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We are off to find the wizard!

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holidaaay, celebraaate!!

Sydney, Australia

As you should all know there were two very special dates in April and May that needed to be celebrated......our 25th birthdays of course!!! Dear God...when did we hit mid-twenties?!? (Yes Alain, we are only JUST into our mid-twenties, FACT).

Laura set the standard, with a lot of 'secret plannings' for Bets b'day weekend, in order to account for all missing family and friends! Due to our new found love of sushi, we had a group outing with Lauren and Gemma to the Ivy (a ridiculously swanky club here) where they have a really cool sushi train restaurant as well. There was a lot of looking and smelling the different dishes to try and figure out what the ingredients were and some were swiftly put back on the conveyor belt!! The dumplings were the favourite, but it was deeelish and we left feeling sushi-stuffed!! This was followed by cheers with bubbly at the Opera bar looking at the harbour bridge and Gemma and Laura saying 'WHEN have you ever had your birthday...." followed by....in australia/looking at the harbour bridge/next to the opera house etc!!

The rest of the weekend was a mixed bag of joyful activities, including a sunny day spent at the Surry Hills festival listening to music and chomping down on tasty foods with Hannah and (her sister) Olivia and the evening was spent at Mags and Ross's warehouse/caravan park of a house. This can't really be explained, but think at least 5 caravans inside a warehouse with Ross sleeping in a harry potter style room under the stairs and Mags in the loft with a ladder for a staircase. It's mental, but somehow for them, it works. We had a hilarious eve drinking, dancing and general tomfoolery with all the random articles they have accumulated (ahem...stolen) around the place, including kermit the frog!!! The move onto the nightclub/bar wasn't quite so successful, when we found ourselves in a slightly terrifying, hardcore gay bar!!!!

On the actual day, (which was a Monday) Bets awoke to find balloons all over the flat, including next to her on the pillow, and hundreds of post it notes hidden in every possible hiding place, including the one later found in her lunch box!!! Sadly to say, the day was spent at work as usual (we are responsible adults now of course) but they did provide a $50 birthday cake, which gave Coops food envy!! A very exciting evening was to come, when Coops met her date from work for an amazing 'love supreme' pizza and present time!!! Then Coops had to hail a taxi while Bets covered her ears as the destination was given to the driver....it was only as we started to pull up outside the Opera House that Bets worked out where we were going! At the top of the stairs, Coops revealed the big birthday surprise was...going to see Madame Butterfly, the ballet!!! AMAZING. It was definitely a birthday never to be forgotten and we both left wanting to be ballet dancers. The night wasn't over though, as then Coops sat Bets down for a singsong and a birthday cupcake looking out over the harbour - deelightful!!!

The next day, we very excitedly had a holiday to go on!!!! We packed up a ridiculously large amount of stuff and met each other at the check in desks of Sydney domestic airport!!! We were going to Noosa - where we had been kindly invited to the beachside wedding of Alain and Kerry!

Noosa is a gorgeous holiday spot in Queesland and we were delighted to find that it was still super warm up there! Day one was spent being boys for the day on Alain's stag do!!! This involved a hilarious surf lesson with all the guys and needless to say lots of messing around, but it was much fun and we both managed to "catch a few waves man!!!!" whilst swallowing copious amounts of sea water and exposing far too much of ourselves as we clambered over those damn boards!!! Despite being provided with the 'rashy' vests (to protect you from rub-bage from the board) Coops' delicate thighs definitely suffered the brunt of her exercions and returned home with red raw scabbiness!!! Bleurrrghh!!

The evening was where it all really kicked off. It started with a nice sophisticated dinner, as Alain insisted it was going to be low key evening. But he was soon told to man up and strap on a pair - "its your bloody stag do!!!" This resulted in a lot of abuse written on his 'STAG' t-shirt and soon followed with tequila shots that we may have provided him (just as someone goes, "whatever you do, don't get him tequila!") The rest is a blur of very silly antics....including the decision to draw on peoples faces instead of just the boring t-shirt, and Coops unfortunately ending up with an expletive all over her back, jaegerbombs, running man on the dance floor, be-friending the dj, Letty getting lost for at least an hour, people falling asleep on club sofas and sadly at the end of the night there may have been some puking! We can only blame ourselves for trying to be boys and get the stag wasted (we succeeded) but also took ourselves down in the mean time!!!

Day two: Hangover from hell circa October 2010, Isla Mujeres. We made it out of bed to venture to the local chicken shop at around 7pm. It was a dark day for both of us.

The rest of the trip was spent with days on the beach and enjoying lush coastal rainforest walks. The town is really cute and we kept bumping into our new found wedding friends for iced coffees, breakfasts and lunches! Spiffing. We also ventured to the nearby ridonculously huge Eumundi markets!

The big day soon rolled around and we were excited to get ourselves spruced up. But, just as we were leaving, it started to spit with rain!! At the spot on the beach, guests like us huddled under the trees to try and stay dry and there was a bit of frantic decision making going on whether to change to the indoor venue!! But Kerry was determined and someone was obviously smiling down on them because, just as she arrived, the rain stopped and stayed off for the whole of the lovely, intimate ceremony! It was gorgeous and the pictures will definitely look even better with the stormy clouds in the distance! We then all made our way down the beach to the bistro overlooking the water for lots of delicious canapes, free-flowing champagne and pimms and a deelish 3 course meal! And the piece de resistance was a cheese wedding cake - think 3 tiers of the finest australian brie, blue cheese and one hard cheese! Bets nearly jizzed in her pants and got cheese drunk! Speeches were funny, company was great and dancing was hilarious (including a really weird version of bohemian rhapsody!!)

We love Noosa and hope Alain and Kerry have many a happy year together. Looking forward to Melbs times!!

Just the other weekend (yes people we're up to date) it was the little ones turn for an Australian birthday too! The birthday weekend commenced with drinks and a yummy meal at the winery (again) with Emma.

Coops was then woken at 7am on the actual day with Bets dancing to Stevie Wonders' Happy birthday in her pjs and hoodie and balloons flailing around in her hands....for the entire 3:50 mins of the song! The big reveal came when an orange spaceship (campervan) named Max, covered in balloons, sat in the carpark that our flat overlooks! After a lot of unexpected confusion "what...I don't understand!?!?" Bets spelt out to Coops that she had hired the campervan for a road trip around New South Wales!!

Setting off out of Sydney, with Coops donning her birthday tiara and eating the chocolates sent by special delivery from Wenners, Bets had to swiftly cut the balloons off the aerial whilst leaning out the window when stopped at traffic lights (yes, she was the one driving!) We headed South and quickly made our way out of the city, stopping for a picnic lunch (Bets had secretly packed a lot of foodly goods for the weekend) sat overlooking a beautiful lake within the Royal National Park.

Then the day was spent with lots of nice views looking out over the sea (we tried but didn't spot any whales!) and stopped off in cute bays and some pretty little spots (like Garie beach!) We arrived into our home for the night - the National Park at Jervis Bay - just as it was dark and we started to feel a little concerned that we would essentially be in the middle of nowhere! We quickly changed pre-dinner into some sexy (NOT) warm attire so that we didn't freeze our balls off but then just as we ventured out, we were greeted by a guy from the nearby roaring fire who invited us over. We swiftly then scrapped the unattractive warm clothes and donned something a bit more presentable! We joined the 4 lovely guys (think Dads on a boys kayaking weekend) in their ridiculsouly huge "area" where they had set up everything including an actual kitchen sink! They fed us spag bol and red wine and we had a delightul evening around the fire playing word association games! Coops was even treated to a cupcake with a lit match for a candle and a beautiful rendition of happy birthday from our new happy camper friends! We also went for a little night time safari with the David Attenborough of the group and found Kangaroos and wallabies just a short distance away from us! It was a completely random way for Coops to spend her 25th birthday, but was so fun and won't be forgotten!

