A Travellerspoint blog

Abel Tasman, Kaiteriteri and Christchurch

After getting lost on driving to the start of the Abel Tasman track we eventually started walking at 11am, not the best time of the day as it was the height of summer and with minimal ozone the sun is incredibly strong. This time around we were carrying all our food and camping gear for the next days so our bags were a lot heavier.

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We started off at Wainui, the northern end of the 51km track. The first part was walking up and down hills through bush. At the top we looked down on the emptied Wainui Bay as the tide was out.
After walking a few hours we arrived at Mutton Cove, a beautiful secluded golden beach. I wish we had stayed here for a swim but as we were carrying our bags and I had a stinking cold, our walking times had dropped and we were in danger of not making it to Awaroa Bay before low tide to gain access to our pre-booked camp.

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We walked past stunning bay after bay but knew we couldn’t stop for long. We even saw a massive ray swimming right next to the surf, only about 1 meter off shore! We eventually arrived at Totaranui where we stopped for 20 mins to have lunch but after that we had another 5.5km of steep hills.
Thankfully we arrived at Awaroa on time and crossed the waterless estuary to our camp spot.

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As soon as we walked up to the camp a mixed swarm of mosquitos, sand-flies and wasps converged on us as a big cloud. We ran to the loos to put our trousers and long sleeved tops on and then finished erecting the tent. It didn’t matter how many layers we had on, somehow the mozzies kept sucking the life out of us until we actually got inside the tent. And that is were we stayed for the rest if the day, bearing in mind we arrived at the camp at 4pm! We only got out quickly to rehydrate our dehydrated roast lamb dinner and pop to the loo. We could see thousands of mozzies in between the 2 layers of our tent, and the wasps I saw were trying to sting the tent!

After a terrible sleep due to the adventurous mouse dancing on our tent all night and trying to outrun an owl we quickly packed up our tent, had breakfast and ran out of that hell hole. We were a little late leaving and the tide was coming up so we had to wade through water some of the way to the next part of the tack. We saw another ray in the estuary which was cool.
Today we would walk 23.5km from Awaroa to Anchorage having to take into consideration 2 tidal crossings. The first one was at Onetahuti Bay, we arrived 2 hours early and to cross it would mean swimming and getting everything soaking wet. Luckily after 20 minutes of waiting a guide paddled over and offered us a lift in his kayak. So one by one, with our bags on our lap he very kindly took us across the estuary and onto the beach. Now we were passed the first tidal crossing we walked towards Bark Bay where we would stop for lunch. Our pace was a lot quicker today and we stopped a lot less as the views weren’t as good as the previous day, mainly walking through dense bush. After a quick lunch at Bark Bay we headed off towards Torrent Bay, the next tidal crossing. This time we got there at the right time and walked across the empty estuary and onto Anchorage.
After setting up camp we headed down to the lovely beach and went for a swim to sooth our sore feet and limbs. Another early night loomed so we cooked our dinner and went to sleep.

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To next morning we woke to a low mist all around so we just got on with it, packed up and headed out for the final part of the trek.
It was an easy morning walk of only 12.4km and we got to the end by 11am, at the end there’s a great café, so we had a drink, a little early for a beer, and then got picked up and taken to the next coastal town, Kaiteriteri.

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Over the next couple of weeks we chilled out In Kaiteriteri and Nelson. Spending some time at my parents rented holiday house over looking the beach. Nice and relaxing, with not much to do but enjoy the sun and the beach.
We stayed in Nelson for the weekend, where we checked out the local market and beaches, before trying to sell our beloved chariot car!
It was easier than we thought it would be to sell it, but it was a tearful goodbye when the new owner drove off.

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Next we headed down to Christchurch on the bus! So glad we had a car for our time here as this took a whole day, when we would have driven it in 5 hours!
Not much to say about Christchurch, its centre is still closed off, just before we arrived it was the 2nd anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the city! Otherwise it was a cool place with nice parks and lots of eateries. From here we jumped on a plane to Australia to begin the next chapter of our lives…

Posted by LeahPaul 03:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Queenstown, Frans Joseph and Golden Bay

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After arriving in Queenstown we found a campsite overlooking the town and more spectacularly Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s third largest lake.
The first few days we spent chilling out around the town and lake. Queenstown has a much younger crowd than anywhere else we’d been to, with it being seen as the adventure capital of the world combined with great nightlife, its streets are busy with youngsters still on a high from bungy jumps, white water rafting trips and jet boat rides to name but a few.

As I’d been here before and had already done most of the adventure sports and frequented many of the bars this visit was a much more laidback affair! On the Saturday night we were there we did meet a group of Kiwi’s out for a Birthday so we crashed their party and headed out with them. We had a great night and they took us to some cool bars and clubs, but as the night grew on Leah decided busting moves on the dance floor wasn’t enough so up she got on the bar! Suffice to say that was the end of our time at that club!

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In Queenstown you can jump on the gondola, which, at the top gives you a great view of the lake and surrounding mountains. We were feeling adventurous that day so we decided instead of catching a lift up we would walk to the top. Not a great plan when it’s 30 degrees but we made it and the views are spectacular. From the top you see people jumping off the mountain paragliding down to the bottom, a great way to get down but we stuck to walking!

