Australia by the Numbers: a Wrap Up

Time: 37 days, 3 in Cairns, 6 in Sydney, 4 in Melbourne, 3 on the Great Ocean Road and 21 days in the Campervan down the east coast.
Vans rented: 2, Excalibur from spaceships, a lovely van we slept in for 21 days and loved, and one from Wicked that was pretty horrible.
Friends visited: 2, one on the Sunshine coast, and one in Sydney.
Boat Rides: 3, a scuba trip in Cairns, a sailing adventure in the Whitsundays, and a ferry to Fraser Island.
Bus Rides: 1 Overnight bus from Sydney to Melbourne, not a great experience, but certainly better than the buses in Japan
National Parks: Noosa, Agnes Falls, 12 Apostles, and too many more to count.
World Heritage Sites: 5 – Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics of Queensland, Fraser Island, Opera House and Blue Mountains
Wineries visited: 5 and a brewery. Wonderful wines.Best Food:  a multi way tie between delicious cheddar and brie picked up in the Hunter Valley while touring wineries, wonderful pies picked up on the side of the road, Malaysian and Japanese food in Sydney, BBQ Kangaroo, and all the gourmet food we had in Melbourne. Australia has wonderful food. I would highly recommend Green in Northern Melbourne for brunch, especially the breakfast stack and Mamak in Sydney for the best Malaysian.
Worst Food: Again with the Marmite, we tried Marmite flavoured chips, and they were not good.
Best City: Personally I loved Kendall, but I’d have to give this one to Melbourne. A gorgeous city, with beautiful museums, a great market, a free tram, wonderful food, and the best library I’ve ever been in. Sydney was great, with a nice waterfront, but if we were to move to Australia, Melbourne is where we’d settle down.
Worst City: While Cairns had great weather and a nice location near the barrier reef, I wouldn’t spend so much time here next time, as there weren’t many great restaurants and it was really expensive compared to some of the other cities we visited. Best New Experience: It was in Australia that we tried Scuba diving for the first time, and held a Koala, feed a Kangaroo, but I think our best experience was our flight in a 6 seater plane over Fraser Island, something I never thought I would do. So fun!
Worst New Experience: Trying to rent a car from WICKED campervans and instead getting a hideously painted, falling apart van instead. Add that to trying to drive around Melbourne with only a very bad map, and it was the worst experience of our trip. However, that van took us to the Great Ocean Road and back safely, so it all worked out in the end.

Travel Tip: There are free places to stay everywhere! Pick up a copy of the giant book of camping and road maps, “Camps Australia Wide”, if it’s not included with your van rental and you will be able to find all the free sites in every state. Most free sites had nice washrooms and some even had driver reviver booths, with free coffee, hot chocolate and cookies. Perfect for camping in the cold weather.

Will we return: I certainly hope so, it’s a fascinating country and we never made it to Uluru, Tasmania or the West Coast, all places I would like to see.

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2011: a year abroad

Now that 2011 is over we have been looking back on our first year spent without being in Canada. It’s been a crazy and wonderful year full of new and amazing experiences. While they have been troubling and stressful times, I mostly remember our amazing adventures. The stuff we have been posting on the blog is about 2 months behind our actual trip, due to spotty internet access and a little bit of laziness, but this is what we’ve been up too this year!

January:
After the New Year started we visited Kumamoto and Kyoto with my family, went to Kurokawa for Onsen, finally made it to one of Fukuoka’s most famous sites, Dazaifu, I went skiing in Hiroshima, and we enjoyed snow covered Japan, for a weeks weeks at least.
February:
In February I started this blog which has enabled me to remember all of the things I did this year and I’m so happy I did! We celebrated the Chinese new year with a trip to Nagasaki and I enjoyed a quick trip to Shimonoseki for some sushi.

March:
This month we discovered one of our favourite places in Japan, Yakushima. We also spent some time exploring Kagoshima and it’s volcanic island, Sakurajima and celebrated girls festival day in Yanagawa.April:
In April we spent a lot of time exploring Fukuoka and enjoying the various cherry blossom viewing festivals. I rode an electric bike through Kitakyushu, saw the retro town, Mojiko, and had a delicious burger on the island of Nokonoshima.

