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Entries about adventure

The Final Verse - Australia

sunny 35 °C

Avid readers of this blog, of which I assume there are many, may have noticed that I never actually posted a final entry. This was mostly due to the fact that once I finished my trip, I sulked for a considerable amount of time and had no enthusiasm to write about the last leg. However, a mere 11 months late, I have decided to write about my time in Australia and Hong Kong.

The first port of call on my Aussie adventure was Brisbane. For two reasons - one being that I'm English, the other that I'd spent six weeks in New Zealand in winter - the glorious sunshine was something of a shock to the system, and within two days I was crimson. The problem was exacerbated my the fact that I'd been wearing my aviator sunglasses, leaving white circles around my eyes and making me look, in the words of one of my roommates, 'freaky' and 'like an alien'.
Brisbane by Night

I made my way from Brisbane to Noosa - where I did little but lay on the beach during the day and drink at night - then to Hervey Bay. From Hervey I went on a two-day tour of Fraser Island, famous for being the world's largest sand island, its 75-mile beach, a shipwreck and, of course, dingos. The 'tropical' (wet) weather conditions put paid to any hopes of relaxing on the beautiful beaches, but didn't stop us hardcore members of the group taking a dip in the picturesque Lake McKenzie. It was, in a word, cold.

The next day the driver asked if anyone had an iPod to plug into the stereo, which I did. I put it on random, and out of roughly 2000 songs, the first two we were treated to were Natalie's Rap by The Lonely Island/Natalie Portman, and Jason Waste by Sway. If you're not familiar with these songs feel free to look them up, but be warned: they are quite, um... vulgar.

That evening a few of us countered the elements by warming up in the hot tub before dinner. Because I'm an idiot, I forgot to pack any shorts or underwear other than my swim trunks. Once out of the hot tub, I was therefore forced to trape through the cafe/restaurant area to the bathroom and attempt to use the hand dryer to dry my trunks, wearing nothing but a towel around my waist. While doing so, a very smartly dressed Irish chap walked in. As it turns out, he was the best man at the wedding taking place in the hotel, preparing for his big moment. Before I knew it, he was enthusiastically reciting his speech to me, in the gents, while I was naked but for my towel. It was an odd situation, but to be fair to the guy, his speech (the bit he read to me, anyway) was pretty damn funny!
Me at the Maheno Shipwreck

Leaving Fraser and Hervey behind me, I headed to Agnes Water and Town of 1770, where a kangaroo nearly killed me. For a very reasonable $55, I decided to do the Scooterroo tour. Basically, you get to ride a Chopper motorbike around for a few hours, taking in the sights of this little town. All was going swimmingly until a huge kangaroo, being a complete moron, decided to cross the usually quiet road just as 25 or so motorbikes were racing towards it. Inevitably, it was me he jumped out in front of. I had been going at 80kph, and thankfully managed to slow down to about 60 just as he leapt over my front wheel, no more than 2 or 3 feet from my face. It was genuinely terrifying, as I'm fairly sure I'd have come of a hell of a lot worse than Skippy! One near-death experience aside, the tour was brilliant. Those of us at the front were having drag races which, considering none of us had any experience on bikes, was probably somewhat reckless (and also, thankfully, wreckless).

That evening at the pub, by being the first person to collect a dirty sock, a piece of chalk, a bra and a condom, I won... a free Scooterroo ticket! I managed to sell it for $40, which I used to drink as much as I could in the hour I had before my overnight bus trip to Airlie Beach. I slept well!

At the hostel in Airlie, my winning ways continued as my team - me, an Aussie girl and an Irish lass - stormed to quiz victory with a quite stunning score of 9/20. That may not seem like that good a score, but as it was general knowledge, it technically means we know 45% of everything there is to know in the world, which is a lot. Our collective genius was rewarded with a bottle of what was loosely called champaign. We continued the victory celebrations in town, where someone, for no reason that I can remember, gave me a football (which I later lost in a bush). The most memorable event of the night occurred on the way home, when I got chatting to a girl called Storm. In my drunken and cynical state, I demanded proof that her name really was Storm; she duly obliged by showing me her passport, which quite clearly stated her given name as... Storm. It is, without doubt, my favourite name ever (edging out Kirby, who I met in Agnes Water).

The following evening I boarded the Anaconda III. The next three days and nights were the stuff dreams are made of. We sailed through the magnificent Whitsunday Islands (74 of 'em), including the phenomenal Whitehaven beach, before heading out to sea where I was able to tick off the final item on my mental to-do list: dive the Great Barrier Reef. It was every bit as magical as it sounds. I was particularly hoping to see a shark, and it wasn't long before my wish was granted; about 10 minutes into my first dive one of the little fellas (about six ft) cruised on past us, before turning around and giving us a look at his pretty face.

