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4 months in Australia and New Zealand; A Year Later

I realized today that I never did a roundup post of all the posts while I was away in Australia and New Zealand last year. Looking back I wrote way more than I thought. Having nothing else to do in the hostels during the evenings gave me some  good time to write. I wish I had kept up that momentum when I got home. Having to hunt for a job to pay off the trip put a bit of a dent in the free time I had.So here’s the coles notes version of my trip last year.Flew into Sydney. Met up with a friend there that I hadn’t seen for a few years and got my bearings. It was nice to see a familiar face when so many things are changing at once.I bought a shitty old car and drove through Sydney to Goulbourn. It was crazy getting used to driving on the other side of the road. I was trying to do it in Sydney no less.After staying Goulbourn for a couple days I headed down to Canberra and took some crazy backroads out to Queanbeyan. Where I stayed with some family for a few days. I checked out the Australia War Museum and a few other things while I was there. They also took me down to Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s tallest mountain. It wasn’t very hard to climb but was an excellent adventure. The area was beautiful.I had planned to go down to the coast, possibly to Melbourne, then turn around and drive all the way back up to Cairns. But my family there convinced me that driving over to Adelaide was well worth the trip and I could just come back across the middle and see a bit of the “outback”. So I headed off down the coast.  I stayed in a few neat places and was just going to drive straight through Melbourne but ended up staying for a week.There was tons of stuff to do in Melbourne. There are lots of gardens there and an awesome bus system that goes around the center of town. There is even a free one. The Aussie Rules game was awesome. I still don’t really get all the rules. The best part was a show on the docks with the Pyrophone Juggernaut.Sadly, it was time to get on my way and I hit the Great Ocean Road. Apollo Bay was beautiful but wet, the 12 Apostles were, uh, some big rocks and Port Fairy was a little creepy(but had a volcano!)I had no idea what to expect when I headed into the Grampians. After hiking to the Pinnacle, I decided it was one of my favorite places in Australia. The hostel there was owned by the guy who started the one in Apollo Bay and they bother were small, cozy and eco-friendly.I had had enough of the rain though so it was time to head North. I packed my bag and headed up to Adelaide to spend a couple days. After that I started to drive to Broken Hill and realized that Australia is a really big place. I basically cut across from Adelaide to Sydney and got about as close to the “outback” as I could without being screwed if my car broke down. I just tried not the think about that happening. After 2 incredibly long days of driving I made it to Dubbo. After searching around for a place to stay, I got a decent campsite and then hit up the Taronga Western Plains Zoo. I hadn’t seen most of those animals in my life.Despite being much further North than I was a week before, it still wasn’t sunny enough so onto the road again to Cairns. Diving on the barrier reef was incredible and I will definitely be back to do it. Re-energized and a little tanned, I headed down to the party town of Airlie Beach to do some sailing.I was not disappointed.And then Rockhampton was pretty boring.I had never heard of Hervey Bay but it was apparently the gateway to Fraser Island, the Island of Sand.After driving around the whole freakin town trying to find parking for the hostel I was going to stay at, I hung out in Brisbane for a few days with some hilarious Irish guys.Back down in Surfer’s Paradise and Lennox Head, I stayed with some more friends and climbed Mount Warning. Damn that thing is steep.Port MacQuarie was a cool little place. I ran a lot here getting ready for the 14k race I was going to do in Sydney when I got back there. It was on the water and sunny so I was happy.I had been in Australia for 2 months by now and I was starting to think in Australian. Weird though….now was that an Australian or Canadian thought?Funny that I totally blanked about what I did in Newcastle. I guess it wasn’t very exciting.I wish I had had more time in Katoomba but I was anxious to get back to Sydney to sell the car that was falling apart around me.The first place I stayed back in Sydney was in Bondi Beach in the same hostel we stayed at when I went down to play rugby in 2003.Before I left for Australia, I saw a rad video who was travelling around Asia taking pictures of himself almost every day. He put it into a timelapse which showed going from clean-shaven to a dirty traveller with a bushy beard and long hair. I thought it would be neat to try. I couldn’t do it.Cutting 2 pounds of hair off left me way faster for the 14km City to Surf running race. It went from Hyde Park all the way out to Bondi Beach. with 70,000 people in it, it’s the biggest time race in the world. I’ve never been with so many people.I didn’t lose much and bought a couple things and did some thinking back on my last 3 months. I took a few photos along the way too.Whew. I didn’t lose you there did I? Ok, that was 3 months in Australia. I had 1 month left and absolutely no plan for my time in New Zealand. All I knew was that I had to Zorb… and possibly bungy jump…. and maybe jet boat too.Short and sweet New Zealand trip…. and GO!I think there were a number of days around here that I was just generally picking my nose and not doing much. I can’t remember why I didn’t post. I took the Magic Bus south through the North Island, through Rotorua, and spent a day in Wellington. Then we needed to get ourselves to the South Island. We had the option to take the Interislander Ferry across Cook Straight or fly across. I wanted to see the area a bit differently and knew I’d be taking the ferry back on the way North so I took a little plane over. After being re-routed to a different airport on the South Island because of the wind, I finally made it to Picton.We didn’t stay long in Picton and headed right away to Nelson where we spent a day in the Abel Tasman National Park. We took a water tax a few kilometers into the park then hiked back. Talking the bus driver on the way out he had mentioned a longer, but more interesting trail back that went up into the hills a bit more instead of along the water. “Much better views up there”, he said. We took his advice and took the high trail. It’s always interesting hiking with people you hardly know when you have no idea where you’re going. It all ended up well.Along down the coast to Greymouth. Funny enough, it was a very grey little town that’s only claim to fame was the Monteiths Brewery, which we got a tour of. Being incredibly hung over after only a couple hours of sleep is not a great way to spend a bus ride but we made it in one piece to Franz Josef ( and to keep all our food down…).I had heard that there were a couple of good glacier tours to do in New Zealand before I left on the trip but I didn’t really think about it again until I was down there. An option on the Magic Bus tour was a tour of the glacier or a heli-hike. The heli-hike was the same amount of time as the regular one but quite a bit more expensive.  