This Month
January 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31
Year Archive
User name:
Remember me 
View Article  Sharing breakfast with the ducks, sushi with an old friend, caving with glow-worms and throwing ourselves out of a plane
Our last week in NZ was just as much of a whirlwind as the first two, and we fitted in ...   more »
View Article  Jet-boating, kayaking and some puzzling times in Wanaka, climbing a glacier and hiking in the Abel Tasman national park - all in just a few days.
We left Lumsden before eight in the morning and arrived in Wanaka at about eleven - another beautiful drive filled ...   more »
View Article  Our first few days in New Zealand - a turquoise lake, beautiful mountains, cruising through a fjord and finding Marian
Every time we meet someone new and we get talking about our travels, we are always asked which has been our favourite place to visit. During the past thirteen months, we have been to so many marvellous places that it's difficult to give an answer, and we've never wanted to single out a particular country or town as we've had such amazing experiences here, there and everywhere (knew I could get a Beatles ref. in here somehow...) and we don't want to diminish any of those experiences. However, without wanting to commit ourselves too much, we can be fairly safe in saying that New Zealand is the most breathtaking place we've travelled around in that time. We also had a thoroughly jolly time driving around in Flora and enjoying the freedom which comes with having a car and not having to rely on buses and trains!

It is hard to describe just how beautiful this country is, the South Island in particular, and I know that many of you have already seen the photographs we've taken and uploaded onto Facebook (for those of you not on Facebook, you can see the pics on the Kodak Gallery website - separate instructions at the end of this blog); there really aren't enough words to describe NZ (I looked at an online thesaurus for some) but all I can say is that if you ever get the chance to go, you really, really should.

We landed in Christchurch mid-afternoon, had a spot of lunch and found our hostel; our first evening in NZ was spent asleep (totally sparko by about 7 o'clock - we didn't even manage dinner) but we did a little bit of exploring the following day including the Botanical Gardens which were very pretty. Christchurch is lovely, and really quite English (it's known as the most English town in New Zealand) but in comparison to home it's really quite small too, so it didn't take us long to see everything we wanted to see.

We also spent some time in the backpacker travel agency planning the next three weeks of our trip - we only had three weeks to explore both islands and so we had to be fairly precise about what we wanted to see and do. We looked at hiring a campervan to save on accommodation costs but in the end decided to go for a car - so the following morning we picked up Flora, our bright red Toyota Corolla Spacio, packed the coolbox with food and hit the road.

Having done quite a bit of driving in Australia, we were perfectly used to driving for hours/days to get anywhere and so driving in New Zealand was a pleasant surprise; it's also nigh-on impossible to get lost as there is only one main road between all the towns (or almost only one) and everything is incredibly well signposted.

In our first week, we packed in:

Lake Tekapo - Tim and Katie had recommended the lake to us and we were not disappointed! Aside from the spectacular views of the mountains which greeted us as we flew into Christchurch, this was our first acquaintance with the NZ countryside and we were bowled over. We spent a couple of hours hiking through woodland up the side of Mount John from where we could get a fantastic view of the lake. It's enormous and turquoise, surrounded by mountains (and sheep - a common feature of NZ). Once we got to the top, we had hot chocolate and a sarnie before walking back down the other side of the mountain - a good couple of hours' walking altogether. The weather had been grey and wet the previous day, but we'd woken up that morning to blue skies and sunshine so we were able to take some great pictures, with the odd moody cloud reflected in the lake - stunning.

Once we'd climbed back down to the water's edge, Simon went for a paddle in the lake (freezing) and we had our packed lunch sitting on Flora's boot before driving off to Mount Cook via a small town called Twizel to refuel. Apparently, it's often quite hard to see the peak of the mountain because of cloud cover, but once again we were lucky with the weather and although it was too late in the day to do the designated walk up the mountain, we still got a pretty good view. We also found a shorter walk which lead us up a steep and rocky track to a glacial lake complete with icebergs which was pretty spectacular (or "speccy" as our Aussie friends would say). From here we could see the peak of Mount Cook even more clearly, and marvelled at the way the clouds drifted away from the rocks - it looked as though the mountain was exploding. At about five o'clock we left Mount Cook just as the dark rainclouds were rolling in, and headed towards Cromwell which was halfway between us and Queenstown, our next stop.

