A Travellerspoint blog

Joy, Ryder and Bruce in New Zealand!

Our first 2 weeks trekking around the South Island of NZ

sunny 11 °C

It was with sadness that we said farewell to Sydney, Australia and of course the Buckley's. However we were very excited to be heading to New Zealand, especially after hearing nothing but good things about the place.

Our first stop in NZ was Christchurch, we arrived late on the Tuesday evening and got a shuttle bus straight to our Hostel, the Kiwi Basecamp. In the morning we headed out to check out the city, and unsurprisingly it was a ghost town, most of the larger buildings were still in rubble while the Cathedral Square was completely closed off. We decided to buy some lunch from a nearby supermarket, get some new books to read and chill out at our hostel, which itself was full of workmen fixing the place from recent aftershocks.

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The next day we decided to go to the Botanical Gardens, as they were a little out of the centre and therefore had not been impacted too much by all the recent seismic activity. The gardens themselves were lovely and peaceful, with the Rugby World Cup starting in a few days the council had set up a massive area for fans to watch games, so we checked that out too. In the end we sat by the River Avon and read our books which was nice.

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On the Friday we checked out of the hostel and got a lift to the Airport, where we went to Jucy Rentals to pick up our Campervan (we've got it for 25 days and will drop it off in Auckland next month). The van is amazing, its got a fold-out double bed, dvd player, gas hob, sink, compressor fridge, mp3/cd player and is automatic transmission, which took us a little time to get used to! Oh, and we decided on calling the van Bruce! Haha!

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With not much going on in Christchurch we thought it best to stock up on bits from the supermarket and get on out of there. The weather was gorgeous and we made our way to Arthur's Pass, way up in the mountains in the centre of the South Island (about 3 hours drive). When we got there we went for an hour trek to stretch our legs, then parked up in the Department of Conservation (DoC) campsite, which are government run sites that are very cheap (they're only $6, $10 or sometimes free).

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After cooking some spaghetti for tea (yum), we went to the local pub, the Wobbly Kea, and sat down to watch the opening ceremony and first match of the Rugby World Cup with a beer. Great fun.

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That first night was an eye opener for us, as there was a storm in the middle of the night and the temperature dropped to below freezing, so we realised we would have to wear more layers to be able to sleep lol!

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The next day we were up early to make the 4 hour drive to Franz Josef on the West Coast, which is Glacier country. The weather was pretty horrid but we decided to brave it and make the 2 hour walk right to the foot of the Glacier, which was well worth it.

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By the time we had trekked back to the van we were both soaking wet, but with a bit of planning we knew where to go next. The town has Hot Pools where you can go and chill out in outdoor pools that are between 36 and 40 degrees, amazing! We hired a private pool for an hour (along with private shower, toilet and changing room) and absolutely loved it – we may just have to save up for one of these at home! :-)

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About an hours drive from Franz Josef is Fox Glacier, which is very similar to its neighbour, and we had originally planned to trek this however with the weather still horrible the next day we continued past it towards Wanaka, our next main stop. A few hours into the drive we decided to take a pitstop at Bruce Bay, merely because of the name, which was a long stretch of beach with big, thunderous waves crashing in. We only spent five minutes stretching our legs, but right near where we had parked was a little fur seal relaxing on the rocks. What a cutie!

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The weather didn't pick up at all that day so we parked up for the night at Lake Paringa, a small DoC campsite with only a toilet to speak of. In the morning we arose to some gorgeous views of the lake, as the sun was out and the cloud was laying low over the water. One of the many amazing bits of scenery we've seen so far in New Zealand.

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It took us a further 2 hour drive to make it to Wanaka, where we stayed at the Lake Outlet Holiday Park which had lovely views over the lake. The park also had great facilities, with nice showers, a large kitchen and internet, so we decided to stay for 3 nights overall.

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One of the main highlights of Wanaka was walking the lake track around and into the town centre, which took us 4 hours to do. We went for a nice cup of English tea at a cafe overlooking the water, and in the evening headed to the Bombay Palace for a gorgeous Indian curry (we couldn't resist!)

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On the Wednesday we were up very early as we got picked up and taken to the Treble Cone skiing resort about 30 minutes from Wanaka. We had always planned on doing some snowboarding in New Zealand, originally we were going to do it in nearby Queenstown. However one of the percs of getting a Jucy Rentals van is they offer free ski passes for Treble Cone, so we made the most of that!

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We spent the whole day on the slopes, the snow was good, the weather was perfect, the views magnificent, it was a brilliant day!