The next morning after our coco pops and chocolate milk and a sighting of about 4 kookaburras that had been lured in by bacon, we went for a walk along the beach which had the whitest sand in the world! We couldn't believe it! We couldn't stay there forever though as we headed off to see more amazing landscapes, like Kangaroo Valley, with lunch spent looking out over some oldies playing bowls with a dramatic, hilly backdrop. We're not going to lie, some wrong turns were taken, but this was all part of the adventure of course! Including one diversion into a National Park that time had forgotten!

Our second night was spent in Kiama - a very cute seaside town with its star attraction, a blowhole! We slept pretty much on the beach so breakfast was spent watching some boogey boarders in our pjs on some beachside grass! The nearby area of Jamberoo randomly has a rainforest, so we went for a walk amongst the seriously huge trees!

We were very sad when we had to return to Sydney and give Max back, as the beautiful countryside of New South Wales had given us itchy feet for more adventures..........

Luckily, we are planning our next phase of travels!! We are leaving Sydney in t- minus 5 days to venture up the East coast!!! Woooooo!!!

So long Sydney, it's been emotional!!!!! We'll be writing again from warmer Northern climes.....(We bloody hope, Sydneys turned arctic!!!!)


permalink written by  coopsandbets on June 10, 2011 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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"i want to be somebody, i want to go somewhere...."

Sydney, Australia

Even though we are now busy, important, working girls...we make sure we spend our hard-earned cash on doing fun activities in and around Sydney. To give you a bit of a run-down, here are some of the good bits..... (Yes, this is going to be brief, we are hanging!!)

Taronga Zoo: pretty much the first thing on our list to do (obvo!) and it definitely didn't disappoint. Seal displays, snoozing koalas, weird and wonderful native creatures (especially the ones in the dark!) and lush views down over the harbour! It was also during this excursion that we saw the wonder that is 'monkey poo dinner.' At first we were amazed to see two chimps hugging, just like real people, but then started to get a little confused as they then proceeded to pick poo out of their own and each other's bums. Well, the rest you can guess. Bets gagged and had to walk away, but Coops stared on in amazement and thought it was hilarious!!!!

Sky tower: After a traumatising simulated information ride where Coops thought she was going to throw up everywhere, we went up like a bejillion floors to check out the views and spent a long time working out where everything was on the streets below saying "they look like ants from up here!!!!" (Said in Russian accent please!) Including looking for our flat and just checking that people wouldn't be able to see us if we were naked!

Markets: So many delights to be found at the super cool vintage weekend markets! Glebe is our fave of course, but also Paddington, Balmain and Rozelle! Good times, but also bad as we had to sadly walk away from things that our backpacker budgets would not allow!

Festivals: All through the summer there was loads of fun free festivals happening in various locations around Sydney, in particular Hyde Park. We enjoyed sitting out on the grass and getting some tasters of new filems, music and comedy. One of the best was Tropfest, a short film festival, where Joseph Fiennes was skyping in to be a judge and Coops pretty much jizzed in her pants!!! There was also the craziness that is Sydney Mardi Gras, with roads closed everywhere and everyone and his wife getting dressed up for the occasion...mental! (Did we mention there are a lot of gays here?!?!)

Good vibrations: Possibly the wettest day in Sydney, ever, so we decided to spend it outside at this music festival. We macked up and got our rave on!

Trots: Some of you maybe thinking this is some kind of stomach condition...it was in fact the chariot racing that we went to watch with Coops' work peeps! It was hilarious, with horses only being allowed to trot (hence the name) to pull along these little flimsy chariots where the jockey is about a centimetre off the ground. We didn't win any of our bets (clearly we're not cut out for this gambling malarky!) but we did have a ruddy marvelous evening and discovered the delights of good seafood, with an enormous platter of tasty things and Coops going "eat the octopus!!!!" Think: smoked salmon, crab, scallops, prawns, octopus and sushi - did we tell you we now like sushi?!?!? (We are officially grown up!)

Beach time: Making the most of the true aussie way of life, enjoying many a day spent roasting on the beaches of Bondi, Coogee and Manly and of course checking out the resident life guards at each of them. Standard. Bondi Rescue is our new found favourite tv show...and we think every beach should have this drama!

Blue mountains: A very spontaneous trip was taken with Letty's friend Hannah on the train to Katoomba, where we went to the lookout point, Echo Point, and Coops' grumpily saying "well they don't bloody look blue." But we were all amazed by the vastness - its like a bushy grand canyon (coops' words fyi!!!!) We also found the weirdest, morman cafe where we ate dinner and took delicious cake, ice cream and coffee for the train ride home. Ahhhhh...

Aquarium: We don't quite understand why Australians feel the need to re-name animals but we saw some really cute 'Dugongs' aka mannatees, loads of fishies (they're all pretty ugly really!), seahorses, jellyfish, sharks, turtles and the biggest stingrays you've ever seen!

Wildlife world: The biggest croc in Australia (Rex) was what lured us into this place, but to be fair he looked dead - Rex is very lazy. He was big though!! Bets had to guide Coops through an entire insect section with her eyes closed to avoid any spider sightings. And this was the first time we got to see a wombat...they are so squidgey!!!!

Cinema tuesdays: We always make sure we have some 'couple time' for our regular date night, good uns have included Barney's version, Thor, Hangover 2, Arthur, Water for Elephants. Bad ones: red riding hood. (It's wank).

Nights out: We have had to truely immerse ourselves in the way of living out here, which has meant a lot of nights in gay bars and befriending hairdressers. In our early days of ignorance, we ended up stumbling across a strip club in Kings Cross - awkward!!! Plenty of fun times have been had in Paddington pubs and bars and a couple of swanky bars in the city. Including going for bevvies in the Shangri-La hotel with Emma (Coops's sister Wendy's friend!)

Booze cruise: We started the Paddy's day weekend with a booze cruise filled with a load of irish football players, drinking yet more goon and clinging on to the ceiling as we struggled to stand on the rocking boat!!! A couple of glimpses outside to check that we were still in the harbour, but we may as well of been in a pub!!!!

Gigs: Even though the music scene isn't great here (and gigs are frigging expensive), we were missing our London gig nights, so indulged in some smaller gigs on Oxford Street. One crazy night involved a chinese girl called Rainbow Chan playing the glochenspiel!! Genius!

Bondi to coogee and Manly to spit walks: Both of these were very nice wanders along the beautiful coastline on lovely sunny days! Once again, we turned up dressed inappropriately when Emma, our tour guide, was dressed in head to toe lycra and trainers and said "this isn't fun, it's exercise!!!!"

Roller derby: This really was a case of having to be seen to be believed. This popular 'girl on girl' sport has randomly taken off in Australia. We watched in amazement as unattractive lesbians circled around a small basketball court and dooshed each other out their way as they went!!! Hilarious!!!

Travel information continued.... Some areas of interest.

Surry hills: So many cafes and restaurants, which are delightful for sunday brunch time and delicious cupcakes. And we finally got to go to the infamous 'Winery', when we were treated by a family friend. Dessert...don't mind if I do!!

Darling Harbour: A place also very close to our hearts is Darling Harbour, as we pretty much live there!! Although the restaurants are a bit pricey for all the tourists, we like walking around and feeling like we're on holiday again with all of the restaurants, street entertainment and shwanky yachts!

Inner West: Lots of cool, quirky suburbs like Glebe, Rozelle, Leichardt which are nice for window shopping, cwaffee and general wanders.

Watson's bay: Beautiful bay on the harbour with lots of houses looking out over the water and a very cute chish and fips place on the wharf (we are yet to sample this) and Coops discovered an amazing icecream with chopped nuts from the ice cream van!

North shore: Neutral bay, Mosman, Cremorne...essentially where 'the other half live.'

Cronulla: Even though it was pissing down and we had to walk through the town with no shoes on due to serious slipping, Bets wanted to take a walk down memory lane as this is where Mummy Barry resided when she lived in Australia. Yummy italian food and vino whilst watching the surfers out in the sea and a quick walk along the beach where Bets collected some pink shells. (Coops isn't sure quite what she is planning on doing with them, but apparently she just needs more!)

