Well, it’s finally upon us and I cannot believe this is the final blog but we certainly ended this incredible adventure on a high. We booked onto a two day, one night cruise around Halong Bay. As I mentioned in the previous post, by paying for the top ship known as the ‘Dragon Legend’, we were allowed access to the unexplored Bai Tu Long Bay where only two boats are allowded to sail (this is in direct contrast to the two hundred boats that have access to the main section of Halong Bay). It was worth every penny from the moment we stepped on board. The room was twenty seven square metres with a king size bed and five star furnishings, it had a jacuzzi bath with panoramic views of the islands. The food was seven courses at every meal and consisted of fresh seafood the crew members caught. We always dined on the outdoor deck as we slowly passed all the islands around the bay (one thousand nine hundred and sixty to be precise).
The first day we sailed to one of the islands, departed the boat for kayaks and then made our way across the still ocean to a secluded beach where we relaxed for an hour or so. It was quite surreal that we were the only people in the world on a paradise island in the middle of Vietnam! After another incredible seven course dinner we did some night time squid fishing and although we were unsuccessful, the crew managed to catch a few which were served for lunch the following day.
The second day (after an absolutely glorious sleep) we sailed to a cave (again only two companies are allowed in it as opposed to up to four hundred people in the main halong bay caves) and saw some pretty stunning views from the top. We met some really cool people on the cruise and this, combined with the night time Vietnamese musical performance from the staff, the exceptional food and perfect weather, it was the best end we could have had for our travels. On the four hour drive back to Hanoi, we all converged at a local water puppet show and watched an impressive performance which demonstrated the culture and lives of the Vietnamese population, all illustrated by handmade puppets.
First of all we would just like to say a big thank you to everyone who has followed our blog so far. We have already reached over 10,000 views which is incredible! It’s nice to know your interested in what we get up to and hopefully find some of it helpful!
The vast land of Australia has been all about the big cities so far and we are loving every minute of it. The first stop was Melbourne where we stayed for two nights. After exiting the airport and carting our bags on and off various buses and trams, we finally made it to our pretty average hotel room! Aside from the poor sleeps we had, Melbourne is an awesome city with great coffee, really good sushi and some pretty interesting street art. We enjoyed some tapas one night and ended the evening with a drink on a hidden rooftop bar (Goldilocks) overlooking the skyscraper buildings. We also got involved with national pizza day and used as many discount codes as we could find to get a pizza hut! After our jam packed visit to Melbourne, we were back in the air again, bound for Sydney, but this time with two new British friends who we clicked with on the bus journey to the airport (we bonded over being northerners)!
Sydney has been awesome and we have had 5 nights here which makes it our longest continuous stay in any place of the travels so far. Where do I start… The Opera House, Harbour Bridge, street performers, marina, cruise ships, never ending shopping malls and food courts, Coogee/Bondi Beach, there is genuinely something new and interesting round every corner in Sydney. While all this has been brilliant, the winner for us has to be the Blue Mountains National Park which was a 2 hour road trip we embarked on with our new friends Lorna and Declan from the airport. The walking tracks take you to some breathtaking views and if you veer off track a bit you can find some (admittedly) quite precarious cliff edges where we got our awesome pictures! We also climbed down (and back up) about two hundred nearly vertical stairs to get underneath the Wentworth falls which again was an unforgettable place to be. The pictures speak for themselves… what a day!
Slightly off tangent, we’ve had a couple of interesting incidents with our hosts at the Sydney Airbnb. Firstly, we have been having a constant air conditioning battle with them as our ‘zone’ temperature is connected to their bedroom so everytime we put it on we hear these little ninja footsteps, and moments later surprise surprise the room gets significantly hotter!! This has happened back and forth every night and has become a contest of stubbornness between couples.
The second incident was after we returned to the flat (quite noisily I should add) following a peaceful day at the beach. I wandered into the kitchen to begin cooking dinner and heard this high pitch moaning coming from the bedroom, I asked Brogan to confirm my suspicions and she returned to reassure me that in fact yes there was a happy ending going on right next door to us from our usually shy and reserved hosts!
Following Sydney, we are picking up another rental car tomorrow which we have for about 9 days as we make our way up the east coast to our next stop, the renowned Bryon Bay! We have booked some awesome stuff over the next few weeks, planned out the rest of the trip and we cannot wait for what awaits us around the corner! We will keep you posted!