Sharks aside, there were thousands of fish, coming in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours, with the reef itself providing a beautiful backdrop. Stunning. Due to financial constrains and the fact my right ear was playing up, I only did two dives. While other dives were taking place, the rest of us took the opportunity to go snorkelling, which wasn't a bad consolation prize; there was still a vast array of fish to be seen, including a massive, umm... ugly green thing (my marine knowledge is somewhat limited) known locally as Elvis. Diving and snorkelling aside, we spent much of the time soaking up the sun, whale watching and fishing. The three days flew by; I had glorious weather, great company, and good food. Can't ask for much more than that!
Relaxing aboard Anaconda III

Leaving Airlie Beach, I headed to Townsville for two nights. I had a day to kill, so the lady at the hostel recommended I go for a walk up Castle Hill, and was even kind enough to drop me off at the start of the track. As she drove off, I noticed a sign warning of steep inclines and loose rock, recommending the walk only be done by those of adequate fitness. Usually I ignore that sort of stuff, but on this occasion there was a slight issue: I was wearing flip-flops. The sensible thing to do would have been to walk to the other side of the hill and walk up the nice tarmac path, but where's the fun in that? So, on I went. After roughly 4 minutes, I fell over. I picked myself up and cautiously carried on at a rather sluggish pace. It was hard work. To rub salt in the wound, it was one of the hottest days I've had in Australia. To rub sulphuric acid in the wound, I'd forgotten to bring any water with me. When I finally reached the summit, 60 sweaty minutes later, there was, thank God, a water fountain. Having re-hydrated myself, I took in the lovely views, before making my way back down. Again, I opted against the tarmac option, and had several near death experiences along the way. I'll learn, one day...

The final stop on my journey was Cairns, the party town. In an attempt to save money, I told myself I wouldn't drink for the five nights I was there. However, accommodation was a lot less than I'd budgeted for, so I had all this money left over, what else was I meant to do with it? Anyhow, the decision was taken out of my hands when I befriended a group of Irish lads. It was only ever going to end one way. Highlights of the Goon-fuelled nights out included me somehow finding myself participating in a bar-top dancing competition (I came 2nd), a Jagger style wig, and bumping into Arj Barker (he of Flight of the Conchords fame) in Gilligan's. In between the drinking, there was some daytime, which we spent exploring the town. We gatecrashed a wedding at the Botanical Gardens, which was quite frankly the worst reception imaginable, conducted by a vicar who seemed to think he was a stand-up comic. We got told off for touching the stretch Hummer.

My final day in Cairns was spent at the beach, where a group of us had a superb barbecue in the glorious sun. I tucked into a lovely kangaroo steak, thinking of the 'roo that had attempted to kill me earlier in the trip as I did so. With that, my time down-under was over, and I was soon at the airport waiting for my mammoth 18-hour journey to Hong Kong (via Auckland).

Unfortunately I was feeling pretty under the weather during my three days in Hong Kong, which was not helped by the overwhelming heat. However, I wasn't going to let that stop me. Having walked down the Avenue of the Stars, Hong Kong's answer to Hollywood's Walk of Fame, I visited the excellent Museum of History. After the sun had gone down, I took my spot on the harbour to watch the sensational Symphony of Lights: a music, laser and light show that illuminates Hong Kong's dramatic skyline.

Most of the following day was spent at the rather impressive Tian Tan Buddha and exploring Hong Kong island, although I was unfortunately unable to make it up Victoria Peak. And that was it. After three phenomenal months, I was on my way to the airport, ready to fly back to sunny England.

Looking back at it a year on, I can say without doubt that it was the best few months of my life. I saw some amazing places, did some brilliant, stupid and ridiculous things and met many wonderful people (many of whom I'm happily still in touch with). When I was younger I wasn't bothered about travelling, however this trip whetted my appetite immeasurably. It's a big world out there, and with this trip I have only scratched the surface. So, stay tuned. There will be more to come!

Posted by Daniel.J.B 03:50 Archived in Australia Tagged snorkelling fraser_island australia adventure brisbane noosa scuba_diving travelling cairns great_barrier_reef hong_kong townsville airlie_beach hervey_bay whitsunday_islands Comments (0)

Entry 7 - New Zealand (Queenstown to Oamaru)

The final farewell!

all seasons in one day 5 °C

I love Queenstown. I could happily spend an awful lot of time there, but unfortunately I had only one week. I say it's unfortunate, but for the sake of my health and bank balance, it was probably a good thing.