Needless to say there has been plenty of food sampling going on all the while. As we have realised the theme to our trip is....food. With some cuddley animals on the side!

Please can we go now? We are still hungover. Over and out xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

permalink written by  coopsandbets on June 3, 2011 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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January blues

Sydney, Australia

Sadly our time in our luxurious pad in Manly was up....so we had to wave a fond farewell to Paula and get the ferry back to circular quay and make our way to the inner west suburbs and our new abode in Glebe. We felt very sorry for ourselves as we checked back into a hostel for the first time in quite a while, but we managed to find quite a good spot by the windows in one of the ridiculously huge rooms.

Over the month that we actually ended up staying here we saw plenty of people come and go - one of them, Chanty (said in an Essex trying to be posh accent!) had us mesmerised by her sheer lack of general knowledge about the world and were stunned when she told us that she'd just climbed kilimanjaro!!! Her best "friend" was, in the nicest possible way, an annoying skanky ho...who didn't put sheets on her bed the whole time she was there and left all her crap all over the floor!

We blame her for the trauma that was.....one morning when Laura was in the shower one of the German girls in our dorm threw herself off her top bunk screaming....Bets turned around to see what can only be described as a saucer sized mother of a spider (think tarantula thick legs) crawling its way around the ceiling above this poor girls bed. Needless to say chaos ensued! Coops was instructed to not look anywhere so as to be able to continue getting dressed whilst Bets kept an eye on its movements. We thought it had gone away to its hiding hole when all of a sudden it moved at lightning speed across the ceiling and then without warning dropped to the floor (who knew spiders would just drop for no apparent reason...little bastard!) and headed straight towards us sending a room full of screaming girls jumping onto anything elevated and Coops dashing out the door to yells of "GO AND GET HELP!!!!!" She returned with the receptionist armed with some killer bug spray and after much moving of bags and beds the poor spider was no more. (Coops does not agree with this last statement - she says "god intended it to die.")

Other characters in the dorm included...the girl who felt the need to sleep naked, the 18 year old private school girl who kept talking about her "gap yaaaa" in india, the annoying dutch girl who literally hated laura after she finished the communal cornflakes at breakfast time and various other annoying travellers (not to stereotype at all, but Germans are really not the best room mates!) So it goes without saying that we were desperate to escape!! Especially considering every time we cooked dinner, we emerged feeling lucky to be alive after the death trap of the kitchen. Literally, pots and pans precariously piled to the ceiling in the sinks, saucepans with no handles full of boiling water being carried around using teatowels and far too many people in one space. Oh and there were no forks. Ever. You will be surprised to hear that there was actually a cleaner, Mark, but he was weird and kept trying to be our friend and cook our meals for us as he thought he was an amazing chef. We think he was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic!

Glebe however was a really nice area in the studenty part of town (altho there weren't actually any students because of the holidays) filled with lots of cute cafes and charity shops where we discovered the amazing vinnies and stocked up on lots of cheap books!

Job and flat hunting ensued in earnest through the month of January and we probably spent a small fortune on using the internet. It was a weird reality hit to be doing up our CVs and emailing all the agencies around Sydney. Days were then spent going in and out of the city, registering with them and being told "there's not much work available at the moment!" We did not appreciate this advice. Inteviews happened....we were actually placed against each other for more than one position (we hate agencies) but it felt like things kept falling through and we started to get a bit annoyed and down as we watched our savings dwindle away (apparently Sydney is the most expensive place to live in Australia!!! Great!)

And typically, if we had of been working we would of got an extra days holiday as it was their national bank holiday, Australia Day - an excuse for a big piss up!! Do not fear, we made sure we made the most of this and headed to The Rocks where there was a fun music festival happening to cheer ourselves up! It was a scorcher of a day and we enjoyed sitting in the sun and moving between the many different stages and discovering some totally cool new bands! Gemma and her fun new house mates joined us - yay we have friends!

By the end of January things were starting to look up. After hours scrolling through GumTree and going to visit some 'interesting' places we finally found our new home near Darling Harbour....Unit 98/336 Sussex Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000!!! It's very teeny but a really good location right in the city and we can see the sky tower from our balcony (yes we have a balcony) that looks out over our swimming (yes we have a swimming pool)!! We were lucky to be living with a really sweet spanish couple (who try their hardest to speak English, despite living in England for a year they can barely managed a sentence without dropping back into Spanish, hilarious!) and oh yes did we mention...theres a chinese man in the lounge?!?! No he didn't just get lost on his way to the local chinese restaurant (we're essentially in china town) but this is actually the norm here where landlords try to bundle as many students and travellers into one place as physically possible! He has a sheet separating him from the lounge, so that makes it totally normal right?!?!

We were so excited to move in and actually be able to unpack. We've made it our own little place with pictures of all you lovely people and our Australian flags on the wall of our bedroom! (Because we now consider ourselves Australian citizens!) With the pillows that we had stolen from the hostel (do you know how expensive household things are here?!?) we made a delightful double bed for the both of us (yes we are sharing!) with a sleeping bag for a doona! We are poor :-( Please send money to address above :-)

After the hell that is recruitment agencies (did we mention we hate them?) we both managed to find some work. Bets found herself not so glamorously in a call centre for a month, luckily not actually making sales calls but just putting stroppy businessmen through to their conference calls. The only redeeming factor of this was the free dominos lunches and finding a new bestie from New Zealand, Hannah. Luckily whilst here, Bets found out that, through some good contacts, she had got a marketing job in a charity (old habits die hard!) Soon she was tottering off to work in the cool area of Paddington where it turns out she actually has quite a bit of responsibility as Direct Marketing Coordinator at The Benevolent Society!

Coops on the other hand started off changing the future of contraception, in the most full on temp job she's ever had. When the offer of an actual events job came through she jumped at the chance, even though it was an hours train ride away in South West Sydney! This was to be the best job ever, as she got to meet a home and away hottie whilst organising a community festival day in her new role as Events Officer for Campbelltown City Council! Just an fyi, Campbelltown is slightly less glamorous than Paddington because of the terrifying bogans, tramps and teenage mums who reside there, which makes Peckham look like Notting Hill.

It was great to be settled down and working, but the reality of the 9-5 was a bit of a shocker!!! This wasn't supposed to be part of "living the dream!!!!!!!" Here's to our new life in Sydney......


permalink written by  coopsandbets on May 20, 2011 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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"baby you're a fireworrrrk!!!"

Sydney, Australia

The plan was always to spend New Year in Sydney. But we never quite managed to factor in the actual need of somewhere to stay, so with just a couple of days before the big day approached, we suddenly realised that all of our spongeing options had fallen seriously by the wayside (yes, Martin we're looking at you!) With a mad panic of contacting every possible friend/relation to see if they knew ANYONE in the Sydney area, we started to worry that our dream of watching fireworks over the harbour would soon be dashed! But the gods shined down upon us as one glorious morning, when Coops woke up to a text message from the best sister in the world, Miss Wendy Cooper, to say that she had found us a place to stay!! Hallelulah!!!!

Our last day in Melbs was spent with Alain in the glorious sunshine with a lovely luncheon overlooking Brighton beach and then some explorations around the city in the car to see a few places we'd missed off the list - like driving along the Formula 1 track!! Sweeeet! Then in the evening we met his lovely fiance (now wife) Kerry for drinks and the most anxious and rushed dinner as all of a sudden we realised that we actually had very little time to catch our very important overnight bus. Once we had inhaled our food, and sent Kerry to go pick up the car that we'd left all our worldy belongings in, we headed there separately so that we could at least make sure we were checked in in-time and stop the bus from leaving without us. Whilst waiting for a tram, the reality actually sunk in and Coops' words "are we getting to the stage where we should really be thinking about getting a taxi??" were followed by an incredibly speedy agreement from Alain as he threw himself in front of the nearest taxshi-keb! Our panic was not over, when we then arrived at the bus station (the bus was still there thank god!) but Kerry and our bags were nowhere to be seen! We all stood in complete silence on the street corner, before Alain started running up and down the street trying to call her and flagging down any car that could possibly resemble theirs! With minutes to spare she did a swerving u-turn up to the kerb and we grabbed everything ("make sure you don't forget the cookies!!!!!!") and ran (more like hobbled!) inside blowing kisses and thank yous as we went! Only to find out we had been given a seat number that didn't actual exist - clearly they employ very intelligent bus drivers - luckily this meant that we did have a seat, but it was the ones that don't recline and are next to the stinky toilet - great. Adding to this, at about midnight Coops discovered cockroaches down the side of her seat and definitely couldn't get comfortable after that!!

