A Travellerspoint blog

To Summarise

It would seem incomplete to not finish this blog off with a final post with travel musings. Hopefully it won't turn into a 'on my gap yah' load of dribble. We could have offered advice on the places we visited and the experiences we had- but this blog was never about tips for future backpackers. Our intention was to be able to keep all the family and friends updated on activities should they feel inclined to know what was going on. Either we've got more friends than we thought or (extremely likely) some internet spiders have been crawling all over our posts as some got nearly a thousand views. And thats with the fatal combination of (Becky's) dyslexia and typing on a mobile phone. Thanks for putting up with the typos and spelling errors guys. So I'm allowing us this one reflective post which can be interpreted as advice.

So onwards with what we 'discovered' from quitting our jobs and backpacking for 5 months:

1. It's really easy

DSCF1155_1_.jpg
Cycling alongside Elephants. Ayutthaya, Thailand

Becky: It's the classic 'in hindsight' sentence starter. On one of our first days in Bangkok I cried at the MBK food court infront of my hot basil stir fry because it was too hot. Obviously it wasn't the spice that caused the melt down. It was the jet lag/tired/this city is crazy combination. But you just get on with it...

And buy chicken nuggets and chips from the 'Western Food' area.

When we talk about what we have done and where we have been we laugh at both the good and the bad times. How we got between them seems irrelevant. We left England with the first 3 nights booked and first 3 towns in mind. The rest fell into place without too much turbulence with a fair amount of Googling/Trip Advisor as we went.

DSCF1773_1_
Dan being taught how to roll Hoi An Vietnamese Pancakes. Water Well, Hoi An, Vietnam

2. Anyone can do it

20140313_115543.jpg
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Becky: Sometimes we were unpleasantly unsurprised by the people we met on our way (see point further down) but I was awe-inspired by others. On my first day of university I was taken aback that everyone waiting in the art studio was not fresh from sixth form and 18. I mean- one guy was in his 70's. It's the same with backpacking. I had never bothered to question that anyone would be outside of the 18-25 bracket just because myself and travelled friends were in it. You may have already read my thoughts on the elderly couple at Franz Josef Glacier climbing the slippery path with a walking stick. We did a cooking class with a young family in Siem Reap. They travel for two months every year and when they had their first baby at 18 months he simply joined them in St Lucia for 8 weeks. Now with two sons they have travel buggys, cots and take the baby intercom to the pub after bed time. At one campsite we parked next to a couple who strapped thier baby up on a baby bouncer from a Dad installed hook off the boot. At night they slid half their belongings under the van in plastic boxes- including the milk powder.

When questioned they say what all travellers would probably say. They wanted to come so they made it work.

DSCN0184.jpg
Cambodian cooking course. Le Tigre de Papier, Siem Reap, Cambodia

3. Everyone should do it

DSCN0259.jpg
Dan gets close to the edge at a temple in Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

When people came into the office at work before I left and they heard news of my plans I only ever got two responses:

A. Wow. I always wanted to do that. Have such a great time and be safe. Really, you will be safe won't you?

B. Wow. I did that. It's the best thing I ever did. You'll be fine.

Have you ever seen your home town on the news? It looks different doesn't it? Its same same but different! Somethings missing. It's not the live, 360, 5 senses experience that you have when you're there yourself. If you think some of our photos look amazing then you should try being there yourself.

DSCF2134_1_.jpg
Abandoned hotel. Kampot, Cambodia

4. It's not a box ticking exercise

DSCN0464.jpg
TICK-Photo at Maya Bay , Nr Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Becky: For the first few weeks I was always whinging to Dan that we should be going here or doing this. Based purely on what I unknowingly felt pressured to do from trip advisor, lonely planet and other people. Sure these things are often great recommendations but I don't need to squeeze everything into a two week holiday. I'm on the road for a while. You can ride and elephant, do a cooking course and a go on a segway tour anywhere in Asia. It doesn't have to be in Chang Mai. (But please whatever you do, don't tell me you went to Tiger Temple. Even if you think that they were not on drugs or beaten into submission. They definitely were. Don't be so foolish. For questions on westerners doing stupid things in Asia that they wouldn't do at home. Please speak to Dan for a full education.)

I now feel confident in allowing myself to want what I want. Not what I think I should be wanting. No I didn't ride and elephant, collect bar tshirts, do a 9hr NZ walking track or eat kangaroo. I didn't want to. It wasn't for me and thats okay.

DSCF1273.jpg
TICK- Photo washing an elephant rescued from mistreatment , Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

5. When it's shit. It's shit

90_20140119_175605.jpg
90_20140119_175544.jpg
Cheapest hostel without bed bug reviews, Oasis Hostel, Kualar Lumpur, Malaysia

Your homesick, hot and sweaty, hangry (hungry and therefore angry), missing oven baked food, in the cheapest/dirtiest/strangest hostel on hostelworld and your fed up of 'insert annoyance here' and feeling low.

Yep. Accept it. Today is going to be a shit one.

DSCF1724_1_.jpgDSCF1726_1_.jpg
Laughing as other people get off the tour bus into ankle deep waters...our hotel was thigh high. Hue, Vietnam

6. The world is full of idiots

20140318_135903.jpg
A couple wearing matching onesies for the flight home from New Zealand.

Dan: It seems we met them all on our trip. From xenophobic, racist Brits who see nothing wrong with living 'in someone else's country' to wealthy Asian tourists who seemingly become overwhelmed the second they leave the safety of their tour group. Shamefully yet unsurprisingly the majority of the idiots we met were fellow countrymen. Many more types of idiots cropped up and I became more and more judgemental as we travelled (as did Becky with my encouragement!). There truly is idiots everywhere and the chances are they're white.

7. You don't have to be a hippie to have an epiphany

DSCF1936.jpg
A young boy approaches Dan to practice his English, Dalat, Vietnam

Dan: This trip has never been about clichés such as 'finding yourself' or 'living the dream' but spending so much time removed from your normal life breeds unexpected thoughts. Before we left I wanted to be away from home for as long as possible, maybe even find work if I could but over time I realised I didn't want those things. I want escapism but I don't want total abandonment. Becky likes to call one evening in Coromandel, NZ my epiphany - I simply had the realisation than life is fickle, it is painfully short, systems make it easy to fall into a mindless routine and ambition isn't promoted unless it leads to more zeroes on your bank statement. None of this is new information but one night the penny dropped - it was like putting on a pair of glasses and seeing clearly. I ranted endlessly to Becky about these topics. It wasn't until then that I realised how people simply wasted that time period in between birth and death. They say things like 'I always wanted to do that' or 'I wish I could do that'. I am not talking about travel necessarily, but lifestyle and how you are in control of it but relinquish control to societal expectations. Nothing is out of your reach and it is never, ever too late.