With a couple of days left in Queenstown we realised my parents were flying over for a holiday. We weren’t sure whether or not we would be in the same place as them but as we’re all the way round the world we thought we’d surprise them at the airport. After meeting them we drove to Arrowtown where they were staying, 20 minutes out of Queenstown and went for a drink and a catch up. It was great to see them after all this time away and we planned to meet up again when we went back to Wanaka in a few days.

We decided to take the road over the mountains from Queenstown to Wanaka, passing by Cardrona ski area on route. Great views all the way but difficult to stop and take pictures as it was so thin and windy from start to finish.
As my parents were staying there at the same time as us they offered to put us up in there B&B which has an uninterrupted view out the back of Mount Aspiring, the biggest mountain in the area. Staying here was relative luxury compared to the hostels and campsites we’d stayed in. Both nights we were there we had bbq’s and Davey, the owner of the B&B took us out on his 3-wheeler motorbike for a tour around Wanaka. This was great fun flying around with him talking in our headphones giving us a brief history of the town and taking in different viewpoints of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains.

After staying in Wanaka for a couple of days we headed over the Haast Pass and up the West Coast. We stopped in Franz Josef for a couple of nights to get a look at the Glacier. Unfortunately it rained none stop for the only full day we were there so in the morning before we left we walked along the valley to just beneath the massive glacier.

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Next up was the huge drive up the west coast. Fortunately the weather was perfect blue skies and brilliant sunshine as this part of New Zealand is prone to horrendous weather. As you drive along you pass some beautiful areas with mountains on one side and crashing waves on the other. We stopped a few times taking pictures where possible and then carried on up the coast before heading inland at Westport and then further north up to Golden Bay on the North west coast.

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Golden Bay is a stunning part of New Zealand, with warm waters and great beaches. We stayed here for a few days just relaxing on the beach preparing ourselves for the 3-day trek we’d planned to do through the Abel Tasman national park.

Posted by LeahPaul 13:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

South of the South Island

After a safe flight back to New Zealand we started heading down the East Coast, we could see the majestic ice tipped mountains to the right and the beautiful sea to the right. Eventually we went inland to visit some of the incredible lakes the South island had to offer. We stopped for the night in a small town called Fairlie, the weather was beautiful and we could see the Mt Cook national park in the distance.

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The next morning was as beautiful as the last so we headed over to Lake Tekapo, as you can see by the photo the lake has unobstructed views across the turquoise water with a backdrop of rolling hills and mountains. We dipped our toes into the water to see if it was warm enough to swim in, or should I say not to cold but my toe almost dropped off so we thought better of it and had a wonder around the few shops.
We then drove through the beautiful Mackenzie country heading towards Dunedin, the Edinburgh and university capital of the south. We found a lovely holiday park almost on the beach, got some supplies from the supermarket and chilled out for the evening.

The next day the weather wasn’t great, we took the drive around the Otago peninsular hoping to see some penguins or sea lions but were disappointed so we walked around town and watched ‘The Hobbit’ at the cinema.

The weather the next day was no better so we decided to drive onto Invercargill, at one point I was driving at 10 kmph as the rain was so heavy! And then 5 mins later the sun was shining brightly. As the weather wasn’t very nice for most of the way the views were compromised which was a shame.
Once we arrived in Invercargill we treated ourselves to a cabin, as we didn’t fancy putting out tent up in a storm. We decided that if the weather was nice the next day we would do one of the many walks they had to offer, and if not we would make our way to Te Anau.
As we expected, the weather was terrible in Invercargill so Te Anau it was! We stopped off at New Zealands ‘sausage capital’, Tuatapere where we found it difficult to find any sausages. Thankfully on the way out we found a butcher that sold the ‘famous’ sausages.

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We arrived in Te Anau in the afternoon of a beautiful day, we hired some bikes and rode around some of Lake Te Anau enjoying the turquoise waters with the snow capped mountain backdrop.

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We then went to the i-site to enquire about a boat trip in the Milford Sound but the lady informed us a storm was approaching and the tricky but amazing Te Anau to Milford road would be closed! We were deeply disappointed but as this weather is prone to these areas (they receive about 7m of rain a year) we had prepared to stay here for a few extra days. We checked into a cosy cabbin and waited for the storm to pass.
We waited for 3 days and the rain didn’t stop, eventually we decided to do a boat trip into the Doubtful Sound, which was supposed to be nicer but unfortunately more expensive, but the weather wasn’t quite as bad there and we didn’t have any closed roads to worry about.
Our boat trip started at 2pm, we first got on a boat in Manapouri, about 20km from Te Anau. We crossed Lake Manapouri, where the weather was rather cloudy and wet so not much was to be seen. We then got on a bus and drove 22km through dense rainforest to Deep Cove to head out on another boat on the Doubtful Sound. By this point the weather was starting to improve and you cold really see why this tourist spot is so popular. As there had been so much rain over the past few days the waterfalls were abundant and spectacular! On the boat we started to see rugged peaks jutting out of the sea covered in thick rainforest, the weather was really starting to lift but the wind was very strong. The boat trip took about 2 hours in total, where the boat reached the Tasman Sea and turned around again. On the way back the wind had dropped slightly and the sun had started to shine through the clouds and even some rainbows appeared over the waterfalls. It was defiantly a worthwhile trip.

