A Travellerspoint blog

Heaven is the Blue Mountains

In the clouds

11 °C

G'day people!

Hope all is sunny in your worlds. It's cold, cloudy and raining here! Boooooooo.
I'm in the Blue Mountains which is currently like living inside a giant cloud.
However, I have been on cloud nine whilst here, but for a different reason
which I shall explain later, ooh cliffhanger! I'll start from the beginning...

I arrived in Syndey, Australia at 8am last Monday and took a train straight to
my hostel in a little suburb called Glebe. I instantly liked it for it's artsy, relaxed,
bohemian feel. I did my laundry and sorted stuff out in my dazed haze, since
I'd been up at 3am for the flight. Later I had a walk down the road to the park
situated by Rozelle Bay, right on the harbour. When I say harbour, I mean a
tiny bit of it. Sydney harbour is enormous (and I called Wellington harbour big!),
with hundreds of inlets, bays and beaches. Anyway, the walk was good with the
sun shining and lots of dog walkers. I could see the ANZAC (Australian and New
Zealand Army Corps) Memorial bridge and the infamous Harbour Bridge from here
and I could feel Sydney growing on me already. It was so nice to be warm after NZ!

The next day I went on a free walking tour (which I actually paid $20 dollars for
in the end coz it was so good) which was an excellent way of seeing the main
sights, getting my bearings and learning something about Sydney, aswell as
getting good tips for what was best to do and where to eat cheaply etc from
a Sydney born and bred guide. Afterwards I ate my packed lunch on the ferry
to Manly (where I missed some good photo opportunities as I was too busy
scoffing my sandwich, typical!). Manly is a peninsula of the harbour which is
popular with tourists mainly for it's surfing beach. I was pleased to find an
Internet cafe which also did luggage storage and locked away my bag so I
could go for a swim. I walked the length of the beach and then went in the
sea which was gorgeous. Perfect temperature and relief from the baking sun.
It was my first time in the Aussie ocean so I had poisonous creatures on my
mind, but there were loads of other swimmers and the waves were ace so I
carried on regardless. I did feel a few tiny stinging sensations which I assumed
were harmless jellyfish, and the lady back at the lock-up confirmed this. She
also warned me about the Blue Bottle, which isn't officially a jellyfish but a
collection of strange blobby marine animals with tentacles (sound like jellyfish to
me) that float on the water. They have blueish transparent air-filled pockets
which float on the surface. Apparently their stings aren't deadly but do hurt,
a lot, so I'll be looking out for them from now on!
After that I did a couple of hours walk through the National Park bush nearby,
where I spotted some enormous spiders on gigantic webs, fortunately away
from the footpath! And as I walked down to a little cove called Collins Beach
I came across a foot-long (wanted to say Subway then, ha ha!) lizard which
sat on a rock and watched me whilst I photographed it. Cool. I ended up back
at the town centre where after a bit of searching, found a lovely restaurant
called In Situ, where I had delicious salmon and dill pasta, and discovered
yummy James Boag, a Tasmanian beer. There was a guy playing acoustic
covers, so I hung around to write my journal and didn't get the ferry back
until 10.30pm. A fantastic, long and pleasantly exhausting day. I'm really
feeling the love here now.

On Wednesday I woke up with a cold, bugger! It wasn't too bad so I got
ready lazily and then got the bus to another suburb called Surry Hills. I had
heard it was a funky place with great Op Shops (charity shops) and whoever
told me that was right! I hadn't brought many clothes for hot weather, or for
going out in the evening, and as I had done (or so I thought!) the majority of the
cooler places i.e. Northern India and some of NZ, I decided to send home my
thermal gear and invest in some beach/evening wear. I couldn't believe it,
I only spent $57 dollars (about about 38 pounds) and I got two dresses,
some shorts, loads of tops, some pumps and some flip flops! Really nice stuff
too. much better than what you get in English charity shops. Sorted.

