Europe, Asia, Australia and Oceania · 161 Days · 351 Moments · January 2017

Dubai, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand

28 June 2017

I requested exit seats on the plane. So we had some more leg room, which was great. I slept most of the time on the flight to Dubai. Which was unusual but really nice. I didn't sleep much on the flight to Brussels. We landed in Belgium at 13.30h local time. We had to wait a good while for our bags, one of the last ones on the conveyor belt. I was so anxious to see my family, it was a bit annoying the bags took that long. We finally walked out of the arrival area and I noticed my dad first. My sister and mum were there too, they had paper masks on of Paddy and me. It was hilarious! After all the necessary hugs and kisses, we had a wee coffee together at the airport before going home. My sister returned to Antwerp, we went to my parents' house. I slept in the car for a bit. My godfather and aunt were at my parents' house too. My parents had put up some banners 'welcome home'. I helped out with tidying the garden and then we all had chips together. It was a fun night.

27 June 2017

We left the bags at the shop so we could go and get something to eat. We went to Terminal 21. I had chips, dipped in barbecue spices. I also enjoyed the street food one last time, we had some freshly cut mango. It's incredibly delicious. I'll definitely miss the fresh and cheap fruit. We took the sky train back and got picked up at the same station as we got dropped off earlier that day. We relaxed the rest of the night at the house, before Dissaya took us to the airport. Dissaya's sister just landed at the same airport and she quickly came to say goodbye to us as well. I was a bit emotional, realising it will be another while before we will see our friend again. It was so nice of them to wave us out. We spent all of our Thai money on food and souvenirs. We boarded the plane for our flight to Dubai and then to Brussels.
After our great night out, we took it easy for our last morning. I woke up early enough, at 10. I couldn't sleep in, I was too excited to enjoy Bangkok for our last day. We made lunch for our hosts, a typical European dish: potatoes. They loved it! It was nice for us to eat something different than rice and noodles, something more filling. We packed our bags. We donated a lot of our clothes. Our friend promised to bring it to charity. In the afternoon we had to go back to the tailor for a final fitting of my dresses. Dissaya dropped us off at a different sky train station than usual. It took us a lot longer to get into the centre. We arrived nearly 30 min late. I was so hot from running to the shop. The dresses fitted really well and I was very pleased. They wrapped up all of our clothes, ready to take them on the plane.

20 June 2017

We both got woken up at 6.45 by a strange noise. It probably was a bird. It was way too early to get up, so we went back to sleep. Today was sunny again! We had a relaxing time at breakfast. We laid down by the pool most of the day. Around 14 we went snorkelling again in our bay. The sea was a lot rougher than we've experienced before. We swam out a lot further, hoping to spot different things like maybe sharks. But it was so exhausting, battling these waves. So we swam closer to the coast again. We spotted another turtle, eating the coral. Ripping away at the coral. It was the most exciting thing we had seen this time. We got a shower and relaxed in the room for a while. We went into town for a few drinks before having our last dinner at this hotel.

19 June 2017

I think she had a baking background, she was kneading the nods in my back rather than massaging me. She also rubbed my feet. That was the most relaxing part for me. I even fell asleep. One good thing about this massage was the location: on the beach. We heard the waves and the wind which was nice. We bought some snacks at the supermarket before heading back to Mae Haad where they would pick us up. The whole day was pretty overcast. When we returned at the hotel, we took a shower before having dinner at the hotel. I had gnocchi. It was nice. We watched a rom com later that night with George Clooney.
We walked back to the hotel. We freshened ourselves up before heading back to the village in our bay. It's pretty well hidden behind the trees. You can't see it from our hotel. We were meeting Dissaya and her friend for lunch there. It was nice finally catching up with her. Lunch was ok, the food at the hotel is tastier though. We had to say goodbye to our friend, she was heading back to Bangkok that afternoon. Paddy and I went to Mae Haad, next to Sairee Beach. We then walked all the way to Sairee via the yellow brick road. This is a hidden pedestrian/ scooter road alongside the beach. It's a bit safer than walking on the main road, which we first walked on. We were trying to find the 'underwater festival'. We ended up getting a massage. I asked her to be more gentle, but it ended up being as rough, maybe rougher than my first one. At times it felt like she didn't know what she was doing.
I didn't sleep too well, scratchy throat. I think it's from all the aircon. We got up early as well, 7.30. We were gonna meet our friend -finally- at Shark Bay at 9. We had breakfast. I had some delicious chocolate bread. The walk to Shark Bay took 25 minutes. We had to climb a little. Our friend arrived around 9.30. We had to walk down a lot of stairs to reach the water. We swam for nearly 2 hours again. The coral at Shark Bay isn't nice at all. It seems dead: all grey and brown colours. A lot of it seems broken off. There was also no sun, it was overcast. But we saw lots of fish and a turtle!!! My god, he or she was so beautiful. I spotted it first and shouted at the rest. We swam with it for a while. There were a couple of baby cleaning sharks on top of it. It was a divine moment, witnessing nature's way of cleaning turtles. Seeing the turtle was the highlight of this snorkelling trip. We spotted another octopus, hiding in the coral. Unfortunately we didn't see any sharks.

18 June 2017

Tanote Bay itself isn't very special, but the underwater world was pretty cool! Especially around the rocks, there's a lot of coral and thus fish. Some people were ask cliff jumping from one particular rock. I felt like a proper explorer, there were some many little tunnels and areas in between the rocks. It's a magical place. We were in the water for almost 2 hours! I was quite dizzy coming out of the water. We rested for a bit on the beach. I went back in the water for another 30 min, on my own. It's the first time that I scraped myself against coral. It happened a few times. Quite painful. I felt bad for accidentally touching the coral. Around 18 we were picked up by the hotel to bring us back. They welcomed us back and we got our old room. ☺️ We got freshened up and had dinner at the hotel. Delicious as ever.
We were walked to our room. The room was ok, but half the luxurious feel of the previous place and no honeymoon welcoming gift. They said to Paddy they made note of it. We explored the rest of the hotel to discover that everywhere it was the same: just very basic, even old. More dogs were now in the restaurant, scratching themselves. The room was in a building block, in the previous place we had our own cottage. And the difference in price wasn't that much. We were both yearning for the other hotel. We quickly decided to change hotels. After a phone call to the booking agent and after talking it over with the receptionist, we cancelled our 3 nights here. We still had to pay for the first night, but strangely enough we weren't allowed to stay for that night. We then booked 3 more nights at the previous hotel and arranged for a time to be picked up. We rented some snorkeling gear and went out in the bay to explore the underwater world.
I slept really well last night. I was so tired. We watched some of our videos from the snorkelling yesterday in bed. We had a relaxing morning, topped off by a delicious breakfast. They had fresh pineapple juice which was delicious and I got a vegetable omelette and pancakes. Cos I'm on my holidays. We packed up our stuff, we were going to another part of the island and thus another hotel. As a curtesy our hotel dropped us off at our new hotel. It was hard to find reception at this new place. No signs, no clear entrance building. Our driver had to ask. We had to go down some steps. Check-in wasn't welcoming, very sec. They put a juice in front of me, not saying anything. I had to ask what it was. The people working here seemed to not like their job, just did the absolute basics of filling in the paperwork. There was a dog in the 'restaurant'. No one had a smile on their face, they looked more grumpy than anything.

17 June 2017

So we rented snorkelling gear form the hotel and explored the bay in front of our hotel. It was a lot better than we expected! The muddy start put us off before but the water in front of our hotel was crystal clear. And full of fish! We saw different looking clown fish, an octopus, lots of parrots fish, star fish, sea cucumbers taking a poo, a couple of porcupine fish (they're quite shy and hide under big coral). Overall it was a great experience, we nearly snorkelled for 2 hours! We went out of the water cos it was getting dark. We went back to the room and got dressed. We had a great dinner that night: Paddy got steak and I had chicken with cashews. We unfortunately didn't meet up with our friend. We started watching James Bond movie, I never made it to the end of it. ☺️
We had a chilled out morning. After all we are on our honeymoon. ☺️ After breakfast we moved to the pool and laid down their pretty much the whole morning. Our friend Dissaya had arrived at the island. She was tired cos she travelled all night, so she went for a nap. We went to the beach of where we were staying and we went into the sea there. It was a huge disappointment. The water was really warm and very muddy. I couldn't even see my feet, let alone any fish. So we went back to our hotel and laid down by the pool again. I had a nice lunch at the pool. Eventually I decided to go back into the sea, but going in from our hotel. I saw some cool stuff in the water that I wanted to see up close. So I called to Paddy to come in and join me.

16 June 2017

Around 16.30 I felt like I had seen it all. The beach isn't nice, there's a lot of rubbish lying around everywhere. I didn't get a good impression of that area. I wanted to go back to our hotel and the bay. But we had to wait for the taxi to pick us up. We had another drink by the water to cool ourselves off. We bought some snacks in a supermarket. We were trying to kill time. We got picked up at 18.30. We went to our room to freshen up and we started watching Star Wars. I felt struck by the heat. I was tired. I tried to get something to eat at the restaurant but I couldn't. So we finished the movie and then went to bed.
It was a sunny day. I woke up early and I couldn't get back to sleep. After a while we got up and had breakfast at our hotel. Finally we could see the hotel and the view on the bay by day. The clue is in the name of the hotel: View point. This bay is visually arresting. I got fresh pancakes for breakfast. We took our time eating breakfast, enjoying the fact we didn't have to go anywhere. We moved on to the pool. We enjoyed the sun and the amazing views on the bay. Paddy got us some surprise cocktails to sip by the pool. It was very hot outside. Around 14.30 we took the complimentary taxi to Sairee. It's a 15 min drive from our hotel. Sairee seems to be the biggest town on the island. There's surfaces roads but also sandy roads to it. We had our lunch overlooking the water. I had a nice green curry. We walked around town and then all along the beach. The water doesn't have a nice colour, there's more garbage in it as well. The water itself is incredibly hot.

15 June 2017

We got dinner at the restaurant of the hotel. The food was delicious. The cocktails too. The prices here are more than double of the prices on the mainland but still a lot cheaper than in Europe. Although we were a bit shocked about the price of the water. We took a shower in our room. Technically it's not in the room, you have to go outside to reach an ancillary building. The whole layout is pretty cool. We went to bed to get some sleep after this long day.
They most have forgotten about us, cos it didn't take too long after that for the food to arrive. We didn't have much time to spare for taking the bus. Only 5 min left. The bus ride to the pier took 1,5h. The aircon was on full blast and there was no way to control it. It made the bus ride quite uncomfortable. We arrived at the pier around 15. The ferry didn't leave until 16. We waited around. This day was pretty much a day of transport. The boat ride took 3 hours to get to Koh Tao, the island we were gonna be staying at. It stopped at two other islands first. I never managed to sleep anymore after I slept on the plane. It was a long day. Thankfully we got picked up at the pier to go to our hotel. It was a short drive to the hotel but the roads were quite rough and very much uphill. When we arrived at the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised. It looked really nice. They decorated our bed for our honeymoon. We got a free bottle of wine as well.
We got up at 4.50 in the morning. We left the hotel, hoping to catch a songthaew that early in the morning. The price of the shuttle bus in the hotel was too much. And we got a songthaew! I got the driver to lower the price. We arrived at the airport early. We shared a chocolate bread for breakfast. It didn't taste that nice. The flight from Chiang Mai to Surat Thani left at 7.10 and was around two hours long. I slept most of the way. We then had to wait around the airport of Surat Thani till 13.50 for the bus to the pier. We had breakfast at the airport. I spent more of my time writing in my journal. We also had lunch before taking the bus. Normally they're quite fast in serving the food (within 5 min) but this time it took over 20 min. I went back to the counter, trying to figure out where our food was. They didn't speak any English. She thought I was trying to order. Thankfully another costumer spoke English and translated for me.

14 June 2017

I was a bit worried about how I would feel in the morning. We went back to the hotel, planned some stuff and packed. We were flying to Surat Thani early in the morning.
The contrast between the main roads and the side streets when it comes to traffic and thus the noise is huge. Around the walled city and on the main streets in the city, there's a lot of traffic. Which means lots of noise and car fumes. It was really peaceful and quiet in the side streets, even though it was just off the main road. There were cute houses too. The sun was going down. I wanted to have a massage and went to a place recommended by a friend. I went for a back, neck and shoulder massage. Little did I know what they had in store for me. It started of gently, they washed my feet. It was a massage the Thai way: she used her elbows and the whole weight of her body. I prefer massage to be a bit rough but it felt like torture sometimes. I was in pain sometimes. 😁 She cracked my back at the end and she put her feet in my back and pushed me away from her. I didn't have this sort of massage in mind! 😳
After this visit we drove back to Chiang Mai. I talked the whole way to another tourist from Singapore. Unfortunately we didn't see any wildlife at the park. According to the guide you can see snakes, tigers and bears there. Plenty of snakes during the rain season, tigers and bears are harder to spot cos they don't have to come out of their cave for water during the rain season. They dropped us of first at our hotel. We dropped our stuff of and headed to a temple called Wat Phra Sing. The weather in Chiang Mai was sunny, totally different from the weather up at the park. I guess you can expect rain in a rainforest. ☺️ It's also the rain season. In the temple we listened to the monks singing. Very hypnotising. We explored the whole temple area. I love the attention to detail. From there we walked to the north gate of the city. We bought fruit at a local market. And then we made our way back to the centre of the walled city, via little side streets.
But you can't control the weather so I tried to make the most of it. Next stop was at a local market, a governmental project. People from the hill tribes used to grow opium plants. The government thought them how to grow fruit and vegetables instead. At this market, you could buy their produce. From there we drove to the restaurant where we had a nice meal. I was comparing it to the food I made last night at the cooking class. Even though it tasted nice, the seasoning wasn't as good as the night before. Last stop of the day was at Suthab Village. The guide told us the interesting way of how men and women meet and decide if they want to get married. Unmarried women wear white clothes, married one wear colourful clothes. The woman made these garments themselves and also sold them. All hand woven. I bought two scarfs, one scarf takes 3 days to make! Bigger items take 3 months! I was very impressed by their skills.
The guide decided to go there first because of the oncoming rain. We were pretty much in the clouds up there, it was very wet and humid and misty. It was also cold. The wooden path to the landmark was very mystical. The railings were covered in plants. There was just a little bit of light coming true the thick layer of foliage of the trees. We took photos of us being up at the highest point and then we drove on. The view from up there wasn't good. The weather wasn't getting better. When we arrived at the King and Queen pagoda, it was still misty. It even rained a bit. The top of the pagodas were covered in the fog. We had zero views on the surrounding valley. It was just white. We went in both pagodas and explored some of the gardens. I was disappointed, I had heard this was the best part of the tour. The views from up there are supposed to be great.
Last day in Chiang Mai. We got up at 7.15. I slept really well in this new room! We had breakfast before going on our tour to Doi Inthanon National Park. We got picked up by a guy called Tik. I walked into the minibus and all I could see, was Asian people. I got nervous, cos on one of the reviews about this tour company, someone complained that they were put in a Chinese group and the guide only spoke Chinese! Luckily he spoke English the whole time! We drove for 1,5 h before arriving at our first stop. We had one toilet break in between. We stopped at the waterfall. We've seen a big number of waterfalls during our travels but this one was quite impressive. We walked all the way to the top first, despite the humid water. I was in leggings which I regretted instantly. The view at the top was non existing so we walked down again. We enjoyed the spray from the waterfall as we were really warm after that climb. From there we drove to the highest point in Thailand.

13 June 2017

We got dropped of at our hotel. We said happy birthday in Thai to Kat's husband, he was the driver. They were all going out for dinner to celebrate. So cute! Her parents were visiting too. We went out to explore more of the city but lots of places seemed to be closing up. We decided to book a tour to Doi Inthanon National Park for the next day.
Then she took us to her home, where we would cook. They served us tea and water first. Kat bought fruit for us to try at the market. That was nice of her. Then we started cooking. We choose the best evening to do it, it rained a lot that night. We cut all the vegetables for 3 courses. I was gonna make: coconut soup with chicken - green curry - stir fried chicken with cashews. And as dessert: sweet sticky rice with mango. As a bonus Kat also thought us how to make spring rolls. We cooked the 3 courses first and then ate them. Paddy joined as a visitor, he didn't cook. I had to share my food with him. Then we made the sweet sticky rice and last we made the spring rolls. Everything tasted really fresh and delicious. The seasoning was just perfect for me, the right amount of spicyness. I really really enjoyed my food and wish I had more. ☺️ I was still a bit hungry when we left. We ate everything, the 2 other girls had leftovers.
We didn't wanna stop there and drove on. The driver didn't seem happy. After a false stop at an outdated shop that sold lots of crap, we finally arrived at the craft centre. We didn't have much time, just 20 min. It was impressive to see all the stages of the umbrella and fan making. It's precision work. They use simple tools like machetes to split the wood. At the painting station you can request to 'pimp' any item. They'll draw anything. We went into the shop and I bought a handmade and hand painted fan. We then hopped back into the songthaew, we had to be back in time for our cooking class. We booked that one in the morning. We freshened up in our room and they dropped off our laundry. We got picked up at 16. There was just 4 of us. We went to a local market first, where Kat our instructor talked us through the vegetables. She then gave us 10 min to browse on our own. She suggested to take photos of things we didn't know so we could ask her later.
We went into a modern and huge shopping mall. We browsed around and discovered some weird fashion items like a sweater with hand puppets sewn to the sleeves. A jumper for adults. 😂😀 We continued walking and turned into one of the side streets. In my opinion this area looked more modern. It was more quiet too and more green. There were nice looking cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels. We had fish and chips at a quirky looking square, under a big tree and looking at the statue of a huge pink dog. From there we took a songthaew to Bo-Sang handicraft centre. We negotiated a price with the driver. It was less than half of the price we got from another driver. We soon discovered why. ☺️ Along the way he stopped at other craft centres where they sell jewellery and leather. But we weren't interested. We figured out he tries this on all the tourists, he most likely gets a gas card. As soon as we stopped there, 6 sales ladies ran out. We saw other tourists waiting outside for their driver
I slept better that night. We didn't set any alarms. We got to have breakfast at our own pace. The hotel served pancakes for breakfast! We had a slow start of the day, which was very nice. We were changing rooms, I requested this after our first horrible night. I wanted a room with as little neighbours as possible. ☺️ So we packed our bags and left them in the room. We took a songthaew to an area in Chiang Mai that is trendy according to our Thai friend, Nimman street. We explored a temple on our way. Adjacent to the temple there were white graves. I couldn't go in, my knees weren't covered up. All the temples are very colourful and beautifully decorated. It's cheerful and yet humbling at the same time. We continued walking to this trendy area. There's a lot more 'western' looking places. But this main road was still noisy and as chaotic looking as everywhere else. ☺️

12 June 2017

I was determined to see the scenery along the way. That didn't happen. I fell asleep. ☺️ We got dropped off at the hotel. What a great day we had! We took a shower and got a songthaew to the night bazaar. This market is on every evening, regardless of the weather. It's just outside the walled city. I had another banana/Nutella rotee. It is just so delicious!! The more markets you do, the more you realise they all sell the same, that there's no real original souvenirs to be bought here. And they all try to sell for way more than it's worth. We walked around for a while and had pad Thai for dinner. There were some performances happening on a stage, Thai dancing. We watched the man and woman dance. It was pretty cool. They moved in a slow and controlled way. We took a songthaew back to the hotel. We had our first female driver. She rang the hotel to get directions. ☺️ We had a great day.
I got to scrub her with a brush. She had her head down in the water, kicking her legs. She was playing with the water with her trunk. It was really nice seeing her this relaxed. I gave her a big hug. The elephants under the guidance of their mahouts starting splashing us with their trunks. It was a lot of fun. At some point I had 4 elephants trying to splash me at the same time. Water was coming from every direction. 😀💦💦🐘🐘 We all got lifted by the trunks of two elephants. And as a bonus, one elephant lifted you up in the air with his trunk. I weigh about 55 kilo's and the elephant picked me up like I was a leaf. 😳 The trunk is incredibly strong. After that the elephants got a break. Then we rode back to the camp. Going uphill seemed a bit harder for ML. But we made it back. She bent down and I got to hop off on the bench in front of her, sliding over her wee head. We got a shower and changed into our clothes. We drove back to Chiang Mai.
It started raining along the way. It didn't matter, we were gonna bath with the elephants anyway. ☺️ I didn't use the command during the walk. The mahout, her guardian, was leading the whole time. I heard the others shouting the commands, but it seemed like the elephants only listened to their mahout. I was wondering if they only teach the tourists these command to give them the allusion of being in control, but they're actually not. Mona Lisa ate along the way, snapping branches with her trunk, ripping weeds out of the ground. Their trunk is powerful. We walked straight into the river. It was a strange sensation, you feel like jumping off. Mona Lisa was very much at ease in the water. She sat down so I could hop off. And then she laid down, splashing like a puppy. It was unbelievable to see that an animal that size can be that playful in the water, somehow making them look half their size. She was like a puppy playing in the water.
We first sat on the back of the elephant, but as we were practicing the commands, we moved forwards to the neck. We all took turns. The elephants were eating during this, they didn't seem bothered with us there. In the meantime our guide was telling us interesting facts about elephants. Once we all had our turn, it was time for lunch. We had noodle soup, we got to choose the ingredients ourselves and cook it too. It wasn't that hard and it was super delicious!! As dessert we got fresh pineapple. The afternoon was the most exciting part of the day: we got to ride the elephants. I got a different elephant, Mona Lisa. She wanted to lead, I was at the front of the group most of the time. I got used to the prickly hairs. We were walking to the river, a big part of it was downhill. That was a bit nerve wrecking, I leaned on ML's head as well as I could. The top part of their head is a lot harder than the rest of the body. I'd like to think she didn't even feel my hands there.
First things first. We said hello to some elephants. I had never petted an elephant before. I always imagined they'd be really soft. They're actually quite prickly! They have rugged hairs all over them. Next step: we changed our clothes. Clothes that could get dirty and wet. Then they thought us 10 basic commands when riding an elephant: turning left, turning right, stop, ... . Then we got to practice this on the elephants. We first fed them bananas. I shouted 'Bon Soong' and then they opened their mouth! It was adorable! We moved on to the other commands, for riding them. My elephant was female, Thong Kun. She was very good at listening to the commands. When I shouted 'yukka' she lifted her front right leg so I could climb on top of her. It was the first time I was sitting on an elephant. My legs were all itchy from the prickly hairs. I found that getting on an elephant isn't too hard, you hold on to the right ear and the skin. Getting off them is tougher.
I got woken up at 6 am by other neighbours. I could hear everything. 🙄😔 I felt really wrecked that morning. We had breakfast before we would be picked up for our tour. Breakfast was a letdown for me, it's clearly aimed at Asian tourists, with noodles and vegetable soup as main dishes. The bread they offered was the cheap kind. The eggs were cold. The French toast was cold. I think my tired emotions got the better of me. I wanted croissants! 😭 Anyway. We got picked up around 8.15. The elephant sanctuary was 1,5 h outside of Chiang Mai. We stopped once for a toilet break. I slept on the way over, so I missed out on the scenic drive along the way. ☺️ We arrived at a valley, surrounded by lush green hills. Absolutely stunning place. Our sanctuary was overlooking the valley.

11 June 2017

So we decided to go back to the hotel and take a nap. On the way back we watched people setting up their stalls for the big street market tonight. We bought dried mangos. It is very tasty. We slept for nearly two hours. I felt so much better after it. We headed out again in the direction of the market. Bins were put out on the streets. We crossed a lot of big rats coming out from underneath the bags on our way to the market. 😖 This market is only on on Sundays. It takes up a lot of streets, spread over a few blocks. It is massive in size. We wandered around for a few hours. I love browsing at markets. We had our dinner in a local restaurant because we wanted to sit down. We went back to the hotel around 22.30. Because of my nap earlier that day, I found it hard to fall asleep. The walls in this new hotel are paper thin so we 'enjoyed' listening in to our neighbour's phone call till 00.30. Then I asked the receptionist to call him and ask to be quiet. I eventually fell asleep.
We stumbled upon a temple. We hadn't visited one so we decided to go in. The temple complex was called Wat Chedi Luang. The Chedi in the middle was impressive. This brick temple has 4 entrances with staircases. Each staircase is decorated with sea snakes. The edifice is surrounded by a dry moat. I found out later that it dates back to the 13th century but monks still actively use this temple for worshiping. At least another ten ancillary buildings flanked this Chedi. It was incredible to see all the detailing they put into these temples. Wooden columns painted with gold patterns. Wooden statues covered in gold leaves. Out of respect you take your shoes off before you enter a temple. Your toes can't point to a Buddha statue, they have to point away from it. We explored the city a bit more, stumbling upon a tiny market in a courtyard. We sat down to catch our breath. It was so humid and hot. We both felt tired, we were dragging ourselves through the city.
Rise and shine! Dissaya dropped us off at the airport. We arrived too early, in case of traffic so we had plenty of time to kill. Our flight left at 9.15 to Chiang Mai. It was only a one hour flight. In Chiang Mai we took the local bus from the airport to our hotel. It's a converted red truck with seats at the back, called songthaews. On the truck it said it was 30 baht for one journey. We gave him 100 baht and suddenly the price was 50 baht per person, how convenient! 🙄 We were able to check in early into our room which was nice. We had a shower before going into the city. I needed food first for fuel so we had something to eat in a local restaurant. I had pad thai. We stopped by a travel agency to get information about tours and where's good to go. We then walked around the Old City. It's a lot smaller than Bangkok. But the smell of car fumes are the same. Nature seems to be closer by, the city is surrounded by lush green mountains.

10 June 2017

The place was swamped with people. The skewers weren't as nice as we had hoped so we sat down at one of the restaurants and had spring rolls with rice. We bought some breakfast treats for our friend's mother, as a way to thank her for letting us crash at their place. We also got ourselves breakfast for tomorrow morning, croissants. We weren't finished with our search of food. 😛 Dissaya wanted ice-cream from a particular ice-cream stand. So we went looking for it. Eventually we found it. On the way to it, I bought more souvenirs. We took the Skytrain to Mo Chit, where we started the day and then took a taxi home. We planned some stuff for Chiang Mai, packed our bags and went to bed. We had to catch an early flight to Chiang Mai the next morning.
A little later I had vegetarian spring rolls. I love spring rolls, I can't get enough of them. We sat down and relaxed at a park for a while. After that we made our way to the NaNa area with the Skytrain, Paddy had a first fitting for his suits. We said goodbye to Daniel. I saw the big Monument from the train, an impressive monument on a roundabout. We were at the tailor's for 1,5 hours and then we took a taxi to the Siam shopping centre. It started lashing at the same time as yesterday. It seems like clockwork. It was incredibly busy at the shopping mall. I bought a jumpsuit for me and my sister that I saw the day before. The rest of the night revolved around food. 😄 We went to an adjacent shopping mall where the ground floor is one big food court. There's a supermarket, but not as we know it, called the Gourmet market. Besides aisles with pre-packed food, there's lots of food stalls with pre-cooked and fresh food. We bought some chicken skewers and Aloe Vera water.
I didn't get to sleep until 3 am. Unfortunately I was wide awake at 8! I'm too excited to go and explore Bangkok. I wanna see it all. I tried to fall back asleep till 9.30-10 but it wasn't happening. We got up and had breakfast. After breakfast, at noon, we took a taxi to the Chatuchak market with Dissaya. It was a hot, sunny and humid day. Paddy also arranged to meet a friend, Daniel, from Ballycastle at the market, who lives in Bangkok. We ran into him as we were walking in. We went for a drink at a bar first. Then the four of us explored the market together. It is incredibly huge. The market feels like a city on its own. You can buy second hand stuff or brand new stuff. There's food, drinks, clothes, crockery, flowers, toys, ... . Everything basically. I'd reckon we didn't even see a quarter of it. We spent maybe 2 hours there. It could take 2 days to see it all, I think. I had a banana/Nutella rotee, super super delicious. I bought some cheap clothes for the beach.

9 June 2017

The Khao San road was insanely busy. There was loud music, people dancing on the streets, stalls, food carts selling fried spiders, maggots, grasshoppers and scorpions. Like you do. 😳 I didn't try any of it. It didn't look appealing. You even had to pay to take a photo. We were approached many times to go and see a ping pong show. The salesman even made the fitting popping noises, trying to sell it. 🙄 Instead, I got a 30 min foot massage on the streets. The masseuse was really good. I enjoyed the massage but the setting could have been better. ☺️ Loud music, car fumes. I imagined being on a beach. 😎 We had fun exploring these streets. We returned to the car by Tuk Tuk to discover it was clamped. The parking spot turned out to be too good to be true. We took a taxi to the police to pay for the fine. We laughed about the fact that we ended up in a police station. Last time we saw our friend in Rio, we ended up at a police station as well. 😀 We finally made our way home.
The driver didn't speak English. It was hard to communicate. He thought that if he would speak louder in Thai, we would maybe understand. 😀 He was a strange fella, laughing a lot. We didn't know what was funny. We finally arrived at our destination. It had stopped raining. We got changed in the toilets at the restaurant into a fancier outfit. I chose this place because of the view on Wat Arun. But the windows were fogged up. 😔 We had spring rolls for starters and a main, before we had dessert up at the rooftop bar, overlooking the beautiful temple and the river!!😍 The dessert was super delicious: a chocolate lava cake. I was very weary about the chocolate they would use, but it was finger licking good. Our friend joined us for one drink on the rooftop. After that we drove to the Khao San road area. We found a good parking spot and then walked through the busy streets. This is where all the tourist have been hiding!!! The streets were packed, it felt like one big party!
We tried another tailor shop and the guy there carefully studied my photos of the dresses I want. There's two dresses I wanted made. He didn't talk about prices first, he talked about deadlines. He wanted to know my expectations of when I want it to be ready by. Then he tried to translate the design of the dresses into finding the right fabric. I looked at a lot of fabrics and he gave advice on which one would be best for the style of the dress. He also gave some suggestions on how to get 3 looks out of one dress! I loved that idea!! Once the fabrics were chosen, then he discussed the price with his tailor. After that we looked at suits for Paddy and we chose the fabrics and the liners. We agreed on a price and made arrangements for fittings. We started walking to the Old Town, I had made dinner arrangements for Paddy's birthday. I started drizzling. We were also running out of time. So we decided to take a taxi. As soon as we were in the taxi, it started lashing. We were lucky!
Paddy's birthday!! We made pancakes for breakfast accompanied with mangos. It was a delicious start of the day! Dissaya dropped us off at a train stop. We took the Skytrain BTS to Siam, an area that has a lot of shopping malls in the modern part of Bangkok. You have a nice view from this Skytrain over the city. We walked around for a bit in Siam Centre, looking for a dress and a suit for upcoming weddings. We got hungry so we had lunch at the food court. I love chicken with cashews and rice. There's something about putting cashews in a dish, it's just very tasty. We didn't find any potential clothes for a wedding so we decided to head to NaNa area, where lots of tailors are situated. It was another hot and humid day, even hotter cos the sun was out. We walked around the area for a bit, to get a feel of who's out there and the prices. We got lured in twice to talk about suits, but they only did business dresses. Not what I wanted, so we walked out.

