Snorkelling and Volcanic Sunsets.

Our last day in Maui!

The last couple of days went by so fast. We’d been nearly all around the island, been through coastal, rainforest and volcanic landscapes and eaten our body weight in M&Ms (they have some many different kinds!)

We had big plans for a massive last day in Maui so we woke early ready for more adventures. Grabbing another delicious acai bowl from the Farmacy we then headed south past Kihei to Makena in hopes in finding Turtle Town. We’d come across Turtle Town on the internet which promised heaps of turtles all year round in this elusive bay. After finding the bay, we discovered that a) the Internet lied again and b) snorkelling in a choppy ocean is not a good time. Giving up on the turtle hunt, we sunbaked for awhile before heading back to Kihei for lunch. We were feeling way too lazy to do anything productive so after another ABC lunch (aka whatever random things we found at the convenience store) we sprawled out on the beach once more, trying to get at least a shade darker. It was crazy how un-sunburnt we were getting. I know sun-baking frowned upon but we spent days and days in the sun without getting any darker. If we had tried this at home we would be looking like tomatoes. I guess the hole in the ozone layer isn’t so big over Hawaii, we were pretty well protected.

Deciding to finally be active we went for a snorkel for the last time. Buying our own snorkel set was probably the smartest thing we did. It was so nice to get out anywhere and be able to go for a snorkel. It also helps that Hawaii has reefs right on the beach. Within metres you can see the coral and sea life. We snorkelled for awhile, checking out the fish and coral until we came across a beautiful green sea turtle. He/She was just gorgeous and I spent at least 40 minutes floating above him/her going about their day. Turtles seemed to have the cruisiest life. Just floating about, eating seaweed and making friends with lost clownfish. I watched the turtle until he swam off into the distance before I headed back to the shore.

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My new buddy! Could have watched him all day
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Hello Crush!
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L hanging out with our new mate
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Turtle love ❤

We hung out by the beach for the rest of the afternoon, only moving from the sand to the shade in the grass for a quick nanna nap. While we didn’t do as much as we had planned, it was nice to just chill out and relax. After running around Oahu and Maui ticking off bucket list items, it was great to just stop and have a break.Though as always it didn’t last long, we had one big thing to do before we left Maui. Around 4pm we grabbed a Coke ($1.50 for an XL, I need to leave Maui before my pants don’t fit), filled up the Jeep and headed towards the Haleakala National Park to catch the sunset.

Haleakala is Hawaiian for ‘house of the sun’. From Kihei it took us about two hours to reach the summit. While the distance wasn’t long, the road was super windy and we kept stopping in awe of the view. It was crazy; from the bottom of the volcano the weather turned bad with a heavy fog surrounding us. We drove through the white mist, laughing about how we chose the worst day to witness the sunset – we couldn’t even see 10 metres in front of us. However as we climbed higher, we drove out of the fog and back into sunshine and blue skies. Below us sat the heavy fog and created the most amazing view!

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Above the clouds and on top of the world
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K taking in the beautiful view

We reached the summit at approximately 10,000 feet and quickly changed into warmer clothes. The air was fresh and cool up here which was a stark contrast to the hot weather by the beach. We raced over to the edge to find a good viewing spot and waited patiently for its descent. According to my dear friend Wikipedia, the summit area of Haleakala ranks one of the best sites in the world for viewing the night sky due to having almost zero light pollution, above turbulent atmospheric conditions and little atmosphere. And I had to agree, the sky was flawless.

The sky turned from blue to pink to orange. The clouds looked out out of this world as they glowed in the last of the days sun. It was definitely one of the nicest sunsets I’d ever seen. However the beauty of the sunset also brought on a little sadness. It was like a metaphor for the trip, it had been so beautiful but it had to end. Tomorrow we fly back to Oahu for a final day before K and L head back to Australia and I continue onto Peru – which was slightly scary to think about!

