Australia · 72 Days · 73 Moments · January 2016

Heather & Kelly Mathison

Heather's voyage in Australia & New Zealand

20 March 2016

We got to the airport in good time. The nice lady at the Air Canada desk offered a free upgrade to business class! . It was so nice to have the extra room especially when your flying 14 hours! (Thanks Air Canada) We arrived in Vancouver, took the train to Granville Island Station & got picked up by our AirB&B host, Debra. We had a great visit and tour of some of the city with Keith, then Andrew & Zoe joined us for drinks and dinner at "Locals". It's funny to leave one hemisphere in the fall, and arrive in another and it's springtime , all in one day. 😀 Later we took a little walk around Granville Island. That's it! Home tomorrow. This has been a wonderful voyage✈️👍

18 March 2016

A beautiful morning, we got up and packed for our trip back to Sydney. We stopped to see Katoomba falls and the gondola to Scenic world. We also stopped at some of the other lookouts along the cliff drive. After lunch, we drove back to our AirB&B near the airport. We were able to catch up all out laundry. Order a delicious pizza from "Crust" and enjoyed our last evening in Oz with a bottle of wine.

18 March 2016

It was overcast, with a few showers. After b'fast at the hostel, we took a drive to Blackheath, and to Mount Tomah botanical gardens. Late in the afternoon the clouds went away and we were treated to some great views at Eaglehawk and The Three Sisters lookouts. The Blue Mountains get their name because the millions of eucalyptus trees give off a vapour which creates a "blue haze". The views and features are spectacular rivalling the U.S. Grand Canyon. It's also a great area for wildlife, especially Kookaburras, white & black cockatoos, and bellbirds. After we took in the sunset, we went back to our hostel and visited with travellers from all over including BC, New Zealand, the UK & Germany. People were playing scrabble and it was interesting to hear some of the creative words.

17 March 2016

We made our way from Newcastle south along Lake Macquarie. We made a few stops along the way. We got into the Blue Mountains & stopped at Wentworth Falls lookout. We got checked into our Hostel & got some tips on places to see in the area. We looked around Katoomba some of the shops and cool murals. We then went out to Sublime point to watch the sunset. We found a great little Irish pub that had St. Patrick's day celebrations going on. We met a nice couple who were in town for a folk festival. They invited us to join them for dinner (and a few pints of Guinness.) it was a great way to celebrate Kelly's birthday.

16 March 2016

Our last day in Newcastle. We checked out some of the other coastal swimming spots including Merewether, Bar Beach and the Bogey hole. We wanted to tour the "Lock up," an 1800's Gaol which has been converted to an art gallery but it was closed as they were switching exhibits. It was our last day of house sitting, so we did some yard and house tidying, & said goodbye to Princess, Jake & Abby. We did our laundry and packed up to be ready to head south in the morning.

15 March 2016

It was a little cooler today (27C) so we got a great map and did a self guided tour to see the murals, historical buildings and points of interest around Newcastle. After lunch were went out to Blackbutt Nature Reserve. We wandered around the park, ponds and protected areas, and saw lots of wildlife, including kookaburras , white & black Cockatoos, parrots, emus, kangaroos, wallabies as well as turtles, eels and frogs. They also had a great koala reserve area. We drove back into the city and spent a couple of hours in the Newcastle museum.

14 March 2016

MONDAY. We took a short 55 km drive to Port Stevens and Nelson Bay. The area is beautiful. We spent the day visiting the many beaches, bays, lighthouses and lookouts. We then headed back into Newcastle and visited Christ Church Cathedral. We went down to the wharf to the "Salty Squid." We shared a huge platter of Oysters, squid, baby octopus, scallops, grilled fish & chips. We watched the tugs guiding the huge ships into the port. We then headed up to the new memorial walkway to stroll along and watch the sunset.

13 March 2016

SUNDAY. We went to the markets at the Newcastle show grounds. We picked up some fresh fruit & veg and wandered through the shops. We had a "classic sausage sizzle". We then headed over to the Beaumont Street Carnivale. They had 3 or 4 blocks of vendors, games, and 3 stages with live entertainment. At the end of the day we went to the Kent Hotel for a pint and listened to a live Blues band.

