A Travellerspoint blog


Sulphur City

sunny 23 °C

Our next stop in the Northern island was Rotorua, better known as Sulphur City thanks to its rotten egg smell. But yes, its thermal baths are supposed to be great for your body so we thought we could stop by. Not only that, Rotorua was the starting point of fun extreme New Zealand. If Australia is known for its crazy people and spectacular exotic landscapes, New Zealand is known for its even crazier people and extreme sports. They invent new extreme sports...as soon as we got to Rotorua we actually found a lot of advertisement on ZORB, where you basically run downhill inside a gigantic plastic sphere, and of course everything gets out of control. But Rotorua was also home to a rafting circuit that included a 7metre waterfall, and we were up for that!

It was hard finding accommodation in Rotorua as some sort of World Motorbike Exhibit was taking place, but we managed to find two beds in the Base Backpackers. The weather was pretty miserable when we got there, with that pathetic drizzle that isn't rain but is still annoying, so we thought the best thing to do was to spend a couple of hours in the hot tubs of the Polynesian Spa, just in the centre. They were actually really nice, most of the swimming pools were on the outside, just beside the Rotorua Lake and we were sitting there, under the rain in water that was hot 40 °C. That night, we slept like babies ;-)


We had booked our rafting tour for the following morning so when we got up we were pretty excited. We were picked up around midday and the driver was already freaking nuts. We would find out later that one of the instructors does some crazy waterfalls on his kayak i.e. 100 ft! We got all pretty in our wetsuits, booties and helmets and drove to the Kaituna River. We were divided in groups of 6 and met our instructor, Chonk. So Chonk talked us through some instructions and a few minutes later we were in the raft, cruising down the Kaituna. The most expected moment was the 7mtr waterfall, where we just had to row a couple of times and then curl inside the raft and just hold to the ropes. We tried this first with a couple of waterfalls that were just about 2mtr high, and that was exciting so the big one seemed a bit scary! However it turned out to be a lot of fun! Before going down we had to scream some words in maori with Chonk, then row quickly and protect our heads for the big one...we were lucky that our raft didn't capsize, but at a certain point we were completely underwater, raft, bodies, heads...everything! It was so cool, we wanted to repeat! The only problem was that after that everything seemed easy peasy!


After our perfect rafting experience we decided to drive around Rotorua and ended up visiting Tarawera Lake and Blue Lake, both incredibly beautiful, and Nick even had a swim despite how freezing the water was! That night we got invited to a free pizza at the hostel's bar as we had booked the tour through them and went straight to bed, despite the partying mood of the rest of the people.

The next morning we woke up early to visit Wai-O-Tapu, a geothermal park full of sulphur and mud pools, volcanic craters and a geyser that is forced to erupt daily at the same time. So we saw the geyser erupt, and afterwards did the whole tour of the park. Literally, there was steam coming out of the ground everywhere...we had never seen something similar earlier. New Zealand was already surprising us in a really good way...


Posted by sonianick 15:55 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

New Zealand

Sweet As...!!

sunny 17 °C

New Zealand couldn't be more out of the way for us, but it's the closest country to Australia; only a three-hour flight from Sydney and we landed in Auckland. From the airplane the Northern Island looked intense green, just like the Irish countryside. Our time in the country was short...just two weeks, but frankly, we were glad, as the long stay in Australia had blown our budget, and we needed to go back to a cheap continent, so we were happy to fly to South America just before Christmas.

During our stay in Australia we had met Connor, a British traveller, and when we explained him that we considered Aussie to be the icing on the cake of our trip, he answered straight away "oh no darling, New Zealand is your icing, it has everything". So our curiosity started building up, and we were determined to make the most of our stay. We weren't bothered with getting to know the cities, as, to be honest, the cities in this part of the world do not have the same heritage than the ones we're used to visit back home in Europe. Plus, New Zealand is better known for its nature, its trekking trails and the landscapes shown on the trilogy The Lord of the Rings! That's why we stayed one night in Auckland, just to get a little rest, and by the way, our hostel the Lantana Lodge, was great! For once we were staying in a place without rules but still people were behaving like grown-ups!