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After getting up the next day (and aching quite a lot – we're not as young as we used to be lol), we drove 90 minutes to Queenstown, NZ's 'adrenaline' capital. We parked up in the centre of town and went to look around. We ended up buying some fudge and chocolate from the British Lollie Shop, and for lunch we went to Queenstown's famous Fergburger, which we had been told about by quite a few kiwi's we have met on our travels.

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The burgers we went for, called Mr Big Stuff, had 2 huge beef burgers (1/2 lb of meat), loads of bbq sauce, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and aioli sauce, and we can confirm they were AMAZING! :-)

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That night we stayed at the Twelve Mile DoC campsite about 6km's outside of Queenstown, and chilled out in Bruce watching some Home Improvement on the dvd player (it's Tool Time! That was one of the two dvd's we took from Jucy)

Our mission the following day was to take the gondola ride up to the mountain overlooking Queenstown, which was well worth doing as the views up there were spectacular. We also went for a hot drink and cake in the skyline cafe, and got to see some people do the AJ Hackett bungy jump.

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In our last blog we explained how Phil did his skydive in Sydney, as this was one of his main 'to-dos' for the whole trip. Kayleigh on the other hand had wanted to do the Shotover Canyon Swing which was 15 minutes away from Queenstown, so we booked this and went out the next day to jump!

The swing is the highest cliff jump in the world, at 109 metres, has a freefall distance of 60 metres and a total swing distance of 200 metres, awesome stuff! You may have seen the video on Facebook, but if not we did a forward tandem jump together, which was insane, loads of fun (get on there to have a look)! Kayleigh loved it so much she decided to do it again on her own, going for the 'Elvis Cutaway', where she was suspended facing the sky and they cut her loose when she was not expecting it, crazy!

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We spent a total of 3 nights in Queenstown, and couldn't resist missing out on another Fergburger so we ended up having another one before we departed on the Sunday lol! Mmmmmm.

The next destination on our travels was Te Anau, on the South West coast, as we wanted to take a cruise to either Milford or Doubtful Sound. We had read that Milford Sound was the main tourist attraction in the country, while friends and family recommended we go to Doubtful Sound as its quieter (and better!) In the end, we made the decision to go to Doubtful Sound, and are totally glad we did.

We set out in the morning on a cruise across Lake Manapouri, then went to the Manapouri Hydro-Electric Power Station for a quick underground tour, before taking an hour bus trip across the Wilmot Pass (the most expensive road in NZ) to get to our boat that would take us on the Sound.

This may sound like quite a bit of effort, but by the time we made it to Doubtful Sound it was fabulous, huge valleys going into the water, low clouds making it look all atmospheric, just amazing.

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We are now in Invercargill, on the Sourthern tip of the South Island, and have 2 weeks to make our way up to the North Island and Auckland, where we drop off Bruce and then head to Fiji. :-)

Speak to you all soon, loads of love,

Phil & Kayleigh

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 19:46 Archived in New Zealand Tagged snow sydney queenstown snowboarding australia cruise glacier fiji skyline new_zealand fox_glacier seal christchurch gondola te_anau wanaka haast franz_josef canyon_swing arthurs_pass lake_wanaka doubtful_sound joyryderrtw fergburger lake_paringa fur_seals treble_cone ferg shotover Comments (3)

Adventures with the Buckleys

Our month long stay with family in Sydney

overcast 18 °C

Hey guys,

We can’t believe we have now been with the Buckley family for five weeks!! It has gone super quick. We have got loads to tell you so we will get straight into it. Hope you enjoy. :-)

Since surprising everyone with our arrival on the Saturday afternoon we have been on a whirlwind adventure of the sights and attractions of Sydney along with enjoying quality time with our much missed family, Uncle Paul, Auntie Dawn, Ainsley, Tayler and Millie the dog. That Saturday night we went to Wendy’s (Uncle Paul’s cousin) for a big family dinner where we were welcomed with open arms. It was a great way to kick off our stay. Followed with a juicy fry-up from Auntie Dawn on the Sunday morning we were being very spoilt. After breakfast all six of us went to Wollongong (the Gong) and enjoyed the beach and a lovely picnic.

Uncle Paul had taken the Monday off work, so we were up early, waved the kids off to school and then spent the day with him showing us the local area including Campbelltown and the Nepean Dam, followed with a tasty BBQ. The rest of the week we spent exploring Mount Annan and relaxing, Tayler was off school poorly so we stayed in a few days with her. On Tuesday it was a treat to see Ainsley play the drums at a school performance, he played ‘Riders on the Storm’ and was amazing. On the Thursday of that week we cycled to the Mount Annan Botanical Gardens and soaked in the lovely weather with a picnic and bottle of wine, which made cycling back a bit more fun.