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#nofilter
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It was like being on another planet
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Bye sun
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After the sun descended we turned around to this incredible view

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We left the summit as the sky turned to black and made our way back to the Banana Bungalow. First we made a dinner stop at Whole Foods, picking up some wine and cheese to toast the end of our trip. K and L had never been to a Whole Foods before so we spent a good 45 minutes in there wandering through the aisles lost in the decision making process. Finally immersing from the store with way more food than we intended we set up a perch for dinner in the common area at the Banana Bungalow and devoured our Whole Foods feast.

Tomorrow brings an early start as we have to be at the airport for our flight to Oahu at 9am.

J. x

 

 

Day 9 continued – Seals, New Zealand’s longest swing bridge and camping at a supermarket.

For a day that we had made absolutely no plans for, it turned out to be one of our busiest and jam-packed days! After saying our goodbyes to Pancake Rocks with one final selfie, we jumped back in Mimi and planned on cutting across the top of the top island towards Nelson. What was becoming a regular trend for the four of us, we only made it an hour down the road before getting side-tracked by a sign on the road. This one said ‘Seal Colony – 12km’ and there was no hesitation from any of us. K slammed the brakes we made a beeline for the seals. Consulting our trusty road map, we learnt that the colony was located at Cape Foulwind, an appropriate name for a point of the west coast.

Cape Foulwind - the most appropriately named place in New Zealand.
Cape Foulwind – the most appropriately named place in New Zealand.
 We found the seal colony easily and after a short walk, we were greeted by a viewing platform that overlooked the colony. Cape Foulwind was certainly living up to its name and the vicious winds were knocking us about for a six. The viewing platform was quite high up from the colony but the shiny fur of the seals were unmistakable. Excited at our first proper seal sighting, we squealed like little girls and were mesmerised by their antics for a good half hour or so.
Spot the seal!
Spot the seal!
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Stopping in for a drinks break at a lone cafe just down the road, we found a pamphlet for New Zealand’s longest swing bridge. The Buller Gorge Swing Bridge, located just outside Murchison, was a couple of hours drive away so we voted to swing by there for lunch (pun totally intended). It was another windy drive and while the distance wasn’t that long, it took forever to get there! By the time we reached the swing bridge, we were itching to get out and stretch our legs.
The beautiful Buller Gorge and swing bridge, just outside Murchinson.
The beautiful Buller Gorge and swing bridge, just outside Murchinson.
The Buller Gorge Swing bridge is 110 metres of swaying rope that hangs precariously across the Buller River. You can walk across the bridge and explore the surroundings of the Buller Gorge area, enjoying a bush walk through the native New Zealand nature. Or, if you’re a little bit more adventurous, try 160m Cometline across the river. Not one to shy away from some fun, we booked tickets and paired up to do the tandem Cometline. It was exhilarating as we whizzed across the river at lightning speed. I’d probably rate it a 6 out of 10 for being an adrenaline raiser. Its no bungee jump but definitely something that the whole family can do.
Walking across the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge
Walking across the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge
Being the only people there, we mucked around on the bridge for a long time!
Being the only people there, we mucked around on the bridge for a long time!

While our heart rates settled back to normal, we made a quick lunch in the van while the rain started to spit down on us before continuing on towards Nelson. Not going to lie, we may have underestimated the driving time for today as it seemed like we would never get to Nelson!

I took over driving for awhile while K had a nap and I had to commend her on her driving skills. These windy roads took a lot of focus and concentration – the fact that she could sing along with us and drive on the right side of the road was a miracle!

The long day was starting to take a toll on our energy and mood levels and by the time we reached the outskirts of Nelson, we were ready of a wine or five. Discovering that we could free camp at the local New World supermarket, we battled through peak hour traffic and reversed Mimi into a first class park right outside the supermarket entrance. Our mood levels lifted as we giggled over camping spot for the night. It wasn’t quite as spectacular as the snow capped mountains and sapphire coloured lakes we’d camped beside previously, but A+ for convenience!