Afterwards I walked into town through Hyde Park and had a sneaky look at
some of the Australian Museum. I was only going in to use the loo, and you're
supposed to pay to see the exhibits, but no one noticed when I walked in so
I just carried on! I'm learning the backpackers ways! I walked through the
Botanic Gardens where I watched Flying Foxes coming in to roost in the trees.
I spent ages with my binocs watching them. They were really quite funny,
squabbling for the best spot. Theyre basically just huge fruit bats and are '
actually a nuisance, causing a lot of damage to the trees, so a management
programme is being developed. Also in the gardens were loads of Sulphur
Crested Cockatoo which are sooo noisy, and Ibis which are large black and
white birds with extra long black beaks, both common sights here. The gardens
were lovely and I walked up to Mrs. Maquarie's chair, a seat carved out of stone
by convicts on instruction from her husband Lachlan Macquarie, the governer of
New South Wales in the early 1800's (and no I'm not using Wikipedia to help
me, honest. ;oP).
I sauntered, back into town to the Three Wise Monkys pub for a giant chicken
burger and chips, before getting the bus back to the hostel for a well-earned
sleep!

The following day I got the ferry to Watson's Bay where I managed to get a
good place to take the photos I missed on the last ferry. This was more fun
too as the boat was more like a big high speed jet boat, and stuck closer to the
coast where you could see all the big posh houses. I had a swim and a sunbathe
at Watson's Bay, a quick look at The Gap, a rocky area, and then got the
bus to Bondi Beach. From there I did the coastal walk down to Coogee which
was good. The beach was nothing special, as people had warned me, and the
coast was actually very English-looking, a bit like Cornwall. I had some rubbish
Asian food at Coogee and got the bus back to the ranch.
I have totally fallen for Sydney. And the lovely sunshine definately helped woo me.

On Friday I checked out of the hostel and caught the train into the Blue Mountains.
I'd had a recommendation for a hostel in Katoomba called the Flying Fox and
was just heading there when I got chatting to a girl going in the same direction.
She said she was here to volunteer at the local music festival. Well, most of you
know of my love for festivals so you can imagine my excitement when I heard that!
I hadn't known there was a festival going on, this was looking good.
I got directions from her, and after dumping my bag, walked the 15 minutes to the
school where the Blue Mountains Blues, Roots and Folk Festival was being held.
It was $200 for a weekend ticket which I knew I couldn't afford, so I went directly
to the desk to ask if they needed any help. Within minutes I was signed up as a
volunteer and had an access all areas wristband on my arm for the duration of
the festival! Get in! They needed someone straight away so I did a 3hr
shift, putting out chairs in the main tents (it's a very civilised affair this one) and
doing security on the gate. I was in my element and it felt good to be doing some
work after 8 weeks of being a bum. I instantly met some lovely local people and
other travellers, one of whom, Anthony, was staying at the same hostel as me.
After work we went back there for dinner (free pasta! - you get free breakfast
here too - hurray!), and then headed back down to watch some bands.

Now I had come here to do some walking. As you probably know, the Blue Mountains
are famed for their amazing views of Gum Tree(Eucalyptus)-filled valleys, cool
rock formations and waterfalls. However, it had started raining on the evening I
arrived and had carried on that way all night. When we woke on Saturday morning,
there was just fog and rain. And cold. Yuk. Well, undeterred, me and a girl Charlotte,
also staying at the hostel, decided to stick two fingers up at the weather go for a walk
anyway, just to get some fresh air if nothing else. We got the train two stops and
walked to the Wentworth Falls. We took photos of each other in front of where the
amazing view should've been, and sloshed through the walk. The waterfalls were
still good and a brief break in the cloud allowed us to get a look at just how deep the
valley is, not for the vertigo afflicted! So we still enjoyed ourselves even though we
got thoroughly drenched.
After getting back and getting dry I called in at a cosy 50's style cafe called Savoy's
for a tasty dinner of pumpkin pie, before showing my face at the festival again to
watch a few gigs before my shift at 9pm. Those were a cold three hours. I worked
on the desk checking other volunteers in and out and doing general jobs, but it was
in an outdoor tent with an open front, so we took it in turns to go for wander or
get a hot drink to warm up.

On the Sunday, yesterday, the weather had cleared a bit and I was torn as some
of the others were drving out to the Jenolan Caves. These caves are reknowned
for their amazing mineral formations and I had been told on many occasions they were
well worth a look. The skies began to darken again and I didn't have much hope for
the clear skies lasting, and I didn't feel much like being on my own either (no one
else was doing walks), so I decided to tag along for the caves.
The drive there was great and the views were actually really clear so I did get to
see some of the landscape after all. The caves were ok, I wasn't blown away to be
honest, but I was tired so I think I had made the right decision. I was working at
7pm so I called down early to watch some music. The festival is a family affair,
it reminded me a lot of the Cambridge Folk Festival, but I was still surprised to find
that everything finished up by 9pm, with the last band on the main stage finishing
at seven! Unheard of at an English festival, but I guess the kids needed the school
back today. I was supposed to work til ten but we got cleared up dead quick and
they let us go at half eight, which was a treat as it was freezing and I was shattered.
For those who are interested, over the whole weekend I was ecstatic to have seen
brilliant performances by Chris While and Julie Matthews, Beoga, Eddie Reader,
Judy Collins (spell-binding) and Eric Bibb! All for free!! A seredipitous event, which
somewhat made up for the crap weather, and the fact that I've seen no live music
shows since I left Sheff.