11 March 2016

Newcastle is the 2nd oldest city in Australia. It was once the largest coal exporting harbour in the world. It continues to have lots of shipping activity out of the port including grain exports. We got settled into our housesitting place, fed the pets then went down to Honeysuckle, which is the old wharf area that is being renewed into shops, restaurants and tourist areas. We got some good tips from the tourist info. We stopped at The harbour and watched the ships coming in. We stopped at Nobby's beach to watch the surfers & even saw the rescue helicopter rescuing a swimmer caught in the rip. We went up to the look out and then down to the 3 salt water Newcastle Ocean Baths for the afternoon.
Today we visited Fort Scatchley built in 1828 to protect the Port. 6 months after Pearl Harbour, the Newcastle harbour was attacked by a Japanese Submarine. The huge guns returned fire from this Fort chasing the sub away, ending the attack. We met a nice man who volunteered at the Fort, and he got us tickets to see 2 bands play an outdoor concert in the evening. It was great to hear the big band sound as they played many tunes including some Aussie favs like Waltzing Matilda. They also held a sunset ceremony, lowered the flag to the bugle call. The ANZAC Military band finished off the "Music of the Guns" night, playing Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture including the synchronised firing of the huge MkVII 6" guns. We enjoyed the show under the southern stars with some wine & snacks.

10 March 2016

We left Bellingen and took the Promised Land loop through some beautiful country, stopping at Never Never Creek. We then took the Waterfall Way to the town of Dorrigo. We passed a number of waterfalls through the Gondwana Rainforest national park. We stopped at Griffiths Lookout and Dangar Falls. We also picked up some nice fruit buns at a bakery that still uses wood fired ovens. From Dorrigo we made our way down the coast past Port Macquarie & Taree arriving in Newcastle around 7:30 pm We plan on "house sitting" for a week in the suburb of Islington, This will be a nice break as we will be able to see the sites and make a few day trips yet still have a home base. We are looking after a dog "Princess" and 2 cats, Jake & Abby, while the owner is away on business. Another new adventure!

9 March 2016

We checked out of the Yamba YHA backpackers, then walked around some of the shops. We found a used book store & Kelly bought some old Ned Kelly books. It was very hot, so we decided to go back to the Rock quarry pools to cool off. I got a little braver with the cliff jumps!!! We then made our way south, stopping at Grafton & a beautiful spot along the river for a picnic lunch. The air was full of fragrance, especially frangipanis. It was a scenic drive down the coast through Coffs Harbour, then inland to Bellingen. We walked around this cool little town looking at the quant shops & old buildings. We stopped into the Bellingen Brewing Co. for a pint of local craft ginger beer. The YHA is an old multi story house with wrap around verandas & beautiful views of the river and the Great Dividing Range. We had a nice evening playing the hostel guitar and visiting with other backpackers. The bats flew over at dusk and the a little possum came out of the bush to see us.
Yamba is a great little beach town, about 6500 people. Surfing seems to be the pass time. We checked out all the local surf beaches then drove over to Angourie for the afternoon to swim in the fresh water rock quarries (Blue Pool & Green Pool). There were some great spots for cliff diving! We saw this green tree snake on the path. On our way back, we stopped at a Fisherman Co-op and picked up some fresh Prawns and Morton Bay bugs for supper.

7 March 2016

We drove down the Pacific Coast stopping at Surfers Paradise, where we walked along the promenade, did some shopping and had some fish&chips. Continuing down we stopped in at Byron Bay. We watched people surfing and skateboarding and took in the vibe of this great beach town. The drive was quite scenic. At dusk, we stopped and watched the bats fly overhead. It was amazing as thousands of bats came out of their colonies to find food. We arrived in Yamba, picked up a few groceries and had a nice Taco salad at the YHA.

6 March 2016

THURSDAY We arrived back in Brisbane and checked back into the Brisbane YHA (its starting to feel like home) FRIDAY we visited our friend Alex and he gave a tour of the Ford dealership he now works at. SATURDAY we took a drive with Alex,Penny and Lydia to Redlands, then stopped at Cleveland point for a nice visit and dinner at the Grant View Hotel. SUNDAY We did a little shopping at Kathmandu and visited the new shopping center at the former Gasworks site. That evening, we had a reunion with Kelly's former work mates & friends. Paul , Joanne & family, Breen & Fiona and Tiffany. It was such a great dinner and we got caught up on the past 3 years since we last got together. MONDAY we visited Tiffany's new business "Quenchies" and had a refreshing Smoothie. We then went and visited the new Chesterfield Australia office. It was great to see former colleagues and to get a tour of the new offices and dealership.

