Tahiti...THE END

Tahiti was gorgeous!  We got in on late Saturday (remember, time travelled from New Zealand on Sunday) and stayed at the airport hotel. On Sunday we moved onto a REALLY nice hotel.  Our room was gorgeous and there was an infinity pool with a pool bar. We stayed 2 nights here before taking the ferry to Morea, a smaller island.  Here we had a lot more rain, but stayed at a cozy place in a cabana.  The water here was so clear and it was really fun to watch all the tropical fish swimming right off our dock.  I wanted to snorkel, but again, the rain.

In total we just spend 5 days in Tahiti.  It is a beautiful place, but the rain put a bit of a damper on it. Also, Tahiti is incredibly expensive, so I think 5 days was enough. On Thursday the 15th we took the ferry from Morea back to Tahiti and caught our flight home.  We flew overnight to LA and then after a 4 hour layover, flew to Chicago.

It was sort of bittersweet landing in the states. On one hand we were both excited to be back home but it was strange to think that the trip had come to an end.  I'm so so so glad we did this, it was the experience of a lifetime. Thanks to everyone for following along, and thanks for all your comments and support!

North Island, New Zealand

I have been waiting to do this post until I got photos onto my laptop...but that hasn't happened yet and if I wait too long I'll forget everything.

So here it is, the summary of the North Island of New Zealand.  On March 1st we took the fairy from the south island to Wellington, even our campervan came with.  We spent 10 days on the north island. The weather continued to give us a bit of trouble here.  We wanted to do the Tongariro Crossing (aka Mordor) which is a full day hike through some very diverse and gorgeous New Zealand scenery, but the weather called for gale force winds and snow fall so they weren't letting anyone on the crossing.  So we continued onto Lake Taupo and spent a night there. From Lake Taupo we drove to Rotorua.  We took a tour of the Maori hot spring village of Whakarewarewa (don't spell check that please) which was really cool.  The next day we went on a tour of the Hobbiton set.  They found the perfect location for filming on the Alexander farm, a sheep farm in Matamata.  Originially most of Hobbiton was torn down after filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was finished, but they had to rebuild everything for the Hobbit movies, so we got to see it all.  This was also our one gloriously sunny day, so we really enjoyed it.
From Matamata we headed north to Kerikeri and Cape Reinga, and then headed back down towards Auckland.
We spent a couple days with Kevin, Heddie, and Elio in Auckland.  They took us to Pacifika, an annual festival that had a lot of great food, music, and dancing. It was wonderful spending time with them! On Sunday they took us to the airport and we headed for Tahiti.  We actually time travelled to Tahiti, left on Sunday and arrived on Saturday...another post to come. 


South Island, New Zealand

Oh my word, New Zealand is gorgeous!

We flew into Auckland and spent a fulfilled night with Kevin, Heddie, and Elio before flying to Christchurch to explore the south island.

In Christchurch we picked up our camper van. On the recommendation of friends we made in Australia (while stuck in the outback with the floods), we went with Escape Rentals. They're a budget friendly rental and the van ended up not costing much more than our originally booked rental car. We had our pick of 3 vans and we went with the sheep, it seemed the most charming. We then explored a bit of Christchurch where the devastation from last year's earthquake is still very prevalent. Our first night camping was spent in the driveway of Oli's friend John and his partner Rachel. Thankfully they let us in their house as well and we got to take what would be our last luxurious showers for a few days.

It seems camper van travel is the way to go in New Zealand, they are EVERYWHERE! There must be dozens of different companies catering to all sorts of budgets. There is also a "holiday park" (a souped up campground) in just about every town. We tried to do a good mix of holiday parks and free sites, which are scattered around the country and usually just have an outhouse on site. However, they proved to be much more difficult to find than the holiday parks so we've spent most nights having the luxury of electricity and showers.