Well, it's Monday lunchtime now and I have booked the overnight Greyhound bus
from Sydney to Byron Bay tonight at 7pm. It's a 13hr journey during which I shall
be trying to sleep in my seat to save on accommodation. Wish me luck with that one!
The weather report looks rainy there but a much warmer 26 degress (instead of
the 11 degrees we have here right now!) so I intend to spend three days relaxng
and reading a book, either on the beach or under cover of a bar or cafe. Let's see if I
can sit still, as you already know or have probably guessed, if there's something
interesting or exciting to do, I find it hard to resist temptation!

Right, best go and pack my bag and get out of here before I get charged for another
night! Actually this hostel has been the most chilled I've ever stayed in. As well as
lots of free food, there is a lovely shared lounge area and free internet. It's a bit
like staying in someone's home, so I'll miss it. Don't think there are many others out
there like this but I will strive to find them.

Take care everyone.
Lots of love,
Mel xxx

Posted by ExplorerMel 18:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kia Ora!

North Island

Hi everyone!

I wasn't writing about the drink in the title of this entry. 'Kia Ora' is the Maori greeting for 'hi!' or
'be healthy', which we learned on a Maori cultural evening in Rotorua.
It's been three weeks since I last wrote anything other than the skydive post, so I've got a bit
of catching up to do. Also, I'll be writing about lots of the photos I've already put up in this entry.
Just to let you know if you haven't already seen them, I've drawn some maps for you to look at.
One is the whole trip schedule and the others are where I've been by country/area. Also, you may
have realised that there is no email alert when I've only uploaded photos. So I'll post a little blog
when I do this in future. Anyway, hope you're enjoying loookin at all't stuff and nonsense! I'm gonna
have to be fairly brief tonight due to time restriction, so I 'll have to put up pics from the last two weeks
on another day.

I've had a whistle-stop tour of both the North and South Islands, which has been incredible overall.
6 months ago I signed up for a hop on-hop off bus pass with a company called Stray, which sounded
like a good way to explore the country at minimal cost. I was a bit disappointed to find it was slightly
more organised/scheduled than I had been told, and had I done a bit more research I would've found
out that the buses only go on a certain, and on specific days, which has turned out out be a bit
limiting. However, it has meant I've been able to see lots by travelling onto somewhere new each day
(except for Wellington and Queenstown where I hopped off for a few days) and thus see lots, albeit a
bit quick. I could've easily spent a couple or three months here, as I love it and want to see more.
This would have been possible on the Stray bus if I had a bit more time, as you can hop off at any of
the stops and stick around for a while. As it is, my time is limited so I have to press on. Dunt really
matter, I'll get to see lots of other places around the world after this. NZ is definately a special place
though, I will undoubtedly be back.

So after leaving Waiheke, I stayed in my first international hostel, the YHA in Auckland. It was hot and
noisy so I was glad to be picked up by the bus the following morning. Our first stop was Hahei, on
the Coromandel peninsula, where I went kayaking. The weather was scorching and the sea clear and
blue so it was a great day to do it. We had a BBQ for dinner and the next day headed down to Raglan
on the opposite west coast. Raglan is a chilled out, 'sweet as' arty town, full of cool surfers,
so as you can imagine I fitted right in!
We had a look round and then me and a fellow traveller Mariya had a walk down the enormous black
volcanic beach. In the evening we went on a harbour boat cruise where we got fush n chups (NZ
pronunciation) and beer, and I jumped in for a swim with some of the others. The sun was setting and
the water was still warm. It was a really lovely evening and a good giggle as we were all really
starting to get to know each other.

