A Travellerspoint blog

Perth, Australia

4th - 9th February

sunny 32 °C
View Ellie and Mike's Round the World Trip on elliemike's travel map.

After our flight from Melbourne to Perth we were met at the airport by Katie and Stuart, friends of Mike from his time in Brisbane a few years ago. We drove back to their house in the Swan Valley, which they had recently had built, and chilled out and drank some beers in their back garden. That evening they drove us up a hill where there are good views of the area surrounding their house and of the city and ocean in the distance

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The following day we went into the city where we wandered around for a bit and once more took advantage of the cheap sushi that is available throughout Australia.

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We met Katie and Stu when they finished work and went to a pub for dinner with two of their friends, Rob and Claire. After the meal we drove up to Kings Park (the largest inner city park in the world apparently) where there are excellent views of the city skyline.

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The next day we borrowed Katie's car so that we could go on a short road trip to Fremantle, a port town close to Perth which is one of the attractions of the region. We stopped off at Scarborough on the way and went for a walk along the beach there. Although Scarborough takes it name from the famous English seaside resort comparisons between the beaches would always favour the Australian namesake with its white sand and backdrop of the Indian Ocean.

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When we arrived in Fremantle and found a parking space we had a look around the market which has a number of interesting stalls. It would be very easy to spend a lot of money there but we resisted the temptation! We then walked around a bit more and went into an amusement arcade where we played on various games. After that we went into a couple of large secondhand bookshops and stocked up on novels. Instead of going to the beach at Fremantle we got back in the car and stopped at a quieter beach close to Scarborough. Mike went in the ocean but came out fairly quickly as there was a very strong current and large dumping waves that could be dangerous. Although it was still fun to be in there for a short time!

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That evening we went round to Stuarts parents house for a BBQ with some of his family. There were about 18 people in total so it was a good evening with his parents providing more than enough tasty food for everyone. We played a Dutch game called Sjoelbak which involves sliding wooden discs along a smooth surface into narrow lanes at the opposite end of the long thin board. After that we played some pool then went home before midnight as we were getting up early the following morning.

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We were back at Stuart's parents house at 7.30am so that his Dad, Tony, could take us to Rottnest Island. We drove to the local mariner and launched his boat into what turned out to be pretty rough water. There was a fairly large swell and strong southerly wind making it a bumpy ride to say the least. Tony said it was among the worst conditions he'd seen crossing to Rottnest.

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We did make it though and it was well worth the rough ride. Tony stayed at the boat whilst the four of us bought tickets that allowed us to hop and off the regular buses that circle the island. The first place we stopped at was a beautiful bay where we all relaxed on the shore and Mike and Stuart did some snorkeling. We then caught the bus to a beach that had an amazing strip of white sand and even better snorkeling with more colorful coral and a wider range of fish.

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We then went right round the island on the bus and back to the boat where we had lunch and some drinks. We chilled out on the boat for a bit then went to look for quokkas, an animal that is unique to Rottnest and a handful of other island. Quokkas look somewhere in between kangroos, rats and wallabies. Dutch explorers actually mistook quokkas for rats and named the island accordingly. Rottnest is Dutch for Rats Nest.

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Tony showed us a bit more of the island on his boat then we braved the seas and made it back to the mainland, this time with Stu at the helm.

One of Stuart's mates was having his 30th birthday party that night so we drove across town to his place. It was a decent party with lots of people and a lot of drink! It went on quite late so we all ended up crashing there and drove back the next morning.

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We were all quite hungover that Sunday so had a fairly lazy day. Unfortunately news was coming through of the bush fires which destroyed parts of Victoria so we were following that on TV. That evening we had a BBQ at Katie and Stu's house. We had the obligatory steaks, lamb chops and salads as well as abalonies which we hadn't heard of before arriving in Perth. They are a type of shellfish that Stuart and his Dad fish for and are in such short supply that the season for them only runs for 6 weeks a year, one hour for each of those weeks! They have a rich and quite intense flavour which we really liked. It will probably be a long time until we eat them again though.

