I STRAY’D NEW ZEALAND

So on Monday 27th February we began our hop on hop off tour with Stray. Dragging ourselves out of bed and to our pick up location at some ungodly hour we met our tour guide/bus driver/fellow backpacker Jinx. He informed us that he had been given this nickname during his first week of training with Stray because everything he touched seemed to breakdown, which boded well for our forthcoming journey. One of the best things about Stray is it gives you the opportunity to meet all sorts of people from all over the world.

Our first stop was Hahei, a beautiful area in the Coromandel. Before checking in we stopped off at hot water beach, which is located directly above a hot spring – hence the name. The beach is known for digging your own natural hot tub. I was pretty sceptical at first but it actually does work! On our first night we made a group dinner all together, consisting of barbecued steaks and sausages with salads, coleslaw, and mash. Having recently been living on a diet of eggs on toast, Hannah and I were extremely excited to be having this meal and it was a great way to bond with the group. We then had a free day in Hahei, in which we explored the nearby beach and did the coastal walk all the way to stunning Cathedral Cove Bay.

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Next stop was Raglan, which is most well known for surfing! It’s actually one of the only places in the world where you can ride the same wave for 5 minutes!! En route to Raglan we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls, which was extremely impressive.

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Once settled in our hostel we were given the option to have a yoga session at ‘Inspiration Point’. Hannah and I jumped at the opportunity, having been wanting to try yoga since we started our trip. It was extra special to be able to do it on a platform looking over the ocean with the sound of cicadas all around us. Although our yoga skills may not have been up to par, the view most definitely was.

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After Raglan we stopped off at Waitomo on our way to Rotorua. This was one of the stops I was most looking forward to as its where you can go caving and see the glow worms. We spent a total of 4 hours working our way through the underground caves, scrambling over rocks and wading through the freezing water. The highlight was floating through a section of the caves in rubber rings where all you could see in the pitch black were thousands of tiny lights from the glow worms that clung to the ceiling. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before and looked like millions and millions of stars.

After staying one night in the geothermal town of Rotorua, we moved on to Lake Aniphenua where we would be staying in a Maori village. Having been delayed an hour due to our bus breaking down, we were extremely happy to arrive and the views of the lake and surrounding scenery more than made up for it. The Maori family we were staying with were extremely welcoming and told us all about their tribe and the traditions of their people. We spent the afternoon doing various activities – some of us learnt how to make bracelets out of reeds while others learnt a special form of martial arts, including the haka which they performed for the rest of the group later that day, much to our amusement! I decided to take the cooking lesson, in which we learnt how to make special fried bread. The recipe itself was pretty straightforward and a lot of fun to make. The pressure was on as the bread we were making would be used for the group dinner that night! Once we had finished we got to try the bread with golden syrup – it was so delicious!

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That night we had the most incredible traditional Maori feast prepared for us. To prepare the meat they wrapped it all up and placed it in a hole in the ground in which they used fire and water to smoke it. They covered it in tarpaulin and damp sheets and buried it all under soil to keep the heat in. It was then left to cook for 2 hours and by the time it was ready it had a wonderful smokey flavour. With the meat we had stuffing, potatoes, salad and our homemade bread. After that meal I had never felt so uncomfortably full in my life, but the food was so delicious it was definitely worth it!

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Look out for my next post to hear about my adventures in the sky…

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THE SUNSHINE STATE PART II

As I write I am currently on my way to Fiji, meaning that my time in Australia has sadly come to an end (for now!). It really has been the most incredible couple of months and I leave with so many wonderful memories and new friends. It seems only right that before I touch down in Fiji I pick up from where I last left off and tell you about the rest of my travels up the east coast.

After Brisbane we headed to Hervey Bay where we caught the ferry to Fraser Island, the world’s biggest sand island and home to the infamous Aussie dingos. To get around the island we booked onto a tour with the company “Cool Dingos”. We were driven around the island in a huge pink 4×4 bus/truck, which was extremely necessary considering the state of the tracks and beaches we had to drive on!

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On the first day of our trip we visited the beautiful Lake McKenzie and did a walk through the rainforest. That night we stayed in accommodation provided by the tour company and were up bright and early the next day. First we were taken to Indian Head, which is a headland that lies in between two long stretches of beaches. Usually you are able to see lots of marine life from the headland but unfortunately we weren’t able to see any because it was such a cloudy day. Next we went to Champagne Pools, which is a beautiful rock pool formation given its name by the way the waves look when they crash against the rocks. The water was absolutely freezing but some of our group were brave enough to go in for a swim – safe to say I was not one of them! That afternoon the sun finally came out and we visited the amazing Maheno Shipwreck which is washed up on the beach. My highlight of the tour came towards the end of the day when we went to Eli Creek. Here we used big rubber rings to float all the way down the creek to a spot where we could sunbathe and enjoy a light snack.

