Australia East Coast Roadtrip

After nearly four months in Cairns, it was time for me to hit the road and see the East Coast of Australia. One of my coworkers from the bar I worked at in Cairns, Jen, decided it was her time to do her East Coast trip as well, so for the time being I had a travel buddy. After saying our goodbyes to our Cairns friends, we were off bright and early for our first destination, Magnetic Island. It was a 6 hour bus ride to Townsville, and then a 30 minute ferry to the island. Funny story, on our bus they showed the movie San Andreas, which is about a massive earthquake in California, and then Townsville had an earthquake while we were there! We actually missed feeling it on land though as we were on the ferry when it happened. We spent the rest of the day enjoying our resort-style hostel before calling it an early night.

The next day we shared a 4×4 rental with two Irish backpackers and set out to explore the Island. We saw some beautiful beaches, fed wallabies, and did a short hike where we ran into koalas (even a baby!).

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No zoom, it was this close!

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Our next stop was Airlie Beach, but I was only there for the night as I was going down to Fraser Island while my friend stayed in Airlie to do a Whitsundays tour. After a 14 hour bus ride I arrived in Rainbow Beach, where most tours to Fraser Island begin. I spent the day exploring the town, which consisted of walking to the Carlo Sand Blow Area and lying around at the beach. That night I met the 7 people who would be in my group for Fraser Island for the first time. Our tour in total had three groups of 8 (the trucks seated 8). Everyone says that if you have a good group the trip is a blast, so I was lucky to have a really great group. We consisted of an Aussie, a Brit, a Swiss German, a German, a Northern Irish, and two French, along with myself. It was a self-drive tour, so we drove our 4×4 around the island checking out crystal clear lakes, impressive views, and we even got to see a wild dingo. At night we would all cook dinner and drink around the campfire. The people in my group were absolutely hilarious, and always ready to have a good time. I also had a friend from Cairns that was working on the island, so I got to have a quick catch up with her which was a nice surprise!

Rainbow Beach and Carlo Sand Blows

The beautiful Fraser Island

Once the tour was over, Jen and I met back up in Noosa for two days. We wished we had spent an extra day in Noosa as it was such a beautiful spot. On the second day we did a coastal walk where we saw tons of whales and dolphins along the way. On one of the beaches there were a ton of blue bottle jellyfish washed on shore where surfers were happily going in the water, those crazy Aussies. We finished our walk and just so happened to run into a craft beer festival much to my delight.

The coastal walk in Noosa

After a pleasant stay in Noosa, it was off to Brisbane. This was the first real city (well, with a population of over 150,000) we were in for the past 4 months, so it was so odd to see skyscrapers and walk around in a CBD. We had both heard negative things about Brisbane, but actually had a nice time visiting some breweries and vegetarian restaurants in the hipster area of town. There were museums with free entry as well, with some really interesting modern art pieces.

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In Australia even the birds attack you

Our next destination was Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. This was probably our least favorite place we visited on our trip. It’s known for the beach and clubs, but the beach was nothing special, nor were the “clubs”.

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After Surfers we headed to Byron Bay, our last stop on the trip together. Byron is known for its hippie, surfer, chilled out vibe, which is right up my alley. We were a bit worried it would be a bit cliché but it was actually really nice. It made me sad to visit the town at the end of my visa, as I could have easily spent a few weeks working there. We did the famous lighthouse walk where we saw more whales (we saw whales nearly every place we went along the coast), went to the monthly market, sunbathed, and boogie boarded.

We had lucked out with the weather going down the coast, it was sunny nearly every day and relatively warm even though it was technically winter. Yesterday was our last day of the trip together, as I was off to Sydney while Jen stayed in Byron. We already have our plans to meet again in Europe, and a friend we had made along the coast happened to be on my bus, so it made saying goodbye a little bit easier. As I’ve already spent time in Sydney, I’ll be here for a short stay then it’s off to a road trip around Tasmania with my friend from Melbourne!