The need for an alcoholic beverage for pretty high by this stage so we braved the dodgy looking pub across the road and discovered $10 jugs of cider available. Suddenly, the Post Boy on the corner wasn’t looking so dodgy! After a jug (or three, but who’s counting?) we walked to the centre of town and found a Mac’s Brewery offering burgers and wine. Nelson was just speaking our language and we got a little carried away. Several bottles later and a lot of inappropriate conversation, we stumbled back to Mimi – still finding camping beside a supermarket hilarious.

Tomorrow morning may hurt. But we’re exploring Nelson!

J. x

 

Day 7 – Tekapo, not quite what we expected.

Sometimes when travelling, you build up a high expectation of a place and when you finally arrive your past illusion is shattered by reality and you leave feeling a little let down.

We were en route to Lake Tekapo where the promise of turquoise waters and forest scenery were waiting for us. Passing through the mountainous range of Twizel and Mt Cook, we wasted driving time by singing Taylor Swift and Shania Twain into the GoPro and unfortunately running over something we think was a cat. Oops.

It was mid afternoon by the time we stopped at the southern end of Lake Pukaki for a break. We made a unanimous decision to skip Mt Cook and save more time for the north of NZ (hello wine country!) so instead of heading up towards Aoraki, we continued northwest onto Lake Tekapo.

A quick stop at Lake Pukaki
A quick stop at Lake Pukaki

I don’t know why I had such a built up of anticipation for Lake Tekapo. I guess the unnaturally blue waters you see in photos on Instagram have a lot to do with it, but as we drove into Tekapo I admittedly was slightly underwhelmed. It might just have been the wrong time of day and season, but the whole area was a little gloomier than I had expected. We stopped in for a walk down to the Lake to appreciate the clear, turquoise water. The photos don’t lie, it is a bright hue of blue and crystal clear. The grey stones that hugged the water were smooth and the sparse shrubs that popped up every now and then were spiky. I had envisioned rich forestry surrounding the lake but in actual fact the landscape was rather arid.

The clear waters of Lake Tekapo.
The clear waters of Lake Tekapo. (note -this is just slightly edited 😉 )

We took a drive to find a campsite for the night up near the neighbouring lake of Lake Alexandria when we saw a turn off for Mt John Observatory. Not one to miss something, K navigated Mimi up the steep and windy road until we reached the top. They weren’t kidding, there actually was a proper observatory up here – and a cafe, and we don’t say no to a cafe.

The Mt. John Observatory is New Zealand’s premier astronomical research observatory. This is due to Lake Tekapo having the most spectacular night skies in the world. The clarity and visibility of stars in this area are the reason why Mt John Observatory has made it known to astronomers universally wide.

The bare and arid surroundings of Mt John Observatory. You wouldn't believe how cold it was up here!
The bare and arid surroundings of Mt John Observatory. You wouldn’t believe how cold it was up here!

We had a wander around the site and absorbed in the stark landscape that surrounded us. The wind was bitterly cold and the view could be seen for miles. It was such a remarkable change to greenery we saw further south. Just another reason why New Zealand is so fascinating – there is just so many different things to see. Stopping in at Astro Cafe for a sugar kick, we ordered coffee and the biggest brownie I’ve seen. Astro Cafe has been called ‘the best place on the planet for a coffee’ and I would have to agree. Not only was the view of Lake Tekapo spectacular, the coffee and brownie were pretty dang delicious – jut what we needed to keep us going to find a free camping spot for the night.

Sitting on top of the world... sort of.
Sitting on top of the world… sort of.
Delicious treats from Astro Cafe, at Mt John Observatory.
Delicious treats from Astro Cafe, at Mt John Observatory.

Using the Jucy app we had planned to stay at a freedom camping spot at Lake Alexandria, which was close to Mt John. However as we pulled into the sparse, ghost town-like setting, there was a chill that set over the van. It felt a bit like the beginnings of a horror movie – the decrepit, empty caravans, rubbish rolling in the breeze and not a soul in sight. We made the unanimous decision to hightail it out of there and find somewhere else with a little more life about it.

