A Travellerspoint blog

Sydney

sunny 20 °C
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We only managed to spend a few days (4 to be precise) in Sydney, and our time was only marred by our choice of accomodation - which included free tannoy announcements from 09:35am, to warn guests not to outstay their 10:00am check out time. They started off pleasant enough - in a soothing voice - "dear customers, today check out is 10:00am, if you are leaving today, please check out by then, if you wish to stay another night, please come to reception soon to pay the next night, thank you". Second message at 10:15am was rather curt, "for those who have not checked out, please make your way to reception now"; the third message was down right rude and quite scary "I know who you are who haven't checked out, report to reception immediately to explain EXACTLY why you have not bothered to check out on time and I will rip your head off" (we made the last bit up, but if it had been us who'd missed the sacred 10:00am deadline, we'd have shimmied down the drain pipe).

Again, in Sydney, we mainly watched the world go by, and no day passed without making our way through the botanical gardens which are fabulous. Really interesting trees, ferns and loads of bird life. The most amazing things in the gardens are the flying foxes, or fruit bats, which by day, hang from the trees, and although they are nocturnal, they are really loud in the daytime. They squabble for space with one another ("you've got more branch than me") and don't seem to settle until later on in the day. It's like their having some sort of all night rave. The park has been over run by them in the past - it acts as a really good food source. They have taken measures to control the numbers, but we still saw hundreds of them.

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Flying Foxes

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A lone Fruit Bat

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A Sulphur Crested Cockatoo - these are squawky little bleeders too

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A Rainbow Lorikeet - a rare moment when Lisab was allowed the camera

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Sydney harbour

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Sydney Opera House

Andrew also found out what must feel like to be stung by a box jelly fish when we went to Manley beach. This wasn't due to actually being silly enough to go into the sea, but ordering 2 lovely looking take away vegetable pasties that we'd decided to eat for tea. He suggested the pain of forking out $10 each for a pasty could be likened to that of a sting, and almost caused the same deadly reaction.

Posted by bruntonal 23:17 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Marvellous Melbourne

sunny 18 °C
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"Marvellous Melbourne" was the phrase used by journalist George Augustus Sala to describe this city when he passed through in 1885, and in our opinion, could be used to describe Melbourne today. Although it is much bigger, it had a Manchester feel to it; friendly and vibrant. One of the first things we did, was to go to the reputedly friendly tourist information centre. We would highly recommend a stop here first; they gave us information on everything we needed (and more), and appeared very efficient, despite being really busy. We were half tempted to hand over our travel plans for the next 5 months to the woman behind the counter, who could have easily sorted them before she knocked off at one. We passed a good week, idling through the streets, parks, and suburbs of Melbourne and rather enjoyed our little selves.

The botantical gardens were very pleasant, even at Autumn time. We were amused to find that the oldest (claimed) house in Australia is situated in the (Fitzroy) gardens. Unfortunately, in order to qualify, it had to be shipped all the way from Yorkshire in England, brick by brick! The house was the former residence of Captain James Cook's parents (dating from 1755 and brought to Oz in 1934 to celebrate Victoria's centenery), and is a typically sweet yorkshire cottage but looks a bit odd to be plonked down in it's "new" Australian surroundings.

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Captain Cook's parents house.

No trip to Melbourne is complete without a visit to an Aussie Rules game (so says our friend Ryan who arranged for his dad to get us tickets AND accompany us to the match). We met Glenn (Ryan's dad) to watch Essendon (Ryan's team and Melbourne side) unfortunately get thrashed by Port Adelaide (94-158). It's a really fast game to watch, and very physical. We didn't really have a clue about the rules, and would suggest the accompaniment of a Glenn to set you straight; without his explanations, we would have been lost. Lisa also wishes to thank him for providing seats so close to the action that she couldn't help but notice the size of the thighs on the young players. Aussies appear to be very good at sports, but also excel in sledging. We witnessed a Port Adelaide fan wind up an Essendon fan and concluded that the Port Adelaide fan would have been going home in a St. John's ambulance, had he tried similar antics in England. Incidentally, all the fans (home and away) sit together at matches, relatively good naturedly, which makes a refreshing change.