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Our next destination was Wanaka. We stopped off in Alexandra to register with a recruitment agent to get a week or two of work and then headed over to Lake Wanaka for the weekend. We drove into Wanaka’s beautiful scenery, found a campsite and had a walk around the town and part of the lake. We found Wanaka to be a very touristy town, but it is a year round holiday destination, also catering to skiers in the winter, and you can see why, just up the road is Mt. Aspiring.
We wanted to do a walk while we were there so chose to do the Rob Roy valley track but after driving 40 mins on an unsealed road praying our car would be ok, we found out we had to drive through several fords which we knew our poor car couldn’t take so we headed back and walked a bit more around the lake. It was a very windy day and several people had brought their giant kites and had them up in the park.
The next morning we walked around Mt. Iron and took in the spectacular views of the lake and the mountains from the top, the heat was immense so we soon headed back to spend the afternoon by the lake eating amazing ice-creams!

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On the Monday as expected, we received a phone call from the recruitment agent asking us if we could start cherry picking immediately. We agreed and that was what we did for the next one and a half weeks.

Posted by LeahPaul 21:14 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Queen Charlotte Track, Kaikoura and Xmas in Sydney

The ferry over to the South Island was very uneventful as the weather wasn’t great. Coming into the sounds is supposed to be beautiful but unfortunately all we could see was a thick layer of mist!

After a quiet night in we started the Queen Charlotte track. We got the boat back through the sound from Picton to the start of the walk. We were lucky as after half an hour on the boat we came across a pod of about 20 dolphins feeding. It was amazing to see and they came right up and under our boat.

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We were dropped off at Ship Cove, the starting point of the Queen Charlotte track, 71km from Anakiwa at the end. After a hefty climb at the start we were rewarded with breath taking views all across the sound.

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From here we headed back down to sea level where the rest of the days walk was relatively flat through lush bush. The weather slowly got worse throughout the day but we made it to our first campsite by 4pm after walking 26.5k’s that day.
We set up camp straight away, made some food and chatted to some other walkers who were doing the same track over a longer time frame than us.
Tiredness soon kicked in and we retired back to the tent.

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The next morning we were greeted by much better weather, and also another big climb to start the day. The uninterrupted blue sky made the turquoise water around us look amazing, glistening in the sunshine. The views throughout the day were fantastic and after 24.5k’s we arrived at our next campsite, Cowshed Bay. We soaked our aching feet in the sea before treating ourselves to a cool glass of wine and a cider at a 5 star hotel down the road from our pitiful patch of grass our tent was set on.

Another early night led to our final day on the track. Just 20k’s for the day but the start was a killer hill not made any easier by the blazing sunshine. Luckily it was all down hill after we reached the top and quite an easy ending to our walk. We got a water taxi back to Picton from here, jumped in the car and headed down to Blenheim, New Zealand’s largest wine region.

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Blenheim is a bit like Mendoza in Argentina. A lot of vineyards offering wine tastings. We drove around a few and walked around one called Framingham. As we had ‘been there and done that’ we didn’t stay for long as most of the vineyards were either closed or were expensive so we headed off to the peninsular town called Kaikoura.

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The drive from Blenheim to Kaikoura was amazing. We went down SH1, which is inland then slowly aligns with the coast. As you get closer to Kaikoura the snow capped picturesque mountains come into view. We found a campsite, pitched up, had some dinner and then headed into town for a few drinks. Even though it was a Friday night the town was dead so we headed back to our campsite. The next day we wanted to go to the sea to see if we could spot any of the abundance of wildlife we read about, including whales, dolphins, seals, penguins etc… We drove around to the end of the peninsular and only found 2 lazy seals lying on the rocks. The day was a bit miserable so we didn’t stay for too long. We did stop at the world famous Kaikoura Seafood BBQ trailer to get a snack of steamed mussels for me and a scallop sandwich for Paul, yum!

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As the weather was rubbish we decided to drive onto Christchurch a bit early. WE found a nice cabbin, and had an early night as it would be an early start the next day as we were flying to Sydney to visit Pauls sister and her family for Xmas and New Year.

The flight to Sydney went smoothly, we arrived early in the morning to a blazing hot day. Sarah’s kids Rocco and Carla were very excited to see their uncle Wallrus.

We had a fab time in Sydney, Chrismas day was amazing. We went to the beach down the road almost daily, took the kids to the museum, went to Manly and spent New Years eve watching fireworks on the beach.

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Sadly our holiday from our holiday had to end and we flew back to NZ on the 3rd Jan to finish travelling the beautiful South Island.

Posted by LeahPaul 14:29 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Road Trip Around The North Island, NZ

After saving enough money to start travelling again we packed the car up and headed south back to Auckland to pick up a few things. When we were half an hour away from the city centre the clouds turned very dark and the rain started to hammer it down, so much so that everyone on the motorway was going 10kph! When we turned off into the city centre we had to stop, as we couldn’t see anything out of the window. Later that evening we heard on the news that at the time we were in Auckland a tornado had hit and hundreds of people had been evacuated from their homes.