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That weekend Wendy and her daughter Amber joined us on a whale watching cruise. After getting the 1 hour train into Sydney we hopped on the ferry and enjoyed the 3 hour round trip out to sea. We were lucky enough to see 9 whales which was brilliant. On the Sunday the two of us, Uncle Paul and Ainsley drove to Symbio Zoo where we saw the Tigers being fed and a reptile show before it started to throw it down. We hopped back in the car and attempted to out-run the storm. We headed for Nan Tien Temple (memories of Asia), Windang Beach and saw the blowhole at Kiama. A totally fun-packed weekend!!

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The next week, with everyone being back at work and school we chose to get our tourist on again and spent most of the week visiting the many sights of Sydney City Centre. Monday we hopped off the train at Central and walked through Hyde Park, visited Anzac Memorial and walked through Sydney Botanical Gardens. Later we went to see Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge before enjoying a beer at Circular Quay. It was getting dark by this time so to see Sydney all lit up was superb.

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Throughout the rest of the week we also visited China Town, Macarthur, Darling Harbour and the famous Bondi Beach which was beautiful, and with the weather being glorious it was another great trip.

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A very busy week was followed with another eventful weekend with a visit to the Blue Mountains, something that we had really been looking forward to. The six of us were this time joined by Uncle Paul’s Uncle John and Auntie Gene. It was an incredible day with some spectacular views. We enjoyed riding the mining train, going on the cable cars which had a glass bottom, walking through the rainforest, finding the waterfall and trekking up to an impressive lookout of the famous three sisters.

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Sunday we were out and about again visiting Fitzroy Falls which was beautiful before heading to Berrima where we visited the courthouse museum and treated ourselves at the Lolly shop, before making our way to Mittagong – where we nipped in to Dan Murphy’s (best liquor shop) to stock up.

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We have failed to mention so far that each evening we have been polishing off a mighty amount of alcohol, as anyone who we have chatted with on Skype will know. Haha. Our purchases went down a treat with the Chinese food we had that evening.

After a full on two weeks, this week we chilled. Not really venturing further than the local shops. It was a fantastic week as the weather was gorgeous again; we relaxed in the sun, learned how to wave board with the kids and enjoyed even more time with Millie. One evening after school we treated the kids to some tea out and a few games of bowling, we had such a blast the four of us. We also managed to squeeze in a couple of hours shopping for our Tayler. Haha.

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It’s a good time to say here that we have been spoilt every night with a lovely home-cooked tea, tasty dishes including massaman curry, chilli, pasta, A SUNDAY DINNER, and many a BBQ. Just so our parents know we have been pulling our weight, including helping out around the house and cooking some treats for them as well. Haha. To show our appreciation and say thanks we took Auntie Dawn and Uncle Paul out that Friday night, starting at Camden Valley Inn for drinks and then on to Joy’s Thai Restaurant for tea which was yum. A fun night out the four of us.

We stayed in this Saturday and prepared for later that evening when all the family was coming around for a BBQ. It was great to have everyone round and meet the rest of the family. Each of them brought their speciality dish so the night turned into a feast.

Our fourth week with the Buckley’s we had some more nice weather, so were able to take visits into Camden and enjoy lunching out and about in the sun. This was also the week that we started finalising our details for New Zealand. That Friday we were invited by Uncle Paul’s 2nd cousin Kail and his girlfriend Jade for a night out in the city. They treated us to a meal at a teppanyaki restaurant which was loads of fun and the food was really good. We played games that involved the chef throwing raw eggs and us catching them in bowls and omelette in our mouths. We ended the night with cocktails at Darling Harbour which we went down a treat.

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Wow just writing all this it’s amazing how much we have done....

Saturday 27th August the six of us were up and out making our way by train and ferry to Manly. We took in the surfer’s paradise of a beach and looked around the shops. That afternoon we caught the river cat to Parramatta. Also by this time we were all excitedly anticipating a new arrival back in the UK from Miss Lindsey Owens....but the baby would make us wait just one more day. :-)

Sunday we headed to Penrith for a show and fair that was on. The weather was lovely and we enjoyed watching a reptile show, stunt horse riders, motorcross and lot’s more. Around lunch-time we received a phone call from Kyle letting us know that Lindsey had given birth to a little girl, 7lbs 2oz – beautiful baby Abigail.

One of the (many) activities we had decided on before leaving home was Phil doing a sky-dive, as Kayleigh jumped out of a plane last year for charity when working for CEL. Being at the Buckleys in Mount Annan was perfect for this, as Sydney Sky-Divers are based 30 minutes down the road in Picton. We arrived at the air strip at about 12 o'clock and within 45 minutes Phil was suited up and boarding the tiny plane with his instructor Mick, they don't mess about in Oz!

