A Travellerspoint blog

the south... part two

all seasons in one day

my last post from new zealand. a country just bigger than the uk, with a population of 4 million... and 40 million sheep ! i'm writing to you from auckland airport. we were up mega early for our flight from queenstown. we've got about 8 hours to kill at the airport before our flight to vancouver. we don't have a scoob how long the flight is. all we know is, we leave on friday night and arrive in canada friday afternoon. we're going back in time lol.

our last part of new zealand has been very lazy. from lake tekapo we headed further south making our way to queenstown. we stopped off at other lakes such as lake pukai and lake mavora where we just chilled out, admired the views and paul tried to catch some fish but failed miserably. patience is the key and he aint got any lol. we stopped off at another doc campsite and we were the only ones there apart from another couple and about 50 million sand flies. these things are terrible. they bite and it can be quite sore, so we only managed an hour or so at the lake before they started to pee us off.

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doc campsite

we had a couple of nights in queenstown before making our way to milford sounds. milford sounds is one of the top must-sees of new zealand. i had heard about it a few times before coming here and was looking forward to seeing it. we had a 2 hour boat cruise around the sounds where we got close to some waterfalls and spotted a group of seals resting on a rock. it was beautiful but i was slightly disappointed with it. i wasn't sure what i expected but i was waiting to turn round a corner and be in awe with the scenery, but i wasn't. maybe after halong bay in vietnam, any sort of scenic boat cruise will be disappointing. who knows... the drive there was stunning. people were just stopping on the road to take photos not caring about what's behind lol. we also drove through the homer tunnel, which is basically a huge mountain that looks as though it was blown up with dynamite at the bottom to create the tunnel. i had heard nothing about it until we approached it. it was quite scary, pitch dark for about 5 minutes driving through it with water dripping from above.

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views of milford sounds

after milford sounds, we had the night at the doc campsite and then a night in arrowtown. we went to the cinema at arrowtown where we were served wine and a cheeseboard at half time. it was my highlight as the film was unbelievably boring.
queenstown has been my favourite city/town. the shops and cafes are set around lake wikitapo with snowy mountains behind it. we spent days just walking about the town, admiring the views and munching and drinking away in cafes and pubs. we went to the minus 5 bar one night... a pub made entirely from ice. it was so much fun. we made the mistake of having a few drinks before it and we were absolute steaming by the time we were in the ice bar. everything was made from ice, the glasses we drunk from, the seats, the tables and bar. you only get half an hour, which is enough because it's sooo cold. we had 2 vodka cocktails... and then a shot poured through a big slab of ice with us crouched under it with our mouths open.
i woke the next morning to find my camera stinking of passion fruit vodka cocktails and the lens wouldn't open because it was that sticky. i fixed it though. panic over! i also had a sore knee and then remembered that we both tried to limbo under the car barrier to our campsite and i fell and smacked my knee lol. it was such a fun night.

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drunken fun in the ice bar

we also went on the gondola to get some great views of queenstown from above. at the top there were 2 luge tracks so we were on the things again! it turns out there are only 4 luges in the world, 1 in singapore, 2 in new zealand and 1 in canada. and we've done 3 of them lol. we're hoping to do the 4th one when we're in canada.

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view of queenstown from the luge track

we've had 4 weeks in new zealand and it's been plenty of time. we feel like we've been here for ages!! i started thinking that maybe 4 weeks was too long but we probably wouldn't have done half the stuff if it had been 3 weeks. it gave us time to see more of the country and gave us us time to chill out so we weren't on the road every single day.

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queenstown

the south island is defintely the better of the 2. everything that i had expected of new zealand was in the south. it made most of the drives enjoyable as we were surround by some lovely scenery. although made the driving dodgy as i was too engrossed with the mountains and lakes than the roads lol.
my only complaint about new zealand was the weather. it was grey and miserable at times so we were stuck in our campervan for shelter. they say new zealand is like scotland because of the scenery, it is to an extent... but they're on par when it comes to the weather!