Chillin’ in Cairns

I flew from Perth up to Cairns in the beginning of May, and since then I’ve had the most unplanned and all-over-the-place few weeks I’ve had in Australia. I landed in Cairns with the intention of finding a job and settling down right away. However, I spontaneously joined in on a random 4-day roadtrip with two Swiss girls which put some bumps in that plan. They were going to head up to Cooktown and then loop back down to Cairns, passing through the Daintree Rainforest on the way. It sounded great, until I realized they were completely ill equipped for the adventurous and difficult road we needed to take to get to Cooktown. That, in addition to the fact that they didn’t speak a word of English around me even though they were fluent, was what lead me to leave them on Day 2 in Cape Tribulation. After a night at a hostel in the middle of the rainforest with no service, I was able to get a ride to Port Douglas, a beautiful beach town about 1-1.5 hours north of Cairns.

I spent a few days there, and decided to go back down to Cairns to grab my suitcase and come back to find work. I also had a random, one time job working in a taco food truck that weekend at a festival that I had to come back to Port Douglas for. Well, after that gig, I could not find any bar work in Port Douglas, only waitressing, so after a week or two, it was back down to Cairns for round three. I was very lucky that I found a bartending job within my first week back into town. At the time I didn’t think much of it, I was just happy to have found something, but I’ve since talked with approximately 5 million people who are all looking for bar work and unable to get a job. I’m still looking for another part time job as I have too much spare time at the moment, but I’m also happy to be working at all.

Cairns is a chill, party, beach town, but as it’s cold everywhere else in Australia, right now is the big tourist season here. I’ve been able to check out some cool cafes and explore the town a bit, and I’m looking forward to doing some day trips in the near future! The first few weeks I was in Cairns/Port Douglas, I felt lost, stressed, and broke. Not having a plan and going with the flow is only fun when you have money. But things are back to normal now, and I’m excited to spend the next month or so soaking up some sun.

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The Lagoon in Cairns

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Drive from Cairns to Port Douglas

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View of 4 Mile Beach, Port Douglas

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View from Port Douglas Pier

 

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Random beach in Far North Queensland

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One of the deadliest animals in the world. As a local told me, you die from the pain because your body can’t handle it

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Normal sign to see in Queensland

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Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation

 

West Coast Road Trip

Renting a campervan and taking a trip along the coast of Australia has been a dream of mine for a long time. In fact, I wrote about it back in 2013. I hadn’t originally planned to travel the West Coast because I didn’t think I’d have enough time or money to make the trip happen, even though I really wanted to swim with whale sharks (Western Australia is one of the only places you can do this). But, the beauty of travel is that things change and by the end of March I had found a few others online who had similar plans to me, and soon after I had a flight booked to Perth.

I spent a few days in Perth and Fremantle before I left on the road trip, and one highlight was a day trip to Rottnest Island. The day included crazy ferry rides, bike riding around the island, flying spiders, and of course spotting some of the local quokkas.

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I went to Rottnest with one of the girls on my road trip, Emma (English). The rest of the group consisted of myself, Charlotte (English), and Simon (Swedish). We already had the campervan booked, so the day before we set off, we got together to get groceries and any last minute supplies we might need for the trip.

Day 1 (Perth to Geraldton): We met up in the morning to pick up the car together, and that’s when things got a bit real. I have no problem with driving, but it was intimidating to hear from the rental company that the campervans often roll, and if we see a kangaroo jump in the middle of the road, to remember not to swerve. We packed up the car, got some alcohol in bulk, then were on the road. We made one major stop along the way at the Pinnacles, a large area filled with odd limestone formations.

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The Pinnacles

To be honest, we were a bit underwhelmed, but did manage to get in some photos. Our landing point for the night was Geraldton. We didn’t have our campsite planned, so after a few tries we eventually settled at a decent campsite and set up camp for the first time. We all had burgers (veggie burgers for me of course), some beers, and Emma and I were the first to sleep in the upstairs portion of the campervan. Besides the ladder, it wasn’t as bad as we expected.