2 March 2016

Our last day on Stradbroke Island. Wish we could stay longer. We checked out of the Manta YHA in the morning, but Pip, the manager allowed us use of some snorkel gear for the day and to come back for a shower later, as our Ferry didn't leave until 6pm. We spent our last day at the beach. We stopped at a local fish shop and picked up some local Morton Bay bugs which made a yummy beach picnic. There was a lady fishing at the beach and we had a nice afternoon visiting with her and again watching the Dolphins. Later in the afternoon we headed back to the hostel, had a shower, and headed for the "Big Red Cat" ferry. The Morton Bay crossing was smooth and the sunset was beautiful. We got back to Brisbane City YHA, had a late dinner, and visited with some of the other travellers.
Another great day on "Straddie". We took a walk around the lookout. We got some great views of the gorge and beaches, we also saw some sea turtles. We stopped for a much needed ice cream as it was very hot. We headed back to Amity Point and our Dolphin friends were there to great us. We had a great afternoon swimming with them and watching them play in the little bay. After our day at the beach we stopped in at Brown lake. It is a clear, fresh water lake but the water is brown due to the tea trees. It felt great and our skin felt so soft due to the natural tea tree oils. One of the Swiss girls at our hostel was celebrating her 25th birthday so about 12 of us got together and had a pot luck. One of the locals picked up a cake and also made up a beautiful bouquet of local flowers including orchids, bird of paradise, banksia, & palm. We had a great little party and made a bunch of new friends.

1 March 2016

Today was amazing. We drove to Amity with a girl from Denmark & another from Switzerland. We watched people fishing from the jetty & swam in the "protected" area. Good job because Kelly had a bull shark swim along side of him just outside the fence! We saw lots of small colorful tropical fish. On advice from some locals, we went to Amity point, there were only 2 other people there. Numerous Dolphins were playing in the bay and came right up to us as we snorkelled around. They seemed curious and playful. We got some great photos & video. We couldn't believe we had them all to ourselves for the afternoon! We returned to the YHA and a group of 10 or 12 of us walked over to the Bowls Club and played bowls and had a great meal.
After a nice visit with Tala, we checked out & boarded the Ferry at Cleveland. The crossing to Stradbroke Island was smooth. Once we arrived we drove through the 3 small villages of Dunwich, Amity & Point Lookout then checked into the YHA. We picked up groceries then spend the rest of the day at the beach. We had a nice BBQ then visited with the other guests. People visiting from the UK, Denmark, France, Switzerland, as well as some locals. We got some great tips for the island.

27 February 2016

We arrived in Brisbane late Friday and checked into the Brisbane YHA. The next morning we visited the familiar places & haunts then had a nice visit with Joe & Maria who Heather used to work for. We then returned to the hostel and cooked up a beautiful fresh prawn stir fry. Sunday, we took a river cruise on the City Cat. That evening we went to visit with our good friends Geoff, Jamie and Alexa, & and had a wonderful time & fantastic meal. We also met 2 of Geoff's co-workers from Deere. Monday, we had morning coffee with our friend Tala then drove to Cleveland and boarded a ferry to Stradbroke Island.

26 February 2016

Well, sad to say, today is our last day in New Zealand. We drove up to Kerikeri and did a short hike to Rainbow falls, then made our way back to Auckland. It's less than 300kms but it took almost 6 hours by the time we battled Friday traffic & returned the rental car. We stopped at an artist who works with reclaimed Kauri wood. This huge throne may end up in the next "Game of Thrones" filming! We had a great time in "Aotearoa", the Kiwis were awesome hosts, so friendly!!! The next time we visit, they may be flying a new "fern" flag? Next stop, Brisbane, Australia.

25 February 2016

This morning we moved from the Pickled Parrot backpackers to the YHA in Paihia. We took a drive to the Waitangi treaty grounds then to Haruru falls. After lunch, the YHA had a special discount, so we booked a 4 hour Bay of Islands boat cruise. The water was such amazing colours! We saw lots of Dolphins with babies as well as numerous penguins. The bay is actually made up of 144 islands & is the region of the original Mauri settlements. Today it's a very popular for sail boats due to numerous coves, bays & safe mooring spots. Our boat went all the way out the "hole in the rock" but the swells were too big so we couldn't go through. We stopped at one of the islands & we went for a refreshing swim. We came back to the hostel and met 2 nice couples from Chile. After supper, we walked down to the bay and waited for the full moon to rise over the islands, the view was amazing.