The following day we headed to the Waitomo caves. I took a little trip into one of the caves to see
glow worms. There were thousands of them, and as we trundled down the underground river (where
David Attenborough has filmed!) on a blow-up dingy in pitch black darkness, the glow worms lit up the
cave with tiny LED-like dots. They are actually an insect larvae which use their fluorescence and sticky
nets to catch their food. We also saw Cave Weta's down there which are huge insects with massive
antennae, a bit unnerving even for me and I don't mind most creepy crawlies.
In the evening we stayed at a rather rubbish place where we saw an 'authentic' Maori haka display.
Actually, this was more like a school trip complete with crap food, sleeping in one enormous hall and
a slimey, patronising old man who was the owner. Thanks Stray! Anyway, there was no point whinging
about it, so I got involved and learned the Poi song/dance which was a laugh. The boys had to learn the
haka which was unfortunate for our only male friend on the bus, Andy! We had to perform at the end,
and he did us proud, poor sod. If anyone's ever seen the Haka (what the All Blacks do at the beginning
of a rugby match), you'll know it's all about no shirt, tongue out, scary staring eyes and lots of strange
noises! He is travelling with his wife, Inga, on their honeymoon which was amusing. Him and fifteen
other women on the bus, his honeymoon harem!

The day after I visited a Maori village where they still live amongst and use, the hot geothermic pools,
for cooking and washing etc. It was really interesting but it poured with rain, and that rain continued
in Taupo where we arrived for the night. It was a shame as we'd hoped to do the skydive there, but
we really couldn't do anything. So instead we went to a local bar and got very, very drunk until 2am!
We danced the night away, me and my friend Karen, who's the same age as me, loving the 90's
classics! The day after I felt the hangover badly when we took an extremely windy mountain road to
a place called Blue Duck Lodge. It's one of many struggling farms which have opened up as
accommodation for tourists and it's in the middle of nowhere. It was lovely, the weather improved and
Karen and I went for a walk to a big waterfall and did a bit of birdwatching, well we saw a black robin
and some fantails! There isn't much wildlife to speak of in NZ. Certainly didn't spot the rare blue duck!
There was a yummy lasagne dinner that night and then we slept well for an early start to the
Tongariro Crossing, a 19km walk in National Park. Unfortunately there were 80mph winds on the tops
of the mountains which meant the walk was closed. We were all disappointed as the walk is famous
for it's views and we weren't going to be there long enough to try it another day. Will be going back for
that one.

So, onward to Wellington where I spent an fabulous, pampered three days with my Uncle John and
Auntie Liz in their amazing house overlooking the harbour. A room to myself, luxury! They took me out
for dinner, cooked lovely food, fed me gorgeous wine and showed me around. We had a walk up Mount
Victoria and I went bag shopping so I could ditch the 30 litre rucksack I had brought with me. I only
upped it to 38 litres but I got one that opens right up instead of a toploader which is so much more
practical. It has made life a lot easier. On my last day there J&L were at work so I went into town
and got the cable car up to the botanic gardens. A couple of hours mooching around there was lovely
and I wandered back into town for a sushi lunch and the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand. I joined
Liz at the local pool for a swim afterwards, and then I had one last dinner with them before I caught
the ferry to the south island the following morning. I really enjoyed being with them, and the pampering
certainly didn't go unappreciated!

Some of the other Strays had hung around in Wellies so I met back up with them on the ferry which was
good. I missed the dolphins swimming along with the boat as I had gone inside for a hot choc, so
annnoyed about that. In fact I haven't managed to see dolphins once whilst here, I just keep missing
them. Well peeved. Anyway, we headed down to Abel Tasman which was one of my favourite places.
The weather came off for the skydive the next morning so off we went. I was so scared but managed
to keep it to myself! We did the highest jump at 16, 500ft, so high we had to have oxygen masks on the
way up! It was without a doubt the most amazing thing I've ever done. It wasn't as scary as I thought,
and seeing the earth from the sky whilst flying through the air at 200kph is quite exciting. I wanna do
it again one day. The high lasted all day. In the afternoon I caught the water taxi boat up to a beach
called Anchorage, and did a four hour walk back to the campsite on my own, with a big grin on my face
for most of it! The sand is golden here and the sea blue and clear as the rest of NZ. Gorgeous.

I'm really gonna have to be a bit more brief about this! I have to go to bed soon to get up at 3.30am for
my flight to Sydney!