After the fun events in Auckland we headed to the Coromandel Peninsular. Unfortunately the bad weather was always one step ahead of us so the apparently spectacular views were hidden in thick cloud. Thankfully for us there were a few breaks in the cloud and we got some nice photos of some beautiful bays.
Once we arrived in Coromandel Town we were both quite tired so checked into a backpackers room, had some diner, walked around the small town and then had an early night as we need to get up early in the morning.

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The next day we headed over to Hot Water Beach where for 2 hours either side of low tide you can access an area of sand in the middle of the beach where you can dig a hole and hot water oozes out and you can make a very hot bath in the sand. Below this area is an underground thermal spring. It was a great experience, 7.30 in the morning getting into your swimwear and getting in a nice hot sand bath on the beach!

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After Hot Water Beach we slowly made our way down the East coast of the peninsular stopping off at several beach towns and finally arriving in Mt Maunganui, a cool beach town right next to the city of Tauranga. We found a great campsite right under the mount and only a few steps away from the beach. The bad weather was still with us but was starting to clear up. We pitched our tent, and settled down for the evening.

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The next day was glorious! The sun was out so we decided to have a wonder around the town and along the beach. This town was unlike any we had seen in NZ so far, it was modern with an arty feel to it. So far, apart from Auckland NZ has looked like what I would expect the south of America to look like. One small high street where the single road state highway travels through, and a few houses around.
After lunch we walked around and up the mount to experience the magnificent views.

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After a few relaxing days we headed off to stinky Rotorua, the most dynamic thermal area in NZ. The town was a bit dead so we only had a quick look around then headed over to see some sulphur rich spurting geysers. We refused to pay $40 each to see the big one so walked around the corner and saw a few smaller ones for free!

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Once we had had enough of the eggy smell we drove over to the Blue and Green lakes to do a small trek. We walked around the Blue lake, had some lunch and then set off to start the long journey around the East Cape on the Pacific Coast Highway.

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We had planned on staying the night in a place called Opotiki but after driving on gravel tracks for an hour we couldn’t find the free campsite so decided to carry on until we found somewhere further along the coast. When the sun had almost set we found a campsite in a small village called Te Kaha, it was very basic but all we needed for the night. We met an English couple doing the same as us but they had run out of petrol a few miles before they got to the campsite.

We rose early and headed to the most easterly point in New Zealand, Eastern Cape where there is a big white lighthouse that we climbed up to. The views from the top were amazing, made even more magnificent by the beautiful day.

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Once we left the lighthouse we started to drive all around the East Coast on SH35, it took us inland and along the rugged coast. The roads were dead which made driving for me wonderful, well except for the logging trucks, which sped past at well over the sped limit! The next place we stopped was Gisborne. The town itself it nice but not that different from most of the other towns in NZ that we have visited. We stocked up on a few essentials and headed over to Mahia Bay and hour south of Gisborne where we would camp for the night.

The next morning we headed over to Napier, this town has a little more character as it was destroyed by a big earthquake in the 1930’s and rebuilt mostly in an Art Deco style. The whole place and the people seemed to be a bit more arty and creative.
We couldn’t stay too long though as we had to get up to Lake Taupo. We arrived and found a nice campsite in a hostel garden in the centre of town which was good.
The sun was shining so we wondered around some of the lake which is the size of Singapore, it is a very peaceful place with views of Tongariro National Park in the distance. We wondered around the cool town too, checking out some of their boutique and outdoors shops.

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The next morning we decided to walk to Huka Falls on the Waikato River. The walk was through bush land along the river. Once we arrived we decided to keep going along the track to the Aratiatia Hydroelectric Dam. The walk was a lot further than we anticipated but we reached the dam 20 mins before the scheduled 12pm opening. We walked to the view point and watched the water crashing through the dam turning a small stream into a rampaging river of rapids within minutes.

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Once the excitement was over we had lunch and headed back to Taupo. When we got back to our tent we were knackered but worked out that we had walked about 22km in 5 hours.

We wearily got up after a rain affected night and drove over to Tongariro National Park. The weather didn’t seem like it was going to clear any time so we treated ourselves and rented a cabin for the night. As we were at 1100m the temperature was a lot colder so it was nice to have heating and a comfortable bed.

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After a good nights rest we woke early and drove over to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track. The weather was still very cloudy but we were glad that it was dry.
We started walking at about 7.15 am, only half of the track is open due to one of the volcanoes erupting a few weeks ago but as we have to return the same way the distance is about the same in total.

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It took us about one hour to reach the soda springs, the landscape was wild and desolate and as the clouds were so low it looked kind of spooky.
We kept going, climbing up quite high to reach the Southern Crater, we didn’t realise we were walking in it until we realised how flat it was around us. There was even snow on the sides so you can imagine how cold it was.