8 June 2017

There were a lot less people and cars but there were still plenty of food carts. These people work really hard, long hours I'd say! Bangkok seems to be a city that never sleeps. There's always people and there's always food. ☺️ Paddy and I quickly went to the 7/11 to get some essentials and when we returned, our friends had bought birthday cake with candles on for Paddy. 😍 It was incredibly sweet of them. We all sang happy birthday as loud as our lungs would allow, hoping all the other people eating would join in. They didn't. ☺️ After that we went home. It was a busy and crazy night. But we had an amazing time. I'm grateful for these friends, they showed us around and made sure we tried lots of things and had a good time.
In the chaos it seemed quite organised. It was super crowded but it all worked out. Nobody ever seemed to get in anyone's way. A friend of our friends joined us, E.T. We had more street food that our friends bought so we could try it: mango with sticky rice (very tasty!) sweet pancakes, fresh juices, ... . The China Town area is crazy: cars, Tuk Tuks and people on the road. You have to RUN to get across. There's lots of neon lights, conjuring Times Square memories for me. It is a lot to take in!! Then there's all the stalls and carts with street food on the side of the road. Lots of smells, lots of people. They sell shark fin soup, but we didn't try that. We don't want to support this. After China Town, we drove in E.T.'s German auto to some local bars. We explored two really nice bars! One was a cocktail bar and we had a tasty passion fruit cocktail. After the bar hopping our friends were still hungry. ☺️. We returned to China Town. It was a lot quieter, it was close to midnight
After I felt refuelled, we walked through the flower markers. The place smelled amazing! So many beautiful flowers! They also weave them into beautiful bracelets. If we weren't travelling, I would definitely buy one! The crafts and skills the people have over here are mindblowing. We went back to the coffee shop to get some wifi. We needed to get into contact with our friend so we could meet up. We arranged to meet at the Giant Swing. They picked us up and we drove to China Town. Dissaya and her sister Faii took us to a local restaurant and ordered the food for us. I probably wouldn't go in there on my own but it was an incredible experience. They knew what to order, what to say. We willingly accepted their help and we enjoyed the food. It was cheap too. They cooked on the streets, in front of the restaurant. They even cooked on the balcony. Maybe they ran out of space. ☺️ Every person seemed to have their job: peeling the oranges for fresh juice, flipping the meat, ... .
It actually made me feel stressed. We had a cold drink in a cafe that had wifi. It felt good to sit down. We continued walking through the China Town markets. These alleys are so narrow but scooters and people with food trolleys and carts still make their way through it. To me it felt chaotic but over here it seems to work. They mostly sell stuff that you don't really need: fidget spinners, toys, plastic flowers... . Along the way I saw things that you'd never see in Europe. It just shows how relaxed the people are here. I saw a parent on a motorbike with one kid in front and one at the back, no-one was wearing helmets. 😬 I saw a kid at the back of a scooter, eating her noodles out of a bowl. ☺️ The areas we walked around in didn't have many tourists around. It felt like we were the only ones at times. The streets looked like a maze to me, lots of little side alleys, each darker and narrower than the last. We stopped for another drink beside the river. I needed to catch my breat
It was a hot HOT day, very humid. It was overcast but that didn't make any difference in the temperature for me. We started exploring the Old Town on foot. We wanted to go into one of the temples (Wat Pho) but I couldn't get in with my tank top and shorts. But no worries, there's a lady just around the corner that will sell you the proper clothes! 😀 We decided to come back the next day, with trousers on and a t-shirt. We bought some delicious fresh and cheap mango on the street. We also had a nice lunch in a tiny little restaurant: a vegetable omelet with rice. We walked around the walls of the Grand Palace, declining all the offers from the tourist police and Tuk Tuk drivers who would take us to other temples that do not require a dress code. We continued exploring on foot. I felt a bit trapped in the Old Town because of the noise of the traffic and the heat and the tiny little streets. There was no fresh air, no break from the noise, the smells and the heat! It was overwhelming
We got up at a descent hour considering how tired I was last night. ☺️ Our friend Dissaya had already left to go to the Grand Palace to greet the Old King. He passed away last year. We had breakfast. We were surrounded by all the pets and as I predicted, I couldn't remember a single name! 😀 With some instructions from our friend, we took an Uber to the Nonthaburi pier. From there we took the 'local' boat to the Old Town. We waited on the boat for approx. 30 min before I took off. It was all very relaxed. The Chao Phraya river is wide. It's got a brown colour. I was disappointed when a passenger behind me unwrapped her biscuit and just threw the plastic wrapper into the river. 😥 After 45 min we got off. We missed our stop at Tha Tian but we weren't far from it.

7 June 2017

They took us to a rooftop bar downtown Bangkok. We had some snacks and some drinks. It was lady's night: buy 1 get 1 drink for free. The view on the skyline of Bangkok was pretty cool. I was too tired to appreciate it though. On the way back to their house, I fell asleep in the car. When we arrived at their house, they gave us a quick tour of the house and the animals. They have lots of cute animals. My brain couldn't cope with the Thai names of the pets. I knew I wouldn't remember a single name the next day. 😀 We went to bed after the tour. I fell asleep straight away.
Great night of sleep but not long enough. We got up at 6.30, had breakfast at the hotel and took an Uber to the airport. We flew with Qantas. We took off with roughly one hour delay again. It was a comfortable flight, with good food, plenty of drinks, a blanket and a pillow. I watched a few movies and I slept a tiny bit. It was nearly a 10 hour flight. I felt wrecked by the end of it. I had a headache from not being able to breathe in fresh air. I felt happy when we landed and that a friend was picking us up at the airport. We hadn't seen her in two years. She and her sister gave us a warm welcome, they even had brought food and drinks in the car. They said traffic could be bad, at least we wouldn't starve. ☺️ So nice of them. The heat and humidity was overwhelming. Thank God for aircon.

6 June 2017

You do it all yourself: checking in, tagging the bag and dropping the bag off. The flight to Sydney was delayed by one hour, there were technical problems with the plane's computer. We arrived around 6 pm. We watched the sun going down from the plane. I could see the Harbour bridge and the Opera House! We took an Uber to our hotel. We were staying close to the airport, because we were leaving early again in the morning. We made our way one last time to the centre of Sydney by metro. There's a lighting festival on. I wanted to see it! We had dinner first and then we walked around Circular Quay. Unfortunately it started lashing, so we got soaked. But it was still incredible to see all the famous landmarks lit up! I was pleased we were in Sydney at the right time! We went back to the hotel, took a hot shower and went to bed.
We got up at 6 am so we would be able to leave in time to hopefully beat traffic. We had to take the rental car back to Melbourne at 9. It was still dark outside when we left. We left at 6.45 and we were supposed to arrive at 8, without traffic. We arrived at 9.20. 😱 Traffic was terrible coming into Melbourne and the gps got us lost a few times. We should have returned the car with a full tank but we had no time to do that. It also seemed impossible to find a petrol station. We just dropped the car off. But the rental guy was cool about it and told us where to find a petrol station. So we filled the car up and finally dropped it off for good. I felt relieved! We spent the rest of our time in the Emporium shopping centre, relaxing and eating. We didn't wanna drag our big bags around. Around noon we made our way to the airport. I was so tired, I fell asleep on my bag in the bus. ☺️ We had to check in ourselves and print off our bag tags. There's no-one sitting at a check-in desk.

5 June 2017

We also saw lots of parrots with beautiful colours. And cockatoos. And a kookaburra. We bought a coffee at the cafe and had it overlooking the sea. There were a few surfers out in the water. We watched them taking the waves. Then we drove to Lorne, enjoying the scenic coastal road. We both agree it looks a lot like the coastal drive in Antrim. They even called Larne Lorne in OZ. 😀😉 We bought lunch in the supermarket and then headed up to the visitor centre for info on the area. We drove to Teddy's lookout and had our lunch there, overlooking the sea and the mountains. Our last stop of the day was Erskine falls. It was quite a climb down to see the whole waterfall but it was worth it. Torquay was our resting place for that evening. We checked into the hostel and then went out for a bite to eat.
It started off as a sunny day. We had eggs for breakfast and booked a hostel for later that evening. Apollo Bay is a small village. We went to the beach to check out the sights. The village is surrounded by lush green hills, as far as I can see. It's beautiful. We drove to Cape Otway next to see the lighthouse. The roads are windy, flanked on both sides with tall trees. A beautiful drive. We were looking out for koalas but we didn't spot any. It was $20 entry per person to the lighthouse so we did a free walk to a viewing point instead. The weather had changed, it was cloudy and grey. It even started drizzling. We drove back via Apollo Bay and stopped at Kennett River to get a drink. We saw loads of Asians surrounded by parrots. Then we realised KR is the place to spot koalas. I spotted the first koala. Then Paddy spotted the second and third one. This last one was the best one to look at. I tried to get closer, stepping on branches. It woke the koala up and it looked at us. 😍

4 June 2017

It wasn't very busy at these places. At the Bays of Martyrs, there wasn't even anyone on the beach. It was just us two. That was nice. But when we got to Loch Ard Gorge, it got busier. Beautiful limestone rock formations. Incredible scenery everywhere we stopped. Our final stop for the day was the Twelve Apostles. There were so many people there, it was super busy. It felt like we came there at the right time, the sun was out. We walked all along the viewing platforms. It's pretty spectacular, I must admit. The clouds totally consumed the sun, so we decided to keep moving. It was very cold at that stage. It felt like winter. I was having Christmas thoughts. We drove to Apollo Bay where we were staying the night. Lots of windy roads with big trees. Beautiful colours for sunset, the sun trying to break through the clouds, lighting up the valley. We were staying at a hostel. It had a fireplace in the very cosy living room. A big plus after a day out in the cold.
I had a quick shower before breakfast. We walked to Europcar to pick up our car. It was a sunny morning but oh so cold!! It's disheartening to see how many homeless people sleep on the streets. There's a lot of young people amongst them. After all the paperwork we drove off, picked up our bags first and then headed to Port Campbell. We stopped at Colac and I took over from driving. The scenery along the way reminded me of fields in Belgium and other parts reminded me of Ireland: so hilly and green. Very different from anything we've seen on the east or west coast. We stopped at the visitor centre in Port Campbell. The friendly lady in there gave us lots of info. We stopped at the Arch, London Bridge, the Grotto and at the Bays of Martyrs. The closer to the sea, the clouded it got. There was still sun every now and then, but it definitely was colder. We were trying to beat a bus full of Asians. We met them at London Bridge but we rushed to beat them at the Grotto. We succeeded. ☺️

3 June 2017

We inquired about cars at Budget Cars. The woman wasn't friendly so we went to Europcar. They were really friendly and helpful and the price was right so we booked with them. We walked back to Fitzroy neighbourhood cos we liked it so much. I also wanted to visit the Rose Street Markets cos it's very popular with locals. I love submersing myself in the local arty farty scene. We stopped along the way to get a coffee. Brunswick St is worth exploring, lots of cool shops and cafes. After asking a local, we finally found the market. There was lots of cool handmade stuff. I was in my element. I checked out every stall. We went back to the Rainbow Hotel. Paddy had the delicious popcorn chicken and I had tasty pumpkin soup. We went back to our apartment, dropped off our stuff and then headed to the Etihad stadium. We took the tram. We were gonna watch an AFL game: North Melbourne against Richmond. It was a fun night, interesting to experience an AFL game. Richmond won fair and square.
Our last day in Melbourne. After breakfast we headed into the centre. There's a few alleyways that are worth exploring so we walked through all of them. The Centre Place was my favourite: there was a nice buzz there, lots of little shops and cafes filled to the last seat. It was a crisp but sunny day. We discovered a cool jewellery shop/gallery. From there we walked to Queen Victoria market. This place is huge. I didn't know where to look first: clothes, toys, bags, fruit and veggies, food trucks. By the time we got there, I was hungry. We bought a croissant. It was the best one I've eaten in a long time: buttery and crispy. Just perfect. We also got a Belgian waffle with Belgian dark chocolate. We bought food in the Aldi. Normally I don't obsess about the Aldi but I've been wanting to go in one the whole time since we've been in Oz. Just to see if it's the same as back home. It was the first time we managed to find one. It's very much like home, the biscuits taste the same 2. ☺️

2 June 2017

We walked around in the town centre of St Kilda. It's a cute area. We had dinner in a beautiful cafe: chicken and chips. There was a DJ playing downstairs. There was a huge lounge area upstairs with a fireplace. I didn't fancy walking all the way back, so we took the tram. We went as far as we could and then walked the rest of the way. Back at the apartment we watched a movie before going to bed.
After breakfast we headed to the tourist information office. We wanted to get some info about the Great Ocean Road. I briefly hopped into the NGV museum to check out there jewellery collection. I find museums to be good representatives of local artists. We decided to walk to St Kilda that day. I thought it was gonna be an easy walk. But it turned out to be quite far. We passed a huge war memorial on the way. I still can't get over the fact how many war memorials they have in Australia and how big and elaborate every single one of them is. I had to stop once for food. I had a devious butternut pumpkin soup in a vegan cafe, to give me some energy to continue my walk. It was cold that day, cloudy and barely no sun. We arrived at St Kilda's pier just before sunset. We walked to the breakwater. We spotted some wild penguins there, 6 different ones. It was so cool to find them in the wild, they're adorable!!

1 June 2017

I admired the graffiti during our tour of the neighbourhood. There were some beautiful ones, worth a photo. We went for a drink in 'Naked for Satan'. It's a bar on Brunswick St, with different levels and a rooftop bar. We had our drink at the rooftop bar, overlooking the skyline of Melbourne. I had a delicious cocktail! We walked around the park, looking for a church that was still open, but we had no luck. I wanted to burn a candle in memory of my grandparents. For dinner we went to the Rainbow Hotel. It's a cosy bar/hotel/restaurant. In the dining area they had a fire going. I had popcorn chicken and Paddy had a steak. We both enjoyed our dinner. Later in the evening we met up with a friend at one of the hidden bars. I had another devil loud (expensive) cocktail. They have hidden rooms behind a bookcase. After that we went to a cheaper bar for one more drink. We had a great day. We explored Melbourne in a culinary way.
We had heard of all these hidden bars in Melbourne so we asked the guy in the pizzeria for more tips on other hidden bars. He gave us a few names. Chinatown was next. There's a big Asian community in Melbourne. Chinatown is big area. We walked through it and we went to the big Emporium shopping centre. Beautiful place, you could spend days in there. I had a fruit salad with yoghurt and muesli. Delicious!! The LP recommends a few coffee shops. We found one of them but it was crowded. Luckily there's a lot of coffee shops ☺️ and we found another funky one and had a delicious Flat White in there. We kept on walking to the neighbourhoods of Carlton and Fitzroy. The park in the middle of these areas reminded me again that it's winter (apart from the cold weather). The trees are shedding their leaves. Gertrude St in Fitzroy is filled with beautiful shops. I wish I had the time and money to go in every single one of them. We walked up Brunswick St. More cool shops in this street.
We explored Southbank in the morning. It was a cloudy day. We walked along the river, looking up at the skyscrapers. We walked as far as the Aquarium, which is at the other side of the river in the CBD area. We walked towards the centre via Flinders St. It's not the nicest street in Melbourne, quite dirty. We turned into Degraves street. We read that there are some funky shops. It seems to be an up and coming street. Paddy got a beard trim (thank god ☺️) and I got to look at jewellery. This jewellery shop was at an underground shopping centre, called Campbell arcade. There was also this nice retro clothing shop that I browsed in. We followed a city walk that was recommended in the LP. It took us to some nice spots. Paddy had a hotdog from a funky hotdog stand and I had a slice of pizza. The pizzeria is not their main business but a bar is, that's hidden behind it. 😳

31 May 2017

After we had something to eat, we started exploring the city. We walked to the CBD.
We waited around at Perth airport for our flight to Melbourne. I had a delicious dinner there. On the next bit of our flight, I watched a movie on my phone, using the Virgin Australia app. It's fair to say I didn't have much sleep spread over the two flights. We arrived in Melbourne early in the morning. I was so out of it by then. I vaguely remember getting to our Airbnb. We took two buses and then walked a bit. It was raining when we arrived. And cold, very very cold. We went from 30 degrees in Broome to 14 in Melbourne. 😱 Our host was kind to let us check in at 7 am in the morning. She showed us around and then we went straight to bed. We slept till 1 pm. We got some bread at the closest supermarket to eat lunch.

30 May 2017

We got back in time for breakfast, around 9.15. We packed up our stuff and checked out of the room. The rest of the day we spent with the group at the pool. Just chilling, chatting. We played pictionnary, 30's against 20's. The 30's won big time! ☺️ We had the leftovers of our wraps for lunch. It was a beautiful and hot day in Broome. It was a lot of fun spending it with our group. We took one last group picture before we said goodbye to everyone. Our tour guide Wokka had offered to drop us of at the airport, and so he did. It was a super small airport, with an outdoor area. I'd never seen this before! We could have gone over later, but when you don't know the airport, you take precautions. We flew from Broome to Perth. It was nearly a 6 hour flight and we got nothing: no food, no movies. Worst service ever, Jet Star is horrible.
We had arranged for taxis to pick us up at 5.45 am. The first taxi showed up at 5.50. 4 people could fit in it. The driver said he couldn't get a hold of the other taxi. So Paddy, Silje, Solayr and I hopped in. We got to see the sunset at Gantheaume point but it wasn't as spectacular as the sunrise. Mostly because the sun was behind us. We started exploring the rocks in search of dinosaur footprints. We found some replicas. The rest of the group arrived 45 min after us. The big minibus never showed up. They had to ring a few times to arrange 2 smaller cars to pick them up. We climbed the rocks for a long time. It became busier and busier. Lots of tourist had maps to find them. Finally someone in our group found some, due to other tourists staring at them. Our trip wasn't for nothing. It was pretty cool to see! We initially wanted to walk back to the hostel via the beach, but we were all tired and hungry. So we took the bus back. It took one hour to get back.

29 May 2017

We returned to the beach with the group and alcohol to watch the sunset together. We have heard they're pretty magical. And the sunset didn't disappoint. The colours were just breathtaking. It reminded me of that gorgeous sunset we saw in Byron Bay with my dad and cousin. We took group photos. In one we spelled out the word 'LOVE'. We didn't get it right the first time, but the second time we nailed it. We cooked dinner in the hostel. Paddy and I made vegetable wraps. We watched 'Finding Nemo' together with the group, as we thought it was an appropriate film to watch after all of our underwater adventures. It was fun watching it together. After the movie we booked taxis for the morning. We wanted to go to to watch the sunset and to find dinosaur footprints. Most of us went to bed after it. The hostel didn't really allow to stay up late in the common area.
When we rang them up to inquire, they gave us a sassy comment. Eventually we returned to the hostel. I was tired and decided to go for a nap. I slept for one hour. After that we had lunch and headed to the beach. It was a nice beach but nothing spectacular. We went for a swim with our group. I felt stings when I was in the water. It kept on happening so I decided to go out of the water. After a while it became clear that I got stung by something, I had red dots on my left leg and arm. I thought it was due to a jellyfish. I decided to ask a lifeguard for my peace of mind. He confirmed it was jellyfish. He told my to look out for warning signs. If you start to feel sick after a while, then you need to go to the hospital. I felt nervous about it, which made me feel sick but I knew I was fine. We stayed a bit longer on the beach than most of the group. Hynde joined us on the beach. We returned briefly to the hostel to get freshened up and changed.
I was awake early, I guess the tour and its schedule changed my rhythm. I stayed in bed for another 1,5 h. We got complimentary breakfast at the hostel so we went downstairs to get that. It was basic but nice. I tried vegemite for the first time and it will definitely be the last time. It tastes like salty cat food. It was appalling. 😵 We chatted at the breakfast table for a while with the people from our group. It was so nice, there was no rush to be somewhere, it was a sunny and warm day. We were eating. I felt relaxed. Paddy and I decided to walk to the supermarket. It would only take one hour. We picked Laura up on the way. So the 3 of us were walking in the blistering sun to the shop. A nice stranger stopped and offered us a lift. We gratefully accepted. We got food for the next 2 days. With a few other people we took a taxi back to the hostel. The taxi took forever to arrive.

28 May 2017

We got up at 6. We had our last breakfast and then left at 7.30. We went to 80 mile beach for 15 min and then we drove pretty much the whole day. We stopped for toilet breaks and for lunch at 'The Mango place'. We got garlic bread and pizzas. Paddy won a free wine tasting which was nice for me too, cos I got to taste as well. ☺️ We arrived in Broome at our hostel at 16. I jumped straight in the pool cos it was so hot. I needed to cool off. I took a long shower after my swim cos I enjoyed having all the time in the world to take one. We didn't have to rush to go somewhere. I facetimed my family and after that we had dinner with the whole group in a restaurant. I had a salad.

27 May 2017

She managed to squeeze herself out underneath and she was finally free. We decided as a group not to have lunch there. There were too many flies. So we drove for a little longer and had lunch at a roadhouse. We made ourselves ham sandwiches. The rest of the afternoon we were in the bus. We had to drive a fair bit. We stopped a few times for a toilet break. We sang along together to Beyoncé, Destiny's Child, Abba, the Backstreet Boys... . We had to drive in the dark. We nearly hit a bull on the road. It crossed in time. We arrived at our final stop around 19.30. We had burgers and chips for dinner. We chatted till 12.30 am and gazed at the stars and the milky-way. I saw a shooting star and also something else, burning through the sky. We slept in swags. Paddy and I shared a double one. It was very tight. I panicked in the middle of the night, I couldn't breath. I didn't sleep very well.
At the end of the gorge the rocks created natural platforms, it felt like we entered a movie set. King Kong or something like that. Water was running of these platforms, leaving lots of space for lush trees to grow beside it. The sunlight beamed into the gorge, on these platforms. It was magical. We walked to the end of the gorge, climbing over rocks and going up these platforms. A natural pool awaited us at the end. I jumped in with some people of the group. It was crisp but it felt amazing. The water running of the waterfall into the pool was strangely warm. I heated up my hands, that was yet again the part that was cold. After my swim we walked back to the carpark. We had to climb up a lot of rocks to go back up. But we are used to it after NZ. Paddy and I were walking to the picnic benches when we heard 'help' coming from the toilets. One of the girls of the group got stuck in the toilets. We didn't manage to open to door, so we encouraged her to climb out underneath.
I went to the toilet 3 times that night, on my own. I was feeling more comfortable with my environment. We got up at 6 and had breakfast. At 7 we left to go to Dale's gorge. We walked to the start of the track first. The weather was sunny and warm. We had beautiful views on the hills and the gorges from the top. The mix of green trees with the red dirt and rocks is amazing. We had to take a lot of stairs to reach the bottom of the gorge. We ended up at Fern's Pool. There were people swimming in this beautiful natural pool. The waterfall was an added bonus to the pool. I looked up from the gorge to the top of the rocks and the blue sky. It's incredibly beautiful, what a place! We continued walking in the gorge, climbing over rocks and jumping over small parts of the river that was flowing in the gorge.

26 May 2017

We walked back to the amphitheater where everyone was waiting for us. Then we started walking back, climbing the rocks. Someone shouted 'snake'! There was a tiny Mulga snake sitting on the rock before us. We called the guide over, so he could deal with it. They told us to clap to scare of snakes, so some girls started clapping. The snake went crazy! It started sliding towards us! They stopped clapping and Wokka pushed it into a crack of a rock. We continued onwards, out of the gorge. We stopped once along the way to get a good photo of the mountain ranges. Back at the campsite I took a shower. We had to make use of daylight, there is no light in the showers. We had spaghetti bolognaise at the restaurant that night. It was nice not to cook and to do dishes. We had one drink with our group and then we went to bed.
We could choose whether to swim or climb on the rocks to reach a part of the gorge that was called the amphitheater. I chose to climb. I had just heated up again. This gorge was beautiful too: the rock formations, the textures and the colours. From the amphitheater we had to walk like a spider through a very narrow part of the gorge. It was called the 'spider walk'. Both hands and feet up at the wall. The river was running underneath. Some of the rocks were very slippery. I was very nervous about this one. But I did it. We ended up at Kermits Pool. Another beautiful spot. The colour of the rocks under the water were bright red. I walked a bit further to see what was around the corner. We had come so far, I was too curious. The gorge went down deeper and two natural pools were formed at two different levels. The rocks flanking the pools had curious shapes. One was of a monkey head. Two other girls joined me. We enjoyed the views together.
The light comes into the gorge and lights up certain parts of it. It felt like watching a documentary and hoping you could visit this place one day. It was hard to believe that I was actually real. The gorge is so beautiful that it seemed too good to be true. I had one wrap overlooking the beautiful gorge and the pool. I went for a swim and we went on deeper into the gorge, swimming inbetween rocks and climbing over them. The gorge even became more magical. I can't put the beauty of the place in words. We swam backwards to create the feeling of swimming upwards. We walked back out of the gorge. I was shivering. But walking into the sun felt amazing. We had the rest of our lunch at the picnic benches. We got ready for the second walk at another part of the gorge. We had to take steps to go deep into the gorge. One of the girls fell down. 😱 I told Wokka and he went back up to check on her. She was shaken up but she was ok. We then climbed down 2 ladders to reach the bottom of gorge
We got up at 7. The view from our tent is stunning. I imagined a zebra running across, cos it looks like we're in Africa. We had pancakes for breakfast. Wokka took us for a walk to Joffre's gorge. It was a very sunny day. We climbed down the gorge and then reached a river. We crossed the river at a narrow part of the gorge to reach a waterfall and a natural pool. The red colours of the gorge were amazing. I decided to swim in the pool. Other people were swimming too. The water was crisp. I swam to the waterfall and back. Only my hands were cold. We walked back to our campsite and made chicken wraps for lunch. We drove to Weano Recreation Area. The first walk was to the 'handrail pool'. We first walked to the bottom of the gorge. Then at some point we had to walk through the river and then climb on rocks to get to handrail pool. You hold on to the handrail to climb deeper in the gorge. The natural pool was surrounded by red rocks and walls.

25 May 2017

We were staying at Karijini Eco Retreat in Safari Eco Tents. The campsite is a beautiful place. It felt really like we were in the middle of nowhere. There were a lot of flies unfortunately. The tents were nice too and it was very comfortable. There was 8 in one tent. We had chilli chicken with crisps for dinner. It was nice but for me it wasn't a real meal and it didn't fill me up. I was worried about snakes. Wokka told us they hide in spinifex, a type of long but prickly grass. It was everywhere. 😳😱So he told us to clap our hands, they would go away. We played drinking games with the whole group that night. It was a lot of fun. Even the new people joined in. I was worried in bed, thinking animals (spiders, snakes) would crawl into bed. I didn't move much. I also didn't wanna go to the toilet on my own. So I woke Paddy up for support. ☺️
We left Exmouth at 6 and one girl of the group left us, she was gonna stay in Exmouth. I had a terrible cold that day. I felt it coming for a few days but after all the snorkelling it definitely got worse. I was sniffling and sneezing all day. We were mostly travelling for the whole day. We picked up two new passengers. We watched the sunrise at the side of the road. We stopped during the day for toilet breaks. I bought some food at one of the stops. For lunch we stopped at Tom Price, the highest town in Western Australia. We got there really late, around 14.30. So we were all starving, cos we had breakfast at 5.30. Unfortunately the lunch we made didn't taste nice cold so everyone was still hungry. We all bought food to keep us going. We played guessing games on the bus. It was fun for the group to bond. We arrived at Karijini National Park just before dark. We stopped to take photos of the mountain ranges. The colours were incredible!

24 May 2017

The minivan picked us up, but it had a flat tyre. So we swapped buses and we drove back to our camp site. We arrived there at 16. I quickly went to the visitor centre to check out the souvenirs. I wanted something visual to remember this incredible experience. We watched the sunset from the lighthouse that evening with the whole group. We all bought some alcohol to go with it. It was a lot of fun. I took a shower before dinner. Unfortunately dinner wasn't my thing that night. I went to bed hungry. I helped cooking lunch for the next day. We had an early night.
We had lunch on the boat, it was good. They had potato salad, I love potato salad. There was also fresh fruit. We sailed further and we spotted loggerhead turtles in the water, bottle nose dolphins, a big tiger shark and dugongs! 😍 it's also rare to see them, we saw two families, each consisting of a mother and a calf. It was incredible. We couldn't believe our luck!! We sailed to the last snorkelling spot of the day and it was an incredible spot. The water was more shallow and really clear and blue. The reef consisted of lots of small patches of reef. Some of it looked like underwater trees. I really enjoyed this snorkelling opportunity. I saw lots of orange/black and white Nemos, black and white Nemos, sea cucumbers, a Porcupine stingray and lots of fish. From the boat we also spotted a shovel-nosed stingray. We celebrated this successful days with a glass of champagne and a chocolate birthday cake. It was one of the instructor's birthdays. We cruised back to the harbour.
Apparently it was a different, smaller whale shark. From the boat I couldn't see it at all. The fifth time I went in again. There were bigger fish swimming with the whale shark. I was really studying them. Where the spots start, where the eyes are and the ears. They swim quite close to the surface. The sunlight comes through the surface and it creates a magical light. I went in the water two more times. The last time we were told we would be swimming with a manta ray but it turned out to be another whale shark, the manta ray had gone down again. This time it was a female whale shark, the other 3 different whale sharks were all male. Not long after we also got a chance to swim with an oceanic manta ray. They're the biggest rays. This one was 5-6 m from wing to wing. It's very rare to swim with these. They move very graciously in the water. It's hypnotising to watch them.
We all went back to the boat completely stunned at what we just experienced. We were in disbelief. We all talked with lots of enthusiasm about what we just saw and how we felt, like little kids describing what they got for Christmas. ☺️ I felt privileged. I didn't think we would see them this fast. We didn't get much time to rest cos they told us we could go in with the whale shark again. We had to move really fast. It was the same whale shark that we had swum with earlier. But it was again an amazing experience. This time Paddy took the GoPro. We saw it feeding, mouth wide open. That's was cool to see, I tried to swim a bit in front of it to see it properly. (Not allowed) We swam with this whale shark a third time. When they called us to get back into the water for the fourth time, I didn't go in. I was so nauseous and a bit dizzy after swimming in the rough water. And because it all had to go so fast, I didn't get time to recover. So I waited this one out.
We all went into the water. At the briefing they asked us to form a line in the water but as soon as we were in the water, we all forgot. I looked down into the water. I saw this massive face and mouth swimming towards me!😳 I swam as fast as I could to the right of the whale shark. My god, they are big!! Adrenaline was pumping through me! Then I started swimming to keep up with it. It was an incredible feeling. Too good to be true, it didn't feel real that I was swimming with this gentle giant. I looked at it in awe. I was mesmerised by its greatness. At times if felt like it was just me and the whale shark. I only had eyes for it. I looked in its eye. Tiny fish were swimming along with it. The photographer took a photo of me and Paddy swimming next to the whale shark. This one was 6-7 m long. It was swimming in circles. We got to swim with it for a good while, maybe 10 minutes. Then we had to make space for other tour companies and snorkellers.
We got up early for our activity of the day: swimming with whale sharks! 🐋😀 We got picked up in a bus and we drove to the harbour. The 'limousine' - the tender which looked like a floating fridge - brought us from the harbour to the boat. After the briefings (with a whale shark bear) we stopped at a snorkelling spot. The water was rough and wavy. The coral was down below, so the visibility wasn't great. I didn't see much. The waves made me feel nauseous while being in the water. I didn't enjoy the snorkelling. We didn't have to wait long for the airplane to spot a whale shark. We had to get ready: goggles, wetsuit and flippers on. We were all waiting at the stern for the signal. First the spotter goes in. Then when they shout: passengers go go go, we were allowed to gently go into the water. Trying not to scare the whale shark. I was really nervous waiting on the stern for the signal. I had no idea what to expect, what we would find in the water. Then they gave us the signal..