Driving out of Tekapo, I was a little sad that it wasn’t how I imagined it. For future reference I think more time is needed there, just to explore and witness the gloriously blue lake at a different time of day. While I was happy to be driving out of Tekapo, I was sad that we hadn’t given it more of a chance… But I was in no mood to be a main character in the next Saw movie.

On the road again, just can't wait to be on the road again..
On the road again, just can’t wait to be on the road again..

We drove on, following a threatening dark storm cloud until we reached the small town of Fairlie. The night was definitely upon us and we were tired and eager to get out of Mimi for awhile. Flying past a sign for accommodation we did a U-turn and found ourselves at Musterers High Country Accommodation. It looked perfect – but more on that next post!

J. x

Day 5 – Free Camping At The Prettiest Spot In NZ and A Morning In Arrowtown

I don’t think I went into enough detail about our night at Lake Hayes. It was so much lovelier than the small paragraph I gave it in the previous post so I’ll try again – lets just rewind back to where we pulled up at Lake Hayes.

First of all you should know we came across this little camping spot on the Jucy app, which K downloaded before we left. This nifty app is perfect for campers around NZ, it shows you all the free and paid camping around New Zealand, where various dump and water stations are and has heaps of cool little tips and tricks – definitely recommend downloading this baby before setting off on a road trip!

So after we parked up and did our usual leap out of the van and admire the scenery for 10 minutes or so before we set up for drinks and nibbles by the lake where a mob of very friendly ducks and geese wanted to join us. Us four growing up on a farm, let them join us in our wine and cheese time. A chook catcher from way back, K lured the big goose into a false sense of security by feeding it some biscuits before swooping in and picking the startled goose up! After a bit of a cuddle, she let him go and he stormed off back into the water, the rest of the flock following him. Best way to get rid of some pesky birdlife!

It was such a magical way to end our fabulous day. The snow mountains shimmered in the lakes reflection and the scarcely dressed trees swayed in the slight breeze, the last of the yellow and orange leaves threatening to fall. The silence and serenity of this camp spot was incredible, it was like our own little slice of campers heaven.

Our backyard for the night. Can't complain!
Our backyard for the night. Can’t complain!
The friendly geese at Lake Hayes - weren't so eager to hang around once they realised what K was capable of!
The friendly geese at Lake Hayes – they weren’t so eager to hang around once they realised what K was capable of!

We had a quiet night in, knackered from our big day of fun. After a failed attempt at a game of cards and a really good saucepan of noodles, we slept soundly until the sun started to peek through the mountains the next morning.  Wiping the condensation from Mimi’s windows, I could see the sky painted a golden colour which made the ripples in the water sparkle in the morning sun. It was going to be another glorious day.

Mimi and our campsite at Lake Hayes - utter serenity!
Mimi and our campsite at Lake Hayes – utter serenity!

We went on a quick hike around the lake and found some old kayaks and a swing hanging off a large, gnarled tree. The beauty of Lake Hayes was still hard to believe, how could a place be so lovely? As per usual, our growling stomachs got the best of us and we made a quick brekkie before packing up and heading into Arrowtown – a short 20 minute drive away.

K enjoying the serene atmosphere at Lake Hayes
K enjoying the serene atmosphere at Lake Hayes

We’d all been told to go to Arrowtown by our various friends who’d already been to New Zealand and driving into the charming little town it was easy to understand why. Popular for its historic charm and boutique shops, Arrowtown is like stepping back into the times of the gold rush. We parked up and wandered through the old western style streets in search of a coffee. Autumn is definitely a brilliant time to visit NZ, the sunny days are complimented by snowy mountains and the yellow leafy trees just make for a beautiful view, all day, every day.

The western style streets take you back to times of the gold mining days
The western style streets take you back to times of the gold mining days
The stream running parallel to Arrowtown
The stream running parallel to Arrowtown

We found coffee at a small little cafe hidden away called Espresso Love and plugged in all our technology which had been drained from our copious photo taking and music playing. Giving into self restraint, we shared a chocolate caramel slice which was probably the yummiest I’ve tasted. Way better than any slice I’ve tried to make!