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After the Southern crater we had to climb some more to reach the rim of the red crater and to see the Emerald lakes below. Unfortunately this was the end of the line for us, and the weather was just getting worse with the wind speed getting up to 70kmph. We took a few photos and headed back down, this time with the wind in our faces, eek! All in all we walked about 18km in 5 hours.

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Now we are in Porirua, a neighbouring town of Wellington in the south of the north island. The weather is fine, but a little windy. We went into Wellington yesterday, it’s a really cool and vibrant city with loads of coffee shops and boutique clothing stores.
We walked around the windy harbour, had some lunch on a little beach and hit the shops for some window-shopping.

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We are heading over on the ferry to the South Island tomorrow. On Tuesday we will be starting the Queen Charlotte walking track in Marlborough Sounds, can’t wait!

Posted by LeahPaul 16:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Living in the Bay of Islands, NZ

So, we are back writing the blog again! Since leaving Singapore and arriving in New Zealand we spent a week in Auckland and hated the weather but managed to pick up an amazing car so decided to drive up to ‘the winterless North’ to find work.

We decided to return to the place Paul had stayed at 12 years ago, a backpacker lodge in Kerikeri called Hideaway. Luckily we found work straight away and started to build a community of friends which was nice.
Work was work, no need to go into details but we had a wicked time in Kerikeri.

Highlights included a night fishing trip to Marsden Cross in the Bay of Islands where we fished and camped on the beach. We tried Sea Urchins for the first time, Paul caught a massive fish that fed all 11 of us, and he ALMOST caught a shark with his bare hands!!!!! I did not see this however.

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We headed up to Cape Reinga for a day, this is the most northerly place in New Zealand and the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. On the way back we stopped off at some huge sand dunes to sand board down, the only problem was getting up them!!

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We had some really good parties with the people we met and we will miss them all, but we are so excited to be on the road and travelling again!

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Posted by LeahPaul 13:12 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Berestagi, Lake Toba & beyond

On the jungle trek we met some really cool people, an English guy called Joe and two Austrian girls called Veronica and Merriam who were heading in the same direction as us so we decided to travel together to our next destination Berestagi. We had to catch two local busses and travel almost all day to the volcanic region.
On the bus I made friends with a group of giggling Indonesian girls who wanted to practice their English. They were so funny calling me ‘miss’ all the time and wanting a photo, I felt like a celebrity! When we arrived we found a place to stay, which was over looking the town.

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The next morning we all hiked up Sibayak, a volcano of about 2000m. Most of the track was a steep tarmac road that took us through a few small villages with kids coming out of their houses to shout ‘hello, hello’. Close to the top the terrain changed to a rocky, sulphur stained ‘mount doom’. The stench of sulphur was something else and as we got closer to the summit steam was violently spraying from various holes in the volcano.

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At the top we took some pictures then headed off down the other side. An initial steep climb led onto a never-ending series of steps down to a small village where we were supposed to get the bus back to Berestagi. We were running out of time and our guesthouse owner said we could get buses back easily from here. Unfortunately this was not the case and we were told by locals that we had just missed a bus and buses run every hour and take an hour to get to Berestagi, this was not great news as we only had an hour to get back to catch our next bus!
So, not feeling too optimistic we started walking hoping some twist of fate would transform our current problem. A few cars passed and we had no luck getting them to stop and then a lovely couple stopped, they told their 3 kids to sit anywhere else but the seats and all 4 of us got in. The journey took just over half an hour and we made it back just in time to catch our ride to Lake Toba.

Roads in Sumatra are rubbish and after 4 hours of backbreaking uneven lanes through the forest we eventually reached the outskirts of the main volcano and wound our way around the lake edge before arriving at the small town of Parapat, where we would get the ferry over to Samosir.

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The ferry only takes half an hour and before long we were chatting to a local who recommended us the guesthouse next to his. After a short walk when getting off the ferry we arrived and were pleasantly surprised by how nice our new home for the next few days was. We unpacked and set about getting some food and a beer with our fellow travellers to make up for the journey.

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Over the next few days we didn’t really do anything, it was so relaxing just reading outside watching the fisherman in their boats on the lake. In the evenings we would have a nice dinner with our friends and the family who owned the guesthouse, have a few beers and sing Oasis songs with the locals who popped in.

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On our second to last day in Toba we all rented mopeds and explored the island with our guide, the guesthouse owners nephew. We visited temples, old houses and experienced incredible views of the lake from the crater rim. Paul was surprisingly good at driving the moped with me on the back, especially for his first time. On the way back it was a bit scary as we had to drive a short way in the dark, traffic isn’t bad here but there are a few very large trucks on the very thin roads. And a dog almost ran out in front of us which made me scream! We did make it back alive though and enjoyed our last evening with our travelling buddies. Lake Toba was defiantly a highlight of Indonesia, I don’t know why its popularity as a holiday destination has been lost but I would recommend it to anyone, it is also VERY cheap.

The next morning we said goodbye to our friends, it had been so nice and refreshing travelling with a small group of people, I kind of wish we had done it before, and then we got the boat back to Parapat to then got the bus back to Medan.
We stayed one night in Medan before catching a morning flight to Jakarta to stay with Paul’s friend Will for the weekend.

