in this city?

There was a glimmer of hope when we came across a cool square filled with shipping containers cleverly converted into coffee shops and retail units. We lurched from one to the other, leaving each with a forlorn look to one another questioning what or where next... and understandably we were getting aggy and irritable.

Re:Start mall

But soon we were able to check in and crash out! We slept for about 4 hours, waking in time to venture out for dinner. Our motel had provided detailed info on what looked like some great bars and restaurants... somewhat mystifying to us... where the devil were they? We drew back the curtains and what a difference! The sun was shining and we felt a renewed vigour to explore.

Tucked away, one street at a time, we came across hidden surprises... trendy bars rising up out of nowhere (often surrounded by nothing more than wasteland, empty neighbours and rubble), quirky projects and street art. We almost didn't know what to expect around every corner. This city was quickly proving to be inventive and exciting.

We ended up doing a bit of a bar crawl, something which just a few hours earlier we thought would never have been possible, and found a lively pub for dinner. Heading back for the night we reflected on what had definitely been the strangest day of our travels so far (this day also exactly marked our halfway point), and how distinctly different our morning and evening impressions had been of Christchurch.


Our next two days reflected our first evening's encounter, and Christchurch continued to surprise and delight. We learnt that 70% of the city centre's buildings have been demolished after the quakes and that the city is only just starting to rebuild having been in demolish mode for the last three years.

Tragically, 185 people lost their lives in the last quake and 185 empty white chairs - where a church once stood - have been set up as a somewhat stark but equally touching memorial.


The CBD shows wonderful creativity from community projects such as Gap Filler, where temporary installations and innovative spaces have been created to fill the voids around the city. A brilliant (and my favourite) example was 'Pallet Pavilion' - a very cool spot built up using 3000 pallets, complete with a caravan cafe. Love it!

You know you're in New Zealand when...


There are parks and the botanical gardens for a stroll, you can even punt down the river...


Some heritage buildings have been saved or were thankfully not affected by the earthquakes.


And the cathedral that was...


We met up with Mick & Jackie, a couple I knew from Bournemouth who've emigrated here, and had a lovely evening in a local tapas place... great food, company and live band. A few too many drinks consumed but it was a fun night and really good to see familiar faces on the other side of the world. If you're reading this guys, thanks again for a great time!

It's apparent Christchurch has a long way to go to recover from the devastation caused - probably a generation - but the city has ambitious plans for a remodelled centre and, in the meantime, is paving the way for local talent to showcase creative ideas.


Can't wait to see what the rest of New Zealand has in store for us!

Posted by Galavantie 13:32 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Road signs, wildlife and a few 'lols' along the way...

A summary of our tour down under

So that's our Aussie adventure done, and what a fantastic experience it's been. Two months and six states later we've still barely scratched the surface of this enormous country. Even now, its vastness is hard to compute.

We broke our time in Australia into the following parts:

  • Road trip 1 - Queensland: Cairns to Brisbane
  • New South Wales: Sydney
  • Road trip 2 - Western Australia: Perth to Perth south west loop
  • Northern Territory: The red centre
  • Road trip 3 - South Australia & Victoria: Adelaide to Melbourne

The standout highlights for us were Western Australia and Adelaide & South Australia. The beaches in WA were like nothing we've ever seen, and trounced over even Caribbean sands. It was also really great to reconnect with my cousin, Lynn, for the first time in two decades. Adelaide was our kind of place and we'd heartily recommend it to anyone. I hope we get to go back some day.

Queensland was perhaps our biggest disappointment. Other than our wonderful Christmas stay in Marcoola on the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island, much of this section was quite average and we didn't really rate many of the towns along the way. And of course we had that very unpleasant experience in the Whitsundays... shudder!

Sydney was fun and the city's New Year's Eve firework display was nothing short of spectacular, but we were also ready to leave the city after our six nights there.

The red centre provided a totally unique landscape, and yes... the earth really is that red/orange. Uluru has a special quality but we won't be rushing back to Alice Springs - what a dump!

And finally Melbourne and visiting beautiful Burtie. A fabulous city to end our trip and we had a few leisurely days enjoying the city's highlights.

The best and worst of Australia? Here's a top 10 of the good and the bad in no particular order...

  • Flies

Urgh. A real pain and a big drawback when the summer heat blows in. A fly net is a must buy!

  • People

Aussies are an optimistic, friendly bunch who don't seem to take life too seriously. It feels like a land of hope and opportunities. I'll throw service in here too - noticeably friendlier and more helpful on average than in the UK. Their TV is hilarious, so un-PC it's hysterical.

  • Heat

When a heatwave hits, you know about it. Anything above about 37c and we faded fast. Brits might get rained/snowed in in the winter, but equally on the hottest days of summer Aussies are trapped inside too.

  • Wine

Oh my... we love a good Aussie red and boy were we in for a treat. South Australia's McLaren Vale was like we'd died and gone to heaven. In our opinion the best shiraz (our) money can buy. We also had fun in Margaret River's wineries.

  • Cost

Not so good for the flailing pound against a strong AU dollar. Right now it's not a cheap place to visit for Brits and we went £2k over budget. Ouch. Damn those expensive reds!

  • Cities

With thriving arts scenes, cafe cultures, shining skyscrapers and gorgeous parks, Australian cities are far from grim and dirty. This description could be applied to any of the cities we visited, with Adelaide and Melbourne our pick.

  • Social problems

Unless you've been to Australia, it's hard to write this without sounding like a white supremecist... but Australia has a significant social issue with its indiginous population. Frankly, their culture and our western culture just don't mix. There are serious drug, health, alcohol and unemployment problems and you see a LOT of aboriginees just sat under trees and in parks drinking. It's a bit unsettling.

  • Food

It's generally excellent, or at least the produce is - we did have a few duff meals along the way - but the quality of red meat and fruit and veggies is top notch.

  • Wifi

The cities were ok, but we were amazed just how difficult it was to get decent connectivity. Asia was a breeze by comparison.

  • Road trips

Without doubt the best way to see the country and be staggered at the 'nothingness' en route. We also had a bit of fun along the way 'collecting' the iconic animal road signs...


And a few others... mostly about not dying...


On the road we spotted a few 'lols' worthy of a snap...


Some mailboxes...

My favourite

Trying to 'do a Paul Hogan' on a cow. Little success.



And last but certainly not least, Australia's wildlife was an endless source of fascination.

In terms of deadly things, we didn't see one snake on our travels and only encountered a couple of red back spiders. We saw a couple of other crawlies such as a scorpion in camp and a centipede which gives a nasty bite. I spotted a shark whilst diving, but not one which was likely to bother a human.

We couldn't/didn't capture everything we saw and much of the time photo opportunities were fleeting or far away. But here's a selection of the weird and the mostly wonderful that we did see...

Wild horses in the outback

A turtle!

A wallaby


Here come the birds...


Posted by Galavantie 12:57 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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