Jamie & Brogan
Following our time in Rotarua, we travelled to Waitomo where the glow worm caves are situated, here we booked onto the Black Labyrinth excursion which saw us put on wetsuits, grab a tube, and head 70 metres underground through the caves… We had to scramble under very low roofs, navigate the rapids and jump backwards from some mini waterfalls, at the end the whole group joined together, switched off our head torches and spent 15 minutes gliding underneath the most densely populated area of glow worms which was unreal (probably the highlight of the trip so far). Unfortunately for safety reasons we couldn’t take the go pro down so you’ll have to take our word for it!!
After the caves we drove straight to Taupo for a 3 night stay at Base Backpackers – this is more of a party hostel but still pretty cool! We chatted to a few travellers during our stay and took part in a quiz (which unfortunately we didn’t win). The hostel is built above its own nightclub and the free ear plugs left on the bed when we checked in were a fairly good indicator of what to expect. On the whole it wasn’t as bad as we expected, the final night was too hot to keep the windows shut and we did have a horrific sleep due to loud bass.
During Taupo we mountain biked over 7 miles to the Huka Falls which was a spectacle and then we relaxed in the natural thermal pools which have 4 ‘difficulty levels’ with the top pool at 41 degrees (one of us made it, I’ll leave you to guess who). On the final day we planned to walk the tongariro crossing (8-9 hour hike), however if anybody is familiar with the term ‘saddle sore’ they will realise why this consequence of the previous days biking inhibited this part of the plan! I’ll be honest I got it worse and as our budget is tight, if somebody could send out sudocrem or nappy rash cream that would be fantastic…
After checking out from Taupo, the second long haul drive (6 hours) to the capital city (Wellington) was completed and that’s where we are tonight! We are back in air bnb’s for the time being as it is cheaper than using booking.com around these areas. As you’ll see from the photos there may have been another reason for booking this accommodation *cough* Ralph. The owner of the house Chris is a top guy and was grateful because with the help of @charliedenison we managed to highlight a cyst on Ralph’s paw which he is going to need treating at the vets!
It’s crazy that in three days we will be catching the ferry down to the south Island and as you can see from the map, we have already covered so much distance in such a short space of time!
Jamie & Brogan
So with our next destination came the first of the long drives… five and a half hours to Whitianga (fit-ee-anga), although this would induce suicide on anything resembling the M62 or M1, cruising through forests on smooth roads and passing multiple insane view points along the way, the five hours soon passed. So following our interesting hostel experience we thought we would change it up a bit and give Airbnb a go (for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Airbnb is a platform for people to rent a room out in their actual houses while they continue to live in them… strange I know). We were slightly anxious approaching the house where we would be staying for the next few nights, primarily brought on by the abandoned cars, run down houses and the large social services building on the doorstep, we began to wonder if this was New Zealand’s answer to benefits street. Anyway we parked up on the grass and on approach were greeted by a middle aged kiwi couple who were friendly and interested in all of our plans for the month, after a good chat they showed us to our room and we decided to have an early night, ready to visit Cathedral Cove in the morning. One thing we are becoming aware of is the trust that New Zealanders have in their communities, windows are left wide open all day when nobody is home and cars are left running with no owner in sight, it’s a refreshing environment to be in.
Our time in Whitianga has consisted of Cathedral Cove which looks like something plucked from a postcard, forest walks, incredible sea food in Coromandel town and today we hiked to a place called New Chums beach… not a shop in sight or any form of money making ventures, just completely unspoilt paradise. We also went to the Hot Water beach which is an area on the sand which the underlying volcano heats up to form boiling hot water, you are given a spade and literally dig your own hot tub – the combination of volcanic water and sea water makes for a bath like temperature. After struggling to make any serious headway on the hot tub, we began making jokes to a couple across from us who were also having difficulties, we decided to combine forces and made the best hot tub on the beach! The two guys Celene and Rieki were from Canada and we ended up chilling with them for a couple of hours and plan to meet them again at some point on our trip. In summary it’s been another brilliant leg of the journey and we are loving every minute of it.
Tomorrow morning we drive south down to Tauranga and are staying with relatives who have kindly put us up for the night before we climb Mount Maunganui (it’s not as intense as it sounds).
Jamie & Brogan