Things have got a little better

I was amused to read John’s last post. He so rarely gets frustrated, it’s usually me jumping up and down with steam coming out of my ears. I feel a little better now.

Yesterday was indeed very frustrating but today has been great. We managed to go out caving. There was only us two and the guide so we got to do some tricky moves. After we went through the fairly tight ‘fat man’s nightmare’ (or something like that) we crawled through the ‘skinny man’s horror’ (or whatever) This cave was that tight that you had to take your helmet off and go in arms first. You had to nudge your helmet along and wriggle. It was fantastic. We saw some little bent winged bats and got to go around without the lights on, just feeling our way. It was fantastic and the guide was really passionate about caving. Really getting into this, it may become a hobby when we get home! show_random($num=4, $tags=’capricorn’); ?>

Outside of the caves there were wallabies sprawled all over the place. Displaying dangly bits and totally ignoring all humans. John nearly trod on one. He’s rather good at not looking where he’s going, had to stop him standing on a snake last week. I suppose his feet are rather a long way from his face. ;). show_random($num=1, $tags=’wallaby’); ?>

Anyway, we’re all happy now and looking forward to a week in the wilderness. Once you manage to get out there it really is truly amazing. But for tonight we have apple pie and custard. Bliss!

Love to everyone back home!

xxxxx Viv/Sev

Tours, tours and more bloody tours

Since leaving Rainbow beach we had a longer than expected stay at Maryborough, a picturesque city/town littered with beautiful colonial buildings and blessed with the friendliest people we have met in Australia. We stayed at a great little campsite and spent a bit of time getting to know a few Aussies staying there and generally just chilling out. At times we felt like the only tourists in town such was the enthusiasm we were greeted with in the tourist office when the old lady who worked there bounded up to us offering help and the old fella who took great delight in explaining every minute detail in the historic shop (featuring food and other products dating back to the 1870s – the owners never threw anything away!) and then offering to take us on a free tour of the city. The much vaunted street market turned out to be a handy outlet for vendors of tat to pass their products off as ‘crafts’ and sell them to unwitting locals and visitors. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Maryborough’); ?>

From there we headed up to the forgettable bundaberg where I played ‘kick ball’ with a rather strange christian evangelist who lived in a caravan and played christian rock at 7 in the morning, I won the ‘kick ball’ 3-1.

We now find ourselves in the even more forgettable Rockhampton: the city where nothing is open, not even a supermarket, on a Sunday. Our first morning in Rockhampton was a very frustrating one trying to book coaches to a couple of national parks that we wanted to visit. The problem with Queensland is that the main bus network only goes up and down the coast, it doesn’t go anywhere even remotely off the well beaten (or more accurately pummelled, hammered and beaten into submission) track that is followed by the bratpackers (copyright Viv!) who infest every beach up and down the coast with thier sun-seeking bland banality. There is generally no public transport to a lot of places of interest leaving us the only option of going on guided tours. Tours being pretty big here you’d expect tour companies to be pretty on the ball to garner your business, well you’d be wrong. Variously we’ve had hassles this morning with tour companies not taking bookings more than 4 days ahead(!), only being able to do a day trip (we wanted to stay for a couple of nights and go back on the same tour bus a couple of days later), then deciding that they could take us there on one day and back on a different day, and then deciding that we’d have to book 2 tours with them to be able to go at all (one for the day we go out and one for the day we go back), the shitty phone system that neglects to tell tell you when your money is running out, and leaving the work experience kid in charge who knew neither a) was the tour running tomorrow or b) was there space in it. After all that it’s no wonder that the well trodden track is just that, as it’s so much bloody hassle to try and doing anything off it without your own transport, ARGH! The net result was that we managed to get it all booked and it only took about 4 hours, an endless supply of coins to feed the thirsty phones, more dollars than we would have spent had there just been a coach to and from these places and not a tour (our preferred option) and an insane amount of frustration at the whole incompetance of the thing!

Right that’s it, rant over. I’m off to get a glass sauvignon blanc and relax.