My 'epiphany' was that I realised I don't have to take a job for money. I can do something I actually want to do. I want to work with animals. See, I had an epiphany and I don't even have dreadlocks - it can happen.

IMG_20131207_180738.jpg
Jellyfish bloom. Otres Beach 2, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

To Summarise

90_DSCF1947.jpg
So so creepy, this photo just had to feature again, Museum of Medicine, Saigon, Vietnam

Becky: We collectively decided and wrote these points during the 48 hour return journey. You know- we had some time to kill! Having been back for 2 weeks now we are struggling, along with the rest of the returned backpackers, with daily ball aches such as; getting jobs, starting careers, insuring cars, living with parents (we love you very much and thank you for having us, but we all know its time to leave) and putting off any suggestions of babies/marriage/mortgages... and its all a big zzzz in comparison to Angkor Wat. I can only describe it as though I switched off a light in October and when I came back in March I simply flicked it back on.

Life in England OFF...5 months of amazingness...Life in England ON.

It was incredible and we are now adequately distraught that it is all over. I'm voting Germany and Dan is voting Texas to ease our itchy feet. Time to start saving again...

90_DSCN0401.jpg

X

Posted by vincerb 10:49 Tagged me landscapes waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises mountains lakes beaches skylines people sky planes melbourne kuala_lumpur bali indonesia singapore yogyakarta temple gallery australia cambodia thailand malaysia vietnam laos museum new_zealand camping volunteering hobbiton geothermal backpacking travelling wellington scooter kl borobudur ubud scam petronas_towers rice_field workaway glowworms backpacking_asia yogja backpacking_australia mtcook Comments (4)

Day 153 - 154 Kaikoura

20140317_131933.jpg

Leaving Hanmer Springs for Kaikoura we were greeted by a grey and wet town. Battling the wind we visited the local seal colony and later retreated to the car to read.

90_20140316_152912.jpg
20140316_153403.jpg

The last day of our 'big trip' could not have gone better. Lusi turned out to be just two days of grey weather and nothing to worry about. The sun was shining so we went back to see the fur seals and this time they were closer and more active.

90_20140317_112246.jpg
90_20140317_113851.jpg

With Dan's enthusiasm we took a risk (I'm far too indecisive and boring for this) and booked on for a 1pm flight with Wings over Whales. It was a gamble. A boat tour was cheaper, lasted three hours and if you didn't see a whale you got 80% of your cash back. But if you did see a whale it would only be the top bobbing out of the water and it's tail when it dived. Plus trip advisor was rife with tales if bad sea sickness experiences. The flight would only last 30 minutes and there was no money back guarantee. Trip advisor had many reviews of no sightings. But. Taking the flight is up there as one of the greatest decisions we've made on this trip.

hdr_00667_0.jpg

We arrive at the airport expecting a light aircraft for 7 passengers. Being the only ones to make a booking we are going up in a tiny 4 (with pilot!) seater plane. A whale is due to surface soon so after a short presentation and safety demo on how to use a life jacket. Without any delay or time for nerves we were in the sky on our very own private whale watching tour.

hdr_00670_0.jpg

Within minutes we spotted a ginormous 20m sperm whale dwarfing the nearby tourist boat. Our pilot spun us in circles around him with one wing angled at the sea and the other skywards just 150m away from the surface. It was a rush of fear, awe and excitement. We could see the whole body of the whale splashing around to get air. It was spectacular to see the well known poster shot of his tail fin lifting into the air to propel him into the depths.

20140317_131348_5.jpg

With SLR left at home these phone photos are not the best. But you get the idea!

20140317_131105_5.jpg

We were wowed. It was only ten minutes in, so the pilot took us in search of a pod of dolphins he'd seen earlier that day. Quickly we saw about ten. It was really cool. After a call on the radio we were bobbing further along the coast where suddenly there was no still water but hundreds of dolphins. And I mean hundreds. It really couldn't have gone better and was definitely worth the £90pp price tag. It was such a special end to an incredible trip.

Feeling elated when we hit the ground we went for celebratory ice cream and discussed at length how great we think we've been at backpacking.

hdr_00664_0.jpg

Posted by vincerb 23:14 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 152 - 154 Greymouth, Lewis Pass & Hanmer Springs

We woke up in Hokitika and reviewed what we had planned for the next few days. We realised that although Arthur's Pass was recommended to us and, by guidebook page space, would be more spectacular than the Lewis Pass it just didn't make geographical sense. Plus petrol has been the biggest budget drain and it really would have been the long way around. Guiltily we also both needed a wifi fix. We're coming home soon so Dad needs to know to get in the chocolate mini-bix and summer fruits Robinsons squash right? We made a last minute re-route and headed to Greymouth McDonalds for a good hour of internet therapy.

90_20140314_150519.jpg

On our way to the Lewis Pass we stopped at Reefton. Yet another beautifully quaint tiny NZ town. These guys were the first to be hooked up to the power grid. With 3 shops, one supermarket and 10 cafes on offer we left after stretching our legs.

hdr_00655_0.jpg
Reefton Gold Mining History

20140314_151409.jpg
Reefton

90_hdr_00657_0.jpg
DOC Campsite near Springs Junction

When we arrived at a DOC campsite near Springs Junction the sun was shining and we got a sweet spot by the forest over looking ochre hills. I couldn't wait to jump out with my camp chair and start reading. This dream lasted about 30 seconds. Have you met the mosquito? Well the sandfly is his older, meaner brother and he was out with hundreds of his buddies just waiting to devour our skin. You can feel the little buggers bite you and it is mildly painful. Then you get a little red lump which may grow into a pussy mess. It is the itchiest thing you will ever experience in your life. At night I wake myself up scratching them and you just can't stop. This meant we spent an afternoon inside the car and when it was cooking time, despite the mild weather, I was out with only the skin on my face on show covered in greasy repellent.