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At 14,000 feet the jump was made, Phil describes it as "one of the most exhilarating things I've ever done!" With 45 seconds of freefall and 5 minutes of floating under the parachute, it was well worth the money. Check out the landing on video...

Our last weekend in Oz has been loads of fun. We spent all day Saturday with each other at home, playing games, swimming in the pool (it wasn't the warmest!) and enjoying a sausage sizzle in the garden as the weather was lovely again. We had one last sight we wanted to see before leaving Oz, and that was Jervis Bay; a spectacular collection of white sands and clear blue waters just off the south eastern coast. It was a 3 hour drive to get there from Mount Annan, but it was totally worth it. We met up with other family members at Huskisson (or Huskie), and then drove on to the national park. We enjoyed some hot chips before heading for the beach where we played more games and swam in the sea. After the 3 hour drive back everyone was exhausted but it was the perfect end to an unforgettable stay here.

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We have enjoyed our time with the Buckley's so much it is going to be hard to say goodbye to them tomorrow, and it was bad enough the first time round. We are both really grateful for them putting us up for a whole month, and will be back to see them in the future. But anyway, our next leg awaits us....roll on New Zealand.

Thanks for reading. We hope you are all well at home.

Lot's of Love,

Kayleigh and Phil

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 16:28 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney new_south_wales zoo new_zealand anzac blue_mountains three_sisters jervis_bay whale_watching bondi_beach mount_annan buckleys 3_sisters symbio_zoo Comments (3)

Brisbane to Sydney in Two Weeks

Making our way down the South-East coast of Australia

sunny 22 °C

From Rockhampton we made the 10-hour overnight bus journey to Brisbane, however the trip didn’t go without a ‘slight’ hitch. Kayleigh was already feeling a little under the weather, but 3 hours into the journey she turned very white and was very poorly, luckily they have sick bags on the buses! We’re not sure if she picked up a bug from somewhere, but it came on pretty quick and she felt awful for the next day or so.

After getting only a little bit of sleep for the rest of the journey, we arrived in Brisbane at 6am and walked to our hostel, Chill Backpackers. We were staying in a 4-bed dorm room, and met Erlend, a nice Norwegian who had just arrived in Australia. With Kayleigh still feeling rough, she rested in bed while Phil and Erlend went on the roof as the hostel put on a free sausage sizzle with a few beers.

Kayleigh was much better the next day so we headed out into the city to explore. We walked to Queen Street in the centre where most of the shops are, saw the City Hall where LG were launching a ‘Life’s Good’ campaign with free Zumba dancing and checked out Anzac Square with monuments for Australia’s war veterans.

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We did some more exploring of Brisbane the following day, walking across the river to the Southbank area, where they have an amazing man-made beach, some lovely gardens and the cultural centre. We went to the free museum, which had some really interesting exhibitions including Australian animals, dinosaurs and Rock n Roll George’s car, a legend in Brisbane who used to drive round the city for over 60 years.

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Unfortunately, that night the curse of Kayleigh’s bug came back to get us, this time it was Phil’s turn to feel sick! After an early night though, it didn’t last too long which was lucky really as we headed to Australia Zoo the next day, along with Erlend.

We were up nice and early and on a Greyhound bus by 7am, it only took an hour and a half to get there. The weather was perfect and the Zoo itself wasn’t too busy with it being a week day, so we had a great time seeing all kinds of animals. Highlights included watching the otters being fed, a crocodile show at the ‘crocoseum’, feeding some really tame kangaroos and wallabies, petting some koalas and watching the tigers playing in water. :-)

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We spent 5 days in Brisbane overall, and on a Sunday we made our way to the next stop, Byron Bay. It took 4 hours on the bus to make it there, and when we arrived we dropped off our bags at Aquarius Backpackers Hostel and headed out. We went straight to the main beach strip, which was a lovely long stretch of white sand, but the main attraction was the many surfers who were making the most of the waves.

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That night we went for a few schooners at the Beach Hotel, which was busy with locals and tourists enjoying a live reggae band. Afterwards, we went back to our Hostel where it was ‘Scattegories’ night. A game where teams had to think of funny words depending on the letter that was chosen (the ruder the better), we met 2 Californian girls and the 4 of us managed to win one game, free drinks all round!

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The main highlight for us in Byron Bay was walking to the Lighthouse, built in 1901. The route we took to the lighthouse was a steep(ish) climb through a forest for about 4km. When we emerged at the top the view was spectacular. The day was warm with the sun shining, the waves from the ocean were crashing against the coast, along with the impressive lighthouse made for a very picturesque moment. To make it last we sat and enjoyed the view with some homemade milkshakes.