We arrived into Sydney feeling very dazed and confused, but excited! Especially when we got the train to circular quay and saw the opera house in the sunshine through the windows - it was amazing. We hopped on the Manly ferry and soon found ourselves at our new pad. Our flatmate for the week was to be Paula...and we've never had such a tenuous link- Wendy's work colleague had an old friend (from about 20 years ago) who had just moved back to Manly and her flatmate was away over new year! So amazingly, we landed ourselves a lush double bed in an apartment overlooking Manly harbour - jammy....we think so!

Paula was super lovely and for the first few days we actually didn't see that much of her so kept communicating by a series of notes left out on the kitchen table. After we had bonded, she kindly offered to take us on a day trip up through the Northern Beaches...finishing in the most famous beach of all.....SUMMER BAY!!!!

Sadly they were not filming that day, so we will have to wait and see if we meet our future husbands later on.... But we had all the necessary photo opportunities in front of the surfclub and the lifesavers buggy (and slightly unfortunately picked up a parking ticket whilst we were doing so....Sorry Paula!) All of the beaches are really lush with really golden sand and there are some pretty swanky houses up there, looking out over the sea. Manly itself is really lovely and Bets remembered lots of happy memories from being here before. (Even though she took quite a while to work out why the beach looked so different - turns out theres a beach on both sides!!)

So the end of 2010 was nigh and we awoke on New Years Eve to a beautiful, hot day and obviously had to stock up on all the necessary picnic delights to take down to the harbour to watch the fireworks. Our initial plans were to meet up with Gemma and her friends, (yes Gems is now in Sydney too!) in a spot they had bagsied near Luna Park on the north shore! However, after the nightmares of public transport, NYE road closures and the threat of having our alcohol taken off us, we got sidetracked and found our own little spot.

We settled down with our picnic in a very cute little bay, with lots of other families and young peeps and tucked in to our goodies and poured ourselves some goon goodness from its very subtle hiding spot inside the cold bag!! Every time a policeman walked past we pooed ourselves slightly and tried unsuccessfully to 'play it cool!' After drinking games for two and getting rid of some of the weight in the food bag, we ventured around the bay to try and meet Gems. We then got side-tracked again by some Swedish guys and girls we had met earlier on in our bus adventures and were lured into their party pack. This was the beginning of the end as we managed to finish a 5 litre box of wine and nearly a whole bottle of vodka - eek! Whilst mingling, we managed to lose each other on more than one occasion, but had a great time anyway and met lots of fun people! And luckily we managed to re-convene with only minutes to spare before the countdown!

All of a sudden the sky was lit up and we turned to each other with huge grins on our faces, squealing "oh my god....we're actually here!!" The next fifteen minutes was spent, faces upwards, necks aching, but completely mesmerised by all the different types of fireworks and the typical ooohhs and ahhhhs that accompanied them! It was awesome. The night continued into the small hours with lots of joviality. We did meet up with Gems eventually - turns out she had only been about 10 metres away from us the whole time - after we found a ridiculous number of missed calls and drunken voicemails on our phones, oops! There was a very long bus journey back to Manly and you could say we were a little inebriated when we got off the bus and walked in completely the wrong direction home!!!

2011 was definitely off to a good start - we couldn't believe we were actually living in Australia - WOOOOOOO!!! Lots of exciting adventures ahead.....


permalink written by  coopsandbets on May 14, 2011 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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Neighbours...everybody needs good neighbours!!

Melbourne, Australia

We spent the run up to Christmas back with the Robsons, who live in Hampton - nice suburb by the beach in Melbs, where apparently lots of celbs, like Eric Bana and Shane Warne reside! Well probably not anymore for Warney.... This was our time to mooch around after our fast paced few months of travelling - it was lush! Days were spent doing clothes-washing, lots of lie-ins and you won't believe it...a couple of gyms sessions (because New Zealand makes people fat FYI!) and far too much time was spent on this tossing website uploading just these few pictures for your viewing pleasure - hence why we have since not updated this for yonks, due to the traumatic memories! Think yourself lucky people!!!

But don't worry, we made sure that we explored lots of Melbourne too! In particular one rainy day was spent on a hop on hop off sightseeing bus, that we couldn't be bothered to get off, so happily went around all the main sights and looked at them all from a distance!!! At a later time, we did go and look a bit closer up, for example the Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens.

Our main Melbourne tour-guide was Alain (please make sure you say this in a french accent) who is Coops' English friend who has shacked up with an aussie sheila so that he can stay here forever (Bastard!) He took us to all the cool places, like all of the amazing 'laneways' which are filled with super cool little cafes, shops and bars.

He also introduced us to the wonderous place known as Max Brenner's, where we had delicious real chocolate frappucinos (and to this day Alain won't let Coops forget the fact that she asked for her mocha to be de-caff! The waiter was very confused and just replied "erm...it's just syrup!") We have also since had the hot chocolate version, which is just as amazing!

Alain also took us to his place of work - the Queen Victoria Markets. Imagine Borough market, but on a much bigger scale. In the daytimes it sells all kinds of fresh food, from cheese and ham, to vegetables, meat, bread and pastries.

But come Wednesday night, it changes into more of a Greenwich style market, with a whole load of clothes and accessories as well as cooked food stalls, for your munching pleasure! It was quite a military operation on our first visitation, to make sure that we made an informed decision on what to eat! After walking the entire length of the available stall options, only then could we decide what we would have! You may be interested to know Coops went for an African Style curry and Bets had some delicious noodles out of a giant wok! Coops made a rash decision on the dessert front, with a homemade cupcake, only to get food envy when Bets rolled up with her crepe filled with banana, icecream and chocolate sauce! So naturally, she thought 'to hell with it' and got one too! (Mixed berries, icecream and chocolate!) Again, she has not quite lived down Alain's abuse about her being a fat pie!

We were also very pleased that some of our New Zealand homies (Gemma, Mara and Kriss) were in Australia at this time as well...so we made sure that we met up with all of them for fun times! Gemma's b'day was the highlight with us all going to the market and then a fun night out on the tiles!

There were more investigations of other cool areas around Melbourne. Like Richmond, where Claire (on our second night in Australia) kindly took us on a night out with some her friends and she introduced us to the delights of crust pizza!! (It's like Fire&Stone in London). Brunswick street was another cool area, where we wandered around some of the charity shops by day and then picked up a bottle of wine from the 'liquor store' to drink it at the bar next door, by night. And unknowingly, an aussie celeb was sat next to us with her friends, who we later found out was Ruby Rose, a 'celesbian!' (Celebrity lesbian, obviously!)

St kilda is very popular with the backpackers, so we went for a mosey around the shops and the beach side market, where we both bought new rings made of cutlery! And on a windy walk out along the pier we discovered a little pinguino! There are also some nice restaurants, which we sampled a couple of and wandered through the nearby streets with Alain, checking out the cute little terraced houses, wondering which one we could live in! We tapped some amazing cake places for dessert too!

Chapel street is the place to be seen, with half cool little 'op shops' and the other some pretty swanky places like Louis Vuitton! (Sadly our budget restricted us to one end!) We had a nice, sunny, shopping day here helping Gems look for a pretty dress for her bday!