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We got up early on Monday morning, sorted out a few things we needed to do like posting some stuff home, then went to the airport to fly to Asia!

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Posted by elliemike 22:41 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Melbourne, Australia

26th January - 4th February

sunny 44 °C
View Ellie and Mike's Round the World Trip on elliemike's travel map.

After a week in Sydney we flew down to Melbourne where we were met by Mike's flat mate from uni Alex and his wife Nicole. It was Australia Day so they were both off work and were free to spend the day drinking and having a BBQ with us and Codi, Mike's other flat mate from uni who is also living in Melbourne at the moment.

Whilst we were there Melbourne was in the middle of a heatwave with temperatures reaching 44 °C on three consecutive days. Apparently it was the hottest week in over 100 years.

On the first of these days we went into the city and walked around a couple of parks and the botanic gardens. Because of the heat we had to take lots of breaks and sit in the shade until we had the energy to carry on. Fortunately there were lots of water fountains around so we could refill our water bottle regularly.

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We stayed in the city that evening and met up with Alex and Nicole when they finished work. We went to an outdoor bar down a side street where we were joined by Jonny and Nat (they were on holiday in Melbourne) and a couple of their friends. We had a few drinks there then all went to a Chinese restaurant that Alex and Nicole know where we ate loads of dumplings. Jonny and Nat then went off to a Neil Young gig with their mates and the rest of us went round to Codi's flat for some drinks.

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The following day Alex was off work so we went to St Kilda beach with him which is a short tram ride away from the city centre. The beach, or more accurately, the ocean was definitely the place to be during the heat wave. Nicole came down after she finished work and we all went to the St Kilda market to have a look around and a bite to eat.

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The Australian Open was taking place whilst we were in Melbourne so on the Friday we bought ground passes that allowed us to watch the days big matches on the giant screen in Garden Square. There was a good atmosphere inside Melbourne Park and there was a Garnier tent set up where Ellie got her hair put into a fancy style for free and we were given goodie bags full of products worth much more than we paid to get in.

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We watched the women's doubles final, won by Serena and Venus, and one of the mixed doubles semis in a good spot at a table in the shade. Between the games Mike got out his diablo and a Channel 7 camera man asked him to stand in the middle of Garden Square and do some tricks that he could film. We never found out if any of the footage was used on TV. Probably not.

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We were then sitting back at our table when a woman came up to us and asked if we had tickets for the Nadal vs Verdasco semi final. We said we didn't and then she gave us her two tickets, worth A$180 each, that she wouldn't be using! It was almost surreal for us to have ended up inside the Rod Laver arena as we had planned on watching it on the screen outside. We had an amazing view of the court and of what turned out to be one of the matches of the tournament. It went to five sets with Nadal, the eventual champion, just edging it. The match didn't finish until after 1am (it started about 8pm) which meant that we missed the last train home.

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On the Saturday we had a BBQ at Alex and Nicole's house with Codi and a couple of their friends. We got the food from the local market in Preston, the suburb that Alex and Nicole live in, so it was all fresh and really tasty. It was an enjoyable day and the drinking went on until the early hours meaning that Sunday was a bit of a write off.

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After the weekend we had two more days in Melbourne and we did some more walks around the city. We went to Fitzroy Park where we saw James Cooks house, walked down the river where there is some interesting artwork and good views of the city, and through various shopping arcades. We also explored some of Melbournes side streets a bit more where there are lots of bohemian cafes and bars as well as some really cool graffiti.

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On our final night we went back to the Chinese restaurant we were in the week before and had more dumplings then went round to Codi's again for more drinks before catching the last train home.

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Posted by elliemike 03:34 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Sydney, Australia

19th - 25th January

sunny 32 °C
View Ellie and Mike's Round the World Trip on elliemike's travel map.

