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Round half the world!

a travel blog by Tim and Em

We are packing up our things, moving out and going to find ourselves.. not really - just in search of sunshine and of course some cultural experiences!
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14 hours to go!

London, United Kingdom

We have packed our bags and are ready to go - well almost!! Had our last dinner in this country for some time..lovely steak and chips - had to go for something English! Anyway I am sure you are not all reading this to find out what we had for dinner - next stop is a short one in Hong Kong and then on to Sydney - will keep you posted...

permalink written by  Tim and Em on January 29, 2010 from London, United Kingdom
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Hong Kong, Hong Kong

12 hours after tearful farewells at Heathrow we arrived at our first stop, a fleeting visit to Hong Kong. Despite being extremely tired, we decided not to succumb to sleep but to head straight out. Having been in Hong Kong numerous times, we wanted to go to somewhere we hadn't been before - shopping certainly wasn't on the cards due to budget and lack of luggage space!
We headed to Hong Kong Park via City Supermarket for some lunchtime snacks. The park is an oasis of green surrounded by Skyscrapers, there is a lake with Koi and turtles and a large aviary. We had a leisurely stroll and ate lunch on a park bench before heading to the aviary for a spot of bird watching - Bill Oddey eat your heart out!!

By this time we were starting to feel a bit weary so decided to have a relaxing foot massage before heading back to the hotel for a siesta. In the evening we met up with some friends (Martigne and James it was great to see you!) for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Central - check out a place called Bacar when you're in Hong Kong and be sure to order the tuna!

Although it was tempting to head to Wan Chai we decided to be sensible and go back to the hotel for a relatively early night as we had to be up at 6am the following morning to catch our flight to Sydney.

permalink written by  Tim and Em on February 11, 2010 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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Sydney, Australia

Amazing how much you can do in a week, we're loving Australia so far!! We arrived at Sydney airport to be greeted by a friendly face, I love being met at arrivals - thanks Michelle. Fot the first two night we stayed at John, Jan's and Michelle in Campbelltown just outside Sydney. Although still fairly tired, we wanted to crack on with our exploring with Michelle as our invaluable guide.

To start the morning, we had a hearty breakfast of steak, prawns and eggs (yes, thats right, breakfast!) First off we drove to Builli look out with has amazing views over the forrest to Woollengong. Then it as a short drive down into the valley to the beach, one minute we're looking at it from afar and the next minute we're on it!! The weather was really hot so our chief safety officer suggested just 30 minutes lazing on the beach.

We then went to Kiama - which was really beautiful, as was quite rugged (and reminded us slightly of cornwall - on a good day!) The fish and chips weren't bad either! On the way back we stopped off to meet some of Michelles friends - Terri and Craig.

On the second day, nursing a few areas of slight sunburn, we headed up to the blue mountains, the weather was cloudy and threatening rain, but it held off just long enough for us to have a walk around and take some pics. We went on the worlds steepest railway, which although short, was quite an experience! After mooching around Leura, Michelle then headed onto Sydney to our next hosts - Sam and Ian.

We spent Friday lazing around Newtown, it has a very chilled out vibe and is quite bohemian. To be honest, we started to struggle as the temperature was above 35 degrees so after a spot of lunch we headed back to the flat to put the air conditioning onto max! Once Ian and Sam arrived back from work we freshened up and headed downtown to meet Michelle and Nat. We went to a couple of bars on the "rocks" in Sydney and ended up in a bar with live music (of sorts). It was a fairly quiet night (not!) - see picture and we got back around 2am Saturday morning.

Not to be outdone, we had yet another BBQ breakfast/brunch where I featured as the guest chef. Then we all headed out and wandered various parts of Sydney for the obligatory tourist photo's of Sydney opera house and harbour bridge - nothing prepares you for physically seeing such iconic structures.

Also managed to cram in a few drinks at the opera bar directly underneath the opera house - nice!

So onto Sunday. Sam drove us to Bronte beach, again amazing even though it was drizzling with rain. From there we walked around the cliffs to Bondi for a nice romantic valentine's walk in the sand.

