Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's not to love in Melbourne?

Back from the Great Ocean Road we settled down in Melbourne for a couple days before our next joint to Tasmania. We also spent an extra day there after Tasmania. We timed it all in a way that made us be there over the weekends, which gave us the opportunity to see the city bustling with activity.

As we had read, Melbourne is a city where people love shopping and it's apparent as soon as you step downtown, where it's shop after shop after mall after shop. It is pretty impressive. Given that we still have 3 months of travel ahead of us, shopping wasn't really an option (we did a little bit of window shopping though) so we focused on the next best thing: eating and drinking!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Great Ocean Road deserves its name

From Sydney we flew into Melbourne and took a car to the Great Ocean Road, that spans a good part of the coast between Melbourne and Adelaide. We didn't have time to go all the way there but drove through the first 300kms and had a blast.
We've lived for a long time in California, near the Highway 1 which is revered for its coastline. Shortly before leaving the US we were talking about it and how it is pretty much the same for a long time. I'd have to add that it doesn't quite compare to this Great Ocean Road.

After landing late because of our first (and hopefully only) missed flight, we picked up the car and drove to Lorne, which was pretty much the beginning of the road for us.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life seems so hard in Sydney

Our first stop in Australia was Sydney. Everybody knows the iconic opera house, which represents Sydney as much as the Eiffel tower is an icon of Paris. What many (including us) don't know is that Sydney also houses fantastic beaches and a great no-stress vibe.

We spent only 3 days there but got to do a lot. Of course we almost immediately went towards the quay and got a look at the opera house. Strangely, I didn't completely feel like I was in Sydney until I had seen this iconic building. I wonder if it's the same kind of effect the Eiffel tower has on people visiting Paris.

Our walks around allowed us to discover a ton of eating options, and the density of the downtown area.

Random thoughts about NZ and more challenges

New Zealand, it's over!
Here are some final random thoughts that came to us while traveling New Zealand, but that were too short to justify a post.

- Here they write with a "pin" and use "tin" dollar bills. What a funny accent!
- It is very, very hard to find free WiFi while it was everywhere in Peru. When you pay, it is also very expensive.
- They need more men in Wellington. There are way too many cute women walking around
- We are a pretty good team while driving here. I drive and Denise tells me to "keep left" every time I enter a new road, just to make sure I stay on the right side, which incidentally is the left side here.
- We see a lot of French travellers, as expected, but boy do we see a lot of Germans too
- Among all those who travel, French have the worst english accent, me included
- As we meet people we realize that 6 months of traveling is nothing. Many (young) travelers are on the road for at least a year (but few go through as many places)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Choose your beautiful landscape in Fiordland!

After Wanaka we went to the far south west part of New Zealand, known as Fiordland, which houses many beautiful sheer mountains, fjords and lakes. Our base for most of the time was Te Anau and the beauty started on the drive there, right after passing Queenstown, which we would visit again before leaving New Zealand.

On our way to Te Anau

Te Anau is a small town right by a lake surpisingly named "Lake Te Anau". It's not a huge tourist destination in itself but the stepping stone to reach the famous Milford Sound.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hiking glaciers on the west coast

Our next stop was Franz Jozef, a city based at the bottom of two glaciers, the Franz Jozef Glacier and the Fox Glacier. The amazing thing about them is that they come all the way down in the valley, almost to sea level. It is a rare sight, so rare in fact that when Abel Tasman was sailing along the coast when discovering New Zealand, he thought that they were weird low white clouds stuck in the valleys, instead of huge chunks of ice coming down from the mountains.

We decided to go on a full day hike on the glacier and were pretty excited about it as last time we came we weren't able to get on the glacier. The full day hike allowed us to go pretty high up and see strange formations, caves, and crevasses.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Farewell Spit: a strange name for the end of the world!

After the Marlborough area, we moved west to the famous Abel Tasman national park. It is famous for its beautiful coastline, great weather, great hikes and kayaking. It is indeed one of the first areas of New Zealand that really developed kayaking as a way to explore its beauty.
We started our visit of the area by going to a place beyond the park, very much like the end of the New Zealand world, called Farewell Spit. It is this remote and beautiful coast that mixes big empty beaches with an air of apocalypse, with sheer cliffs straight down to the ocean.
Through a couple pretty short hikes we first went to fossil point and its deserted beach.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Marlborough: Drink and hike responsibly

After a rough ferry ride from Wellington to cross over to the south Island, we arrived in the Marlborough area, famous for its wineries (mostly whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris) and the beautiful marloborough sounds coastline. We went back to a hostel we had really liked 5 years ago and set out to take the day and visit the wineries to do some wine tasting. I say 'we' but in that case it was mostly Denise who did the tasting, while I was doing the driving. Given that she's a lot more into wines than me, it made sense.

Driving through the area felt very familiar (except for the driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road thing) since we were close to wineries, small hills and nice sun. It's pretty much like Napa valley or the south of France.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wellington: Food and Free Stuff!

Cable car track and the view from the botanical gardens
We had a whirlwind 2 days in Wellington, we were supposed to have 3 days, but ended up spending the majority of the first day hiking in Tongario National Park and got to Wellington really late in the day. People on our trip kept asking what we were going to do in Wellington.  I kept telling them I was going to drink excellent coffee and eat.  What?  They would say.  I'm going to eat!  So when we got to town, the first thing we did was....EAT.  With recommendation from one of our friend's friends (Charlie, who lived in Wellington for 6ish months) we had a lovely dinner at a restaurant called Sweet Mother's Kitchen.  Incidentally, it had a ton of Cajun food, smothered okra, hush puppies, gumbo, jambalaya, all covered in Saints paraphernalia, and Mardi Gras masks (the walls, not the food).  Yeah.  I think the Kiwis like 'dem Cajuns... it was the second place in NZ that we happened upon that had Cajun food.

Photo challenges galore

We're hard at work to complete the challenges that you've given us, and we're making good progress!

There are many we haven't completed yet but here are some updates, in no particular order.
My friend Matt first challenged Denise to stop  doing easy headstands (I would argue that that one on a kayak was pretty darn hard) and do a real headstand where she doesn't use her hands. It's pretty hard, to say the least, but she pulled it off while we were visiting some wineries, and consequently lightly intoxicated, just to make it harder.
This one is for you Matt