We arrived in Sydney after getting a plane from Auckland (everything went smoothly this time!). We got ourselves from the airport to the city, then went to Dave and Christina's flat in Pyrmont where we were going to spend our first night (Dave is Mike's friend Alex's Dad and Christina is his wife). We sat on their balcony which overlooks the city from across the water and drank some beer with Dave in what was left of the afternoon. When Christina got back we had an enjoyable meal and a fairly early night.

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The following morning we were up quite early so that we could go with Dave to his house on the Hawksbury River. It is in a beautiful and quite secluded location. Although it is part of the mainland the house is only accessible by boat which definitely adds to it's charm. Dave and Christina have been doing a lot of work on the house and garden so it was good for Mike to see how it had changed in the four years since his last visit.

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Whilst we were there we took a walk through the bush and went to the 'secret swimming pool'. It is a freshwater pool that is filled up by a trickling waterfall and doesn't show up on any maps (even OS ones). After that we had lunch on the decking at the side of the house which overlooks the river and then chilled out for a bit before Dave took us back to the city. When we were on the boat back we saw literally hundreds of big orange jellyfish which were quite cool, if a little scary, to be so close to.

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We briefly went back to Dave and Christina's before they drove us to Jonny and Nat's flat in Newtown. We stayed with Jonny, Nat, and their cat, Lyra, for four nights. During our time there we saw the sights in the city and visited some of the beaches that Sydney is famous for, and met up with various friends. We went to the botanic gardens and a pub with Jane who we met in Nicaragua (although she is from Sydney). On another day we walked from Coogee beach to Bondi beach with Laura who we met in Peru. This walk is a fairly popular activity and takes in a number of other beaches and bays along the route. We also went back to Coogee on a different day with Neil Wyman, one of Mike's friends from Edinburgh.

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In the evenings when Jonny and Nat were back from work we would hang out with them. We spent a fair bit of time chilling out in their technologically advanced flat, had a few meals (and drinks) in their local pubs and one night we went to Surry Hills and had a meal at a Thai Restaurant called 'Spice I Am' which was a favourite of Mike's from when he lived in Sydney. Another of Mike and Jonny's friends from Edinburgh, Dave Rees, came along to that.

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Over the Australia Day weekend Jonny and Nat were going camping with some friends of theirs so we moved into a hostel in the city centre. On that Saturday we met up with Jane again and drank some beer and wine in the botanic gardens before going to a pub for steak. We then got some goon (boxed wine) at the ridiculously cheap price of $9.99 for 4.4 litres and drank at our hostel for the rest of the night.

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On our final day in Sydney Ellie went over to Manly with Laura but Mike was too hungover to join them. Drinking too much goon results in particularly brutal hangovers. That evening we walked up to Taylor Square and had a curry at a restaurant on Oxford Street, in the heart of Sydney's gay district. We then walked the short distance to a house that Mike used to live in. It is still pink!

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Posted by elliemike 19:14 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

A week in the North Island of New Zealand

12th - 19th January

sunny 30 °C
View Ellie and Mike's Round the World Trip on elliemike's travel map.

Our journey between Santiago and Wellington didn't exactly go as planned. We turned up at the airport in plenty of time for our flight to Auckland only to find that it had been delayed for a number of hours. It should have left at 11pm but we didn't end up taking off until about 5am. The knock on effect of this for us was that we missed the bus we had booked to take us from Auckland to Wellington. Talk of a free flight for us among the Lan Chile staff disappeared when we landed and we ended up getting a night bus to Wellington on the evening of the day we arrived. This meant that we had a day of exploring New Zealand's largest city which was quite enjoyable.

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When we arrived in Wellington early the next morning we locked our bags up in a hostel then caught a bus to Roura which is the starting point of the Northern Walkway. The Northern Walkway is a series of paths that meander up hills, through forests, clearings and parks before finishing in the centre of town. Along the way we saw some excellent views of the city and surrounding countryside. We even went for a dip in an outdoor public swimming pool that is free to use. In the afternoon we met Siona, one of Ellie's friends, who we were going to stay with for a couple of nights. When we arrived at his house on Tuesday afternoon our journey which started in Santiago on Saturday afternoon was finally over (we did essentially miss a day though from crossing time zones).