23 May 2017

We drove to Exmouth. Along the way our driver tried to catch a snake for us. We found one on the road, but it was run over and it was nearly dead. We put it out of its misery. The driver spotted another one. He turned the bus around. He got out of the bus, shone his torch at it and ran back to the bus. He said he wasn't gonna pick that one up. It was a Mulga snake, a venomous one. We ordered pizza for that night. We arrived at our new accommodation and ate the pizzas and garlic bread. After that we went to our rooms. The girls insisted that Paddy and I took one room for ourselves. That was nice of them. We played some games before going to bed.
The colours of the coral and all the different textures were like in a cartoon. It's the nicest coral I've seen so far. I went back to the boat and took of my wetsuit when I heard the skipper say that there was a turtle in the water. Paddy was still in the water. I figured that by the time I would put my wetsuit on, it would be gone. So I jumped into the water without it. I swam as fast as I could to Paddy. The turtle was still there. 😍 It was hard to spot with its camouflage colours. We both swam with it for a good solid 5 minutes. It was so relaxed. What a day!!!! We went back to the harbour. We arrived at Coral Bay at 15. I had a nice shower while waiting for the other people who went swimming with whale sharks. I also went for a walk to the beach. I saw a red neck kangaroo there, just sniffing up the sea breeze. Cutie. I went back to the beach one more time with Paddy and some girls. The other group didn't arrive until 17.
I dove down a few times to get a closer look. I looked into their eyes. I saw a part of the underbelly. I saw one fish cling onto the big manta ray. They turned into the water a few times. They mostly swam together. It was a heart felt experience. I felt privileged to witness this. They swam towards the deeper water and at one point I lost track of them. We all went back to the boat. We had an amazing salad lunch before we went to our second snorkelling spot. This was an incredible spot. The coral was absolutely stunning. It was called the 'cleaning station'. It looked like a big cabbage. Sharks come here to get cleaned. We saw one big beautiful reef shark with a nice white belly. It swam around for a while. We saw a stingray settling into the sand. Many many coloured fish. I saw the black and white 'Nemo' fish. We swam through a coral gorge, we were very close to the coral, under us, left and right. It was like in the movies, too good to be true. So so beautiful.
After our first snorkel, which lasted a good 45 min, they took us to the area where the manta ray are most common to find. An airplane flies over and tells us where to find them. The boat sails close to that spot and we go into the water. But we wait, we don't swim towards them yet. They'll swim past us. And then I spotted one. And another one. The 2 manta rays were swimming towards us. As soon as they were close, we were allowed to follow them, swim with them. They were huge, one was at least 3,5 m according to the instructors. The female one is the bigger one. She was being chased by a male, to court her. They move so elegantly in the water. Lots of tiny fish swimming above them for protecting. It was incredible, I pinched myself a couple of times. I couldn't believe it, I was swimming with manta rays. We followed them for a long time, they were easy to spot, they were in shallow water. We waited for the instructors green light to dive down to get closer.
I changed rooms in the middle of the night. One guy was snoring in our room and I knew there were some available beds in another room. I had to wake the poor guy in that one. 😬 I prayed that he didn't snore as well. Luckily he didn't. 😅 Eventually I fell asleep again. We got up at 7. For a good reason: we were gonna swim with manta rays!!!!!! 😜😜 We had breakfast and then walked over to the tour company. We got our wetsuits and off we went. After a quick car ride we went on board of the boat. It didn't take too long to go to the first snorkelling spot. The Ningaloo Reef is close to the coast. We went on a guided snorkelling tour, basically an instructor swims with us and points out cool things. She didn't point out that much. But it was still an amazing experience. Beautiful coral and lots of fish. The coral here is mostly hard coral so the colours are mostly grey, brown, yellow and greens.

22 May 2017

From there we drove to Eagle Bluff, hoping to spot turtles and sharks. We saw a wild emu on the way to the lookout point. We walked around the walkway twice, gazing at the water. Unfortunately we didn't spot any marine life. So we drove on. We ate our lunch in the bus, so we wouldn't loose any time. I had a cheese and ham wrap. We drove a lot that day. Pretty much from 9.30 till we arrived at Coral Bay at 18. I slept for maybe half an hour. I just couldn't sleep on the bus. We stopped a few times along the way for toilet breaks. One time we stopped to see the sunset. It was beautiful. The West Coast is so different from the East Coast. It's drier and it has a desert look. The colour of the sand varies from yellow, to brown to bright red. The flora is mostly scrubs, we rarely see trees. The hostel was quite nice, lots of games and a swimming pool (which was closed when we arrived). We had burgers for dinner. We took advantage of happy hour ($2 wines) and went to bed at 22.30.
We woke up at 6.15. We had breakfast and then we drove to Monkey Mia. We arrived there at 7.30. It was a sunny day but it was still crisp outside. At Monkey Mia they feed wild dolphins. It goes back years, when fishermen first fed the dolphins. They keep coming back, pretty much every day. Volunteers feed them, we can't feed them. They pick a few lucky people out of the crowd to help. We stood with our feet in the water, the dolphins were right in front of us! I've never been so close to them. They were also staring at us! It was an incredible experience. We witnessed two feedings and at the second one they chose Paddy to feed one of the dolphins. I was allowed to come closer as well to take photos. We also saw a turtle swimming in the water and a stingray. A giant pelican was also hanging around, wanting some fish. At one point, there were even 2 pelicans. We hung around till 9. We saw an emu on the way out.

21 May 2017

We walked to a rock formation in the shape of a window, Nature's window. We took turns taking photos in 'the window'. As it was our turn, it started lashing! We took shelter under one of the rocks. The pour down soon passed and we continued taking photos. Apparently the view from the men's urinal was good, so I had to go and check it out for myself. And indeed, it was good. 😄😄 We stopped to pick up lunch, we ate it on the bus. I had a delicious cheese wrap. We stopped 2 more times that afternoon: at the Stromalites and Shell beach. At both spots we briefly got rain. Shell beach was surreal, it was really quite, no noises, no wind and the water was as flat as a pancake. Stunning place, we watched the sunset. Denham was our final stop, we had a BBQ and played drinking games. Fun night. There was one double bed in our apartment hostel, the group felt like we should get it, as we were the only couple. So nice. 😍
5.15. We had an early start, we were going to Kalbarri National Park. We had breakfast before we took off at 6.15. It was still dark outside. We arrived at the park at 8. We walked down the valley of this beautiful red gorge. Amazing colours and rock formations along the way. Some people in our group were abseiling of a 25 m high rock. We waited for them to finish. In the meantime I walked to the river, running through the gorge. It had a green colour. When the lucky few finished their activity, we walked to the river together and then to a lookout point. The gorge had a Z-shape. Our guide Woka showed us footprints of an animal, imprinted in the rocks, long time ago. It was a beautiful place. We drove to the next spot: Nature's window. The area is part of the Kalbarri National Park. We were up high, overlooking gorges with rivers running in them. We could see very far. The views and colours were absolutely breathtaking.

20 May 2017

First day we drove a lot. We drove to our final stop for the day, our accommodation for the night. It was already dark so I can't describe the place we were staying at. They said it was a farm but I didn't see any barns or animals. Dinner was served quickly after arrival. It was chicken curry with rice. I took a great shower after dinner. I heated myself up at the camp fire. There were some weird noises coming out of the dark. I asked what they were. Frogs apparently. There were giant moths everywhere. They freaked out some of the girls as soon as they moved. ☺️ We went to bed quite early. Everyone was ready for bed.
We got up at 7. The bus picked us up around 8. It's a small bus with a trailer behind it. The trailer was no where near big enough for the amount of people. We left Perth. It started raining. We stopped at a gas station. It's there that the driver realised that he forgot two people so we had to drive back to Perth. 🙄 We lost two hours because of that. But we finally made it to the Pinnacles. They're limestone rock formations in the middle of a desert. It is so surreal. It doesn't seem like we were on planet earth anymore. It was visually arresting! It blew my mind. I collect pins from all the countries I visit and/or of interesting places. I ran back to the visitor centre to get one. I caught up with the group, nobody had to wait for me. From there we drove to our lunch stop. I had a toastie with chips. We drove to Geraldston. We stopped at the lookout point. There's a few memorials for the lost lives of the HMAS ship during WWII.

19 May 2017

Our last full day in Perth. The morning started off wet, it was lashing outside. We waited for it to clear up and then we headed back to the park. When the sun was out, it was nice and warm. In the shade it was a bit chilly. We took our time exploring the park. The botanic garden is absolutely stunning. It has waterholes, fountains, ponds, hundreds or even thousands of different trees and plants and flowers. We walked the walkway, up high in the trees with views on the river and the park. It was a nice walk. We walked back to the hostel via Northbridge. We went for a coffee in this quaint area. Back at the hostel we had a late lunch. We would start a 9 day tour the next day, from Perth to Broome. So we decided to find out where our pickup point was. On the way there we found a lovely little bar and had a drink in there. In the hostel I watched tv and Paddy read his book. We packed everything up for the next few days before heading to bed.

18 May 2017

We walked from the train station to the beach and back, all in about one hour. The coastline was pretty but there wasn't much to do. We saw more dolphins playing around in the water. They were surfing with the waves which was amazing to see. I told myself they were the same dolphins we saw at the harbour in Perth. They were following us. ☺️ We made our way back to Perth. We relaxed at the hostel the rest of the evening.
After breakfast we decided to head to a beach. It was gonna be another sunny day. They were predicting rain for the next day. We took the train to Fremantle. It was a few stops after the beach, but we decided to have a quick look. People mentioned that it's nice. Fremantle it's about 20-30 min outside of Perth but it's so different. There's a lot of history and it reflects in the beautiful old buildings. We ended up staying there most of the day. We visited the old prison up on the hill, we walked to the Round House and the harbour. The square with the city hall and a church was very pretty too. Fremantle is overall a place worth stopping at. We had a nice lunch out in the sun. On the way back to Perth, we hopped off at Cottesloe, the beach we originally planned on going to. The sun was going down, so it wasn't that warm anymore.

17 May 2017

We didn't go exploring the park, we were both getting hungry. So we decided to head back to the hostel. So we took a break from all the walking at the hostel. We had a late lunch and I Facetimed with my sister. Late afternoon we headed back out, to explore Northbridge area. We heard many good things about it. It's a nice area with lots of cafes and restaurants. Strange thing about it is that the cafes close really early, 3 pm. I wanted to have pasta for dinner so I cooked myself a delicious pasta at the hostel. Paddy wanted BBQ so we went to a bar that did a good deal on BBQ + beer. We ended up staying in this bar, they had a pool competition on. Paddy signed my up without my knowledge. We had to play against each other and he beat me. In the next rounds he got beaten by another guy. There was live music and everyone was dancing. It was a fun place.
We arrived at the hostel after midnight. We took the bus from the airport to the centre. We walked for 15 min to our hostel. We had to enter our room as quietly as possible, people were already sleeping. We were in bed by 1 am. I woke up at 6.30 already. There's a construction site next to the hostel and they started drilling and working early. We went to the shop first to buy food for breakfast. I had scones for breakfast! I've been wanting them for ages. We went exploring after breakfast. It was a sunny day, warmish but temperatures have tangibly dropped since Cairns. We walked to the Bell Tower. It's an iconic building in Perth but unfortunately I wasn't impressed 😐. From there we walked alongside the water, the Swan River, to Kings Park. All of a sudden Paddy shouted 'dolphins'. There were a load of dolphins swimming in the river, it was amazing to see!!! They were close to the quay. From the river we walked to Kings Park. It has amazing views on the skyline of Perth.

16 May 2017

Our last day in Cairns. We had breakfast and packed our bags before taking the bus back into town. We ran to make the bus, which was hard in the heat and with the level of humidity. 😅 We went to the shopping centre to buy a book. The rest of the afternoon we enjoyed the sun at the lagoon. I jumped in to cool off, it was a very hot day. We met up with a friend. We caught up on events that had happened since the last time we met up. We explored Cairns together and we went for a coffee. We had to say goodbye to him. We took the bus back to the house. From there we took an uber to the airport. We flew from Cairns to Perth with Jetstar, a 5 hour flight. One of the worst I've had: no movies, no decent reclining seats and no drinks or food.

15 May 2017

Somewhat later I heard someone shouting turtle. So Paddy and I swam to that person. The turtle was swimming at the shallow parts of the sand island. We followed it for a while, watching it eat seaweed. We got really close, it was incredible! Turtle number 5 of the day. After that we had to return to the boat. It was an amazing day. We saw so much!! They fed fish off the boat. There were loads around. Then we started making our way back to Cairns. We got fresh fruit, crackers & cheese and cakes. We watched the sunset at the lagoon. Then we took the bus back to where we were staying. Damian and Dani had cooked us a lovely chicken noodle dinner. We did washing before going to bed. We said goodbye to Damian and Dani.
We took our wetsuits off and relaxed at the front of the boat in the sun. I saw another turtle coming up for air at the front of the boat! They served us lunch, a big variety of food. After lunch the boat took us to our second snorkelling spot. We had to take the glass bottom boat to a tiny sand island in the middle of the sea. It was so weird, we walked through the sea on a big sand bank. It reminded me of a childhood holiday in Italy. Once we were in the water deep enough, we started snorkelling. We followed one of the guides, who showed us some things. We saw two white tipped reef sharks, clownfish, stingrays and of course loads of colourful fish. We swam around for a long time. One girl started screaming behind me. She was panicking in the water. I tried to ask her what was wrong but she wasn't responding. All I could do was to help her get out of the water ASAP. So I used the distress signal. I found out later she got stung in her face by jellyfish. 😱
Paddy and I had one instructor for the both of us. We held on to Svenia's arm and she toured us around the reef. I was getting used to the breathing in the regulator and I finally relaxed. We were so close to the coral and the fish. It's very different than snorkelling. You don't have the waves crashing into you, you're close to everything and I just felt so much more involved. My ears did hurt though and I had to clear them a few times. I also asked Svenia to go higher. She pointed out a lot of things. We saw another turtle and it looked like it was scratching its bum on coral. 😀 We saw clown fish (Nemo). I got water in my goggles but I didn't care. I didn't wanna clear them and then mess it up, maybe get more water in. There was a big barracuda circling around the boat. And lots of other fish. It was an amazing experience. I thanked Svenia for being patient and for pushing me to do it.
It was our turn to dive. I was nervous all morning and it got worse when we had to put all the gear on. While getting ready, we saw a turtle coming up for air. My instructor, Svenia, was very patient. You need to complete 2 tests before you're allowed diving. Test 1: get water out of your mask Test 2: get water out of your regulator I was nervous about doing both. For test 1 I was worried that I could lose my contacts. For test 2 I was worried I would swallow water. I walked down the ladder into the water. I had to complete both tests. I panicked. I didn't wanna go underwater. I definitely didn't wanna do both tests. There was a lot of wind and the waves crashed into me. I was stressed out. Breathing through the regulator, in AND out, was a strange feeling. I pinched my nose so I wouldn't breath out through my nose. I wanted to give up and climb back on board but Svenia kept trying. She pushed me gently and I finally succeeded in completing both tests. She was very patient!
Early morning. Because we were gonna do something very exciting! We were gonna go snorkelling, again! Dani dropped us off at the marina. We boarded 'Ocean Freedom'. There were fresh fruit and Danish pastries awaiting us. We got all sorts of safety briefings: about safety on boat, about diving and snorkelling. Paddy and I were gonna do an intro dive! 😱 After one hour we arrived at the first snorkelling spot. We went on a glass bottom boat tour first. The captain of that boat was very knowledgable about the reef. Very interesting. We saw giant clams, sea cucumbers, fish, beautiful coral and a turtle!! Back on the boat, we got all the necessary equipment to snorkel. The clarity of the water was the best we've had so far! The sun was out as well so we saw a lot. It was amazing! The sea was a bit rough, there was a lot of wind. We got a 'guided' snorkel tour. I loved seeing the trumpet fish!

14 May 2017

What a great feeling, sleeping in a double bed! Dani cooked us an amazing omelette with asparagus and avocados. We spent the morning talking to our lovely hosts before heading to Palm Cove. It's a gorgeous little beach town. Some of the houses have amazing tropical colours, instant holiday vibe. We couldn't spend a long time at Palm Cove because we had to return our rental campervan. We gave it a good wash and hoovered the whole inside before returning it at 15. We walked from the rental office into town, via the Esplanade. It was a 45 min walk. We walked all along the Esplanade. Public facilities in Cairns as great: big playgrounds with water parks, fitness machines, beach volley ball nets, free outdoor swimming pool, BBQ areas... . We had something small to eat. Damien picked us up from the city. They made us an amazing BBQ that night. They are very good to us. We brought the wine to thank them for their hospitality. It was a fun night.

13 May 2017

We met up with a friend of Paddy who lives in Cairns, Damian. We met at a Mexican restaurant/ bar. We also met his sweet fiancé, Dani. We had something to eat there and then headed to his lovely house. We got an amazing double room all to ourselves. It felt amazing being back in a house. We chatted for a while and then went to bed.
I slept a lot that night. We made our way to Mission Beach that morning. We parked up and had breakfast in the car. It was drizzling outside. We explored Mission Beach. The weather wasn't great, so we decided not to stay there long. I browsed in one of the art/ jewellery shops. They had some amazing local stuff. We bumped into a friend there that was gonna do a skydive. We chatted to him for a while and then decided to drive on to Cairns. Hoping the weather would be better. The mountains along the way were beautiful. It was a pretty drive. We stopped along the way at the Josephine falls. Gorgeous spot. Beautiful rainforest that leads to a picture perfect waterfall. We arrived in Cairns around 16. We went to the cinema to see the new alien movie, 'Alien covenant'. That was some scary ****. I had to close my eyes occasionally. 😨😵. I facetimed my dad after it to wish him a happy birthday. I knew I was gonna miss out on a fun family day out 🙁.

12 May 2017

Paddy made me some lovely fried eggs for breakfast. Seeing the camping spot for the first time at daylight made me realise how beautiful the place is, right beside the water. It was a hot day but it started to get cloudy. We went for a stroll on the beach, exploring the area. It was a lovely area. From there we wanted to drive to Cairns. We stopped twice along the way. Our first stop was at Big Crystal Creek: a clear waterhole between big rocks. I went for a swim between the fish. The water was crisp but lovely once you were in it. Amazing little spot along the way. The second stop was at the Jourama falls. Paddy and I went for a walk to the lookout point. Along the way there's big rocks, 'casually' laid out along the river. They were impressive. The waterfall was really high. We drove to Ingham and made lunch in a park. After that we stopped once to buy a cold drink. We parked up at a rest area besides the motorway that night. I went to bed really early.

11 May 2017

We had lunch at the different cafes around the bay. We went for a nice stroll along the beach and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. The twilight colours were visually stunning. I never get enough of sunsets over here. We slowly made our way back to the ferry terminal and waited for the ferry. We had two amazing days on the island. There's something about the island. We drove that night to a free camping spot right beside a beach, Balgal Beach. It was cool to hear the waves at night. These camping spots are the best!
We wanted to have a relaxing day. We had breakfast at the hostel and I took a long hot shower. After that we drove around the one road on the island, just to explore and see how big it is. We stopped at Geoffrey Bay to feed wild wallabies. We bought a small bag of food at our hostel. It took a wee while before the wallabies would come out but we both managed to feed a few. It was special to realise this wild animal trusts you long enough for you to feed it. My hand was all wet after the licked it clean 😀. We even saw a wallaby and her joey. It was a precious moment, so incredibly cute 😍. We explored the rest of the island but we decided we liked the beach at our bay the best, so we went back there and relaxed the rest of the day. It was a hot day, no cloud in the sky.

10 May 2017

On the way back down we spotted two more koalas in one tree. One of them was quite active and climbed up in the tree. They're a lot faster at clinking than I thought they would be. It was a good day for wildlife spotting! We learnt that the girl at the start wasn't bitten by a snake, she had fell. We went back to the hostel, it was dark. We showered and cooked our dinner. We were eating it on the terrace of the camp kitchen when we saw two curious possums trying to score food. We met up with 2 friends from our Whitsunday adventure. We had a great night with them. I drove one of them back to their hostel, nearly killing a cane toad on the way. It jumped in between the wheels of the car, so it was fine. A few suicidal Curlew birds came out of nowhere. And a curious possum was sitting on the side of the road. We also saw a lot more wallabies running around close to the hostel and on the hostel grounds. A big 10/10 for wildlife that day!
We saw a wallaby on the way back to the hostel. After our relaxing day in the sun, we drove to the Fort. From there you can walk to visit military buildings. A welcome sign warned us for the death adder, a venomous snake. We wanted to start our walk when two girls were walking back, one in tears and covered in blood, holding her wrist. Her friend was trying to console her. My first thought was that she got bitten by that snake. We started our walk anyway. We were told this walk was a good place to spot wild koalas. So everything we walked into people coming back, I asked if they saw any. And finally someone said yes! So they told us where they saw a few. I ran to the spot and yes!!!!! We saw a tiny wild koala. I turned around to start walking and there was one right above us! I observed this one for a long while. They're so cute. And sleepy. Hanging onto the tree. We finished the fort walk, that ended at 'the fort' and we watched the sun going down on Horseshoe Bay. Breathtaking!
We got up at 6.15 and packed everything up. We drove to the ferry terminal. The ferry took off on time: 7.10 am. It took about 40 min to get to Magnetic Island. It looked very tropical from far. I was excited! When we arrived we drove to our hostel, located at Horseshoe Bay. Upon arrival we realised they had a campsite. We had booked a double room. So we asked if it was possible to swap, cos it's cheaper. It was no problem so we parked up our car. We had breakfast. From the hostel we walked to the beach, a 5 min walk. It's a cosy wee place. We had a lovely coffee at a seaside cafe. The sun was out. It was very hot. We relaxed at the beach and went for a swim at the enclosed swimming area. It felt like a proper holiday now. So relaxing. In the sun. I had a delicious lemon sorbet ice cream. We walked to Balding Bay, a nice secluded beach. The walk wasn't that easy. We had to climb. But it was worth it. It was a beautiful spot. We spotted our first wild snake, a collared whip snake.

9 May 2017

From the farm we drove to Townsville, 312 km away. I drove the first 100 km and then we both went for a nap. I woke up 1,5 h later. After that Paddy drove the rest of the way. We stopped only twice to get a drink and to eat something. We spent the night at yet again another petrol station, only 15 min from the ferry terminal. We were gonna take the ferry to Magnetic Island in the morning.
Daniel and his brother know so much about crocodiles. They seem to really understand how they react and how their instincts work. So they feel confident enough to 'play' with the crocodiles. It was quite a show for us. I learnt so much about crocodiles and I gained more respect for these beautiful creatures! After the crocodiles we moved on to other reptiles. We got to hold and cuddle blue tongued lizards, water dragons, pythons and many more. They also have a big pound at the farm with turtles in and a few smaller crocodiles. We fed the turtles. After that we got to cuddle with a possum, baby crocodiles, a squirrel glider and a koala. This was another highlight of the day. We got to take as much time as we wanted. It was an incredible day. I enjoyed every minute of it. We got to be close to all of the wild animals. This experience beats any zoo.
We slept at a gas station that night. It was close to the next activity we were gonna do: Bredl's wild farm. We had breakfast and then drove to the farm. The countryside around the farm is beautiful. We were welcomed by Daniel. We stopped at the Cassowary pen first. Daniel told us a lot of interesting facts about the far and the family's history and about the Cassowaries. We got to feed them. They swallow fruit whole. It was incredible to see . They can swallow a whole mango 😳. After that it was time to feed the kangaroos. This was so much fun. They even come to you and eat the bread out of your hands 😄. They were all so adorable. Standing on their back legs, all stretched out. The farm also has one deer, Bubbles, geese and ducks, chickens and a few emus running around in this pen. From there we moved on to the crocodiles. They have a few crocodiles. The biggest one they had was just over 5 metres. He was a big fella. They fed it, rode it, put their finger in its mouth.

8 May 2017

We got back to Airlie Beach around 11. We said goodbye to the crew and to our group. We would see most of them at the after party later that night. We didn't do much that day. I took a shower down at the beach. We made ourself lunch. I had a nap. We went to the shop. We took it slow. The weather at Airlie Beach wasn't great. We went to the 'Beaches bar' at 19.30. We had food and drinks with our group. Most of them turned up. We played a beer pong tournament that night. Paddy and Amos were the runners up. We got free shots. We played pool. We danced. It was a fun night. We left around midnight, we had to drive to our rest are for that night, which was 45 min away. We saw a kangaroo crossing the road that night. Paddy was able to slow down in time. It was the first time for us that wildlife was crossing the road. It was scary cos we didn't wanna hit it but at the same time a cool experience.
Another early morning. We had breakfast before doing our last snorkelling trip. The tender took us out to the bay of Black Island. They told us the tide was in, which meant the water would be deeper. It would be harder to see the coral. The visibility wasn't that clear either. I still enjoyed exploring the reef but they were right. We didn't see much that morning. One parrot fish made my morning though, they are so beautiful!! I got really cold eventually in the water. I was shivering. We cruised around in the tender before heading back to the boat, trying to spot stingray and turtles. We didn't spot either of them. Cookie said he has never seen so few turtles. According to him Whitsunday Island is known for its turtles. He reckons that they sought shelter somewhere after the cyclone. So did the stingray. We had tea and coffee and biscuits before sailing back to Airlie Beach. It was a bumpy ride back. I slept a little bit on the way back.

7 May 2017

We had a fun night on the boat, playing drinking games. We watched a Giant Trevally swimming around the boat, trying to catch little fish. I couldn't remember the name so I called it Traviolli 😄. We watched a slide show of our journey from that day and an overview of the best photos from the last two days. We got chocolate marshmallow desserts. We laughed so much that night. Our group was hilarious!
This final snorkelling spot for the day was by far the best one. The coral was absolutely beautiful. We saw so many colourful fish. The parrot fish was one of my favourite. I dove down to get a closer look of the coral. It was incredible. I felt so lucky and blessed to be able to experience this and to see the underwater world up close. I went back to the boat as a happy woman. We sailed off to Black Island where we were gonna spend the night at its bay. We watched the sun going down. Beautiful sunset. Chad and Cookie made us some starters or as they called it 'munchy food'. Delicious nachos. Then we also got spoiled with delicious dinner: beans, cooked veggies, rice, mustard bread and I got tofu. I didn't want to eat red meat. It was very tasty!
We waited around on the island because Chad wanted to show us the swirling sand. The tide had to go out. So around 10.30 he took us to the lookout point. It was really beautiful from up there. Despite the weather. We returned to Tongue Bay to take the tender back to the boat. We got tea and coffee and biscuits. The sun started to come out. We sailed off to our first snorkelling spot for the day. It was fun to snorkel again, but the visibility and the coral weren't impressive. We had a delicious lunch: fresh veggies, cheese, ham, salami, chicken, cold beef and bread rolls. Chad and Cookie took us to another snorkelling spot. They fed the fish so we could snorkel inbetween them. This was incredibly fun! There were so many fish swimming around us. Big ones and smaller ones. I nearly kissed one fish cos it got so close! This was a brilliant experience!! We cruised to our last snorkelling spot for the day, lying in the sun. It was relaxing.
Tea and coffee is served from 6.30, breakfast at 7. I slept ok. I tried not to focus too much on the rocking of the boat. Breakfast was really good too: toast with different jams, muesli and different cornflakes, yoghurt and a fruit salad. It rained a lot during the night, but it was dry in the morning and it looked like the sun was trying to come out. We took a tender to go to the island. From Tongue Bay we walked to Whitehaven beach. The damage after cyclone Debbie was devastating. The trees were stripped. The hammocks were ripped to pieces. There wasn't much of a tropical paradise look left. It started raining on top of that. We spent 2,5 hours on the island. Exploring it. Enduring the heavy rain. Playing French cricket. We had some sunshine. I had my sting suit on the whole time, it felt warmer that way. I even ran around the island to keep myself warm ☺️. But our whole group stayed positive. It brought us together. We made the most of a bad situation. Nobody complained.

6 May 2017

We got starters before dinner: sausage rolls, pies, spring rolls... . Not long after, we got our dinner. The crew consists of Cookie and Chad. Cookie is the skipper, Chad is first mate. They're both chefs so I can tell you that the food was amazing: finger licking good. We had gratin, marinated chicken, garlic bread, salads. They also made dessert: chocolate cake and fruit cake. During dessert we watched a slide show of the journey we did that day and what we can expect the next day. We played Drenga, aka drunk Jenga. We played 'Cards against humanity'. It was a fun night, getting to know the people on the boat.
It rained a lot during the night. We made fried eggs for breakfast and everything else that we had to eat before going on our trip. We packed up a small backpack for our boat trip. We were going to the Whitsunday island for 2 nights. We hung about the beach and the little market at the beach before sailing off. We were to meet up at 12.30 at the Marina. We boarded the boat called 'Wings II' and off we went. It was sunny with a few clouds when we set sail. We got pizza for lunch. Once we sailed out of the bay, the sea got a lot rougher. A few people got sick. We anchored the boat so we could go for a swim at Border Island. It was overcast and a bit windy. We all had to put on a sting suit. That's required if you're going in the sea above Noosa. The coral at this spot wasn't that beautiful, it seemed quite dead. We saw a few fish. We snorkelled for 45 min and then we sailed off to the bay where we would sleep that night.

5 May 2017

We wanted to go to the beer garden after, but I had forgotten my ID. They're quite strict on it in Australia, as well as in New Zealand: you need to be over 21 to be allowed in a place that serves alcohol. Even though I clearly look older than 21, I still wasn't allowed in. I was annoyed. I couldn't believe it. I didn't even want an alcoholic drink. So we went to a different bar. I walked in first, no ID asked. Then everyone else followed. There was great live music on. Around midnight we walked back to our campsite. It started raining. We were hoping that it would clear up for the next few days.
The damage to the amenities and the flora gave the place an overall dingy look. But the hills and the islands surrounding the beach were incredibly stunning. The tide was out so we could walk quite far into the sea. We saw lots of small hermit crabs. It was overcast but I still felt really warm cos it was very humid. Every now and then the sun came out and then it was really warm. Paddy went back to the car and I went for a long walk along the beach. I found some intriguing rock formations. It was a nice walk with great views. We drove back to the campsite to cook our dinner. That night we had plans to meet up with friends. We walked from our campsite into town. After a small and unwanted detour we made it ☺️. We facetimed my mother-in-law. It was nice chatting to her. I'm looking forward to seeing all of them. When we met up with our friends, we played drinking games in their room. It was a lot of fun. I learnt a new game: horse racing.
It rained heavily during the night again. We got up and made ourselves scrambled eggs for breakfast. We checked out of the hostel and drove to another campsite, just outside of Airlie. We booked one night there, which was a lot cleaner and better equipped than at the Base. Base was a hole to be honest. I've never seen that many flies in one kitchen before. Overall it was filthy there. This campsite was very beautiful. It had obviously been hit by the cyclone, but it was clean and modern. I had oatmeal for lunch before we headed of the Cedar Creek Falls. It was a beautiful spot. We didn't swim there though, it was a bit too cold and cloudy. We drove back to Cannonvale and from there we drove to Dingo Beach, a 40 min drive from Airlie Beach. Dingo Beach area was beautiful, the beach is nicer and the sand is whiter than at Airlie. But the place also got hit by the cyclone. The trees had little foliage so it looked bare and not so tropical. The safe swim area was ripped to pieces.