Australia’s a funny place

I’ve been here almost two weeks and I still can’t decide whether I like it or not. There’s amazing and unique wildlife but the people here are simply not our kind of folk. Don’t get me wrong, on an individual basis we’ve met some really great people. We went out drinking with a really cool dutch guy we met on our trip to Frazer Island last night and we’ve had a cracking and quite evil game of Uno with a lovely German bloke. Everyone else is nice but people being nice doesn’t seem enough.

This part of the Australian coast does seem to attract lots of people that call themselves backpackers. The main difference is that they actually drag large dolly trollies and wear the kind of clothing that would be deeply impractical if you were a real traveller. A big chunck of them seem to be overpriviledged kids spending their parents money on an extended holiday that they call ‘travel’. They go to the beach every day and drink all night. They are not really interested in what is unique and beautiful about Australia. The backpackers hostel we stayed at in Noosa was just like an 18-30s club (or 18-21s more like). Bah humbug. Having the opportunity to travel is taken for granted as if it’s a right. It isn’t. We feel guilty for contributing to the greenhouse effect but at least we’re trying to learn about the places we visit. Most of the kids on the beach might as well be in Spain.

Oh dear. I think you have all just witnessed another Viv rant, get used to it my friends…..

Everything you’ve just read was written yesterday. I got into too much of a rant and couldn’t finish the post. John and a few beers soon had me sorted out.

Today I am over the moon. My sister, Jane, just sent me a picture of her with the biggest bump I could ever imagine. My niece or nephew will be here soon. It’s so exciting. I now feel I can cointinue to fill you in on what we’ve been up to since John’s last post.

We’ve been to Gagaju bush camp. It’s a bit like a hippy commune in the Australian everglades. It was a brilliant escape from commercial Australia for a few days and I really can’t say enough good things about it. Most of the other people pretty much lived there and we were welcomed in as if we were just friends coming to stay over. There were some funny characters around and people from many nationalities. A british guy that lives there goes out shark fishing. He once brought a bull shark home big enough to feed 18 people. That’s pretty good as they are the reason that you can’t swim in the sea around here. A young woman was killed by a couple of them around christmas. On our second day an old scottish bloke turned up there for 2 months holiday. He was pretty drunk and liked to sing a song of his own composition about camomile lotion. Then repeat, then repeat a little less clearly, then repeatedly deteriorate. Ha ha!

The only trouble with camping in the everglades is mosquitos. I was suffering from over exposure to mozzy coils a little by the time we’d finished. We saw a good tiger snake/Cane toad fight too. There were also Owls that made scary heavy breating noises right outside the tent and laughing Kookaburras sounding like evil goblins. Certainly a unique camping experience. No flying foxes though, i’d really like to see some of those! show_random($num=4, $tags=’Gagaju’); ?>

We’ve also been on a 3 day trip to Frazer Island. It’s the biggest sand island in the world and apart from one or two rocks is made entirely of very fine yellow sand. It was a nice enough place but we were extremely lucky, our tour guide was a retired ecologist who used to work on the island. He did one trip a fortnight just as a hobby. We learned so much about the habitats and ecosystems on the island and in Australia in general. A lot of the things he was telling us I had learned at University but had never seen in the real world. It was fantastic to see it all and brought back the fascination I’d had for the subject at Uni. My mind is now whirring away with possible new careers. John has also been thinking and we’re both feeling really inspired and optimistic. We’re certainly more focussed now and will be looking to repeat that kind of experience. show_random($num=4, $tags=’FrazerIsland’); ?>

Anyway, Australia. Well, I don’t know. It’s naturally wonderful but a frustrating place to be when you get into the towns. Couldn’t live here. However, John and I had a fun evening on a very dark beach last night with Jonas the hilarious dutch guy we met. Being on the beach in the dark when you’re drunk isn’t really the best idea, we woke up to the treat of a brand new sand outer body layer. Saves money on exfoliating lotion.

Before I go I should mention that there are new photos being loaded all the time.

Love to you all

Viv/Sev xx

Made it to Aussie!

Easy Folks!