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We were very grateful to have showers and then some cold beer in the garden with Siona. That evening we went for a walk on the nearby beach then Siona and his wife, Mel, treated us to a curry which was a welcome change to the food of South America.

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The next day we headed into the city to have more of a look around. We ended up going to the Te Papa museum which had a number of interesting and interactive exhibits. The most impressive of which was a colossal squid; the largest of its species on display at any museum in the world. Later that day we met up with Greg, a kiwi guy we know from Panama, and had a few beers with him on an outdoor table at a pub on bohemian Cuba Street where we amused ourselves watching various pretentiously dressed people walk past. That evening we had some more drinks and food with Siona and Mel at their house.

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Greg came round to Mel and Siona's the following morning in his car and gave us a lift to our next destination, Rotorua. We had in fact already paid for the bus as we only found out the previous day that Greg was going that way. No doubt the bus companies were happier than we were about the number of unused tickets we were accumulating! It was much better in the car with Greg and his mate Hamish than it would have been on the bus though. There was a lot of beautiful scenery to take in along the way and we stopped off at Lake Taupo for a spot of cliff jumping and also visited Huka Falls. We passed through a place called Cheltenham that we didn't know existed so Ellie put on her Cheltenham Town shirt and posed for a few photos by the sign. Late in the afternoon Greg dropped us off at our hostel in Rotorua before him and Hamish continued their mission to Auckland for the Big Day Out music event.

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We stayed for two nights in Rotorua which is a pleasant little town, if a little touristy. We didn't do a huge amount when we were there but we did manage a walk along the banks of Lake Rotorua which the town is built around. It is an enjoyable place for a stroll despite the smell of sulphur emanating from the lake. There is a lot of geothermal activity in the area which has resulted in a number of bubbling mud pools being scattered around.

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From Rotorua we finally managed to catch a bus that we had booked. It took us to Waihi Beach where we were met at the bus stop by Ellie's friend Tissy who gave us a lift the short distance to the beach front house which she shares with her boyfriend, Bree. We had a couple of beers with them on their balcony before going out in their car for a guided tour of their town. We picked up some booze on the way back and had an enjoyable evening drinking at their house. We also went out for some kiwi fish and chips that night which we ate at a lookout point not too far from their house. We could only see silhouettes of the landscape but the stars were out in force.

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The following day we went to the beach where we did some body boarding and swimming as well as taking some time to relax on the sand. We then cooked a tasty BBQ at their house before Tissy had to go to work. Bree took us back up to the look out point where we had eaten our dinner the previous night so that we could see it in all its glory. We had time for a quick drink at Tissy's work before catching a bus to Auckland in preparation for our flight to Sydney the next day.

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Posted by elliemike 17:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Argentina and Chile - our last week in South America

3rd January - 10th January

sunny 32 °C
View Ellie and Mike's Round the World Trip on elliemike's travel map.

From Buenos Aires we got a night bus to Mendoza, the area where most of Argentina's wine is produced. Mendoza itself is a pleasant and quite laid back town so is an easy place to spend time. There is a huge park to the north of the town that has a lake and some nice gardens which are perfect for chilling out and wandering around.

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We met up with Stewart and Beth on our second day there and spent the afternoon hanging around their hostel by the pool with the two of them and Rob and Molly who they were traveling with. That evening we took our turn to use the BBQ at their hostel and cooked 3kg of steak. The six of us and an American guy called James had no trouble eating all of it. Incidentally, James also had no trouble in helping himself to our beer!