4 May 2017

We're gonna fly to Perth on the 16th of May and we still have loads of paste, rice and couscous. To let our dinner settle we went for a walk along the water. It was dark. We felt a nice cool night breeze. It is very humid, definitely the more north we will travel. Airlie Beach seems peaceful at night. Back at the hostel I told Paddy I recognised another campervan and the people in it from our time at Byron Bay (BB). I wasn't convinced it was the same people, but I had a feeling it was them. Their car got into trouble at Byron and Paddy gave them a push. Paddy said that the van looked like any other white van, which was a fair point. But we still talked to them and asked if they had problems in BB. Turns out it was them!! We chatted for the rest of the night to Charlie and Sam. We said outside by their van until it started raining and it forced us to get back into our own cars. We had a lovely evening.
So we made our way to Airlie beach. I drove. Driving into Airlie Beach the surrounding hills and trees are bare. The damage of the cyclone is still visible. We stopped in Cannonvale for groceries. I felt so tired after that. Paddy drove the last 10 minutes. We pulled into Airlie Beach and tried to get free wifi off the provider that we are with here in Oz. We wanted to transfer everything to iCloud. But the connection wasn't strong so we moved on. I had to lie down and take a nap. Which I did. It felt amazing! We then booked our night at a campsite in Airlie Beach town centre. There the damage of the cyclone was also obvious to see. Lots of areas are still under construction. After we checked in, we explored Airlie Beach on foot this time. The Lagoon is still closed due to the cyclone. All the trees are really bare, roofs are still damaged. The whole place seems quite dead. It has a weird feel about it. We went back to cook. We're trying to get rid off all of our food.
I woke up a few times during the night because of the severe rain. It was really noisy. The reason why we drove nearly 4hours the night before is to get to Cape Hillsborough at sunrise to spot wallabies and kangaroos. So we got up really early, at 6 and started driving. We didn't camp at Cape Hillsborough which would have made more sense, cos we didn't wanna pay for accommodation. We arrived at our destination around 6.30 and went straight to the beach. We spotted our first Wallaby. It was such a tiny little thing, very cute. It was eating what looked like a wooden stick. We walked in both directions at the beach. A bit further down the beach, we spotted a kangaroo. It was eating too, but muesli. I think the campsite people feed them so they have a tourist attraction. It looked like a young and skinny kangaroo. It started raining so we went back to the car and had breakfast. We went out to the beach one more time after one hour but there was no wildlife to be seen.

3 May 2017

We walked up to the lookout point anyway. We saw a colourful bird, the Little Bee Eater. Butterfly galore up on this hill, beautiful blue/brown dotted ones or the camouflaged brown ones with bright blue wings on the inside. We stopped at the turtle lookout but the man was right unfortunately. The water was too cloudy. We didn't see anything. We kept on walking. Up at the hilltop the views on the bay and Keppel Bay Islands were amazing. One of the best views so far in Australia! On the other side of the hill we could see the bays at Emu Park and even the Singing Ship. I really enjoyed this walk. From there we drove to Rosslyn Marina, just to look around. There wasn't much to see so we left quickly. We decided to drive to a rest area close to Cape Hillsborough, nearly a 4 hour drive. We alternated driving. We made it there around 22h. We were tired and went to bed.
She was a nice person to talk to. She eventually had to start her work so we said goodbye. We checked out of the hostel and said goodbye to the rest of the staff we hung out with last night. We drove to the beach and picked a spot to lie down. It was a sunny and hot day. Gorgeous blue skies. After a relaxing lie-down I went for a walk along the beach, exploring the rocks. I was hoping to find some marine life. I saw crabs and fish. We washed the sand off and started cooking our lunch at the park opposite the beach. We used the free public BBQ. It's a great wee thing! We had a chicken, rice and veggie lunch. After lunch we drove to Bluff Point, a spot recommended by the staff at the hostel. The beaches and the surrounding hills and mountains were picture-perfect. I asked directions to a local man for the walking trail. He was very friendly. There's a turtle lookout point but he said he hasn't seen any. The water is too muddy after the cyclone hit.
I slept good. I woke once during the night to use the toilets. I got up around 8. I wanted a quick shower. I got undressed and when I turned around I noticed something, a shadow, sitting next to the knob. I jumped up. When I realised it was a frog, I got worried that it would jump on me during my shower. I turned the knob gently and showered awkwardly, trying not to spray the frog, thinking this would make it jump (on me). It was a beautiful green little frog. It quickly hopped out of the shower. I continued enjoying my shower. We had a nice fried egg for breakfast. There seemed to be nobody left in the hostel, we were the only two people. Apart from the staff. I started talking to a girl working there, I overheard she was a Belgian. We talked for nearly one hour.

2 May 2017

There's lots of islands close to Emu Park. It's beautiful to see. The main area of the town consists of one street. So we walked through it real quickly ☺️. Alongside the beach there were a few war memorials. I've noticed that Australians really remember all the men and women they've lost during any war, in pretty much every little town. There's always a war memorial somewhere. Emu Park also has a monument that's called the Singing Ship. The wind blows through some pipes that are attached to something that looks like a boat sail. It honours Captain Cook. We witnessed an amazing sunset, yet again. Gorgeous colours and cool clouds. In the evening we had a lovely dinner at the hostel: rice and curry. Delicious!! We even got seconds. We chatted to some people, we even got a free cocktail each. It was a fun night.
We inquired back at the camp site next to the renowned picnic area but nobody had handed anything in. After that we left Town of 1770 and Agnes Water for good, on to Emu Park. It was drizzling the whole morning so a perfect day for driving 3,5h. We finally got in touch with the depot but they found nothing. We stopped along the way after an hour to make ourselves a coffee. I drove from that point on. The weather started to clear up. In Rockhampton we went to K-mart for socks and to the supermarket for food. Paddy drove after that. We arrived in Emu Park around 15. We checked into the carpark of the hostel where we would be staying that night. We did our laundry and showered. It felt so good to shower! We signed up for the $5 dinner at the hostel. We didn't want to cook. We had to wait another 2 hours so we went for a walk to the centre and the beach.
We did the same as the day before, we got up at 7 to leave in time before the ranger would come. But this time he was early. He was there at 7.10 am. He gave us a warning, luckily that was it. It was raining at the time, so we packed up our awning in the rain. We drove off to have breakfast but I couldn't eat. For some reason I felt sick. I think the boat trip was catching up with me. We went to the shop to buy some coke. After that we went to the police station to inquire about our solar panel. They didn't have it unfortunately. We got the number for the community depot. But we had to wait till they opened up. I was starting to feel better so we got some breakfast at the shop: sausage roll and hash browns. Probably not the best idea. 😊 We were driving up and down between town of 1770 and Agnes water the whole morning ☺️. We went to Agnes water's beach cos I wanted to see what the surfing was like. The waves didn't seem good.

1 May 2017

It was a nice end of the day. Neill was a pleasant and friends guy driving the LARC. He toured us around a bit on the sand banks and explained some stuff about the area and the vessel. He also did a splash down: he drove as fast as he could on the sand bank and dove into the water. We arrived back at the marina around 18.15. Paddy and I drove to the shop and got some food for dinner. We had our dinner at the same picnic area and we parked the car at the same carpark.
They announced they had problems with one of the two engines and that we were only sailing on one engine, hence the rocking of the boat. Because of that the journey would also take longer. Double the time, nearly 4 hours. I slept a wee bit. But I was awake for most of it. I felt fine, never had to throw up. I didn't change into dry clothes cos I was worried that locking myself up in the toilet would make me sick. I didn't even go to the toilet, even though I had to go because of that reason. I try to look at it from a positive perspective. We got a free sunset cruise. The sunset was amazing. PLUS we also saw dolphins close to the creek, when we were nearly back at the harbour! If we hadn't gotten in this late, we might not have seen them. Another problem had arisen: the tide had gone out so far that the boat couldn't get back into the marina. So an amphibious vessel had to come and pick us up, called the LARC. Normally you pay for these tour, so we got this ride for free.
That's what I wanted to see the most, turtles! I felt so blessed to being able to swim with a turtle. I saw fish feeding on the reef. The reef mostly had brown/yellow and green colours but here and there there was a splash of purple and blue. There were 4 resting areas in the water and we had to swim inbetween those. After the snorkelling we had our lunch on the top deck. Lots of stuff to choose from: pasta, salad, ham, rosbeef, chicken, potato salad, pineapples, couscous, fruit and buns. It was really delicious and I had two full plates. I got straight in there, didn't even bother to change clothes. I was shivering the whole time. We drove back while I was still eating. They said the ride back would be smoother, but it really wasn't. I was so worried cos I had just stuffed myself. I was too afraid to move in case I got sick. So I sat in my wet clothes the whole time. Eventually I dried up. The boat rocked a lot again. I kept looking at clouds. I moved downstairs after a while.
I learned so much from being on that island. It was a beautiful sunny day, hot even. But the wind picked up. We found lots of beautiful shells and coral (like pipe organ coral), a turtle bone and a turtle shell. Turtles shed their skin. I didn't know that!! We took the glass bottom boat back to the bigger boat but this time we drove slowly. So we could enjoy the coral and the fish. We saw sea cucumbers and clam. It was incredible to see. I felt like a kid again cos I had done something like this before with my parents. When we got back to the bigger boat we put on our snorkelling gear and hopped into the water. The current was quite strong and there was a lot of wind so I used a pool noodle. At least that way I wouldn't tire myself out. At first I didn't feel at ease, founding it hard to breath with the snorkel but then I loved it. The water is so clear. I saw different types of fish, cuttlefish and turtles!
But then the smell creeps in, the sound starts to get to you. I started to get hot flashes. I even felt nauseous at some point. I made sure not to look at the people that were being sick. But luckily tiredness kicked in and I fell asleep. Our table made it the whole way without throwing up. The boat journey lasted nearly 2 hours. We could see the island, it looked like a postcard. We took a glass bottom boat to visit the island. Our tour guide Marcus talked about how the island was created, about the fauna and flora. Also about the pests on the island like weeds and a specific type of ant. Goat used to be on this island to feed anyone who may be shipwrecked but they destroyed the flora too much and they got rid of them in the 70's. We saw the burrows of the Wedgetailed Shearwater birds and one chick, we saw loads of Noddy Terns. He showed us where the turtles lay their eggs. We even found some discarded eggshells. We saw the nests from where hatchlings crawl to the ocean.
We got up at 7 am, to leave in time before the ranger would come to this carpark. You're not supposed to camp up there. We had our breakfast at the same picnic area of Town of 1770. From there we drove to the pickup point of our tour, the marina of Town of 1770. We checked in, paid the remaining amount and bought a dry bag to put our phone in. We left the marina at 9. First we left the creek where the water was calm. As soon as we got to the ocean, we could feel the 'motion'. It was a rocky and bumpy ride. We crashed into big waves the whole time, there was no calm bit. We weren't even allowed to go to the upper deck because the sea was so rough. First everyone was laughing and enjoying the 'rollercoaster waves'. But that changed after a while when 'the motion of the ocean' didn't end. The laugher made way for the sound of people boking in plastic bags. I had my eyes pierced on the horizon the whole time, or on clouds. I was determined not to get sick.

30 April 2017

It's strange to think that in New Zealand they would shoot this possum cos they're considered as pests over there. The curious fella was sitting in the tree, sniffing around. Interesting and beautiful creatures!! That night we drove to a carpark at the top of a cliff. You can hear the waves from there. We were gonna camp up there.
We went back to the picnic area, asked around and looked around. It was nowhere to be seen 😔. Someone had lifted it. Maybe even when we were having our lunch there cos I put the solar panel on the grass in the sun, where it was out of sight unfortunately. We decided to stay at the beach of Town of 1770. We tried to relax but it was difficult at first. We felt disappointed that we lost it. We put it past us and soaked up the sun and the picture-perfect beaches. We decided to book the tour and drove back to the tour information centre. After that we took a shower at the beach amenities at Agnes Water. Australia is great for campers! There was only cold water but cold water also gets your clean and rinses the sand off 😄. We took a walk on the Agnes Water beach, watching the sun go down. We enjoyed our dinner back at the same picnic area in Town of 1770, with the twilight lighting up the sky bright red. It was beautiful!! A possum got our attention in one of the trees there.
We left the carpark around 8.30 am. I slept alright. It was quiet out there, apart from a few noisy crows. We were heading to Town of 1770. For breakfast we stopped at Rosedale. Super quiet little town in the middle of nowhere. Next Sunday mass at 10 am was at the 21st of May! Just to give you an idea. I saw a cute frog in the toilets. When we arrived in Agnes Water, a town 6 km from Town of 1770, we stopped at the supermarket to buy food. I was looking at the zucchinis when a spider crawled out underneath the fridge. It freaked me out for a second. But aye, it's Australia! We drove on to Town of 1770. We stopped at a beautiful picnic area overlooking the water and we cooked our pasta lunch there. After we filled our bellies, we went to an information centre in Agnes Water to inquire about snorkelling tours in the southern Great Barrier Reef. From their we drove to the beach of Agnes Water. When we parked up, I realised we left our solar panel at the picnic area.

29 April 2017

We didn't fancy cooking that night so we headed to Maddigan's. They do fish and chips. Everyone must have had the same idea cos it was really busy. My fish and chips tasted incredibly good. I went for the crumbed trout. I had so much food left that we decided to walk to Simon and Julika's hostel to give them the leftovers. And Simon didn't disappoint, he ate all of it, even though he just had his own dinner 😂😄. We went for one drink together in Hoolihan's, an Irish bar. Both Paddy and I went for soft drinks cos we still had to drive that night. We said goodbye to S&J. We brushed our teeth at the beach amenities before heading off. We were gonna park at a carpark of Avondale pub that was 1h40min from Hervey Bay.
Lots of people fish from this pier. And where there's fishermen, there's birds. A Brown Booby was flying above and around us. Suddenly it dove down into the water. It did that a few times and eventually he was successful. We saw him swallowing the fish in one second. It was amazing to see, he was so close to us. We headed back to the Torquay area to picnic. After our lunch we got changed into our swimming outfits and headed to the beach. It was a warm and sunny day. I fell asleep on the beach. I love beach naps, they're always so relaxing. Funny enough though, there were loads of ants on this beach. Which was annoying at times. But when you're tired, you sleep through anything ☺️. Simon and Julika joined us at the beach for a bit. When the sun was setting, I headed over to the shower that's in one of the public amenity blocks. It was a cold shower but I wanted to rinse off the sand. I was just in time to watch the sunset from the Torquay pier. The colours were magnificent!
I slept pretty good at this campsite. Heard some strange bird noises during the night. We had breakfast in the kitchen of the hostel. I made use of the amenities and took a hot shower. The car parked beside us was being searched by the police. Turns out that the guy was arrested last night in town for drug charges and they found more in his car and tent. Interesting start of the day! We drove to the Urangan marina to inquire about tours. I wanted to do a snorkelling tour but that day they weren't going. I felt bummed. So we drove to Torquay area and parked the car. We went for a walk along the beach. We found out that there was a market on at the Urangan pier so we headed back that way. It was a quant little market, with loads of local traders. I enjoy these kind of things. I bought a glass necklace pendant and a beautifully illustrated postcard. All locally handmade! Paddy and I walked along the historical Urangan pier which is nearly 1 km long! It seemed to never end.

28 April 2017

I wanted to hire a body board so I could go sand boarding. I got one from the hostel and we started walking to the Carlo Sandblow. It took us a while to walk there, it was uphill most of the time and it was just bloody hot. When we arrived there, we realised we could have driven up there. The last part we had to walk through a forest and I kept my eyes on the eucalyptus trees. Asking everyone passing by if they have see any koalas. It's become a mission of mine: I want to see koalas in the wild!
Even though we were pretty wrecked, we got up early to get the free pancake breakfast. We arranged with our group that we would meet there. But no one else turned up this early 😄. Eventually everyone turned up, apart from Fil. We packed up our stuff and put it all in our campervan. The girls had to take the bus to Brisbane so we waited around with them and then said goodbye. There was only 6 left now. We walked to the supermarket to get food, those pancakes didn't fill us up. It was a warm and sunny day. After our shopping we all headed to the beach, to relax. Simon played some songs on his guitar. Around midday we had to say goodbye to all of them, they were gonna take a bus. Paddy and I stayed on the beach a bit longer. We walked back to the hostel. I wanted to show the cockatoos to Paddy but there were none there today.

27 April 2017

We played pool: boys versus girls. The boys were on a role, potting one ball after another. It came down to the black one. We girls eventually caught up with them and also just had to pot the black one. I managed to do that for the girls, I put the black one in before the boys did. So we won!!!! We enjoyed our last night together. We arranged to meet at breakfast for free pancakes. I was surprised that I managed to stay up till the end, I didn't go for a nap like most of the people in the group did and on average I slept 4-5 hours on the island. When I'm having fun, I don't get tired. ☺️
They added a drinking game to the bingo game. When certain numbers were called out, you had to do something. If you were the first one to do it, you won a free shot. As a group we also got two free pitchers of beer if we filled in a questionnaire about the tour. Which we did. Some people were desperate for free shots. With number 2 you had to snog the quizmaster. With number 34 you had to drop your pants to the floor. One (drunk) guy took it to extreme and flashed his private parts the whole time that number was called out. It was a very funny and great evening. We laughed so much. No one in our group won anything. There were 4 rounds and the stakes for higher every time. At round 3 you could win a scooter trip and a private room, round 4 you would win all the prize money. Surprise surprise, these prices were both won by people working for the hostel. But we had fun anyway. I even managed to win myself a free shot by shouting 'I'm feeling lucky' first at number 7.
It was another beautiful sunny day. We took a photo with just our group down by the water. From our lunch spot we drove back to where the ferry would pick us up. We didn't have to wait too long. The ferry took us back to reality, cos that's what it felt like. We had three awesome days with our amazing group in paradise. We laughed so much, we had seen so many beautiful things. And we did it together as a group. I felt sad that it was over. Back on the mainland we sang 'our' song one last time: the Backstreet Boys - I want it that way'. We all sang like our lives depended on it. We checked into our hostel. We had a shower cos we hadn't one on the island ☺️Paddy went for a nap, I want for a walk around Rainbow beach. I saw lots of cockatoos around a campsite. I saw them up close. They are noisy but so beautiful. We decided to go for dinner at the hostel: cheese burger. Our group sat and ate together. Thursday night was bingo night so we all decided to play.
Day 3 on Fraser Island. Last day. We had breakfast with the group. I couldn't find any spoons to eat my cereal. I asked a girl where she found hers and she said that they might be all over the place dos they were playing with the spoons the night before 😂. And indeed they were all over the floor. We left camp (for good this time 😢) around 8.30. I drove first that morning, to make up for the yesterday. I got to drive on the beach. That was cool! We swapped drivers before heading inland again. Paddy took over and drove us through the bush to lake Garawongera. It was a beautiful spot but I kept comparing it to lake McKenzie. The water of this lake wasn't as clear and there were loads of mosquitos. I didn't even go into the lake, I just sunbathe. We drove back to the beach and stopped at the Maheno shipwreck. Our guide Dazza told us about the history of it, it was used in WWII. We took a nice group photo before driving off. We stopped on the beach to have our last lunch.

26 April 2017

We sat by the fire and Simon sang us some songs while jamming on his guitar. We played drinking games. This time Simon was really good at remembering the rules and he played really well. We laughed so much. We also played 'never have I ever' with 10 fingers on the table. Or as Simon liked to call it 'ever never I have ever' 😂. Whoever lost their fingers first, had to down a full drink. Carrie lost. We learned a lot about each other that night 😳😅. Briefly we played 'dare or truth'. Only poor Fil did a dare. He had to get the hat off a Canadian guy. We went to the disco and did a short conga line with everyone. Eventually we all went to the beach to see the stars. The sky wasn't as clear as the day before, there were a few clouds. It was still beautiful. After midnight we all went to our tents. We kept on chatting and laughing for at least another hour. We talked about soggy apples, like you do. ☺️ Paddy does a good impression of Simon. Sometimes we didn't know who was talking.
Until one wave knocked me about, making my legs fly up in the air. It pushed me out of the pool, over some sharp rocks. I scraped my back on these rocks when I went flying over them. It hurt for a bit but then I was fine. But I decided to go out of these pools, just to be safe. So I enjoyed watching the rest of the group taking the waves in these pools. From the pools we drove to Eli Creek, a slow running river with clean and clear water. You can even drink it, which I tried. It tasted like tap water. Our tour operator provided us with tubes so we could float down the river. It was fun to do. I laid down in the sun after the tubing, Paddy played beach volleyball. It was a relaxing afternoon. From there we drove back to the campsite. This time we didn't wait and we started cooking straight away. It was steak night with potato salad. But we decided to make better use of these spuds and we made chips. I don't like red meat so I got some veggie patties. It was a delicious dinner.
Day 2 on Fraser Island. I slept ok but I still felt wrecked. My neck was also somewhat sore. We had breakfast with the group: cereal, bread with jam and Nutino (not Nutella). We also got fruit packages, one piece a day. We left the camp site around 9. We drove on the beach towards a cliff, Indian Head. We climbed up it to get a good 360 view off the beach, the island and the sea. It was beautiful. We saw sharks swimming in the water, schools of fish, either stingrays/manta rays or turtles. They were swimming below us at the bottom of the cliffs. On Fraser Island you're not allowed to go into the sea for a swim because of the presence of sharks. I was more convinced than ever. We drove a bit further on the beach and stopped at the Champagne pools! It's an area of the sea cornered off by rocks. Waves crash over the rocks and fill up these little pools. It's safer than going in the sea ☺️. We played in these pools, enjoying the waves coming in.

25 April 2017

We headed to the beach, going out off our campsite, out through the dingo safe fences. We looked at the stars. There was no light pollution and we could see many stars! All over the horizon, all of the Milky Way. It was incredible! No cloud in the sky. No moon. After that Paddy and I went to bed. I have no idea what time we went to bed, all I know is that I was ready for it.
Simon plays the guitar and he played us some songs at the camp fire. We all sang along. It was good fun. After that we moved on to playing drinking games. It was hilarious cos some of us couldn't remember the rules and kept making mistakes which ended up in them drinking more. We laughed so much. Our group is class. There's also a disco at the camp which we tried out. We danced for a little while. We hung out the whole time as a group and it was really good. We mingled with some other people of other groups too and we met up with the Irish couple from Byron Bay. They arrived a day before us. I also met a Belgian girl who grew up not that far from me!! Unbelieveable! We talked for a good while. She's gonna open up a bar in Hasselt, where we live. Crazy!!
We didn't know whether we had to go left or right. We went left. We drove for a while but we weren't catching up with the rest of the cars. So we turned back around and at the junction we drove right then. We found the other cars apart from the lead car. It was out looking for us 😄. The radio in the car didn't work, we tried a billion times but we never got through to the instructor. We were probably too far away. Eventually the lead car came back and on we went. We drove to our campsite called K'Gari. We parked the cars and listened to some final instructions. We choose our tents as a group. All the other groups started cooking, it was after 17. But because it was so crowded in the kitchen, our group decided to wait and start drinking. An owl flew inbetween our group and scared all of us. By the time we decided to cook, we were all tipsy already. It had gotten dark too. Dinner was delicious though: chicken stir fry. We kept on drinking after the dinner.
After lunch Paddy took the wheel and we were driving inland. It was a bumpy and rough ride. It was beautiful though going through the rainforest. About one hour we reached lake Mackenzie. It was absolutely stunning. The water was blue and crystal clear. The sand was as white as salt. It was incredible. The water had the perfect temperature and it's apparently the cleanest. I accidentally swallowed some and it did taste like bottled water. We stayed there for just over one hour. It was a hot day, it felt amazing to swim in the lake. After the lake, I took the wheel. It was the first time that I was driving with the steering wheel on the right and with a manual car. I found it hard and especially on the 'road' we were on. Sandy and lots of put holes. But I managed. It was fun actually. We stopped at the camp again and swapped drivers. Hattie drove. At a junction we had to wait to let other cars pass. Due to this we lost the other cars in front of us and we came at a y-junction.
I slept amazing in our room, big double bed. We checked out of our room and got a free pancake breakfast at the hostel. Good start of the day! We got a briefing on how to drive on Fraser Island. We had to pack the 4x4: get all of our bags in and the water tank. We didn't realise this tank had to go in until we stacked all of our bags in the car ☺️. So we had to start all over again. Once that was sorted, we had to pack up all the booze and the food in the trailer. Then we headed off to Fraser Island! Woohoo! We had to take the ferry across but that didn't take long, 10 min. We saw some dolphins on the way over. Day 1 on Fraser Island. There was 8 of us in the car. Gabriel was driving first. We were driving on the beach. We stopped to spot a dingo that was sniffing around. We stopped at camp Eurong around 11 am to get lunch. It was really early but we ate it anyway 😀.

24 April 2017

I sure as hell didn't care about him throwing a tantrum. Every word he said I just shrugged my shoulders or ignored him. He doesn't own the bloody sea and if his surfing skills would have been better, he could have avoided me. Advanced surfers could maybe agree with him but I had to try and take at least one wave, I would never get a chance to get on the board, ever, if I didn't try. There were just soooooo many people surfing there. The more advanced once go deeper into the water so when they catch a wave, which they do pretty much all the time, they ride it all the way through and then I never have a chance to go on one. Cos I'm closer to the beach, where the waves break. I surf the white wash. And that's where these advanced people end up. Rather than asking if I was ok, he just yelled at me. He was a douchebag. I tried surfing for one hour but I wasn't enjoying it so I stopped and relaxed on the beach.
I slept amazingly! I was out for a good while. Haven't slept this good in ages. We didn't stay around this rest area to long, there was nothing to see. We drove to a supermarket to get breakfast. We had the breakfast in Noosa in the car. We brushed our teeth at the toilet facilities. I wanted to give surfing another go. So I hired a longboard for 2 hours. We headed to the beach and I was excited to try it again after nearly 2 weeks. The surfing area was crazy busy. Every time I tried to get a wave I had to fault cos someone else was already on it. I wanted to avoid a collision so I either didn't take the wave or made myself fall off the board. I got very frustrated, I never seem to get a chance to take a wave. I didn't really get up on the board. At one point I did try to take a wave but in the middle of it me and this guy crashed into each other. He was really angry at me. 'Did you not see I was on the wave'. 'You can't take the wave when I'm on it'. I pretended not to understand.

23 April 2017

We said goodbye to Paul and Madi. We drove to Noosa to see what the craic is there. All of a sudden I felt something crawling on my leg in the car. I brushed it off and then looked at it with some light. It definitely was a spider. A small one but nevertheless, a spider. I told Paddy to pull over so I could find it and kill it. It had already disappeared. I instantly got a good feeling about Noosa. It's big enough and lots of activity. We walked past all the bars and then alongside the beach. After exploring Noosa for a bit, we drove to a rest area for the night, which was 30 km away. We got there just in time, around 20, there was only one spot left. We parked up and set the car up. The toilet facilities weren't clean and there were loads of spiders. Despite the spiders, even the vanished one in our car, I didn't take me long to fall asleep.
We also walked down to the lake. I saw this giant goanna and a kookaburra. I love that about Australia, there's wildlife everywhere!! From the lake we drove to the centre of Montville. A beautiful little town. Lots of quaint looking houses. And cafes. And souvenir shops. There was also an arts and crafts market going on in the town hall so we had a look. The view on the Sunshine Coast and the valley was breathtaking but you could only see it from the balcony of this coffee place. So we decided to sit down and relax, drink a coffee and just soak up these visually arresting views! After that we drove to Noosa to meet up, yet again ☺️, with people we met in South America. Paul and Madi are from Tasmania and we had hoped to go and visit them there but we are out of time. Luckily they were on the mainland for a wedding, so we got to catch up. We went to a bar called Mooshkas at the Sunshine Beach. It was great catching up with them.
I woke up at 7.30. Mary and John were up already. We joined them in the kitchen and Mary made us a delicious omelette and toast from breakfast. After breakfast we went for a walk together along the coast. It's absolutely stunning there. The sun was out and it was a hot day. Australia is blessed with endless coastlines and beaches. They provide a lot of public amenities at these beaches, like BBQ facilities, picnic benches with or without shading, toilet, showers, playground for kids and drinking fountains. Europe can learn a lot from this. After the walk we had a shower. We said goodbye to Mary and John. We really enjoyed our stay with them. By recommendation of them we went to Montville. We drove to Lake Baroon and had lunch there in the restaurant of a treehouse resort overlooking the lake. They had a lot of wooden carvings in this restaurant. The railing looking out on the lake had a mouse carved into it. The toilet roll holder was a carved hedgehog. Beautiful stuff.

22 April 2017

The door was wide open. Mary and John were so friendly. They made us feel welcome straight away. Paddy instantly got put a beer in his hand and I got a glass of champagne. John made us an amazing dinner: homemade chips and homemade battered fish. It was so delicious! In the meantime we kept on drinking, moving from champagne to wine to rhum and port. We talked from the moment we walked into the door till we went to bed around 23. They have a gorgeous house with an amazing rooftop terrace. We got our own private room again with a huge double bed, queen size I think. We felt really blessed again and well looked after!
I woke up in this beautiful bedroom, realising we were guests in this gorgeous house. Pauline and Gary were already awake. Gary was washing his car, we chatted away to Pauline over breakfast. We said goodbye to them. It was amazing seeing them again, they looked after us so well. It started of as a grey and wet day but still warm. I desperately want to see koalas in the wild. So I looked up where is a good place to spot them. So we drove to 'Brisbane Koala Bushlands'. It's a park with lots of eucalyptus trees. The sun came out! We walked around for nearly 2 hours scouring the trees. My neck pain flared up again. We saw loads of marks on the trees where koalas had been but unfortunately we didn't see one. I did see a kookaburra and a butterfly. Disappointed we drove off and made our way to Caloundra. We were invited to stay with the Liam's parents. We stopped along the way for a small bite to eat and to buy a bottle of wine for our hosts. We arrived in Caloundra at 18.