Keeping up the sporting theme (you can't get away from it in Melbourne!) we took a guided tour around the MCG. A very nice older chap in a very smart stripey blazer took us round. The tour included a behind the scenes sneek into the changing rooms (they smelt) and the post match interview rooms etc, as well as a walk near the sacred turf. Currently the pitch is set out for the Aussie Rules season, and the square has been dug up and moved until cricket season starts again. Later we looked around the sports museum, which has a brilliant cricket section, full of tales of the Ashes, etc. Even Lisab wasn't bored (although she was a bit irked that Andyb didn't let her win on the interactive cycle race, OR the goal shots game, OR the cricket wicket game - competitive husband was on great form).

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MCG (well half of it)

After perusing the city for a few days, we decided to take a trip out into the Yarra Valley, to have a look at some wildlife, at the Healsville Sanctuary. We got ourselves a public transport pass and had a lovely ride out on the train, and then the bus. They don't half pack 'em in on the trams at [c]rush hour though, on our way home. The sanctuary contains a hospital, and we were lucky (though the bird wasn't) to see a Kookaburra being operated on; it had been shot in the wing and they were mending it (in medical terms). We also got to feed the red kangaroos from Tasmania and listened to a talk on the Koalas. Some of the animals have arrived at the park because they are injured and no longer able to survive in the wild. We were suitably impressed (as usual) by the exoticism of the animals and birds on display. Lisab also got to see her favourite animal in the world, the Platypus. Although they are nocturnal, they have this fabulous really huge glass panelled tank which displays the little platypus in their environment. 2 babies were born in February 2008 and we think it may have been these that we saw in the tanks, their parents were having a (well earned) sleep in their burrows.

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Eastern Grey Kangaroo and it's Joey

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Koala

The Bruntons have taken to saying "stone the crows, you great galah" at every opportunity, in keeping with Aussie speech, and therefore feel that we are integrating well into the Aussie culture.

Posted by bruntonal 22:56 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

The South Island

sunny 20 °C
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Nelson
After a pleasant 3 weeks on the North Island, we headed off to the South Island to enjoy yet more coastline and lazy days on the beach. NZ weather continued to be kind to us and we even managed a few more dips, this time in the Tasman sea.

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The ferry (that dropped us off) at Picton Harbour.

We made Nelson our base for a week, and rented a lovely little cottage, minus all the faux leopard print accessories (sadly, for Andyb had become quite attached). P1030134.jpg
Our cottage at Glenduan, near Nelson.

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Glenduan Beach, 2 mins from the cottage

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Sunset at Glenduan beach

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Reflection at Glenduan beach

The closest beach to go for a dip was just past the centre of Nelson. We took the kids (with their buckets and spades) for a couple of days of fun in the sun. Kenny collected some specimens from the sea and ate them for tea (Andyb politely declined) and Mags spat them out as they tasted mouldy. Kenny ate them, and was fine (after 2 days in intensive care).

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Lisa & Andyb's footprints, after a dip in the sea at Tahunanui Beach, near Nelson

We all spent a day in Abel Tasman National Park - one of the most scenic places we have seen in the whole of NZ. Mags & Kenny chose to while away the day on a water taxi, exploring the coves and wildlife of the park, whilst the misers chose a one way fare, and a 6 hour, 22 km walk back to the beginning of the park. Because it was Autumn, the place was less crowded, and we even managed to have a beach to ourselves whilst we went for a dip in the sea.

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Lisa & Andyb's beach

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Split Apple Rock, Abel Tasman

The West Coast
We had to endure the eyesore that is the west coast, in order to get to Franz Josef. The 3 of us had to view this for endless hours from the car window. Kenny was spared the sight as he mostly read his book!

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The west coast, around Paparoa National Park

Franz Josef Glacier
The Bruntons are becoming rather partial to glaciers! At Franz Josef, we were also lucky not to need a guide to get up close. Whilst you thought glaciers were formed due to metres of snowfall compacting to make ice that accumulates to such an extent that it flows downhill under it's own weight, THIS glacier was actually formed from the tears of Hinehukatere. She loved the mountains, and enticed her lover, Tawe to join her on them. He tried, but sadly fell to his death. She cried (probably due to guilt) so much her tears formed the glaciers. The Maori call them "Ka Riomata o Hinehukatere" or "the tears of the avalanche girl". A much more satisfying explanation than all that boring scientific stuff. We hope she receives a cut of the profits the locals make from the glacier; which is alot judging by all the helicopter flights and guided walks we witnessed!

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Lisa at Franz Josef glacier

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Franz Josef glacier

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Lisa and a rainbow near Franz Josef glacier

Mount Cook
Next stop was Mount Cook. This is quite an isolated place, but VERY busy! We couldn't even find accommodation for all of us in the same place. The weather held up and we had a fine walk up the red tarns track, which offered great views of the glacial U shaped valley below, as well as towering Mount Cook.