Posted by mico82 15:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

the south

all seasons in one day

the south definitely kicks the north's ass when it comes to scenery. the weather has improved a lot which has definitely helped. we arrived at franz josef town and it was grey and miserable. the town sits at the foot of the franz josef glacier but all we could see in the distance were a few hills. we checked into a caravan site and potted about in there for most of the day. we decided to head out that night for a few drinks... we turned round the corner of the campsite and there on front of us was the franz josef glacier towering over the town. it was amazing... everyone was out on the streets in awe with the glacier and taking photos.

from then onwards the weather has been brilliant. clear blue skies, few clouds and sunshine. yesterday we drove through arthurs pass national park, making our way to christchurch. imagine driving through glencoe, with the mountains at either side, it was kind of like that but much better... and then every now and then, huge snow capped mountains would appear behind the smaller mountains. it was so cool, so much so that i was determined to get some photos... whilst driving !

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views driving through arthur pass np

our highlight so far has to be the glacier. we had 2 nights at the town chilling out and on our 3rd day we arrived at the tour office ready for our heli hike at 9:30. a heli-hike is a 5 minute helicopter ride, landing on the glacier and having 2 hours to hike around it. we got told that due to weather conditions the 9:30 hike was cancelled and to come back later to see if the weather improves. disappointed, we drove to the fox glaier to catch a glimpse of it and also lake matheson where we saw mt cook, the highest mountain of new zealand at 3754 metres. unknown to us the lake was a 20 minute walk from the car park so we were rushing about because we had to be back at the tour office for 11:15. we arrived back at the office, the weather had improved, so the heli-hike was going ahead :)

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lake matheson with mt cook behind it

the next 3 hours were just perfect. the helicopter ride gave us some great views of the glacier and the rainforest that surrounds it. what makes this glacier special is there are only 3 glaciers in the world that are surrounded by rainforests... and franz josef is one of them. the others are the fox glacier and 1 in argentina.

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views on the glacier

we got kitted out with boots, crampons, ice axe and a jacket and were hiking for about 2 hours with our guide. below us were 150 metres of ice, sometimes up to 400 metres. we got to crawl through some ice tunnels and climb around pools and dodgy paths. one wrong step and you could be jammed inbetween thick slabs of ice or falling into a pool of ice water. of course i had to experience one of them. paul was behind me and the guide was out of sight. i took a wrong step and was up to my waist in freezing cold water. it was quite scary... i didn't even touch the ground so who knows how long the drop could have been. luckily there was hard ice around me to stop me going any further and paul made a mad dash to pull me out. we were pissing ourselves laughing but it made us realise just how dangerouse this can be. the last hour i hiked around with cold soaken wet feet.

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me and paul in an ice tunnel

after the glacier we headed back up north as paul had booked a knifemaking course for the following day. we were back on the same road that i was complaining about in my last entry. but this time the weather was brilliant therefore we got to see the alps this time. it was stunning. the mountains over here are bigger and capped with lots of snow... but what makes them so dramatic is how jagged they are. my pictures don't even give them justice.

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me and paul on the glacier

the following day paul was on his knifemaking course and i was chilling out in the van at the beach reading a book and sorting out my photos. it was just a day course paul was on, 9:30 till 4:00 and he absolutely loved it. read his blog for more info about it but he basically made a knife from scratch using tools that the guy had in his garden. i met them all after the course and was given a free glass of his home made "champagne"... cheap wine put in his soda stream for bubbles lol.

we were then on the road again heading for christchurch. we saw a sign at a hotel saying "free camping" so we drove into this dodgy site where this hotel/pub sat. the views around the place were lovely with huge hills in the distance but the hotel itself looked run down and ugly. a guy came out telling us where to park and feel free to come in for food and drinks. the guy was scottish. for the rest of the night we sat in the pub talking to this guy, a nice enough chap... but the more alcohol consumed the more we found out about him.
when asked why he moved to new zealand he answered with "a better life for my children"... after spending hours with this guy, i reckon he had no option but to leave. he made a point of telling us he was once a millionaire but lost it all. he's either bull shitting or a very stupid guy. we didn't take much cash with us so we ran out quick. he started serving us free drinks for most of the night which was kind of him. i think he was just wanting the company though. come midnight i was so tired, so i left paul and him to it in the bar. paul tried to leave with me but the guy was having none of it. as soon as i left he took his top off to show paul all his war wounds... so you can imagine the kind of stories paul had to endure.
it was a bizarre night. but hey, free camping and free drinks. can't complain.