Some people may think it's strange for me to come to a place like this, the "Adventure Capital of the World™", and talk firstly about food. If you do think that, it's because you haven't been to Fergburger. If you have been there, you'll understand where I'm coming from. This legendary fast food outlet (I use that term loosely, as it takes a considerable amount of time to actually get your food) produces the most ridiculous, delicious, heart-attack inducing burgers you could think of. I don't know whether to be ashamed or proud to admit that in six days, I had four burgers from there (the first night was a little healthier, having all-you-can-eat pizza from World Bar), the highlight of which was undoubtedly the enormous Big Al. To quote the menu, "Al delivers a double serving of New Zealand beef (1/2lb), lashings of bacon, a whole lotta cheese, 2 eggs, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish & a big wad of aioli." I actually had to take a nap after completing this monstrosity.*

When I wasn't eating, I found time to do one or two other things in Queenstown, such as leap off a platform 134m from the ground. I had always planned to jump the infamous Nevis Bungy**, but was glad to find that a five others on my bus - Keir, Jon, Becky, Gary and Sofia - were also preparing to take the leap of faith. In comparison to most Monday mornings, this one was quite surreal. Having survived a somewhat hairy bus ride through the mountains, we arrived at the jump site, where Sofia casually claimed "it's not that high." I don't know if all Swedes have this warped sense of perspective, but her calm demeanour was in stark contrast to my own. One of the promotional leaflets for the jump summed up my feelings in a quite poetic manner: "even my shit was scared."
Before long we were harnessed up and led outside. As the above picture demonstrates, the jump site is suspended above the Nevis River by a 380 metre long cable. To get there, you have to travel across in an open top metal cable car similar in size to a hot air balloon basket. Even this I found terrifying, and I was seriously questioning my sanity as it slowly made its way across. I clambered into the surprisingly large cabin to find a glass floor. Great. While everyone else tussled for the best viewing spot, I sat at the back and stared at the ceiling, talking to myself like a complete nut-job. After 3 or 4 people had jumped (and, happily, survived), my name was called. I sat down to be strapped in, pulled a deceivingly calm smile for the camera, while the bloke gave me final instructions. I didn't hear a word he said. As I shuffled towards to edge, I had little to no control over my limbs; my arms were all over the place, and my legs went all Bruce Grobbelaar on me***.

"Three, two, one..."

I jumped... ish.

What I actually did was bend my knees, lean forward, and fall over, allowing gravity to take over. It was not the most stylish bungy jump you will ever see, but it did the job. For the next 7 seconds or so I was free-falling towards the river. In most circumstances, I'd have been admiring the exquisite scenery around me. As it happens, I was too nervous to even scream; I reckon I'm one of the few people to do the jump in complete silence. Then, it was over. With adrenaline pumping through my veins, I almost forgot to pull the cord around my ankles that released the harness from your feet, meaning you are brought back up head-first rather than upside down. Thankfully I remembered, so was finally able to enjoy my surroundings while being inched up. Before I knew it, I was back in the cabin, and soon on the cable car back to solid land.
People often compare bungy jumping to skydiving, but for me they're chalk and cheese. I absolutely loved the skydive, it was immense fun, but not all that scary. The bungy jump, in contrast, was petrifying. Because of this, the burst of adrenaline keeps you buzzing for hours, even days, after. To get the best of both worlds, do both!

I slept well that night. This was thanks partly to the bungy, partly to Big Al, and partly to the obscene amount of Jägermeister I consumed that evening in order to win a t-shirt from the Buffalo Bar!

The next day we decided to get the Skyline Gondola to Bob's Peak for a spot of luging. We got to the top and were ski-lifted to the start of the track, and got ready to roll (not race, as that was against the rules. We would never break the rules). The term 'luge' is used rather loosely, it's more like go-karting without an engine, not at all like actual luging. It was good fun none-the-less, thanks in no small part to our Brazilian friend, Tiago, who was clearly of the opinion that breaking is for the weak, even for tight hairpins. This, admittedly, made him very quick. It also meant he was the only one of our group of nine to crash. Three times.

If you've read my other blogs from New Zealand, you'll notice a chap called Nick crops up a fair few times (if you haven't read them, why not?). We actually met on the Magic Bus from Auckland to Rotorua, and just so happened to have the same itinerary from there to Queenstown, so spent about 3 weeks travelling together. Luckily we got on, and have done an awful lot in those 3 weeks. Queenstown, however, is where we would go our separate ways, as Nick only had four nights, along with most of the others in the group. We therefore headed to our newly-Christened local, Buffalo (we had 2-for-1 drinks all week), for an emotional farewell; well, it wasn't actually that emotional, a manly handshake and not-so-manly hug, but you get the point. While travelling alone has a great many benefits, it was brilliant to have someone to travel with for that length of time; skydiving, camping and hiking, to name a few, would not have been quite so awesome had I done them by myself (or possibly not at all).