Queenstown - this is the adrenalin-junkie centre of NZ, and almost every other shop in town will organise skydiving, jetboating, hang-gliding, bunging jumping and any other crazy activity you can name. It's a pretty town, again next to a huge and beautiful lake with mountains on all sides (this seems to be the theme here), but we'd been told that Wanaka further north offered the same but was prettier, less crowded and cheaper and so we decided just to spend a few hours here before heading off. We found a place to park Flora, had a hot chocolate sitting outside at a really nice cafe, and then took the gondola up to the top of the mountain to get a better view of the surrounding mountains and Lake Wakatipu. They also have a luge track up at the top (a bit like sledding but without the snow) so we had a go on that which was great fun. After a really great pub lunch, we spent a couple of hours on the road to get to:

Te Anau - Lake Te Anau is the largest lake in the South Island and we planned to stay here overnight to break up the journey to Milford Sound for our cruise the next day. We arrived at about five in the evening, and whiled away our evening watching a short film at the local picture house which was made by a local film maker and was all footage of the amazing scenery and nature, filmed from a helicopter, and then we took a boat ride across the lake at sunset to explore a glowworm cave which was pretty interesting. We were up and out really early the next morning to drive the couple of hours to:

Milford Sound - not in fact a sound but a fjord. This was one of the best days of our NZ trip so far; the drive was beautiful - roads bending through the mountains, alongside lakes and through woodland. At one point, we pulled off the road and climbed down a woody bank to the shore of a lake - it was early in the morning and there was no-one else around, and we got some amazing photographs of the mountains reflected in the lakes. We also came across a farmer herding his sheep across the road and had to pull over and wait - there were probably about two hundred sheep with just a couple of fellas and a sheepdog to keep them in check - a nice change to the normal traffic jams we're used to in London.

At Milford, we parked Flora with fifteen minutes to spare before we were due to board for our cruise, and so we shared a cooked brekkie which we ate in record time (about five minutes I think) before walking to the cruise terminal. We learned some really interesting stuff about the fjord (formed by a glacier and not a river which is why it's a fjord and not a sound) and the cruise was great - lots of beautiful views, as well as some seals swimming around and climbing on the rocks, and a school of dolphins which played in the waters around our bow and swam alongside us as we came back through the fjord. Our captain took the boat right up underneath one of the waterfalls which was spectacular, and we were glad of our rain jackets as everyone got soaked! Afterwards, we drove back towards Te Anau and stopped off to do one of the walks to Lake Marian which we'd been recommended by the people at our holiday park. The walk took three hours and led us through a small woodland path, past a tumbling river and steeply uphill through trees and across rocks. It was beautiful and really good fun, just like something you would expect to see in Lord of the Rings - it really isn't a surprise that they chose to film that in NZ - and although we were quite knackered (we were climbing up a mountain after all) it was totally worth it. Once we got to the top, the trees cleared and we found the lake - clear as crystal, ice blue and cold, surrounded by mountains on all sides and the shore rocky with boulders. There were a handful of other people there, sitting around and enjoying the view and the silence. Simon stripped down to his underwear and dived in (it was freezing and so I thought we didn't both need to try it!). Needless to say he didn't stay in for very long, and for a while we lay on boulders at the water's edge, soaking up the sun and the peaceful quiet before heading back down to the bottom. It didn't take nearly as long on the way back as most of it was downhill, and we had a (very late) packed lunch out of the back of the car - Simon made himself a sandwich and I had a couple of Weetabix from a bowl (actually it was an empty bag of crisps turned inside out - we didn't have a bowl. Thanks heavens Simon used to be a Scout).

We drove for about three hours to Lumsden, our next halfway stop between us and Wanaka. Lumsden really is in the arse-end of nowhere and has not much to offer other than a BP station and a pub/hotel, both of which we needed. We'd been booking our accommodation a day in advance and so we'd already booked our room at the hotel. It was a bit like stepping back into the seventies and there were a handful of locals in the bar when we arrived and so we were grilled (in a friendly fashion) about where we were from, where we'd already been and where we were going. The owner cooked us dinner, and showed us to our room which was fairly comfortable and we felt safe knowing that the fire escape was just outside our window (the Fire Evacuation sign in our room actually said "Your nearest fire exit is the window"). The next morning, we helped ourselves to breakfast in the hotel kitchen as directed by the owner and snuck off before any of the locals were awake to head off to Wanaka - more of which in the next blog...

For those of you who would like to see our photos on the Kodak Gallery website, you can go to and the slideshow should start automatically.