on our second day of the south island we hired a boat for half the day and went fishing at malborough sounds, near picton. the weather was beautiful but after an hour we were frantically rushing to get to the harbour as a storm came in. we got absolutely soaked. we took shelter in a cafe for a while and it cleared up as soon as we were in the place. we headed back out and not long after putting our rods in the water, huge black clouds were coming towards us. enough was enough so we headed back to the shore and gave the guy his boat back. no fishes caught. it was bucketing down and it was the start of miserable weather for us for a few days.

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view from the boat on malborough sounds

other days were occupied with walking along the longest suspension bridge of new zealand, stopping off at pancake rocks, stopping off at lotsa lookouts to check out some great views... and one day paul spotted a seal on the beach so we managed to creep up next to it and take some snaps before it ran into the water.

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one of the lookouts we stopped at

pancake rocks is a series of rocks sticking out of the ocean near the shore. they get their name beacause of the shape of the rocks; looking like a stack of pancakes piled on top of each other. nearby are blowout holes where water from the ocean shoots up and sprays all over the rocks. it looks pretty cool from the postcards we've seen but unlucky for us the weather was peeing down and the tide wasn't in enough to create the blowhole effect. so it was a waste of time... and we were then soaked from the 10 minute loop track around it all.

we've been camping at some cooel camp sites too. we drove to a doc campsite, department of conservation campsites. it was in abel tasman national park. doc campsites tend to be far bigger, more spaced out and in a lovely setting. they're basic and give you the feel of camping out in the open. some normal campsites have lovely settings but they're always so full... with doc sites you tend to get more space so vans aren't all lined up right next to each other. we ended up in a spot all by ourselves with the beach a minute walk away. we walked around it, gathered some wood and had dinner and drinks that night by the fire.

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another doc site that we stayed at was an hours drive away from franz josef. it was right at lake ianthe but only enough room for 4 or 5 vans. we both fished off the jetty for a while and paul done some more fishing in the morning as i slept lol. again, it was another lovely view from our campervan.

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sunset at lake ianthe

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paul fishing at the jetty

we are now at lake tekapo, at a campsite with great views of the lake. the water is so clear with all shades of blue through it... and of course, half the lake is edged with snow capped mountains. tis gorge!

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lake tekapo

it's the highest point you can get to in new zealand without having to climb a mountain. we'll hopefully be in for a treat with the stars tonight. we're not that far from twizel, where some scenes from lord of the rings were shot. soon we'll be heading there and then making our way further south of the island. we've got 11 more days here before flying out of queenstown to canada. queenstown is known as the adventure capital so we're hoping to spend a few days there. will be in touch in queenstown :) x

Posted by mico82 21:39 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

the north

all seasons in one day

helloooo from new zealand :) nearly 2 weeks have passed and we're now in the south island. time is flying by. it's our 5th night in the south so not much to report as yet. will write about the south soon, for now it's all about the north. looking back we've actually done quite a lot and still managed to squeeze in some chill out time in our campervan.

we picked up the campervan as soon as we landed in auckland. i was a nervous wreck driving it at first but come the second day all was well. and no bumps or crashes so far... touch wood! i think the bump in australia was probably a blessing in disguise as i'm waaaay too cautious now. and we're waaaay to skint to loose another deposit lol.

new zealand is kind of what i've expected. it's similar to back home but on a much grander scale. with new zealand you don't have to drive far to be surrounded by some amazing scenery. only a few days ago we saw our first snow capped mountain towering over a beach. it looked pretty huge but going by the map it's nothing compared to what's coming up. the further south we go, i reckon the better it's going to get.

i had noooo idea how volcanic this country is, a bit of ignorance in my part, i just saw some amazing photos of the place and heard good things that made me want to go. we arrived in the north and on our 3rd day we were in a town called rotorua, one of the worlds most accessible geothermal areas. we drove into it and came across a park that looked to be on fire. unknown to us it was full of boiling mud pools with steam rising from them.