Also, whilst living it up in our cushty suburban lifestyle, we took to going for strolls along the nearby beach (because apparently we're retired?!?!) But it was lovely and we liked the multi-coloured Brighton beach huts a lot! (Brighton is the next suburb just along from Hampton).

It was on one of these occasions that Letty spotted a blowfish that had been washed up onto the beach and attempted to rescue it, by tentatively kicking it back it into the sea! Sadly, it did not pull through and Coops still claims that Bets killed it! We also saw a hilarious game of football on the beach by 3 santas!

As Christmas quickly approached, we decided we needed to make some preparations to get ourselves into the Christmas mood (due to the lack of festive spirit in Australia...unimpressed!) We decided to go to the largest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere, Chadstone, for our secret santas! We had a 'supermarket sweep' style dash around after we had set a budget and wished each other good luck (amongst the heaving crowds!) We also indulged ourselves in a cheeky mince pie! We then keenly wrapped up our goodies and put them under the tree....aka, Laura's backpack!

It really didn't feel like Christmas, particularly because of the hot weather and being away from home, so needless to say it was interesting! Especially when Christmas dinner consisted of a huge seafood platter instead of turkey! We were brave enough to try an oyster for the first time, but...let's just say it didn't go down well!

Christmas went past very quickly and we were soon frantically making arrangements for our long awaited New Year's in Sydney! We couldn't wait!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS everybody!!! (It's only 5 months late!!!)


permalink written by  coopsandbets on May 7, 2011 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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'This is the road to noooowhere!!'

Melbourne, Australia

Touching down in 'the land down under' we were super excited and were met by our surrogate family for the christmas period, the Robsons. (Ted, Nanette, Claire and Luke, old friends of Letty's). It was so nice to be in a proper house, even though Coops was on the broken camp bed on the floor, it was like a dream to have our own room and a bathroom where we could actually leave toiletries! When we first got to Melbs, we were surprised that it wasn't as hot as we had expected - typical, we've arrived just as Australia's 30 year drought had ended!

With only a few weeks before Christmas, we decided to make the most of it, by embarking on an exciting road trip along the Great Ocean Road! Oh yeh baby!!

Introducing: Our man of Melbourne, Alain Sparey!!! The cheese connoisseur that he is, loaded us up with a wonderful array of delicacies (including the delicious-ness that is...dolmades and pumpkin pesto!!) from his award-winning cheese stall at the Queen Vic markets. Everybody must go - its amezzing! He also gave us some tips for our endeavours ahead!

We headed off in our little blue hire car, first having to navigate our way out of Melbourne city centre, but quickly making it to the freeway! It was really exciting to be cruising along by ourselves, listening to various different radio stations as we went. At first there were quite a few little coastal towns that we stopped off at on the way. One of these was Torquay, where Coops first took over the wheel and kangaroo hopped her way out of the carpark and couldnt really see the road through fits of laughter, and the windscreen wipers going off everytime she tried to indicate!! Damn australian upside-down-ness! She claimed "I just have to get used to it! I just have to get used to it!"

There were delightful views as we reached some of the more rugged coastal spots, where it was perfect surfer stalking conditions. We pulled up and ate our yummy posh Alain treats with cameras in hand and lots of "oooh...ahhh...did you see that one?!?"

We had to stop by the famous Anglesea golf course - to check out the resident skippy kangaroos!! Seriously, they just chill out there while there are balls flying everywhere (hehehe!)

Our most exciting discovery, which we had not been prepared for....was to see the most famous lighthouse of our childhoods. You all know it guys....
"Have you ever, ever felt like this? How strange things happen...Are you going round the twist?!?!" Woop woop!

Lorne was a tres cute beachside town, where we induldged in a Cold Rock icecream (they mix it up on a marble slab for you!) and loitered weirdly by a wedding on the beach, because we thought it looked pretty and they had champagne!

And the thing that, as you all know, we get most excited about...was an animal discovery. We were cruising on the last leg of our journey of day one through some really windy roads, surrounded by gum trees on either side, when a man with a camera caught our eye. After some slightly dangerous swerving u-turns, we pulled up to be informed there were 3 koalas up in the trees! Even though, they only move a milimetre an hour, Bets has never moved so fast to get her big camera out and get the paedo lens on it!!! We were so excited and stood there for way longer than was really necessary, taking copious amounts of pictures - "oh that one's sleeping! oh that one just twitched! oh that one just scratched it's ear!" you get the jist. So just one week in and we'd already seen wild kangaroos and koalas - we knew this was going to be a good year!!

Our first night was spent in the very quiet town of Apollo Bay, where our cheap accommodation was a little worse than expected, when we pulled up into a make-shift garage and literally just had to walk through a door into our dorm room that was actually the old garage. Inside was exposed brick walls and a green glowing fire exit sign above Coops' bed (don't worry it was covered by a jumper!) and a token chinese man living there for good measure?!?!

Day two was a busy day filled with some well known spots along the 'Shipwreck' coast - 12 apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge (an arc formed by the sea that when it collapsed left two people ((who were apparently having an affair)) deserted on the stack, only to be rescued by helicopter, haha!) We read this on our surprisingly long trek around the different sites of this bay, where Letty learnt her one fundamental lesson of Australia 'slip, slap, slop!' and Coops hasn't let her forget it!

This was our most sight-filled day as everytime we set off to our next designated stop, we would see one of the little brown tourist signs telling us there was "500m to a....waterfall/scenic lookout/beach or any kind of rock formation" and obviously we didn't hesitate to pull in at every opportunity!

Our second night's accommodation, in Port Fairy, was one that we hoped would be better than the previous due to it being a YHA. Turns out we were wrong. It was a bit like a prison cell, with children sized bunk beds attached to the (again exposed brick) wall and only a paper thin wall between us and the 'dorm' next to us! It's fun listening to Swedish music. We did venture out to the local pub, where we had a bevvie with the locals staring at us!

We started off the third day along the coast still, spotting a variety of different amazingly-coloured and loud birds (Laura's new favrit!) and then started heading inland towards the Grampian Mountains. The landscape was a really nice change from beach and farmland, to real rugged Australian scenery in just one day! Yet more animal adventures occured when we took a wrong turn down a very bumpy track, but as a result spotted a wallaby amongst the trees! (Queue squeals and scurrying for cameras!)

We were amazed at the grandeur of the landscape and the two Mountains that appeared out of nowhere (Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt). There was one lookout in particular that literally took our breath away. I don't think we can properly explain to you what it actually felt like to be able to see so far.

It was also as we were leaving this lookout, that Laura still hadn't quite got used to the rental car, and whilst attempting to reverse up a slight incline, nearly killed a family of chinese tourists. They were alarmed, Coops was raged why the car was so retarded and Bets was just a little terrified!!! Whilst driving through the plains we saw what can only be sensibly described as 'a dinosaur' running in front of the car! Obviously, we later discovered, these are in fact emus! Even later Coops' dweeby research told us that they were in fact females due to the blue colouring on their heads. Also, lots of kangaroo spots as they grazed by the sides of the roads.

Our most disgusting discovery of driving a hire car into the Grampians was the swarms of locusts that we had to drive through (Bets took quite a lot of pleasure from speeding up into them!) However, the car bore the brunt of this, with an absolute shed-load of half dead, half squished locusts stuck to the front grill and windscreen!Windscreen wipers and wash does sweet fa! Clearly the newspaper warnings about what to do in a locust swarm situation, had not fully prepared us!