Day 2 (Geraldton to Denham): Our second day was a long one. I drove for the first portion of the day, from Geraldton into Kalbarri National Park. Minus the few kilometers of gravel road, it was a nice drive before we were at Nature’s Window and Z-Bend, which provided some beautiful photo opportunities.

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Nature’s Window

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Z-Bend

The next two hours of driving were fine as well, until we had about an hour left of driving after the sun had set. On the West Coast, you can easily drive for hours without seeing as much as a gas station, and if something happens with your car, you could be stranded for hours with no service. At dawn/dusk/night, the wildlife come out and driving gets much more dangerous, so the last hour took about two. We got into Denham and after bumping into some of Emma’s friends (one went to ASU), we called it a night.

Day 3 (Denham to Carnarvon): The reason we had to get into Denham the night before was because it was the closest town to Monkey Mia, where every morning starting at 7:45 a.m. you get the opportunity to watch (and potentially feed) wild dolphins. There are strict regulations to this feeding, and shows can only be done three times per day. We arrived at the first feeding, but none of us were randomly selected for the feeding. We stayed on the beach and sunbathed for a bit before deciding to peek in and join the third feeding of the day. We were glad we did because all four of us ended up being able to feed the dolphins!

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You aren’t allowed to touch them, but it’s so difficult to resist!

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On the way out of the Shark Bay Peninsula, we stopped at Shell Beach, a beach made up entirely by shells.

Afterwards, we headed into Carnarvon for the night and saw a top notch sunset.

Day 4 (Carnarvon to Coral Bay): We had been doing a decent amount of driving each day, but luckily once we reached Coral Bay, we had more time to relax. After an utterly disappointing detour to the Blowholes, we arrived at Coral Bay, which really is an oasis in the middle of nowhere. We checked into our campsite and took it easy for the rest of the day.

Day 5 (Coral Bay): We spent our first “rest” day of the trip soaking up the sun during the day and then getting treated to some live music in the evening.

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Day 6 (Coral Bay to Exmouth): A short drive from Coral Bay is the town of Exmouth. Unfortunately unlike Coral Bay, the beaches were a decent drive away from the town, so we opted to lounge by the pool of our campsite on the first day.

Day 7 (Exmouth): While the others slept in, I was up bright and early for the activity I had been waiting for – it was time to swim with some whale sharks. The experience was expensive, but definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. The shuttle bus picked me up at my campsite, and then we made our way to the port to get on our boat for the day. In the morning we did some snorkeling and such a wide variety of colorful fishes. Then we went further out in the ocean for the whale shark swim. Each tour company has a pilot that flies overhead to locate a shark, and then it’s time to get in the water. We were able to swim with them 4 or 5 times (we swam with 3 different sharks in total because they often dive deeper out of sight). In the afternoon we went for another snorkel before heading back to land.

I had no service and we docked earlier than expected, so I had to wait 1.5 hour for my friends to come pick me up, but luckily they picked me up before sunset and we headed back to the campsite for a final night in Exmouth.

Day 8 (Exmouth to Coral Bay): Emma had found a new group to continue traveling North with, so Charlotte, Simon, and I set off back down to Coral Bay to spend another day enjoying the sun and beach.

Day 9 (Coral Bay to Hamelin Pool): We needed a place to stay on our way back down that we hadn’t been to yet, but also had some sort of attraction, that also wasn’t too much or too little of driving for the day. We decided on Hamelin Pool, which has a population of 160, because it is right next to the Stromatolites. There are only three places you can see stromatolites in the world, one of them in this small area of Western Australia.

Day 10 (Hamelin Pool to Northampton): We arrived late at night the day before, so decided to check out the stromatolites in the morning.

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After, we went off to see some sites that were recommended to us by friends we made in Coral Bay. We drove into Northampton, then did a loop through the countryside. First stop was in Port Gregory to see the Pink Lakes, also known as Hutt Lagoon. They were quite a pastel pink when we saw them, but apparently in the summer they become extremely bright.

