Sunday, 24 May 2015

Week 22: NEW ZEALAND - Auckland → Rotorua → Turangi → Whanganui

Image of the week: Mount Ruapehu, one of the world's most active volcanoes - New Zealand
More images at the end of post
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Where in the world

A three and a half hour flight from Melbourne to the capital of New Zealand, Auckland. We stayed in the city for three nights before picking up a hire car and heading south.

A night was spent each in Rotorua, Turangi and Whanganui



Thoughts

The first thing I've realised since being in New Zealand, is just how many people I know back in London who are Kiwis. They've been making themselves known via social media, nodding approvingly at my activities and getting homesick through vicarious travel.

The second thing that's occupied my brain since being here, is that I'm struggling to understand why these people ever left New Zealand in the first place. Because this country, quite simply, has it all. 

Here's a quick flick through its repertoire. 

Glacial valleys, alpine lakes, mountains, rivers - sights to give you shivers. It rides the joint of two tectonic plates, so boasts volcanic landscapes, is home to one of the world's most active volcanoes, and has geothermal activity galore. A great place to see this is at Orakei Korako near Taupo - a world of gushing geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pools.

not smoke, but highly active, bubbling, steaming geothermal activity
Orakei Korako - New Zealand

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It has the Maori people, whose culture is an integral part of the life of Kiwis (see Highlight below), and its varied environments mean within one country, you have both places to ski and beaches on which to sunbathe. 

Its unique evolutionary history due to its solitary position on the planet means a whopping 70% of its wildlife is endemic i.e. they can't be found anywhere else. That's tens of thousands of species of insects, animals and plants that only exist in New Zealand. Which makes for some very special wildlife spotting.

It has wild and rugged coastlines of remote untamed beauty, and the beaches on the west coast have black sand thanks to the volcanic iron content present. They stick to a magnet like the iron filings from your school science days.

the black sands of Piha Beach, Auckland - New Zealand
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I mean, I could go on. 

In fact, I will.

New Zealand's clear skies and low pollution (both light and smog) mean it has some of the best dark skies for star gazing in the world. In fact, Lake Tekapo on South Island is ranked as the second best place on the planet to observe the night sky. It's actually part of a UNESCO dark sky reserve, meaning it's protected by law from light pollution, in order for it to stay that way.

It has vineyards making award winning pinot-noir. Its cold clear waters are home to an incredible array of delicious creatures from the deep, and its endless lush rolling hills and farmland rear world-famous lamb and beef.

Middle Earth all right. Endless rolling hills dotted with sheep - New Zealand
 
It's small enough to easily visit different parts during one holiday, they drive on the correct side of the road (the left, hurrah!), it's so clean that its not unusual to see kids go barefoot in the street, they make great coffee, the people are awesome, and it has bustling metropolitan multicultural cities.

I am yet to find a downside, except maybe the very tight immigration laws (see lowlight below). Also the fact that it is days away from 95% of the rest of the world. But as someone said on Twitter, 'that's a bad thing?'.

taking a moment to appreciate our glorious planet, Mount Ruapehu - New Zealand
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And all this gushing from the constraints of the North Island; we haven't visited the South Island yet - that's next week. 

When I tell the Kiwis I'm meeting how much I am loving their home, their response is 'if you think the North is beautiful, wait until you get to the South Island. You ain't seen nothing yet!'

the majestic towering Redwood trees of the Whakarewarewa Forest,
Rotorua - New Zealand
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A special note must be given to the New Zealand's tourism website, one of the most thorough, comprehensive and downright inspiring travel resources I've come across.

Particularly useful are the driving itineraries. We've been following Auckland to Invercargill in 14 days, for its promise of wild places and the glorious outdoors, adding extra time in the cities to pad it out to three weeks and slow down the pace. It tells you exactly what to do and see at each stop to ensure you're making the most of it.

Readers, we may well be in my favourite country from this whole trip. New Zealand, I knew I'd fall hard for you before I even got here. You have so far lived up to every expectation. Please keep it up. 

The best things I ate this week

Sticking with last week's theme, we've been watching our pennies in the money-sucking black hole that is the developed world by relying on supermarket forages most of the time. 

But everyone needs a treat now and then. Here are our favourites from the week.