I’m so glad I bit the bullet and in no time we were up in a helicopter and then wandering around the glacier.I wasn’t sure if anything was going to top the experience of walking around on a massive block of moving ice. I forgot about everything you could do in Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of New Zealand. We took a bus trip out to Milford Sound and I have to say that it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. My photos could not do it justice. To top it all off, I flew back over the mountains into Queenstown. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t enough people interested in the helicopter ride back to Queenstown. It was expensive but it would have been the most incredible way to see the area. They even stop on one of the glaciers one the way back.Not wanting to say I went to New Zealand and didn’t snowboard, I booked some gear and headed off into the Remarkables. The snow was great but the visibility on the morning I went was atrocious. They had orange pegs in the snow so you could see where the hell you were going. I definitely bailed into a big icey hole on my first run that I couldn’t even see.Then I did the must gut wrenching thing I’ve ever done in my life. For some reason I booked everything right when I got into Queenstown and figured it would be a good idea to go Bungy Jumping. It was an even better idea to book it on the last day I was there so I’d stew in my own nervousness for a few days before I actually got the chance to jump. If you decide to do it if you go, do it right away. I felt sick I was so nervous the days before. To top it all off, I didn’t choose the first bungy in the world off a bridge, or the platform off the side of a mountain over Queenstown, but the third tallest bungy in the world, the Nevis.I surprised myself on the bungy though. Everyone there was scared to go, some more than other people. Some people were so scared they tried not to jump when they go to the edge but ended up falling anyways. I’m not sure if it was competition with the couple guys that jumped well before I went or the solid resolution not to look like the fool that pretty much just fell off, but as I got to the edge, all fear fell away and I managed to pull out a beautiful swan dive 134 meters above the canyon floor. I felt like I was going to die just before the bungy caught and then it was all over. I was alive and well and actually able to think about the rest of the trip for the first time in a few days.We headed out to the coast to Dunedin and ate too much chocolate at the Cadbury factory. Aside from running, there wasn’t much to do in Kaikoura because of the weather. Then it was back to Picton and across Cook Straight into Wellington. I had heard Wellington was called the Windy City but I experienced first-hand myself when I went for a run along the sea wall.One of the most unique things you can do in New Zealand is called Zorbing. You basically get into a giant hamster ball and get rolled down a hill. It felt like being stuffed into a giant washing machine.At this point, it felt like the trip was almost over. We were heading back towards Auckland and although there was still another section to the trip, I couldn’t help but feel sad about an incredible adventure coming to a close. I had made some amazing friends on the bus trip around New Zealand and now here was a good chance I’d never seen them again.The last section going North from Auckland was relaxing. After the whirlwind tour of the rest of New Zealand it was nice to slow down, relax and spend the remaining time with the people I had gotten to know well on the trip. There was one more crazy adventure in store though. We all piled onto a 4 wheel drive bus to go out to Cape Rienga and on the way back 4×4’d to 90 Mile beach and the huge sand dunes in the area. Once we got there, they pulled out some boards and told us to hike to the top and slide down. We all thought the driver was crazy, until he did it himself and made some of the fastest runs out of all of us!The bus ride back into Auckland was pretty horrible. I got sick with something that made any time away from the bathroom a scary thought.  I made the best of my last few days in Auckland, and then making sure I had all my gear and tickets, headed off to the airport.Returning from being in other countries for 4 months was a strange experience. Before getting home, I had this feeling that things would be so different. Everything would be upside down and in different places when I got there. Everyone would be different and I wouldn’t be able to recognize anyone.What I found though that everything was exactly the same. Everyone was doing the same things. Everyone was thinking the same way. Everyone was watching the same TV shows. Nothing had really changed. Everyone’s were almost exactly the same as I had left them 4 months earlier.You can get addicted to travelling. I can see why that is so after only doing one international trip. It’s hard to make big changes in your life staying in the same place and being stuck in the same routine every day. Being in a different with different people and different languages and different cultures shakes things up. You can stay the same if you want but it’s hard. Travelling changes you. It lets you start fresh. It lets you be whoever you want to be.It’s almost time to travel again and I can’t wait. I’m excited for the opportunity to see new places, meet new people and, most of all, the experience of starting fresh.