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For our descent we chose the coastal walk route which was much more of a stroll compared to the forest. But not before we ‘got our tourist on’ and headed to the lookout at Cape Byron which is the most easterly point of Australia.

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We really enjoyed our time in Byron Bay; the place itself was really fun. Unfortunately due to a couple of prats in our dorm room we were actually very ready to leave. So, on to Newcastle we go.

After our recent bad experience with overnight buses we opted to take a day bus to Newcastle, even though it was a 9 hour journey. Even so, it actually went quite quick – we arrived in Newcastle around 9:30pm, and our hostel was just a 5 minute walk away, which was good as even though we hadn’t done much all day we were still shattered, so we just crashed that night.

Our first full day in Newcastle we explored the shops, that didn’t take too long as the town centre is quite small, and then visited the beach. So there really wasn’t very much to do in Newcastle, but we were there as it’s the place to book your trip to Hunter Valley and visit the famous wineries – so we booked our trip for the next day.

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That evening we joined some of the other people staying at our hostel ‘Backpackers by the beach’ at the Brewery, a local pub, for a free BBQ, beer and pub quiz. It was a fun night, and although we only got a mediocre result on the quiz we did get a few bonus questions resulting in some more free beer....What is the Canadian national animal?? Any takers? It’s the beaver, which for some reason Kayleigh knew lol. (Mainly cos she loves How I Met Your Mother!)

Up early the next morning we enjoyed some (Heinz English recipe) beans on toast for breakfast as we would need something in our tummies before going wine tasting. There was just us and another couple on the tour so we were able to taste a variety of wines throughout the day. We visited 5 different wineries and tasted around 30 different wines and port, as well as cheese and chocolate tasting. We treated ourselves to one bottle and bought a couple of other bottles for presents.

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We also visited the British lolly shop on our visit and picked up some treats from home and Phil had a Double Decker. Haha. We really enjoyed ourselves on this tour as you can imagine. In the evening we treated ourselves to dinner at a Balinese restaurant, which was a perfect end to our first 4 weeks in Oz.

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The next day was Saturday and we were due to be at The Buckley Household on the Sunday – but we had other plans. Up early again we caught the bus from Newcastle to Sydney Central taking 3 hours. From there we hoped on the train to Macarthur station just 7km away from the Buckley’s house in Mount Annan. We thought about walking but opted to take a taxi as we didn’t fancy walking down a dual carriage way lol. A quick 10 minutes in the taxi and we were round the corner from their house, just out of site. We walked up the drive of the house we thought was theirs and had a peek through the door window, Uncle Paul was on the couch, woo we had arrived!

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We opened the door and let ourselves in to be greeted by surprised faces and lots of kisses and cuddles from Uncle Paul, Ainsley and Tayler – it’s been a whole year since we saw them. One person was missing though – Auntie Dawn was out shopping. Uncle Paul called her under the pretence that the house alarm was going off and she needed to come home. A few minutes later her car pulled up and as she approached the house we opened the front door to her. Her face was a picture, and she was very pleased to see us. :-) We are here for the next four weeks and have so far enjoyed one fun-packed week with them.

We will update you very soon on our adventure with the Buckleys.

Lots of Love,

Kayleigh and Phil.

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 17:52 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney koala australia wine brisbane lighthouse crocodiles dorm byron_bay backpackers newcastle oz wineries australia_zoo hunter_valley joyryderrtw cape_byron british_lolly_shop mount_annan Comments (5)

Our Oz adventure begins...

2 action-packed weeks to kick off our stay in Australia

sunny 24 °C

After a fond farewell to Southeast Asia, via Singapore Airport, it took two flights to make it to Australia where we are due to stay for the next two months. The flights themselves totalled 12 hours, and even though we had a quick hour stop at Darwin in the middle we were very glad to make it to Cairns as we both didn't manage too get much sleep.

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We had booked in with Caravella Hostel, and they gave us a free pick up from the Airport which was cool. After putting our bags in our room we headed straight out to find out what the place was like. Being in Australia was quite strange at first, as we had been used to chaotic Asian cities with strange smells and noises going on, but in Australia it is much more like home so that was weird to get used to. Cairns itself was lovely, it was obvious quite a bit of money had been thrown at it for tourism as there was a massive (and free) swimming lagoon, a long promenade, free BBQs to use and even exercise areas for energetic types.

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It didn't take long before we took the opportunity of going in the lagoon as the weather was nice and hot (although a few degrees cooler than in Singapore!). The only problem with the lagoon is that nights are quite cold in Australia, so the water was literally freezing. Kayleigh dipped her toe in and decided against going in, while Phil went in for a swim after hesitating at first!

