A Travellerspoint blog

End of the Road

Canberra and Sydney and Home

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Australia has long roads, little traffic and terrible drivers. Cruising the tank up the Hume Highway to Canberra we experienced all three. Quiet at the best of times, Australia's purpose-built capital was deserted for the Christmas break.

On New Year's Eve we headed up to Sydney where we were staying with yet another of Mum's cousins, Martha. In the afternoon I was reunited with Jenny, who I first met on my second day in St Petersburg and was a fellow train passenger/geek. We had a prime spot on Observatory Hill and spent a great few hours in the sun playing highly competitive Uno and Snap before the main event. Photos can't possibly do justice to the fireworks, which were utterly spectacular and strangely moving. So long 2013, you've been pretty bloody incredible.

New Years Day at Bondi beach is something of a cliché but had to be done. I heard a dozen different languages and saw many a pasty Brit brave the thin ozone layer.

In the evening we met Mum's fifth and final cousin Kate and next morning all took the ferry up through the harbour to Manly.

In the evening we had dinner with some of Dad's schoolmates from his time in Colombo. Given how many we've met over the years, I'm convinced Dad was in a class of at least 100. On our penultimate day we had lunch at Kate's home, on one of Sydney's many picturesque inlets.

The Parents had an earlier flight so I headed in to the centre of Sydney to squeeze the last from the trip. My last day in the Southern Hemisphere certainly made it very difficult to leave- 30 degrees, blue skies, liquid nitrogen ice cream and lunch with Jenny at Darling Harbour.

Two China Southern flights (not as horrific as I'd been led to believe) and 30 hours later I landed in cold, grey miserable Heathrow, only made bearable by Lucien and Caroline meeting me at the gate with a bag of salt and vinegar crisps and taking me home, where Dad had already made a curry.

And there you have it, 140 days after I left I was back in Blighty. Ending with a pithy summary of my trip would seem banal, so I'll leave you with the skywriting we saw over Bondi as I ponder what the rest of my year will bring.

Posted by arianemeena 15.01.2014 13:06 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Christmas and Cricket

Melbourne and Anglesea

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We were met at Melbourne Airport by Mum's half-brother Bryan, who we first met 17 years ago after he tracked down Gran Gran, his birth mother. In the time since we've seen lots of him and his wife Lynn and had long planned to visit him in Australia.

On Christmas Eve (not that it felt like it in the glorious sunshine) Bryan took us on a tour of the city, starting with the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower to orientate ourselves.

After a stroll along south bank we took the free old tram from Flinders Street Station and saw Federation Square (complete with hundreds of Christmas trees) and Parliament House before lunch at Docklands.

We drove around park of the Formula 1 track before heading to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where we found a slightly beleaguered England team practising in the nets.

Christmas Day was spent at Lynn's sister's house and we were made to feel so welcome by her family. It was great to finally meet Bryan's children, Phil and Elise, as well as Lynn's, Brooke and Adam.

We'd booked our tickets to the Boxing Day test in July, when it had seemed like an excellent idea... Despite Australia regaining the Ashes in Perth , it was still incredible to be at the MCG with 91091 others (a world record test match attendance) and the beer and sunshine certainly helped our mood.

Bryan has a lovely beach house west of Melbourne on the Great Ocean Road, the perfect place to relax (i.e. drink and barbecue, although only after it had been constructed by Dad, Phil and Bryan) for a few days before heading up the East Coast.

Posted by arianemeena 03.01.2014 23:51 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Family Reunion

Dunedin to Christchurch

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I arrived in Dunedin and negotiated my way around the bus system so as to avoid walking up a giant hill with my backpack, which I swear is getting heavier by the week. My mother's cousin Rebecca and her husband Anthony were at a funeral so I let myself in before joining them for the wake (not quite how I imagined my introduction to Dunedin!)

Next day, Rebecca's youngest son Kara gave me a tour of Dunedin including the now defunct railway station and Otago University, New Zealand's oldest. We had a wander around the museum and saw a pickled Rat King (google it and prepare to be disgusted) but I couldn't get a decent photo.

My parents arrived from Auckland in the evening- their whistle-stop trip had already taken them to Honolulu, where Mum despaired as Dad quoted Hawaii 5-0 at every turn. Although it had been over four months since I'd last seen them, the magic of t'internet meant it really didn't feel that long at all.

