New Zealand – Day Five – Milford Sound

Today was fabulous!! The weather was perfect!! The tour could not have worked out better!!

 

Before I get to the details, let me give you a little background on how we ended up here….

 

We landed in Christchurch, New Zealand on Tuesday, Sept 18. Christchurch is on the South Island and though our original plan was to see both islands, we realized as we were doing planning in Melbourne that there would just not be enough time to see everything that we wanted. We decided to forego our adventures on the South Island and concentrate on the North Island. We felt that we would get more bang for our buck there. Even though Richard had said that he did not want to do anymore driving after our 10 days with the camper, we also realized that renting a car was still the best way to get around. So, on Day Two in Christchurch, we picked up a Toyota Yaris. Nice and small and good on gasoline considering the price here is $2.38/litre – yes, this is not a typo – it is this price!! We also each got a haircut that day. We made the mistake of not asking the salon prices BEFORE the haircut and ended up paying $110 for our haircuts!! This is also not a typo – $110 for two short haircuts!! And I thought that $45 back home was ridiculous. Anyway, can’t dwell on this. The point of this story is that my hairdresser was appalled that we were not going to spend anytime on the South Island. At the same time, Richard was talking with an American lady, now living in New Zealand that was telling him the same thing. So, after paying for our 110 dollar haircuts, we went back to the BNB (which by the way was absolutely FANTASTIC!! – They had a dog :)) and began to rethink our travel plans. As we had not booked anything yet, we changed our direction and decided to head south first and do what we could. We booked a night in Dunedin, on the southeast coast and two nights in Te Anau on the southwest coast. I also booked a tour for Milford Sound for Sept 22.

 

Richard gave you a summary as to our trip to Dunedin so I won’t say much about that except that when we were visiting with our BNB hosts, Sandra mentioned that the road to Milford Sound had been closed for four days due to a snow storm. She was sure it would be open by the time we got there but it would depend on the weather staying fairly stable.  Wow!! Did we make the right decision here or are we just wasting a few days driving around a snowstorm? Anyways, we left Dunedin on Friday and drove through the most amazing scenery that we have ever seen. Richard likened it to driving through a fairy tale book. White sheep were spilled across the green carpeted landscape. Proud mamas looked on as their babies frolicked with their new found mates or headed back to their mothers for a quick lunch. Rolling hills, green valleys, with mountains peaking around each corner. It was absolutely magnificent!!

 

Te Anau reminded us of Jasper. In fact, we took a picture downtown that we were going to label – “Are we in Jasper or New Zealand?” It may or may not make the cut. Our BNB is awesome as are our hosts!! We decided to take a bus tour to Milford Sound rather than make the 2 hour drive. We both wanted to enjoy the scenery which turned out to be as good as Milford Sound itself. The day started out somewhat foggy but by the time we were a half hour into our tour, the fog cleared and the sun came out. More fabulous scenery – more sheep, more mountains, more lakes and rivers, more valleys – the ride was never boring. Much of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series were filmed here. Every turn reminded us of a scene from the movies. Amazing!!

 

Milford Sound was everything that was promised. The sun was shining, the water was calm, the waterfalls were wet and we loved every minute of it!! Hopefully the pictures and videos capture the essence of the day.

 

So, we’re relaxing with a glass of wine, updating the blog and making ourselves a couple of sandwiches for supper. Tomorrow, we start the trek north. We should be on the North Island by Tuesday afternoon. I think that I can speak for both of us when I say that we are so happy that we made the choice to head south for a few days.

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Dunedin

Col will be doing one of infamous posts shortly, but in the meantime I thought I would do a minor post. We left Christchurch on Thursday morning September 20 and arrived in Dunedin at around 3:00 PM, checked into our BnB and headed to Larnach Castle. Sorry to say I was not able to retrieve any pictures or video from our GoPro so I have nothing to show for it. Suffice to say it was impressive, if you don’t believe me google it. 😄 After the impressive castle we drove to Baldwin street which believe it or not is the steepest street in the world. Who would have known, but hey we just happened to be there. That I have pictures of thanks to my IPhone.

Below is me at the base of the street, I know it doesn’t look like much in the picture, but believe me it was. We walked it to the top.

Col at the top after we conquered the summit.

After seeing the steepest street in the world the sun had set so it was time to belly up to the trough. Keeping with the spirit of New Zealand we found ourselves at the Baa Bar and Grill and I had my first Lamb stew which was very good I might say. We finished the day off with a visit with our BnB hosts who were an amazing couple. Tomorrow we are off to Te Anau followed by a visit to Milford Sound the following day.