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The following day the six of us went to nearby Maipú so that we could hire bikes from the legendary Mr Hugo and cycle around the bodegas (wineries). Our first stop of the day was the wine museum where we looked at various paraphernalia relating to the wine making process and, more importantly, drank some of the produce. We then went to the Chocolate and Liquor factory where, after a short tour, we enjoyed some excellent samples. These included a variety of top notch condiments and, obviously, some chocolates and liquors.
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The next stage of the 'Tour de Mendoza' was longer than the first two and took us to Bodega Familia Di Tomaso which we'd heard through the grape vine had the best tour. Stewart took the stage victory and the two of us secured podium finishes. Our breakaway had in fact opened up a sufficient gap on the peloton to mean that we went on an earlier tour of the winery than the others.

After learning more about how wine is made and about the particular varieties produced at this bodega we sampled four different wines. Whilst the others were on their tour the three of us ordered a bottle of cider, produced at the winery, which we drank in the sunshine. This was no ordinary cider. It came in a champagne style bottle and was served in champagne flutes. They were so particular about how their cider should be drank that the waitress insisted on putting the bottle back in the fridge between refills to ensure it was consumed at the correct temperature.

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The next stage of the tour, won by Rob, took us to an olive oil factory. We sampled the olive oil with bread and sun dried tomatoes. With lunch taken care of we went to a nearby bodega and picked up three bottles of wine. This proved to be much more cost effective than all paying for a tour and receiving small samples. We then cycled to a cheese factory and bought some of their produce.

By this stage in the day, time had got the better of us and we weren't able to go to a nearby river to swim and drink our wine and eat our cheese as we had planned. Instead we took a quick dip in an irrigation channel that flowed through the fields and had a sufficiently strong current to act as a water slide. This was lots of fun. After that we cycled back to Mr Hugo's to return the bikes and take advantage of the free wine that he has a reputation for giving his customers. We ate our cheese with some bread and salami but didn't have to open our wine thanks to the regular top ups.

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The following day we left Mendoza on a bus that took us to Valparaiso in Chile. Or it would have done had we not got off a stop early at Viña del Mar, a neighboring town. We didn't realise our mistake until after a taxi driver had taken us to the address of our hostel. The building we were standing outside clearly wasn't a hostel so we pulled out a map to show the taxi driver where we thought we should be. He pointed out that our map showed a different town to the one we were in (Avenida Ecuador 355 also exists in Viña del Mar)! Fortunately the two towns are close together so the driver took us to the correct place for a small fee. In our defense the bus we were on had Viña del Mar displayed on a large sign in its windscreen making it look like that was the final destination (therefore making Valparaiso the penultimate stop).

We spent two days in Valparaiso, occupying ourselves by wandering around its centre, going to the beach in Viña del Mar (intentionally - we took the metro!) and drinking with some others at the hostel in the evenings. One night the hostel held a BBQ which inevitably involved eating steak and drinking lots of wine and beer.

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From Valparaiso we got a bus the short distance to Santiago. It was our last bus trip in South America and, appropriately, there was skulduggery afoot. A local guy tried to pick pocket Mike's wallet as he was stepping onto the bus but fortunately Mike caught him in the act and knocked the deviant hand away from his pocket. The would be thief politely smiled and apologised before calmly walking away.

Once we had dropped off our bags at our hostel in Santiago we set off to explore the city. We went to a couple of parks, a few squares (including Plaza de Armas) and then negotiated our way back to the hostel through the busy streets. We then went for our last evening meal in South America. We chose to go to Bellavista, an area in the centre of the city that is brimming with restaurants, bars and clubs. We got a table on the street so we could soak up the Friday night atmosphere whilst we ate our meal. Needless to say we both had steak.

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The next morning we went out for empanadas which have more or less been our staple diet throughout South America. They are one of the few types of food that we will genuinely miss when we are out of the continent. After this we went to a large park where we got a funicular (a series of small carriages that get pulled up a hill on train tracks) to the zoo. After looking at the various animals we got back on the funicular until it reached the top of the hill where there are spectacular views of the sprawling city. We then rode the teleférico (cable car) that soars high above the city and enjoyed more amazing views. When we returned to street level we had time for one more steak before getting our bags and heading to the airport to start the next leg of our trip.

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Posted by elliemike 18:11 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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