The next morning we drove up to Whitianga, just 3 hours away from Auckland, right on the Coromandel Peninsula. We didn't know until we got to New Zealand that the Northern island is very volcanic and has hot springs everywhere, even by the sea! And that's why we went to Whitianga, to visit its famous Hot Water Beach, where there are hot water spots that reach a temperature of 60 °C...how cool is that? We drove to a hostel called Whitianga Backpackers on the Beach, and the owner told us to prepare a picnic for the night, as that was the time where the tide was low and hence we could dig a pool. She also gave us a shovel for free to use, so we were good to go to the Hot Water Beach at any point. First though, we did prepare our picnic and did a walk through the coastline. We went to Gemstone Bay, Stingray Bay and finally to Cathedral Cove, all of them very impressive...the water was freezing though! We didn't have the courage to take a dip!! Around 8pm, we arrived at the Hot Water Beach, had some nachos with guacamole with some red wine, and when the sun started setting down, Nick got his hands on the shovel and started to dig. It was a bit hard at first to find the perfect spot, but as soon as the tide retired a bit, we managed to build the pool, and 1 hour later we were just lying there talking to other people. Unfortunately, other people didn't manage so well with the pools, so we ended up offering to join our pool with theirs, but that made our water cooler...and by nearly 11 we decided to leave! We were happy with our natural pool experience under the stars, so random!!


Posted by sonianick 14:53 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)


The end of Australia

sunny 40 °C

How beautiful is Sydney? Incredibly beautiful...it's worth flying to the other end of the planet to see a city like this! When we drove from the Koala Park into the city, we crossed over the famous Harbour Bridge, saw the tips of the Opera House and were already hypnotised by the magnitude of its bay. We managed to find our hostel really easily, the Pink House in Kings Cross. We had booked that particular place for its free wifi, to be able to update our blog...but turns out the hostel was crap, dirty, old, and the connection was even worse! At least we got a 4 bed dorm and our room mates, an Irish couple with the Australian dream of living in the country for good, were pretty cool.

That night we stayed around our area, which we found out was pretty loud in terms of partying....especially Darlinghurst Road, which is full of bars, sex clubs, prostitutes and drug dealers! We went to the fancier Victoria Street and found a cool pizza place which was a blend of restaurant and cocktail bar with a DJ...called MAD PIZZA E BAR. We ate one of the best pizzas in our entire life, so if you ever manage to go to Sydney, Mad Pizza is a must. After our bellies were full we walked from Kings Cross to the Opera House and sat at the Opera Bar, right on the bay...we were loving Sydney even more!

The next morning we woke up willing to explore the city, however it was 40 °C outside and walking was not an option! So we changed plans and went directly to Bondi Beach. Obviously about half of the city's population was there escaping the heat but still we managed to find a spot next to the sea and have a swim before going for a walk to visit the other beaches in the area. Nick's good friend Vanessa is currently living in Sydney so right after the beach session we went to visit her at her apartment. It turns out she has this amazing flat next to Kings Cross with astonishing views of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. That night, the final of Australian Idol was on at the Opera House and we saw fireworks from her place...how lucky is she to live there! :-) We also met some of her Italian friends and went to eat schnitzel at an Austrian restaurant near the Mad Pizza & Bar. Also delicious, we were starting to be amazed by the restaurants in the city!


On Monday the temperature had dropped from 40 °C to 20 °C...how crazy is the weather in Sydney!!? So we could actually walk through the city! We went to Hyde Park, walked the whole of George Street and ended up at The Rocks, a great neighbourhood next to Harbour Bridge. That evening we also met up with Vanessa and had dinner at her place, followed by some mafia movies and general chill-out! Tuesday was the chosen day to eat one of the famous seafood platters served in the fish market near the Darling Harbour...it actually reminded us a little bit of pier 39 in San Francisco, just less fancy but still delicious. Whilst we were eating our platter we were getting constantly attacked by the seagulls and this strange bird you only find in Australia, which we named Australia's pigeon, since they're everywhere you go.