21 April 2017

It was such a beautiful area: lovely bars and restaurants, flowers and trees. It has a nice buzz. We had to say goodbye to our Dutch friend. Next time we would see her, would be in the Netherlands. We walked back to our car. By then I was so hungry and I had zero energy left to walk. I was going at granny's speed. The sun was going down and it became dark. It gets dark really early, around 17.30. We stopped at a supermarket to buy biscuits, I needed to eat something. We got back to the car and drove off to meet Pauline and Gary again. They had dinner waiting for us when we arrived. So sweet!! We had a nice BBQ with veggies and spuds, cos 'Paddy is Irish and I'm sure he would like spuds' 😄. Pauline also had done our laundry. Yet again, they spoiled us. We had a lovely night together, talking away. We got our own private room again with a double bed. It was a beautiful room. The sheets smelled amazing. I went to bed feeling blessed again.
They did have a nice selection of jewellery but it was all quite expensive so I didn't buy anything. We walked back along the water to the centre. We were gonna meet up with a Dutch girl we met in New Zealand. We had arranged to meet in a coffee shop. I had a delicious cappuccino. It was great seeing her again. She's living in Brisbane at the minute. We walked to the City Botanical Gardens together. I love being in a park where the backdrop is dominated by skyscrapers. There's something odd but magical about that. We walked along the water and crossed a bridge to go back to Southbank but a different part of it this time. It was so beautiful!! They had a market on and we browsed past the stalls. Paddy got new sunglasses. The sun was covered by clouds, but it was still warm. In Southbank they have a big free public swimming pool just along the water, overlooking the river and the skyscrapers on the other side of the river. It is amazing! It even has a little beach.
I slept good. I got up and took a shower. Hannah and James had left us towels on the bed. Hannah made us a coffee that morning. We talked for ages. I felt like we got on really well with Hannah and James, like I've known them for ages. We said goodbye to them, they were going away for a long weekend. We were allowed to leave our car in their carpark. We walked into the centre of Brisbane. It was only a 40 min walk. It started off as a sunny day. It was really warm. We were looking for a place to get breakfast. We went to Pancake Manor, a church converted into a restaurant. The food was ok, it filled us up. We explored the rest of the city, crossing the bridge to go to Southbank. We ended up in the science museum. Entry was free and we got sucked in by the stuffed animals of Queensland: emus, kangaroos, spiders, birds... . We walked around for a while. I wanted to go to the GOMA shop, cos usually they have a good selection of local jewellers.

20 April 2017

Hannah and James took us to Queens Street. We went to a Vapiano cos we were all in the mood for Italian. They bought us drinks, so generous! Paddy and I had pizza. It was delicious. I was still hungry and we also ordered dessert: Nutella cheesecake. It was mindblowingly good. Hannah and James showed us the beautiful skyline views along the water. All of the bridges are lit up. We walked back to the car and they toured us around some other areas of the city. We got back to their apartment around 23.30. We were all knackered and went to bed. We got our own private room with a double bed. It felt so good to sleep in a proper bed again! I felt very blessed that these two people were so welcoming to two strangers. And so happy that Pauline and Gary looked after us as well. I went to bed happy.
We started the boat trip at 14.30. It was a sunny but also cloudy day. We were cruising down the Brisbane river. Gary and Pauline were pointing out all the interesting buildings and places along the water. Brisbane looks really beautiful. It was windy up at the front of the boat but the views were too good. Eventually we went back in and Gary told us lots of stories of their travels over the last 30 years. I love hearing his stories, he's very good at telling them. We laughed a lot. The boat trip lasted about 3 hours and we arrived back at Bulimba at 17.30. We drove back to their house and talked some more. We said goodbye around 19 and arranged to meet up again the next evening. That night we were gonna stay in the centre of Brisbane with the sister of an Australian we met 2 years ago in Peru, called Liam. Hannah had never met us before but she and her bf James were very welcoming. We arrived at 20 and went out into the centre to get a bite to eat.
We left the carpark as soon as we noticed a ranger taking photos of the number plates. We left around 8. We drove to a park with a playground to have breakfast. Unfortunately the park was closed due to the recent bad weather so we had our brekkie in the car ☺️. After that we headed to Brisbane and stopped once along the way for a toilet break. We were gonna meet up with a couple we met in Santiago 2 years ago. They live in a beautiful neighbourhood along the water, 40 min outside of Brisbane. We arranged to meet at 12. They welcomed us with open arms. It was so nice to see Pauline and Gary. We had a lovely lunch at their gorgeous house before heading out to Bulimba. It's a beautiful little town with a nice vibe. We parked the car and took the city boat to explore Brisbane via the water.

19 April 2017

I was disappointed: along this track you supposedly could see koalas. We went to the information centre and found out that out of 12 tracks only 5 were open. So we went to the start of the Tullawallal track. We started around 15. We saw another pademelon but this one was a lot bigger. We also saw lots of birds like the yellow chested robin. We heard a bird that made the sound of a laser shooting through the sky. On this track I noticed more fallen trees. At the end of the track, on a wee hill, I started talking to a local woman who pointed out an Antartic beech that had fallen. This ancient tree hadn't survived the storm. She comes here regularly so she noticed the changes. We finished the track before 17 and drove off to a 'driver's reviver' area to spend the night. We watched an amazing sunset along the way: like someone turned on a red LED lamp in the sky. Driving past a field we saw a grey wallaby. That night we had dinner in our van.
All the tracks started from the carpark. We started with the Bellbird lookout track. It was drizzling when we arrived but it was supposed to clear up later. So we started with the shortest track first and then hopefully have good weather for the longer one. The view from the Bellbird lookout was incredible. We looked out on the Numinbah Valley with its beautiful rock formations like the Egg Rock. We continued walking to the waterfall. After that we returned and had lunch at the lookout point. We went back to the carpark and I got startled by a noise in the bushes. I screamed and saw a pademelon hopping past. Innocent cousin off the kangaroos. There were 2 of these cute little creatures. A few minutes later we saw another two hopping past. We got back to the carpark and walked to the other side of the rainforest to start the Caves circuit. But there was a sign saying the track was closed due to the weather. 😔
I really enjoy sleeping at a camp site, especially if it's so close to the beach. I could hear the waves at night. And lots of birds. It's so peaceful. Nevertheless I was awake early, 6.30. I tried to sleep some more but I couldn't. I got up and took a nice hot shower. We had a big breakfast before our hike: Paddy made us pancakes and I also had oatmeal with delicious passion fruit yoghurt. We packed up our van and we wanted to go to the Lamington National Park. There's 2 entrances and we chose to go to Binna Burra. We entered it into the gps and off we went. After a while I found myself recognising the road. I was surprised to see these roads. And then I realised we we're driving back to Byron Bay. The gps was sending us to another Binna Burra!!! 😫 We lost a lot of time. Paddy got a free coffee at a driver's reviver and we were finally on the right track! We arrived after 12. There were 2 tracks I wanted to do at this park: the Bellbird lookout track and the Caves circuit.

18 April 2017

We didn't even make it to the beach ☺️. It was time for dinner. We made potato mash with carrots in it and had turkey mince. It was so nice to cook on a proper gas cooker again and to be able to do dishes with warm water. It's the little things that matter 😄. After dinner we walked into the centre with the Swiss couple. We watched a street performer doing some tricks. We found a really nice rooftop bar and had a drink. We had a good view on the skyscrapers. By the end of the night we realised we talked pretty much the whole afternoon with these lovely people!
I slept amazingly in the van. It makes such a difference to me when air is coming into the van. It is so handy to sleep at a camp site. You have a 'base' to explore the area. We had an omelette for breakfast. The kitchen at the camp site is well equipped. There's even a hot water tap for tea and coffee. We decided to walk to the shop and get food. We walked past a group of pensioners who were collection signatures to protest against a tram going through their streets. I signed the form. We had a good chat with these people. It was a sunny and hot day. And the shops were a good while away. We finally got to the supermarket and stocked up on stuff. Once we got back to the camp site it was time for lunch. I was just about to make some sandwiches when our camp neighbours offered the leftover of their lunch. They made a Swiss dish. We gratefully accepted and ate their lovely meal. In return I offered them some coffee and biscuits. We chatted the whole afternoon.

17 April 2017

We decided we were gonna stay at a camp site that night. We wanted a bit more comfort. We found one right at the beach and phoned them to ask about availability. It was only 3 km from Surfers Paradise. We drove over and checked in for one night. Lot number 10. Because we arrived at the site before sunset, and there were no mosquitos around, we put up the awning at the back of our camper van. It gives us more space in the van and it allows for air to come in. We explored the campsite and took a dip in the pool. It was a nice place. We took a hot shower and around sunset we walked into town.
It's Easter Monday. We drove from the Sleepy Hollow rest area to Surfers Paradise. I didn't wanna have another breakfast at a rest area, I wanted to have a view. I took about one hour to get there. At first sight the Gold Coast looks so odd: skyscrapers right at the coastline. Surfers Paradise is just a small part of the Gold Coast. It's located on a little island and you need to cross a few bridges to get there. But for us it was love at first sight. It had a nice buzz. We parked the car next to the beach and had our breakfast on the beach. I like that about Australia: it has a lot of public facilities, free of charge and they're usually quite good. When you're in a camper van that only has a bed, you rely on these facilities. I used the one beside the beach to brush my teeth. The rest of the morning and afternoon we spent on the beach, enjoying the sea with its huge waves and the sun.

16 April 2017

Woke up early again, 6.40. But I slept really well. Today was all about relaxing. We made ourselves a fried egg for breakfast with a coffee. We saw a huge spider at this rest area. The biggest one so far in Oz. We drove back to Tweed Heads and went straight to the beach. We spent the whole morning there till about 13.30. Then we got hungry. It was so nice just lying on the beach. It was a hot day so we jumped into the sea. After that I had a nap. We decided against heating up the spaghetti and wasting more daylight. So we treated ourselves to a burger. Before going back to the beach I was determined to get myself an Easter egg. They were all out of them in the supermarket but luckily a kinder egg came to the rescue. I love them so it wasn't a bad second choice.

15 April 2017

We gently declined the offer, it was too expensive! It was getting dark at this point. At 18 there's no more sunlight, it's pitch dark. We went back to the park. I took a shower at the beach showers. The water was freezing cold. But it least it was free 😎. Tweed Heads is quite a big place! We walked around and browsed past all the bars. Paddy had an ice cream with crushed maltesers in. We both have an Australian phone number with a certain provider. They have free wifi at a numerous of phone boxes so we decided to FaceTime with the family. We hadn't talked to them in weeks, it was nice to catch up. We went back to the car and had sandwiches. Then we drove off to the one place where we knew we would be able to park for free that night: another rest area beside the motorway. We were both knackered and went to bed at 22.
We need a tap and a drain to throw out the soapy water. I walked around the whole park trying to find one. And there was one, just one tap. We made a pact right there and then not to make 'complicated' dishes like spaghetti anymore. It takes too much time cooking it with the few tools we have and then cleaning it. We walked around the coastline. The waves here are huge. I have never seen waves this big before then just here in Australia. I can see why this is a surfer's paradise. And the temperature of the water is just right. We enjoyed watching the surfers play. The coastline views from the main beach are just spectacular. You can see miles ahead. Big skyscrapers as a backdrop created the image of a mirage. The sun going down covered it all in a dreamy mist. We went back to the car, trying to find a camp site for the night. We drove around and stopped at a few camp sites. They were all full. We rang a couple, they were all full but one. $68 per night just to park our van 😱.
We keep waking up really early in the van. 7 am. We had breakfast at the picnic benches at the rest area: a nice omelette. From there we headed to Tweed Heads. It was a short drive, just half an hour. It was a sunny day. We stopped at Tweed shopping mall. We got groceries at Coles. Paddy wanted a haircut and a beard trim so he waited his turn at the hairdressers in the shopping mall. In the meantime I got his hiking books repaired (one of the soles came off in Sydney) and browsed around the other shops (yes clothes). From the shopping mall we drove to the beach, hoping to get a bench with a view out on the sea for lunch. But it was so busy (Easter weekend) we drove to the park and cooked our lunch there. We made a beautiful spaghetti bolognese. We had to be creative about what putting on first cos we only have 1 pot and 1 pan. Doing dishes is another tricky part.

14 April 2017

It was another beautiful sunset. I think Byron Bay can only have nice sunsets. Apart from when it rains 🤔. We had dinner in our car because we had bought a lot of stuff. By getting into the car loads of mosquitos followed us in. We spent at least 20 min killing them. And just when you think you have them all and you're about to eat, another one flies past your ear. After this killing spree we headed back into the town and went for a drink with this Irish couple and another guy joined. All of a sudden the Irish girl jumped up out of her seat. A massive bug had landed on her lap. It was the size of the palm of my hand. She managed to get it off. The bug stayed close and kept on crawling up chairs and jumping around. Everyone was watching it. We then headed to the beach and stopped along the way for some amazing live street music. There's a lot of buskers in Byron. This guy was really good and drew in a big crowd. After the beach we left Byron to get sleeping spot at Sleepy Hollow.
Good Friday today. We woke up around 8. We had breakfast in our car. From this rest area we drove to Ballina. It was a sunny day. In Ballina I got an appointment with a masseuse to get my neck fixed (hopefully). I would have a massage at 12. In the meantime we explored Ballina and had a delicious coffee by the wharf. Taylor was my masseuse. She worked on my neck and shoulders for one hour. It was painful but it felt so good and relaxing. Unfortunately the pain wasn't gone, but it was more bearable. We cooked ourselves a lovely lunch by the water. It was a sunny day, but by the water there was a breeze. It made it a bit harder to cook. We had veggie and wraps. After lunch we drove to Byron Bay and met up with some people from surf camp. They're a lovely Irish couple. We sat at the beach and watched the sun going down. It didn't take Paddy long to figure out some connection with these people.

13 April 2017

Thursday morning, up at 7 am. I had to go to the toilet during the night. I never seem to be able to sleep through one night. I definitely will appreciate not having to go outside for the toilet once I get back home. We spotted some kangaroos at this rest area and also one wallaby. Around 7.30 we made our way to Yamba. It was a one hour's drive. In Yamba we first stopped at the supermarket to get groceries. We parked close to the beach at a picnic bench. We made ourselves a coffee and pancakes using the gas cookers that came with the van. Then we sorted out our camper van. We hadn't packed it cleverly since we got it so all of our stuff was just everywhere. It didn't take too long to organise it. We met up with a friend at the beach. It was a sunny day but at this beach there was a lot of wind. I wasa bit chilly. The wind also blew the sand everywhere and in no time I was covered in it. After a while we decided to go to a different beach. The main one.

12 April 2017

Each table had a buzzer that you had to press as fast as you could to answer the question. Our group didn't know many answers to the questions ☺️ We played poorly. But nonetheless we had a great night. The quiz master was a funny guy, you could tell he still enjoys doing quizzes. Even though some of his comments were quite sexist, we laughed so much. We didn't win anything that night. The bus took us back to camp. Paddy and I drove off to a rest area 'Halfway Creek' for the night.
Our last morning at surf camp. After breakfast we had our last lesson. They thought us how to speed up on the board and how to slow down and how to turn. I was still at the stage where I was happy to jump up and surf the whole wave 😄. It was a nice session but very tiring. After our usual wrap lunch, we went to a caravan park close to the camp. We had heard you can see kangaroos there. We saw a LOT of kangaroos. They live inbetween all the caravans and tents. I even saw a joey hidden in the pouch. It was so cool to see kangaroos up close! I decided to do the afternoon expression session. The tide was out so the water was more shallow. After 30-40 min I gave up, I was too tired and I didn't wanna risk breaking something. I wasn't fully concentrated. Dinner that night was amazing: chicken curry. I event went for seconds! It was pub quiz night. The 'booze bus' picked us up and brought us to the pub, which was conveniently located next to the liquor shop. ☺️

11 April 2017

We played a fun game that night. We were in a group of 5. We had to execute all sorts of assignments while competing with other groups. There was some sort of dance off, pick up cardboard from the floor and the first one to pick it up, would score for the group. I did this challenge and I won it for my group. I bet you I was the oldest one out of all of the ones competing ☺️. Our group didn't win but at least we had a lot of fun.
I decided to do the afternoon activity which was ocean rafting. A lot of us had signed up for this activity. There was only one raft, so we had to take turns. With the group before my go, the rafting went wrong. We were obligated to wear a life vest and a helmet but the instructor didn't. The boat got flipped over by a big wave and threw everyone out, including the instructor who went in the water head first. He hit the sand and he was bleeding. He was fine but they replaced him anyway. I was now more nervous because of this accident. I didn't enjoy it. We got knocked out of the boat a few times and I managed to hurt myself every single time. So at one point I had enough and just left the boat. We enjoyed the beach for the rest of the afternoon. We had a Magnum while looking at the sunset. Dinner that night wasn't my cup of tea: there was corn and raisins in the vegetarian meal. I don't like either of them.
Even during my sleep I could feel the pain of my neck. So I took some painkillers during the night and rubbed on some more tigerbalm. By the morning it felt like the worst pain was over. It was still stiff but at least I didn't feel like crying. We had breakfast before our surf class, which was at 10. Jimmy was our instructor again. I told him about my neck and he said to give him a shout if I think it would be getting worse. My second day went really well at the start. I jumped up and I was able to stand up every single time. Then tiredness kicked in and I got knocked off my board a few times. I swallowed a lot of water. When I was surfing my neck didn't bother me at all. I was feeling more confident with the surfing. Class was over around 12 and we had lunch. At lunch I witnessed a kookaburra flying over and just taking someone's sandwich of the table. I didn't expect them to actually take it off a person. 😱

10 April 2017

My neck got worse during the afternoon. I rubbed tigerbalm on it and took painkillers. I also wrapped a scarf around it to keep the muscles warm. Dinner wasn't my cup of tea that night: beef strips with a noodle pasta. I even changed my dietary requirements in the morning to 'no red meat'. I felt guilty for leaving so much meat on my plate. There's nothing around the surf camp, no shops. So in order to get some drinks the camp has an agreement with a liquor shop a few km's away. The owner of that shop bought a bus to drive all the surfers to his shop and back! Clever man, raking the money in I bet! So we went on this bus to get some wine. We bought a goon bag, a cheap wine that comes in a bag and a box with a fancy tap. Monday night is ping pong tournament night. Paddy and I signed up. We had to play doubles. We lost our first game ☺️. We had some goon that night and chatted away to our fellow surfing students.
I managed to get up a few times at the first lesson. I didn't think I would be able to, so I was proud of myself. I got wiped out a lot too. Really thrown into the water, taken by the waves and turned upside down. I swallowed a lot of water. I had a burning sensation in my throat. By the end of the lesson my head and neck were very sore. We finished around 12 and went for lunch. Lunch is the same every day: choice of wraps/ bread with a variety of cold meats like ham/ salami or cheese, veggies, potato salad and cold pasta and lots of different sauces. By the end of lunch my neck had stiffened up, I could barely move it. I told some other instructors but nobody took it seriously. I was worried that I really had injured myself. I decided not to do the afternoon session, called the expression session or the afternoon activity which was kayaking. I relaxed on the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day. Paddy did join the afternoon session. I took photos of him surfing from the beach.
I got woken up at 4.20 in the middle of the night by two people checking into our room. We thought we had the room to ourselves but turns out they just arrived late. I took me a while to get back to sleep. One of the girls snored so I decided to sleep in our camper van instead. I got up around 8. We had breakfast. They had pancakes for breakfast!! Happy days! There was also toast with jam and butter, some cereals, porridge, cut up apples and oranges. Our first surfing lesson was at 10. There was around 10 of us for the first lesson. Our instructor was Jimmy. He started of with a quick lesson about the different types of waves and a safety briefing. He then took us to the beach. We carried our boards from the surf school to the beach in pairs. On the beach Jimmy showed us the different techniques of how to jump up on the board. We all repeated it on the sand. We then had a go at it in the water for about 1 hour. Jimmy would take turns helping everyone up.

9 April 2017

We watched the sunset from the beach. There were some big and broad clouds in the sky. They made this sunset exceptionally good. The clouds acted like a big canvas for the sun on which it projected all of its amazing colours. We got spoiled two days in a row by an amazing sunset. At surf camp all meals are included. First dinner we got half a chicken each with a spud and veggies. You could take as much gravy as you want. It was a first good impression of the food! Water, coffee, tea and two different kinds of cordial were included and you could take as much as you wanted. Sunday night is movie night. We watched a bit of the movie, which was the Inbetweeners one, and then had an early night.
We woke up around 8. We drove back to Byron Bay so we could go to the supermarket for breakfast. We had to sort that out ourselves now 😉. We had our breakfast on Suffolk beach. I enjoyed eating at the beach, it's so peaceful. We went for a stroll. It was a sunny day. We took it easy. From Byron Bay we had to drive back in the direction of Coffs Harbour, to Arrawarra. We stopped once along the way for a nap. This is definitely one of the advantages of having a camper van. ☺️ We arrived at Spot X in Arrawarra for surf camp around 16h. We would start our first surf lessons the next day. We were welcomed by this overly enthusiastic guy, Safari. He showed us around the camp. It's a big place, it can accommodate up to 200 people. There's tipi tents, dorm containers, the sweat lodge aka the tv room, a room with a pool table, big dining areas, a surf school, reception/ shop, the travel shack and amenities. There's direct access from the camp to the beach.

8 April 2017

We walked to the end of the beach and got up a raised platform. We had beautiful views of the bay. The sun was starting to set and turned the sky into all different shades of red, pink, purple and orange. The sunset lasted for a good 1,5h. It was incredible to see the sky change. Absolutely breathtaking. We watched the surfers taking waves, catching the last rays of sun. We decided not to walk to the lighthouse but get some food instead and just relax. The best views were from this platform anyway. So we walked back into town and I got a big crepe with Belgian chocolate. It was delicious. Just what j wanted. We watched a performer playing with fire and some hippies dancing at a silent disco. Paddy and I dropped my dad and cousin off at the bus stop. They left Byron Bay around 20.35. It would be another 2,5 months before I see them again. I felt sad and a bit homesick. That night we parked the camper van at a rest area beside the motor way not too far from Byron. It's free.
Last breakfast we would have with my dad and cousin. We went to their hotel around 10. We spent the whole morning and early afternoon on the beach. We all splashed around in the sea. The water is a lot warmer than in New Zealand. My cousin lost his sunglasses in a wave. Too much splashing ☺️ But he looked at it in a spiritual way: he will always have a connection with Byron Bay cos a piece of him got left behind. It was a sunny day. Still a few clouds in the sky though but it was nice and warm. Around 14.30 we walked into town to get some food. I had a falafel pocket, it was messy to eat but really nice. We also browsed around the souvenir shops in search of new sunglasses for Jochen. I couldn't resist one scoop of passion fruit ice cream. We started walking to the lighthouse. It's quite a stretch. It was so nice to be able to do this with my dad and cousin. We were all relaxed, soaking in the views, looking at the surfers and the colourful birds.

7 April 2017

Perfect birthday drinks! We chatted to the barman about gin and jenever and we got to try some. He was very talented and fast in putting those drinks together. We met up with my dad and cousin again and had one last drink in a bar/ club. We went back to the hostel around 1 am.
We drove back to Byron Bay at 15.30. We drove past the Nimbin Rocks. The sun was lighting up the rocks and it was a beautiful sight. Best view of that day. It rained some more along the way. We stopped at the Byron Bay lighthouse. It's up on this beautiful cliff edge. Nice views on the coastline, unfortunately it was raining so we didn't stay too long to enjoy the views. We drove back to the hostel and walked in into town so we could enjoy some birthday drinks!! I had a lovely dinner with my husband, my dad and cousin. I started off with the lovely soup again and as a main I had quinoa cakes with salmon. We went for one drink after dinner at the Railway friendly pub but I wanted something more festive than a beer or a wine. I wanted cocktails with sparkles if possible. So Paddy and I headed to a cocktail bar called 'Bolt Hole'. They made us some delicious and impressive looking cocktails.
I'm 31. My god! I can't believe a whole year has flown by. We went to my dad's and cousin's hotel around 9.15 for a shower and to have breakfast together. We decided to go to Nimbin that day. Nimbin is a hippy town about 70 km from Byron Bay. We drove to it, my dad and Jochen took the bus. Our car unfortunately only has room for 2. We first got petrol before driving off. It was sunny with clouds. On the way to Nimbin we saw some amazing birds like the pink cockatoo. At one point we had to turn around because the road was closed due to all the rain and flooding. We also saw some land slides which left lots of debris on the road. We finally arrived in Nimbin around 13. We found my dad and Jochen. We browsed around all the shops and streets to get a feel of the place. Nimbin did nothing for me. I found it a dirty place. With lots of strange people hanging around. To be honest, I felt relieved leaving the place. It also started to rain heavily at the end.

6 April 2017

Paddy and I ordered some food. I had amazing soup, I wanted some veggies. I took a photo of the menu so I can recreate it at some point. After that we went to a hotel bar. They had a great live band on. Everyone was enjoying it, lots of people were dancing. It rained pretty much the whole night. We waited till the worst was over before we decided to go home. It was my last night as a 30 year old. Scary thought! This hostel is very much a hippy/ surfers kinda place. Very colourful! We went to bed around midnight. But not before I wished my sister a happy birthday first.
We left Coffs Harbour around 16. My dad and cousin took the train and then had to take a bus. We were driving through farmlands. A lot of the fields were flooded. It wasn't easy to find a petrol station along these roads. There simply weren't many around. We made it to Coffs Harbour after nightfall, around 19.30. It was lashing out here! We inquired at my dad's hotel about where the bus would drop them off, so we could pick them up. We waited at the bus stop for them to arrive. They arrived at 20.30 and we dropped them off at their hotel. Byron Bay is strict on free overnight camping. They simply don't allow it. If you get caught, the fines are crazy high: $500 of more. So we didn't wanna risk it and checked in at the camp site of a hostel. The hostel was a bit outside the centre. We walked in so we could both have one drink. But it started lashing again. We ran. We both got soaked. My dad and cousin had found a nice restaurant and just finished their food.
I was already awake at 6.30! I tried to sleep some more after it but I just got too hot in the car. We had breakfast together with my dad and cook in their hotel. We made eggs. After they checked out of their hotel we parked the car somewhere safe and we went for a walk around Coffs creek. It was a sunny and warm morning. We saw crabs in the sand and lots of birds. Beautiful colourful birds. It started raining a bit later in the afternoon. We walked back to the car and drove to the centre of Coffs Harbour to get lunch. We bought some stuff in the supermarket and had it under an awning at a skate park. After lunch the weather cleared up and we drove to the beach. My dad and cousin crossed a river to go to another part of the beach. Going over was no problem but coming back the tied had come in. It was hilarious watching them struggle. They both got pretty soaked 😀. We went for one drink at a beach bar before we made our ways to Byron Bay.

5 April 2017

We took turns driving. We stopped just once to have something to eat along the way. We were on the motorway pretty much the whole time. We arrived at Coffs Harbour around 22. My dad and cousin had already arrived and had dinner. We drove straight to their hotel. My dad was sitting on the balcony and he saw us driving in. We briefly caught up on our day with a cup of tea. We used their bathroom to get ready for bed. Then we drove off to find a free parking spot. But it was hard to find a good and safe spot. Especially when you arrive in the dark at a new place, it's hard to get a feel of it. So we ended up parking at the car park of my dad's hotel. He had asked the manager and they were fine with it. We went to bed around midnight.
So I ended up buying 3 pieces. I had signed up with their newsletter which meant I would get a 15% discount on my first order. It applies for online orders. So the girl and her colleague were very helpful and let me order the stuff on their computer, with a pickup at the studio. It meant I got the discount. It was a good morning for me ☺️ We walked back to the hostel, sorted out our Australia numbers before walking to the bus stop. It was a sunny and warm day! We walked for about 25 min with our big bags in the sun. It was heavy. But we made it and the bus came round really quick. We were gonna pick up our rental camper van. It was a 45 min bus ride and then another 15 min walk to the pickup point. We finally made it around 13. We went over all the formalities and we drove off around 14.30. Off to Coffs Harbour, 540 km away!! This car is going to be our bed and our home for the next 40 nights.
Day 7 in Sydney. Last day. My dad and cousin had already left at 7 by train. I had one mission that day before leaving Sydney: to go and get jewellery by a local designer. I wrote to her 5 days ago but no reply. I thought I would go to her studio and see if it was possible to look at her pieces. It said online that an appointment was necessary, which I had tried to make, but I never got an answer back. So I decided to go over anyway and see what happens. I rang the doorbell. A woman answered the speaker phone. I explained that I've written them before and that I wanted to see her pieces. She said I could come on up so she could explain the layout here cos they're not a shop, a studio. The setup of the studio and all the other crafty studios was pretty cool. I felt the creative vibe in there. I told the girl that it was my last day in Sydney. The designer herself wasn't in, but she showed me some pieces from their stock. My god I was in heaven!! I found it hard to choose.

4 April 2017

The barmaid asked if I was the designed driver. I thought she meant it as a joke so I replied 'Yes I am'. Turns out I got my soft drink for free then. Sweet! We took the 16.15 train back to Sydney. Everyone slept on the way back apart from me. I wrote my blog instead. We all wanted a long hot shower after today. We met up again later in the evening in search of a restaurant. We went to Town Hall area first, because my dad and I wanted to go up Sydney Eye Tower. We arrived 7 minutes after closing time. It has surprised all of us that after 21 it's quite impossible to find a restaurant that still serves food. So we turned towards Domino's at Kings Cross. At one point when we were eating they turned the lights off so we were eating in the dark 😅. The bars and pubs around our hostel in Kings Cross close early too, so we had some drinks in the hotel room. After that we went to sleep.
Every time we stopped to get them off, a few more brave ones would try and wiggle their way into your shoe. They were relentless! I panicked a bit, there were just so many. Apparently they come out after lots of rain has fallen. We decided not to stop for lunch and just keep walking. We didn't wanna become the leeches' lunch. We made our way back up to the Cliff Walk. We had to go up a lot of stairs but it was an amazing trail. The path was flanked by beautiful plants and trees and waterfalls. Views on the valley and the surrounding mountains topped off the walk. The sun was out for this steep part of the trail. At the top the weather changed. The valley became misty and cloudy and eventually it started raining. We had our lunch on the go. No more views of the valley. It was one big white spot. We got really lucky in the morning. We had one drink in a pub in Katoomba before heading back to Sydney. All the lads were drinking beer and I just wanted a soft drink.
These steps are carved in the cliffs. Someone had to face these cliffs and carve these steps.😱😱 In some places the passageway was very narrow, only one person at a time could go up or down. I was impressed by the trail going down to the valley. It felt like I was part of the landscape. We were walking really closely to the cliffs and the edge the whole time. Every now and then we had to walk under cliff edges. We had views on the valley and the surrounding mountains going down. Once we reached the valley we chose the Federal Pass trail. We walked through the rainforest for 2 hours. The sounds of the birds were hypnotising. My dad compared it to the scanning sound at the till at a supermarket. ☺️ It was a beautiful walk through the rainforest. A fallen tree would block our path every now and then. At some point it started raining. Only then we notice that leeches were trying to get into our shoes. There were loads and loads of leeches!
Day 6 in Sydney. Early morning. Up at 6. We met up at my dad's hotel and took the train to Central. From there we took another train to Katoomba, a small city that serves as the gateway to the Blue Mountains. I slept most of the way on the train. We arrived in Katoomba around 9.20. I love the name Katoomba. Just say it out loud and you'll get why. We walked to which seemed the end of the world. You walk from an urbanised area, down the road and all of a sudden there's this huge valley. I was mesmerised. We got lucky with the weather: it was sunny with a few clouds. It enhances the worldly feeling I got of the place. The clouds added more depth and drama to this lush green valley. Beautiful colours everywhere I look. We saw the famous 3 sisters. The mountains have this warm reddish-brown colour. We started to walk down towards the valley via the Giant Steps.