24 February 2016

Today we drove through Auckland along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway. National Geographic named this area as one of the worlds top 3 Coastlines. Such amazing scenery as we made stops at Mangawhai Heads, Whiapu cove, and Ruakaka. We visited a Kauri forest boasting 800 yr old Kauri trees measuring over 7.5 meters around at the base We stopped in Whangarei to see the Te Matau a Pohe (fishhook) Bridge, went up to the lookout at Mt Parihaka and the 30 meter Whangarei falls. We drove north to Paihia to the "Pickled Parrot Hostel".

23 February 2016

Today we made our way from Whitianga to Auckland. We picked up a German hitch hiker on her way to Hot water beach, which was on our way north. We took the Pacific Coast Highway along the Firth of Thames. This is a huge shorebird nesting area as well as mussel & oyster region. We made some stops at Kawakawa bay and Beachlands. We stayed near the airport at a motor inn and since there was no kitchen, we splurged and picked up a pizza. As you can see, our ship came in but we were about 20O years too late.

22 February 2016

This morning we visited a local travel agent in Whitianga to see about changing our Fiji travel plans due to the devastation from cyclone Winston. It looks like it is a record breaking storm with 250km/hr winds causing lots of damage, flooding, and loss of power & water. With the news and travel advisories, we decided to cancel our Fiji trip. We borrowed a shovel from our hostel & headed 25k south to Hot Water Beach. Due to geothermal activity in the area, at low tide, you can dig a hole in the sand to create your own hot tub pool. In some cases the water was too hot so the incoming surf helped cool the water down. As you can see, it was a popular spot! Later in the afternoon we went to Hahei beach for a snorkel and over to the Cathedral Cove lookout. We headed back to the hostel and had a BBQ then took a bottle of wine across the street to the beach to watch the full moon over Mercury bay & do some star gazing.

20 February 2016

We checked out of the "love shack" in Coromandel then took the 309 Road, a scenic (gravel) 20k drive across the Coromandel Peninsula. We stopped & hiked to Wailau Falls & through a grove of huge, ancient & rare Kauri trees. We arrived in Coromandel town & took an awesome 2.5 hr boat tour along the coastline, into sea caves at Cathedral Cove, Hahei, Orura & through a marine reserve. We stopped for a short snorkel at the edge of the reserve. We were fortunate to have booked with "Cave Cruze" as our guide, Steve, was excellent and his jet boat was able to go into some of the shallow caves the propeller boats were unable to go. We checked into the "On the Beach" hostel, did some laundry & had a nice BBQ. We shared accommodations with five 19-21 yr olds from a group called Rustic Pathways. They were from New York, Boston & Maine. Nice young folks on a "gap year" trip. It was fun meeting them, although we did feel a little like chaperones as they were new to hostelling & backpacking. 😜
We drove north from Whitianga on the Pacific Coast Highway stopping at many lookouts, beaches and tracks including Opito bay, Otama & Matarangi. We also stopped at a great lookout where we could see both sides of the peninsula. We got into Coromandel and took a quirky narrow gauge train ride up to a lookout called the "Eyefull" tower. The grade was so steep we had to make 5 or 6 zig-zag switches. We got back into town and stayed in a cool holiday park. The cabin was called the "love shack" we met a girl from Edmonton and a guy from Sweden. We bbq'd chicken and kumara for supper. We also went to get fuel and the girl working there was a McCrae from Brandon who married a New Zealander. She and her husband are heading to Fiji on the same flight as us! Small world.

19 February 2016

Today was a big driving day leaving Hastings and making our way to the Coromandel Peninsula. We stopped briefly in Rotorua to see some of the Maori history and some of the geothermal mud pools and geysers. It was overcast and raining so we continued through Matamata which was one of the filming sites for The Hobbit movies. We traveled through some beautiful spots to Mercury Bay and our accommodation in a little town called Whitianga. We stayed in a holiday park cabin and had a BBQ. We met some people from France and Tahiti. There was also a group of families with little kids all camping together, which brought back memories.