hdr_00656_0.jpg
A game of poo sticks was had
20140314_180006.jpg
Miserable cooking with sand flies

As the sun went down and no more campers turned up we were both pretty spooked by the potentially zombie infested forest. This made for an uneven night’s sleep which was made worse when Dan woke at 3am. Two large mozzies buzzing around his face stirred him into consciousness and he discovered they'd been having a meal above his top lip. He looked like Katie Price.

hdr_00662_0.jpg
Cloudy Lewis Pass

With drizzle, cold and low clouds we skipped the Lewis Pass walking tracks the next morning and went to Hanmer Springs. With free upgrade voucher in hand we went to the Hot Pools to bathe in sulphur, rock and massage pools. We had 30 minutes in a private thermal pool- neither of us could stay in it for long at 40 degrees C. We spent most of the afternoon judging swimwear choices. The usual was on offer- inappropriate thongs, see-through one pieces, 'that white t-shirt is not covering up your muffin top', 'well those are definitely fake' and 'please lord put some more clothes on'. In the evening we went out to Corianders for an amazing Indian and braced ourselves for the arrival of cat 2 tropical cyclone Lusi. Who didn't arrive.

I forgot to tell you all how a little complaint email to JUCY got us 3 days refund on our camper. Huzzah! Hopefully this cash will be spent on a whale watching tour if Lusi allows.

Posted by vincerb 14:43 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes new_zealand camping backpacking Comments (0)

Day 149 - 151 Mt Cook, Wanaka & Hokitika

hdr_00635_0.jpg
View of Mt Cook from Peters Lookout

The view of Mt Cook from the holiday park when we arrived in the evening was remarkable. The sun was setting behind the peak giving the snow cap a golden hue with the moon glowing over the front. Sometimes (every time?) A photo cannot do justice to what you can see with your eyes. So you'll all just have to take a trip to New Zealand to see it for yourselves.

The next morning we learnt our lesson from Milford Sound and waited till midday for the cloud coverage to burn off to walk the Blue Pools and Hooker Valley tracks getting an amazing view of Mount Cook- but not making it to the end because of the sun! We returned to the camper with red necks and drove onto Wanaka.

hdr_00636_0.jpg
Mt Cook from the Hooker Valley track
hdr_00638_0.jpg

After sweating out on the Hooker Valley track we broke our 'every other day in at a basic DOC site' rule (this means non-flush toilet and occasionally water from a lake or tap $0-6pp) and went somewhere with showers, kitchen and flush toilets. ($10-20pp) I got my moneys worth as a pretty European (surely?) girl stalked around the ladies naked before and after her shower.

The next morning we went into town and sat on a bench outside a cafe with free wifi to work out our driving distances for the last days of the trip. We ate lunch out the back of the camper by the lake and stocked up on petrol, food and hokey pokey muffins. Not one to miss the opportunity of a vintage/second hand rummage I asked Dan to take me to Waste Busters - a community run shop at the recycling depot. With joy I picked up a giant date stamp for $3 which doubles up as a great miming microphone to Katy Perry in the car.

20140312_183812.jpg
Miming to good quality tunes including One Direction- we both watched the 1D film on a plane. Every one has a guilty pleasure right?
20140313_162519.jpg
Journal writing and NZ beers/girly cider

In the evening we arrived at Gillespies Beach free DOC site for 8 campers. We drove 10km down a very narrow windy unsealed road through dense forest to find about 30 campers already in situ... So we wedged in between two tree trunks and ate Mexican rice by the sea.

20140312_185326.jpg
20140312_185231.jpg

The next day we went to see both the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. It was shocking to see how much FJ has receded in the last 4 years and we are perhaps privileged to have seen it at all. With changes in climate it is possible that it will melt completely. On one of the viewing platforms we met an older Australian couple. We think they were in their 70's judging by the walking stick, white hair and smart dress. It was a good ten minute slippery uphill walk to the view. If they are still doing it why isn't everyone else? This trip has taught me how easy it is to travel. If you want something enough you can make it happen. They even had an ipad to send photos to thier worried children at home. Hero's.

20140313_115543.jpg
My idols.
hdr_00654_0.jpg
Dan at Franz Josef
90_hdr_00648_0.jpg
FJ in 2010 and now
90_hdr_00652_0.jpg
1907 and 2014
90_hdr_00643_0.jpg
Fox Glacier
We spent the afternoon in Hokitika going to a glassblowing workshop but Dan drew the line at visiting the sock machine museum. A top Hokitika attraction.
20140313_142414.jpg

Posted by vincerb 15:55 Archived in New Zealand Tagged skylines new_zealand backpacking travelling mtcook Comments (0)

Day 145-148 Milford Sound & Queenstown

20140309_133100_14.jpg

On my Birthday we drove to Milford Sound. The road can take 2hrs but we stopped at various scenic points to take photos and marvel at the snow topped peaks. On route we went to The Mirror Lakes, Lake Marian and The Chasm for short walks eventually arriving at Milford 4 hours later.

hdr_00624_0.jpg
90_3BBF01582219AC6817FD1F2CCC6770FF.jpg
hdr_00609_0.jpg
hdr_00623_0.jpg
hdr_00603_0.jpg
90_20140307_112625.jpg
Mirror Lakes

After these spectacular sights Mitre Point at Milford Sound didn't really seem that special. Maybe it was the cloud coverage? Dan surprised me at lunch with a heavenly mini birthday chocolate cake for two and we ate by the river. In the evening we stopped at Lake Gunn DOC site for a night of basic but scenic camping.

hdr_00616_0.jpg
Mitre Point, Milford Sound

20140307_183912.jpg
Dan prepares Birthday fish finger sandwiches

The next day we felt inclined to do a longer walk and took on a 3hr round trip on the Routeburn Track. The guide book did not say it was all uphill on the way! For an hour the track was a steedy uphill narrow track. We refueled with crisps and hot cross buns. Then the last 20 minutes was more of a climb and we took many rest breaks on the way up. Finally we made it to the top and, when the clouds allowed, had a fantastic view. On the downhill route back to the car we passed many people on thier way up. Nearly everyone had all the gear- walking poles, boots, shants.. two seriously cute Chinese tour groups had the lot- water proof trouser cuffs, giant hats and emergency shelters. We saw various large backpacks abandoned by the side of the track. Seriously people. There is no need to buy everything mountain warehouse sells! We made an effort to spurr on people who looked puffed out and politely refrained from pretending the end was in sight when really they had a long way to go. Dan drove us out of Milford Sound and we headed to a cafe with wifi for me to process the 100 whatsapp Birthday messages that flooded in... Okay most were group chats and pictures of the mushrooms growing in my car. We returned to a holiday park in Te Anau for hot showers and went out for dinner. Perhaps not used to rich flavours and large meals we both over indulged and with bloated bellys skipped the pub in favour of a lay down.

