109 Days Later 

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

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. 

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@broganharker

@jamiedenison1993

The City Life

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel

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 

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@broganharker

@jamiedenison1993

Picking Up The Pace

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel

The South has seen us busier than ever and we have moved through it an alarmingly fast rate! Following our short but sweet time in Nelson we headed to the Abel Tasman which is (debatably) the most beautiful part of New Zealand; we were given over an hours training (excessive I know, but it was for a fancy kayak… it had a rudder and everything) and we made our way up the east coast where we saw some unbelievable views and also managed to get quite close to the seals and their pups on Adele Island. From this strenuous day we had a mammoth 4 hour drive straight down to Greymouth where we stayed one night in a hostel in order to avoid an 8 hour journey to the Franz Josef Glacier (our primary destination). Following a colossal amount of eye spy games we made it to the Glacier and checked into our hostel. This is where things went a little downhill; Brogan says she instantly smelt sick mixed with excessive amounts of cleaning detergent (I didn’t – perhaps my sense of smell was destroyed by rotten eggs Rotarua) which wasn’t the best start, followed shortly after in the morning with the bad news that the helicopter glacier hike was cancelled! They say bad things come in threes which seems to ring true as the earthquake damage to Kaikoura means we were unable to book onto the whale watching tour! 

Things looked up by the time we arrived in the activity hotspot, Queenstown. Our accommodation was less backpackerish than usual but after our cancellations and disappointment we thought we would have a little luxury thrown in there! The hosts Mary and Rory were brilliant and we also met a few others including two honeymooners (definitely not backpacker accommodation). It was difficult deciding what to do with so many options but Queenstown saw us cable car to the top of the mountains and race down the luges (note – we incorrectly attached the go pro to the helmet and it flew off half way down the track but survived with just some scratches), ride the shotover jet which takes you in and out of canyon walls at 40mph with the sole intention of getting as close as they can without damaging the boat (a cool £250,000 if anybody fancies one), and finally the onsen hot pools where you sit in a natural hot tub (champers in hand), click a button and a shutter door retracts to reveal the views of Queenstown.

In stark contrast, I managed to convince Brogan to stay in a glamping tent in the middle of a farmer’s field near Lake tekapo (I say near but it was in the middle of nowhere) complete with a portaloo, no phone service and about 300 freshly sheared sheep. After a bbq with drinks in the sun and a game of cluedo absent Snapchat or Facebook, Brogan eventually agreed it was a good idea! It was all going so well, but I’ll admit the next incident was not so ideal. As we settled into bed ready to switch off the solar lamps, Brogan screams at the top of her voice ‘WHAT WAS THAT’ and we both jumped out of bed to witness a pretty hefty spider strutting across the bed. From this moment on, any chance of a good night’s sleep was blown out of the window, the slightest of sounds or movements was shortly followed by Brogan jumping out of bed and in turn a stressed and disorientated Jamie confused from all the commotion!

We are now in a place called Geraldine staying with a wonderful host called Annette who has just this minute offered to cook us Bacon and Eggs in the morning (Brogan thinks she has the hots for me), tomorrow we head up to Hanmer Springs (4 hour drive) leaving just 2 more destinations to go in the land of the Kiwi! 

Jamie & Brogan 

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@broganharker

@jamiedenison1993

Meet Ralph

backpacking, Couples, Travel

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

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@jamiedenison1993

@broganharker

    We smelt it before we saw it

    backpacking, Couples, Travel

    The travels are still in full swing, the wallets are taking a beating, but we are adopting the ‘once in a lifetime’ mentality. Having to unpack and repack our bags on a nearly daily basis is becoming monotonous but life is pretty sweet all things considered… We had the pleasure of staying with relatives on Wednesday for one night in Tauranga in their luxurious house complete with hot tub, pool and two lovely dogs.

    Following lunch, we headed straight out to conquer Mount Maunganui which is on our hosts’ doorstep and is also home to some pretty impressive views! The walk was harder than we anticipated with some steep inclines in places. Once we reaches the top we met two Kiwi gentleman who were intrigued by us Brits and were interested in our plans/our bag of assorted nuts. After enjoying some well earned dinner at the bottom of the mountain (Pronto Burgers) we returned home and called it a day. The following morning we said our goodbyes.

    Whenever we embark on a new chapter in the travelling book we experience mixed emotions… excitement at the prospect of new territory, but apprehension because when you’re on a budget you tend not to be so confident about the conditions in which you will be sleeping each night. It’s fair to say that the accommodation in Rotarua named ‘Hot Spring B&B Kiwi’ has been the most peculiar so far. The building is home to around 5-10 Japanese individuals, with the decor reflecting this. We were greeted by a reserved and quiet lady who showed us around, within minutes the rules were being fired at us… shoes are to be left outside, no eating or drinking in the rooms, no showers past 11pm, clean up signs in every room, perhaps the most amusing of all, a curfew at 10pm, following which the outside doors would be locked! It should be said that the hosts have been immensely polite and the speed at which our dirty plates dissappear is astounding considering we never see these ninjas! One really cool feature is a large walk in hot spring bath which is filled with naturally heated volcanic water generated from underground- definitely the highlight of this stay!

    Now Rotarua is quite unique for one strange reason… there is an intermittent stench of rotten eggs which follows you no matter where you go, this is due to the sulphur, and although quite unpleasant at times is a result of the geothermal activity in the area which is the base of all the interesting activities that happen in Rotarua. In terms of our experiences, where do we start… we have been to a huge natural waterfall bath named ‘Kerosene Creek’ which is that hot it took Brogan a good 15 minutes to get her knees in, visited Waiotapu thermal wonderland which contained a variety of geothermal wonders (Brogan genuinely walked the entire route pinching her nose as the rotten eggs were intense here).Today we visited Hobbiton where The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed, this was genuinely brilliant as it showcased the extensive efforts that underpinned the production! We learnt that the entire set was taken down after the first trilogy and then rebuilt entirely for the hobbit, Peter Jackson also made one poor soul repaint 240,000 artifical tree leaves a different shade of green as he wasnt satisfied with the first attempt! This afternoon we went on a tree top walk through the Redwoods forest, and tomorrow we are booked onto the Black Labyrinth water rafting tour. This 3 hour adventure through the Waitomo Caves will see us stick on a wetsuit and venture down into the natural currents of the caves on tubes where the famous glow worms live! From here we head down to Taupo and are back in the good old hostels which will, I’m sure entail more interesting tales…

    Jamie & Brogan

    Instagram:

    @jamiedenison1993

    @broganharker