Thursday, February 25, 2010


From Byron we continued up the east coast to Noosa.  We stayed in a great hostel creatively named Noosa Backpackers.  We got a 4 bed room with a double bed which Kate and Lizzie kindly allowed us to have.  Noosa is a gorgeous beach town with lots of things to do.  It has some great beaches, a huge river and bay, and a National Park, all of which were very close to where we were staying. 

The hostel offered a variety of things for free including surf boards, body boards, and kayaks.  Kate and Lizzie decided to take the kayaks out as soon as we arrived and had quite an adventure.  They went out on the river and headed into the bay.  They had no problems on the way out but getting back was apparently a bit challenging.  The current was fairly strong as was the wind so they weren't able to make it back to the jetty.  After floundering for some time they flagged down a boat whose owners offered to tow them back to shore.  The girls gladly accepted grabbed on to either side of the boat.  Just as they were getting comfortble the boat sped up slightly and Kate's kayak started to veer from the boat.  She ended up hanging on for dear life on the side of the boat and screaming before a couple of guys were able to drag her up into the boat.  During all the commotion, Lizzie lost her paddle and the boat was forced to double back and pick it up.  They eventually made it back to dry land safely. 

Lee decided to get up early the next morning (ended up being earlier than he thought as we discovered later in the day that Queensland is an hour behind New South Wales as they don't do daylight savings in these parts) and take a kayak out himself (Courtney decided to pass after hearing Kate and Lizzie's story!)  The bay is awesome with lots of activity including fishing, boating, kayaking and jetskiing.  Lee even saw a couple of big stingrays while out in the kayak.  Very cool.

Tea Tree Bay

We spent the afternoon at Tea Tree Bay, an awesome beach in the National Park.  Steep hills covered in trees, bush and rocks provide the backdrop for the narrow beach which is pretty popular with local sufers.  Apparently the park is home to a lot of Koalas but despite our best efforts we didn't see any.

Byron Bay

So it's only right we begin with a brief apology to our followers (we're up to 36 official fans!) for the distinct lack of updates over the last couple of weeks.  We have been experiencing a bit of blog updating fatigue.  It's very taxing trying to maintain a blog as funny and informative as this and furthermore, it's also quite expensive ($5 an hour just to get online.  It's outrageous!)  Anyway, these are all just lame excuses, we need to do better and, from this point on, we promise to try our hardest.  Now that's out of the way, lets talk about what we've been up to over the last week or so.

View from Cape Byron

After a long but uneventful drive from Coff's Harbour we arrived in the beautiful beach town of Byron Bay.  We checked into an 8 bed dorm at Aquarius Hostel which was was located a stone's throw from the beach right in the middle of town.  It was early afternoon so we decided to drive up to Cape Byron and check out the lighthouse.  On the way back we stopped at Wetago Beach to take a dip and relax for a bit before heading back to the hostel to prepare for a night on the town with Kate and Lizzie.

Our backpacker status requires that we maintain a strict budget which means we have to be creative where possible.  Booze is expensive in Australia and definitely a luxury purchase so nights out have been few and far between.  Luckily, thanks to a rather friendly but very alcoholic Swede we met in Sydney, we discovered Goon, the champagne of Australian backpacking.  Goon is basically wine (using that term very loosely) in a box.  It tastes pretty bad and does not make for a pleasant morning after.  Nonetheless, it's cheap and it gets you good and drunk, so it ticks all the boxes for us backpackers.  After a few glasses of Goon we headed down to the bar.  Our hostel was offering a nice special in the bar - buy a drink and get a free meal - so we thought that was a good place to continue the festivities.  Dinner was surprisingly good, vegetable lasagna and salad, and was followed by a bit of limbo.  Courtney is the undisputed champion of limbo at Lee's old apartment so we thought she was in with a good chance of taking the honors here.  A free bar tab was up for grabs!  Lizzie joined Courtney in the competition and although they both gave good perfomances, an unnaturally flexible dreadlocked man took the prize.


With happy hour winding up we headed back up to the dorm for some more Goon with our roomies.  Wasn't long before the playing cards were out and Kate introduced us to "Ride the Bus" (not recommended with Goon!)  This is where things get a bit hazy...

We're a month into our trip and have only been out for drinks on a couple of occasions so our drinking abilities have diminished somewhat (we're mainly talking about Lee here) (editor's note: It's Lee who is writing this and unfortunately I can't remember much of what happened after we left the hostel.  Quite embarrasing for a man of my age I know but there you are).  The stamps on my arm the following day suggest we went to a few clubs but I was told the following morning by Courtney and the girls that we were turned away from more places than we got into because of my "dead eyes."  Courtney, Kate and Lizzie now refer to me as lightweight or "Sally" (a name also used to make fun of my apparently slow driving).  Personally, I think I was roofied.