Next we headed off to see the Hutt River Province, one of the most unique places I’ve visited. Basically, it’s a self-recognized principality in the middle of Western Australia. It has its own currency, post office, visa, and even royalty. We got to meet and take a photo with the prince, and got a stamp in our passport.

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We later learned that it actually wasn’t recognized by Australia, but other foreign entities have. A very interesting place! We spent the night in Northampton. It happened to be a Saturday night so we went to the local tavern, but being that there were only 2 other patrons, we just hung out at our campsite.

Day 11 (Northampton to Jurien Bay): The weather was pretty grey this day, so we decided to take our time getting to Jurien Bay as we likely wouldn’t be having much beach time. After some coffee and food in Geraldton, we began driving and found that one car kept driving aggressively around us. It wasn’t until about 20 minutes later did he pull up next to our car with a note on his window saying “Back Tire Flat”.

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We had always noticed the car pulling to the left on our trip, but had topped up the air in all our tires a few days before. Turns out the wheel was punctured so as we drove it just kept letting out air. We were really lucky that we were only about 10 minutes from a town where we had cell reception and were able to call someone to help us with our tire problem. Had we been out in the middle of nowhere, it would have been a much more stressful situation.

Day 12 (Jurien Bay to Perth): We had to have the car back and cleaned in the afternoon, so our last day was just driving back into Perth. It felt both nice and a bit odd to be back in civilization. I said goodbye to my travelmates, but I am sure we will see each other again sometime in the future. The things we did and saw were awesome, but having fun people with me on the journey made it that much better. I stayed the night in Perth, and the next day it was off to Cairns on the East Coast.

 

Great Ocean Road Trip

The Great Ocean Road is a famous tourist road in southern Victoria, starting in Torquay and ending near Warrnambool. It’s the perfect 2-3 day trip out of Melbourne, and offers beautiful ocean views and relaxing stays in beachside towns. It was almost unheard of that I had been in Melbourne for half a year without ever taking this trip, so on my last days before heading off to Perth, my friend Charlotte and I decided to rent a car and make the journey.

(Flashback to 3 weeks ago…) We left on Tuesday in our snazzy Toyota Corolla and headed out to the coast, with our ending destination of the first day being Apollo Bay. We first stopped in Torquay, which is home to Bell’s Beach where the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Championship takes place every year.

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Bell’s Beach

Surfing is a big deal here. In fact, Torquay is where the major surfing brands Rip Curl and Quiksilver were founded. Nearby was the town of Anglesea, which had (in my opinion) an even more beautiful beach view.

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Anglesea

At this point, it was mid-afternoon, so we stopped in the seaside town of Lorne for a coffee and relaxed chat by the beach. The one thing we quickly learned was that after 3 p.m. you could expect nearly 3/4 of businesses in the towns along the GOR to be closed, but we were still able to grab our soy flat whites and watch dogs and people playing on the shore.

The road from Lorne to Apollo Bay was completely along the windy, winding cliffside, and just as I was beginning to regret the afternoon coffee, we had arrived in Apollo Bay.

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Apollo Bay

Apparently we missed a town that has tons of koalas along the way, but it didn’t really bother us, we were enjoying just taking our time along the route. We had a very questionable Chinese dinner in Apollo Bay, a local pint from a bar next door, and then went back to the hostel for an early-ish night. Driving can be very tiring!

On Wednesday we started off the morning slow with a delicious breakfast and coffee, then began our second day. We stopped at a nature walk along the way because we thought there was a waterfall, but apparently not (it was still nice though).

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Afterwards we just kept driving until we got to the 12 Apostles, which is the poster child attraction on the GOR.

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Turns out, there were never 12 rocks, only 9, and in 2005 one fell down so now there are 8, so basically the name has never made sense. It was impressive, but I get so overwhelmed when there are tons and tons of tourists so we just took the obligatory photo and left. We went to Loch Ard Gorge nearby which was SO beautiful.