3 April 2017

The views from that funky cosy bar were just breathtaking. We stayed there for a while, till after sunset. We saw the city coming to live at night. I felt a bit out of place in this bar: everyone was nicely dressed up, I was in my hiking boots and rain coat. But we had a great time up there. It's cool to share this with my dad and cousin. From up there we saw the Luna Park, Darling Harbour, Goat Island and the Harbour Bridge. Amazing. Definitely worth the price of the drinks 😉. From there we walked back to Circular Quay and had dinner in the new Gateway Sydney area. The next day we were gonna go to the Blue Mountains in Katoomba. So we went to the supermarket to stock up on some food for the next day. We decided to have an early night. I was in bed at 22.
We were drawn to music coming out from under a bridge. It's hard to explain this artwork without experiencing it yourself. But I'll give it go. It's audiovisual art from Aboriginal woman. It plays short tracks of inspirational songs and mix them together. Angel like voices blaring through different sound speakers, alternating. Even though they're all fragments, the whole thing sounds like one song. It was a spiritual experience, I felt privileged to hear it for myself. I felt calm and in a meditative state. We all set down and soon we all fell asleep. We escaped some serious rain. We could see it lashing down beside the walls of this bridge. When we woke up, we felt rejuvenated. We walked up to Millers Point and had a stunning view on the Harbour Bridge and Goat Island. We discovered a wee bar up on top and decided to go there for a few drinks.
Day 5 in Sydney. We first went to Central Station to sort out train tickets for my dad and cousin. They're gonna take the train to Brisbane. Once that was organised we walked to Darling Harbour. The sun came out every now and then and it actually felt warm. The whole area is a lot to take in. Modern shiny buildings for entertainment surround public squares and gardens. There's a big variety of bars and restaurants. I love the way they use every bit of space for public use. Around the harbour the choice gets even more overwhelming. Cafes, bars, canteens... Three tall skyscrapers flank Darling Harbour. And more buildings are being developed. The Ribbon is going to be a luxurious hotel with retail space, built between 2 bridges. I didn't know where to look first. We bought ourselves lunch at Wynyard station in a deli. We then walked all the way to Millers Point.

2 April 2017

Funny to realise this building was once the centre of a city. We took the train back to Circular Quay and walked to this pub 'Lord Nelson' in the Rocks area. We were all really hungry and we got some pub grub. I had fish and chips with a salad and it tasted amazingly. We stayed for a few drinks and some more Irish friends joined us during the evening. It was a fun evening. The bell dinged in the pub. Last round. We all had one more and then we were 'kicked' out around 22. We took a taxi back to the hostel. It was raining cats and dogs and dingos. That's how bad it was. We went to bed. Hoping we would wake up in sunny Sydney.
The sun was out for a little while. We walked over to the Luna Park and got some amazing views on the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It started lashing down so we waited around for a bit. They play this 50's type of music up there, very cheerful and appropriate for the setting. We took the bus to Wynyard Station and bought ourselves lunch. From there on we took the train to Central so we could show them around the Chippendale area. We walked around Spice alley. We were all impressed by this huge green building and explored all the public areas in and around. We went into the real estate agency and looked at the model of the whole area. Very very cool to see. I learnt that the big awning at the top consists of mirrors that reflect sunlight from the roof top mirrors of the opposite building, so that the apartments in the tallest tower get sunlight. Amazing! We then walked to Town Hall area. The town hall is a beautiful building but it gets lost amongst all the skyscrapers.
Day 4 in Sydney. The hostel didn't allow for my dad and cousin to come and join us for breakfast in the kitchen so unfortunately we couldn't eat together. He had bought us some delicious bread rolls from a genuine bakery, a real treat for us backpackers. We met them back at their hotel and we headed into the centre. We took the train to Circular Quay. It started to pour as we arrived. We bought some emergency ponchos. We saw the Opera House during the day. To be fair, with the clouds and the rain it just seems a bit less impressive. We then walked up to the Rocks to browse around the markets. On Sunday local artists sell their crafts. We all got lured into buying souvenirs. 😊 From there we walked across the Harbour Bridge. The weather cleared up and we saw the sun shining on the Opera House. Stunning views again. Once we reached the other side we went for a drink in Kirribilli.

1 April 2017

Paddy had a Domino's pizza and I had our dinner from the night before. We waited around our hostel till my dad and cousin arrived. I finally got that text: they are here!! We walked over to their hotel. I asked the receptionist to phone their room. I saw a guy on the monitor behind the reception running, I knew that was my dad. I was so happy to see him! I haven't seen him in 2,5 months. It was crazy to realise he and my cousin were in Australia. My cousin Jochen was in the room. We went up to say hello. We talked like we hadn't talked to each other in months. After a Domino's pizza for them, we took them to the Opera House. We felt they had to see it at nighttime. The forecast for the next few days was rain. They had to see it when it was dry. We had a drink at the Opera House and then headed back to the hostel. My cousin went to bed and the 3 of us walked to a square with a big Coca-Cola sign. After that we all went to bed.
I wanted to eat and drink in every little bar and cafe just to soak up the atmosphere. We walked to Hyde Park via George Street to take the bus to Coogee. Coogee is a beach town and from there we would walk to Bondi Beach. It's a 6km walk along the coastline. The cliffs are rough and have incredible colours. The Pacific Ocean was rough, big waves came crashing in into the beaches. There were lots of people on the beach. It was a good day and it was weekend. Because of a storm in June 2016, some of the path next to the coastline was damaged and we had to walk through Waverley cementary. It is incredibly huge and I was overwhelmed. Very impressive graves to be found there. When we arrived at Bondi beach, the sun was nearly going down. Bondi beach is nice but I wasn't wooed. I preferred Coogee beach. We sat down for a bit and then made our way back on the bus to Kings Cross. The bus stop at Bondi beach was cramped so we walked on to the previous stop and we comfortably got a seat.
Day 3 in Sydney. We made ourselves some delicious eggs for breakfast. Today was going to be an exciting day. My dad and cousin were coming over to visit us!! I was counting down the whole day: x hours left till they land, now only y hours left until they land... We took the train to Central and started to walk towards the Glebe Market. This local market is only on on Saturdays. We browsed around the little stalls and I bought myself a funky up cycled jeans jacket. On the way back to Central we explored the Chippendale area. A huge skyscraper covered in plants got my attention. The whole block there is pretty stunning, lots of quirky new buildings with bars and cafes. We sat in the sun and had some lunch. This area is a bit off the main road and it felt like we discovered a gem. My architectural heart was beating faster: beautiful buildings and cleverly designed public spaces. I felt a strange sense of freedom and peace in such a big and crowded city.

31 March 2017

We cooked ourselves a nice meal in the hostel before going out that night with a friend we hadn't seen in 9 years! This friend is Irish but has been living in Sydney for 4 years so he knows it well. He took us to some cool spots and bars in King's Cross and then around Town Hall area. We had a fun night catching up. He also gave us some useful tips on things to do in Sydney. We took the last subway back to the hostel. We were hungry so we had some food before going to bed around 2.30.
There was a Belgian chocolate shop and I couldn't resist going in. I had to buy some chocolate. It was so so good. We climbed up the stairs to go up on the Harbour Bridge. This bridge is an amazing landmark for the city. And it treats whomever crosses it to amazing views on another landmark: the Opera House. When the sun touches the roof of the Opera House, the building lights up and just pops out. It's amazing to see. We crossed the bridge all the way to Kirribilli and soaked up more views on the Opera House, walking as far to the Luna Park. It felt like time has stood still in the park. We must have taken hundreds of photos, we just couldn't get enough of the view. We walked back to the hostel, over the bridge again and through another part of the Royal Botanic Gardens. They have so many different areas in there, displaying lots of exotic trees and plants. A funky pavilion was in the middle of the park.
Day 2 in Sydney. We finally went to the supermarket for groceries. It was a sunny but windy day. We bought a lot of stuff. Rule #1 never go shopping when you're hungry. We broke that rule that day. We had an amazing day exploring Sydney. We walked around the Royal Botanic Gardens to get some great daytime views from the Opera House. We walked all the way out to Mrs Macquarie's Chair. It's an amazing spot to see the Opera House from. We then walked all around Farm Cove to the Government House. It's surreal to see such a beautiful historical building in the heart of Sydney with amazing gardens and visually arresting views on the harbour. In the background you could see all the skyscrapers. The Gardens are impressive as well. Worth a stroll. From there we walked around Circular Quay to the area called 'The Rocks'. There's a bit of an European vibe going on there, lots of neat brick buildings and quirky little bars and shops. It felt like Amsterdam and Edinburgh were mixed together.

30 March 2017

Day 1 in Sydney. It started of as a great day: we got free breakfast at the hostel at 9. PANCAKES! They were really good. It was very handy we got breakfast cos we had no food since we've flown in from NZ. So we needed to go grocery shopping. But it had started to rain. And it never stopped for pretty much the whole day. We sorted out our Medicare card on the way to the supermarket, a reciprocal health care agreement between Belgium and Australia. But we never made it to the big supermarket for a big shopping. The Medicare thing took up so much time. So in the evening we just had Thai food in a restaurant instead. Delicious! We got pretty wet that day. The streets were quite flooded. It's supposedly the aftermath from cyclone Debbie. It was all over the news.

29 March 2017

Last morning in NZ. We did washing and we had an extensive breakfast. We packed up all of our stuff. Jordan dropped us off at the airport around 13. It was raining. We checked in, went through security and then found loads of ways to spend our last NZ dollars 😊. We treated ourselves to lunch and bought souvenirs. Our flight left around 16.15. It was a 3 hour flight to Sydney. I watched 'Girl on the train'. Very good movie. When we arrived in Sydney, we had to say goodbye to a friend. We then figured out a way to get to the city centre: the information was hard to find, even for such a big airport. We took the train. We dumped all of our stuff at the hostel, changed into shorts, cos it was roasting, and then walked to the Opera House. The whole area around the Opera House is just stunning: cosy bars and restaurants, amazing views on the harbour and the Harbour Bridge. The Opera House at night is beautifully lit up. Visually arresting! We walked back to the hostel and went to bed.

28 March 2017

We arrived in Auckland around 18.30. We stayed around the Stray office for some free pizza and drinks. In return they wanted our feedback on their app and website. Around 20 we made our way to Kohimarama beach, where our NZ adventure began and this time where it would end. We were staying once more with this lovely Irish family. They even picked us up at the bus stop. We had a lovely salad for dinner and we chatted the whole night about our adventure and theirs. It felt really nice to come home to a home. I was excited to share our stories with them. They always have made us feel very welcome. It felt like we had never left. Those 2 months of travelling around NZ just had flown by. We had a shower before heading to bed in a comfortable double bed. During the night it rained heavily.
We were up at 6. The bus left Wellington at 6.45 am. It was windy. I slept a lot on the bus in the morning. We stopped a few times along the way for toilet/coffee breaks. We made ourselves pancakes the night before in the hostel for breakfast and snacking. We also had a 30 min lunch break in Taupo. I got myself a ham, cheese and pineapple toastie. The weather actually cleared up and we had some sunshine. The scenery is just incredibly beautiful. It's a lot greener than on the South Island but I think this is due to the rain they had in the past few weeks. I'll never get tired of looking at the mountains. We saw a lot of Hobbinton lookalike valleys. So pretty! I had my playlist playing on the bus for about 2 hours. I knew there were a few Belgians on the bus, but I don't think they knew I was one. Until one particular song came on. BANAAN. All their heads including the Dutch people turned my way. I turned red and couldn't stop laughing. It's a carnival type of song. Ridiculous 😂.

27 March 2017

We also needed a good night because the next morning we were facing a 11 hour bus ride from Wellington to Auckland. We checked into the hostel and soon discovered it's not what we were hoping for. The place was an absolute shithole. I compared the kitchen to the toilet. It was just as disgusting. One fork for 15 people, cupboards that were full of sh** and stuff leaking out of it. No glasses. And messy everywhere you looked. Greasy. Dirty. Possibly the worst hostel in NZ. Our room wasn't nice either. Thin mattress with stains on the sheets. Dirty carpet. Faint light. One plug in the whole room which was supposed to be shared by 3 people. The owners clearly have given up. We made our dinner as quick as we could and got the hell out of the hostel. No quiet night for us. We met up with friends in the Irish pub and had a great night out. Despite the wind and the rain. And that hostel.
Yep. We had another snorer, a big guy. I knew it when he walked into the room. I pushed his mattress once and the level of noise was more manageable after it. I didn't sleep great but I had some sleep. We had free breakfast at the hostel: bacon and eggs. An all-in travel group had their last day and they had food to spare, so we were more than welcome to eat with them. Nice! We walked one last time to the harbour to look out on the hills and the sea. Then we waited around to take the ferry back to Wellington. We walked to the terminal building around 13. And the ferry took off at 14.10. We watched the movie on the boat: My big fat Greek wedding 2. Nice enough to kill the time. The boat ride wasn't that smooth, lots of waves. I focussed on the horizon so I couldn't become sick. We arrived in grey Wellington at 18.30. We had booked a double room in the hostel so I was looking forward to a nice relaxing night so I could catch up with some sleep after 3 horrible nights.

26 March 2017

We watched the ferry sailing past. Paddy just realised it would be our last hike in NZ. That was a scary thought. After taking a break at the Snout for about 45 min we started walking back. In fact the sun was coming out! We both were starting to get really hungry. We rushed back as fast as we could. One of my favourite birds in NZ is the fantail. It's a curious bird, often comes close to see what you're all about and flies swiftly and in a quirky way, showing off its fan. It makes a squeaky noise, like a squeaky dog toy. I absolutely adore them. I got to see loads again on this hike. We want back to the hostel to get money and went to the chippy. After the chips, I had to take a nap. It felt amazing to nap. I needed it and I didn't even know how much I needed it until that night. We played some cards with other guests before heading to bed: American girl and a Dutch guy.
It felt like I was playing tag: poking one guy so he would be quiet and then get up again to poke the other one. Now you're it! This game lasted pretty much the whole night, till about 6 am. They both checked out earlier. I had a bit of sleep after that. Despite all of this, we tried to make the most of our time in Picton. It was our last full day there. We had breakfast and got ready to do the Snout track. It was drizzling outside but there were supposed to be dry spells in the afternoon. We started walking in the rain and about halfway it stopped raining. It was still really cloudy and misty. Grey was the dominate colour of the morning. It was a tough walk for me. I had no energy due to the lack of sleep. It was steep at certain parts and because of the rain from the days before, the muddy path was real slippery. But we made it. The views were amazing, the clouds added some mystery to the whole scene.
Second worst night of sleep. Numero 1 was still that night in Nelson. But this night is a fair runner up. First one guy was snoring like a real tiger. He was on the top bunk bed opposite of me and I thought I could feel my bed shaking. No music or earplugs could mute or even muffle the sound of his drilling. I became desperate and I just got up and shook his mattress. It woke him up and I told him he was snoring really badly and I had no other choice. He stopped for a little while. But then guy number 2 walked in the room and took over. My god. Me and another girl couldn't sleep at all. We were trying to joke about it but we were both super tired. It was more nervous laughter cos we both knew we were in for a horrible night. Guy number 2 was on top of the other girl and she tried to kick him but it had no effect. Once again, I got up and lifted his mattress. He stopped snoring for 30 seconds. But luckily guy number 1 stepped in. Can't have these people sleep for one minute!

25 March 2017

We woke up to another grey day. After breakfast we decided to go out for a walk anyway. We walked to Bob's Bay, a little beach a 30 min walk from the centre. It was nice but I'm sure it looks more like paradise when the sun is out. We went back to the hostel to get some lunch. We wanted to walk up the hilltop for views over Picton but we needed to fuel up before it. In the afternoon we started walking up the hilltop. It was drizzling a bit but it was a steep climb so I got warm really quick. The view from the top was pretty impressive. Lots of clouds unfortunately but still really nice. It's probably really breathtaking when the sun is out, views that last forever. In the evening we cooked and watched a movie.: Indiana Jones and the raiders of the lost ark. Classic.

24 March 2017

Early start. The bus was taking us from Christchurch to Picton at 7.30. One friend especially got up to say goodbye to us. She's so sweet! It was a long day on the bus. We stopped a few times to take breaks and stretch the legs. We stopped as well to look at some beautiful landscapes, like at the Nelson lakes. We had a familiar bus driver: Dory. It was actually funny having him again: no loose ends, it's like a circle. We had a lunch break at Murchison and I got an amazing bagel. We arrived in Picton at 15.30. We walked around Picton centre to explore. We went to bed around 21.30. The bus journey and the short night before it made it necessary.

23 March 2017

We had a relaxing morning. I didn't get up till 10. I facetimed with my sister, it has been a long time since I've spoken to her, so it was really nice to see her. At lunchtime we met up with 2 friends. We grabbed lunch and then explored Christchurch. We browsed around the shops in the 'temporary' shopping mall, which consists of shipping containers. It's a very cool spot. It was the last day in NZ for these friends so we shopped around for some souvenirs. It was a grey day and windy so we headed back to the hostel to get some jumpers. After that we went out for a coffee. There's evidence to be found everywhere of the consequences of the earthquake: lots of construction, ruins of churches... In the evening we watched a movie together and we cooked together. It was very difficult to say goodbye. We know we will see each other again, but we don't know when. We played our favourite card game before heading to bed.

22 March 2017

And oh yes, they were looking at a humpback whale. Just when Paddy and I looked over, this huge humpback whale jumped out of the water, a full body breach. The people on our boat who happened to look over at the right time as well and were sitting at the right side, just like us, all screamed woooooooooohhh. I screamed too. It was INCREDIBLE!!!! Like in documentaries. I felt so so happy, it was an amazing morning, filled with special moments. When we got back to the harbour, the next tour group was waiting to board. They were clearly scanning our faces to see if we saw whales. I felt blessed, it was an amazing day. We explored Kaikoura centre and got some souvenirs. I got my early birthday present: a jade necklace. We drove back to Christchurch and it started raining. We got back around 16. Paddy dropped the rental car of, while I did some washing. We watched a movie that night with 2 friends: Fantastic beasts and where to find them. Really interesting movie.
We saw more of his back, and then he dove down, bringing his incredible tail up out of the water. It was such a magical moment, I squeezed Paddy's arm shouting out how beautiful this moment was. We got to witness something magical. My god, it was the best we could hope for. On the way back we saw some beautiful Dusky dolphins. People were swimming with them in the water. They're very playful, jumping around the boat. We saw a sea lion devouring an octopus. He looked so content after it, seemingly rubbing his tummy. We then got to see the rare and endangered Hector dolphins. They're quick swimmers and shy. We saw them briefly. Paddy pointed out the 2 airplanes circling above something a few 100 metres away from our boat. It probably means that they see something in the water.
After trying to find a specific sperm whale, they found it. They knew it was making its way to the surface, apparently they become quiet then. They also knew on which side of the boat it would come up. We all moved to the left side of the boat. I say sprays of water. We found Tutu, a male sperm whale. My god he was beautiful! They spray every 20 seconds. We saw its back with the blubber. This layer of fat keeps them warm in this cold see. They come to surface for about 6-10 minutes and stay under for 45-60 min. We were really close to him, 10 metres away. He was an amazing creature. Kaikoura has got a massive underground canyon of 1 km deep, where they feed. I learned a lot about these whales. The guide also knew when they were gonna make they're way back down again. There are signs. They need 1 min at the surface for every 6 mins under water. Tutu was making its way down, taking one last breath.
I was looking forward to this day for a long time! We got up at 7.30 and had some breakfast and made some lunch. We were gonna go whale watching! 🐳 I was super excited! It was a cloudy but warm day. We left around 9 from the whale watching centre to go to the harbour. We boarded a vessel especially built for the whale watching purpose. It was a rough boat ride, I kept my eyes pierced at the horizon. Mind over matter thing: I'll not get sea sick. And I didn't. I even had my lunch while we were cruising over the water 😄 My god, it was the perfect day. The company was really professional. They don't use echo location to spot the whales because it can disorientate them and then they get confused and could end up on land. They just use an underwater microphone. Kaikoura is home to semi residential sperm whales. So after years of spotting them, they know which places to go to.

21 March 2017

The sun had set by the time we reached the car at 19.30. We were so happy to be able to drive back to our hostel. We were incredibly hungry. Since we've had the pleasure of enjoying people's kindness on many occasions hitch hiking, we decided to pick up a girl that was trying to get a lift. We dropped her of in the centre of Kaikoura. We chatted for nearly a good hour in the car, about her crazy adventures. She's a brave young woman, hitch hiking on her own for 2,5 years across 34 countries. Making only money by busking. I felt inspired. We had an amazing dinner, chicken with home made chips and carrots. I had a shower before heading to bed. We were so knackered. A late night before and little sleep combined with a long day and walking.
Eventhough we were both knackered, we did the Kaikoura Peninsula walk. The mudstone and the limestone rocks beside the sea make it easy to walk around the cliffs and get real close to sea lions. We caught one sleeping. They are so adorable. We started to walk up the cliffs around 16.45. Interesting to read what kind of creatures hide in between the rocks. Maōri people used to have stepped terraces or pa on this peninsula. It was an easy walk with amazing views on the mountains surrounding Kaikoura and the Tasman Sea. The coastline is so beautiful, with the green moss colours mixed with the rocks and sand embraced by the cliffs. It was a cloudy day with some sunshine. It wasn't cold at all. Bigger clouds started to roll in towards the evening. Tiredness also kicked in. We heard and saw lots of birds along the way. We walked through the harbour, crossed the peninsula in the middle and had to walk a long way back along the water to make it to our car.
Early morning, ouch! 7.15 am. But last night was so much fun, it was worth it. We rented a car to drive to Kaikoura. We picked it up at 9 in the morning. We first stopped at the Spaceships office to inquire about a car for Australia. Then we hit the road to Kaikoura. The scenery driving into Kaikoura is, yet again, breathtaking. The high mountains overlooking the Tasman sea make me feel so small. Because of the earthquake in November 2016, some roads were still closed and we had to take some detours, mostly bridges were closed off. Some other roads were only one way, so we had to wait in front of lights. The train tracks were is still closed, they're repairing it. Apart from that, Kaikoura was just another wee town. Some of the awning in the centre had to be supported by studs. I assume it's because of the earthquake. We were only there for one day, so we had to make the most of it.

20 March 2017

We got up at 7. We had breakfast and left Mt Cook village at 8. We stopped on the way to Christchurch with views on Mt Cook and Mt Tasman and the clear blue lake, lake Pukaki. We stopped once more at a different lake, lake Tekapo. There's a church built from rocks that were found around the lake. We walked into the church which had amazing views on the lake. There's a statue of a dog that's a tribute to sheep dogs. For lunch we stopped in a little village called Geraldine. I had an amazing grilled chicken salad with pears and walnut. When we arrived in Christchurch, the sun came out. We walked around to explore. There's still a lot of visible damage from the earthquake which struck the city 5 years ago. There's a lot of new buildings being built, road works... . We met up with friends later that evening. We had to say goodbye to one of them. We had to once again make it a memorable night. And it turned out to be exactly that. I went to bed around 2 am.

19 March 2017

The whole valley was pretty magical. Some clouds were coming in over the mountain but they didn't seem to get over the mountains. The clouds just dissipated over the top. By the time we were walking back to our hostel the wind had picked up. It must start in the late afternoon. It started to get a bit more cloudy too. It was still nice and warm tough. We used a bit more wifi from the YHA to organise some stuff. After that I had a nice hot shower. We cooked dinner around 18 and took it easy for the rest of the night. We played cards. We wanted to go star gazing but there were far too many clouds now. We had a new girl in our dorm. She was really nice and we had some laughs. We went to bed around midnight.
Third day in Mt Cook village. We had scrambled eggs for breakfast. We took it slowly that morning. We went over to the YHA to make us of their free wifi to arrange some stuff. After that we prepared ourselves for another walk in the Hooker Valley, we wanted to see it in this daylight. We left around 11.50 and had to walk 2 km to the entrance of the valley. It looked so different in the sun. It was absolutely breathtaking! I'm so glad we came back. We took our time walking the trail, it was sunny and we weren't in a rush. All the mountains surrounding the valley were so high and different. Mt Sefton was covered in snow and glaciers, the one opposite it was green. Mt Cook's summit was also covered in snow. The water of the river is grey with a cloud of milky white. Mueller lake has a similar grey colour. We had to pass 3 swing bridges before getting to the Hooker lake. There were ice bergs in the lake.

18 March 2017

Our second day in Mt Cook village. The people in the room above us decided to party in their room till 3. They also started packing and made more noise at 7.30. So it wasn't a good night for sleeping but we were gonna take it easy anyway. I stayed in bed till 10. We made an omelette for breakfast and pancakes for lunch. It started off as a grey day and later in the afternoon the sun came out. We explored the village and the Hermitage hotel. We saw a falcon and loads of rabbits. Somewhere in between lunch and dinner, I had a nap. We cooked our dinner and played cards in the evening. My legs could finally recover after all the walking.

17 March 2017

The view on Mt Cook with lake Pukaki was just so amazing. We pulled over once to take a photo. We arrived at our hostel and went straight back out so we could do the Hooker Valley walk. We started walking around 17.15 and finished at 19.40. It was very very windy in the valley. We walked really fast to the lake in front of the Hooker Glacier, the Hooker Lake, which was the end of this trail. We didn't stop there too long cos it was too windy up there. The wind made it a difficult hike but also I was very stiff after Ben Lomond. I didn't really soak in the views along the way. Because of all the bus problems, we were offered dinner that night. It was Saint Patrick's Day so we all wore green. The bar was decorated with garments. My fish and chips with salad tasted amazing. So so good. We had a few drinks to toast to St Patrick and went to bed just before midnight.
Early morning, 7.40. We were in bed by 1.30 am. Today was mostly about getting to Mt Cook so I was hoping to catch up with sleep on the bus. We stopped once in Cromwell for coffee and a toilet break. After that we stopped a few more times but not because we wanted to. The engine of our bus was overheated and the bus broke down just before the hilltop on the way to the Lindis pass. It's a bad place to break down, cars trying to overtake us, had to be very careful for traffic for the other side coming over the hill. We stopped in Twizel so the driver could see a mechanic. We were there for one hour. I had ice cream and a mince&cheese pie. The sun was out so it was all good. Twizel is a weird little town, all the shops are aimed towards the middle of town. So you're standing in a square surrounded by all the buildings. The bus couldn't be fixed but it was fine to drive on. On the way to mount Cook village we drove past this gorgeous unnaturally blue lake. Due to glacial flour.

16 March 2017

We started making our way down at 14. Going downhill is not to be underestimated, it's tough on the thighs and the knees. I met a Belgian on the way down, the 5th one so far! We chatted for a little while, mainly about the fact that not a lot of Belgians travel the world. I took my time going down because I was wearing trainers and they have little grip. I slipped a few times but always managed to stand on my feet, apart from 1 time. But I was fine. It was a very hot day and we talked a lot about the Fergburger and ice cream going down. We were gonna treat ourselves! We walked over to Fergburger straight away once we finished the hike. There's was no real queue so we had our food quite quickly. We were so hungry. Last Fergburger for a long time. We made arrangements for later that night with our friends before heading out the a travel agency to inquire about Australia. We met at 21.30 in a bar and enjoyed our last night in QT. We had to say goodbye to some friends. 😢
From the Sadle the views were just breathtaking. We had views on lake Wakatipu on one side and mountains tops and their rugged shape on the other side. We had another hour to go from there. And for sure it was the toughest one. It was noon, the sun was out so it was warm. It was the steepest part, with some actual rock climbing. For some parts I was going up on my hands and knees. The summit seemed so far away. When you think you're nearly there, there's always another hilltop around the corner. We finally made it up there and we got rewarded with some of the best views on this trip. My god. It felt so surreal. We patted each other on the shoulder. We definitely pushed each other to make it to the top. We had our lunch up there, in the sun. There was a tiny breeze. It's so peaceful at the summit, you can't hear any noise of the city. Everywhere you look it's just so beautiful.
We got up at 7.45 to have breakfast and make some lunch for our next big hike. We were gonna tackle Ben Lomond. We met with 2 friends and started walking around 9. Ben Lomond is a mountain in Queenstown with amazing views on Frankton and lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables and other mountains (Mt Aspiring,...). The first part in the forest is a very very steep climb. After 30 min the trail gets a bit easier and you gradually walk up. We stopped for a bit at the Gondola building to put shorts and sun cream on. It was getting warm. No cloud in the sky, perfect day for a hike. There was another short part through the forest before you get out in the open and have amazing views of the top of Ben Lomond. It looked so high! This was gonna be a tough hike. The walk to the Sadle, from where it's 1 hour left to the summit, was not too difficult but it was a long walk, gradually going up. The gravel trail with rocks and stones made it somewhat more difficult.

15 March 2017

We finished at 11.30 in Middlemarch. We did 32 km that day, 180 km in total. We had lunch there before we drove back to Clyde. I slept the first hour. When I woke up I enjoyed the scenery along the way. We didn't get to see the mountains because of the clouds and the rain the days before. Now the sun was out and it was just amazing. In Otago there seems to be a lot of diary farming, sheep and cattle. But because it's so dry out there (apart from the days we cycled there 😂) they need big sprinkler installations to keep the grass juicy and green for the animals. Everywhere else the brown and yellow colours dominate the landscape. We stopped in Omakau where Paddy enjoyed ice cream. The place looked so different with the sun out. In Clyde we waited around for the Intercity bus. We got back in QT around 18. We did some grocery shopping and cooked ourselves a nice meal: chicken wraps with veggies. We met up with some friends for a short while before heading to bed.
Day 5. Our last day. From Hyde to Middlemarch. I woke up at 7. I slept good in our cottage. It got a bit cold during the night, so I used the extra blanket. We got breakfast together with all the other guests. They served freshly baked bread. What a treat. Haven't eaten that in months! I also had tea and cereal with milk. We don't buy milk that often cos we don't want to transport it, so it's a real treat. The sunrise was just incredibly beautiful. The fog made it mystical and magical. We hopped in the car to drive back to Hyde. We started cycling around 9.30. The clouds and mist didn't go. It was a bit chilly and my feet were cold again. But at least it was dry. The landscape around us was somewhat hilly but the trail was flat. As we approached Middlemarch the sun was coming out. The last part of the trail was a bit of a boring ride: fields with sheep and cows. I think it's because we got spoiled with views the days before.