Ian treated us all to Champagne (show off!) which was nice although the walk back was a bit tougher because of it!

Sadly Ian and Sam had to go back to work on Monday so we headed solo over to Manly. We chilled on the beach and watched the surfers and then headed to a bar for an iced coffee. Again, the scenery was stunning (sorry will keep using these sorts of words).

We ate a good Thai farewell meal with Sam and Ian - the final bit of luxury before picking up our camper van the following day.

permalink written by  Tim and Em on February 17, 2010 from Sydney, Australia
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Byron Bay, Australia

Hope everyone out there is good!?

Its been a hectic week which has seen as pick up our campervan and drive from Sydney to Noosa. Selected highlights as follows:

We picked up our van on Monday 16th, she is a real beauty based on a VW LT35 van - she has air con, a toilet and a shower, time will tell if we love or loath the campervan lifestyle! After provisioning in the local supermarket, we headed out of Sydney - we drove over the harbour bridge - how cool is that!!

Our first stop was the Hunter Valley - wine country (ummm). Found a really good campsite at a place called Cessnock. Managed to suss out the van really quickly, hooking up to the electrics etc. Got chatting to some people on the campsite who were from Padstow - small world. After a sound nights sleep, we had to be up early, we had booked a tour of the smaller vineyards which would last pretty much all of the following day.

We were picked up at the campsite at 930 by the "wine rover", a rotund Aussie called Brian who was extremely knowledgeable about the area, history, wine and the vineyards. In all, we visited 5 vineyards, tasted 53 different ones and amazingly remained fairly sober!!

It felt very strange to be drinking wine at 10am in the morning but we managed! On our budget, we couldn't afford to buy any of the wine although we were very tempted. Think we both learned a little bit more about wine appreciation - berry overtones and all that stuff. There was also cheese and chocolate - heaven!

Due to the alcohol intake, we stayed a further night in Cessnock but set off the following day heading for a brief overnight stay at Port Macquerie. This was more to break up the drive than anything else. We have started to get very good at cooking on the barbeque - each campsite has a camp kitchen which included several barbeques (and Fahitas!!). Pretty much all waking hours are spent outside the van. Still very hot here and the initial sunburn is fading.

We then drove to Darlington Beach, decided to stay here on the recommendation of the folks we met from Padstow. Campsite was again a stone's throw from the beach. Again, a great campsite, each pitch was very roomy and lots of palm trees. Lots of wildlife around, had a close encouter with a kangaroo - was coming out of the toilet block late at night and there was a Roo just sitting there - very surreal! Went back to the van and said to Em, and so we both tip toed out and watched two kangeroos, one with a joey for about fifteen minutes which was very cool. A friendly possum also paid a visit~!

We then travelled on up the coast to Byron Bay, on the way we stopped at a small place called Angourie,

which had a massive breakwall, so we walked along and watched the surf for a while. Arriving in Byron Bay, we managed to get a campsite not too far away from the beach with a pool, which was a bonus.

The beach was beautiful and not very busy so spent quite a bit of time lazing around. We only intended to stay 2 nights, but extended to 3 as we were pretty relaxed and did not want to move!! We also went to Nimbin for the day, which was very very strange, almost a bit X files! Lots of tye dyed hippy types, with a cool museum which to be honest - did not really make much sense, but was interesting in its own special way!

permalink written by  Tim and Em on February 22, 2010 from Byron Bay, Australia
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Byron Bay to Fraser Island

Fraser Island, Australia

We had to drag ourselves away from Byron Bay, as we really liked it there, but our next stop was Australia zoo, which was a 4 hour drive, so we were up and away bright and early (amazing I know!!). We weren't sure what to expect of the zoo, although lots of people had recommended it, but were really impressed with it! It was very interactive, and you could get up close and personal to the kangeroos and koalas which was brilliant.
I think our favourite bit was feeding the elephants - such a stange sensation, it felt like someone was hoovering your hand - with a bristly hoover!!

Had to take a picture of Tim jumping next to Steve Irwin (bless him) and have to include on here as due to my questionable photographic skills, it took me about 40 shots and 10 minutes to get this shot - must read the camera instructions!