One of the main differences we've found with being in Australia now is how expensive everything is, particularly food and drink. This means we have been cooking our own food a lot more using various Hostel's kitchens as well as the free BBQs which were lined up along the beach. We absolutely loved getting some nice steak going on the barbie, sharing a bottle of wine together (as its cheaper than beer) and watching the sun go down, bliss!

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On the following night we bought some sausages and burgers and headed to the BBQs to enjoy another night by the sea. However there was a large group of people joining in a free yoga session (about 200-300 people) so all of the BBQs were taken up, doh! We decided to sit on one of the benches and eat the only other food we had, a cheese board with 4 different cheeses as well as a bottle of red wine. So looking like posh so-and-so's we ate the cheese with some french bread and polished off the wine, needless to say by the end we were pretty damn drunk and loving every second!

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Our main reason for coming to Cairns was to check the Great Barrier Reef, which stretches all down the North-Eastern coast and is easily accessible here. We booked a day snorkelling tour and went to two different Reef sites which were both very different. The first, Michaelma's Cay, was a small island with lots of colourful fish, really clear water and many different types of coral to see. We spent about an hour and a half here, swimming around the shore and back to the boat. The island itself had a fenced off area of about 20 metres, as the rest of the island is a bird sanctuary for thousands of birds.

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After enjoying some buffet lunch on the cataraman, we headed to the next stop which was Paradise Reef. This was a site more out at sea, but when we got in we realised the sea was pretty choppy and it was much harder than at Michaelma's Cay. We got to see some other types of fish and coral, and had about an hour or so to enjoy it. By the end we were absolutely knackered but it was a brilliant day!

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We stayed in Cairns for 5 nights and decided our next destination would be Townsville, a city 6 hours south. Before leaving the UK we bought Greyhound Bus passes which entitle us to travel south between Cairns and Sydney as much as we like, as long as we don't go north. These have turned out to be brilliant purchases, as the buses here are expensive when buying trips one at a time so we've saved money already after a few journeys. The buses are also really good here, reliable, clean, nice drivers who actually tell you where we're going (not a lottery like in Thailand!) and radio / DVDs playing on longer journeys.

In Townsville we were staying at the Civic Guest House Hostel in a 4-bed dorm room, and managed to get a free pick up from the bus station on arrival. The city was quite similar to Cairns, we spent a full day checking out the beach and the impressive gardens along the coast.

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As we were only staying for one full day we didn't get to see too much else, but with the weather nice and warm we enjoyed chilling out and taking it easy for a change!

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Next, we headed 4 hours by bus to Airlie Beach, the main stopping point for trips to the gorgeous Whitsunday islands. The hostel we stayed at, Airlie Waterfront Hostel, was practically 100 metres from the bus stop so instead of being lazy we walked to it with our bags! :-)

We spent the day exploring Airlie Beach, looking around the bay and the lagoon before booking our next snorkelling trip, we really fancied another go after such a good experience in Cairns. That evening we enjoyed homecooked spag bol with a lovely bottle of red wine, before heading to Magnums a local bar for a few scooners of Tooheys beer.

The next day we were up early excited about our trip. Arriving at the Marina we boarded Big Fury, a huge speedboat, and at an impressive speed headed out to our first stop, Border Island. It took an hour to get there and with the boat going so fast we were completely wind swept, Phil's hair especially was pretty funny.

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Ater quick instructions from the tour manager we changed into our wetsuits, grabbed our snorkelling equipment and jumped into the freezing cold sea. The weather on the day was windy and overcast which unfortunately made the water a little murky, but with the water being so shallow the coral and fish were still just as beautiful as our last trip. This time the tour manager threw fish food into the water while we snorkelled, the result was us being surrounded by hundreds of various types of fish, all swimming through our legs and around us.

Our second and last stop was Whitehaven beach one of Australia's most beautiful beaches, where on the right day and time the sand swirls with the different currents of the sea and creates a marble effect. We got off the boat and enjoyed a tasty lunch, and shared some of it with the local lizards that have been accustomed to vistors throwing them bits of leftovers. For the rest of the afternoon we relaxed on the beautiful beach, the sand like flour beneath our feet and with the view of the surrounding rainforest it was simply a wonderful end to the trip....or so we thought.

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Making our way back to the marina on Big Fury we were taking in the views of the other Whitsunday Islands when a gentleman on board shouted "Whale". With it being the beginning of the migration season for humpback whales we were all hoping that we might catch a glimpse of the whales, but with it being so early it was quite unlikely. BUT, we did. Check out the video below of the two whales we saw that were swimming along our boat. Amazing!!