On our last day in Sydney, we were lucky to have great weather so we went on a ferry to Manly and spent the day in Shelly Beach, so beautiful that we could hardly believe we were still in a city! We met with Vanessa afterwards for a drink at a pub just on the opposite of Manly, from where you could see the whole bay...we can't remember the name but it was definitely one of the best spots we've been to during our stay in Sydney. We also joined Vanessa and her friends at the restaurant Churrasco to say good bye with a good piece of meat. Vanessa was a great host so we wanna thank her through our blog for everything she did for us! And her friends are really cool too!!!

It was sad to leave Australia, as after two months we were getting used to the "no worries" way of life, the good beaches and endless landscapes...it had been our home for a while, so hopefully we'll come back to explore the West coast and Darwin at some point in our lives :-) Still, the show must go on and Kiwi land was waiting for us!!


Posted by sonianick 07:22 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Blue Mountains

Family Reunion

sunny 26 °C

We were meeting Sonia's brother, Bernat and her girlfriend Laura somewhere between Byron Bay and Sydney. We decided the best spot to meet would be Newcastle, and we would then visit the Blue Mountains together before heading in opposite directions.

Before actually getting to Newcastle, we spent one night in Port Macquarie, a small convenient town just on the way to Newy. We could barely hold our excitement the day we had to meet Bernat and Laura, it had been long since the last time we saw someone from our family :-). We arrived before them, which gave us time to chill a bit and check out the famous Ocean Baths (public swimming pools) just by the sea...and they were great! By the time Bernat and Laura arrived it was dinner time so we went straight to a random restaurant to catch up on everything.

The next morning it was surf time. Bernat couldn't wait any longer so we rented two surf boards and headed to the best beach in town for beginners. It was time for Laura to learn and again, time for us to test our skills...it turns out we managed to spin under the water more than actually stand on the board, but still it was fun...and humiliating! There was a group of school kids that were surfing during their P.E. class...and they were kicking ass! The hostel invited everyone to a barbie (bbq in Aussie terms) so we signed up and got dragged to a bar where they were organising this huge dinner for several hostels. At that point we found out that they were organising a Trivia night and the winners would leave with a nice prize...so we decided to sign up!!! The competition consisted of two rounds and thanks to our wisdom and to Wikipedia...we managed to win the second prize, which consisted of a bottle of champagne!!! So there we were, in a bar, in Newcastle, eating and drinking for free! Love it!


We only stayed two nights in Newcastle, as we wanted to drive to the Blue Mountains near Sydney and do some bushwalking together. We found a room to ourselves in the YHA in Katoomba (awesome hostel!) and despite the willingness to do siesta we were determined to start our trekking tour around the area. Unfortunately, it turned out that thanks to the heat there were some fires in the area, meaning that most of the park was closed, so we only managed to do the cliff walk. At least we had some great views and we saw the famous Three Sisters. That night, Nick offered to cook some meat lasagne and we ended up having a massive tray of it, plus wine...pandoro...and in the end we couldn't move 1cm and collapsed :-)

On our last morning together we wanted to give the Blue Mts another try, but still due to the bushfires the park was closed. So we had no other option than to wonder a bit around Katoomba and drive somewhere; the most convenient stop was the mysterious "Koala Park"....which you would think it would be full of koalas, right? Well, that's a wrong assumption. There were koalas, but just about 8, and the rest were sleepy wombats, echidnas, kangaroos, cassowaries (scaaary) and birds. The park was quite disappointing, but at least we got to spend some time together before leaving. Short after lunchtime it was time to say goodbye; Bernat and Laura had a whole month ahead to enjoy Queensland, and it was time for us to stop by Sydney before leaving the biggest island in the world.