May:
We spent golden week and a half exploring China in Beijing and Datong, and at the end of the month went camping with our apartment mates in Miyazaki.June:
I took a train trip to the nearby Saga prefecture, biked over 7 bridges from Honshu to Shikoku,  where I went to the all important Anpanman museum and saw an old Canadian friend.

July:
We  celebrated Scott’s birthday in Yufuin, spent some time on the beautiful Iki island, off of Fukuoka’s coast, stayed up all night for Fukuoka’s Yamakasa festival, saw firebreathing dragons at Omuta’s Daijayama festival, and spent a lot of time saying goodbye to the country we now love so much.August:
One last Japanese hurrah in August took us to Tokyo, Hakone and Kamakura.  We experience snow in August for the first time in New Zealand, and spent the rest of the month being gloriously cold in a camper van.

September:
We spent 6 days of September in New Zealand and then we went to Australia. The majority of the month was spent in a campervan down the east coast of Australia.October:
In October we saw Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley and the Great Ocean road. Then we were off to Malaysia for two weeks, spending a few days in Kuala Lumpur and 8 days in the Perhentian islands getting SCUBA certified. We made it to Koh Lipe in Thailand just in time for a good Halloween party.

November:
The first half of November we were on Thailand’s beautiful Andaman coast. We spent a week on Koh Lanta, where we both suffered from a little bit food poisoning, I went to a yoga retreat on Koh Yao, and we had one uneventful night at the Bangkok airport before heading to Vietnam. We spent the last two weeks travelling with my parents in Northern and Central Vietnam.December:
We started decmeber off in Vietnam, but moved quickly to Cambodia for ten days, then 5 days spent in Chiang Mai Thailand, a few days in Bangkok, 9 in the Philippines, and  we ended the month and the year visiting friends in Southern Thailand.

It’s been an absolutely amazing year, the kind I’ve always dreamed of having, and I’m so sad to see it go, but I can’t wait for 2012!

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New Zealand by the Numbers: a Wrap Up

Time: 25 days. 3 in Christchurch, 4 in Auckland, 2 in Wellington and 16 spent roaming in the campervan.
Vans rented: 2, Blackhole and Shenzou both from Spaceships, an excellent and cheap option.
Nights Slept in Vans: 19, 4 in commercial campsites and 15 in Department of Conservation sites.
Friends Visited: 1, we spent 4 days catching up with one of my camp friends in Auckland and it was wonderful.
Boat Rides: 3, we took a boat to see glowworms, a boat in fjordland, and a really expensive ferry between the two islands.
Flights: 1, from Auckland to Christchurch in their first snow storm in 15 years.
National Parks: 5
World Heritage Sites: 1
Best Food: After arriving from Japan, we enjoyed all the western food immensely, but our favourite were the cheap and abundant Fish and Chips, the chocolate bar Moro Gold, and, of course, the fresh and delicious Kiwi Fruit.

Worst Food: Not a big fan of Marmite.
Best City: We loved Wellington, with its charming waterside walks and excellent museums. It reminded us a lot of Ottawa, one of our favourite cities. A close second place goes to Wanaka where we enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the lake, a ridiculously dangerous children’s playground and the chill atmosphere.

Worst City: Queenstown. We felt it was overrun by tourists, which I know is a little hypocritical, and everything was way too expensive.

Best New Experience: Seeing all the natural wonders of New Zealand. It was amazing to drive through mountains and arrive at crystal clear lakes, boat through giant fjords, and come this close to touching a glacier.

What we learned: Thanks to some excellent museums, we learned a lot about glaciers, fjords, mountains and other natural wonders, as well as about native birds; like the crazy alpine parrot, the sadly disappearing kiwi bird and Maori customs and culture. I also learned that there are such terrifyingly large giant squids lurking in the ocean. We also picked up some excellant slang, like a handle of beer instead of a pint, that L&P is a delicious lemon fizzy drink and that ‘to go’ food is takeaway, not take out.
Travel Tip: If you’re camping, pick up a DOC camping guide. They won’t give them to you at your rental place, because they have deals with commercial campgrounds, but the DOC sites were cheaper, in more natural settings and more peaceful. Their only downside was that the maps and directions in the guide were a little vague and it was quite easy to get lost while looking for the sites, but that only added to the adventure. Also, don’t go camping in Wellington, make plans to sleep elsewhere, because the one campground is way too expensive.

Will we go back? Most definitely. We are already planning our lives as expats there.

 

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