We had intended to do another 3 hour walk on the Kepler Track but decided we couldn't be bothered. So we did the opposite and drove to Queenstown for the almighty Ferg Burger. The wait was a mere 20 minutes (over an hour queue can be found at peak times) considering the bap was almost the size of my head with a tastey cajun/lemon yoghurt chicken filling. I can see how its become so popular. We also hit happy hour at Cookie Time for bogof cookies which we munched at 12 Mile Delta Campsite. Our pitch overlooked a hillscape which was so striking it may well have been a hyper real cardboard cutout. We kept in theme and watched Game of Thrones in our little capsule.

90_20140309_152102.jpg
90_20140309_152227.jpg
THE Ferg Burger

20140309_181232.jpg
90_20140309_181326.jpg
Cookie Time

The next morning our plan to go on the gondola was ruined by lots of low clouds so we shopped around town for tacky souvenirs picking up a imitation maori fighting club. Can you guess who choose that one? We cooked lunch overlooking the lake and drove down to The base of Mt Cook to stay the night.

Posted by vincerb 15:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 142 - 144 The Catlins, Curio Bay & Invercargill

20140305_144447.jpg

On the drive from Dunedin to the Catlins the weather improved enough for us to stop at Matai & Horseshoe falls which had beautiful tiny streams of water trickling down mossy rock faces. Being in the forested areas of NZ I can't help but think of LOTR and I'll admit that watching the films again in the evening has rekindled my 12 year old teenage crush on Legolas. I think my crush impaired my ability to appreciate the storyline before and I am proud to say that I've even got Dan on board since visiting Hobbiton. Thats with enjoying the films. He can't decide if he fancies Ned Stark (Boromir) or Gimli. In the evening we went to Curio Bay and arrived to see a parent penguin feeding her two quite old chicks. The crowd oohhed and gasped as the dominant chick got fed more and the little one was beaten around at bit. A volunteer assured us that the weaker one was going to be alright. In bed we watched the Hangover 2 to enjoy the Bangkok scenes. We miss seeing bags of Fanta and monkeys everywhere.

20140304_164346.jpg
20140304_201017_8.jpg

The next day we headed to Waipapa Point. Following signs I drove us down about 20km of gravel road and moaned that 'it best be worth it'. It certainly was. On the beach we saw two sleeping fur seals occasionally flicking sand on their backs. I began taking photos of pretty hot pink seaweed and a strange feotel looking plant when Dan spotted a sea lion fin coming to shore. Along with 4 other people we watched from about 10m as a massive New Zealand sea lion rolled around the breaking waves and walked ashore. This guy was huge. He layed in the sand, rubbed his face and flopped about for a bit before moving - with some speed- up a steep sand bank and into the reeds. It was quite phemonial.

180_20140305_135934.jpg
20140305_135454.jpg
20140305_135159.jpg

Our next stop was Invercargill and we arrived in time to have a free beer and cider taster at the micro brewery taking home a bottle each to enjoy in our al fresco kitchen. The next day we both enjoyed a visit to the local museum and gallery to read about maori history and see work by New Zealand artists. At lunch, by guide book recommendation, we went to The Seriously Good Chocolate Company. I had the best hot chocolate made with hot milk, melted chocolate and sprinkles served with a salted chocolate spoon, homemade marshmallows and three free chocolate samples. Afterwards I slipped into a chocolate coma and Dan drove us to Te Anau.

90_20140306_125853.jpg
20140306_115015.jpg

Posted by vincerb 20:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 140 - 142 Christchurch, Omarau & Dunedin

We got the ferry to Picton, after a choppy start we watched dolphins playing as the beautiful south island rolled in. We jumped onto a bus Dan had prebooked when I was ill in Australia. He told me it would be 3 hrs long to Christchurch. 2 1/2hrs in we stopped for a 45 minute toilet break and I began to question the journey and how we'd make it to the rental office in time. A quick check of the emails revealed that it was actually a 5 hr bus and he'd booked our camper for the following day. So we arrived in Christchurch at 7pm with no where to stay. With a weekend flower show on the I-site was able to offer us either a twin room in a b&b for $140 or two out of town dorm beds for $60 in a 'not recommended' hostel. Having braved some beds in Asia we of course went for the cheaper hostel option... it was a room in a sticky pub with live music till 1am (very loud). The bed sheets were stamped with 'HOSPITAL', the dorm room door locked from the inside and there was no keys. Walking through the stale beer smelling dance floor to get to the room meant a drunk man in a xxxxl hi-vis jacket dance-following me across the room. Wanting to escape we walked to McDonald's for food where we sat opposite Honey Boo Boo and her mum sat in front of two large big mac meals with an extra cheeseburger and sundae each. When Honey Boo Boo couldn't fit anymore in her mum slipped the burger scraps in her handbag. It was a strange evening.

You'll be surprised to hear I wasn't angry with Dan and found it all quite funny. We'd planned everything in a rushed afternoon a while back. The hostel dorm room and bathroom was clean so what more does a girl on the road need!

20140302_193604.jpg

Our luck didn't improve when we went to pick up the rental, forgetting to get any money out in the way, and having to wait 2 1/2hrs for it to be returned and cleaned. That's after we turned up 2 hrs late preemptive of this happening. A few complaints later we got a days discount from JUCY but were a day down on our next adventure.

hdr_00586_0.jpg
First nights holiday park location

The next day we drove down to quaint Victorian / Steampunk Omarau and treated ourselves to long johns, wolly hats, gloves and had hot drinks in a cafe as we poured over the guide book to plan the next few days.

