Hits and Misses – Australia and New Zealand

I’m currently sitting waiting for my flight to Bangkok in the Kuala Lumpur airport. Surprisingly similar to Pearson in appearance, and everything is closed. Which is probably a good thing for my bank account.

At any rate, after a rough last day in Australia (pouring rain, spending even more money due to buying a ticket for a train that wasn’t running – which is a story that one day I may share, but let’s say it ended with me sitting on the floor in the middle of a crowded train station sobbing) and a sleepless red eye flight, I thought what better thing to do than look back on some highlights and lowlights of my South Pacific adventures!

And so, I give to you…

THE HITS

Best Hostel – For overall funkiness and vibe, the Albatross in Kaikoura, NZ. For cleanliness and best cat, Central Backpackers in Dunedin, NZ. For best food available at a hostel, the Arts Factory in Byron Bay, Australia. I will miss the banana pancakes.

Best Eats – Dunedin. Every meal I had was equally as delicious, and it’s the only place I’ve found oatmeal. And I love me a good oatmeal.

Best Freebies – CBD trolley in Melbourne and the walking tour maps at the visitor’s centre.

Best Experience for the Money – Tongariro Crossing, NZ. Who’d have thunk that paying to torture yourself up and down a mountain pass would actually be worthwhile? And any of the Sydney Harbour Ferries.

Most Pleasant Surprise – The value of the Canadian dollar in New Zealand. Canada for the win!

MVIP (Most Valuable Item in Pack) – Apart from my multi-country power adapter, I have to reluctantly admit that my Birks have been a good purchase. Oh, and my raincoat. Good purchase too.

Favourite City – While I’ve raved about Dunedin, I’ll have to go with Sydney on this one – beautiful beaches, harbour and endless things to do.

THE MISSES

Worst Hostel – 790 on George in Sydney for being a good knock-off of the hotel in the Shining (and for having a slash down the middle of my mattress and a pillow torn to bits), Arts Factory for cleanliness (although not due to any fault by staff, who did a wicked job trying to keep the place clean), City Lodge in Auckland for general unfriendliness and overpriced.

Worst Eats – Sydney in terms of costs, towns along Great Ocean Road in terms of variety.

Worst Experience for the Money – I didn’t go in, but the Australia Zoo. $58 just for the entrance price?! $80 for photos holding animals!? Crikey.

Worst Surprise – The value of the New Zealand dollar in Australia. Australia for the win, holy cow. Those New Zealand twenties I have left over will be making the trip onwards (to give you an idea of how bad the exchange was, I would’ve got about $18 Australian for $40 NZ). Oh, and the aforementioned cost of everything in Australia.

LVIP (Least Valuable Item in Pack) – Books. I refuse to part with them but I need to slow down with my reading a wee bit, this is getting heavy!

Something I Wish I’d Done Differently – Activated my cell phone internationally. Skype has been useful in calling home, but totally unhelpful for any of my banking woes, which happen so frequently I’m afraid to attempt to log in to my accounts!

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Eight Hours in Dunedin

I blew through Dunedin, due to poor planning on my part (and also not knowing that it was so lovely). It reminded me quite a bit of Kingston, Ontario, a place that I love, what with its older architecture and overall charm. But, I only had about 8 waking hours to spend in Dunedin before running for the bus to Queenstown, so I made the best of it.

Thus, how to spend eight great hours in Dunedin:

Late evening: Find nice hostel. Central Backpackers was better than some fancier hotels that I’ve stayed in. Plus they had a huge, clean kitchen, female-only dorms and a friendly cat! On the downside, none of the doors are numbered, so you have a few “what’s behind door number one?” moments before the cat rolls its eyes at you and points you in the right direction. Hit the sack to prepare for an early morning.

Crack of dawn: Hunt for great breakfast. I had some delicious meals in Dunedin, including some late-night Chinese at the Noodle Hut, brekkie at The Perc and a HUGE lasagna for lunch at Pot Pourri, a vegetarian (!) restaurant.

Early morning: Go for tour of Cadbury’s factory. Find it by following the smell of melting Dairy Milk. Get a discount on it by clipping coupons from those annoying tourist magazines you find at the airport. Pay close attention to video at beginning of tour as it contains a lot of trivia answers that you’ll be tested with later on. Collect samples as reward for knowing all the answers. Eat samples for second breakfast.

Late morning: Window shop to see the work of local artists and visit the Dunedin Art Gallery for neat cards and free WiFi. Or, sit outside in the Octagon and use the free WiFi there and simultaneously people watch/listen to crazies preach about our impending doom. Eat more Cadbury’s samples.

Lunchtime: Eat lunch, which will likely contain pumpkin as every meal in New Zealand seems to have it. Walk around admiring architecture before heading to the bus station.

The end.