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the smell of rotorua was yuk. because of all the volcanic activity, hydrogen sulphide lingers in the air and makes the town smell of egg. it was so bad it made paul's farts smell of roses! that's how bad it was. we saw all sorts of stuff... i read in our book that the towns crust is so thin that digging a grave would unearth a hot spring... and birds don't have to sit at their nests because the ground is so warm. we walked around a loop track just outside of rotorua where we saw lots of birds nests resting in craters. it was a cool walk, we saw some pretty amazing stuff... lots of small lakes that were multi-coloured because of all the minerals in them, a huge boiling mud pool where paul managed to collect some mud with a stick, i then walked about with a fresh mud pack on my face lol... and a 10 metre geyser where a guy pours soap flakes into the vent and within minutes steam and water shoots up from the ground.

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mineral lake

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close up of boiling mud

all around rotorua there are so many geothermal hot tubs, even campsite have them. we stopped off at a polynesian spa where we had our very own outdoor mineral pool to ourselves looking on to lake rotorua. the temperature of our pool went up to 45 degrees. we wanted an hour in it but for health reasons you're only allowed half an hour. just as well because it was pretty hot... but very relaxing.

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we camped one night at lake taupo, new zealands largest lake. it was such a lovely setting. we arrived there fairly early so it gave us time to chill out, read, write blog, feed ducks and admire the views before it got dark.

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camp at lake taupo

we headed to tongariro national park the following day. this is where some of the filming for lord of the rings took place. and for anyone who doesn't know (as we didn't), there isn't just one place where lord of the rings was filmed. it turns out they took scenery from all over new zealand, north and south. some scenes were digitally manipulated with mountains from one place and lakes from another.
so tongariro np was a part of the film... but unfortunately we arrived there and the weather was just terrible. it was bucketing down and we could only see a few feet onfront of us because the fog was so thick. we arrived at the visitors centre, where normally you could see snow capped mountains in the distance, but all we could see was fog and rain. we checked the weather forecast and it was pretty much the same for the next few days. so we left tongariro and started heading further south.

our last night in the north island was perfect. it was the 5th november and we were in the capital of new zealand, wellington. what better way to see a fireworks display. we spent the day checking out some sights and took a walk up mount victoria for panoramic views of the city and it's harbour. we then managed to find the perfect spot that looked on to the harbour and oriental bay, where the biggest firework display we have ever seen took place. it was brilliant. we pulled out our camper chairs, sat outside with a drink and watched the 15 minute display. paul made us some chilli, so after the display we were quick getting into the campervan to munch some yummy chilli and heat up... it was frrreezing outside! we decided to risk it that night and not bother with a campsite. we parked nearby and woke to a lovely view of the harbour. it's not exactly legal but you can get away with it in certain areas if you're sensible and not park in a busy place.

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fireworks over wellington city

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our view the next morning

we also spent a day sight seeing in auckland. not much to report about this place, just another city with not much to do apart from the sky tower. so far we've been in 2, sydney and kuala lumpur, so auckland was our 3rd one. vancouver and toronto will make it 5.

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check out the floor in the sky tower

we also stopped at a place in rotorua where we took a cable car over some hills to the start of 3 luge tracks. if you don't know what a luge is then you've not been reading my blog! read entries in singapore and then you'll know ;) we got 4 shots in the luge and it was so much fun. although paul nearly fell off his and i nearly went off the edge at one point. it's actually quite dangerous if you go too fast... and the barriers were practically non-existent, hence the reason i was close to rolling down hill.