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Loch Ard Gorge

After leaving we had few quick stops along the way before arriving in Port Fairy, where we were staying the night. We did manage to find a Thai restaurant that had plenty of vegan options, but beyond that, nothing was happening in the town. The town consisted of one street mind you. We went into the busiest bar which had 5-6 middle aged men watching television, and decided to just grab some beer at the grocery store before it closed (at 8 p.m.). Charlotte is English so I taught her how to shotgun beers and then we just sat on a bench chatting for the rest of the night.

On Thursday we headed back to Melbourne on the inland route, so not stopping much. One memorable stop of the day however was at the Tower Hill Game and Wildlife Reserve. There were promises of a variety of wild animals and we definitely got our share. We saw a few emus and kangaroos on our drive in, so we decided to stop by the visitor center to get some info. There were a few emus outside of the building, but it seemed to be normal as there was a guy standing near them. So as we started to walk to the center, Charlotte started to eat a banana and one of the emus immediately made eye contact with us and started to approach us. These birds are pretty massive and their beaks/claws are intimidating. We got back into the car and the emu came right up to the (rolled up) window and would not break eye contact with Charlotte’s banana, even when we started the car. We decided we’d had enough and just kept on driving through the park. Only in Australia!

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The trip had really worn us out, so after we got back and returned the car, we got a quick dinner and then said our goodbyes. Charlotte was one of the first people I met in Melbourne, and we had spent a lot of time together, but the goodbye was a bit easier knowing we will definitely stay in contact and see each other in the future! The next day I was off to Perth to explore a new area of Australia and embark on another adventure: The West Coast.

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Reasons Why I Love Melbourne

Now that I’ve just about left Melbourne (exciting travel posts to come!), I thought it would be an appropriate time to list all the reasons why I love love love this city.

  • Coffee – Melbourne is world renowned for its coffee, and I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t really think much of it. Now however, I have to have my daily coffee, if only for the taste and not the caffeine need. I’ve found my favorite cafes around the city and will miss popping in for a soy flat white, my new go-to coffee order. By the way, Australia invented the flat white and I’ve heard nowhere else does it justice, so here’s to hoping rumors aren’t true.
  • There’s Always Something On – For my non-Aussie readers, ‘what’s on’ is synonymous with ‘what’s happening’ or ‘events’. So when I say there’s always something on, I mean that the city always has some event happening in the city, which really means you can never be bored in Melbourne. There’s always at least one type of festival/event on, whether it be arts, sports, food, beverage, film, music, etc. This is on the larger scale as well – there are always hundreds of other smaller and more local events going on at the same time. This is what makes it one of the most liveable cities in the world!
  • Food – Melbourne has more restaurants than you could probably visit in your lifetime. From the big and trendy to the cozy and local, there are so many quality places to have a meal in Melbourne. I myself am vegan, but that has no effect on my dining experience – there are literally 100+ places with vegan options. Fellow vegans/vegetarians, hit up Brunswick Street and Smith and Deli!
  • Bars and Nightlife – Melbournians know a good drink is important. Whether you want something super swanky or a completely grungy dive bar, there is a place for everyone here. Each suburb has its own vibe, too. Any night of the week, there’s always the option to have a big night out (even Mondays and Tuesdays , which are known to be hospitality workers party nights). People of all ages partake in nightlife. I love that people here really do just enjoy life.
  • Music – Any night of the week you can walk around and listen to buskers playing all types of music, and if street music isn’t your scene, there’s always some obsure local band playing at a random bar.
  • Melbournians – The people of Melbourne are wacky, quirky, progressive, interesting, sometimes pretentious, cool, and open-minded. I met so many amazing people during my time there.

As I tell people I meet, Melbourne is not the best place to visit but it’s the best place to live.I got to know the city so well – I knew how to get around via public transit without checking the maps, I knew which neighborhoods were good for which activities, and I often had people asking ME for recommendations in the city. Once you get involved in the community and culture there, you’ll know yourself why it’s so hard to say goodbye. I have so many more detailed reasons why I love Melbourne, but you’ll have to visit to find those out for yourself.