18 February 2016

Today we took in more of the Art Deco Festival in Napier, then did a tour of the museum and learned more about the 1931 quake, including survivor stories. Next stop was a visit to the National Aquarium of New Zealand where we got to see lots of native species of marine life plus little penguins and Kiwis. The highlight was going swimming in the shark tank with stingrays and sharks as large as 3 meters! It was later in the day so I was the only one in the tank which was so awesome (or as they say here, "sweet as"!) We took a drive to the top of Te Mata Peak which gave us some amazing 360 views of Hawke's Bay, Hastings & Cape Kidnappers. Back in Hastings we took in the festival in the square with a live "ragtime band". A brief shower gave us a beautiful rainbow over the orchards & vineyards. We stayed in a small motor inn and had a visit with a couple from Red Deer Alberta as well as a couple from Michigan.

17 February 2016

Today was a "rain day". Many of the tracks including the Tongariro crossing track were closed due to heavy rains. We headed back to the Hawke's Bay region for a drive along the Marine Parade including the Port at Napier. They were loading container ships with produce and timber which was cool to watch. We found an AirBnB and an old Irish pub for dinner and a pint of Guinness with some of the locals. We also watched a hole in one competition shooting off the beach at Lake Taupo.

16 February 2016

Today we took a morning boat cruise on Lake Taupo with some great hosts. We saw some Maori rock carvings only visible from the water. We then headed over to Huka falls which is an amazing volume of water coming through a long, deep narrow channel. The jet boats came so close to the falls. There was a tour group all dressed up as superheroes. Heather met the Incredible Hulk. We took a drive around the lake to Turangi and back making a stop at hot water beach. We ended our day with taco chips and salsa and visited with other travellers at the Rainbow backpackers at Taupo. Another great day.

15 February 2016

We started the day watching the gorgeous sunrise, then took a self guided walking tour of Napier. Because the city was destroyed in the 1931 earthquake, most of its buildings were rebuilt at the same time. They seem to be locked in the early 1930's. Each February, they hold the Art Deco festival where people come from all over the world, dress in roaring 20's and 30's fashion. Old cars, music and history comes alive, which makes it so fun to visit. Many people walking around and in the shops were in period dress, so cool to see! We then drove through some beautiful country to the volcanic region of Lake Taupo.

14 February 2016

Today we stopped at a Stonehenge replica which was very interesting. We then drove through an area that has lots of wild kiwi birds. We also stopped by the famous Tui's brewery. We then entered Hawke's Bay region, which is one of NZ's most well known wine regions. It is also the area where over 85% of NZ fruit exports are grown. We arrived in Napier which was the sight of a huge earthquake in Feb 1931 in which most of the city was destroyed. It also lifted a huge parcel of land over 2 meters so what was once under water became dry land. Today, most of that land is developed and the airport sits in the middle of what once was under water. The Napier YHA is very nice and our room gives us a beautiful ocean view to watch the sunrise.

13 February 2016

The waters were very calm for our ferry crossing to the Wellington on the North Island. After wandering along the harbour where the locals were enjoying swimming and rowing races, we toured through the well known Museum Te Papa Tongarewa. There we saw some amazing wood carvings, Maori history, art, and an absolutely massive squid that a local fisherman had caught by accident. Then arrived at our holiday cabin and enjoyed a lovely Dinner at the Martinborough Hotel.

12 February 2016

We finally had a quiet day relaxing at a hostel / lodge which was formerly a long term care facility. Pictures show the halls, doors, etc. Then we did a hike up a hill to the Centre of Zealand, where we had a nice view of Nelson. Saw a few unusual looking birds on that hike. We stopped next day at the Pelorus River and Pua Falls.
Yesterday we continued on our journey, stopping in Havelock for a delicious lunch of fresh caught "greenshell" mussels by the marina. It's apparently the worlds capital for Mussels. We drove some very windy and scenic roads to Blenheim through the famous Marlborough wine district and stayed with Mike and Raewin whom we had met at a hostel in Christchurch. They had a guesthouse & large yard complete with many fruit trees, including plums, peach, pears, nectarine, grapes, walnut to mention a few. We had a delicious BBQ of steak and lamb backstraps.

10 February 2016

We left the White Elephant hostel and headed out on the Abel Tasman track. This is one of NZ's top tracks with a mix of natural bush, rainforest and stunning beach views. We had a refreshing swim in the Tasman sea at Coquille bay. After returning from our 6km hike, we visited the crystal clear waters of PuPu springs. A great drive over the pass gave us fabulous views of the apple, plum & kiwi orchards, and hops farms. We stopped at a roadside "honesty market" and picked up fresh tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers and fresh fruit. We also stopped for homemade ice-cream with fresh cherries and boysenberries. Next stop Nelson arriving at the Wakatu lodge.

