A Travellerspoint blog

The final blog: Wednesday 22nd may 2013

Happy memories, epic adventure

all seasons in one day 14 °C

We are sat on the plane and writing the last blog. But where to start the end, at the beginning. There are so many highlights it would be very difficult to list them all. But for a few these spring to mind.

India stick out in our minds, for many reasons. The first place we travelled, the most dangerous and by far the one with the most funny tales. It was a brave or foolish step to jump in at India, notoriously not for the feint hearted. Dodging rabid dogs, kicking rats, sterilising everything and a few bouts of Delhi belly to top it off. The rags the riches, it was a cultural experience like no other. Finally who can forget the trains, the castles and of course the people.

Then there was Thailand: Thai boxing, zip lining, elephant riding, white water rafting, bridge over the river quay, hells pass railway, coconut curries and pad Thai... And that was just the first tour.

A tour down the Mekong and it was Loas, the land where fine French baking fuses with Asian cuisine, beautiful scenery, cycling, mahout (elephant) training, caving and of course who could forget tubing the 18-30 death race downstream.

Thailand a second time, when my lovely wife to be said yes at sunset on the beach. A few days of luxury in a wonderful hotel, sandwiched in between the many hellish 'budget' beds. The snorkelling, the beach feast, canoeing to a deserted island.

Then to Cambodia, a small battle to get in, hiding in shihankouville till the budget grew, the half marathon, the Wats, the bus journeys, the tragic killing fields, the cooking lesson. The two currencies.

Vietnam, with it stunning scenery. It's industrious people, the cu chi tunnels, the war museums, hay long bay, the Jungle walk, the scooters, buying hand made suits, Han oi, the north, the scams, the food. Diving in Nha trang, the water park. Not to mention the distinctive coffee.

Thailand for the third and last time. The beaches, the rotis, the boats, the blue sea, kho phi phi (the beach), diving in kho Tao and the sea turtle. Choosing the engagement ring together, flip flops and a boat ride to Malaysia.

In Malaysia there was the jet ski trip, fighting with monkeys, seeing the sea eagles, exploring the cultural diversity if George Town, the steep gondola, the giant lizards. And Singapore for its clean streets, clockwork timetables and the nighttime half marathon.

Then came the next part, Australia, the first sight of the opera house and harbour bridge. Work in Melbourne feeding the horses on the quad in the morning sun...and pouring rain, the stable cleaning and the horses themselves. Training for the marathon, the sprained ankle and the shift to nsw.

In nsw the horses, the lessons, the hard falls and the knocks, the jumps and the life lessons. More training and then finally the marathon, the elation the time and the experience.

The move to manly, the unit, learning to surf, the grill, the coffee, the culture and saving. Christmas, Shelly beach, a visit from my cousin, bondi beach, the sea swim, new year, the fireworks, the zoo, stepping over the brown snake. The cakes, the bbqs, the champagne and our thirtieth birthdays, the night vision tour, Aida at the opera house, the cooking school, the tattoo, the blue mountains and huntervalley, the beach, the ferry, the bridge climb and opera house tour. So much to be happy about.

Then came the final tour, and wow what an epic way to go.... The surfing, the tough guy run, the tough mudda, the giant cod, the riding on the beach, sunset and sunrise at uluru, throwing spears and boomerangs, playing the didgeridoo. Tasmania and the Tasmanian devil, the giant huntsman, Hobart.

The barrier reef, the sharks, rays and turtles, nemo and scar, the night dives the day dives, the 30m dive. The dive at pinnacle, bigger sharks, colder water. The beach and vibe at Byron, the miles covered, fraiser island, the flat tyre. And back to Sydney, the fair wells to the friends that made it possible.

New Zealand, the hills, the Maori dances and hangi food, the geiser, the hot rocks and mud pools. The half marathon, the hot sands, the scenery, the wineries in Marlborough. The stunning walks, the unbelievable scenery and snow capped mountains, Milford sounds, walking on foxes glacier, the skydive, the white water rafting, the dark water rafting, the mountain biking, the luge and auckland; an old reunion.

All of the above are the exciting experiences we had. But it doesn't detail the wonderful scenes and circumstances. the people, good or bad, who all added to our experience and made it a richer one. Then there were the animals, which kept us caring, and provided characters of their own. There were the life lessons, the doubts and fears, the trials and tribulations. The triumphs, the smiles, the jokes and the song, the hardwork and lucky escapes.

That is my brain dump, I'm sure there are many thing we haven't covered and missed, but we have kept it all written down in this blog. At times it's been a chore, and if it wasn't for my wonderful fiancee it probably would have been lost somewhere in the excitement.