Cheers,

Australia in Retrospect

After 25 days we have left Australia.  We travelled 4 out of 5 states and one territory. We  missed West Australia only because we ran out of time. The word that I would use to desribe this continent would be diversity. From the beautiful beaches on the east coast to desert and red dust in the Outback, to the green hills of Adelaide, and finally the craggy ocean road of the south coast. Even Sydney and Melbourne are completely different – both hip in their own way but decidedly different.

 

However, as a I have maintained since we have left home, it will be the people that we will remember the most. It is meeting with Norman and Sasha at the airport in Sydney when we first touched down in Australia to Bill and Norma, a Brandon, MB couple that we met in the Melbourne airport while waiting for our flight to New Zealand, and all the ones in between that keep this journey really interesting. We chose to do this journey using BNB’s so that we are always interacting with the people that live their lives in the places that we travel. It is from them that we will get the experiences that we are looking for. We appreciate that you are still reading my daily rants and raves and looking at the pictures and videos. Your comments are always appreciated.  

 

So, we’re off to New Zealand. Let’s see what kind of trouble we can get into there!!

Four Bookings, Three Days, Two Movies and the Water Bottle Incident

Four Bookings – We arrived in Melbourne on Friday, September 14. We had a short drive that morning from Geelong where we had camped for the night. We turned in our motorhome, grabbed an Uber and headed off to Air BNB Booking Number Three. What happened to One and Two? Well, they say that the best stories come from misfortune in travel. Let’s see if you agree!! There was a misunderstanding between us and the hostess with Booking Number One and we ended up cancelling it and got an instant refund. Booking Number Two was booked and paid for but we had received an email that morning from the hostess saying that the last guest had broken the water tap in the bathroom. She was sorry but she had to cancel in order to make the necessary repairs. Hence, Booking Number Three. We were a couple of hours early but hoped that we could at least drop off our bags until the actual check in time. The problem was that the host had not answered any of our emails up to that point. Either he didn’t know that we would be early or he hadn’t answered. He had accepted our payment however. Uber driver dropped us off in front of the house – well, actually not the right house but we did manage to find the correct house on the neighboring street. We stood outside the door, trying to pick up some wifi to let him know that we were there. We could hear someone inside but no one came to the door. After about 15 minutes, our host opened the door and made the comment “You are early, you know”. “Yes, we know. Could we drop our bags?” “Sure, but your room won’t be ready until 4:00.  Just doing some repairs from a water leak in the bathroom.” “Hmm. That problem seems to be going around today. In the meantime, maybe we could get some wifi?” After 20 minutes of frustration, we determined that there was no wifi available that would help us get our blog and pictures up to date. “Sorry mate but we’ll probably have to find another place to stay.” “Sure, no worries. I’ll give you a full refund.” Thankfully, there was enough wifi to find another place and an Uber. So, off we went to Booking Number Four. 50th floor, highrise apartment, in the middle of the CBD (Central Business District for those uneducated in such matters – which I was until just a few days ago) and, lots of people on the street!! Perhaps a little more than we bargained for but we had a bedroom, a bathroom, great wifi and the company of a cat. What more could you want from a place?!?! (As of this posting, we have yet to see a refund from Booking Number Three)

 

Three Days – By the time we were settled into Booking Number Four, we were ready for something to eat and a drink. It had been a long day.  We found a shopping mall down the street that was three or four stories and ran about two to three blocks around. Pretty big by my standards. We found that this was our go to mall for the three days we were in Melbourne. Full Day Number One was spent at the apartment catching up on blog stuff, correspondence and pictures. Day Two we ventured out to the Victoria Street market. This was a very large market with everything from fast food to fresh meat, fish, vegetables, crafts, clothing, art and anything else you could think of. With all the overwhelming choices, we had lunch at McDonalds. Then off to a little Irish pub around the corner. We rode the free tram for an hour or so, went to an outlet mall down by the wharf, saw Captain Cook and walked around the downtown area. By Day Three, we were both a little homesick and ready to move on. Thankfully, the next day we would be off to Christchurch in New Zealand.

 

Two Movies – So in our go to mall down the street, there was a big movie theatre. Why not catch up on a couple of movies that we have been wanting to see? On the first evening we saw “Antman and Wasp”. Very entertaining. Total cost of the evening – $41. Movie $24 and popcorn and drink $17. (not great popcorn either). Evening number two we decided to see “Crazy Rich Asians”. This movie was recommended to us by a waitress in a Thai restaurant in Honolulu. This movie was playing on an enhanced screen in our movie theatre. We loved the movie but not sure whether it was worth the admission price of $44!! No popcorn that night!!

