Australia and Oceania, Asia · 80 Days · 88 Moments · June 2017

The lonesome leg! NZ-AUS-HK-JPN-SNG


18 September 2017

Day 81: HOME! After 2 1/2 hours sleep, Jo and I went to the airport to get our respective flights. I said goodbye to her and got my flight to HK. Flight was fine and spent a few hours waiting there for my connection. As of time of writing, I have a 13 hours flight to get me back to London and home. 1000 characters will never be able to sum up my trip so I'm not going to try. It's been beyond incredible and is all I need to do know is be able to remember all the amazing things I've seen and done! Trying to top this with my next adventure/challenge in life is going to be difficult but I have the motivation to never stop trying.

17 September 2017

Day 80: Singapore. RACE DAY! In the morning we visited orchard road - sinagpores oxford street - it was beyond ridiculously busy so we didn't go into many shops. Once we'd done that we went to Liao Fan Chicken, the worlds cheapest Michelin star restaurant! The chicken was so good and it was about £3 for a meal! After that we headed to the circuit, and watched a Ferrari race. We did some of the race simulators in the fan zone and there was a monsoon so we were lucky to be under cover! Afterwards we watched a Porsche race and headed to near our grandstand. We had dinner (curry in a bag was a nightmare) and watched George the poet before the race. As we went to our seat for the race there was a huge rainstorm, which made the start of the race so exciting! There was a big crash and the atmosphere was awesome. The race was eventful and we enjoyed watching massively - great view and Hamilton was incredible! Afterwards we walked the track and watched Calvin Harris play on the main stage.

16 September 2017

Day 79: Singapore. Qualifying Day! We started the day off with a walk around town - through Fort canning, Clarke quay, bugis street market and past raffles hotel. We then went back the the gardens by the bay to do the bridge walk which we couldn't do the day before. We got loads of good pictures up there! We got some lunch and the went up to the rooftop bar at marina bay sands. It was expensive but we had some really nice cocktails and the views was just amazing! We watched a support race on the track from up there. We then headed down to the track for more f1 and another support race. Getting dinner was a bit difficult as there was so many people around but we managed to eat and get to our seats in time for qualifying. Our seats weren't amazing in terms of the track we could see but the view is amazing over the bay and had some big tv screens. We really enjoyed the atmosphere so made for an awesome experience. Getting back to the hostel was difficult as loads of areas are closed off!

15 September 2017

Day 78: Singapore. I was woken up by my lovely sister, Jo, who had arrived overnight. We went to the marina Bay Area and the gardens by the bay for a walk around the cloud forest and have a good catch up. It started raining so we left the gardens area and went to collect our tickets for the formula 1 GP. By the time we'd done that it was time to watch. We watched practice and walked around the track, getting as many vantage points as we could. We had some dinner at the track and watched some music artists. We had a go at the F1 pit stop challenge where we made the top 10 of the day! As it was dark we then watched the second f1 practice, again wandering around and trying to find good vantage points. At the end of the day we went back to the gardens for some photo opportunities!

14 September 2017

Day 77: Hong Kong -> Singapore. Spent the morning at the national museum in HK - not overly amazing although the had a reasonable section about HK from the colonial times and all the challenges of the 20th century which was quite interesting. Soon enough I had to make my way to the airport. Had a 3.5 hour flight to Singapore - pretty boring but only 2 more left! Met up with Ben and headed to bed to get some sleep for the next few days

13 September 2017

Day 76: Tokyo -> Hong Kong. I got the early morning flight to Hong Kong and arrived at midday. By the time I'd got into the city, checked in and had some lunch I only had the late afternoon/evening to enjoy. I made my way to Lantau Island, back towards the airport, and took the 30 min journey on the cable car to the Tian Tan Buddha. The cable car was expensive but the views on the way up were incredible, flying right over the airport. At the Buddha statue, there was a small village thing but it was very touristy. I just enjoyed going to see the monastery and statue, the settings they were in were just incredible. They also had cows freely roaming around which was cool. After that I headed back into town, went to a night market and perused the streets in HK. For dinner I had baby pigeon - the novelty factor was cool but wasn't the best thing I've ever eaten. I made my way home on the star ferry as it's quite cheap and you get amazing views of the bay.
Summary of Japan. It has been great to experience another type of culture at the end of my trip - the Japanese have got a lot of things right, such as their love for technology, efficiency and respect (I think I accidentally offended them about a million times). 7 days in Japan was not enough as I only did big cities - I would've loved to have gone out into the countryside as I'm sure Japan is a beautiful country. Tokyo was a particular highlight, there's so much to do, and, like London, I'm pretty sure you could only fully appreciate the city if you lived there. The thing that surprised me is that Japan doesn't have as much weird and wacky stuff as I'd expected...if heard of vending machines for burgers and clothes etc but it felt very normal. That being said, their love for anime/animations is beyond weird! Japanese food is incredible - everything I ate was tasty and healthy, however they do eat some weird stuff, including anything and everything that comes out of the sea!

12 September 2017

Day 75: Tokyo. I woke up at 5am this morning to try and attend the tuna auction at japans biggest fish market, the tsukiji market. Unfortunately, relatively quickly after I got there I got escorted out as I went in the wrong entrance, and my the time I had found the right entrance I had missed it! I made up for it by going to the arashio beya sumo stables, where the wrestlers train. I watched through the viewing gallery for about half an hour but their training wasn't very intense so I headed back to the hostel to check out. At 10am I went back to the fish market when it was all open to the public, and it was fascinating. It was also very unsafe - so many forklifts whizzing about. In the afternoon I went to the ginza downtown and browsed. Made a lunch stop at my favourite vending machine cafes. Finished off the day at the Tokyo skytree...was good to get such a clear view of Tokyo Bay Area.
Day 74: Tokyo. This morning I headed to Tokyos western districts, Shinjuku and Shibuya. I first went to the largest Pokemon store in the world for some true childhood nostalgia, and then onto Shinjuku centre. There was a lot going on here, it just interesting to watch the world pass by! I went up the government metropolitan building which gave great views over the city for free and then around the rest of the district. I had lunch one of these little cafes they have where you select your food from a vending machine thing which prints your ticket to give to the kitchen. They're simple noodle meals but they're really tasty and cheap. After that I made my way to Shibuya and again, had a wander round. I stopped off to get a Kobe steak skewer - it was expensive but quite possibly the best steak I've ever had! I then went to Starbucks to watch over the shibuya Crossing, rumoured to be the busiest crossing in the world!

10 September 2017

Day 73: Tokyo. I started of the morning with another quick trip to the kappabashi area for a peruse. Following that, I headed to the imperial palace east gardens - not overly exciting as it has high walls around the palace so you can't see anything. I then went downtown for a look around the shops - they were all massive but I couldn't spent long here. I got the metro to the harbourside for my maricar tour! This is where you get into a street legal go kart and drive around the streets of Tokyo, dressed as a mario character. The tour was so much fun and my guide, Shonto, was nuts! I saw the rainbow bridge, the gate bridge, the Tokyo tower, downtown, obedia (the gaming district) plus more. When I got back he took me to the train station in a KTM track car! After that, I got the metro to Tokyo teleport. There I spent the evening at the Toyota centre, with loads of car related fun stuff, and joypolis, a super arcade/theme park

9 September 2017

Day 72: Tokyo. The night bus was a horror, had a person next to me and not much space so got a few hours sleep at best. Worse still, my hostel didn't open until 8am to drop my luggage off and check in wasn't until 4pm. Nevertheless, I got on with the day by heading to Senso-ji, another temple. Note to self - I've seen all the temples I ever need to see in japan. The district, Akabusa, was pretty good to walk around though, lots of activity. I proceeded to walk through the kappabashi area as well, the kitchenware capital of Japan. This was super interesting to see all the stuff they have on sale. I then went to the national museum. It was set in a really nice park but the museum wasn't great, not much information in English and my attention span was seriously struggling. Last stop was akihabara, the comic book/games/animated centre of Tokyo. This was really weird seeing adults make such a fuss over it but they have sooooo much stuff in tiny stores! Too tired for anything in the evening!