Finally to all those amazing people back home, who despite the worries gave us unconditional support and love, enabling us to share this amazing trip and life changing experience. For learning to use computers and for staying up late to chat on Skype, for emailing and for just being there, reading the blog and keep us in touch with the world outside our little bubble. We are and will always be eternally grateful, thank you.

With that we sign off to start the next chapter, it might not be blog worthy, but I have a feeling to will be an exciting crazy story of its own.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 05:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 80: Tuesday 21st May 2013

Homeward Bound; but first anyone for a push start?

overcast 21 °C

We woke and set about getting organised. Martin wanted to do some exercise and I wanted to sew the rest of my country badges onto my main bag: I only had New Zealand to go and a couple to fix. After that we both set about organising our bags and the van I even managed to capitalise on a short spell of clear skies and sunshine to take some photos of the view. Once packed and all sorted we headed to the museum: we had a few hours before we had to up get the van back and wanted to see the museum: we had heard really good things about it.
The museum lived up to its reputation: set over three floors settlement history, the natural landscape and the various wars. We spent about two hours looking around before it was time to leave. We got back into the car only to find that we had once again left the lights on...and the battery was again flat! It looked like we were finishing as we started in a carpark with a flat battery although this time we needed to be back to the van rentals within the hour!
We were very lucky a camera crew came back to their van which was parked next to us and helped Martin push whilst I steered and we tried to get the van going. It started and we got on our way. The heavens opened and we arrived back at the van rental in torrential rain. We returned the van and got a lift to the airport. We spent the next few hours in the airport waiting for our departure, we had a long night ahead of us, in fact a long 25 hours!

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 05:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 79: Monday 20th May 2013

Auckland, hair cuts, sky tower and pizza routlette

semi-overcast 20 °C

We woke up having slept in a real bed for then first time in ages. It was so comfy, we could have slept for hours. Instead we got up early to head into auckland and make the most of our final day.

As our host had recommended we headed down to the ferry terminal to take the ferry into the city. It was, thankfully, a beautiful day, the sky was blue and the sun was out. So we stopped for coffee at the ferry cafe whilst we waited to take in the sites. The ferry wasn't a large boat, it could carry about 30 people, which meant we were much closer to the action. It took us out over the water towards the city. Delivering great views of the coastline and city along the 30min ride. We exited and headed up the much famed queen street, doing the tourist thing and enjoying some souvenir shopping, and taking in the sites of the big city.

One of our jobs to do today was to find a hair cut, as both of us were looking worse for wear. Me more than Sarah, if my hair was blue I might have been mistaken copying Marge Simpson. We found a giant student academy where I could get mine done for £5 and Sarah a little more. It did however, involve some cringe worthy learning experiences for the young hairdresser, the iconic moment was when she nearly clipped my hair without a guard on the blade, meaning I would have looked like shreks love child. But all well that ends well as the teacher finished the job, and it turned out to be a rather splendid cut. Sarah had a slightly less scary time, as her student was pretty advanced.

Walking out and feeling a million dollars, well nearly, we headed to the sky tower, to do the tourist thing. You may remember Sarah is afraid of heights but, this had been remarkably improved with some of the height based adventures we have had. Se went to top and enjoyed great views over auckland, seeing all of the surrounding city and ocean. The water giving a great feeling of space. They had glass bottom floors and lifts as well, which weren't for the feint hearted. Sarah scared, but still managed to look. Only the bungy jumper falling past the window gave a fright. As they do bungy jumps from the tower apparently it wasn't that unusual.

After the jump we headed for a quick snack in one of the boutique restaurants/cafes. The soup was great, the service terrible, but that didn't bother us. Quickly we got back into touring the city, stopping to look at bits and bobs on route. Before jumping on the ferry home, enjoying the views from the other direction.

Once at home, we unpacked and started to sort some of the van out. Before our friend returned from work with pizza and DVD. It's was great fun, we finished showing them our photo shoot from our travels whilst eating the pizza, which in itself is note worthy. It was a roulette pizza, one slice is spiked with mega hot chilli sauce. With a glass of milk at the ready, we tucked in. It came to the final two slices, which me and our friends son ate simultaneously. Neither of us both any chilli on the first bite. Then one the second, I felt a burning, and sure enough, it got hotter and hotter. Normally it's worth saying I have never had chilli sauce which has claimed to be mega hot that I was that impressed with. But this was hot. Still I thought manageable for another bite. But before I took the plunge I dipped my finger in the sauce and out it on my tongue, which immediately set fire, my mouth felt blistered and proceeded to forget he next few hours. Pretty intense stuff and a lucky escape, the last bite must have been luckily not too saturated in sauce.