We then stayed in Noosa for a night, which was a nice place - quite boutiquey with a nice river and lots of gorgeous houses.

The next day we headed to Rainbow Beach, so named because there are alledgedly 70 different colours of sand on the beach. What a gorgeous place - we walked along the beach and there was no-one there. It was quite bizzare as the cliffs next to the beach are made of sand, and the trees that are growing there literally fall off the cliff as the sand blows away. The next morning we got up at 5.30 AM to go and feed the dolphins at Tin Can bay , which was about half an hour away. The dolphins have been fed for years, and arrive at about 7.30 in the morning for a fish breakfast, and were very pleased to see us. I was humming the theme tune to flipper all day! We then hit the road again to Hervey Bay, where we were staying with Bill and Bev, friends of Tims Mum and Dads. After booking a trip to Fraser Island for the next day, Bill and Bev made us feel very welcome with a Roast Dinner! The roast pork has been cooked on the BBQ - amazing!!

We were then up early again the next day (anyone see a trend here - we are supposed to be on holiday!) and headed off to Fraser Island. We caught the barge across and were then greeted by a 4 wheel drive 52 seater coach! This was to be our carriage for the day. We then did a bit of an island tour, went on a walk through the rainforest and then stopped at Lake Mckenzie for a swim

. This is a freshwater lake in the middle of the island, with silicon sand thus almost white, the contrast with the blue water was amazing. Our guide Murray, had spent quite a long time telling us about the dingo's, so I was on watch for them - apparantly they can be attracted by flavoured lip balm, as it smells like food!

After the lake we then had lunch, which was very nice, and then headed up 75 mile beach, in the coach! It seemed slightly wrong that there were 75 miles of beautiful beach and you could not go in the sea (due to currents, jellyfish, sharks etc) and also the beach is used as a highway for buses, 4 x 4's and also as a landing strip for planes. There was a shipwreck on the beach which was pretty impressive, although we had to stay 3 metres away.To finish off the day, we saw a couple of dingo's on the way home!


Thanks to Bill & Bev for putting us up, a proper bed was a luxury!! We had to be up early yet again the following day because of the long drive ahead of us.

permalink written by  Tim and Em on February 27, 2010 from Fraser Island, Australia
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Fraser Island to Airlie Beach

Whitsunday Island, Austria

We are taking it in turns to write the blog, I wonder if you can guess who writes which bit?? No prizes for guessing though! (By the way, we are not suddenly in Austria, there is something wrong on this website!)

Bill had warned us that the drive from Hervey Bay to Rockhampton was tedious so we decided to break the journey up. First was a stop to the Bundaberg Rum distillery. We were hoping that the tour would be free but alas they wanted to charge 25 bucks for the privilege and we would have to wait for an hour and a half until the next tour. So we made do with a nose around the shop, bought a fridge magnet and got a snap of us in front of the big bottle of rum.

We were only ten minutes out of Bundberg when we saw signs for "Mysterious Craters" being intrigued, we decided to investigate. We were hoping that this might be a free attraction, however we were told that we needed to cough up 7 dollars 50 each to see this magical marvel. Not wanting to appear cheapskates, we got our wallets out. Its difficult to describe the craters, but they were, well just craters in someone's back garden - see photo. What was slightly weird is that there were a few other side attractions such as a large collection of old lawnmowers and chainsaws - having visions of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we decided to make a quick exit!!

Bill's warning was absolutely bang on, the drive was tedious with very few cars and only a handfull of small villages along the way. Having purchased a bag of cheesy puff crisps and, to while away the time, we decided to have a competition to see how many we could stuff in our mouths without chewing. It was tense stuff, I was proud of my first effort of 15 but Em trumped me with 20. I then went one further to 25 but we decided it was a stalemate as we had run out of cheese puffs. I tell this little story to give you an idea of how boring the drive was. There are also loads of signs by the road saying "survive the drive", "fatigue zone" for next 50Kms, etc. I now realise how people can fall asleep at the wheel.

Eventually after 6 hours we arrived at Rockhampton. We were extremely pleased to get to our destination but it was purely an overnight stop so that we could push onto Airlie Beach (gateway to the Whitsunday Islands) the following day.