On route to our abode for the night, with many wrong turns due to us not really knowing where we were going and Bets saying "oh, let's try up here!" we drove through the quaint mountain town of Hall's Gap, where all the other tourists sensibly decided to spend their night. But no no no...not for us, we like to live it up, off the beaten track! So we found ourselves a lodge in Brimpean. Well...what an experience. Firstly, we pulled up to a working farm, with quad bike tracks (naturally they go together) and a completely deserted set of lodges. Coops was sent to find the farmer and accidentally stumbled across his 18 year old son's work out session in one of the barns.....sounds awkward...it was. He was shirtless....enough said! We finally got into our lodge, which, even though there was noone else staying there, he still put us in the one furthest away from the main building, which is a treat when it is dark and there is only Bets' head-torch for guidance! Not scary at all! Due to our roughing-it, we spent a good half an hour checking behind doors and in our beds for any creepy crawlies...luckily none to be found there! However, there was a whole array of spiders in the outdoor kitchen, which essentially was a couple of camp stoves in an army style mess. Gross! We were glad to survive the night there but were happy to have our free breakfast and head off onto our voyage to Adelaide!

After a pretty hot, and far longer than we had realised, drive, we arrived at Betty Robson's (no this isn't a cute b&b, but the Grandma of afore mentioned family!) We had a delightful stay with Betty, with home cooked food, Lemon and Lime Bitters and a room each. And of course her wonderful company and hilarious conversations - you've got to love a Betty!

After people telling us there was nothing to do in Adelaide, we actually enjoyed wandering around this nice city. There's lots of old school parliament buildings and we went to visit Ayer's House, where we learnt lots about Australia's history. The sun was shining, the shops were good and we visited another large market for lunchtime!

Betty offered to lend us her little car (we had ditched the rental by this point) so that we could explore a bit further afield and the South Australian hills. We had a lovely road trip around the Fleurieu Peninsula - lots more beautiful beaches and then a cheeky stop at the renowned vineyards!

Hahndorf was a crazy old German settlement, where we stopped for a look around the weirdy-beardy German shops and ate German cake. Yum yum! It was a delight. A quick look out over the city from Mount Lofty and then home to Betty for tea!

We finished off with an overnight bus trip back to Melbs where we experienced the incredible Greyhound, filled with bogan families readily dressed in their pyjamas at 5pm! Oh what a joy!

Christmas in Australia...here we come! (Ho ho ho!!!)

Thinking of you all, as always


permalink written by  coopsandbets on May 6, 2011 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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The end is nigh!!

Sydney, Australia

Nearing the end of our trip we hopped back on the ferry to return to the North Island (entertained along the way by some Catherine Zeta Jones filems!) Our dropping off point was the lovely, ridiculously windy, city of Wellington. We spent a few days here exploring by venturing up the cable car to wander around the botanic gardens (we have made sure we have seen plenty of these!!), climbing Mount Victoria in totally inappropriate footware and clothesware (where the hell did that hot sun come from?!?), wandering around Te Papa, the National Museum, where we stumbled across a ridonculously huge preserved squid (it seriously looked the size of a bus!) and also made our own squid in the kiddies interactive zone and named him Sid. Funnily enough, then we met up with Gemma's friend Sid who joined us on our travels.

We really loved wellington and found lots of cool areas, like Cuba Street, with lots of vintage-y, second hand clothes shops and cafes and Thorndon which was a really beautiful suburb (but we found it impossible to find the NZ author's house that we had actually gone there to see and ended up walking up and down a dual carriageway!)

When the sun came out, we made a bee-line for the Mac's Brewery bar and sat in the sunshine with cider and Coop's new favourite of sparkling wine. We sat and watched in amazement as some mentalist school children climbed up some metal structure in the harbour and took it in turns to jump off into a closed off sea pool (no one thought it necessary to stop them...the health and safety monsters of England would definitely of put a stop to it!!) We also found the most delicious ice cream we've ever had in our entire lives. We can report that on the whole New Zealand does have some delicious gelatarias with millions of flavours!! A group of us wandered around the harbour side market (and a Harvey Norman garage sale....random) where there was lots of scrummy food and free tasters!

As it was the final night with some of the people we'd been on the bus with, we decided to have a big night out Welling-on stylee! This ended up as a bit of a bar crawl, where we spent too much money as we were trying to live the lives of people who actually have jobs, until we ended up in the backpacker bar for boogeying with the rest of the crowd(despite getting rage at how often the DJ repeated songs!) The night ended up in Hungry Jack's (our new found name for Burger King as this is what the crazy aussie's call it!!)

Our last adventure of NZ was the mammouth climb that every backpacker apparently "has to do," however maybe not by choice...as we soon found out. We awoke early and loaded up on porridge and bananas and prepared our extensive list of foods and liquids for the expedition, before being picked up by the minibus to take us to the base camp of Tongariro. It was a 17km walk that crosses over all different types of terrain, from deserts to snow capped peaks to climbing steep mountains. We thought it was bad enough at first as we tried to keep up with Sid and Gems who had previously done the Tongariro Crossing (so were going to climb Mount Doom instead)...we have since realised that they are clearly mountain hikers in disguise and quickly left us behind puffing and panting (and Laura feeling a little pukey after being given an energy sweet by Bets, who told her it would make her feel better! NB. it didn't.) And then we were faced with what seemed like ENDLESS steps. Memories came flooding back of the sweat and pain we experienced when climbing Cerro Chatto in Costa Rica! Arrrrrggghhhh.....

However, once we were up and our heart rates had resumed to a normal pace, we could take in the spectacular views all around us.

We stopped for lunch right on the edge of the red crater, which was literally bright red rock, and got invaded by lots of ladybirds (who knew ladybirds could live at the top of a volcano?!?)

We then had to make our way down from the peak to the Turqouise pools, which we did in ultimate style as we skidded, skied and pretty much fell down. And we looked on in disgust as not only did kids get down without a problem, but some people were also running down (fell running stylee!) Looking back we're not too sure how we made it down without more cuts and bruises, but there were some hilarious falls! After taking time to observe the pools and the lakes, we were then on a mission to get down the other side, passing through snow and bush and a very stinky portaloo on the way.

We returned home feeling exhausted but it was "totally worth it!" (gap yaaah!) and to soften the blow we stayed at a really nice lodge (ski resort stylee) with a big log fire and comfy sofas and our friends Gems, Sid and Chris and enjoyed a relaxed movie night, courtesy of Gem's laptop. (If anyone hasn't seen Julie and Julia, it is definitely worth seeing!) The amazing views of Tongariro and Mount Doom will definitely always stay with us as typical memories of New Zealand.

Arriving back into Auckland felt pretty strange because we had done so much in the last 5 weeks, but it was nice to be back somewhere familiar. We had one last day there stocking up on a few essentials before Oz, we took Lucy and Gems to an awesome German bangers and mash shop for luncheon and treated ourselves to another cinema excursion! (This time...Due Date!) We had a farewell drink with them (yes, there were more teapots involved!) as Lucy was going back to England, but excitingly we would be seeing Gems again in Oz!

We headed to the airport feeling excited about heading to our new home land, but strangely sad to be leaving this one of a kind place. We have had an incredible time here, not only the places that we have been and the activities that we have done (there were LOTS) but the really fun and interesting people that we got to share (and sometimes were forced to share!) our travels with. We already have a list of places that we want to come back to as we definitely didn't have enough time to fit everything in!

The only disappointment.....we didn't see a kiwi. (Obviously we're talking about the bird people!!!)

New Zealand....DONE.

Now for the adventure to really begin and our new life down under!!!

Lots of hot sunny kisses from Oz xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

permalink written by  coopsandbets on February 12, 2011 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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D'aan S'aaf

Melbourne, Australia

After hopping on the surprisingly long ferry (4 hours people!!) we met our new Stray driver hilariously named Trouble (it wasn't hilarious, it's a rubbish story) and set off for our adventures on the South Island!! Woo! Here are the highs and lows!