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Back To The Ol’ Grind

It’s been a month since I got back to Melbourne from New Zealand and man oh man, they don’t call it March Madness for nothing. My gracious former housemates allowed me to crash on their couch for a week and a half while I immediately went into job search mode. I still am working at the shoe store, but with my gig at the brewery over, I had tons of spare time I needed to fill with money-earning time. Luckily after about a week I was able to snag a job working at a cafe in a building downtown. The job is easy enough, but transitioning from a bartender (late nights) to a cafe worker (early mornings) was rough. I haven’t had to wake up at 7 a.m. for work in ages! With both jobs I have no days off, but during the week I have most of the day free (well, sort of).

The following week I got a cool opportunity to continue my rent-less living situation by housesitting (and cat sitting!) for my boss’ friend. It was heaven having a normal house to myself for a week. Since then I’ve moved from couchsurfing to an apartment in the heart of the CBD. I originally was going to just stay in a hostel for my last month or so here in Melbourne, but rooms were nearly $250 a week, and that’s sharing with 6 or more other people! In this apartment, I have four roommates (two are literal roommates who I share my room with) consisting of two Japanese boys, a Japanese girl, and a French girl, and they are all so lovely and kind. I was originally apprehensive as I had gotten used to having my own space, but the arrangement has worked out really well in the end.

A few weekends ago, my friend Charlotte and I picked up some casual bartending shifts at a venue across the street from the Australian Grand Prix. Definitely one of the most exhausting weekends of my life, as I did that on top of my other two jobs. The others working the event though were so nice and bar work is (most of the time) really fun. I’ve since accepted a third job hostessing 3 nights a week, but while to most people that seems crazy, for backpackers it just means more travel!

As hard as it might be to believe, I’ve also been able to have some fun time and time to explore the city. I don’t know what happened really, but when I was coming back from New Zealand I wasn’t looking forward to spending more time in Melbourne. I felt like that was a chapter in my life that was closed and only saw my last month here as a resting point before traveling more. But I’ve come to love and appreciate this city more than ever, and am going to be sad to say goodbye.

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Sunset at Flinders Street Station

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Sunset in St. Kilda, taken as I was riding the tram home after a warm afternoon consisting of eating burritos and drinking beers with my friends by the beach

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The view from a popular rooftop bar in Fitzroy overlooking Brunswick Street (where I work). Fitzroy is the hipster area of Melbourne with great food, nightlife, and shopping.

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Cool building in the CBD

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City skyline (ignore the gross Yarra River)

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Bar on the same street as my old house that has subway cars you and eat and drink in on the roof

 

New Zealand: Part 2

After my one day in Franz Josef, I had an 8.5 hour bus ride the following day to Queenstown and it was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. I got in late in the day and the city was already in Friday night mode, so after making dinner I headed to bed early. Queenstown – a city of extremes. It’s the party capital of New Zealand, and the adventure capital of the world (bungy jumping was invented here). It’s a crazy (and crazy expensive) place to be, so Saturday I occupied my time with an inexpensive cruise around Lake Wakatipu during the day.
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Glacial water makes Bob’s Cove that blue!
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Later that night I met up with my British friend from Nelson for a night out (my poor wallet). Sunday I wanted to do something free, so I casually decided to do the whole Ben Lomond hike. Not a casual hike, but worth it. For reference, it’s 11km return (6.8 miles), so about 3.5 miles one way, with an elevation gain of 1500m (4500 feet). I saw mountain goats and amazing views, and definitely got my sweat on!
The next day wasn’t your typical Monday, I started my day jumping out of a plane! My number one thing I wanted to do in New Zealand was skydiving, and I’m so happy with the experience. It wasn’t scary at all, in fact it was really peaceful. The big adrenaline rush is when you leave the plane, but that was my favorite part. If you’re considering doing it you definitely should! It was a great way to end my stay in Queenstown.
On Tuesday I was off immediately to the Routeburn track, another one of New Zealand’s Great Walks that goes through Mt. Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. The vibe of the Routeburn is much different than the Abel Tasman. The hikers are more serious, as are the conditions. The actual physical demand of the track was low in my opinion, we saw a person doing it all in one day and I think that would be quite feasible. I did 3 days, 2 nights, which is the normal itinerary most people do, and had loads of free time (I finished around 1 p.m. each day). The first day was great weather, but the second day was bad, and the third day was the worst. On the first day I met a German girl my age who had arrived at the camp site midday as well, so we both went and did some extra hiking (ended up being a few miles more) and then we ended up sticking together for the next couple days. The last day she had to leave early in the morning to catch her shuttle so I walked with another German woman, because the ranger said it was best to have a buddy because of the rain. I’m glad I did, because there were many times we had to cross fast running streams with no visible stepping rocks. At one point we had to walk around a waterfall (normally you go right around it, but there is a detour route for bad weather), and even at the detour we had to actually climb up a waterfall where one slip would have been very bad. I enjoyed the track, but the main highlight of the Routeburn is to see the mountain views, and with the weather nothing was visible.
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Day One, on the drive to the track
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Day One
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Day One