So, here's what we did next:
- An amazing walk along Foulwind Cove - nearly blown off the cliff, crazy wild seas!
- A very silly party in a hostel in very boring Greymouth where we had to make outfits out of black bin bags
then do a runway walk to compete for prizes. Got very, very drunk again. Some of the lads outfits were
hilarious and barely there on some of them. One of the guys decided to strip the whole lot off on the
catwalk in the hope the shock would win him first prize! It didn't work.
- Next, Franz Josef glacier. Aw, brilliant. Did a whole day of ice climbing under a gorgeous blue sunny sky.
I ached for about two days afterwards. It was hardwork but I loved it. We finished off the day lazing in
hot pools to ease the muscle ache.
- Heading further south, we stopped at Lake Wanaka and I managed to try out my new bikini by going
for a quick swim in the beautiful cool clear lake.
- Finally, after a stunning drive past incredible mountain scenery and more wonderful lakes, we arrived in
Queenstown. Here I went a bit bonkers and did a bungy jump!!! It was the most frightening thing I've
ever done and won't be doing another! Ha ha. I jumped 43m off the original famous bungy site at the
Kawarau Bridge. It took me ten minutes to pluck up the courage but I eventually did it. Flippin eck! Mad.
Queenstown is a lovely little town surrounded by mountains and I stayed there for five nights. I walked
through the gardens, hiked up Fern Hill for incredible views of Lake Wakatipu, had a cheeky free ride
back down on the cable car, ate Thai food and got giggly on wine with Karen and took a day trip to Milford
Sound only to find pouring rain again, but it was still breath-taking. The hostel we stayed in
was great and I really felt like I'd moved in after not very long! Especially as that was the longest time
I'd stayed anywhere since I'd left Waiheke!
- After Queenstown we went up to Mount Cook. We stayed in Aoraki Mount Cook village which is tiny
and did a long walk to a glacier under the glorious view of snowy Mount Cook. Superb.
- Yesterday we were in Rangitata for white water rafting which was also a brilliant day. We stayed in
another great hostel, got lunch and dinner included and did four hours of rafting and jumping off very
high rocks into the freezing cold, bright blue river! It was a great penultimate day in NZ and I feel
quite emotional about leaving here now. I'm writing this in a hostel in Christchurch and have seen none
of the town as I've had too many jobs to do on the internet/journal writing/pack organising etc. Gonna
have to come back here too, better get saving when I get back!

Well, that brings me you up-to-date with my doings so I had better go and sleep.

I hope everyone's well and if you have any news or just any old blatherings, drop me an email, I'd
love to hear what's happening, even if it's dreary or depressing. I miss you all.

Hope all that lot makes sense as I rushed it again.

Right, Australia is nearly here! Woo hoo! Bye bye lovely New Zealand, and ta ta for now to all of you.

Lots of love. Sweet as!

Mel xxx

Posted by ExplorerMel 21:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

A Flying High

Hello all!

I accidentally told a little porky on my last blog entry.

I did something amazing this morning in Abel Tasman,
on the South Island in NZ.

It begins with an S and has seven letters, any guesses?

Check out the photos! I have a DVD and will post when
I've worked out how to sort it.

Enjoy! I did! Heeeeeeee!

Mel xx

Posted by ExplorerMel 23:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Bye bye India, hello New Zealand

4 weeks into my trip

25 °C

Hello all! Hope everyone's well and happy.

Well, it's been a while since I updated so lots to tell......

Varanasi was superb. We got a small boat down the Ganges with just Helen,
myself, our guide and the man rowing, as the sun was still rising. It was so
peaceful. I had seen the Ganges on tv programmes but as always, nothing
compares to being there. Just like the rest of northern India, it was filthy.
But it doesn't seem to matter when there's so many interesting things to
see. There were people washing in the water prior to prayer, which for us
was difficult to imagine doing, as all Hindu people have a funeral in/on the
river. They are immersed in the water and then cremated on a pyre
(just a pile of logs on the bank) before their ashes are cast back into the
river. We saw a body on the bank wrapped in gold-coloured cloth, awaiting
the ceremony, which I felt very privelidged to see, as of course, that was
someone's loved one, and funeral services are generally much more private
in the western world. We had a walk around the tiny back streets, where as
usual there were beggars and hawkers, but even most of those people are
friendly.