8 September 2017

Day 71: Kyoto -> Tokyo. Firsts top of the day was Fushimi-inari temple. This is probably the biggest in Japan and isn't actually made up of many buildings, just thousands and thousands of arches. The walk through the arches to the top of the hill was about 2.5km! The top half of the route was awesome as you could appreciate the arches but the bottom half was so touristy. Next stop was the old town, gion, where I went to a couple of other temples, the nishiki market and the old town streets. The temples were undergoing work so weren't that great, and the old town was really touristy...it didn't feel very authentic to me. I enjoyed the food market though - shame that it's really hard to work out what anything is - bought the biggest peach you could imagine though. Went to one more temple (kiyomiza-dera) before going back to the hostel and getting dinner. A night bus to Tokyo followed - last one of the trip, thankfully!

7 September 2017

Day 70: Osaka -> Kyoto. I got up and got the earliest train I could to Kyoto - luckily I was able to ride the famous Shinkansen. I know it sounds ironic but they are ridiculously quick, I got to Kyoto in 15 mins. I then checked into my hostel and rented a bike. I cycled to the imperial palace, where I got caught in a huge storm, and then onto Kinkaku-Ji, the golden temple. This was ultra-touristy and was having work done to it which spoilt it a little. I then cycled onto the philosophers walk, a stream-side walk which reminded me of the UK! I then went onto Nanzen-ji, a zen temple where I spent a little bit of time relaxing in the zen garden. This was my favourite temple and had some huge wooden structures in it. The gardens around all the temples in Kyoto are picture postcard stuff and really lived up to expectation. I went out again at night to the Nishiki market and gion cultural quarter but these were mostly closed for the night.

6 September 2017

Day 69: Osaka. In my one day to explore all of Osaka, I started off at shinsekai, a small area with a few restaurants. Had some breakfast there - udon noddles with some weird egg thing and tofu. After that I headed to Osaka castle. This was pretty cool and had a mini museum inside it with old Japanese armour - unfortunately you're not allowed to take pictures. The castle grounds are pretty big so I had a good walk around the site. After that, I headed to Umeda, the cbd of Osaka. There I had some lunch (first gyoza of the trip 👊🏼) and went to a department store to see the Osaka Pokemon centre. This was full of Pokemon souvenirs and memorabilia , and I couldn't help myself but buy some cards for nostalgia! I then went to the umeda sky building. After that I went to Dotonburi, the cultural hub of Osaka. I waited in a coffee shop for it to go dark and then wandered around the district. There was tonnes of lights and awesome food places - I had Takoyaki...octopus in a pancake-like batter!

5 September 2017

Day 68: Hong Kong -> Osaka. I spent the morning walking around the area near my hostel, known as causeway bay. I stumbled across the Happy Valleys racecourse, which had a frankly ridiculous amount of things going on in the infield, and the Hong Kong national stadium. Today was possibly the most humid day of my trip so far, after about an hour I had to head back to the hostel for some aircon. Shortly after, I headed to the airport for my flight to Osaka. The journey was pretty uneventful and I got to my hostel by 10pm. It amazes me how taking a flight takes so much time out of the day!

4 September 2017

Day 67: Hong Kong. Today I explored the northern half of Hong Kong, Kowloon. I started off at the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, for a view over Hong Kong island - as it was much less smoggy today the city just looked amazing! I spent about 20 minutes just watching the harbour; afterwards I ventured into the avenue of stars and eventually towards the science museum. I spent a while there - they had some really good exhibits about communication and transport. I then had lunch and walked onto Kowloon park. I spent half an hour there having a chill out. I then walked into the northern half of Kowloon, through a Japanese video game mall which was pretty cool and then through the night markets. I zig zagged through the seats to see what was going on in nighttime Kowloon. I eventually made it back to the promenade for the lights show over the harbour and another view of the skyline. Last stop (via the ferry) was to see the HSBC building up close at night.

3 September 2017

1/2 Day 66: Macau. This morning I got a (very efficient) ferry over to the special administrative region of Macau. I had a false start when I got there as I found Fort Guia was closed because of some recent typhoon, but I meandered the streets and made it to the church ruins and the Macau museum. Neither were overly impressive but there was a good old Portuguese Fort at the top of the museum with a good look out point. I then walked the old colonial streets of Macau, lots of European arcichetute whivh was really weird to see. They seemed to be selling loads of baked biscuits and stuff to Chinese people here on a day trip (china is about 1/2 mile away from Macau at its closest) as well as sheets of meat jerky. My stomach didn't fancy it so I passed on that, plus as it isn't an ex-British colony, there aren't many, if any English signs or English speakers which made the whole day more eventful and challenging. I then went into the Grand Lisboa, the big gold building, for a bet in the ...
2/2 Day 66: Macau ... casino - when in Rome! I quickly lost £30 and proceeded to end my betting there. I then got a local bus to Taipo, the second half of Macau. I wandered through the old town there for a bit and then through the galaxy casino - this was just enormous beyond belief! The casino went on as far as you can see in every direction, it actually weirded me out a bit! I then walked out of town slightly to Macau Motorsport Club for a drive of some karts, but I duly found that they were closed because of the typhoon too. I then went to the giant panda pavilion, which was cool to see but they're a bit boring. I then got another local bus to the main strip of Macau, where the Venetian, Parisian, MGM grand and several other super casinos were. I walked in a couple of them and I just couldn't believe how big and grand they all are. Soon enough, I had to get the ferry back to Hong Kong and get some dinner and rest, I'd been walking almost non stop for 7 hours!
2/2 Day 65: Hong Kong. ...enjoying the peacefulness of it. I then walked towards the Harbour and it started raining. I took shelter in the maritime museum and spent an hour walking around there - it was quite focused on commercial maritime history such as oil tankers and cargo ships, interesting to see though. I then came out and went on the famous 'star ferry', which runs across Victoria harbour. It was about 30p to go on so I went over to the northern side of HK and into Kowloon. As it was approaching evening this area was massively coming to life! I popped into Chunking mansions, an underground market, to buy a suitcase and then onto temple street market, the most famous market in HK. I bought a fair few bits from there as things were so cheap...may well need to go back another day! Later on, I got the metro to Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world. Ironically, I didn't like some of the food that much...who wants sweet pork buns??? It was only £10 though!

2 September 2017

1/2 Day 65: Hong Kong. What a day! I started off in the old town quarter of Hong Kong island. I first went to Man Mo temple, a small Buddhist temple which was ok. I then meandered around the streets, through a boutique shopping mall which was mostly closed for some reason and onto central-mid levels escalator, the longest escalator system in the world...it took me 15 mins to ride bottom to top and then several hundred steps back down. I then went to see the Norman foster designed HSBC building. Although it's not enormous compared to the rest of the buildings, it is very striking and cool inside! I then took a tram up to the peak, the best viewpoint of HK. The queue was massive but I eventually got up there, the funicular tram pulls up a seriously steep hill! At the top there's a mall which I perished and then went on the platform up there. I eventually came back down and onto HK park. There was a walk through aviary, a mini waterfall and pond and a good lookout there...