Come on.  Does this guy look drunk to you??

An extra couple of hours in bed were required to fully recuperate from the Goon, but when we finally surfaced, we headed down to the beach for some tanning.  Lee managed to fall asleep sans suntan lotion and got a bit burnt and then we all cooled off playing in the surf for the rest of the day. 

Overall, we had a great time in Byron.  The beaches are beautiful, the water is warm and turquoise and the waves are huge.  From what we can remember, the nightlife is decent too.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Road Trip!

We are now officially flashpackers.  Gone are the days of 1am departures and 7 hour bus rides.  For the next 3 weeks we will be cruising the east coast of Australia in our own set of wheels!  We picked up our ride on Wednesday and with Kate at the wheel, shes from England so used to driving on the left side of the road, started traveling north up the east coast.

We had a long drive ahead of us as Coffs Harbour (our first destination) was 7 1/2 hours away. The road trip bonding session commenced - Courtney and Kate established they had been living parallel lives across the pond from each other! Lizzie and Lee established they both like Sparrows. We passed the time Roo and Koala spotting. Lot's of Roos were spotted (and a road kill) but no Koalas.

We decided to take a detour to Nelson Bay on the way. We found a great little beach to eat our lunch on, but it was not worth the 2hr detour (we did get slightly lost!).  Lee took over driving and quickly received a barrage of abuse for driving too slowly!  We arrived in Coffs Harbour quite late and decided to explore the following day. Coffs Harbour as it turns out is just that - a harbour. So we popped out for a coffee by the harbour before leaving for Byron Bay.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

E noho ra New Zealand, G'day Australia!

Sadly, the first leg of our adventure came to an end last week as we said farewell to New Zealand and headed west to Australia.  3 weeks in NZ is not nearly enough time.  Although we covered a lot of ground and explored both the north and south islands we still weren't able to do it all.  Based on our experience and after comparing notes with other travelers we met on the road we've decided that 5 weeks is the minimum amount of time one needs to do NZ justice, so we'll be keeping that in mind for our next visit as we've already decided we have to go back!

As sad as we were to leave New Zealand, we were very excited about our next stop, Australia.  The luxurious flight we took to get there also softened the blow.  We had the pleasure of flying with Emirates Airlines on the new Airbus A380 which is a double-decker airplane.  Yes, that's right, a full double-decker airplane.  This thing was a behemoth.  It's baffling how something that big can actually move more than 10 miles an hour let alone get off the ground.

Regardless, we agreed that this was probably the best flight either of us have ever been on.  Huge seats, tons of legroom (we scored one of the seats with no seats in front of us so we could stretch our legs), our own generously proportioned flatscreens with about 100 movies and TV shows to choose from, and the best meal we've eaten since we left home.  Granted we've basically been surviving on pasta and rice for the last 3 weeks but this meal had a lamb appetizer!  Not to mention the wine and cheese.  Courtney even tried to sneak the roll and cheese off of the plane to eat later on but the Australian Quarantine forms we had to fill out sufficiently scared her into leaving them behind.  Suffice it to say, based on this experience, we would definitely recommend Emirates for anyone flying to Australia or any of their other destinations.

We arrived in Sydney at around 8:30pm and headed into the city to our hostel, Harbour City. Sounded pretty fancy on the internet, anything with "Harbour" in the name has to be decent, right?  Apparently not.  It wasn't even anywhere near a harbour for starters.  A more appropriate name would be "Harbour S______" (rhymes with city).  Still, it was cheap and gave us a place to crash for the night.

Our plan for Australia is to rent some wheels and travel up the east coast with our travel buds Kate and Lizzie, the 2 English girls we met in New Zealand  They have a similar itinerary to us so we thought it would be fun to explore Oz together (and save all of us a few bucks in the process!)  They stayed in NZ a few more days than us so we decided to hang out in Sydney for a few days until they arrived.  We've been moving around a lot so far on the trip so we welcomed the chance to stay in n place for more than just a day or two.

On our first day in Sydney we took a walk through the Botanic Gardens which are beautiful and also offer great views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  They're also home to thousands of fruit bats.  It was pretty cool to see all of these huge bats hanging from trees and flying around in the middle of the day.  We stopped at the Opera House for the mandatory Opera House and Harbour Bridge pics before heading to the infamous Kings Cross section of the City to find a place to stay for the night. 

