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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Paradise Found – Kaikoura

When on the South Island, if you’re able to, I highly recommend making a stop for a few days in Kaikoura. There’s lots to do both if you have unlimited cash or are on more of a budget (and seeing as I’ve been eating the same thing for three days, I fall into the latter category). I spent many hours each morning sitting on this beach with a coffee and a paper or book, and had many a good naps here too. Just down the road, I spotted dolphins and seals catching some rays. A little piece of paradise, this place was, and I’m very happy that I stopped here.

Also stay at the Albatross – eco friendly and run by some very cool individuals. I loved every minute of my stay here!

Adventures in Hostels

Let’s get a few things straight here. I never really (apart from a few weekends at Guide camp) went to “summer camp”. I am an only child, so there was no sharing of my things. Friends never had bunk beds. So in essence, my first foray into the world of hostels is much like what I imagine summer camp would have been like. While it’s fun to have dinner companions always around, I am still getting the hang of a few things, which include:

  • How people can be comfortable to NEVER wear shoes. It’s not that clean. You go outside, you come back in, I can see that your feet are black, yet here you are with them all in my face (which in itself is an issue, granted, but still). Where are your shoes??
  • Bunk beds. In Kaikoura I was in a 6-person dorm, and for the most part my dorm-mates were good people. Except for the gal that was in the bunk underneath mine, who took it upon herself to apparently travel with her entire wardrobe and just threw her stuff around everywhere. As is generally the case, I had to get up in the middle of the night to go the bathroom, which happened to be located about a five-minute walk in another building. There I was, struggling to get around my bags which I had essentially been spooning as there was no room for my stuff on the ground, when I fell out of the bed and underestimated the distance to the ladder. It felt very Indiana Jones, my hanging there in the darkness, contemplating how far the drop to the ground would be. Would I land on sleeping messy girl? Some of her stuff? What if I hurt myself? A good two, three minutes passed during this moment of reflection before I decided that it was better to risk the fall. So I dropped. Onto messy girl’s collection of CDs that she had left scattered around the bed (sidenote – who brings CDs travelling? I didn’t even bring an iPod!). Apart from a few bruises I was unscathed, but can’t say the same for that CD collection.
  • Cooking. I finally started picking up some groceries as food, as I’ve mentioned, is quite expensive and I just missed cooking. While I have encountered a few pretty impressive chefs on my travels, for the most part I’m seeing a lot of eating cereal directly from the box with a spoon, instant noodles and Nutella and chunks of bread. I went out and bought some brie to have for appetizers, and there were more than a few sideways glances directed at me as I prepared myself a little pre-dinner snack. However, Nutella folks can have the last laugh – my brie didn’t survive the bus ride today.

Today I’m in my own room – in an actual jail cell, in fact, in a hostel in Christchurch. More on that later.

Making Friends.

Praise the day. I made a friend.

After lamenting to my mum yesterday that there are NO women travelling on their own, who should I plunk myself down next to on a bus but a woman travelling solo! It was very well-timed and comforting to hear someone else echoing the same concerns that I have had, and to meet someone who was not looking to turn her vacation into a booze cruise. SWEET RELIEF.

I’ve been a bit sporadic with blog posts (hence the five posted in one day the other day – so much for scheduling them to release periodically, WordPress), but I’m going to try to have a bit more regularity with these things. I’m just on a tea break before heading out for a hike around lovely Kaikoura (and a winery!), with a picnic packed and LOTS of sunscreen. This marks my first week here  – and although there have been some bumps and I’m still feeling a bit homesick, I think I’m moving onwards and upwards. Cheers friends – and thanks for reading thus far.