We arrived in Jakarta in the afternoon and were picked up by Wills driver. This was real luxury for us!
We just chilled out on the weekend, swam in the pool, visited some of the gigantic shopping malls and had some good grub.

The last stop on our SE Asia trip was Singapore. We only had about a day and a half here, so we made sure we had a good walk around the city. The F1 Grand Prix is coming up next month so we saw them putting up the grandstands and fences and walked around some of the street track.
Singapore’s seems like a great place to next time we’ll have to give ourselves more time and money to see it properly!

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The next day we had our flight to Auckland in New Zealand. We arrived at the airport early but unfortunately our flight was delayed, we weren’t too annoyed as Singapore airport is quite cool.

The flight wasn’t too bad and we both got some sleep. We are now in Auckland and have just bought a car, heading up north in a couple of days.

Posted by LeahPaul 01:08 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Trekking with Orang-utans In The Sumatran Jungle

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Thankfully our flights to KL and then onto Sumatra were all on time and easy. As soon as we landed in Medan, Sumatra we easily arranged a cheap car to take us a few hours up north into the jungle. We went to a small town called Bukit Lawang where we booked our 3 day 2 night jungle trek for the next day. That evening there was a massive thunder and lightening storm, it was so cool watching it on our balcony with the picturesque scenery of the jungle behind.

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We started the next day around 9am trekking into the Taman National Gunung Leuser, up the muddy trails to go in hunt of the wild and semi wild orang-utans and other wildlife the jungle has to offer. Literally a few hours later we encountered our first orang-utan swinging from tree to tree above us. It was wonderful, even though our red-haired cousins are quite big they are so agile knowing exactly which branch or vine to go for. The rest of the day we spent trekking through the dense and very humid jungle seeing many wild and semi wild orang-utans, around 4pm we arrived at our campsite, swam in the river, ate some local food and played card games until it was time to retire to bed.

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The next morning we were wondering what else we were going to do as we had seen so many animals the previous day. We set off in the mid morning climbing up and down, up and down deeper into the jungle. The first orang-utan we encountered was an aggressive mum called Mina, she had previously been a captive so was not a fan of humans. Our guides very carefully distracted her and her 5 year old baby while we ran for our lives, it was all quite exciting. We had only just caught our breath when we were then attacked buy a vicious swarm of wasps, I was stung once and poor Paul was stung 5 times! Our guide quickly sucked the sting out, not that that helped the pain. After we all calmed down we sat down to have lunch of fried noodles, one of the guides got a pack of biscuits out and I turned around just to see Mina sneaking up right behind us, I screamed ‘she’s coming’ and bolted in the other direction before anyone realised what was going on. The guide chucked the biscuits at her and we all ran for our lives once again. Once we were all at a safe distance we burst out into a fit of laughter.

As it had started to rain we decided to head into the direction of the 2nd campsite and the track would soon get dangerously slippy. On the way we caught a glimpse of the fast moving White Gibbon, we saw it bounce from tree to tree without any effort at all.
The 2nd campsite was just a beautiful as the first, set along the river with the mystical jungle surrounding everything. We had only just started to relax after our eventful day when another less aggressive captive orang-utan called Jackie and her baby approached our campsite from along the river. She came so close looking for food so the guides shooed her away but then she was quite content washing in the river and having a good look around.

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Paul and I woke early in the morning so chilled out by the river until the rest of our group woke up. There were so many cheeky monkeys scavenging for left over food jumping from tree to tree. Luckily Jackie came out to play too, she was hanging around a few meters from us and her baby was having a ball of a time scaring the small monkeys. It was so amazing to see!
After breakfast and a swim in the river we packed up and went tubing down the river back to Bukit Lawang. Paul, I and the rest of our group had the best time, it was defiantly one of the best experiences of my life.

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Posted by LeahPaul 21:22 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Beautiful Bali

Senggigi is a small beach town on the East coast of Lombok a few hours down from the Gili Isles. We ‘splashed out’ and found a cute room with much needed hot water as we were pretty disgusting after our Rinjani trek. We didn’t really do much here, we were just wanting to recover. A few days later we caught the slow boat back over to Bali and headed over to Sanur again where we would get the boat over to a Balinese island called Nusa Lembongan. I was really excited about going to this island as the Lonely Planet had described it as ‘the Bali many imagine but never find’. We arrived in the late morning and left the next morning. Needless to say we did not like this island. I guess if you are a diver or surfer it would be cool but as we do neither we were left walking around the very touristy smelly island (Nusa Lembongan has many seaweed farms and they dry the seaweed out on the side of the paths).

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Our next stop was the cultural and arty Ubud. We instantly adored this town, although there were many tourists the place is still cute, quaint and in keeping with the surroundings. Although there are many shops selling junk there are so many cool bohemian shops selling traditional arts, clothes and jewellery. We visited the Monkey sanctuary, went on a bike ride tour that took us from the crater rim of Mt Batur through small villages and rice paddies and experienced a the celebration parade before the cremation of a Royal family member.