Ugly bagels, Auckland

The bagels at Best Ugly Bagels are hand-rolled and cut, simmered in sweet honey water, then cooked in stone ovens running on New Zealand’s greatest natural fuel – Manuka hard wood. Here a T. A. B. (tomato, avocado, basil, lemon and fennel infused olive oil) and a YODI (pastrami, Swiss cheese, habanero mustard, pickle). These were beauts, great light texture on the bread. 

Best Ugly Bagels, 3A York Street, Newmarket, Auckland

Noodle and whisky bar, Auckland

Barley miso ramen at whiskey and noodle bar Chop Chop Noodle House in Ponsonby Central; cool part of town. Chilli tofu, mushrooms, courgette kimchi, smoked miso butter, and rye noodles. It hit the spot .

Chop Chop Noodle House, 140 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby Central, Auckland

Coffee pit stop, Hamilton

The drive from Auckland to Rotorua is a good three hours, requiring a coffee bisection. Roasters Rocket Coffee know their stuff and brew a fantastic cup. They'll also let you check out their big roasting machines out the back. Nice folk.

Rocket Coffee, 302 Barton Street, Hamilton (down an alley on the rive, east side of Barton Street)

top: bagels from best ugly, barley miso ramen, Rocket Coffee
bottom: tea and a Tim Tam, fish and chips, Manuka honey fudge
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Tea and a Tim Tam

It started to chuck it down just as we pulled into Sportsmans Lodge in Turangi, and they'd just stoked the fire in the lounge. Tea, Tim Tam - timing.

(for those who unfamiliar with Tim Tam's, they are essentially what we in the UK call Penguins

Fish and chips, Wanganui

When the calls of home come a'knocking, they shouldn't be ignored. And it was about time we sampled some of New Zealand's famed seafood. Fish and chips, bread and butter, pot of tea, retro seats - Friday night was a good'un. Georges Fisheries was recommended by our lovely AirBnB host Donna, and is also referenced in the Lonely Planet.

Georges Fisheries, 40 Victoria Ave, Whanganui

Manuka honey fudge, Taupo

Huka Honey Hive is a great place. It's New Zealand's largest showcase of honey products with free tastings, live bees, mead (honey wine), honey skincare products, honey ice cream, more jars of dark and glorious (and expensive) Manuka than you can shake a stick at, and a load more. They also sell Manuka honey fudge, which is just dreamy.

65 Karetoto Road (off Huka Falls Rd And SH1), Wairakei 3377

Did you know?

Maori facial tattoos
traditional Maori tattoo scene using chisels
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You may have seen Maori tribal tattoos before, but the traditional way in which they were applied in days gone by was rather brutal.

Tattooing started at puberty, accompanied by a lot of rites and rituals. As well as making a warrior attractive to the opposite sex, the tattoo practice marked both rites of passage and important events in a Maori's life.

First the skin was graved with deep cuts, using a bone chisel with either a serrated or very sharp straight edge. The cuts would only be allowed to partially heal, in order for them to scar. 

modern day Maori facial tatooing
During the mid-heal, the second stage involved opening up the scars, this time with a chisel that had been dipped into a sooty pigment. Essentially, colouring in the wounds. The eventual results were raised black scars on the face and body.

It was a painful and long process, and many died from infection or loss of blood. But it was considered better to have died whilst receiving the body markings, than never to have been tattooed at all.

Some Maoris still get their faces tattooed today, but tend to favour the less deadly modern methods that swap chisels for needles.

My insider tips
driving pit stop, New Zealand
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Free sat nav


There seems to be something incredible to see or experience every five minutes in New Zealand, so hiring a car really is the best way to get around. 

The freedom it gives you will allow you to make the most of this spectacular country, and I think it's worth every penny.

Car rental companies will offer the option of a sat nav, adding a minimum $10 or so a day to your bill. 

Whilst they're necessary to navigate the country with ease, over a three week hire, that would work out at another $210 (about £105).

Instead, buy a car mount to hold your phone (£5) and download a GPS application for free. We used NAVMII downloaded from Google play store.

It's worked a treat so far.

Highlight / Lowlight

Highlight  

An exceptionally fantastic evening of ceremonial rituals, powerful cultural performances and storytelling was had at the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua.

Set in a village in the native Tawa forest, about a 20 minute drive out from Rotorua, it's a interactive and hands-on place that brings to life the world of Maori New Zealand before the Europeans set foot upon these shores, showcasing the sights, sounds and activities of days gone by.

an evening at Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua - New Zealand
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For me, one of the most spectacular parts of the evening was firstly, the beginning. After being picked up from your hotel and driven to the site, all visitors congregate around the village entrance to witness and share in the very spiritual powhiri; the ancient ceremony of welcome. 