14 March 2017

The hotel had a pop up cafe with an honesty box. So you choose what food/ drink you want and you put the right amount of money in the box. I looked into the box, there was over 50$ in there. They have such great trust in people. It even gets better. The key for the car was in the exhaust pipe. So we left the bikes, unlocked, and drove off. I was the driver of the day. First time I drove on the left side of the road. It was a fun experience. It was about 20 min to our accommodation, which was back towards Ranfurly. Peter's farm was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains and fields. It was a beautiful old house with the original wall paper from the 19th century in the living room. We were staying in a mud brick cottage. Old and cute. We showered and then drove to the "centre" of Waipiata: a village with 1 bar and 7 houses. We had lunch there. Back at the farm we explored the domain and watched the sunset. We enjoyed the rest of our evening talking to other guests.
Day 4. From Ranfurly to Hyde. We got up around 8.15 and packed our big bag. It was another grey day. We had breakfast in the kitchen. After breakfast the sun came out. I was so happy!! We left Ranfurly around 10 and made our way to Hyde. The landscape during this trip was just incredible. I'm sure the weather played a big role in it too, but I just really enjoyed this trip. I had my music on, I was singing along, the sun was on my face. It was all good! I stopped a lot of times to take photos of the hills, the mountains behind them and the lush valleys. I enjoyed listening to the sound of the river running through the valley. We cycled through another tunnel. It was an amazing ride, couldn't get enough of the views. Our final stop for the day was Hyde, at the closed down Central Otago hotel. We were to leave our bikes there and choose one of 2 cars from the car park to drive to Waipiata, to Peter's farm where we were staying that night. We cycled 33 km that day.

13 March 2017

When we arrived to Ranfurly, we were both cold and frozen. Mostly the feet were freezing. We were welcomed by the super friendly host. We had our own little cabin again. I changed into something warm and we had some lunch before exploring the village. Looking at the houses and the buildings in Ranfurly it feels like as if time stood still over here. Very 70's. Even the cars looked old, almost classic. The communal kitchen at the camp site was small and cold. There was no heating. We made our dinner before 'rush hour'. We watched some tv in our cabin and went to bed early. We did 30 km that day.
Day 3. From Oturehua to Ranfurly. We enjoyed our complementary breakfast in our cottage. We initially wanted to wait till it stopped raining, but we went for it anyway. There was just a mild drizzle. We stopped along the way at the remainder of a gold mining village. It was off the trail and you had to walk through grassy fields. Feet were soaking after it but it was cool to see the village and the equipment that was left behind. The reason of why they had built this rail trail. It was another grey day. Along the way we passed bridges and old train station buildings. We were going uphill for half of the day. When we reached the highest point, we got excited. It was only downhill from now on. Despite the drizzly rain and the clouds, I still enjoyed the landscape. I thought about the people taking the train a hundred years ago, looking at the same scenery as I was. I love history and the idea that I'm travelling the same way as people did a long time ago.

12 March 2017

After our nap we went back for dinner. The fire was still going so I put my shoes in front of it. I had a lovely homemade lasagna and Paddy had fish and chips. We got a beer and wine after dinner. We were the last ones left in the pub. Liz and Graham, the owners, joined us with a drink and we chatted all night. It was such an amazing night, the rain brought us together, I'd like to think. My shoes were dry after being in front of the fire all night. After 11 pm we went to bed. I had another hot shower before bed. We cycled 39 km that day. In the rain.
I was paddling as hard as I could but I didn't seem to go anywhere. At some point I just hopped off the bike and started walking. The wind blew the rain into my face that strongly that it felt like hail. At a certain point I felt like crying. Why are we doing this? How much further do we have to go? My hands and feet were soaking wet and freezing. When we finally arrived to our hostel, I was shivering. Frozen to the bone. My feet felt like big ice blocks. I walked like a penguin. The host was very friendly and upgraded our dorm beds to a private honeymoon cottage. I took a hot shower. The best feeling ever. My frozen feet were coming back to life. We decided to have lunch at the local pub. They had a fire going, it was an amazing feeling. I put my coat in front of it, so it could dry. It felt like coming home, all cosy and warm. I had a lovely soup. We made dinner reservations and went back to get a nap. We were wrecked, fighting the forces of nature.
Day 2. From Omakau to Oturehua. I slept really good. Our big bags get transported every day to the next stop. We have to get them ready before 9 and the company picks them up. We had breakfast. It had started raining. And it never stopped. It rained the whole day. We weren't prepared for the rain at all. We decided to wear shorts cos trousers would get wet and sticky and they take longer to dry. I wrapped a bin bag around myself to cover up my shorts. We started cycling. It was all uphill from now. It was a tough day. We didn't stop to eat lunch. We wanted to get to the next stop as soon as possible. We cycled through 2 tunnels. They were pretty impressive. In the first tunnel you couldn't see the end. It was dark. We had a light on our bike, but it was weak. It was scary to cycle through, I thought I'd hit the wall. The last 8 km were through a valley, still going uphill. There was no shelter from hills or trees. The wind was very strong and nearly blew me off my bike.

11 March 2017

I've seen these biscuits before, called BIG Belgiums. I saw them again at the shop in Omakau. This time I was determined to find out what they are. I asked the lady behind the till. She explained to me that the recipe must have come from Belgium and that they must be a traditional biscuit there. She makes them herself and her granny too. I told her I'm from Belgium and I have no idea what they are. I wanted to buy a packet and try them but I told her I wasn't sure I would like them. Just as we were on our way out, she called me back in and opened up a packet for me. 'Try one' she said. When I smelled them, I knew what they were. It must be 'speculaas'. But they add jam inbetween the biscuit and put icing on top. Not the way we do it. All very redundant to me: speculaas is perfect on its own. They tasted like it but with more relish. I told her what I thought the equivalent is back home. I promised her I would try and send her a packet of the real deal, speculaas. She was excited.
The landscape we cycled past was really different from anything we've seen so far in NZ. It seemed like we were in a different country, with a 'cowboy western' feel to it. The hills were brown/ yellow tinted covered in rugged rocks. There weren't many plants, all the grass was very dry. The trail was mostly gravel road. It's funny to imagine there used to be train tracks. We're cycling a trail that was used a 100 years ago to transport people and goods. All because of the gold they found in these regions. This trail has a history. I can't help wondering what stories have happened years and years ago. The sun disappeared and made way for clouds. We stopped for a drink at Chatto Creek. It was chilly when you stopped cycling and sat down. Further down the road we had our sandwiches. Most of the trail was flat, only the last few km's were uphill. We arrived in Omakau at a camp site. We had cycled 47 km. We explored the small village of Omakau and made dinner. We went to bed early.
6.20 start of the day. We only packed stuff we would need for our 5 day cycling trip and left the rest behind in QT. I got us some breakfast at a bakery before heading off. We had to take the Intercity bus to Clyde. I slept the whole way there. Shebikeshebikes is the company we chose. We got our sadle fitted to our height, got the proper gear and off we went on the Otago Central Rail Trail. It was a cloudy day, not too warm but perfect for on the bike. We stopped in Clyde centre and I spotted a jeweller, Decort design. We had a nice chat. Apparently his ancestors were from Belgium. Then we properly took off on the trail. Day 1. From Clyde to Omakau. First 12 km from Clyde to Alexandra were beside the Clutha river, in between the trees. It was a hilly track but fun and easy. The sky cleared up, the sun even came out when we arrived in Alexandra. It's a sweet little town, with a big clock on the hills, a downgraded 'Hollywood' sign. We had a nice coffee there and a custard cruffin.

10 March 2017

We had a terrible night of sleep. But we didn't let it ruin our day. We did some washing and then met up with a friend. We treated ourselves to some Patagonia ice cream. My god, it was amazing! I had one scoop of Boysenberry&strawberry&apple sorbet. It was my lunch, it filled me up. We ate it on a bench overlooking the lake. It was a sunny day. We met up with some more friends in their garden and just enjoyed the sun and each other's company. For dinner Paddy and I went to a restaurant for once. He had a nice steak and I had some home made pizza (pizza again). We went to the shop to stock up on food for our big cycling trip coming up! We were gonna cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail for the next 5 days.

9 March 2017

Stewart Island made me think of Abel Tasman in a smaller version. I really like the island and I wish I had more time to explore the national park, to spot kiwis and blue penguins. We walked to Observation Rock, a lookout point over Ulva Island. Now that the sun was out, it was even more impressive. We were there at the same time as a tour group. The guide said some things that made sense: 'You can't describe to other people what Ulva island is like, it's a feeling. We need cities like QT and Rotorua but we need this bit of unspoiled nature.' There's absolutely nothing on Ulva Island, it's home to native birds and plants. I guess it's the first time I've actually seen unspoiled nature, usually something reveals human presence. It just felt magical. After that we walked to the terminal to take the ferry back to Bluff at 15.30. It was a smooth ride over. We got picked up by the bus and drove back to QT. We arrived at 20. We had Domino's pizza for dinner and met up with some friends.
It hurt, getting up so early, at 7am. But we were too eager to see kiwis so we wanted to grab every opportunity. They could come out to eat at either dusk, nightime or dawn. We walked back to the rugby pitch and waited. Still no luck. Then we walked to Halfmoon Bay, where people have spotted kiwis and blue penguins before. But no luck on either of them. We witnessed an amazing sunrise and went back to the hostel for breakfast. After that we walked around the island some more. We stopped at Deep Bay, Ringa Ringa beach and Wohler's monument which has a nice view on Ulva Island. We walked back to the 'centre' and had some fish and chips. They were amazing, best I've had in NZ so far. After our lovely lunch we went to a few souvenir shops and I bought a pin to extend my pin collection. I try to collect an unique pin of every country I visit and/or a special place. Stewart Island is a special place. After that the sun came out and we walked past the church to some golden beaches.

8 March 2017

The boat ride over to Stewart island was a bit bumpy. It took 1 hour. First impressions of the island were good. We checked into the hostel first and got a private double room at the same rate as a dorm bed, woohoo! We had dinner before exploring the island. We walked to Golden Bay and saw a beautiful sunset. The rest of the night was dominated by trying to spot kiwis. We were supposed to go to this rugby field so we did. We (and another 20 people, bloody hell) tried for a few hours. Some of these people were actual idiots in my opinion: smoking weed and drinking, "oh yeah the kiwis will just flock to you!" Another girl was my favourite: she and her mate were talking like they were in a bar. I asked them to please be quiet. She replied with: 'that's not necessary, they just come to you, run around your feet.' Which they didn't. I think there were too many people and too much noise, so unfortunately we didn't spot any kiwis. But to hear all the other birds chirping was impressive!!
After breakfast Mausii, myself and two nice Dutch people (this is not the start of a joke) went to the bird sanctuary to witness the feeding of the rare takahē birds. It started at 9.30. We got front row seats, meaning we got into their enclosure. We got some more info about the birds and about the little family of three that they were gonna feed. It's so cool to see the mum bird feeding the chick. It's about 3 months old and the beak still has to turn into the bright red colour. After they eat they wash their beak. It was a nice experience, worth getting up for earlier. We then walked back to the hostel. It was a sunny day and a bit warmer again. Paddy and I were heading to Stewart island. The bus left Te Anau at 11.40. We stopped along the way a few times: lake Manapouri, Invercargill and Bluff. After that we took the 5 pm ferry.

7 March 2017

We got picked up just at the end, the last 3 km. We got dropped off at the hostel. First things first: a nice long hot shower. Then dinner. We just had to cook some pasta and heat up the sauce we made the night before and eat. Some friends had arrived in Te Anua that day so we met them at our hostel. We had a relaxing night in the hostel, exchanging stories about the past few days.
It was really cold and windy at the summit, but on top of this it started raining. We couldn't see the landscape surrounding us. After nearly 3 hours of walking up, we didn't even get rewarded with amazing views. It sucked. We rushed to the hut, in search of some warmth. We were also very hungry. We finally made it and had our lunch. It was freezing cold in the hut too. Someone lit a fire, we gratefully sat in front of it and fell asleep. When we woke up, we felt warmer and decided to make our way down again. It had stopped raining and it was even sunny. We got to see the beautiful mountains and lakes around us. We dreaded going through the forest again but we had no other choice. It felt like an incredible long trail. The walk in the bushes was boring. We were all done by the end of it. We tried to get a ride back into town, which was another hours walk. But nobody picked us up. So we started walking anyway. This was maybe the hardest part, I had no strength in my legs left.
Early rise, 7 am. We wanted to walk a part of the Kepler Track, another 'Great Walk'. Around 8 we left the hostel and hitch hiked to the car park. We got a ride quite easily. We started walking and then realised we were dropped off at the wrong car park. We wanted to start at the control gates, which were 3,5h walk away from this car park. So we decided to hitch hike back, to the control gates. We tried for a long time and we were close to giving up. I said we would try one more car and if they wouldn't pull over we would walk the extra 3,5h. Luckily this last car pulled over and even dropped us off at the control gates. We started our proper walk at 9.30. The trail was going up most of the way through forests. We were walking towards the Luxmore hut at 1085 m height. It was a cold day that started off sunny. As soon as we finally reached the top, which was at the end of the bush line thankfully (couldn't look at more trees), big grey clouds rolled in.

6 March 2017

We left Gunn's Camp at 8.30. I slept really well that night. We hopped off at Te Anau to stay there for 2 nights. We checked into our really nice hostel. After that we explored the town of Te Anau. It's a small village but cute. We bought some postcards and stuff to make pancakes for lunch. They were just what we needed. After lunch we walked to the bird sanctuary. We saw the rare Takahē bird and lots of other birds. It was a very cloudy and windy day, not warm at all. But it doesn't affect the nice views on the lake and the mountains. NZ is just full with lakes and the views are always mind blowing, no matter what the weather is like. We had a relaxing night at the hostel, watching Avatar. It felt nice to do something normal, something you'd do at home.

5 March 2017

We arrived at the Milford Sound terminal at 14.45. Our boat would depart at 15. We cruised for about 2 hours through Milford Sound, up to the Tasman Sea where we turned back. It was cold on the upper deck but it was worth staying up there. The views on the sea cliffs, the hundreds of waterfalls were unforgettable. There were a lot of clouds, sometimes it was even spitting, but I feel like it was supposed to look like this, dark and grey. The whole scenery made me feel incredibly small. It was overwhelmingly beautiful. The road to Milford sound was built by the same people that dug the tunnel. These workers stayed in the Hollyford valley, at a place called Gunn's Camp. We would spend the night there. After the cruise we drove there. We stayed in the original huts they stayed in. Very cool. It was very cold up there and misty. We lit the fire in our hut so it would be warm before going to bed. We had a group BBQ and decided to go to bed early after the previous late night.
We got up at 7, our bus was to leave at 8 am. I was so tired! We were heading to Milford Sound, in Fiordland. Our driver was called Lego, she was awesome! It was colder again. We stopped along the way for some photos. The landscape was just incredibly beautiful. Clouds made the landscape look dramatic. We stopped briefly at the Mirror Lakes. The water was so clear, you could see the bottom. We drove through the Homer tunnel, over 1.200m long, completely hand dug. Cars can only go in one direction at a time. While we were waiting for our turn, we watched Kea birds going crazy on tourists' camper vans. They are not shy and apparently love rubber. Our driver put the 'Games of Thrones' theme song on while driving through the tunnel. Very funny. Out of the tunnel we gazed at this valley, surrounded by high mountains. These mountains had a lot of waterfalls running down them. This was because it had started raining in the valley. They're temporary waterfalls.

4 March 2017

It would be the last night that we would all be together. It had to be a memorable night and it turned out to be just that. We started by playing drinking games at a hostel. That was a lot of fun. We had to go and buy another bottle of wine in the middle of it ☺️ After that we headed out to different bars. We danced and laughed together. It was amazing. We ended the night by heading to Fergburger, again. But we had chips instead. They were terrible to be honest. I talked to some people in the queue, yes there was a queue at 2 am. I even spoke some Chinese 😂 We were in bed by 3 which wasn't a good idea for the next day...
We had a lazy morning in the hostel: breakfast and facetime with my parents. We decided to go to the arts&crafts market by the lake. We met up with a few people from our bus. It was a sunny day but cloudy and windy. A jumper was necessary. Temperatures have definitely dropped. There were some really nice things at this market but since we still have a lot of travelling ahead of us we didn't buy anything. We made the decision to climb up Queenstown hill. It's a very steep climb at the start, going up a housing estate. Also at the end it is a steep climb to the top. But it was worth it, the view from up there was just breathtaking. The mountains surrounding us, the lake and its amazing colours. It was really windy up there, chilly even. It took us 2,5 hours return. We then met up with all of the bus people to have another Fergburger. We all ate in silence at the lake, a sign of good food. We made arrangements for going out that night.

3 March 2017

We said goodbye to Wanaka and made our way to Queenstown. I thoroughly enjoyed Wanaka. It is a beautiful spot. We left around 9.45 am. The weather had changed. We drove 10 min outside of Wanaka to Puzzle World. We didn't go in. We waited in the cafeteria and played with some free puzzles. You could climb up Mt Iron, but I didn't fancy that either. After that we drove to Cromwell, a village famous for its fruit. We stopped at a fruit shop for over one hour, cos the bus had to be checked by a mechanic. We had ice cream there. After that we stopped one last time at the bridge where you can do the original bungy jump. We watched a video about its origin, and then watched some people jump. We arrived in QT at 16h. It was a long day. The drive from Wanaka to QT should only take one hour though. I didn't enjoy this day. I'd preferred to stay longer in Wanaka. We made tasty pancakes for dinner and explored QT's nightlife. I had a breakfast burger at Fergburger cos that's what you do in QT.

2 March 2017

There were so many waterfalls, too many to count. They made a rumbling noise. At one point we heard a cracking sound coming from the glacier. A piece of ice must have broken off. We had our lunch up there, soaking in the scenery. Then we walked back. It took us about 3,5 hours, it was a 10 km walk return. It was a warm day again. On the drive back I fell asleep in the car. Not even the bumpy dirt road could keep me up. It felt good to close my eyes. We stopped one more time on the way back to Wanaka at the Diamond Lake and walked up to the view point. Pretty sights everywhere you look. We treated ourselves to a drink at the Water Bar in Wanaka at happy hour. We then made a nice meal. After that I had to lie down for a nap, my eyes wouldn't stay open anymore. After my nap we watched the Hobbit before going to bed.
We got up around 7 am to see the sunrise over lake Wanaka. It was absolutely stunning: first the mountains changed colours, to a dark red and then the Wanaka tree lit up. The leaves turned into a gold colour. Only briefly, so if you didn't come in time, you'd miss it. We had breakfast and made some lunch cos we were going on a hike. Lucas picked us up at our hostel. We were heading to the Rob Roy Glacier. It was just over 1 hour's drive, the last part was a dirt road on which we had to cross lots of fords. The valley and the mountains at the start of the trail looked incredible, like I was looking at a painting. The water was turquoise blue. The trail itself wasn't that exciting, we were in the bush pretty much most of the time. It was very steep at certain parts. For me it was hard, I hadn't fully recovered from the walk up to Roys Peak. But it was worth it. The trail ended up at this valley overlooking the mountains and the glacier.

1 March 2017

First of March already! We've been away for 6 weeks now. We had a lie in and had a relaxing morning talking to our families over FaceTime. I had cornflakes with milk, haven't had that in ages! Little things like that make me happy! We did some washing and then headed to the beach. It wasn't as warm as the day before and there was a chilly breeze over the lake. I looked around the shops for a bit. It was nice to have a day off. Wanaka is the perfect town for unwinding. It doesn't have a big city feel to it, but there's enough to keep you busy. In the evening we cooked our dinner and then watched 'Kill Bill' in our hostel.

28 February 2017

It got quite warm in the afternoon, around 28 degrees. We were all tired, sweaty and running out of water. The knees and feet started to hurt. At the end of the day the best view was the car park. 😄 We heard about a vineyard a few km's from Roys Peak. We decided to go there. We started walking but eventually we hitch hiked the rest of the way and got a lift after the first thumb went up in the air. Two nice girls dropped us off at the entrance. It was still quite a walk up their incredibly long driveway. We just arrived in time for their final free wine tasting! We tried 6 different wines. They all tasted very good to me. We also drank lots of their water 😅 From the vineyard we walked back along the lake to the centre. We stopped at the 'Lone Tree Of Lake Wanaka', a tree in the lake. We had walked and climbed so much that day (called tramping in NZ) that most of us didn't fancy cooking. So we had a burger and chips at the Red Star. Later that night we met up to chat & play cards.
We had an early start. 7 am. We decided to go up Roys Peak, 6 km from Wanaka. We booked a taxi, there was 6 of us. She arrived late and we only started our climb at 9.20. It's a solid steep climb, the way up to Roys Peak. No flat parts inbetween. Luckily we started in the morning, it wasn't too warm yet and a few clouds covered up the sun. It was a very tough trail, we were only going up on a gravel path. Whenever I looked up I wasn't able to see what was coming ahead. I couldn't even see people at the top. But the view on lake Wanaka was worth the climb. The higher we got, the more we saw of the lake and its surroundings. I can't believe the beauty of NZ. Everywhere you look there's beautiful nature as far as you can see. Around 12.45 we reached the top, after 3,5 hours. We had our lunch and just soaked up the view and the sun. It was incredibly quiet up there. And no wind. Around 13.40 we started to make our way down. It took us about 2 hours to go down again.

27 February 2017

We stopped a few more times, including at a waterfall and at the Blue Pools. The Blue Pools was the last stop before Wanaka, thankfully. There was a bridge you could jump off, into the crystal clear blue water. A few people on our bus did so but they really stank afterwards. It filled the whole bus. The last hour passed incredibly slow 😬. It was an amazing spot, unfortunately the sand flies felt the same. There were so so many of them! I nearly wanted to jump into the water myself just to escape them! We stopped at some viewpoints at Lake Wanaka and Lake Hāwea before going into Wanaka. The views were just breathtaking! Wanaka has got a nice buzz to it. Lots of little bars and restaurants. We made some dinner in our nice hostel before meeting up with some people. We went out for a drink. The bar closed at 22.30.
We left around 9 am. Next stop was Wanaka! We made a load of stops along the way, cos the scenery is just too good to drive past. We stopped at Lake Matheson, close to Fox Glacier. The reflection of the mountains in the lake is supposed to be picture perfect. But we had some wind which rippled the lake so we didn't see the reflection. But the views on Mt Tasman and Mt Cook were brilliant. Next stop: Knights Point, with views on the sea and cliffs. But the sand flies made us jump back into the bus quite quickly. Third stop: Ship Creek. This beach was really beautiful. Lots of people try to find greenstone on the beach, a much desired natural stone in NZ. But it's forbidden to take stones from this beach. Lots of people didn't respect this though. Next stop was just to have lunch. I had some wedges.

26 February 2017

It was finally our turn! We were with another girl from England, Kasia. Great sights from the plane out on the mountains, like Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. The sun was going down so the colour of the water of the Tasman sea was incredible. Kasia wanted to jump first, so she did. Then Paddy jumped. It was weird to see him go. I really hoped that he was enjoying it. Then it was my turn. We moved forward to the door. It took a little while to get my legs right, in the so called 'banana shape''. I don't actually remember jumping out but I remember the free fall.
Just like it's supposed to be. We got the opportunity to crawl through a narrow cave. It was a tight squeeze and somewhat wet because of water flowing through it. A bit claustrophobic, which I called the blue birth canal. The helicopter picked us back up and let us enjoy a short scenic flight over the valley. He even did a little dive, which gave me a funny feeling in my stomach, a good kind of funny. We arrived back around 14.15 and we were scheduled for a pickup to skydive at 14.30. I hastily shoveled two slices of bread in my mouth. I've skydived once before so I know what to expect. I even slept on the drive over ☺️ We would jump above the Fox Glacier, which is on the opposite side of Franz Josef. We had to wait around for a while, they only took 3 people up at a time, there was 18 of us. This skydive is the second best skydive in the world. So I couldn't let this opportunity pass.
I woke up to the sound of helicopters. I jumped out of bed and woke up Paddy: helicopters!!! That means there's a great chance we could go up the glacier! Because the glacier has retreated so much, you can't walk up to it anymore. You need a helicopter to drop you off. They can only take off in perfect weather. We were scheduled for 9.45 am. We got the proper gear and hopped on the helicopter. It was a 3 min flight to the glacier. We had some incredible views from up there. Waaw. I've never landed on a glacier before, some experience. They flattened a little bit of ice so it could land. We were so lucky. It was a sunny day with a few clouds here and there. We walked around the glacier for about 3 hours. The colours of the ice ranges from transparent to white to a bright blue. In some places you could see air bubbles trapped underneath the ice. It's magical being up on a glacier, walking through crevices. In the sun the temperature were quite good, in between the ice it was crisp.

25 February 2017

Next stop: Franz Josef Glacier. It would be another long day on the bus. In the morning we stopped to see the Pancake Bowl rocks. The weather was sunny and a bit overcast. The rocks were incredibly beautiful: layers of limestone and mud, mud eroded faster and thus creating the pancakes effect. The ones in Raglan couldn't compare. We also spotted some dolphins out in the sea. Under the rocks were caves and the water rumbled. It sounded like a thunder storm. We ate the pancakes at the cafe opposite. They were delicious!! Around lunch time we stopped at Greymouth. It seemed like a sad place to be. We got some food and hopped back on the bus. We stopped some more times for toilet breaks and at a random farmer's market. The weather changed along the way from sunny to cloudy to even a bit of rain. When we arrived in Franz Josef, the mountains were totally covered in clouds. It didn't seem likely that we could do the helihike the next day. We had a relaxing night at the bar.

24 February 2017

We left Abel Tasman National Park around 9 am. Westport would be our next stop. It was gonna be a long day on the bus again. Our bus driver, Rolex, bought us some sweets and crisps for breakfast ☺️ Around lunch time we stopped at Murchison. Quiet little town. Famous for its apples. We bought a baguette for lunch. Fresh bread tastes so good. I miss that. The bus needed a jump start and lots of hands to push it. For some strange reason it wouldn't start. We got it up and running again and headed for a seal colony, not far from Wesport. We didn't get to see the seals as close as we did at Wharariki beach, but it's a sight that never gets old. We saw seal pups playing in the water again. The beaches up there are beautiful too, with the big rocks in the water. We did a last supermarket stop before checking into the hostel. It was a nice hostel. We chilled out for the rest of the night, making dinner and playing games.

23 February 2017

Ella and Yannis collected mussels for their dinner. We enjoyed the sun and just relaxed the whole day on this beautiful beach. We walked to the furthest part of the beach. Lucas had told us about seal pups. We watched 7 of them playing in the water, chasing fish, teasing each other and taking an interest in the people watching them. They were incredibly adorable. I've never seen a seal this close. The sand on this beach varies from a grey silver colour to a white thin powder. It was just amazing. Everywhere you looked it was just breathtaking. It felt like I was looking at a painting, just so surreal. Around 4 pm we decided to head back. On the way back we had a flat tire. But Yannis replaced it with the spare tire in no time. They kindly dropped us back off at our camp site. We gave them some garlic to go along with their mussels and some diesel money. It was a great day for all of us. We hugged and said goodbye and lots of thank you. We played some cards to top the day off.
Since there were no real seats for us, we lay on their bed or sat on their speaker. It was 100 km one way. We agreed to chuck in some money for diesel. It took us about 2 hours to get there. I just couldn't believe it: we found someone to take the 3 of us there and back. I got my wish. I worked hard and it paid off. Ella and Yannis were these two beautiful people. She's from France and he's from Mauritius. We took a scenic walk to the beach. When we arrived at the beach, all of our jaws dropped. It was far better than I had imagined. Astounding rock formations, cave-like and a lot of arches. Waves crashing into these rocks. It's by far the most beautiful beach I've ever seen. So scenic. We explored the caves and found a seal sleeping underneath one. It was sunny and warm so after we explored some caves we went in the sea for a dip. The water was cold but refreshing. We had brought some bread and Nutella and we all had some sandwiches for lunch.
7 am. Up to start hitchhiking! I made a sign last night. Our camp site is far away from this intersection where roads go to Wharariki beach so we had to walk there first. We started around 8.15. There was 3 of us: Paddy, Lucas and I. After 3 km we got a lift from our bus, which drove past. The driver, Happy, dropped us off at this important intersection. I got my sign out. It took about 10 min before the first car pulled over. It was a camper van with 2 young people in it. They were thinking of going to Takaka hill, which I also included on my sign, just to increase our chances. I persuaded them of the beauty of Wharariki beach. Since they had no real plans they were easily persuaded. There was one more condition: we had to be back later tonight, so no overnight stay at this beach. It was ok for them too. So we hopped on their camper van, the first car that pulled over. We left around 9.15! We were bloody lucky!!

22 February 2017

The 12 km walk back to the campsite had some amazing views on the beaches along the coast. We walked through the bush and every now and then you had a glimpse on either the water, the beaches or the islands. In my opinion we got the best of both worlds: to see the park and beaches from the kayak and to explore it all up close walking along the trail. Photos won't do it any justice, there were amazing sights all around us. I hopped once more into the water at Slipwell Bay. Just to cool myself off. It was a hot day. For dinner we pre booked a burger at 'The Fat Tui', renowned for its burgers. They were pretty unreal, worth the money. My burger had it all: bacon, an egg, special mustard sauce, salad, a burger. The reason for the pre booking is the up to one hour wait. We went around the camp site in search of people going to Wharariki beach the next day. I found some beautiful photos online a month ago and ever since then I've become obsessed by getting there. No luck 😔
7 am start. Beautiful sunrise. We were gonna go kayaking along the Abel Tasman coastline. We took off around 9am. We had the perfect weather. The water of the Tasman sea was so clear and shallow in certain parts. We saw fish, stingrays, star fish, crabs... We paddled to Adele island, named after a French explorer's wife, not the singer 😊. We stopped to have a drink and enjoy the songs of the birds on the island. My god, it's like being in paradise. We paddled further to see some seals and their pups. They made weird noises, calling for their mummy. So adorable, flapping about. Our final stop was the beach opposite Adele island, Watering Cove. The last bit we paddled backwards, as a challenge. We had an amazing lunch on the beach. After we ate, we splashed in the cool water of the sea. There were all these little filter organisms floating in the water. It felt like bits of plastic rubbing up on you. I had an amazing nap, in the sun, cos the heat made me sleepy.

21 February 2017

We decided not to walk to the beach, because it was quite far. We got some ice cream instead to cool us down. I couldn't stop thinking about another ring I saw in the shop so I made up my mind to go back and get it. So I walked back up the stairs to his workshop/ shop, for the third time. I bought that ring, but also another one that I noticed this time. I waited for the designer to come back from a meeting so he could sign my little bags again. I had a nice chat with him. He's such a cool person, so laid back. I love his view on jewellery. I was in heaven. I found what I was looking for. He insisted on refunding us for the first koru ring I bought. Such a nice gesture. He thanked me for going up the stairs ☺️ I want to have a workshop and a shop like that one day, that's my goal. We took the bus from Nelson to the start of the Abel Tasman national park. We were staying at this really nice camp site. We had a big group BBQ. I had so much food but it was all good.
Our last morning in Nelson. We visited a glass design shop. They had incredible pieces, neon lights woven in the glass. Nice lady that had an incredible positive vibe coming off her. I walked into the Lord of the rings ringmaker's shop again to try the ring on. They're nice but not my cup of tea, you have to be a huge fan to appreciate it. We then explored the Queens Gardens. It was a lovely little park in the middle of Nelson. They had eels in the park pound. There's a beach close to Nelson so we decided to walk to it. It was a hot day. On the way to it I stumbled upon a little sign 'Mike Ward jewels'. I had to go up the stairs. How could I have missed this the day before? His pieces were so beautiful, I left like I stepped into a fantasy world. His sketches were also on display. I was over the moon to finally have found my gem. I bought a tiny ring, a koru one. Easy for travelling I thought. He signed the little bag with a personal message on it. Such a nice detail.