I'll skim the highlights we hit on the south island so this doesn't get too long winded. We first went inland towards Mt.Cook and had what proved to be one of our very few partly sunny days. The views on the way were spectacular. We then headed back towards the east coast through some charming small towns (St.Bethens on Kevin's recommendation was very cute!) and stopped to see the Moeraki Boulders. Then on to Dunedin where we had coffee and a chat with Kevin's lovely sister, and could've spent much more time, but had to move on. We drove the southern scenic route and on to Queenstown and Wanaka. Somewhere along the way I was minutes from a bungy jump but chickened out, we'll see if I get the nerve on the north island. From there we went up the west coast to Milford Sound and did a cruise. The weather was a bit dodgy, quite chilly and rainy, but it made the waterfalls even more spectacular. We then went up to The Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers. The day we went to Franz Joseph we had what was I think our third and final partly sunny day, making the glacier look even more magnificent. We spent a night in Hamner Springs, a very cute little town famous for their hot springs, and went to a hot springs spa which was quite nice. Up in the Abel Tasman Park we did a full day kayak/hike. The kayak was a couple hours long and was just gorgeous! When we got to Adele Island we saw a group of about 5 six month old seal pups playing in the water. Our guide said they're just learning to swim and hold their breath at this stage. Our guide was so geeked, he even got his camera out. We also saw heaps of sea birds and lots of beautiful scenery. The hike back took about 4 hours and while it was misty out, we were lucky not to have the downpours that the previous day had.
I'm probably leaving some stuff out, but we covered so much ground and saw so many things in our 2 weeks that it's hard to keep it all in my head (good thing I journal better than I blog).
The south island is full of beautiful ever-changing landscape, great people, heaps of sheep, yummy fish n'chips, and so much to do I will go on a limb and say we will be back...hopefully when there isn't so much rain.

These are a few of my favorite pictures:

Our sheep van in front of a huge cliff with waterfalls and everything-on the way to Milford Sound

On our Milford Sound cruise

At Franz Joseph Glacier

I believe this is Mt.Cook, view from the west coast, but I could be wrong

Kayaking in Abel Tasman


Australia's East Coast, Sydney, & back to Melbourne

There haven't been very many opportunities to update the blog these last few days, so this small post will cover a few thousand kilometers.
We never made it to Frasier Island from Hervey Bay. We didn't have enough time to do it proper and the day trip didn't seem worth the cost. Since we missed the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays due to the flooding, we'll just have to come back again soon and do all the things we missed.
From Hervey Bay we headed down to Noosa. Noosa is a really cute beach town, very hip and not at all overpriced like we were expecting. We stopped at the travel info center and ended up being able to book a small apartment for about the price as we would pay for a hostel. Our apt was 2 stories and had a pool, a grill, and laundry. It was a little paradise for 2 days. In Noosa we saw some beautiful beaches, a gorgeous national park (but no koalas like I hoped), and went to a huge outdoor market about 30 km outside of town. Here's a shot from one of the national park trails:

From Noosa we headed downmto Byron Bay. We stayed at a great hostel right on one of the quieter beaches. Byron Bay is another cute beach town, with much more of a hippy vibe than Noosa. Our hostel was next to a great little restaurant/bar, very nice and relaxing. These beach towns are very different from the Australia I've seen so far.

We also did the Byron Bay lighthouse walk, which was gorgeous. Its the eastern most tip of the continent, the views are incredible here.

From Byron Bay it took us a day and a half to get into Sydney. We stayed at a hostel in King's Cross, a neighborhood commonly referred to as "seedy" but I thought it was quite cute. We got to spend some time with Megan again so that was great. Our second day in Sydney we walked around the city, through the Botanical Gardens and to the Opera House. Then we took the ferry to Manly Beach and walked around that area a bit. Once back in the city we explored The Rocks and had drinks with Megan back at the Opera Bar. It was a good long day of sightseeing and we each got significantly sunburned in then process. Should've known better by now, but live and try and learn I guess.

The next day we explored Bondi Beach with Megan. I had a great photo on here and just accidentally deleted it. So, I guess, see Facebook for further proof.
We could've spent heaps more time in Sydney, it's so huge, but like I said, there will have to be a next time.
We spent the weekend about 1 1/2 hrs outside Sydney in South Maroota with Oli's friends Louis and Gretchen. They are lovely people with (I think) 12 horses and we had a great time staying there. We even took a drive through the country up to the Blue Mountains. The countryside is so gorgeous, just another beautiful part of Australia.

Last night we camped out at Wilson's Promonitory, a huge park about 2 hours outside Melbourne. We had gorgeous weather and saw loads of wildlife! We saw kangaroos grazing in the fields and off the road, and a couple wallabies hopping around, AND a couple massive wombats grazing! One wombat was at the side of the road munching on grass and one Oli almost tripped over at our campsite. They also have heaps of beautiful birds, they all look like some sort of parrot. One bright colored guy was hanging out with me for awhile. I have lots of pictures, but they're not downloaded yet, so I'll try andnput them on Facebook eventually.

Tomorrow we head to Auckland, New Zealand. We drove 9,000 kilometers in Australia, saw bush, desert, beaches, and countryside. The amazing part is, we didn't even see half of this massive continent. I hope to come again and see loads more in the future!


Uluru etc.

We're out of the outback and on the Eat Coast now, in a town called Hervey Bay. I must say, when we saw our first traffic light I was a little sad. The outback was such a different and cool experience. I heard someone say that a big city is a big city, they're all a bit alike, but there is nowhere in the world like the outback.