Part of that is the te wero (the challenge), where tribal warriors perform intimidating gestures whilst sizing up the visitors, to ascertain if they've come in war or in peace. 

At this point of the evening laughing, smiling or mimicking the warrior facial expressions is prohibited out of respect for what is a very significant ceremony to the Maori people. It's a real spectacle; here's a snapshot.


And then there was the concert of cultural performances held before the dinner.

Guests are ushered into the main village building (essentially a theatre), where the village members perform traditional songs (so very fantastic by the way, I've since downloaded a load of Maori music to listen to whilst driving), impressive weaponry displays, and the world famous haka - the Maori war dance. A real thrill to witness up close and personal. 

Here's a snippet of the haka below.


And then there was the glorious (and all-you-can-eat) hangi, or feast. Around 150 people are fed with meat and vegetables cooked the way the Maoris used to, in their own juices in underground ovens using white hot stones (you can see a crate of potatoes being lifted out of the ground in the collage of images above).  

There was chicken, lamb, vegetables, gravy, cranberry and mint sauce, mussels, fish - it was basically an awesome Christmas dinner. Then a load of desserts; sponge pudding with custard, passion fruit pavlova, tinned peaches. 

It's buffet, so you can really fill your boots. I might have over eaten, but it was all so simply but very well done, that it was hard not to. It's also the night I discovered kumera, the purple-skinned New Zealand sweet potato; it's the most glorious sweet potato I've ever had.

some of the pūkana (facial expressions)
made during the haka war dance
If you're visiting New Zealand, discovering traditional Maori culture and performance is a must. And this has got to be one of the best experiences going. 

The thing that stood out for me was that even though these performers do this day in, day out, it is very apparent that they genuinely love it, and relish in perpetuating the heritage that means so much to them.

Another commendable point to note, there might have been a total of 150 people that night (the thought of which would usually have me running for the hills). 

But at no point did it feel like such a big operation. Apart from the dining hall and in the theatre, those 150 are split into smaller groups the whole night, to allow better interaction with the villagers and the activities.

It's a fantastically executed evening of education, insight, culture and feasting, and I'd recommend it to everyone.

An evening at the Tamaki Maori Village includes 3.5 hours of Maori cultural experience, the buffet dinner feast and transport to and from your Rotorua accommodation.

Prices: Adults $110 (£55), 10-15 year olds $60 (£30), 5-9 year olds $20 (£10). Student and family group discounts available.

Note: This evening was kindly provided at a discounted media rate. All views remain my own.

sun setting over New Zealand's verdant rolling hills
Lowlight

Airport pandemonium

Half an hour or so after checking into our flight from Melbourne to New Zealand, our names were called out over the airport tannoy. This wasn't going to be anything good.

The lady who checked us in had called ahead to New Zealand immigration to confirm what she had suspected. 

Firstly, for New Zealand to let you in, you need to prove you intend to leave it at some point i.e. not stay there indefinitely. This means you need your tickets leaving New Zealand booked before you arrive in New Zealand. No problem. We're off to USA (Hawaii) after, and our tickets were already secured.

However, because New Zealand has what seems to be the strictest immigration rules known to man, not only do you need to prove you will be leaving New Zealand, we also needed to prove we'd be leaving the next country too, i.e. leaving the USA

What leaving the USA has to do with entering New Zealand, I still don't understand. We wouldn't be leaving the states for almost two months, we simply hadn't booked that far ahead. And to add to that, because it was the states, New Zealand wouldn't accept flights to neighbouring Mexico or Canada, the flights had to be further afield. What?!

And then, the final straw. We might have had our flights to Hawaii secured, but had we applied for the ESTA yet (online form you need to fill in when travelling to the USA that checks you're not a criminal, along with other things, and allows you in)? Well no, we hadn't, as the flight to Hawaii wasn't for another three weeks. 

here's a peaceful Redwood tree to ease the stress of the airport pandemonium reading. Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua - New Zealand
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Well, we needed it to get into New Zealand. Because as New Zealand immigration sees it, if your ESTA hasn't been approved, you're not guaranteed to get into the USA, which means your not guaranteed to be leaving New Zealand with the tickets we've shown them.