 

The Water Bottle Incident  – well, for those of you that have been following us, you know that we are having a tough time hanging onto water bottles. On evening number two, I decided that I would take my water bottle to the movies with us. Before the movie, we decided to go for dinner to a Mexican restaurant a few blocks from our apartment. Once there, the restaurant was not to our liking so we left and went back to the big ass mall where there was a TGIFridays. Nothing jumped off the menu at us there so we left that restaurant behind as well. Ahhh, now we’re talking – a jug of beer for $12 and a Margarita for $10 (considering the price of booze in Australia, this was a fantastic deal!!) at the Asian Beer Cafe. As Richard was up at the bar ordering drinks, I went to reach for my water bottle only to find it missing. OH NO!!! Where did I leave it this time?!?!? I pieced together our travels and realized that I had left it on the bar at the Mexican Restaurant. So, I left Richard nursing his jug of beer and I hoofed it back to the restaurant. Water bottle rescued!! I am happy to say that it is still by my side as I write this literary masterpiece on the plane.

 

So, New Zealand here we come. Watch for a wrap up montage of pictures, videos and commentary summarizing our experiences in Australia. Coming soon to a blog near you!!

Melbourne Sunday Sept 16

Melbourne has been a time to relax and do some planning for the next phase of our journey.  In between times of planning we have been to a couple of movies, spent some time in an Irish Pub called the Drunken Poet along with doing some walking and touring the downtown area.

Today (Sunday morning) we attended Church at St. Francis which was just a short walk from our BnB.  It is the oldest Catholic Church in Victoria which is the state that Melbourne is situated in.  It was quite the experience as the 11:00 AM service has the choral choir present.  The choir is quite large and they are at a professional level and when they sang some of the liturgical hymns in Latin being accompanied by one of those older styled giant pipe organs it was quite inspiring and very reverential.  Quite to my surprise the Church was packed and people lingered long after Mass was finished inside.  Outside after the service a large group of people stood in line to meet, speak and pray with the bishop and he seemed to spend as much time with each person or group as they needed or wanted.

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The Afternoon:

After Mass we jumped on the tram which moves through the down town district free of charge and you can hop on and off at your convenience.  We were able to see the Victoria Parliament building, and old jail located in the down town area along with Captain Cooks house.  Apparently it was purchased in the 1930’s from England, taken apart brick by brick and re-assembled in Melbourne.  Below are some pictures of our visit to the Captain Cooks house.

img_1787img_1792 That is me below with Captain Cook.  Of course it is a statue as we all know he is dead.  Well, at least that is the rumour. 

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A bit of German culture in Melbourne.  Well I think it is German, the sign beside the guy says Munich.  I think it has something to do with beer.  Those Germans.  They show up everywhere and always blowing their horns.  Right Lawrence?

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The Great Ocean Road – Day Two

The day dawned cool and dreary. The grass was still damp from the previous night’s rain as we shuffled over to the bathrooms to clean ourselves up to get ready for another day. We waved goodbye to our new friend Ian who was pulling out of the campsite on his lonely adventure towards the route that we had left the day before. We packed up our camper and headed back to the Twelve Apostles to retake pictures without the crowds and the blazing sun. We were successful on both accounts. The wind pulled at our jackets as we descended Gibson’s Steps toward the beach, which would give us a different view of the Apostles. Not wanting to get sand on our shoes we hurried back up the steps, without any new pictures, to the warmth of our camper. A little further up the road we stopped at a Wildlife Sanctuary for a cup of coffee and a visit with a few of the residents there. I fed (and was beat up by) a kangaroo, an emu (they’re nasty!), and a couple of alpacas (brown one was shy, white one not so much). We admired a couple of dingoes – beautiful creatures. The young lady that owns the sanctuary with her family told us that dingoes are actually loners and do not travel in packs as our wolves do. They are booted out of the litter once they are old enough to look after themselves, they find a mate for life and the two of them manage a little section of the wilderness. And the cycle repeats. The two that are at the sanctuary were born in captivity but I am not sure of how they arrived there.

 

From there we headed further up the Great Ocean Road. The landscape and the road, changed dramatically. We were now moving through the Otway National Forest. The scenery was magnificent as we wound our way through a series of switchbacks with forest on one side and valleys and sheep meadows on the other. We took a narrow, winding side road down to the Otway Cape to see the first established lighthouse on the coast. After 300 shipwrecks by 1878, it was decided that something had to be done to warn the captains of impending disaster. Though the purpose of the original lighthouse has been replaced by modern technology, it still stands as a testament to the people who went before. The life of a lighthouse keeper was harsh. A community had to be established and over time a telegraph office and a school. As this area was remote, the community had to become self sufficient with its own vegetable gardens and animals. Supplies had to be brought in by bullocks and wagon – a trip that would take 3 days to a week over land.