1 September 2017

Day 64: Sydney -> Hong Kong. I left my hostel at 4:30am and (metaphorically) waved My flight to Hong Kong was 9 hours and a little delayed. Once we eventually got up in the air, the time passed relatively quickly, I just ploughed through the films on the entertainment system. I got to Hong Kong at 4pm, and by the time I got to the hostel it was 6pm. A met a nice Welsh girl in the hostel who invited me to go out for a casual bit of dinner and a couple of drinks with her and her friend. Ended up having a really fun night with them, only had a couple of drinks and soaked up the lovely nightlife in the soho region. Towards the end, my early start started to wear on me so I was pleased to see my bed!
Summary of Australia. As with everywhere I've been on my trip, I've had an awesome time in Australia. Melbourne and Sydney are pretty great cities and I massively enjoyed exploring them, although the highlight of my trip would be Fraser Island. The island and its sights and were beautiful and driving 4x4s on the beaches there only made it more special; the trip made better by meeting some really fun people on it. Whilst I loved the east coast and it is incredibly beautiful, I have certainly seen enough beaches for a lifetime and towards the end, that became a bit monotonous - in hindsight I should broken it up with a trip to the outback or something. Would fully recommend to anyone to come here, it's got something for everyone *hint* Mum & Dad *hint*. Looking forward to the trepidation and chaos of Asia again now - it's been too long since I've had someone try to rip me off or have something truly random happen to me

31 August 2017

Day 63: Sydney. Final day in Australia!!! I moved hostels to be closer to the airport (very early flight tomorrow morning) and then went on a city walking tour. This took up about 2.5 hours and I saw some bits of the city I hadn't seen yet, as well as telling me more about the stuff I haven't seen. Is what really came to fruition was that everything cultural in Australia is copied from the uk, they even have a park called Hyde park and most of their buildings are copied from British architecture. Afterwards, I headed to darling Harbour and had a wander about - saw some cool old navy ships there! Took a wander down some streets I hadn't been down before, and went back to my new hostel to have a colossal sort out before my flight tomorrow.

30 August 2017

Day 62. Sydney. Today I made the 2 hour train trip to the Blue Mountains. I got there at about midday, and immediately headed to the main viewpoint, echo point, which overlooks a large area of the park and the three sisters rock formation. Although the view was impressive, it was incredibly touristy with tour buses turning up every 5 minutes. I took a walk along the prince henry track for about 2 hours to see what else I could find. Unfortunately as the route was incredibly windy, I didn't get very far at all in that time so the view was largely unchanged...it was much more peaceful though, except for the constant fear of snakes jumping out of the grassland surrounding the track! The mountains were stunning and definitely have a blue tinge, apparently this is some kind of chemical omitted from the eucalyptus trees

29 August 2017

Day 61: Sydney. This morning I took the bus to Coogee and did the Coogee > Bondi coastal walk. I've seen a lot of the Australian coastline but this was particularly nice - lots of small beach and big waves crashing on rocks. There was a huge cemetery next to the sea as well which was quite strange to see! Eventually I made it to the famous bondi beach - it was quite nice but it wasn't as good as it's bigged up to be. I grabbed some lunch and watched the surfers from the beach...it was a pretty cold day so I didn't envy them! I then took the long walk back to the hostel, but I had the time so was quite nice. I stopped via the Sydney swans store to pick myself up some souvenirs I didn't need!

28 August 2017

Day 60: Sydney. First stop was the botanic gardens and mrs macquaries chair - a famous place once frequented by an old government officials wife - it gives great views of the harbour bridge and the opera house. A fave moment was seeing some Chinese tourists with professional lighting screens...they really do love a holiday snap! I walked round the bay to the open house and then onto the bridge, zig zagging around some of the old streets that would've been frequented by 19th and 20th century sailors. That area of Sydney is really nice and has lots going on around to observe. At the bridge, I walked up one of the pylons to get a view of the whole city - it was also interesting to learn about the building of the bridge. I then headed home via the cbd...there's lots of new buildings and shops here and tonnes of people! I stopped off in the mall to ring home and then got back to the hostel for some dinner and admin

27 August 2017

Day 59: Sydney. Slightly hungover and extremely tired, I actually achieved nothing today. Last chilled out day of the trip.

26 August 2017

Day 58: Sydney. Although I'm in Sydney, I didn't fancy doing the touristy things at the weekend so I headed to the outer areas. I wandered through rushcutters park and centennial park which were nice, I even found some (very amateurish) cricket in the park to watch. I eventually made it to the Sydney cricket ground - there was a cool plaza area nearby where I had some lunch, and then I went for a walk around the stadium. There was some American football going on outside so I watched that for a bit, and then I visited the Allianz stadium - the place of England's rugby World Cup victory! At 4:30 I went to watch my second Aussie rules game. The game was awesome and now I understand the rules a bit better I really appreciated the quality of the play. After that I went back to the hostel and went for a night out with the people I had met in my room. It turned out to be a really good night!

25 August 2017

Day 57: Coffs Harbour -> Sydney. I spent the morning on a mini-tour organised by the hostel to a nearby town called Sawtell. It wasn't that exciting to be honest, some lovely shoreline but I've seen an awful lot of that recently. After that I had the pleasure of a 9 hour bus journey to Sydney - the less said about that the better!

24 August 2017

Day 56: Coffs Harbour. I took a morning walk along the jetty and around the marina (the marina felt like amity out of jaws) up eventually to muttonbird island. I ironically didn't see any birds other than seagulls, but I did see a fair few whales quite a way off shore - pretty sure there was a few breaching but they were too far away to make them out entirely. I then headed back inland along the creek and into the town centre. There wasn't much going on in Coffs town centre so I grabbed some lunch and came back to the hostel. I had a chill by the pool and an afternoon dip. Sorted out my washing and packed my bag - another day over with very very quickly!

23 August 2017

Day 55: Byron Bay -> Coffs Harbour. Another VERY tough day. I spent the vast majority of the day in a hammock at the hostel, enjoying a cloudless sky and listening to a couple of podcasts! I did manage to stretch my legs along the beach for an hour in the afternoon, and get an ice cream (it melted very quickly, hence my unimpressed face). In the evening I had the 4 hour bus journey to Coffs Harbour - a seaside town with a few bits to see and do. I definitely feel well rested after being in Byron Bay for a few days....just in time for what will be a very busy last few weeks.

22 August 2017

Day 54: Byron Bay -> I had a very nice and chilled morning, and eventually got going to walk up to the lighthouse. It was about a 2km uphill walk but the views were pretty great and it was a lovely day weather-wise. Near the lighthouse I walked to Australia's most easternly point, and then down onto the beach below for the walk back. Once back, I had some lunch, and sat in a hammock listening to some podcasts whilst enjoying the sun. Spent the evening doing some admin - nothing too exciting there!