Later, we flew back to Delhi for our flight down south to Kerala, a lush
green, comparatively exotic land, with palm trees and banana plants
everywhere. And much, much hotter than the north - it was 31 celsius
when we touched down! It hadn't been anymore than about 21 degrees
everywhere else we had been!
We landed in Cochin and were able to spend a few hours in Fort Cochin,
a little fishing port with an interesting mix of influences and cultures.
We saw the Chinese fishing nets and the Santa Cruz Basilica (Portugese
built and one of the largest churches in India). Due to these European
influences there is much more Christianity here and thus many more
chuches, with far less sacred (to Hindu people) cows wandering around.
The following day we travelled to Kodanad elephant training centre and
watched elephants being washed in a huge river nearby, which was lovely.
Then off we went up into the mountains 4,000ft above sea level, to a place
called Munnar.
The scenery was breathtaking, miles and miles of rolling tea plantations.
Whilst there for two days, we went to a traditional Kathakali theatre
performance, visited Mattupetty Dam and the tea museum, and took a
guided trek up the mountain near the hotel, up to 6000ft. It was
hard-going with the heat and the altitude, but it was so worth it. Well,
I thought so anyway! Helen, who is not really into rambling in the
countryside, only did it because I wanted to, and found it really tough.
But I was impressed she stuck with it and didn't hate me afterwards!
The views were exquisite, and along the way we saw elephant dung and
areas where the wild elephant population trek and sleep, but no actual
wild elephants which was a bit disappointing as all the elephants we've
seen have been captive, with chains around their legs or seats strapped
to their backs.

On the day we left, we drove down the queasy-winding mountain road,
which illustrated just how high up we had been, as by the time we got
to the bottom as my water bottle was all squashed, like when you land
in a plane! We arrived in Alleppey and boarded a traditional bamboo
rice boat which was to be our hotel for the next two nights. We expected
to be sharing the boat with other people, but it turned out we had our own
boat with two staff to look after us! And they did just that, they cooked
utterly delicious food and cruised the boat all over for us. For me it was
the most relaxing time of the whole trip. Sitting on the top deck under
cover from the sun, in comfy leather chairs, reading our books and
watching the water and wildlife go by. Heaven! I was surprised by how
many people live along the banks of the miles of backwater rivers with
rice fields beyond.

After this, we transferred to a nearby beach resort called Turtle Beach
(apparently the turtles turn up at a different time of year, shame) in Marari.
We had a few days sitting by the pool, swimming, reading and watching
the sun go down over the ocean. It was sweltering though, and I somehow
managed to get really burned on the second day even though I had sat
under an umbrella most of the day and only come out to use the pool briefly.
The food was a bit bland here, so on the last night we got a tuk-tuk to
Alleppey town for dinner. We had a walk on the beach and watched the
local lads show off their talents with a frisbee, then we had a beer and ate
scrummy food in a cafe. Helen and I were sad to be leaving each other the
following day, and I felt for Hel as she was flying home to the freezing cold
whlst I was carrying on the adventure. Wierdly, I was actually a bit envious
of her though! It was far too hot for me in Kerala (hope I acclimatise in
SE Asia - I've got 8 weeks there from April to June!!), and I like snow. It
seemed strange not being able to go home and share my gifts, stories
and photos with everyone. Anyway, we said goodbye at Cochin airport,
and as I had to go via Mumbai to New Zealand, I had booked a hotel there
for the night. I arrived at 10:30 and so had the whole day and evening
to look around. Blimey, it's even more dirty and poverty-stricken then
the other places I had seen. Loads and loads of beggars and street sellers.
It's just like in Slumdog Millionnaire.
But I have to say, the atmosphere was fantastic. It seemed a bit daunting to
go out into the madness on my own at first but curiosity got the better of
me and I hired a cab to take me to Carter Road for lunch. I only stayed
out for an hour as it was so hot, but as I had made friends with the taxi
driver, I asked him to come and get me later and we went to Juhu beach.
I asked him if he wanted to have dinner with me as he seemed like a good
bloke. In the end he didn't have time to eat with me, but he did
show me Juhu and told me all about his upcoming wedding and family.
Just one of a bunch of really lovely Indian people I had met on our
amazing trip. I would love to go back to India one day. Maybe Gujurat
next time Taz? ;o)