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After 4 days in Ubud we decided to move onto Kuta, the most touristy part of Bali for a couple of days until our flight to Sumatra. Kuta is a massive holiday destination and as we were in the peak season the place was heaving with tourists, but we expected this so were not shocked. We mostly went to the beach to watch surfers and generally chilled out.
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Posted by LeahPaul 01:46 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Mount Rinjani – The Tremendous Climb

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So, as I explained in our last blog we had a very relaxing week on Gili Air so we booked a trip to climb the second biggest mountain in Indonesia, Mt Rinjani. We had not done any big treks or much exercise to be honest in a very long time so I was a bit concerned about my fitness, but Paul assured me that he didn’t think the trek would be that difficult.

We set off from Gili and took a bus to Sanaru, a small village about 600m above sea level on the side of Mt Rinjani, where we would spend the night and start the 3 day 2 night trek from. There were many different treks to choose from, some easy and some hard. We chose the hard one…
Day 1: Trek in total 8 hours, all uphill from 600m to 2641m. Camp on the crater rim.
Day 2: Climb on a very exposed and steep path down to 1600m to the lake and hot springs. Climb up to 2700m and camp on the other side of the rim crater.
Day 3: Get up at 2.30am to climb the mighty peak of Mt Rinjani. 3 hours up to 3726m. Watch sunrise, walk back down, and then walk another 5 hours down the mountain to the village of Sembalun Lawang.

The day the trek started we met up with 6 others who would be in our trekking group. Thankfully they were all cool people who were around the same age and fitness as us.
Like on the Inka Trail we had a guide and porters who would carry our camping equipment and food. These guys must be superhuman to carry what they do up the mountain, it never ceases amaze me!

The first day was all uphill, we walked for about 3 hours through dense jungle with monkeys swinging from tree to tree above us. It was so humid that we all had sweat dripping into our eyes. We then stopped for some food, the porters made a campfire and cooked us a delicious veg noodle soup. The clouds started to roll through the trees while we were eating, it felt like we were in a fairy tail.

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After food we started trekking further into the jungle and up the side of the mountain where the incline got a lot steeper and the cloud a lot thicker. We were all struggling at one point or another but all managed it in one piece to our campsite on the crater rim at 2641m. The view we saw was remarkable, we were on a 6km wide caldera with a crescent shaped cobalt lake, hot springs and smaller volcanic cones. And when we turned around and looked the other way we could see a vast expanse of fluffy while cloud and the mountain from Bali peaking out. Once we sorted our tents out we got given our dinner of fried rice, chicken and a cup of tea, and watched the sun set. As we were so high the temperature dropped quite significantly when the sun went down so we sat by the fire and chatted while in all our warm gear until the cold got too much and we retired to our tents.

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The tents were quite good but the floor mats and the sleeping bags were a bit disappointing. The mat had no padding, it was there literally to keep you off the floor only, and the sleeping bags were not quite thick enough so we were all a bit cold during the night and didn’t get much sleep. The wind really picked up throughout the night also, it sounded like there was a tornado going round and round the crater all night, thankfully out tents didn’t shake too much.

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The next morning we woke up for our breakfast of banana pancakes, pineapple jam sandwiches and a hot cup of tea! We left our campsite about 8.00am and started the dangerous climb down the crater to the lake and hot springs. The path down was very exposed and thin in parts, and one foot wrong would have meant a drop to your death. Thankfully we were all careful and made it down safely about 2 hours later. Paul and a few others jumped into the lake, I dipped my toe in and decided that I would rather wait until the hot springs.

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After the swim and a rest we continued for 30 mins walking around the lake to the hot springs. We bathed in the hot water that is revered by locals for it’s healing properties, I couldn’t believe how warm it was and couldn’t stay in too long. The bad thing about bathing in mineral water is my new light blue bikini is not a dirty copper colour.

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We then had our lunch of fried noodles and chicken sat by the lake admiring the beauty around us. We rested and refilled our water bottles with fresh spring water and then set off to climb up to the other side of the crater rim. The trek started off ok, we walked through a path around long grass and then on the side of the cliffs. After this we needed to properly start climbing, We were literally climbing up the side of a cliff, it was so steep in most parts that I had to give my walking stick to Paul and pull myself up with both my hands. It was great fun, if I didn’t look down but actually quite dangerous as we didn’t have ropes or rails.

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After the 3 hour climb we arrived at our 2nd camp site, at the base of the peak of Mt Rinjani. As we arrived at our quite early we had time to relax in the sun before food was served and the sun went down. Again it was very windy and we were worried about how windy it would be at 2.30am the next morning when we were supposed to get up to climb to the top of the mountain. We expressed these concerns to our guide, and he just said, “if you want to go up we will go up, if you don’t then we won’t “. I don’t know why we were surprised, we haven’t come across much heath & safety so far in SE Asia.

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Throughout the night it was so windy that our tents were blowing around and no one got much sleep, but out of the 8 of us 6 got up at 2.30am to start the 3 hour hike up to the top of the mountain. We were all dressed in our warmest gear with our walking sticks in one hand and torches in the other. We started following our guide up at just gone 3am, the climb at the start was not too bad, but all we were given for breakfast was a few crackers and a cup of tea. After about 30 mins it got really tough, the ground started to turn into gravel, so we were taking two steps up, but moving one step back. It was extremely frustrating and tiring. After about 30 mins again we arrived at the start of the ledge where the path flattened out a bit, we were still walking on gravel but it wasn’t quite as difficult. At this point we were all wondering where our guide was, we weren’t too worried as the path was well defined and we had plenty of other groups we could follow, we just all presumed he was ahead and would wait for us shortly.