Up early yet again to start another big drive. We had been warned about flooding and as we neared Airlie Beach it started to tip down with rain tropical style - wipers on max but they still couldnt clear the windscreen fast enough. The creeks were virtually to the side of the road but fortunately we managed to get to our campsite at Airlie Beach. Needless to say, it was very soggy underfoot.

We decided, after such a huge amount driving we would have a "down day" - spend some time on the internet and to decide which trips we wanted to do while there. After much deliberation and visiting 3 different tour operates, we parted with some serious cash for two separate trips over the next two days.

We awoke the following day to torrential rain, the small roads between the pitches of the campsite were literally like rivers.

I was very skeptical that our trip would go ahead but the bus arrived to pick us up on schedule to take us to the marina. We picked up our "stinger suits" - these are essential to protect you from jelly fish whilst in the water. We were then shown our transport for the day, a 38 foot rib inflatable with two huge engines on the back. The sea was very rough, I think there was a 3-5 swell. Immediately on exiting the harbour, the guy accelerated and started zig-zagging up the waves and the hull was slamming down really hard. It took 5 minutes before the first person couldnt handle it so we had to go back to the marina to drop the lightweights off!

The ride to Whitehaven beach was adrenaline filled, full throttle all the way in rough seas - awesome! We were absolutely drenched by the time we got there. Amazingly the weather brightened up by the time we got there. Whitehaven beach lives up to all the pictures you see, simply stunning although the tide wasn't all the way out so we didn't see all of the famous sandbars.

After a stroll and a spot of lunch, we headed off for the first snorkelling site. Due to the rough weather the sea had been really stirred up so visibility was not as good as it should be. We still managed to see some fish and the corals below. After 30 minutes here, we moved on to another snorkelling site which was much better. From there it was back to the marina, in all the captain told us we had covered 57 miles and reached a max speed of 38 knots - that it the swell was someting! Totally awesome day, it was funny to hear Benny (our captain) talk excitedly to a mate when we got back to the harbour about the seas and how we had got airbourne so many times.

The following day it was another boat trip (in a more civilised boat) to a floating pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef. It took us about 2 hours to get to the pontoon which had an underwater viewing area, a scuba dive platform, a semi submersible and, would you believe a water slide. On the ride out, we decided to do an introductory scuba dive and we had already booked a helicopter ride over the reef.

As soon as we got there, we were ferried out to a near-by floating helipad. Em was pretty nervous, particularly when she saw the size of the chopper!!! Needless to say, the helicopter ride was incredible, the fact that it was a helicopter was exciting but the views of the Great Barrier Reef from the air were simply stunning. There was one other passenger beside Em and I and despite being able to talk to each other through headsets, none of us said a word, I think we were rendered speechless by what we were seeing. Whatever I say here will not do what we saw justice, hopefully you will see what I mean by the pictures.

It was then onto our introductory scuba dive which we were both a little apprehensive about. You went down with an instructor who held your hand (literally) all the way. After being shown the equipment and how to breathe (useful!), we pushed off the underwater platform. It is so serene when you are underwater and the wildlife was just amazing. We saw a couple of giant clams, one of which the instructor touched so that it closed. Saw lots Unicorn fish which are quite weird - look them up on the internet, you'll see what we mean! Also saw a couple of clown fish (just like Nemo!). The different types and vivid colours of the coral was incredible. After 30 minutes under, we surfaced and have decided to look at a diving course in Malaysia or Thailand.

After our dive, we managed to get a little bit of R&R on the pontoon, spot of lunch and a few goes on the waterslide. As we were so tired when we got back to Airlie Beach, we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out - fish and chips!!

permalink written by  Tim and Em on February 28, 2010 from Whitsunday Island, Austria
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Airlie Beach to Cairns

Cairns, Australia

After the excitement of the Whitsundays, the next two days can only be described as long and boring! There is not a massive amount of things to do on this stretch of coast, so we drove about 600kms each day for two days to try and get as far as possible as quickly as we could. The roads were pretty empty, we would only see another car occasionally, and towns were few and far between!