So, off I went on the epic journey to New Zealand the next day. Flippin
eck, what a long 24 hours that was. Three flights, a five hour wait in
Singapore airport, and seven hours sitting next to the most disgusting
man from Australia who, without going into details, had the strangest
idea of personal hygiene I've ever seen! I was so glad to reach NZ and
it was lovely to be greeted by my Auntie Alison as I stepped off the
ferry from Auckland to Waiheke Island. I am sitting on her sofa right
now and am leaving here to continue exploring NZ for three weeks,
this evening. I could just stay here for weeks, it beautiful! Lovely
beaches, clear blue sea, trees everywhere and a quiet village feel.
Actual, it's a bit like being in Ramsay St in Neighbours because
everywhere we go Alison sees someone she knows! It's a very close
knit community.
So, what have I done since I got here? Well, we've walked on the beach,
swum in the sea, eaten lovely meals, I've caught up with my Auntie
Catherine and her new fiance (congrats Cat!), and met up with some
other distant family, my Grandad's cousin Joyce and her daughter Julie.
Al's friend Scotty took us out fishing on his little boat on Rocky Bay.
It was flat calm and lovely weather (after a tropical rainstorm the
previous night) and I managed a bit of beginners' luck by catching
the largest fish of the day within about 5 minutes of casting out!
A gorgeous 4lb snapper (Andy Ward, you'd have loved it, I'll post
some pics when I can!). And then I caught a gurnard which is rare
in that bay with the bait we used, so Scotty said. For anyone who
doesn't know what a gurnard looks like, it's a really pretty fish with
big bright blue fins. Scotty killed all the fish we caught very quickly
(thankfully, as I already felt guilty hooking them, even though I eat
the flippin things!) but I let the gurnard go (probably only to get eaten
by something else in the sea!). Afterwards Alison cooked a slap-up
meal with the fish we had caught. Yum.
On Thursday I spent the day on my own in Auckland. I visited the
museum where there are loads of Maori relics. Then the Skytower,
which is an awesome 220 metre tower with an unbelievable look-out
deck at the top. You can pay to walk around it outside the lookout
area, and even also to jump off it on a wire. It's hilarious as you can
see them jumping past the windows. Anyway, you wouldn't catch
me doing that. I had trouble walking from the lift to the window to look
at the view, let alone jump off the flippin thing! And that also made up
my mind about doing any of those daft airbourne activities people have
been trying to persuade me to do, such as bungy jumping or sky diving.
I won't be. It's just not natural to throw yourself of very high stuff.
No, not for me, so don't expect any of that nonsense on this blog! :oD
It was the new Auckland Art Gallery next which was fantastic! Loved it.

Yesterday we went wine tasting at Man O' War vineyard and today we're
going for a walk before I leave this evening.
I've so enjoyed being here with Alison, being looked after (getting my
clothes washed with a washing machine!) and meeting all her friends.
We've had a right laugh and I'll be sorry to go.

Right, crikey, that was a long one! Time to go again. Check out the
few pics I've added. Will try and post some more next weekend
when I'm in Wellington with my Uncle John and Auntie Liz!

Take care all, lots of love...

Mel xxx

Posted by ExplorerMel 16:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Namaste!

Tigers, Taj and more.......

5 °C

Namaste! That is hello, welcome and many other greetings! How are you all?

We are having an amazing time in India! Had a crazy week being transported to the
most incredible places. Wish I had more time to tell you but am on t'internet
curfew again! Here's a quick overview: 6 hour drive to Jaipur from Delhi on Monday
- arduous but worth it - Tues superb Amber Fort reached by elephant (actually felt a bit
sorry for the elephant but it's the only way up the hill without being squashed by
one!), cool observatory and sparkling City Palace with gorgeous textiles museum
(Mum you would love Jaipur!); shorter and more interesting journey to Ranthambhore
National Park on Wed, through fascinating rural villages, where we saw tonnes of wildlife
from our jeep including TWO wild tigers on separate occasions both 15-20ft away from us!
Completely blew me away. We did five 3 hour safaris in four different zones of the park
over two and a half days, and were told it was rare (about 25% chance) of seeing a
tiger at this time of year so after we saw the first we were definitely not expecting to
see the second at the very end of our last safari. We also saw a Sloth Bear (not a Sloth
fortunately - wierd creatures) which are even rarer (about 15 in the whole park which
is 400sq km!) and a leopard, albeit form a huge distance. The tigers were the absolute
highlight of this holiday up to now and probably the whole India trip. Having said that
we went to the Taj Mahal yesterday which is really impressive, and really enjoyed it.
Today we arrived in Varanasi after an exciting night train experience. Going down the
Ganges in the morning, can't wait.

Argh, time to log off again soon so will see how quick photos upload...
Back soon!

love Mel xxx

Posted by ExplorerMel 07:07 Comments (3)

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