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Lake Paringa, just a toilet stop on our way to Mount Cook, we might have stayed longer to eat lunch, but instead we became lunch for a posse of sandflies and thus, we had to make a quick exit.

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Mount Cook U shaped valley

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....and Mount Cook in the distance

Akaroa on Banks Peninsula
We dropped the kids off in Christchurch for their last few days before buggering off to Singapore. We wanted to go and see the hector dolphins at Akaroa. These are the one of the rarest, and the smallest dolphins in the world. They are very cute. Andyb attempted to swim with them (Lisab expertly captured the moment when the dolphins swam near, blink and you miss it!) Although the swim wasn't overly successful (most days the dolphins will hang around for a while with the humans) we saw about 50 of them following a fishing trawler, catching an easy breakfast, as they eat all the smaller fish that escape the nets. It was a great sight, Lisab wasn't expert enough to capture the moment - and footage is all a bit of a blur. Hence, David Attenborough hasn't made the call (yet).

After a night in Christchurch to say a sad farewell to Mags & Kenny (we had enjoyed their company for 4 weeks) we set off for Oamaru to see some penguins. It was weird to have no snoring in the back of the car, and the Nissan Bluebird fell silently empty without them (our luggage was also rolling around in the boot - minus Mag's twenty odd pairs of shoes that she had packed for EVERY eventuality - all those shoes, yet one day she managed to climb out of the car in her slippers - having forgotten to change them when she went out). In the early evening, the yellow eyed penguins make their way back to shore, after a day's fishing. We got some good views of them returning home, and saw a few pairs in their (love) nests. Later on in the evening, we went to see the little blue penguins come home to their burrows, after it goes dark. The centre offers a grandstand for viewing, with special sodium lights that allow us to see the penguins, but the penguins still believe it is dark, as they can't visualise orange or red colours. It was good to see them waddle ashore in rafts of about 15. Some even waited behind for their friends to return before setting off together up the path to their dens. We have no photo's of little blues, as photograhpy wasn't allowed (sudden sounds scare them).

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Yellow eyed penguin

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Two yellow eyed penguins

Otago Peninsula

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Moreaki Boulders where Lisab made Andyb get up at 6:30 and drive 45mins to take this photo

We stopped off on the Otago peninsula, mainly to view the Royal Albatrosses. This is the only mainland nesting site (of any albatross) in the world. We were very lucky to see 3 chicks, and 2 adult birds making a fly past the hide, (where we were situated), showing off their 3 metre wingspan at close quarters.

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Taiaroa head at sunset

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Royal Albatross chick weighing in at 6.1kg and only 3 months old!

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Wildlife around every corner in NZ.

Milford Sound

Andrew dragged Lisa (kicking and screaming) to the dump that is Milford Sounds. Think somebody taking you to see Haslingden rubbish tip (hee hee). We were in awe at the sights as we cruised the fjords. Andrew wasn't in awe of the pesky sandflies that bit him, and Lisa wasn't in awe at the biting wind that cut through her clothes (which included windproof soft shell, gloves, hat and pashmina scarf!) We have been travelling for over 6 months, taking many a photo, and have just realised that our camera has the facility to take black and white pictures - so we took advantage. Expect many more.

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On the Milford road, we took time out from driving towards Queenstown, to walk a short part of the Routeburn track to Key Summit. Lisa moaned all the way up, cause she wasn't really in the mood for a walk, and Andyb hadn't even brought her any pic n mix. She was pacified by the splendid views at the top though.

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View from the top of Key Summit after a relatively easy (so says Andyb) 45mins walk

Queenstown
Queenstown is the "adrenaline capital of the world" apparently, but we had a quiet time, walking and enjoying the autumnal colours. We think we have travelled NZ at a great time - we've had fantastic weather, enjoyed quieter places, and the trees are spectacular at this time of year.

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Glenorchy (LOTR territory)

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Just to prove, it's not always blue sky in NZ

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(Yet) another B/W photo, this time of the church of the good shepherd at Lake Tekapo

Although we weren't brave or cash loaded enough to try out the adventure sports on offer, there were some young fools that gave them a whirl. We went to watch some of them at Kawarau Bridge (the home of the original bungy jump in 1988) get a dunking. You have to tilt your head to watch, as we can't work out how to rotate the video.