We decided to head up towards the Atherton Tablelands, as we had heard this was really nice from a few people. We picked a campsite that was right in the middle of all the waterfalls so we were well placed for the next day. The only problem with this was that in effect we were in the middle of nowhere, and it was pretty rustic!! As soon as we pulled up I knew there was potential for nasty encounters of the wildlife kind, and after about ten minutes the only other people staying on the site told us that they had snakes (of the poisonous kind) under their van that morning. By then I was quite freaked out, everything was very overgrown, so there were no clear paths to the showers without going through long grass. Naturally I demanded that Tim would come with me and stand guard whilst I was showering. I was proved right when on the way back to the camper, we encountered the largest, ugliest toad I have ever seen. We knew this was a cane toad, and the book said they were posionous, but helpfully did not explain in what sense they were posionous - did they bite, spray you with venom etc etc?! After taking a few pics from a safe distance, we beat a hasty retreat to the camper, and stayed there for the rest of the night!

The next day we went on the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit, this is a group of 3 waterfalls which are all within about 10kms of each other. All very nice, and even nicer because there was no-one else there! We then went to see some other waterfalls and a large crater (much more exciting than previous craters) which was pretty large and filled with kermit coloured sludge.. mmm nice!

From there we headed to Lake Tinaroo, which was beautiful, really peaceful and a lovely camping site with a nice pool too. We resisted the urge to stay two nights, as we were running out of time. The next day took us to Mareeba where we went to Granite Gorge to feed the rock wallabies - I recognised it from when Matty went there. Very cool - we just had to shake the bags of food, one brave one came at first but was soon followed by about 10 of them. They were really really cute - see pictures and very gentle - they would hold onto your hand while taking the food. Tim was surrounded at one point and they started climbing all over him, which was all quite funny. Funnier still when one left a little present on his leg - well I thought so anyway!! After the wallaby feeding we then drove to Port Douglas, stopping for an iced coffee at Kuranda on the way, via what must have been the bendiest road in the trip so far!! Port Douglas was really nice, and had a 4 mile beach, which again, was deserted.

We had a swim in the pool and a BBQ for dinner. We started to feeling slightly blue that the Australian leg of adventure was coming to a close and that the following day we would have to hand back our home for the last three weeks (the camper van). The following morning was fairly stressful as we packed all our gear back into the rucksacks and cleaned the van up.

We headed into Port Douglas itself to look around the local market. Em was tempted to buy a chopping board and I was thinking about buying a wide brimmed Australian stylie hat - fortunately we both resisted the urge!!

From there we drove slightly further North to Mossman Gorge. We thought it would just be a scenic drive but when we got there you could walk alongside the river and people were swimming. Despite being short on time, we ran back to the van, grabbed our swimming gear and went for a quick dip. The water was pretty cold and the current takes you downstream quite quickly, it was great to cool off though.

Time was started to run really short as we had to drop the camper back by 3.30pm. We wound our way back down the Captain Cook Highway, found our accommodation for the night (The Travellers Oasis), dumped our stuff off and then dropped the camper back :-(.

The hostel was really good and we were given various vouchers for cheap eats in Cairns (bonus)! We strolled around in the evening, Cairns does not have its own beach so they have built a lagoon along the esplande which is really cool - it even has a sandy bottom!! Sorry readers but we forgot to take any pictures - it looked superb at night. By this time our tummies were starting to rumble so we ate at a place called the Woolshed - two meals and two beers for 25 bucks, the best thing was, I had a char grilled T-bone steak which was absolutely delicious! Post dinner we checked out a local night market and ending up treating ourselves to a massage.

The following day was an administration day, very boring! We spent a lot of time on the internet updating the blog and uploading photos - I hope you lot are enjoying the updates as its pretty labour intensive!! For our last night we had a deluxe double room, which meant we had a tv, dvd player, fridge and balcony!! This felt like heaven, so we decided to make the most of it and borrowed a dvd from the hostel, cooked a pizza and relaxed! Next morning we were up early to fly out of Cairns to Auckland - via Sydney! We have really enjoyed Australia, bit worried NZ will feel cold after this.

permalink written by  Tim and Em on March 9, 2010 from Cairns, Australia
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Auckland to Tauranga

Auckland, New Zealand

Hello readers, apologies for the slight delay, yes, we are know safely in New Zealand. So, what have we being doing or, as Polly would saw WUBU2...