20 February 2017

I don't like to complain on this blog but I had the worst night of sleep in my life. A girl in our room snored all night. No earplugs or even music helped. She snored breathing in but also breathing out. That was a first. Didn't know that was possible. It sounded like a pig working away with a chainsaw, laughing the whole way through it. I was so desperate that I slept in the sofa of the hostel. Anyway, we explored the crafty side of Nelson. I had a map of all the jewellers and I was determined to visit all of them to find a gem, to buy a worthwhile souvenir. We visited the shop of Jen Hansen, the designer of the famous Lord of the Rings' ring. We had a drink in a cafe beside the river. We walked some more and found some cool little spots, like a church converted to a pub. But no jewellery gems. In the evening we met up with some people and walked up a hill to the centre of NZ and watch the sunset over Nelson. We had a drink in a pub that sells locally brewed beers.

19 February 2017

Woke up at 6 am. Time to take the ferry and go to the South Island. We had to be at the ferry building at 7 to start the check-in procedure. The ferry should have left at 8, but we took off with some delay. The journey from Wellington to Picton would take 3,5 hours. I mostly played cards. The views along the way were beautiful. Lush green hills. Around lunchtime we arrived in Picton. From there we drove with the bus to Nelson. We stopped for some wine tasting at Marlborough region. The weather was sunny and warm. Back to shorts! We checked in into our (horrible) hostel and explored Nelson. It's a cute little town with lots of local breweries, art and crafts shops and little restaurants surrounded by hills. We walked to the harbour. It has nice views on the sea and the hills but there's no buzz there. We made ourselves some wraps for dinner and had an easy night in.

18 February 2017

The Gallipoli exhibition in the museum is really worth a visit. It's about WW2 and NZ and Māori fighting in it. I've never seen such a gripping exhibition. It entails the stories of soldiers during the war. They had huge mannequins of them. The level of detail on them was just extraordinary: hair on hands and legs, the sweat on their forehead, flies, their injuries, the expressive look in their eyes... I felt very little and silenced after it. I've noticed they commemorate the different wars all over NZ in a very respectful way. Every little village has memorials of some kind. They make sure they never forget their loses. We then walked to the Beehive, a strange but intriguing office building. After that we cooked our dinner in the hostel and had a relaxing night playing cards with some beautiful people.
Second day in Wellington. It was cloudy but dry. We had pancakes and a flat white for breakfast. First time we ate out for breakfast this trip. Despite the weather we decided to go up to Mount Victoria, a lookout point. We actually walked through the clouds. Up at the top, after all the hard climbing, we saw... nothing. Zero visibility ☺️ A bit further down we could see some of the city. The hills at Oriental Bay are covered with these beautiful terraced wooden houses. I loved walking past this. My architectural heart beat faster. We got lured into doing a tour of the St Gerard church. It was nice to see the monastery and the (limited) views on the city. I had some lovely wedges for lunch from the supermarket 'New World' before heading into the Te Papa museum. The entrance to this museum is free. It has a huge collection of animals, info on volcanoes, an earthquake simulator, Māori valuables, ... We saw the colossal squid, captured in Antartica.

17 February 2017

We had a full day just being on the bus, on the way to Wellington. I set next to a woman who had me up the whole time, talking. I was just so tired and I wanted to sleep. So I was happy to hop off the bus in Wellington. Not so happy about the weather: rain. It rained the whole afternoon. We decided to head out anyway and explore Windy Wellington. Cuba st is a neat place to be: arty farty shops, hipster cafes... It has a nice buzz. We treated ourselves to a freshly made pizza in one of the funky restaurants. Very delicious! In the evening we met up with the people from our bus and explored the evening markets. After that we ended up in a really nice bar with some great live jazz music. We had a fun night. And it stopped raining!

16 February 2017

A day of rest. I slept till 11am. Well deserved after we walked the Tongariro Crossing. We just took it easy that day. I had some breakfast. The weather is totally different today than the day before: it rained the whole day. We were so lucky yesterday. I wasn't as sore as I thought I would be. So I decided to go for a walk again. Just to stretch the legs. There's nothing to see or do in the National Park Village. After dinner we played some card games. I wrote my blog and just took it easy that night.

15 February 2017

After our break looking out on Taupo lake, the trail was pretty much just going downhill. That part reminded me of Scotland or Ireland. The last 3 km were tough. We were walking in the bush and there was no indication of how far along we were. Because of the trees you couldn't see the end of the trail. It seemed to go on forever and forever. Finally we were at the end of it. The trail was quite crowded the whole way. A lot of people must have been waiting days to go on it. I walked 26km spread over 8 hours. I enjoyed the trail. I took my time to appreciate the views. It was an amazing day. That night we had burgers for lunch and some wine. A hot shower topped it off. We played some cards and had a great time. We felt good about ourselves. We did the Tongariro Crossing!!!!!!
When you think you've reached the top, you still have a while to go. For me this was the hardest bit. At the start I was out of breath but I got better along the way to the top. I kept looking up at Mount Doom, trying to spot Paddy. The height of it is impressive. Once you've reached the highest point, you overlook the Red Crater and Mount Doom. The view was breathtaking. I tried to soak it up as much as I could. Slowly you start to make your way down again, on this sandy gravel path. I took it slowly cos it was very slippery. The view on 3 lakes going down was just insanely beautiful. It seemed like I was looking at a perfectly painted picture. The colour of the water was tropically blue. After we passed the lakes, we were spoiled with views on Taupo lake. I just stood there in auwh. We decided to sit down and just take it all in. There we met up with Paddy and Lucas and others.
We got up at 5.15 so we could leave the Blue Duck Station at 6am. I slept the whole way to the National Park Village. We first got a safety briefing in an office and then we took the 8.30 bus to the entrance of the park to do the Tongariro Crossing. It's one of the Greatest Walks in NZ. I did the walk with Lindsay and Marilou. Paddy wanted to climb Mount Ngauruhoe, aka Mount Doom. I didn't want to. It's impossible to describe the beauty of the walk on this blog. Even the photos won't do it any justice. We were incredibly lucky with the weather. The Crossing was closed 2 days before and it was supposed to be bad again the next few days. We had the best day this week. It was cloudy but dry the whole time and even the sun came out every now and then. It wasn't windy, apart from at the top. The start of it is quite easy, you walk on a wooden board walk. Then you reach the Devil's staircase. And the clue is in the name. It was fierce.

14 February 2017

In the afternoon we tried some clay pigeon shooting. After the safety briefing we got 5 practice shots. Then we got 5 more in which we had to compete with each other. There were 4 of us. I didn't shoot a single one, not in the practice round or the competition round. The instructor felt sorry for me and gave me one extra shot. I didn't hit that one either. 😄 After that we went kayaking on the Retaruke river, in a national park. It was dry the whole time and the sun even came out. It was a beautiful trip, looking at the cliffs and the lush hillsides. Once we finished the 11 km kayak trip, we were picked up by a jet boat and raced back to the start. He did a 360 degree spin, twice, which was thrilling. We saw two blue ducks, they flew right over us! We finished the day with a beer or a cup of tea, overlooking the river. In the evening we had a nice dinner and dessert and prepared ourselves for the big walk tomorrow!
I feel the need to explain a bit more about the Blue Duck Station and their goal: conservation of the native fauna and flora. The park has a lot of native bush and trees. BUT the Europeans introduced foreign bush and trees and brought over animals for the fur industry like rabbits, weasels and stoats and other animals like rats, wild boars, wild goats ages ago. They destroy the native flora and eat the native birds. They have wiped out many of the native birds already. So at Blue Duck Station they kill as many of these pests as possible to preserve and restore the native bush. So they set out traps and shoot the pests. You can sponsor a trap and follow up on how many animals you've killed. I was a bit taken aback by all of this, cos I don't consider a rabbit a pest but I do admire their will to bring back the authentic NZ fauna and flora, before humans. NZ's ambition is to be pest free by 2050. Traps and guns won't just do the job so there's also poison spread by plane over forests.
I slept really well last night. We got up around 7.45h. We had some basic breakfast at the Blue Duck café. At 9.30h we were expected at the horse stables to go horseback riding. I've done it once before, but I was still nervous to go up on a horse. My horse's name was 'Courageous'. The trail was so beautiful. It was cloudy but dry. This is what I thought NZ would like: lush green, hilly and desolate. And it didn't disappoint. My horse had its own personality. It overtook another horse cos it wanted to go first. It sometimes just stopped cos it didn't want to move ☺️. I was very nervous whenever he walked close to the edge of a cliff, but I tried to not let it get to me. I just focused on the landscape. We had a little break and after that I felt more comfortable on the horse. It drizzled a bit upon our arrival.

13 February 2017

We walked around the lake in the morning. We managed to fix our camera ourselves last night. I felt a lot better again. The bus picked us up at 1pm. Our new driver was Lolly. My first female driver! She was sweet and knowledgeable. We stopped at the thrift shop cos we were gonna have a fancy dress party that night. Budget: $4. I bought a silly X-mas t-shirt. We stopped once more in Turangi for some groceries. Our final stop for the day was at the Blue Duck Station in Whakahoro. Population: 8 people. It's located in a national park, with the emphasis on conservation. The sky cleared up and we even had a sunny evening. Our lodge was really cool. The landscape around is just magnificent: hills and mountains, lush green trees and bushes. We had a gorgeous lasagna that night and met up with some people from our previous bus. We had a great night, chatting to them and the new people on our bus. We had wine and sangria around the bonfire, dressed in some ridiculous outfits.

12 February 2017

The Huka Falls are the largest falls on the Waikato River, near Taupo. The volume of water flowing over the falls is enough to fill one Olympic sized swimming pool in 11 seconds! We drove on to Taupo, where Paddy and I hopped off. Taupo has the largest lake of NZ. It was very cloudy and windy. We walked around looking for a camera shop to fix our camera: it froze and we couldn't take photos. Cos it was Sunday, most shops were closed. We had lunch in the 'World's coolest McDonalds'. This is due to the real airplane in which you can eat. We visited the gypsy fair but didn't stay too long cos dark rainy clouds were rolling in. Discoloured bikini, broken camera, shitty hostel, Taupo itself didn't offer as much as we thought, bad weather ... All of this left me feeling sad for the first time on our trip. We decided to shorten our stay in Taupo to just one night instead of two. We did our washing, cooked, talked to our families, played some pool and hoped tomorrow would be better.
We woke up to a sunny morning. We had breakfast at the lodge and then drove to Taupo. Normally we would go to the Murupara primary school and bring the leftovers from the dinner to the kids and talk to them. It's part of the beautiful program of Khal and Nadine to give back to the community. Murupara is one of the poorest villages in NZ. The contact between the tourists and the kids inspires them to become more than what the town of Murupara offers them (i.e. have a job in the forestry industry). Some kids now dream of becoming astronauts or travel the world. It's such a marvellous initiative. But because it was Sunday, we couldn't go to the school. The food was brought to local elderly people. We went to Kerosene Creek instead, a river heated up because of geothermal activity. It was nice and warm but the river and its minerals discoloured my bikini 😣 Plus the water stank, and so did we. After that we stopped at the Huka Falls. The colour of the water was magnificent.

11 February 2017

We watched the lowering of the Hāngi. The Māori people cook their food in a heated hole in the ground: chicken, eel, pork and bread crumbs were put in a basket. It then gets covered up with blankets and sand. The steam cooks the food. It stays underground for about 3 hours. Waiting for dinner, I did some flax weaving. It's not that complicated but somehow my mind couldn't focus on the technique. I made a neat bracelet. I walked over to the lake and explored the rest of the premises. They keep deer, one ostrich, one goat and a pig. We watched the amazing sunset over the lake. Around 8pm it was time to open the Hāngi. The food was beautifully cooked. We ate out of woven flax baskets with our hands. The fried bread tasted really good. All the food tasted amazing. After dinner we sat around the fire for some story telling. It was a great cultural day. The Māori culture is very fascinating.
At Murupara we were welcomed by the elders of the Marae. First the women sing, then the men give a welcoming speech. All in their native language. We walked around on the premises, and were allowed into the Wharenui, a sacred house. This building contains a lot of beautiful local carvings and paintings. It is steeped with meaning. It's the heart of a Māori village. We then got treated to some refreshments and biscuits. We helped out with the dishes, cos after the welcoming ceremony we became part of the community. We left a note in the guest book. After that we drove to our accommodation for that night. Our Māori guide Khal and his wife Nadine run this beautiful lodge beside lake Aniwhenua. We chose a lodge overlooking the lake.
Had a terrible night of sleep. You guessed it... Snorers. Paddy cheered me up by making us a nice breakfast. We did a bit of shopping in the morning. I wanted a pair of leggings and flip flops. Paddy wanted a book and a haircut. We both got what we wanted. ☺️ I walked around Rotorua to see the Government Gardens and the lake. It was a sunny day. At 12.30 the bus picked us up to go to Lake Aniwhenua. We picked up a Māori guide. He took us for a walk in the largest man made forest of the Southern Hemisphere and we visited some really old Māori carvings. From 1050 AD. There were canoes and faces carved out in the rock. He shared a lot of interesting stories and facts. We had a cultural afternoon, learning about the Māori history and their present challenges. He then took us to his village Murupara. One of the poorest villages in NZ.

10 February 2017

To go up to the summit of Rainbow Mountain takes one hour, but the views from up there were priceless. At the fire lookout we were welcomed by Barry, the ranger. He explained what his job entails, what we were looking at, how to distinguish fire from the dust cloud from a lorry. We got to look through his telescope which had a range of at least 20 km. We were able to see people walking at Wai-O-Tapu. He took a photo of us for his FB page and gave us some free water. We got back to Rotorua and checked in at our new hostel. What a place! We used the hot tub and had a free BBQ for dinner!
We had a trip booked at 9am to Wai-O-Tapu. Known as the thermal wonderland. It's only 30 min from Rotorua and definitely worth going to. We first stopped at the mud pools and the Lady Knox Geyser. I was disappointed. They have to induce the geyser to erupt frequently. The eruption wasn't high at all and it didn't last long. We've seen more impressive ones in Iceland. After that, we hopped off to explore the geothermal areas. That was incredible! All those different colours. It's hard to believe it's all natural. Green, yellow, red, brown and blue colours. My favourite ones were the Artist's Palette, Champagne Pool and Devil's Bath. Depending where the wind blows, you can get lost in the mist. We had to rush to see it all but we made it back on time to the bus. The bus driver told us about Rainbow Mountain so we decided to hop off there and wait for the next bus to go back to Rotorua.

9 February 2017

We got up early, at 6am to watch the first sunrise in the world. Unfortunately for us, the clouds from yesterday were still there and we didn't really get to see the sun, but we noticed it getting brighter. We slept a bit longer after it. We had eggs for breakfast and left our hostel around 10.30am. Normally we had the stingray feeding activity but it was cancelled due to the weather. We stopped once along the way to stretch the legs and then again in Whakatane for lunch. We arrived back in Rotorua around 16.30h. We made plans to meet up with the group at the Rotorua evening market at 19h. We had a great night out, with lots of local food and drinks.

8 February 2017

I slept good last night. We had an early start cos we were heading to Gisborne. We left at 9am, but not until we paid our respect to the host by singing a song to him in return. The Dutch girls and me sang a Dutch song, about a water scooter. Little do they know about the lyrics 😄. It was a long day on the bus. It was raining. We stopped to hike up to a lighthouse. Supposedly beautiful views but we couldn't see a thing. I slipped on the way down cos it was just so wet. Our driver, Wi Tuxx, took us to a beautiful Māori church and sang us a song. His voice was amazing and nearly put everyone to tears. He dedicated it to a friend that passed away. The church has a lot of nice details: hand woven panels, wooden carvings. We arrived at our hostel, dropped off our stuff before we headed into Gisborne. We got some Domino's pizza for dinner and some essentials. It rained all day so we couldn't have a BBQ on the beach. Instead we bonded with the group over alcohol and games in the hostel.

7 February 2017

I slept better last night. We had a nice muffin for breakfast and left Rotorua at 9am. We are doing the East Cape. We were heading to Te Kaha first. We stopped along the way in Whakatane, at a supermarket and for some photo ops. We arrived at our Lodge in the afternoon. It was a long bus drive. We were welcomed by Chay. He and his cousin sang us some lovely Māori songs. We relaxed most of the day, just chilling on the beach and sitting in the hot tub. It was warm but very cloudy. The view out on the beach and sea was beautiful. We watched the sunset with all its colours. We got to know the new group better. We had a nice night, just talking in the hot tub, looking at the stars. We had to watch out for little sand flies. They bite A LOT.

6 February 2017

I had a horrible night of sleep. Snorers. After a nice chat with my in-laws in the morning, we decided to rent mountain bikes. Our mission was to tackle Redwood Forest. There are a billion trails in the forest, going from a easy grade to a tough one. It was a very hot day. But it was nice and cool in the forest. The Redwood trees are huge and gracious. We did several trails, the Dipper was my favourite one. We did that one twice. It was a cool experience to mountain bike. A very exhausting one as well. Cycling back we discovered some more geothermal areas. It's so surreal that they're all over the place. In Rotorua you can't escape the sulphur smell. It's everywhere. Not sure I could live here. When you're eating something nice, the eggy smell just kinda spoils it. In our hostel, walking in the bathroom, I kept forgetting and I blamed the other guests for the terrible smell ☺️ We had a quiet night, with a power nap in between and one free drink in the Sobar.

5 February 2017

Rotorua, also known as Sulphur City. We went for an evening walk. Everywhere you go there's this sulphur smell. We explored Kuirau park. It's hard to believe that the geothermal activity is everywhere, just randomly in between in the trees. There's fences protecting you from the bubbling mud and the steam. After the park we walked over to the lake where there's a small Māori village. The people live there inbetween the geothermal activity. I guess you get used to the smell. The style of the houses in general in NZ don't look that appealing to me. Architecture isn't high on the list it seems. We ended up at the Lava Bar and ran into some people from our previous group. We had a great night out with them.
We left 'hippie town' Raglan. Skippy, the driver took us to the Waitomo caves. We did the Tumu Tumu Tubing. There were 6 of us. We put on our wetsuits and made our way to the entrance of the caves. It was an incredible experience. I felt like a proper explorer. We climbed through the stalagmites and stalactites. The formations were so stunning. The guide Garret told us to switch off our lights. We had to crawl through a narrow space, called the 'birth canal'. Just by touch we had to find the exit. We also swam in underground 'fresh' lakes. The wetsuits did their job: only my hands were cold. Just chilling in our tubes, being pulled by Garret, we saw thousands of glow worms on the ceiling of the caves. It was one of the most unique things I've ever seen. I could look at it for hours. Garret made a loud banging noise which made the worms shine even brighter. We had a hot drink and some chocolate down in the caves. Later that day we drove to Rotorua, a geothermal town.

4 February 2017

I slept amazingly last night. We decided to stay one night in a double room. Our hostel had no wifi so we went to the library for free wifi to FaceTime our families. It was nice hearing everyone at home. After our breakfast we decided to rent a kayak from the hostel. We were gonna check out the Pancake rocks. There was a strong wind making the task quite difficult. Although we were blaming each other for not paddling hard enough, for losing focus, we finally got to see the beautiful rock formations. Thinking about pancakes, the trip made me hungry. We made a promise to each other not to go kayaking again ☺️. We paddled back to the hostel, soaking wet. We were freezing cold so we hopped in the hot tub first. Our hostel was amazing: hot tub and sauna. Then we had our dinner early. I chatted the rest of the night to Marilou, a very nice girl from Canada. We went out for drinks together and enjoyed our last night in Raglan.

3 February 2017

Early start again. We got up at 6.30am so we could leave Hahei at 7.30h. I slept terrible, cos the other 2 guests in our dorm room snored their brains out and kept me up in the process. Ear plugs were no help. Fair to say I slept on the bus from Hahei to Raglan. It was a cloudy day, it even rained for a bit. We stopped at the Bridal Veil falls. WAAW. It's a beautiful waterfall, with 3 different viewing platforms, each one as good as the other. After that, we drove through Hamilton. Our driver got a call from the company to say that he forgot to pick someone up there. Dory clearly suffers from "remembory loss". At 13 pm we arrived in Raglan, where we had to say goodbye to our group. We had 2 fun days together. Once we settled in into our room, Paddy and I took a walk along the beaches at Raglan, looking out on the Tasman sea. We walked 10 km in black sand, that every now and then swallowed our feet. It was a tough but rewarding walk. We watched kite surfers doing tricks.

2 February 2017

We decided to walk to Cathedral Cove early in the morning, to avoid the crowds. The walk up took us roughly one hour. But it was sooooo worth it. There was only a handful of people there. It's a stunning place. I'll let the photos speak for themselves. We relaxed at the beach and just soaked up the views and the sun. The water is so blue. It feels like a proper holiday now. We saw another stingray. Some kayaks pulled up on the beach and people of our group were in them. Their guide offered us a complimentary coffee with biscuits too. So nice. Around noon we walked back to our hostel and explored the bays along the way. We had some lunch and a nap before we walked up the viewing point. Hahei is so peaceful and just so relaxing, blessed with nice views and beaches. We had pizza for dinner and enjoyed a great night with our group. Lots of laughs.

1 February 2017

Early rise, 6am. We had to be in the centre of Auckland at 7.30h. We took a bus from Kohimarama beach. We got there with 30 min to spare. Our driver who was gonna take us up to Haihei was late. He was also unorganised at checking people in on to the bus, going over the list a few times to double check. He then forgot important paperwork at the office so we had to drive there and lost more time. His name is Dory. We stopped once on the way to Hahei to do grocery shopping. Dory said a specific time to hit the road but he was late himself. We arrived around noon in Hahei. Once we got our stuff dropped off at our hostel, Paddy and I snoozed on the beach. At 16pm we drove up to Hot water beach. You dig a hole there, with a billion other people, in the sand and hot water will rise to the surface. Such a weird phenomena. The water was boiling hot. We relaxed in our put hole and got to know the people in our group. That night we had an amazing BBQ and a great night with our group.

31 January 2017

We enjoyed some eggs for breakfast. Power food to walk to Waitangi, where the treaty between the Māori people and the British people was signed. We didn't go into the grounds because we didn't have enough time. So we walked on and found ourselves walking in the bush again. We made sure we were back at our hostel in time to eat some lunch before our trip back to Auckland. We left Paihia at 14h and arrived in Auckland at 17.30h. We took the bus back to Kohimarama beach and spent our last night with this lovely Irish family. We had some spicy Thai food and did some washing. We had an amazing time at their home. We were well looked after. From tomorrow on we would be on our own.

30 January 2017

Early start to the day. Our tour to Cape Reinga left at 7.15am. We first stopped at a forest where they had Kauri tries. You'll not believe how tall they are until you actually see one yourself. They are huge and they seem strong. After that we went sand boarding. Our driver explained the technique, then made everyone go down the hill for the first time with his guidance. I must admit I was very anxious. Scared even. But it was an incredibly cool experience. Walking up a sand hill is another thing: take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back kinda thing. No gym exercise can compete. After that we drove to the most northern point: Cape Reinga. Where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet. Beautiful scenery. Incredible colour display where they meet. Next stop: 90 mile beach. You couldn't see the end on either side. Strong waves. Then we went to a fish&chips shop, supposedly the best. It was good but I've had better in Ireland. We went back to Paihia and enjoyed our last night there.

29 January 2017

We had our breakfast in our hostel in Russell and I facetimed my parents. The view from the hostel was amazing. We hitchhiked back into town where we took the ferry back to Paihia. We boarded the 'hole in the rock' boat tour at 13.30pm. We cruised around a lot of islands, in search of sea life. We braved the strong winds on the boat trying to spot dolphins or whales. Finally our patience was rewarded. We witnessed a big group of common dolphins, swimming around the boat, jumping up. It was breathtaking. Our captain navigated the boat through the hole in the rock. He honked the horn a few times going through the cave so we could hear the echo. He then dropped us off on one of the islands where we hiked to the top. We had amazing views on all the other islands and beaches. Going back on the boat to Paihia, we saw a shark and a stingray. WHAT A DAY!

28 January 2017

Our 1st night in a hostel this trip. I slept good. We made ourselves a nice breakfast before heading out. We took the ferry from Paihia to Russell at 11am. Our hostel in Russell was 8,5km away from the wharf. We hitchhiked. A local man drove us all the way up to our hostel. We met the nice lady who owns it, Andrea. She gave us some useful tips. Our friend from Auckland is also staying at Russell for a long weekend and he picked us up from our hostel and drove us back to the centre of Russell. After that we headed to the Long beach. We had a swim in the bay. The water was nice and the sun was blazing hot! Lots and lots of sun cream! I fell asleep on the beach, which added to the holiday vibe. The Long beach has fantastic views on the bay and the beach itself is amazing. We became hungry and had some fish&chips looking out onto the water. After that we treated ourselves to some ice cream. We watched the sun going down while having a sneaky drink on the beach, then another in a bar.

27 January 2017

Our day in Auckland started early. 6AM. We needed to catch the bus at 6.38 to the centre. Our Stray bus would pick us up there at 7.30 and take us to Paihia. We stopped along the way to look at a big Kauri tree. They are huge and deserve all the respect they can get. Everywhere around NZ you'll find signs that soil contamination could kill them. We picked up some people in Whangarei (the 'wh' should be pronounced as an 'f'). One hour later we arrived in Paihia, located in 'the Bay of islands'. We got settled in into our hostel and explored the area. I've never seen so many islands and so many little secluded beaches. 144 islands. We walked along the coastline. Soaking in the sights. We also did a little (hilly) trail that took us out in the bush and at the top we had a nice view over the bay. We heard some weird 'bush' noises but unfortunately we didn't spot any kiwis. Not yet. They are nocturnal birds. We did some planning that night for our trip and realised NZ offers so much.

26 January 2017

Thursday the 26th of January was our last full day in Auckland. We decided to explore the city itself. It was a bright and sunny day! We took the bus from Kohimarama beach into the city. It's a fast way to get there. We explored the harbour. It seems to be an up and coming part of the city: lots of new restaurants, bars and cafes. A good buzz going about there. The view from the harbour to the city is amazing and the view out to the Hauraki Gulf too. We had our lunch on one of the piers, looking out on some yachts. Some of these yachts dated back to the 19th century and were mostly made out of wood and just so beautiful. The modern ones seemed to belong to millionaires: big and fancy. We met up with Paddy's cousin and he took us to Mount Eden. A volcanic crater with stunning views of all the other craters/ volcanic cones and the city and the Gulf. We finished the day off eating the biggest pizza I've ever seen. Another brilliant day.

25 January 2017

Second night in Auckland I woke up at 1 AM. Wide awake. It has been confirmed yet again, I am jet lagged. Luckily I fell back asleep. We decided to spend the day on Waiheke island. Today it was cloudy and a bit colder. We took the ferry from Auckland harbour. It took about 40 min to get there. We got around on the hop on hop off bus. Waiheke island has a microclimate which is perfect for growing grapes. We not only enjoyed the nice beaches there but we also hiked around the vineyards. Such stunning views! We stopped at Cable Bay, a vineyard overlooking the Hauraki Gulf. OMG. The view was mind blowing. We tried some wines there. The white Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough was my favourite. Apparently the bigger part of the wines produced on Waiheke island are all being drunk there. So we helped out ☺️ We took the ferry back on time, just before the rain. We had a nice meal with the family we're staying with.

24 January 2017

I slept really well the first night in Auckland. For nearly 11 hours. At lunch time we met up with my husband's cousin who lives in Auckland. He took us to Muriwai beach, where the sand is black. It's because of the volcanic nature of New Zealand. The beach just stretches on, you can't see the end of it. Because of the sea spray, you get magical and mysterious views. Every time we got in the car, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I fell asleep instantly. Turns out, yes, I am jet lagged. We got to meet the new baby of my husband's cousin. She is super adorable! She's such a joy. In the evening we had an impromptu barbecue. But in New Zealand this is the way to go. What a great first day, surrounded by family and beautiful nature. Just watch out for that sun! It's not tropical hot out here, and the breeze makes you feel chilly even, but there's a hole in the ozone layer here and I got burnt.

23 January 2017

After our 4 days in Dubai, the next stop on our trip is Auckland, New Zealand. Getting to Auckland is tricky though. We got up at 5.15 am in Dubai on Sunday morning the 22nd of January. First stop was Bangkok, a 6 hour flight. In Bangkok we had to get off the plane for 1,5 hours so it could get cleaned and refuelled. Then we boarded the plane again for our flight to Sydney. Now, this was a longer flight, over 9 hours. We went from nighttime in Bangkok to daytime in Sydney on the plane. After a 1,5 hour stop in Sydney we finally were heading to Auckland. Another 3 hour flight. We arrived in Auckland at 4 pm local time. On Monday the 23rd of January. So we traveled for nearly 23 hours through 4 different countries. A record for me. We were picked up at the airport by a nice friend of my husband, and we're staying at his place for 4 days. It's nice to be taking in to someone's home after such a long trip. I don't feel jet lagged but I must admit that I felt confused about time.

21 January 2017

The 'worth seeing' label is definitely true for Dubai. It's like Disneyland for grown ups. I absolutely loved it. It was our last day here and we made the most of it: we went up to the top of the Burj Khalifa and watched the world go by. We then enjoyed the afternoon at the Atlantis Aquaventure waterpark. I did some crazy rides, I wanted to challenge myself. In the evening we visited the aquarium in Dubai Mall and caught a late night light show on the Burj Khalifa. Dubai, I'll be back.

20 January 2017

Today we did the hop on hop off tour. It took us a while to figure out where the buses would run from but as soon as we found the first stop, we were on a roll! We hopped on and hopped off for hours and we saw Dubai Marina, with all its modern buildings. The skyscrapers are overwhelmingly impressive. We got a sore neck from looking up. After that we went to the Palm and witnessed the grandeur of the Atlantis hotel. Next stop was the Dubai Mall and again the Burj Khalifa, but at daytime. All the other skyscrapers are in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa. It's twice the size and twice as impressive! I couldn't get over how tall it was. After that we drove through the old Dubai with its souks and the creek. We got to see a totally different side of Dubai, more humble buildings and a lot more traditional. The atmosphere felt more relaxed. We ended the day at the Burj Al Arab. We tried to get in to this 7 star hotel but no luck. Now we're off to explore the nightlife!

19 January 2017

We decided to go to the desert today. We were in a 4x4, doing some sand dune bashing. It was a bit scary but also very cool. I just hoped the driver was experienced enough not to flip the car! We rode a camel, which I named Kevin. We then had a BBQ out in the desert while some entertainment was provided. Late in the evening we headed down to the Burj Khalifa and we were just in time to witness the fountain show!! Lots of waaaaaaw there. It was impressive!
We moved hotels this morning. We got a glimpse of what Dubai's skyline is like.
We arrived at our hotel in Dubai. It's 1.44 am here. There were long queues at the border control but we made it. Off to bed so we can explore the city tomorrow!

18 January 2017

We are at Brussels airport. My dad dropped us off. Ready for our flight to Dubai. I'm gonna miss my family but we will come back with some stories!
We're about to leave Belgium. It's freezing here at the minute, -5 degrees.