9 February 2016

Today we drove to the little village of Lyell which was hit by an earthquake in 1968. The town was badly damaged and the Buller river was dammed by a huge landslide. The village had a great display. We then walked across a long suspended swinging bridge & visited an old gold mine and the site of a fault line where, in 1928, the land rose 4.5 meters during a quake. Ironically at the very moment we were at the site, a 5.7 magnitude quake hit a town just up the road!! We drove through the Motueka valley and stopped at a spot to take a refreshing swim in the crystal clear river. We arrived at the White Elephant backpackers hostel which had a huge garden area with all kinds of fruit trees including kiwi, lemon, fig, plums, apples & grapes

8 February 2016

YHA in Westport, we had another feed of whitebait, some live entertainment. The "throne" was a prop from movie shot locally "Legend of the Seeker."
Our first stop was at Punakauki to see the Pancake rocks. We then found a beautiful spot at Charleston and Constant bay with an amazing display of "mermaid hair" seaweed. Next, we visited a seal colony near Westport. Later, we took an series of switchbacks, to an old coal mine site named Denniston and the location of an abandoned rail system to move coal down the mountain. We ended our day at a YHA in Westport which was formerly a gentlemen's residence, built in the late 1860's, it is now protected under the NZ Historic Places Trust. Beautiful gardens, woodwork and intricate pressed tin ceilings created a unique atmosphere. We made whitebait patties for dinner and booked the rest of our trip in the evening.

7 February 2016

SUNDAY Feb 7th we started our day with a 5 km return hike to the face of Franz Josef glacier. It looks small in the pictures but covers 29 square kms. With a total length of 10 kms. Along the hike were many glacial waterfalls, and interesting rock formations. The Tasman Sea beach was very nice. The big wheelbarrow was in Hokitika, and the Hokitika Gorge was a stunning drive where we found Dorothy Falls and the swinging bridge with beautiful turquoise water. This is a must see area that the guide books barely mention and not accessible by tour bus. We stayed at the colorful Duke Hostel in Greymouth.

6 February 2016

We left our quaint chalet at Makarora and drove through the Haast Pass, stopping along the road for photos and wild blackberries, yummy! Stopped off for a hike to the spectacular Blue Pool, The water was cold but the prettiest blue. We watched some young brave kids jump in from the cliffs and off the bridge. We also stopped to see the Fantail falls & Thunder Creek. We had a delicious patty of whitebait. This delicacy sells for $95 per kilo. We came along Bruce Bay which was strewn with tons of huge washed up tree trunks. Fox Glacier was our next stop. It was massive and we got the best view of it from a distance as you can see. We ended our day with a hike around Lake Matheson which should have a perfect mirror image, if the conditions were right. It was slightly breezy when we took this photo. Slept at Chateau Franz Backpackers at Franz Josef.

5 February 2016

Great day and scenery from Te Anau to near Wanaka. Amazing views. Picked up a lovely hitchhiker from the U.S. And dropped her off in Queenstown. We drove by this huge fence line of bras in support of breast cancer. It was a spectacular drive between Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. Fox & Franz Joseph Glaciers on the agenda for tomorrow.

4 February 2016

Here are some more photos of the shore and lake of Te Anau. This morning we are up and heading thru the touristy town of Queenstown.
Good job we started early today! It took us two hours from Te Anau to Milford Sound to catch our boat cruise. A huge tree branch fell on the road which we needed to clear. Along the way we saw the Kea (alpine parrot), Mirror Lakes, and so many waterfalls. Due to cloud cover, we didn't see the summit of Mitre Peak but did see seals on the rocks. We enjoyed an evening watching a film of Fjordland, then taking in the sunset along the lake.

3 February 2016

We had a great visit with Ann and Adrian, visiting the Truck Museum and saw the motorcycle from the movie "The Fastest Indian" the world speed record was broken by a man from Invercargill. The movie, starring Anthony Hopkins was based on this event. We had a nice lunch together before we headed out towards Fjordland. First we stopped for a hike to Monkey Island and the Cliften Beach. We arrived in Te Anau just before sunset and checked into a backpackers overlooking the beautiful lake.