 

We wound our way back out to the main road and thought that the worst of the drive was behind us. How wrong we were!! This road hugged the coastline with hairpin turns, sheer rock faces on the left  and dropoffs into the ocean on the right. Richard did the white knuckle driving and I hung on for dear life in the passenger seat. I drove the Hana Highway in Hawaii a few years back and that was a cakewalk compared to this! We were very happy to see Lorne, where we are spending the night. Tomorrow’s drive will probably be much the same as we have about another 100 kms of The Great Ocean Road ahead of us. Can’t wait!! I think there is a chocolate factory somewhere along the road so that should make it all worth while!!

The Twelve Apostles: As you can see they are not really that spectacular.  Not sure what all the fuss is about.

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The wildlife sanctuary.

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The Light House:

img_1762img_1769img_1768img_1770The Crazy Ocean Road: Don’t forget I am driving Big Stupid Camper that my wife made us rent.

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Last stop on the Great Ocean Road.  The Chocolate Factory or someplace or other:

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Great Ocean Road Day 1 Part 2.

I finally have adequate WiFi now so I can add media to the Great Ocean Road day one Post.

First Stop, The Bay of Islands:

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The Grotto:

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London Bridge:

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The Razor Back:

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Loc Ard Gorge:

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The Great Ocean Road – Day 1

What a fabulous day!! We started the day in Warrnambool, Victoria and ended in Port Campbell, Victoria – a total of 78 kms. A little different from previous days travels. But, let me back you up a bit. Yesterday we left our rest stop southeast of Adelaide at about 8 AM. We thought that we should be in Warnambool by noon, or shortly thereafter. However, our GPS had some other ideas and took us on the long road to our destination. We travelled through wine country, sheep country, dairy country and back to sheep country – all on secondary roads that at times were only one lane wide. Quite the adventure. We called it the Sheep Shit Road and we arrived about 3 PM. Not a great start to the Great Ocean Road journey!!

However, once at Warnambool, we hit the Info centre, got some pamphlets, found a campsite and did some research which all leads to our great day today. In the 78 klms that we travelled today we stopped at the: Bay of Islands, Bay of Martyrs, The Grotto, London Arch (formerly known as London Bridge), The Arch, Loch Ard Gorge and the Twelve Apostles. All were spectacular!! This coast is known as the shipwreck coast as the waves are unrelenting and the coastline is sheer rock walls.  However, each stop was slightly different and amazing all the same.

We took a number of pictures and videos though I am not sure how many will make the blog cut. Just a couple of points of interest –

The Grotto – was Probably one of the nicest sights that we saw today. This is a cave and sinkhole located about halfway up the cliff, from sea level. We descended by staircase to the viewing area which was rock pools carved out in the jagged edged limestone. Beautiful!!

The London Arch – This was formerly called London Bridge and was attached to the mainland. However, on January 15, 1990, the arch collapsed and left two people stranded on the outer arch. They were later rescued by helicopter.

Loch Ard Gorge – Loch Ard was a ship that sailed from Gravesend, England in 1878. As it came near the coast, it ended up smashing into the rocks and sank. Only two people survived the wreck. I mean really, why would you sail from a place called Gravesend?!?!?

And of course, The Twelve Apostles – we were here later in the day but there were a number of tour buses on site with of course, lots of people. As the sun was also in a bad spot for pictures, we decided to go back tomorrow morning, do the walk and take our pictures.

As I have mentioned previously, it is the people that we meet that make the trip special. Last night we met a lovely couple from the east coast of Australia. They have travelled Australia and New Zealand. They were fun to talk to and had lots of tips for us. We ran in to them a few times during the day at the different sites, but we do not see them in our campground tonight. I guess they moved further up the coast.

On our way back into Port Campbell, we picked up a couple of young people with backpacks that were hitchhiking. They were from Slovakia, but now currently live in Sydney. They say that the only way to see the country is to walk it. Good on them!!

And this evening, our next door camper neighbor stopped by for a chat. He is a retired widower named Ian and is from Melbourne. We had a wonderful visit. Such a lovely man!! Yes, these are the people that make us enjoy this journey even more.

Can’t wait for tomorrow as we move on down the coast to take in the Twelve Apostles again, and make it all the way to Apollo Bay – another 100 kms down the road.   

The Bay of Islands:  Video to follow after we get better WiFi. 

The Grotto:

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London Bridge:

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Port Campbell:  We were looking for a place to have coffee along side the ocean and we found a little bakery where we had great coffee.  I had a cappuccino, Colleen had a long black and we both shared homemade raisin toast and homemade marmalade.

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The Arch:

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The Razor Back:

 

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Loch Ard Gorge: I was not  able to down load a video Col took of this place, but I will add it later.

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Only four bodies were pulled from the sea out of all who perished and they are buried in the grave site below.img_1744