21 August 2017

Day 53: Brisbane -> Byron Bay. I ferried my bags across the city and got a 4 hour bus to Byron Bay. I got there at lunch time and went for a walk around the town. It's pretty small so there's not an awful lot to see, but it's a cool little place with lots of nice food places. I had some lunch on the beach (a traditional Aussie steak pie) and then went back to the hostel to chill by the pool. I had an afternoon nap and then had a couple of beers in the bar. In the evening, I met a couple of nice people in the hostel over dinner and did a pub quiz - not the best quiz ever but it at least killed a couple of hours. I went to bed pretty early as I was exhausted!

20 August 2017

Day 52: Brisbane. Time to do a couple of activities slightly out of town. I got the bus to Mount Coot-tha, a hill which provides viewpoints over the whole of Brisbane. It's not the prettiest city but the view was pretty great. I walked through the county park there (there was loads of people enjoying the nice 'winter' weather) to the Brisbane botanical gardens - a pretty big site, inclusive of planetarium, Japanese garden, outdoor diy kitchen thing and bonsai house. It killed an hour or so but wasn't as good as others I'd been to. I did however see my first snake in the wild - just glad I was on a boardwalk above it! I then took the walk back to southbank for a chill by the pool and to rest my weary legs, by this point I'd probably walked 9-10 miles! An hour or so there and I made my way back to the hostel to do some admin and watch a couple of films

19 August 2017

Day 51: Brisbane. My attempted lie in failed so I headed out to explore. The city centre is pretty compact so covered a lot of it quite quickly. I stumbled across an Indonesian festival which brought back some Asian memories, and then walked through the city botanical gardens and onto the gabba, just to check out what the stadium looked like. I then ventured onto southbank for a spot of lunch. This is such a nice area with an artificial beach, a couple of swimming pools, loads of nice walkways, bars, shops and restaurants. I could stay long as I had to go to the apple shop to get my phone fixed. Although I had to be phoneless and aimlessly walk around Brisbane for a couple of hours, it was a free repair so was a good result. It did, however cost me money because I did a bit of shopping to kill some time. I headed home for a catch up with the family (now across 2 continents) and a chilled evening in the hostel.

18 August 2017

Day 50: Noosa -> Brisbane. I said my goodbyes to Ben and got the early bus to Brisbane, which conveniently stops off at Australia Zoo - home of Steve Irwin and his family. I was lucky enough to be able to spend the whole day there and get on a later bus to Brisbane. The Zoo is pretty big and has all the normal stuff you'd expect, but also includes a lot of animals native to Australia, such as Koalas, Roos, Wallabies and snakes. The highlight of the day was the animal show they do in the mini stadium. It was so well planned out without forcing the animals to do anything they wouldn't normally do. There was an absolutely colossal Condor and a pretty big croc which the keeper got a lot closer to than I'd ever dream of! It seemed like the zoo was doing some good work and the family were still really close to it, so I'm glad I went. In the evening I made my way to Brisbane (delayed 40 minutes due to Bush fires) and got some well needed sleep.

17 August 2017

Day 49: Fraser Island Day 2. We got woken up at 6.30 by a didgeridoo (a unique experience) and got cracking with the day, stopping at Eli creek. This was a lazy river with crystal clear water that you can drink. We tubed and swam down it which was fun. We carried on heading north (one girl nearly rolled one of the cars) to SS Maheno, a 80 year old shipwreck on the beach. We then carried on up to see a huuuuge sand dune in the middle of the island and eventually up to a campsite for lunch and an ice cream. Our guide, Cory gave us a CD he made as he was a professional musician which was listened to for the drive back to the hostel, which was genuinely quite good! Before long we had to get off the island and head home - luckily we got to do some off-roading on some logging roads on the way back to Noosa. The trip was the best thing I've done in Oz and the people made it even better - we even had a pizza and a couple of beers in the hostel in noosa with some of our new friends from the US.

16 August 2017

Day 48: Fraser Island. We booked a two day 4x4 trip to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world! We started at 6.30 and met everyone on the trip, getting acquainted with our cars. We drove up the mainland beach for an hour and got chatting with our new friends...the novelty factor was high and was great fun. We got the ferry across the Fraser Island and got stuck into the soft sand beaches on the island. It was some genuine off-roading and everyone loved it. We eventually got up to Eulong, our hostel campsite and checked in. We then went inland to Lake mckenzie, the biggest freshwater lake on the island. This was beautiful and had amazing sand, where we kicked a ball around and messed around for a couple of hours. In the evening, we had a few drinks, watched the stars and played some card games - almost everyone got involved and I got to know quite a few people on the trip - it was a very international affair. Not many better ways to spend an evening!

15 August 2017

Day 47: Hervey Bay -> Noosa. Woke up early (again) for the early bus to Noosa, a 5 hour drive. Caught up on some admin and got to Noosa at lunchtime. In the afternoon I had a good walk around noosa and saw everything there is to see. As is becoming the norm in oz, it had a beautiful beach and a good little walk around the cliff edge. It had a really really nice town centre too, with nice shops and restaurants etc. They also had wild turkeys by the marina which was strange - there's so many things that would want to eat them in Australia that I'm not sure how they survived! In the evening I met up with Ben again, so we could catch up and arrange plans for the next couple of days

14 August 2017

Day 46: Hervey Bay. Today's activity was whale watching. I was desperate to make up for the missed opportunity in NZ and properly get close to them - I was not disappointed. We headed out early and there was a strong fog around which made visibility really poor - the water was also really calm which made it feel quite eery. We eventually stumbled across a few groups of whales as the fog cleared and watched one pair for about an hour as they flipped their tails out of the water and were courting. We drifted around and found more and more whales, later finding 3 whales who were very playful, they poked their heads out to look at the boat and spent about an hour swimming around us. They were incredible to watch and so intelligent, they knew exactly what was going on! After a few hours we headed back and I spent the afternoon doing some admin. In the evening I ended up having a good laugh with some people in the hostel and a few drinks too.

13 August 2017

Day 45: Airlie Beach -> Hervey Bay. Fortunately I slept for most of my bus journey to Hervey Bay so woke up not far from the destination. When I got there I checked in, had some breakfast and relaxed for an hour or so. I then went for a walk around Hervey Bay, along the beach, eventually ending up at a seafood festival they were having. It was pretty average but it was something to do. The area was really nice and had kids of people out fishing and enjoying the sun. I got some fish and chips for lunch and walked back to the hostel and spent the afternoon/evening watching a couple of films, having probably walked 7-8 miles around Hervey Bay.

12 August 2017

Day 44: Airlie Beach. This morning I woke up early and rented a bike to ride to the airport, about 4-5 miles away. There, I had booked a stunt flight. We quickly got up and into the plane, and after the engine warmed up we were up in the air. The flight was 20 minutes long and was a mix of enjoying the scenic view and airplane stunts. We did a ton of rolls and loops - half the time I didn't know what we were doing but it was so much fun. The G forces were pretty strong, we pulled 5G, however the flight was strangely relaxing and graceful. We were in a Russian Air Force training plane, a yak, so all the dials in front of me were in Russian and I even had my own throttle and joystick to use, not that I dared touch them! My headset was also linked up to the air traffic control so I could hear all the pilot stuff which made for a cool experience! I killed time in the afternoon ahead of a 13 hour night bus in the evening. Not fun.