We caffeinated up and took turns having a looksie through the shops while someone stayed and manned the technology – ah the first world problems we suffer today! The shops were full of beautiful and unique homewares – definitely a place to remember when I finally settle down and have my own house!

Having a final browse through the streets, we got back in Mimi and headed north-ish to Wanaka – which was about an hour away. A great way to start the morning, I’m definitely am on the Arrowtown bandwagon. It has lovely shops, great coffee and a history lesson all in one – perfect for a day trip from Queenstown!

A plethora of colour, Arrowtown was just delightful.
A plethora of colour, Arrowtown was just delightful.

Continuing our journey, we took the scenic route from Arrowtown to Wanka going via the Cardrona ski fields. Hoping for snow similar to what we saw down near Milford Sound, we were left disappointed as the chill had only set in enough to leave a harsh landscape and a bitter wind. It was still a gorgeous drive – albeit windy, with the mountains uprising around us the stark landscape a huge contrast to the greenery we saw down south.

Driving out of Arrowtown towards Cadrona and Wanaka
Driving out of Arrowtown towards Cardrona and Wanaka

Using the trusty old road map we navigated our way to Wanaka in good time. The glorious Lake Wanaka sat before us, living up to all the photos I had been seeing on Instagram. Hunger was getting the best of us so we parked in a public car park and went for a search for lunch.

But I’ll save that for the next post…

J. x

13 Things That Happen When You Move Home to Australia After Living Abroad.

They say you can take the girl out of Australia but you can never get the Australian out of the girl.

I used to think this was true, until I moved abroad to the Netherlands for 15 months. Suddenly this all-Aussie girl wasn’t so Aussie after all. People always talk about how travel changes you, a way to find yourself, to discover who you really are. Though the difference between travelling and moving abroad is that these changes are more permanent and funny things you notice about people in different countries start to become a part of your daily life and before you know it you’re acting like your foreign friends.

It didn’t hit me until I moved home to Australia as to how much I had changed and developed habits of the Dutch and the European folk. And boy, wasn’t it a learning curve coming home.

Signs You’ve Lived Away from Australia Too Long.

  1. You hesitate before pulling out onto the road because you’re unsure of which side of the correct is the correct one to drive on.
  2. You nearly choke at the price of food in the supermarket – $6.50 for orange juice!
  3. Likewise with alcohol. Gone are the days of the 12 euro bottles of Jaegermeister.

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    Standard roadside hazards in rural Australia.
  4. You’re super cautious walking in bush areas or long grass. Snakes and spiders are damn scary! It just took some time away from the country to realise this!
  5. You find the buzzing noise of flies literally the most annoying sound you’ve heard. The serenity of a fly-free country such as the Netherlands seems like a distant and quiet memory.
  6. Thinking you’ve got severe memory loss because everyone you pass in the street smiles and says G’Day. After a year or two of being oblivious in the streets in Europe, these people must only be acknowledging me because they know me, right?
  7. You’re appalled at the severely limited free Wifi in cafes. What is this??! You want me to talk to my dining companion?
  8. You go out in the sun for more than 10 minutes without sunscreen and wonder how you got so damn sunburnt.
  9. You wince walking outside with bare feet. After being cushioned in boots for so long, your baby-bum-soft feet can’t deal with the blistering hot sand or asphalt.
  10. You’re offended whenthe security guard asks for your ID at the pub. You haven’t even looked at your I.D for months, beer is like water in Europe.
  11. You’re gobsmacked at sunset. While the polluted haze of the Northern Hemisphere made for mysterious sunsets, the clear skies of Australia are just beyond.

    Friendly backyard friends.
    Friendly backyard friendsnd.
  12. You’re amazed at the quality of the coffee. Starbucks has nothing on the perfectly brewed roast made in Aussie cafes.
  13. You’re grateful for the Aussie-ness that surrounds you. It may take a awhile to accustom yourself back to your Aussie self, but once you do, you realise why its the best country in the world.

J. x