1 February 2016

Enjoying the beautiful green countryside! We saw some camp spots overlooking the sea at porpoise bay. We were able to see many dolphin swimming near the shore. Then there was an amazing petrified forest at Curio Bay. Unfortunately the pictures just don't do it justice. Mid afternoon we arrived at Invercargill and were reunited with Heathers IAEA host farmer from over 30 years ago. Adrian and Ann Irving were welcoming hosts. They showed us around their sheep farm, beautiful gardens, & shared some of their tasty homemade wines. They prepared a delicious whitebait and lamb dinner, then showed us their new beautiful home in town. They plan to move in a few months. At age 70-75 they have decided to slow down and enjoy city life. They are both very fit and healthy, and should enjoy many more years of an active lifestyle.
Monday Feb 1 we left the Hogwarts hostel, visiting an old sod cottage along the way. The Catlins River, rainforest park and coastline was beautiful. We hiked into the rainforest and saw the largest of New Zealand's waterfalls called Purakaunui Falls, saw seals at Nugget Point and lighthouse, as well as some beautiful NZ countryside and sheep, beef and dairy farms. Petrol is around $1.82 here!! We had a lovely visit and dinner stayed overnight at Donna (Gray from Hamiota) and Drew Pennycook's The meal was delicious, visit was great and Kelly loved that Drew took him 'round to see the sheep operation.

31 January 2016

Drove today from Christchurch to Dunedin, stopping to see the Moeraki Boulders. Nice scenery and farm country. Kelly stopped at a few John Deere dealerships. We walked, then drove up the steepest street in the world, visited the "most photographed building in New Zealand", the Dunedin train station, then checked into Hogwarts Hostel, room 9 3/4. Then off to the Speight Ale house for a beer.

30 January 2016

We began our day viewing the history of the "Jailhouse hostel" then took a walking tour of the Canterbury Museum and to see the devastation from the Christchurch earthquake of Feb 2011. The Cathedral, which was the central focal point of the city, is still closed off, so sad. The empty white chairs represents the 185 people who lost their lives that day that day. The artwork to cover some barren walls was amazing. Great to see the city doing its best to rebuild. We then took a drive to Lyttelon (the original port and site of colonisation) and saw more devastation but also some magnificent views of both Christchurch and the mountains to the west. There is an impressive "container mall" on prime real estate that was equally impressive. There is way too much to see and show off in 10 pictures (so the collages) but we do the best. Looking forward to our drive south tomorrow. This is such a beautiful country.

29 January 2016

Soon after landing in Christchurch and picking up our rental car (Toyota Corolla hatchback), we quickly found ourselves incarcerated at the Jailhouse Hostel. It's very clean, tidy, and cool. Hot water bottle found in the bed tho so I am wondering if it'll be cold. Temp was 17 when we landed about 7 pm. Had a great experience flying with China Airlines.

28 January 2016

Today we took a nice walk along the beaches near Wollongong, and then headed up the coast via the Grand Pacific highway. We passed through some cool villages and then drove (and walked) the impressive Seacliff Bridge. We also drove a beautiful winding road through a National Park to get to Bondi beach. We checked into the Bondi YHA, took a walk down to Bondi Beach & the Icebergs pool, then came back for a late dinner. Next stop NZ !

27 January 2016

It rained all day but was a great driving day. We were so happy to get some photos of these black cockatoos. Beautiful switchback drive through the Macquaire Pass.We ended up at a lovely YHA in Woolongong, just south west of Sydney.

26 January 2016

We drove today to Wagga Wagga. (700 km) It's Australia Day here. 37degrees C, so a good day to drive. Saw lots of emus, sheep, cattle, cotton farms, irrigation canals as well as some pink Galahs (parrots). After seeing this railway, we were glad we didn't take the train.

25 January 2016

A dolphin swim/cruise was the start to our day, followed by a tram ride to the Adelaide CBD to see the main sights like the river, Central train station/Casino, and cricket field. Then we headed east and got as far as a little town called Lameroo, where we stayed at the local motel and enjoyed a beautiful sunset & listening to the Galahs.

24 January 2016

Wine, wine, wine! Today we went on our own self drive winery tour of the Borassa Valley visiting and tasting wines from Chateau Yaldara 1847, Jacob's Creek, Yalumba, Whistlers, and Sepeltsfield, as well as a lookout from a hilltop. We're staying tonight at the Buffalo Motor Inn by the Marina at Adelaide.

23 January 2016

At Encounter Bay we walked across the causeway and hiked around Granite Island. The drive to Adelaide was busy due to the annual bicycle "Tour Down Under". I enjoyed a camel ride on the beach, had a yummy fish and chip lunch (flake aka shark). Finally we arrived at this lovely little airbnb in the Barossa Valley. Our host left us a nice bottle of wine and some chocolates. He says its one of the perks of his job at a nearby winery.