11 August 2017

Day 43: Whitsundays. Today, I took a day trip to the famous whitsundays islands. We departed Airlie beach at 9am and were at the islands within an hour. We did some snorkelling first, although the water visibility was poor (something to do with the tides and moons), so I didn't spent long in the water. We then went to the airlie hill lookout and got a great view of Whitehaven beach. After that we headed round to the beach itself and had some lunch and couple of hours to chill. I did some sunbathing and also some swimming as it's not jellyfish season. The sand on the beach was incredible...almost like flour! We then headed back and did a bit of whale watching - I saw about 5-6 humpback whales which was really cool. We then headed back to airlie beach for sunset. Overall I really liked Whitehaven beach but I do think the whitsundays are ever so slightly overrated. Most of the islands looked pretty average to me, although that might be because of a recent cyclone.

10 August 2017

Day 42: Airlie Beach. I arrived off my bus at 11am and chucked my stuff off at the hostel in the middle of town. I then went out, had some lunch and booked a trip to the whitsundays for the day after. I did a bit of wandering about town, around the beach and the marina, but overall there's not much to do there that doesn't cost a lot of money. That being said, it's a really nice area and would be a great place to live or come on holiday.

9 August 2017

Day 41: Cairns - Cape Tribulation. One of the other highly recommended tours in cairns was to Cape tribulation and the daintree rainforest - the oldest rainforest in the world. I went on the tour and it involved several stop offs throughout the day, mossman gorge, daintree river and Cape tribulation to name a few. We saw some cool bits of rainforest, intertwined trees, vines, built up canopies etc. On the river we saw a few crocs although as it was winter they weren't very lively. Also saw some cassowarys which are apparently very rare! Overall the trip was pretty average - we spent a lot of time on the bus and our tour guide didn't exactly bring it to life, I fell asleep on the bus in the afternoon which is not a good sign for any tour. Afterwards, I had to get a 1am night bus to Airlie beach, fortunately I fell asleep pretty quickly when I got on which helps shorten the journey!

8 August 2017

Day 40: Cairns - Great Barrier Reef. I got to the marina for 7:30 and got on the 'passions of paradise' cataraman - it was a brand new boat and really nice. We sailed out to the GBR, about 50km off shore, to Hastings reef, one of the 3000 that makes up the GBR. When we stopped I got straight in the water for about 1.5 hours, just snorkelling around the reef and seeing what I could find. Stumbled across turtles, giant clams, giant Maori wrasse fish and tonnes of other weird and wonderful stuff. We then had some lunch on the boat and went to the second site. Again, I spent about an hour in the water there and saw some other cool stuff, like blue starfish and giant pufferfish. The second spot wasn't quite as good but it was still enjoyable. In the evening I went to reef teach - a 3 hour talk from a marine biologist about the reef, talking about the coral and the fish - particularly how you identify it. This was absolutely fascinating and a great way to learn about everything I'd just seen

7 August 2017

Day 39: Cairns. I felt pretty tired from the night before so had another chilled day. I went out and did some booking of some tours and a bus to Sydney, and then spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and catching up on some podcasts. I cooked a big meal for dinner to build up some energy for a couple of tours I have booked over the next couple of days

6 August 2017

Day 38: Cairns. As my bag didn't make it only the flight with me, I had to wait until lunchtime for my stuff. To kill some time I had a quick wander around cairns and did some food shopping. Once I had my bag I had a nice bit of brunch and spent the afternoon doing some research for the next few weeks and generally enjoying the warm weather by the pool. When I got back to the room I met some Canadian guys, got on well with them and eventually went for a night out. On the way out we organised to met up with some girls they'd met a couple of nights before - it turns out these girls were from newbury...what a small world!!

5 August 2017

Day 37: Melbourne -> Cairns. I checked out and slowly made my way to the G to meet Mike, a relative of my boss who worked for te Aussie cricket board. We met up for the afl game between Carlton and Essendon - a local derby! Had a few beers whilst watching the game and had a good laugh with Mike, although the game basically doesn't seem to have many rules so I'm still not really sure what happened! There were 60,000 people there so the atmosphere was good and the game went down to the last 2 mins, so was a good spectacle. If I was staying here a little longer I would bother to try and get into it a bit more. Shortly after the game I had to get my flight to cairns. Due to a public transport nightmare, I only made my flight by 2 mins. The flight was alright, and got some free food. I shortly worked out why - my bag didn't make it on the flight.

4 August 2017

Day 36: Melbourne. This was due to be my last main day in the city, so I wanted to finish off a few things in the city centre I hadn't done yet. I started off at the Eureka tower, the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere, for amazing views over the city. Then I ventured around all the lanes and arcades in Melbourne, just soaking up the atmosphere - also treated myself to a new hoody to replace the one I had ruined on the bike in Vietnam! Gave my old hoody (and some food treats) to a homeless guy, think he appreciated it! I also visited the oldest coffee shop in Australia, a place called pellegrinis, which had an old school little Italy in New York feel. Eventually I made my way back to st kilda and had a walk along the pier to see the resident penguins in the rocks at the end. Had a good chat with a volunteer there. Sat on the beach for a little while enjoying the sunset and then headed home to relax.

3 August 2017

Day 35: Melbourne. My morning activity was to do a tour of the MCG, the biggest cricket ground in the world. The tour took us through the stands, players backroom area and the members bit. Although it's a new stadium complex (only completed in its current guise in 2006), it was strangely soulless, there was lots of area covered in breezeblocks and even the members area was force fit with niceties. After than I grabbed some street food for lunch and went for a walking tour of the city. This gave a good overview of the city as well as sharing minute details, like popular culture facts. Our tour guide, Hugh, was funny and liked talking about cricket so I was happy! After that, I went to a Cold War themed bar for a couple of drinks - the bar had two sections, one very fancy to represent West Berlin and one very cold to represent east Berlin! In the evening I met up with an old work mate, Nathan and his gf, Cassie for dumplings. Was good to see a friendly face and we had a good catch up

2 August 2017

Day 34: Port Campbell -> Melbourne. Today was the reverse of the journey I'd made the before, with the benefit of having driven back an hour the night before. During the day I got to make quite a few stops, including loch ard gorge, the 12 apostles rock formation, The towns of Lorne and Anglesea and finally Fort Queenscliff. The scenery was spectacular, kind of similar to south west England but with long bigger more pristine beaches. I particularly liked that the coastline was relatively straight, which meant you could see the waves hitting the rocks for miles on end. The waves also created a kind of mist on the shoreline which made it look ever better! Back to Melbourne for the evening...a quiet night ready for more sightseeing around the city tomorrow! Also saw a wild koala in a tree by the roadside!

1 August 2017

Day 33: Melbourne -> Port Campbell. The great ocean road! Made headway early doors to get the tram to st kilda and pick up my rental car. Once I got sorted and got on the road I headed south west out of the city and within 2 hours was on the famous great ocean road. The road took me through seaside towns such as Torquay, Anglesea and Apollo bay, all with some of the widest, vast and prettiest beaches you could ever wish to see. Had a spot of fish of chips in Apollo Bay (got harassed by seagulls) and drove to Warrnambool. There, I was lucky enough to watch sunset over another beautiful beach from a whale watching platform. 50m off shore there was at least 3, most likely 5-6, southern right whales in their breeding grounds. I didn't see much of the whales, just the odd fin, blowhole or back, but it was still pretty magical! Headed back from there an hour to Port Campbell for the night. I think I topped 8 hours driving today, hopefully should be easier tomorrow!