Abel Tasman National Park
This was a beautiful spot and the best way to explore it was by sail boat (kayaking in the sea somehow just didn't appeal!) and we headed out with our crocodile dundee skipper on a catamaran. Even though it was a beautifully sunny day, we were little prepared for the gail force winds coming off the ocean once the boat had gained some knots!! By the end Coops was forced to wrap up in one of the giant waterproof blankets that were on board in case of emergency!! Nonetheless it was beautiful with turqouise blue sea and some much missed wildlife (seals, one blue penguin and lots of birds!) When we hit land for our lunch break we took the opportunity to get some sunbathing in, which after half hours kip resulted in some dodgy short tan lines (wow the sun is strong here!!) We stayed in a fun hostel/camp site where a group of our new found friends huddled on the floor amongst backpacks, foodbags and hiking boots to watch some of the much anticipated new episodes of inbetweeners (we will be forever grateful to you Kriss!!)

So whilst this place has a very cool name (obvo!) we can assure you it doesn't live up to much!!! Those of you who have been to New Zealand and are thinking "hmm...I don't know where that is?!" you can be forgiven. Most New Zealanders haven't even heard of it! The Stray itinerary claimed this stop off was a fun evening in an old miner's pub filled with fancy dress and getting to know your fellow travellers. In fact, we rocked up to a dodgy old man's pub where they led us to some portacabins classed as bedrooms and showed us to a mangey array of various items of other people's clothes! (Even charity shops would shudder!) However, we did manage to throw together some pretty awesome outfits and were deemed the party queens when we got all 30 people off their seats and joining in with our drinking games! Coops even won a free burger for her efforts!

The next day lead to a hungover fuelled diversion to McDonalds in Greymouth, after blackmailing Trouble as he had overslept and someone had to go knock on his door while we all stood outside the bus like lost children!!!

Franz Josef Glacier
We opted for a full day's hike on the glacier.

It was amazing to see, but sadly this was not our favourite experience in NZ due to the rain that soaked our so-called waterproof attire right through, so that by the time we stopped for a lunch break, we were pretty much numb and turning into blocks of ice ourselves!! We did climb down through some caves that had been carved by streams through the ice, but this just felt like rubbing yourself up against a big ice cube! Brrrrrrrr!!!! We were provided with some laughs though, when a divvy girl in our group was not listening to the instructions of the guide and stepped right into a knee deep puddle of ice cold water...it was hilarious!! By this point, we had bonded with lots of people on our bus, so had another fun night here for one of the guys' birthdays. Please note at this point, said divvy girl managed to serve an actual birthday cake upside down with the candles pushed through the paper wrapper!!!!!

All that needs to be said.... Puzzling World = AMAZING!

But sadly no, we didn't get to explore the town!

It definitely lived up to expectations; really fun town in a pretty spot on the banks of the lake (I'm sure all you clever people can remember which one?!?) where we had a really fun night out drinking from tea pots in Worlds Bar! (Fear not, we haven't turned t-total, they were filled with yummy cocktails!!!) This is also the place to sample the delights of NZ famous FERG burger and we definitely gave it a fair test by comparing it to the other local burger joint Devil burger (thanks to Laura's free voucher!) We are undecided as to the official winner, but it was goooooooooooood!

We definitely opted for the tamer activity (as Queenstown is known as the adrenalin capital of NZ) of horse riding. Bets convinced Coops that getting up onto a horse for the first time would be fun and this was definitely proved right, as we spent the afternoon riding through the valley, surrounded by beautiful lupins and looking up at snow capped mountains. We also had to get our horses to wade across rivers and Coops' horse did seem to be the naughtiest one and kept stopping to eat!

We had such a fun day and it was really cool to see lots of Lord of the Rings film locations and lots of other films too (including the bridge that Wolverine runs over, woop!)

Milford Sound
This place is talked about a lot by visitors to New Zealand, with dramatic cliff faces dropping down into the sea and waterfalls flowing down them. On the day we visited, there had been heavy rain, so the falls were huge and really spectacular - the boat even put it's nose under a couple of them soaking some unsuspecting American women! However, also due to the rain it was very misty and it was difficult to appreciate the whole impact of it all. We decided that this is definitely on our to do list for when we come back on a sunny day!!

This rainy day was topped off by having to stay in a weird camp alongside a river, where the water was heated by fire and the electricity was turned off at 10 o clock. It was ruddy cold!!!! We can safely say that this was a definite low point and we were very eager to leave in the morning!!!

Stewart Island (South of the South Island)
This place is well known for its wildlife, however we saw very little and resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren't going to see a kiwi. So instead, we had a super fun time here by hiring a car with Lucy and Mara (our new homies) so that we could explore this tiny island.

The highlights included eating an entire 2 litre tub of Hokey Pokey ice cream (nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum!!!) and teaching Mara how to drive a manual car for the first time on the other side of the road (she's canadian!) with some very near misses causing a lot of squeals and giggles! Good times!

We were sad to leave our homies as we decided to hop off the bus and stay longer here. But we had fun exploring this scottish influenced city (did you know Dunedin means Edinburgh in gallic?!?) in particular the World's steepest suburban street (no we did not walk up it!) the octagon shaped city centre and the botanic gardens with an adorable brass band of oldies and exciting aviary! Most importantly though, this was where we went to Cadbury's World!!! We put on our sexy hair nets and got eating some free samples of chocolate!! (We won't lie, there was some mild rage when there was turkish delight and marshmallow chocolates included in this. AND, when 2 small children were given WHOLE easter eggs to take home and we weren't!!! Outrageous!!!!)

From here, we also went to visit the Otago peninsula. We stopped off at Larnach castle to have a quick peek at the beautiful grounds and gardens.

Then we went to the albatross centre (where Coops spotted Albatross, while Bets nearly got stuck in the toilets!) and saw hundreds of Cormorants (aka Shags!!) nesting in the cliffs.

We took a trip out on an "8-wheel Argo truck" to a penguin hideout and a big seal colony, where there was not only fur seals but also unusually an elephant seal!!

Mount Cook
We stayed at the base of Mount Cook where our room overlooked spectacular views of the mountain. From here, we did a big walk (totally unprepared with little water or sun cream supplies) to a glacial lake with hactual icebergs floating in it. It was definitely worth it though!

We didn't have much time here, but we were determined to like this place after hearing everyone claim it was dull! And we did like it, especially the cambridge style punting along the river. Luckily, the aftershocks have now stopped from the earthquake in September, but there was still lots of damaged buildings and repair work being carried out. We had a really fun night out here, hitting the cool strip of bars in Lordship Lane (woop woop to our dulwich homies!) and ended up cutting some shapes on the light up dance floor in 'boogie nights!'

As we arrived into this seaside town, we kept spotting dolphins and seals just off the coast, so we knew we were in for a good one! People come to kaikoura to see the huge array of sealife that is abundant in this area. We went out on a whale watching trip and luckily got to spot a sperm whale (well...you basically get to see some puffs of steam coming out of its back!!) and literally hundreds of dusky dolphins!!! It was so amazing to see them jumping out of the water and doing somersaults as far as the eye could see and some swimming right up and under the boat. The squeals on board as we all watched was pretty amusing too!

This is also where we watched LoTR and spent half the time going "i'm sure we've been there?!?!?"

So, this just about sums up the South Island and we have tried to fill you in as much as we can but there were so many mini-stops along the way to see incredible scenery, we just can't get it all in (and to be honest, we would never remember the names anyway!) As many people say, the South island is really visually spectacular with potential photo stops around every corner of the very windy roads! Everyone should go to New Zealand!!!!!!

Big fat hugs and christmas kisses

permalink written by  coopsandbets on December 20, 2010 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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The north face

Melbourne, Australia

It was like our first day of school as we anxiously stepped on to the big, orange bus waiting for us outside our hostel. With names ticked off and bags loaded underneath we set off on what felt even more like a school trip than we had imagined, when we had scheduled toilet and lunch breaks and plenty of 'photo opportunities!!' This took a little bit of getting used to as we are such seasoned travellers (even if we do say so ourselves!) especially when half an hour in, the driver forced us to do speed dating so everyone could get to know each other....CRINGE! We did forgive the driver, hilariously named Hoff, though as he turned out to be our favourite! The whole idea of stray was a whistle stop tour of the best spots in New Zealand and depending on your itinerary you can choose to stay longer in certain places, which we were luckily able to do a couple of times. So here is a quick run down.....