Had a trouble free flight from Australia although Em was particularly annoyed that she didnt get to watch all of the film-they turned the inflight entertainment off before it ended! After 3 weeks in a campervan, it was really nice to stay in a "proper" hotel with our own bathroom and a TV, there was even complimentary tolietries. After staying overnight we picked up our hire car and immediately headed north to a place called Paihia, about a 4 ish hour drive from Auckland. Paihia is the gateway to the Bay of Islands.

We had booked accommdation at a hostel called the Pickled Parrott, so called because the previous owner had a parrott who liked to drink (alcohol!) Strangely enough, the current owner also had a parrott called Rocky, as well as a cat and two dogs! Rose who owned the hostel had moved out a few years ago from Somerset.

We were both pretty tired so for the first few days we chilled out, read a bit, sun bathed a bit and contemplated the many trip options available to us. On our final full day in Paihia, we booked ourselves on a yacht called "On the Edge", a racing catamaran.

We had a fantastic day out, the wind was good so we managed to actual do some sailing, the captain even trusted me with the wheel!

On the way out, we caught a couple of fish and within 2 hours these were thrown on the barbeque for lunch - delicious! We anchored off one of the many islands and the rib was dropped into the water. I kayaked to the beach and we had two hours relaxation. There was also an opportunity to go on a "doughnut" pulled by the rib, needless to say I couldn't refuse a go! The sail back to Paihia was better than on the way out, the wind had got up a little more and we managed to hit 16 knots sailing. Dad, you would have loved this trip.

We had our final night at the Pickled Parrott and despite hours of coaxing, we still didnt manage to get a single word out of Rocky! From Paihia, we headed back South and stayed near to Warkworth. We went to dinner at Steve and Michelle's - Steve used to live in my home town and is now resident in New Zealand. We had a lovely a lovely meal of green lipped mussels and beer battered snapper that had been caught that day. It was great to meet the kids, Heath and Caleb and also Fonzie the Bassett hound. Thanks to Steve and Michelle, it was great to see you.

The following day we drove to Tauranga to stay for a few days with my (Em) Uncle and Auntie - Phil and Laura and cousins - Laurie, Mark and Adam. As both Mum and Dad and Matthew had been to visit, it was great to finally get there and to meet Milo the dog, who I had heard so much about! We had been advised that we should climb up "The Mount" being Mt Maunganui, so went to check it out. I will be honest, when we got there, the sun was shining, and the beach at the bottom of the mount looked so inviting - that was as far as we got! However the next day we went back for another try and climbed to the top. Although not a huge mountain it was still pretty steep but the view from the top was worth it though - in every direction!

On our last night we all went for proper Fish and Chips - Kiwi style - freshly caught and on the harbour - very very nice! We then went to the Hot Pools, a 5 minute drive from Phil and Lauras, which were almost surreal, very warm - like being in the bath and very relaxing! The pools are filled with water that is naturally geothermically (!) heated underground.

Unfortunately the next day we had to move on again - it was lovely to see everyone again, thank you all so much - special thanks to Adam for giving up his room! We resisted the urge to pack Milo into our rucksacks and departed for the Coromandel region.

permalink written by  Tim and Em on March 10, 2010 from Auckland, New Zealand
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Whitianga to Rotorua

Rotorua, New Zealand

After leaving Phil and Laura's we drove to Whitianga in the Coromandel peninsula. We checked into our hostel which was about 25 metres from a very nice beach - we could see the water from our balcony. After dumping our stuff, we then drove to hot water beach. 2 hours either side of low tide, there are certain spots on the beach where hot springs bubble out from the sand. Some people dug to form their own spa pool - as you can see from the photo's it was fairly busy. It's a very strange feeling to dig your toes into the sand and for it to be too hot to keep your toes there for more than 5 seconds - weird!