Posted by bruntonal 18:59 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

The North Island

sunny 24 °C
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Auckland
Our first taste of New Zealand didn't disappoint, it being breakfast in a swanky cafe in Auckland. After 5 months in South America, we weren't quite ready for such sophistication. Andyb wasn't used to the change in language either; replying "Si, gracias" when the waitress asked if the eggs & bacon (on rye with a hollandaise jus) were for him.

As we eagerly awaited the arrival of Mags & Kenny, we took a couple of days to explore the beaches and islands, close to the city. Piha & Karekare are two of the most beautiful, remote, and unpopulated beaches that we have had the fortune of visiting. The latter was the location for the film, "The Piano". Having a hire car was already proving a big bonus! We took a ferry to the Island of Tiritiri Matangi which is an open sanctuary for endangered birdlife, and saw and heard birds such as the (squawking) Tui, bellbird, fantail, to name a few.

Now with Mags & Kenny in tow, highlights of Auckland included finding a "Tony & Guy" hair franchise, so we could all get a decent haircut (except for Kenny who thought we were bloody puddled for spending forty quid instead of four at the barbers uptown), the sky tower (328 metres high makes it the highest structure in NZ and gives great, panoramic views of the city), and the suburbs (particularly Mount Eden where we stayed, where Andy & Lisab declared they could live - if they could afford it).

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Lisab running away from Andyb at Karekare Beach

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A reflection of the Sky Tower, Auckland.

Coromandel Peninsula
We spent a few days visiting (yet more) beaches - including the hot water beach - where at certain times of the day (1 1/2 hours either side of low tide) you can hire a spade and dig a hole in the beach,which then fills up with hot spring water that lurks underneath the sand - APPARENTLY - we couldn't be faffed, it was too hot. The kids stayed behind, whilst the Bruntons took a (not very) energetic walk to Cathedral Cove - yet another gorgeous beach - yada, yada, yada.

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Mags & Kenny after hearing ANOTHER story about travels in South America.

Napier
We pitched up in Napier in good time to see England whoop the Kiwis at cricket, in the third test, to win the series 2-1. We had perfect cricket weather (hot & sunny), whilst we enjoyed 2 days at the test, listening to the Barmy Army's tunes & were even spotted on t.v. (looking well by all accounts - must be the new hair do's) by Andrew's dad, Stuart. Bet Lynch was good enough to rent out her house for the week (who knew they produced faux leopard print toilet roll?) and we had a jolly time exploring the Art Deco buildings of Napier.

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Strauss batting.

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Monty.

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Strauss again - well he did bat for a full day, eventually reaching 173!

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New Zealand acknowledge The Barmy Army.

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England crowd the bat with just one wicket needed for victory, even Monty was in the slips which brought a loud cheer from the following England fans.

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Our cottage (centre) we rented in Napier.

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The Tobacco Factory, Napier.

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Art Deco, Napier.

We left the kids with a babysitter whilst we trekked the "best day walk in New Zealand" - The Tongariro crossing (though we would quibble with that judgement - but it was pleasant enough).

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Mt Ngauruhoe.

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The Emerald Lakes.

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The Bruntons at Mount Ngauruhoe whilst on the Tongariro crossing.

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The Longest place name in the world (read for yourself), it roughly translates to "the hill where Tamatea, circumnavigator of the lands, played the flute for his brother"

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This Sea Lion at Cape Palliser took objection to Lisa's camera skills.

Wellington
Before setting sail for the South Island, we whiled away a few days in the capital. Lisab didn't think it was all that compared to Auckland, and whilst the cities are pleasant enough, there is no beating the beauty of the coastline. The main higlight being the NZ National Museum - Te Papa - worth a visit for an afternoon. The lowlight being the hundreds of very loud NZ school kids that ran, derranged, through the corridors of the YHA at 6am. We are calling for an outright ban of all kids in Youth Hostels.

Posted by bruntonal 20:44 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Nazca

sunny 30 °C
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We decided to air on the side of caution and skip breakfast, as we'd been told horror stories about chucking up due to the plane's violent turns. However, we all managed to survive the 35 minute trip in the SMALLEST aircraft known to man, to view the famous Nazca lines.

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We were joined by Fiona and Lindsay on the flight (our friends from the Inca trail!)

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The Hands.

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Alien landing strips?

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The Monkey. Well most of it!

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The Spaceman?

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The Hummingbird.

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The Dog. Well most of it!

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The Hummingbird again.

Posted by bruntonal 11:06 Archived in Peru Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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