Anyhow, if there was one thing that decreased heavily in Queenstown, it was my money. If one thing increased, it was my weight. In an attempt to buck both of these trends, I spent most of the next day walking, spending hours exploring the east side of the lake. The fresh air and spectacular scenery must have gone to my head, because I had a strange urge to jog part of the way back. 15 minutes after acting upon this urge, my enthusiasm had vanished and I carried on walking. I'll just have to wait until Australia to lose the weight, as I wont be able to afford food there.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the ski and snowboarding dependent economies Wanaka and Queenstown have been badly hit by the lack of snow. Much to their relief, but my annoyance, the weather took a turn for the cold for my last few days in Queenstown, limiting what we could do. With the weather particularly bad, we killed time playing Yeniv, a brilliant Israeli card game (thanks to Nick for that one). When we dared venture outside, we had a couple of rounds of frisbee golf. I was worse than useless first time around, scoring well over 100, but fell in love with the game anyway. My second round was somewhat more respectable, as I carded an 88 (I have no idea if that is actually respectable, but I'd take that in normal golf).
We ventured to Buffalo for one final time that evening, before jumping on the bus the following morning. To sum up Queenstown: I spent too much, I ate too much, I drank too much. But I had a damn good time in the process!

The next stop was to the Edinburgh of New Zealand, Dunedin, where I would spend three nights. To be honest, following Queenstown, this made me more than a little depressed. My spirits were raised, however, with the knowledge that Dunedin had two particular attractions: Speight's Brewery and the Cadbury factory; if there's two things that can cheer me up, it's beer and chocolate.

I got to the hostel about 4, where I killed a couple of hours talking to the two Aussie lads in my room, before setting off for the brewery. The tour itself was entirely forgettable, but for the tasters at the end. Thankfully Ellen, who I'd met on the way to Wanaka, didn't like one or two of the beers, so I kindly "tasted" those for her as well, like a true gent. I got back to the hostel to find the aforementioned Aussies, as well as two other English lads, getting ready to head into town. They asked if I fancied it and, seeing as it was Saturday night, it would have been rude to say no.

I'd judged Dunedin to be boring, but, being a uni city, it came to life after dark, and was a surprisingly good night out. A particular highlight was attempting - and failing - to convince a local woman that I was not Irish, nor had I ever set foot in Ireland. She wasn't having any of it, so I called her Australian and left it at that.

The next day I met up with two of the Queenstown group, Jack and Tim, who had rented a camper. We found somewhere that served a Sunday roast for $10, which made us all very happy, before going on a road trip to the beach. In contrast to Dunedin's rather drab appearance, the beach was surprisingly nice, as was the weather. Once we got back we set about finding somewhere that would be showing the British Grand Prix that evening. As it was a Sunday, and the race didn't start until midnight local time, I was not confident of success. At around quarter to 12, we finally found a bar that was still open, and had televisions. The landlord agreed to put the F1 on and remain open, on the condition that we bought enough drinks to make it worth his while; a condition we were more than happy to comply with.

For our final day in Dunedin, we did the tour of the Cadbury factory. Much like the brewery, the tour itself was pretty forgettable (after all, it's just a working factory), but we got more than our fair share of samples, so everyone went away happy.
I've got a few extra days to kill, so rather than travel all the way to Lake Tekapo the next day, I decided to hop off at a place called Oamaru, where I'm sat right now. In a few hours I'm heading to the beach to see some penguins which, as those of you who know me personally may know, is quite exciting for me!****

I then have two more stops, Lake Tekapo and Kaikoura, before flying from Christchurch to Brisbane. Assuming this will be my last blog from New Zealand, I'd like to thank everyone - locals and fellow travellers - for making my stay here unbelievably brilliant. I have loved my time in this wonderful country; Australia has quite a job on its hands to match it.

  • * Re-reading my previous blogs, I realise I had earlier described the Pizza Burger I had in San Diego as "the greatest burger of all time, bar none." I can only apologise for this ignorant and uninformed statement, which now looks like meaningless hyperbole. I was young and naive. Again, sorry.
  • ** At 134 metres, The Nevis is the highest commercial bungy in Australasia, but not the world (it is, in fact, a lowly 8th). That title goes to the Macau Tower, in China. Near Hong Kong. The final stop on my trip. Just sayin'...
  • *** For those of you who don't know, Bruce Grobbelaar was a goalkeeper who would attempt to put off opposing penalty takers by doing 'spaghetti legs'. I'm sure it's on YouTube somewhere!
  • **** One of my earliest memories from my childhood was carrying around the imaginatively named Teddy and Penguin stuffed toys everywhere I went. Since then, penguins have always been my favourite animal.

Posted by Daniel.J.B 00:30 Archived in New Zealand Tagged snow queenstown adventure ski bungy new_zealand dunedin jump oamaru luge thrill_seeking fergburger frisbee_golf Comments (0)

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