31 July 2017

Day 32: Melbourne. Started off with a free tour of federation square, the main cultural hub of Melbourne. It was really interesting to find out it was only 20 years old and about all the intricacies of building it. Whilst there, I stopped by the Australia institute of moving image, a homage to to and video games. After that I took a self guided walking tour of the cbd street art: this was a bit disappointing as most of it had been spoilt or scrubbed away but I got to walk the main streets of Melbourne, specifically Chinatown, which were all quite vibrant. Afterwards I did another tour of the street art in Fitzroy, the suburb I was staying in. This was far far better as there were tonnes of unspoilt murals, some were even 20+ metres high. Fitzroy is also a really cool area, full of Victorian architecture and boutique shops and bars, a bit like Brighton! Literally couldn't walk any further after that so had to chill out in the hostel in the evening

30 July 2017

Day 31: Melbourne. A day of a LOT of walking! Got the tram to Albert park for a walk around the public roads which make the F1 track, it was really interesting to see how it looked outside of a GP weekend - there was also tonnes of local sport going on in the park which was cool to see. Then walked to south Melbourne market and found a Banh mi at a Vietnamese street food place, had a nice chat with an Irish couple there too! The market had tonnes of cheap food, especially fruit and veg, which made a nice change from NZ. After that I took a walk to southbank (very reminiscent of London southbank), and then onto the national war memorial. This was a really nice place with a museum at the bottom and a balcony overlooking the city at the top. Finished with a walk around the botanical gardens and got bitten by flies from around the lake. Evening activity was going to watch Dunkirk at the IMAX, currently the biggest cinema screen in the world!

29 July 2017

Summary of New Zealand. I really like New Zealand and is an awesome place to travel around with your own transport. It's beauty is in the wilderness and mountains, as the landscape changes all the time between beautiful rocky beaches, rolling hills and eventually mountains. The only downside of NZ is the cities; with the exception of Queenstown, the cities are all relatively un-tourist friendly and don't have much culture to absorb. New Zealand is the kind of place that would be a totally different experience travelling summer and winter; we got to experience snow capped mountains and scenic walks whereas in the summer the northland would be amazing for beach life and water activities. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, particularly if they want to escape the busyness of western life without losing the familiarities they're accustomed to
Day 30: Christchurch -> Melbourne. Spent the morning faffing about dropping the car off at the airport, packing my bag and getting stuff sorted for my flight. Had some lunch and headed to the airport at 4pm for my flight. At the airport they had the US Antarctic programme base, inclusive of a NASA jump jet which was cool to see, but all round quite uneventful! Had a nice flight with Qantas, got some free food and drink and had some good films on the in flight entertainment. Annoyingly, when I got to Melbourne it took me over two hours to get from the airport to my hostel, but the hostel seems nice enough!

28 July 2017

Day 29: Being the first day in two weeks we haven't had to check out of our hostel, we made the most of it and chilled most of the morning. In the afternoon we did a room escape to fill the time - it wasn't an overly good one but kept us entertained for an hour. We then went for a walk around the botanical gardens, eventually making it to Canterbury museum. The museum was full of pretty random exhibits and was overall quite outdated, although they had some half decent items in the Antarctic exploration section. A chilled out evening consisting of a roast dinner and a couple of beers finished off my last full day in NZ

27 July 2017

Day 28: Kaikoura -> Christchurch. Our whale watching trip in Kaikoura was cancelled, so we had to make the three hour journey back to Christchurch earlier than expected. We checked into our hostel, a refurbished prison, and ventured out into Christchurch. We walked through most of the city, including the most destructed Cathedral, the replacement cardboard cathedral and the 185 chair memorial to the earthquake victims. We had coffee at a ducky coffee shop called C1, and then went to a bar called Smash Palace, a temporary feature of Christchurch which has become semi permanent, a bar made from a bus and some containers. We ventured around christchurch in the evening trying our best to find some bars to drink in, although it became quite a challenge as the city centre is mostly deserted. There are cars driving around but no-one walks in the streets and there no restaurants and bars open. It was a really strange atmosphere and desperately sad to see.

26 July 2017

Day 27: Twizel -> Kaikoura. Another big driving day, approximately 7 hours in the car. We made a quick detour to mount cook village to see the sir Edmund Hillary visitors centre. It is the hub of NZ mountaineering and had a great mini museum; the most chilling aspect of the centre was the memorial books for everyone who had died on the mountains at mount cook national park...sadly there was a fair few recent ones with some horror stories about how they met their end. The drive to Kaikoura was especially difficult because of the condition of the roads in Canterbury...there is still a phenomenal amount of uneven surfaces or half rebuilt roads from the earthquake 6 years ago.

25 July 2017

Day 26: Dunedin -> Twizel. In the morning we attempted to get onto the otago peninsular for some wildlife watching but had no luck due to mudslides on the roads. We did, however, get to see Baldwin street, steepest street in the world, which was really cool - steeper than any photo will ever show you. We then had a 4 hour drive to mount cook national park and arrived shortly before sunset. We watched sunset in the car from a hydroelectric power station as it was so remote and then checked into our hostel. Later in the evening we went out to try and find a remote spot for stargazing but the cloud cover meant it was a fairly wasted effort

24 July 2017

Day 25: Milford Sound -> Dunedin. We got the 10am ferry journey at the port on the sound, and we're quickly engulfed in low cloud and heavy rain. We got pretty soaked but the rain (which also came down overnight) meant the waterfalls were in full flow. We cruised up to a lot of them to get a great sense of the scale of them. The boat took us out to sea (very choppy and brisk) and quickly back into the sound. On the way back he took us to the bottom of the biggest waterfall where we got absolutely drenched, it was glacier water as well so it was freezing, although it had only just melted so the guide told us that no human would've ever touched the water we were touching - pretty cool! We made it back to port shortly after to warm up and head to Bluff. 4 hours later we arrived and got to experience sunset at NZ mainlands most southern point. After that we had another 3 hour drive to Dunedin for the night.

23 July 2017

Day 24: Queenstown -> Milford Sound. A 4 hour drive took up most of the days sunlight although the views through fiordland were stunning, possible the most beautiful part of NZ we've seen so far. We got to Milford Sound at 3:30, checked in and went down to the waters edge for a look around. As it was low tide we got quite far out on the rocks and took some really cool pictures. Another quiet evening ensued, ready for activities tomorrow.

22 July 2017

Day 23: Queenstown. Nevis Swing! We headed to AJ Hackett for 9:30 and got the bus to their private site, 40 mins later we were greeted with the view of their bungy and canyon swing! We quickly got harnessed up and we're out on the platform. We queued for about 20 mins but then got strapped in. We went backwards so in order to get us to flip upside down the person strapping us in got us to pose for a picture looking up, and promptly let us go! We freefell for 70m and then had a total swing of 300m. It was over so quickly but was so much fun! We headed back into town, got another fergburger, bought a guidebook for oz, and then walked up the tiki trail to skyline bar, for amazing views of queenstown and the remarkables. We then found a local rugby game to watch (we had to support the blue team as it reminded us of newbury), went for a walk round the bay to take some sunset pics and then won 2 free big bars of dairy milk each from a pop up promo truck! Chilled evening required!

21 July 2017

Day 22: Queenstown. A truly written off day after a night out yesterday. Walked around the town for a little while. Moved to bens friends house so we can stay with them for a couple of days.