Like it namesake in London, Kings Cross is a bit of a mixed bag with trendy cafes and restaurants alongside strip clubs and seedy bars.  It also happens to be Sydney's main backpacker area with tons of cheap hostels to choose from so we thought it made sense to try and find a place there.  We found a little place called "The Pinkhouse."  Located in a old Victorian building tucked away from the main road in a quiet part of the neighborhood it seemed like a good spot to spend a few days relaxing while we explored Sydney.  We were WAY off.  This place was a dump.  It made Harbour Sh*tty look like a 5 Star hotel!  It was the hottest, dirtiest place we've ever seen.  And the icing on the cake was when we found at that 2 of the guests currently staying there were the lucky recipients of some pink eye.  Maybe that's how this place got it's name?  Urgh.

After that we promptly got ourselves over to Wake Up!, a trendy hostel right across from Sydney Central Station.  A few dollars more than the other places but well worth the money.  Clean, spacious, air conditioned and, most importantly, free from nasty eye infections.

Spent way too much time describing crappy hostels here so running out of time for full updates on all our activities but some highlights include a day trip to the Blue Mountains, very cool, and a visit to the Sydney Wildlife World where we got to see Koalas, Kangaroos, and a massive Crocodile called Rex.  We also enjoyed a few days on the beach out in famous Bondi Beach and got to hang out with Courtney's friend Kemi who has been living in Bondi since September (lucky girl) and took us to a great beach next to Bondi called Tamarama.  Thanks Kemi!

That pretty much brings us up to speed.  We pick up our car tomorrow morning and are hitting the road, first stop Coff's Harbour.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Super Bowl...Monday!

Courtney (and the 40 or so other Americans in the bar) got a taste of what Lee goes through living in the US - watching major sporting events at strange hours!  In this case, it was on a completely different day!  We found a bar called 'Pub on the Wharf" right on the lake, and a stone's throw from our hostel, to watch the Super Bowl (or "Superb Owl" as it was called by some Englishman when we asked where we could watch it).

The game started at noon on Monday and we decided it was a good excuse to treat ourselves to some good food and a few beers (Lee will use any excuse he can get).  The bar was packed and we ended sitting with a group of New Yorkers who treated us to some pizza after we told them our poor backpacker story, haha.

After the game and several beers later we retired to the park outside for a little nap in the late afternoon sun - not a bad way to watch the Super Bowl!

Nap time

Later on we met up with Kate and Lizzie, our travel pals that we met on the first few days of our trip, for a few more drinks and to discuss plans for Australia.  We have a pretty similar itinerary so we're planning to travel up the east coast in Australia together which should be fun.

All smiles after the Saints win

Fiordland and Milford Sound

After an overnight stop in Christchurch we carried on down to Queenstown, the self-proclaimed outdoor adventure capital of New Zealand.  Given that we'd already risked life and limb on a couple of occasions further north we decided to take it easy in Queenstown for a few days.

One of the places we have been really excited to see in NZ is Milford Sound.  There's only one (expensive) hotel in Milford so the only other option is to do a day trip from either Te Anau or Queenstown.

Now, some of our previous updates have mentioned the incredible scenery around the country, but Milford Sound and Fiordland take the cake.  It takes about 4.5 hours one-way to get to Milford from Queenstown so as you can imagine we weren't too thrilled about the prospect of sitting on a bus for that long.  However, the route down there is amazing, taking you past farmland, lakes, forest, waterfalls, and through some pretty spectacular mountains.
On the way to Milford

Once in Milford we hopped on the Milford Encounter Cruise ( which takes you out into the sound for a 2 hour cruise.  The cruise was awesome.  The setting is truly spectacular and we even saw a pod of 20-30 dolphins and some NZ Fur Seals.  

Fur seals having a sleep

Out on the Sound

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dunedin - Edinburgh of the South

From Kaikoura we went south to Dunedin.  Dunedin is Celtic for Edinburgh and that's why it's referred to as the Edinburgh of the south.  We stayed at the Stafford Gables YHA which is an old Victorian building on the edge of the downtown area.  It was a bit of a hike from the bus station but worth it as the building is very cool ( a former hotel I think) and it has a great rooftop deck that has great views of the city and the harbour.

Keith: Entertainer and Beer Expert.

We didn't have much time here (only stayed overnight) so we had to choose what we did carefully.  After a bit of research over a cup of tea we decided to head over to the Speight's Brewery for the brewery tour and tasting.  Speight's is a local NZ beer that has been brewed in Dunedin for well over 100 years.  The tour and tasting coast $20 ($18 for Court as she's a student.  Lee tried for the "Senior" discount but they weren't having it).  The tour was great.  Our guide Keith was very knowledgable and tons of fun - we would definitely recommend asking for him if you go on the tour.  Aside from his vast knowledge of Speight's beer, Keith is also apparently in the entertainment business and in his time has met all the greats including The Beatles, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and.....Max Bygraves! (our older readers may remember him ;-P).  He also let us pour our own beers for about an hour after the tour.  Cheers Keith!