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cable car and lake rotorua

as mentioned we are now in the south. the scenery is supposed to be far better than the north. it was evident at the start but the last few days have been pretty miserable because of the weather. today we drove by the alps but because of the low clouds we didn't see them. we're hoping it'll pick up in the next few days... summer starts next month and everyone is complaining that it's like winter. another reason why new zealand is similar to back home!

more sooooon, stay tooooooned :) x

Posted by mico82 19:26 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

into the wild

semi-overcast

we LOVE the soundtrack of this film! check out one of my many fave songs from it. been listening to it constantly on our road trips.

Posted by mico82 15:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

jucy hippie

sunny

finally getting time to sit down and write my blog. we've been in australia for nearly 3 weeks now and it's been absolutely brilliant. the surprise was soooo amazing. they were in absolute shock when they opened the door. they couldn't believe it... for hours that night they still couldn't believe we were here. their building was a bit of a pain to get into, so much so that they were surprised we managed to get into the thing lol. we had to wait for someone to let us in but then the lift wouldn't take us to the floor as you need a key fob for it. so whoever let us in, we had to go to their floor and then use the fire escape stairs. the fire escape bit was where we hid. 3 attempts it took before they were eventually in. paul had to text his sister to find out where they were... trying not to make it too obvious of course. we then heard them coming out of the lift and then as soon as they were in their flat we chapped the door. it was brilliant. their reaction was just what he hoped for.

we celebrated with some champagne that night and then headed out to a pub. we didn't get to our beds till about 5am. it was such a fun night. the following morning we were feeling pretty rough. we took a walk to the water front and had our hangover breaky/lunch.

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the following day me and paul headed to pick up our campervan. we booked it for 10 days having no plan at all where to go. this also gave jenny and gary some time to sort things out and try and get time off work for us coming back.
our campervan was called a hippie campervan and it was pretty coooel. it was basically a transit van decorated with flowers, with a table that converts to a bed along with a fridge, portable stove and some storage space.
we drove for 2 minutes, not exaggerating, and i reversed into a truck denting the back of our van. of course no damage to the truck as it was the trailer bit i reversed into. i lost all confidence driving the van and was in a state. we headed back to the flat to chill for a while, gather some things and then we were on the road. we were so lucky though. at the last minute we decide to fork out an extra $20 per day to reduce our excess from $2500 to $100. if he hadn't had done that we would have lost so much money. $100 was still a bit of a blow but it could have been a lot worse. the van eventually got hit with a stone from a passing truck and chipped the windscreen as well. it was pretty bad because the girl at the office told us the chip was too big to get repaired and the whole window would need replaced.

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we had 9 nights in our wee campervan and we absolutely loved it. we couldn't sit up in bed without banging our heads but it was amazing. in our opinion it's defintely the best and easiest way to see the country. it's having the freedom to do what you want, when you want. no bus or train timetable, no tours... just me, paul and our mobile home :)

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i wont bore you with the details but we drove south making it to sydney on our 5th day. we then spent 2 nights in the blue mountains national park and then headed back to brisbane. we stopped off at a few places on route and stayed at some pretty cool campsites. australia really does have some brilliant campsites. practically every night we were having barbeques, frying steaks, shrimps, veggies... and kangaroo for the first time and it was damn tasty.
we stopped off at places such as kingscliff, byron bay, nimbin, lismore, kempsey, katoomba, black heath and port macquarie.

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byron bay

nimbin was a bizarre town. it appealed to me because it had this hippy theme going on... everything was so colourful and laid back... but within 5 minutes of walking about we got stopped twice asking if we were wanting to buy some marijuana. it's known as the drug capital of australia. there's museums, shops and cafes devoted to the stuff. it was an eye opener. practically everyone we saw were in tie-dyed tee shirt and dreadlocks... and stoned lol. we only spent a couple of hours here before heading to lismore for camp.