22 January 2016

Jan 22 was a delightful day beginning with the resident snakes at Halls Gap YHA, then along the road we saw these white Kangaroos. We also saw many kangaroos and emus in the countryside along the way. Each little town has an old quaint pub in the corner. We ended up at Port Elliot YHA. It was the nicest hostel yet and really more like a hotel. Wish we had more time to stay more than one night. Isn't our room cute?

21 January 2016

Our morning began with a hike in and around Tower Hill near Port Fairy. It is a crater from an extinct volcano now home for many koalas, emus, wallabies, and birds in the wild. We could almost touch some of the koalas as they were so low in the trees. Some were awake and others were sleeping off their eucalyptus binge. We saw some nice countryside with southern cross windmills and some nice small villages. We drove north to the Grampians through Halls Gap. We hiked about 5 kms to various lookouts with some amazing views especially at sunset.

20 January 2016

First box to tick off the bucket list was to jump off the Lorne Pier along the Great Ocean Road. Same pier that giant squid was caught yesterday. From the dock we watched this fisherman cleaning many small sharks & of course he threw the undesirables overboard. I wonder who came to eat the scraps?😳Next 2 Wye River, a gorgeous lil campground beside the cliffs & DEEP creek. (And no I didn't jump in but only because we didn't have time😒) Next back to Kennett River to again see the koalas and hand feed the cockatoos and lorikeets. In my case, they were fed from my chest and head also. They aren't fussy as long as you have wild bird feed. We did a few short hikes into the rainforest that I would highly recommend. It was nice & cool and lush with growth. Onwards we drove to the many stunning coastal sights along the Great Ocean Road such as The 12 Apostles (only 7 remaining), Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge (also partly collapsed due to years of erosion), & Grotto. Ending at Port Fairy YHA

19 January 2016

GREAT OCEAN ROAD Day 1 Beaches, sun, lighthouse and lots of Australian wildlife. Several weeks ago 150 homes along the great ocean road were destroyed by a bushfire. They were still waterbombing by helicopter. We ended the day at Apollo Bay YHA.

18 January 2016

After a walk on the beach of Phillip Island to see the Pinnacles we drove to a rural cottage near Torquay. It was +40 today so a good day for driving.

17 January 2016

We drove from Glenrowan to Phillip Island today using some rural and very scenic highways. This was all through Ned Kelly country. Saw many cockatoos and wallabies. On Phillip Island we walked along the beach to a sea cave, and watched the little penguins come in from the sea after sunset and saw them each go to their burrows to feed their young. It was a great day!

16 January 2016

Today we drove from Canberra to Glenrowan (location where Ned Kelly was captured after a 12 hour shoot out with police). Along the highway we saw many suspension bridges dedicated wildlife like koalas to safely cross the highways. There also were many pink parrots ( galas ) at dusk.
Today we checked in early to the Canberra YHA, and got some tips on the sites of The Australian Capital. 1st we did a tour of the New Australian Parliament. Next we went to the National Gallery of Australia and viewed art from all over the world as well as Australian artists. Kelly loved the Ned Kelly display. We then took in the Australian Museum which really tells the history of the country with some great aboriginal stories as well as current history. Last we visited the Australian War museum which had some great displays and shows. We took in the "last post" ceremony. We then did a short drive to the top of Mt Ainsley which gives a 360 view of Canberra. Heather spotted a big grey kangaroo in the bush!

15 January 2016

14 January 2016

Today we drove from the southern highlands to Canberra. Along the way we stopped at Bungonia National Park. We did a few short hikes, went into one of many caves, and saw some awesome views of the area from various lookouts.
Today we visited a forest Buddhist Monastery, hiked into Fitzroy Falls as far as The Grotto for a refreshing dip in the cool water, then watched the sunset at the Morton National Park. We were also offered a housesit job for a week but declined due to bad timing.

13 January 2016

Forest Buddhist Monastery

12 January 2016

This is at the yha at Bundanoon. We hiked down into Morton National Park after dark and saw the Glow Worms. Met a young girl who just got hired as Nicole Kidman's PA. She's moving to Nashville.
Rented a car and headed south to Bundadoon YHA, driving over the windy but beautiful Dividing Range.

9 January 2016

Sydney festival, built out of cardboard and tape.