Cue a mad rush on the laptop in the half hour before boarding to i) buy plane tickets from the States to anywhere, just to show them something (other than Canada or Mexico - the latter of where we are actually going after), that we could cancel as soon as we get into NZ without having to pay a fee and ii) applying for two ESTA's and hoping the site wouldn't go down, they'd get approved immediately, and we didn't have distant criminal records that might have slipped our mind.

We managed it. We gave the lady who checked us in all the details to note down, and send through to the other side if they ask. We get on the plane. We get to New Zealand. We get stamped straight through immigration, with no questions or requests to see paperwork. 

Typical.

Next week

We continue driving south to spend a few days in the city of Wellington, then we head over the Cook Strait to South Island.

Postcards

the west-coast black sands at Piha Beach, Auckland

Piha Beach, New Zealand

Auckland Fish Market, Auckland

the west-coast black sands at Piha Beach, Auckland

windswept at Piha Beach, Auckland
Hamilton, New Zealand

Lake Taupo, New Zealand




great roads for driving, New Zealand


New Zealand








driving pit stop, New Zealand

Related posts

Week 0: Gone travelling. London - see you in nine months

Week 1: INDIA - Mumbai → Goa
Week 2: INDIA - Bangalore → Mysore → Wayanad
Week 3: INDIA - Kochi → Allepey → Kollam → Madurai
Week 4: INDIA - Pondicherry → Chennai → Mumbai

Week 5: INDIA - Varanasi → Udaipur → Jaipur → Delhi
Week 6: TAIWAN - Taipei
Week 7: CHINA & VIETNAM - Hong Kong → Hanoi
Week 8: VIETNAM - Sapa → Hanoi → Ha Long Bay → Hanoi

Week 9: VIETNAM - Hue → Hoi An
Week 10: VIETNAM - 6 day / 5 night motorbike tour from Hoi An to Da Lat
Week 11: VIETNAM - Da Lat → Nha Trang
Week 12: VIETNAM - HCMC → Mekong Delta → HCMC

Week 13: CAMBODIA - Siem Reap (and Angkor Wat) → Phnom Penh
Week 14: CAMBODIA - Sihanoukville & Koh Rong Samloem Island
Week 15: CAMBODIA - Kep
Week 16: THAILAND - Chiang Mai

Week 17: THAILAND - Songkran Festival in Mae Rim & Chiang Mai
Week 18: THAILAND - Bangkok → Koh Phangan
Week 19: THAILAND - Bangkok
Week 20: MALAYSIA - Penang → Borneo

Week 21: AUSTRALIA - Melbourne

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Week 21: AUSTRALIA - Melbourne

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne
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Where in the world

A flight from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia to neighbouring country Brunei, also on the island of Borneo

A stop over night was spent there, before getting an overnight six hour fight to
Melbourne in Australia, where we stayed for five nights.

 

Thoughts

My whole life, up until this point, has been spent in just one half of this glorious planet. Never, before now, have I set food in the southern hemisphere. Granted, most of our solid ground is in the north, but that is no excuse to never have ventured beyond the equator.

You can imagine my delight then, when the plane passed over it. A non-event in most people's eyes, but one I got quite excited about (and took a picture of, naturally).
 

crossing the equator for the first time #geek
I was particularly looking forward to looking up at a whole new set of constellations, watching water go down the plug hole in the wrong direction, and reading about real estate boasting north-facing gardens; I blame the physicist in me.

I'll be honest - and I won't win any friends with this - Australia was never really on the agenda. I always wrote it off as 'just a hotter UK, with not a whole lot in the middle'. Plus, it has the spiders of nightmares, and I do not care one jot for spiders. 

The big prize was always New Zealand - the scenery, the greenery, the mountains, the water, the wildlife - and a changeover in Australia was necessary to get there.

We thought, then, we may as well hang around a bit, and chose Melbourne as the place to do so. I knew a few people back in the UK who were from there, had lived there, or had moved there, and they all spoke highly of it, so it made sense.

architecture in Melbourne
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It just goes to show, preconceptions are what keep you from discovering your new favourite thing. And it turns out the five days we had in Melbourne served mostly to realise how much of the rest of the country we wanted to explore. 

The city itself had things I wasn't expecting: great architecture, a cool New York vibe, and a whole host of ethnicities. I liked the wide roads, yellow cabs, and the very friendly folk. I almost had the 'ahh right' and 'no warries' Aussie drawl down to a T by the time I left. Almost. 