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Lake Harris, Day Two

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Day Two, that white area is normally expansive views

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Day Two, Lake Mackenzie

 

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Day Two

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Day Two, featuring my makeshift bag cover out of plastic grocery bags

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Day Three

At the end of the track it wasn’t back to civilization quite yet, because I went to stay at Milford Sound for a night and do a cruise in the morning. There is only one accommodation at Milford Sound and no internet, so I still felt isolated. The weather was still raining cats and dogs. Fiordland/Milford Sound receives the third most rainfall per year in the world! I lucked out majorly doing the cruise the next morning, as the rain for the day hadn’t started quite yet and I actually got to see the mountains.
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The view of the sound (including Mitre Peak on the left) when I began the cruise…
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The view from the same spot by the end of my cruise, and people still went out!
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Milford Sound waterfall
As the day progressed, the weather got really intense, as was our bus ride out back to Queenstown. People at the accommodation and the bus driver said they hadn’t seen rain like this in a long time. It was very intense, especially when you’re in the middle of nowhere. The upside is that with all that rain, it creates so many waterfalls. There’s a section where you have to drive through this massive valley with dark granite mountains that are a mile high, and the rain created hundreds and hundreds of waterfalls flowing down. It was a really gloomy, but cool scene. I spent the night in Queenstown, feeling a bit down as I was off to my last new destination of the trip in the morning.
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I was up bright and early to head off to Dunedin, a city on the southeast coast. Apparently the weather isn’t known for being amazing, but every day I was there was warm and sunny, so I guess I lucked out. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Dunedin, I had originally planned on going to see the penguins (more on that later), but I ended up really loving it. I was there part of Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday, and that weekend happened to be the weekend before university classes started. Dunedin is a total college town (for the University of Otago), so the city was full of energy. In Australia and New Zealand, the school years are different than the Northern Hemisphere, starting from February going until November. The university reminded me a lot of an American college, with students living around the campus, and then a very traditional looking campus. In Australia it’s not like this. Over the weekend, I did a brewery tour at Speight’s (South Island’s standard beer), went to a university night out and felt like a grandma, and went to the botanical gardens and saw a band performance. I had wanted to go see the wildlife on the Otago Peninsula, but it was $100 for a tour, and to be honest, I can see penguins for free whenever at St. Kilda (I know, I know, they aren’t the same kind but still), and saw plenty of seals on my hike, so I decided to pass. That’s the beauty of solo travel, you can do whatever you want to do, no stress!

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Speight’s Brewery

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Sports practice

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Two guys moving in, because I’m creepy

University of Otago campus

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View of Dunedin

 
Sunday I flew back to Auckland, as my flight back to Melbourne left from there on Monday. The month went by so fast, and I’d be lying if I said I was happy to leave. New Zealand and its people are a lot more down to earth than Australia. The towns are a lot more rural and much smaller, so life moves at a slower pace. Though, I’m not sure I could live like that forever. In any case, New Zealand is actually a lot different than Australia. I feel like coming from the U.S. we just lump the two together in our minds. There are still so many places I want to go in New Zealand, but I know that my first trip there won’t be my last!