Posted by sonianick 05:31 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

From Queensland to New South Wales

Noosa, Brisbane, Surfer's, Byron Bay & Nimbin!

sunny 34 °C

Our trip around Fraser Island motivated us to get some rest and Noosa was the perfect spot to do so. Just a couple hours away from Rainbow Beach, it's a stylish small town, very upmarket and gorgeous. We relaxed the minute we got there. We found a double room at the hostel Noosa Backpackers Resort, which was great because they had free surfboards, bodyboards and kayaks for everyone. Our buddy Caroline from Fraser Island and Whitsundays came to Noosa the same day we did and we met at the same backpackers, awesome! We didn't do much other than spending time at the beach with Caroline, eating ice creams, and walking around the city, which by the way is spectacular. Our three days passed by quickly, and before we knew, the three of us were already making our way to Brisbane. On our way, we decided to stop at the famous Australia Zoo, which is run by Steve Irwin's family. At first it was a crocoseum, but now you can see most of the wild animals in Australia, including kangaroos, cassowaries, crocs, all sorts of birds, lizards...it was awesome!


Brisbane was the first big city we had been in since Melbourne, so we were glad to find ourselves in a real metropolis. We spent two fabulous nights there with Caroline, cruising the city and enjoying all of the services it offered. It was sad to say goodbye to Caroline, we spent 1 week with her and we're still missing her nice British humour at times, but we'll see each other in London for sure!

From Brisbane we drove down first to Surfer's Paradise. It's not that great, it's like a well-kept Benidorm with a nice long beach, but nothing that we would recommend to other people, unless you wanna spend everyday in a different theme park. To be honest, our nicest memory from Surfer's Paradise was a delicacy from Baskin&Robbins called Oreo Explosion...so hypercaloric you cannot eat for the rest of the day, but so worth it! Whoever loves Oreo, should try this one, although we only found it in Surfer´s!


Our fun times came back as soon as we left Surfer's Paradise and drove down to Byron Bay. Everyone had recommended us to book the Arts Factory Lodge, even if it's pricier than other hostels, as it's a completely different experience. As soon as we arrived we understood why it's so different; it has a bar, cafeteria, theatre, cinema, swimming pool, beach volley court, you can even sleep in tee-pees and there's a wicked hippy bus! And the atmosphere is very laid-back, almost everyone there was hippy and stoned, which created this bohemian love climate you hardly find nowadays. We made ourselves at home immediately and went to check out the town, as the weather was not good to go to the beach. We can't count the times we got offered some sort of drug whilst walking through the centre of the village...and how many artists just stand on any corner, playing an instrument and singing along to earn some tips. From the clothes stores to the cafés, and how people walk and dress, Byron seems to have never left the vibe of the late 60's, early 70's. The only problem with Byron Bay is that it's so stylish and popular, that it's way more expensive than any other place on the East Coast.


Before we knew, it was getting late and we headed back to the hostel to chill out in the hot tub before having dinner. OMG! The kitchen was sooooo disgusting you weren't capable of cooking anything there; the sinks were blocked with water and food, all the pans were sticky and there were about 30 people trying to prepare a meal at the same time so the temperature inside must have been over 40 °C! We managed to eat something and get the hell out of there ASAP...we went for a walk looking for somewhere to have a drink, but we didn't need to go inside anywhere to have fun, as we had it right on the street! We found a big group of people dancing and a band playing really good funky music!! That's what we loved about Byron, anyone can expose his talent and there's no fuss about it.

The next couple of days ran smoothly; we went to the beach, had fabulous lunches, shopped a little and relaxed. We drove up to Byron's lighthouse, from where we spotted a whale, some turtles and manta rays. The view up there is quite impressive, especially of Tallow Beach, one of our favourites in Australia. We also drove to Nimbin, a village just one hour away from Byron Bay, which is another hippy centre. Just one major street, but joyful, full of funky shops with slogans supporting the legalisation of marihuana, vintage markets and lots of "happy" people. It's so worth going there just for a couple of hours, to go back in time and speak to people who left it all just to live in this random community. You would never hear the word crisis there...we were definitely so far away from Europe, the recession and all the corruption around, Thank God!! That same night we went to two different concerts, one of them from the band we saw playing on the street one of the previous nights...it was great!


Without realising, we were in New South Wales, and we were having a blast, but this meant the time to drive down to Sydney was getting closer. But first, we had to meet up with Sonia's bro Bernat and Laura...yippie!!!

Posted by sonianick 15:24 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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