20140303_102849.jpg
90_hdr_00592_0.jpg
90_hdr_00590_0.jpg

In the evening we braved the wind and cold to visit the Albatross Centre at 8:15pm near Dunedin to watch the blue penguins swim in. It was so windy that I had to hold onto the rail or be blown away. We patiently waited as a few swam in and waddled up the rocks to the jetty underneath our feet. A good 45 minutes later we were both ready to retreat to the camper when all of a sudden 30 little blue penguins swam ashore at once. They were falling over each other, jumping up the rocks and shaking their butts dry. Yes it was adorable. As it was dark and we were under orange lights to hide ourselves we have no pictures but a few video selfies of us freezing. There will be a long 'holiday' video, it will feature mainly monkeys from Asia and penguins from NZ and we will make friends and family watch it. Get your popcorn ready.

That night we freedom camped at Macandrew bay and settled into the back of the car for one very windy nights sleep. Our alarm clock was a security man knocking on the window to let us know it was time to move on. The weather was horrific so we headed to the library to frantically check the weather forecast for the next two weeks- we should be okay for our walks and outdoor stove cooking phew!

Posted by vincerb 13:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 135 - 139 Rotorua, Taupo & Wellington

20140226_123058.jpg

Rotoura is a quaint but eggy town. New Zealand is very sleepy with shops closing no later than 5:30pm and most restaurants closing at 9:30pm. Rotorua feels like a bit of a time warp and it is apparent that internet shopping is yet to ruin local shop keepers business. The town has about 6 video rental stores with fascias from the 80's, a haberdashery come fishing supply store and a costume hire shop. We stayed at Rock Solid backpackers which was, like most places in town, down wind from a sulphur emitting geothermal pool. We stayed in a 4 bed dorm with a strange person who deprived Dan of sleep with his insomniac habits. The guy spent all his time on his laptop letting out quiet creepy laughs or fighting falling asleep with loud gasps at 3am. There was about 40cm room between thier beds and at one point he was asleep, sitting up, fully dressed with headphones on facing Dan at 5am. Dan was a gentleman and let me have the safety of a 5ft high bunk bed at the other end of the room.Whilst in Rotorua we visited Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland. The smelliest day out we've had yet. We saw the Lady Knox geyser erupt and then walked around various geothermal pools including the Champagne Pool.

20140226_102752.jpg
hdr_00545_0.jpg
20140226_110343.jpg
hdr_00559_0.jpg
90_20140226_102656.jpg
20140226_113335.jpg

Dan hunted for walkers in the afternoon as we took a short stroll around the Redwoods forest.

hdr_00568_0.jpg
20140226_144829.jpg

Luckily our time in Rotorua coincided with our friend's from Koh Tao, Fausto and Janelle, so we went to Wingspan Falconry show. Dan convinced them that they needed to try a Nando's so after a few drinks we got another peri peri fix. Lando's has definitely died and it's now all about proper fish and chips when we get home.

90_20140225_133337.jpg

We drove to Taupo that evening, the main attraction here is their lake - formed by a volcanic eruption which caused three days global darkness as a result of ash in the atmosphere. (The lake is the same size of Singapore by the way) We went on a date in the morning on a cruise round the lake (with tea and muffins!) which was awesome. We saw Maori carvings only visible from the water, Dan was thinking up new tattoo ideas as we cruised. Afterwards we had a picnic looking over the lake and checked out Huka Falls - the sheer mass of water thundering through here was incredible.

90_20140227_110907.jpg
20140227_111643.jpg
90_hdr_00580_0.jpg

To conclude our north island road trip we drove down to Wellington. Passing Mt Doom and visited Weta Cave. I love to see how things are made especially costumes so we went on the workshop tour and felt okay with our level of LOTR indulgence in NZ compared to some of the super fans on the tour who were asking about specific named swords. To finish the day we went to Te Papa Museum and I spent alot of time at the World of Wearable Art exhibition and Dan spent a lot of time using the free wifi to check the football news.

90_20140228_122302.jpg

We're very aware that our trip is coming to an end quickly. I think back and can't believe how much we've been able to see and do. Travelling has proven to be so easy and I've got to the point where I could easily live out of my 50l rucksack forever. We both need to get mentally prepared for the return to England soon. Jobs? Routine? Own bed? What are these things normal' people have! For the first time I actually forgot that its my birthday (next week- presents can be given on my return) Days, time, country's and currency become beautifully insignificant when you have little need of keeping track...The 'real world' is going to be a tough change.

Posted by vincerb 16:11 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes waterfalls lakes art skylines animals birds boats rotorua museum geyser geothermal taupo backpacking travelling wellington lake_taupo weta_cave Comments (0)

Day 132 - 134 Coromandel, Waitomo & Hobbiton

Hello New Zealand.

IMG_20140223_224123.jpg

Tactically we budgeted our money so we could spend more time in New Zealand than Australia listening to friends advice who hailed New Zealand as the best place to visit. We've only been here 3 days and I can already see why.

On the first day we trekked to Cathedral Cove, a beach only accessible by kyak or a 45 minute trek on the clifftop under the cool cover of forest. The Tasman Sea is not a warm one so we didn't head in. Instead I filmed a Chinese man who was surrendering himself to the strong waves with glee. So cute. Afterwards Dan drove us to Hot Water Beach, unfortunately due to the wind the low tide was going to be late so we didn't get to dig our own spa bath. I drove us 2 1/2 hours through the beautiful hilly landscape dotted with cows to Waitomo where we stayed for the night.

hdr_00536_0.jpg
20140222_150956.jpg

Waitomo has a permanent population of 41 residents yet see's half a million visitors per year. The village doesn't consist of much more than a caravan park, discovery centre and general store come cafe/pub. We took a glow worm cave tour with Spellbound who took us on an inflatable raft down a calm stream where we saw thousands of glow 'worms' (actually maggots). It was quite impossible to take a good photo and we were happy not to. It was magical. That was untill our 15 minute sit down in the cave in silence was broken by the sound of the two large swedes snacking. The husband and wife duo looked like Uncle Vernon from Harry Potter and couldn't make it through a 30 minute tour without snacking!