We have made it to Australia where we have now been for almost a week. We have spent a few days in Brisbane finding our feet and looking on aghast at the food prices and in reaction to that trying to live off budget cheese sandwiches and budget beans on budget toast for our time in Australia. This lasted about 2 days and we just decided we’ll have to pay the market rate for food rather than eat shit. I think the camp pie experience (looks like cat food, tastes like cat food, bears no resemblance to pie) was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Actually since we have left Brisbane the food prices seem a lot more reasonable and we stand a chance of having a half-way healthy diet on a budget. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Brisbane’); ?>

Brisbane was a pleasant place to spend a couple of days with great botanic gardens to chill out in, it’s nice to see a bit of bustle in a city again. There was even some good industrial era architecture amongst the skyscrapers of varying degrees of uglyness.

Once our feet had been found we put them to good use walking across Brisbane with heavy packs on our backs to get a bus to Lamington National Park. We had bought a tent in Brisbane and spent our first nights camping here in the rainforest. There were loads of little pademelons hopping around our campsite eating grass like rabbits, one even had a baby pademelon in its pouch – they’re very cute and not too timid. We also got mobbed by rosella and king parrots when feeding them some grain – at one point I had 5 parrots on my arms and head! The rainforest here is really lush and we went for some great walks in them seeing lots of waterfalls, some great views over the plains and lots of lizards including big black skinks, not seen any venemous snakes yet though which I’m dissapointed about, but Viv isn’t. I also got eaten by a leech on a walk, it got rather attached to me. The nights were pretty cool too as you could hear all the rainforest noises including the eerie howl of packs of dingoes. On our last morning there it pissed it down with rain and we discovered that our ultra-cheap tent ($30) was not ultra-waterproof so we got a bit soggy. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Lamington’); ?>

We arrived in Noosa yesterday and had a fun night last night playing uno with other backpackers. It very hot here and to prove it I’ve developed a highly attractive heat rash all over my body, sure that will get all beach babes flocking in preference to toned and oiled surfer dudes who are abound here.

We have an Australian mobile phone that we can recieve calls on without us having to sign away our first-born child (just to clarify – there’s not one on the way!) to a mobile phone company just for the priviledge of receiving a call. It is 0061 (0)4-31381877 and don’t forget that we’re 10 hours ahead of UK time, be great to hear from any of you!

Right, I’m off to wow the girls with my spotty back.

J-Hob

The last word on New Zealand

Here are our observations:

Good

Birdlife
Although there are many introduced British birds such as sparrows, blackbirds and finches; the birds in NZ are very different. They are extremenly tame.

  • Sparrows were everywhere and wouldn’t think twice about flying into a building and seeing what’s in the Kitchen.
  • The Gannets we saw were adorable. They were so sociable and greeted each other with great ethusiasm after fishing trips. We also liked the way they pretty much turned into a dart before their vertical fishing dives.
  • New Zealand Robins look very much like British ones but are a little bigger and don’t have the red breast. They are very interested in humans. They will come right up to your feet and just look at you. If you talk to them they tilt their head as if listening.
  • Fantails look a little like long tailed tits. They follow you around the forest and swoop for the flies you attract. Extremely cute and good pest control.
  • There are Myna birds hanging about on the roads everywhere north of Taupo. They are a little causual when you approach. Tests the brakes out
  • Pukekos are tops! They look like Moorhens a little but enjoy trying to steal any leftovers. The other great thing about them is that they hang about in family groups. There will be several adults taking it in turns to look after all of the chicks and then look for food. If one of them finds food they run back to tell the rest and then they’re all off. I’ve never seen this kind of cooperative behaviour in birds before. It was great fun to watch.
  • The Red billed gulls were very amusing. They had tantrums like you’ve never seen. Extremely funny.
  • Keas are the Alpine Parrots we wrote about. They are very cheeky. They chewed off our wiper blades and ripped a big hole in Mark and Martin’s tent on two occasions. Despite all the vandalism you can’t help but love them.

Beer – Quality Real ale. Speights old dark and many of the Montieths brews.

Friendly People – The Kiwis are a nice lot. They are not as status obsessed as Brits can be and so there were a lot of ancient caravans around.

Not quite so good

Bad or non existant signposting – Lonely planet maps are a bit useless to so it was a difficult combination.

Liberal and often inappropriate use of the word historic. It seems that anything more than a few years old was dubbed ‘historic’. Hardly!

Roads – Some of them were just loose gravel and very skiddy. Believe it or not there seems to be even more road works than in the UK. Half finished roads that are covered in gravel seem to be a speciality.