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After Fraser Island we stopped over in the beautiful little town of Noosa for one night before heading on to Airlie Beach, where we would be starting our sail boat tour around the Whitsundays. The Whitsundays was probably the highlight of our whole trip up the east coast. We booked onto a boat called the Habibi, which offered wonderful food and allowed us to sleep on the top deck under the stars. We got to go to the beautiful and infamous Whitehaven Beach, which has the whitest sand in the world! Whilst on the boat we also did some of the best snorkelling I have ever done – I had never seen that many fish at one time before! On the second day of the tour it happened to be Australia Day. It was so much fun to spend it on the boat with our Aussie crew mates! Everyone got into the spirit, sporting Australian flags, and we even found time to stop off on a beach for a BBQ and a game of cricket!

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After Airlie we headed on up to Townsville where we caught the ferry over to Magnetic Island. As the island is so small and the roads are mostly dirt tracks we decided to rent a 4×4! Luckily we had our lovely Loka tour guide with us, who was able to show us all the best spots on the island. We visited a number of bays, which included Radical Bay, Florence Bay, Horseshoe Bay, and Alma Bay. The highlight was definitely watching the incredible sunset at West Point beach!!

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Last stop on our trip up the coast was Cairns! I was so excited to get to Cairns because I couldn’t wait to dive in the Great Barrier Reef. It definitely didn’t disappoint! We booked on to a tour with the company Passions of Paradise who were great! We had lots of chances to snorkel and also go scuba diving, which was amazing. The coral was like nothing I’d ever seen before and we got to see lots of marine life, including turtles, a reef shark, sting rays and jelly fish!

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Another must do in Cairns is a rainforest tour in the Atherton Tablelands. We booked ours through the company “On the Wallaby”, who I would definitely recommend just because our tour guide was so good and friendly. First stop on the tour was a tree called the Cathedral Fig Tree, which is claimed to have inspired the tree in the film ‘Avatar’. Next we went to Lake Eacham, where you can do a 3km walk around the whole lake. We were also able to see little fresh water turtles and went for a lovely swim. We also visited two waterfalls throughout the day. My favourite was the Milla Milla waterfalls, which is the most impressive waterfall I’ve seen and is used in the Herbal Essences adverts – it was therefore obligatory to get the infamous hair flick photo!

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After Cairns we flew back down to Sydney, where we spent a couple of days before catching our flight to Fiji! As you can probably tell it’s been a jam-packed few weeks, so I’m looking forward to a more relaxing (but just as fun) couple of weeks in Fiji!

Speak soon!

Jess

THE SUNSHINE STATE

Firstly, sorry for my lack of posts recently… We have been crazy busy since we began our travels up the east coast!! We have just completed the last leg of our journey North, having arrived in Cairns yesterday evening, and I have so much to tell you about what we’ve been up to along the way!

Byron Bay was our next stop after Sydney, which was a pretty big change from what we had become used to! It’s a quirky little town with a beautiful beach and the people were all really ‘hippy’. We spent our first day just chilling at the beach and looking around the town. We also managed to squeeze in a workout (traveller tip: pack a skipping rope if you want an easy, cheap, and space-saving way to exercise)! As well as exploring our immediate surroundings, we decided to hire a car and venture further afield to some waterfalls! It was so nice to be able to drive again and we had such a good day, spent mostly at Killen Waterfalls where we were able to have a swim and walk right behind the waterfall!

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After Byron Bay we headed on up to the Gold Coast, which I loved. Although I’ve never been, it is what I would imagine Miami to be like. They don’t call it Surfers Paradise for nothing… The beach was absolutely stunning, with perfectly white sand and the water was a lovely temperature. The waves were also incredible which made me want to try surfing again after having done it in Bali! Unfortunately, we only had a couple of nights here before moving on to Brisbane.

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Whilst in Brisbane we decided to hire a car again and drive to the Steve Irwin Zoo. We had the best day and were able to see some of Australia’s finest animals, including crocodiles, kangaroos and koalas. The staff at the zoo put on a croc show in which they got up close and personal with a huge crocodile, which was amazing but also pretty nerve wracking! Although I didn’t get to hug a koala (which you might remember was one of the things on my bucket list), I did manage to snap a selfie with a kangaroo. They also had animals from all over the world, so we got to see giraffes, rhinos, and zebras as well. My favourite was definitely the tiger though!!

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet but I’ll be back very soon as I have so much to tell you about what I got up to on Fraser Island, the Whitsundays, and Magnetic Island!!

Bye for now!