A Travellerspoint blog

Rotorua and Napier

One Hundred Days of Adventure!

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Rotorua and Napier are two very different towns, whose landscapes and histories have been shaped by the volcanic terrain on which they are built.

Rotorua has been attracting tourists like us for over a hundred years for its thermal mineral pools and bubbling hot mud, which were thought to have curative properties. It took us a little while to get over the smell of rotting eggs that permeates the town (actually sulphur dioxide gas), but luckily the unique nature of the town made it quite bearable. Whilst in Rotorua, we made the most of the natural geothermally heated waters by making a visit to the luxurious Polynesian Spa, where there were seven different mineral pools in which to soak and relax. One of the highlights of our stay here was seeing how the local Maori people live in harmony with this unique landscape at the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village. Here the thermal pools and steam vents that are dotted around the village are used on a daily basis by the villagers for their cooking, washing and bathing. We were shown round by a local resident who has lived in the village her whole life, and so was able to relate anecdotes and even some traditional Maori legends. After our fascinating tour we went into the village meeting house to see a traditional Maori cultural performance, which was brilliant. They performed songs, dances and games for us, but obviously our favourite was the famous Haka war dance, which was really intimidating and exciting to watch!

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Napier is a town further south on the coast, which in 1931 was completely razed to the ground by a devastating earthquake. Due to the period that this happened in, the town was rebuilt in the Art Deco style, leaving many beautifully designed and coloured buildings for us to admire today. The one full day that we had in Napier was actually our 100th day of travel, so we spent our time here enjoying the many lovely sights and indulgences that the town had to offer! We began with a walking tour around the town, then moved on to the Chocolate Factory and Wineries for some serious chocolate and wine tasting action. It was a fantastic day, and a great way to toast ourselves for being brilliant backpackers.

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Posted by Tom and Jo 04:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Auckland and the Waitomo Caves

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It was time to dig out our jumpers from the depths of our backpacks. On arriving in Auckland we were greeted with cold, drizzling rain. For a little while it even felt as if we had accidentally boarded a plane to Manchester! In fact as we rode the bus into town it felt really eerie, as the streets, buildings and weather did remarkably resemble a typical English city.

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Unfortunately, the city of Auckland did not seem to have too much to offer a traveller on a budget, except the Auckland museum, which gave us our first fascinating insight into New Zealand's Maori culture and heritage. We daringly took on the 16km Coast to Coast Walkway, which took us up, over and around Auckland's surrounding volcanoes. The most impressive of these was Mount Maungawhau, which looms over the city and is crowned by a huge grassy crater. It was nice to get our of the city to see a glimpse of the green landscapes and hundreds of sheep that New Zealand is famed for. We even saw a ewe giving birth to a lamb!

Next, our flying visit through NZ's North Island took us to Waitomo. Waitomo is a tiny farming town, whose star tourist attractions are the many caves that are dotted around the area (although it did also have an Angora Rabbit 'Shearing Shed', which was quite entertaining). We chose to do a tour of Ruakuri Cave, the largest of the most accessible caves and a very spiritual and spooky place. Our tour took in the huge underground caverns and tunnels with all their beautiful limestone stalactites and stalagmites. We also saw glowworms lighting up the roof above us and dark black rushing streams below.

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Posted by Tom and Jo 02:31 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Cairns

Lazy town

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Cairns was our final destination on our journey up the east coast of Australia, and what better way to finish up our five weeks of non-stop travelling than by immersing ourselves in the relaxed Cairns lifestyle? Everyday is a holiday in Cairns, and with Winters that are warm and sunny, it attracts visitors from all over the globe and Australia, creating a lively and friendly atmosphere.

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The main hub of the city is around the marina and the esplanade where we enjoyed spending time soaking up the sun and then cooling off in the pretty man-made salt water lagoon. In general we treated our six days here as recovery time after our active and fun-filled days in Oz, and in preparation for the busy final leg of our trip. Therefore some serious R&R was enjoyed!

We did make it out of the city however, to explore the nearby mountain town of Kuranda. This was a real hippy town with a couple of markets that sold local and aboriginal arts and crafts. From here we did a rainforest and jungle walk, then ventured out further to the Barron Falls Gorge, which had a dramatic waterfall and gorgeous scenery.

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Our time in Cairns was fantastic, and we were blessed with such nice weather that we could not quite believe our luck. Our last day was a bit of the shock to the system, as we began to realise how quickly our days were flying by, and more to the point, how we were leaving sunny Australia for cold, rainy New Zealand!

Next stop...Auckland!

Posted by Tom and Jo 02:22 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays

Rock the boat

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Airlie Beach is a bit of a party town and also the gateway to The Whitsunday Islands for sailing trips. However unlike Hervey Bay the place actually had quite a lot of character. During the day we wandered the marina and admired the beautiful yachts and sailing boats moored there. Unfortunately for us, our boat Habbibi was not quite as impressive as these, but a sailing boat nonetheless. We booked a two day, two night tour of the Whitsundays, although one day was spent simply getting to and from the best snorkelling spots.

Our crew took us to "the most beautiful beach in the world" - Whitehaven. It lived up to it's reputation and it's name as the sand is 99.9% silica so shined a dazzling white in the sun. It is so pure that NASA used it to make the Hubble telescope. Our arrival here was timed perfectly to see a group of dolphins very close to the beach chasing the fish up the shoreline.

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The rest of the day was spent snorkelling on the outer Great Barrier Reef, which is still beautifully intact as it attracts less visitors than the favourite spots up near Cairns. We saw an amazing array of sealife and colourful coral: clown fish, parrott fish, giant clams and sinister looking jellyfish (luckily we were wearing our stylish stinger suits). The best sighting was of a large sea turtle whow as a really friendly little dude and swam amongst us for a while.

All in all, the sailing experience was pretty cool, especially the communal dinners and drinking sessions. Once back on dry land it took a good few days to overcome the sensations of a rocking boat!

Posted by Tom and Jo 02:46 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Hervey Bay and Fraser Island

A sandy paradise

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Next stop on our East Coast trail was Hervey Bay. We'd love to be able to write something interesting about this town, but it turned out to be just a gateway to Fraser Island.

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. It is so special because of it's unique ecology; out of the sand grows thick wooded areas and rainforests, and there are even freshwater lakes, something that shouldn't actually be possible on sand. We were on a two day guided tour of the island and were driven around by Alan on a very robust 4x4 bus. Our guide was fantastic and we saw so many of all the little wonders on the island. We swam in the utterly gorgeous and crystal clear waters of Lake McKenzie (despite it being freezing cold). The sand is pure white due to it's high silica content, which makes it great for polishing silver jewellery. Later that day at dusk we took an eerie walk through part of the rainforest. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old and so big that it is hard to know how they remain upright in the sand.

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The second day was spent hurtling uo and down the 75 Mile Beach and ploughing precariously through bumpy sand dunes to get to spots that most other vehicles could not reach. The highlight was walking to the top of Indian Head and sitting on the very edge of the cliff and spotting tiger sharks and manta rays in the ferocious seas below. We even saw the acrobatic displays of the migrating humpback whales leaping out of the water in the distance.

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Fraser Island has definitely been the highlight of our stay in Australia so far, as there is no other place like it in the world.

Posted by Tom and Jo 02:36 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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