90_20140223_134415.jpg
20140223_115352.jpg
20140223_133309.jpg

On the way out of Waitomo we did the 45 minute Ruakuri walk going into a cave tunnel and strolling by the Waitomo stream. We drove to Rotorua and on the way saw a hawk pick up a rabbit. Tasty.

hdr_00538_0.jpg
20140223_100254.jpg
20140224_131139.jpg

20140224_121412.jpg

I was very excited for our next days activity and have been for a long time. Managing to keep up to date with The Hobbit thanks to Malaysian cinema and making Dan watch the beginning of LOTR before we arrived in NZ. We went to Hobbiton! It was awesome. I love to see how things are made especially film props and sets. Dan was on duty camera man and in the end with the help of a free ale. Stated that he also enjoyed seeing the Hobbit holes.

90_20140224_120748.jpg
20140224_120841.jpg
90_20140224_124033.jpg
20140224_124053.jpg
20140224_124025.jpg
270_20140224_122743.jpg
20140224_122008.jpg

Posted by vincerb 13:38 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes beaches hobbiton backpacking travelling waitomo coromandel cathedral_cove glowworms Comments (0)

Day 127 - 130 Brisbane

20140218_130642.jpg
20140218_190817.jpg

Much to my anger I didn't recover quickly from my sickness. After we worked out that the cold and flu meds were making me feel sick and unable to eat I stopped taking them, started to eat and then got a worse cough and sore throat. This meant that Dan had to a painstaking wait to visit Steve Irwin zoo and we were both thankful that STA had to give us a flight one day later than we wanted. We spent the first day in Brisbane easing me back into living with a visit to the art gallery (wifi and aircon) and shopping mall (NZ travel guide and frozen sprite). On the second day I awoke from my sick slumber and realised that in 2 days time we were flying to NZ with no route and no bookings. Panic, stress, loss of hope, knuckling down and then eventually excitement followed. We spent the afternoon in the library frantically booking a rental car, campervan and the important- Hobbiton tickets. In the evening I researched further (reading LOTR) whilst Dan met Omar.

Finally the day arrived that Dan has been dreaming of since he was 7 years old...Australia Zoo, Steve Irwin Way.
90_20140221_065340.jpg
Yes. My insides did turn gooey at the sight of this cutie. She smelt really nice!

Dan: Australia Zoo was amazing! Ever since I can remember I wanted to visit due to my love of watching Steve Irwin documentaries. I had seen visual representations of the zoo so many times on television it was surreal to visit and watch khaki-clad keepers hop over fences to feed big crocs. We hand fed kangaroos, Becky got to cuddle a koala (she couldn't handle the cuteness and now is insistent we buy one - although I have assured here Pets at Home don't have stock) and we went to the Crocoseum! Watching the show inside Steve's stadium was an absolute dream come true. The power and speed of a crocodile is unbelievable, watching on a screen doesn't portray this in a true manner. Y'all need to go watch the croc team do a feed.

It was great to see Steve's work carried on and heartbreaking when it hits you that he isn't carrying it on himself. It put into perspective my admiration for animal conservation and how little I do to help this. Time to sort my act out. Crocs rule!

90_20140220_131315.jpg
20140220_094519.jpg
20140220_094247.jpg
20140220_103841.jpg
180_20140220_162157.jpg
90_20140220_110350.jpg

Posted by vincerb 13:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 123 - 126 Sydney

Sydney welcomed me with an illness not dissimilar to the sore throat/blocked nose/tiredness that struck me the first three September's I returned to London as a student. Western world germs. I survived four months in Asia frequenting hostels and restaurants with questionable hygiene and did not get ill but 3 days in a western environment and I've got a fever. Dan did make me feel better by keep reminding me that I wouldn't let him do the Neighbours tour in Melbourne and that he was pretty gutted about it.

IMG_20140215_085615.jpg

On our first day we walked from Blue Parrot Hostel along the coast, through the botanical gardens to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It felt quite surreal to be at a monument that usually signifies 'the other side of the world' to us in England. We ate sandwiches under the bridge and went shopping in the afternoon to buy me a pair of vans and get Dan a proper haircut.

20140214_141731.jpg
Dan was in desperate need of a good haircut one after his last one in Kuala Lumpur where the man shaved a point into the back and hoovered his head at the end- you won't find a man in SE Asia with a good haircut.
90_20140214_172454.jpg
We ate a Valentines indian Dinner at a mall food court and went to a free gig at the Seymour Centre in Redfern.
IMG_20140216_144814.jpg
20140214_184326.jpg

IMG_20140216_144004.jpg

Saturday was rainy so we visited the NSW Gallery and Contemporary Art Gallery. When Dan walked into the NSW Gallery he was serenaded by 3 gallery assistant performers singing and dancing 'This is so contemporary, contemporary, contemporary' an art work by Tino Sehgal. It gave me a good chuckle. Both galleries had pieces that interested us and it was good shelter from the drizzle.

20140215_113520.jpg388F58392219AC68172A8777219DB049.jpg388BFD102219AC6817FFCAE058F91213.jpg38883BD12219AC68178D5A3E2D436A73.jpg387B74462219AC68178EFC4CF499744C.jpg3873F5AA2219AC68172B7DA08415DAFA.jpg

In the evening we met up with Dan's friend from Saga- Tom, and his girlfriend Kate who moved here recently to try and work. We met at a 24hr Irish bar called Scruffy Murphy's which attracted the more interesting characters of Sydney including; two guys with accents so strong we couldn't decifer what they were saying but I think a €95 payment was involved, a man rummaging through the bin selecting an icecream spoon and fag butt, and finally a women gurning her face off while trying to cycle by. An hour and half later when me and Dan walked to the train station we found her around the corner arguing with a lamppost, her bike spinning out on the pavement and her gucci visor sitting wonky on her head.

20140215_211202.jpg

The next morning I woke up sounding like a zombie so we spent $40 on medicine drugged me up and repeated a nap, tv, short walk routine for the whole of Sunday and Monday. I am pretty angry that we missed out on going to a surf competition on Manly and going to Bondi beach- based entirely on the two episodes of Bondi beach rescue that I've seen. To ease my anger it was raining heavily on both days. So much for 49º heat!