The next day we checked out and caught the Greyhound bus to Rockhampton, the beef capital of Oz. The 7 hour journey passed quite quick and again we were picked up from the bus station from our hostel the Rockhampton YHA. We arrived at the perfect time, on a Friday night at 7pm. Friday nights in Rockhampton are reserved for bullriding and enjoying steak and beer at the Great Western Hotel, so that's exactly what we did. Neither of us knew quite what to expect, but when we arrived there was a large arena, a BBQ, a bar and all the locals enjoying the night dressed in all their best cowboy gear.

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We grabbed a drink and sat in the stands ready to watch the rodeo competition begin. Those people are crazy. With the bulls doing everything they could to kick them off their backs the competitors held on for dear life. Some lasted just a few seconds, while others managed to hold on for longer to the elation of the crowd. The guy in the video below actually came second overall.

While we were there it would have been an insult not to indulge in a nice steak as they are supposed to be the best in Australia, so we joined the queue for the BBQ and ordered 2 steak sangas which were massive and sooo good. We were then really greedy and had some chips as well. Yum. We had a great night, it felt like we were in an old American western movie.

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The rest of our time in Rockhampton was spent looking around the local town centre, we visited their art gallery which was exhibiting aboriginal pieces and had the Melbourne Cup on display. There wasn't really anything else we wanted to do in Rocky so we relaxed until it came time to leave. Our next stop Brisbane....an 11 hour overnight bus journey that would take us half way down the coast on our way to Sydney.

We've got just under 2 weeks before we are due to meet up with the Buckleys in Mount Annan which we are both really excited for, until then though we still have so much more to fit in.

Speak to you all again soon.

Lot's of love,

Phil and Kayleigh

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 01:34 Archived in Australia Tagged snorkelling singapore australia lagoon darwin bbq cairns great_barrier_reef rodeo whitehaven_beach townsville rockhampton airlie_beach joyryderrtw michaelmas_cay paradise_reef steak_sanga Comments (6)

Goodbye Thailand, hello Malaysia and Singapore

Making our way down through KL, Melaka and Singapore

sunny 29 °C

We stayed in Koh Phangan another 5 nights after the Full Moon Party, by which time with a touch of cabin fever we were definitely ready to get off the Island and start making our way to Malaysia.

After a one night stay in Surat Thani (and one night is enough, there is nothing there) we hopped on a train to Hat Yai where we would change trains and head straight for Kuala Lumpur (KL). The train to Hat Yai was fairly pleasant, with local people hopping on and off in between stops selling fried chicken for us hungry travellers. The train did take over an hour longer than it should have done and we were starting to worry that we would miss our connection to KL. However our worrying was without cause as when we arrived, with time to spare, the train was fully booked. Doh. What to do?? We were almost marched to the nearest bus tour operator by a group of around 8 local guys who were repeating – “the bus to KL leave now”. After asking the price the cheeky sods wanted 850baht each for the journey. Politely we said we would think about it and left. Around the corner we nipped into another operator who offered us the same journey for 450baht each. That's more like it!

A 9 hour overnight bus journey was all it took to arrive in KL. While the bus had nice comfy seats that reclined all the way, they had the air-con on full for the whole journey (as they do all over Asia) so it was like being in a freezer with only a blanket to keep the warmth! Luckily for us, the bus pulled in just outside Puduraya bus station at 5am which was perfect, as it was just a 5 minute walk to our hostel. We couldn't check in until 12pm, so we crashed on the sofa and chatted to Ali the night manager and watched a couple of episodes of Lie to Me. Haha. After a (cough cough) Mackies breakfast we relaxed a bit and then in the afternoon headed over to the see the huge, twin Petronas Towers and have a look around the Suria KLCC shopping centre; we ended up watching the Green Lantern at the cinema and having yet another Indian meal for tea. When we left it was dark and the Petronas towers were all lit up, and looked quite spectacular.

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The next day we took the LRT to the very busy Petalling Street in China Town. We browsed the different stalls selling clothes, jewellery, herbs and fruit etc, before having some lunch. Lunch was good, we tried quite a few things that we weren't quite sure what they were - but decided not to ask. lol. Kayleigh did get fooled into picking what looked like a very juicy piece of chicken that was in fact tofu. Yuck.

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It rained for most of the afternoon so we spent our time looking around yet another shopping centre – there are loads, all of them huge (Kayleigh and the girls on a shopping trip would be in heaven). At the night we walked to Menara Tower to take in the impressive night view of KL, it was pretty magical. Before we left we had a laugh on the F1 simulator, (Phil was not impressed that his turn on the simulator was cut short due to the place closing...grrr) ,we then continued on the night at Brussels Beer Cafe for some drinks. Good times!