On their only full day in Dunedin we drove with Rebecca to the Otago Peninsula before heading to her older brother Simon's for a family barbecue.

Dad had hired a great big car in order to drive to Christchurch and we bid farewell to Rebecca and family early on Monday morning. The incredibly scenic route included the Moeraki boulders, which look like a giant has abandoned his game of marbles. We spotted the snowy peaks of Mount Aspiring and her neighbours in the distance.

Oamaru, where my mother's cousins grew up, has a Victorian centre and heritage steam train.

Timaru is the small town where Gran Gran grew up and we wanted to visit the site of her family home; we had been given the address, but it didn't seem to exist. An hour of searching later we realised the house number was wrong. By 100. After visiting Caroline Bay we made a detour to Fairlie, where Mount Cook can be viewed on a clear day. It was not a clear day. I'm starting to think Mount Cook is just a myth to keep the tourists coming.

After a sunny morning in Christchurch showing my parents the important sites I'd visited earlier in my trip, we headed to the airport to fly to Melbourne and Christmas.

Posted by arianemeena 30.12.2013 04:16 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

47° South

Stewart Island

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Stewart Island is New Zealand's southernmost point and a little pocket of untouched wilderness, the perfect peaceful location for my last few days of solo-travel. Crossing the Foveaux Strait tests the stomachs of even the saltiest sea dogs, although I was sufficiently distracted by the albatrosses that soar over the ferry. Oban Township contains most of the island's 400 residents and has a very Scottish feel.

The island's weather can turn on a sixpence, as my mother would say, but I got enough sunshine to go on a 12km hike along the coastline and through some primitive looking forest, often following the tracks made by the sawmills in the late 1800s.

The island is known for its bird life and I saw (or heard) tui, kaka, wood pigeon and many more that I couldn't begin to identify. The kaka had no fear and regularly came to investigate the garden outside my hostel.

The hostel was small and homely (the island is so safe they didn't even have keys for the rooms) and had both hot water bottles and an extensive DVD collection, ideal for post-hike collapsing. On my last day I walked to Ackers Point, where the lighthouse was airlifted in by helicopter a few years ago. The road signs reflect the traffic issues experienced on the island.

After an equally dodgy crossing back to Bluff (this time briefly accompanied by bottle-nosed dolphins) and a night in Invercargill it was time to head to more family in Dunedin, where Mum and Dad were coming to meet me.

Posted by arianemeena 21.12.2013 01:59 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Glaciers and Fiords

Greymouth to Queenstown

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The west coast of the South Island is a rugged, dramatic affair and the site of many a shipwreck. Greymouth is usually just a stopping off point for the train, but it has some impressive views and I borrowed a bicycle from the hostel to explore a little. On a clear day you're supposed to be able to see Mount Cook from here, but seeing as Greymouth never really has clear days this could just be a ruse to lure in tourists. Just to the north are the bizarre and as yet unexplained pancake rocks.

I headed south along the coast to glacier country. First stop Franz Josef, which descends from the Southern Alps towards the Tasman Sea. Its terminal face is rapidly receding, meaning the ice is now inaccessible except from helicopter, but the view from the ground is still impressive and despite knowing it would be, I was still stunned by how blue it was.

Heading further south, Lake Matheson is commonly known as mirror lake, but sadly it wasn't playing ball when I walked around it.

Fox Glacier next and despite the drizzle the walk was certainly worth it as you can get much closer to the ice here.

Next through a rainy Haast Pass and along Lake Wanaka to Queenstown, home of the worlds first permanent bungy-jump and where youngsters come to dress up and get trashed. Alternatively you can take the cable car for stunning views of turquoise Lake Wakatipu, before walking up Ben Lomond for more breathtaking scenery.

Of course the real reason for staying in Queenstown, apart from the legendary Fergburgers, is to access Milford Sound, the name disguising the fact it's actually a fiord (the Kiwis seem to insist on the 'i' rather than Scandinavian 'j' spelling). It rains 200 days a year here and I'd picked one of them, but this means the ephemeral waterfalls were on show and did little to diminish the majesty of the rock faces, carved by long-gone glaciers. The seals didn't seem to mind either.

Craving some peace, I left the excesses of Queenstown behind and headed deep into Southland.

Posted by arianemeena 18.12.2013 12:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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