Wine and Seals in Kaikoura

First stop in South Island was Kaikoura, a beautiful little beach town with an amazing mountainous backdrop.  We spent 2 days there in a place called the Adelphi Lodge.  We've been staying mainly in YHA hostels as the standard is generally better than other accomodations down in our lowly price range but the YHA was fully booked so we settled on the Adelphi.  Clean, well-appointed and modern are all words I would not use to describe this place however we scored a private room for only a couple of bucks more than a dorm so we were willing to deal with a bit of grime.

Kaikoura is home to a large seal colony where seals go to hang out, sleep, and have babies so we went to check it out.  We cycled out to Kean's Point on our Adelphi-supplied bikes (just as old and dusty as the lodge but free so we weren't complaining) and visited the seals.  It was pretty amazing.  When the tide is out you can walk right out onto the rocks and get within touching distance of hundreds of seals.  We were fortunate enough to see a few pups and one of them, a curious little fella, even came right over to us to check us out.  Very cool.

Kaikoura Winery Tour

In the afternoon we headed out to the Kaikoura Winery for a tour and tasting.  The winery was built on an old sheep farm and there are some incredible views of the ocean from the main building.  Our tour guide even gave us some binoculars so that we could look at the sperm whales that were swimming just off the coast.  The wines were pretty good, we liked the Sauvingon Blanc the most and decided to purchase a bottle to enjoy with dinner.

Kaikoura Beach.

"It's like a cruise!"

 To get to South Island you have to cross the Cook Strait.  It's about a 3 hour journey with some pretty amazing scenery along the way.  Courtney was surprised at the size of the ferry and remarked "ooh, it's like a cruise!"  I think she was expecting a wooden raft or something.

Sheep making the crossing to South Island...and probably someone's plate.

View from the ferry.

Windy Welly

It's been a few days since our last update (sorry!) but we've been on the move pretty much every day so it's been hard to find time (I know, wah wah such a hard life we lead, haha).

Anyway, here's what we've been up to over the last few days...

About halfway through our NZ stay we realized that 3 weeks is nowhere near enough time to see this place.  You could spend 3 weeks on just one of the islands and still not see it all.  We've agreed that when we come back (and we will be coming back!) that we'll need 5-6 weeks minimum to do it right.

1am bus rides are no fun

So, pressed for time with a lot of ground to still cover, we decided to get the 1am bus from Taupo and head south to Wellington.  By taking the overnight bus we saved a few bucks on accomodation for the night which was a bonus.  The downside was that the bus was packed and it was pretty tough to get any sleep.  Nonetheless we arrived in Wellington at around 8am in the morning not very bright-eyed but pretty bushy tailed and ready to see the sights.  Our plan was to spend just the day in Wellington before catching the 6:30pm ferry across to the South Island and staying the night in the little port town of Picton.

According to our Loney Planet guidebook, Wellington has a lively cafe scene which was handy as we were in dire need of some caffiene so we decided to look for a spot to grab a coffee and a bite to eat.  We found a great little place called Espresso Republic on Featherston Street that had an eggs, bacon and toast special for $6 (that's a steal in NZ!).  It wasn't the best day weather wise - Wellington is often referred to as "Windy Welly" due to the strong winds the city often gets - so we decided to skip the popular cable car ride and headed straight to the National Museum, Te Papa.  Admission to the museum is free so we didn't have to pull any funny business like we did in Auckland.  The exhibits in the museum were all great although pretty random.  They had everything from Maori history and culture to penguins, birds and whales.  The strangest thing though was a 20 minute "show" that featured what appeared to be random video clips of daily life in New Zealand through the years.  It was set in an old antique shop (or something similar) and in addition to the clips we were treated to lots of different objects moving around and making noises (think Disney's "It's a Small World" ride but on a much, much smaller and less creepy scale). 

After the museum we treated ourselves to a curry at Little India on Cuba Street.  Delicious and a nice change from the usual PB & J.  We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the city and taking in the sights before heading to the harbour to catch the ferry.

Jeremy, look what we found in Wellington!


Monday, February 1, 2010

They like to diversify in Kaikoura

Mopeds and wooly sweaters
Quilts and eggs.  Why not?

I'm buying a power tool.  I also need....freshly dug potatoes.  One stop shopping.