Well done, Melbourne, for surprising and delighting. I only wish I could have stayed longer.
 

The best things I ate this week

Where to eat in Melbourne

Not only was the shock of the 20C drop in temperature from Malaysia to southern Australia a bracing slap across the face, so was the increase in food costs. No more getting full on great grub from a street food vendor for 80p, as we'd been doing for the past five months.
 

coffee from Dukes, Melbourne
We were very much back to western prices; we hadn't missed them.

This meant being more savvy with the spending, and with the help of a bit of home cooking from our apartment kitchenette, we decided to restrict the eating out to just once a day.

Choosing good places to eat was important. With a combination of recommendations from Melbourne-native and wondering nomad Nic from Sharking for Chips and Drinks, and a bit of online research, I think we fared pretty well.

Bacon doorstop sanger 

With inordinate amounts of oozing mozzarella, pear relish, and fried off in butter in the pan (someone strap me to a treadmill), from Fitzrovia in St. Kilda.

It was gargantuan - I'm glad we only ordered the one to share. And the nice folk rustled it up for us even though they'd just closed the kitchen.


Sanger, by the way, is what the Aussies call a sandwich. Something I learnt on the job while ordering: 

"I've been recommended the sanger. I can't see the sanger on the menu.. (pause) Sanger is the word for sandwich, isn't it".

Fitzrovia, 2/155 Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda VIC 3182

Coffee

It's no secret Melbourne is Australia's coffee capital, and I'm not sure I've ever seen such a high density of coffee shops as I have here. 

A couple of great flat whites were had in 
Dukes Coffee and Black Velvet Espresso, but there are a whole host of other places rustling up commendable brews (see link at the end of this section).

Dukes at Ross House, 247 Flinders Lane, VIC 3000

Black Velvet Espresso, 4/136 Exhibition Street, VIC 3000

top: bacon doorstop sandwich; flat white; double smashed patty burger
bottom: gözleme; brunch at Dead Man Espresso; meat pie
Where to eat in Melbourne
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Double smashed patty

We ventured to a close-by Huxtaburger on our first night for what was a disappointing and gristly meal, 'the most overrated burger in Melbourne,' says Nic.

He instead directed us to Rockwell & Sons in hip and happening Collingwood, steering us towards the double smashed patty burger, although I suspect anything on the menu would have been just as good.

Excellent, yielding and gloriously sloppy, with a Two Birds Brewing golden ale, followed by a pistachio cookie and lemon curd ice cream chaser. And great value, the burger coming in at $11 (about £5.50). Really liked the vibe too - received some great service and big smiles.

Rockwell & Sons, 288 Smith Street, Collingwood, VIC 3066

Turkish gözleme 

Oh, I sure have missed Turkish cuisine - it's not all that forthcoming in Asia. So when I read about a place called Göz City, described by an Aussie Turk chef as 'gözleme heaven', it was a lunch spot I couldn't pass up.

Excellent cheese and spinach pastries, with women rolling the dough fresh in the window. $10 (about £5) for one, pretty good value. It was also great to hear Turkish being spoken by the locals popping in for a late lunch, it had been a while.

Göz City, 502 Little Collins St, Central Business District (CBD)

Breakfast / brunch spot

Solid brunching was had at Dead Man Espresso in South Melbourne, a favourite weekend hangout for our friends we met up whilst in town. Smoked pork neck, potato hash, poached eggs, kale, and a good brew too.

Dead Man Espresso, 35 Market Street, South Melbourne

Aussie meat pie

Our pals were not willing to let us leave the country without us having tried a traditional Aussie meat pie, along with a Big M chocolate milk drink. We stopped off for some in a bakery in Mornington (see Highlight below) on the coast, and also for ice cream. It was a good day.

Melbourne, like any other city, has a great many good places to drink and dine, and you need more than my five days to get a proper feel of it. You can find a load more of both coffee and food recommendations from someone who knows the city well, in the very handy Sharking for Chips and Drinks Melbourne Guide by Borough (scroll down a bit).

Did you know?

I learnt this week that Melbourne has the largest Greek population of any city in the world outside of Greece. I've noticed quite a few Turks here too, which can only mean great food from that part of the world in general (see Göz City above).