After the photos we sat down and watched a film, the intouchables, a true story, in French subtitles. It was very moving and well worth a watch. We chatted long into the night , and said our goodbyes. They had been wonderful hosts and made our last two days in New Zealand very special.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 05:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 78: Sunday 19th May 2013

Driving in the driving rain

rain 17 °C

We set off from Wotamo reasonably early in pouring rain which had not relented since the early hours of the morning resulting in us and the van getting very wet and then consequently damp: we were both grateful to be staying with Martins Aunty for the next couple of nights condensation was even dripping from the felt roof as we drove through the rain.
We reached Auckland in good time and spent the rest if the day catching up with Martins Aunt who lives opposite Auckland city on the bay; the house had amazing views across the bay to the city in the distance unfortunately the rain made it less than photogenic but hopefully it will brighten up over the next couple of days in order to do it justice with a camera. We enjoyed a relaxed meal and showed our hosts some of our photos from the beginning of our trip before saying goodnight and climbing into a normal bed...oh the luxury!

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 05:01 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 77: Saturday 18th May 2013

Waterfall and Inner Tubes

overcast 21 °C

We were picked up from the campsite at just before 9 for the short drive to the rafting centre. There were actually 3 companies offering the cave based adventure trips in this tiny village of only 40 permanent residents, we went with the longest established. We were soon kitted out in all the gear, although it was all a little on the campsite the wetsuits were promisingly thick but I wasn't taking any chances after the white water rafting freezing toe incident and borrowed 2 pairs of socks: better too hot and all that!
We got back into the van and were driven down to our drop off point. It turned out it was just Martin and I and the two guides; we were so lucky to have the guides all to ourselves. Our first task was to select an inner tube that our bottoms could fit through, that done we had to stand on the edge of a platform over the river and placing our inner tubes behind us jump backwards into the river which was a very unnatural thing to do, we both managed it though, I struggled to paddle over to the exit steps though and half thrashing around half paddling I managed to get there in the end.
We took a short walk, inner tubes over arm through the woodlands, it was a great warming up exercise, heating the water that had been trapped in our wetsuits.
Next step was to enter the cave system, having visited the Jenolan caves in the blue mountains of Australia I was expecting pretty much the same size of caves just with water, I was quite wrong! The entrance was quite small and not the open access I was expecting. It opened up slightly but it was a lot tighter than I was expecting, we were following the river through the cave system with its varying water level sometimes up to wait height other times using the rocks your feet were almost dry; I now understood why we had been allocated short Wellington style boots, I didn't fancy my chances walking with just wetsuit socks. There was a short section where we could use our tubes and then it was back to walking.
We got to a small water fall where we jumped backwards and then we were offered the opportunity to explore a section if the cave tubes, the guide gave us instructions and off we crawled, it turned out we would have struggled to go wrong, with most of the off shoots returning back to our original starting point, not knowing this at the time and faced with some tight sections I found it pretty scary.
Once back with the guides we continued to the big waterfall they had been talking about, I had been a little concerned over this as the backwards 'jump' was so unnatural and made me feel quite unnerved. I was therefore considerably less excited than Martin when they asked us if we wanted to do the waterfall twice, jumping once without the tubes and then returning to collect the tubes with via some muddy cave sections, we both nodded enthusiastically at the suggestion, I must have been briefly possessed! Next thing we were lining up to jump off the waterfall, it was cold but luckily unlike the initial jump into the river I managed to keep my mouth shut!
We swam around and under a short low section which due to the raise in water levels was just big enough for your head to fit between the water and the ceiling for which I was very grateful. I very briefly entertained the notion that I had seen a similar scenario on the 999 tv programme I used to watch when I was younger; I quickly banished this thought before it managed to fester in my head and instead marvelled at what an amazing experience we were having; a much healthier thought!
We shimmied on all fours through a long section with, as promised, muddy floors before reemerging at the top of the waterfall, this time we were to jump with the inner tubes. one of the guides tubes had actually been swept away which ,want he was swimming, I went first and actually was quite impressed with myself, I actually enjoyed it (after I had safely landed!)
The next sections was completed as a 'chain' linking our tubes with interlocking arms and kegs we floated with our headlamps off down the river, gazing at the glow worms positioned on the roof of the cave. It was like star gazing: a wonderful memorable few minutes before we had to dismount and climb down some rocks before carrying on. During this bit we were able to look up 65 feet to a hole in the ground; scary to think we were so far underground.
The last section took us under stalagmites to the outside of the cave once again. It all went so quick, after this it was back to the camp for a hot shower and some soup.
We spent the afternoon relaxing, did some exercise and then took a quick dip in the hot tub before walking to the neighbouring restaurant for our last night in the van supper. The restaurant had great reviews for its food and by no means did it disappoint! We both enjoyed stead with all the trimmings and shared a chocolate moose for desert. Before retiring to the van for the sat time: tomorrow we were back to civilisation.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 04:59 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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