When we started walking on the top of the ledge we could really feel the force of the wind, I was guessing that the gusts came to about 70mph as they were definitely making me loose my balance which was a bit scary. We walked for about an hour where in many parts the path was totally exposed and only about half a meter wide before each side dropped off into oblivion, we still hadn’t seen our guide and started to get a bit worried as the wind was getting worse the further up we got and we didn’t have a clue how far it was to go. Not only was the path dangerous as it was thin, but as it was so windy the gravel was flying everywhere and it was getting into our eyes so we couldn’t see.

We arrived at a large boulder and asked another guide how far to go, he replied with “one hour, up a very steep gravel path”, we all felt defeated when he said one hour as we were expecting it to be only about 20 mins. We stopped for a rest and one of the guys said he was staying put, as it was too windy for him. The 5 of us then started walking and about 5 mins later one of the girls decided to go back to the boulder as she felt it was too dangerous due to the wind, another guy and myself agreed. Paul and one of the other guys decided to plod on while we waited in the freezing wind behind the large rock.

We were there for about 10 mins before our guide rocked up. He looked like he had been asleep, we guessed he ran on ahead and hid behind a rock before getting in his sleeping bag and had an hours kip before we got up there. His excuse was that he had breathing problems, I replied with ‘ well you shouldn’t be smoking 40 Marlborough Reds each day then”. I have to say that he was a rubbish guide, you could tell he didn’t like his job, he wasn’t the slightest bit enthusiastic and as we learnt, he didn’t care about the safety of us.

I think we were sat behind the boulder for about 40 mins in total, we were absolutely freezing! I couldn’t feel my feet or hands so as soon as the first bit of light from the sun started to appear we got up and started walking down. I was gutted that I didn’t get to the top, but I was just too scared of being put off balance by the strong wind and plummeting to my death.
Thankfully the way down was a bit easier as the wind was behind my back, the sun was out so we could actually see, and going downhill in thick gravel is a bit like skiing. Seeing everything in the daylight really defined how dangerous the path we just took was, we could actually see how thin the track was, and how far the drop is. I was thankful to be going down anyway.
We were still quite far up the mountain when the sun rose, it was amazing as we were actually looking down on the sun rising. I wondered if Paul made it to the top in time, or if he was alive ☺.
The wind was still really bad and the gravel in our eyes was really starting to hurt, we made it down the mountain for about 7am and had a much-deserved cup of tea and pancake.

We waited for about an hour before Paul and the other guy came into view from running down the mountain, I will leave him explain his experience:

So after I abandoned Leah on the edge of a very windy cliff edge I set off with Neil to attempt the rest of the journey to the summit. As soon as we set off I started to regret it as the ascent was now even more exposed to the elements and the cold wind was constantly knocking us backwards. The climb was quite honestly horrendous, with every two steps forward you would slip back one due to either the wind or the deep gravel under foot. The path was a few metres’ wide at its largest and down to just a metre wide at certain points with a steep drop down either side. Thankfully the darkness made me unaware of this or I’m not sure I would have made it up!

We had no time for breaks as the sun would soon be up and we were told the last bit would take an hour. So we cracked on and slowly made it up to the summit 5 minutes before the sun came up. It was zero degrees at the top and with the wind chill even colder. It was totally worth it though as the view from the top was magnificent. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Looking across to the west and seeing Bali and then to the west seeing the island of Sumbawa. From the sunrise you can also see the shadow of Mt. Rinjani in the distance.

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Neil brought a sleeping bag so we got out of the cold for a while and stayed up there for half an hour. There were only 3 people up there when we arrived and just 12 in total made it up from the 70 odd who set out to the summit.
Getting down was a lot more fun as we had the wind behind us and we just had to make sure we didn’t fall off the edge again! We got back to camp just after 8 in the morning to enjoy a well earned banana pancake!

After Paul and Neil had their breakfast we quickly packed up and started on the 5 hour decent to Sembalun Lawang where our trek would end. This part was 2 hours down a steep, dry, dusty, loose path where everyone kept falling over as we were all so tired. The dust was getting into our eyes and I think everyone wished we could have been air lifted to the end. But the track kept on going, we stopped for a quick lunch and from then on the path was a little flatter. We walked over miles of farmland, the view looking up to the mountain was incredible and we couldn’t actually believed we had done it, or for me almost done it. The last hour was like torture, I couldn’t believe that I had actually paid to be in this much pain, my toes felt like they were going to drop off, I had excruciating blisters on the back of my heels and my knees felt like an 80 years olds. But finally we made it, all alive! We got squashed into an uncomfortable truck, picked up our bags from Sanaru and headed over to the beach town of Senggigi all dirty and sweaty.

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Posted by LeahPaul 17:17 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

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