News – Complete lack of serious news reporting. All focused on the local and human interest angles.

Just interesting

Kiwi obsession with corrugated iron. It makes roofs, sculptures and even entire buildings. All nicely painted and sitting proudly. Odd.

Overall we’ve loved the place. The scenery is fantastic and there’s a lot to do, particularly if you’re an outdoors type. The towns tended not to have as much life as we’re used to so I don’t think it’s a place we could settle (Comment specifically aimed at parents.)

We’ll catch you again when we get to Aus

Viv & John xx

The silver bullet is sold!

Well hello again and a special hello to Random Stranger!

This is Viv again and not John i’m afraid. I’ve got a little less to do on the internet. As you can see from above we’ve sold the silver bullet. It is not a very good time of year to sell so we’ve been extremely lucky. We did sell it for 15% less than we bought it but compared to everyone else we did very well indeed. Another british couple sold theirs for about a quater of the price they bought it for and some had had mechanical problems and haven’t managed to sell at all. The backpackers car market recommend buyers to get mechanical checks, legal checks and test drives. These three British Uni mates just gave us a bundle of cash in exchange for the keys. Easy and all done in one day. I must admit that we did expect the van sales to be a little seasonal but not this bad. The main thing is that compared to hiring one we have saved an absolute fortune. We reckon at least a grand or two.

A special mention to the owners of the backpackers car market. They are exploitational arseholes and couldn’t give a shit about any of the backpackers that use them.

We were very sorry to see the Silver Bullet go. The new owners have promised to look after it and are going to keep the name. I hope that it does as well for them as it did for us.

Anyway, now with all of that sorted we’re off to Australia tomorrow! New territory and really exciting. We plan to spend a couple of months there before heading in Keith’s direction up to Japan!

bye for now

VivSev & J-ohn xx

They appear on the north island again!

Hello to everyone!

We’ve been up to all sorts since the last post so i’ll try to only include the details you may be interested in reading about. Hmm

We’re back in Taupo now and will spend the night with Ros and Tony again. It’s a really nice unexpected visit. We’re also meeting John’s cousin Ian for lunch tomorrow. Well, the reason that we’re back up here is that there wasn’t much of a car selling market down on the South Island so we’re headed to Auckland to put the Silver Bullet up for sale on Saturday. Once we sell it we’ll be off to Australia. We’re really looking forward to trying out a new country as we’ve given NZ a very thorough inspection.

So what has happened since last time? John did another bungee jump today making me so nervous that I was forced to purchase and consume beer. He has a lot to answer for!

We kayaked the Milford sound just over a week ago. It was beautiful and certainly the least touristy way to see the sounds. Hard work though. When we sat in our double Kayak the guy that dropped us off laughed and said ‘They call em divorce boats you know!’ As most of you know, a divorce is fairly high on my wish list so I wasn’t scared of that! However, there was something in it. Only one person can steer and so the other only gets to row until their arms drop off. Unhelpfully it is impossible for the steering person to hear when the other one tells them they’re going the wrong way or would like to see something. Fun fun fun. It was really, although being the non steering person I was guilty of the occasional paddy. He he!

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We stayed in the most excellent campsite! Full of pretty sorry looking morris minors and monty python toilets. You’ll have to wait to see the pictures! It also had an ancient games room full of very amusing devices including a table football with a practically square ball. We really enjoyed it there!

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We’ve been looking at penguins too although not in Dunedin where you might expect. The commercialisation of bird colonies in Duneden made me want to puke. Had a nice satisfying rant about that one. We appeared a little further up the coast and went to see some tall yellow eyed penguins (one of the rarest in the world). They’re my personal favourites, very handsome chaps. That was the first time I’ve seen a penguin in the wild. EXCITING! John prefered the blue penguins (smallest in the world at 30cm tall). There were loads of these all running out of the sea with their breasts gleaming like little fish (I know fish don’t have breasts, well none i’ve seen!). They congregated on a concrete ramp before going across the road in groups of neighbours. John says it reminds him of people leaving a pub. Maybe he was just fantasising about beer again!

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Anyway! Please wish us luck with finding new owners for the prestigous Silver Bullet.

Take care

The Jiv (Just for Mary) xx