My insider tips

Albert Park in South Melbourne is a pretty standard park, with a circuit of road for traffic going around it. But every year, this road is used as the racetrack for the Australian Grand Prix.

Formula 1 cars and teams and computers and all of the endless gear and equipment are flown in and set up over the course of a couple of months, in time for the first race of the season every March. This otherwise nondescript park is transformed into the centre of the Formula 1 racing universe for one long weekend each year.

And for the rest of the year, you can check out the track, still see the burnt-on tyre marks in the pit stop lanes, and hunt for 'marbles' - fragments of tyre rubber that have come off the F1 cars as they hurtle along the course.

Pretty cool, and free, if you're into that sort of thing. Which Matt very much is.

Albert Park F1 race track finishing line, Melbourne
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Highlight / Lowlight

Highlight  

We were walking to our dinner spot one evening when the corner of my eye spotted a dark, silent shadow with wings, slowly crossing the sky - then I lost it. It wasn't moving like a bird, so I knew it wasn't a crow. I looked up again and spotted another, and then another. 

They were bats. Enormous bats, the size of freakin' eagles, flapping their wings rhythmically and gracefully, and making a perfect silhouette against the overcast night sky. I've only ever seen small erratic ones darting about in different directions a bit like swallows (throughout Asia). 

But these were huge, the exact shape I've always seen them in cartoons and Batman films, perfectly pointed wings. Really quite striking.

I looked them up when we got home, and discovered that every night, particularly in the summer months as the sun goes down, more than 60,000 of these 'flying foxes' make their way from Yarra Bend Park into Melbourne's Central Business District (CBD). I didn't quite see this many, but a sight like that must be stunning. 

Also, Melbourne was originally going to be named 'Batmania' after one of its founding fathers, John Batman. So Melbourne is basically like a real life Gotham City. Very cool.

fun times with friends in Mornington, Melbourne
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Then there was the awesome final day spent with a couple of friends I used to work with back in London, originally from Melbourne, who took advantage of the glorious weather and drove us down to Mornington Peninsula

The water was crystal clear and so very inviting, despite the bracing temperatures. I can't even begin to imagine what the Great Barrier Reef must be like. I'll have to now add that to the list too. 

We had some beers on the beach, played a few games, had the aforementioned meat pie - fully initiated into the Aussie way of life. We were just missing the barbie.

Lowlight

We didn't sleep on our overnight flight from Brunei to Melbourne. Which meant when we checked into our hotel at 7am, we crashed out until the evening, missing out a day on what was already too brief a trip. 

Next week

Melbourne was, alas, a fleeting stopover on the way to New Zealand. And the first stop, there will be Auckland for a couple of days, before we pick up a car and start heading south.

Postcards

Melbourne

architecture in Melbourne
street art and alley in Melbourne

love locks on Southgate Bridge, Melbourne

Mornington, Melbourne


Mornington, Melbourne

Mornington, Melbourne

Mornington, Melbourne
Mornington, Melbourne
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Related posts

Week 0: Gone travelling. London - see you in nine months

Week 1: INDIA - Mumbai → Goa
Week 2: INDIA - Bangalore → Mysore → Wayanad
Week 3: INDIA - Kochi → Allepey → Kollam → Madurai
Week 4: INDIA - Pondicherry → Chennai → Mumbai

Week 5: INDIA - Varanasi → Udaipur → Jaipur → Delhi
Week 6: TAIWAN - Taipei
Week 7: CHINA & VIETNAM - Hong Kong → Hanoi
Week 8: VIETNAM - Sapa → Hanoi → Ha Long Bay → Hanoi

Week 9: VIETNAM - Hue → Hoi An
Week 10: VIETNAM - 6 day / 5 night motorbike tour from Hoi An to Da Lat
Week 11: VIETNAM - Da Lat → Nha Trang
Week 12: VIETNAM - HCMC → Mekong Delta → HCMC

Week 13: CAMBODIA - Siem Reap (and Angkor Wat) → Phnom Penh
Week 14: CAMBODIA - Sihanoukville & Koh Rong Samloem Island
Week 15: CAMBODIA - Kep
Week 16: THAILAND - Chiang Mai

Week 17: THAILAND - Songkran Festival in Mae Rim & Chiang Mai
Week 18: THAILAND - Bangkok → Koh Phangan
Week 19: THAILAND - Bangkok

Week 20: MALAYSIA - Penang → Borneo

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