Pretty, coastal town from where we walked to Cathedral cove (with a slightly Laura infatuated Austrian named Michael in tow) and despite paying $10 for the pleasure, ended up cooking a BBQ for 25 people, whilst ordering the muppet foreigners around the kitchen!!! We also got involved in an All Blacks v Wallabies rugby match, where we did end up siding with our future homeland and contemplated who had the better looking players.

Cool, surfer town where we wished we could of stayed longer. (Luckily we aren't surfers as the sea was apparently the flatest it has been in ages!) Instead we topped up some sexy knee tannage (good old leggings!) and checked out some of the surfers. Then (close your ears Mum) we hitchhiked back to the hostel with a man and his HUGE, over-friendly dog, when Coops was asked 'do you mind?' as he took a swig from his bottle of white wine - turns out he wasn't referring to the drink driving, but just wanted her to move out of the way of the brown paper bag! Good times!


We visited the infamous Waitomo glow worm caves and definitely opted for the easy option of the 'Spellbound' tour (Who wants to wade around in pitch black caves in murky, eel-infested waters?!? Yes we saw an actual eel - gross!) The glow worms were amazing and it was like looking up into space. They only decided to tell us that the photos never come out after we had spent a good 10 minutes snapping away! At one point, we were told to turn off our head torches so that we could acclimatise our night vision, turns out this didn't work so well as Coops was supposed to be leading the group out of the caves and just kept squealing! Bets was also hit in the face by an old man who thought he was grabbing her shoulder (well thats what he said!) and more giggles ensued when Coops grabbed for the guide in the darkness and was told "thats not my shoulder" ahahaha -maybe you had to be there....

Maori cultural evening
Luckily we had been warned that despite this being worthwhile, it can be embarrassing unless intoxicated. Sadly we were not intoxicated. And yes it was embarrassing. We were greeted by our Maori chief in Adidas tracky b's and were hoarded into a canteen style room. He did tell us about the Maori culture and we had some yummy dinner. We then had to partake in the traditional Maori greeting, where us girls had to try our hardest not to laugh as we shook hands and touched faces/noses with 16 year old boys who had clearly been roped in for a bit of extra pocket money. Awkward!!! The aim of the evening was for the guys to learn the haka and the girls to learn how to dance with a poi (no, we didn't know what this was either!!!)

The night was topped off by the fact that we had to then all bed down in one massive room, including a fat American who snored like a freight train! Also please note at this point we were sharing our crazy fun travel activities with 2 old biddies from South Africa who were also on our bus! Random, but we did love them and wanted to put them in our pockets!


White water rafting baby!! We will let the pictures speak for themselves when we get them up here. We had a great time with our super fun guide Drax and luckily we didn't fall in and the boat didn't flip either. (We have since heard some traumatising stories an have realised that we got off quite lightly and won't be doing rafting again!)

Fun town with lots of backpackers on the banks of beautiful lake Taupo with views of snow capped mountains (one of which is Mount doom, lord of the rings stylee!)
This was the place that Bets decided to throw herself out of a plane! After handing over half of her life savings she thought that the 7 WHOLE minutes were definitely worth it. Quote: it was fricking awesome! We shall bypass the fact that Coops was too scared and opted for a shopping spree instead and returned with some fun new leggings from a childrens shop...do we have pumpkin patch in england???
SKY DIVE - DONE. (You will have to wait until we get home to see the video!)

We decided to go crazy and venture off the stray route to the cool art deco town of Napier, where we enjoyed wandering around town with the striking buildings. From here, we embarked on our wine tour, as Coops insisted this was a must. Turns out after handing over your dollar you are pretty much in for a heavy afternoons drinking sesh, whilst occasionally saying words such as 'oaky' and 'strawberries' whilst looking off into the distance! We did find some fun new wines that we both liked but have since completely forgotten them due to memory loss. Totally worth the money don't you think?! ;-)

We think that this is enough to read for now - we know that you have been waiting a long time for this one, so we wouldn't want to spoil you now would we!? We best get back to our white wine in the early evening sunshine and our steak for dinner.

We won't mention that we just deleted this entire thing and have had to re-write it and Letty's fingers are about to drop off. So much internet rage right now!!!!!!!!! (Don't worry the wine is easing the pain!!)

Lots of love from the impending heat wave that is Australia. Enjoy the snow everyone.

permalink written by  coopsandbets on December 9, 2010 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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Sweet as bro!

Wellington, New Zealand

We were a little dazed and confused at first to be in the big, modern city of Auckland but were overjoyed that we could actually understand people properly. We definitely made the most of our time here (despite lazy travellers telling us Auckland is boring) by venturing round the city (Sky Tower, the harbour, CBD) and further afield into the 'burbs where we were sussing out whether we could happily live here when married with sproglings....we quickly decided "yes, we bloody could!" We treated ourselves to some normal city life, which we have been missing a little, by checking out a comedy show and a cinema trip (we highly recommend all to see 'The Town' with Ben Affleck).

A lot of our time in Auckland was spent deliberating over the best way to spend our 6 weeks here. After getting about a million different opinions, we opted for the STRAY bus (for those not in-the-know, it's a hop-on hop-off tour bus that covers both islands). Our first excursion was up to the Northland, to visit the picturesque Bay of Islands. We stayed in a cute beach town called Paihia, which was nice to wonder round and we ventured to Haruru waterfall (you will get used to the c-razy Maoiri names for everything...we have had to!!!) Paihia is also the place where the famous 'Treaty of Waitangi' was signed between Maori chiefs and European settlers in 1840. We managed to sneak into the treaty house and meeting house to read up on it and we very much enjoyed this culture lesson as it is something that has since cropped up in lots of other places we've been to.

Our highlight here was a boat trip around the Bay, where we saw a 'school' (not too sure if this is the correct terminology) of Dolphins. There was about 15 of them (including babies) and we got right up close so we could take looooads of photos. Bets luckily got to see them jumping out of the water and rolling around. We were told that amazingly some of them were sleeping even as they moved (who knew dolphins slept!?!) It actually made us both feel a bit emotional as it was such a rare and amazing sight (cue the kleenex...) We also visited 'the whole in the rock', one of the Islands that has been eroded to have a tunnel going through it, which the boat could go all the way through. We also saw 3 seals lazing about chillaxing in the sun. The scenery was lush with bright turquoise water, really rugged coastline, but this was really weird when contrasted with farmland covered with sheep also on the islands. It was like some weird welsh parallel universe.

We also went to the Northern most point of NZ - Cape Reinga where we were seriously underwhelmed by the meeting of the 2 seas: Tasman and Pacific. Apparently it's normally very dramatic, but we had such nice weather, you could barely tell. From here we drove down 90-mile beach (does what it says on the tin) and went crazy by throwing ourselves off a sand dune on a boogie board type thing on our tummies...this ridiculous activity is known as Dune Boarding! It was very fun, but bloody hard work trying to climb it and resulted in sand everywhere!

This was our first taste of New Zealand's amazing hilly scenery, and we are loving it very much. But FYI there are definitely more cows than sheep, as dairy farming is now more prominent here....and did you know that NZ supplies a third of the worlds dairy produce?! "Amazing eh bru"!

We have also discovered some new NZ lingo:
Jandals = flip flops
Trundel = supermarket trolley
"growen" and "knowen" = grown and known
"sweet as" = that's cool
"bro" (said "bru") = mate

We have been overjoyed with the supermarkets here. Mostly because of:
- the huge supplies of Cadburys and Whittakers chocolate
- peanut butter (which appears to be a staple in every travellers
- normal cheese, that doesn't cost the earth
- actually having a choice of what we can make for dinner...pasta
sauce has never tasted so good.

So that's NZ so far...lots more fun to come....

Sweet as bro xxxx

permalink written by  coopsandbets on December 8, 2010 from Wellington, New Zealand
from the travel blog: We are off to find the wizard!
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