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Our last full day in KL was very relaxed, we window shopped at a variety of shopping centres around the Golden Triangle before finishing the night at the cinema again, this time we watched Super8. That's it for KL, we had such a short amount of time to spend in Malaysia that the next day we moved on, happy enough though that we had taken in the key 'to-dos' while we were visiting.

Our next destination in Malaysia was Melaka, a lovely old-fashioned city by the coast (and a World Heritage city), it only took a quick 2 hour bus to get there. On arriving we headed out to check the various cafes and restaurants by the river, all lit up it was very pretty indeed.

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The next day we went out to explore the city further, going to A'Famosa, the ancient Portuguese fort, the maritime museum and the town square. One of the main reasons we chose to stay in Melaka was for the prominent Portuguese influence, particularly as we had wanted to try El Diablo Curry (Devils Curry). Its a mix of Portuguese, Malay and Indian food, we had made some before leaving the UK and it was very tasty.

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The Portuguese settlement in Melaka was a good hour trek out of the city centre, so we made our way there and were suprised to find the locals celebrating 500 years of having lived there, a definite bout of good-timing! The locals were outside cooking different foods, competing in 'the best St Peter boat model', playing live music and generally having a great time. Our first port of call was to sit down and have some Devils Curry, and as we had expected, it was absolutely gorgeous. The day was made complete by enjoying the sunset by the sea!

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With our time in South East Asia running out, we moved onto Singapore as we fly to Australia today (4th July). Another bus journey was the easiest and cheapest option, with just 5 hours being all it took to cross the border. Luckily for us, the bus happened to terminate about 10 minutes from the hostel we had booked, Betel Box Hostel, where we were staying for 3 nights in a 20-bed mixed dorm.

One of the main reasons we had chosen to stay at this specific hostel was to go on the 'legendary food tour of Singapore' run by the owner, Tony. Fortunately, the tour was due to start half an hour after we checked in, and as we were both pretty hungry it was great timing to head out. We were joined on the tour by 21 other people, some from our hostel and others who had heard of it elsewhere, and we were all treated to a tour of the local area, a visit to a green grocers to try exotic fruits and then being taken to a local restaurant to sit down and enjoy about 20 different dishes.

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To be honest, some of the foods weren't to our taste, but we tried everything which included fish curry, beef randang, chilli crab, shrimp noodles and lots more. We were even given a number of different Chinese deserts to try, which we weren't massive fans of as they were pretty bland (and lacked some serious sugar our Western taste-buds were used to!) The tour was really well planned, and we were surprised with how much knowledge of Singapore Tony gave us, for example, he explained how its technically illegal for men to have hair longer than 7 inches and how hanging is still used as punishment!

The next day we got up to enjoy the free breakfast included at the hostel, and went out to explore the city with Pascal, a German we had met on the food tour the previous night. After taking the train to the centre, we went to the Marina Bay to see the city in the sun, as well as checking out the Merlion (half lion, half fish) which guards the river. Once we were getting hungry, a quick walk to China Town was in order to enjoy some lovely stall food.

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We decided to take a look at the other ''Singapore to-do's'' the following day, again going out with Pascal to see Little India, which was awash with shops playing bollywood music and the smell of Indian spices everywhere. Pascal had a friend who lived in Singapore, Grace, who met up with us along with her friend's little lad who she was baby-sitting for the day, 4 year old Daniel. She was really nice and gave us her own guided-tour of Singapore which included Hindu and Buddhist temples as well as a walk along the river. At first Daniel was very shy, but ended up coming to life and playing around with all 3 of us, particularly Phil, who he seemed to take a liking to (Phil thinks its cos he found his face funny!)

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Again, we were very lucky with timing, as the city was practicing for its up-coming National Day Parade, so there were helicopters flying overhead with the Singapore flag, passing jet planes, sky-divers, bands performing songs, a light show from the Marina and best of all a massive fireworks display which lit up the night sky. It was amazing to get to see it all really!

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Our last day in Singapore (and really SE Asia) was very relaxed, although we did enjoy a nice Muslim / Indian meal at ZamZams, a restaurant present in the city since 1908. This was followed by a few beers at a pub by the river, and as the Wimbledon final was on, we just had to watch it all (we were cheering for Djokavic). With the time difference being 7 hours, the match finished at 12pm, and we rushed to make the last train home but missed it by 2 minutes, doh! Not to worry though, a quick taxi ride got us back to the hostel, with fine memories of our last night.

So on to Australia next, we fly to Cairns in the North-East where we have a month to make our way down to Sydney, we can't wait!

Speak soon,

Love Phil and Kayleigh

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 03:16 Archived in Singapore Tagged kuala_lumpur singapore fireworks kl melaka merlion petronas_towers wimbledon joyryderrtw devils_curry suria_klcc marina_bay Comments (1)

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