90_20140215_132950.jpg
The Rocks, beloved dog
20140215_133753.jpg
Dan browsing a hot sauce market stall, again

Posted by vincerb 16:08 Archived in Australia Tagged australia backpacking backpacking_australia Comments (0)

Day 119 - 122 Melbourne

IMG_20140213_150326.jpg

We've arrived safely in Australia and are suitably culture shocked by western delights such as good sandwiches and people with fashion sense. Like the many backpackers before us who have travelled this well trodden route we're adjusting with complaint at the Western prices. Hostels in Asia could be £2 per person per night, now they are £20. Beer was cheaper than a can of coke in Cambodia, now its a whole lot more. For these reasons we've planned a 10 day whistle stop tour of Australia stopping in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in the hope of not going home in the red.

We checked into a dorm at Space hotel (clean, good facilities and location) and powered through the tiredness to go to the Arts Centre and the National Gallery. As I walked the exhibition 'All that Glitters' I whined to myself about not doing a costume design degree as Dan used the free wifi to check the football news. We stumbled across a street wear shop with a DJ playing A$AP and a barbers that use upper cut deluxe. For a moment I was in fear of our remaining budget being spent at by Dan here. He showed excellent restraint and left empty handed with new plans for his tax rebate when we get home. In the evening we took a chilly walk to Bruswick street and went to a Chocolateria with molten hot chocolate drinks. They even sold chocolate tapas but this time it was my turn to show restraint.

IMG_20140213_150502.jpg

On our second day we went to the State Library and Melbourne Museum. The later was Awesome and it certainly quenched my museum frustration from Asia (so much potential, poorly curated, lack of information for education) there was some of the best interactive displays including dinosaur video binoculars and quizzes. Unfortunately the bug section had real bugs. And I mean the bugs of nightmares. Never have I seen a spider so big hairy and black. The speakers played buzzing insect noises as Dan pressed buttons to turn on lights revealing turantulas and rhinosaurous cockroaches. There was also a creepy collection of taxidermy animals featuring a zebra, panda, sea lion... the list goes on.

90_20140211_112157.jpg
270_20140211_122054.jpg
hdr_00512_0.jpg

On our last day we joined a Great Ocean Road tour which was incredible. We saw wild koala bears snoozing in eucalyptus trees and our fantastic guide told us many facts and stories along the way. We drove 207 of 271km of the Great Ocean Road passing the green coast, surf coast and shipwreck coast.

20140212_121456.jpg
90_20140212_165442.jpg
hdr_00519_0.jpg
hdr_00517_0.jpg
hdr_00523_0.jpg
hdr_00524_0.jpg

Although it was a long day ( 7am - 8pm ) we asked to be dropped off at Queen Street Night market where we ate street food and listened to live music.

photoshake_1392264505178.jpg

We both thought Melbourne was awesome- like an American Brighton. It has style and charm.

Posted by vincerb 20:25 Archived in Australia Tagged art animals melbourne gallery australia museum taxidermy backpacking travelling tram Comments (0)

South East Asia Round Up

IMG_20140205_172302.jpg

As we return to the Western world boarding a flight to Melbourne here is a summary of our time in SE Asia:

DAYS x 120
COUNTRIES x 7
TOWNS x 37
HOSTELS x 40
BUSES x 25
FLIGHTS x 9
FERRIES x 8
TRAINS x 5

BEST EXPERIENCES
Cycling temple ruins- Attuhaya, Thailand
DSCF1155.jpg
Elephant Nature Park- Chiang Mai, Thailand
DSCF1277.jpg
Becoming open water divers- Koh Tao, Thailand
IMG_20140205_174037.jpg
Swimming with sharks- Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
DSCN0508.jpg
Cave Tubing- Vang Vieng, Laos
DSCF1476.jpg
Getting shoes/a suit tailored- Hoi An, Vietnam
90_DSCF1792.jpg
Temples of Angkor Wat- Siem Reap, Cambodia
DSCN0161.jpg
Jellyfish bloom- Sihanoukville, Cambodia
IMG_20140205_173538.jpg
Street Art of George Town- Penang, Malaysia
DSCN0622.jpg
Universal Studios- Singapore
IMG_20140206_202119.jpg

HOTTEST
Royal Palace- Bangkok, Thailand
90_DSCF1046.jpg
Angkor Wat - Siem Reap, Cambodia
2013-12-13_13_34_29.jpg

BIGGEST SURPRISES
Flooding and rain- Hue, Vietnam
DSCF1726_1_.jpg
Overwhelming kebab tourism- Ko Phi Phi & Phuket, Thailand
DSCN0411.jpg
Renting scooters and not dying
DSCF1383_1_.jpg
Learning how to cook new foods- Thailand & Cambodia
90_764CC0AB2219AC6817BF92F3AE4918E1.jpg
Getting papped- Everywhere
indy1.bmp

FAVOURITE STREET FOOD
IMG_20140205_223258.jpg

WISH I'D PACKED
Shewee
2013-12-01_12_52_58.jpg

SO GLAD I PACKED
Kindle
Sleeping bag liner
Head torch
Hand sanitiser
Aussie conditioner
IMG_20140205_150832.jpg

MISSED MOST
Pavements/ pavements without deathly hazards
90_DSCF1513_1_
Pedestrians being sub-class citizens to the scooter
DSCF1543_1_
Free, clean and dry toilets where tissue is not a sordid word
2013-10-28_15_44_32.jpg
Orderly queues, etiquette and politeness
IMG_20140207_173709.jpg
Transport with comfort. Without spitting.
IMG_20140205_174529.jpg

We have so much more to tell. So watch out friends and family, they'll be plenty of 'gap yah' stories to bore you with when we come home x

Posted by vincerb 05:06 Tagged landscapes waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises beaches bali indonesia singapore temple cambodia thailand vietnam laos backpacking travelling scooter backpacking_asia Comments (0)

Day 116-120 Singapore

IMG_20140205_150832.jpg

We arrived with expectations of shiny buildings, expensive shopping malls and a Starbucks on every corner - this is what we found. We flew from Yogyakarta airport which is essentially a large holding area leading directly onto a runway, if we wanted to it would have been easy to chase a plane like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar. We flew into Singapore Changi airport which has a butterfly garden, three storey slide and rooftop bar, needless to say the difference was refreshing.The feeling of a real carpet beneath my feet even made me do a little jig, it wasn't that I missed carpet, I had just forgotten it existed.