20 July 2017

Day 21: Wanaka -> Queenstown. In the morning we stopped off at Lake wanaka, with a stunning background. We found a nearby disc golf course but couldn't find anywhere to rent frisbees so ended up playing rugby golf instead. After that we drove to arrowtown (old mining town) and had some pies (amazing). We then drove to queenstown, checked in and did some washing. For dinner we had a world famous fergburger - I went for a paradise swine with bacon and pineapple. The burger was really good but slightly overhyped, especially considering we queues for 45 mins to get it. In the evening we went for a night out with some of bens friends - it was a fun night and good to soak up the atmosphere in a party town

19 July 2017

Day 20: Franz Josef -> Wanaka. Our main aim of the day was to climb the route that takes you as close as you can get to Franz Josef glacier. We did the 5.5 hour walk in 4 hours through some rocky (slippy) routes. We didn't see the glacier until the very end which made it quite special. Even within a few hundred metres, it was very mild which explains why the glacier is melting at such a rate. Afterwards, we drove to within view of fox glacier, but couldn't get too close. We then took the 3 hour drive to Wanaka and had a BIG dinner to recover the lost calories and missed lunch!

18 July 2017

1/2 Day 19: Westport -> Franz Josef. An early start meant we were on the road by 8 in order to head on the coast road south, first stop: the pancake rocks and blowhole. The sea was really calm so the blowhole wasn't in action but the pancake rocks were a fascinating formation. We then made it to Barrytown for the main activity of the day - knifemaking!! We were greeted by Steve and Robyn at their house cum workshop, and we got straight on with forging our blades. It was great fun hammering them into shape...the steel was so pliable when hot that a little knock made a huge difference! After 3 heats we had the basic outline of our blade. We cut to size and glued & pinned a brass/wood handle on. Following that, we hammered the pins flat and did some small resin fillers. We had some lunch in their house, had a good chat with the other people on the course and played on a giant swing whilst Steve did some necessary touch ups to our knives....
2/2 Day 19: Westport -> Franz Josef. Steve and Robyn had obviously put a lot of thought into making sure we didn't get bored in the 15 min gaps we occasionally had, and we're both entertaining guests themselves. After lunch, we had the most challenging part - deciding what profile knife to make. We sanded down curves and lumps into our knives to make the desired shape but it made me pretty nervous as I didn't want to ruin it! We then spent the last hour sanding our blade faces down using ever finer paper, eventually reaching the polished look. A little bit of wood stain and polish finished the knife off. The last step was for steve to put an edge on the knife and tell us about caring for them. The course was so interesting and a lot of fun, would recommend it to anyone! We then had a 3 hour drive up into the mountains - we caught a bit of the view before sunset but probably missed loads of good bits!

17 July 2017

Day 18: Abel Tasman -> Westport. We planned to do a 5 hour walk along the coast in Abel Tasman national park - however when we set off we realised it was a 2 hour drive to the start of the walk so quickly rearranged. We drove through the centre of the park toward Pupu springs, a natural spring water source. It was pretty underwhelming although the water was ridiculously clear. We then took the 4 hour drive to Westport. The drive was reminiscent of Canada...big forests full of pines through small mountain ranges. We made a couple of stop offs at viewpoints (NZ is really good for signposting this kind of thing) and eventually made it to Westport on the west coast to have a quick little walk along the coast. The sea looked impressive and we were also lucky enough to see a pack of seals on a rocky area below. The evening was chilled again, watching a film in front of the fire (another good things about NZ hostels is that almost all of the have proper fires in the living rooms).

16 July 2017

Day 17: Wellington -> Abel Tasman. A disgustingly early start to get the cook strait ferry to embark on our journey on the South Island. We arrived at 9:30 and drove through the Marlborough region (wine making country) towards Abel Tasman national park. We checked into our hostel (literally in the middle of nowhere) and took an afternoon walk on part of the 51km coastal track. It was eerily quiet but made the beaches all the more spectacular. We messed around with the rugby ball and collected some shells for Amy, and eventually went back for a nap. The evening was quiet in order for us to stay up for the British GP!

15 July 2017

Day 16: Wellington. The morning was occupied by a well needed brunch at Fidels cafe, aptly named as it was based on Cuba street. On the way back we stopped by the basin reserve, just to see what it looked like. We then jumped in the car and dropped a lions shirt to our original 'adopt a lions fan' host as a thank you for hosting us. We followed that up with a trip to mount Victoria for some great panoramic views of Wellington - we spent a while watching the planes land and take off at the airport. We then headed back to te papa to finish off the last exhibits - there was a couple of the Maori heritage but the most interesting one was one about how the landscape of NZ changed through the colonisation period. The evening activity was to go watch hurricanes vs crusaders at the westpac stadium. It was very nice to have a stress free experience of watching rugby and it was a really good game too!

14 July 2017

Day 15: Wellington. We had a late start to the day, doing some errands (I needed to wash pretty much all my clothes) so only left the hostel at 1:30. We had a walk around town (it was very blustery today), made our way to 'the beehive', New Zealand's parliamentary building. We walked in and quickly found ourselves on a guided tour, we only got to see a few rooms but their 'house of representatives' chamber was interesting - their whole political set up is based on the British version. We walked further round town, and eventually made it to Te Papa, the national museum. We spent a couple of hours in there seeing their Gallipoli exhibition (which was hugely impressive, the giant models of battle scenes especially), their natural history section (including a giant squid) and a section about earthquakes. Our evening activity was a trip to the cinema to see planet of the apes.

13 July 2017

Day 14: Taihape -> Wellington. We woke up to 6 inches of snow so our white water rafting for the day had (thankfully) been cancelled. The problem we then had was that we were stuck in a tiny little town with all the roads around us closed. We waited out the morning and at lunchtime we wandered into town to see how bad the roads were and to try and get some lunch. The roads were slushy but drivable so we got in the car to head to Wellington, through about 40km of snowy conditions and then 140km of wet and windy conditions. We got stuck in the snow once because there was someone who got stuck in front of us, but overall the conditions weren't too bad - surprisingly, north island New Zealander's are not prepared for this kind of weather! We chilled out in Wellington and had a couple of beers. It turns out the journey was a wasted effort as we can't book a ferry to the South Island for another 3 days anyway!

12 July 2017

Day 13: Rotorua -> Taihape. Another long day of driving - 2 hours to Waitomo caves for the famous glow worm caves. The tour was probably the most disappointing thing we've done in New Zealand so far - we were with a huge group of very noisy tourists, we had an incredibly patronising tour guide and the actual 'glow worm' part of the tour only lasted a few minutes. Ben and I lost interest when the tour guide tried to get people to sing twinkle twinkle little star to prove the acoustic qualities of the cave. That being said, the glow worms were cool to see and huge in number. After that we drove 3 hours to our overnight stop in Taihape, ready for white water rafting tomorrow. Given the weather on the drive however, it is looking probable it'll get cancelled

11 July 2017

Day 12: Hamilton -> Rotorua. A late morning after the long drive the day before, we planned our next few days and realised we had a day spare. With that in mind and clear weather, we went back to Rotorua to do the street luge again. We did 7 runs, but most importantly, the advanced track was open as it was dry. It was super busy but we had so much fun - the advanced track was genuinely really quick! I beat Ben 5-2 (to revenge my 4-1 loss last time). As the sun set we went shopping and crashed at the hostel in the evening

10 July 2017

Day 11: Bay of Islands -> Cape Reigna -> Hamilton. A 3 hour drive started the day, making our way through the countryside of the northern peninsular. We eventually made it to the cape which was blustery but so warm, moreover a stunning place. We walked to the lighthouse (northern most point in nz) and watched the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman sea collide. After that we had the short drive to Te Paki sand dunes and did some sand boarding. We got absolutely covered in sand but it was so much fun (slightly scary too). The dune we went to was about 50-60 degrees vertical and was a nightmare to climb to the top, which meant we only did about 5 runs. Afterwards we had the delightful 6.5 hour drive to Hamilton so we can do some more activities tomorrow.