We went back to the hostel via the supermarket for some provisions. When we arrived back there had been a complete power cut. Fortunately, we were barbequing that night but it seemed strange to be in the pitch black for a few hours, the power was finally restored at 830pm.

The following day, we drove to Cathedral Cove - this is perhaps one of the most photographed places in the North Island where there is a huge limestone arch which links two parts of the beach. Again, truly stunning and we managed to sneak in an hours sunbathing.

From there we drove to Rotorua which is the thermal hotspot of the North Island and therefore quite smelly! We checked out Wai Tapo Thermal Wonderland which consisted of various thermal wonders believe it or not!! Hot bubbling mud, thermal springs, mineral terraces, etc, etc. Some of the colours were amazing from lurid yellow (sulphur) to bronze/rust colours - check the photo's! We also watched the Lady Knox Geyser spurt.

The following day we had booked to go white water rafting. According to the leaflet, we would raft down the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world - 7 metres of it. After a somewhat short safety briefing, we were launching the raft with 4 complete strangers and 1 "instructor" - Em managed to get the front seat which she was slightly concerned about.

It started somewhat tamely but the rapids built and built until we hit the big one - incredible. After going over, the raft gets completely submerged under the water but none of us managed to fall out and we completed the whole route without capsizing. There were several points where the instructor got as to paddle back into falls to ensure we all got a good soaking - pretty chilly as we had checked the water temperature on the way down at 16 degrees!! Fantastic fun and got the adrenaline going!

permalink written by  Tim and Em on March 22, 2010 from Rotorua, New Zealand
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Cold fear at 15,000 feet.

Taupo, New Zealand

No sooner had we dried off from the white water rafting, and we were on the way to Taupo. Apparantly Taupo is one of the sky diving capital of the world, due to the good weather etc. Tim had been mentioning sky diving before we even left London, but I had been trying to block this out of my mind, as I was hoping that he was in fact joking. Unfortunately we had met a whole raft of people in Rotorua who had foolishly jumped out of planes in Taupo and thought it was the best thing ever - this was not helping my cause! Taupo was beautiful in the sunshine, so we laid by the lake for a while, and enjoyed. The next morning, we booked our skydiving - yes I was temporairly insane! I knew that if I didn't do it I would regret it, so that was that! It seemed a little weird to complete a next of kin form when we were picked up.

When we got to the airport office, there was a choice of 12,000 feet or 15,000 feet, so of course we ended up going for 15,000 (Tim reckoned 12,000 feet was for wimps!). The whole experience was to be captured on DVD and video for proof to all. After getting our gear on, we met our Tandem Masters (i.e strangers that we were going to be attached to.) Mine was a very nice man called JK, who had done over 19,000 jumps, won some medals and been doing it for 20 years, so I was pretty pleased with this. I think he thought I was crazy when my first question was did he have a spare parachute in the bag.

(Tim takes over the typing)..

So into the plane we went, basically two benches in the back of a relatively small light aircraft. We were a little bit like sardines. The view of Lake Taupo from the aircraft was amazing as we climbed and climbed. At 12,000 feet, the door opened to let the wimps out - this was very strange as I knew we would be up next. By now, my nerves were starting to jangle a little even though sky diving is something I've always wanted to do.

So, we get to our altitude and Alan (my tandem master) and I slide forward towards the open door - stomach in mouth time!! The first couple of seconds of freefall are very uncontrolled and then you can put your arms our so that you are falling with your legs slightedly bent. I would swear here but the feeling was absolutely amazing, like nothing I've ever done before. I was "wooing" all the way down. The guy filming us came to us in mid-air and shook my hand.

Then Alan opened the canopy and we serenely parashuted back to terra firma. Alan let me control the parashute for a while which was really cool. Once we had landed, I immediately looked for Emma who was just coming into land, I run over and hugged both her and JK. What an adrenaline rush - both of us felt on a high all day and I was up for doing it again. Even Alan said I should sign up for the skydiving course.

What a truly AWESOME experience, definately want to do it again!!

permalink written by  Tim and Em on March 23, 2010 from Taupo, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Round half the world!
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