From my last post, we headed north from Adelaide up through the middle of Australia. We stopped for the night in Coober Pedy, an opal mining town. The hostel we stayed in was underground, which was pretty cool. From there we headed north and took the road to Uluru. Uluru (Ayers Rock) is about 3000 million years old (according to the Lonely Planet). Its HUGE and pretty much in the middle of the country.
We decided to put our tent to use here and save some money. When we arrived we set up camp and then drove off to see The Olgas, a rock formation about 20km or so from Uluru. Here's Oli standing in front of The Olgas:

We spent a restless night in a very hot tent but got up early to hike around Uluru. The park recommends finishing all walks by 11am because of the heat so we made sure to do that. It was probably around 40 degrees Celsius that day and all sun. That evening we went for sunset which was pretty unreal, the light on the rock changes constantly as the sun goes down, it was magical.

We got up for sunrise the next morning and then took off to head further up north. I love all the red sand in the outback, so we stopped at some dunes to walk around a bit.

We called it a day in Alice Springs. From there we headed further north and then east and drove about 11 hours before getting to Mt.Isa. We did stop to see another rock formation, the Devil's Marbles along the way:

Just before we got to Mt.Isa it started pouring rain but all seemed well in the morning. We got about 120 km east to a town called Cloncurry when all the roads (all 2 of them) toward the coast were closed due to flooding. We waited it out all day but ended up staying in a motel overnight. The next morning the roads were still closed and we were hearing that it could be a few more days. The creeks had all flooded over the roads and were expected to rise over the next couple days. We explored the option of heading towards the west and doing the western coast but they were also expecting a cyclone and it would be about 9000km more to drive. So we thought we could wait it out a couple more days before having to backtrack the 4000km we had already driven back through the outback. We spent the day exploring the small town. This is where the Flying Doctors originated and where the first Quantas flight landed, so it's a bit of a historical place. We had some good food and drinks at the Post Office motel and met some other travelers who were in the same position as us. The next morning, the highway to Townsville was still closed so we altered our plans and took the now open highway towards Rockhampton. We made it to Barcalade (about 300 km from the coast) before the roads started to fill with water again. After a night here, we successfully made it to the coast and down to Hervey Bay. From here we'll they to get to Frasier Island and then down to Noosa and Byron Bay. So far today the weather looks pretty good, but I'm not uncrossing my fingers just yet.


Outback bound

Greetings!! We arrived in Melbourne on the 20th and spent a couple days there. It's summer in Australia, so it's a nice climate change from China and Japan.
Our friend Megan took the overnight train from Sydney and met us for the weekend. We also got to see a couple of Oli's old friends from the hostel days. It was great spend a couple days catching up with good friends!

Melbourne is a really nice city, we could've spent a lot more time there if we had it. The Australian Open was going on while we were there so the city was hopping.

Today we got our rental car and drove just over 700 km to Adelaide. We're just spending the night here and then heading to the outback tomorrow. We picked up a tent in Melbourne and plan to put it to good use over the next few days. We'll try to get to Coober Pedy tomorrow and then head up to Ayers Rock on the 25th. From there we'll head towards Cairns and down the eastern coast.
We have just 26 days here and a lot of ground to cover!




We leave for Melbourne tonight and while it'll be nice to be in a summer climate again, we'll definitely miss Japan! This is the most welcoming and friendly place we've been during our travels. If you have even a slight question mark written on your face, someone is guaranteed to come up and offer help. Just getting off the metro we had an older couple offer to help us find our hostel, getting on the phone with reception and walking us the whole way there. Even the ambulance drivers are polite. They come down the street with a nice easy siren and wave while saying "arigato" (thank you) for getting out of their way.
We stayed in Asakusa which is a very lovely area of Tokyo. We were close to a famous temple, Sensoji, which is surrounded by many shopping streets. Here are a couple photos taken at Sensoji temple.

We spent our time in Tokyo exploring the many different districts. Tokyo is a very large and fast paced city. Here's a photo from Shibuya, a popular shopping district. This intersection is said to be the busiest in the world.

We also got to spend a day at the Sumo tournament. We were there for day 9 of the tournament and even with general admission tickets, we and a really good view. It was entertaining to watch and interesting to learn about the sport. There are so many rituals involved and the wrestlers are all so proper and composed. It was different than I expected, I'm really glad we went.

While we were here we got to see (and I got to meet) a couple of Oli's old friends. We also met a lot of fun people at our hostel bar. We tried great Japanese food and drinks (I'm a big fan of plum wine, sake still not so much). We even did some karaoke. I hope that we'll be able to come back and see more of Japan some day, one week wasn't enough!