9 July 2017

Day 10: Auckland -> Bay of Islands. The majority of the day was very lazy - we caught up on some sleep, rewatched the rugby and did a small amount of planning for the next few days. At 6pm we left Lagi, Tui and Semi (they were the nicest hosts you could want and we are so thankful to have stayed with them) and went to Bushmans grill. We met Amy's family friends who own the restaurant and had the best meal of my trip! Dee was so nice and made sure it was the best meal I could have for my birthday. Thank you Steve & Rebecca for organising it! After dinner we had a 2:30 drive to bay of islands, a bit of a horrible drive but means we can hit the ground running tomorrow!

8 July 2017

2/2 Day 9: Auckland. We had tickets near the half way line in the lower tier - we couldn't have asked for better! The match was awesome, if not a bit scrappy, but the atmosphere was just unbearable. We also had some good guys sat around us who we enjoyed watching the game with and chatting. The final whistle was a strange feeling as the match was a draw, with no-one really knowing what to think. Afterwards, we hung around to clap the players off and bought some replica shirts for our hosts as a thank you - we also got one for our host in Wellington, Alex which we'll drop off on the way down the country. We came back to our house and rewatched the game through some very tired eyes
1/2 Day 9: Auckland. Third Test Lions vs All Blacks. We had a lie in and a huuuge Fijian breakfast to set us up for the day. We went into town at 12:30 and met up with a family friend of bens called lance. Fortunately, lance is also friends with sir Clive Woodward so when we arrived at their hotel, they were having lunch and a beer with him. He insisted on buying us a couple of beers each and also tried to buy us lunch; we then had a good chat about rugby, his life/media duties...he was also quite interested in my life and everyone else there - a really nice guy and a lot more subdued than he comes across on tv! We then headed to our pre match hospitality, a buffet and free drinks at an Irish bar just out of town. We thought it was going to be an all 'all blacks' event but there was tonnes of lions fans there which made for an awesome atmosphere. We then got to the ground by train about an hour before kick off and soaked up the atmosphere....

7 July 2017

Day 8: Rotorua -> Auckland. Although we hadn't spent enough time in Rotorua, we had to head north for the rugby so left early and made a morning stop off at the Hobbiton movie set. We had a two hour guided tour where they talked about the intricacies put into the set and how they used forced perspective to make the characters look the right size by having different sized doors, furniture and trees. The tour was really interesting and finished with a beer in the pub! We then drove to Auckland and made it mid afternoon, to find that our Airbnb host had completely let us down. Frantically we posted on Facebook pages to sort something out and killed a few hours wandering round Auckland, including a trip up sky tower. A few hours later, a Samoan woman named Lagi came to our rescue and put us up for a couple of nights. When we got to the house we spent a few hours chatting to her, her Fijian partner and nephew. They were as happy to have us staying there as we were to be there!

6 July 2017

Day 7: Rotorua. First stop of the day was the street luge, a 2km downhill road that you can head down on sleds with wheels and very limited brakes! The weather was poor so the advanced course was closed, but we had 1 run on the scenic route and then 4 on the intermediate. The luges were so much fun, a bit scary at points and made for some good racing between Ben and I. So good that I had two 'offs', one right at the finish line as I pipped Ben to the end. I ended up covered in mud and a nice graze on my leg but so worth it! Afterwards, we made our way to Kerosene Creek, a natural hot spring stream. It was pretty chilly and we were already a bit cold and wet but we put up with it to jump in the river. It stank of egg but was lovely and warm, so we spent a good 40 minutes there. The evenings activity was watching the 1997 lions documentary 'living with lions', getting us in the mood for Saturday!!

5 July 2017

Day 6: Tongariro Alpine Crossing + Taupo -> Rotorua. A before sunrise start for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, dubbed the best one day hike in NZ. After arranging transport we started the 19km hike at 8am. The walk dissects several craters between Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe, summiting at the peak of the 'red crater'. The ascent was mostly flat, although there was one 45 section of hard climbing, followed shortly with a tricky final ascent through frosty ice. We then descended to the emerald pools (awesome spot for lunch) and finished the downhill (albeit long) walk to the finish. We finished in under 6 hours which was pretty good going. The views throughout the whole walk were utterly stunning! The mid afternoon activity was visiting huka falls in Taupo - these were also so impressive. So much water in a tiny space! Final drive to Rotorua before sunset for more activities tomorrow

4 July 2017

Day 5: Whanganui -> Turangi. In the morning, we went to a viewpoint over Whanganui, in the form of an elevator set into the hillside. It is the second oldest lift in the world! After that, we started our main activity for the day - the Whanganui river road. The road runs for 40km along the riverside and has lots of viewpoints along the way. We got halfway along and realised we left our lunch back at the hostel so had to head back, grab our lunch and start again. The drive was so beautiful, lots of green hillsides and weird ferns (including some that looked like palm trees). The weather closed in for the bit of the journey after the river road but we made it to Turangi in plenty of time to get an early night ready for a big day tomorrow

3 July 2017

Day 4: Wellington -> Whanganui. We left our fantastic hosts and collected our rental car, promptly making our way to weta caves for a tour of the workshops. It talked through how they make the costumes and props for movies such as lord of the rings, the hobbit, King Kong and District 9- we weren't allowed to take pictures though. A stop off for lunch and we drove on to Palmerston North, specifically the Rugby Museum. It mainly focused on NZ rugby but covered various aspects of the game, including seeing the oldest playing jersey still intact. Another 1 hour drive got us to our overnight stop in Whanganui, a small town that felt like a small town! Our hostel was also a college dorm so we chatted to the people who lived there whilst making my first home cooked meal for 3 months!
Day 3: Wellington. The day after the night before. With a reasonable hangover, all I managed today was to rewatch the first and second test matches and chill out. We tried puau (a New Zealand seafood dish) from the local fish and chip shop and called it a night

1 July 2017

Day 2: Wellington - NZ vs BIL 2nd test. What a day!!! Started off chilling at the house until 2pm, waiting for 2 Scottish guys to turn up. We headed into town with them and made it to mac's brewery, a good spot to soak up the atmosphere. We had a few jugs, got some food and had a laugh. We then went to another bar before walking to the westpac stadium. We watched the game (what do I say about that?!?) and waited around in the stadium for 30 mins after the game just enjoying the moment. The atmosphere was unlike anything I've ever seen - everyone high fiving each other and hugging complete strangers. After the game we partied hard into the night - met some lovely people and exchanged the stories of how they came to be in Wellington for the game! A late night ensued: I saw Lawes, Vunipola, Falateau, Sinckler and Corbisiero in a club, but didn't want to disrupt them too much so didn't say hello
Day 1: Bali -> Wellington. I left Amy behind in the midst of a huge kerfuffle with her flights at Bali airport and got to Wellington via Sydney and Auckland. Only 10 hours in the air but a >24 hour journey. I met up with Ben and we got picked up from the airport by our 'adopt a lions fan' hosts, Aaron and Alex. They took us to their house in the hills, about 20 min walk outside Wellington city centre. They are really hospitable and cooked us dinner and shared a couple of beers. After 35+ hours with virtually no sleep, it's definitely time for bed