We will be uploading more on there in the next few days and we'll include the link to see those in the next blog. Enjoy!
View Article  Our final week in Melbourne - a long train journey, sightseeing, animals and some lovely times with lovely chums
We said our goodbyes to the Murphys early on a Monday morning, and took the train to Central station in ...   more »
View Article  A relaxing week on the Gold Coast where we almost jumped out of a plane...
The week after we got back to Sydney from Melbourne, we took the Murphys' car again and headed up the ...   more »
View Article  Hols in Victor Harbour, a few days in Melbourne and a road trip to the Blue Mountains
I forgot to mention in the last blog that using the van for our trip to Sydney and beyond didn't ...   more »
View Article  A fond farewell to Tim, Katie, Aspen and Paddy, and a road trip to Sydney to visit the Murphys
Well, we said our farewells to Tim, Katie, Aspen and Paddy and, borrowing their tent and sleeping bags we took ...   more »
View Article  Mary Poppins on stage, Mary-Jane Poppins, a visit to Bunyip Reach, and some jolly days out with friends
We haven't written a blog for ages so we apologise and hope that this one makes up for it a ...   more »
View Article  We've been in Melbourne a month already - how time flies
A couple of Sundays ago, the four of us and Aspen took a drive along the Great Ocean Road. We ...   more »
View Article  Back in Oz - our first few weeks in Melbourne
We landed in Melbourne at midnight on 23rd April - it took ages to get through customs because everyone's bags ...   more »
View Article  More photos on Windows Live - easy access
Just to let you know that we've added lots more of our travel pics onto Windows Live so for anyone who hasn't been able to see them on Facebook, all you need to do is click on the following link to see them:

Same warning applies as before - these are ALL of our pictures so there may be some which seem repetitive, and some of them might also be sideways, but please feel free to browse and explore!

Jane and Simon
View Article  A week in Macau - China's Las Vegas - with Marie and a flying visit to Kuala Lumpur
We spent a lovely relaxing week with Marie in Taipa, Macau; she has only been there for a couple of ...   more »
View Article  Back to Bangkok for the fourth time, then on to Shanghai for the Grand Prix
After the tuk-tuk had dropped us off in Siem Reap and our coach had picked us up, we had a ...   more »
View Article  Visiting a minefield and giving blood in Siem Reap
We stayed in Siem Reap for a couple of extra days after our tour had finished, and everyone apart from ...   more »
View Article  Phnom Penh and Siem Reap - genocide and temples (what a juxtaposition!)
Before we arrived in Cambodia, Alan our tour leader had told us that it was his favourite country in Indochina ...   more »
View Article  The Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam and a long drive to Phnom Penh
On Easter Sunday we left Ho Chi Minh city at half past seven in the morning for a bus ride ...   more »
View Article  Vietnam in 9 days: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City
After our interesting entry into the country, we took a short bus ride to our hotel in Hanoi where we ...   more »
View Article  Riding elephants in Luang Prabang and a slightly traumatic entry into Vietnam!
From Vientiane we took a short flight to Luang Prabang which was really turbulent (felt very sick by the time ...   more »
View Article  Leaving Ko Tao, a couple of days in Bangkok and the start of our Indochina Loop
We spent a lovely few days in Ko Tao and fitted in some diving in amongst the sunbathing, swimming and ...   more »
View Article  Rocking from the Delta to the DMZ
Ok, so that was the DMZ in Vietnam but Robin Williams never made a movie about the Korean War...

Our ...   more »
View Article  The Thumb!!! (and leaving Japan, arriving in Korea)
During our stay in Hiroshima we had had some difficulty in finding a route out of Japan that wasn't going ...   more »
View Article  Hiroshima
We arrived in Hiroshima at eight o'clock on Saturday morning feeling very bleary-eyed after our ten hour overnight bus ride ...   more »
View Article  Tokyo - warmer weather, colds, Disneyland and sushi
We arrived in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon after a pleasant flight on Delta - stopping off at Tokyo en route ...   more »
View Article  Last couple of days in Beijing: The Forbidden City and some very cool dragons
On Wednesday we visited the Olympic Green (a bit of a trek on the subway - four different lines with ...   more »
View Article  The Summer Palace at Haidian, and the Great Wall
Following a late night, we had a bit of a lie-in on Sunday and we weren't sure whether much would ...   more »
View Article  Chinese New Year in Beijing (an excerpt from Simon's journal)
We slept quite well on the train (no snoring, no children) and in the morning all four of us set ...   more »
View Article  Two days in Shanghai and another overnight train ride.
Well, Shanghai was quite interesting although two days was definitely enough time to spend there as there isn't too much ...   more »
View Article  A 18 hour train journey to Shanghai
We arrived safely in Shanghai at about half past ten this morning after a long train ride from Hong Kong ...   more »
View Article  Leaving Hong Kong - on a very long train.
Bags are packed once again and we are using our last 12 minutes before we have to check out to ...   more »
View Article  Manila and Hong Kong (including the Beach Boys and Disneyland)
It's been just over a week since we last blogged and we've been really busy! We spent a lovely couple ...   more »
View Article  Leaving Sydney, whistle-stop visit to Singapore and a few days in the Philippines
We left Sydney on Monday morning after having spent five great weeks with the Murphys - sad to leave but ...   more »
View Article  Upload of pictures - Morocco, Thailand and more of Australia
Hello all,

Better late than never! We are storing all of our photos from our trip on Windows Live which ...   more »