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nimbin

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nimbin

i've been to sydney before so we parked the van at botanic gardens and took a walk to kingscross to re-visit the area i stayed at before. we then saw the typical sights such as the sydney tower, bridge and opera house. the sun was scorching that day, it was soooo hot. before dark we were then in the blue mountains where we spent 2 nights. i've also been to the blue mountains before and had no regrets going back. it was definetly our highlight of the trip. after our first night, we only had about an hours driving to the next campsite which gave us plenty of time to see the sights and just chill out at camp.

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the blue mountains

what we also loved about the campervan was the food. after 4 months of constant eating out we were soooo looking forward to cooking our own meals. paul was brilliant, i'd come back from my shower in the morning and there waiting for me was a cuppa and omellette or toast or boiled eggs. he cooked us some yummy meals at night and made 2 batches of soup for our lunch. it was hard work using one stove at times but it was all part of the fun. sometimes we'd use the kitchen facilities at camp... and everytime we'd be frying some meat on the barbie.

whilst on our campervan trip, we heard from jenny and gary and they managed to get time off their work... woohoooo ! so we extended our rental from 10 days to 15. we were back in brisbane on the 8th night giving us a whole day to get organised and plan our second campervan trip together.
our second campervan trip was even better. we headed north, the highest point being the town of 1770 then we headed back south. we had 5 days of campervan life and we all had an absolute ball. we didn't do as much driving which probably made it better... and also the company made it better too. we had some good laughs.

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our first day was spent at australia zoo... stever irwins zoo. it was good, the crocodile show was really good where we watched all types of birds flying about, snakes and of course saw a croc getting fed. there was also a short video of the family and clips of steve irwin which was pretty sad.

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the highlight of that trip was our time spent in agnes waters and the town of 1770. we camped at the best campsite we have ever been too. it was right at the beach so we had great views from just sitting at our campervans. it was the first camp site that allowed camp fires so we were really excited about getting a fire going once the sun had set. me and jenny went snorkelling for a while as paul and gary were getting the fire pit sorted.

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view from our camp

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we then sat and watched the sun set, cooked our prawn kebabs on the barbie and then paul got the fire going which was a scare! he put waaaaay to much lighter fluid in the pit... went to start the fire and i honestly thought a fire work had went off. other parties around us shat themselves lol. he singed half the hair on his arm. we couldn't stop laughing... if only we had caught it on camera. the fire was putting everyone elses to shame. we sat, yapped, drank and toasted some marshmallows. it was all sooo perfect. and to end the night we were all gazing at the stars and this huge shooting star appeared. it went on for a few good seconds and we could see it burn out and change colour at the end. totally awesome... dudes ! ;)

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the next day was also really good. we decided to hire a wee boat for half the day and go fishing. just the 4 of us again, meaning we all got a shot driving the boat. it was loadsa fun. we only got 2 fishing rods so we took turns about fishing. paul caught the first fish and then not long before heading back i managed to catch a fish too. a pretty big one as well. the thing had teeth and a spiky gul thing going on. we were too scared to touch it so it was pretty hard trying to get the hook out of his mouth. we felt sorry for them though so we put them back in the water.
i thought fishing would be kind of boring as well but we all really enjoyed it. so peaceful, sun was scorching and we all got so excited when the rods started pulling. we're hoping to do some more fishing over the next couple of months.

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whilst we've been in brisbane we've enjoyed staying with jenny and gary. it's been brilliant living in a home again and not a hotel room. their apartment has a swimming pool and gym so we've been making use of that in the morning. we went out for dinner a couple of nights, walked about the city, got the city cat around brisbane, went bowling and shopped. they've been brilliant company and we've had so many fun times. as much as i'm looking forward to new zealand, it's the first place where we're both kind of sad to leave.

we leave tomorrow for new zealand. jenny and gary are both seeing us to the airport to say our bu bi's. we arrive in new zealand for campervan trip number 3. this time it's a beast of a campervan. it sleeps 4 people, full kitchen with 4 burner stove, microwave, shower and toilet. we have 27 days so we plan on taking it easy as new zealand aint that big. can't wait. uploaded more snaps so check out my flickr page x

Posted by mico82 18:32 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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