IMG_20140206_202119.jpg

Day one has been reserved for a long time for Universal Studios and the wait was worth it. Essentially a scaled down version of the parks we visited in Orlando with all the theme park magic that me and Becky buy into as if our lives depend on it. There was a pretty sweet Jurassic Park area with an escaped Velociraptor, river rapids ride and, of course, the gates. Somehow Becky got me on The Mummy roller coaster even though when we went on in America I stated it was the worst point of the trip - fortunately for me this was a slightly tamer version!

IMG_20140206_201003.jpg
20140206_134422.jpg
20140206_165719.jpg
20140206_152842.jpg
90_20140206_161725.jpg

Day two we got up super early to go to Singapore Zoo, another one I'd been super excited about as I'd read some great stuff online. It didn't disappoint - they had an amazing, huge polar bear tank, orangutans swinging over our heads, rhino feeding and huge bats flying right by us (Becky was not so keen on the latter whereas I thought they looked like Pterodactyls so was pretty happy). We retreated back to our hostel for some much needed relaxing/watching The Walking Dead.

20140207_132053_1.jpg

20140207_132121_6.jpg

20140207_144706.jpg

20140207_134023.jpg

20140207_130334_9.jpg

IMG_20140207_174545.jpg

Our first two days in Singapore were both at tourist hotspots and each day did at times feel like a battle between us and Asian tourists who do all they can to avoid any kind of queuing system. After four months of this its a little depressing how relaxing an orderly queue can be!

We were both shattered by day three but we headed down to Marina Bay to check out the skyline and those big shiny buildings we'd heard so much about. This is my thing usually, I love cities and their skyscrapers but the humidity wiped me out. In the unrelenting heat of Angkor Wat I didn't falter but a gentle stroll along the riverside in Singapore left me needing a cold drink and a nap!

Next stop Australia, It's difficult to fathom the trip is beginning to wind down, a harsh reality!

90_B2945C902219AC6817AC489A06D6089D.jpg20140208_133754.jpg

Posted by vincerb 05:48 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore backpacking backpacking_asia universalstudiossingapore singaporezoo Comments (0)

Day 112 - 115 Yogyakarta

large_IMG_20140204_123253.jpg

At 3am on Sunday morning we headed to Denpasar airport to get a flight to Yogyakarta. I think, like most, I'm always on my best behaviour in an airport and treat the security checks as an official procedure. At Denpasar I took the female only queue to have my hand luggage scanned. The lady behind me threw her nike cross-body bag with force into the scanner ahead of mine and then persisted in what felt like hugging me from behind as I waited my turn to walk through. I reunited with Dan as a guard took his swiss army knife off him with glee (clearly going to keep it for himself). After all that urgency my groper walked painfully slowly infront of us to the gate. Sometimes when it's really early in the mornig it's easy to hate other people. At the desk to pay airport tax a large group of men were walking through. So I just walked with them and we didn't pay. (Winning back that petrol one thousand rupiah at a time)

We stepped off the plane and followed then crowd on the tarmac by foot. The airport reminded me of the remote Alaskan one in film The Proposal. As we walked past 4 planes people where coming out of the terminal from various doors to board seemingly random planes. The baggage was unloaded onto trolleys that were pushed by hand to a hole in the wall that led to one conveyor belt. At any moment I could have jumped onto another plane for a mystery journey! In the toilet I was faced with the odd queue-at-an-individual- cubicle-door routine often found in busy asian female toilets. I'll say it loud and proud: I like fair orderly queues - I'm English of course!

We got a local train into town and became a great novelty for all the other (local) passengers who enjoyed a good stare/giggle/point at us. Dan reminded me that he'd had enough of asia a while back and it was me making us go on one last stint before sterile Singapore.

20140204_125908.jpg
90_20140204_130138.jpg
As we walked down Malioboro Street I wasn't prepared for the whimsical horse drawn carriages. And then we saw a boy riding a penny-farthing...

IMG_20140204_111105.jpg

On our second day Dan kindly agreed to go to a two hour batik workshop. There was little explanation into the process and we were thrown in amongst the professional women and men who were creating impeccable intricate designs. We selected and traced a stencil before applying wax. Once we'd both finished, our work was taken to one of the ladies who thickened and approved of the designs. We then picked stamps from an endless cabinet of complex designs. At the end of it we both had a table runner shaped piece of our own batik and I'd got a well missed craft injection.

90_20140203_115040.jpg
90_20140203_114017.jpg
20140203_112750.jpg
20140203_121002.jpg
20140203_131054.jpg

20140204_141007.jpg
After all that concentration the "luxury" (£16 per night with breakfast) Hotel Dafam Fortuna rooftop swimming pool and sunken bar was calling us.

IMG_20140204_105703.jpg

Reluctantly we bought 5am minivan tickets (Ergh early mornings) to visit the 9th century Borobudur Temple in nearby Magelang. With a breakfast box in hand we saronged up (again) and got to the temple for 6am. The entrance fee for a local is 30,000 INR (~£1.50) but a foreigner pays 220,00 (~£11) . An undated but well out-of-date student ID got me in half price. Horay for the small wins. (Certainly regained that petrol money now) I would put Borobudur high on my list of favourite temples. The view was breathtaking and the carvings were amazing. It wasn't too hot so maybe that helped!

90_hdr_00473_1.jpg
90_hdr_00484_0.jpg

When we reached the top there were loads of students keen to practice thier English and we enjoyed talking to a group for ten minutes or so. Then the paparazzi arrived. If you want to know what being a celebrity feels like. Be a white person at the top of Borobudur. There was plenty of other white visitors but I was the flavour of the morning. Girl's loudly snapped photos of me on their blackberry's, giggled with excitement when I walked by and nearly died when Dan grabbed me by the shoulders, twisted me round to face my fan club and I gave them a peace sign. I offered to have my photo with one group but they were more interested in taking photos of me than standing close to me.

hdr_00494_1.jpg
hdr_00486_0.jpg
90_hdr_00466_0.jpg
90_hdr_00477_0.jpg

Posted by vincerb 17:36 Archived in Indonesia Tagged me mountains art people children yogyakarta temple backpacking travelling borobudur backpacking_asia yogja joja Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 15 of 71) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 »